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    Chapter 106: He Endures This Cycle of Life and Death a Thousand Times Over

    Chang Nian was so startled by him that she tumbled straight into the carriage.

    The guards around them sprang into action, drawing their swords and surrounding the carriage. However, after a while, no one appeared outside.

    Peering out from the window with her round eyes, Chang Nian whispered, "Did we hear something wrong?"

    Ye Liang remained silent, calmly awaiting developments.

    Suddenly, a short arrow tore through the air with incredible speed, like a swift eagle swooping down, and struck Ye Liang's sword blade with a resounding "clang".

    Or perhaps it was Ye Liang who drew his sword with precision, deflecting the short arrow with such force that the resonant hum of the blade could be heard from five paces away.

    Chang Nian was left utterly astounded.

    Surrounded by guards, half of whom she had brought from the prince's mansion, and the other half led by Ye Liang. The guards she had brought were bewildered, whereas those under Ye Liang's command were orderly. Four of them positioned themselves around the carriage, while the remaining four swiftly dashed towards the direction from which the short arrows had originated.

    "Princess, be cautious," Ye Liang whispered, his tone serious despite having already intercepted an incoming short arrow. He showed no intention of taking credit for his action. Stepping down from his horse to join her side, he said, "Help has been summoned. If Your Highness is truly frightened, please stay close to me and avoid wandering off."

    At first, the absence of people didn't seem like a major issue, but upon seeing Ye Liang's expression, Chang Nian's legs turned to jelly, and she nodded, "I'll follow your lead."

    Ye Liang dismissed the driver and took over the reins himself, turning the carriage onto another main road. The carriage jolted violently, causing Chang Nian to bounce around inside like a ball, stars dancing before her eyes. After a while, Ye Liang abruptly pulled back on the reins, bringing the carriage to a sudden halt. Chang Nian tumbled towards the carriage door, barely caught by Ye Liang.

    "Stay seated, Your Highness," Ye Liang's voice was tense, "Don't show yourself."

    Upon hearing this, Chang Nian immediately returned to her seat.

    Fighting sounds erupted outside, accompanied by the metallic clash of blades and continuous screams, yet no one spoke. Chang Nian wrapped her arms around herself, wishing that, just like in the operas, someone would announce their identity and threaten to take her life – at least then she wouldn't feel such overwhelming fear.

    As Ye Liang forbade her from showing herself, she dared not look, but the clashing of swords grew closer. A struggle ensued at the carriage entrance, and she heard Ye Liang grunt before a bloodied hand grabbed hold of the curtain, fiercely pulling it aside.

    Chang Nian's face paled in terror as she lifted her gaze to meet the unfamiliar face at the door. Instinctively, she reached for the dagger hidden in her sleeve.

    However, Ye Liang reacted faster. With a swift thrust, he pierced the attacker through the chest from behind.

    The assassin's eyes widened in defiance as he met Chang Nian's gaze, then he slumped to the ground. The stench of blood filled the carriage, and Chang Nian couldn't hold back, crawling out to vomit loudly.

    Looking up after vomiting, she realized that half of the guards had fallen, while the rest were still engaged with the assassins. The moment she stepped down, the attackers instantly shifted their targets, charging towards her in unison!

    "Your Highness, step back," Ye Liang said, his own body wounded as he held his long sword in front of her, exuding determination. "Don't get splattered with blood."

    Chang Nian retreated repeatedly, leaning against the horse carriage with guards rushing to shield her. One of them whispered, "Help has been requested at the watchtower. Your Highness, please don't panic."

    She had seen death before, but never on such a massive scale. It was especially distressing since some of the fallen were her trusted guards. Chang Nian yearned to check if they still breathed, but she couldn't approach.

    Fighting three enemies alone, Ye Liang sustained more injuries. Watching this, Chang Nian grew anxious and asked, "Why haven't the reinforcements arrived?"

    The guard shook his head, sending up another signal smoke. After waiting for another incense stick's worth of time, there was still no response from the nearby watchtower, only half a mile away.

    Upon seeing blood spurt from Ye Liang's wounds, Chang Nian suddenly understood.

    Third Brother had no intention of reconciling with her. He had lured her here to eliminate her. In this deserted area, if she were assassinated, no one could blame anyone else. It would be seen as the seventh prince failing to gain the people's support.

    She had never imagined turning against her siblings, but her brothers were one by one, ruthless. None of them considered the consequences for the Great Zhou dynasty should all the princes perish. Their top priority was always themselves.

    In a fit of anger, Chang Nian pulled out a dagger and told the guards, "Go assist Lord Ye. I can stand here on my own."

    "But..."

    "Quickly, go!"

    Ye Liang was skilled in martial arts, but to protect her, he couldn't dodge the blades and swords aimed at her; he could only intercept them, causing him to retreat step by step with numerous injuries. Only when the guards came forward to assist did he get a chance to catch his breath, swiftly binding his bleeding arm with his belt.

    The scene was chaotic, but fortunately, many of the assassins were either killed or wounded. After half an hour, seeing that they could not succeed, they dragged their comrades' corpses and retreated together.

    Turning around, Ye Liang asked, "Your Highness, are you unharmed?"

    Chang Nian had received a cut on the back of her hand, with flesh exposed in a grotesque manner. However, compared to Ye Liang's injuries, hers were relatively minor. She shook her head, helped him into the carriage, and instructed the guards to immediately return to the mansion.

    "Has His Highness been injured?" Ye Liang reproached himself endlessly. "It was this lowly officer's failure to protect the sovereign adequately."

    "I am alive, thanks to all of you. How can you say you failed to protect me?" Chang Nian bound the large wound on his body, his eyes rimmed with tears. "If not for you, it would be me lying lifeless on the horse's back outside."

    Eight of the prince's personal guards were dead, four severely injured, and one lightly wounded. Chang Nian felt genuine sorrow as she clutched the torn fabric, muttering to herself, "Is my life worth so much that it requires the sacrifice of so many others?"

    "Your Highness is a prince."

    "Princes, so what?" Chang Nian scoffed. "They're all born of fathers and nurtured by mothers. They're human beings, too. And who is that man out there on horseback, the husband of which family, the son of whom?"

    Ye Liang was taken aback.

    Chang Nian lowered her head, her expression dimming as she whispered softly, "When people lack self-confidence, they put their faith in others. The emperor exploits this aspect of human nature to ascend above thousands with an ordinary mortal body. In the seven and twenty years of the Great Zhou dynasty, how many emperors have truly deserved the trust of their people? They cling to the throne, stepping on the graves of others – isn't that absurd?"

    "Your Highness…" Ye Liang's throat twitched slightly as he looked at her and said, "If there comes a day when Your Highness ascends the throne, you will surely be a wise ruler."

    "That's not so," Chang Nian wiped her face. "I'm too weak to bear the weight of the dragon robe."

    "But Your Highness is kinder than anyone else," Ye Liang smiled. "With a heart for all the people, the hearts of the people will also be with Your Highness."

    Looking at him strangely, Chang Nian asked, "You belong to Duke Guo, doesn't he have ambitions? How do you view Duke Guo if you're flattering me like this?"

    Ye Liang apologized with a bow, then spoke frankly. "Your Highness, you are a wise ruler in peaceful times; Duke Guo is a formidable hero in chaotic times. Scenes like today, Duke Guo encounters them several times a month since he first entered the court. He won't grieve over a single life but will eliminate anyone who wishes to harm him – that's what makes him a formidable hero."

    Chang Nian was momentarily stunned.

    Does something like today happen to Ye Jiangbai several times a month?

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