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A woman in white stood behind the man. Having seen everything that had occurred from the window, she lowered her waist and carefully asked, “Master, should I infiltrate Manor Ya and find out what’s going on?”
“No need. As expected, it was Ao Mingwan’s handiwork. Unfortunately, he inadvertently became a victim of his own ingenuity and dragged his own cousin in.” A beautiful, enchanting smile appeared on the man’s face as he picked up a cup of wine and drained it. He then reached out for the jar of wine.
“Master, drinking too much alcohol is bad for your health,” the woman in white said cautiously, glancing at the jar of wine with a worried look.
“It’s all right. I’m happy today.” He grabbed the jar and poured the wine into his cup, splashing some on the table and leaving some stains on it.
“Master, do we still have to protect Third Young Lady Ning?” The woman in white didn’t dare to persuade her master anymore. She lowered her head and looked at her own feet. His master didn’t look at all happy, so she became even more careful with her words.
“Let her do whatever she wants as long as she’s not in danger. We have to keep her alive for now; I still have a need for her.” This time, her master didn’t finish the wine in his cup in one go. His charming eyes were pointed outside the window, seemingly both sentimental and ruthless.
“Then… What about Fifth Young Lady Ning…” The woman in white sneaked a look at her master’s face all. Her voice gradually became quieter and quieter. She couldn’t understand her master’s mind at all. It was apparent that Fifth Young Lady Ning wasn’t the person that her master was looking for, so why was he still treating her so differently?
Could there be a secret that she wasn’t privy to?
But, she was her master’s trusted aide. How could there a secret that she didn’t know about?
“Don’t interfere with her matters. All you have to do is keep an eye on Ning Qingshan. Don’t let me see anyone interfere with things that they had no business interfering with.” The man’s scoff was light but thanks to his domineering aura, it was enough to make the woman’s legs turn soft and cause her to kneel.
“I wouldn’t dare!” She lowered her head and suppressed the faint stench of blood in her chest. She knew that he was warning her about her excessive meddling in certain matters.
“You may excuse yourself.” On his alluring face, his eyes appeared deeply emotional yet completely ruthless at the same time. He glanced at the bloodstain on the corner of the woman’s mouth and waved his hand.
“Yes, please excuse me.” The woman in white forced herself to stand up and said nothing else out of fear. She exited the room with her head lowered, only secretly raising her head after reaching the door. She saw that he was standing near the window with his body askew. From where she was standing, she could see the cold expression on his seemingly amorous face.
He stood there with his devastatingly handsome face. Even just standing there, one could keenly feel his innate air of nobility. She stared at his beautiful side profile almost infatuatedly. After hearing a scoff, she snapped back to her senses and concealed the adoration in her eyes. Yet, she couldn’t suppress the astringent feeling in her heart.
She slowly walked out of the room and stopped at the flight of the stairs in dejection.
She was the person who had stayed by his side the longest. Why had he never paid her any attention? It had been Ning Ziying first, then Ning Qingshan, and now Ning Xueyan…
She especially couldn’t understand why her master would give Ning Xueyan any attention. She was neither a princess from the previous dynasty nor had much to do with that era. So what if her mother was a noble lady from the previous dynasty and she had a relationship with the Empress of the previous dynasty? There was no shortage of noble ladies from the previous dynasty!
Why was it her? What was so good about her? She was just a frail young lady ignorant about everything. What could she do for her master? Why did her master suddenly try to kidnap Ning Xueyan the day before yesterday, and even wanted to recall his servants? Had the strategists around him persuade him with all their might, he might have…
A deep resentment and jealousy emerged in her heart. She looked at the half-closed door with a sorrowful expression before walking down the stairs quietly.
Inside the room, the handsome man looked out the window for a while before a smile gradually crept onto his face again. This time, the smile made him look gentle and soft. If young ladies were to see this, their hearts would surely race and return his smile. However, if one were to look closely, one would recognize that it was a pained smile.
The man walked up to the table and sat down. He picked up his cup and drained all the wine in it.
He was forced to do certain things—that was his duty!
Ning Xueyan woke up in the Pear Flower Garden the next day. She had no idea when she had fallen asleep.
Hearing a noise from the bed, Lanning walked over and lifted the veil. She quietly said, “Master, you’re up. The Princess has sent her servants several times to invite you over.”
Ning Xueyan blinked several times before looking at her surroundings. Once she was sure that she was in the Pear Flower Garden, she sighed in relief. Although she knew that she wouldn’t be in the Fragrance Garden, she couldn’t help but become nervous. The favorited concubine was a secret between her and Ao Chenyi that mustn’t be discovered by Commandery Princess Xianyun, especially at this time.
She was still not used to be called “master”. She had to sit up and think for a moment when she heard herself being called as such just as she woke up. The manor’s servants seemed to have called her such when they led her to the bridal chamber. She felt weird about it too. Shouldn’t they call her Consort Ning instead?
Still, “master” was indeed nicer-sounding than “Consort Ning”.
“What did you tell the Princess’ servants?” Ning Xueyan asked, standing up.
“I told them that you went to bed late last night, so you’re still not up. I asked them to tell the Princess that you’ll go over as soon as you wake up.” Lanning supported Ning Xueyan’s arm as she walked to the dressing table. Naturally, Lanning and Qingyu were aware that Ning Xueyan wasn’t here last night. As her private maids, it didn’t look strange for them to stay outside the room and stand guard all night.
The maids that the manor had dispatched were outside the room as well. Nobody knew that Ning Xueyan wasn’t in the Pear Flower Garden last night.
The woman in the reflection appeared pale and weak. Ning Xueyan hadn’t slept well last night, if only because she had to sleep on a different bed and beside someone else at that. That made her look a little pale. Moreover, there was also a faint swelling on the corner of her mouth and torn skin that had scabbed by now.
It was apparent that she had bitten her own lips yesterday.
Anyone would have been heartbroken and bitter to learn that her new husband had gone to his favored concubine’s place on their wedding night.
After washing up and getting her hair styled in a bun with a jade lily hairpin, Ning Xueyan exchanged her bright bridal robe to a pale purple dress. The dress was elegant yet low-profile. She couldn’t very well wear clothes that were too plain when she was still celebrating her marriage, so she chose something moderate.
When Qingyu returned after dumping the water outside, she quietly informed Ning Xueyan, “His Highness went to the Princess’ place after bringing you back. He’s probably still there.”
Ning Xueyan nodded and sat down on the table to have some breakfast. Then, she went to Commandery Princess Xianyun’s Great Wisdom Garden with Qingyu.
Her own courtyard was still a mess, so she left Lanning, Xinmei, and Mother Han to tidy up the place. Mother Han was currently the housekeeper of the Pear Flower Garden and oversaw the management of the place with Lanning. With a familiar person like Xinmei around, she believed that she would be able to control the courtyard well.
Two eunuchs were waiting outside the courtyard. When they saw Ning Xueyan, they immediately walked over and saluted her. “Greetings, Consort Ning. Are you heading to the Princess’ place?”
Seeing Ning Xueyan nod, the two eunuchs immediately led the way. On their way there, Ning Xueyan realized that the Pear Flower Garden was so far away from the Great Wisdom Garden that there was a large courtyard in between. She felt that it wasn’t any shorter than the distance between the Bright Frost Garden and the Madam Dowager’s Lucky Garden.
Perhaps, it might be farther still.
Judging from the layout, Prince Yi’s Manor was several times larger than the Lord Protector’s Manor. Even though the Great Wisdom Garden was so far from the Pear Flower Garden, they were still walking in the same direction. That meant that both gardens were in the same central area.
Ning Xueyan found that the manor was very quiet. The maids, servants, and eunuchs that she saw along the way had their heads lowered as they stood in a line and greeted her respectfully, unlike in the Lord Protector’s Manor. They looked down on her just because she was neglected on her first day of marriage.
This feeling comforted Ning Xueyan greatly. Regardless of everything, Prince Yi’s inner courtyard was kept in decent order. It was much better than her expectations.
Great Wisdom Garden was also very quiet, with only a few maids waiting outside the door. Some were dressed in Prince Yi’s Manor’s servant attire while some weren’t; those were likely Commandery Princess Xianyun’s personal maids. When they saw Ning Xueyan and Qingyu coming over, the maid on the innermost wanted to go in and inform her master, only to be stopped by another maid.
“The Prince and Princess are inside. Please go in, Consort Ning.” Xiangrong stepped forward and greeted Ning Xueyan with a bright smile. She sneaked a glance at Ning Xueyan before pointing to the room with hanging pearl curtains.
Ning Xueyan looked around. Seeing that no one was following her, she instructed Qingyu to wait outside the room. She had seen this maid before and recognized her to be the Princess’ personal maid. Since the maid had to wait outside, it went without saying that it wasn’t convenient for Qingyu to enter with her.
The two eunuchs waited outside the courtyard, having not entered the place at all.
Ning Xueyan lifted the pearl curtains and entered the room. Instead of seeing two chairs placed side by side, she saw Ao Chenyi seated in the central seat with Commandery Princess Xianyun standing beside him, telling him something. When the Princess saw Ning Xueyan coming in, her gaze fell on the latter’s haggard face. She deliberately looked at the wound on the corner of her mouth and joy flickered in her eyes.
“Sis…” Before the Princess could finish her sentence, Ao Chenyi impatiently interrupted her.
“How annoying. I’m busy, so make it quick.” Ao Chenyi smiled faintly at the Princess, his lips curved into an unnatural, sinister-looking arc. The temperature in the room seemed to have immediately fallen by several degrees.
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