Chapter 114: Supreme Commander says, you have to return them Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
“Then...then what should I do now? I’ve already taken it apart,” Ning Xiaoyao asked anxiously. Make me pay Grand Preceptor Xie for repairs? I’d rather go back to my world of zombies!
Lou Zigui leaned forward slightly to cover Ning Xiaoyao as much as he possibly could from the rain. “Over time, it’s likely that archway would’ve broken down after constant rainstorms any way.”
Broken down? Ning Xiaoyao dug her fingers into her palms. That’s right, why didn’t I think of a reason like that?
“Actually, it’s not very effective if you take it down by night,” Lou Zigui added.
Ning Xiaoyao didn’t understand. “Then should I take it down during the day?”
“Find a chance to issue an imperial decree. Denounce the Grand Preceptor for being unworthy of an imperial archway and make the Xie Clan dismantle it themselves,” Lou Zigui said. “Then, have them send the timber, brick, and tiles back, untouched, to the imperial family. That’s a sure way to make them miserable.”
Ning Xiaoyao sucked in a breath as three words appeared in her head: You’re. So. Venomous!
“Have you committed my words to your memory?” Lou Zigui lowered his head to rest his chin on Ning Xiaoyao’s head.
“I have,” Ning Xiaoyao nodded docilely. It looked like Supreme Commander Lou was even better at face-slapping than she was. When she recalled the huge debt of blood between them, she couldn’t help but wonder how Supreme Commander would slap her face in the future.
“Why did you smash Tao Chen?” Lou Zigui asked. He hadn’t noticed Ning Xiaoyao’s inner grief.
“He’s already made plans with the Grand Preceptor,” Ning Xiaoyao rallied her spirits to speak again. “The Grand Preceptor came up with the idea, while Tao Chen’s going to put it into action. They want to murder Qin Xuan and Miss A’Xin.”
“Oh,” Lou Zigui said quietly before he fell silent. Wracked with a guilty conscience for her father’s misdeeds, Ning Xiaoyao kept quiet, as well.
“Human lives are worthless,” Lou Zigui muttered to himself when he saw the imperial palace before them. Even in the rain, it was well-lit with lanterns.
“They’re not worthless,” Ning Xiaoyao lifted her head to look at him, her face serious. “They’re worth a lot.”
Lou Zigui lowered his head and saw the same set of eyes he’d seen in his dream: round, innocent, and completely ignorant.
“Supreme Commander, you can’t say things like that in the future,” Ning Xiaoyao said. When she thought of Supreme Commander’s deformed, possibly still-living older brother currently suffering in Northern Hu, her heart throbbed with discomfort again. She hung her head and murmured, “In, in any case, humans have to find a way to keep living. They can only find hope when they’re alive. They’ll have nothing if they die.”
“Even if they’re living a life like pigs or dogs?” Lou Zigui asked.
Ning Xiaoyao blinked. “If pigs and dogs can live, why not humans?”
“...........” said Lou Zigui.
“I’ll do my best,” Ning Xiaoyao clenched her fists. Her words were meant for herself as much as Supreme Commander. People had to keep on living and fight for the life they wanted to have. This way, they’d be able to die without any regrets. Everyone in the apocalypse followed such beliefs. Ning Xiaoyao emerged from her difficulties ready to do battle again. Being sad was useless; it was more respectable to fight monsters and save people.
Lou Zigui gave a soundless sigh. He lowered his head and rubbed his chin against Ning Xiaoyao’s wet hair, feeling helpless against the girl in his arms. Perhaps this was enough for now. He brought her on horseback into the palace gates and headed directly for Supreme Splendor Hall.
There was a mama from the empress dowager’s palace waiting in front of the gates. When she saw Ning Xiaoyao approach, she quickly kneeled on the ground. After two mama had suffered at the empress’s palace that day, this mama was trembling with fright. She was worried that one little mistake would end up triggering Ning Xiaoyao.
“What’s going on now?” Ning Xiaoyao grew exasperated as soon as she found out the mama had come from the empress dowager.
“Your Majesty, Esteemed Empress Dowager’s palace had a leak in the roof,” the mama replied.
Ning Xiaoyao’s eyes spun. She remembered how she’d forgotten to replace the roof tile over the empress dowager’s quarters after spying on her. Lou Zigui said coldly, “Does Esteemed Empress Dowager want His Majesty to fix her roof overnight?”
“Th-that’s right,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “Does she want me to climb on the roof and fix her house? I’m the emperor, alright? Can an emperor hold two jobs as a sovereign and a tiler?”
“............” said everyone at the Supreme Splendor Hall. There’s no such thing.
The mama kowtowed to Ning Xiaoyao and said, “Your Majesty, the rainwater ruined three chests of Esteemed Empress Dowager’s dance clothes. They were given to her by the late emperor. Because of this, Esteemed Empress Dowager was so saddened that she fainted away. The Imperial Physician Courtyard’s already sent people over to look.”
Ning Xiaoyao was beginning to suspect she’d heard the wrong thing. Dance clothes? She fainted for three chests’ worth of dance clothes? Is this a joke?
The mama was already wiping away her tears by now. “Your Majesty, the late emperor personally bought those clothes for Esteemed Empress Dowager. It’s one of the memories he left behind for the empress dowager. Esteemed Empress Dowager…”
“Enough already,” Ning Xiaoyao curled her lips contemptuously. “He’s long dead and she’s still feeling lovesick? What was she doing while he was alive?”
Everyone else stood silently on the sides, pretending they hadn’t heard a word.
“What exactly did you find me for?” Ning Xiaoyao asked the somewhat stunned looking mama. She wasn’t a tiler or a tailor, so what could she even do to help?
The mama said, “Esteemed Empress Dowager fainted, so we servants must report it to Your Majesty.” Your own mother lost consciousness. We’re only servants, so are we supposed to hide that it ever happened? The mama not only felt wronged, but angry as well. Why is it so hard to serve one’s master?!
“Oh, so that’s it,” Ning Xiaoyao pulled the mama to her feet. “Then go back and tell the empress dowager that it’s too late to express her love now. Have her wash up and go to bed first. That there, my imperial father has the empress and the crown prince to keep him company on the other side. He’s perfectly fine.”
“......” said the mama.
“.............” said everyone else. Are you condemning that mama to death, or the empress dowager?
“Dance clothes,” Ning Xiaoyao’s expression fell as she stalked into the Supreme Splendor Hall, muttering to herself. “Can’t you dance in any clothes you like? She really has a peculiar way of thinking.”
Everyone else followed His Majesty inside, leaving the mama to stand alone by the gates, dazed. Esteemed Empress Dowager hadn’t fainted away just because her dance clothes had been ruined! When she recalled the empress dowager’s instructions, then looked back at the retreating Ning Xiaoyao, she braced herself and chased after the emperor.
Ning Xiaoyao was about to lose her patience when she saw her. “You still have business with me?”
The mama fell to her knees in the rain. “Your Majesty, Esteemed Empress Dowager suspects that someone lifted a tile off the roof on purpose.”
Ning Xiaoyao chuckled. So that’s the main point.
“Who would have the gall?” Lou Zigui asked.
The mama remained kneeling and simply shook her head.
“It’s been a long time,” Ning Xiaoyao said, “And it’s been raining constantly, right? The roof simply broke, that’s all. If there’s nothing suspicious, why is the empress dowager scaring herself over nothing?”
Lou Zigui rubbed his nose after hearing Ning Xiaoyao paraphrasing his words. The mama hastened to speak, “Your Majesty, an eunuch went up to the roof to check. Only one tile on the roof was missing. It, it doesn’t look like it broke.”
In the future, I’ll have to remember to remove a few more tiles, Ning Xiaoyao mentally reminded herself. “Then you’ll have to ask the roof about that. I haven’t been to the empress dowager’s palace before, so how am I supposed to know why the roof was only missing one tile?”
The mama was floored once again. No matter how reasonably she spoke, it was useless against someone who was a rascal. Moreover, this rascal was none other than the emperor, so she couldn’t say anything else.
“Have the empress dowager wash up and sleep first. Does she still think she’s some sort of 18-year old blossom? Are people still crying and shouting just for a peek at her?” Ning Xiaoyao waved a hand at the mama. “Don’t treat a broken roof tile like the apocalypse. See you later.”
Everyone cast sidelong glances at Ning Xiaoyao, who still had Supreme Commander’s outer robes draped over her shoulders. Are you cursing the empress dowager to death again?
As everyone else followed Ning Xiaoyao into the covered walkway and vanished, the mama from the empress dowager’s palace was left standing blankly in the rain. What ‘apocalypse?’ Ah no, that’s not right. How am I supposed to relay this message to Esteemed Empress Dowager?!
Ning Xiaoyao soundly kicked the door open and entered the main hall of her palace. She gave a sneeze before she called for Shadowgale. “Windy, where’s the giant bundle I told you to bring back?”
Shadowgale ran behind a folding screen before he dragged out the big package. Erya and Xiaoqiu diligently trailed after him.
“There’s so many beads, Your Majesty! So many beads!” Erya waved her hands in delight.
“Really?” Ning Xiaoyao ran forward and undid the knot on the bundle. Then she lifted the lid off a chest and saw a chest full of cat’s eye stones that nearly blinded her with their radiance. She straightened her back and calmed down before her trembling hand opened the second chest. This one was filled to the brim with jades and agates, which left her vision blind once more. “We’ve, we’ve struck it rich,” she stuttered.
Lou Zigui strode forward and picked up the oil-paper package before dumping out its contents. First came the silver drafts, which Supreme Commander Lou set in a thick stack on a tea table. Then came the letters, which Supreme Commander Lou looked through meticulously, one by one. Ning Xiaoyao scampered over to the tea table and began counting the silver drafts, trying to see how much money she had picked up this time.
The Dragon Guards joined Erya and her brother to stare at the two chests filled with treasure. They wouldn’t be able to earn this much even if they worked for their entire lives.
Ning Xiaoyao finished tallying the money and returned to the chests, her back straight and her face smug. “There’s 30,000 taels’ worth of silver drafts there. We’re rich again!”
Everyone mentally prostrated themselves before His Majesty. Ning Xiaoyao was even glowing in their eyes by now, her halo everlasting!
Ning Xiaoyao casually picked up a cat’s eye and asked Shadowgale, “Windy, how much would these sell for?”
Shadowgale shook his head. He really had no idea.
“We’ll save some to use for Erya’s dowry,” Ning Xiaoyao stroked Erya’s hair, which was still an unhealthy, yellowish hue. “The rest we can sell off for money.”
The Dragon Guards all looked at Erya and her yellowing hair. His Majesty really has foresight. He’s already thinking of Erya’s marriage affairs.
“Erya, you choose,” Ning Xiaoyao said with all the airs of a nouveau riche. “Take anything you like.”
Erya looked timidly at the two chests full of treasures. She thought that every one of them looked nice, so it was hard to pick any one of them. Ning Xiaoyao pointed out a few pieces. “Choose the big ones. They’re worth more money.”
Shadowthunder shook his head. “Your Majesty, these cat’s eye stones all look about the same size.”
Ning Xiaoyao then asked Shadowgale, “Which one’s worth more, the cat’s eye stones or the jade and agate?”
Immediately, the people in the room split into two factions. There were those who supported the cat’s eyes, and those who supported the jade and agate. Neither side could win over the other as their arguments grew louder and more contentious. Ning Xiaoyao saw that the two factions of Dragon Guards were about to come to blows and couldn’t help but feel vexed. That’s the fate of the poor. We can’t tell what’s valuable and what’s not. If we could, our nouveau riche wouldn’t have so many troubles.
Lou Zigui put down the letter in his hand and spoke one line: “We can’t accept these things. We need to return them.”
All the talking ceased in the room. Ning Xiaoyao stiffened as she turned around, the cat’s eye in her hand clattering back into the chest. “Whaa?” His Majesty Ning asked.
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