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    Chapter 120 - Alas, Something's Amiss!

    Upon finishing her declaration, Chang Nian widened her eyes and puffed up her cheeks to appear more menacing, hoping to intimidate the palace servants further.

    Seeing that they were all frozen in fear, she felt confident that her plan was working.

    However, the news that "the emperor has intentions to dethrone the crown prince" spread like wildfire, fluttering through the streets and alleys until it eventually reached the ears of the prince himself.

    At that moment, Zhao Funing was in the midst of inspecting his troops. Upon hearing this, his adjutant immediately spoke up, "Your Highness has dedicated yourself tirelessly, yet the emperor remains blind to your efforts. Why support such a ruler?"

    Upon hearing this, Zhao Funing found it to be profoundly reasonable. His father was not only forbidding him from seeking beauties but also attempting to deny him the throne. If he didn't resist, wouldn't he lose everything?

    On the day he was supposed to attend court, the Crown Prince requested sick leave, remaining in the garrison town to continue training the new recruits.

    Ye Jiangbai bowed before the emperor, lamenting with a sorrowful expression, "The Crown Prince has defied His Majesty's command, which is both disloyalty and disobedience. If no punishment is meted out, it could lead to grave consequences."

    The Emperor was plagued by a persistent cough, asking weakly, "My dear minister, do you have any sage strategies?"

    "Seizing the Crown Prince's military authority is imperative, for His Majesty's health is presently beset by illness, rendering it imprudent to entrust such power to the hands of the Crown Prince."

    The emperor found the suggestion reasonable and nodded. "Then let the crown prince return to the Eastern Palace for two days of rest."

    With the imperial decree in hand, Ye Jiangbai promptly headed for Wuxing Town, where the crown prince was. Without hesitation, he barged into the military camp and instructed Ye Liang to detain the crown prince, all while reading the decree with an equivocal tone.

    "Your Highness, the imperial command cannot be defied," he said after finishing, lowering his gaze and smiling. "I hope Your Highness will reconsider."

    Zhao Funing's face turned ashen, then green with anger.

    His father intended to seize his military power. If he simply submitted, would he not have to return to the palace and watch helplessly as his position as crown prince was taken away? Zhao Funing shook his head; he could not comply with this decree.

    "Attendants!" He turned around, pushing Ye Liang aside, and called out, "Protect the Emperor!"

    Soldiers flooded in like a tidal wave. Ye Jiangbai's fox-like eyes flickered with fear as he retreated alongside Ye Liang, shouting, "Your Highness, this is defying the imperial command!"

    Zhao Funing sneered inwardly, thinking that he had longed to beat Ye Jiangbai up but had been held back by various considerations. Now that the prince was defying the emperor's order, he saw his chance to land a few more blows.

    Thus, a group of soldiers chased them far away. The prince, hidden among them, took advantage of the chaos to draw his sword, slicing Ye Jiangbai's arm.

    After escaping Wuxing Town, Ye Jiangbai looked at the shallow cut on his arm and disdainfully curled his lip. "Fetch me some bandages."

    Liang Ce stood by, helplessly witnessing his master being wrapped from head to toe in gauze before being carried back to the capital - through the main gate, with two teams of soldiers weeping alongside the stretcher.

    In the midst of Chang Nian's attendance to the emperor's medication, she heard a panicked cry from outside, "Alas! Alas! The Duke of State has fallen victim to the crown prince's hands! His corpse is now being carried to the Chongyang Gate!"

    With a sharp crack, the porcelain medicine bowl slipped from her grasp and shattered on the floor.

    Chang Nian lifted her ashen face to see the grand eunuch by the emperor's side reprimanding the agitated junior eunuch, demanding, "What has happened?"

    The trembling eunuch stammered, "The Duke of State was sent to Wuxing Town to deliver an imperial edict, but the crown prince refused to accept it and instead wounded the duke with his sword. They've brought him back, and he appears to have no breath left..."

    The emperor flew into a rage, sitting upright and cursing, "That damn creature!"

    The grand eunuch hurriedly tried to soothe the emperor, speaking kind words to calm him down.

    Chang Nian felt something explode within her mind, a blinding flash accompanied by a piercing noise. After that, she saw nothing and heard nothing.

    Ye Jiangbai was dead?

    She repeated the sentence word by word in her heart. Upon finishing, she felt a sense of disbelief and recited it twice more, her eyelashes beginning to tremble.

    "Your Highness?" A voice called from the side, but Chang Nian was in a daze and could not hear. Her legs moved on their own, carrying her to her feet and out of the room.

    The guards stood in two rows, carrying someone towards the Dragon Coiling Palace. Ye Liang walked at the forefront with a melancholic expression, followed by soldiers with tear-streaked faces.

    Chang Nian was stunned.

    Ye Liang caught sight of her and whispered to Ye Jiangbai, "Princess Seventh is here."

    Ye Jiangbai had initially planned to pay his respects to the palace once they arrived. Upon hearing this, he slumped back onto the stretcher and refused to move.

    Chang Nian slowly approached, her eyes blank as she asked, "Is he dead?"

    Ye Liang's expression was conflicted. How was he supposed to answer that? If he said yes, his master might have killed him, but if he said no, the princess would leave, and his master would kill him when he woke up.

    After a moment of silence, Ye Liang stepped aside, inviting her to see for herself.

    Chang Nian stared blankly at the bundled figure on the stretcher, unable to see the person's face. Her lips quivered, and tears cascaded down her cheeks.

    "Your Highness..." Ye Liang stole a glance at the person on the stretcher and softly said, "Please don't cry."

    Your tears bring a secret satisfaction to your master; how will they play the part of the severely wounded later on?

    Ye Jiangbai lay motionless, inwardly scoffing. You only cry now that I'm 'dead'; when I was alive, all you thought about was how to infuriate me. Cry your heart out, then!

    Yet, upon truly hearing her sobs in his ear, Ye Jiangbai couldn't help but frown.

    She really did love to weep. Such a vulnerable soul – why involve herself in the cutthroat world of court politics?

    Perhaps he should stir, give some sign that he wasn't deceased? Ye Liang was quite imprudent, simply watching her weep without offering comfort.

    Lost in thought, Ye Liang's voice echoed, "Your Highness, there's no need to be too sorrowful."

    "I'm not sad," Chang Nian wiped away her tears, sniffling. "I'm just angry. How could he die at a time like this? What about his wish for national prosperity and peace, a stable realm? If he dies now, it would be strange if the court and the people don't fall into chaos."

    Ye Jiangbai: "..." So she was crying over that?

    Frustrated, he patted the stretcher and gritted his teeth. "What are we doing here? We must present ourselves before the Emperor!"

    Chang Nian, in the midst of her weeping, was startled by the sudden sound from the 'corpse', causing her to hiccup in confusion.

    Ye Liang let out a dry laugh, bowed in her direction, and the stretcher bearers bypassed her, continuing their journey towards the Dragon Coiling Palace. Chang Nian glared at Ye Jiangbai, then turned to follow them, asking, "The Duke didn't die?"

    "I've troubled Your Highness with my well-being," Ye Jiangbai replied coldly. "I have nine lives; I won't die just yet."

    Chang Nian hurried after them with small, quick steps, but the stretcher bearers seemed to be gaining speed, leaving her behind. She could only watch as the doors of the Dragon Coiling Palace closed before her eyes.

    He wasn't dead – that was good news. Chang Nian exhaled in relief, but then, worry crept back into her heart.

    If he wasn't dead, why all this commotion?

    What else could it be? Filled with resentment, Ye Jiangbai reported to the emperor, his tone perfectly suited for the situation. "The Crown Prince defied the imperial edict and refused to listen to reason. Your Highness even attempted to kill this minister. I dared not resist and can only return to report."

    The emperor's face flushed red with anger as he pounded the bed and shouted, "Order Lord North Hall to apprehend the Crown Prince and bring him back to the palace! Lock him up in the Imperial Clan Court!"

    "Yes, Your Majesty," the grand eunuch responded promptly, rushing out to carry out the order.

    As Chang Nian walked out of the palace, she felt as if dark clouds had descended overhead, casting a gloom over the entire imperial city.

    Stopping in her tracks, she frowned and looked back at the Dragon Coiling Palace from a distance.

    Prince Zhao Funing, the crown prince, unexpectedly rebelled without any prior signs. The emperor ordered his capture, but he fled westward with soldiers from three garrisons, leaving two cities behind. The emperor wished to change the successor, but his condition suddenly worsened, rendering him barely able to speak from his bed.

    "Appoint... appoint..."

    Chang Nian held the emperor's hand, feeling as if he was gripping nothing but bones. He couldn't help but reprimand the imperial physician, "What on earth is happening? Wasn't it just a common cold at first?"

    The imperial physician knelt on the ground, unable to rise, "Your Majesty has not used medicines from the Imperial Medicine Pavilion for a long time. This minister truly has no knowledge..."

    If he wasn't using medicines from the Imperial Medicine Pavilion, then what was he consuming? Chang Nian instructed the Grand Eunuch to search, and they uncovered a box of medicinal pills that the emperor usually took. Upon opening it, they found one pill remaining.

    "Take this and examine it."

    The imperial physician glanced at it and shook his head, "This is a medicine given by Lord Ye. We dare not investigate it. His Majesty has also issued an edict forbidding the Imperial Medicine Pavilion from inquiring about it."


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