Chapter 673 A Letter Within a Letter
The news of Ning Zu’an’s death shocked everyone in the Lord Protector’s Manor. Even though the title had been passed onto Ning Huaijing, Ning Zu’an was the patriarch of the family. Even without the title, he was still the most authoritative figure in the manor.
Madam Dowager collapsed as soon as she heard the news of his death. She became ill and bedridden, unable to get up.
Ning Xueyan couldn’t leave the palace freely due to her status as the Empress. She sent Qingyu and Mother Han to the manor and had them inquire about Madam Dowager’s health in her place. Mother Han returned to Prince Yi’s Manor afterward while Qingyu entered the palace to report to Ning Xueyan.
It was inconvenient for Mother Han to live in the palace because she had a son to take care of. Instead of entering the palace with Ning Xueyan, she stayed in Prince Yi’s Manor as the housekeeper. Ning Xueyan was prepared to release her from the manor when the situation stabilized in the future. There were too many rules in the palace that would make life inconvenient for Mother Han.
“Your Highness, Madam Dowager is bedridden now. Even though she’s still sane, the imperial physician that came with me said that she had suffered a terrible shock. Even if she makes a full recovery, she’ll be confined to bed for the rest of her life.” Qingyu had taken an imperial physician from the palace with her when she visited the Lord Protector’s Manor.
The physician was there to examine Madam Dowager. No matter what, Madam Dowager was still Ning Xueyan’s grandmother. Even if she couldn’t leave the palace, it was still basic manners to send someone to check on Madam Dowager.
When Ning Huaijing became the new Lord Protector, his biological mother Madam Yu became the new Madam Dowager as well. The original Madam Dowager became Madam Dowager Senior instead.
Ning Xueyan nodded and asked, “How is Second Brother doing?”
Madam Dowager had lived her life centered around Ning Zu’an and the Lord Protector’s Manor so much so that she could sacrifice conscience and familial ties for them. However, everything that had supported her to this point was gone. Lord Protector’s Manor was no longer in its heyday and the title ended up with Ning Huaijing, a grandson whom she wasn’t at all close with. And now, even Ning Zu’an was dead.
Therefore, her breakdown came as no surprise.
Ning Xueyan had never liked Madam Dowager. After all, she had watched and done nothing as people bullied and poisoned Madam Ming and Ning Xueyan. Even so, Ning Xueyan wasn’t going to pursue it now. It wasn’t necessary anymore.
“The Lord Protector is very calm. He told me to pass on a message to you, saying not to worry about the manor. He’ll take care of everything. Madam Dowager is taking care of Madam Dowager Senior,” Qingyu replied.
Qingyu and Mother Han had the matter investigated very well. It was true that the entire manor was thrown into chaos after receiving news of Ning Zu’an’s death. Madam Dowager fell ill shortly after and everyone in the manor fell into a panic. Afterward, Ning Huaijing stepped forward to bring the situation under control. It didn’t take long for everything to return to order.
His actions had relieved Ning Xueyan of her troubles. No matter what had happened, Lord Protector’s Manor was still her family. If her family was in tumult, she wouldn’t be able to perform her duties as the Empress with confidence.
“Oh, Your Highness, I ran into Madam Dowager Liu today. She told me to bring this letter to you.” Qingyu took out a sealed envelope from her bosom and presented it to Ning Xueyan.
Ning Xueyan took the envelope, tore it open, and fished out a letter from within. To her surprise, this was a letter within a letter.
This surprised her. She thought that Madam Dowager Liu wanted to talk to her about Madam Dowager Senior but the former was sending her another letter altogether. The letter within a letter in her hands was visibly old. Even the edges of the letter had yellowed and the ink marks on top of it were somewhat faded.
When she read the letters on the envelope, she widened her eyes in shock.
“Qingyu, leave me. I want to be on my own.” After staring at the envelope in her hands for a long time, she waved her hand at Qingyu. Qingyu glanced at her expression and then left the room quietly.
There weren’t many letters on the envelope. One could even say that there was barely anything at all because the only word that was written was: “Yan’er”!
The handwriting was so beautiful. It was obviously the handwriting of a woman but it wasn’t that of Madam Ming.
Ning Xueyan had lived in Bright Frost Garden with Madam Ming for more than a decade. She had learned everything she knew from her, so she knew Madam Ming’s handwriting very well. When she saw the handwriting on the envelope, she knew it didn’t belong to Madam Ming but another woman.
Who else would address her so intimately? Why would Madam Dowager Liu keep this letter from so many years ago? It must be from another woman.
With trembling hands, she pinched the opening of the envelope. There was an indescribable sorrow in her heart. She felt as if a strange mood was threatening to burst out of her. Tears began falling before she could even open the envelope, obscuring her vision. She couldn’t even see properly what the letter said.
Ning Xueyan sat by the window for a long time, with her hands on the opening of the envelope. She couldn’t find the strength to tear it open. In the end, she put it aside and used a handkerchief to wipe the tears on her face.
She might keep some things under wraps but that didn’t mean that she was unaware. Before her rebirth, she was weak and delicate. After her rebirth, she became much stronger. She would even say that she had trampled on her enemies along the way to get this far. However, she had never felt weaker than at this very moment. The letter was almost problematic. She wanted to read it but dared not to. She had the feeling that her premonition was about to become real.
Was this from her biological mother? Didn’t her biological mother leave after giving birth to her? Ao Chenyi had also said that her mother was likely already dead. Even though she was sad at that time, she wasn’t truly in pain. She thought that she didn’t feel very emotional because she hadn’t even spent a day with her mother.
Only now did she realize that her emotions weren’t lacking at all. The love that came from their blood ties was firm. Even if she had never met her biological mother, their love could never be severed.
Her biological parents were a trauma that she could barely bring herself to revisit. She didn’t dare to wonder why her mother gave birth to her and left soon after, why she left without writing to her for so many years, why she abandoned her two daughters, and why she disappeared completely from the lives of her daughters.
She had no memory whatsoever of her mother, whether in her current or past life. It was as though the former Empress never took her biological daughters to heart. That must be why she was able to leave so decisively.
Ning Ziying’s mother and Madam Ming had shown her maternal love, but she had never stopped thirsting for her biological mother. It was just that she never dared to think about it until the urge built up over the years. Even she was fooled into thinking that she didn’t long for her biological mother.
She picked up the envelope again and took out the letter inside. The letter began with: “Xueyan, my child.” Her gaze swept past the length of the letter until she reached the signature at the end. It was signed as “Mother, Suye.”
She learned a long time ago that the Empress of the previous dynasty was named Han Suye. Sure enough, this was a letter from Empress Suye to her. This was a letter that her biological mother had left for her.
She must have just been born when this letter was written because there was no news from the Empress afterward. What exactly was the Empress feeling when she left her behind? Ning Xueyan had the feeling that this letter was her mother’s explanation for her…
She bit her lower lip, suppressing the anguish inside her, and began to read the letter line by line.
The letter was written in a rush and the handwriting was messy albeit beautiful. She could see that some ink marks were round and different. It was an easy conclusion to make that her biological mother must have been crying when writing this letter.
The letter spanned three full pages. First, her mother told her that she had an older biological sister living in Ning Manor in Jiangnan named Ning Ziying. She urged Ning Xueyan to meet her sister if a chance presented itself. She could use her phoenix earring as evidence. The sisters each had one-half of the earrings.
It would be good enough for the sisters to meet. They didn’t have to worry about the rest. National politics and court upheaval had very little to do with women. Her mother wished for her daughters to live the rest of their lives happily.
The changing of dynasties wasn’t the result of a single cause. On the one hand, people were leading an armed rebellion. On the other hand, some people became spies for the rebels. When a nation ceased to be a nation, ruination was inevitable. The Emperor and Empress wanted to leave with their daughters, especially when the Empress was pregnant.
Unfortunately, trouble started from within the palace. A traitor opened the gates, forcing the Emperor to meet his enemies in a battle and buy his wife and daughters time to leave. The Empress ran to the secret tunnel to escape the palace with her daughters, but before she could go far, she received news of the Emperor’s death. She was so upset that she wanted to kill herself.
A servant saved her and put on her clothes. The servant jumped into the sea of fire and martyred herself to buy even more time for the Empress. Only then did the Empress escape the palace.
Fearing that their enemies would capture them in one fell swoop, the Empress sent the Grand Elder Princess to her close friend’s home in Jiangnan, where the princess would be adopted. She also sent one-half of the phoenix earrings to Jiangnan, with the plan of leaving the other half to her unborn child so that the sisters could reunite someday.
Then, she sent the imperial guards who escorted her out of the palace to Madam Ming. With Madam Ming’s help, she found her way to a manor outside the city and took care of her pregnancy there. Madam Ming also faked a pregnancy. What happened next was Ning Xueyan’s birth. Unfortunately, she didn’t give birth to a son that she had been hoping for but a little princess.
The birth of a daughter ended all of her thoughts about the nation. She told Madam Ming to raise her daughter like an ordinary girl. The so-called enmity and grudges over the nation were in the past. Moreover, they shouldn’t be shouldered by a little girl. Even though she couldn’t accept the changing of dynasties, there was nothing she could do. What was most upsetting was the Emperor’s death.
If it weren’t for the traitor in the palace, she wouldn’t have to be separated from her husband by death. She had been ready to go after him in the afterlife but she was still pregnant at that time. Therefore, once she gave birth, she knew it was time to pursue her husband. This was her wish and had nothing to do with other people.
However, even if she had the desire to die, she couldn’t bring herself to give up her newborn daughter. She named her newborn daughter Xueyan. She hoped that her two daughters would be able to reunite one day and take care of each other…