Tao Mo muttered to himself, “I haven’t heard of any recent murder cases.”

Gu She said, “I was just asking casually.”

Tao Mo felt embarrassed and said, “In fact, Master Jin is knowledgeable about our dynasty’s laws. I was just speaking nonsense.”

Gu She asked, “Was it also Master Jin’s suggestion to assign Sang Xiao Tu to my residence as a servant?”

“No,” Tao Mo repeated the words that Master Jin had told him at the time, and then sighed, “Although everything he said was reasonable, he didn’t mention how to judge the case, so I had to come up with a random idea.” Seeing Gu She’s slight smile since earlier, Tao Mo wondered, “Do you think my method is childish and laughable?”

Gu She said, “Have you ever seen children playing with mud?”

Thinking that Gu She was concerned about saving face and didn’t want to admit it directly, Tao Mo obediently answered, “Yes, I have.”

“Do you think it’s childish and laughable?”

Tao Mo said, “Although it’s childish, it’s not laughable.”

“It shows that not everything childish is laughable. Sometimes, immaturity can be respectable,” Gu She said slowly.

Tao Mo was momentarily at a loss.

Gu She looked at the sky, “It’s getting late. Let’s have dinner first.”

“Okay.” Tao Mo nodded absentmindedly and followed him out, heading towards the main hall.

It wasn’t until they were seated and Sang Xiao Tu, with medicinal patches on his head, followed Gu Xiao Jia and served them food that Tao Mo suddenly realized that Gu She’s earlier words were actually praising him as respectable. He looked at Gu She’s calm profile and couldn’t be certain whether he had misunderstood or if Gu She truly meant it.

Suddenly, Gu She reached out with his chopsticks and picked up a piece of meat, placing it in Tao Mo’s bowl.

Tao Mo was pleasantly surprised.

Gu She calmly said, “Eat.”

“Yes.” Tao Mo lowered his head and instead of eating the entire piece of meat in one go, he took a small bite and paired it with a mouthful of rice. Bite by bite, he finished a whole bowl of rice with just that piece of meat.

Gu Xiao Jia couldn’t help but want to laugh.

Hao Guo Zi gave him a stern look.

Gu She put down his chopsticks and said, “Shall we play chess?”

Tao Mo hurriedly put down his bowl and eagerly nodded.

Since their outing to Longshan, they hadn’t played chess again. Thinking back to that game of blind chess, it was the first time Tao Mo’s interest in playing chess was aroused by the game itself, rather than just because his opponent was Gu She.

Gu Xiao Jia set up the chessboard and asked Sang Xiao Tu to leave.

Tao Mo suddenly turned his head and asked, “Has your father been buried?”

Sang Xiao Tu abruptly stopped, bent his knees, and prepared to kowtow.

Gu Xiao Jia and Hao Guo Zi quickly held him back.

Sang Xiao Tu said, “I will repay the great kindness and virtue of the gentlemen by serving them like a cow or a horse.”

Tao Mo felt awkward and said, “I was just asking if your father has been buried. Do you need any help?”

Sang Xiao Tu wiped away his tears and said, “Thank you for your concern. The village chief and the villagers pooled some money, and we buried him yesterday.” Saying it was a burial, but it was actually just buying a coffin and having a few people carry it to Yunlin Mountain for burial.

Tao Mo nodded.

Gu She suddenly said, “From now on, you’ll follow Tao Mo.”

Sang Xiao Tu trembled. It wasn’t that he was unwilling, but it was the first time he had heard this high-ranking person from Tan Yang County speak to him. He was nervous and quickly said, “Thank you, Gu Xiao Jia. Thank you, Tao Mo.”

Gu Xiao Jia pulled him up and said, “Don’t disturb Sir’s enjoyment of chess here. I’ll take you around Gu Residence so you won’t get lost in the future.”

Hao Guo Zi grumbled, “Why weren’t you this kind before when I came?”

Gu Xiao Jia smiled knowingly, “Sang Xiao Tu is a servant of Gu Residence. It’s only natural for me to familiarize him with the residence. I don’t know what position Mr. Hao holds in Gu Residence.”

Hao Guo Zi was left speechless.

Gu Xiao Jia won a game and felt proud. He put extra effort into introducing Gu Residence to Sang Xiao Tu.

Hao Guo Zi silently followed behind him. During his time at Gu Residence, he only had Gu Xiao Jia to pass the time with.

After the three of them had finished touring Gu Residence, Gu Xiao Jia estimated that it was about time, so he led them back to the main hall. As they were about to enter the courtyard, they coincidentally saw a visitor coming out from inside. Gu Xiao Jia was astonished, “There’s a visitor at the residence?”

The gatekeeper said, “He’s here to find Tao Mo.”

Hao Guo Zi was pleasantly surprised, “Could it be that Lao Tao has returned?”

The gatekeeper said, “It’s Viscount Yiyu.”

Hao Guo Zi’s expression immediately turned cold. “What is he here for?”

The gatekeeper said, “He came to deliver something to Tao Mo.”

Gu Xiao Jia furrowed his brow, “Where is he? Did you send him away?” Since the last exchange between Gu She and Viscount Yiyu, he knew that his own master didn’t hold this person in high regard. Therefore, he was afraid that the gatekeeper, being unaware, would let him in and disturb Gu She’s tranquility.

The gatekeeper said, “He left after delivering the item.”

Hao Guo Zi asked, “Where is the item?”

The gatekeeper said, “It has already been delivered to Tao Mo.”

Hao Guo Zi turned and walked inside.

Gu Xiao Jia and Sang Xiao Tu immediately followed.

Hao Guo Zi entered the room and saw the item placed on the table. Although it hadn’t been opened, it appeared to be a piece of clothing. Tao Mo’s ears turned slightly red, while Gu She remained indifferent.

“Young Master?” he tentatively asked.

Tao Mo was startled for a moment, then sighed in relief, “Put the item away.”

Hao Guo Zi responded and was about to take it back inside when Gu She calmly said, “Why not open it and take a look?”

Hao Guo Zi looked at Tao Mo.

Tao Mo’s ears turned purple, and after a while, he said, “It’s fine to open and take a look.”

Hao Guo Zi had no choice but to unwrap the outer oil paper, and indeed, it was a piece of clothing. Sky blue in color, with faint cloud patterns, and there was also a valuable white jade belt. He discreetly looked at Tao Mo.

Tao Mo opened his mouth and secretly glanced at Gu She.

Gu She remained inscrutable.

“Without merit, there is no reward. I think I’ll return it tomorrow,” Tao Mo said. He didn’t say this to please Gu She but genuinely felt that he and Yi Yu didn’t have such a relationship. Inviting Yi Yu to stay at the county government office back then was simply based on their acquaintance and the coincidence of being fellow villagers meeting in a foreign place. As for any other connection between them, it had ended completely when he burned the handkerchief.

Gu Xiao Jia said, “The fabric’s texture is quite good. It’s probably not something you can buy in Tan Yang County.”

A crisp sound as a piece was placed.

Tao Mo snapped back to attention, refocusing his gaze on the chessboard. However, although his eyes returned, his thoughts were still somewhat absent-minded. He held the chess piece, swaying it on the board for a moment before finally finding a spot to place it.

Another crisp sound.

Tao Mo looked up in a daze, only to see Gu She standing up and walking away.

“Che…” he hesitated.

Gu She didn’t turn his head and said, “Since you’re not focused, there’s no need to linger.”

Tao Mo turned to look at the chessboard, repeating in a daze, “Since you’re not focused, there’s no need to linger.”

Since you’re not focused, there’s no need to linger…

Swish.

Hao Guo Zi sat up, holding his head in pain and couldn’t help but say, “Young Master.”

“Hmm?”

“I’ve been hearing those eight words all night long.” Even if Tao Mo didn’t mention those eight words now, they would continue to circle endlessly in his mind…

Tao Mo asked, “What do you think those words mean?”

Hao Guo Zi said, “Perhaps it means Young Master’s lack of focus on the chess game? Or maybe…” it refers to Young Master’s attitude towards Viscount Yi Yu? He paused for a moment, surprised by his own thoughts. What does Young Master’s attitude towards Viscount Yi Yu have to do with Gu She? He wouldn’t be jealous, right?

… Surely not?

Tao Mo didn’t immediately respond.

Hao Guo Zi thought about Tao Mo’s feelings towards Gu She. He wanted to dampen his enthusiasm but also didn’t want to discourage him, so he said softly, “Lao Tao will be back soon. Young Master, it’s better not to get too close to Gu She.”

Mentioning Lao Tao finally brought Tao Mo’s thoughts out of those eight words. He respected Lao Tao not only because he always took care of him and made proper arrangements but also because Lao Tao often filled the position that his father should have held. There were things he didn’t need to say and matters he didn’t need to consider, but Lao Tao said them and considered them, not because he was his young master but because they were his father’s dying words.

Father…

The hand pressed against Tao Mo’s cheek suddenly became damp.

In the early morning, there was moisture in the air.

Tao Mo rubbed his stiff hands together and his gaze was drawn to a carriage on the side of the road.

Peng Xiang sat on the carriage, half-closed eyes as if dozing off.

Tao Mo took the package wrapped in clothes from Hao Guo Zi’s hand and walked towards him.

Just as Peng Xiang was about to fall into a deeper slumber, someone gently pushed him, causing him to startle awake. Seeing Tao Mo, he quickly rubbed his eyes and said, “Tao, Tao Daren?”

Hao Guo Zi grumbled, “What are you doing here so early?”

Peng Xiang said, “Young Master asked me to take Daren to the county government office.”

Hao Guo Zi said, “There are plenty of carriages at the county government office. You don’t need to trouble yourselves.”

Peng Xiang asked in return, “Where are the carriages?”

Hao Guo Zi was at a loss for words.

Yesterday, Tao Mo had walked to the county government office, so there hadn’t been a need for a carriage.

He looked at Peng Xiang suspiciously and asked, “How do you know that Young Master didn’t take a carriage?”

Peng Xiang said, “I just came to try my luck. Since Tao Daren really doesn’t have a carriage, how about letting me give you a ride?” He smiled at Tao Mo. After all, he had been working at the Qun Xiang Building for so many years, how could he not have a trace of charm? With just a smile, he exuded seventy to eighty percent of the charm of those attractive attendants. It was truly enchanting and tender.

However, Tao Mo didn’t respond but handed the package wrapped in oil paper to him, saying, “Without merit, there is no reward. This belongs to your young master. I’m returning it intact…” He glanced at Hao Guo Zi.

“To return it intact to its rightful owner,” Hao Guo Zi loudly added.

Peng Xiang didn’t take it but pretended to be puzzled, saying, “Could it be that the clothes don’t fit Daren? But my young master said that he would never misjudge your figure, Daren.”

Tao Mo said, “This gift is too valuable, I can’t accept it.”

Peng Xiang sighed and lowered his head, saying, “Daren, why reject someone from afar? Back then, the money spent by Daren on my young master’s behalf was more than just this outfit. Now, my young master is just repaying you with a token of gratitude and grace.” His tone softened, “Doesn’t Daren understand my young master’s intentions?”

“A heart of a wolf and tiger, who can understand?” Hao Guo Zi, remembering what had happened back then, was furious.

Tao Mo still refused, “The debts of kindness and grace from back then have been settled. There’s no need for Viscount Yi Yu to hold any grudges.”

Peng Xiang said, “Daren, there’s no need to hurt anyone’s feelings like this. Although my young master never says it, I know that this time he came to Tan Yang County to find Daren.”

“Hah! So you finally admitted it?” Hao Guo Zi sneered, “It seems like he felt he didn’t do enough to harm my young master in the past, so now he’s rushing over to deliver another blow.”

Peng Xiang angrily said, “You’re using a petty mindset to measure a nobleman’s heart!”

“A nobleman? Where is he?” Hao Guo Zi said, “If it weren’t for your collusion with Huang Guangde, how could my young master have ended up in this situation?”

Peng Xiang said, “My young master had no choice either. He was at the Qun Xiang Building, conducting business with customers! Besides, if Huang Guangde came with money, how could my young master refuse?”

Hao Guo Zi’s throat tightened.

Tao Mo said, “I mentioned redeeming him back then.” He had been hurt and moved by Yi Yu’s words in the past, but now, when the matter was brought up again, there was no emotional fluctuation. He could only sigh and discuss it objectively.

Peng Xiang’s voice weakened, “But my young master had no way out. Even if Daren was willing to spend money to redeem my young master, the contract of sale was held by the Zhang family. Huang Guangde was like a cat to them, so how could they let my young master leave?”

Hao Guo Zi thought it made sense, but then he thought again and felt that something was off, “If that’s the case, why didn’t your young master explain everything clearly to my young master? Why did he have to keep him in suspense?”

Peng Xiang said, “My young master is also human. Humans have their own selfish desires. What’s wrong with not wanting to be separated from the person they care about?”

“The person they care about?” Hao Guo Zi sneered. If he truly cared about someone, how could he have watched them walk into danger without a word, turning a blind eye?

Clatter, clatter, clatter.

The sound of horse hooves and rolling carriage wheels grew closer.

The intense argument gradually subsided.

The carriage emerged from the morning mist, with Gu Xiaojia sitting on the carriage shaft, lazily holding the reins.

Hao Guo Zi had never found his appearance as adorable as he did now.

Gu Xiaojia stopped the carriage beside Tao Mo.

The carriage curtain was lifted by Sang Xiaotu, revealing Gu She leaning against a fox fur blanket.

Gu She said, “Get in the carriage.”

Thus, Peng Xiang saw Tao Mo hastily stuff the oil paper package into his hand and board the carriage without looking back.

Hao Guo Zi jumped onto the carriage shaft and sat beside Gu Xiaojia.

Gu Xiaojia drove the carriage as if no one else was there.

Leaving Peng Xiang alone in the slightly damp morning mist.