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    Chapter 72: Being Found Out

    Liang Ce pouted as he followed behind, wondering who had just said that the servants were not to be overly attentive. Yet, here he was, more anxious than anyone else. Sigh, he was oblivious to his own behavior.

    Well, who could blame him for being the master? Liang Ce thought, shaking his head. Let him be. It wasn't a servant's place to remind the master of anything.

    Back in the courtyard they previously occupied, the moment Chang Nian was helped into the room, she saw Hong Ti weeping.

    "Your Highness!" Hong Ti teared up upon seeing her. "Where are you hurt?"

    Chang Nian raised her hand, attempting to explain, "I'm really fine."

    Mu Shufang, standing nearby, spoke with frustration, "Fine? Lie down quickly and let the physician examine you!"

    "No need, truly no need," Chang Nian's face flushed like a sunset. "You all should leave. I'll check on myself."

    "How can that be? There's so much blood!" Mu Shufang immediately examined her body.

    Upon closer inspection, she realized that while everything else seemed fine, there was an odd, crimson stain at the back.

    Chang Nian hastily jumped away, her voice trembling with fear, "G-Get out!"

    Mu Shufang's heart skipped a beat as she gaped, her face a mix of shock and horror. Her eyes darted around before she hesitantly called out, "Your Highness?"

    Chang Nian bit her lip, realizing that Mu Shufang was suspicious. She hurriedly tried to explain, albeit clumsily, "I... I injured my leg."

    In such a desperate situation, it was only natural to defend oneself. However, this reaction only confirmed Mu Shufang's suspicions.

    After a moment of silence, Mu Shufang turned to the others in the room and instructed, "Everyone, leave for now."

    The crowd obediently departed. Hong Ti hesitated for a moment but, upon receiving a sharp glance from Mu Shufang, quickly followed suit. The door closed, instantly quieting the room.

    Chang Nian's body trembled uncontrollably as she slowly backed up, leaning against the wall, helplessly staring at the person before her.

    "You..." Mu Shufang tilted her head, her expression a mix of emotions as she regarded Chang Nian. Taking two steps closer, she reached for the hem of her garment.

    Chang Nian swiftly seized her hand, frantically shaking her head. "I'm not!"

    "But why deny it so hastily, Your Highness, when I haven't even said anything?" Mu Shufang chuckled softly. Seeing Chang Nian's panic, her own heart steadied. She leaned in, whispering gently, "What aren't you? Hm?"

    Chang Nian gripped her hand tightly, her eyes reddening as if on the verge of tears.

    Muru Shufang let out a soft sigh and whispered, "Your Highness just saved my life. Would I possibly harm you? What difference does it make to tell me? My lips are sealed tighter than a vault; not even the Duke of State could pry them open."

    "Besides…" She pressed her lips together, gently removing Chang Nian's trembling hand and lifting the high collar of her garment.

    Her slender neck was revealed, without aAdam's apple, smooth and delicate.

    Muru Shufang reached out to touch it, her heart churning with shock, but she suppressed her fear to avoid alarming Chang Nian, continuing calmly, "Moreover, I've already guessed. Your figure, gaze, and demeanor all carry a hint of gentleness."

    "It would be a shame if you weren't a poised and elegant young lady."

    Chang Nian's mind buzzed as she stared at Muru Shufang's crimson lips moving. It was as if she couldn't comprehend what was being said.

    As she pieced together each word spoken and pondered them slowly, Chang Nian's heart dropped with a sudden thud. Her blood boiled for an instant, leaving her feeling weightless, as if she had ascended to the peak of the nine heavens.

    Someone knows.

    All these years, she had concealed this secret, even fearing that she might reveal it in her sleep. Now, someone outside the Northern Palace family knew!

    To Chang Nian's surprise, her sense of relief surpassed her anxiety. It felt as if she were walking on clouds, so exhilarated that she wanted to soar in the sky.

    "Look at you, why are you smiling?" Mu Shufang found the situation amusing and tragic. "Shouldn't you be nervous now that I know such a big secret?"

    Chang Nian grinned foolishly, all tension visibly fading from her face.

    Mu Shufang understood her emotions and knew that this person must have had no choice but to disguise herself as a man. There was no sinister plot behind it; otherwise, she would have been silenced by now.

    Exhaling deeply, Mu Shufang took two steps back and slowly crouched down, holding her head in her hands. She muttered, "I feel like I'm causing trouble for myself. Why did I have to expose the truth? It would've been better to pretend ignorance."

    Chang Nian crouched down beside her and patted her shoulder. "Isn't discovering such a huge secret supposed to be thrilling?"

    "How can anyone be thrilled?" Mu Shufang pouted. "I was planning on marrying you. There's no one more suitable in the court. If I marry you, I'll have to keep this secret. If it ever gets exposed, I'll suffer the consequences too."

    "Well... how about letting Ye Jiangbai find you a good match?" Chang Nian placed a hand on her shoulder, making a show of loyalty with a pat. "I think General Beithang would be a great choice."

    Mu Shufang rolled her eyes and scoffed. "Do you think I haven't considered that? Among the noble sons in the capital, the Duke of Fu Guo and General Beithang are the most renowned. Every maiden wants to marry them. But one is cunning and deceitful, while the other is as cold as ice. Neither would bring a happy life."

    "The life I want is one where no one controls me, no one hinders me, and no one forces me to learn the virtues of a traditional wife. I'd still be able to travel freely under my husband's name." She sighed in disappointment. "Apart from Your Highness, who else in the court would be so tolerant?"

    Chang Nian tilted her head thoughtfully before nodding. "Indeed, no one else is more suitable than I."

    "You're incredibly daring," Mu Shufang exclaimed, biting her handkerchief. "I once believed I was the bravest woman in the capital, having done things that even many men wouldn't dare to attempt, enough to be recorded in history books and praised as 'a woman who surpasses men.' Yet, it turns out that the most remarkable woman is actually you, the Seventh Princess who has been unknown in the palace for so many years."

    " Aren't you afraid of being exposed?"

    Chang Nian scratched her head and whispered, "Of course I am. When I discovered I wasn't a male during my childhood, I had nightmares for two straight years, always dreaming about being found out and beheaded. After that, I dared not let the palace maids change my clothes or the imperial physicians take my pulse. I practically had to tell a lie every day to keep my identity hidden."

    Mu Shufang was taken aback.

    The person in front of her spoke calmly, but there was an undercurrent of sorrow in their voice that Mu Shufang couldn't ignore.

    "I don't know why I was born with this lie to bear, but since I've carried it, I must continue doing so. Otherwise, many lives would be put in danger," she counted on her fingers. "The Qin family, those trapped in the Autumn Palace, and the people who have helped my mother and me... So many lives. I can't abandon them just because I'm afraid."

    Her gaze dimmed momentarily, but then she smiled. Chang Nian clasped her hands together and bowed solemnly towards Mu Shufang. "So please, you must help me keep this secret."

    Her clear deer-like eyes curved into a gentle crescent moon, leaving Mu Shufang mesmerized. An inexplicable impulse stirred within her.

    "Well, then, I'll still marry you," Mu Shufang clenched her fists and gritted her teeth. "I'll keep this secret until my dying breath, even if it means marrying you!"


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