Since it had come to this, no one there had any reason to stay. Ning Xueyan also returned to Bright Frost Garden with her people.
Now it was tranquil in the courtyard. Madam Dowager asked those from Bright Frost Garden to pick themselves up now that Madam Ling was ill, and she suppressed those who seemed to always suck up to Madam Ling. After recovering, Madam Ling also tried to take the opportunity to do something but was held back by Mother Han, who had always come up with some ideas to handle her. That was why Madam Ling hated Mother Han so much and dragged her into the mire.
Back in the courtyard, Lanning and Qingyu were sorting Ning Xueyan's items, while Mother Han come to talk to Ning Xueyan after packing her own things.
"Young Lady. The First Madam and the Second Young Lady paid the price this time. Now that this has happened, the Second Young Lady would not be the principal wife even if she were married into Commandery Prince Li's Manor. By no means can the First Madam and the Second Young Lady bully the Young Lady." Mother Han smiled as she spoke to Ning Xueyan. She had been delivered from great danger and had witnessed the course of the incident, so she was in high spirits at the moment.
But Ning Xueyan was not as delighted as Mother Han was. She lifted the corners of her mouth and said plainly, "Do you think Ning Yuling will only be a concubine, Mammy?"
"But things have gone like this... She was caught in bed with the Princely Heir of Commandery Prince Li before getting married. Won't she... just be a concubine?" Mother Han opened her eyes open and asked in confusion.
"Do you think they will let this get out, Mammy?" Ning Xueyan tittered indifferently.
No one else aside from the people from Lord Protector's Manor and Commandery Prince Li's Manor had seen the two of them stay together. To prevent it from getting out, they just needed an order from the masters.
Though Commandery Prince Li's Manor had a high status, they had little real power, while Ning Zu'an was the opposite. How would he allow his daughter to be someone's concubine? Now that it had gone like this, Commandery Prince Li's Consort Dowager would have to consent to the marriage whether she liked Ning Yuling or not.
But of course, Lord Protector's Manor would also have to pay some price for the marriage.
"Then what should we do, Young Lady? The First Madam will tyrannize you if the Second Young Lady becomes the consort of a princely heir." Mother Han became impatient. She thought that the evil-minded Second Young Lady had lost her chance, but she never expected that things would end up like this.
"Take it easy, Mammy. What do you think of the Princely Heir of Commandery Prince Li?" Ning Xueyan raised her head and asked softly.
"It would be interesting if the Princely Heir of Commandery Prince Li and Ning Yuling get married."
"The Princely Heir of Commandery Prince Li, loose in morals, arrogant and overbearing, seems to be quite unsatisfied with the Second Young Lady judging by what he has done to her," Mother Han said after thinking. She was also a sophisticated old woman and her eyes brightened after saying this. "Does the Young Lady mean that the Princely Heir of Commandery Prince Li won't suffer this loss without taking any action?"
In the Princely Heir of Commandery Prince Li's eyes, Ning Yuling was just a dissolute jezebel. Everyone knew that he was unwilling to marry a woman like her. Seeing what she had done today, she was by no means virtuous.
She hooked up with the Princely Heir of Commandery Prince Li on her own accord and tried to pass the buck to Ning Xueyan when she was discovered, which was apparently to vilify Ning Xueyan. Ning Xueyan would have been wronged if she had not been astute enough.
If a woman like Ning Yuling became a householder in the harem, she would do harm to all other women in the manor. The Princely Heir of Commandery Prince Li must have gotten dozens of beauties in his harem because he was so romantic. Why would he be willing to marry Ning Yuling?
"Nor was Ning Yuling willing to marry the Princely Heir of Commandery Prince Li," said Ning Xueyan, smiling slightly.
Ning Yuling loved the Third Prince rather than the Princely Heir of Commandery Prince Li, and she always posed as the Consort of the Third Prince. Compared with the Princely Heir of Commandery Prince Li, the Third Prince was much more handsome and attractive. Most importantly, the Third Prince had a brilliant future, which was incomparable to the Princely Heir of Commandery Prince Li, who was so indolent.
And the Princely Heir of Commandery Prince Li was notorious since he was often seen in brothels and goofed around.
No virtuous girl would marry him!
Ning Yuling would never fall in love with him because she was so arrogant.
So their marriage would never be successful. They had hated each other before their marriage, so who knew what it would be like when they got married?
Superficially, Lord Protector's Manor succeeded in saving its face but it would suffer more disturbances in the future. Even if Lord Protector's Manor and Commandery Prince Li's Manor tried everything to bring Ning Yuling and the Princely Heir of Commandery Prince Li together, it was likely that they would fail in the end since they were both unwilling to marry each other.
Hearing Ning Xueyan's words, Mother Han was enlightened. She stopped frowning and nodded vigorously.
"Mammy, what happened to Concubine Ma?" Ning Xueyan stopped smiling. The matter related to Ning Yuling had come to an end. Superficially, at least, Madam Ling did not suffer heavy losses. Now, she would need to figure out who had put poison in her soup. Knowing that it was not Mother Han, could it be Concubine Ma?
"Young Lady, I was called by Madam Dowager this morning and went to Auspicious Fortune Hall. There I saw Concubine Ma kneeling down. She said in tears that I had been on a rampage in the manor using your power. And she said that my son hit her brother outside the manor and that my son was domineering because he didn't admit to his fault."
Mother Han got angry when she said this. In Auspicious Fortune Hall, Concubine Ma cried and complained. Then, Madam Ling asked Mother Han whether she had only one son and then locked her up, saying that she would sell her the next day. It took no more than half an hour for the whole process. Mother Han was sentenced before she could even explain.
And she asked someone to watch Mother Han without any explanation.
"What's Concubine Ma's parentage?" Ning Xueyan asked this after thinking for a while. Concubine Ma was the key to this matter. Last time, Ning Xueyan learned that Concubine Ma was new to the manor and was favored by Ning Hu'an while she got along well with Madam Ling. Sometimes, when Ning Xueyan was taking a walk in the hall, she could see Madam Ling accompanying Concubine Ma and seemed to be joyful.
"Concubine Ma is from a humble family and was a peasant. I remembered that my son did fight with someone the other day, but that guy was in an opera troupe. Some people in the opera troupe occupied some land and put up a platform, which blocked the way. My son tried to discuss it with them but they just wouldn't listen. So they fought. Is Concubine Ma's brother someone from the opera troupe?"
Mother Han recalled this and told Ning Xueyan about the whole affair.
"Though Concubine Ma is from a humble family in the village with a humble origin, it seems impossible for her to bear any relationship with someone in the opera troupe." Ning Xueyan frowned. "There must be something I've missed, otherwise I can inquire about her origin."
"Then how did they find out Concubine Ma was pregnant?" Ning Xueyan continued asking.
"I don't know, either. I just heard from the doorkeeper, an older female servant, who gloated and said that the masters in the manor wouldn't do anything against her because she was pregnant and that I was the one who would be punished." Mother Han looked confused because she saw Concubine Ma still kneeling down when she was dragged out.
How was Concubine Ma found out to be pregnant within such a short time?
"How was Concubine Ma doing when you were in the hall?" Ning Xueyan smiled indifferently.
"She was crying when I got there but was not alarmed at all. Her words were well-organized when she testified against me, and I was stopped several times when I tried to defend myself. But I didn't see anything else strange." Mother Han shook her head. She did not find anything abnormal about Concubine Ma.
"Did she look and behave as usual and keep kneeling down when you left?" Ning Xueyan frowned. She came to realize something.
"Nothing different. Concubine Ma was kneeling down since my arrival and was still kneeling down when I left. She just spoke with tears. I was impatient at that time and was eager to defend myself. So maybe I lost some details."
"Now that they looked all right, then they must have planned everything. They planned how to frame Mother Han as well as how to let everyone know that Concubine Ma was pregnant. That's why Concubine Ma was so calm."
"She kneeled down for half an hour!"
Ning Xueyan sneered. "As expected, they planned everything. Concubine Ma was fine after kneeling down for so long! She framed Mother Han and got away with ease. Next, they will do something about her pregnancy.
"Madam Ling was so malicious. She framed me step by step and I would have been the one to be killed in the end."
"Mammy, go out of the manor and ask about Concubine Ma's family home, her previous job, and if there is anything special about her."
"Yes. I was planning to ask about my son and buy some crude drugs for the Young Lady. Young Lady, these drug stores were yours originally, but now belong to the First Madam. And I was bullied all the time." Tears came into Mother Han's eyes when she said this.
Mother Han was indignant when she thought that the Second Madam used to be in charge of those stores.
Superficially, the manor had provided drugs for Bright Frost Garden. But they did not have enough drugs to offer to two masters at the same time. And the drugs that Madam Ling sent to Bright Frost Garden were either fragmentary, of low quality, or had gone bad from moisture. These drugs could not be used at all.
So Mother Han would buy some drugs for Ning Xueyan every time she left the manor.
Hearing Mother Han's words, Ning Xueyan remembered Mother Han's son, Da Zhuang, who served in a drug store that his family operated.
The drug store was Madam Ming's dowry. The shopkeeper was not only business-minded but also knew some medical skills. That was why the store was still in his charge. He thus could lend a hand to his previous master privately. Otherwise, all of Madam Ming's stores would sooner or later be taken over by Madam Ling and become her private property.
Madam Ling was from a humble family. She had no dowry when she married into the manor. But now, all Madam Ming's dowry was taken over by her, and the entire staff was also replaced by her people. So she was indifferent to Mother Han and even teased her.
"Mammy, I have a dowry list from my uncle. You can check it and tell me the details." Ning Xueyan went over to the trousseau and opened it. She took out the list that Ming Feiyong had given her and handed it to Mother Han.
"It's so great that your uncle gave the list to you. Take it easy, Young Lady. I will count it up right away. I didn't expect that your uncle had been keeping the list for so many years. The Second Madam's list had already been destroyed by the First Madam," Mother Han said angrily.
During that time, Madam Ling pretended to view the list of the Second Madam's dowry and sent someone to fetch it for her. Mother Han had advised her to say that she did not have it but was refused by the Second Madam. Then she never saw the list again, while the Second Madam's stores were taken over by others one after another.
How could Mother Han not feel indignant?
"Don't worry, Mammy. Sooner or later, I'll take back what they took from me." Ning Xueyan smiled slightly but had a cold look cold in her eyes.
"I'll take back everything that belongs to me!
"And I'll take revenge on whoever framed me!
"I'm just waiting for the opportunity..."