Chapter 228: I want to live, so you have to die Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Because the messenger with the wooden box had been sent by Empress Dowager Xie, Chen Lu, as the head of the soldiers surrounding Iron Buddha Temple, simply had his men let him in. His trusted deputy general watched the messenger pass through before remarking, “Big bro, Tao Yu’s leaving the capital city tomorrow. This soldier heard that Prince Fu is accompany him to East Ji.”
Chen Lu looked at his compatriot, whose name was Chen Fang.[1. Chen Fang (陈方) - Fang means “square, place, upright, method.”] “You certainly get your news fast.”
Chen Fang hastily pasted a smile on his face. “Everyone’s simply feeling unhappy that Tao Yu’s got the chance to lead troops. Big bro, has there been any news from the Grand Preceptor’s side?”
Chen Lu shook his head.
Chen Fang began to fret for his sake. “If Tao Yu comes back victorious this time, will the rest of us fellows need to bow and pay him respects when we see him? Big bro, Tao Yu’s already rising rapidly in his career. Are we supposed to just sit here and stand guard?”
Chen Lu headed for the commander’s tent without a second word. Chen Fang only shook his head before giving a long sigh. Chen Lu paused before entering his tent and suddenly turned back. “Go listen in on that messenger, hear what he says to the empress.”
“Yes,” Chen Fang assented before running towards Iron Buddha Temple.
Empress Zhou sat in the living quarters of the temple, staring blankly at Zhou mama’s head before she managed to ask, “What did you just say?”
The messenger had no choice but to repeat the empress dowager’s words. The empress felt her whole body grow cold. She couldn’t speak, nor could she turn away from the sight of that head in the box. The messenger bowed his head and asked, “Does empress have any words for this messenger to bring back to the empress dowager?”
The empress’s lips trembled before she croaked out from her throat, “Get lost.”
The messenger bowed towards the empress before backing out of her rooms. The empress’s curse was much more polite than Ning Xiaoyao’s use of knives and poisons. Before long, there were only the empress and her brother left in the room. She looked at him, wanting to cry but finding herself couldn’t.
Zhou Junqi rose to his feet and approached the table, where he shut the lid on the box. “This wasn’t necessarily done by His Majesty’s hands,” he murmured in a low voice. “You can’t fully trust the empress dowager’s words.”
The empress hugged her belly protectively as she continued to stare dazedly at the box.
“Tomorrow,” Zhou Junqi continued, “I’ll see if I can find some way to beg His Majesty for a meeting.”
Hearing this, the empress trembled and grabbed him by the sleeves. “You mustn’t! We can’t go see His Majesty anymore.”
“Little sis!” Zhou Junqi looked at her anxiously. “You believe the empress dowager’s words?”
“Of course we can’t trust that woman’s words,” the empress replied, “But suppose, she wasn’t lying to us? For the sake of wresting control, His Majesty has been completely heartless towards the Xie Clan. What couldn’t he do to grab the Zhou Clan’s army as well?”
Zhou Junqi was left speechless by her words.
“We assumed that His Majesty would want to draw us to his side, but what if we were mistaken? What if his intentions were to kill off our military power from the start?” Tears finally spilled over from the empress’s eyes as she looked at her brother. “Remember how Xie Wenyuan acted in the past. How can we be sure that Ning Yu won’t do the same?”
Zhou Junqi’s expression withered.
“I would rather believe in what’s in front of me than something that doesn’t exist,” the empress muttered to herself before bolting upright. She gripped Zhou Junqi’s hands and said, “Big bro, we have to leave. We can’t stay here any longer.”
Zhou Junqi gently pressed the empress back onto her chair, his voice soft. “We can’t leave anymore.” He was a cripple, while the empress, despite being knowledgeable in martial arts, was currently pregnant. They had no allies here nor any sense of what was going on in the outside world, so how were they supposed to escape?
“That’s right,” the empress muttered next. “We can’t leave. If His Majesty wants to kill us and we escape, what if he moves against A’Xu instead? No, that’s not right,” she stopped to shake her head.
“His Majesty will definitely make a move against A’Xu. Big bro, we have to leave this place. We have to tell A’Xu what’s going on before His Majesty tricks A’Xu like how Xie Wenyuan the liar tricked Lou Zigui. If he fools A’Xu into coming back to the capital, he’ll definitely die! B-but how can we get out of here?”
The empress’s distracted state left Eldest Young Master Zhou even more uneasy. Right now, both brother and sister felt that they’d reached a dead end. The empress sat there crying for a long time before she suddenly clutched the box with Zhou mama’s head. Wiping away her tears, she asked, “Why would the empress dowager do this to Zhou mama?”
Zhou Junqi’s expression shifted at her words.
“Is the empress dowager trying to draw us to her side?” the empress asked.
Zhou Junqi slowly nodded his head.
“She wants us to join her and face off against His Majesty,” the empress continued.
“Do you trust His Majesty, or the empress dowager?” Eldest Young Master Zhou asked. “You can only pick one.”
How was the empress supposed to decide?
Zhou Junqi took the box from her hands and placed it on a tea table by the window. “I’ll find a place to put Zhou mama to rest,” he said quietly. “Burying her in the temple is better than some place in the wilds where she’d be a lonely ghost.”
The empress asked, “But who will be the ones to bury us in the future?”
Zhou Junqi’s arms shook at his sister’s words.
“The empress dowager and the emperor, I don’t trust either of them,” the empress said.
“Then pick the one that won’t take our lives,” Zhou Junqi walked back to her side.
The empress sat there blankly for a moment before looking down at her swollen stomach. She grit her teeth and said in a shaking voice, “If Ning Yu dies, Xie Wenyuan will make Ning Xin emperor. According to the rules of the imperial clan, if the emperor is still a child, then the mother will be laid to rest. Then the empress dowager will die, too.”
Zhou Junqi felt his heart tremble at the empress’s words.
“The Grand Preceptor wants to kill His Majesty,” the empress continued, “Yet the empress dowager only wants His Majesty to be obedient. That woman’s now trying to draw us over to hurt His Majesty. Then I might as well---”
“Do you have any idea of what you’re saying?!” Zhou Junqi exclaimed.
“We can beat her at her own game,” the empress didn’t stop at her brother’s shout. “The imperial clansmen are all at the capital right now. As long as His Majesty dies one way or another, Xie Wenyuan can make Ning Xin the new emperor without much opposition. The empress dowager will be busy trying to figure out how to stay alive herself. Neither of them will have time to worry about us. Big bro, won’t we be able to leave then?”
Zhou Junqi stared at his little sister as if he was looking at a stranger.
“If Xie Wenyuan wanted to seize the throne then, he would never leave Chen Lu to guard this place. No, no, no, that’s not it,” the empress suddenly changed her mind. “If the empress dowager wants me to help her, she’ll call me back to the palace. Before I help her, I’ll state my own terms such as letting my big brother out of Iron Buddha Temple. This way, once the palace and capital falls into chaos, the two of us can just slip away.”
“You want to kill His Majesty?” Zhou Junqi stared at her, his voice low. “You want to commit regicide?”
The empress shrank back from his words, but soon bolstered her spirits enough to retort, “Our Zhou Clan served the country loyally, but what did we get back? This is just bad luck for that Ning Yu, that’s all. Who told him to be emperor? I want to live. I want you, big brother, and A’Xu to both be alive and well. If Ning Yu’s the one blocking my way, then he---then he has to die!”
“Then you have to die!”
Four hours later saw Big Boss Black imitating the empress in Ning Xiaoyao’s bedroom. “The empress was ready to see you dead that very instant, miaow.”
Ning Xiaoyao couldn’t describe what she was feeling at this moment. Because you want to live, I have to die? What kind of logic is that? The empress didn’t even ask for any details before condemning me to death. What for?!
“What do we do now?” Big Boss Black’s head drooped sadly. “This cat is out of ideas.”
Ning Xiaoyao fell back on her bed and rolled around a few times while clutching her head. She didn’t have any ideas, either. Big Boss Black jumped onto the bed after her and scratched her on the face. “Go tell the empress that you didn’t kill Zhou mama.”
“Your Supreme Commander said to have the empress thoroughly hurt me once. Then we’re supposed to grab onto her offense and force her General Xu to come to our rescue,” Ning Xiaoyao replied.
“I don’t get it,” Big Boss Black said.
Ning Xiaoyao touched the soft fur on his head as she looked into his bright green eyes. “This is a problem related to reading human motivations. Actually, I don’t get it much, either.” Her life had been in danger when she hacked at zombies, but it’d never tired out her heart like this.
Big Boss Black’s eyes flickered in thought. “Then you should just listen to Supreme Commander.”
Ning Xiaoyao pursed her lips at his words. Haven’t I been listening to him already?
“The empress is no good,” Big Boss Black laid down next to Ning Xiaoyao’s head. “She didn’t even care whether or not it was you who killed her servant before she decided she wanted you dead. She’s a bad woman.”
“We can’t really say that,” Ning Xiaoyao said as she crossed her arms behind her head. “She’s doing all this for the sake of her big brother and General Xu. Yeah, she’s being too savage to me, but we can still understand where she’s coming from. Humans have both close and distant ties, isn’t that right?”
Big Boss Black snarled in his throat a few times before going to lick Ning Xiaoyao’s face. “Then let’s forget about the empress. She has her General Xu, but you have Supreme Commander, after all. You can just worry about your own man instead, miaow.”
Ning Xiaoyao blinked. “What do I need to worry about him for?”
“Supreme Commander’s big brother,” Big Boss Black reminded her.
“I can’t go to White Wolf Gorge right now,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “Supreme Commander can’t leave either. We have to put this off ‘til later.”
“Then…” Big Boss Black thought it over for a long time. “Then how about you bear Supreme Commander a child?”
Ning Xiaoyao decided to shut her eyes instead. Go to court assembly with a baby in my tummy? Elder Li would probably want to die. (Author: What time is it now for you to worry about Elder Li instead? o(╯□╰)o )
Meanwhile, dim candlelight illuminated the rooms of Lou Zigui. Through the half-open window, the night breeze sent the flicker of flame fluttering, casting moving shadows on his face.
“I understand,” Lou Zigui said after a beat to the man standing before him. “Go back and tell your general that no matter what the empress and Zhou Junqi does, he is to standby and watch.”
The man made a noise of assent before quickly backing out of the room. The two generals on guard outside watched the man run out of the courtyard before they heard their Supreme Commander harshly striking the table inside. They exchanged glances, but remained silent.
In the wavering candlelight, Lou Zigui slowly raised the fist that had slammed his table, his eyes brutally sharp as he muttered to himself, “You, née Zhou, want to live, so Xiaoyao has to die?”
If that was the case, all he had to do was kill the Zhou siblings and push the blame onto Xie Wenyuan in order to leave Xiaoyao unharmed. The brother and sister couldn’t blame him for being ruthless if they were already dead.
“Supreme Commander,” a general called out softly from outside.
“What is it?” Lou Zigui asked.
“They’ve found Zhou mama’s headless body,” the general reported. “But it’s already decayed.”
Lou Zigui rose to his feet and pushed open the door, before responding to the general in a low voice, “Go find Imperial Physician Gao.”
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