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    Chapter 67: Ignorant of Love Affairs

    Chang Nian was dazed, holding onto the sleeves of the person in front of her for a while before she could regain her composure. It wasn't until a cold remark came from above her head that she snapped back to reality: "Has your Highness broken a bone?"

    With a jolt, she straightened up and pushed the person away.

    Ye Jiangbai stumbled back two steps, his eyes narrowing slightly.

    "Uh... sorry," Chang Nian apologized hastily. "I wasn't paying attention to where I was going."

    As she spoke, she bent down to pull her boots out of the snow, ready to run away with her head lowered.

    "Why are you in such a hurry? Are you rushing to meet someone?" Ye Jiangbai asked nonchalantly. "Leaving without even saying a few words, doesn't your Highness think that's rude?"

    Stopping in her tracks, Chang Nian dared not lift her head, instead scratching her ear helplessly. "What does Duke Guo want to say?"

    What did he want to say? Ye Jiangbai was seething. How could they become so distant after just a few days apart? Who had taught her this?

    Tensing his jaw, Ye Jiangbai's tone turned colder. "It's nothing much. In a couple of days, there will be a banquet at Duke Guo's residence, inviting many noble ladies from the capital. Your Highness is also of the age to choose a principal consort. If you're interested, feel free to attend."

    A banquet at the Duke's residence? Chang Nian was taken aback, then realization dawned on her.

    She had reached the age to be a proper wife, and Ye Jiangbai was even older, ready to take a wife. According to the customs of the capital's noble families, when a suitable young man hosted a banquet, inviting the unmarried maidens of the city, it was often an indication of his intention to take a primary wife. Interested women would attend the event, and if they found a compatible match, betrothal negotiations would soon follow.

    Chang Nian had assumed that Ye Jiangbai wouldn't resort to such a conventional method to choose his wife, but apparently, he was not immune to tradition.

    She chuckled softly and looked down, saying, "I'm not in a hurry."

    Her fair earlobe peeked out, slightly flushed. Ye Jiangbai gazed at it, instinctively stepping closer to her and asking, "Why aren't you in a hurry?"

    "I... am still young."

    Ye Jiangbai chuckled softly and asked, "Where are you young?"

    Zhao Changnian: "..."

    In broad daylight, under the clear skies, the Duke of State was acting like a rogue toward a prince in the palace!

    Frustrated, Changnian gritted his teeth and turned to leave. However, the moment he turned around, someone seized his wrist.

    "Does Your Highness not believe that taking a wife and having children is the rightful path for a man?" Ye Jiangbai held her wrist gently, rolling up her sleeve to reveal the luscious jade bracelet encased in gold. His gaze darkened as he said, "Other paths lead nowhere."

    A weight settled in her heart, and Chang Nian instinctively countered him, "How can one know it's a dead end without trying?"

    Didn't he also once kiss her impulsively? Though it might have been a momentary impulse, but... if there were no feelings at all, where would such a rush come from? He himself had almost stepped onto that path, so why did he deny it altogether?

    She was unable to be a woman, but did that mean she was forbidden from loving a man?

    Noticing her resistance, Ye Jiangbai's expression grew even more somber. "Would the noble families allow an only son to stray down an unorthodox path with you?"

    It might be acceptable with someone else, but could a family like Beitang tolerate Beitang Miao's recklessness? How naive was she to remain so stubbornly hopeful?

    Ye Jiangbai was furious. He had been speculating these past few days if Beitang Miao had drugged this person. Now, seeing her so blindly infatuated, he realized the fool had truly fallen under some spell, foolishly hoping for a future together.

    Truly... it was infuriating!

    Chang Nian struggled twice but failed to break free from his grip. Instead, she took a deep breath, mustered all her strength, and fiercely shook him off.

    "The only son of a noble family cannot walk the wrong path, so stay away from me, an unworthy one." She lifted her gaze, anger and hurt in her eyes. "Is playing with people's emotions amusing to you?"

    Ye Jiangbai paused, sensing that something was amiss.

    He was talking about Beitang Miao, but who was she referring to?

    "I'll take my leave if there's nothing else." Chang Nian turned away without looking back and said, "Farewell."

    Well, if anything, her temper had certainly grown. Ye Jiangbai was tempted to drag her back and give her a good scolding, but after staring at her retreating figure for a moment, he decided against it.

    One must address the root of the problem to cure it.

    As the new year approached and spring was on its way, every mansion and courtyard began preparing for the season by purchasing new clothes and cleaning up. When Chang Nian returned to Beitang Mansion, she failed to spot Beitang Miao anywhere. Upon inquiring with the steward, she learned that he was in the main hall.

    "I'm not going there."

    Before entering, Chang Nian heard Beitang Miao's impatient voice from within.

    Peeking inside, she noticed many people in the main hall. She turned to leave, but it seemed as though Beitang Miao could read her mind, for he called out, "Your Highness."

    At that single call, everyone in the hall turned to look at the entrance.

    Chang Nian forced a chuckle and, with determination, entered to pay her respects. "Greetings, esteemed elders."

    The uncles and aunts of the Beitang family were assembled, all wearing expressions of distress. Upon seeing her arrival, they managed to conjure up smiles, returning her greeting with a bow. "Your Highness."

    What's going on? Chang Nian questioned Beitang Miao with her eyes.

    Beitang Miao's elegant brows were knitted tightly, exuding an air of hostility. He glanced at Beitang Hua, who was seated in the main seat and sighed innocently.

    "Your Highness has arrived at just the right time," Beitang Hua said. "We are discussing Miao'er's marriage."

    Hmm? Chang Nian was slightly surprised. "General Beitang is also getting married?"

    "It's long past the age for marriage, yet it's been delayed for some reason," one of the uncles commented. "The Duke's Manor has already shown signs of movement, but unfortunately, he..."

    "If there are no other matters, Miao'er will take her leave first," Beitang Miao stood up, gently taking Chang Nian's wrist. "There are still other issues to discuss with Your Highness."

    With that, he bowed and led Chang Nian out of the room.

    "Sigh... Brother, look at this child!" came a chorus of complaints from behind them.

    Beitang Hua held his tea to shield his face, watching his son drag the prince around in a clumsy dance with a chuckling shake of his head.

    What could he do? His children had their own destinies to carve out.

    Beitang Miao strode ahead swiftly, leaving Chang Nian struggling to keep up with her small steps. She resorted to hopping and skipping, calling out, "Slow down a bit."

    "I despise this polluted air," Beitang Miao grumbled in displeasure.

    Chang Nian was torn between laughter and tears. "They all mean well for you."

    "Mean well for me?" He clenched his jaw, turning to fix her with a piercing gaze. "They're thinking of the Beitang family, the prominent aristocrats. They want alliances, power consolidation, and mutual benefits. Where do I fit in? I'm merely a sacrificial pawn."

    His hostility was palpable, and his tone less than amiable, causing Chang Nian to shrink slightly.

    Seeing her reaction, Beitang Miao softened his expression and murmured, "I won't listen to them."

    "Hmm..." Chang Nian pondered. "The general has his own plans too."

    Her dismissive tone, as if discussing an outsider, irked Beitang Miao slightly. He lowered his head and asked her, "If I were to really take a wife, what would you do?"

    Chang Nian replied honestly, "There'll just be one more sister-in-law."

    Beitang Miao: "…?"

    Not the slightest bit upset, not at all concerned – it was as if it was just an ordinary matter of gaining another sister-in-law? Frustrated, he laughed sarcastically and reached to support his forehead.

    "Why does His Highness, at the age of twenty, show no trace... no trace of sentiment or affection?"

    Chang Nian was puzzled. "What does it mean to be emotionally attuned?"


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