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    Chapter 55: Prowess Through Another's Power

    For a moment, Chang Nian thought of a Chinese idiom, "Prowess Through Another's Power."

    Unlike the story behind the idiom, the tiger behind her was willingly allowing her to display her authority. Moreover, when she lacked confidence, he grinned and urged her with gritted teeth, "Don't you dare show a little more toughness?"

    Chang Nian immediately bared her teeth, revealing a fierce expression.

    The governor, who had been rambling on about grain prices, immediately changed his tone and said with a smile, "Your Highness's representative, of course we cannot mess up this task, nor would we let Your Highness suffer any loss. Here is an estimate; Your Highness can take a look."

    Someone passed the document, and Chang Nian took it to examine it. She didn't know the current market price for grain, but based on the rough calculation on the list, transporting the soldiers' wages from Jiangxi to Western Pass would be exorbitantly expensive.

    Closing the document, Chang Nian casually handed it to Ye Jiangbai.

    The governor was taken aback, and his smile instantly faded. "This... Duke Guo?"

    Didn't they agree that the Seventh Prince would be in charge? He had assumed that the Duke of State was only there to intimidate others, but why did he pass the document directly to him in public?

    Ye Jiangbai smiled amiably. "How could Your Highness, being in the capital, know the situation in Jiangxi? Please forgive me, Your Excellency."

    Though the formalities were observed, the way Duke Fu smiled without any warmth made the governor interpret it as follows: You dare to deceive someone under my protection? She may be naive, but don't think I am!

    Shivering with fear, the governor hurriedly laughed and said, "This list is rather detailed, intended for Prince Qi. As Duke is busy with state affairs, I can prepare a concise version so as not to take up too much of your time."

    "Very well," Ye Jiangbai returned the document with a smile. "In that case, thank you for your trouble."

    Observing this exchange, everyone present understood the situation – Duke Fu was openly supporting Prince Qi, and no one could afford to cross him.

    This complicated matters, causing the officials to frown in worry.

    Chang Nian was in high spirits. Seeing Ye Jiangbai occupied with other matters, he took Feng Jingxian to introduce him to the various officials at the banquet.

    "This is Vice Minister Feng from the Ministry of Revenue. We'll have many dealings in the future, so let's start with a greeting," Chang Nian told them.

    Prince Qi's reputation was intertwined with Duke Fu's, so none dared to slight Feng Jingxian. They promptly pulled him down to sit and showered him with compliments.

    Feng Jingxian bowed to Chang Nian. He wasn't skilled at socializing, but this time, he was willing to make an effort.

    Feng Tingyun, drinking in a corner, glanced over casually and found it odd. "When did His Highness become so close to Minister Feng?"

    A colleague from the Ministry of Revenue commented, "I find it odd too. Usually, Minister Feng doesn't bother with socializing, but today he's actually willing to join in the drinking."

    "Did you know? Minister Feng reports all his matters directly to His Highness. It's really the Duke's prestige that makes him listen to His Highness, and he does just that."

    Was it due to Ye Jiangbai's efforts? Feng Tingyun pondered for a moment; it should be so, as there were no other possibilities.

    With a slight doubt in her heart, she suppressed it and continued eating, occasionally accepting cups of wine from junior officials.

    "Your Highness," someone raised a cup before Zhao Changnian, "Please honor us with a sip of this humble wine."

    Hong Ti stood by, testing the wine with a silver needle. Changnian took it, glancing aside and failing to spot Ye Jiangbai. Judging from the person's attire and rank, she deemed it inappropriate not to drink.

    Thus, she downed the entire cup in one go.

    The man, overjoyed, bowed repeatedly, "Your Highness values me so highly; I truly made the right decision to come here."

    Only then did Changnian realize her mistake. She was supposed to take only a sip when being offered a toast, not finish the whole cup.

    However, she didn't recall seeing this person earlier; they seemed unfamiliar.

    "Which esteemed official is it?"

    "I, Xia An, the Imperial Censor of Jiangzu, am present."

    Jiangzu? Chang Nian was slightly confused. Didn't she oversee Jiangxi? Why were people from Jiangzu here? Could it be that Third Brother had arranged a banquet nearby, and this person had mistakenly come to her gathering?

    Before she could inquire, several more individuals pushed forward, each introducing themselves as being from Jiangzu and offering their respects with cups of wine.

    Chang Nian grew anxious, hoping to find Ye Jiangbai, but Hong Ti whispered softly, "It seems a message has just arrived. Duke of State went to the side courtyard to listen, saying he would return shortly."

    In this fleeting moment, much could be decided. She couldn't afford to give the impression of being incapable, yet she also couldn't rashly make decisions in the face of unforeseen circumstances; one wrong move could lead to utter defeat.

    "Your Highness?" The officials before her showed no intention of letting her off easily. Each wore a sycophantic smile as they offered their glasses of wine before her.

    Chang Nian forced a smile and, after some consideration, decided to drink all the wine they had offered. Whatever they said would be drowned out by her supposed intoxication—she wouldn't hear a word.

    Fortunately, these officials didn't say anything too difficult for her to handle. Just before dispersing, one of them mentioned, "We have prepared some local specialties from Jiangzu for Your Highness. They are already at the gatehouse, if you would do us the honor of accepting them."

    Specialties, huh? Silk, furs, porcelain, ingredients... Chang Nian nodded with a smile. "You are too kind."

    Halfway through the banquet, Ye Jiangbai finally arrived, and as soon as she sat down, she found Zhao Changnian staring at her with wide eyes.

    "Hmm?"

    "Hehe!" She giggled foolishly.

    Ye Jiangbai rubbed his forehead, slightly annoyed as he asked, "Who made her drink so much?"

    Hong Ti whispered, "The group of people just now... Your Highness drank hastily, and this servant couldn't stop it."

    Pulling her up from her seat with a displeased expression, Ye Jiangbai said, "Let Feng Tingyun take over. I'm taking her back."

    "I'm not drunk!" Changnian smiled. "My head is just a bit dizzy, but I can still speak clearly."

    Not even bothering to roll his eyes, Ye Jiangbai led her out and into the carriage. Several carts carrying congratulatory gifts followed behind, but he didn't pay attention, for they received gifts every year.

    "This carriage is swaying so much!" As soon as she got on, Changnian collapsed onto the soft cushion, her little face flushed red as she grumbled in displeasure, "Why is it swaying like this?"

    "Behave yourself," Ye Jiangbai instructed. "If you dare vomit in the carriage, I'll throw you into the snow."

    With a pout, Chang Nian leaned against the carriage wall and stood up, looking down at him pitifully. "I've thrown myself before, remember? Last time, I did."

    "That was because you jumped on your own."

    "I wouldn't have jumped if you hadn't forced me!" Tears shimmered in her eyes as she looked at him, her gaze akin to that of a wronged lover. "I'm very afraid of the cold, and I get chilblains every year. It's quite pitiful, really."

    Feeling both angry and a bit softened, Ye Jiangbai pulled her over, wanting her to sit down.

    But instead, she slumped down, kneeling between his legs.

    Ye Jiangbai: "…"

    "You… You're the master, and I'm your little dog. If I'm upset, you don't have to comfort me, but when you're upset, I… I have to comfort you." With a hiccup, Chang Nian mumbled, "Once I no longer need you to take care of me, I won't bother comforting you anymore. That'll teach you!"

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