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Chapter 654 Meeting Ya Moqin Again
Ning Xueyan’s carriage continued moving toward the zither store at a steady pace. It didn’t take them long to reach because it was so close. The carriage stopped and Ning Xueyan and Heng Yuqing got down one after another.
A cold smile appeared on Ning Xueyan’s face when she looked up at the sparkling store signboard. Since those people had put so much effort into luring her here, she would play along and find out what they were up to.
Her thoughts were hidden from Heng Yuqing, who was pointing to the zither store and saying enthusiastically, “Look, this is the store. Just look at the storefront. This must be the property of a top-tier n.o.ble family. I wonder which family managed to run it so well. There are many zither lovers in the capital, but all of them approve of this store.”
Suddenly, a surprised voice resounded behind them. “Huh? Isn’t this the Crown Princess? Did you come to pick out a zither in preparation for Madam Wu Yao’s banquet?” Ning Xueyan and Heng Yuqing turned around at the same time and saw Ya Moqin coming out of a carriage and spotting them. There was nothing wrong with her words but her att.i.tude wasn’t respectful in the slightest.
This was the first time Ya Moqin appeared in public since her scandal with Ao Mingyu was exposed. Ning Xueyan couldn’t help but lament how thick-skinned this woman was. It was astonis.h.i.+ng that Ya Moqin would take the initiative to speak to her under such circ.u.mstances, and with such a provocative expression too.
Sometimes, she had to admit that Ya Moqin was completely different from her prudent grandfather, Grand Tutor Ya.
Heng Yuqing was no pushover either. When she heard Ya Moqin’s sarcasm, she sneered and asked, “Shouldn’t you be staying in your manor and relearning etiquette, Eldest Young Lady Ya? Is it fine for you to come here?”
Heng Yuqing and Ya Moqin had never gotten along. Heng Yuqing was superior in terms of n.o.bility rank but lower in terms of actual power. However, the two never liked each other. They would get into a fight every time they met each other.
“You’re just a spinster who can’t get married.” Heng Yuqing’s words struck Ya Moqin where it hurt the most, making the latter’s expression turn sharp. She said coldly, “What? Is there something wrong with me picking out a zither and playing a song? I wouldn’t want to be you. No matter how great your zither playing is, no one is going to approve of you. Only elegant people can attend my aunt’s banquet. You’re not qualified.”
Ya Moqin shook her hand at Heng Yuqing in a humiliating manner, looking disdainful.
Ning Xueyan stood beside them in silence, but her eyes were cold.
Ya Moqin seemed like she was targeting Heng Yuqing but was, in fact, mocking her. Everyone knew that she was imprisoned in the Bright Frost Garden for a few years and far from the elegant people that Ya Moqin spoke about.
“I’m not elegant? Do you think you are then?” Heng Yuqing became furious and glared at Ya Moqin.
“Of course I am. No one can beat my zither playing. Can you say the same?” Ya Moqin retorted rudely.
Ya Moqin was indeed known for her zither playing. It was said that she impressed everyone at a banquet, gaining the admiration of everyone present. They said that Grand Tutor Ya’s Manor was indeed a place that educated their children well, so much so that even Grand Tutor Ya’s granddaughter turned out to be so remarkable. It was because of this that Ya Moqin became known as a talented lady.
Even though some were trying to fawn over Grand Tutor Ya, Ya Moqin’s zither playing was undoubtedly decent.
It was natural for her to brag about her zither playing.
“Challenge me if you dare. We can compete at my aunt’s banquet. The loser will have to apologize to the winner in front of everyone. The loser will also declare that she’ll back away whenever she runs into the winner,” Ya Moqin said, raising her chin arrogantly. Even though she was speaking to Heng Yuqing, her gaze would land on Ning Xueyan now and then. The provocation in her eyes was evident.
A clear train of thought had formed in Ning Xueyan’s mind. She smiled and stopped Heng Yuqing, who was shaking with anger. She stepped forward with her eyes cold. It seemed that she needed only one glance to see through another person.
Ya Moqin subconsciously took a step back under such a stare, only to realize that she was being a coward. She remembered that the current Crown Princess was once the good-for-nothing Fifth Young Lady Ning. Even when Ning Xueyan entered Prince Yi’s Manor, she was just a consort and a concubine. Ning Xueyan was incomparable to her, the great Grand Tutor Ya’s granddaughter. She had no reason to fear Ning Xueyan.
“Is the Crown Princess going to educate me on zither playing?” Ya Moqin raised her chin even higher.
“I wouldn’t dare, Eldest Young Lady Ya. I’m just wondering whether you’ll enter Prince Xiang’s Manor or Prince Fu’s Manor in the future. I wonder which prince would be so lucky as to be able to enjoy your zither performance for the rest of his life.” Ning Xueyan smiled with a soft look in her eyes, but her words were ruthless.
She didn’t see the need to endure Ya Moqin’s provocation. Ya Moqin, a lady at the peak of her beauty, would forever see herself as the n.o.blest of people. Ya Moqin thought that everyone was beneath her. Since that was the case, she would humiliate Ya Moqin with what the latter cared most about. Otherwise, Ya Moqin would start a big fight here.
Grand Tutor Ya’s Manor had gone all out this time. They even let Ya Moqin out. Ya Moqin was so arrogant, overconfident, and ignorant that she might just blow up the matter and cause a big mess.
This was evident from the fact that Ya Moqin was raising her voice and speaking so loudly that she drew the attention of the pa.s.sersby.
The pa.s.sersby didn’t dare to come close after hearing that Ning Xueyan was the Crown Princess, but that didn’t stop them from perking up their ears.
Ning Xueyan wasn’t as thick-skinned as Ya Moqin. She wouldn’t allow herself to stand in front of the store and receive everyone’s attention.
“You…” Ya Moqin didn’t expect that the gentle-looking Ning Xueyan would say such sharp words. Furious, she blushed and started to stutter.
She had always thought of herself as a n.o.ble lady, and the only lady that could match up to her cousin. She remained upset that Ao Mingyu wanted to marry someone else. In the end, she had to obey her grandfather and marry Ao Mingwan. She had no other choice. Yet, when she was found visiting her cousin, her grandfather flew into a rage and locked her up. This was beyond her expectation.
What should she do now? Even she didn’t know the answer.
Marrying Ao Mingyu would be the best outcome for her, but she knew that her cousin would soon marry his princess. She would be displeased to enter his manor as his consort, and her grandfather would never agree either.
But if she didn’t marry Ao Mingyu, she would have to marry Ao Mingwan. That was something that she didn’t want, ever.
Even so, no matter how annoyed she was about it, she knew that she was still Ao Mingwan’s t.i.tular fiancee. It was unethical for her to behave that way with her cousin. However, when she saw the look of disdain everyone was giving her, her face flushed with anger.
Her rage climbed straight to her brain. She glared at Ning Xueyan and demanded, “What do you mean by that?”
“Does that matter? You should consider what Prince Xiang and Prince Fu mean instead, Eldest Young Lady Ya.” Ning Xueyan didn’t spare any courtesy for Ya Moqin. No matter how thick-skinned Ya Moqin was, she didn’t think that an unmarried lady like her—and one with such a recent, big scandal—would be willing to receive everyone’s attention at this time.
Ya Moqin couldn’t take it even with her thick skin.
It didn’t matter why Grand Tutor Ya had sent Ya Moqin here. She wouldn’t let Ya Moqin and Heng Yuqing get into a fight here.
Heng Yuqing finally found a chance to be sarcastic to Ya Moqin. She immediately retorted, “That’s right, Eldest Young Lady Ya. It doesn’t matter what we mean. It’s just a mystery if the imperial family still wants a daughter-in-law like you.”
“You… You two…” Ya Moqin was indeed succ.u.mbing to pressure. She could even hear the voices of the pa.s.sersby now and then.
“Look at her. She dared to seduce two princes. She’s no simple woman, I tell you.”
“She’s not that pretty. Why is she so s.l.u.tty?”
“Is this the extent of the education at Grand Tutor Ya’s Manor?”
It hadn’t been that long since Ya Moqin’s scandal, so it was still a fresh piece of gossip. When Ning Xueyan mentioned it, everyone’s attention fell on Ya Moqin. Never mind a n.o.ble lady, not even the daughter of an ordinary family would do such a thing.
It was too scandalous.
Therefore, many looked down on the immoral Eldest Young Lady Ya. When they saw that she was so audacious as to wander around in public and even provoke other people, they found her to be increasingly shameless. It was to the point that they began to suspect and criticize Grand Tutor Ya’s Manor.
Ya Moqin didn’t expect the situation to go out of her control. She was here to provoke Ning Xueyan and drag Heng Yuqing in while she was at it, but she ended up being too ashamed to stay here anymore.
She shot a resentful glare at Ning Xueyan before covering her face with a handkerchief and whimpering. Just as she started to cry, she pushed away everyone with the help of her two maids and ran back to her carriage. She got in and left quickly.
Since Ya Moqin had left, Ning Xueyan and Heng Yuqing entered the zither store together. The crowd dissipated when they saw that the show was over. They didn’t dare to follow Ning Xueyan in.
The zither store was ma.s.sive. The moment they entered, they saw shelf after shelf of zithers arranged in neat rows. There were all kinds of zithers here. When a store attendant saw new customers, he immediately walked up to them and led them in enthusiastically. All zithers seemed to have their pros and cons. For a moment, Ning Xueyan couldn’t make up her mind which zither she wanted.
Heng Yuqing was initially enthusiastic about choosing a zither but became dumbfounded after hearing the store attendant’s introductions. It seemed that every zither was appropriate, but not at the same time.
They couldn’t pick out a zither that they liked at all.
“Miss, why don’t you check out our selections upstairs? The zithers upstairs are antiques. Perhaps you can find something that suits you two there. Of course, if they’re not your liking, you can choose to order a custom-made zither. We use only the best wood for our zithers here and you’re free to decide the design.”
It was apparent that the store attendant didn’t witness the commotion outside earlier. His words were pleasant and polite. He also addressed Ning Xueyan as Miss, indicating that he didn’t know her ident.i.ty at all.
There were antique zithers upstairs? Ning Xueyan looked at the stairs with a frown.
Even though the zither store was large, there weren’t many customers. The stairs were even emptier. She couldn’t hear any noise there at all. It was obvious that nearly no one went up and down the stairs.
It seemed almost natural that she should head upstairs to pick out a zither…