Ji Man spent the rest of the night holding Haohao and glaring at Ning Yuxuan in the carriage.
The next morning, when the sun had barely broken through the horizon, the carriage finally arrived at the capital. She hadn't been able to close her eyes all night because of the last sentence that Ning Yuxuan had said.
In contrast, Ning Yuxuan had slept especially well last night. No matter how much the carriage had jolted over the bumpy parts of the road, he had been able sleep the night away by using her lap as a free pillow.
When it was time for them to disembark from the carriage, Guibai stretched his hand out towards Ji Man.
Of course, he wasn't offering his hand to help her down. This gesture was asking her to hand over the child she was holding. Ji Man frowned. Although her hands were already feel numbing from holding Haohao for so long, she still didn't want to let go!
Haohao hadn't said any words to her. She had only heard him calling out, "Dad," a few times at the beginning of the carriage ride. After that, Haohao had been very quiet and looked at her with a rather shy gaze.
Holding Haohao, Ji Man stopped at the shaft of the carriage. Poking his tender, little face, she said, "I have to leave now. It's already been so long. You probably don't even remember me anymore."
Haohao stretching his little hand out. With his eyes focused on her, he mumbled, "Remember."
Ji Man's eyes brightened. Somewhat surprised by his answer, she asked, "Who am I?"
Haohao blinked his eyes. After thinking for a while, he turned his head and looked at his dad, who was still inside the carriage. "Mom."
An indescribable happiness welled up in her heart. Holding Haohao, she kissed his face a few times. "My precious baby."
Guibai stretched his hands out again to take Haohao from her and reminded her, "Madam, be careful. People might be coming out soon."
Right now, it was early morning, so there weren't any people by the inn's doors yet. However, there would soon be early risers coming outside. Ji Man kissed Haohao's face again, then she jumped down from the carriage and looked at Ning Yuxuan as she said, "I'll carefully think it over."
"En." Marquis Moyu took Haohao and lightly nodded.
The carriage quietly left. Ji Man took a deep breath, rubbed her sore arms, and swiftly walked back to her room.
Inside the carriage, Ning Yuxuan was holding Haohao. He kissed his son's face with a loud "muah" sound and smiled. "So clever."
Haohao giggled. Grabbing the lapel of his father's robe, he looked somewhat lost as he asked, "Mom?"
Marquis Moyu froze for a moment in surprise. Pursing his lips, he said, "That was your mom back there."
Haohao doubtfully looked at him for a while. "My mom doesn't look like that."
The first time that he called out the word, "mom", it had been directed at Xia-shi. Even if his mom was going to be replaced, it should be with another woman, right? Although that man had a nice-smelling and soft body, he wasn't his mom, ah...
Marquis Moyu wanted to smack his own head. Although he personally didn't care what Ji Man looked like, Haohao was only a young child. Haohao thought that Ji Man was a man, so how could that person be his mom?
What an unwise move.
He decisively shifted the child's attention to something else. "Do you want dad to take you home to play?"
Haohao giggled again. "En~!"
Young children were truly the world's most easily deceived creatures.
Ji Man hadn't returned to her room for long when someone came over to inform her that she had to prepare to go to the palace.
Zhangjun Prince would be going to the palace today to pay respects to the dowager empress, and he would only be bringing along four people: the princess consort, Shen Youqing, a bodyguard, Taxue, and two trusted aides. As one of the two trusted aides that would be coming along, Ji Man didn't have a chance to catch up on sleep. After tidying up, she went outside.
On the way to the palace, inside the carriage.
"Your Highness, the commonfolk have recently been very vocal about their unhappiness with the new emperor's tyrannical behavior. There have also been a lot of letters written from officials in the Six Ministries advising the new emperor, but it seems that the new emperor has been ignoring everyone."
Wu Yong, an imperial strategic adviser, lightly said, "Since ancient times, an emperor that doesn't listen to advice or have the hearts of the common people won't be able to maintain his position as the emperor. Your Highness, as the new emperor's brother, you should naturally try to persuade him too so that the older court officials will feel more at ease."
Zhao Zhe listened with his eyes half-closed. Shen Youqing was in the carriage behind this one.
Ji Man neutrally said, "It's okay to try to persuade him, but the new emperor dislikes hearing those type of words. Your Highness, you can explain that idea through an analogy, so that the new emperor will be more willing to accept it."
"En." Smiling, Zhao Zhe glanced at Ji Man. "I heard that Marquis Moyu is coming to the palace today too."
Ji Man thought; there's no need for you to mention it. I already saw him yesterday.
Ji Man nodded and said, "Marquis Moyu is an official that has experience during the reigns of two emperors, and he also has control over the Six Ministries. Whether the matter is big or small, it'll be appropriate if he's the one that deals with it."
"I've always admired Yuxuan's wisdom and foresight." Zhao Zhe's gaze glimmered. "But, I don't like that he's not restricted by compassion, duty, propriety, and integrity. Although he has the ability to accurately predict how a situation will go, he freely changes his masters depending on the situation. That quality of his makes a person unhappy."
Back when the first prince and the third prince were competing for the throne, Ning Yuxuan had chosen to help the third prince win the crown. Zhao Zhe had always been brooding over that matter.
Ji Man dryly laughed. "Marquis Moyu is like a sharp knife, but no one can perpetually hold onto him. Whoever has enough power can use him to stabilize the nation."
"Your assessment is really unpleasant to hear." Zhao Zhe snorted. "If he's a knife, then he's a knife that will stab you in the heart if you don't hold onto him properly. Don't you see how he's acting so loyal to the new emperor right now? I'm gleefully looking forward to seeing how deeply Ning Yuxuan will stab him once his new emperor starts to lose power."
Ji Man and Wu Yong were both startled.
Zhao Zhe felt as if he had been too indiscreet. He pursed his lips and said, "I was just joking. Remember to bring the gifts that I'm offering the dowager empress later."
If someone were to say that Zhao Zhe would always be content with being a titled prince, Ji Man wouldn't believe that person. Otherwise, she wouldn't have chosen to work for him.
However, since Ning Yuxuan had already betrayed him once, Zhao Zhe had a very strong sense of bias against him. If she told Zhao Zhe that she wanted to leave and be a teacher for Marquis Moyu's young heir, she guessed that he would most likely respond with choking her to death.
She had to figure out a way. If she continued to not be by Haohao's side for such a long period of time, Haohao would completely lose any sense of lingering affection that he felt towards her.