I Rely on the Collapse of the Character Setting to Survive in the Hands of the Male Lead Chapter 41

Chapter 41

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After observing for a week, although Chunxiang Building was still serving guests, it was evident that additional manpower had been deployed, and there were frequent movements of people going in and out.

“How do the two gentlemen plan to proceed? It might be difficult to leave now,” Liu Wen’er spoke up.

“Thanks for the help, Miss. We’ll come up with another plan once my cousin recovers,” Chu Lishu withdrew his gaze and could only sit there waiting for now.

Unable to contain her curiosity, Liu Wen’er continued to inquire since she didn’t know about their companion before. “I saved you both. Can you tell me what you’re really up to? Are you here just to find the murderer and the registry, or, as the madam said, are you the government officials?”

“That Miss Liu, can you tell me why, even though you clearly disliked it here, you didn’t try to leave? The Great Zhou Dynasty has strict control in this regard. If you were to report, you might be able to escape servitude and break free from their control over you,” said Chu Lishu.

Liu Wen’er remained silent, “Leaving is not that simple. Once I get close to the government official, I’ll be apprehended. The most crucial part is that we don’t have evidence. Even if someone important wants to investigate, how could they believe our words? After all, we are all of low status.”

“Miss Liu, didn’t you come up with an effective solution?” Chu Lishu said casually, “Choosing those who can help you?”

But Liu Wen’er felt a tremor in her heart upon hearing this. She looked up in surprise at Chu Lishu. “Young master actually figured it out… Yes, I use this method to select guests, pretending to help the madam choose the guests they want. In reality, it’s to find opportunities to select more diverse types of guests—not just those who are only interested in wealth and benefits. Maybe I can encounter someone who can truly help. But…”

Miss Liu paused, her eyes revealing resentment and bitterness. “But there’s not a single man worthy of trust. They are all entangled in money, power, and desires. A little probing and I know they can’t be relied upon. So I can only wait day after day like this. Perhaps those righteous individuals who can help me will never come to a place like this.”

Suddenly, Chu Lishu laughed, “Miss Liu, isn’t your statement contradictory?”

Liu Wen’er was momentarily stunned as she saw Chu Lishu’s eyes, clear as mirrors, seemingly able to see through her entirely.

“You just mentioned, there is no evidence so the person in charge of the investigation won’t believe. Yet you’re looking for people who can help you. Those people might at most report on your situation, but without evidence, the outcome remains the same. It’s fundamentally contradictory.'”

Liu Wen’er’s complexion changed slightly, her expression dazed.

Chu Lishu continued, “From your relationship with the madam, it’s clear she’s not afraid of you running away. Moreover, she’s not afraid of officials coming to investigate, proving she has no substantial evidence to be caught. But how could a place with addictive substances not have evidence? Prepared addictive substances? The formula for addictive substances is evidence. Unless these two things are not easily obtained. Just now, she assured you that the formula for the addictive substance won’t be lost. I wonder what that means?”

As Chu Lishu spoke, Liu Wen’er’s face had already turned pale.

“Your relationship with the madam is probably not a simple one of master and puppet, Miss Liu. Both my cousin and my fate are currently in your hands. Are you playing with us or genuinely innocent, wanting to help us? Can you give me an answer now?”

Trembling lips, Liu Wen’er looked at Chu Lishu with resentful eyes. “Do you think I intentionally kept you here to amuse myself?”

“No, I lean more towards the latter. You’re innocent, you want to help us, but you’re also hiding more crucial information—a piece of information that makes you so contradictory.”

Liu Wen’er in front of him frowned slightly, her eyes teary. She appeared pitiful, but Chu Lishu continued to gaze at her steadily, his eyes showing no ripples.

Liu Wen’er also saw it; the young master before her was remarkably intelligent but not easily swayed.

Could such a person be the one she had been waiting for? Could she truly entrust her secrets to him?

Chu Lishu naturally sensed Liu Wen’er’s hesitation and spoke, “Actually, the people who came with us today are here specifically to investigate this matter. They are not driven by power or money; they sincerely want to eradicate the addictive substance.”

“Sincerely? Huh… that might not be trustworthy.” Liu Wen’er suddenly smiled bitterly, “Young Master, you may not know what kind of temptation they will face. Your elder brother experienced the illusionary effects of the Illusion Brain Incense, so you should understand. The addictive substance we produce here is hard to detect, it won’t show up in tests. It’s the latest formula. Do you know how much one formula is worth?”

“Once, we had a sister who was very knowledgeable. She knew a lot, understood that reporting could free us from servitude. She went to seek help, approached a government official, but when Chunxiang Building found her, there was only a corpse. That official had long resigned and gone far away.”

Chu Lishu instantly grasped the crucial information. “Do you have the formula?”

If they had the formula, they could replicate the addictive substance, gaining both a money-making tool and a means of control.

It was indeed a very tempting prospect.

Chu Lishu initially started by helping Lin Qingyang a bit, then wanted to test Yue Chen and Huo Luo, and eventually developed a growing interest in the addictive substance. Given his current situation, this substance might prove to be very helpful.

Chu Lishu couldn’t help but lower his voice. He knew how far the cabinet was and how loud he could speak to ensure those inside couldn’t hear.

He didn’t want Lin Qingyang to know about this.

“Tell me the truth. I can’t help you if I don’t know the full story. Besides, I’m trapped here too. If I have any ulterior motives, you can just call out, and I won’t survive,” Chu Lishu suggested.

Seeing Chu Lishu’s ‘sincere and upright’ demeanor, a bit of girlish sentimentality crept into Liu Wen’er’s heart, causing her to lower her guard. She thought Chu Lishu’s reasoning made sense, so she finally spoke, “Yes, the formula is with us, but the young master might not understand it.”

As she spoke, Liu Wen’er turned around and, right in front of Chu Lishu, took off her upper garment, leaving only a bellyband. She exposed her fair back, and on the graceful muscles, there was a flower-shaped tattoo.

The large flower almost occupied half of her back, with intricate and lifelike lines, enhancing the allure of a courtesan.

To everyone else, it appeared to be a beautiful tattoo. However, in Chu Lishu’s eyes, the lines forming the picture were something entirely different. He exclaimed, “Tianwu Clan script?”

Liu Wen’er was astonished, “Young Master knows about it?”

Chu Lishu instantly understood, “The Tianwu Clan has been exterminated. Very few people know this script. Recording prescriptions in such a secretive manner, even if it’s right in front of you, might not be understood. No wonder the madam is so sure there won’t be any evidence left. So, do all the courtesans here have this?”

Liu Wen’er nodded, saying, “Yes, these drawings bind us.”

Immediately, Liu Wen’er explained their ordeal.

Originally, they were just ordinary courtesans until the madam brought these drawings from outside and tattooed them on each courtesan’s body. The purpose was to avoid leaving paper prescriptions, making it easier to keep things confidential and prevent leaks. The only person who could understand these scripts was the madam herself. The courtesans couldn’t leave behind evidence in the form of prescriptions because they couldn’t understand the script.

They only produced the addictive substance when a customer placed an order, ensuring no excess remained. Only in the case of the easily deteriorating fascination fragrance did they need to prepare in advance. When that happened, the corresponding woman would be called to the medicine shop, and they would match the proportions based on the script. After all, the prescriptions were complex, and relying on the madam’s ordinary memory, it was impossible for her to remember dozens of formulas completely.

With a formula that wouldn’t leak and an addictive substance that couldn’t be detected, they became the safest sellers of addictive substances. Even under the strict control of the Great Zhou Dynasty, they could still conduct this business.

From the beginning, they knew these things. Initially, they didn’t understand why the madam didn’t keep it a secret from them. Weren’t they afraid the courtesans would be greedy and try to claim it for themselves or report them? Later, they realized it wasn’t just because no one could understand the script; it was because they believed those who knew the secret would transform into demons driven by greed.

In fact, several courtesans had already died for this formula multiple times. Each death was the same— their entire back skin peeled off. Those people couldn’t understand the script; the Tianwu Clan’s script was too complex for ordinary transcription. They had to find people who could understand it. However, they didn’t need to escape with the women. It was too troublesome. They only needed to obtain the formulas, so cutting off that piece of skin was sufficient. A piece of skin was worth millions of gold, and what did killing a courtesan matter to them?

After being frightened a few times, none of the courtesans dared to mention it again. Even government officials, driven by their own greed, would do such things. How could they guarantee that the person they reported to wouldn’t have malicious intentions? They were evidence but didn’t dare to be discovered as such. And because they were living formulas, the madam would never allow them to redeem themselves and gain freedom. The flowers tattooed on their backs were a perpetual imprisonment.

After Liu Wen’er finished speaking, she sighed, “So what Young Master said is true. I’m in a dilemma, not knowing whom to trust because we courtesans are all afraid of death. If wicked people find out, they’ll cut our skin. Even if we’re lucky enough to encounter an honest official, we’ll still be arrested and interrogated. How would they deal with living formulas like us? I really dare not imagine. Will they easily help us erase the tattoos? Won’t there be someone who secretly wants to keep the formulas and end up killing us?”

“In fact, continuing to sell ourselves, staying at Chunxiang Building, and not breaking free from servitude don’t matter to us. After all, most of us courtesans wouldn’t know how to survive outside. We just want to break free from the shackles on our backs. We don’t want to live in constant fear that someone will discover the secret and skin us alive. The bloody scenes on our backs are too terrifying,” Liu Wen’er said, her eyes turning red, as if recalling the past ordeals of her sisters, the gruesome aftermath of lives exploited and the pain they must have endured.

When Liu Wen’er first saw Lin Qingyang and Chu Lishu, she almost mistakenly thought they were also there to seek the formula. That’s why she was so agitated and wanted to deal with them. Bearing the blame, they were truly like startled birds.

“You’re right. Even within the government, there are many parasites. Once you’re locked up, it’s like announcing this secret to the world. In places where the righteous can’t see, internal parasites and external locusts hide in dark corners. You might die without anyone knowing the reason,” Chu Lishu said.

Tears streamed down Liu Wen’er’s face, and she chuckled lightly, “So, Young Master, can you really help us?”

Chu Lishu smirked, his plan already formed in his mind, “Certainly.”

Liu Wen’er was momentarily stunned, looking at him in surprise, “If Young Master can help us escape this nightmare, I, as a servant, will definitely repay you.”

“As long as you no longer have to worry about the fate of being skinned alive all the time?” Chu Lishu asked.

Liu Wen’er naturally didn’t dare to ask for too much, “As long as it’s like this, it’s enough. We can’t control anything else; we just want to live.”

Chu Lishu’s gaze gradually changed. The purity in his eyes was covered by darkness. “Even if, from now on, you serve me? Even if you continue to use the addictive substance to harm others?”

The cold tone made Liu Wen’er shudder. She couldn’t believe her eyes, feeling an extreme sense of unfamiliarity with the person in front of her. Was this still the same young master from just a moment ago?

Liu Wen’er suddenly felt like she had been played. “Young Master, you…”

“What’s wrong? I can meet your demands. I can not only free you from these patterns but also make you the owner of Chunxiang Building. Besides you, anyone else who wants to leave can do so. And you just need to occasionally use the addictive substance to help me deal with some people. This is not a losing deal for you.” Chu Lishu smirked, lightly tapping his fingers on the table, but his gaze was already fixed on the wound on Liu Wen’er’s neck.

If Liu Wen’er didn’t agree, it seemed she would die right there.

Chu Lishu’s plan was to kill the madam, have Liu Wen’er establish contact with the hidden boss behind the scenes, continue deceiving the boss, helping him with tasks, and submitting money. This way, he could continue to receive protection from this boss. Chu Lishu could gradually learn about the boss’s identity, as someone able to conduct such affairs in the capital would undoubtedly be wealthy and influential. Utilizing such a significant leverage could be a trump card for Chu Lishu.

By removing their tattoos, transcribing the formulas for himself, and managing them, Chu Lishu aimed to prevent the emergence of another “Chu Lishu.” After all, there were a few people in the capital who could read the Tianwu Clan’s script. He had to ensure that everything was under his control. When Liu Wen’er needed to report, he would assist her in fooling those above.

During other times, the formulas, Liu Wen’er, and Chunxiang Building would all be under his control.

Liu Wen’er stared blankly at Chu Lishu. “Young Master, how can you…”

“Do you think I can’t do it, or do you think I should be a living Bodhisattva, helping you for free? There’s a give and take. If you think it’s better to believe those who come to investigate, I don’t object. But one thing you need to understand: you still don’t know who your boss behind the scenes is. What if he’s someone from the government? Then it becomes an internal conflict within the government, and how many people will care about your life then?” Chu Lishu casually used his most indifferent tone to break down Liu Wen’er’s defenses.

It had to be said that Liu Wen’er was very disappointed. Although she instinctively felt that Chu Lishu wasn’t just making empty promises and could really deliver, she thought it would be the more straightforward actions of a knight, helping without expecting anything in return. However, she didn’t expect that everything would still require an exchange. Liu Wen’er realized that this was just jumping from one cage to another, albeit a slightly better one.

But as long as she could escape from the patterns on her back, everything seemed worth it.

Seeing that Liu Wen’er was considering it, Chu Lishu said, “Among the two who escaped, one of them knows the script of the Tianwu Clan. He is determined to investigate the situation here, and he can do it quickly. So, it’s only a matter of time before you’re exposed and captured.”

Liu Wen’er’s face showed a resolute expression, “Young Master, if you can…”

Liu Wen’er was about to agree when suddenly there was a commotion from the direction of the cabinet. This startled her, and she immediately fell silent.

Chu Lishu’s expression changed. According to his calculations, Lin Qingyang inside the cabinet shouldn’t be able to hear the sounds outside, especially considering his current state.

But the commotion inside the cabinet continued.

Chu Lishu approached to check the situation. When he opened the cabinet door, he saw Lin Qingyang kneeling awkwardly in the middle of the cabinet, holding the Illusion Brain Incense that Chu Lishu had thrown into the corner earlier. Lin Qingyang was staring at it with a mesmerized look, as if wanting to devour it.

Chu Lishu was taken aback. Was Lin Qingyang searching for the incense?

The sudden light stimulation reached Lin Qingyang. His eyes, like those of an animal, alertly looked to the side. In the moment he saw Chu Lishu’s face, a glimmer of humanity flashed in his eyes.

Lin Qingyang paused, and soon a nearly tearful expression appeared on his face. He abruptly threw the incense outside, then rushed out and leaped onto Chu Lishu, hugging him tightly. Chu Lishu staggered backward several steps before stabilizing himself.

“Help me, Chu Lishu… I feel so uncomfortable, I feel so uncomfortable… Please, Chu Lishu, you must have a way. I can’t control myself anymore, I…”

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