Chapter 190 Why Has Nothing Bad Happened to Ning Xueyan?
The banquet started officially. The empress came here to have a look. Since she had no children, of course she was no interested in the banquet at all. She showed her face for a while, then left the principle seats to Honored Consort Ya and Honored Consort Shu. The main hostess of the banquet was Honored Consort Ya, and Honored Consort Shu would help her to host. Both of them had an adult son.
Third Prince and Fourth Prince were the most outstanding princes among all the adult sons of the emperor.
Honored Consort Ya and Honored Consort Shu sat on the principal seats among the female guests, and Prince Yi sat on the principal seat among the male guests. Because the emperor was not feeling well, he did not show up.
Ning Qingshan came in with Honored Consort Ya. Then she went to her own seat quietly, did not seem to be arrogant because of Honored Consort Ya. Seeing her gentle smile, Honored Consort Ya liked her even more. “Only such a woman is worthy of my son!” she thought.
“Yu’er, would you like to rearrange Shan’er’s seat and ask her to sit next to me?” Honored Consort Ya asked gently. Her voice was both polite and generous, and she looked even calmer and more graceful than the empress.
“Mother, it’s unnecessary. Since my uncle is choosing his consort, I’m afraid that… he will be annoyed if I do this.” Ao Mingyu shook his head with a smile and stopped Honored Consort Ya.
As same as Honored Consort Ya’s, his smile was both gentle and noble. Although he was not proud, people could feel the noble aura from him. All his movements were graceful and easy, and everyone would think him a gentleman.
“Since you have decided to marry her, it will be awkward for both of you if she were chosen by Prince Yi.” Honored Consort Ya looked at Ao Chenyi, who was not far away from her, and her eyelid could not help twitching. A complex look flashed in her eyes. Sensing that Ao Chenyi turned to her, she immediately lowered her head and lowered her voice unconsciously.
“Mother, I haven’t decided to marry anyone yet. No matter who uncle chooses, please don’t say anything. Otherwise, father will be angry,” Ao Mingyu persuaded her calmly.
He knew that Honored Consort Ya had always liked Ning Qingshan. But it would be improper to show that Ning Qingshan was special to him on such an occasion. Especially that Ao Chenyi was here. He did not want to offend Ao Chenyi because of Ning Qingshan. Now he was much weaker than Ao Chenyi in terms of competence and strength, so he would not confront him openly, but would deal with him secretly.
“But what if he chose Shan’er? Shan’er can’t survive in his manor. Three years ago, if she didn’t save you, you might have already died. You have made up your mind to marry her at that point. Now Shan’er is more elegant and beautiful than three years ago. Why are you in no hurry to marry her?”
Honored Consort Ya asked in surprise.
Three years ago, after being saved by Ning Qingshan, Ao Mingyu told his mother that he wanted to marry her. Honored Consort Ya asked Ning Qingshan for it privately, but Ning Qingshan said shyly that she was too young and she wanted to talk about it when she grew up. From her look, Honored Consort Ya could tell that she liked Ao Mingyu from her heart, and Ao Mingyu treated her differently as well.
In the past three years, not only Honored Consort Ya had frequently talked about Ning Qingshan, Ao Mingyu’s attachment to her had not changed at all. Every year on that day, he would visit the Lord Protector’s Manor to inquire about her. But now Ao Mingyu seemed not to be eager to marry Ning Qingshan. What was more, he even made Honored Consort Ya think he did not care about Ning Qingshan at all.
Otherwise, how could he even not being anxious when he knew that Ning Qingshan might be chosen by Ao Chenyi?
Ao Chenyi was arrogant, but he would not fight with Ao Mingyu for a woman. Everyone said that he was cold-blooded. Although it was said that the woman beside him was his favorite concubine, it did not mean that she had won his heart, because by now, nobody had heard any woman had ever succeeded to do so.
According to her experience, Honored Consort Ya could tell that woman was nothing but a pet of Ao Chenyi. She sat there timidly, and she even did not dare to move closer to Ao Chenyi. On the other hand, Ao Chenyi was drinking alone, and showed no sign to be close to her. Was she really the favorite concubine who had dared to annoy Ao Chenyi?
With a woman’s intuition, she could tell that Ao Chenyi did not like that woman in the veil.
What was more, that woman even was afraid of Ao Chenyi!
“Mother, it’s not worth to arouse other people’s attention to this. Among the officials, not only Ning Zu’an was powerful,” Third Prince said. His voice was so low that only Honored Consort Ya could hear. But he had expressed his meaning clearly, that was, he did not have to marry Ning Qingshan, and Ning Zu’an was not the only one who was powerful.
Honored Consort Ya thought it over and became worried. She pulled Ao Mingyu’s sleeve and wanted to persuade him again. At this point, she suddenly saw Ning Qingshan looking in her direction. She looked so gentle and weak. Honored Consort Ya smiled at her, trying to relieve her.
Ning Qingshan had mentioned to Honored Consort Ya at her palace that Ao Mingyu was not as good to her as he had been three years ago. Honored Consort Ya thought that she was too sensitive. But now she found that her son had changed.
“Yu’er, do you have a crush on some other girl?” Honored Consort Ya knew her son well, so she immediately figured out the cause.
“Mother, don’t think too much. We should respect uncle’s will. Mother, have you forgotten what my father said?” Ao Mingyu answered calmly. Honored Consort Ya did not know how to reply. She glanced at Ao Chenyi, who was sitting lazily on the other side, a coldness flashing in her eyes.
Since the previous emperor had designated Ao Chenyi to be his successor, if nothing unexpected happened, he would still be the emperor’s brother, and would become the emperor in the future. Although the emperor had not decreed that Ao Chenyi would inherit the throne in the future, everyone knew that it was the previous emperor’s will. Therefore, it was not easy for the emperor to have his son to take the throne.
Before supporting his son to the throne, the emperor had to pretend that he cared about Ao Chenyi.
Honored Consort Ya nodded helplessly, sighing. Even the emperor did not dare to provoke him, what a concubine like her could do? What she could do was to pray that Ao Chenyi would not choose Ning Qingshan as his concubine. Otherwise, she could not help her either. She knew if she dared to meddle, Ao Chenyi would immediately take action to stop her.
He even dared to kill the emperor’s men at will. What else did he dare not do?
She waved her hand, gesturing the palace maids to serve the dishes. Honored Consort Ya felt uneasy with Ao Chenyi’s presence of the banquet. She always felt that he was looking at her coldly. She found it was hard to maintain her smile. If he had known that Ao Chenyi would have shown up, she would manage to ask the empress to host the party.
Now the delicious dishes and wine had been served by the palace maids. Seeing that both Honored Consort Ya and Third Prince did not look at her again, Ning Qingshan took this opportunity to look in the direction of Ning Xueyan.
Since she had been at Honored Consort Ya’s palace just now, she happened to have an alibi. But also because of it, she did not know what was going on. She did not find anything abnormal in other people’s eyes, so she was not certain whether what she expected had happened to Ning Xueyan or not.
Since she had come in with Honored Consort Ya just now, it might have aroused attention from the others. If something bad had happened to Ning Xueyan, it might arouse suspicion for her to look straight at Ning Xueyan as soon as she came back to the Plum Garden.
Therefore, Ning Qingshan had not taken any action until now.
She turned her head slightly to Ning Xueyan’s direction, and immediately saw a pair of cold, jet-black eyes looking at her. Ning Xueyan’s gaze was so cold that it made Ning Qingshan, who had always been so calm, fell into a panic. Her heart beat faster. How could Ning Xueyan was still sitting there, safe and sound？
A faint smile appeared on Ning Xueyan’s delicate face. Seeing Ning Qingshan looking at her surprisingly, she held up the wine glass and raised it several times in Ning Qingshan’s direction, and then drank the wine up. She deliberately pointed the rim of the wine glass at her to show that it was empty. Her movements were both fluid and graceful. She curved her lips up, looking extremely charming.
What surprised Ning Qingshan most was that nobody around her was gossiping about Ning Xueyan, and Ning Xueyan was not as discomfited as she had imagined.
How could nothing bad happen to her?
Ning Qingshan was shocked, and her pupils could not help but contract. She clenched the handkerchief in his hands, having a bad foreboding.
Not only nothing bad had happened to Ning Xueyan, but she was still as calm as before as well. In other people’s eyes, she was showing her friendship when she had toasted Ning Qingshan at a distance just now, but in Ning Qingshan’s opinion, it was a provocation and a mockery.
If nothing had happened yesterday, she might have thought that Ning Xueyan did not afraid of her because she had no idea how manipulative she was. But after yesterday’s incident, she knew that Ning Xueyan was on par with her. She had thought for quite a long time last night, and could not help gritting her teeth at thought of falling into Ning Xueyan’s trap.
If she had not underestimated Ning Xueyan, her personal maid would not have died. More importantly, Madam Dowager’s impression of her was getting worse. Someone might be gossiping about her to ruin her reputation. All she had suffered were because of Ning Xueyan, so Ning Qingshan could not help but burn with anger.
That was why the gentle smile of Ning Xueyan made her feel creepy.
Her fear was justified. Before she could find a way to deal with Ning Xuyan, she suddenly heard a Young Lady crying out, “Ah! My golden hair-pin is missing!”
The Young Lady’s face turned pale and she collapsed on the seat with fear in her eyes, trembling. Her maid at her side was supporting her by the arm.
“What happened?” Honored Consort Ya put down her chopsticks, and asked crossly. She ordered a palace maid beside her to ask what was going on. Honored Consort Shu next to her stopped talking with Fourth Prince and turned around.
“Your Highness, that Young Lady lost her hair-pin. She borrowed it from her grandmother,” the palace maid came back after a short while and whispered in Honored Consort Ya’s ear.
Honored Consort Ya knew that Young Lady. She was the daughter of the principal wife of her manor, but her grandmother did not like her, and it was said that she would be extremely scared whenever she had to visit her grandmother. Now she had lost the precious stuff of her grandmother, so it was no wonder that her face had turned ashen at fear.
“Ask her when she found it missing. Then have someone to look into the matter,” Honored Consort Ya ordered with a darkened face. In her eyes, a hair-pin was nothing at all. But since she was the hostess of the party, she felt awkward to have let such a thing happen. Besides, the emperor might doubt her ability.
“Got it. I’ll arrange for it right now.” The palace maid nodded and then went to that Young Lady for information. After a short while, she gathered all the palace maids and eunuchs present for questioning.
Now things were getting big. All the Young Ladies looked embarrassed. Since they had been present when the hair-pin was missing, if it could not be found on the palace maids and the eunuchs, they could be next in line for scrutiny.