The Duke’s Mansion was located in the northwest corner of the capital, with a large courtyard. Although it couldn’t compare to the opulence of the Chu Mansion, it had its own unique elegance.
Due to the recent unexpected events, the mansion had been desolate for several days. The guards from the Ministry of Punishments had only been removed a few hours ago, and the few servants who remained were diligently cleaning, waiting for their master’s return.
Before long, several of them were overcome by heavy drowsiness, and a few leaned against the wall with brooms in hand and fell asleep.
Protected by the hidden guards, Chu Xie emerged from beneath a gardenia tree in the corner. White petals, like large snowflakes, fell onto his shoulders.
The fine rain was blowing sideways.
There was no moon or stars, and the rain fell like spilled ink, darkening the entire night.
His feet sank into the muddy ground, and Chu Xie silently hid himself in Chen’s bedroom. He gripped the hilt of a dagger at his waist, listening for any movement at the door. The covert guards outside the window were hidden among the trees, ready to provide cover if needed. Several others had changed into the clothes of Chen’s servants and were outside sweeping and cleaning.
Everything was prepared.
The door was rhythmically knocked three times.
This was a signal from the spies at the door—the Chen family was returning.
“This time, I thank Young Marquis Xu for his assistance.” Outside the door, Duke Rongguo was assisted by his grandson as he got out of the sedan chair. After a few days of negotiation, he looked a bit haggard, but he still solemnly bowed.
“No need for thanks.” Xu Chunmu returned the gesture and turned to leave. The young shizi took out an umbrella from the carriage and hurriedly opened it, handing it over.
“The fine rain is detrimental to your health.”
Xu Chunmu took the umbrella, and in his peripheral vision, he glanced at Duke Rongguo’s mansion.
It was so dark.
Why weren’t there more lanterns lit?
Without any suspicion, he propped up the umbrella and walked away.
“Grandfather, do you think Xu Chunmu and Chu Xie are connected?” The young shizi looked at Xu Chunmu’s figure disappearing around the corner.
Chen Lianzhou didn’t say anything.
When he had seen Xu Chunmu riding a horse earlier, his posture, physique, and even the righteousness of his demeanor… it had all reminded him of a young Xu Yi.
But now, up close…
His appearance was nothing like Xu Yi’s broad forehead and long face, and he hadn’t inherited the thick eyebrows of the Xu family. His eyebrows were as delicate as willow leaves, and he looked exceptionally refined.
Did he resemble his mother?
“Let’s see.” The mansion gates opened, and Chen Lianzhou stepped over the vermilion threshold. He felt a sense of relief, as if he had survived a disaster. “Is the hot water ready?”
“Master, it’s all ready. Would you like to take a bath now, sir?”
The rain grew heavier, and the dark clouds pressed down on the capital, typical of a summer night’s approaching torrential rain.
The muffled sound of thunder rumbled overhead.
“Yes, bring the hot water to my bedroom.”
Chen Lianzhou removed his outer robe, wiped his hands with a hot towel handed to him by a servant, and then proceeded to his bedroom.
He walked from the main hall through a corridor to the side room. Rainwater slanted down onto him, staining his clothes with speckles of water. A flash of lightning illuminated Chen Lianzhou’s stern expression.
He clenched his fists until his knuckles cracked.
Jiang Yanchi had been walking back to the palace, and the more he thought about it, the more he felt that something was amiss. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but there was an unsettling feeling in his chest.
Little Xizi came to report that the case files from Zhao Prison had just been archived, and immediately after, there was a fire at the Ministry of Punishments. He added in a hushed tone, “I heard it was caused by Young Marquis Xu.”
Why did he set a fire there?
Chu Xie, Xu Chunmu, Ah Mu.
It seemed like there were countless threads entangled together.
Teaching him to see through and understand it was impossible.
A few days ago, during the Qiqiao Festival, Ah Mu, wearing a mask and carrying a lantern, appeared in his mind again. He reached out and pinched his own face.
That name penetrated his heart.
“Your Highness’s childhood name, is it Yu? I’ve heard Niang Niang always call you that.”
“Feng Yu, ‘feng’ as in the wind, ‘yu’ as in to receive and to give.”
Voices from deep within his memory kept pouring out, and Jiang Yanchi’s pupils gradually dilated.
No, no, no!
His courtesy name was known to almost no one; he had learned to write it while in the cold palace, simultaneously picking up the language of Great Wei.
Everyone only knew him as the lofty Crown Prince of Great Wei, Jiang Yanchi.
Only a few knew that he had once been Jiang Fengyu, left for dead in the cold palace.
“Your Highness, you should read more books. Your courtesy name isn’t interpreted this way.”
“What is known as ‘Feng Yu’ means the wind that strikes fear, the one who controls life, death, and everything.”
He realized what was wrong.
Finally, it all came back to him.
After his mother’s death, only Chu Xie knew his childhood name!
A thunderous roar sounded outside, illuminating the pavilion with a bright flash of lightning. The entire capital city started to drizzle as the night deepened, making the stone steps appear like dark jade, reflecting the swaying lanterns in the wind.
“Little Xizi, prepare a horse outside the palace!”
“Your Highness, it’s so late. Where are you going?”
“To the Chu Residence.”
Little Xizi scratched his head. “Your Highness, it’s already dark, and it’s past midnight. Why not wait until morning…”
“I’m going now!” Jiang Yanchi put on the ink-black brocade robe he had taken off again, straightening the sleeves as he dashed out through the rain curtain.
“Hey, Your Highness, the rain is too heavy! Take an umbrella, please, take an umbrella!”
Little Xizi rushed out with an umbrella, but in the pitch-black rainy night, Jiang Yanchi’s figure had already disappeared from sight.
The sound of hooves splashing through water echoed on the deserted street as raindrops formed blossoms with each step. The night watchmen guarding the city walls saw the figure racing on horseback from a distance and immediately stepped forward to intercept. “Who goes there? The city gates are closed now, and we’re approaching curfew. What’s the matter…?”
The rain had soaked the person’s face. Jiang Yanchi threw a jade pendant from his embrace to the ground. “Get out of the way.”
“Your Highness, it’s Your Highness!”
The guard immediately kneeled and saluted. “What is Your Highness doing out at this hour?”
“No more nonsense. Open the palace gates.”
The guards exchanged glances. “But, Your Highness, it’s not quite in accordance with the rules…”
Jiang Yanchi drew his sword from his side with a sharp snap. “Anyone who disobeys will be executed.”
The palace gate was slowly pushed open, creaking with a heavy and prolonged groan. Jiang Yanchi violently whipped the reins and headed towards Chu residence.
“Your Highness, our lord is already asleep,” came the response from outside the mansion gate. Jiang Yanchi pursed his lips and forcibly pulled the person aside. However, he noticed that the lights inside the mansion were dim, and it genuinely seemed like everyone was asleep.
He headed towards the bedroom.
His heart had never been so restless.
Chu Xie, Ah Mu.
How could they possibly be the same person?
How could Ah Mu be so ruthless and commit so many heinous acts?
And how could Chu Xie have saved him and handed over the evidence from the Jinhuan Gambling House?
What was going on?
Tonight, he had to find out.
Thunder rumbled. A sudden thunderclap lit up the surroundings, and Jiang Yanchi noticed that there was no one in the bedroom.
What was even more peculiar was that the entire Chu residence seemed empty.
Jiang Yanchi scanned the area, realizing that not only Chu Xie was missing, but also Xu Chunmu.
Where were the guards? Where were the skilled hidden guards hiding? Why couldn’t he see anyone?
“Where did Chu Xie go?” Jiang Yanchi grabbed Tao Li and demanded, “Tell me!”
“M-Master, perhaps, perhaps he had a nightmare and went out for a walk to clear his mind. He really was asleep just now…”
Tao Li was almost in tears from fear and couldn’t lie.
The steward hurriedly arrived.
“Lord Chu went to the Ministry of Punishment to deal with the fire case. Your Highness is urgently looking for him. If he isn’t there, maybe you could check at the residence of Minister Wang, or perhaps see if there are any remaining case files at the Prison. Lord Chu’s whereabouts don’t need to be reported to us servants, so when Your Highness asks like this, we can’t be sure.”
They were skilled in providing plausible explanations.
Chu Xie’s men were just as eloquent as Chu Xie himself.
The Ministry of Punishments, the Minister of Punishments residence, the Zhao Prison.
One south, one east, one west.
Searching one place after another, it was almost dawn.
Jiang Yanchi left the mansion, mounted his horse, turned south, and headed towards the most likely Minister of Punishments’ residence.
He had only taken a few steps when his mind suddenly jolted.
This wasn’t right.
The case files were lost at the Ministry of Punishments, and Minister Wang was responsible for that. Both Minister Wang and his assistant were under Chu Xie’s command. If the case files were burned, Chu Xie would have been the first to hear about it.
Wang Zhiyue wasn’t someone who could make decisions, and he would have sought refuge at Chu Xie’s mansion first.
Stepping back for a moment, even if Wang Zhiyue hadn’t arrived, and Chu Xie had gone to the Minister of Punishments’ residence, at most, it would have been around the second quarter of the rooster hour. The matter would have already been clearly conveyed to Chu Xie. The situation was straightforward, and there was no need for it to drag on until this hour.
That steward was lying.
He mentioned three locations, deliberately avoiding the north of the city. Could it be that Chu Xie had gone to the north of the city, and was there something significant in the north?
Jiang Yanchi pondered this carefully, and suddenly, his spine stiffened.
Duke Rongguo’s mansion was in the northwest of the city!
He tugged hard on the reins, turned towards the northwest, and galloped through the rain. Raindrops pelted his body like beans, and Jiang Yanchi’s heart grew colder and colder.
The hidden guards and mansion guards were all gone, and Chu Xie… could he be…
Going to kill someone.
When Chen Lianzhou entered the bedroom, he felt that it was quite dark. He said, “Someone, bring more lamps.”
As a result, a few servants brought in one more lamp, making the room slightly brighter. Chen Lianzhou, however, was furious. “I told you to bring more, and you only brought one?”
Before he could finish speaking, his mouth was forcefully covered, and a blow to his neck caused him to lose consciousness.
Chu Xie emerged from behind the bed curtains.
“Host, your values are dropping again!”
“74%… 72%… Host! 69%… Quickly, take action!”
Chu Xie tightly gripped the knife in his hand, raising it high and aiming it at the man’s heart.
A bolt of lightning struck, illuminating the face of the person beneath him.
Suddenly, Chu Xie’s hand trembled violently.
“Host, Host, what’s wrong with you? Don’t hesitate… Your emotional fluctuations are intense. Are you feeling unwell?”
Chu Xie’s face turned pale as he caught a glimpse of the small knife in the bathroom, stained with fresh blood, the floor tainted with red, and the faint bloodstains spreading on the woman’s white dress.
“Host, quickly! You know Chen Lianzhou deserved to die. What’s wrong? Why can’t you do it all of a sudden? You’re not like this…”
I know, I know.
Chu Xie took a deep breath, slowly closed his eyes, and thrust the knife downward.
But it was as if the knife didn’t pierce the person’s heart but rather grazed his own flesh.
“Ding, plot completion 80%. Compatibility with character design for Xu Chunmu 80%, Compatibility with character design for Chu Xie 67%… 65%… 63%…”
Warm blood splattered onto the back of his hand, and Chu Xie’s heart immediately twisted in pain.
Empathy, intense empathy.
“Host!… No, Host, please stay alert! Don’t empathize with the original host’s body!”
But Chu Xie couldn’t hear the system’s voice anymore.
In his mind, the desperate cries of two women overlapped and echoed.
‘Little Chu, lets…. Die together’
‘Child, living is too difficulty, follow mom… to die together.’
Closed windows, continuously burning charcoal.
Tightly sealed attic, flames constantly surging.
The images kept intertwining and overlapping, like a long needle piercing the head and constantly stirring.
“Host, host! It’s now, hurry and kill yourself, quickly…”
The system was anxiously calling out to him, but he seemed unable to hear his own voice, just staring blankly at his hands covered in fresh blood.
Blood, so much blood.
What’s going on? How could the host’s emotional fluctuations be so intense? Chu Xie had always been unaffected by these negative emotions, his mental resilience was always extremely strong. What happened this time?
The system was bewildered.
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