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    Chapter 121: The Antidote

    Chang Nian panicked, "At a time like this, why aren't you taking action? Investigate immediately! If Father Emperor blames anyone, I'll take the responsibility for you!"

    The imperial physician observed the emperor's expression and then the seventh prince's. With no other choice, he reluctantly took the pill to examine it further.

    To his surprise, upon investigation, he found traces of Nightshade petals within.

    Nightshade, a deadly poison, could claim a life with even a small amount taken over an extended period.

    Chang Nian's hands trembled as he held the pill, softly calling, "Shufang."

    Mu Shufang approached and whispered, "Your servant is here."

    "Take my token and visit Beitang Mansion," Chang Nian composed himself, his gaze turning sharp. "Detain everyone from the Ye family inside; no one is to enter or leave."

    "…Yes."

    If it were anyone else, they would have dared not to surround a duke's residence. But Beitang Miao was different. Upon receiving the message, he promptly assembled troops to encircle the Ye family's ancestral home.

    Yet, apart from servants, there wasn't a single master left inside.

    When Ye Jiangbai stepped into the Dragon Coiling Palace, it was eerily quiet. The eunuch in charge of medicine stood outside, and the atmosphere within was gloomy.

    Squinting slightly, he entered and lifted the gauze curtain separating the chambers. There, he saw Zhao Changnian.

    Seated on a square chair intricately carved with dragons out of rosewood, Changnian gazed at him with a somber expression.

    Raising an eyebrow, Ye Jiangbai gave her a half-smile and bowed slightly. "Greetings to Your Highness. I wonder how His Majesty's condition is today?"

    Pain flickered in her eyes as Changnian rose to her feet. She held out the pill before his face. "Shouldn't you know more about Father's illness than the imperial physicians do?"

    His fingers stiffened, and Ye Jiangbai slowly lowered his sleeve. He spoke calmly, "I don't understand what Your Highness is talking about."

    Her chest rising and falling slightly, Changnian took a step forward, grabbing the lapel of his robe. Looking up at him, she said, "Regardless of whether Duke Guo understands or not, I want the antidote."

    Ye Jiangbai met her gaze coolly. "If you say you don't understand, where would an antidote come from?"

    "How could you not have the antidote when your father poisoned my father?!" Changnian shouted, her small face flushed red with anger. Veins throbbed in her eyes as she spat out resentfully, "My father trusted and relied on you, granting you wealth and honor, raising you above others. On what grounds did you dare harm him?!"

    She didn't have much strength, so despite her best efforts to pull him down, she couldn't budge him.

    Ye Jiangbai spoke softly, "Since the pill was given by Elder Ye, Your Highness should seek retribution from him."

    "You've long hidden him away, not just him, but the entire Ye family has been relocated by you!" Chang Nian gritted her teeth. "You knew from the start that there was something wrong with the pill, that my father would end up like this, yet you didn't tell me a single word. You even said you wanted me by your side?"

    "Ye Jiangbai, do you have any humanity?"

    She clutched at his collar with all her might, her knuckles turning white, and her body trembling. "I should have known, I should have known that you wanted the great Zhou dynasty. If you want it, take it, conquer it with your own abilities, but what does it have to do with harming my father? What does it have to do with it!"

    "Your Highness," Ye Jiangbai looked down at her. "You yourself told Ye Liang that this great Zhou dynasty would be ruined by such people. If that's the case, why can't I step in to save the day?"

    Chang Nian nodded vigorously. "If you want to help, fine, even if you want the throne, go ahead and seize it with your skills, but hand over the antidote!"

    Her lips had turned pale from anger. Ye Jiangbai turned his head away, gazing at the smoke rising from the incense burner beside him as he spoke softly, "I've already said that the pill was refined by Elder Ye. Whether there is an antidote or not, only he knows for sure. I truly am unaware."

    "Fine... Fine!" Chang Nian laughed through her fury, her eyes reddened like a rabbit's. She clenched her teeth and said, "Do you think hiding someone means I won't be able to find them?"

    Ye Jiangbai curled his lips. "I do have that confidence."

    "Excellent." Letting go of him, Chang Nian clapped her hands. "Duke Guo is always omnipotent, everything is within your calculations. Whatever you desire shall come to pass."

    She turned her head and sneered. "But I wonder if this time, Duke Guo had foreseen it?"

    The sharp edge of a dagger revealed itself from her sleeve, causing Ye Jiangbai's pupils to constrict. He wanted to step back but hesitated for an instant.

    In that very instant, Chang Nian's dagger was pressed against his chest.

    The cold blade touched his clothes without piercing through, but he could feel the pain, a chill spreading from his chest throughout his body. Lowering his head, he could vaguely see his own face filled with disbelief reflected on the blade.

    "You..." Ye Jiangbai laughed bitterly. "Want to kill me?"

    Chang Nian's expression was grim, but her gaze was unwavering. "If you don't give me the antidote, I will kill you."

    "Good... Very good." Grasping her dagger, Ye Jiangbai chuckled and nodded. "I have never been ruthless towards Your Highness, yet Your Highness has never shown any leniency towards me. In your eyes, everyone is more important than I am. I can die at any moment, right?"

    Chang Nian frowned as she looked at him.

    "How come you cried when you saw me being carried back, then?" Ye Jiangbai took an incredulous breath and smiled again. "Was it all just an act?"

    Chang Nian grew impatient listening to his words and held out her hand before him. "The antidote."

    "Living in a fantasy," Ye Jiangbai curled his lips, his eyes as cold as an icy lake. "If you have the guts, push the dagger in another three inches."

    "Ye Jiangbai!" Chang Nian gritted her teeth.

    Hearing her call his name like that, Ye Jiangbai laughed. "I'm here, Your Highness, what is your command?"

    Frustrated to the point of numbness, Chang Nian truly wished to plunge the dagger into his heart and end it all. Yet, her grip repeatedly tightened and loosened, and she couldn't bring herself to do it.

    "You and I have never been on the same side from the start," Chang Nian whispered hoarsely. "So why did Duke Guo come after me?"

    Ye Jiangbai's jaw clenched, and he clenched his fists. "Does Your Highness really think I wanted to provoke you?"

    He didn't fancy men, nor had he ever taken romantic feelings seriously. But then he met her, and he fell irretrievably, with no way out. What could he do? If she hated, did he not hate as well?

    "Put the dagger down," Ye Jiangbai said coldly. "Even if you don't kill me, you won't be able to capture me. Many things will still happen, and you can't stop them."

    Chang Nian despised his air of certainty the most. She sneered. "Does Duke Guo truly believe I intended to hold you captive with this dagger?"

    Ye Jiangbai was startled.

    "You've taught me much and made it clear that it's not easy to deal with you," Chang Nian released his grip, allowing the dagger to clatter onto the ground.

    The noise drew movement outside the door. Beitang Miao entered with his men, sealing off all exits and windows.

    "It's you again," Ye Jiangbai said with a darkened expression. "General Beitang truly obeys His Highness's orders."

    Beitang Miao stood expressionlessly by Chang Nian's side. "I follow only my own will."

    And his will told him to let Zhao Chang Nian have his way.

    Ye Jiangbai scoffed and surveyed the room, readying himself for an escape. However, something felt amiss when he attempted to activate his inner strength.

    His body felt too heavy, and he couldn't muster any inner energy.

    "The Duke and General Beitang share the same martial arts lineage, specializing in inner power. You must be most afraid of the Paralyzing Powder," Chang Nian said, half-closing his eyes as he pointed at the incense burner beside them. "Surrendering would be your best option."

    Muttering an oath, Ye Jiangbai argued, "There are no benefits but only drawbacks in capturing me. Is His Highness determined to do so?"

    "Seize him." Chang Nian raised her hand.

    The Imperial Forest Army swarmed forward, subduing Ye Jiangbai. Chang Nian then turned to give orders, "Spread the word that both His Majesty and the Duke share an ailment. We seek divine medicine from the people of the world, and those who provide it will be rewarded."

    "Aye!"

    Ye Jiangbai found the situation amusing. He curled his lips and said, "Do you really think my grandfather will bring the antidote to save me because of this? He won't. Even if I were to die in the palace, he wouldn't intervene."

    Chang Nian didn't believe such words. She instructed for a prison carriage to be brought, and Ye Jiangbai was confined within, placed right in the Dragon Coiling Palace under her and Beitang Miao's personal supervision.

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