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    Chapter 95: Wishes

    As the secret owner of the Butterfly Flutter Pavilion, Feng Tingyun visited the Duke's Mansion the following day and sat in the guest seat, vividly recounting the scene to Ye Jiangbai.

    "At that time, with a gentle breeze and drizzle, General Beitang stood under a dark green oil paper umbrella, carrying someone on his back. A faint smile never left his face - that's right, the usually solemn Beitang Miao was smiling, looking quite content. He took the finished black cloth umbrella and had his servants hold it for him as he carried Seventh Prince all the way back home."

    "I roughly calculated that walking from the Butterfly Flutter Pavilion to the Beitang Mansion would take about two hours." He clicked his tongue twice and sighed, "It's great being a martial artist; you have the strength to carry someone for so long without feeling tired, and even seem pleased."

    Sitting in the master seat, half of Ye Jiangbai's face was hidden in the shadows, his gaze appearing rather unfriendly.

    "Don't glare at me like that," Feng Tingyun said with his hands in his sleeves, "I'm just speaking the truth. I may not understand your relationship with Seventh Prince, but he's doing just fine without you. Why do you look like you're half-dead?"

    "Half-dead?"

    "How can you not be half-dead?" Feng Tingyun narrowed his eyes, "You've been sick for four days. Have you taken care of the construction of the palace retreat? Do you know the current situation between Third Prince and the Crown Prince? Did you read the document delivered to the Duke's Mansion three days ago?"

    He looked frustrated, "Are you being fair to those brothers who risked their lives for you?"

    Ye Jiangbai calmly looked at him and waited until he finished his tirade before responding slowly, "The construction of the palace retreat was my idea."

    Feng Tingyun choked.

    "Let's talk about the Third Prince and the Crown Prince. Do you think the Crown Prince, who initially planned to sit back and watch the two of them fight, would suddenly join the competition for no reason?" He sneered. "By the time you start working on the matters in the Ministry of Finance, it will be too late."

    "And those official documents delivered three days ago…" Ye Jiangbai narrowed his eyes slightly. "Out of fifty-six documents, six were meaningless, and there were a total of 117 errors, including 28 made by you alone. Xianzhen, do you dare claim to be a top scholar with such carelessness?"

    Feng Tingyun's confidence waned. Silently, he rubbed the armrest of his chair and sat back down, forcing a laugh. "You… you really pay attention to details."

    "If I didn't, wouldn't people point fingers at me and question how I could treat my brother like this?" Ye Jiangbai replied with a sidelong glance.

    Feng Tingyun chuckled twice and mumbled vaguely, "I was worried about you. Look at your complexion. I heard from Xue Song that you refused to see a doctor. A minor illness could turn into a major one if you keep neglecting it."

    "I know my body better than anyone else," Ye Jiangbai said. "Even if I fall seriously ill, it won't affect anything."

    Indeed, he had not made any mistakes; in fact, he had done a clean job. Feng Tingyun realized there was no point in advising him and let out a long sigh. "That's just who you are – you don't easily let go of others or yourself. If I may speak frankly, you're not someone who can engage in same-sex relationships. Even if you were momentarily enchanted by Seventh Prince, you should have woken up sooner."

    Ye Jiangbai's body stiffened slightly. Suddenly, he laughed, coughing and wheezing as tears welled up in his fox-like eyes.

    "Yes," he nodded. "I'm not someone who can engage in same-sex relationships."

    Even if someone had momentarily captivated him, that person was a woman, not a man.

    As if seeing Zhao Changnian's eyes filled with resentment again, Ye Jiangbai's chest convulsed, and he couldn't stop coughing. His knuckles trembled along with his wrist, as if he were about to cough out his lungs.

    "Sigh," Feng Tingyun empathized, stepping forward to pat his back and frowning. "Why put yourself through this? If your subordinates see, it won't establish authority; instead, they'll think the Duke has been bewitched by a man, leaving him in a state of despair."

    At his position, prestige was an essential asset.

    After a pause, Ye Jiangbai closed his eyes and clenched something tightly in his hand.

    "I understand," he said.

    Changnian slept for a full twelve hours at Beitang Mansion. When she woke up, her vision was blurry, and her head spun as if she had been drunk. Turning her head, she saw someone sitting beside the bed. After a moment's thought, she grinned. "Beitang."

    Beitang Miao shook his head helplessly. The bowl of porridge in his hand had been reheated several times and was still warm. He hurriedly urged her to freshen up and eat a few spoonfuls first.

    "What a comfortable sleep," she said, her eyes gleaming with renewed vitality, no longer lifeless as before. She bounced back to her lively self, eating her porridge as she spoke. "I had a very long dream, but I can't remember what it was about. Thankfully, it was just a dream."

    Beitang Miao nodded and said, "It's good that you're awake."

    Looking outside, it was almost noon. Chang Nian asked curiously, "Is General taking a day off today?"

    "No," Beitang Miao replied. "I left court early."

    Chang Nian was deeply touched. "To come back and take care of me?"

    Beitang Miao glanced at her and shook his head. "Because His Majesty is insistent on building a palace for cultivation, he ignored our advice and persisted in his decision."

    Chang Nian was startled. "You... left court early because of this?"

    "Venerable Scholar Wen gave his life in protest, why can't a military general leave court?" Beitang Miao said. "There were many opponents and few supporters in the court, yet His Majesty still chooses to listen only to flattering words. Such a court is better without establishment."

    Her heart sank, and Chang Nian clutched her sleeves tightly.

    For things to have escalated to such a dire state, Ye Jiangbai hadn't spoken up. That meant the palace's construction was inevitable. But once it was built, Father Emperor would lose the support of his officials and the people. His situation would be perilous.

    What was even more worrying was that she could do nothing. With her slightly improved condition, she couldn't dissuade Father Emperor or soothe the hearts of the officials. All she could do was... watch helplessly.

    For the first time, Princess Chang Nian felt utterly useless. Despite her careful efforts to preserve her life, she found herself unable to achieve anything substantial.

    "General," she said, her eyes flickering with calculation before she clenched and unclenched her fists. Raising her head, she met his gaze with unwavering determination. "If I were to contend for the throne alongside my royal brothers, would you be willing to aid me?"

    Beitang Miao paused, gazing deeply into her eyes before nodding solemnly. "I am willing."

    His answer was so swift and decisive that Chang Nian was momentarily taken aback. She asked cautiously, "Even if I am currently the weakest of the three princes and have a vulnerability in someone else's hands, you would still be willing?"

    Maintaining eye contact, Beitang Miao did not dodge or retreat. He nodded seriously once more. "I am willing."

    Tears welled up in Chang Nian's eyes as she clutched her half-filled bowl of porridge, unable to find words for a while.

    As if to comfort her, Beitang Miao gently patted her shoulder and whispered, "Wherever the princess wishes to go, this servant will clear the path for you, hacking through thorns and brambles. You need not look back; just keep moving forward."

    ...

    Once upon a time, Chang Nian believed herself woefully unfortunate, born with the burden of a secret that endangered her entire family, living in constant fear and refraining from speaking out loud to others.

    But now, she realized how fortunate she truly was to have encountered someone like Beitang Miao, who was willing to entrust his life to her without question, not even seeking a reason.

    You see, not everyone is like Ye Jiangbai, calculative and guarded. There are still those with genuine hearts, burning with sincerity and fervor.

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