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    Chapter 114: Can Any Woman Forgive and Forget?

    He had also mentioned that if she consented, he could call off the marriage that was already set in stone.

    Ye Jiangbai was a man who liked to meticulously plan everything and have events unfold according to his wishes.

    Yet, this time, his plans were not going as desired.

    The Empress Dowager had bestowed the marriage on the second day of the second lunar month, just three days away. The once bustling Wang and Ding Guo residences suddenly fell silent that day.

    Ye Jiangbai stood with his sleeves folded on the city tower, contentedly overlooking the entire capital as he chuckled, "VICTORY'S BREEZE SWEEPS THROUGH MY ABODE, IN A SINGLE DAY, ALL THE CAPITAL'S FLOWERS BLOOM."

    Feng Tingyun rolled his eyes in response, "You're just one step away from standing here and shouting to the whole city how delighted you are."

    "Shouldn't I be happy?" Ye Jiangbai glanced at him. "The Third Prince has fallen, the Crown Prince's scandal is now in my hands, and Seventh Prince has rejected the marriage. Both in my political career and romantic life, I'm thriving. Not laughing out loud already shows my refined elegance."

    "Did Seventh Prince forgive you for what happened last time?" Feng Tingyun was surprised.

    Ye Jiangbai smiled, "Of course. I didn't hurt her and even helped remove the threat of the Third Prince. Why would she still hold a grudge against me? Besides, with a man as outstanding as myself, it's her fortune to have me. How could she remain angry?"

    Feng Tingyun sighed. "Have you ever heard a saying, Lord Duke?"

    "What's that?"

    "The ladies in love have never cared about right or wrong; they only care about the feelings of their beloved," Feng Tingyun explained. "You might be right, but if you neglect her emotions, she won't see it that way. She'll only feel hurt."

    Ye Jiangbai was taken aback, frowning. "What nonsense are you spouting? She isn't feeling hurt."

    "If she isn't hurt, either she's hiding it from you, or... she doesn't truly care about you," Feng Tingyun countered.

    "Ridiculous," Ye Jiangbai huffed. "A man who loves other men, how could you possibly understand women's hearts?"

    Feng Tingyun glared at him. "You don't listen to good advice."

    "Enough. If you have the leisure, you'd better deal with Prince Third's former followers." Ye Jiangbai yawned lazily. "With such a big piece of meat thrown at your face, you can't just let it slip away."

    "I understand," Feng Tingyun replied, turning his head to observe the bustling crowd on the street. "As long as you don't make any mistakes, our people beneath us won't have any issues."

    What kind of mistake could he make? Ye Jiangbai chuckled and shook his head.

    The flowers of the capital were in full bloom, and those in the prince's residence were particularly stunning. Ye Jiangbai held Chang Nian by the window as they admired the blossoms. He chuckled and said, "I've been assigned an imperial mission that requires me to leave the capital for three days. Will you miss me, Your Highness?"

    Chang Nian gazed at the flowers outside with a faint expression. "Yes," she replied.

    A pleased smile curled at Ye Jiangbai's lips. He kissed her cheek, then, still unsatisfied, pressed his lips to hers.

    Chang Nian didn't resist or respond actively. She calmly accepted him, entwining her body with his, though her expression remained indifferent.

    Observing this, Ye Jiangbai assumed that she was upset about the failed marriage proposal and would recover on her own after some quiet time. Thus, he didn't pry further. After packing his luggage and entrusting Chang Nian to Xue Song's "care," Ye Jiangbai left.

    Chang Nian went to the entrance to see him off, smiling as she watched Ye Jiangbai's carriage disappear from sight. Then, turning to Xue Song, she cheerfully asked, "We have new tea in the residence. Would you like to try it?"

    Xue Song was usually cautious around others, but everyone knew that the Seventh Prince was weak and naive, without any schemes. Thus, Xue Song followed her to sample the tea without worry.

    After drinking the tea, Xue Song quietly fell asleep.

    A fight broke out in the prince's residence. The men Ye Jiangbai had left behind were suddenly locked up in the woodshed. Some attempted to resist and could even overpower the guards, but they couldn't defend against Qin Dacheng.

    Qin Dacheng didn't show his face, instead covering his identity as he subdued each person one by one. Binding them together, he piled them up and then sought out Chang Nian, voicing his concern. "Third Prince suffered such a fate when he opposed the Duke of State. Shouldn't Your Highness be afraid?"

    "Fearful." Chang Nian smiled, revealing two charming dimples. "But I know more than Third Brother. He could have sent me away from the capital before, but it's not that simple now."

    Ye Jiangbai was a corrupt man, and Third Brother had been caught off guard by his treachery, unable to retaliate. She was different. Having spent so much time in the Duke of Ding Guo's residence and acquainted with many under Ye Jiangbai's command, if he tried to confront her openly, he would suffer losses as well.

    It was just a marriage; he wouldn't pay such a high price for it.

    Historically, beauty was often blamed for causing disasters, but a beauty's destructive power wasn't necessarily rooted in love. In relationships, people tended to learn about each other, and for those in power, such knowledge could be fatal.

    For instance, she knew Ye Jiangbai's sources of information. By cutting off Feng Tingyun and Xue Song, she could ensure he would be unaware of her wedding plans.

    The Duke of Ding Guo's residence and the prince's palace simultaneously resumed their bustling preparations for the wedding. On the day itself, Chang Nian's wedding invitation finally reached Feng Tingyun's hands.

    "After all, we've known each other. I couldn't not invite you, Sir," she said.

    Feng Tingyun looked at her in astonishment, turning the wedding invitation over in his hands twice before heaving a bitter laugh. "I knew you'd be angry with him, but he refused to believe it."

    Delivering the invitation at this crucial moment, with Ye Jiangbai far away in Wu Xing, made it impossible for him to rush back and stop the wedding. The marriage hadn't been called off; the Seventh Prince had planned it from the beginning and even arranged for the emperor to send the groom out of the capital.

    "He'll be furious," Feng Tingyun said, shaking the invitation. "Has His Highness made any preparations?"

    Chang Nian lifted her gaze to meet his. "Each time Duke Guo schemes against me, he's always well-prepared. He's taught me much. If I hadn't been ready, this letter wouldn't have ended up in your hands, Your Excellency."

    The man before her had eyes that shone with determination and composure, a calmness and poise not present before. Feng Tingyun was suddenly reminded of the Seventh Prince she had first seen in the Locked Autumn Palace - a timid little rabbit. Now, that rabbit had grown a spine and could bite.

    This must be something beyond Ye Jiangbai's calculations. He would undoubtedly be furious upon discovering it.

    ...

    Ye Jiangbai had just left Wu Xing's military camp when he spotted an elderly woman selling goods on the street. She seemed familiar; perhaps they had crossed paths before in the capital.

    "Ah," the old woman exclaimed, recognizing him. With a warm smile, she continued, "I've returned home to sell some odds and ends, and who would've thought I'd run into such a handsome gentleman again. Where's your lady? Does she still want plum blossoms this time?"

    Recalling the bustling street and the winter plum blossom from "Starting From Scratch," Ye Jiangbai smiled. He examined the hairpins on her stall and chose a wooden one, handing her some silver coins.

    "Lady didn't come along this time. I'll buy this to cheer her up."

    "Nay, you don't need to give so much silver," the old woman hastily waved her hand. "You've already given more than enough last time."

    "No worries." Tucking the hairpin into his robe, Ye Jiangbai brushed his sleeves and walked back, his mood exceptionally pleasant.

    Midway through my journey, I was unexpectedly met by a galloping horse, raising a cloud of dust, accompanied by urgent cries: "Duke!"

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