Chapter 111: Corpses, an addled youth Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Lou Zigui looked at Ning Xiaoluo before breaking into a smile. The curve of his lips made his smile look very warm and gentle. This was the first good impression Ning Xiaoluo had felt ever since being released from that cage. He was so moved that he started weeping openly, snot and all. “Supreme Commander, you’re such a good guy.”
Ning Xiaoyao shook her head as she faced the Dragon Guards and pointed at her temples with a finger. All of the Dragon Guards understood: that boy had mental problems.
Meanwhile, Ning Xiaoluo had taken out a jade pendant from his robes and handed it over to Lou Zigui. “This is a token of authentication from my Duke of Yue’s estate.”
Ning Xiaoyao walked over to Lou Zigui’s side with her fists clenched. “Is this jerk seriously one of the Duke of Yue’s men?”
Lou Zigui examined both sides of the jade pendant, which was fashioned into the shape of a pixiu, before returning it to its owner. In a low voice, he asked, “How could the Grand Preceptor have captured Third Young Master Ning in the first place?”
Third Young Master Ning couldn’t figure out why or how his face had provoked Grand Preceptor Xie’s ire! He shook his head and murmured, “I don’t know.”
“I do,” Ning Xiaoyao answered. “That’s because--mmph.” Supreme Commander Lou muffled His Majesty Ning’s mouth.
“The Grand Preceptor’s always dreamed of capturing forces from the military,” Lou Zigui told Ning Xiaoluo. “Perhaps you were but his first move against the Duke of Yue’s estate.”
Ning Xiaoyao’s mouth twitched. The Duke of Yue’s estate had even sent Grand Preceptor Xie a birthday present. They were on excellent terms, so why would that idiotic Ning boy believe Lou Zigui’s words?
Ning Xiaoluo only gaped at Lou Zigui, who lifted his hand to pluck a stray bristlegrass off Ning Xiaoyao’s head. Quietly, he added, “It’s best if you leave the capital quickly. You’ll be safe once you reach Fengzhou.”
“That’s right,” Ning Xiaoyao added. “Hurry and run away. The Grand Preceptor’s pretty ferocious.”
“Their, their family doesn’t have anyone who’s ever been a general. Why would Xie Wenyuan dream of holding our military forces captive?” Ning Xiaoluo suddenly lost his temper as he raised his voice. “When did our Duke of Yue’s estate ever did anything unworthy to that Xie Wenyuan?!”
Because Ning Xiaoluo had already been beaten up multiple times, blood flew from his mouth as he yelled. Lou Zigui raised a hand in front of Ning Xiaoyao to block her from the blood.
“Why is there blood?” Ning Xiaoluo wiped his mouth and ended up with a handful of the red stuff.
“Some of your teeth fell out,” Ning Xiaoyao explained.
Ning Xiaoluo glowered at Ning Xiaoyao, who simply pursed her lips. “Little doofus, you might as well find a place to hide. Then flee tomorrow as fast as you can, got it?”
Ning Xiaoluo said, “I want to go to the Grand Preceptor’s estate.”
“To seek death?” Shadowgale interrupted.
Ning Xiaoyao supplied, “Oh, that’s right. His subordinates might have gone there to look for help according to him.”
Immediately, Lou Zigui said, “If they went to the Grand Preceptor’s estate, then there’s no way they made it back out alive.”
“Those are still my guards,” Ning Xiaoluo insisted stubbornly. “I want to see them. If they’re dead, then I want to see their bodies.”
“Aren’t you afraid of dying?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
“Th, that’s why I wanted you to come with me!” Ning Xiaoluo shouted at Ning Xiaoyao.
“Do I owe you anything after saving you?!” Ning Xiaoyao roared back.
“I’ll bring you there,” Lou Zigui said as he pulled Ning Xiaoyao back before she got into yet another fight.
“Whaa?” Ning Xiaoyao said. “Are you serious?”
“How else will he believe our words unless he sees his guards’ bodies?” Lou Zigui bent down to whisper in Ning Xiaoyao’s ear.
Ning Xiaoyao said, “Is it really okay for us to trick an idiot like that?”
“Capturing military targets is a matter that concerns military strength,” Lou Zigui poked Ning Xiaoyao’s face with a finger. “We’ll talk about tonight’s events after we get back.”
Military strength was an excuse that Ning Xiaoyao couldn’t deny. She cast her conscience aside and told Ning Xiaoluo, “It’s not that you can’t go to the Grand Preceptor’s estate, but that you can’t be impulsive. You can’t implicate our Supreme Commander!”
Ning Xiaoluo stood in the rain with his swollen face, looking rather helpless.
“Let’s go,” Lou Zigui shot a glance to a Dragon Guard to give up his horse, then gestured for Ning Xiaoluo to follow him.
“You’re someone from the Black Frost Cavalry?” Ning Xiaoluo asked Ning Xiaoyao after he got on the horse. If he didn’t get a name now, how was he supposed to take his revenge in the future?
“Let’s never meet again,” Ning Xiaoyao said with a wave of her hand. “We can just forget about each other forever.”
Shadowgale struck Ning Xiaoluo’s horse with the flat end of his blade, causing it to gallop ahead. Lou Zigui brought five Dragon Guards with him to chase after Ning Xiaoluo. Once they were gone, Shadowgale asked Ning Xiaoyao, “Your Majesty, are you planning to go back to the palace?”
Ning Xiaoyao shook her head. She pointed at the body of the young man she’d left by the side of the road. “I have to bury him first.”
Because of the lack of light, none of the Dragon Guards had noticed the corpse lying beneath the eaves. Ning Xiaoyao ran to the body and pulled down the robes covering the youth’s face so Shadowgale and the others could see.
One of the Dragon Guards struck a match before immediately blowing it out. The youth’s bloody, mangled features had made them all suck in a breath. Killing someone like this was pure abuse.
“This person was--that is, this servant means to say--Your Majesty, where did you find him?” Shadowgale asked.
“At the third house on the right in Fragrant Gauze Alley,” Ning Xiaoyao replied. “It’s one of the Grand Preceptor’s properties. Head Steward Xie Laibao’s lover lives there.”
“The Grand Preceptor again?” another Dragon Guard exclaimed in alarm.
“Yeah, it’s him again,” Ning Xiaoyao replaced the robes neatly over the youth’s head. She lowered her voice and added, “I don’t know whose child he is, either. By the time I got there, he was already dead.”
Shadowgale said, “Your Majesty, you can leave this to us servants.”
“Alright,” Ning Xiaoyao nodded. In her world, the dead were always cremated. She had no idea how humans in this world buried their peers. Two Dragon Guards lifted up the youth’s body and started walking to the end of the street.
“What are they doing?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
“There’s a coffin shop down the street,” Shadowgale explained, “They’re going there to clean him up and get him a coffin so he can rest in peace.” While they were cleaning him up, they could take the chance to check his identity, too. Shadowgale shook his head with a sigh. Yet another life lost at Grand Preceptor Xie’s hands.
Ning Xiaoyao took off the large bundle on her back and handed it to Shadowgale before she whispered, “Windy, you guys go back first. I’m taking a trip to the Grand Preceptor’s estate, too.”
The heavy contents of her bundle made Shadowgale stagger in place. As soon as he regained his balance, he asked, “Your Majesty, you’re worried about Supreme Commander?”
“That’s not it,” Ning Xiaoyao shook her head. She wanted to see whether the Grand Preceptor’s estate really did hold a person who looked exactly like her.
“Then this servant shall accompany you,” Shadowgale prepared to hand off the bundle to one of his brothers.
“No need,” Ning Xiaoyao hastily waved a hand. “I have little pals at the Grand Preceptor’s estate. Windy, you guys can go on ahead first. Don’t worry about me.” As soon as she finished speaking, she left like a streak of smoke, Oil Lamp and Oil Jar safely tucked in her sleeves.
“...........” said Shadowgale and the rest. It always feels like His Majesty doesn’t need us at all. How vexing!
Currently, Grand Preceptor Xie was in his secret room within his estate, staring at a youth sitting before him. The boy’s face had been wrapped in a layer of white bandages. Sobs and whimpers came from his mouth, even as his arms and legs hung limply at his sides.
“Let me see his face,” Grand Preceptor Xie ordered the two middle-aged men standing on each side of the boy.
The two men muttered an assent before they began to remove the bandages. Grand Preceptor Xie’s fingers curled slightly as he strove to calm himself. Despite this, his expression remained completely unruffled. Around them, the candlelight flickered constantly, casting the secret room into an unsteady haze. Gradually, pale white skin was exposed beneath the bandages. Grand Preceptor Xie held his breath as the two men used scissors to cut off the last layer of cloth.
A face that exactly resembled Ning Xiaoyao’s own appeared before the Grand Preceptor’s very eyes. It had the same large, almond-shaped eyes, cheeks with hints of baby fat, and perky nose. Even the lips had the same slight pout as that damned girl.
“It actually succeeded,” Grand Preceptor Xie muttered to himself. He never expected this to work. After all, trying to recreate Ning Xiaoyao’s face on a living human being was something unimaginably queer and fantastic. His Excellency Grand Preceptor never thought that the doctors he’d hired for the job would manage to give him a completed product right in the midst of all of his troubles.
The two men retreated a few steps to stand at attention before they quietly chorused, “Congratulations, Grand Preceptor.”
Grand Preceptor Xie reached out a hand to pinch the boy’s cheeks. The smooth, glossy skin held no sign of cuts or incisions. The youth stared at the Grand Preceptor before he said, “Ahh~.” A bit of drool leaked out of the corner of his mouth.
“He’s lost his wits?” Grand Preceptor Xie asked.
“Yes,” the man on the left replied.
“He can’t move, either?” Grand Preceptor Xie looked at the boy’s weak arms.
“He’ll be able to move once the drugs wear off,” the man on the right replied.
“It’s good that he’s a fool,” Grand Preceptor Xie took out a handkerchief and wiped off the boy’s drool. Quietly, he muttered, “I’ll have you live in luxury, but I don’t need your intelligence. I only need you to be obedient and listen to me.”
The youth ahh’d a few more times as his drool increased. Grand Preceptor Xie threw away his dirty handkerchief. “I’ve already ordered men to seal off that basement. In the future, you two will stay at the estate and take care of him.”
The two men didn’t ask after the fate of their companions. After working by the Grand Preceptor’s side for so long, they’d gotten used to keeping their questions sparse.
Ning Yu, Grand Preceptor Xie thought as he stared at the boy before him, his fingers clenching into fists until the nails dug painfully into his skin. His expression was serene as he lost himself in thought. It’s about time I make that disobedient girl disappear.
A spacious covered carriage exited from a small door at the east end of the Grand Preceptor’s estate. The driver urged the horses on as he headed for the east gates of the city. Lou Zigui and his men stopped him before he reached the gates. Two Dragon Guards leapt onto the carriage and took the driver into custody. Meanwhile, another one ran to the back and lifted the felt cloth covering the entrance inside.
There were 15 corpses stacked on top of each other. Ning Xiaoluo wanted to cry out, but he had no voice.
“Death from poison,” said the Dragon Guard after turning a body upright. He pointed at the man. Blood had leaked out of all seven orifices of his head. Although the rain had washed off most of the dried blood, what remained was clearly black, instead of red. Ning Xiaoluo rushed forward and turned each of the bodies over, one by one.
“Are these your guards?” Lou Zigui asked after the boy had finished with the last body.
Ning Xiaoluo backed away a few steps before he stumbled and collapsed on the ground. He covered his face and burst into tears.
“The custom in the capital,” Lou Zigui said without helping him up, “Forbids keeping bodies in the house overnight. People will always send them away after dark. The carriages wait at the city gates until the next day, where they can quickly bury the bodies outside--or else dispose of them.”
“Why is that?” Ning Xiaoluo asked between his tears.
“I’ve already told you the reasons,” Lou Zigui said. “What, you don’t believe me?”
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