Living Our Lives Well is More Important Than Anything – Chapter 23

Publish Time: 2024-06-06 17:11:51 203 views
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Chapter 23:

Gu Jianxi and his team were in the room where the incident happened, calling in all the suspects one by one for questioning, occasionally checking with Li Chunzhou to confirm the information they were given.

This very simple way of investigating made Li Chunzhou doubt their loyalty to the Emperor.

Li Chunzhou didn't want to waste time there with them. She couldn't stop thinking about what was written in the secret edict from the Emperor, but Gu Jianxi didn't give her a chance to leave.

Li Chunzhou sat back in the chair carelessly, her head drooping on the back of the chair without caring about the rules. Besides her own people from Spring Flowers Tower, only these court hounds came in.

Only when Gu Jianxi asked a question, she would slightly adjust her sitting position and slowly respond:

"He didn't lie. Niu Er had a hidden illness, and that night he probably used hemorrhoid ointment in the small grove."

"No, the murderer couldn't be her. Mrs. Xu was probably with the head chef in the kitchen that night. She hesitated earlier because they hadn't announced their relationship publicly... Maybe she didn't want to confess in front of me, afraid I'd tell Mama Li. Don't worry, I wouldn't do that."

"Zhang Ping is impossible. He couldn't have liked the girl who was with the victim that night - he's into men."

...

Although Li Chunzhou's answers were vague, her knowledge of the people in Spring Flowers Tower still surprised Gu Jianxi. Even a random servant, Li Chunzhou seemed to know all their secrets.

The ability to collect information like this is truly amazing.

Gu Jianxi squinted slightly and asked, "How do you know so much?"

"I grew up here since I was little, isn't it normal to know these things?" Li Chunzhou replied confidently, with no hint of guilt on her face.

As people were almost done meeting one by one, Gu Jianxi still showed no intention of letting Li Chunzhou go back. Li Chunzhou was getting sleepy, yawning non-stop, wanting to go back to the small courtyard to rest, but someone was watching at the door, not allowing her to leave. Li Chunzhou held her head and massaged her tired, red eyes due to staying up late.

She now understood that Gu Jianxi and his team were not trying to solve the case thoroughly; they were just wasting time, pretending to do their best in investigating the case to please the higher-ups.

As long as they finished the drama today without digging deeper, they could shift the responsibility to Second Prince—it was Second Prince who didn't allow further investigation, and they had worked overnight on the case, doing their best.

The leniency and lack of authority in the current emperor's rule could be seen from this.

Li Chunzhou couldn't understand why the death of a merchant from out of town, who had never drawn any attention in the previous 120 cycles, was suddenly so important this time that the emperor sent the Jinwei Guard to investigate personally.

Gu Jianxi noticed her confusion but chose not to explain, probably because he felt it was unnecessary.

Gu Jianxi opened the case file again and when he scanned a certain line, he looked up and intentionally provoked her by saying, "The deceased lived harmoniously with his wife, but now that he lost his life at Spring Flowers Tower, leaving behind a widow and orphan, don't you feel ashamed?"

"...?" Li Chunzhou was surprised at how shameless he was to say such words. Her eyes, which were about to close, widened suddenly. She restrained herself and then, like an angry little cat, exclaimed, "First, it wasn't the girls at Spring Flowers Tower who forced him to visit the brothel; stop blaming us! Second, the deceased did love his wife, but once he entered Spring Flowers Tower, he no longer counted as her husband!"

Gu Jianxi keenly noticed a flaw in her words and raised an eyebrow, asking, "What do you mean by 'no longer counted as her husband'?"

He then asked suggestively, "Are you suggesting... the deceased was replaced?"

Li Chunzhou glanced at him. From Gu Jianxi's perspective, her delicate features were astonishingly beautiful, almost otherworldly. Gu Jianxi playfully thought that she was indeed very pretty, no wonder she could captivate the Second Prince so completely.

"Replaced? I simply meant..." Li Chunzhou knew she had slipped up, but she remained calm, lifting her head and emphasizing each word, "He just didn't deserve to be her husband."

Gu Jianxi looked down at her proud little expression and couldn't help but recall how confident Li Chunzhou had appeared in front of him hours earlier, pretending to be strong.

Gu Jianxi found it amusing because Li Chunzhou's dignity was actually self-delusion, though it seemed she was unaware of that.

In Gu Jianxi's eyes, Li Chunzhou was like a brightly colored, delicate pearl bird, always grooming her beautiful feathers, chirping softly, seeking attention but never realizing how easily she could become prey in the eyes of predators.

He vividly remembered that when Li Chunzhou spoke for the Second Prince, the Second Prince's gaze was intense, as if he could devour her alive.

Gu Jianxi casually leaned back in the chair, curious about how Li Chunzhou would look when crying in private, especially now that she was so pleased with herself.

Gu Jianxi lightly tapped the table with his fingertips and said, "There's also Minister Liu's case. You were the last person to see him. The records show that you visited Liu's mansion. It's quite a coincidence that when you returned, Minister Liu's body was found, and no one entered or left the Shangshu Mansion except for your carriage. How do you explain this?"

"My carriage..." Li Chunzhou impatiently said, "The officials have searched it many times. There was no blood or damage inside. What is General Gu suspecting? Does he think I am hiding the killer, or that I am the murderer? Do you really think a weak woman like me could chop off the head of a grown man?"

"Then how do you explain suddenly going to the Shangshu Mansion that day?" Gu Jianxi's tone turned cold, his eyes staring at Li Chunzhou, "Since you already had a wealthy guest like the Second Prince, did you need to go flatter a middle-aged man? Or were you following an 'order' from the Second Prince to go to the Shangshu Mansion?"

Feeling that Gu Jianxi was trying to link the Second Prince to the serial murders, Li Chunzhou paused, lowered her head, and said, "What if I tell you that I was deceived by Liu Yuming into going to the Shangshu Mansion, and he is actually a pervert who likes to play with young girls, do you believe me?"

"Impossible," Gu Jianxi immediately denied, Minister Liu had a well-known reputation for integrity, everyone in Shengjing City knew about it.

"Then I have nothing more to say," Li Chunzhou turned her gaze away, bored.

Gu Jianxi suddenly grabbed Li Chunzhou's wrist, his intense gaze fixed on her, "Stop pretending. There have been rumors at the palace that there are evil spirits disguising as mortals sneaking into the capital. The Emperor has ordered a thorough investigation, and if you know something and don't report it, the whole Spring Flowers Tower will be implicated."

It was something new for Li Chunzhou, she was surprised but didn't show it on her face. She just lowered her head and said softly, "General Gu, you're hurting me again."

Gu Jianxi looked at her with his eyes down, still frowning, but his grip loosened. He glanced at Li Chunzhou expressionlessly, squinting slightly, and said with a hint of frustration, "How can things ever turn out well for those who cause trouble?"

"You don't need to worry about it, General Gu." Li Chunzhou faked a smile and replied, not bothering to pay attention to him. Someone like Gu Jianxi, a proud person, could never understand other people's lives. It would be considered good enough if he could just criticize without empathy and understanding.

Li Chunzhou had seen many men who were vain about their looks, so Gu Jianxi was nothing special to her. Was he discontent about her behavior of causing trouble, or was it because the person she caused trouble with wasn't him?

Even though he didn't use much force, Li Chunzhou's wrist was still red from being grabbed. Gu Jianxi stared at her hand for a moment before silently looking away.

Suddenly, Gu Jianxi said, "Yesterday, the Governor of Jiangzhou presented a thin horse from Yangzhou to the Second Prince, and the Second Prince accepted it."

Li Chunzhou lowered her eyes, massaging her wrist, and said without looking up, "Well, so what?"

Not seeing the reaction he expected, Gu Jianxi was somewhat surprised, but he didn't say anything more. He just bowed his head and pondered over the case file.

The victim's brain was removed without opening the skull, which was clearly not something a human could do. In other words, they might not be able to find the real culprit through normal investigation methods. Furthermore, according to the strange scholar, these monsters could disguise themselves as humans, making the investigation even more difficult.

The silence in the room lasted for a while.

"General Gu," out of the blue, Li Chunzhou suddenly called out to Gu Jianxi lazily, "Can I leave now? Or should I have my maid come in?"

Gu Jianxi, still looking indifferent, replied without even looking up, "No, you can't leave until we make progress on the case. Your maid cannot come in either, to prevent any secret messages being passed."

Li Chunzhou wrinkled her nose displeased, saying, "If you won't let my maid in, could you at least bring my pet in? Also, could you prepare some vegetables? It hasn't eaten all day."

Gu Jianxi took a step back and nodded, "Alright, where is your pet? I'll have my men bring it in."

"It's a chicken, it should be right outside the door."

As she finished speaking, Gu Jianxi's expression froze, as if questioning - a chicken?

Li Chunzhou nodded, while Gu Jianxi gave a speechless look and gestured to the people beside him.

Before long, Gu Jianxi's men came in carrying a small chicken and a big cabbage.

Li Chunzhou took the little chicken and stroked its feathers gently. He tore apart some cabbage and fed it to the chicken, passing the time and ignoring Gu Jianxi and his group completely.

Qi Leyuan ate his vegetables vigorously. His day was full of ups and downs. After Li Chunzhou was taken away by Gu Jianxi, Qi Leyuan sneaked out of the room and wandered around the lobby. He met many familiar faces but none of them offered him food.

Tears welled up in Qi Leyuan's eyes as he thought, "Our little girl at home is much better..."

After eating until he was about 70-80% full, Qi Leyuan continued to scroll through the chat channel's message history. The outside environment was too dangerous earlier, giving him no chance to check the channel.

Qi Leyuan skipped past Bi Yuansi and his group's chat records about their experiences that day and kept reading.

[Zhong Zhiye](Cabinet Minister), "I checked through the personnel roster brought by Dali Temple for Spring Flowers Tower and didn't see anyone related to the Minnan region."

[Huang Yuanwu](Merchant), "Oh? Does that mean the information is cut off?"

[Zhong Zhiye](Cabinet Minister), "But I actually have some thoughts on the identity of the culprit, I just need to confirm it further."

...

After reading through hundreds of messages, Qi Leyuan took some time to decide and then decided to share his experience on the mountain with them this morning.

He arranged his words simply and then shared his morning experience in the group, including how he left the Sub-dungeon at that time.

It was already dawn, but some players who couldn't sleep quickly replied to Qi Leyuan.

[Hongwu](Hanlin Academy), "So, the 'cage' mentioned in 'breaking the cage or killing Him to end everything' is not a real cage, but a symbol?"

[Qi Leyuan](prostitute), "Yes."

[Hongwu](Hanlin Academy), "Since the sixth rule works, then we should be able to clear the main Dungeon we are in using the same method. The current issue is to find out the true identity of the evil spirit and the cage that traps Him."

[Bi Yuansi](Young Master Bi), "Or just kill Him directly."

[Ji He](merchant), "It's unlikely with our abilities, right...?"

[Cheng Yingchu](prostitute), "Since we cleared the Sub-dungeon, it means this rule is true, false rules are in the other five."

Shi Gu (beggar), "Actually, I think the first one may not be fake. In the Spring Flowers Tower, there are ominous energies. It's said that if Qi Leyuan can't deal with the Sub-dungeon, this red bean might become a new threat."

You Rurong (investigator), "Makes sense, but how many Sub-dungeons and ominous energies are there in this world?"

Liang Wenshi (merchant), "Whether it's true or false doesn't matter. We can skip these side quests. What's crucial is to find the ominous energies, defeat them, and leave the Dungeon. I don't want to die here!"

A'ping (beggar), "Wow, is everyone still awake?"

Liang Fengyu (farmer), "You guys are progressing so fast?! It will take me about three to four days to reach the capital city."

Liang Jiayou (fisherman), "I... darn Main God System! Can't they set the location when they deploy us? Gosh!"

Liang Jiayou (fisherman), "@Hongwu, bro, if you get any updates, remember to share them. I need to keep moving on my journey."

...

It was not until the next day at dawn that Gu Jianxi finally let Li Chunzhou go.

He asked his subordinate to bring the well-organized documents, left a special envelope for Jinwei Guard before leaving, and said to Li Chunzhou, "If you have figured it out and have something to tell us, write a letter and have someone deliver it to the authorities."

"Okay..." Li Chunzhou agreed with a lowered gaze.

However, as Gu Jianxi left, she immediately set the envelope on fire.

Li Chunzhou couldn't sleep, so she barged into Mama Li's room. Mama Li also hadn't slept all night. When she saw Li Chunzhou come in, she warmly called her over, held her and scrutinized her carefully.

Li Chunzhou sat by the bed and asked, "Mom, did that Master Qian try to schedule another meeting by spending money with me in recent days?"

She rarely brought up a particular guest herself. Mama Li frowned, sat up, and hugged her, asking gently, "My dear, why do you suddenly ask about him?"

With a hint of caution in her eyes, Mama Li tentatively asked, "Do you find Master Qian attractive and like him...?"

Li Chunzhou shook her head in denial. "No, I'm just curious about something. And through Master Qian, can't we meet his classmates? I just want to bring more customers to Spring Flowers Tower."

Mama Li liked what she heard. She smiled happily, patted Li Chunzhou's hand, and said, "My Lady Chun is really sensible. This Master Qian has been wanting to meet you for two days in a row, but I saw your schedule was full, so I didn't arrange it for you. If you're willing, I'll schedule a time for you to meet him tomorrow..."

"Just for today, Mama," Li Chunzhou interrupted, "I'm a bit tired, I'll go rest for a while. Remember to arrange for someone to see me in an hour."

Even though they usually referred to each other as mother and daughter, the power dynamics between Mama Li and Li Chunzhou were a bit unbalanced.

In the past, Li Chunzhou had to rely on Mama Li and Spring Flowers Tower to survive, clinging to others like a vine.

A plant like a vine, also known as a rootless grass, once it found a suitable host, it would cut off its own roots, its leaves would wither, and it would rely only on its delicate stems to grow, greedily absorbing nutrients from the host. Li Chunzhou's life was like that of a rootless grass, seeming fragile at first, but with a strong vitality, able to climb up no matter the environment it was thrown into.

Mama Li didn't pay attention at first, and when she came to her senses, she suddenly found that the green tendrils in front of her had intertwined into a large mass, and she herself was tightly bound within it. Trying to cut it would mean breaking her bones and tendons.

As Li Chunzhou grew older, her influence became stronger, Mama Li rarely argued with her thoughts. As long as Li Chunzhou could still make money for Spring Flowers Tower and didn't think of running away, Mama Li seldom interfered with her actions.

After Li Chunzhou finished speaking, she didn't care about Mama Li's reaction, she hugged the little chicken in her arms and quickly turned to leave.

Mama Li sighed, set down her pipe, and stopped Li Chunzhou, saying, "Why go back? Just sleep here, I'll wake you up in two hours."

Li Chunzhou turned back, silently looking at her, but in the end, she was touched by that long-lost title and stayed.

When Li Chunzhou was very young, she always called Mama Li "mother". The "Li" in Mama Li's name also followed Mama Li's surname. As for her own biological parents' surname and name, she had long forgotten.

Being with people she felt close to made Li Chunzhou feel safe. The smell of familiar powder filled Mama Li's house. Li Chunzhou grew up amidst this powdery scent from a young age, so when she lay down on Mama Li's bed, she quickly fell asleep peacefully.

Sunlight shone through the gauze window onto the floor, making one feel pleasantly drowsy. Even the sounds of movement outside and the faint sound of ice cubes being placed did not wake her.

After waking up from a nap, Li Chunzhou saw the madam sitting, smoking a pipe, while calculating bills. Li Chunzhou called a familiar maid to help her comb her hair and stole a glance at Mama Li's account book when she had a moment.

A beam of sunlight hit her face, making Li Chunzhou's ears blush bright red and white. A gentle breeze lifted the strands of her short hair at the temples, creating a hazy and beautiful image like a painting.

"Mother, have you finished calculating this month's bills?" Li Chunzhou blinked and said eagerly, "Let me help you."

Mama Li shook her head, "No need, you must want something from me."

"Mother, you always think like this! You don't actually want me to see the accounts in the building, do you?" Li Chunzhou wrinkled her nose, pretending to be very angry, the adorable expression of a little daughter made Mama Li smile.

She smiled at Li Chunzhou, hugged her, and said, "Good daughter, you've misunderstood. This Spring Flowers Tower was originally left to you by me. It's just that the Second Master likes you so much now, you have a better future, so I dismissed that thought... Lady Chun, if you really have no requests for me, then please come help me calculate the accounts for May."

Li Chunzhou said happily, "Okay, Mom, but I want to discuss something with you first. I want to eat more apricots today..."

Before she could finish, Mama Li picked up her pipe, took a deep puff, and interrupted Li Chunzhou leisurely, "Luckily, I already sorted out the accounts for May."

Hearing this, Li Chunzhou pouted angrily, turned her body away, and felt gloomy.

Mama Li smiled and blew out a puff of smoke, pulling Li Chunzhou back beside her. She said with a serious tone, "Don't get mad at Mom. I only want the best for you... Nowadays, men may talk tough, claiming they don't care about a girl's appearance and prefer talent, but to truly win a man's heart, beauty is still important."

Li Chunzhou rolled her eyes and still refused to speak.

Mama Li sighed, gently patting her shoulder, whispered, "Whether you believe it or not, Mom only wants the best for you... Only by capturing the Second Prince's heart can your future, including the future of our Spring Flowers Tower, become brighter. Mom has put in half a lifetime of effort, all for you in the end, right? As the saying goes, it's better to thrive in prosperous times than struggle in chaotic times. In a world where men live in difficulty, women in the same position will face even greater challenges... Lady Chun, you need to listen to Mom. I'm doing all of this for your own good."

Li Chunzhou stared blankly, with many words in her heart she wanted to say. Sometimes she really wanted to ask Li Sanchun plainly: Mom, why does your care always come with shallowness? Sometimes I really dislike you, but, Mom...

In the end, she couldn't say anything, Li Chunzhou leaned against Mama Li's warm embrace and closed her eyes tightly.