Settling Down and Enjoying Life (Part 6)

There were rustling sounds inside the carriage.

Gu Xiaojia tilted his head back and listened to the sounds in the carriage.

After a while, Gu She said, “Today, let’s study The Analects.”

“Okay,” Tao Mo obediently responded.

“… " Gu Xiaojia disinterestedly turned his head back.

He had originally thought that even if they studied The Analects, it wouldn’t take long. Who would have thought that they would actually study all the way to the capital?

Gu Xiaojia and Hao Guozi went from being interested in the beginning to becoming dizzy and exhausted, and in the end, they were completely in awe of Tao Mo. Tao Mo was able to memorize everything after listening only twice, even though he only remembered the words without fully understanding their meaning. But he could still bluff his way through conversations.

If it weren’t for the short journey, Tao Mo might have been able to memorize all the Four Books and Five Classics.

The streets of the capital remained bustling.

Listening to the familiar shouts, Gu Xiaojia’s eyes welled up with tears. “We’ve finally returned.”

Hao Guozi asked, “How many years have you been away from the capital?”

Gu Xiaojia counted on his fingers and said, “It’s been about ten years or so.”

Hao Guozi exclaimed, “Young Master left home so early?”

Gu Xiaojia said, “Master sent me to the Yulin Academy for study, and I followed along.”

“The Yulin Academy.” Hao Guozi’s tone was full of envy.

Gu Xiaojia drove the carriage into a secluded alley and finally stopped in front of a dilapidated inn with a crooked flagpole and worn-out doors and windows.

Hao Guozi widened his eyes and said, “You don’t mean to say that we’ll stay here tonight, do you?”

Gu Xiaojia said, “Not just tonight, but tonight, tomorrow night, and every night as long as we’re in the capital.”

Hao Guozi said, “Isn’t Young Master the son of Prime Minister Gu? Why not stay at the Gu Residence? Why insist on staying in such a rundown inn?”

Gu Xiaojia was about to speak when he saw Gu She and Tao Mo getting off the carriage. He immediately closed his mouth and winked at Hao Guozi.

Hao Guozi was completely puzzled.

Gu She said, “This inn was where my mother used to come often.”

Tao Mo said, “This inn must have been here for a long time.”

Gu Xiaojia and Hao Guozi secretly admired Tao Mo. It wasn’t easy to find a somewhat positive description for such an inn.

Gu She said, “Every time my mother brought me here before, she would scold the innkeeper.”

“Hahaha. She said that if the place remains in such a dilapidated state without repairs, it would eventually crush itself!” The innkeeper, with a jovial and chubby appearance, walked out of the inn, “Long time no see, Young Master Gu. I hope all is well.”

Gu She greeted him, “Boss Zhu.”

Boss Zhu said, “I didn’t expect that after so many years, I’ve grown old while you’ve become more handsome.” As he spoke, he invited them into the inn. Gu Xiaojia instinctively parked the carriage in the inn’s backyard.

Gu She asked, “How’s business been recently?”

Boss Zhu self-deprecatingly said, “In such a small place, even if there are customers, there’s nowhere to hide them.”

Gu She asked, “Why not renovate the place?”

Boss Zhu said, “If it’s renovated, it wouldn’t be the original peaceful Ninging Inn.”

Upon hearing the words “Ninging Inn,” a hint of nostalgia flashed across Gu She’s face.

Boss Zhu said, “But let’s get back to the point. Your return to the capital this time, I’m afraid it’s not just for a visit, right?”

Gu She said, “I want to ask Grandfather to deliver a memorial for me.”

Boss Zhu was taken aback. “Who have you offended? No, who has offended you?”

Gu She said, “Huang Guangde.”

Boss Zhu furrowed his brows. “Him? Although he’s a flatterer, he knows how to exercise restraint. Where did you offend him?” He knew Gu She’s character—he never provoked others unless they provoked him first.

Gu She said, “He killed my father-in-law, framed my wife, and attempted to assassinate me at the wedding banquet.”

Boss Zhu’s eyes almost popped out. Thankfully, his eye sockets were small but sturdy. After a while, he stammered, “You’re married?”

Gu She nodded.

“I wonder which lady is your…” Before he finished speaking, he saw Gu She gently push Tao Mo forward. The words he was about to say were all swallowed back.

Tao Mo looked at him awkwardly and with concern.

Boss Zhu’s Adam’s apple moved up and down several times before he managed to say, “Are you hungry?”

Gu She said, “Sweet and sour fish, crystal pork knuckles, signature tofu, chestnut chicken, steamed pork with rice flour, braised bamboo shoots, Longjing shrimp…”

“Wait, wait. Slow down.” Boss Zhu turned around and brought pen and paper.

Gu She glanced at Tao Mo.

Tao Mo obediently repeated the dishes.

As Boss Zhu wrote, his pen stopped, “Many of these are not available.”

Gu She raised an eyebrow and said, “I meant to say that I don’t want any of those dishes.”

“…”

Gu She and Tao Mo stayed at the Ninging Inn like that.

Now the only thing that worries Tao Mo is Lao Tao. Since they parted ways after paying respects to Master Tao, he has lost contact with him and they haven’t encountered each other on the road. The thought of it tightens Tao Mo’s heart. After his father’s passing, Lao Tao became the elder he was closest to, and his longing for him was second only to his father.

As the saying goes, talk of the devil and he appears.

Tao Mo had just mentioned his concerns to Gu She when Lao Tao arrived at their door that very night.

The Ninging Inn was old, and the knock on the door startled everyone awake.

As soon as Lao Tao entered the room, Gu Xiaojia and Hao Guozi rushed over, and their expressions were filled with surprise and joy when they saw Lao Tao.

Lao Tao also had a happy expression on his face. “Young Master, it will be difficult for Huang Guangde to turn things around this time!”

Tao Mo hurriedly asked why.

Taking the water handed to him by Hao Guozi, Lao Tao took a sip and said, “Do you know why Huang Guangde has been making so many moves recently, even daring to offend Lord Shi and Prime Minister Gu?”

Except for Gu She, the other three heads were shaking in unison.

“Because Huang Guangde is being watched,” Lao Tao said. “Do you remember when I mentioned collecting evidence against him and it was discovered?”

Tao Mo nodded. “I remember.”

“The person who was discovered wasn’t me,” Lao Tao felt relieved in his heart. During his years as an elder of the Demon Cult, besides Mingzun, he had never failed to catch anyone. “It was the imperial inspector who was dispatched by the emperor to investigate. Huang Guangde knew that his actions had been thoroughly investigated, but he lacked evidence. So he spared no effort to destroy the evidence, which led to the murders of Wanfeng and Yuyi, and later implicating Young Master.”

Gu Xiaojia said, “Didn’t Huang Guangde have a lot of spies in the capital? The dispatch of the imperial inspector wasn’t a secret matter. How could no one inform him?”

Hao Guozi sneered, “It seems that Huang Guangde is truly guilty, even the heavens want to punish him!”

Lao Tao said, “Indeed, it is retribution. Although Huang Guangde received prior information and made all the necessary arrangements, he miscalculated.”

The others listened attentively as he spoke mysteriously.

“Peng Xiang,” Lao Tao slowly uttered the two words.

If he hadn’t mentioned it, this name would have almost drowned in the memories of the past.

Tao Mo’s expression was filled with sorrow. “I didn’t expect him to be a loyal servant.”

Hao Guozi also looked surprised. “He went to stop the carriage and make a complaint?”

Lao Tao said, “Stopping the carriage and making a complaint is one thing, but it wasn’t Huang Guangde he accused.”

Hao Guozi asked, “Then who?”

Lao Tao said, “Wanfeng had been the top courtesan at Qunxiang Tower for many years and had enjoyed Huang Guangde’s favor. But after his death, he didn’t leave behind anything valuable. Don’t you find it suspicious?”

Hao Guozi said, “Perhaps he spent it all when he was seriously ill.”

“He didn’t spend it all, it was taken away,” Lao Tao said. “After Yuyi died, Peng Xiang took the precious treasures he had accumulated and fled, thinking he could live a comfortable life. Little did he know that his treasures would attract the attention of others. He was framed by someone who colluded with the local magistrate and falsely accused of theft. Not only did they rob him of his belongings, but they also gave him a beating. How could Peng Xiang accept that his dream of prosperity and wealth, which he had guarded for many years, would come to such an end? In a fit of anger, he intercepted the carriage of the imperial inspector.”

Gu Xiaojia asked, “What does this have to do with Huang Guangde? Could it be that the magistrate is related to Huang Guangde?”

Lao Tao said, “It has nothing to do with Huang Guangde. The magistrate is the magistrate, and Huang Guangde is Huang Guangde. It’s just that in order to account for the origin of the treasures, Peng Xiang had to bring up Wanfeng.”

Tao Mo asked, “But Wanfeng’s death had nothing to do with Huang Guangde. Could it be that the inspector is investigating Wanfeng’s case?”

Gu She said, “No.”

Tao Mo asked, “How do you know?”

“The inspector wouldn’t bother with a minor case,” Gu She said.

Tao Mo was at a loss. “Are wrongful cases categorized as big or small?”

Gu Xiaojia explained, “Wrongful cases are not categorized as big or small, but officials and merits are categorized as big or small. You have to understand that the imperial inspector dispatched by the emperor himself would either not take action or would only take action on major cases that local officials couldn’t handle. If he were to intervene in the small cases that local officials couldn’t handle, wouldn’t it make the local officials appear incompetent? If the local officials appear incompetent, wouldn’t it make the emperor appear incompetent and lacking in judgment? So, even if the local officials are incompetent, they still need to find an official of higher rank. Otherwise, how would it showcase the abilities of the imperial inspector?”

Tao Mo listened with wide eyes and a stunned expression.

Lao Tao said, “That’s exactly it. Therefore, the imperial inspector handed over this case to the magistrate’s superior.”

The more Hao Guozi listened, the more confused he became. “But how did it get linked to Huang Guangde?”

Lao Tao said, “Peng Xiang has been in Qunxiang Tower for so many years. How could he be unaware of these things? Perhaps he didn’t understand it at first, but over time, he naturally figured it out. So, he threw out a bait that would greatly interest the imperial inspector.”

Hao Guozi asked, “Huang Guangde?”

Lao Tao nodded and said, “Exactly, Huang Guangde.”

Hao Guozi asked, “Does he have evidence against Huang Guangde?”

Lao Tao shook his head and said, “If he had evidence against Huang Guangde, he would have given it to Young Master when Yuyi was alive. Although he doesn’t have evidence against Huang Guangde, he has found a crime that Huang Guangde cannot escape from.”

Upon hearing this, Gu She already had a clear idea in his mind.

Tao Mo and Hao Guozi were still confused.

Lao Tao said, “Do you remember who the current emperor detests the most?”

Gu Xiaojia blurted out, “Prince Lingyang.”

Lao Tao said, “Peng Xiang had been by Yuyi’s side for many years, and Yuyi confided in him. He didn’t even hide the fact that Huang Guangde had items bestowed by Prince Lingyang. In order to vent his anger and retrieve those treasures, Peng Xiang took a risk and exposed this matter to the imperial inspector. The imperial inspector is a high-ranking official who has been by the emperor’s side for so many years, so how could he not know the emperor’s thoughts? If it had been any other accusation, it might have been possible to compromise with Lord Shi and Prime Minister Gu. But when it involves Prince Lingyang, even a hundred heads wouldn’t be enough.”

Tao Mo sighed inwardly. In the past, Yue Ling had tried to frame Huang Guangde using the same method but was rejected because he believed that before the law, one should be fair and impartial, not resort to false accusations. Even though he had a blood feud with Huang Guangde and even though Huang Guangde was laden with guilt, he shouldn’t have framed him with false accusations, otherwise, what would be the difference between him and Huang Guangde? Both would be using their power for personal gain. However, he hadn’t expected that in the end, Huang Guangde would walk down this path.

Lao Tao said, “As expected, the imperial inspector became interested and personally investigated the matter. That’s why Huang Guangde became desperate.”

Tao Mo remembered the jade horse that had already been returned to Yue Ling. No wonder Huang Guangde was chasing after him.

Hao Guozi exclaimed excitedly, “Didn’t you find many pieces of evidence against him? Why not give them to the imperial inspector?”

Lao Tao said, “Do I need to say it? The imperial inspector has a newly appointed top scholar by his side. I handed the evidence to him, and he will naturally seize the opportunity.”

Gu She raised an eyebrow and asked, “The newly appointed top scholar? Who?”

Lao Tao said, “His name is She Zhaolan.”

Tao Mo looked at Gu She and asked, “Do you know him?”

Gu She shook his head and said, “I have never heard of him.”

Lao Tao said, “I think he carries himself with dignity, and there is a righteous air about him.”

Gu Xiaojia shrugged and said, “Are there not enough righteous individuals in the officialdom? Every year there are many, but within a few years, they all become comrades of those corrupt officials.”

Hao Guozi said, “By saying that, aren’t you also including Lord Gu?”

Gu Xiaojia quickly said, “My master is different. My master has a broad mind and cares for the world. How can he be compared to those ordinary men?”

Gu She said calmly, “He was originally from the Dao Yuan, so how can he not be mentioned?”

If someone else had said that, Gu Xiaojia would have argued vehemently, but because it was Gu She, he could only remain silent.

After Lao Tao and the others left, Gu She saw that Tao Mo still had something on his mind and said, “Are you afraid of false hope?”

Tao Mo shook his head and said, “I just always feel… his crime shouldn’t be conspiring with Prince Lingyang.”

Gu She said, “Prince Lingyang is a prince. How could conspiring with Prince Lingyang be a crime?”

Tao Mo was stunned.

Gu She continued, “Conspiring with Prince Lingyang is the emperor’s sore spot. Huang Guangde hit the emperor’s sore spot, so he had to die. As for how he dies and under what charges, that’s up to the imperial inspector.”

Tao Mo suddenly realized and said, “Are you saying that the imperial inspector will gather other evidence against him?”

Gu She said, “The net of heaven is wide, but it lets nothing through.”

Tao Mo whispered, “Karma always comes around.”

“In that case, can we let go of this matter?” Gu She asked.

Tao Mo turned and saw the deep concern in his eyes. The lingering doubts and confusion in his heart instantly disappeared, and he couldn’t help but show a genuine smile.

Gu She said, “If that’s the case, then accompany me tomorrow to meet my mother.”

Tao Mo looked at him and nodded gently.