Time hadn't been able to rub away Xia-shi's innate rustic demeanor. After taking a few breaths to calm herself, Ji Man looked at Guibai and made her voice lower-pitched as she said, "I'll have to rely on you to help me to a nearby doctor's clinic then."
Guibai nodded and supported Ji Man into the carriage. Then, he went to work on removing the nails from the horse's horseshoes.
Carrying her wrapped cloth bundle and weeping endlessly, Xia-shi also boarded the carriage and sat back down. In the passing, she cast a scrutinizing gaze at Ji Man.
Ji Man reflexively touched her face. The fake skin face mask hadn't come off. She still had the face of a rather attractive man.
Keeping her voice rough, Ji Man asked, "Madam, why are you crying so wretchedly?"
Xia-shi wiped her nose and said, "I worked so hard to serve someone for almost two years, and now I've been abruptly tossed out. Tell me, do you think I should cry or not?"
Ji Man couldn't figure it out. Wasn't Xia-shi Haohao's biological mother? Why would Ning Yuxuan kick her out? What would happen to Haohao?
"That's really pitiful." Looking at Xia-shi, Ji Man spoke, "Based on your fancy clothing, you're probably a madam from a wealthy family. Did you make a mistake?"
"I haven't done anything wrong!" Wringing her hands, Xia-shi's gaze looked a bit vicious. However, she quickly remembered that there was an unfamiliar young man sitting in front of her and softened her expression. In a quiet voice, she said, "It's that man. His heart is too cruel. I thought by caring for his child as he grew up, he would gradually have some sort of affection toward me. How could I have known that he's been regarding me as only a wet nurse the entire time?"
The carriage had reached a doctor's clinic. Guibai pulled the reins to stop the horse and pulled the curtain back. "Little brother, you can come down."
Ji Man couldn't continue to ask questions. Nodding her head, she left the carriage and followed Guibai.
Surprisingly, Xia-shi also came out of the carriage while holding onto her cloth bundle. "Seeing how serious your injuries look, I'll come too."
Guibai glanced at Xia-shi, but didn't say anything. After leading Ji Man to get checked over by a doctor and having a shop assistant wrap up the prescribed medicine, he offered her a ride to where she wanted to go next.
Ji Man gave him the address for the grain retailer association, and he had them board the carriage again. However, when they were getting into the carriage, he warningly looked at Xia-shi.
Xia-shi was much quieter the rest of the ride and didn't continue to idly chat with Ji Man. Seeing this change, Ji Man acted very affectionately and asked her where her home was.
Blushing, Xia-shi answered in quiet voice, "I'm from a large fishing village that's far from here."
Ji Man was a bit stunned by her words. Hadn't Ning Yuxuan said that he had met Xia-shi during the Southern Journey? No matter what, shouldn't she have come from somewhere near Jiangnan? Why was it a fishing village?
Something flashed through her mind. Smiling, Ji Man stretched her hand out and gently held Xia-shi's hand. In an equally quiet voice, she said, "I want to visit your home and see what it's like. I've been staying in cities for too long. I've never been to a fishing village before."
"Young lord, you must be ridiculing me." Xia-shi embarrassedly smoothed her hair. "Anyways, my home isn't that far. Don't you still have business to attend to? Once you're done with your work, you can come visit me then. I live at the end of the village. When I go back this time, I want to builder a bigger house to live in, and I happen to not have anyone to help me with ideas."
The implied suggestion was certainly clear enough. Seeing Xia-shi's glimmering eyes, Ji Man couldn't resist touching her face. It couldn't be that she was quite suitable with pretending to be a man, right?
The carriage stopped. Guibai said, "Little brother, I can only take you this far. You only need to walk a little further, and you'll reach the grain retailer association."
"Alright, thank you." As Ji Man got up, she tucked the bamboo fan that she had brought along into the crook of Xia-shi's arm and winked at her.
With a blushing face, Xia-shi tightly gripped the fan and waved good-bye.
After leaving the carriage, Ji Man entered the grain retailer association and attended to her business. Using a letter from Zhangjun Prince, she successfully gained a business permit. After that, she hurriedly went back to the inn, changed into a nicer set of clothing, checked that fake skin face mask was firmly in place, and hired a carriage to take her to that fishing village. By the looks of the sky, it wasn't early anymore.
There was only one fishing village outside the capital. By the time that Ji Man arrived, it was already the middle of the night. At the end of the village, there was still a home that hadn't extinguished its candles yet.
Ji Man went forward and knocked on the door.
Xia-shi opened the door with a smile. Not showing any sign of avoiding her, she directly welcomed her guest inside.
The narrow house had three children inside. The oldest one looked to be around seven or eight years old, and the youngest one appeared to be around two years old. They were all staring at her in a daze.
"My home isn't big. I'll go buy stuff to rebuild my house tomorrow. Fortunately, that person was generous. I won't have to worry about money for the rest of my life," Xia-shi nattered. Stuffing a bundle into a wardrobe, she turned her head and said to the oldest child. "Take your younger brother and sister away to rest. Have you gotten stupid from your book learning?"
The seven to eight year old child hurriedly picked up his youngest sibling, then held his five-year-old sister's hand and scurried to the neighboring room.
"This... did you give birth to all these children?" Ji Man was a bit stunned.
"I'm a widow. It's not big deal if I have more children." Xia-shi's eyes reddened. "Anyways, men never treat me sincerely. If I raise more children, some of them might pay me filial respect when they grow up."
Ji Man coughed to clear her throat. "Do you only have three? Or, do you have other children?"
Xia-shi shot a glance at Ji Man. With a harrumph, she sat down in Ji Man's lap. "You came from so far away to come to my place. Why put on this pretense of being proper? Why ask about my children? Didn't you come here because you want to do that with me…"
Feeling that a hand was sliding down on her body, Ji Man jumped up and grabbed Xia-shi's shoulder. "You’re misunderstanding. I just wanted to ask for lodging and see how a sunrise looks like from a fishing village and what not."
After she said those words, even Ji Man wouldn't believe herself! Looking at Xia-shi's slightly scornful gaze, Ji Man thought; this woman was really too open-minded. Back then, why had Ning Yuxuan been attracted to her?