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The living room returned to its initial peace while Auntie Chen and the other servants tidied up the dining table. “Do you feel much better now?” asked Jin Qingyan as he turned to face An Xiaoning.

“Do you feel sorry for her? If you do, it’s not too late to chase and cajole her a little,” An Xiaoning said, firing from the hip.

Jin Qingyan squinted in puzzlement upon hearing her words, realizing all of a sudden that he did not feel upset at all despite watching Chi Rui’er get pranked by An Xiaoning. He would not have realized it if she had not brought it up.

Seeing that he had stayed silent, An Xiaoning said immediately, “What’s wrong? Did I strike a sour note?”

“No. I don’t feel sorry for her at all. They’ve brought the culprit here, let’s go have a look,” he said gently.

“Alright.”

They arrived at the hidden chamber where a young woman was shackled to a chair. An Xiaoning was certain that she had never even seen her before, let alone know her personally.

Clearly, there was a mastermind behind the act, and the woman had only acted upon orders.

“Jin Qingyan! Jin Qingyan!” the woman squealed in exhilaration at the sight of their arrival. Excitement was written all over her face as she swooned and gazed at him like an obsessed fan girl.

“That’s enough, drop the act. Shoot, who instructed you to do it?” An Xiaoning said bluntly, exposing her.

The woman was momentarily dumbstruck and quickly retorted, “No one instructed me, I did it out of my own accord. I’m in love with Jin Qingyan, that’s why I detest you!”

“I don’t have all day to be wasting my time here with you. We’re even providing for your meals and accommodation now. If you still refuse to speak up, I’ll have no choice but to make you do it my way.”

Refusing to speak another word to her, An Xiaoning instructed Fan Shixin, “Chief Fan, bring me those rat carcasses, as well as her message history and call log, along with all the information on her electronic devices.”

“Yes, Young Madam.”

“What are you planning to do?” the woman asked in fear.

“You’ll find out soon enough. Didn’t I say I have my own ways to make you speak up and reveal who had instructed you to do it?” said An Xiaoning, who was seated opposite her with one leg crossed over the other. She stared at the woman, cool and collected.

Jin Qingyan had remained silent throughout, allowing his wife to do the talking.

Time crawled by bit by bit. The conversation between An Xiaoning and the woman remained rather peaceful, except for the latter’s occasional squeal whenever she saw Jin Qingyan.

There was no way she could deceive An Xiaoning and Jin Qingyan with such poor acting skills.

Several minutes later, Fan Shixin returned to the chamber with the rat carcasses. “Young Madam, we’ve sent the text messages for investigation, the results will be out soon.”

“Mhm, leave the dead rats here first. We’ve got plenty of time,” said An Xiaoning

The woman’s imagination began to run wild as she stared at the bunch of rat carcasses before her, not knowing what An Xiaoning planned to do to her.

With each passing minute, she began to feel increasingly anxious and insecure. However, what she had dreaded most still happened, alas.

“Although she has deleted all the messages from her laptop and mobile phone, we’ve successfully managed to recover all of them. Have a look, Young Madam. I’ve transferred those from her mobile phone onto here, too,” said Xiaohuang as he handed a laptop to An Xiaoning.

After taking a glance at the woman not too far away, An Xiaoning placed the laptop on her lap and began scrutinizing the content displayed on the screen.

Jin Qingyan, too, began looking at the screen while standing beside her.

There were very few text messages and information about the identity of the sender, apart from the gender. The sender was confirmed to be a woman.

The text messages, voice calls, and mobile number were traced down to several IP addresses, all of which Xiaohuang and the rest of his team had pinpointed. Two of the addresses were found to be from within the Old Mansion.

The other IP addresses led to a few places — a specific five-star hotel, somewhere nearby Shi Shaochuan’s house, and, lastly, a certain luxury restaurant.

By now, it was obvious who the mastermind was.

It was impossible for the servants at the Old Mansion to patronize luxury hotels and restaurants, or even the vicinity of Shi Shaochuan’s house.

Feeling a little shaken, An Xiaoning handed the laptop back to Xiaohuang and said, “Send me an email containing all these data. Delete everything on this laptop and return it to her.”

“Got it.”

After about a minute of silence, An Xiaoning looked up at her husband, Jin Qingyan, who had been standing next to her.

“You’ve mentioned that you would make the mastermind bring these carcasses before me to express their apology if you ever manage to nab her, didn’t you?”

“Though I was referring to Rui’er, the same applies to this.”

An Xiaoning rose from her seat with both hands tucked in her pockets and said, “With that being said, I may rest assured now.”

She then whipped out her phone and turned on the voice recording function before stepping forward to warn the woman, “I already know who the mastermind is. Do you still refuse to speak up?”

“I already said I was the one behind it all. It’s up to you guys to do whatever you want, I just hope you’ll release me as soon as possible,” the woman insisted that she was the only person behind the act, remaining rather tight-lipped about who the mastermind was.

“Alright, since she said she was the sole culprit, feed her with these dead rats. Make sure she finishes every single one of them,” An Xiaoning instructed. With a smirk, she turned to face the woman, after which she said, “I’ll watch you finish all of them before I set you free.”

The woman was dumbfounded as she stared wide-eyed in astonishment. It had never occurred to her that the Young Madam of the Jin Family would be so vicious and ruthless.

Did she just order her to devour all the dead rats… raw?

The mere thought of it was revolting enough, how in the world was she going to finish eating them?

“I’m not eating it…” she cocked her head sideways in fear and disgust.

“Didn’t you say it was up to me to do whatever I wanted with you, and that you wanted to be released quickly? What’s the matter, why are you chickening out now?”

“All I did was mail you some dead rats, yet you’re forcing me to eat all of them. Aren’t you being a little too psychotic?” she muttered softly.

“I’ll leave you alone if you leave me alone. However, if you choose to provoke me, you shall incur my wrath. I’ll annihilate anyone who messes with me again. Pretty girl, I hope you’ll give it some thorough thought and come to a wise decision. It’s up to you to decide if you want to tell the truth and leave in one piece or to continue covering up and leave only after you finish eating every bit of these rat carcasses. Oh, by the way, let me remind you, don’t try to fool me, or else… well. I shall leave you to imagine the consequences,” warned An Xiaoning.

An Xiaoning’s threatening words had shocked the woman out of her senses.

She knew for a fact that An Xiaoning was not merely trying to frighten her. She would actually force her to stomach the carcasses.

“I’ll allow you one last minute,” said An Xiaoning as she looked down at the time on her watch.

“May I have a word with Jin Qingyan alone?” asked the woman anxiously, shifting her gaze from Jin Qingyan to An Xiaoning.

“No. The rats were mailed to me, I’m the main victim of this incident. Why do you have to talk to him privately?” An Xiaoning retorted, though she already had the answer in her head, more or less, and was just waiting to hear it from the horse’s mouth.

“Okay, it was Ms. Jin who had instructed me to do this.”

“Which Ms. Jin are you referring to? Spell her name out.”

“Jin Qingyue.”

A deafening silence filled the room once again as Fan Shixin took a look at An Xiaoning. Contrary to his expectations, she did not become enraged. Instead, she calmly saved the voice recording in her mobile phone, which she then kept inside her pocket before turning around to walk away. While walking out of the room, she instructed him, “Release her and let her go.”

“Young Madam, don’t you want to hear the full story?”

“That’s not necessary.”

Jin Qingyan followed behind closely and rushed forward to grab her hand.

“Xiaoning.”

“Yes?” An Xiaoning asked, a calm expression on her face.

“I’ll get her to apologize to you with the carcasses in her hands.”

“Sure, I’ll be waiting,” she answered coldly.