Chapter 236: What’s more important than human lives? Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Supreme Commander Lou wanted Xu Feiyu to believe that the Zhou siblings both died at Grand Preceptor Xie’s hands so he’d seek revenge against the man with all his might. It would be best he and the Grand Preceptor killed each other off in the process, but injuring each other was also a good outcome. By now, Yellow Great Immortal had finally figured out Lou Zigui’s end goals.
“What do you mean by that?” Grandfather Sparrow asked. “Why has Xiaoyao thought too highly of the Supreme Commander?”
Yellow Great Immortal only scurried into the flower bed, because Lou Zigui chose this moment to open the unlocked window. When he saw the sparrow on the ledge fly away, his brows furrowed slightly before his eyes swept the courtyard beyond. The trees and flowers took on a faint white glow beneath the moonlight, but there wasn’t a single human to be seen.
“Supreme Commander?” Deng Rong moved to step behind him.
“Did you hear someone cough just now?” Lou Zigui asked.
Deng Rong looked out the window before murmuring, “This soldier did hear signs of movement. Was it someone coughing?”
“Go search around,” Lou Zigui ordered.
Deng Rong hastily left the room. Soon afterwards, a dozen or so Dragon Guards had arrived at the courtyard. One of them used his scabbard to brush aside the flowers below the window, revealing Yellow Great Immortal as he fled towards the gates. The Dragon Guard swung his arm aside and remarked, “It’s a yellow weasel.”
Lou Zigui moved away from the window and back to his desk instead. He’d heard the cries of weasels before, and recalled they were very similar to a human’s cough. The noise he caught before must have come from that creature.
Ning Xiaoyao was oblivious to all this because she slept all the way until daylight broke. After eating breakfast the next morning, she went to sit and wait in Supreme Splendor Hall for Shadowgale to bring the empress back. By her side, Shadowrain ate her offerings of sugar beans before asking, “Your Majesty, why did Supreme Commander go off to the capital barracks?”
Early this morning, Lou Zigui had taken a few of the Black Frost Cavalry generals and headed to the military barracks.
“Oh,” Ning Xiaoyao replied, “Today’s the day that the Lord Protector assumes his post at the barracks. Supreme Commander’s there to help him keep up appearances.”
Both Shadowrain and Shadowthunder felt their mouth twitch at the comment. They’d never thought someone needed to keep up appearances just to take up a post.
“But Chen Lu shouldn’t be at the barracks today, right?” the second commander of the Dragon Guards asked.
Ning Xiaoyao glanced at Shadowthunder. “Mm, Chen Lu’s still guarding Iron Buddha Temple. Supreme Commander says we have to seize the chance while he’s gone to let the Lord Protector take up his official post. This is---what do you call it?--- showing the ‘severity of a newly-appointed official with a display of strength.’ In other words, we’re face slapping him.”
Without the chief commander at their base, a new officer taking up a post in the barracks under His Majesty’s imperial decree showed that they didn’t place any importance on Chen Lu at all. If this wasn’t starting off with a bang, then what was? Shadowrain and Shaodwthunder exchanged glances and privately resolved never to offend Supreme Commander Lou. He was just as bad as Grand Preceptor Xie when it came to making people miserable.
Ning Xiaoyao munched on her sugar beans as she waited for the empress to arrive, but Shadowgale still hadn’t returned by noon.
“Even if they’re walking, they should’ve reached here by now, right?” Ning Xiaoyao turned towards the window as she asked Shadowthunder and Shadowrain. “Or did they stroll around the streets before coming back here?”
“.......” said the two commanders. Our big bro, spending time with the empress to stroll around the streets? Wouldn’t he be sick of living by then?
Shadowrain was worried. “Maybe something’s happened to them?”
Ning Xiaoyao gave a start. Something could have happened? The scheming hasn’t even started yet, so what could happen?
Shadowthunder added, “Why didn’t big bro send us a message if he wasn’t coming back on time?”
“Second Thunder, Third Rain, you two bring some men and go take a trip to Iron Buddha Temple,” Ning Xiaoyao decided after some thought. “See what’s happened to our Windy.”
Since Shadowbolt was still at the palace, both Shadowrain and Shadowthunder left without a second thought after accepting their orders. They took a group of Dragon Guards each and rushed towards Iron Buddha Temple. Ning Xiaoyao waited for nearly another hour before Shadowbolt came to report that Empress Zhou had returned to the palace.
“What about Windy?” Ning Xiaoyao asked. Everyone had close and distant relations. To her, Shadowgale’s safety was more important.
Shadowbolt replied, “Big bro said he’ll come to Supreme Splendor Hall as soon as he’s dropped off the empress at the empress dowager’s palace.”
If Windy can still escort the empress, then he should be unharmed. Ning Xiaoyao exhaled and said, “Then we can just wait a bit longer.”
Shadowbolt asked, “Your Majesty, aren’t you going to summon Esteemed Empress to Supreme Splendor Hall?”
If I do, I’d just be asking her to kill me outright, won’t I? Ning Xiaoyao sniffed. “N-no need. It’s the empress dowager who missed her. As for me---I don’t really miss her at all.”
“.......” said Shadowbolt. If word of this gets out, everyone will start thinking His Majesty’s planning to depose his empress, won’t they?
“Fourth Lightning, go pick up Windy,” Ning Xiaoyao told Shadowbolt. “The empress dowager doesn’t like the sight of him, so make sure he’s not being bullied.”
Shadowbolt accepted the decree and hurried off to the empress dowager’s palace. Ning Xiaoyao dug out another sugar bean and prepared to toss it into his mouth when Big Boss Black suddenly jumped in through the window with a cry. “Xiaoyao!”
“Hey! Where’d you spend the night yesterday?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
Big Boss Black’s fur was all wet and he seemed out of breath as he huffed, “Someone wants to kill the empress’s big brother!”
“Whaa?” Ning Xiaoyao was shocked. Who did Zhou Junqi offend? “Who is it?” she picked up Big Boss Black and asked. “Who wants to kill Zhou Junqi, ah?”
“Those people said they were from the capital’s barracks,” Big Boss Black replied, “But this cat has seen them in the palace before, miaow.”
“Chen Lu’s spies in the palace, then?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
“But one of them was Deng Rong, ah,” Big Boss Black replied. “Isn’t he supposed to be one of Supreme Commander’s generals?”
“.....” said Ning Xiaoyao.
“Xiaoyao, what does this mean? Meow,” Big Boss Black asked.
“Let’s not ask about the whys right now,” Ning Xiaoyao replied. “If it’s Deng Rong, that means Supreme Commander wants the empress’s brother dead. Black Tubby, is the brother dead or alive right now?”
“He hid away,” Big Boss Black replied, “That Great Master monk called Kumu concealed him underground.”
Underground? Then that means a secret chamber, Ning Xiaoyao mused as she rubbed her chin. “Great Master Kumu, why does this name sound so familiar?”
Big Boss Black scratched her. “He’s the monk who read your fortune as a baby, you ninny! He’s the reason you were barred from the palace for all these years. How could you forget? Miaow!”
So it’s that jerk. Ning Xiaoyao came to a realization.
“What do we do now?” Big Boss Black asked next.
“Why does Grand Master Kumu want to help the empress’s big brother?” Ning Xiaoyao mused.
Big Boss Black grew blank before clawing her again. “How is this cat supposed to understand your human affairs?”
Ning Xiaoyao scratched her head. Seems like Supreme Commander has a different idea in mind than me.
Big Boss Black was anxious. “The empress’s big brother was injured. Xiaoyao, do you want him dead or alive?”
“He got injured?” Ning Xiaoyao was stunned again.
“General Deng shot him with an arrow,” Big Boss Black struggled free from Ning Xiaoyao’s grasp and leaped onto the ground, before standing on his hind legs to mime the motion of someone drawing a bow. “Just like this with a whoosh, miaow.”
If this was any other day, Ning Xiaoyao would be snuggling the fat black cat cutely miming the actions of a human archer. But now wasn’t the time for that. Things had gone wrong again. Meanwhile, Yellow Great Immortal, who had been eavesdropping on Supreme Commander Lou last night, now ran in through the open door.
“Great Immortal, why have you come?” Ning Xiaoyao crouched down to ask.
Yellow Great Immortal didn’t waste any words as he explained how Supreme Commander Lou was planning to kill off the Zhou siblings while framing Grand Preceptor Xie for the deed. At the end he added, “Xiaoyao, Supreme Commander is most certainly doing all this for your sake, but do you want to kill the empress’s big brother?”
By now, Ning Xiaoyao was sitting on the ground next to Yellow Great Immortal, clutching her head in her hands. Big Boss Black cried out unhappily, “You’re making things up! My Supreme Commander isn’t that kind of man!”
Yellow Great Immortal raised his eyes at Big Boss Black, unimpressed. “If I had the time to smear Supreme Commander, why wouldn’t I use it to catch a chicken to eat instead?”
Big Boss Black was rendered speechless.
“We can save the chicken talk for later,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “Does Supreme Commander have to be so brutal?” Plotting against the siblings to leave us a way of retreat is one thing, but killing them outright is something else altogether!
Yellow Great Immortal asked, “Xiaoyao, what are you planning to do?”
“I don’t know,” Ning Xiaoyao shook her head. Things had gone against her expectations, leaving her at a loss.
Big Boss Black scratched her again and exclaimed, “How could you not know?”
Ning Xiaoyao whapped him in exchange. “Don’t talk, let me think.”
Big Boss Black still wanted to meow, but Yellow Great Immortal scratched him next.
“Now isn’t the time to talk about life with Supreme Commander,” Ning Xiaoyao muttered to herself. “What’s the most important thing right now?”
Big Boss Black and Yellow Great Immortal both stared at Ning Xiaoyao. That’s right, what’s the most important thing right now?
Human lives. What’s more important than that? Ning Xiaoyao rose to her feet. Murdering someone, then shifting the blame, could earn Grand Preceptor Xie one more enemy to contend with. But if it wasn’t absolutely necessary, she would go save the empress’s brother.
“You’ve thought this through?” Big Boss Black chased after Ning Xiaoyao once she declared her intentions.
Ning Xiaoyao tightened her waistband and replied, “What’s there to think about? We can still negotiate if everyone’s still alive, but if Zhou Junqi dies, I won’t be able to revive him even if I regret it in the future.”
“Are you going to save him by yourself?” Big Boss Black asked. “Why not have the little gyrfalcon’s master do it?”
“My God,” Ning Xiaoyao replied. “I’m still stuck in an endless struggle with the Grand Preceptor and empress dowager. Am I supposed to throw Windy into a fray against Deng Rong next? Let me save the guy first, then talk with Supreme Commander in private.”
“Why in private?” Big Boss Black asked.
Ning Xiaoyao looked askance at him. He’s turned full of questions after wandering off for a single night. “Black Tubby, tell me the truth,” Ning Xiaoyao said, “Do you really want me to argue with your Supreme Commander in public, then beat him up, then have him pressed to the ground while I take off his pants and give him a spanking?”
Big Boss Black’s fur all stood on end. Of course that wouldn’t do!
“Xiaoyao,” Yellow Great Immortal called after her. “But the empress wants to kill you.”
Ning Xiaoyao blinked
“She treats you like that, but you’re still saving her elder brother?” Yellow Great Immortal asked.
“T-that’s right, ah,” Big Boss Black chimed in. “Supreme Commander must have been angry about the empress trying to kill you, so he went to kill her brother instead, meow!”