Ning Xueyan propped herself up to get back on her feet and adjusted her clothing before walking out to the mourning hall.
Since she had to put on a show, she must act until the end. Those around the noble guests were no ordinary people. If she accidentally made a mistake, she would be bringing trouble to herself instead...
"My, Fifth Sister! You're finally showing up!"
Ning Lingyun couldn't help mocking Ning Xueyan after seeing her. This was the first sentence that Ning Lingyun said to her sister today.
Even though she was a concubine's daughter, her beautiful looks made her believe that she wasn't inferior to her sisters!
Her sisters were merely fortunate to have grown inside First Madam's belly. On the other hand, she was unfortunate enough to have a concubine for a mother. Her birth lowered her status by a significant degree.
Ning Ziyan and her sister were daughters of Madam Ling, who was the First Madam of the Lord Protector's Manor. Madam Ling could kill her as easily as she could squash an ant. That was why she didn't dare to retaliate.
Thus, she vented her anger on Ning Xueyan instead. She was a frequent accomplice of the Second Young Lady, Ning Yuling, in bullying Ning Xueyan. She thought of herself as much nobler than Ning Xueyan.
She was long stewing in anger after being told to keep watch while Ning Xueyan went off to rest. Gripping her handkerchief tightly, she harshly rebuked Ning Xueyan when she saw her.
"Fourth Sister, you could have left if you didn't want to keep watch," Ning Xueyan said indifferently as she kneeled down again. She didn't want to concern herself with Ning Lingyun who was busy licking the soles of Madam Ling's boots.
"Leave? Of course, I want to! Had your damned mom not die, do you think I'd be forced to keep watch?!" Ning Lingyun retorted furiously.
She had been kneeling since this morning. She was so tired that she was close to collapsing.
Currently, she was in an incredibly poor mood. Moreover, she had never possessed any respect for Madam Ming. To think that she would be ordered to keep watch of this woman's coffin!
These thoughts filled Ning Lingyun with even more rage.
Ning Xueyan's face fell after hearing Ning Lingyun slandering Madam Ming and her voice was cool as she said, "Fourth Sister, would you dare to repeat such words in front of Grandmother?"
"Repeat such words in front of Madam Dowager?"
"Wouldn't I just be digging my own grave?"
Ning Lingyun had taken note of Madam Dowager's protection of Ning Xueyan today. Even though she didn't know why Madam Dowager showed Ning Xueyan such respect today, she knew now wasn't the time to provoke the latter. Earlier, she had been watching the fate of the servants on the sidelines in fear.
"What do you mean? Are you deliberately criticizing me?"
Having always considered Ning Xueyan a pushover, Ning Lingyun was instantly furious after hearing the former's words. Unable to control her emotions, she yelled, "Who allowed you to speak in such a manner? How dare you talk to me like that!"
"Fourth Sister, are you protesting against me or the Madam Dowager?" Ning Xueyan asked coolly, with an unwavering gaze.
She raised her head to look at Ning Lingyun. Her pupils were so cold and unfathomable like two deep natural ponds. They sent a shiver down one's heart.
Ning Lingyun, who was about to lose her temper, took in Ning Xueyan's coldness and unfathomable eyes. She opened her mouth and for a moment, no words came.
However, she felt resentment just as quickly and glared at Ning Xueyan. After making sure that no one was around, she rose to her feet with her maid's help and went to rest in the side room.
This was exactly what Ning Xueyan wanted. If Ning Lingyun was around, she might notice something when Ning Xueyan acts later.
The following event would be the most crucial step in seeking justice for Madam Ming. She could only hope that the noble guest would be of high enough standing and reputation that Ning Zu'an wouldn't be able to retort much.
Considering the time, now would be the time for the noble guest to come if the guest intended to pay respects to Madam Ming. A guest like that wouldn't stay long in the Lord Protector's Manor for something like this.
She picked up the cup next to her and poured the powdered medicine that Qingyu brought back into the tea.
The tea emanated a faint fragrance. It wasn't a strong smell but enough to alert those with a keen sense of smell when they enter.
After downing half of the teacup, she leaned sideways and quietly rested.
Qingyu ran in from the front hall. When she saw that no one was inside the mourning hall, she went to Ning Xueyan and whispered into her ear, "Young Lady, the Marquis is on his way here. I ran here after seeing him showing the way from afar. They didn't see me."
"Hmm. Stop running around and kneel here."
Suppressing the stabbing pain that demanded its presence to be felt, Ning Xueyan opened her eyes and pointed behind her as she spoke.
The medicine kicked in nearly immediately. It barely took any time for her to feel its effects.
"Alright. Let me get a sip of water first."
An exhausted Qingyu reached out for the teacup by Ning Xueyan's foot but the latter swiftly caught her hand and stopped her. "You can't drink this water. Go and kneel first!"
"Young Lady…" Qingyu looked at Ning Xueyan in surprise. When she noticed that her master's lips were so pale that it was nearly colorless, she got a huge shock.
She kneeled down next to Ning Xueyan and supported her arm. In a panicked voice, she said, "What's wrong, Young Lady? Are you ill? I'll look for Madam Dowager now and ask her to find a way to call for a physician."
There was no way that Ning Xueyan would allow her to look for Madam Dowager. That would render her effort in drinking that cup of "medicine" in vain.
She clutched Qingyu's sleeve. "You don't have to look for Grandmother. It's alright. I'll be fine after resting for a while. I suppose it's my old illness acting up. It's no big deal; nothing a little rest won't fix."
"Are you sure you're fine, Young Lady? Your old illness has been dormant for a long time, so why is it acting up now? What should we do?"
Qingyu's expression changed drastically after hearing that it was Ning Xueyan's old illness.
In the past, Second Madam would find a way to get Ning Xueyan some pills. Now that she was gone, where could they find pills for Ning Xueyan?
A cold glint crossed Ning Xueyan's pupils. Sure enough, Madam Ling had poisoned her!
It was no wonder that her health would be so poor that she would die after crying in front of her mother's coffin.
"Old illness? What old illness? What kind of old illness can a young girl have?"
A bellow abruptly came from the door!