Settling Down and Enjoying Life (Part 4)

Si Qianshan had been staying at the inn for the duration of the case, rarely going out. However, judging by his expression, he embodied the phrase “a carefree heart and a plump body,” showing no signs of worry.

“The matter has been thoroughly investigated,” Tao Mo said after inviting Si Qianshan to sit down, and then recounted the whole story.

When Si Qianshan heard that Huang Guangde was the mastermind behind the scenes, he was visibly stunned. “Huang Guangde?”

Master Jin observed his reaction and asked, “Does Mr. Si know Mr. Huang?”

Si Qianshan candidly replied, “I have met him in the capital.”

Master Jin asked, “If it’s convenient, could Mr. Si please inform us where you met?” Huang Guangde was a local official, and there were only two possibilities for him to go to the capital: either he entered secretly or returned for official duties. If he entered secretly, it was highly likely that Si Qianshan met him at the Grand Minister’s Residence, which meant that Huang Guangde was likely colluding with the Grand Minister. But if he colluded with the Grand Minister, why would he frame Si Qianshan? Could it be a counterattack, catching them off guard? If he returned for official duties, Si Qianshan had no official position or noble title, so it would be difficult for Huang Guangde to meet him… except at the Grand Minister’s Residence.

Master Jin realized that he had gone in circles and ended up back where he started.

Si Qianshan candidly replied, “Master Tao has cleared my name and is my benefactor. Naturally, I have no reason to hide. To be honest, I have met Mr. Huang at the residence of the Ninth Prince.”

“The Ninth Prince?” Master Jin was taken aback. He thought that once he mentioned Huang Guangde, the Ninth Prince would be left out of the picture, but why did it come back to the Ninth Prince again? He looked at Si Qianshan, his eyes filled with suspicion.

Si Qianshan smiled bitterly. “I didn’t intend to implicate the Ninth Prince, but the truth is indeed so.”

Tao Mo asked, “Why did Huang Guangde meet the Ninth Prince?”

Si Qianshan and Master Jin exchanged a glance and smiled meaningfully. “Although Huang Guangde is just a mere prefect, he is still a prominent figure in the capital and has deep connections with many high-ranking officials.”

Master Jin asked, “Please elaborate, Mr. Si.”

Si Qianshan said, “He became a successful candidate in the imperial examination, and Gu Xiang was one of the examiners. Since then, he has regarded himself as a student of Gu Xiang.”

Both Tao Mo and Master Jin had heard of this.

“Every year on my uncle’s birthday, he sends valuable gifts,” Si Qianshan said. “As far as I know, it’s not just my uncle who receives this honor.”

Master Jin couldn’t help but marvel at Huang Guangde’s audacity. In a city like the capital, where high-ranking officials gathered, it was no small sum to send valuable gifts for birthdays every year. It seemed that this was why Huang Guangde resorted to any means necessary to extort the people and exploit them for their wealth. It was no wonder he saw Tao Mo’s father, who blocked his path to wealth, as a thorn in his side.

Tao Mo said, “So, the mastermind behind this matter could still be the Ninth Prince?”

“Cough, cough.” Master Jin glanced at Si Qianshan in a hurry and, seeing that he remained composed, said, “There is no evidence for such speculation. Based on the current evidence, Huang Guangde is the mastermind behind it. But now that Miss Wu is safe and sound, the murder case didn’t happen, and the falsely claimed corpse has been properly buried, it depends on whether Mr. Si wants to accuse the Wu couple and Huang Guangde of false accusations.”

Si Qianshan laughed heartily and waved his hand. “I have lingered in Tanyang County for several days and have no attachment to stay any longer. Let’s treat this false accusation as a joke.”

Tao Mo frowned. “Are you really unwilling to pursue it any further?”

Si Qianshan looked at him and said, “What good would it do if I pursued it?”

False accusations, whether big or small, were insignificant when Si Qianshan remained unharmed. What was once significant became trivial, and what was once trivial became insignificant.

Master Jin also wished for the case to come to a close now and clasped his fists. “Mr. Si is truly magnanimous.”

Si Qianshan returned the gesture. “No problem at all. I’m just an ordinary person with no attachments. It’s better to have fewer troubles.”

After seeing off Si Qianshan, Gu She and the others approached from the next room.

Tao Mo stood up from his chair, revealing the hole in the wall that Old Tao had pointed out.

Master Jin said, “Si Qianshan didn’t disclose anything, making it clear that he doesn’t want to get involved in this mess.”

Gu Xiaoja snorted coldly. “If he doesn’t want to get involved, why implicate the Ninth Prince? I think he’s just trying to use someone else’s knife and watch the tigers fight from the mountain.”

Master Jin said, “I think he’s telling the truth.”

Gu Xiaoja glared at him. “Do you dare to believe the nephew of Grand Minister Si?” Due to their longstanding enmity, in Gu Xiaoja’s mind, Si Qianshan, even if not a heinous criminal, was on the verge of becoming one due to his association with the Grand Minister.

Master Jin said, “What distinguished status does the Ninth Prince have? We struggled so much to deal with Huang Guangde alone, let alone an imperial prince. How could he possibly make such a move against a tiny ant?.”

Gu Xiaoja said, “Is he really that kind-hearted?”

Master Jin said, “Whether he says it or not, it doesn’t harm him. Why not say it?”

Gu Xiaojia sneered.

Master Jin looked at Gu She and asked, “What do you think, Master Gu?”

Gu She said, “The case can be closed now.”

Master Jin smiled and said, “Indeed. Although the Wu couple didn’t eat much, they can’t be kept in prison forever.”

Old Tao suddenly asked Tao Mo, “Young Master, when do you plan to leave?”

Gu Xiaojia frowned and asked, “Leave? Where are we going?”

Whether it was an illusion or not, Old Tao felt that Gu Xiaojia’s gaze at him resembled that of a swindler deceiving his own wife. He coughed and said, “In a few days, it will be Qingming Festival. Young Master, do you want to go and pay respects at the family tomb?”

Gu Xiaojia looked at Gu She.

Gu She said, “Where is the tomb located?”

“Wuwei Mountain.”

Gu She said to Tao Mo, “I will accompany you.”

Since Old Tao mentioned going to the tomb, Tao Mo had been eagerly looking at Gu She. Upon hearing this, a smile bloomed on his face, and he nodded repeatedly.

Gu She said, “Bring some extra clothes. We’ll make a stop in the capital.”

Tao Mo’s expression tightened.

Old Tao hurriedly said, “Of course. Since you two are married, it’s only natural to visit Master Gu, the Grand Minister. That being said, although he said so, Old Tao couldn’t help but worry. It’s difficult for any parent to accept a son-in-law. Moreover, Gu Huankun is the current leader of the civil officials, and Gu She is his only son. Just thinking about it, Old Tao felt a dim and bleak future.

Gu She noticed Tao Mo’s unease and whispered, “Aren’t you planning to accuse Huang Guangde?”

Old Tao asked, “Does Master Gu mean…”

Gu She said, “If we’re accusing him, we naturally have to go to the capital.”

Old Tao said, “I’m just not sure if Master Gu will…”

He glanced at Tao Mo.

Gu She said, “He is himself, and I am myself.”

Old Tao, hearing the coldness in his tone when he mentioned his father, couldn’t help but be taken aback.

Tao Mo stood up and walked to his side, silently tugging at his sleeve.

Gu She turned to look at him.

Tao Mo said, “Actually, as long as I can be with you, it doesn’t matter if we keep our marriage a secret.”

Old Tao exchanged a glance with Master Jin and the others. They quietly left, with Hao Guozi closing the door as he left.

Gu She said, “It’s been a long time since I last spoke to my father.”

Tao Mo looked at him in surprise.

Gu She said lightly, “I don’t need him to deal with the Huang Guangde case. I can help you just the same. You don’t have to worry.”

“That’s not what I meant,” Tao Mo said anxiously.

Gu She said, “You don’t have to worry about my father giving you a hard time either. In fact, he doesn’t care if I get married. Just like how I don’t care if he approves of my marriage.”

Tao Mo couldn’t believe that their father-son relationship had deteriorated to such an extent.

After a moment of silence, Gu She stood up and said, “Go pack your things. We’ll leave tomorrow.”

Tao Mo looked at his cold profile and didn’t know how to comfort him. He could only lightly hold onto his arm, but then he felt a strong force pulling him closer and tightly embracing him.

“Xianzhi?”

“When we arrive in the capital, I’ll take you to meet my mother.” His voice remained calm as water.

“Mm,” Tao Mo raised his hand and hugged him back.

As a local official, Tao Mo couldn’t leave without permission from the magistrate of Qincheng. That night, Old Tao rushed to Qincheng with a personal letter from Gu She and returned with the official document granting their leave the next day at noon.

After having lunch, they officially set off.

Tao Mo entrusted Tanyang’s affairs to Cui Jiong as before.

Knowing Gu She’s identity and his extraordinary relationship with Tao Mo, Cui Jiong dared not have any other thoughts and readily agreed. With Master Jin overseeing the county government, even if Cui Jiong wanted to play tricks, he couldn’t escape Master Jin’s watchful eyes. Therefore, Tao Mo felt reassured. He just repeatedly reminded Master Jin that if there were any movements or incidents, he should be informed.

After giving these instructions, they set off from the county government at noon.