Faced with the middle-aged woman's suspicion, Ling Shu played it safe.
He didn't say whether he was here to pick someone up or not.
"Sister, can we come in and take a look? Is it convenient?"
But the woman shook her head.
"Forget it, my place is a widow's home, not auspicious. It's better if you don't come in."
Ling Shu smiled and stepped in directly.
"It's okay, we don't mind. It's a new era now, and we advocate science and democracy. We don't believe in these superstitious beliefs."
The child saw strangers coming in and quickly hid behind the woman, holding onto her legs.
Timidly, he peeked out with a pair of watery eyes, reflecting the shadow of someone unknown.
Ling Shu's heart skipped a beat and he blurted out, "This child, is his last name He?"
The woman replied, "Yes, you must be here to pick him up. Miss He sent someone to give me a message last week, saying that someone would come to take the child away soon. I wanted to keep the child for a while longer, but it seems that it's not possible now. Sigh, I've been taking care of him since he was a baby. Even though I'm not his real mother, I treat him like my own!"
The more Ling Shu listened, the more he felt that this child had a deep connection with He You'an. It was even possible that the child was He You'an's own child.
However, although He You'an had been married before, there was no news of her having children with Liang Zhou.
So where did this child come from?
"Did Miss He say what kind of person would come to pick up the child?" Ling Shu bent down to play with the child for a while.
He didn't have any toys in his hands, but luckily there was a piece of leather lying around.
The little one gradually relaxed his guard and soon was willing to play in Ling Shu's arms.
But when he asked this question, the woman suddenly became alert, her gaze shifting back and forth between Yue Dingtang and Ling Shu.
"Aren't you here to pick him up? Miss He said two people were coming, one surnamed Ling and the other..."
"Ling Shu," Ling Shu interrupted.
"The other one is called Yue Dingtang, and the other one is Ling..." the woman continued.
"Ling Shu," Ling Shu said.
"Yes, that's right!" The woman breathed a sigh of relief, afraid that she had mistaken the wrong person and let the bad guy in. "I knew Miss He wouldn't lie to me!"
But these few words only aroused Ling Shu and Yue Dingtang's suspicion even more.
Not only did He You'an anticipate that she would be in trouble, she also anticipated that Ling Shu and his team would find this place, and even instructed the woman to give the child to them.
But why was she so sure that they would take the child?
Suddenly, Ling Shu remembered the relics that He You'an had placed in the safety deposit box at HSBC. Perhaps the answers they needed were inside.
But for now, they needed to deal with the child's situation first.
"What else did Miss He tell you?" Ling Shu asked.
"She didn't say much. She never came to see the child, only occasionally sent money and messages through others. I've kept the child's origin a secret, and even the people in town don't know. They think he's an orphan I picked up from an unmarked grave."
Ling Shu asked, "Is the child hers?"
The woman was unsure. "I think so, but I really don't know. She just sent someone to tell me that you would come to take the child away and give me some money. Honestly, if she hadn't given me the money, I couldn't afford to raise this child. I really don't want to let him go. But, if you could come and bring some things for him like Miss He does, I could continue to help you raise him."
"How much did Miss He promise you?" Yue Dingtang appeared behind Ling Shu at some point.
The woman seemed a little afraid of him and pursed her lips before using her fingers to indicate a number.
Yue Dingtang took out a few silver coins from his pocket. "Take these for now. We don't have much on us at the moment, but we'll have someone bring more later."
Ling Shu crouched down to meet the child's gaze. The child's reaction was a bit slow, perhaps due to the fact that he had not seen strangers for years with the woman.
Given the woman's situation in town, leaving the child here was naturally safe enough, as no one would come knocking on the door. However, such an environment was obviously not good for the child's growth.
If Ling Shu and the others had not come, in a few more years, the child would have grown older and his temperament would have formed, and he would probably have been half-wasted.
This may be why He You'an hoped they would take the child away.
"What's your name?" Ling Shu asked softly.
The child did not speak.
The woman said, "This child's name is He Ku, he can't speak yet, and he's also a bit dull on weekdays."
Ling Shu asked, "He Ku, what kind of hardship is the 'Ku' referring to?"
The woman replied, "What other hardship could it be? The hardship of suffering!"
What a strange name.
What parent would give their child such a name? He Ye'an's death was causing unrest, as a scheme had ensnared them and left behind countless mysteries.
She seemed to have piqued Ling Shu's curiosity, forcing him to unravel the clues bit by bit.
Ling Shu really wanted to resist her wishes, but his damn curiosity made him unable to turn and walk away.
It was a pity that he couldn't speak and couldn't walk properly without someone leading him, or else he would fall.
Ling Shu decided to pick him up, but he was reluctant to let go of the woman. he lay on his shoulder, tears streaming down like a speechless porcelain doll.
The woman's eyes also turned red, as she followed a few steps behind, not daring to snatch him away.
"You, you go, I can't afford to take care of you. Go with them, they will treat you well!"
In order to avoid drawing attention, when Ling Shu and his companions left Tangqiao Town, they did not go back to the pastry shop they had just visited.
They hurried along, looking like thieves. The child was wrapped in a blanket and held in their arms. At first glance, it looked like a bundle.
"Now what do we do?"
It wasn't until they returned to Shanghai that Ling Shu realized what kind of trouble he had brought upon himself.
This was not a small animal or a decorative trinket, but a living, breathing child.
Raising a child was not something you could just hand off to someone else.
Not only did you have to take care of their basic needs, but you also had to teach them how to read, write, and behave properly.
Ling Shu had no problem taking care of himself. He was carefree and didn't worry about getting hurt. If he did get injured, he would just go to the hospital and be back on his feet in no time.
But now, he was at a loss.
Yue Dingtang let out a sigh.
"You just hugged the child and left decisively, I couldn't even stop you," said Yue Dingtang.
"I just couldn't bear to leave the child to die after what happened to He You'an," replied Ling Shu. "If we didn't help, the child would have died."
"Have you considered that this might be another trap set by He You'an?" Yue Dingtang asked. "Since she asked for our help, she has been pulling us into her scheme. Even though she's dead now, her plan is still in motion. Even you taking the child away was probably within her expectations."
"So, what do you suggest we do?" Ling Shu asked.
"Take the child to a foster home," Yue Dingtang replied.
When Ling Shu remained silent, Yue Dingtang added, "Ling Yao should be back today."
Ling Shu shuddered and looked down.
The child had cried himself to sleep in Ling Shu's arms, his thumb in his mouth as he sucked contentedly.
Eventually, they had to temporarily leave the child at the Yue house.
The orphanage was too far away, and they didn't have time to go back and forth to the bank.
When the door opened, it was the old housekeeper Uncle Zhou who greeted them. He was taken aback when he saw Ling Shu holding the child.
"Where did this child come from?" he asked.
"This is Yue Dingtang's illegitimate child who was abandoned. His mother passed away, and he brought the child back to raise him," Ling Shu explained with a smile.
Uncle Zhou believed him and immediately became anxious, looking at Yue Dingtang and then the child.
"Oh, this is so sudden! The young master and the others are not here. What should we do? I'll call Miss in Nanjing to come back first!" he said, turning to make the call.
Yue Dingtang had to stop him.
"Ling Shu is just joking. This is not my child, but a child of a friend who passed away unexpectedly. We are taking care of the child temporarily until we finish our work, and then we will send the child to an orphanage."
Uncle Zhou looked suspicious. "Fourth Young Master, please don't lie to me. This child looks a lot like you!"
Yue Dingtang remained silent.
If Ling Shu wasn't holding the child, he would have laughed so hard he would have fallen over.
Despite this, he managed to control his facial expression, which was twitching with the effort.
Uncle Zhou was getting confused, and his imagination began to take flight.
"Is there something you're not telling us? Or is the child's mother of low status and cannot be seen in public? It doesn't matter. Once the child enters the Yue family, he will be considered a Yue family member. The eldest young master and the others will find a way to help. Fourth Young Master, you cannot let the bloodline of the Yue family be lost!"
Yue Dingtang had nothing to say in response.
Trembling with both hands, Ling Shu couldn't hold back any longer and burst into laughter.
The number 7708 safe deposit box was just an ordinary one among the many in HSBC Bank, with an appearance no different from the others.
But in Ling Shu's eyes, this safe deposit box held the relics of He You'an and the words she wanted to say to Ling Shu and Yue Dingtang.
Even more so, this safe deposit box would be the key clue to unraveling all the mysteries.
As they sat in the reception room and watched the bank manager take out the box from the safe deposit box and place it in front of them, Ling Shu's hand holding the key felt a bit slippery.
He both wanted to open it and didn't want to open it.
This conflicting feeling lasted for a full five minutes until Ling Shu finally opened the box.
Inside, there was only one letter and a thick stack of dollars underneath. Ling Shu opened the letter.
The letter was written by He You'an herself, with elegant handwriting no different from the autographs she gave to her fans on a daily basis.
Mr. Ling, Mr. Yue, please take note,
If you are reading this letter, it means that I am no longer in this world.
I know that you must have many questions and even grievances in your hearts.
You may feel that I have no enmity with you, yet I have involved you for no reason. This is unjust.
However, please forgive me, as I am unable to apologize in person from the underworld.
Allow me to explain everything to you.
My name is He You'an.
I was an ordinary woman. I grew up with my elder brother, He Chang'an, who treated me kindly and taught me many things. Although he was my brother, he was like a father to me.
One day, our family encountered a sudden change, and my brother disappeared while he was out. Since then, his whereabouts have been unknown. I searched tirelessly but to no avail. I even went to the places where my brother used to work, but unfortunately, I couldn't find any clues.
Many people said that my brother left home because of our poor family situation and the burden of having a younger sister. But I never believed it because my brother was not that kind of person.
Until one day, my brother's friend came to visit.
It was after my brother had passed away and I had already married into the Liang family.
Liang Zhou was a useless man who gambled and owed debts, and was beaten to death. I felt like my world had collapsed and almost ended my life, but someone came to deliver news about my brother.
I only found out later that my older brother didn't just disappear, he had died in an incident. He had left work early that day to attend a progressive youth reading group, but was chased and persecuted by Chen Wendong, who was with Shen Shiqi, and ultimately met an untimely death.
Before he passed away, he entrusted someone to leave a message for me, telling me to live well, and also revealed that he had met a woman and had a child two years ago.
At this point, you may have many questions. Yes, at the time, I suspected that my brother's identity was not simple. He and my sister-in-law may have had other tasks at hand, and their public jobs were just a cover.
The reason why the child was left outside was also because he was afraid of implicating his family.
Even to me, he never revealed a hint of his situation. Shen Shiqi found me and groomed me to become a movie star, not just because of my looks.
He knew about my brother's identity and wanted to keep a close eye on me, to control me. On one hand, he saw me as a plaything, but on the other hand, he hoped to uncover more secrets about my brother through me.
But now that I know all of this, I won't let it happen. Especially since I learned about what my brother swore to protect, it only strengthens my resolve.
As I grew closer to Shen Shiqi, I became more open with him. He knew I had no knowledge of my brother's past, and gradually let his guard down.
I couldn't escape his grasp, so I followed his every word. And slowly, he began to reveal some things to me. I discovered that behind Shen Shiqi, there was also a Mr. Cheng.
This Mr. Cheng was even more capable and had a more mysterious background. Even Shen Shiqi was meek in front of him. I knew that I could get what I wanted from him.
Sure enough, I uncovered Mr. Cheng's secret.
I imagine that with Mr. Yue's abilities, you must already know something about Mr. Cheng.
His original surname was Narita, with the given name Gu. He was Japanese and did business between Shanghai and China. He was very successful, with connections in both the underworld and upper society of Shanghai.
Many people thought he had close ties with the Kwantung Army, but in reality, he was their representative in Shanghai.
I received some very important news from Mr. Cheng, and I must share it with you. The contents of this news have all come to pass, so there's no harm in telling you now, but let's not talk about that just yet.
Let's talk about me.
At first, I was only seeking revenge for my brother's death. But it's funny how things turned out.
Shen Shiqi trained me to become a movie star, and many of the films I starred in exposed social injustices and called for patriotic progress among the youth.
I wonder if Shen Shiqi regrets it now?
But regrets won't do him any good. He can only settle the score with me in the afterlife.
Perhaps I got too deep into my roles.
After playing these kinds of characters for so long, I can no longer tolerate Shen Shiqi and Mr. Cheng.
There are probably many people like them in this land, but if I can eliminate one or two, it would still be beneficial.
So I made a decision to kill Mr. Cheng.
He You'an's letter was a bit rambling, but it seemed more like a stream of consciousness, as if she wrote down whatever came to mind.
It was as if she knew her time was running out and wanted to confess everything from her past.
Ling Shu could almost see this woman in front of him. She sat at her desk, chin in hand, deep in thought.
Sometimes she would pick up her pen and write, and outside the window, the sky would go from dark to light, and back to dark again. The clouds would come and go, and the sun and moon would rise and set.
And slowly, a long letter took shape.
At some point, Yue Dingtang brought a chair over and sat next to him, reading her letter with him.
Two cups of hot water appeared on the table.
Ling Shu held his cup, using it to warm his hands, and continued reading.