“Sangyu actually doesn't mind hiding my identity." Ji Man dryly laughed. "Anyways, my previous reputation wasn't very good. It wouldn't be bad to change my name."
Zhao Zhe paused. He furrowed his brow as he looked at her and asked, "You don't mind?"
People in ancient times were very particular about recognizing and keeping their lineage. No one else would be willing to change her name, but she had actually said that she didn't mind?
Ji Man nodded. "Your Majesty, if you sincerely want to pardon Sangyu, then you can just directly release Sangyu."
He wanted her to stay in the palace? What a joke. She had to leave the palace so she could take care of Haohao. He couldn't seriously want to confine her in the palace and recite Buddhist scripture every day, right?
While Ning Yuxuan slightly relaxed, Zhao Zhe's expression became a bit unpleasant. He looked at with a deep gaze as he asked, "You would rather live a commoner's dull life instead of staying in a flourishing place like the palace?"
“Sangyu doesn't have high aspirations." Ji Man saluted. "Excuse my mediocrity, Your Majesty."
Zhao Zhe's face was livid. He pursed his lips and looked at her for a long time before sneering. "Since it's like that, this emperor won't insist. But, if that's what you want, it won't be easy to find an excuse to exonerate you."
The three people briefly froze in surprise.
Nie Qingyun frowned and said, “Your Majesty, if Sangyu doesn't mind continuing to conceal her identity, you can find and execute a convict sentenced to death to take Sangyu's place and simply release her."
Zhao Zhe cast him a glance at him before scoffing, "Didn't you three say that you were willing to be directly executed? If I switch her out and the common people find out, won't this emperor be reviled by everyone?"
Nie Qingyun was stifled by these words. Zhao Zhe took a few steps back and said, "For now, General Nie can be released first."
"Understood." A trusted eunuch stepped forward and unlocked the cell's door.
"Marquis Jingwen and his daughter are waiting at Marquis Moyu's estate. General Nie, you can leave first. As for the marquis and Sangyu, this emperor will have to think more about this."
This was clearly an excuse to weasel out of letting Ji Man go. Ning Yuxuan slightly smiled and said, "Your Majesty, thank you for troubling yourself."
Zhao Zhe flung his sleeve and left. As Nie Qingyun was escorted out, he kept turning back to look at the cells. His eyes were full of worry.
Peace returned to the prison.
Ning Yuxuan laid out his bedding by the railing that separated the two cells, then he sat down on it. Sighing, he asked, "Sangyu, what should we do?"
Ji Man mimicked his actions and brought her quilt over too. Flopping down on the quilt, she leisurely asked, "I caught the emperor's eye?"
Ning Yuxuan harshly looked at her. "Are you very happy about it?"
"Not happy, and it's a misfortune not a blessing." Ji Man shrugged. “I heard that the princess consort, Shen Youqing, had previously gotten rid of all the first prince's concubines and bed servants. That woman must be very skillful. For my own safety, an insignificant person like me should stay far away from her."
"I want to make a bet with you." Ning Yuxuan closed his eyes and asked, "Do you want take the bet?"
"Bet on what?" Ji Man raised her eyebrows in curiosity.
"If you don't agree to stay in the palace, he'll keep you locked up here until you agree. Perhaps, at the end, he'll threaten me with your life to force me to agree for you." Ning Yuxuan chuckled. "I've been trying to keep this from happen since that encounter underneath the grape trellis several years ago. Unexpectedly, I wasn't able to prevent it."
(T/N: He's referring to the moment when Zhao Zhe sees Nie Sangyu sleeping in the swing underneath the grape trellis in chapter 51.)
Ji Man was slightly stunned. Furrowing her brow, she asked, "Would he really do that? It won't be good for his reputation to steal someone else's wife."
Ning Yuxuan froze in surprise for a moment. He opened his eyes and looked at with a burning gaze. "Whose wife are you?"
Ji Man rolled her eyes. "Aren't I your..."
Ji Man stopped halfway when she realized that she actually wasn't Ning Yuxuan's wife anymore. She had already taken the divorce letter from him.
Ning Yuxuan chuckled. "Why do you think he wants to force you to stay in the palace? It's because we don't have a formal relationship. After a period of time passes, it wouldn't be wrong of him to take you into his harem."
Ji Man furrowed her brow. Was Zhao Zhe crazy? He had already become the emperor and could have any type of woman that he wanted. Why did he have to make life difficult for her?
"Let's make a bet. If you stay in the palace, it means you lose." Ning Yuxuan went on to say, "If you lose, you have to return something that originally belonged to me."
Curious, Ji Man asked, "What thing? I haven't taken anything that belongs to you?"
Ning Yuxuan very meaningfully smiled. "Several years ago, someone told me, "When the mountains have flattened and the heavens and earth have joined, then I’ll be willing to separate from you, my beloved.” You gave me that promise a long time ago. I just don't know when you took it back."
After a pause, he added, "I hope you give it back to me."
Ji Man was dumbstruck for a long time. She racked her brains trying to remember when she said these words to him.
Rummaging through Nie Sangyu's memories, she replayed a scene that happened a long time ago, a very long time ago. A silly girl stayed out in the pouring rain and wouldn't go home. She followed Marquis Moyu all the way to a city temple. She was a lone maiden, but she didn't do anything to avoid arousing suspicion. Instead, on that dark, rainy night, she had shouted those words to an indifferent Ning Yuxuan.
She had started off with, "By the heavens, I want to be your love forever and ever, my feeling will never end or wither."
Returning to the present, Ji Man chuckled. "I didn't give you that. It was Nie Sangyu. I guess there is a difference between me and her."
“Ji Man?" Ning Yuxuan murmured. He was lying on his quilt too. The two of them were very close and only separated by the railing. "Once, when you were drunk, you told me that you were called Ji Man and that you had an English name. It was Ji Man too. Don't these two names sound the same?"
Ji Man froze in surprise. Soon after, she burst out in laughter. "Yeah, they're the same. It's a joke."
Marquis Moyu didn't see how this was funny at all. His expression showed that he was at a loss.