Ostensibly to congratulate Ning Zu’an’s marrying a new concubine, but they all had other plans. Third Young Lady of the Lord Protector’s Manor was no ordinary. She was not only beautiful, but gentle, graceful and decent as well. Everyone could tell that she had a bright future, and some well-informed person even said that Third Prince had already waited in the manor when Third Young Lady just returned yesterday.
Who was Third Prince? He was the real imperial family member! Normally, only those young ladies from noble families waited for him, and he would never take the initiative to wait for them. It was said Third Prince’s cousin who had grown up together with him returned to the capital yesterday. However, he didn’t wait for her at Grand Tutor Ya’s Manor, but went to the Lord Protector’s Manor instead!
People would find something unusual if they thought it over.
Besides, there were rumors that Third Prince would engage with a daughter of Lord Protector, and most people thought that girl would be Second Young Lady of the Lord Protector’s Manor. Now it seemed the rumors were not accurate. Obviously, Third Young Lady was the one who was favored by Third Prince and Honored Consort Ya.
Everyone believed that it was the case. Because in terms of the relationship between Third Prince and the two manors, he should have been closer to the grand-daughter of Grand Tutor Ya!
Soon, the flower hall was filled with flattery and pleasing words. Ning Qingshan reacted properly. She smiled at everyone and no one was ignored or snubbed. Both the host and the guests were satisfied.
“Third Young Lady, it’s said Fifth Young Lady of your manor is outstanding as well, why hasn’t she shown up?” an official’s daughter asked with a smile, looking around.
There were so many things happened to The Lord Protector’s Manor recently, so many people had heard the existence of Fifth Young Lady. However, none of them had ever seen her, so they were very curious about her.
“All the Young Ladies of your manor are outstanding and pretty. I wonder if Fifth Young Lady is as excellent as you. Can you ask her out to chat with us?” another official’s daughter asked curiously.
“Yes! We have been here for a long time. Why hasn’t she come out yet? Isn’t she in the manor? Or maybe she is disdain to meet us?” the third one joked and said.
Ning Qingshan smiled and answered gracefully and gently, “Young Ladies, you thought too much. Fifth Sister hasn’t come out yet not because she is reluctant to meet you, but because she is too busy and has no time to greet you at the moment.”
“What’s she up to? Today is the big day of marquis. What must she do?” an official’s young wife asked subconsciously.
Yu Lian was just a concubine of Ning Zu’an, but Ning Xueyan was the daughter of Ning Zu’an’s principle wife. Was she staying with the concubine now? If that was the case, it would be very improper!
“I didn’t mean that. In the manor, there is something that… Fifth Sister’s mother passed away before long, and she was familiar with the new concubine of my father, so it’s no wonder that she is busier. Fifth Sister is capable, that’s why she has a lot on her plate.”
Ning Qingshan said with a soft smile. She seemed to be explaining for Ning Xueyan, and the others would think that she was a nice elder sister who was defending her younger sister. Now they witnessed she was not only gentle, but also generous.
Fifth Young Lady was familiar with the new concubine of the Lord Protector’s Manor, so she preferred to stay with the concubine, compared to greeting the official’s female family members. Furthermore, it was true that her mother had just died, so she was so eager to please a new concubine of Ning Zu’an?
As the daughter of Ning Zu’an’s principle wife, how could she flatter a concubine? She was putting herself down! Instantly, everyone present showed disdainful expression.
They had planned to meet Fifth Young Lady of the Lord Protector’s Manor who seldom showed up, because they heard that she was excellent as well. But when they found she was a person who couldn’t get on the stage, their admiration for her immediately turned to contempt. She was so stupid and unsociable, no wonder she had hidden herself so many years! Obviously, she didn’t know how to behave in front of people at all!
Otherwise, how could a principle wife’s daughter of Lord Protector had never shown up in public?
“Third Young Lady, has Fifth Young Lady been behaving this way all the time?” someone couldn’t help asking disdainfully.
“I’m not sure. I have been in the nunnery for cultivation recently, and Fifth Sister was the only daughter who stayed with mom. Besides, she is the youngest among the sisters.” It seemed Ning Qingshan didn’t answer the question directly, but the information she provided proved that Ning Xueyan had developed this kind of character because Madam Ming spoiled her too much. She was the youngest daughter, of course her mother was more partial to her.
Seeing the disdainful expression on the faces of everyone, a trace of imperceptible satisfaction flashed in Ning Qingshan’s eyes.
Mother Luo had reported to her just now that ‘all’ the account books had been sent to Ning Xueyan, so no matter what Ning Xueyan would say or act, or even she had found the maid who gave the account books to Qingyu, she wasn’t able to explain this matter clearly. Madam Dowager would definitely think it was Ning Xueyan who stained the account book, and because she was afraid of being punished, she pushed the responsibility to a maid.
So whether Ning Xueyan admitted or not, Madam Dowager would think she stained the account book.
Ning Qingshan was clear that Ning Xueyan had just managed the inner courtyard for a few days, and Madam Dowager asked Ning Xueyan to help her to check the account books. She also heard that Ning Xueyan had done a good job, so Madam Dowager admired her very much, and she seemed to have planned to leave all the affairs of the inner courtyard to Ning Xueyan. The management of internal affairs was equivalent to the management of the whole Lord Protector’s manor.
The position was so attractive that Ning Qingshan had already coveted it for a long time!
But since Ning Xueyan was doing the job, she was unable to get involved in, so she had to find a way to kick Ning Xueyan out. Moreover, she worried Third Prince would shift his attention from her to Ning Xueyan. She had taken Ning Xueyan as her enemy who would be the obstacle for her to win Third Prince’s heart since the day Third Prince had looked at Ning Xueyan a few more times.
But she didn’t take Ning Xueyan seriously, because she believed that a person who had hidden herself in the Bright Frost Garden wouldn’t be capable. What was more, she heard that Ning Xueyan had offended Madam Ling. Although Madam Ling was still in the Buddha Hall, she would be released sooner or later if she were still Ning Zu’an’s principle wife.
Since Madam Ling was Ning Xueyan’s elder and she was a cruel woman, in any case Ning Xueyan was no match for her.
“If I took her administration power, and ruined her reputation, I will not only gain the advantage but also win Madam Ling’s favor. Maybe Madam Ling will recognize me as her daughter, then I’ll become a daughter of the principal wife,” Ning Qingshan thought.
“It’s said Fifth Young Lady is talented, gentle and generous. How could she behave like this?” Of course not everyone agreed with Ning Qingshan’s answer, so some of them asked suspiciously.
It was true that Ning Xueyan wasn’t remarkable before. But in the Chrysanthemum Party held at the Cold Mountain Temple, Ning Xueyan had met several noble young ladies. Compared to the arrogant Ning Yuling, Ning Xueyan was calm, generous, smart and reasonable, so her good reputation had been spread out by these young ladies, even though she was still far less famous than Ning Qingshan.
Anyway, the rumors about her were positive. Besides, they were spread out from those noble families, so nobody would doubt the truth of the rumors.
“I behaved like what?” a sweet voice suddenly rang out at the door of the flower hall. Everyone was waiting for Ning Qingshan’s answer when they heard someone speak at the door. They looked in the direction of that person and saw a pretty girl standing there.
She wore a light pink suit embroidered with plum blossoms. She had a charming look and fair complexion, and she showed the grace of the young lady of a noble family in every move. She looked elegant and pure, so nobody could associate her with the Fifth Young Lady who had been despised by everyone just now.
She didn’t look like a person who would please a concubine at all!
Several young ladies who didn’t know much about Ning Qingshan’s past looked at her suspiciously. “Did Third Young Lady said that because she was jealous of Fifth Young Lady?” they thought.
“Hey, Fifth Sister! Come here! We are talking about you and our guests are curious about you,” Ning Qingshan said with a gentle smile. She was surprised when Ning Xueyan suddenly showed up. She hadn’t expected that Ning Xueyan was still in the mood to come here at this moment. But she was quick-witted, and she stood up gracefully and came to hold Ning Xueyan’s hand.
She did it so naturally, as if she hadn’t spoken ill of Ning Xueyan behind her back at all just now, and all the bad associations were assumed by the guests themselves.
“I’m sorry! I was busy in the kitchen for the party, so I didn’t have time to meet you just now.” Ning Xueyan apologized with a graceful smile. She walked over to the guests and withdrew her hand from Ning Qingshan’s naturally and then bowed to the female guests present.
She explained the reason that she hadn’t shown up in the flower hall before.
A girl of thirteen or fourteen years old from the noble family looked at Ning Qingshan, and then Ning Xueyan. She was confused, so she asked naively, “This Fifth Young Lady was busy in the kitchen just now, but… why did you say that she was being with the new concubine?”
Like being slapped, Ning Qingshan went stiff and her perfect smile froze as well. She had a hard time to maintain her smile. Several smart official’s wives and daughters looked at her doubtfully. She hadn’t expected that Ning Xueyan was so sharp, and with a single sentence, she broke the advantage she had managed to gain and made people doubt her.
She had underestimated her!
“Being with the new concubine?” Ning Xueyan sneered. Ning Qingshan was really good at making up stories. As a principle wife’s daughter, how could she stay with a concubine on such an occasion? Ning Qingshan must have thought that she was busy with the stained account book and couldn’t come.
“Thank you for your hard work, Fifth Sister!” Ning Qingshan said with a smile. Although she was annoyed, she didn’t show her angry on her face. She acted as if she had known that Ning Xueyan would have shown up here. She then turned to the guests and said, “Fifth Sister had too many things to care about today. Our grandmother is old and her hands are full. It’s said all the affairs in the manor were in charged by Fifth Sister recently. There are so many things need to be cared about every day, so of course she is very busy!”
She smiled and stressed ‘It’s said’, because she wanted the others to know that she was absent, so Madam Dowager had to choose Ning Xueyan to take care of the internal affairs of the manor. Moreover, since Ning Xueyan was in charge of the internal affairs of the manor, it seemed reasonable that she had been with the new concubine of Ning Zu’an just now.
She made her lie sound reasonable by confusing the others. She smiled and spoke gracefully and calmly. It was hard to believe that she had said those words deliberately to have people to doubt Ning Xueyan.