Chapter 122: Sacrificial ceremony or fierce fight? Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
“Go back and tell her I don’t know a thing,” Ning Xiaoyao told the mama. “You can’t sow discord between this mother and son. Just lie to her with goodwill.”
The mama from the empress dowager’s palace felt like dying. If you don’t want Esteemed Empress Dowager to know, why did you admit it in the first place? Lie to Esteemed Empress Dowager? Then I might as well go die.
Ning Xiaoyao didn’t wait for the mama to answer, but kept moving forward. When she recalled how a single pebble kicked with her foot had caused so much unhappiness for Empress Dowager Xie, then felt the five silver drafts hidden in her sleeve, Ning Xiaoyao felt happy enough to croon a song. Today’s a good day!
Lou Zigui listened to Miss Ning sing on about zombies on one side and sabers on the other. Supreme Commander Lou knew what sabers were, but what the heck are zombies? He checked to see that everyone else was keeping a good distance from them before asking in a small voice, “What’s a zombie?”
Ning Xiaoyao was in the middle of singing about sabers hacking at zombies while kicking aside stray pebbles. She stopped at the question and furrowed her eyebrows, before giving Lou Zigui a troubled look. “They don’t exist in this world.”
How would you know about them if they don’t exist in this world? Does that even make sense? Lou Zigui wanted to say something else, but he wasn’t sure what.
“Urk, they’re a type of brain dead monster with still living bodies that want to eat human flesh. You can call them the living dead if you want,” Ning Xiaoyao explained as they walked along.
Lou Zigui could only agree that such things really didn’t seem to exist in this world.
“Under no means should those kind of monsters exist,” Ning Xiaoyao told Lou Zigui seriously. “Definitely not.”
Lou Zigui silently walked ahead for a while before he patted Ning Xiaoyao on the head. “In the future, don’t listen to such strange and fantastical stories.”
Ning Xiaoyao shrugged. She knew nobody would believe her if she told them. (Author: How do you expect Supreme Commander to believe you when he’s never seen them for himself?)
At the same time, Shadowrain was speaking to Grand Preceptor Xie in front of the palace gates.
“His Majesty says he’s very busy, and that Grand Preceptor should continue his reflections back home.”
Grand Preceptor Xie put on a pained smile as he knelt to receive the decree. Then he asked, “Then how is His Majesty planning to deal with my son?”
“.........” said Shadowrain. Darn it, His Majesty didn’t say.
“What orders does His Majesty have?” Grand Preceptor Xie asked again when Shadowrain didn’t answer.
Shadowrain cleared his throat. “His Majesty will naturally issue a decree regarding the matter. Grand Preceptor, why don’t you go on home first.”
Grand Preceptor Xie nodded before turning to climb into his palatial sedan chair. Shadowrain glanced over to see Third Young Master Xie and his completely unrecognizable face. His Majesty wasn’t present right now, so the Third Commander of the Dragon Guards wasn’t brazen enough to laugh at Xie Anshi. However, his eyes, full of amusement, had already provoked the other man.
“Let’s go,” Grand Preceptor Xie turned back to call his son back before he lost his temper. Xie Anshi glared at Shadowrain, who lowered his head in response. I can’t wait and see how His Majesty kills off the Xie Clan once and for all!
After settling in his sedan chair, Grand Preceptor Xie lifted the curtains to peer at the palace gates. In the past, he could come and leave as he wished, but now that was impossible. When the palace sedan chair went past Elder Li, its occupant stamped his foot against the floor. The four sedan chair bearers immediately stopped moving. Elder Li looked at Grand Preceptor Xie without saying a word or even uttering a single greeting. His expression didn’t change either, but he stimply stood there waiting for Grand Preceptor Xie to speak.
Grand Preceptor Xie cupped his hands from inside the carriage in order to greet Elder Li. “His Majesty can dismiss the assembly, but he’ll still have to show himself at the grand ceremony in honor of the Heavens in two days. His Majesty is currently cross with this old man, so I ask that Elder Li remind His Majesty in his stead.”
Elder Li replied coldly, “His Majesty is wise and brilliant. How could he possibly forget about the Grand Sacrificial Ceremony? If you’ve thought over your mistakes, you should set your mind at rest instead.”
Grand Preceptor Xie didn’t get mad at Elder Li’s words, but simply smiled and cupped his hands again before lowering the curtain and stamping his feet anew. The sedan bearers carried him away before Elder Li finally approached Shadowrain. “Has His Majesty already prepared sufficiently for the Grand Sacrificial Ceremony in two days’ time?”
“..........” said Shadowrain. He’d never heard His Majesty mention the event.
“If His Majesty isn’t busy, please ask him to summon the astrologers the to the palace for an audience,” Elder Li said.
“Yes,” Shadowrain said with a bow. Elder Li glanced at one of the astrologers waiting to one side before turning to leave with a sigh. Shadowrain exchanged glances with the members of the astronomy department for a bit before scratching his head and deciding to go and ask His Majesty first.
“His Majesty couldn’t have forgotten, could he?” one of Elder Li’s disciples murmured in a small voice. Over the past few days, they’d only heard news of the desperate struggles between His Majesty and Grand Preceptor Xie, and nothing about meeting with the astrologers.
“He wouldn’t have,” Elder Li chose to believe in Ning Xiaoyao. “His Majesty is wise and brilliant, so how could he ever forget?”
“What’s a Grand Sacrificial Ceremony?” asked the Ning Xiaoyao who was so trusted by Elder Li from her seat in Supreme Splendor Hall.
Shadowrain fell silent. As he had expected, His Majesty had forgotten about it entirely. Sitting by Ning Xiaoyao’s side was Lou Zigui, who knitted his brows. Because he’d been too busy with the current matters at hand, he’d completely forgotten about the ceremony.
“It’s when Your Majesty goes to the ancestral hall to make offerings to Heaven on its altar after ascending the throne. There’s also offerings to all the previous emperors, too,” Shadowrain summarized.
“Do we burn incense?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
Shadowrain hastily shook his head. “That’s not it, ah. Your Majesty, it’s…” Shadowrain was at a loss for words. He was only a Dragon Guard who knew martial arts, so how should he know about the sacrificial rites to the Heavens?
“How about summoning the astrologers into the palace?” Lou Zigui suggested. There were some things that had to be done regardless, such as sacrifices to the Heavens. Soon enough, Shadowrain had led the astrologers to wait outside one of the wings in Supreme Splendor Hall. Lou Zigui spoke a few words with Shadowgale in the walkway before entering the wing and telling Ning Xiaoyao, “The Dragon Guards who followed Ning Xiaoluo have returned. I’m going to meet with them, so will you be fine on your own here?”
Ning Xiaoyao blinked before glancing at the astrologers gathered outside the doors. Astonished, she asked, “What could happen to me? Would those astrologers try to beat me up?”
Lou Zigui sighed and said, “You can’t hit them.”
“Can’t I fight back if they hit me?”
“They wouldn’t dare, and they won’t try to hit you in the first place,” Lou Zigui couldn’t bear it anymore and rapped his knuckles against Ning Xiaoyao’s head. This girl really tires me out. “You can’t raise your hands against other people. Definitely not.” Lou Zigui stressed. After some thought, he still felt worried and so he added, “Everything in this room is worth money. If you break anything, you’ll have to pay money to buy their replacements.”
“I won’t hit anyone,” Ning Xiaoyao shook her head. Anything that involved spending money was a heartbreaking business. Moreover, why would she hit anyone who didn’t attack her first? “I’m not someone that unreasonable,” Ning Xiaoyao rolled her eyes at Lou Zigui.
“No matter what, you mustn’t fight,” Lou Zigui said.
“.........” said Ning Xiaoyao. If this keeps on, I won’t be able to hold back. Is it so hard to trust me?
When Lou Zigui left the wing, all of the astrologers bowed before his presence without looking at him. According to modern conventions, these types of officials were all a bit mysterious and strange. It was impossible for a man like Lou Zigui, who’d been decreed as a star of disaster, to see on the same plane as those mystic types.
“Come in,” Ning Xiaoyao called from inside the wing. The astrologers entered the room and prepared to bow again when Ning Xiaoyao waved her hand. “No need to waste time with kowtows, let’s talk business.”
Her first words were enough to stupefy the astrologers. The rites of greeting between sovereign and subject were a waste of time?
“People like you hurt Windy and the rest,” Ning Xiaoyao said as she scanned the astrologers in front, finding them all to be familiar faces. That night at the Hall of Punishment, they’d been present at the scene. Meanwhile, the astrologers were all staring in astonishment at Ning Xiaoyao. Who’s Windy?
Shadowgale coughed softly from his position by Ning Xiaoyao’s side. The astrologers looked at him before realizing who he was. The head astrologer hastened to explain, “Your Majesty, we subjects were only following the empress dowager’s decree that night at the Hall of Punishment. We subjects--”
“Enough, enough, enough,” Ning Xiaoyao said, “So you’ve all sided with the empress dowager, I get it.”
None of the astrologers got it. Just what did he understand?
“Speak up, what’s the deal with the offerings to Heaven?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
The head astrologer never expected a question like that, and blurted out, “Your Majesty doesn’t know anything about the heavenly offerings?”
Ning Xiaoyao stared at him. “Did I break the law just because I don’t know?”
You didn’t, but how can you not know what the offering to Heaven is? All of the astrologers shared the same thought at they looked at Ning Xiaoyao.
“You can’t say?” Ning Xiaoyao looked at the head astrologer. A total of seven people had come in, but only this one had spoken up. Without a doubt, he had to be the biggest boss of them all. (Author: So that’s how you judge for leaders.)
The head astrologer spent an entire hour explaining the particulars of the Grand Sacrificial Ceremony, then another hour defining how to sacrifice to one’s ancestors. At the end of it all, Ning Xiaoyao nodded and told Shadowrain, “What I said before wasn’t wrong. It’s just burning incense.” Lighting incense and saying prayers was basically burning incense all rolled into one.
The dry-mouthed head astrologer suddenly felt an urge to go die. It’d be better if he could bring His Majesty with him on the journey. Shadowrain lowered his head. I didn’t hear anything!
“Your Excellency, ah, tell me how the whole thing flows,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “What time do I have to get out of bed? When I can eat? And when do I get to come back to sleep?”
The head astrologer sucked in a breath and kneeled before Ning Xiaoyao. “Your Majesty, making offerings to Heaven and paying respects to your ancestors requires a genuine, sincere heart. That’s the only way to make sure the Heavens and late emperors will protect and shield Your Majesty.”
“Heheh,” said Ning Xiaoyao. If there were so many gods and ancestors keeping watch, would Yongning be in such dire states now? You’re fooling me.
The head astrologer didn’t know why Ning Xiaoyao was laughing, but he could sense the dark mood behind her chuckle.
“Will the empress dowager and Grand Preceptor be present then as well?” Ning Xiaoyao suddenly asked.
The head astrologer replied, “The Grand Preceptor isn’t required to attend, but the empress dowager is Your Majesty’s imperial mother and will need to stay by Your Majesty’s side.”
“Is that so? Fine, I know how things stand now,” Ning Xiaoyao nodded. The astrologers were left with an irascible mood. Just what do you understand now?
Ning Xiaoyao glanced over at Shadowrain. Grand Preceptor Xie had been the first one to worry about the Grand Sacrificial Ceremony. What did that mean? That Grand Preceptor Xie was very likely to replace her with her doppelganger on the day of the ceremony.
The Grand Sacrificial Ceremony. Ning Xiaoyao dug her fingers into her palms. Rather than burning incense, it’s going to be another fierce fight. How are Grand Preceptor Xie and Empress Dowager Xie planning to replace me?
By now, the head astrologer had moved on to say, “Your Majesty will have to enter the main room of the ancestral hall and approach the altar by yourself.”
By myself? Ning Xiaoyao stopped scratching her palms. If the villain hadn’t escaped, he’d wait until the victim was alone before making his move. The moment she entered that ancestral hall alone would be the chance that father and daughter pair needed to act against her.
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