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Chapter 537 Threats at Every Turn
A scream emerged from the dilapidated courtyard, alarming everyone. Ning Zu’an was the first to arrive as his study was the closest to this place. Looking at the well amidst the ruined stones and broken tiles, he saw Ning Yuling holding onto the side of the well and crying so hard that she was about to faint, as well as Ning Xueyan watching everything unfold quietly with her maid.
“Father! Father, please save Mother! Please save her! She pushed Mother into the well! Please save her,” Ning Yuling sobbed, kowtowing to Ning Zu’an with a face full of tears and snot. She looked panicked, fearful, and sad.
Ning Xueyan pushed Madam Ling into the well? Ning Zu’an was shocked but now wasn’t the time to worry about that. He turned around and ordered the servants to save Madam Ling.
A flurry of turmoil later, the servants managed to get Madam Ling out of the well. However, there was no more life left in her. She laid on the wet ground, cold and stiff. Ning Zu’an felt a rare sense of loss as he looked at her pale face. He suddenly felt that he had wronged her.
In his memory, the woman with that soft, coquettish face had spent so many wonderful days with him. He could still remember her bashfulness at having borne him a son. But right now, all that was left was her pale, lifeless, and aged face that he could barely recognize. Was this truly the woman that he couldn’t let go of back then?
If it weren’t for him indulging her, she likely wouldn’t have dared to treat Madam Ming like that!
“Father, Father, please avenge Mother. Even… Even if she had done something wrong, she’s still the mother of your son and two daughters. You… You can’t just let Ning Xueyan kill her and do nothing. Father, please return justice to Mother!”
Ning Yuling seemed to have gone mad. She clung onto her mother’s body as she cried, before kowtowing to Ning Zu’an with tears streaming down her face.
Whoever saw her would have thought that she was heartbroken and her wanting to avenge her mother was natural.
“You unfilial daughter, kneel!” Ning Zu’an was so angry that he was trembling all over and his face was green. He stared daggers at Ning Xueyan. His facial muscles were throbbing violently as if there was an invisible hand kneading his face.
Ning Xueyan continued to look calm and unperturbed even in the face of his glare. She met his eyes and smiled. In a rather mocking voice, she said, “You must have treated my mother the same way in the past, haven’t you? You made it so that she couldn’t even argue for herself.”
Her words, simple as they might sound, were a direct stab at his Achilles’ heel.
The past incident resurfaced in his mind like a curtain of water. When Madam Ling took her to catch Madam Ming in bed with her “lover”, she looked as calm as Ning Xueyan did now. Even her words back then sounded like ridicule. It was as if she was mocking him for his self-orchestrated show.
Those eyes contained the mockery of a person who had seen through everything, and he was so pathetic that he couldn’t say a word to refute. He could only watch as she asked for a divorce and everything unfolded in his desired direction. However, the process was so calm that even now, he still thought that Madam Ming had seen through him. It made him feel like someone had discovered his sordid side.
That was also why he refused to see Madam Ming after.
Just at the sight of her, he would be reminded of his despicableness, treachery, the promises that he had once given her. This was despite him telling himself over and over that she was the one who had betrayed her. Her child was of unknown origins, but he still raised her. To him, it was enough repayment for the Ming family’s protection in the past.
However, even with all that said, he still couldn’t face Madam Ming confidently.
Right now, almost the same look had appeared on Ning Xueyan’s face. Blue veins popped up violently on his forehead like there were earthworm squirmings under the surface. “Don’t tell me you think you’re justified in killing her.”
“Killing her? Did you see or hear that happen?” Ning Xueyan sneered, facing Ning Zu’an head-on. This was her first time looking at him so coldly since her rebirth. This man and Madam Ling were truly a match made in heaven; they were equally as selfish and despicable. Madam Ming must have given up on this man a long time ago.
That would explain why Madam Ming would so calmly accept the betrayal and take her away from this man.
Ning Zu’an was stunned, but quickly turned around to tell Ning Yuling, “Ling’er, tell her who saw her.”
“It was her! It was definitely her! I was strolling around with Mother but when we got here, Mother said she wanted to take a look inside. I didn’t want to come in, so I waited in the pavilion outside. Suddenly, I heard Mother’s scream and immediately came in with my maid. I saw her and her maid push Mother into the well.”
Ning Yuling wailed loudly while pointing at Ning Xueyan, looking like she wanted to tear her apart. She was indeed outside when she heard the sound of fighting in the courtyard and even Madam Ling’s scream. She had just come in, ready to play the witness, when she was abruptly knocked in the back of her head after taking a few steps and fainted.
By the time she woke up, she was already in the courtyard. Sure enough, Ning Xueyan was still around. She immediately yelled, threw herself at the side of the well, and began to wail.
“Both the evidence and a witness are present.” A furious Ning Zu’an cried, “Unfilial daughter! What do you have to say for yourself? Servants! Capture her! I won’t protect you anymore! I’ll send you directly to the governmental office.”
Two older female servants rushed over to grab Ning Xueyan.
Xinmei immediately stepped in front of Ning Xueyan. “Marquis, my Master is now a member of Prince Yi’s Manor. She’s the prince’s consort. Even if you have your prestige as the marquis, I don’t think you have the right to tie up my Master.”
The two older female servants immediately held their breath, realizing that the Fifth Young Lady wasn’t just a mere lady from the Lord Protector’s Manor anymore.
“Unfilial daughter! Unfilial daughter!” Seeing that the servants refused to listen to his order, Ning Zu’an became so furious that he yelled, “Very well, very well! Just because you have the support of Prince Yi, you even dared to commit the wicked act of killing your mother. I’ll send someone to invite Prince Yi over and show him your true wicked side!”
“What are you implying about Prince Yi’s Manor?” Ning Xueyan asked coldly.
Ning Zu’an nearly coughed up blood upon hearing this. Implying something about Prince Yi’s Manor? How would he dare! He began to cough violently.
“Killing my mother? You must be kidding, Marquis. This woman killed my mother, yet you dare call her my mother? Don’t tell me you still think of her as your wife. You’re sure devoted to a vicious woman who had killed so many people. You still see her as your wife deep inside. What about my mother? Who was she to you? This woman ruined her life and took everything from her. My mother, who had supported you through all your hards.h.i.+p, who died an untimely and violent death, who was she to you?”
Ning Xueyan mocked coldly.
It was only a matter of time before she cut ties with the Lord Protector’s Manor for good. The manor had always supported the Third Prince, and from now on, they would likely continue to use her and repeatedly frame her to drag Ao Chenyi down. Since it was a matter of time, she might as well do it now. Ning Yuling had given her an opportunity, so they might as well end all superficiality and argue seriously for once.
She didn’t want the people at the Lord Protector’s Manor frame as they please, thinking that she was kind and easily bullied.
Without waiting for a reply from Ning Zu’an, Ning Xueyan continued, “When my mother died, I told you that she was poisoned to death. Prince Yi happened to have his physician tag along when he came to offer prayers and the physician examined her body then. My mother was poisoned, and who else in the manor wanted so desperately for her to die? Yet, in the end, the blame was put on a maid. Marquis, you were too biased.”
Remembering what happened that day, Ning Xueyan felt rage rising in her. It had been proven that Madam Ming was poisoned with the Beauty Intoxicated by Peach Blossom, but only a maid bore the blame.
“Since you feel like going to the governmental office, why don’t we head there right now and see if Madam Ling had poisoned my mother and me, killed Ning Ziying of the Cloud Reflection Courtyard, stole her marriage, and facilitated the early marriage contract between the Xia and Ning Manors.”
Ning Xueyan stepped forward and stared at Ning Zu’an confidently.
Her unyielding stare made Ning Zu’an feel cold all over. He felt a significant lack of confidence and subconsciously took a step backward. When he realized this a second later, he was both ashamed and angry. He stared at Ning Xueyan and said angrily, “You’ve gone mad! You’ve really gone mad! What… What are you even saying? Servants, arrest her! We’ll wait for Prince Yi to come and judge the situation.”
The fact that Ning Xueyan was able to make a correct conjecture about the Cloud Reflection Courtyard caught Ning Zu’an off guard. If this information were to spread, he wouldn’t have the face to see anyone anymore. Moreover, the Emperor had kept an ambiguous stance on the princess of the previous dynasty.
He was regretting it now. Had he known Ning Ziying was the princess of the previous dynasty, he would have never allowed Madam Ling and her daughters to do what they did. It was too late now, and all he could do was pretend that he didn’t know anything. Besides, everyone was merely guessing Ning Ziying’s ident.i.ty and it had not been authenticated.
Even so, he couldn’t let others know that the Lord Protector’s Manor plotted to steal Ning Ziying’s marriage. Ning Xueyan had caused a chill to run down his spine.
“Ning Xueyan, you pushed my mother down the well because you misunderstood her, didn’t you?” Ning Yuling yelled. She was elated, thinking that she was seizing a wonderful opportunity.
She had been worried about falling for a trap when she inexplicably woke up here, but an idea came to her as she watched Ning Xueyan and Ning Zu’an argue. The guard must have brought her here or there was no explanation for what happened earlier.
Her courage immediately puffed up and a smug look appeared in her eyes. She pointed at Ning Xueyan, refusing to give in.
Quite a few people had come to the courtyard. Ning Zu’an had rushed over here with his servants as soon as he heard the commotion, and later ran into the maids and older female servants who were coming over. Everyone heard them loud and clear. Stumped and not knowing who to believe, they began to whisper among themselves.
“All of you, shut up!” A yell came from outside the door. Everyone turned around and saw a gloomy-looking Madam Dowager and a few maids and older female servants standing at the door. She flew into a rage when she saw the crowd in the courtyard whispering and gossiping.
Even though she had come from a considerable distance away, it was quiet when Ning Xueyan spoke, so she heard everything. She became so panicked and furious that she nearly fainted. How could those words be spoken in front of other people?
Those words could harm the entire Lord Protector’s Manor.