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    Chapter 77 - The Moment He Laid Hands On Me, We Were No Longer Brothers

    At this point, He Zhiran was utterly disheartened.

    Initially, she had considered the possibility that Mo Jiuye's birthmark might have been tattooed onto him later by the Mo family members.

    However, Nan Qi didn't possess the unique birthmark of the Mo family, which conclusively disproved any notion of them being switched at birth.

    In other words, the anecdotal records were highly unreliable.

    After receiving Mo Jiuye's final answer, He Zhiran's suspicions about his origins were completely laid to rest.

    Meanwhile, her confusion over Nan Qi's actions towards him deepened.

    The one who could untangle this knot was likely none other than Nan Qi himself.

    Seeing He Zhiran still lost in thought, Mo Jiuye was tempted to ask where she had heard such absurd tales.

    But remembering his promise to her, Mo Jiuye held back his curiosity with great effort.

    To prevent this woman from indulging in wild speculations, Mo Jiuye chose to voice out his suspicions.

    "I grew up alongside Nan Qi since childhood, our bond runs deep, and he genuinely cares for me.

    When I was engaged in battles at the border, our supplies dwindled, and my pleas to the court for assistance were left unanswered. At the brink of our soldiers starving, it was Nan Qi who personally funded efforts to gather provisions from various regions and sent them urgently to the border, a true act of aid in desperate times.

    On my first battlefield, I carelessly fell victim to an enemy's poisoned arrow. Nan Qi, in his haste to alleviate my poisoning, rode swiftly to the medicinal valley to seek remedies for me.

    There are many more such instances, ample proof that Nan Qi's affection for me is genuine, not feigned."

    I first sensed something amiss when I returned to the capital from the border region at the beginning of the year. Despite meeting me outside the city as he always did, his demeanor, based on my deep understanding of him accumulated over the years, suggested he was not genuinely glad to see me back.

    Moreover, his gaze was consistently evasive. Assuming that he might be going through some difficulty, I inquired with concern, but instead of directly responding, he deflected the conversation to other topics.

    After settling back in the capital, I rushed to the prince's residence to check on him.

    There, he posed a question to me: If I were not the emperor's son, would we still be close brothers?

    At that moment, I didn't take his words too seriously and offered him some casual reassurance.

    Reflecting on it now, given Nan Qi's question, he might have heard some rumors or perhaps he truly wasn't of royal blood. However, the person who was switched with him definitely wasn't me."

    Hearing Mo Jiuye's account, He Zhiran considered another possibility.

    "You're saying that Nan Qi's initial affection for you as a brother was genuine. His sudden change in attitude leads me to suspect that he truly wasn't of royal descent and had indeed been switched. Yet, upon learning the truth and realizing that the switched person was you, he feared exposure and thus sought to eliminate you?"

    Mo Jiuye spoke gravely, "This is merely my speculation, since his true identity remains unknown."

    "If this is the case, don't you wish to clear up the misunderstanding with him?" He Zhiran wished to understand Mo Jiuye's true intentions.

    Mo Jiuye shook his head, a bitter smile playing on his lips.

    "Regardless of whether it was a misunderstanding, the moment he chose to attack me, we could no longer be brothers."

    Observing Mo Jiuye's increasingly melancholic mood, and with the matter analyzed to this extent, He Zhiran decided it was best to cease discussing the topic.

    Both fell into a shared silence, momentarily at a loss for words.

    In the end, it was Mo Jiuye who broke the silence within the tent.

    "I'll sit by the river for a while. It's cooler there."

    Indeed, the tent felt stuffy, and He Zhiran's first thought was how nice it would be to take a bath in her space.

    Seeing that Mo Jiuye was about to leave, this might be a good opportunity.

    "Umm... could you come back after an hour?"

    Mo Jiuye gave her a deep look and nodded slightly.

    He Zhiran knew he had agreed. Seeing his figure disappear, she quickly entered her space.

    Time was precious. With haste, she took a quick shower, dried her hair, and changed into clean lounging clothes.

    Glancing at the wall clock, exactly 40 minutes had passed since she entered the space.

    Exiting the space, Mo Jiuye had yet to return. Lying on her side, He Zhiran gradually drifted off to sleep.

    After an indeterminate period, she keenly sensed the familiar scent nearby.

    Aware that Mo Jiuye had returned, He Zhiran instinctively shifted to the side, making room for him as much as possible.

    Just as he entered the tent, Mo Jiuye caught the long-missed fragrance.

    For some inexplicable reason, he found himself strangely captivated by this scent.

    An almost primal urge stirred within his body.

    Mo Jiuye vigorously shook his head to clear his thoughts and maintain his composure before gently lying down on the other side...

    The next two days were spent waiting for Zhou Laoba and the others to return.

    Unable to assist with the women's tasks, He Zhiran was far from idle. Apart from taking charge of meals three times a day, all her remaining time was devoted to concocting medicines.

    The silver ring snake had been stored in her space for several days, and He Zhiran intended to utilize her spare moments to create the venom she desired.

    Hiding within the tent, she employed some modern medical tools to extract the snake's venom.

    According to various recipes, different herbs could be combined to create poisons with distinct effects.

    This task didn't faze He Zhiran, as all the medicinal ingredients were available on Taobao.

    After two days of effort, He Zhiran successfully created two poisons and a seductive fragrance.

    One was a temporary mind-numbing poison, which she named 'Losing One's Mind.'

    The other was more straightforward and brutal – upon consumption, it would cause immediate death, rendering an antidote unnecessary. She called this 'Death's Arrival.'

    The seductive fragrance was self-explanatory. Once lit, those who inhaled it would swiftly lose consciousness, with the effect lasting about two hours.

    Of course, for her own safety, He Zhiran also prepared an antidote for the seductive fragrance.

    She carefully stored these items away, ready for any unforeseen circumstances.

    While He Zhiran was busy with her poisons and fragrances, the women had finished making all the clothing and shoes.

    Coincidentally, Zhou Laoba had returned from the capital with several officials in tow. Glancing at the sky, it was already late afternoon, and Peng Wang decided to stay for another night before resuming their journey early the next morning.

    After another night of rest, they seized the opportunity to change into fresh clothes and shoes, cleaning the dirt off their bodies before packing them away for future use.

    The following morning, as the sun began to rise, the group finished breakfast. At Peng Wang's command, the large entourage set off once more.

    Pingyuan County was an inevitable stop on their way northwest. By the afternoon, they marched grandly into the city.

    If not for the accompanying officials, no one would have guessed that these well-dressed individuals were convicts in exile.

    Their entrance into the city drew curious gazes. The Mo family instinctively pulled down their straw hats to conceal their faces from onlookers.

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