Chapter 41 Your Highness Wants Something, So Do I
Madam Dowager pressed on her chest, so furious and livid at what Ning Yuling had just said, which almost caused her to have a heart attack. The messages Ning Yuling conveyed was that in the Lord Protector's Manor, Madam Ling prevailed her on power. Though she barely laid her hands on the matters in the Manor, she couldn't bear such a demeaning attitude towards her. "Force her out, force her out, leave her kneeling in her own yard, and without my permission, she shall never get up.”
After yelling out, she was all worked up and panting heavily. Sensing the severity of this situation, with no hesitation, maids and older female servants unambiguously dragged Ning Yuling out. After all, Ning Yuling hadn't dared to cross the line so far. As soon as she was outside, she cleared her hair, angrily shoved two older female servants' hands away and strode forward. Two older female servants looked at each other, knowing there was nothing they could do but following behind her, which made the whole thing more like "escorting", rather than "forcing".
Master Mingyue came over and checked on Ning Xueyuan. Aside from prescribing her some medicine for swelling, he asked her to ensure enough rest. As a token of consolation, Madam Dowager sent someone to select and give her some luxuries, and then to escort her back to her own yard.
Coming back to her yard and sitting down, Ning Xueyan leaned on the bed, resting. The medicine prescribed by Master Mingyue was so effective that it took only a short time before her forehead felt much better. Qingyu felt relieved after finding out nothing serious was going on on her forehead.
“Young Lady, how come Madam Dowager gives away such things to you when you are not allowed to wear them currently?!" Lanning frowned and asked, pointing at the exquisite silks, satins, and the jewelry on the table which were identifiable as high quality at first glance. However, since she was in mourning right now, it would be extremely inappropriate to put those on.
"This is a gesture from Madam Dowager to show her kindness to you. It seems like she has truly realized how good you are." Qingyu laughed naively.
"That is because she found out the great benefits of using me and I am such a good asset to her, rather than how good I am." Ning Xueyan tilted her head and sneered. Her long eyelashes teetered a little, leaving the subtle shadow on her pure white face. The thing was that Madam Dowager was absolutely too confident of her plan to realize that Ning Xueyan was no longer the person who knew nothing about how to defend herself.
There was no way that Madam Dowager could genuinely care about her. In front of her granddaughter, she had always adored her most with a full heart, Ning Xueyan was the one that lacked any interaction and attachment to her. On one hand, treating her well was to show the manners and rules in the Lord Protector's Manor to the bystanders, especially after Ning Yuling made such a dramatic scene. On the other hand, she aimed to reestablish and improve Ning Yuling's resilience in this way.
Madam Dowager was encouraging Ning Yuling, by taking advantage of the situation so Ning Yuling could use it as a stepping stone.
Given Ning Yuling's disposition, it would be unwise to become one of the royals. Madam Dowager intended to teach her a lesson by giving Ning Yuling a hard time under her watch. As for whether Ning Yuling would wind up turning against her, or whether she could make it, was all beyond her consideration.
Lanning stayed silent. As someone who had been through hell once, she could think about things ahead of Qingyu. Knowing Ning Xueyan was right about this, she had nothing to say.
Qingyu bit her lips, speechless, and feeling sorry for the Young Lady she served.
The carriage Honored Consort Ya rode in arrived at nightfall, with everyone's expectation and attention. All of a sudden, the madams in the temple all rushed outside to welcome her. In Cold Mountain Temple's gate was such a hustle and bustle, swarmed with young ladies. The madams who brought their eldest daughter, all eagerly wanted to make some impression in front of Honored Consort Ya, with the hope of marriage being possible if they were lucky enough to catch Honored Consort Ya's eye. Even though it was not the emperor's son who was to marry, noble and dignitary princes in the palace of the Prince would also be enough for them.
Since the people had all gathered in front, correspondingly there was a lot of space in the back. Ning Xueyan saw the chance and headed to the back. Constantly resting on a bed for these past few days evidently crippled her flexibility. She roamed around to get some fresh air and relax.
Since everyone had been attracted to the front where Honored Consort Ya was, the ambiance of the mountain behind Cold Mountain Temple was fairly quiet. The stream was running through, the road was still, and the breathtaking trees stood against the sky, as she ambled along a path. She felt humble and peaceful. Immersing herself in the serene forest felt like a dream to Ning Xueyan.
As a survivor, everything around her was surreal, more like a dream. Only can wrenching pain while suffocating provide a real awareness of being alive.
Walking for a while, a stream settled underneath a small-sized waterfall and grew into a lake. Though the waterfall came far from the sky, the complicated turns and twists compromised its speed and impact, so the sound of its impact was muffled. Through the crystal clear lake, there were fish swimming by frequently, exclusively nurtured and pampered by idyllic nature.
There was a person sitting on a tall rock beside the lake, with their hair scattered and soaked. Though he was facing away from her with his back turned, Ning Xueyan still recognized the black garment as sooty ink, resplendent yet aggressive, with the crimson Manjusaka blooming and the elegance conveyed by the golden silk thread.
She couldn't help but sigh, sometimes fate was sometimes karma.
It was the last person she wanted to see, and here he was!
The whole temple, as His Highness whose power loomed over the entire imperial government, Prince Yi was the one that didn't take Honored Consort Ya seriously. It was already too late to retreat. Besides, given there were no guards getting in the way, he must allow her to get near.
"Why not go to the front to please Honored Consort Ya. You may wind up getting married to the Third Prince, who knows.” Expectedly, before she moved, Ao Chenyi turned his head, sitting on that tall rock, and looked down on her. Without his gold crown, he looked less superior and cavalier and yet more enchanting. Slightly rolling his beautiful eyes, he distantly looked at Ning Xueyan and asked.
Ning Xueyan shook her head as she leaned on a stone next to her, looked upwards and replied, "Playing a role as the royal wife is quite demanding. Since I am not endowed with enough intelligence and the gifts I need, it is better if I distance myself from this mess where I may die without even knowing why."
All she said was unfortunately true. She had already been struggling in the Lord Protector's Manor, and every step ahead of her was tough enough. Turning her back against others for the Third Prince would leave her marooned and isolated. There was a fat chance that she would end up being eliminated without a trace.
In her last life, she had been blessed with romance. However, when it came to this life, the only thing she cared about was revenge and living a normal life ever after. The fortune and affection shall all pass.
"What if I can help you become the Third Consort to the Prince? Ao Chenyi leaned over and then laid down. His eyes looking directly at Ning Xueyan, eliciting a smile tinged with a weird chill.
"I really appreciate my lord's offer, but I literally have no intention to become Consort of the Prince," Ning Xueyan sighed, "My lord need not worry. Though becoming Third Consort to the Prince wouldn't work out for me, I will still go to Ning Zu'an's study room and help you look for that thing like I promised. She retracted her captivating gaze from the distance, projected it at Ao Chenyi and shined a smile on him. That unpolished and innocent gesture made his heart skip a beat.
This was the first time someone was so comfortable around him, unlike others who would dodge making eye contact after the first glance. Not everyone was capable of putting up with the appalling vibe which seemed to emanate from the dead and their blood. In front of him, even experienced generals who had witnessed countless battles obeyed him without questions, let alone this vulnerable young lady who could literally be carried away by the wind.
In his handsome eyes, some curiosity was stirred up. "Wouldn't it bother you if the whole of the Lord Protector's Manor was exterminated?”
Even though the words were similar to before, the tone was different.
"My lord is second to the one only, besides, In the future, with the whole country in your hand, whoever you want to kill is totally up to you. Not making a move today won't guarantee their safety tomorrow. I am not in the position to worry.”
"Oh, Ning Zu'an is your own father, wouldn't you feel concern about him?”
"My biological mother is the only parent I have, I've never had a father." Cutting and distant as her eyes were, she said without a slice of hesitation, and only her long eyelashes teetered a little bit. Since she had already planned on taking advantage of Ao Chenyi's power, when it came to the choice between the Lord Protector's Manor and Prince Yi, there was no room for her to evade. Besides, she literally had no attachment to the Lord Protector's Manor. Though she was yet capable of leaving the Lord Protector's Manor for good, no one can stop her from building up her strength.
Ao Chenyi's thin lips went slightly upwards at the edges, black hair falling smoothly down his shoulder, looking like dark silk. Slender eyes squinted towards this delicate girl standing in front of him, "Do you want to leave the Lord Protector's Manor?”
“Yes, the day I leave shall come!" Ning Xueyan answered bluntly.
"That's a quick answer, aren't you afraid of me dragging you down while I crush the Lord Protector's Manor?" Ao Chenyi found her more intriguing and looked at this young lady, who had been telegraphing cold and distant vibe, with great interest. As a person who treated the one she loved with a full heart and paid back the pain to the people she hated a hundred times over, she was quite something else.
To get what she wanted, she acted merciless and assertive, even to herself.
It was her personality that he was mesmerized by.
"My lord wouldn't. Killing someone on your side with no good reason would definitely make the people who work for you feel disappointed and even betrayed!" Ning Xueyan looked up, corners on her mouth going upwards slightly. She raised her head and looked at Ao Chenyi with her clear eyes as water yet fairly cutting and elusive. Only she knew that her drooping long sleeves hid her clenched fists. In front of Prince Yi with his capricious mood, she never would dare to lower her guard.
She circumspectly saw herself as one of Ao Chenyi's subordinates.
"Hehe......" he smiled, with his glamorous beauty, while ruffling his handsome eyes. He raised his hand casually, grabbed a flagon and frivolously poured himself a cup of wine. Red wine, dark as blood, spinning in glass, reached his lips which made them much brighter and tinged them with a sense of danger like he'd been drinking blood.
"How dare you threaten Your Highness? Aren't you afraid that I would kill you right now?" Ao Chenyi's slender, charming eyes flashed a hint of astonishment. This girl kept surprising him. His focus was not on the menace hidden in her words, but her boldness, which he really appreciated.
His eyes looked at her palm-sized face, stopping at her forehead where some medicine had been applied. To avoid infection, Lanning deliberately let her hair down onto her forehead and thought no one would notice. Her exquisite facial features were utterly exposed, the redness and swelling on her forehead made her look more pitiful and fragile.
From every angle, she was a delicate young lady from a respectful family. However, what she said and what she did was far from that image. If he didn't see the evident bite on her arm in person, there was no way for him to believe that she could be so hard-hearted.
"My lord, of course I'm afraid, but I still stand by my words.”
"Oh, why?" Ao Chenyi widened his eyes a little.
"If my Lord wants something, so do I." Ning Xueyan looked straight at his gorgeous face and confided in him as if in front of Ao Chenyi, she had nothing to hide.
This answer made Ao Chenyi laugh so hard. "In fact, you can also ask the Third Prince for help, maybe he is more willing to do the beauty a favor.”
"What Third Prince would do is his own business, not mine!" Ning Xueyan articulated. Judging from Madam Dowager's attitude, that door for Ning Yuling becoming Third Princess was not entirely closed, it seemed like Third Prince's marriage was not entirely up to him.
Besides, Ning Zu'an's power was something Third Prince probably craved.