The Devious First-Daughter

Chapter 672 - News from Ming Feiyong

Chapter 672 News from Ming Feiyong

“The Empress discovered a secret tunnel under Chenyuan Palace by accident. She never told anyone about it. She even killed the maid that discovered the tunnel with her and accompanied her in walking through the tunnel. In other words, she was the only one who knew about it,” Ning Xueyan explained.

This was the Empress’ secret. To prove it, she used Yun Luoluo’s incident as an example. When Ning Xueyan was drugged in Chenyuan Palace, the Empress wanted to take her to a room. There, a man would sneak into the palace through the secret tunnel.

If Ning Xueyan woke up and discovered herself in disheveled clothes in the presence of another man, she would surely panic. To protect her secret, she would surely agree with whatever the Empress wanted. The Empress wanted to use Ning Xueyan to force Ao Chenyi into accepting his “affair” with Yun Luoluo.

Unfortunately, Ao Chenyi had appeared all of a sudden. She didn’t dare to do anything with him around, so her plan was foiled.

Of course, she didn’t realize that Ning Xueyan had noticed that her tea was drugged a long time ago. Instead of swallowing the tea, Ning Xueyan spat the tea on her handkerchief instead.

When Ning Xueyan saw Ao Chenyi closing his eyes and keeping quiet, she continued, “The Empress said that the Empress of the previous dynasty must have escaped using the same secret tunnel. She had used the tunnel many times and saw hairpins on the floor. Those must have fallen there when the Empress of the previous dynasty ran out of the palace.”

That must be the same tunnel that she used to escape from the palace. Thinking about it now, the nation had fallen into enemy hands at that time. The imperial palace was on fire. The enemy must have rushed in by then. The Empress of the previous dynasty was pregnant with her then, making it impossible for her to escape through the palace gates. That meant the only way out was the secret tunnel.

No one discovered the secret tunnel, so no one was able to track the Empress of the previous dynasty at that time.

Ning Xueyan agreed with the Empress’ speculation.

“Where’s the secret tunnel?” An unfathomable glint flashed in Ao Chenyi’s narrowed eyes.

She patted the large bed with ornate carving and pointed behind it. “Right behind this. There’s a secret switch that will let you in.”

“There must be a switch on the other side too!” Ao Chenyi’s lips curved into a sinister smile.

“Yes, there’s one on the other side too. The Empress said that she’ll open the door from the other side if she’s on her way back. It’s very convenient. She kept this as her final resort.”

This was meant to be the Empress’ final resort, so she was the only one who knew about it. She just didn’t expect the Emperor to wake up while she was pretending to strangle him and strangle her back. The situation changed so swiftly that she ended up strangling him to death without any preparation.

In the end, the secret tunnel became useless to her.

Ao Chenyi was so quick-witted that he immediately understood the purpose of the secret tunnel. His eyes turned dark and cold as he said, “Stay in the side hall and keep this place empty for now but make it look like you still live here. When you come here during the day, stay in the outer hall and have Xinmei watch this place. Have Xinmei sleep here at night too.”

He was alarmed that there was a secret tunnel right behind Ning Xueyan’s bed and that he didn’t know anything about it. His expression turned ugly at the thought of Ning Xueyan being in danger because of this.

The late Empress claimed that she was the only one who knew about the secret tunnel but he didn’t believe her. But whether or not others knew about it, he was uneasy enough with the idea of having such a tunnel behind Ning Xueyan’s bed. The fastest way to solve this was moving Ning Xueyan out of this place.

Afterward, Ning Xueyan moved into the spacious side hall of Chenyuan Palace. The side hall was empty even when the Empress used to live here. It was fit for living after some tidy-up. It was easy for her to go there too. She would sleep there at night and work in the outer space of the main hall during the day, where she would occasionally receive high-ranking madams as guests.

No one knew that Ning Xueyan’s residence wasn’t the main hall of Chenyuan Palace.

After a few days of such arrangement, a piece of news came from the frontline. There had been a death that concerned Ning Xueyan. In all honesty, it wasn’t bad news at all. She didn’t feel much about it. It was simply news that Ning Zu’an had died in the war.

The reason for his death was his insistence on making achievements despite the situation. Ming Feiyong forbade him from going to battle but he insisted and even promised that he would return victorious. Before he could win the battle, he fell into an ambush by Annan and ended in a deadlocked situation. He died after a long and bitter fight.

In all honesty, Ning Xueyan didn’t feel anything about the news.

Ning Zu’an wasn’t supposed to join the military campaign this time. He didn’t even have any official positions left, so how could he have the chance to join the war? Yet, he insisted on fighting for the nation even if it meant leading a small squad. Of course, Ning Xueyan didn’t believe that he would be so loyal to the nation.

He had only insisted on going to war because he wanted to gain merit, become a minister, and regain his glory. He was, after all, not that old. Being Ning Xueyan’s nominal father and Ao Chenyi’s father-in-law, he wouldn’t be given just a small squad. He also had old friends in the military.

Ning Zu’an banked on this to turn the tide in his favor. He asked a few of his colleagues for help and knelt outside the Ministry of War so that everyone knew about it. This forced Ao Chenyi into allowing him to go to war and giving him the title of deputy general at the very least. He was still the Emperor’s father-in-law, after all. Ao Chenyi wasn’t mad. He simply sneered and let Ning Zu’an go to the frontline as a deputy general of the expedition.

His death was the result of his overeagerness to perform. Ever since he married Madam Ming and made a promise that he never intended to keep, up to the point where he signed the papers, Ning Xueyan knew that all he wanted was to climb the ranks. He wasn’t willing to become the idle father-in-law of the Emperor.

The deciding factor was that he had given his Lord Protector title to Ning Huaijing. One could say that he had nothing to his name except the title of the Emperor’s father-in-law. That was why he was so determined to make achievements. He probably didn’t expect that he would die in Annan without achieving anything.

After reporting Ning Zu’an’s death, Xinmei fished out a letter from her bosom and handed it to Ning Xueyan. “Your Highness, the General’s messenger has a private letter for you. The letter was hidden in between the battle reports. His Majesty told me to bring it to you.”

Ning Xueyan took the letter. Mirth flickered in her limpid eyes when she saw the seal on the envelope. She opened it and took out the letter inside. Her brows knotted as she read it.

Ming Feiyong didn’t mention much. Ning Zu’an’s death was mentioned in passing. He said that Ning Zu’an died after insisting on fighting. Neither of them liked Ning Zu’an. Both chose to ignore the man who stepped on the Ming family to climb the ranks.

Ming Feiyong had written the letter mostly to tell her about another matter. He said that someone saw Ning Huaiyuan in the military barracks of Annan. It seemed that Ning Huaiyuan had surrendered to the feudal princes of Annan. He warned her to watch out for Ning Huaiyuan. He didn’t want Ning Huaiyuan to return someday and secretly harm her.

She knew it! Ning Huaiyuan didn’t die! She lowered her hand and put the letter back into the envelope. Her eyes dimmed as she sank into contemplation.

Back when Ning Huaiyuan went missing out of the blue, she had the feeling that he had left the country. When Madam Ling got into trouble, he was demoted to be a concubine’s son and an evil concubine’s son at that. He had no chance of inheriting the Lord Protector position. Staying behind in the capital would just draw mockery from other people. He had no choice but to leave in dejection.

Since he was gone, she stopped pursuing the matter. She just didn’t think that he would seek shelter in Annan.

At the end of the letter, Ming Feiyong also mentioned that the Princely Heir of the Feudal Prince of Annan was Childe Yueming of Jiangnan. Who could have imagined that the gentleman famous throughout Jiangnan for his temperament and talent, Hua Yunheng, would be the mysterious heir to the most prominent feudal prince in Annan?

No one could have dreamed that the Princely Heir of the Feudal Prince of Annan would grow up in Jiangnan in Chu Kingdom instead of Annan.

Ning Xueyan didn’t have much opinion about Hua Yunheng’s identity. In her previous life as Ning Ziying, she had an engagement with Hua Yunheng. That must be the work of the Feudal Prince of Annan. When they realized that she might not be the princess and there was a likelier candidate, they immediately abandoned the engagement and proposed another one.

Hua Yunheng had left the Ning Manor at that time. That was also when Ning Ziying got engaged to Xia Yuhang.

Everything could be explained as a coincidence, but also an inevitability. Whether it was the Feudal Prince of Annan or Xia Manor, both schemed to obtain the Grand Elder Princess of the previous dynasty and the benefits that she could give them: enormous riches and secret treasures, or perhaps a treasure map!

Xia Yuhang had felt, inch by inch, all of Ning Ziying’s brocades.

Those at Xia Manor must have broken up her dowry and examined them piece by piece! But unfortunately for them, the so-called treasures were long gone and had nothing to do with Ning Ziying whatsoever. No matter how carefully Xia Yuhang investigated the matter, all his hard work was in vain.

Some time ago, Hua Yunheng kept visiting the Cloud Reflection Courtyard. She was aware of this, but so what? Even if Ning Ziying once treated him like family, it was all in the past. Ning Ziying might not have been aware of what was at stake at that time, but she came to understand everything after she was reborn and investigated everything.

It was for his benefit that Hua Yunheng wanted to marry her and then broke off their engagement. Similarly, it was also for his benefit that Xia Yuhang married her and watched Madam Ling and her daughter drown her in the lotus pond. She thought that Wen Xueran was much better compared to them. Wen Xueran was much nobler and more respectful of her because he didn’t make a big deal out of their engagement.

When it came to engagements, the most genuine engagement was likely the one between her and Wen Xueran.

At the very least, Wen Xueran didn’t make use of the engagement and pretended that he was deeply in love with her even though he was just weighing her benefit to him and seeing if he needed to marry her for real.

Of course, there was also the fact that Wen Xueran knew about the secret treasures. Even so, Ning Xueyan was still grateful to him. If he were to make a fuss about her identity as the posthumous daughter of the Empress of the previous dynasty, there would likely be some trouble for her…

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