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    Chapter 91: You Deceived Me!

    The pain in her heart was excruciating, causing Chang Nian's face to turn deathly pale. However, she did not refute him but simply closed her eyes, appearing as though she was resigned to his insults.

    Ye Jiangbai was both furious and pained. His thin lips were tightly pursed, and although he wanted to release her, he couldn't bring himself to do so.

    How low could a person stoop? In the past, Ye Jiangbai believed that kneeling on both knees and bowing three times was the most humiliating act possible. But now, he realized that it was nothing compared to having one's heart trampled upon.

    It wasn't enough for her to step on the dust; she had to grind it into mud before being satisfied.

    "You should let go too," she said softly.

    Instead of calming down, Ye Jiangbai laughed bitterly. He raised his eyebrows, pulled her closer, and gritted his teeth as he whispered into her ear, "Why? What I can't have is what Beitang Miao can have? Since the princess is already impure, why not let me play with you a little?"

    He did not release her but tightened his grip instead, violently tearing apart the last piece of clothing she wore.

    In despair, Chang Nian held onto his hand and trembled as she spoke, "If you touch me again...I will never forgive you."

    "Forgive me?" As if he had heard a joke, Ye Jiangbai buried his head in the crook of her neck, laughing until his body shook. "How can the princess forgive me? Are you planning to use the same tricks you used to please Beitang Miao to entice me, making me lose my senses, only to crush my heart later?"

    "Foolish dreams! You're but a plaything, do you truly believe anyone would take you to heart?"

    He wouldn't fall for her tricks again. His first stupidity was a lapse in caution, but a second would be his own damnation.

    The more pain he felt inside, the more venomous his words became. Ye Jiangbai wished to drag this person down to the depths of hell, making her suffer alongside him in a cauldron of boiling oil, that way his torment might be alleviated.

    Looking down at her pale face, he smiled faintly. Gently, he kissed away the tear that rolled down her cheek, only for more to follow.

    She seemed to be deeply wounded, her body trembling like a dying creature. Her lips were parched, and her fingertips icy cold.

    He paused, but reason ultimately couldn't withstand the rage surging within him. Rubbing against the last layer of barrier, he fiercely possessed her.

    The warmth and moisture that enveloped him made him sigh softly, though his hatred remained. Just as he was about to mock her again, he saw the despair in her eyes. The hand that had been clutching her clothes trembled and slowly released its grip.

    The tattered garment opened, revealing not a sturdy chest, but a layer of white cloth.

    Ye Jiangbai finally realized something was amiss. Reaching out, he began to untie the straps on the cloth.

    Round and round, what was revealed after each loosened turn was the soft fullness of a woman's form.

    He was stunned, gently reaching out to touch her.

    Warm and smooth, it was undeniably real.

    Something in his mind exploded with a loud "bang," and Ye Jiangbai stared blankly at her face before reaching down again.

    There was no sign of what a man should possess. Instead, his fingertips were stained with her blood.

    The blood of a maiden.

    Ye Jiangbai panicked.

    In his over two decades of life, he had never been so flustered. Clutching the person beneath him, he stammered helplessly, "You... lied to me."

    She wasn't a man, she truly... wasn't a man! And she hadn't given herself to anyone else – she had deceived him, yet he had actually fallen for it.

    Recalling his own words just now, Ye Jiangbai's heart tightened, and he muttered an oath, finally coming to his senses.

    Chang Nian showed no reaction, her face devoid of expression except for the continuous flow of tears that dripped onto the pillow, staining it with a damp blotch.

    Retreating backward, Ye Jiangbai half-supported her, frantically patting her back. "I'm sorry, I didn't know... Please don't cry, don't cry anymore..."

    She seemed to hear nothing, leaning lifelessly in his arms, motionless like a stone. No matter how he tried to soothe or apologize, she gave no response.

    "Your Highness..."

    "Nian'Er..."

    "Could you just say something? Even if it's scolding me, I'll endure anything you say."

    Pushing herself up, Chang Nian left his embrace, pulling the blanket over herself with exhaustion. She turned away, attempting to lie down and rest.

    Ye Jiangbai rose, draped himself in a robe, and scooped her up with the blanket, carrying her to a nearby chaise lounge.

    Chang Nian opened her eyes, looking at him with disdain.

    Stung by her gaze, Ye Jiangbai pressed his lips together, averting his eyes. "You'll sleep more comfortably here. You... rest for a while, I'll deal with Third Prince."

    With that, he stood up, adjusted his attire, and hastily left the room.

    Wandering through the corridor, Ye Jiangbai felt as if he had been dreaming. Upon waking up, he imagined that Zhao Changnian was not about to marry, nor had their relationship deteriorated to this point. He could still hold her, give her two boxes filled with banknotes, watch her blush in bashfulness, and take her out for a bowl of wontons.

    But alas, he couldn't escape this dream no matter how much he tried.

    Zhao Changnian had deceived him, as well as the entire world. She truly was a woman, terrified that the Third Prince would use others against her. That's why she chose to marry Mu Shufang, to protect herself.

    She feared that he would support the Third Prince and not aid her, just like before.

    A bitter laugh escaped Ye Jiangbai's lips as his heart ached with sorrow.

    He had thought he had fallen in love with a man and struggled to accept it, only to discover that she was actually a woman.

    What was this? He was the only one who had been worried and anxious from the beginning to the end. She had watched him being manipulated without intervention, perhaps even secretly laughing at his foolishness behind his back.

    Anger ignited within him, but then her expression from just now flashed across his mind.

    It was a look of disdain, one she had never directed at him before.

    Lowering his gaze, Ye Jiangbai's anger subsided as guiltily, he pressed his lips together.

    Well, he thought, he could overlook her actions and even shield this secret from others, as long as... as long as she didn't hold any more resentment towards him.

    Stopping in his tracks, he considered that a daughter's thoughts were different from a man's. How would she feel after he had treated her in such a manner?

    Zhao Chang Nian gazed at the tranquil room, her thoughts straightforward.

    If Ye Jiangbai truly had feelings for her, he wouldn't have treated her like this. He was right; to those in power, she was merely a plaything in their palms, never to be taken seriously.

    She had initially taken this path to conceal her true gender, but it had only led to a more complete revelation. From now on, her life or death truly rested in his hands.

    Ironically, Chang Nian felt a sense of relief.

    Since she couldn't escape her fate, she might as well live each day earnestly. When she could no longer endure, she would depart first, sparing her clan members from being implicated. Her clanspeople had always treated her kindly, and she already felt guilty for being born female. It made no sense to risk everything with Ye Jiangbai's fleeting affection.

    However, both her body and heart ached. Curling up into a tiny ball, she wept, thinking how exhausting life had become. When would Concubine Qin return to fetch her? It didn't matter if she wasn't cared for, as long as she wasn't left alone.

    The Emperor's decree of marriage was a grand celebration, yet two individuals from the Duke of State's residence fell ill one after another.

    Ye Jiangbai wore a plain cloak, his lips devoid of color. Nevertheless, he obstinately stood guard at the entrance, refusing to budge an inch.

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