Chapter 315 A Sudden Change on the String
“Is that the Fifth Young Lady of the Lord Protector’s Manor? Didn’t they say that she was uncultured?”
“It must be another rumor. I heard that the Lord Protector’s Manor’s wife is jealous. It must have been said on purpose. Otherwise, the Second Young Lady won’t be famous. With such a sister, the Second Young Lady will definitely have a rival.”
“That’s right. That must be the reason. Otherwise, the Fifth Young Lady will already be well-known.” Some childes from the aristocratic families whispered from the sidelines. They were sitting behind Prince Yi, Third Prince, and Fourth Prince. At this time, several of them even craned their necks to get a better look.
Those who were not married yet planned to ask their families to propose marriage to the Lord Protector’s Manor, when they got back. They would propose to the Fifth Young Lady. Although she was still young, everyone knew that she would be indescribably beautiful and striking in two years, with her exquisite facial features.
Ao Mingyu was also in a daze, even though he knew that Ning Xueyan was beautiful. Ning Xueyan had always been plainly-dressed, and she had never dressed so well before. At this time, he felt that his eyes were filled with her beautiful image, in front of him.
“Third Brother, do you like her?” The Fourth Prince, Ao Mingwan, suddenly leaned over and whispered in his ear.
Ao Mingyu narrowed his eyes and turned to look at Ao Mingwan. The meaning in his eyes was unclear, but he said calmly, “Fourth Brother, do you also want her?”
“Third Brother, she doesn’t get along well with her. Do you want her to bully you?” Ao Mingwan glanced at Ning Qingshan, and the meaning of his words was self-evident.
Both of them were well-informed.
“Fourth Brother, what are you trying to say?” Ao Mingyu frowned and said unhappily. Although he maintained a gentle smile, his eyes twitched with anger.
“Third brother, if I let Commandery Princess Muling go, can you also let go?” Although he looked at the ladies in the hall, he focused on Ao Mingyu. They knew each other’s minds, so they spoke frankly and sincerely. Both of them wanted to marry Commandery Princess Muling, because of her status.
Ao Mingwan said that he would give up the competition for Muling, which sounded magnanimous. It seemed that he would give up the title Feudal Prince of Yunnan for Ning Xueyan. We must not look only at the surface of things. However, it was good to show his attitude at this time.
“Do you want to take her as your legal wife?” Ao Mingyu’s eyes fell on Ning Xueyan, who was dancing. His eyes narrowed, and his face darkened.
“The legal wife? Third Brother, you must be joking. You can’t make her a co-consort, but I can. My co-consort ranks much higher than your concubine.” Ao Mingwan was angry. As a prince, he was patient. He had found out that the Honored Consort Ya was going to give Ao Mingyu a legal wife and a co-consort. And, she would choose the right person for the other co-consort, later.
“My co-consort and concubine are all concubines.” Compared with Ao Mingwan’s anger, Ao Mingyu was much calmer.
“How can it be the same? The concubine ranks behind the co-consort.” Ao Mingyu treated him without proper respect. Ao Mingwan was so angry that he almost stood up in anger.
They were talking so casually that no one around them noticed what they were doing. However, Ao Chenyi overheard their conversation. He picked up the teacup beside him and took a sip. Holding his chin with one hand, he suddenly leaned over to Ao Mingyu and looked at them with his intense eyes. His mouth sneered as it showed his indifference. He asked, “My nephews are you talking about something interesting? Can you share with me?”
Hearing that they were talking about Ning Xueyan and who she was going to marry, Ao Chenyi felt that he had not concealed his affairs well, and was being spied on. The issue regarding his legal wife could not be discussed so casually. The smile on his face became more charming and cold.
“Uncle… uncle, I was joking with my fourth brother.” Ao Mingyu turned his head in a hurry and saw Ao Chenyi’s gloomy face. He immediately smiled and became cautious. He had been talking to Ao Mingwan and forgot that this person was sitting beside him.
“Just kidding?” The corners of Ao Chenyi’s mouth curved into a smile on his Asura-like handsome face, but his eyes were cold and bloodthirsty. “You two are making jokes. My brother has been watching you.”
The Emperor was looking at them. Ao Mingyu and Ao Mingwan could not help looking toward the high platform at the same time. When they saw the Emperor sitting on the platform, expressionless, they did not dare to say anything more. They stared at each other and knew that this was now a matter of individual means.
They could only wait to see who would get the beauty.
When she appeared, everyone praised Ning Qingshan. Ning Qingshan was very self assured, as she walked to the front of the zither and sat down. When she was about to stretch out her hand, she found that the zither was not the one she usually played on. Not only had she not used it, but she had also never seen it, before. Immediately, she felt confused.
However, she was already in the main hall, and the emperor and the empress were sitting above her. It was impossible to change the zither. She tested it out with her fingers. It sounded good, so she was not overly concerned, and started to play it. Like floating clouds and flowing water, it sounded natural and smooth. The zither was not worse than the one she usually used. She doubted if the Honored Consort Ya had asked someone to change it for her.
Thinking of this, Ning Qingshan calmed down a little, and then played it carefully. Seeing that the Third Prince was staring at her, she blushed. As expected, he was listening attentively to her playing the zither. Ning Qingshan noticed that Ao Mingyu listened with a smile, when the former ladies performed. He talked with Prince Yi from time to time, which showed that he didn’t care about them at all.
Therefore, she thought that the Third Prince cared about her the most, which made her fingers more pliant when playing the zither. The rhythm was natural and smooth, making people feel mellow.
However, as soon as Ning Xueyan appeared, the whole situation changed. Not only were the other people’s eyes attracted to Ning Xueyan, but the Third Prince’s eyes were also drawn to her. He did not even look at her. The difference made Ning Qingshan feel as if an ice skater’s blade had stabbed her heart. She trembled in pain from the heart to the body.
How could he think highly of Ning Xueyan!
How could he look at Ning Xueyan with such tenderness in his eyes?
It was not the usual gentle smile he put on in front of others, but a kind of gentleness from the bottom of his heart. Three years ago, this smile belonged to her, but three years later, it became someone else’s. No matter how unwilling she was, she could not accept it!
The hatred at the bottom of her hand turned into anger and affected her zither playing. Several strings on the zither were severely suppressed. Ning Qingshan did not notice that there was a slight scratch on the center portion of the zither. Her hand pushed the strings slightly, and the scratch widened, but it did not break. However, when she pressed her finger on it, it scratched her finger. It hurt so much that she looked pale and was momentarily confused.
The shrill sound of music echoed in everyone’s ears. All the people’s eyes turned from Ning Xueyan to Ning Qingshan. They frowned. “What’s wrong with the Third Young Lady of the Lord Protector’s Manor? Did she not learn how to play this tune?”
“How dare you play a piece of music that you have not practiced well? Shame on you!”
“It’s not that you don’t know how to be ashamed. It is the crime of deceit. You did not play well, yet deliberately performed here. Aren’t you deceiving the emperor?”
“That’s right. She can’t even play the zither. How can she be known as a talented girl? She’s just a fake!” Those noble ladies, who were jealous that Ning Qingshan would soon become the Third Prince’s consort, certainly did not want to miss such a chance to defame her. They would definitely try their best to destroy Ning Qingshan. Moreover, the position where she was performing was closer to this group of delicate ladies.
“How shameless! She deceived the emperor.” Her hands were trembling due to the pain, but she knew that she could not stop at this time. She gritted her teeth and continued to pluck the strings with her finger. Unfortunately, her hand was already injured. No matter where her fingers passed, it was so painful that she gritted her teeth. Her fingers seemed to be broken, and the sound of the zither slowed down.
As the sound of the zither slowed down, Ning Xueyan’s dance also slowed down. Fortunately, she was not dancing fast, but a gentle sway, so she could slow down. Thus, she danced slowly. Everyone saw that she was obviously in coordination with the sound of Ning Qingshan’s zither. She moved slowly from time to time. Sometimes, she turned rapidly, and even stopped deliberately.
Unfortunately, the sound of Ning Qingshan’s zither was not only slow, but unpleasant to the ears. All the beautiful ladies knew how to play the zither. They knew that Ning Qingshan was good at it. The look on their faces became even more disdainful. Although they dared not speak out boldly, whisperings could be heard.
The Honored Consort Ya’s face changed, and the emperor’s face darkened. He did not say anything, but his face was full of displeasure.
“Sister Honored Consort Ya, how can the Third Young Lady play the zither…?” The Honored Consort Shu covered her mouth with a handkerchief and smiled gently. The other concubines, who were close to her, also looked at her sardonically. He looked down at her, his face masking his real feelings. Concubines laughed at her, in twos and threes.
Everyone knew that Ning Qingshan was going to marry into the Third Prince’s manor. The Fourth Prince and the Third Prince were competitors. The Honored Consort Shu waited to enjoy the show, so she had to strike her when she was down.
“Sister Ya, why don’t you stop her?” There was a hint of displeasure on the empress’s dignified face. The sound of the zither was intolerable to the ears. Even those who knew a little about music, played better than her.
“Your Highness, maybe she’s not in a good condition today. A palace maid said that she was not feeling well earlier. Even though she’s not feeling well, she’s forcing herself to perform for His Majesty and Your Grace. Let’s satisfy her wish!” Hearing that they wanted to stop her, the Honored Consort Ya looked pale and hurriedly stopped her.
If she was driven away without finishing a song, it meant that the emperor disliked her. How then could Ning Qingshan marry into the royal family? If the emperor said oracular words, it would be impossible for her to even be a concubine, let alone any position in the palace.
“Okay, let’s observe her. If she can’t hold on, let her go off.” The Empress thought for a while, and looked at Ning Qingshan, who was standing below her.
Was she not feeling well? It could not necessarily be so. A palace maid had reported about the states of the delicate girls and did not mention that anyone was not feeling good. But since the Honored Consort Ya said so, she certainly had to give her face. After all, she had no son…
The sound of the zither had changed, and Ning Xueyan was trying her best to go along with its rhythm. Everyone only saw that as she waved her long sleeves, she slowed down as the music slowed down, which was in line with the music. Everyone thought that the reason why Ning Xueyan slowed down was to accommodate Ning Qingshan’s zither sounds. No one saw a cold smile on her lips. It was vicious to even think that Ning Qingshan had such an idea.
“Ning Qingshan must have prepared this zither for me!” Ning Xueyan thought.