Chapter 18 … As it turned out, this was a secret everyone knew of.
After Wànshùn Year 41, the two of them did not meet again. Gu Hong Jian finally began a very small business, opening a small store selling ‘Four Treasures of the Study.’1 This was purely a hobby of hers that she did in her free time between study sessions. She did not earn much, but it was better than nothing.
Actually, Gu Hong Jian was not short of money.
Although she and Lin Si Ze’s relationship was still very stiff, and despite neither seeing nor contacting each other, Jiang Hai Fu contacted her intermittently the entire time. Every month, Jiang Hai Fu would send a little palace eunuch to go to Gu Hong Jian’s residence to deliver letters and receive others to deliver.
Jiang Hai Fu could read, and his penmanship was not bad either. His literary talent was decent too, so Gu Hong Jian, each cycle, would receive headache-inducing voluminous letters——writing so much each month, where did he come up with so many things to write?!
Usually within the letters, there would be a report all about Lin Si Ze—concerning any matter regardless of size, including his clothing, food, housing, transport, and other basic needs. A small matter such as Lin Si Ze feeling unwell or not having a good night’s rest to a large matter such as which old state official was inappropriately scheming—everything was reported to Gu Hong Jian.
Gu Hong Jian actually replied to these letters, but contrary to Jiang Hai Fu’s incredibly lengthy letters, her replies were simple to the point of being horrific. It was normally only five words: How does this concern me?
Jiang Hai Fu, however, never fell to Gu Hong Jian’s indifference. He even sent a letter a month—sometimes two letters—regardless of the weather conditions.
As usual, Lin Si Ze’s ascension to the throne meant amnesty for the entire country. The dying first prince and previously imprisoned third prince were set free, on the conditions of being reduced to commoner status as well as being forever barred from entering the capital. Imperial Tutor Yao was executed that night as well as all of his relatives. Regretfully, the one Lin Si Ze wanted to eliminate the most, Yao Tian Ao, had unexpectedly not been captured, having escaped long ago. Although the arrest orders had been issued for quite a while, his whereabouts were still unknown to this day.
The first prince and third prince, reduced to commoners, were soon discontent with their lot in life and once again began to plot.
These matters were all told to Gu Hong Jian by Jiang Hai Fu. To the contrary, Gu Hong Jian was not worried; after all, if Jiang Hai Fu knew, then Lin Si Ze definitely had an even clearer understanding about all this.
Only after Jiang Hai Fu informed Gu Hong Jian about how the first prince and third prince unexpectedly organized and established an evil cult in the south did she become slightly concerned.
In the south, the evil cult of the Luminous Religion was founded during a drought to incite revolts amongst the peasants, but because the drought did not last for very long, the religious cult did not have time to expand. The followers more or less scattered. Regardless of where the cultists fled to, they were very quickly suppressed in that region until the cult gradually vanished without a trace.
Although it was never specified how the first prince and third prince were connected to the cult, the third prince and first prince were connected, and their intentions were clearly visible in this scheme.
Consequently, Gu Hong Jian’s rare reply of ‘how does this concern me’ changed into ‘how does he intend to handle this.’
Probably because he finally received a reply other than ‘how does this concern me,’ Jiang Hai Fu sent word with a little palace eunuch the next day.
The contents summed up to be: 「I do not dare to presumptuously make conjectures.」
Gu Hong Jian: “..”
She did not believe Jiang Hai Fu to so openly and fearlessly tell matters of all sizes to those outside of the palace—not unless Lin Si Ze allowed him to!
Gu Hong Jian, annoyed, simply did not reply.
Soon after, Gu Hong Jian received a letter from Jiang Hai Fu, which talked about the first prince and third prince actually disobeying Lin Si Ze’s orders and secretly entering the capital. Moreover, they were staying not far from Gu Hong Jian, in the Melodic Harmony Inn.
Gu Hong Jian narrowed her eyes and burned the letter. She instructed the little palace eunuch to come by tomorrow. That very night, she changed into a black nocturnal outfit she had not worn in ages, strapped a longsword to her waist, and headed directly to Melodic Harmony Inn.
She searched through the entire building; assuming that the first prince or third prince had not gone to sleep yet, she immediately hid outside of a room still lit with several candles. At last, she heard the first prince’s voice.
“We have already walked this far; we can’t turn around now! If he doesn’t die, we’ll die instead,” The first prince hissed quietly.
Compared to the first prince, the third prince’s voice was quite dispirited. He had probably still not completely recovered from those hundred large lashes with the plank. “But now, we are without peerage…”
“I had said that Qian Ling will help us!” The first prince angrily snapped, “Can you speak up and say something constructive?!”
“But Qian Ling is only a palace eunuch… He also only hates Lin Si Ze’s ascension to the throne because he was thrown out of the palace due to his good relationship with Imperial Tutor Yao… How can he be of help?” the third prince murmured.
The first prince whispered, “Do you not realize? Truly idiotic; you’ll naturally understand a few days from now… I’m more worried about Lin Si Ze’s men discovering our tracks at the moment. In short, we must get into contact with Imperial Secretary Wu tomorrow…”
The third prince weakly said, “I know. I’m tired; go back to your room to rest.”
Gu Hong Jian replaced her blade and pensively stroked her chin. She then quietly left.
After returning, Gu Hong Jian wrote a letter, roughly conveying the matter of Qian Ling and Imperial Secretary Wu; she would let Jiang Hai Fu pass it on to Lin Si Ze.
She originally wanted to tell Jiang Hai Fu to not tell Lin Si Ze that the information came from her, but she had second thoughts; besides her, who else could it be? Whatever.
In the end, she had become accustomed to taking care of all of Lin Si Ze’s business.
Apart from this habit, she also could not help but admit that she had selfish motives.
Just as she had said, she knew Lin Si Ze would inevitably hate her one day—extremely hate her, more than he hated her on the day of Zuo Ning Yan’s suicide…
Therefore, she wanted to distance herself further from Lin Si Ze before that day genuinely arrived, so that she would not be too broken-hearted because of Lin Si Ze’s hatred. At the same time, she could not help but do things for Lin Si Ze, just so he can remember her in a good light when that moment came. At the very least…so he won’t hate her so much.
Originally, Gu Hong Jian thought that according to Lin Si Ze’s character, he would inevitably deal with the first prince and third prince like a passing thunderstorm—swift and decisive; however, she saw no movements even a month later.
Although Gu Hong Jian felt very suspicious in her heart, she still did not interfere and, for the most part, believed the silence to be part of Lin Si Ze’s plan.
Two months passed. Jiang Hai Fu’s letter finally arrived, and she could clearly discern Jiang Hai Fu’s worry from the letter—he wrote that he already reported Gu Hong Jian’s information to Lin Si Ze, but while Lin Si Ze understood, he did nothing at all. He didn’t even have anyone monitoring the first prince and third prince! Imperial Secretary Wu was still working in the imperial court as he did before.
Not even monitoring them?
Gu Hong Jian truly did not understand. What was Lin Si Ze thinking?
Gu Hong Jian poured over the letter for a long time before suddenly reacting.
Lin Si Ze was not letting them run amok—rather, he was waiting on her.
He must have seen that Gu Hong Jian was stealthily observing the first and third princes for him. It would not do for him to go after them a second time, a third time, and however many more times until they were thoroughly dealt with.
So he waited.
Moreover, to be forewarned was to be forearmed.
Gu Hong Jian bitterly laughed and tossed the paper aside. She leaned back into her imperial tutor chair and stared blankly into space.
On June 6th in the capital, there was not a single cloud in the sky for kilometers. She did not know when the black cloud within her thoughts would finally be pushed aside though.
What she felt most helpless about, however, was unexpectedly learning how far the first and third princes’ influence stretched in the capital when she went to observe them that very night, for the entire night. Apart from Qian Ling and Imperial Secretary Wu, there was former Deputy Commander Liu Wei’s sister’s son, the first prince’s wife’s older male cousin, etc.
Even though the number of people was actually quite large, the amount of power they collectively wielded was insignificant. Gu Hong Jian spent the entire night trying to not yawn and decided to let them off this time.
She would keep observing until she could implicate more people from this network.
Like this, for that month, Gu Hong Jian allowed the scholar instructing her to rest for the time being. She herself rested during the day and ventured out every night of that month to investigate and compile a long list of names conspiring against the state. She then delivered this list to Jiang Hai Fu.
Lin Si Ze, like before, still did nothing. Gu Hong Jian was already used to this. When the first prince and third prince decided to begin making their move, she would strike first and kill the first prince and third prince.
Because she was, after all, only one person, she only had one blade. She killed the one closest to the window—the third prince.
When the first prince was about to involuntarily shriek, Gu Hong Jian reached out to cover his mouth with her hand and pressed her blade to his neck. She saw, within the completely shocked look in the first prince’s eyes, a trace of some other emotion. Gu Hong Jian suddenly became intrigued. Believing that he would not run away, she removed her hand and said, “Don’t yell. I’ll give you the opportunity to say your last words.”
The first prince gnashed his teeth and growled, “You——!!!”
Gu Hong Jian mockingly smiled and said, “Me. First prince, are you still confused? You knew I killed the second prince.”
The first prince trembled from head to toe and stuttered, “It was actually you…it was actually you?!”
Gu Hong Jian smiled and said, “Yes. The information was deliberately released by Lin Si Ze to provoke you, so that we could use the information against you. That information was true, however—my martial arts skill is genuinely outstanding. He liked Zuo Ning Yan, so he would not allow the Yao family or you off—also true.”
The first prince shuddered. “He murdered our brothers; may heavenly thunder strike him down…”
“You dare to speak such words?” Gu Hong Jian’s smile sharpened. “As a child, the second prince and others bullied Lin Si Ze. I killed the second prince and suppressed the third prince and fourth prince. You seized the opportunity to rise to power, but you ended up doing nothing major. All you do is blame others. You wanted to force the emperor to abdicate… Oh, you tried to murder your own father. So are you really qualified to curse him?”
The first prince’s face was as white as paper as he pleaded, “Right, my mistake, my mistake…I’m begging you, begging you to not kill me…”
His voice began as a whisper but ended as a yell. Gu Hong Jian’s eyes narrowed. She stretched her hand out to grip his throat, silencing him. “I said: don’t yell.”
The first prince hatefully glared at Gu Hong Jian, looking as if he wanted to rip her apart at any second.
Unfortunately, he did not have that ability, so he could only glare at Gu Hong Jian like this.
Gu Hong Jian sighed and said, “I gave you a chance to say your last words, but you ended up saying a pile of rubbish… Is there anything else you want to say? I’m warning you, don’t even think about yelling for help.”
The first prince nodded.
Gu Hong Jian gave him one more chance and released her grip.
The first prince said, “I’m begging you. I’m begging you, don’t kill me… You are so hell-bent on serving Lin Si Ze. What benefits are you getting? Didn’t, didn’t you say—he liked Zuo Ning Yan? You like him, right? But he doesn’t like you! Look…help me, okay? If you help me, I will certainly treat you well. In the future, when I am emperor, I will make you my empress! This is surely better than Lin Si Ze! My current wife does not understand at all. Later, it’s fine if I make her zhāoyí2; she won’t threaten your position!”
Gu Hong Jian blanked for a moment.
Because that line—’You like him, right? But he doesn’t like you!’
As it turned out, this was a secret everyone knew.
She had not realized this. Moreover, even the very retarded first prince knew this.
Everyone knew she was in a one-sided love—one that would never be reciprocated.
This was truly ridiculous.
The first prince saw Gu Hong Jian remain silent and felt that she was tempted. He slyly said falsehoods like how in the future, he would definitely be good to her and only her, and so forth. Gu Hong Jian zoned back in and looked at him with extreme loathing. She said, “Your words are very attractive, but I’m sorry. I’m not interested.”
The first prince, stunned, stammered, “W–why…”
Gu Hong Jian replied, “Because you are too ugly.”
The first prince was struck dumb. In the end, he simply could not deal with Gu Hong Jian’s response and immediately fell apart. He shouted, “You slut! I’m telling you, Lin Si Ze will never like you! What if you kill me?! What if you kill all that oppose him?! He won’t like you. He will never like…”
He did not finish, as he had no way to do so.
Because—Gu Hong Jian had already slit his throat.
His eyes remained wide open, a circumstance known as dying with grievances remaining.
Gu Hong Jian expressionlessly looked at him and quietly said, “I know. So what?”
Handling the accomplices of the first prince and third prince also used up a lot of Gu Hong Jian’s strength.
Gu Hong Jian’s method to handle things was, as always, simple and crude. It was basically using violence; if she could beat a capital into submission, she would do so. This was the antithesis to a person with Lin Si Ze’s heart, who would only kill when no better option existed.
At that time, Gu Hong Jian also felt very sad.
Honestly, if she were told to kill the first prince and the third prince, she could do it in a heartbeat. However, if she were to kill others whom she had not met before, then she’d get an unsettling feeling.
Thus, Gu Hong Jian flew over to several others’ residences and only blankly monitored them for a while before silently returning to her own residence.
Gu Hong Jian did kill a few, however, because she heard them revile Lin Si Ze. She would then reveal that the first prince and third prince were already dead. That reveal made them consider: might as well break the pot further since it was already broken.
This forced Gu Hong Jian to straightforwardly kill them.
Luckily, a few days later, Lin Si Ze finally began making a move. Like all of his previous methods, Lin Si Ze’s move resonated like thunder; he immediately had all of the men related to the first prince and third prince purged, which displayed a powerful initial show of strength within the imperial court.
Gu Hong Jian could finally sigh in relief and even believed herself to be able to have a restful sleep.
The first night she went to sleep, she had a nightmare. She dreamt of all four dead princes, drenched from head to toe in blood and only differentiated by how they died. All of them glared at her with extremely deep hatred as they approached her step by step.
In her dream, Gu Hong Jian was not as ferocious as she was in reality and could only run away in terror. But every time she turned her head to look back, she would see the four fearsome, bloody figures. This caused Gu Hong Jian to, time after time, wake up from her dream with a start and her whole body drenched in cold sweat.
She killed them. She originally did not think she had a guilty conscience, but this kind of terrifying nightmare made her realize, on that night when she killed the second prince, she had been trembling all over, incredibly terrified. It really wasn’t because she had lacked any confidence or felt guilty; it was simply fear.
Although her hand moved, she was still scared, scared of the look in the second prince’s eyes before he died, scared of the second prince’s corpse drenched with blood, scared of herself—who could murder without blinking an eye.
At first, she was very scared. She was always very scared, but when she was scared, Lin Si Ze did not comfort her. Therefore, she thought——Probably because no one will comfort me at first, I thus felt I should not be scared.
This thinking forced her to rationalize the event and forced her to repress all her emotions, but, all of a sudden, all of her repressed feelings broke out.
Gu Hong Jian suffered from insomnia for a full month. As long as her eyes closed, all kinds of corpses appeared in the darkness, each time more frightening than the last.
Gu Hong Jian opened her eyes and bitterly laughed.
After her teacher saw her extreme lack of vigor, however, he gave her several Buddhist texts to read, so as to cultivate her moral character and spirituality. Gu Hong Jian skimmed through it. While it was a bit of use, she very quickly stopped reading it. When the teacher asked her why, she said that because she, in the future, still had things to do which she should not do, and reading these at the moment felt like she was dirtying them.
The teacher did not say anything else.
During that time, Gu Hong Jian began to hate Lin Si Ze a little.
She hated him for making her do all this, extremely hated him for his inability to love her even the slightest bit.
Although she was highly skilled in martial arts, she was still not impervious to sword or spear. Why would he not think about replacing her?
Gu Hong Jian even heard conjectures and baseless comments about how, due to Lin Si Ze’s upright bearing and original lack of wives and concubines, the majority of the state officials were, one after another, suggesting for Lin Si Ze to rightfully expand his imperial harem next year, conveniently recommending their own daughters as wonderfully suitable girls to be imperial concubines.
She heard this and wanted to laugh, thinking, Those great state officials are truly quite stupid. How could they consider sending their own daughters into a living hell?
Those girls, they could be considered to have their wishes fulfilled upon entering the emperor’s palace, but while they could stay by Lin Si Ze’s side, they would never obtain Lin Si Ze’s heart in this lifetime of theirs.
Just like her.
Gu Hong Jian’s situation was very messy, something no drug could fix.
Occasionally when she was by herself, she would sit in her room and open the window to stare blankly at the plants within the courtyard.
Her west courtyard was designed according to Bai Fu Palace’s layout. The plants inside were also ones she had intentionally chosen because they were very similar to the ones growing at Bai Fu Palace that year. Occasionally, when she would gaze at them like this, she would even visualize herself back at Bai Fu Palace.
It felt like, if she were to call out, ‘Lin Si Ze,’ a clear yet faint voice would reply, like usual, ‘What?’
Yet when she lightly called out, all that replied was the whistling sound of the wind.
Gu Hong Jian stared at the wilted flowers and suddenly realized autumn had come.
Wànshùn Year 41, November. The weather became extremely cold. When Jiang Hai Fu left the palace to visit Gu Hong Jian, he passingly asked her if she lacked anything only to realize that compared to the last time he visited, she had lost who knew how much weight. Her originally small face became even smaller, and the point of her chin could nearly stab someone to death. Her cheeks had even become somewhat sunken. Her washed-out complexion would abnormally flush red with even the slightest bit of movement. Her eyes did not glow with life like they previously did. When she looked at Jiang Hai Fu, Jiang Hai Fu could not even see any luster within her eyes.
Jiang Hai Fu, startled extremely, hurriedly asked her what was the matter. Gu Hong Jian, however, sketched the truth in light shades, saying it was only a minor illness she was still recovering from.
Jiang Hai Fu naturally did not believe her, but he had always been very afraid of Gu Hong Jian. As a result, he could only urge Gu Hong Jian to nourish her body well and to take good care of herself.
Gu Hong Jian smiled mockingly and asked, “You’re saying this? If I do not take good care of myself, who will?”
Jiang Hai Fu thought for a moment and replied, “If his imperial majesty saw you like this, he probably would be very uncomfortable.”
Gu Hong Jian was silent for a moment and then said, “He won’t.”
But—she did not know if she was saying that Lin Si Ze would not see her like this, or if she was saying that Lin Si Ze would not feel distressed.
Jiang Hai Fu sighed but did not dare to speak any more. He simply gave Gu Hong Jian some money, saying it was from the emperor. Gu Hong Jian actually did not refuse and allowed him to set the money down. When she thoughtlessly asked about palace affairs, Jiang Hai Fu seized the opportunity to say, “Gu zhǎngshì, how about you return to the palace? When his imperial majesty was a prince and then the crown prince, not many people stood by his side. Even within De Ze Palace, the number is far from satisfactory. His imperial majesty has ascended now, and even fewer companions are at his side. Gu zhǎngshì, if you returned, his imperial majesty will certainly be extremely happy.”
Gu Hong Jian flashed him an elusive, ambiguous look and replied, “There’s still you; you know how to tattletale, curry favor with people, and can tell what others are thinking with a single glance. You can completely replace me.”
She unexpectedly remembered that Jiang Hai Fu reported her gambling ring. Jiang Hai Fu awkwardly stared at her only to immediately say, “How can I possibly replace Madame. Madame is someone who cannot be replaced, the only one in front of his imperial majesty.”
Gu Hong Jian seemed like she was nearly about to explode with laughter. “How unique, you truly deserve to be the head eunuch, especially with your peculiar manner of speaking.”
Jiang Hai Fu scratched his head in puzzlement. He wanted to explain, but then, Gu Hong Jian shook her head and said, “There is no one who cannot be replaced. Alright, you can head back. I’m not returning to the palace. I’m much freer outside the palace.”
Jiang Hai Fu glanced at her thin, skeleton-like frame and sighed, saying, “I really don’t see…ai, fine. Then xiaode will leave first.”
Jiang Hai Fu currently had a position as high as Gu Hong Jian’s back then, whereas Gu Hong Jian had become a simple civilian. He still, nevertheless, called himself xiaode when talking to her.
Gu Hong Jian did not know whether to laugh or cry. After he turned back, she looked through her books.
Acting as if Jiang Hai Fu simply had not visited.
She had not anticipated, however, Lin Si Ze unexpectedly coming to visit her personally.
At that time, it was December, the first day after the Winter Solstice. The entire country had seen snowfall by that point, and each and every household hung up lanterns and Spring Festival couplets. Everywhere, joy filled the air.
Only—Gu Hong Jian’s residence was simply an area of desolation.
As Gu Hong Jian had very kindly released her two servants and allowed them to return home for the festivities, and since the teacher did not come by, the huge courtyard house only housed Gu Hong Jian.
And during such a time, Lin Si Ze brought over a pot of wine as well as Jiang Hai Fu.
Under the cover of snowfall, he arrived both extremely low-profile yet still eye-catching. Gu Hong Jian heard a knock at the door and opened it a split second later. Upon seeing Lin Si Ze, she immediately fell into a daze.
She asked, “How come you’re here?”
She originally believed the noise to come from the howling wind and snow. She had not expected at all to find anyone at the door when she opened it, much less Lin Si Ze.
How was this possible.
Yet the Lin Si Ze before her, who she first believed to be an illusion, waved the wine in his hand and said, “Quickly let me in. Otherwise, the wine will get cold.”
Behind him, Jiang Hai Fu beamed and called out, “Gu zhǎngshì.”
Gu Hong Jian suddenly nodded in understanding and allowed the two entry. Within the entire household, only Gu Hong Jian’s room had a lit brazier. Without any better option, Gu Hong Jian led them to the hall to wait while she went to fetch the brazier. When she went to retrieve coal to add to the fire, Jiang Hai Fu stopped her, asked where she stored the firewood, and ran off himself to grab the coal.
Gu Hong Jian’s face was a bit red from all the running around, but her hands were awfully cold. As she sat in the wooden chair, her body trembled slightly from the chill.
Calm and collected, Lin Si Ze examined her and then slightly furrowed his brows. “How did you end up like this?”
Gu Hong Jian was at a loss. “Ah? What?”
“You’ve lost so much weight, and your complexion has worsened significantly.” Lin Si Ze commented, “It is not even considered that cold at the moment, yet you are so frozen.”
Gu Hong Jian stared blankly at him before indifferently replying, “It’s nothing. I just contracted a minor illness that I have yet to recover from.”
“You’ve been ill for so long?” Lin Si Ze said with a cold face, “Last time Jiang Hai Fu came to see you, you said you were ill. You still have not gotten better?”
As expected, it was that broken mouth of Jiang Hai Fu…
Gu Hong Jian uncomfortably answered, “Sickness comes like a landslide, but goes slowly like spinning silk.”
Lin Si Ze stated, “You wanted to leave the palace, and I allowed you to, even giving you money like you demanded. Yet, you let yourself fall to such a state—are you forcing me to drag you back?”
Gu Hong Jian remained silent for a long while before saying, “Your words are indeed touching, as if I want what you can give.”
“Then say what you want that I cannot give?” Lin Si Ze poured himself some wine as he carelessly tossed her this line.
Gu Hong Jian simply wanted to toss her wine at his face.
He truly was too great an actor.
Could it be that he really did not know what she wanted?
He was pretending to be naive, wanting to deal with it half-heartedly.
Gu Hong Jian did not speak. With a dark face, she immersed herself in wine. After she saw Lin Si Ze merely drink and do nothing, her heart became even more chaotic. She accused, “You only brought along such a small pot? How is this enough to drink.”
Lin Si Ze said, “Don’t drink in excess. This wine’s strength is more than strong enough.”
“Can it be strong enough…” Gu Hong Jian disdainfully slanted her mouth to the side, just as Jiang Hai Fu returned with the coal. Gu Hong Jian then ordered him to go to the cellar and retrieve two jars of wine.
Lin Si Ze scowled but did not say anything.
Gu Hong Jian filled up both her and Lin Si Ze’s wine cups to the brim before toasting her cup with his, saying, “For this rare meeting, let’s not finish until we’re both drunk!”
Lin Si Ze could only raise his wine cup and drink it entirely.
The next moment, however, he lost consciousness.
Outside the room, snow swirled in the air before falling noiselessly to the ground. Jiang Hai Fu was about to carry firewood into the room only to hear Gu Hong Jian yell for him to not enter. Her voice unexpectedly carried a bit of bashfulness, which led Jiang Hai Fu to immediately realize something.
He froze before immediately reddening. He then turned around and tried to find an empty room to rest in.
He lit a fire brazier and rubbed his hands together while happily thinking, Gu zhǎngshì and his imperial majesty really do have a lot of affection for each other. It seems that the two of them have reconciled? Fantastic, wonderful.
Jiang Hai Fu very cheerfully fell to sleep on the chair.
When he woke up, the sky was completely dark. Jiang Hai Fu stood up in slight confusion and ran outside. He then saw that the door to Gu Hong Jian and Lin Si Ze’s room was still tightly shut.
Jiang Hai Fu sighed in relief, but then he heard Lin Si Ze bellow, “Gu Hong Jian!”
Jiang Hai Fu jumped in fright.
Quite a while later, he then heard Lin Si Ze call out, “Jiang Hai Fu!”
Jiang Hai Fu hurriedly responded. Lin Si Ze then, in an extremely peculiar tone, permitted him to enter. Upon entering, he was struck dumb.
Lin Si Ze sat on a soft couch, clothes loosened and untied, but Gu Hong Jian was nowhere in sight.
To the side, a slip of paper was left on a table, with six words written on it——until fate brings us together again.
Lin Si Ze’s complexion was dark. Jiang Hai Fu hurriedly went to search the courtyard, but, as expected, he could find no trace of her.
Gu Hong Jian also brought practically nothing with her, nothing except for all the money she possessed.
With a dark look, Lin Si Ze called for the hidden guards to come out, angrily rebuking them for seeing Gu Hong Jian leave like this and stopping her.
The hidden guards all innocently answered that Lady Gu had left the household with a reddened face. She had changed clothes and lightly assumed the air of running an errand, saying that she wanted to go buy the emperor a Winter Solstice gift. The hidden guards had not thought much of it and only sent one of their members to follow and protect her. Midway, though, they lost her trail.
The one who lost Gu Hong Jian was now being reprimanded by the emperor—who knew all of this was deliberately planned by Gu Hong Jian.
After all, who would have anticipated Gu zhǎngshì to abandon everything like this and mysteriously disappear.
Indeed, she had disappeared.
Until autumn of next year, Pingchang Year 1, Gu Hong Jian did not emerge again, seemingly disappearing into thin air that snowy night.