Ji Man opened and closed her mouth. She really wanted to say that she was his mother. However, Ji Man suddenly felt a bit upset that Haohao would look at her as if she was a stranger when he was already this old.
"Let's talk about it after we go home."
Guibai looked Nie Sangyu and nodded. He quickly followed after her to leave the palace. They had to return to the marquis's estate before Zhao Zhe discovered their disappearance.
Ji Man wasn't planning on arguing with Zhao Zhe on why Haohao was in Wangyue Building's basement. It was fine now that she had found him. In the future, she would keep him well protected. Zhao Zhe would probably have a headache for a period of time now that he had lost his bargaining chip.
"Why was he taken away?!" Zhao Zhe shouted at Shen Youqing, who was on the bed.
Shen Youqing's face was deathly pale. She had recently finished drinking medicine to help with her pregnancy. Her brow was furrowed as she answered, "Hasn't Nie-shi vowed in front of a large crowd that she would follow Marquis Moyu in life and death? Your Majesty, since it's no longer possible for you to bring Nie-shi into the palace, what's wrong with this servant returning Marquis Moyu's heir to her in order to gain karma points for my unborn child?"
Original translation is from fuyuneko dot org. If you’re reading this elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
"Preposterous!" Zhao Zhe stepped forward and angrily grabbed her wrist. "Why is your vision so short-sighted and narrow? Why do you only see that Ning Jinchen is Nie Sangyu's son.? Do you not know that he's also the marquis's heir? If he can be used to threaten Nie Sangyu, then he can naturally also be used to threaten Ning Yuxuan. This emperor worked so hard to keep him hidden for such a long time, and you actually turned around and gave him back to Nie Sangyu?"
Shen Youqing knew how to compete for favor in a harem, but she didn't understand the conflicts in the imperial court. She had almost miscarried, but the emperor had come here to criticize her instead of showing concern. It was inevitable that she would feel disillusioned. Shen Youqing lowered her head and stayed silent.
"This emperor has originally thought we could work together to stabilize my reign. Instead, you do something like this to harm me behind my back!" Zhao Zhe flung her wrist away. As he left in huff, he tossed her these departing words, "Stay here and reflect on your actions."
It had been difficult enough to capture a bargaining chip that could frighten Nie Sangyu and pressure Ning Yuxuan. And now, someone that was supposed to be loyal to him had ruined it. Now that Ning Jinchen had returned to the marquis's estate, what other possible reservations could Marquis Moyu have?
Zhao Zhe rubbed his temples.
The nearby eunuch said, "The Department of Palace Affairs sent over a list of court ladies that recently entered the palace. Your Majesty, do you want to take a look?"
After he had ordered Consort Luo's death, no one else had been added to his harem. Zhao Zhe thought it over before nodding. "Bring this list over."
When Haohao returned to the marquis's estate, he threw himself into his father's arms and cried for a long time. Ning Yuxuan promptly comforted his son. In the passing, he sent Guibai to bring a board.
Not sure what to do, Ji Man stood at the side. This was her first time meeting Haohao with Nie Sangyu's original appearance. Logically, she should be affectionately hugging her son. Instead, she actually felt nervous.
Seeing that Haohao had finished crying, Ning Yuxuan turned Haohao around to look at Ji Man. “Haohao, do you recognize her?"
Haohao blinked. He thought for a long time before finding an answer, "She looks very similar to the woman in the painting that's hanging in dad's study."
Painting? Ji Man raised her eyebrow and looked at Marquis Moyu.
Ning Yuxuan awkwardly coughed and covered his son's mouth. "That's not what I want you to talk about. Do you find her familiar?"
Ji Man's palm felt a bit sweaty. She stiffly smiled at Haohao.
Haohao's eyes were full of doubt. He shook his head and mumbled into Ning Yuxuan's palm, "Not really..."
Ning Yuxuan hastily stopped him from continuing. He smiled as he looked at Ji Man and said, "Our child has never seen you in this appearance, so it's only to be expected he'll find you a bit unfamiliar. It'll fine once you spend more time together."
Ji Man sighed. She crouched down and used Teacher Ji's voice to ask, "Heir, have you learned a new poem today?"
Haohao froze in surprise for a moment before instinctively reciting a poem. He swayed his head as he said,
"Purple mists rise from the Incense Burner Peak in the sun;
The waterfall seems to hang above the stream, seen from far'way.
Straight down three thousand feet the white spraying torrent does run.
Descending from Ninth Heaven, could this be the Milky Way?"
(T/N: Translation is taken from here. It's another poem by Li Bai.)
Ji Man stroked a beard that wasn't there. She nodded and said, "The heir is clever."
"Teacher?" Haohao widened his eyes. He scratched the back of his head and looked at her in surprise. "Teacher doesn't look like this..."
"It's alright. You don't need to think about that." Ning Yuxuan picked up Haohao and positioned him so that he could still see Ji Man. "You have to call her mom."
Haohao was dumbstruck. A while later, he pursed lips and lowered his head.
Smiling, Ji Man asked, "You don't want to call me mom?"
Haohao was a smart child. He knew that the person in front of him was a good person. However, the mom in his memories didn't look like her. Seeing how this older sister's smile looked sad, Haohao felt conflicted. Should he call her mom or not? If he didn't, she would be really sad. But, if he did, he would be the one feeling sad.
He had lost his mother a long time ago.
"It's alright. You can call me teacher instead of mom." Ji Man continued to smile as she pinched his little face. It wasn't as silky smooth as before. "The heir needs to properly recuperate too."
The topic was diverted. Haohao tugged the edge of his sleeve to avoid his father's gaze. It wasn't his fault, ah. It was this older sister that said he could call her teacher....
Ning Yuxuan silently sighted.
The family of three had finally reunited, but it felt as if there was dark, dismal wind blowing in the marquis's estate. Liu Hanyun was bed-ridden and didn't leave her courtyard. After a period of time had passed, Mu Shuiqing would occasionally come out to chat with Ji Man.
"This servant heard that the emperor is choosing new concubines." Mu Shuiqing had only recently recovered from a serious illness. It was rare for her to be in such good spirits and be in the mood to come over and gossip with her.
Translator Ramblings: I like that Haohao doesn’t have a magical epiphany and recognizes Ji Man/Nie Sangyu as his mother. I like the realism of Haohao thinking Xia-shi is his mom and feeling upset and so confused about what's going on. Lastly, I like that Ji Man is taking the first step to being a mom by prioritizing Haohao's feelings over her own when she says it’s okay to call her teacher instead.