559 The Secret About the Past 177
However, An Xiaoning knew that the Autumn Palace was different from her home.
It was where the ancient palace used to be and where many bloody incidents and deaths had taken place.
Thus, it was a dismal place full of spirits and unholy presences.
However, the large number of people within the palace helped suppress the negative energies.
She was supposedly allowed a day off that month, though she was not sure if Tuoba Gucheng would grant her request for leave.
During dinner, An Xiaoning pondered over the matter for a long while and decided to ask him after they had finished eating.
Unexpectedly, he had decided to go to Tuoba Danxue's place in the evening. Thinking that it would be difficult to pop the question with the other bodyguards around, An Xiaoning realized that it would be a better choice to ask him when they were back from Tuoba Danxue's mansion.
Tuoba Danxue and Jin Minxing's relationship took off rapidly, and they would chat with each other over the phone for hours daily. Tuoba Danxue was initially still greatly traumatized by Jiang Feng's death.
However, she was no longer bothered by the incident now, though she could never forget about it, deep down.
Tuoba Danxue was in the midst of a phone call with Jin Minxing when they reached her place. Noticing their arrival, she immediately ended the call.
"Brother, what brings you here?"
"I tried to call you so many times but your line was always engaged. I'm going hiking with Prince Byron tomorrow. Would you like to come along?"
"Sure, of course. It's such a great opportunity to take a breather. Why wouldn't I? But, Brother, can I ask Minxing along?"
Having already expected her to say that, Tuoba Gucheng conceded, "Alright, if you want to. We'll meet him at the foot of the mountain."
"Alright." Tuoba Danxue looked at An Xiaoning and asked her brother, "Is she doing fine over at your side?"
"She's alright. Come over to mine for breakfast tomorrow morning. Don't be late."
"Brother, you could've just asked someone to relay the message to me. You didn't have to make a trip down here personally."
"I obviously didn't come here to see you. I'm here to look for Uncle, he asked to see me."
"Uncle? Why is he looking for you?"
"I don't know, I'm going over now."
Tuoba Gucheng arrived at Tuoba Shuo's mansion to see that the latter was standing right at the door. Tuoba Shuo was staring in their direction and had both his hands by his side out of habit.
"You're here, Gucheng. Come in and have a seat," said Tuoba Shuo, gesturing for him to enter. Tuoba Gucheng took the lead and entered while An Xiaoning went in last.
She was not surprised at all when Tuoba Shuo shoved a piece of paper into her hands. They made eye contact with each other and entered one after another.
"I heard that Prince Byron arrived here today. How did the discussion go?" Tuoba Shuo asked.
"Great. We even agreed to go mountain hiking tomorrow morning," Tuoba Gucheng said with a smile.
"May I join in the fun with you young people?" he asked, also smiling.
"Of course you may." Tuoba Gucheng thought it would be a great idea to let his uncle join in the crowd since the latter had always been by himself during the past few years. He must have felt lonely even though he was allowed to go out of the Autumn Palace as and when he pleased.
"I called you over simply because I'm too bored. So, I'd like to have a chat with you." Tuoba Shuo then waved his hands and said, "You guys may go out first. I'd like to have a private conversation with Gucheng."
Tuoba Gucheng shot them a glance, hinting for them to leave.
An Xiaoning and the bodyguards exited accordingly and waited by the door.
She had been clutching the note given to her by Tuoba Shuo tightly in her hand and never once opened it to read.
She wondered what the two of them were chatting about in the room.
More than half an hour later, Tuoba Gucheng came out of the room.
Noticing that there was no change in his expression, An Xiaoning was certain that they did not chat about anything unusual.
Upon arriving upstairs in Tuoba Gucheng's mansion, An Xiaoning finally popped her burning question, "Your Highness, I have something to say to you."
"Come in." He opened the door for her and headed back inside his room.
An Xiaoning hurriedly followed and closed the door after her.
"What do you want to say?"
"Well, aren't we allowed a day off every month?"
Raising his brows, he asked, "You'd like to take a break?"
"I haven't had a day off this month. May I take one on the 15th of July?"
"The 15th of July will arrive in a few days. That's within the half-month period we agreed on, so no, you're not allowed to. If you really want to take a break, get rid of the child tomorrow and I'll grant you unlimited leave."
An Xiaoning was not surprised since she had already expected him to turn her down.
"Am I really not allowed to?"
"End of discussion. Are you trying to escape?"
"I'm not, really. You're the prince of S Nation, where could I possibly escape to? I still have that bit of self-awareness," said An Xiaoning, trying to sound as sincere as possible.
"I won't allow you to leave the Autumn Palace before you get an abortion. Weren't you the one who pleaded desperately for me to let you keep the child for half a month longer? The time will be up very soon," said Tuoba Gucheng, glancing sideways at her.
An Xiaoning nodded and said, "I'll head back to my room first then."
Upon returning to her room, An Xiaoning opened the note to read that Tuoba Shuo wanted her to find an opportunity to meet him privately.
During the dead of night…
Tuoba Rui decided to sleep in the study while Shi Xiaoyu opened the door to the secret basement below her bed and made her way down the stairs.
"I haven't been coming down to see you lately. How have you been?"
Shi Qingzhou looked up with her long and unkempt hair covering her face, thus obstructing her view.
"Don't beat around the bush and make redundant remarks. How well could I possibly be, living down here?"
"That's true. After all, making your life a living hell is the only thing I'm most passionate about. Shuo has already moved out of the mansion that he had been cooping himself up in for years," said Shi Xiaoyu.
"Really?" Shi Qingzhou asked agitatedly.
"He actually went against his parents' wishes, gave up the President's throne, and moved into a dilapidated mansion to become a monk for so many years, all for the sake of a disloyal and filthy woman like you…"
Before she could even finish her sentence, Shi Qingzhou lost control of her emotions all of a sudden and hollered, "Shut up!"
"Go ahead, scream and shout all you want. The soundproofing system around here is perfect. No one's going to hear you even if you yell at the top of your lungs. You had the cheek to do something so shameless and yet you won't allow me to talk about it. Is this your tender spot? Well, I just want to rub salt in your wound and cause you immense pain!" Shi Xiaoyu screeched, full of resentment toward her.
"Shi Xiaoyu, it's already been so many years. Haven't you had enough yet?"
"Of course not. I've barely had enough. I particularly hate seeing how well your precious daughter is living now. Just how is she so damned lucky? I don't think she deserves such fortune. Since she resembles you so much, she ought to suffer the same fate as you did," Shi Xiaoyu said with a mirthless smile, her words like a million daggers piercing through Shi Qingzhou's heart.
"Don't you dare lay a finger on her."
"Who would dare do so? Rui is protecting her dearly. She looks so much like you, it'd be hard for him not to discover that she's your daughter. But, you know me, I've always hated dealing with things openly."
She walked toward Shi Qingzhou and grabbed her by her hair, forcing the latter to make eye contact with her.
Shi Qingzhou felt an acute pain in her scalp. Nonetheless, she retorted, "How many times have you grabbed my hair throughout all these decades? Shi Xiaoyu, if you're here this time to insult, humiliate, and torment me again, I'm telling you there's no point because I've already grown numb to all of it."