Chapter 532 The New Princely Heir Is a New Threat From Annan
Ning Xueyan was having lunch when she received Madam Dowager’s letter.
She pulled out the letter and read it with a thoughtful smile. She would be checking out the Imperial Examination Ranking tomorrow and visiting the Lord Protector’s Manor while she was at it. This was a good excuse to gather the family and worship their ancestors together. Even though the excuse was somewhat forceful, it made sense.
She put down the letter with a slight smile and a calm expression. “Qingyu, reward the messenger. Tell her I’ll check out Brother’s ranking tomorrow and will return to the Lord Protector’s Manor in the afternoon to worship the ancestors together.”
The Imperial Examination Ranking was usually announced in the morning. If she wanted to check it out, she would have to visit at that time. Many impatient people would keep watch outside the building, while the bigwigs in the capital would choose to visit during the morning.
“Yes,” Qingyu answered, and ushered Madam Dowager’s older female servant out of the garden.
“Master, have the Princess spoken to you about checking out the Ranking together?” Lanning asked.
Commandery Princess Xianyun did mention that she would check out the Imperial Examination Ranking with Ning Xueyan. Lanning was worried that Ning Xueyan would forget about it.
“I know. The Princess will probably send her maid over in a while. If the maid comes, you don’t have to let her in. Just say yes, but tell her that I’ll be returning to the Lord Protector’s Manor in the afternoon and that my sisters will be checking out the Ranking as well.”
Since Madam Dowager had said as such, she wouldn’t be the only one who would check out the Ranking. Whether or not Ning Lingyun would show up, Ning Qingshan would definitely be there as she wouldn’t let go of such a good chance to demonstrate sisterly love. And even if Ning Yuling wouldn’t personally view the Ranking, she would be waiting at the Lord Protector’s Manor.
Ning Xueyan was a changed person after marrying Ao Chenyi. It wouldn’t be so easy for Ning Qingshan to find a chance to use Ning Yuling to entrap her. Tomorrow would probably be their best opportunity.
Commandery Princess Xianyun’s purpose wasn’t so pure either!
“Master, do you mean to tell the Princess that the Third Young Lady is coming as well?” Lanning had always been a smart one. When Ning Xueyan purposefully pointed it out, she immediately understood her master’s intention.
“Of course. We have to put the Princess at ease.” Ning Xueyan looked complacent.
Whatever purpose the Princess had, the so-called viewing of the Ranking was just an excuse. The likeliest reason was this. Even though she didn’t know if she was right, there wasn’t any harm in testing it out. It didn’t matter what the Princess was up to; all she had to do was counter it carefully.
With that said, Lanning understood everything. She tacitly helped Ning Xueyan take her nap.
Lanning tucked Ning Xueyan in once she was in bed, but Ning Xueyan opened her eyes again.
“Where is Xinmei?” she asked softly.
“Mother Chao sent her to pick some peonies from the garden. You said you wanted to collect some peony pollen, didn’t you? Aunt Ruan said there’s a peony garden in the west with the most beautiful flowers, so she told Xinmei to get them from there,” Lanning said, smiling.
Ning Xueyan nodded. She closed her eyes and ordered, “When she’s back, ask her to leave the manor and tell Liu Feng to get ready, because Ning Yuling would surely show up tomorrow.”
Liu Feng, who was hiding in the dark, had discovered the guard outside Xia Manor. He stayed still to prevent alarming the guard.
“Yes. I’ll inform Xinmei later. Please get some rest, Master,” Lanning replied softly. When she saw that Ning Xueyan didn’t speak after closing her eyes this time, she left the room quietly.
“Is our Master asleep?” Mother Han was walking over when she saw Lanning. She knew from seeing Lanning’s behavior that Ning Xueyan was taking her nap, so she kept her voice low.
“She just fell asleep. What’s the matter, Mother Han?” Lanning nodded. They walked out of the house together.
“The Princess sent her maid over to ask if our Master wants to leave the manor tomorrow. The Ranking will be announced tomorrow. She said that they won’t get bored if they have each other for company.” Outside the house, Mother Han stopped lowering her voice on purpose.
“Is that her?” Lanning pointed to a smiling older female servant in the yard.
“That’s her. I was about to leave when she came. I thought of asking our Master if she’s still awake, but…” Mother Han frowned, looking conflicted. The Princess had picked a terrible timing to send someone over. It didn’t feel right to wake their master from her nap. Ning Xueyan had always been a light sleeper; she likely wouldn’t be able to fall asleep again if they were to wake her.
But they couldn’t just let her sleep and leave the Princess’ servant waiting just like that.
“Mother Han, our Master has given me her order. I’ll talk to the servant,” Lanning said, and walked down the stairs.
“Please relay to the Princess that our Master has agreed to her request. But she might be going with the ladies from the Lord Protector’s Manor as well. Madam Dowager said that they’ll be worshipping the ancestors for the Eldest Young Master during lunch. Our Master will have to return to the Lord Protector’s Manor then. So, she requests for leave of absence from the Princess.”
Lanning was very polite with her words. Even though the Princess didn’t have the authority to manage Prince Yi’s harem and was neglected in the Great Wisdom Garden because of the fiasco before, she was nonetheless the Princess. Since Ning Xueyan would be going out with the Princess, they had to respect her even if only on the surface.
Seeing that the servants at the Pear Flower Garden were polite, the older female servant smiled and said just as politely, “The Consort is too polite. Our Princess will surely agree. Then, I shall return to the Great Wisdom Garden and inform her.” Commandery Princess Xianyun was neglected as soon as she entered Prince Yi’s Manor, so the servants from the Lord Peace’s Manor couldn’t afford to put up airs at the moment.
“Thank you kindly.” Lanning bowed with a smile. She quietly passed the servant a purse full of money.
It was evident that the Consort was a tactful and sophisticated person who knew how to manage relationships. She was respectful to the Princess as well. The older female servant accepted the purse happily and left after saying goodbye to Lanning.
“Did our Master already know that the Princess would send someone over?” Mother Han walked down the stairs and joined Lanning’s side. Her master had indeed grown up now. She felt both elated and disappointed. Her master was no longer the young girl who needed her protection.
“Don’t worry, Mother Han. Our Master has long predicted that the Princess would send someone over and has given me her order. She’ll be visiting the Lord Protector’s Manor tomorrow to worship the ancestors on Madam Dowager’s request. What do you think we should prepare, Mother Han?”
“The ancestral ceremony at the Lord Protector’s Manor has always been on the plain side. I’ll get the things ready right away. We can’t give them any reason to criticize our Master’s etiquette.” Upon hearing that Ning Xueyan had tasks for her, Mother Han immediately became happy and energetic. Her master was still the same young girl from before; she still needed her help to prepare everything.
“We’ll trouble you then, Mother Han. Prepare everything that we might need. When our Master wakes up, she can decide what she wants to bring,” Lanning said with a grin. Even without her master’s direct order, she knew she would leave this task to Mother Han. The only reason her master was employing Mother Han less was out of consideration for her old age.
“Of course, of course. It’s no trouble at all. I’ll get things ready immediately.” Mother Han left happily. No matter what, the fact that she could still help her young lady and was still helpful made her feel truly happy. She had promised the Madam at her deathbed that she would protect her young lady even at the expense of her life.
Of course, she also promised the Madam something else at her deathbed. The thought of the promise filled her with guilt. Simultaneously, she also vowed that if… She would tell her young lady everything, absolutely everything that she knew.
But now wasn’t the time!
Inside the imperial palace, Ao Chenyi was sitting languidly in the imperial study. He reclined against the handle of the chair, with his elbow propping up his face. His eyes were partially shut with a satisfied look on his face. It looked like he was here for tea instead of a discussion.
The Emperor, who was seated in front, and the Third Prince, who was seated opposite, were frowning.
“Uncle, what do you think we should do?” Ao Mingyu couldn’t help speaking up after seeing that his uncle was on the verge of falling asleep. They had been discussing Annan, yet Ao Chenyi looked like the matter was completely none of his business.
“They haven’t revolted, have they?” Ao Chenyi retorted lazily, looking at him.
The Emperor, who was seated in the central spot, nearly coughed up blood upon hearing this. A rebellion was about to break out in Annan, yet Ao Chenyi looked perfectly fine. It was almost as if Ao Chenyi was actually waiting for Annan to rebel.
There were three princes in Annan, with the Feudal Prince of Annan as the head. To appease them and prevent another war, the previous Emperor appointed them as the three princes of Annan. That was when the dynasty was just on its infancy. If they were to go to war with Annan at that time, even a victory would be a great loss to them. They might even let other parties take advantage of their loss.
That was why they came to an agreement with the Feudal Prince of Annan. The Prince would rule over Annan as an autonomous region, while submitting to the dynasty. The political and military systems of Annan were virtually independent. In recent years, it seemed that Annan was eager to rebel. This made the Emperor uneasy.
An emergency message had just reached them, saying that the Feudal Prince of Annan had just named an heir. The position of the Princely Heir had been vacated for a long time, as the Feudal Prince of Annan appeared to have no sons. It was a mystery whether the Princely Heir that had popped out of nowhere was the Feudal Prince’s biological son. By the time the news from Annan reached the capital, it had become at least 40% or 50% inaccurate.
Before, the Feudal Prince of Annan didn’t have any sons, so the Emperor wasn’t pressured. Even if an heirless Feudal Prince fought him and benefited from it, he had no one to pass it to. The Emperor might be wary about Annan, but he never truly saw them as a threat.
The two other princes had sons, and quite a number of them too. But, the one who could only command Annan was the Feudal Prince of Annan.
Things had changed now that the Feudal Prince of Annan had an heir. Moreover, there was a special exception in that he could appoint his heir without the court’s approval. All he had to do was write a statement and report it to the court. Thus, the Emperor was completely clueless when he got the news that the Feudal Prince of Annan had named an heir. Neither did he have a way of finding out anything. He didn’t know where the heir came from, nor who he was.
Most importantly, he didn’t have a reason to send someone to question the Feudal Prince of Annan. All the Feudal Prince said was that he would make a report, but that report could come any time. Even if the Feudal Prince waited to send the report after his death, he still couldn’t say anything. He realized that there was a new threat to him, which was why he summoned Ao Chenyi and the Third Prince here to discuss the matter.