Chapter 226: I have you and you have me Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Ning Xiaoyao walked forward and picked up the box before shaking it. There was obviously something inside and it smelled of blood as well as limestone.
“Your Majesty, be careful!” Yan Hong came back this time with Little White Fatty. When she saw Ning Xiaoyao about to open the box, she had to give her a reminder. “Just in case it has poison.”
“No need to fear,” Ning Xiaoyao said as she opened the box. The human head inside faced her head-on. Because it had been placed in limestone, much of the moisture had been sucked from the sky, distorting its facial features. But Ning Xiaoyao recognized it as Zhou mama all the same---the woman who had served by the empress’s side. Last time, she’d seen her corpse by the edge of the city walls. Why was her head now in this box?
“Who are you?” Ning Xiaoyao knelt down by the man as she held the box in one hand.
The man lowered his head, refusing to look or speak to Ning Xiaoyao.
“Why is Zhou mama’s head in your hands?” Ning Xiaoyao lifted the man by his chin. “It’s fine if you don’t tell me. I’ll just send you to the Hall of Punishment.”
The man opened his mouth a few times.
“Do you know what they do at the Hall of Punishment?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
Once again, the man opened his mouth but didn’t make a sound.
“They’ll change you into a eunuch,” Ning Xiaoyao blathered on with her nonsense. “Come on. For the sake of keeping your manhood, you should tell me the truth. What’s going on here?”
Finally, the man spoke. “Aren’t eunuchs created in the silkworm room?”
Ning Xiaoyao slapped the man upside the head. “You knelt as soon as you saw me, so you know who I am. If I say the Hall of Punishment is where you’ll be a eunuch, then it’s where you’ll be a eunuch. Do you have any objections?”
“......” said the man. What kind of objections could I even have now?
“What’s going on here?” Ning Xiaoyao made the man stare at Zhou mama’s head. The man knew he couldn’t afford to aggravate His Majesty, but what about aggravating the empress dowager? He was about to lose it. How did I get discovered by a cat of all things?!
Ning Xiaoyao saw that the man still wouldn’t speak even after she’d made things very clear, so she took out the dagger hidden in her sleeve and waved it in front of the man’s eyes. “Won’t speak until you’re dead? Fine, I respect you as a real man. I’ll change you into a eunuch this instant.”
She moved the dagger towards the man’s little brother, her expression deathly serious. Seeing this, the man almost peed his pants from fear. He collapsed to the ground and rolled away just as Ning Xiaoyao’s dagger passed through the place where he’d been kneeling seconds before. Yan Hong approached him and half-knelt with a smile.
“His Majesty is personally carrying out the sentence, yet you dare to run away?”
“.....” said the man. If I don’t run, am I supposed to turn into a eunuch for real?
Yan Hong’s guileless smile remained on her face even as her fingers flashed. In an instant, a dagger had appeared in her hands. “Why would we need His Majesty to do these things? This young woman will break you from your root.”
Ning Xiaoyao walked toward and folded her arms, standing by Yan Hong’s side. She chuckled at the man and said, “This girl’s skills aren’t as fine as mine. Think it over carefully. If I did the deed, you might be able to live. But if Miss Yan Hong performed the cut, you could die, oh.”
“......” said Yan Hong. Does castration actually require any special skills?
“I, I’m only a messenger,” the man stammered.
Yan Hong’s dagger drew a line across the man’s chest. “A messenger who recognizes His Majesty on sight? Is his heavenly countenance something that everyone’s seen before?” Blood bled from her cut, soon staining the man’s entire chest area red.
“Castrate him,” Ning Xiaoyao ordered.
Yan Hong thought it over before lightly pressing against the man’s lips. Ning Xiaoyao’s sharp eyes picked up the black pill she stuffed into his mouth. Not more than a minute later, the man began to roll on the ground as he clutched his stomach. A strong and strapping man was soon reduced to sweat-soaked clothes as he cried out in pain.
“.....” said Ning Xiaoyao. Do all members of the Poison Sect carry poisons on them at all times?
Yan Hong looked at the man and said, “If you don’t want your intestines to rot away, you better answer everything His Majesty asks.”
The man thrashed about on the ground, his fingernails digging into the dirt as he dug multiple holes. Ning Xiaoyao’s heart softened before she whispered, “Isn’t this too cruel?”
Yan Hong smiled at her. “This young woman believes that Your Majesty isn’t the soft hearted type.”
Ning Xiaoyao fell silent. But I’m feeling soft hearted right now.
Yan Hong then continued, “What’s the loss if a man like this dies?”
Little White Fatty left Yan Hong’s feet to move towards Ning Xiaoyao instead. My master is still better.
Ning Xiaoyao sighed before walking up to pat the man. “Enough. If you don’t want to speak, then don’t say anything.” She could just ask Big Yellow from the city gates about the details since that area was his turf.
The man had been in excruciating pain before, but his stomach suddenly stopped hurting. He looked up in astonishment at Ning Xiaoyao. His Majesty used an antidote on me?
“Does it still hurt?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
The man shook his head.
“That’s good, then,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “You can run along. If we meet again in the future, let’s just pretend we don’t know each other.”
Yan Hong’s face revealed nothing, but waves were crashing in her heart. How did His Majesty cure my poisons?!
The man looked blankly at Ning Xiaoyao. “Your Majesty is letting me---letting this servant---go?”
“If you’re not leaving, are you expecting me to treat you to a meal as well?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
The man assumed he didn’t understand Ning Xiaoyao’s way of thinking because his life experiences were limited. He’s letting me go just like that? Without asking a single question?
The sound of hoofbeats began ran out from the distant lane. Yan Hong grew alarmed again and asked, “Are those the Grand Preceptor’s men?”
Ning Xiaoyao stood up and narrowed her eyes down the lane, before stating, “It’s Supreme Commander.”
Yan Hong could only hear the hoofbeats but didn’t see any people. Just what kind of eyes does His Majesty have?
“You should really hurry up and leave,” Ning Xiaoyao told the man. “If you land in Supreme Commander’s hands, you’re done for. He’ll beat you to death.”
The man only looked at the wooden box in Ning Xiaoyao’s hands. How am I supposed to leave without this thing?
Lou Zigui soon reached Ning Xiaoyao on horseback and flipped onto the ground, where he quickly looked her over. “Are you alright?”
Ning Xiaoyao raised an arm and flexed it. None of the others knew what she meant, but Lou Zigui did. He rested a hand against his forehead and said, “Yes, no one is a match for Your Majesty.”
“Mhm,” Ning Xiaoyao nodded.
“Xie Anji?” Lou Zigui asked.
“Captured,” Ning Xiaoyao said, before complaining, “That jerk even wanted to kill me.”
Lou Zigui’s face instantly fell.
“But he couldn’t beat me,” Ning Xiaoyao added smugly.
Lou Zigui looked at the box in her hands and asked, “Whose is this?”
“Zhou mama’s head,” Ning Xiaoyao said instead as she offered the box to him.
Lou Zigui furrowed his brows before ordering his men, “All of you, withdraw.”
The imperial guards all shifted back. Yan Hong also retreated to an ample distance so she couldn’t overheard what the two would talk about. Lou Zigui looked at the man still sprawled on the ground and asked, “You’re delivering this box to Iron Buddha Temple?”
The man only trembled in response.
“Whaa?” Ning Xiaoyao’s eyes widened. “This is for the empress?”
“Besides the empress, who else would care about this mama?” Lou Zigui patted Ning Xiaoyao on the head. “She’s one of the empress’s people.”
Ning Xiaoyao lowered her head to look at the messenger. “Well dang, why didn’t I think of that?”
The man was currently kneeling on the ground, too afraid to answer her question.
“What does the empress dowager wish to tell the empress?” Lou Zigui asked the man coldly.
Since Lou Zigui had already guessed what he was doing, the man had nothing more to hide. He quietly repeated the empress dowager’s words. Ning Xiaoyao dug her nails into her palms and whispered, “What a liar.”
Lou Zigui squeezed her hand and replied in a low voice, “Don’t be sad. Since ancient times, the imperial clan has always been heartless. You have me.” His expression was exceptionally gentle as he spoke these words, his voice slightly husky and hoarse.
Ning Xiaoyao looked at Lou Zigui and wanted to say she wasn’t sad at all, but after second thought she simply nodded and said, “Mhm, I have you so I won’t be sad. You shouldn’t be sad if you run into anything, either, alright? You have me, too you know.”
The moonlight shone upon them softly as Lou Zigui smiled and touched Ning Xiaoyao’s face with a nod. Ning Xiaoyao grinned back, showing all her teeth even as her eyes shrank into twin crescents.
“......” went the man on the ground. Why does something sound off about those words between those two?
“Then what do we do with him?” Ning Xiaoyao swung Lou Zigui’s hand as she asked.
Lou Zigui finally looked back at the man and said, “You should send him off to Iron Buddha Temple.”
“What?” “Whaa?” Both the man and Ning Xiaoyao exclaimed.
Lou Zigui pulled Ning Xiaoyao to her side and said quietly, “I’ll explain things to you later.” Then he looked at the man and said, “Repeat the empress dowager’s words exactly as they are to the empress.”
“......” said Ning Xiaoyao. Then wouldn’t that make the empress hate me to death?
The man was looking at Lou Zigui blankly as well.
“You don’t want to work for the empress dowager all of a sudden now?” Lou Zigui asked. “Or do you want me to kill you right now?”
The man quickly muttered an assent to Lou Zigui’s previous orders and crawled to his feet. Lou Zigui took the wooden box from Ning Xiaoyao’s hands and placed it in the man’s arms. “You didn’t see His Majesty at all tonight.”
The man looked at Ning Xiaoyao, who was still at a loss.
“Go on,” Lou Zigui said.
The man was still standing there spacing out.
Ning Xiaoyao began, “That’s not…”
Hearing her speak, the man seemed to suffer a jolt to his senses and bolted away. Ning Xiaoyao was confused and asked Lou Zigui, “Why is he running?”
Lou Zigui waited until the fleeing figure was far away before replying. “He’s afraid that you’ll change your mind and take his life right here.”
“I don’t want his life though,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “Now it’s the empress dowager who wants mine. Supreme Commander, are you worried that the empress doesn’t hate me enough, either?”
Lou Zigui brought Ning Xiaoyao to a more secluded spot before muttering back, “The empress dowager wants to use the empress to hurt you.”
Ning Xiaoyao panicked. “Then we can’t let the empress dowager succeed. Supreme Commander, why did you let that man deliver Zhou mama’s head to Iron Buddha Temple?”
“Even without a head, the empress dowager can still find other ways to make the empress hate you,” Lou Zigui smoothed out the hair by Ning Xiaoyao’s temples as he spoke. “But if the empress hurts you now, it’ll be her man kneeling by your feet to beg mercy on her behalf in the future. He’ll even plea for the chance to serve you as compensation.”
Ning Xiaoyao thought over Lou Zigui’s words for a long time before she said, “Leaving aside all the mistakes the empress has already made, I now have to wait for her to make a mortal error, then forgive her or punish her, so she’ll take the initiative to come to our side. Is that what you mean, Supreme Commander?”
Lou Zigui smiled.
“....” said Ning Xiaoyao. No matter how much you look like a flower when smiling, I still think you’re wicked to the extreme, Supreme Commander!
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