Chapter 109: There's no need to use knives on my face Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
The Duke of Liang was one of the thirteen dukes who’d fought with the Ning Clan’s ancestors in the past to establish the current reigning dynasty. They’d been conferred with the surname of Ning, had commander-in-chiefs who took captive prisoners-of-war, and guarded the nine sectors of Yongning’s southwest region up to the present day.
“My father is the Duke of Yue, Ning Heng.[1. Ning Heng (宁恒) - Heng means “perseverance.”] My eldest brother is a cavalry general, his name’s Ning Xiaomu,[2. Ning Xiaomu (宁晓暮) - Xiao means “dawn, daybreak,” Mu means “dusk, evening, sunset.”] and my second eldest brother is General Ning Xiaoxiāo,[3. Ning Xiaoxiāo (宁晓萧) - Xiao means “dawn, daybreak,” Xiāo means “desolate, dreary.” Please note that the two xiaos are pronounced with different tones in Chinese.] who commands one of the garrison posts.” Ning Xiaoluo said proudly to Ning Xiaoyao.
“Then what kind of general are you?” Ning Xiaoyao asked in curiosity.
Ning Xiaoluo’s face stiffened.
“Oh, you’re not one at all,” Ning Xiaoyao suddenly understood.
Ning Xiaoluo was quick to explain himself. “My body’s not very good, so I can’t practice martial arts.”
Ning Xiaoyao observed the boy, who was taller than her by half a head, and patted his shoulder sympathetically. “Try a bit harder. Maybe you’ll still have a chance to grow taller.”
Ning Xiaoluo looked at Ning Xiaoyao, unsatisfied. “You’re not even as tall as me. My mother said I was born as a boy who looked like a girl, but you’re a boy who looks even more girly than me!”
“.........” said Ning Xiaoyao. You really want to compare yourself with a female to see who’s more girly?
Ning Xiaoluo’s head turned to look at the youth on the metal bed before his mood turned somber. “He was still alive a moment ago,” he said.
“How did you get captured?” Ning Xiaoyao was looking around for something to cover up the body, but she couldn’t find anything.
“I was captured as soon as I entered the city gates,” Ning Xiaoluo took off his outer robes and draped them over the dead body on the bed.
“What did you come to the capital for?” Ning Xiaoyao asked next.
“It was almost the Grand Preceptor’s birthday, so I came to give him a present,” Ning Xiaoluo said, before he angrily waved his arms. “Just wait ‘til I tell the Grand Preceptor about this. He’ll definitely kill these bastards.”
“Heheh,” Ning Xiaoyao chuckled. After all that effort, I ended up saving a young member of the Grand Preceptor’s faction!
“Benefactor, why are you laughing like that?” Ning Xiaoluo asked.
Ning Xiaoyao was currently thinking over the course of events. Something about this felt off. This boy was part of the Grand Preceptor’s faction, so why would Grand Preceptor Xie want him dead? “You,” Ning Xiaoyao said as she prepared to beat him up, “These are part of the Grand Preceptor’s grounds, ah. You went to give him a present, but why did he have you captured? Did he not like your gift?”
Ning Xiaoluo was flabbergasted.
“You don’t know you’re on the Grand Preceptor’s property?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
“You’re lying,” Ning Xiaoluo’s gaze changed as he stared at Ning Xiaoyao. “You must be on the same side as those guys. You’re acting out a play to win my trust. Speak, what do you want?”
Ning Xiaoyao wanted to spit up blood. “Are you a doofus?” His Majesty Ning asked the Third Young Master Ning.
“I won’t believe you,” Ning Xiaoluo backed away.
“Whatever,” Ning Xiaoyao didn’t want to talk to that idiot anymore. She looked at the five men sprawled on the ground. All of their fingers had been broken by her attacks. How could someone who studied medicine try to hurt people? I’ll make it impossible for you to practice medicine for the rest of your life!
Ning Xiaoluo kept backing away. Despite being born in a general’s family, he was the type who pondered over minute details and feared the sight of blood.
“You take care,” Ning Xiaoyao shot a glance at the blockhead before picking up the dead patient’s corpse and turning to leave. Ning Xiaoluo hesitated for a few seconds before running after her.
“Didn’t you think I was a bad guy?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
“Even if you are, I still want to get out of here,” Ning Xiaoluo replied.
“I’m telling you, it’s Grand Preceptor Xie who’s the real villain here,” Ning Xiaoyao said.
“I don’t believe it,” the third young master Ning replied. “My paternal grandmother was handkerchief friends[4. handkerchief friends (手帕交) - shoupa jiao, a colloquial term that means ‘childhood friends,’ especially when it comes to female friendships.] with the Old Madame of the Xie Clan.”
“What’s a handkerchief friend?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
“It means they’re good sisters,” Third Young Master Ning replied.
Ning Xiaoyao smiled coldly upon hearing his explanation. Grand Preceptor Xie was even capable of hurting his own granddaughter, much less sworn relatives. What were they worth in that old man’s eyes?
“You,” Ning Xiaoluo noticed Oil Lamp and Oil Jar on Ning Xiaoyao’s shoulders. “You have mice on your shoulders.”
“I’m raising them,” Ning Xiaoyao answered.
“.......” said Third Young Master Ning. There are people who keep mice as pets? These capital city people sure know how to fool around!
The stone room beyond the first one was still strewn with the unconscious forms of the various men. At the foot of the stone steps was King Flower, who stuck out its tongue at Ning Xiaoyao. “Hisssss…..”
“Snake!” Ning Xiaoluo cried out in alarm.
Ning Xiaoyao simply pretended that Ning Xiaoluo didn’t exist.
“Hurry and get out of here,” King Flower said. “The Grand Preceptor sent men over, they’re planning to burn this place down.”
Ning Xiaoyao grew alarmed. “I’ve been exposed?”
King Flower shook his head. “That shouldn’t be it. They didn’t mention you at all.”
Ning Xiaoluo was wondering whether he was going crazy. Why does it look like Ning Xiaoyao’s talking to the snake?
“Get on,” Ning Xiaoyao bent down to offer King Flower a perch. “I run really fast, so I can get you out of here.”
King Flower crept forward and wrapped himself around Ning Xiaoyao’s waist. Ning Xiaoluo was so scared he wanted to scream, but Ning Xiaoyao simply grabbed his collar and threatened, “I’ll leave you behind if you dare to shout!”
Ning Xiaoluo clapped a hand over his mouth, and Ning Xiaoyao pulled him along as she ran up to the surface. Third Young Master Ning felt the wind whistling past his ears as he was dragged along, his feet not even touching the ground. The gales were so fierce that he couldn’t even keep his eyes open. By the time he finally managed to open them, he discovered that he was standing outside of the basement chamber.
“This, this is a rock formation?” Ning Xiaoluo said as he observed the cave and decorative rocks about them. Ning Xiaoyao pulled Ning Xiaoluo with her as she leapt off the formation. As soon as she landed, she heard quick footsteps coming towards the rocks.
Ning Xiaoluo opened his mouth. “Where is this--”
“Shut up!” Once again, Ning Xiaoyao dragged Ning Xiaoluo behind her as she scaled the wall by the flower gardens. Fortunately, a Chinese scholar tree was growing right by the wall, its luxuriant spread of leaves a perfect cover that hid Ning Xiaoyao and Ning Xiaoluo. Stooping on the wall, Ning Xiaoyao completely ignored her human companion to ask King Flower, “What about the rest of your family?”
“They’ve already left,” King Flower said carelessly.
“They left?” His whole family scattered just like that, but he’s still so calm? Ning Xiaoyao didn’t get it.
“Is it just me, or are you talking to that snake?” Ning Xiaoluo asked.
“Shut up,” Ning Xiaoyao fumed at Ning Xiaoluo. Speaking of which, why did I bring along a jerk who believes in Grand Preceptor Xie in the first place? (Author: Don’t you have to ask yourself for that? o(╯□╰)o)
Ning Xiaoluo unhappily stayed put by Ning Xiaoyao’s side. He looked at the ground beneath the wall, but it was too high for him to jump off…
“Then where will you go?” Ning Xiaoyao was still fretting for King Flower’s sake.
“I’ll find a new home,” King Flower was still calm and unperturbed. “It’ll be fine as long as I don’t starve to death.”
“True, that’s one of my life goals too,” Ning Xiaoyao nodded.
Twenty or so retainers dressed in the servant robes of Grand Preceptor Xie’s estate ran into the gardens at this moment with lit torches in their hands.
“These are…” Ning Xiaoluo narrowed his eyes for a closer look. “These are the Grand Preceptor’s men?”
Ning Xiaoyao didn’t say a word. She’d already told him these were the Grand Preceptor’s grounds, but the idiot hadn’t believed her.
“The Grand Preceptor sent people to rescue me!” Ning Xiaoluo was moved.
Ning Xiaoyao curled her lips in contempt. He’s so stupid, he’s reached a whole new world altogether.
“Hey,” Ning Xiaoluo asked Ning Xiaoyao next. “Who are you? Who’s your mother?”
Ning Xiaoyao replied, “There’s no need for us to see each other in the future. You can just call me Anonymous.”
“Have you ever gone to the southwest?” Ning Xiaoluo probed.
“Nope. I haven’t even explored the entire capital city yet,” Ning Xiaoyao said.
“What about your mother?”
“She hasn’t either,” Ning Xiaoyao replied. Empress Dowager Xie hadn’t left the palace ever since she went in, except for the time she gave birth to Ning Yu.
Now Third Young Master Ning could put his worries to rest. This boy couldn’t possibly be one of his father’s sons. Aside from a single trip with his wife to the capital 15 years ago, his father had lived in the southwest for his entire life. If the boy’s mother had never gone to the southwest, then she never would have met his father.
Ning Xiaoyao scratched her head. “I think your questions are a little weird. Isn’t there something off about them?”
“No way,” Ning Xiaoluo hastily shook his head. Anyone would be mad if you assumed who their father was, right? Especially a guy like this, who he could never hope to beat in a fight.
The retainers carried their torches as they scaled the rock formation, pressed on the hidden switch, and re-opened the stone door that Ning Xiaoyao had carefully shut behind her. Then they simply started pouring oil onto the steps of the tunnel below.
“That smell,” Ning Xiaoluo sniffed the air furiously before his face paled. “It’s kerosene.” In the military, kerosene was used to burn down cities and cause widescale destruction. Third Young Master Ning had been familiar with its smell since he was young, so there was no way he’d be mistaken.
“That’s right,” Ning Xiaoyao remarked sarcastically. “They’re preparing to light a fire before they go and save you.”
Ning Xiaoluo wiped the rainwater off his face and said, “That’s not right. Those people must be fakes. They just can’t be the Grand Preceptor’s men!”
Ning Xiaoyao turned to look at Ning Xiaoluo. Did the Grand Preceptor feed this kid a bewitching potion or something? Why is he so convinced that the Grand Preceptor’s a good guy?
“They’ve lit the oil on fire!” Oil Lamp squeaked. Ning Xiaoyao turned back to see black smoke pouring out from the inside of the stone tunnel. All of the Grand Preceptor’s retainers had retreated to the base of the rockery.
Shoot! Ning Xiaoyao suddenly recalled that there were still people in the basement! When she had ran out, it was under the assumption that the Grand Preceptor would never kill his own men. Now reality proved that she’d thought too kindly of the man and his subordinates!
“Someone else’s arrived,” Oil Jar squeaked.
A gentleman wearing brocade robes walked into the courtyard while holding an umbrella above his head. Two guards accompanied him on each side with lanterns in their hands. Ning Xiaoyao recognized the newcomer at a glance as one of the Xie sons she’d punished earlier that day, Grand Preceptor Xie’s third son Xie Anshi.
“I’ve, I’ve seen him before,” Ning Xiaoluo mumbled to himself.
“I’ve seen him before too,” Ning Xiaoyao replied. “He’s Xie Anshi.”
The black smoke rolling out from the rockery had now changed to red, looking almost devilishly alluring beneath the rainy night.
“Poison smoke,” Ning Xiaoluo said.
Ning Xiaoyao spat out a mouthful of rainwater that had trickled into her mouth. Then it’s all over. There’s no saving the people inside the basement now.
Xie Anshi stood at the foot of the rockery and asked, “The man you’ve brought in today is inside there as well?”
A retainer hastily replied with an affirmative. “Yes.”
Xie Anshi stared at the rock formations, which were now shrouded in a cloud of red smoke. “Once the fire goes out, seal the basement.”
Ning Xiaoyao turned to Ning Xiaoluo and murmured, “Do you still think the Grand Preceptor’s a good guy now?”
Ning Xiaoluo’s voice trembled. “W-why is it like this?”
“Think back carefully. When you were in the cage, what did those other people say?” Ning Xiaoyao spoke as she guided Ning Xiaoluo along. “They couldn’t have stayed silent the whole time, right?”
“Those people were doctors,” Ning Xiaoluo replied.
Ning Xiaoyao was beginning to wonder whether she should even try and continue the conversation with this idiot. If they weren’t doctors, would they have known how to do face lift surgery on that boy?
“Those doctors said, that my face,” Ning Xiaoluo felt his own face, somewhat at a loss, “They said that there was no need to use knives on my face.”
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