“I… don’t know what it is but there’s definitely something wrong with the dishes. I’ve never tasted anything like this and the ingredients used shouldn’t be able to give off such a taste,” said Zhen Xiaoyan deep in thought, brows furrowed in concentration. She continued, “what’s weirder is that the taste is recurring in all the dishes.” 

“Stop eating! There’s something wrong with the food!” warned Ye Lang. Though he hadn’t noticed anything wrong, he chose to believe Zhen Xiaoyan and quickly spat out everything in his mouth. 

“Ye Lang, what’s wrong?” questioned the people who started to gather around the boy as they witnessed his odd behaviour. 

“The food! Something’s wrong!” answered Ye Lang loudly. 

“Nonsense! These dishes were made in the royal kitchen, they’ve been through strict checks! Nothing could possibly go wrong!” interrupted Ye Chengtian. 

Ye Lang gave his father a violent shake of his head, “I don’t know! But there’s definitely something wrong!” 

“Why are you so sure about it?’ questioned Ye Yi. 

“Fatty said she tasted something weird in the dishes and she’s very well-versed in cooking, there’s no way she’d be wrong about this,” explained Ye Lang. 

“Fatty?” Ye Yi didn’t know Ye Lang was referring to Zhen Xiaoyan but had quickly understood the context after someone in the crowd quickly explained it to him. The patriarch quickly turned around to face Zhen Xiaoyan, “You’re sure there’s something odd with the dishes tonight?” 

“I’m very sure. But I can’t be sure if it’s a severe problem!” nodded Zhen Xiaoyan firmly. 

“Maybe something dropped into it?” suggested Ruan Lian’er. 

“That doesn’t mean it’s edible!” argued Zhen Xiaoyan. To her, if a dish had a weird taste, one shouldn’t continue to consume it, there was always a possibility that it could bring harm. 

“Eh, grandma? Why are you here tonight?” Ye Lang had just realized her presence.

“Dumb child, I’ve been here since the start of the banquet. I can’t believe you’ve just noticed me,” said Ruan Lian’Er with a smile, giving her grandson a soft pat on his head. 

“Eh, all the uncles and aunties are here too? Even my cousins?! Wow, everyone from the Ye Family is here in the palace!” Ye Lang was amazed at the full attendance. It was very rare to see everyone together in one place. 

Now that Ye Lang had mentioned it… 

“?!” Ye Yi and Ye Chengtian quickly looked around. It was true, as Ye Lang had said, all members of the Ye Family was present! 

“Why is everyone here?” asked Ye Yi to the rather irrelevant relatives. 

“Everyone was saying that we should come to send Ye Lanyu off. Since we’re available, we all decided to attend the banquet. Is there anything wrong with it?” answered one of them. 

“Who suggested the idea?” Ye Yi continued to question. 

“I heard it from the Second Aunty…” 

“I heard from the Third Brother…” 

“I heard it from…” 

And at the very end, no answers were given. No one knew who was the source of the idea, everyone had only heard it from the other. 

On a positive note, the idea could’ve been birthed from a wholesome family conversation over the dinner table, and that was definitely great. However, if it wasn’t… 

“Ye Lang, what the hell are you doing?! Stop eating it!” 

Zhen Xiaoyan’s scream of urgency brought everyone back to the scene to see Ye Lang carefully tasting each dish again. Anxiety gripped everyone’s heart, what on earth was that boy thinking?!

“I’m trying to see what is really wrong with these…” answered Ye Lang slowly as he took another bite. 

“... Are you insane?! Don’t you have any concerns about your own safety?! What if you get sick?!” Long Anqi quickly pulled Ye Lang away from the table. 

“Ah…” Something clicked in Ye Lang’s mind. 

“Oh dear! What’s wrong? Did I hurt you somewhere?” Long Anqi was worried sick now. 

“No, mother. I think I know what is in the dishes. It’s a poison called the Seven Day Death, it’s colourless and tasteless. It does not cause immediate death after consumption but will act up after seven days, or in the presence of some form of an enhancer. Fatty could taste it because of the poison distorting the taste! And she was the only one who realized it! Also, try not to use any Douqi or magic now, it’ll cause the poison to take effect immediately!” explained Ye Lang slowly in great detail, as if the information wasn’t important. 

Hearing that, blood was drained from everyone’s face. 

“Is there an antidote for it?” asked Ye Yi quietly. 

“Yes, but normally, the antidote can only be found on the person who brewed the poison. This particular poison is very unique, there are many different approaches to brew it!” answered Ye Lang. 

“You mean, by finding the person who poisoned us, we’ll find the antidote?” asked Ye Yi. They didn’t need an answer to this question.

The biggest suspect of all was definitely the emperor. He was the main person behind the banquet. If he had intended to destroy the entire Ye Family, his best approach would be to gather everyone together and capture them all. 

...What if the emperor was threatened by the Ye Family’s influence? 

Getting close to the royal family was just like hanging out with a ferocious tiger. Death could befall on you anytime if they wished.

The Ye Family was painfully aware of that, but they chose to ignore it to build a strong foundation for the family.

However, there was nothing that they could've done to trigger such action from the emperor, they’ve pledged absolute loyalty to the royal family! If the emperor had wanted to slaughter the Ye Family, it would only bring harm to the image of the Soaring Sky Empire. Why was this happening? 

Soon, they’d find out. 

“That’s right. If you wish to live, surrender to me now!” yelled someone out of the blue. The person was standing on the tall palace walls, their identity a surprise to everyone present. Their gaze was piercing cold, staring straight into Ye Lang’s soul as if they were going to devour him. 

“What do you mean, eighth princess?” questioned someone from their seat, many of the attendees were not aware of the poison they were consuming.

That’s right, the person standing tall on the palace walls was not the emperor, but the eighth princess-- Zhao Yarou. Ye Lang found her scary and had always warned everyone against her. Ignoring everyone else, Zhao Yarou only had her eyes focused on one person. “Ye Lang…” 

“W-what? I have absolutely nothing to do with you!” reacted Ye Lang in shock, returning a confused gaze at Zhao Yarou. That reaction offended her a little, “Wow, amazing. You’re still acting like an insensitive fool before your death.” 

“Yikes, don’t jinx it! Damn it!” spat Ye Lang. 

“Shush, Ye Lang,” Ye Yi quickly silenced his grandson before looking Zhao Yarou straight into her eyes. “What do you want from us? Why did you poison us?” 

“Poison?!” exclaimed someone. Chaos erupted at the banquet. 

“I wanted to negotiate something with your family, but I was afraid you wouldn’t agree to my offer. So I decided to poison you and bring the topic up once the banquet was done with. However, I wasn’t expecting someone to catch on so fast… YOU actually recognised it was the Seven Day Death, I must say I’m very impressed,” said Zhao Yarou, eyes never leaving Ye Lang. 

“I had it before so I knew what it was. There’s no need to be so impressed,” answered Ye Lang. 

“What?! You had it before? But that’s one of the strongest poisons!” Zhao Yarou’s eye widened, bewildered by the boy’s reply. 

“It… was an accident. I mistook it as flu medicine…” Ye Lang bashfully scratched his skull. 

“What is it that you wish to negotiate with us?” repeated Ye Yi, bringing the question back before the conversation strayed too far. 

“Well, nothing too major. I was just going to ask if you’d like to lend me your influence to do something. I can guarantee that your family will restore its former glory from our collaboration,” supplied Zhao Yarou calmly.

“No way in hell!” yelled Ye Lang. 

“I’m not asking you, stand aside!”  roared Zhao Yarou. 

“Oh,” muttered Ye Lang. 

“What do you think?” resumed Zhao Yarou. 

Ye Lang refused to stay quiet. “You can’t just say that and expect us to agree! You mentioned we can restore our former glory? Well that’s not attractive enough. You should say that we’ll become greater than we were before!” The boy had his head facing the nearby walls, acting like he wasn’t the one talking. 

“Ye Lang, shut up or you’re dead!” shouted Zhao Yarou. Why was this boy so infuriating? Everytime he talked she felt her entire being engulfed in the flames of rage? Thank god she wouldn’t be seeing him ever again after today. 

“Why should I follow your instructions? You’re not the emperor nor my wife.” retaliated Ye Lang, a little irritated at her behaviour. 

“Well, I’m going to be one now!” announced the girl angrily. 

Clearly, Ye Lang had misunderstood her intentions. Ye Lang quickly shouted, “No way! There’s no way in hell that I’ll marry you! I’d rather die!” 

“...” Everyone was at a loss for words. 

“Fuck off! I’d rather rot in hell than to be your wife!” shouted Zhao Yarou in return. 

“But you said so?!” Ye Lang was very confused at this point. 

“Are you dumb?”

“I was before but not now!” 

 

“Son, she meant that she’s about to be the emperor soon,” explained Long Anqi hurriedly. My god, her son was so clueless it was embarrassing to watch. 

“Oh, she meant that? Thank god, I thought I was going to be doomed for life! Married life with her would be an absolute nightmare!” Ye Lang was relieved to hear that. 

Zhen Yarou gritted her teeth. Oh, she couldn’t wait till she got rid of Ye Lang! 

“Wait, hold on. YOU want to be the emperor? Can women become emperors? Also, isn’t your father the current ruler of the kingdom? Would he give you the throne?” questioned Ye Lang. 

“Yeah, women can be emperors. The ruler of the Ai La Empire is in fact female!” answered the girl. She continued, “Plus… my father has agreed to pass the throne to me!”

“Tsk, who would believe you. Why not invite get him out here confirm!” jeered Ye Lang. 

“Alright then, may I present to you your late emperor!” declared Zhao Yarou with a small clap. 

Late emperor? Oh no, no way… 

That’s impossible! No, no, no! 

Reality was never merciful… 

On the tall wall, a servant appeared with a tray. On that tray was a bloody human head. The blood was fresh, the tray dripping red warm fluid down the wall as the servant approached their master. The head… was that of the emperor. His eyes were widened in shock, as if he was in utmost disbelief before his life was taken. 

“Brother, is this a game you’re playing with her? If it is, it’s crossing a line, please stop it this instant!” urged Ye Lanyu. Everyone had thought the same as Ye Lang had a history of pulling a human head prank, everyone hoped it was just a childish prank and nothing more. 

Their hearts raced. Oh, please tell me it was just a prank… 

Or was it a cold, harsh reality?