Chapter 244 Madam Ling Adopted Ning Qingshan as Her Daughter
The next day, a lot of visitors came to the Lord Protector’s Manor to attend the banquet. The carriages parking outside the manor filled the whole street in front of it.
Ning Zu’an was the emperor’s favored official. Although his family had some problems recently, his power did not seem to be much impacted. But some rumors said that the emperor thought since Ning Zu’an could not rule his manor well, he would not be able to help him rule the country well. Because of this, he did not trust in Ning Zu’an as much as he used to be.
But everyone was talking about Third Young Lady and Third Prince.
Someone was certain that Third Young Lady had already been chosen as Third Prince’s principal wife and she had attended the Beauty Contest just to go through the formality. Some rumors about Third Young Lady’s recent improper behavior were also spreading in the capital, but since the Lord Protector’s Manor and Third Prince had not made any moves, people did not take the rumors seriously.
They knew for the sake of Third Young Lady, they should come and present their gifts. Anyway, it would be very meaningful for Third Young Lady to be adopted by Lord Protector’s principal wife as her daughter.
In the early morning, Madam Ling was busy in greeting the guests with Ning Qingshan, Ning Lingyun and Ning Xueyan. The guests paid a lot of compliments to Madam Ling and Ning Qingshan.
After a whole night, Madam Ling had managed to calm herself down and put on a smile in front of people, just like she used to be. She chatted and joked with a few ladies from other manors, looking happy. Ning Qingshan sat beside them and said something from time to time. It seemed they had a good time.
Madam Ling wore a set of scarlet clothes today. Without the Marchioness’ official suit, she was still the Lord Protector’s principal wife, and she looked solemn in red. Ning Qingshan wore a green long skirt with a slanting collar and a red padded jacket. Her hair was pinned with a hair-pin decorated with a red-golden-peony and a pearl, making her look fairer and more beautiful.
Today was her big day, so she had been more beautifully dressed and people could tell her out the crowd at a glance.
Ning Xueyan was still in plain clothes as usual. She wore a light blue long skirt, but a few flying butterflies embroidered on the skirt hem added a touch of girlish vivacity in her grace.
Ning Lingyun also kept low-key this time. Although the light pink color of her dress was kind of cheerful, compared to Ning Qingshan, she was much inferior in both the dress quality and the color. Besides, she did not put on too much jewelry.
To avoid Ning Qingshan’s attention, she had been cautious after what had happened at Third Prince’s suburban courtyard. She followed Senior Concubine Xu’s words and tried to keep a low profile. Today was Ning Qingshan’s big day, not hers, so she became even more cautious, trying to avoid stealing Ning Qingshan’s thunder and causing her dissatisfaction.
Ning Lingyun did not dare to offend Ning Xueyan, and she knew that she was no match for Ning Qingshan, so she’d better not offend on either side. That was why she was more low-key than ever when she behaved and spoke. After a few losses, she did not dare to be so mean and mocked Ning Xueyan in front of people as she had done.
Ning Xueyan was chatting with people around her casually. It was her first time to officially meet those noble ladies and Young Ladies. The smile on her face was faint, but she looked decent. She greeted those ladies one by one, showing natural elegance in her gestures. The manner she behaved strictly followed the etiquette standard and even the way she bowed and walked exactly complied with the etiquette dictates.
Those noble ladies could not help praising her. They had heard that Fifth Young Lady had been timid and weak since her childhood and had never had a formal training, but now they found that this Fifth Young Lady was the politest and best-behaved. Madam Ming’s family was aristocratic for generations, so of course under her training, her daughter’s manner was exemplary.
Since Ning Zu’an had never taught her about it and Madam Ming had been too weak to train her even if she wanted, the former Ning Xueyan had never known how to behave in front of people. Besides, she had been bullied by Ning Yuling and almost lost her life. Therefore, from the bottom of her heart, she had been afraid of meeting people. She had not even dared to meet people, how could she possibly appear well-bred to others?
The present Ning Xueyan behaved so well because she had learned the etiquette from her mother in her last life when she was Ning Ziying. Her mother had been so strict in training her and had never allowed any of her movements to be inadequate or redundant. Ning Ziying had cried a lot for this when she was just a little girl, but her gentle mother had not shown mercy as usual. Whenever she made a mistake, her mother would have beaten her with a big ruler. Ning Ziying had cried many times before she could reluctantly reach her mother’s standard.
That was why she could greet people gracefully and her elegance seemed to be inborn.
At this point, Heng Yuqing appeared from nowhere. “Xueyan, nice to see you again!” she pulled Ning Xueyan’s hands joyfully and said in a low voice.
Heng Yuqing was a frank and straightforward girl, so Ning Xueyan was very impressed by her. She was very glad as well when she saw Heng Yuqing and immediately pulled her to the side to chat.
It was the first time they met since they had parted from the imperial palace. Heng Yuqing did not look good and she was much thinner than before. She seemed to be a little depressed, as if she was being bothered by something. Although Heng Yuqing smiled and was trying to hide this, Ning Xueyan was keenly aware that something was on her mind.
“What’s up? Yuqing, did something happen to you?” Ning Xueyan put it straightforward. She had not noticed when Heng Yuqing had come just now, but she could tell that she did not look good.
Hearing that, Heng Yuqing’s eyes turned reddish and she did not want to hide it from Ning Xueyan anymore. “My mother is sick,” she answered in a low voice, wiping her eyes with a handkerchief.
“Why don’t you stay at home and take care of her?” Ning Xueyan asked in a low voice. For a person of filial piety, it was natural to take care of his or her sick mother. Heng Yuqing did not seem to be an unfilial person.
“Concubine Yun told my father that today was your manor’s big day, and it had something to do with the backyard, so if none of our family came, the Lord Guardian’s Manor would be blamed for not taking your manor seriously. But my mother was still ill and she had fallen asleep after taking the medicine. How could she get up for the moment?” Heng Yuqing said angrily with reddish eyes.
“My mother was so sick, but Concubine Yun still asked Heng Yuwan to invite those Young Ladies to our manor to celebrate her birthday!” Heng Yuqing grew angrier when she spoke this. She sobbed and could hardly continue.
Every family had its own problems. Ning Xueyan remembered that someone had said that Lord Guardian favored his concubine very much and wanted to get rid of his wife. She was so shocked of his fatuity. “God protects the good. Don’t worry, your mother is not old at all and she will be okay.” She clapped her hands and comforted Heng Yuqing.
“That woman made my mother sick, but look, she was dressed so voluptuously and was flattering Third Young Lady of your manor!” Heng Yuqing wiped the tears from her cheeks and said resentfully, pointing at a woman beside Ning Qingshan.
That enchanting woman was in her thirties, and from the way she dressed, nobody could tell that she was only a concubine. A girl about Heng Yuqing’s age was standing beside her. Ning Xueyan guessed that she should be Heng Yuqing’s younger sister, Heng Yuwan. Surrounding Ning Qingshan with a few other women, they were talking to Ning Qingshan, trying to curry favor with her.
Everyone thought that Ning Qingshan would definitely become Third Prince’s principal wife in the future, so they were trying every means to get close to her before she rose high. Otherwise, it would be too late!
“Xueyan, do you take me as your friend?” Heng Yuqing did not look in Ning Qingshan’s direction, but asked Ning Xueyan, holding her hand.
“Yes. You’re my friend,” Ning Xueyan said with a nod. Heng Yuqing had always tried to help her at the imperial palace, so Ning Xueyan had taken her as a reliable friend since then.
“She will hold the birthday party after a few days. I want to send you an invitation card and invite you to our manor to have fun with me. I don’t want to talk to them,” Heng Yuqing said seriously.
Heng Yuwan would definitely send invitation cards to her friends, but Heng Yuqing did not like them. Therefore, she wanted to invite Ning Xueyan to attend the party. After all, she should find a person she liked to chat with her.
Otherwise, she had to stay with Heng Yuwan’s friends at the party. She was in a bad mood even having a look at those people.
“Okay! I will go. Just send your invitation card to me.” Ning Xueyan knew that Heng Yuqing did not want to be alone at the party and wanted to have someone chat with her, so she agreed to her request with a smile.
When they had just finished their words, Madam Dowager’s servant, Mother Qin, walked over and told Ning Xueyan that Madam Dowager was looking for her.
Ning Xueyan nodded and asked Heng Yuqing to have some fun on her own. She then left the hall and headed for Lucky Garden.
Madam Dowager was old and she was reluctant to move about, so those distinguished guests of similar rank and age to her would be brought to Lucky Garden, and all the ordinary noble ladies and Young Ladies would be brought to the front hall and greeted by Madam Ling and the three Young Ladies of the Nings.
For convenience, although the hall was located in the backyard, it was near the festooned door to the front yard.
Ning Xueyan left the hall and walked toward Lucky Garden. She had only taken a few steps forward when she saw Ning Qingshan walking toward Lucky Garden following an older female servant. Only then did she realize that Madam Dowager had also asked someone else to go to her courtyard.
“Mother Qin, is there any important guests coming to our manor?” Ning Xueyan asked Mother Qin, who was leading the way, in a soft voice.
“Yes, both Third Prince and Fourth Prince have arrived and they are offering greetings to Madam Dowager now. Madam Dowager asked you and Third Young Lady to offer greetings to the two princes,” Mother Qin answered with a smile.
“Greeting the two princes? It’s just an excuse! We often met them, but why did Madam Dowager specially asked us to greet them now? She must be playing tricks again!” Ning Xueyan thought.
But Madam Dowager’s scheme might fail again!
“Has my eldest sister arrived?” Whatever tricks Madam Dowager was up to, Ning Xueyan did not think it would impact the result, so she shifted the topic to Ning Ziyan.
Today was Madam Ling’s big day, so Ning Ziyan would definitely come. Since Ning Xueyan had been at the front hall just now, she had not seen Ning Ziyan yet.
“Eldest Young Lady has arrived and she is chatting with Madam Dowager now. Fifth Young Lady, don’t worry. There are no outsiders at Lucky Garden in addition to our family members.” Mother Qin thought that Ning Xueyan was nervous, so she specially told her about this. Seeing Third Prince and Fourth Prince walking out together, all those smart Madam Dowagers and ladies from other manors had already gone out to enjoy the scenery in the garden.
While they were talking, a maid rushed over in a hurry. She looked a little familiar, but Ning Xueyan could not remember which courtyard she was from for the moment.
“Mother Qin, please go with me! Madam Dowager was looking for an agate chain she had put into the warehouse. But we could not find it for the moment, and she was urging us to look for it!”
“Madam Dowager really has a poor memory! She forgot that she had taken out the agate chain and checked it yesterday.” Mother Qin slapped her thigh and laughed. Then she turned to Ning Xueyan and said, “Fifth Young Lady, take your time. I have to look for the agate chain for Madam Dowager now.”
Ning Xueyan smiled slightly and nodded, gesturing Mother Qin to go first, a complicated look in her eyes.
After Mother Qin left with the maid, Ning Xueyan walked forward slowly. Since they had been delayed by the maid for a short while, now Ning Qingshan had disappeared from sight. In order to arrive at Lucky Garden soon, Mother Qin had chosen a short cut just now. Ning Xueyan walked along the path to Lucky Garden and crossed a rockery which was seldom visited.
Because it was remote, seldom people would come here. In her last life, because of the same reason, Ning Ziying had rarely met the people of the Lord Protector’s Manor here. Due to the tranquility, Ning Ziying had especially enjoyed reading and drinking tea under the tree next to the rockery, where there were stone table and stools.
When she had just turned the corner, Ning Xueyan stopped. She saw a person sitting at the stone table under that tree.