Early the next day, just as Xiao Yuan opened her eyes, she saw Hong Xiu’s joyous expression.
“What happened to make you so happy?”
Hong Xiu nodded. “Earlier this morning, the old madam made the lady and Miss Fifth leave for another manor. Miss Fifth struggled something fierce when she was leaving. The madam had to pour some medicine into her before she finally stopped resisting.”
Hong Xiu paused before speaking again, “Who would’ve known that right after Miss Fifth left, the knowledge of her getting pregnant out of wedlock would starting spreading around? The emperor was absolutely furious and punished the Third Prince with another thirty strikes. The concubines in the harem are besides themselves. Earlier this morning, the great prince came to apologize to the Lord Minister.”
Xiao Yuan’s frowned. How could knowledge of this matter have spread? However, she was pleased just knowing Lian Jiye had to endure more punishment.
“Then what did father say?”
Hong Xiu shook her head. “The great prince never met the Lord Minister. The Lord Minister had left earlier this morning.”
Xiao Yuan hurriedly said, “Quickly, go to grandmother.”
The old madam was most concerned about the Xiao family’s reputation and was very protective of their public image, especially in regards to the younger generation.
If it weren’t for the harm it would’ve caused the Xiao family’s reputation, Xiao Ruo would’ve been sentenced to death for her actions. She was spared that fate because if she had suddenly been executed, it would have led to public criticism.
But it turned out that delaying matters actually made things worse. If the old madam had known earlier, she would have ordered the execution so as to avoid tarnishing the reputation of the young ladies in the Xiao family.
In the beginning, it was a different situation because the Third Prince was known to be a heroic man who saves beautiful women, but then he ended up destroying the Xiao family’s reputation.
As she expected, when Xiao Yuan entered the room she saw the old madam frowning and sighing deeply. Unexpectedly, Xiao Ying was sitting by her side and her eyes were rimmed with red.
The old madam waved her over and grabbed onto Xiao Yuan. “Little Ninth, you’ve come.”
“Little Ninth.” Xiao Ying rubbed at the corner of her eye, looking positively pitiful. The old madam was somewhat exasperated.
“Forget it. If you won’t be married, that’s fine. The Xinyang Bo manor is foolish to trust rumors. The Minister’s family doesn’t need to bother with that kind of person.”
Xiao Yuan silently listened and figured out that the Bo manor had withdrawn their marriage with Xiao Ying. It definitely must have been because of Xiao Ruo.
Xiao Yuan lowered her head. Xiao Ying was much more conniving than Xiao Ruo. The Xinyang Bo family’s lady cared a lot about reputation and on top of that, the Xinyang Bo family’s crown prince was easily swayed and usually deferred to the family’s lady. The family also wasn’t a noble family with any kind of literary reputation. Given that insider information, Xiao Ying had looked down at the Xinyang Bo family ever since their marriage was announced.
Unfortunately, this marriage was personally arranged by the old madam so Xiao Ying had no choice.
Originally, the old madam didn’t have any feelings of goodwill towards Xiao Ying, but now that Xiao Ying’s marriage had been cancelled, the guilt she felt was multiplied. She surprisingly took pity on Xiao Ying.
Xiao Yuan gave Xiao Ying a fleeting look, but Xiao Ying managed to see through her intentions.
“Grandmother, the Xinyang Bo’s lady was always the type to trust rumors. The Xinyang Bo family’s crown prince has consecutively withdrawn two marriage proposals. Didn’t the ladies before Xiao Ying manage to marry someone else without an issue? So, big sister will definitely be able to find another good man to marry.”
When Xiao Yuan’s words fell, Xiao Ying raised her eyes and looked towards the old madam. As she expected, the guilty look in the old madam’s eyes had diminished somewhat and she looked like a weight had been lifted from her.
Xiao Ying tightly clenched her handkerchief and turned her gaze towards Xiao Yuan, whose petite face still had the same brightness that could move people’s hearts. By just saying a few simple sentences, she had immediately dispelled the guilt the old madam felt towards her. Xiao Ying wasn’t sure if she had done it intentionally, but she was annoyed.
The old madam patted Xiao Yuan’s hand and laughed, “You’re the only clever one. Sister Ying, you don’t have to worry. Wait for this matter to blow over and grandmother will carefully pick new partners for you. Regardless of what their status is, what attitude they have is the most important.”
When Xiao Ying heard this, the smile on her face froze and she nodded her head before muttering, “Yes.”
Now that the old madam had spoke, Xiao Ying didn’t dare to cry again as she was fearful she’d anger the old madam and the old madam would find her annoying. Xiao Ying’s gaze from time to time would fall on Xiao Yuan and she had some suspicions.
Xiao Yuan just acted as if she wasn’t aware. Hong Xiu walked inside and on the account of Xiao Yuan giving her a look, said nothing. Xiao Yuan said a few more words to the old madam before leaving.
“What’s the matter?”
Hong Xiu looked around. “Miss, Princess Qing Le passed along a message inviting the Miss to visit the Fang pavilion. She heard about the arrival of a young lady with a goddess-like beauty. She’s apparently exceptionally beautiful and supposedly upon her arrival, she surpassed the most popular lead performer, Lady Mu Dan. Princess Qing Le also said seeing as how the Xiao manor has been dealing with lots of vexing matters, why not walk around some, relax, and see if this narcissus beauty lives up to the rumors.”
Hong Xiu mimicked Princess Qing Le’s tone of voice, which amused Xiao Yuan. Xiao Yuan couldn’t hold back a laugh from coming out and the sound of a silver bell like laughter gradually permeated throughout.
Xiao Ying also came out and stood in the corridor, giving a dirty look to the two figures who were gradually getting further away. Under her sleeve, her hand was tightly curled into a fist. Xiao Yuan had managed to dodge her time and time again. How could she be so lucky!
Xiao Ying took in a deep breath, turned her head and said to a maidservant, “Send someone to follow Ninth Sister.”
When Xiao Yuan returned to the Ling Long pavilion, she grabbed two sets of male clothes with an ease reflecting lots of practice. She got on a horse carriage and on the way over, encountered no obstacles in her path. While on the carriage, she switched into another outfit and transformed herself into a solemn and handsome young nobleman.
“Miss. Oh! No, Lord. This is Princess Qing Le.”
Hong Xiu pointed to another handsome nobleman on a different carriage. She had recognized it was Qing Le in just a glance but that was only because Hong Xiu had seen Qing Le dressed up as a man before.
A beard was stuck on Qing Le’s mouth and looked fairly realistic. She had purposefully applied some gray powder onto her face and in comparison to Xiao Yuan’s fair, tender skin, Qing Le looked much more like a charming young man.
Xiao Yuan snorted with laughter, “Lord Qu.”
Qing Le cleared her throat a few times and batted her eyes at Xiao Yuan. “Brother Xiao, how unfortunate that Brother Qin couldn’t come today. We would’ve had so much fun together.”
Xiao Yuan hastedly nodded. “We’ll meet up with Brother Qin another time. There’ll be plenty of opportunities in the future.”
After talking, they saw groups of two and three headed indoors. Today, the Fang pavilion was bustling with excitement.
“Hey, the young lady that came today is very pretty. I’ve lived this long and I’ve never seen such a pretty girl before.”
“It’s not just that. I heard that the great prince has come as well as many other princes and nobility.”
“I haven’t heard anything about that. Today’s auction is that narcissus-like beauty’s virginity. She’s still an inexperienced, fledgling chick. Regardless of the bidder’s social status, she will go to the highest bidder.”
“Hurry up, hurry up. If we’re late, there won’t be anymore space.”
Shortly afterwards, the crowd of people squeezed their way inside like a swarm of bees. Xiao Yuan stood outside and was nearly trampled, but luckily, her hand grabbed ahold of the wall.
“Let’s go. We should follow them in and take a look.”
Qing Le was eager to see something new and dragged Xiao Yuan inside.