She would mainly go to one cloth shop to tailor clothes for the servants of the manor. That shop had been brought to the Lord Protector’s Manor as Madam Ming’s dowry and Madam Ming used to be its owner. Now it had been taken by the Lord Protector’s Manor, to be exactly, by Madam Ling.
The shopkeeper, Mr. Yu, was a special person. Ning Xueyan had come out today mainly to meet him.
She hoped that she could figure out if Mr. Yu was still on her mother’s side or he had really already taken Madam Ling as his master. All the shopkeepers would submit the account books of their shops tomorrow. She would choose some people who were still grateful to Madam Ming from these shopkeepers. The shops were Madam Ming’s dowry, so she would not allow Madam Ling to take them!
Although not the busiest, the street in which the shop was situated was crowded and this shop’s business was no worse than those big shops which were in between two main streets.
Qingyu and Xinmei got out the carriage first. Qingyu went into the shop to find Mr. Yu, while Xinmei supporting Ning Xueyan get out the carriage.
This shop had only two rooms which were not connected, and it was not on a main street, so it could not be taken as a big shop. However, when they got into the shop, they found it was not small inside, as it had two floors. There were various kinds of cloth on the first floor, and some embroidery products and thread on the second. In fact, it was a shop of cloth and embroidery products.
Many women were choosing cloth and embroidery products and the shop assistants were busy serving them.
Qingyu walked over to Ning Xueyan with a very thin old man in his sixties. At the sight of Ning Xueyan, the old man was so excited that tears welled up in his eyes. “Fifth Young Lady?” he said and bowed to Ning Xueyan.
“Mr. Yu. How are you?” Ning Xueyan smiled slightly and accepted Mr. Yu’s greeting. Then she bowed slightly to him.
Mr. Yu was not the shopkeeper when Madam Ming had been the owner, but Mother Han said that he had already been a senior of this shop at that point. Later, he had been promoted from the vice shopkeeper to shopkeeper, and had worked in this cloth shop for many years.
Although Ning Xueyan looked very young, she was calm and patient when she spoke and behaved. Her jet-black eyes were bright and clear, full of wisdom. As a smart person who had seen and met many different kinds of people, Mr. Yu was sure that Ning Xueyan was not a simple girl. He could not help nodding slightly.
It was said that Fifth Young Lady had taken her place in the manor not long after stopping hiding herself at Bright Frost Garden. So obviously, such a Young Lady could not be simple. Thinking about this, Mr. Yu did not dare to look at Ning Xueyan anymore, and he became even more respectful.
He invited Ning Xueyan to go upstairs and take a seat in a room. Mr. Yu took the tea cup from a shop assistant and brought it to Ning Xueyan in person respectfully.
Ning Xueyan took the tea cup. She lifted the lip and removed the tea foam. After taking a sip of the tea, she put it straightforward.
“All the shopkeepers will hand in their account books to our manor tomorrow. Mr. Yu, is your account book ready?”
Despite her young age, Ning Xueyan’s powerful aura and her calm shocked Mr. Yu. He froze for a moment and then looked outside with hesitation.
“Can’t you tell me that? My mother is meditating at the Buddha Hall, and now my grandmother is in charge of all the affairs of the backyard. She entrusted me to check the account books, so of course I should inquire about this.” Ning Xueyan raised her head calmly, looking at Mr. Yu coldly, her eyes sparkling with wisdom.
Mr. Yu could not help lowering his head, and he did not know what to say.
Ning Xueyan had shown her identity and expressed that she should be responsible for Madam Dowager. She had also mentioned that Madam Ling was at the Buddha Hall. Although the outsiders did not know why Madam Ling had been staying at the nunnery for such a long time, they could tell that there was something wrong. As the hostess of the manor, she was not taking care of the backyard affairs, but staying at the Buddha Hall at the busiest time in a year! Anyone with a brain would figure out that something bad had happened to Madam Ling.
The shopkeepers who worked under Madam Ling’s administration had met privately and discussed the current situation. Most of them thought Madam Ling would take power again. After all, she was the First Madam of the manor. Even if she had made some mistakes, the punishment would not last long. Since Eldest Young Master was the only son of Lord Protector, who would punish his mother severely?
They believed that First Madam would be released from the Buddha Hall by the end of the year at most. Therefore, they did not want to hand in their account books tomorrow, and they decided to hand them in after First Madam was released.
Mr. Yu did not quite agree with the other shopkeepers, but as a shrewd person, he knew he should follow the trend. Otherwise, he would be isolated, and after First Madam was released, she would not spare him. But he knew the Fifth Young Lady in front of her was not easy to fool.
So he could not make any decision now.
“Mr. Yu, are you going to take illness as an excuse for not coming to our manor tomorrow?” Ning Xueyan asked with a slight smile, a piercing light flashing in her bright and icy eyes. What she said next was even hit home more and Mr. Yu did not know what to say with trembling lips. “Mr. Yu, do you think that the shop really belongs to Madam Ling?”
Mr. Yu knew what Ning Xueyan said was right. Madam Ling had taken these shops from Madam Ming, but she did not dare to tell the others in public that these shops belonged to her. Otherwise, Madam Dowager would be annoyed. She could only hint the others privately that these shops were her property. Such kinds of things could never be announced openly.
Madam Ling had privately told the shopkeepers that these shops were her dowry, but she had not dared to talk about it to them in front of other people. These shopkeepers were all smart, and they knew there must be something behind it. So although they had taken Madam Ling as their master, they did not dare to say that the shops were Madam Ling’s dowry in front of Madam Dowager.
“Fifth Young Lady, what are you talking about? I dare not think of deceiving you and will never do so. I promise I will go to the manor with the account book and hand it to you.”
Being awed by Ning Xueyan, Mr. Yu had made up his mind to hand in the account book, so he answered with a smile in a hurry.
He had heard the rumors about Madam Ling’s being locked in the Buddha Hall, but nobody knew the reason. Now Mr. Yu could tell that this must have something to do with Fifth Young Lady. An unfavored Young lady had gotten the powerful First Madam to the Buddha Hall, so it was obvious that Fifth Young Lady was very capable.
Even First Madam had been punished because of her, but those shopkeepers were still trying to help First Madam to deal with Fifth Young Lady! How stupid! In Mr. Yu’s mind, they could not deal with Fifth Young Lady, and anyone who offended her would get into trouble. Even those shopkeepers who had been in their fifties or sixties were no match for the little girl, who was only fourteen years old!
Hearing that Mr. Yu had agreed to hand in the account book, Ning Xueyan felt relieved, a trace of smile on her face. Mr. Yu was a smart guy, so she had made the correct decision to discuss with him first. On the one hand, smart people would never refuse the others directly. On the other hand, Mr. Yu was not that loyal to Madam Ling. From his look and the cloth he had given to her, Ning Xueyan could tell that he had not totally forgotten his former master. Then he would not contradict her to her face. So it would be easier to make a breakthrough from him.
The grim look had been replaced by smile. Ning Xueyan asked, “Mr. Yu, are you having any trouble?”
Mr. Yu was stunned at the words. He raised his head in surprise and asked, “Fifth Young Lady, how did you know it?”
“You were distracted and looked outside with a frown from time to time. You looked worried. So I guessed that you must be in trouble,” Ning Xueyan said gently.
“Fifth Young Lady, you’re so smart!” Mr. Yu sighed. He had planned to ask Madam Ling for help, but he had not thought that she would have been locked up for such a long time. He had visited the manor and inquired when First Madam would get out of the Buddha Hall, but nobody could answer him. Now he had to solve the problem, so he had been upset recently.
“What happened?” Ning Xueyan asked. She had asked Mother Han to keep an eye on this shop, so she knew what trouble Mr. Yu was in. She had asked him deliberately to prevent Mr. Yu from knowing that she had asked people to watch him.
“I’m not to blame for this. Some people stirred trouble on purpose, saying that a kind of cloth we sold was inferior product. They claimed that we had mixed some low-quality thread in the cloth, and caused the clothes they made were not strong enough. The clothes broke after their servants had only worn them for a few days. Moreover, the clothes were too shrunk to wear after being put into the water. Several manors ordered this kind of cloth from us, but now they have returned it.”
When talking about this, Mr. Yu felt very upset. Before Spring Festival, all the manors would buy some cloth to make new clothes for their servants, so Mr. Yu had prepared a lot of this kind of cloth to meet their needs. However, when people from the other manors had heard that the cloth had a quality problem, they all returned the cloth. Now the warehouse was filled with this kind of cloth, so Mr. Yu was burning with anxiety.
“Which manor did the rumors come from?” Ning Xueyan asked, frowning.
Mr. Yu answered with a guilty look, “I don’t know. Some people came and stirred trouble from time to time recently. Some of them claimed that the cloth had a quality problem, saying that the clothes they made with our cloth broke after washing, or shank after being put into the water. Some others said that we mixed some different thread into the cloth, and made the cloth being stained with another color when it was put into the water. In a word, they had found all kinds of excuses to make trouble every few days. If they continue to do this, nobody will buy cloth from us anymore.”
“Is there any special mark on our cloth?” Ning Xueyan asked.
There were many cloth shops in the capital, and all the cloth they sold had their own exclusive mark.
“Yes. But each bolt of cloth has only a mark on it. While a bolt of cloth can be used to make two or three clothes, so it’s impossible to find the mark on each piece of clothing,” Mr. Yu said helplessly.
“There is a special mark of our shop on the cloth?” Ning Xueyan continued.
“Yes. There is a very small mark on the inner side of the cloth. This kind of cloth was specially made for our shop. As the old customer, we asked our supplier to print a character ‘Ning’ on the cloth to distinguish those from other shops,” Mr. Yu answered, looking worried. If this matter could not be solved as soon as possible, it would lead to more trouble.
“Hey! What’s wrong with the cloth? Why hasn’t anybody answered me till now?” When they were talking, there was a sudden noise downstairs along with a woman’s shout.
She came again! Mr. Yu was a little annoyed. “Fifth Young Lady, this woman is the one who claimed that all their clothes made with our cloth had been broken,” he said.