Chapter 140: Supreme Commander Lou helps His Majesty change clothes Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Everyone else in the room wore complicated expressions after hearing Elder Li tell His Majesty to offer his condolences over at the Grand Preceptor’s estate. Can you make His Majesty guarantee that nothing will happen when he visits the Grand Preceptor’s estate? Your Excellency Elder Li, you don’t care just how big of a ruckus you end up causing, do you?
Ning Xiaoyao sat there thinking about funeral rites from her old world. You could forget about the ones who lost their bodies after death--like those who buried themselves with the zombies after detonating an antitank grenade--but anyone with a corpse left intact was lit on fire and cremated. Does Elder Li mean that I have to go to the Grand Preceptor’s estate and make sure they burn up the old madame’s corpse? (Author: Do you believe me when I say that the Xie Clan would kill you for doing that? ╮(╯﹏╰）╭ )
“Do I have to go?” Ning Xiaoyao asked Elder Li plaintively.
“No one will say anything if Your Majesty is unwilling to go,” Elder Li said, “But still, the old madame was your senior. No matter what kind of relationship Your Majesty and the Grand Preceptor have, Your Majesty is simply expressing filial piety if you go to send off old madame on her final journey.”
Then, that means I have to go, Ning Xiaoyao thought as she pursed her lips. First, I’ll ask around to make sure I’m familiar with funeral rites in this world. Even though both worlds had humans, the ones on this side were more unreasonable and particular with details. “That there, I…” Ning Xiaoyao wanted to ask.
“Your Majesty should refer to yourself with ‘Zhen,’” Elder Li cut her off. “Using ‘guaren’[1. guaren (寡人) - literally means ‘your unworthy king,’ another personal pronoun reserved for emperors. You can see it in action in certain drama series, such as with King Ying Zheng in The King’s Woman.] works as well.” The old man had put up with Ning Xiaoyao using “I” here and “I” there from day to night for a long time now.
“Your Majesty!” Elder Li’s voice turned stern.
“Isn’t it just a form of address?” Ning Xiaoyao still wouldn’t give in. I’ve used ‘I’ for 18 years already, so why do I have to call myself ‘Zhen’ now? Don’t I have any freedom as the emperor? Where’s my respect and dignity from them? Dangit!
“Your Majesty, you cannot discard the simple courtesies,” Elder Li said severely.
“Speaking of that, what’s a guaren (寡人)?” Ning Xiaoyao said after silently repeating Zhen and guaren to herself. “Are you saying that emperors can gua ren (剐人)--cut people to pieces--as they like after taking the throne?” She glanced over at Supreme Commander Lou, recalling the first time she’d seen him on the execution platform, cut and bloody.
“Your Majesty, guaren, in this instance, refers to dujia guaren (独家寡人)--a person isolated from the people, a king that rules above them--not the gua (剐) you find in guaxing (剐刑), or execution by dismemberment,” one of the officials explained for Ning Xiaoyao’s benefit.
“Dujia guaren (独家寡人), like the gua in guafu (寡妇)--a widow?” Ning Xiaoyao stared at Elder Li as she added. “I’m an emperor, but I still have to refer to myself as a widow?”
“.......” said everyone else. How they wanted to cry and laugh at the same time. What to do? Elder Li watched Ning Xiaoyao’s wide-eyed stare and puffy cheeks. It didn’t look like His Majesty was pretending to be a fool, but how there could there someone who didn’t know what a guaren (寡人) was?! Has His Majesty never read any books? Elder Li suddenly came to a frightening conclusion.
“Has Your Majesty not read the Four Books?” Elder Li asked.
Ning Xiaoyao blinked. Though the name sounded familiar to her, she had no idea what they were about. Elder Li stood, waiting for her answer, determined to get to the bottom of things! Ning Xiaoyao twisted her head to look at Lou Zigui. Did she really have to admit that she hadn’t read many books and was a complete ignoramus?
“Someone come,” Lou Zigui called towards the door. Shadowbolt answered an affirmative from the outside.
Lou Zigui said, “Prepare the emperor’s carriage straightaway. His Majesty is going to the Grand Preceptor’s estate to offer condolences.”
“This servant obeys,” Shadowbolt replied loudly.
“Your Majesty, please go and change your clothes,” Lou Zigui told Ning Xiaoyao. Elder Li and the other officials could all see the dark blood still staining Ning Xiaoyao’s dragon robes. Changing clothes was only natural, so none of them could tell her to stop.
“Come along,” Lou Zigui urged Ning Xiaoyao to get up, before adding in a low tone, “Unless you want to stay and discuss the Four Books and Five Classics with Elder Li?”
Ning Xiaoyao jumped out of her seat and fled. She was already fuzzy enough on the Four Books, but now there was a Five Classics too?! Lou Zigui followed after Ning Xiaoyao, pausing by Elder Li’s side to said, “Elder and the rest should make some preparations as well to visit the Grand Preceptor’s estate via carriage.”
Elder Li asked, “Is that His Majesty’s wishes?”
Lou Zigui said, “It was Elder who proposed that His Majesty pay his respects. What now? Elder Li won’t accompany him?”
Elder Li was impervious to his persuasions. “It should be His Majesty saying these things. Isn’t Supreme Commander exceeding your position by speaking like this?”
Lou Zigui simply walked past Elder Li without a word, feeling highly annoyed! After the Supreme Commander had left the room, Elder Li finally saw the error of his ways. He turned to ask one of the officials, “The old man asked His Majesty about his knowledge, so what did Lou Zigui mean by having His Majesty change clothes?”
The various officials could only pretend they didn’t exist to avoid getting tangled up in that mess.
Ning Xiaoyao stood gaping at the open wardrobes in her room. You’re supposed to wear black for funerals, right? But I don’t have a single piece of black clothing. What to do now? Was she supposed to borrow some night-duty robes from Windy and rest instead?
Lou Zigui walked in to see the wide open wardrobes and asked, “What’s wrong?”
“There aren’t any black clothes,” Ning Xiaoyao answered frankly.
Black clothes? When Lou Zigui had finally figured out what Ning Xiaoyao meant, he laughed loudly. “Xiaoyao, you’re the emperor. You don’t need to change into mourning clothes for Old Madame Xie’s sake.”
“So it’s like that, ah,” Ning Xiaoyao replied. “Then will I get hurt if I go to the Xie Estate wearing bright red robes[2. Bright red robes - the color red is usually reserved for celebrations and denotes good fortune and wealth, amongst other things.] instead?”
“.......” said Lou Zigui.
“Alright, I’ll forget about wearing the bright red clothes,” Ning Xiaoyao shook her head. When she looked at the full closets again, she was still stuck on deciding what to wear.
“What about the robes you usually wear?” Lou Zigui asked.
“Oh, Mute Nanny took them away to wash,” Ning Xiaoyao pulled out a white shirt and asked, “How about this one?”
Lou Zigui glanced at the article of clothing before he answered awkwardly, “That’s an inner robe. Later you should--you should change into that as well.”
Ning Xiaoyao sighed before draping the robe over her shoulders and looking for some outer robes. In the end, Lou Zigui helped her pick out a set of reddish purple spring robes embroidered with auspicious clouds and suggested, “How about this one?”
Ning Xiaoyao only said ‘oh,’ before turning her back to Lou Zigui and stripping off her clothes. Lou Zigui was quick to speak, “You’re going to change right here, right now?”
“Ah?” Ning Xiaoyao looked back at him while wearing a strange expression. “No way, right? Is that what you thought of as soon as you saw my back?”
“I,” Lou Zigui wanted to remind Ning Xiaoyao about the distances between men and women again, but his eyes caught sight of her blood stained gauze as they trailed down. He knitted his eyebrows and strode closer. “Why is there still blood seeping out? Does your injury hurt?”
“Impossible,” Ning Xiaoyao looked down at the gauze. The skin had already healed over, so why would it still be bleeding?
“Don’t move,” Lou Zigui reached out for the gauze covering the site. Ning Xiaoyao tossed a sugar bean into her mouth and obediently stood still. When Lou Zigui removed the gauze to see the smooth, slightly plump flesh beneath marred with a faint red scar about one finger wide and two finger-lengths long, he found it almost unbelievable after such a short time. After pressing on the spot to make sure the place had fully healed, Supreme Commander Lou whipped his head up to stare at Ning Xiaoyao, who waved back.
“I told you before that I’m a doctor, ah. My medical skills are pretty good, haha.”
Lou Zigui’s eyes darted to the faint red mark and murmured, “Will this leave a scar?”
“Urk,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “Supreme Commander, do you like it with or without a scar?”
“You’re a girl, so why would you bother purposefully leaving scars on your body?” Lou Zigui blurted out.
“Oh, then I won’t leave a scar,” Ning Xiaoyao patted her stomach twice. Originally, she wanted to keep the scar as a visible proof of her heroics after fighting against evil, but if Supreme Commander didn’t like it, then she’d let it go. Better to have skin like a freshly-peeled egg instead.
Lou Zigui gently stroked the mark beneath his fingertips before he added, “You have to be more careful in the future. Don’t get hurt again.”
“Mhm,” Ning Xiaoyao munched on the sugar beans in her mouth. She wouldn’t have gotten stabbed in the first place if she hadn’t been protecting that old man.
“Your Majesty?” Shadowgale’s voice called from outside.
“Here,” Ning Xiaoyao answered absentmindedly.
Lou Zigui came to his senses when he heard Shadowgale’s voice and quickly withdrew his hand before his eyes drifted upwards. Immediately, his face flushed as he shouted at the door, “Don’t come in!”
“......” said Head Commander Shadowgale, who was just about to enter.
Ning Xiaoyao crunched on her sugar beans and tilted her head to the side as she asked, “What’s wrong?”
“You,” Lou Zigui wanted to say, but only ended up sighing in defeat. He resigned himself to helping Ning Xiaoyao get dressed--first with her inner robes, then her outer robes.
Ning Xiaoyao asked, “Supreme Commander, do I need to change my pants too?” (Author: Girl, if you take off your pants, do you think Supreme Commander Lou will be able to hold back anymore?)
Lou Zigui’s face seemed to turn even redder. Ning Xiaoyao looked at his burning cheeks, then at herself, and finally understood. “That there, I won’t change my pants then, haha. It’s not like my butt’s been injured, so why would I need to change my pants, right?”
“Stop talking, please.” Lou Zigui covered Ning Xiaoyao’s mouth. She dutifully shut up. Truthfully speaking, he’s the one that walked in front of me, isn’t it?
Lou Zigui released his hand and watched Ning Xiaoyao comb through her hair with her hands, leaving the strands messed up this way and that. Supreme Commander Lou couldn’t help but wonder why this girl was so cool and collected around him. Am I not a man in her eyes?
“Supreme Commander, you don’t have to be so embarrassed,” Ning Xiaoyao said after she finished finger brushing her hair. “It’s not like I’ll lose a few pieces of flesh if you peek at a me a few times.”
“.......” said Lou Zigui. This has nothing to do with missing meat, alright?
“How is it?” Ning Xiaoyao spread out her arms and let Lou Zigui survey her looks. He was still left mute. Why does it feel like we’re best friends together in a house?
“Your Majesty?” Shadowgale shouted, having gotten anxious while waiting.
“Come in,” Ning Xiaoyao called loudly.
Shadowgale pushed open the door and walked inside. He saw the discarded dragon robes on a chair and His Majesty dressed in a new set of robes. Everything about Ning Xiaoyao looked normal and hale, so Head Commander Shadowgale stopped worrying. “Your Majesty, the carriage has already been prepared.”
“Then we’ll set off immediately,” Ning Xiaoyao prepared to march out.
“Hold on,” Lou Zigui called her back. He walked in front of the tabletop mirror and took out a jade headpiece used for binding the hair from a small casket on the table. “Come here and put this on.”
Ning Xiaoyao had seen this jade headpiece before and was even planning to sell it off, but it was very finely made, so the insignia was difficult to scrape off. That’s why it had survived for so long in the palace. She sat in front of the bronze mirror as Lou Zigui helped her re-comb her hair.
Ning Xiaoyao asked, “Supreme Commander, you even have skills like this?”
Lou Zigui replied softly, “I’ve helped my nephew comb his hair before.”
That’s right. Ning Xiaoyao stared at Lou Zigui’s reflection in the mirror. Supreme Commander still has a sickly young nephew left. “Supreme Commander, what’s your nephew’s name?” she asked.
“Lou Nan,[3. Lou Nan (楼楠) - the Nan character shares a name with the Phoebe zhannan tree.]” Lou Zigui said.
“Lou Nan,” Ning Xiaoyao repeated to herself. “When I see him in the future--or when you bring him to see me--I’ll help him treat his illness.”
Lou Zigui placed the jade hairpiece squarely over Ning Xiaoyao’s topknot, his cool fingers brushing past her face before pausing briefly at her sugar-coated lips. Finally, he said in a low voice, “Alright.”