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    Chapter 71 - Alas, Prince Seventh is Bleeding!

    Chang Nian lowered her head, not daring to meet her gaze. "I have a weak constitution and tend to sweat easily."

    She could handle a careless man, but facing someone as astute as Mu Shufang, she felt a bit intimidated.

    Without further ado, Mu Shufang took out a handkerchief to wipe the sweat from Chang Nian's brow, her eyes gleaming with curiosity.

    They were in a carriage belonging to the Duke's residence, having just passed through a bustling market and entered a secluded alley. Unusual noises came from outside.

    Mu Shufang immediately sensed trouble and instructed the coachman, "Turn around!"

    The alley was narrow, and the carriage large; despite the coachman's efforts to rein in the horses, they couldn't turn smoothly. People had already begun surrounding the vehicle.

    Chang Nian blinked, about to speak, when she saw Mu Shufang assume a protective elder sister's stance around her. With a frown, she said, "Your Highness, hide well. If we can't fend them off, you must find an opportunity to escape!"

    "I..."

    "Say no more!" Mu Shufang interrupted. "You are a prince. It's only right that we protect you first in times of danger!"

    "But..."

    Mu Shufang instantly covered her mouth with her hand, winking at her in a mix of coaxing and warning. "Be a good girl."

    A group of seven or eight filthy, burly men, seemingly intent on either robbery or murder, surrounded the carriage when they realized it wasn't moving. They pounded on the carriage walls and tugged at the driver, while others with long sticks climbed into the cabin by lifting the curtains.

    Even someone as composed as Mu Shufang couldn't help but scream. She raised her leg to kick.

    The intruders were quick to react, grabbing hold of Mu Shufang's foot. A vicious glint shone in his eyes as he spat, "Stinking woman!"

    Struggling fiercely, Mu Shufang found herself unable to break free and instead was pulled forward. Determined, she used her elbow to strike the man's head with force. The brute winced in pain and raised his hand to retaliate.

    Lowering her head, Mu Shufang wrapped her arms around his waist and yelled, "Your Highness, hurry and leave!"

    Chang Nian lifted his gaze, his brows furrowing. Swiftly reaching into his sleeve, he pulled out an object and ruthlessly smashed it against the man's forehead.

    "Ahh!" The brute pushed Mu Shufang away with a pained cry, tumbling out of the carriage.

    Blood splattered, landing on Mu Shufang's face. She stood frozen for a moment, then wiped her face in a daze. As she saw the red stain on her fingertips, she slowly turned her head to look beside her.

    With a calm and composed expression, Zhao Chang Nian held a broken jade pendant in her hand, its surface stained with blood that dripped onto the carriage with a soft "pat."

    "I wanted to say…" She bit her lip and whispered, "I've learned martial arts. In case of real danger, I should be the one protecting you. After all, I…"

    Straightening her back, Chang Nian declared earnestly, "After all, I'm a man!"

    Her voice was still childlike, lacking any intimidation, but she spoke with utmost sincerity. She even wiped the blood off the jade in a nonchalant manner, giving Mu Shufang a determined gaze.

    That ironclad heart of Mu Shufang's melted instantly!

    How could there be such an adorable little fool? One who wanted to protect her!

    Letting out a delighted cry, Mu Shufang disregarded any potential dangers and pounced on Chang Nian, planting a kiss on her cheek.

    "Seventh Prince, I like you!" she declared candidly.

    Chang Nian's face flushed red as she opened her mouth wide, her previous confidence dissipating entirely. She stammered, "You… this… I…"

    "Ha ha ha!" Mu Shufang adored her bashful demeanor and kissed her forehead once more.

    Ashamed and with nowhere to hide, Chang Nian curled up in the carriage, feeling her cheeks, body, and even...

    Hmm? Even there was a warmth?

    Realizing what was happening, Chang Nian let out a horrified cry, her face turning pale.

    "What's wrong?" Mu Shufang was startled, rushing to support her arm without checking the situation outside.

    Paralyzed with stiffness, Zhao Chang Nian sat on the cushion, too afraid to move. After a long silence, she managed to say, "I'm... fine."

    "Did you hurt yourself just now?" Mu Shufang was worried. "Your Highness, don't endure it!"

    Chang Nian gritted her teeth, her face flushed red, unsure of how to explain.

    She... had started her monthly cycle!

    Usually, when her time of the month came, she would remember the date and prepare in advance, pretending to be ill and staying indoors during those days. But this month, with so many busy affairs, she had vaguely sensed that she had forgotten something but couldn't recall it at the time.

    By the time she remembered, it was already too late.

    "Your Highness!" Clashing sounds of combat echoed outside, and the guards who had disappeared earlier finally appeared, bowing outside the carriage and saying, "It's unsafe out here. On Duke Guo's orders, we've come to escort Your Highness back to the mansion."

    Mu Shufang was deeply concerned. Seeing that Chang Nian refused to speak, she lifted the carriage curtain and scolded, "What's all this noise? You're late in protecting the prince, and you'll all be punished for it. Are you rushing to receive your punishment?"

    The guard cowered at her rebuke, his voice lowering by several decibels. "Duke... Duke Guo is also worried about Your Highness's safety."

    "Drive!" Mu Shufang commanded. "Return to Duke Guo's mansion and fetch a physician."

    "Yes, Your Highness." The guard climbed onto the carriage and, after a moment's thought, added, "Duke Guo's intention is to have us take you back to Duke Ding Guo's mansion first."

    "Can't you see that His Highness is injured? He was hurt while saving me. How could I possibly feel at ease returning home?" Mu Shufang frowned. "Stop your nonsense and move on!"

    With his head lowered, the guard dared not say more and urged the carriage forward.

    "Master," Liang Ce sighed in relief as he entered the room to report, "They've returned."

    Ye Jiangbai's expression was dark and cold. "I'm aware."

    If they hadn't returned before nightfall, he would have broken Mu Shufang's legs himself!

    "Something happened on the way. Do you wish to have a look?" Liang Ce inquired.

    "What's there to see?" Ye Jiangbai harrumphed lightly. "The Duke of Guo's residence has become a place she can enter and leave as she pleases. Am I supposed to go out and greet her? Inform someone that if the princess wishes to continue residing in the Beitang Mansion, I'll send Hong Ti back to the palace immediately."

    "But...?"

    "No 'buts.' Furthermore, discipline the servants below me," Ye Jiangbai said with narrowed eyes. "Anyone who shows excessive favoritism to Seventh Princess and brings shame to our Duke's residence will be punished with a beating!"

    Liang Ce fell silent.

    "Hmm?" Glancing at him sidelong, Ye Jiangbai said irritably, "Is there something else?"

    "No... It's not really a big deal." Liang Ce stole a glance at him and whispered, "We just encountered some bandits. The princess seems to have been injured, but it's not severe. We heard that she's bleeding."

    Hmm, bleeding.

    Hmm?

    Realizing what Liang Ce had said, Ye Jiangbai slapped the table and stood up. "What happened?!"

    Liang Ce was startled and quickly replied, "Didn't you ask us to step back for a while? After we retreated, trouble arose. It seems Seventh Prince got injured while protecting Miss Mu. Miss has been weeping nonstop, and there's a lot of blood on the carriage. A physician has already been dispatched."

    "I asked you to retreat, not abandon your duties!" Ye Jiangbai erupted in anger, slapping his sleeves aside as he strode out swiftly, disappearing in an instant.

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