Chapter 131: The recriminating Grand Preceptor Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Grand Preceptor Xie and the officials on the scene all heard Lou Zigui’s words before looking down at the youth’s face. Now that Lou Zigui had gotten his hands out of the way, he used two fingers to tilt up the boy’s face by the chin, making it impossible for the youth to look away. Elder Li immediately grew alarmed and angry.
“Who is he?!” Elder Li demanded.
The youth had a pair of elegant eyebrows and a passing resemblance to Ning Xiaoyao, but they were clearly two completely different people. Anyone who thought this was Ning Xiaoyao herself had to be blind. Grand Preceptor Xie brushed the youth’s face before he started rubbing the skin like mad. His forceful actions turned the boy’s skin red, causing him to start crying from the pain. He struggled and tried to break free from the Grand Preceptor’s grasp.
The crowd noticed something off about his movements, and one minister remarked, “His arms and legs are disabled?”
Lou Zigui pinched the boy’s arm and said coldly, “His bones are intact.”
If his bones are intact, then why can’t he move properly? All of the people in the hall fixed their questioning gazes on Grand Preceptor Xie. It was hard to describe what the old Grand Preceptor was feeling at this moment, but he couldn’t believe this was happening. Despite this, the voice inside his head was telling him that everything had gone completely different from his plans. How is this possible? Grand Preceptor Xie questioned himself. Did Ning Yu’s men switch the doppelganger after he was delivered into the ancestral hall? No, that’s impossible. This boy, the Grand Preceptor stared at the youth again. This boy’s clothing and body proportions are exactly identical to the person I saw in the secret chamber!
“Grand Preceptor,” Lou Zigui spoke, “Shouldn’t you give us an explanation?”
Elder Li was still furious. “Xie Wenyuan, where is His Majesty?!”
Grand Preceptor Xie found himself speechless.
“Lou Zigui,” Elder Li next turned to Supreme Commander Lou and posed the exact same question. “Where is His Majesty?”
At this moment, all of the officials and ministers felt the ground beneath their feet shake. They hurriedly scattered to the fringes, looking dumbfounded at the glossy floor. By now, Ning Xiaoyao had failed to break out of the underground chamber for the second time in a row. She was currently catching her breath. The slab of stone above her was way too heavy to move aside, causing her no end of distress. She had shouted for Supreme Commander at the top of her lungs, only to get no reply. So much for always staying by my side!
Alright, they want Miss Ning, ah, in truth Supreme Commander Lou was standing right above her, so he was quite nearby. He just couldn’t hear her shouts. Lou Zigui started walking towards the altar instead. Miss Ning had told him that the secret switch was located in the left leg of the altar table.
Meanwhile, Ning Xiaoyao gathered all her strength and prepared for a final leap. If I can’t get out this time, I’ll just bash my head against the wall and die instead!
Lou Zigui’s hand grasped the left table leg. The eunuch hiding beneath the altar held a knife in his hand and aimed it at Lou Zigui’s fingers. The plan had fallen to pieces by now, but if he killed Lou Zigui for Grand Preceptor Xie’s sake, perhaps the latter would spare his life. At the same time Lou Zigui turned the table leg clockwise, the eunuch raised his poison-tipped dagger and Ning Xiaoyao’s fist smashed against the floor tile above her head.
There was a explosion before minute cracks spread across the surface of the floor tile like a spiderweb. As the crackling noises intensified, the floor broke apart and sent pieces of stray rock tumbling into the underground chamber.
Everyone in the ancestral hall was left gaping at the sight.
“Pfft, pah, pah,” Ning Xiaoyao stood on the edge of the hole, spitting out the rock dust that had gotten into her mouth as she dusted herself off.
“You--” Grand Preceptor Xie looked like he’d seen a ghost. How could she still be alive?!
Lou Zigui stared at Ning Xiaoyao long enough to make sure she was alright before lifting up the green cloth over the altar table. Beneath it laid the eunuch, completely unconscious and sporting a giant bump on his head. One of the rocks from Ning Xiaoyao’s impactful punch had knocked him out cold. (o(╯□╰)o) By his side was a sharp knife, its edges a dark moss green beneath the candlelight. Lou Zigui’s gaze grew cold as he realized the man had been trying to take his life.
“Your Majesty!” Elder Li ran to Ning Xiaoyao’s side.
Ning Xiaoyao waved a hand at Elder Li. “Oh, old gramps. You came too?”
“.......” said Elder Li.
“............” said the rest of the officials and ministers.
There were people in the world whose sole reason for existence was ruining the mood--for example, His Majesty Ning. Right now, everyone was in a state of anxiety, complete with sweaty palms and shortness of breath. But what did this emperor say to Elder Li? ‘You came too?’ Elder Li had long been standing at the head of the stairs. Didn’t you even notice him as you walked in?
Grand Preceptor Xie quickly turned around and gave a significant look to one of his subordinates standing by the door. The man in question silently ran off. Meanwhile, Shadowgale and his men poured into the ancestral hall, with the head commander personally wresting the doppelganger from Grand Preceptor Xie’s hands.
Empress Dowager Xie was left at a loss. In fact, she had trouble understanding what had just happened. Father only used someone with a passing resemblance to Ning Yu to replace her? Has he gone mad?!
“Your Majesty, what’s the meaning of this?” Elder Li asked.
Ning Xiaoyao pointed to the unconscious eunuch beneath the altar. “Don’t you guys see him?” A living, breathing human had fainted away, but why didn’t anyone care about him? Elder Li wanted to beat Ning Xiaoyao up. Who cares about an unconscious eunuch at a time like this?! Ning Xiaoyao observed Elder Li’s face, which looked like it’d been drenched in ink, his expression was so black. She silently backed up a few steps. If he really puts up his fists at me, I can’t fight back. But I’m not stupid enough to just let him beat me up!
“Speak!” Elder Li roared at Ning Xiaoyao. One of the ministers behind Elder Li tugged on his sleeve. Elder Li, your disciples are sweating. That’s His Majesty, not your own grandson!
“Wha, what’s going on?” Ning Xiaoyao asked Grand Preceptor Xie. She’d like to see what the old geezer would say this time.
Grand Preceptor Xie crawled up from the ground and appear to rejoice at the sight of Ning Xiaoyao. “Thank the Heavens, Your Majesty is alright!”
Ning Xiaoyao went (#‵′)凸. Old geezer, you’re completely shameless!
Lou Zigui walked to Ning Xiaoyao’s side and noticed she had dust on the back of her head. He couldn’t resist lifting a hand to gently pat it away, thus dusting her off. Now much of the other officials and ministers were just as angry as Elder Li. Isn’t it time to offer explanations now? Supreme Commander, now’s not the time to dust off His Majesty’s head!
“Don’t talk nonsense to me,” Ning Xiaoyao told Grand Preceptor Xie. “Speak up, how are you going to explain all this?”
Grand Preceptor Xie apologized instead. “Your Majesty, this subject deserves death. This subject saw this criminal dressed in the dragon robes with similar proportions to Your Majesty, and so my old eyes mistook him for Your Majesty.”
Ning Xiaoyao was now thoroughly convinced that the old Xie geezer had no sense of shame at all!
“Who’s a criminal? Who did you say was a criminal?” Ning Xiaoyao rolled up her sleeves. There was no need for any further conversation; she’d just murder this old geezer instead.
Grand Preceptor Xie said, “Your Majesty, just what happened here? Why is there an underground chamber in the ancestral hall, and why was Your Majesty in it, and why was this criminal kneeling in the hall in your place while dressed in dragon robes?”
“You’re asking me?” Ning Xiaoyao exclaimed.
Grand Preceptor Xie was all innocence. “This subject deserves death, but this subject begs Your Majesty to dispel all doubts.”
Dispel doubts your sister! Ning Xiaoyao rushed forward to slaughter Grand Preceptor Xie, but Lou Zigui held her back.
“What!?” Ning Xiaoyao hissed as she turned back, filled with killing intent.
“Does Your Majesty want a war to break out instantly by killing him now?” Lou Zigui murmured softly.
Ning Xiaoyao was furious. “If it’s war, so be it!” She couldn’t live like this anymore. If that old Xie geezer didn’t die today, she’d die instead.
Lou Zigui said, “We only have the imperial guards on our side and 500 Dragon Guards. Xiaoyao, have you forgotten? Xie Wenyuan’s already transferred more troops into the capital.”
Ning Xiaoyao looked at Lou Zigui.
Lou Zigui said, “Unless it’s a matter of life and death, Xiaoyao, you have to endure it.”
Ning Xiaoyao clutched her head and squatted on the ground. The fact that she couldn’t do as she liked was already horrible enough! Meanwhile, everyone else stared at Ning Xiaoyao and wondered what was the matter.
“You--just what did you tell His Majesty?” Elder Li demanded.
Lou Zigui didn’t get to speak before Grand Preceptor Xie beat him to it. “Could it be, could it be that His Majesty is playing a prank on we ministers?”
“Enough already,” Ning Xiaoyao said, “Do you think you’re the only smart one here, and the rest of us all idiots, Grand Preceptor Xie?”
Grand Preceptor Xie knew that Lou Zigui didn’t want to fight to the death with him the moment the man held back Ning Xiaoyao. Since his life wasn’t in danger anymore, he quickly struck against Ning Xiaoyao by declaring, “Your Majesty, this is the Grand Sacrificial Hall. How could you...how could you--aye!” Grand Preceptor Xie sighed and looked the part of someone anxious for His Majesty to grow up and mature.
Elder Li walked in front of Ning Xiaoyao and glared coldly at Grand Preceptor Xie. “Xie Wenyuan, what do you want to say? This can’t be a joke from His Majesty. I’m sure you know exactly what you did!”
Ning Xiaoyao stuck her head out from behind Elder Li to nod in agreement. That’s right!
Grand Preceptor Xie sighed again. “Elder, I know you’re guarding His Majesty, but how are we supposed to proceed with the Grand Sacrificial Ceremony with His Majesty like this?”
“The floor is damaged,” one of the ministers from the Grand Preceptor’s faction reminded them.
Grand Preceptor Xie looked pained. “Your Majesty, this is the resting grounds of the previous emperors. You…” He trailed off into yet another sigh and didn’t continue, but everyone knew what he meant to say. Your Majesty, how could you cause such trouble with your mischief?
Ning Xiaoyao twisted her head to look at Lou Zigui. “Even if I can’t kill him, can’t I at least rough him up a bit?”
Long Zigui grasped Ning Xiaoyao’s hand and said, “Investigate. Look into the young man’s origins and see who brought him into the ancestral hall. And see where the dragon robes on his body came from.”
“That’s right, investigate him!” Ning Xiaoyao said, “Since we conveniently have a criminal here anyways.”
Everyone quickly turned to see the unconscious eunuch beneath the altar, who chose this time to wake up. Lou Zigui issued orders, “Someone come, apprehend that knave!”
Dragon Guards rushed towards the altar. The eunuch wanted to flee on instinct, but tripped over a rock underfoot and tumbled into the underground chamber instead. There was a wretched scream before everything turned silent. Shadowgale came forward and peered down into the shaft, before tossing a burning booklet down the hole. The space inside was completely empty, with no sign of the eunuch to be seen.
“Is there another secret switch inside that chamber?” one of the ministers asked in astonishment.
“.........” said Ning Xiaoyao. Shoot, I forgot that old geezer sprinkled that melting poison into the underground chamber.
“Those are sunflower seeds. And also, peanut shells?” another minister said doubtfully after staring into the opening for awhile.
“And a puddle of water,” yet another minister remarked. Ning Xiaoyao sniffed a few times. That puddle was none other than the eunuch. What a strange and miraculous poison that was. It was capable of melting through metal and human flesh, but left the sunflower seeds and peanut shells untouched.
Grand Preceptor Xie approached the opening and glanced inside at the mixture of red and yellow liquids pooling at the bottom, before looking at Ning Xiaoyao like he’d seen a monster. Indeed, the bottom of the shaft had been lined with poison powder strong enough to melt away skin, flesh, and bones. But how could this wretched girl still be unharmed?!
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