Tao Mo ran through two more streets in a panic, like a headless fly, asking several people but getting no answers. Helpless, he was about to return home and find the yamen runners for assistance when a coolie came running towards him, shouting, “Someone’s dead, someone’s dead!”

Tao Mo’s mind was in chaos as he quickly ran towards the source of the commotion.

There was a deserted pond in the county, not large but deep.

At the moment, dozens of people were gathered around the pond. Tao Mo tried to squeeze through twice but failed. He heard the sound of water inside and shouted anxiously, “I am the local county official, make way for me!”

Sure enough, it worked.

The crowd that had been tightly packed instantly split open, creating a passage.

Tao Mo rushed through and saw Cai Fengyuan lying soaked on the ground. Looking at his lifeless body, Tao Mo realized there was no sign of life. A coolie sat beside the corpse, gasping for breath and trembling, frantically getting dressed while muttering about bad luck.

“What exactly happened?” Tao Mo took a while to utter these words, his face turning pale.

The coolie, who had initially planned to head home, brightened up upon hearing the inquiry. Ignoring his shivering body, he stomped his feet and trembled as he described the whole story.

It turned out that after Cai Fengyuan learned the truth, he lost all interest in living. He had dashed out of the Tong residence in a frenzy, intending to vent his frustration. But later, he developed a desire for death. When he saw the pond, he simply threw himself in. To ensure his resolve didn’t waver, he carried a large stone with him. According to eyewitnesses, even an ordinary butcher or blacksmith would struggle to lift such a big stone, yet this weak scholar managed to hold onto it without letting go even after falling into the water. It was a testament to the strength of his determination to die.

The coolie finished speaking and anxiously looked at Tao Mo.

Feeling embarrassed by the attention, Tao Mo quickly praised him, “Thank you for your bravery.”

Bravery?

The coolie’s freezing face turned even colder. He hesitated for a moment before forcing a smile and said, “Sir, you’re kidding.”

“No, I’m not joking.” Tao Mo said seriously. “In such cold weather, not everyone would be willing to jump into the water.”

The onlookers felt ashamed.

The coolie secretly lamented. He had saved the person hoping for some reward as a gesture of gratitude, but now that he had pulled up a dead body with great difficulty, it seemed his hopes were in vain. He had naively expected some kind of reward from Tao Mo for his courageous act.

Tao Mo squatted down in front of Cai Fengyuan’s body, checking for a pulse and signs of breathing. However, a person who had died couldn’t be revived, no matter how many techniques were employed.

Just as the onlookers were hesitating whether to leave, shouts could be heard, and soon Cui Jiong arrived with his yamen runners.

“Sir?” Cui Jiong was startled.

Tao Mo stood up and whispered, “He’s dead.”

Cui Jiong glanced at the body on the ground, his brow barely visible as it furrowed. Another homicide! The aftermath of Tong Yinghong’s case had not yet settled, and now another life was lost. With the upcoming New Year, the frequency of murder cases was giving him a splitting headache. Even more troubling was the fact that he noticed Tao Mo’s presence in both recent murder cases, either directly or indirectly.

“Sir, please allow me to handle this matter on your behalf,” Cui Jiong said, signaling to his runners.

At that moment, there were only a few people left at the scene, but the accounts of what happened were more or less the same.

Cui Jiong was not satisfied and asked one of them, “Where is the coolie you mentioned?”

The person replied, “He probably went home. His clothes got wet from the water, and he was shivering from the cold.”

“Indeed, indeed. I can vouch for that.” Tao Mo’s head appeared from behind the person.

Cui Jiong was startled and said, “Sir, this matter… leave it to me.”

“As a local official, it is my duty…” Tao Mo’s words were interrupted as Gu Xiaojia shouted for him from the other end of the street.

Cui Jiong was taken aback as he watched Tao Mo, who he had thought to be as calm as a turtle, transform into an energetic rabbit, leaping across the street.

“You… you guys? You’re here?” Tao Mo’s words were incoherent. Encountering Gu She twice in one day was far beyond mere luck.

Gu Xiaojia gestured with his mouth towards the direction of the yamen runners who were escorting them. “Someone died?”

“It’s Cai Fengyuan.” Tao Mo’s expression turned gloomy.

Gu Xiaojia curiously asked, “Who is Cai Fengyuan?”

“He was Miss Tong’s beloved.”

Gu Xiaojia thought for a moment and exclaimed, “Ah! Isn’t he the one who ran out of the Tong residence?”

Tao Mo nodded.

“How did he die?” Gu Xiaojia asked.

“He jumped into the pond and took his own life.”

Gu Xiaojia was astonished, “For love?” He had never expected such a deep connection between life and death.

“Get in the carriage,” Gu She’s voice came from inside.

“Just a moment.” Tao Mo ran back to the corpse, apologized to Cui Jiong, and quickly returned.

As Gu Xiaojia was about to climb into the carriage, he suddenly remembered something and grabbed Tao Mo’s trousers, asking, “Wait, have you ever touched a corpse?”

Tao Mo turned around, looked at him, and honestly replied, “Of course.”

“Don’t get in the carriage and touch my master!” Gu Xiaojia tried to pull him down.

Just as Tao Mo was about to comply, his shoulder was lightly pressed down by a fan. Gu She calmly said, “It’s fine.”

“But…” Gu Xiaojia was about to say something, but Gu She coldly interrupted, “Drive.”

Helpless, Gu Xiaojia could only watch as Tao Mo climbed into the carriage.

Once inside, Tao Mo couldn’t find a comfortable position. He curled up into a ball and tried his best to avoid touching the walls of the carriage.

“Have some tea.” Gu She poured tea.

Tao Mo took it, pleasantly surprised by the favor.

“It’s Cai Fengyuan who died, right?” Gu She asked.

Tao Mo’s eyes, which had brightened from Gu She’s considerate actions, dimmed once again. “Yes.” It was clear that the lively person from before had turned into a lifeless corpse within a short period of time, unaware of love and hatred in the world.

Gu She suddenly added, “He got what he wished for.”

Tao Mo said, “But if Miss Tong could know, she would hope that he could live well, rather than following her in death.”

Gu She responded, “Even if he were to live, he would be trapped in his own remorse. In that case, it’s better to die and seek release.”

“Such words shouldn’t be said.” Tao Mo rarely contradicted him, “As long as one is alive, there is always hope.”

Seeing Tao Mo’s heartfelt words, Gu She pursed his lips and didn’t argue further.

The carriage turned around.

Tao Mo watched as Gu She remained silent, slowly drinking his tea. He regretted arguing with him and wanted to speak up several times but didn’t know where to start. He could only lift the curtain and look out the window. To his surprise, he exclaimed, “Where are we going?”

“To the county yamen,” Gu She said, “I’ll take you back.”

Tao Mo blushed, but his expression was filled with joy.

The county yamen wasn’t far away, and they arrived shortly.

Tao Mo had never hated how close the county yamen was located more than now.

Reluctantly, he jumped off the carriage and turned to look at Gu She.

Gu She said, “I’ll come to pick you up tomorrow evening.”

Tao Mo was stunned and was about to ask why, but the carriage had already turned and sped away in the opposite direction.

Back in his room, just as he was about to change and prepare a bath, Hao Guozi mysteriously sneaked in and whispered, “Master, do you know that Master Yi Yu has left Pingcheng?”

Tao Mo was taken aback.

The name Yi Yu was both distant and familiar, intimate yet unfamiliar to him. It took him a while to gather himself and say, “How do you know?”

Hao Guozi replied, “It was mentioned in a letter sent to Old Tao.” Seeing Tao Mo staring at him, he shrank his neck and said in a low voice, “I happened to see it accidentally. I didn’t expect Old Tao to still be concerned about news from Pingcheng.”

Tao Mo sighed softly, “He left for my sake.”

“Where do you think Master Yi Yu would go?” Hao Guozi asked, “Could he have turned over a new leaf? Or did he follow that person…”

“Guozi!” Tao Mo interrupted him.

Hao Guozi realized his mistake and looked embarrassed. “Maybe he came to look for Young Master.”

“He won’t come,” Tao Mo said softly.

Hao Guozi saw that he was feeling down and seemed to be lost in his memories. He quickly said, “It’s hard to say. After all, he used to treat Young Master quite well compared to Gu She.”

“Gu She.” Tao Mo whispered his name, but his thoughts had already drifted to tomorrow evening’s appointment.

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