It was this servant who had led Nanny Yu to leave the imperial palace and waited for her at the entrance. Thus, since they were back, it seemed that they ran a very quick errand.
Seeing them coming back, the eunuch hurriedly entered the palace and informed his master. Soon after, he walked out and took Nanny Yu into the Palace of Benevolent Peace.
After bowing to the madams there, Nanny Yu reverently presented an album of painting, which was wrapped in a bag. She didn’t dare to open the bag on the way here, for she feared that she could not defend herself if there was something wrong with the album.
She had worried about becoming involved in this matter. First, she thought she should ask Shao Wanru’s servant girl to come with her. But now, she just wrapped this album in a bag, which to some extent could save her trouble.
The instant Empress Dowager received the bag, several old madams all poked out their heads to take a look. When they found out that the album was wrapped in a sealed bag, one of them couldn’t help asking, “Sealed? Who did this?”
“It is said that the album has been shown before, but why is it wrapped in this sealed bag now?” Another old madam also raised her doubts.
Old Madam of Duke Xing’s Mansion also felt puzzled and cast a glance at Nanny Yu, who immediately answered, “When I was with Fifth Miss, she was trying to make a cover for this album, saying that the album would not get dirty with this. When she was almost finished, she then tried to put the album into the bag. However, we didn’t expect that our conversation would divert her attention, which made her careless and even made her just seal the album with the bag completely!”
“What a careless girl!” Empress Dowager chuckled. Then she gave the bag to a palace maid beside her. The servant entered the inner room and opened it with scissors. Soon after, she gave it to her master.
In front of everyone, she took the album out of the bag. The delicate cover surprised several old madams, who kept nodding. Before they looked inside, they had all thought this album was exquisite.
Another palace maid received the album and then passed it to Empress Dowager.
The moment Empress Dowager took it, she directly opened it. All of a sudden, everyone here was amazed by those vivid and delicate paintings in front of them. The painter not only painted well but even meticulously. Inside the album were different patterns of displays of Buddha while the album even was giving off the smell of burning incense, which was immediately favored by those old madams who had always believed in Buddhism.
All were full of praise.
They were amazed by Pushan Nun’s superb and unique skills. It was the first time for them to see such an exquisite album of paintings of this kind.
Old Madam of Duke Xing’s Mansion and Shao Yanru also came to take a look. Old Madam, who could not help praising the work, on the one hand, kept agreeing with Empress Dowager’s words, and on the other hand, kept commenting on Pushan Nun’s painting skills.
Shao Yanru said nothing. First, it was inappropriate for her to participate in the conversation, as she was only a junior. Second, it was a good chance for her to present her civility, elegance, and good nurture. It was easy for her to be favored by the elderly by sitting silently aside with a mild smile on her face.
She was in no hurry, as she was sure that the album would revulse Empress Dowager soon even though she now kept praising it!
With such an abrupt large scarlet stain, people here would feel unpleasant no matter how they liked those paintings before. Even a normal person would feel angry at the one who did this, not to mention the superior one, Empress Dowager.
They looked through the album of paintings page by page and kept praising it. When they were appreciating the first page, it seemed obvious that Empress Dowager was quite fond of this album and even didn’t want to put it down.
There was more praise for the paintings from these old madams when they turned to the second page. Empress Dowager could not help smiling, which made it seem like she did like this album!
Watching them looking through this album page by page, Shao Yanru gradually put on an ironic smile. “Does Shao Wanru think that she is a fish leaping over the dragon’s gate because of being recognized by our mansion? She is nothing, even though she has Rui’an Great Elder Princess as her grandmother!
“She will still be trampled by others in the end!
“Falling heavily from the cloud to the mud? My dear fifth sister finally can enjoy the bitter pill…”
The mild smile on Shao Yanru’s face had become stiff, and her expression changed. Empress Dowager should have seen the page on which there should be a stain inside. Why was there no response! Why?
Shooting a glance at her grandmother, she found that her grandma’s expression was also stiff. It was improper for her to say anything or to get too close to the album. However, her grandma should see it clearly, for she was very close to the album!
Shao Yanru suddenly had a bad feeling. Flustered, she crumpled up her handkerchief. “Is there anyone who did something to the album?”
Although Old Madam had planned these things without informing Shao Yanru, actually Shao Yanru knew about them very clearly, even including the plan of smudging the painting, as she was the one who pushed these things secretly while Old Madam was the one who implemented those plans.
It was Shao Yanru who reminded Old Madam in a very imperceptible way that they should enter the palace today, then Old Madam later then decided to come to the palace.
“Grandma, are you okay?” Shao Yanru asked softly, ignoring Old Madam’s face, on which there was a stiff smile.
“I am fine. It is okay,” Old Madam answered, shaking her head. However, she felt quite distracted inside. With her face turning stiff and pale, she thought that her plan was not going to work again.
A little tender hand appeared in her sight and held hers. “Grandma, are you tired?” It was Shao Yanru’s soft and comforting voice, which made Old Madam of Duke Xing’s Mansion feel relieved.
Hiding a trace of darkness in her eyes, she decided to keep watching.
They flipped the album from the front to the end and then turned it from the end to the front again. The album of paintings had been looked through page by page twice. Later, Empress Dowager nodded with satisfaction and passed it to another old madam sitting next to her. Then this old madam looked through the whole album and also passed it to the next one.
When Shao Yanru finally got it, all the old madams here had seen the album.
They all appreciated the way how the painter worked, including the Buddha exposed on a corner of the album. They all said that they had to visit Yuhui Nunnery and hold religious rites for their dead family members. At that time, they would choose one of these patterns to arrange these rites.
Actually, they had been to Yuhui Nunnery several times, but they didn’t know there would be so many different patterns of placing these things.
The instant Shao Yanru took it, she began to go over it carefully page by page. Since the page had been smudged by that kind of pigment, it was impossible to get it off, aside from throwing away that page.
Since a page of the album was smudged, it should be impossible for Shao Wanru to find someone to paint it again within such a short time. Moreover, a normal painter could not paint this. Did Rui’an Great Elder Princess really have the good idea to have others paint like this and even to hide this so perfectly?
She didn’t believe it.
She just opened that page with her finger lightly and felt the paper carefully. Staring at this page, she suddenly thought of something while her eyes lit up.
She had been learning paintings from Pushan Nun for a long time, and she knew how extraordinary Pushan Nun’s paintings were. The one in front of her seemed to be different because of some details, but when carefully looking at it, it then seemed there was no difference. How strange it was.
Given the question of whether it was the same one, Shao Yanru believed there was something wrong with it. With her finger rubbing this paper and then the previous one, she found that this piece of paper was different!
Fearing that she might make a mistake, she kept carefully feeling every piece of paper of the album. It turned out that that page was different. Obviously, someone had changed it.
“This piece of paper seems to be different from the others,” Shao Yanru murmured to herself. Her voice was not loud but others could hear what she just said.
Since Old Madam had looked through this album, she was absent-minded, even though she still talked to Empress Dowager with a smile on her face. Hearing Shao Yanru’s words, she hurried to turn around and ask with her eyes lit up, “What? Is something wrong?”
Her first granddaughter was Pushan Nun’s best student. If there was someone who could pinpoint the difference, it would be her granddaughter.
Hearing her words, she finally felt somewhat relaxed. It seemed that she had finally found the mistake that she had been looking for for a very long time.
Involuntarily, Old Madam spoke loudly.
Her voice suddenly shocked Empress Dowager and other old madams, who were talking happily. Everyone turned to look at them.
Noticing that everyone was staring at her, Shao Yanru hurriedly put down the album, blushing. She knelt down to Empress Dowager and said softly to apologize, “I am really sorry to interrupt you, Your Highness! It is my fault.”
“Is there something wrong with this album?” Waving her hands, Empress Dowager answered curiously with a smile while having her palace maid help Shao Yanru up.
“This piece of paper is different from the others.” Old Madam reorganized her expression and smiled. Taking the album from Shao Yanru, she passed it to Empress Dowager’s palace maid, who then gave it to Empress Dowager carefully.
“A piece of paper is different?” Empress Dowager understood. Lifting her eyebrows, she felt more curious and asked when taking the album from her palace maid, “Which one?”
“This one. It is different from the others.” Old Madam pointed at the page, which was exposed to everyone directly. She smiled and said, “If you don’t believe it, you can rub and feel it carefully.”
Hearing her words, Empress Dowager felt much more curious. She then began to lightly rub the piece of paper and then the others. “They are different, but why would Pushan Nun change a piece of paper to finish this work? Did she happen to not have this kind of paper left?”
When Empress Dowager felt it carefully, she did find that there was something different.
Basically, an album would only use one kind of paper. However, it was suspicious, as there were two kinds of paper used in the album.
Some old madams also reached out and touched the corner of the page out of curiosity. Then they all nodded in agreement.
“Old Madam of Duke Xing’s Mansion, may I ask what Pushan Nun’s meaning is? Is this the best pattern? Is this the reason why Pushan Nun would change the piece of paper?” A madam was interested in this after rubbing it. Did Pushan Nun change it because this piece of paper referred to the most significant fate and chance? This old madam stared at Old Madam of Duke Xing’s Mansion, expecting that Old Madam of Duke Xing’s Mansion could definitely answer her question.
Her question even attracted Empress Dowager’s attention. They might have only appreciated the delicacy of this album before, but now it seemed that they tried to find out the secret hidden in the album because of this new discovery.
Smiling stiffly, Old Madam felt those little veins were going to pop out of her forehead while her hand even cramped up; it was her instinctive reaction. Now she found that she could not give a plausible explanation.
Changed a piece of paper? So what? Empress Dowager would not know it was Shao Wanru who asked others to change it…