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339 Pigeon Soup II



Sangsang often lowered her head. She did not like looking at people, but was good at judging people.

In the words of the Great Divine Priest of Light, Sangsang was transparent inside out. She was like the crystals in the deep mountains that could reflect the true colors of the world. She knew clearly who was good to her in the world. It was a pity that she had only met one who was like Ning Que after so many years, and that he had died not long ago.

However, she could still sense the kindness in Mrs. Zeng. As such, she complied with her suggestion and followed her into the room. She removed the oily dress and her shoes before placing her feet in warm water.

Sangsang's feet were very small and the color was different from other parts of her body. They were as pale as snow and looked like two white flowers floating in the basin of clear water.

-

...

...

Mrs. Zeng had not blinked once since they entered the room. When Sangsang undid her dress, her hands twisted nervously beneath her sleeves. When she removed her shoes, the lady's nails gouged deeply in her palms. When she saw the two white slender feet, she barely managed to stop herself from passing out.

Mrs. Zeng did not pass out, however, she stayed on the verge of it after that.

When Sangsang returned to the dining table, the lady held out of pigeon soup with shaking hands. She said in a trembling voice, "You have suffered much over the years. You have to nourish yourself well now."

Sangsang was slightly startled when she looked at the appetizing pigeon and soup. She wondered to herself, that she had heard the woman say this line many times, but why had it sounded different this time?

...

...

Grand Secretary Zeng Jing returned in the evening.

Mrs. Zeng chased his subordinates away a little roughly and impolitely. Then, she stood before him. She did not say anything before tears started streaming down her cheeks.

Grand Secretary Zeng Jing was not an easy man. After all, he was the man who had, after a night of painful deliberation, divorced his first wife, who was from the Qinghe County with the surname Cui, killed the chamberlains and joined the Empress' camp. However, he knew that his current status in court was due to his wife's position in the Empress' court. Furthermore, he had always treated his wife lovingly due to their painful past. He could not help but be shocked when he saw that she had started crying even before she could speak.

"Wife, did something happen at home?" He asked in a trembling voice. His wife wouldn't break down so easily unless it was something so terrible that she could not bear.

Mrs. Zeng wiped away her tears and smiled at him. "My lord, it is good news."

Zeng Jing asked curiously, "What good news is it?"

Mrs. Zeng looked at his face and said, while crying and laughing at the same time, "I have found our daughter."


Zeng Jing could not help but ask his wife incredulously after he found out about what had happened on the night of the Lantern Festival and at their home today. "You mean, the little handmaiden is our daughter? Are... are you sure?"

Mrs. Zeng glared at her husband. "She is my daughter. Of course I am sure."

Zeng Jing was both surprised and joyful at this sudden news. He stood up and asked, "Do you have any proof?"

Mrs. Zeng said in annoyance, "I already said that she is my daughter, why would you need proof?"

Zeng Jing smiled bitterly, "My darling wife, don't lie to me. Would you tell me if you didn't have concrete proof? I'm sure you spilled that pigeon soup deliberately today."

Mrs. Zeng covered her smile with a hand. "I can't hide anything from you. I had Chunlan cool down the pigeon soup just so I can spill it on her feet and have her remove her shoes so I can look at her feet. Guess what? Her feet were just like they were so many years ago when she was a newborn. They were white and soft, just like two lotus flowers!"

Zeng Jing paused slightly and asked, "What other evidence do you have other than this?"

Mrs. Zeng continued, "When I had the baby in the woodshed then, I was worried that someone might swap her out. I checked her over before I fainted. She did not have any birthmarks, but she was tanned all over like a piece of charcoal. However, her two feet were white and soft. Is this not considered proof? I don't believe anyone else can look like my poor child."

Zeng Jing thought of that day that he would always remember. He thought of the blood across the street and the chaos in his home. He thought of how the ferocious first wife had used his daughter's skin color as an excuse and accuse Mrs. Zeng, the concubine, of having birthed a demon. Then, she had secretly instructed a few stewards to smuggle the girl out of the mansion... Could it be, that the little handmaiden at the Old Brush Pen Shop was his long lost daughter? Shouldn't she have died long ago?

No one knew what he was thinking about. His brows tightened and then relaxed as if he was worried about something.

Mrs. Zeng could still feel the vague pain in her palms. She said, "My lord, why are you still hesitating? You should go and inform the Chang'an Local Government and find a way to get our daughter back! I have tried my best earlier not to tell her just so I can wait for you to settle it. I can't stand the thought of my daughter being a maidservant for another day!"

"You have never seen the child, but her hands were so rough, my heart hurts for her. She must have suffered a lot over the years. I heard that she did the laundry and made the tea and does everything at that shop. She even had to fix the door when it was damaged. We don't even treat our servants like that. I wonder what kind of immoral young master of hers was thinking. He's using her like an ox! I have to..."

Her tears started flowing as she continued, thinking of Sangsang's evil young master. She could no longer control her emotions as she left the study, and looked as if she was prepared to get Sangsang from the Old Brush Pen Shop.

"Halt!"

Zeng Jing said softly. Then, he sighed and furrowed his brows after a silent moment. "If our daughter had really been a maidservant in an ordinary family, then it could be easily settled. But do you know who her young master is?"

"Ning Que is not an ordinary person. He is the legendary author of 'the flower blooms' and is favored by the Emperor. Now that I think of it, isn't the name at the beginning of the Chicken Soup Calligraphy also Sangsang?"

Mrs. Zeng was slightly startled. She had been in a daze after seeing Sangsang at the palace and had forgotten the Empress' introductions. It was only now that she remembered that the immoral young guy that she had scolded the entire day wasn't any son of a random official in Chang'an, but someone that her husband brought up often lately.

"I remember now. Her Majesty did mention Sir Ning's name."

Mrs. Zeng continued. "So what? Even if His Majesty likes his calligraphy, it is our right to retrieve our daughter. Who would be so immoral to stop us? I'm sure that His Majesty would greet this news with joy as well."

Zeng Jing furrowed his brows. "Do you know of Ning Que's another identity?"

"What identity?"

"He is a student of the Second floor of the Academy."

Mrs. Zeng asked in surprise, "There is a Second floor to the Academy?"

Zeng Jing said in a low voice, "There are many floors to the Academy."

Mrs. Zeng frowned in confusion. "What kind of place is this Second floor?"

Zeng Jing answered, "Those who are able to study on the Second floor of the Academy are the core disciples of the Headmaster of the Academy."

Mrs. Zeng could not understand why her husband had brought up something completely unrelated. She asked, "And who is this Headmaster of the Academy?"

Zeng Jing looked at her. He sighed and shook his head. "You're really dumb. The Headmaster of the Academy is the dean of the Academy."

Mrs. Zeng finally realized how difficult the situation was when she heard "dean of the Academy". However, her desire to recover her long-lost daughter was strong and was more important than anything. She said in annoyance, "Even the dean has to be reasonable, no? Furthermore, our daughter is only a little maidservant. We can just give Ning Que some money. Why would he have any objections?"

Zeng Jing shook his head. He was an important official of the imperial court and was no stranger to Ning Que. He was involved in the earlier furor over "the flower blooms" and the ascension of the mountain at the back of the Academy. Everyone was now concerned about his identity as the Wayfarer of the Academy.

Ning Que was the person from the Academy who was entering the human realm. His opinion was very important in deciding who would inherit the dragon throne. Zeng Jing knew that he was close to the Princess. As someone from the Empress' faction, he was worried that recovering his long-lost daughter would affect all their future plans.

It was just that he would not tell this to his wife. Instead, after a moment of silence, he said, "Go to the palace tomorrow and see what Her Majesty has to say about it."

Mrs. Zeng had never been to school and was not learned compared to all the ladies of the court. However, after that tragic incident and through the teachings of the Empress over the years, she had turned from the weak and helpless concubine into an opinionated housewife. When she heard her husband's words, she only raised a brow and said, "I don't care what the Empress has to say, I will definitely acknowledge my own daughter."

...

...

"Mr. Thirteen, Ning Que... the Academy... why is this so?"

In the depths of the palace, golden bricks sparkled warmly. The Empress murmured to herself as she held on to the letter in her hands with confusion and vigilance etched between her brows.

The letter had come from the General's Mansion in Tuyang City. Xia Hou had mentioned about the latest incidents in Tuyang City as well as his decision to quit his position and retire. He had asked her to help explain his decision to the Emperor.

There weren't many in the world who knew of the true relationship between the Empress and Xia Hou.

The Empress knew how stubborn her brother, who loved her deeply, was. What had the two from the Academy done in the Wilderness and Tuyang City for her brother to admit defeat and retire?

She was very willing for her brother to stay away from bloodshed. Retiring was a very good ending and she was very comforted after reading the letter. However, she was still confused about the events that had led up to this point.

That was when Mrs. Zeng arrived.

When she heard Mrs. Zeng recount what had happened to Sangsang tearfully and laughingly, the Empress remained silent for a long while. Then, a warm smile emerged from the corners of her lips and she said, "This is good news."