Chapter 241: Empress Dowager Xie's plot Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Inside a small room within the empress dowager’s palace, Empress Dowager Xie sat patting the corner of her mouth with a handkerchief. Her face had a hint of rouge and a self-mocking smile as she gazed at Empress Zhou with a sigh. “This Dowager never expected that I had to help you out while you were pregnant. Something like this is completely unreasonable, both in the face of power and the imperial clan.”
Empress Zhou was still cradling her stomach with her hands as she sat in the wide chair in front of the bed. It was obvious that she felt uneasy. Over the past few days, she couldn’t help but feel pain coming from her womb. Though she’d yet to see any signs of blood, she knew this wasn’t a good sign. But with Zhou mama dead and her brother a man, there was no one she could consult with on the matter.
“Empress?” Empress Dowager Xie called out. “What do you think?”
Empress Zhou replied, “Will Esteemed Empress Dowager let me and my brother go once everything is over?”
Empress Dowager Xie smiled at her. “Changing your tune already? No matter. Since you don’t want to be the empress, then there’s really no need to call This Dowager your imperial mother.”
“My brother and I can really leave?” the empress was in no mood to talk civilities with the empress dowager.
“Naturally,” Empress Dowager Xie nodded.
“How can I be sure that Esteemed Empress Dowager won’t go back on your word?” the empress asked.
“This matter is a conspiracy between the two of us,” Empress Dowager Xie replied. “If This Dowager goes back on my word, you could simply sell me out and have us die together. This Dowager still has Prince Cheng to consider so I don’t want to die.”
Empress Zhou only smiled coldly. “Esteemed Empress Dowager will have plenty of excuses to get out of trouble then. How could I have to skill to identify Esteemed Empress Dowager as my partner in crime?”
“Then there’s no helping it,” Empress Dowager Xie casually placed her handkerchief by her side. “If you want to hang around the palace doing nothing, This Dowager can’t chase you out, either. But This Dowager doesn’t know how long His Majesty will tolerate your presence here. For a red plum tree that juts over the courtyard walls---a woman unfaithful to her husband,” Empress Dowager Xie smiled coldly, “What makes you think you can negotiate terms with me, née Zhou? Right now, our current circumstances outweigh any personal affairs. This Dowager has no choice but to spare you, or else I’d never leave you alive.”
Empress Zhou’s hands shook before she turned to look at the clay jar sitting on the tea table. “His Majesty is highly skilled in the medical arts. Esteemed Empress Dowager, wouldn’t he be able to cure the effects of your drug?”
“Does being skilled in medicine make him impervious to all poisons?” Empress Dowager Xie asked.
Empress Zhou didn’t speak, but she hadn’t heard of anyone like that either.
“This is medicine of the imperial harem,” Empress Dowager Xie said as she pointed to the little jar. “After eating it, the victim will completely lose their mind. This Dowager has seen its victims first hand. Even the most skilled of imperial physicians couldn’t save them.”
The empress picked up the little black bottle.
“You don’t need This Dowager to teach you what to do,” Empress Dowager Xie said imperiously. “You should go back to your palace now.”
Empress Zhou stood up before bidding Empress Dowager Xie farewell by bowing on one knee. Then she turned and left. Empress Dowager Xie grew listless as soon as she was gone. She was still a bit feverish now and had no energy in her limbs. Despite this, her mood was quite good. Soon enough, she’d have control over that damnable girl Ning Yu again, a most happy thought.
One of her mamas entered the room at this moment to report, “Empress Dowager, Esteemed Empress has left.”
Empress Dowager Xie beckoned towards the mama, who hurried to her side. “Empress Dowager, Esteemed Empress agreed?”
“She agreed,” Empress Dowager Xie confirmed. “People are naturally selfish. No matter how well His Majesty treats her, he can’t win that woman’s heart. She doesn’t feel for him at all.”
The mama’s face grew stiff. “Empress Dowager, this servant can’t help but worry. If she uses the Lostsoul Pill, there’ll be no turning back.”
Empress Dowager Xie glanced at her. “This Dowager gave His Majesty a chance, but did he pay me any attention? What now, are you speaking up in His Majesty’s defense now?”
The mama fell to her knees as she murmured repeatedly, “This servant doesn’t dare.”
“Rise,” the empress dowager smiled at the mama. “This Dowager knows that you’re loyal. If this doesn’t succeed, you only need to keep your mouth shut and have the empress say what she pleases. The blame won’t fall on us in the end.”
“Yes, Empress Dowager is wise and brilliant,” the mama flattered hastily.
“Stand up to speak,” the empress dowager beckoned towards the mama.
The mama rose to her feet and asked cautiously, “Empress Dowager, even if His Majesty loses his mind, there’s still Lou Zigui. How is Empress Dowager planning to take His Majesty out of his hands?”
Empress Dowager Xie had already thought it all out. “If he says His Majesty is seriously ill, he can delay things for a day or two. But if it drags on to 10 days or half a month, the major officials of the court won’t stand for Lou Zigui monopolizing Supreme Splendor Hall. This Dowager won’t need to do anything, and we can simply watch him battle it out with the ministers. You can’t wrap fire with paper just as you can’t conceal the truth. Lou Zigui might have escaped death by a thousand cuts last time, but the crime of forcing the Son of Heaven to submit to his will merits the same punishment.”
The mama didn’t understand. “Forcing the Son of Heaven to submit to his will?”
“He’s only a subject, and yet he’ll hide the truth of His Majesty’s illness when it happens,” Empress Dowager Xie explained as she muffled a cough. “If that’s not forcing the emperor to submit to his will, then what is it?”
The mama finally understood that Empress Dowager Xie had calculated both His Majesty and Lou Zigui into her scheme.
Empress Dowager Xie stared at the floor, which had been washed and polished so thoroughly that it showed her reflection, then said coldly, “Ning Yu was unfilial first, so she can’t blame This Dowager for being unfair.”
“Pahpahpah!” From under the cupboard, Oil Jar spat at the empress dowager in his rage. “She makes it sound like she’s actually treated Xiaoyao well before, peh!”
Grandpa Ash lay unmoving by his side.
Oil Jar proclaimed, “Ancestral Grandfather, I want to bite that woman to death, squeak!”
Next to Grandpa Ash were a few more younger mice. Ning Xiaoyao hadn’t neglected them when she fed Oil Jar, so they all nodded in agreement to the idea of biting the empress to death. Seeing them all stirred up, Grandpa Ash finally spoke. “Xiaoyao is immune to all poisons, so what are you lot worried about?”
“.......” said the little mice. That’s right, she’s immune to all poisons. What do we need to be afraid of?
“Imbecile,” Grandpa Ash cursed towards the direction of the bed.
“The empress even told her that Xiaoyao was immune to all poisons,” another little mouse perked up, “But that bad woman didn’t believe her then.”
Now Oil Jar was starting to feel some schadenfreude. He happily cried, “I’m going to wait and see that bad woman’s reaction when she’s doomed, squeak~”
“Mm, we’ll see.” Grandpa Ash was as cool and unruffled as ever.
Empress Dowager Xie sat up from her bed and had the mama support her to walk out of the room. Seeing that, Oil Jar bid Grandpa Ash farewell and ran off to look for Xiaoyao. The little mice followed in his wake, hoping that there would be peanuts for them today, too. (O(∩_∩)O)
After the empress returned to her palace, none of the servants dared to ask too many questions. They hastened to wait on her and have her rest while a few mama and eunuchs stood on standby for further orders. Empress Zhou looked at them with a slight smile and said, “There’s no need to wait around here any longer. Will His Majesty be at Supreme Splendor Hall right now?”
All of the mama and eunuchs shook their heads. One mama spoke up and said, “Empress, none of the servants dare to go to Supreme Splendor Hall without official business, nor did we dare to ask around.”
Another eunuch offered, “Empress, shall this servant make an announcement to His Majesty?”
Empress Zhou thought it over before shaking her head. “It was Shadowgale who brought this consort back. It’s been half a day since the head commander’s returned to Supreme Splendor Hall, so His Majesty definitely knows that I’m here.”
“Then will Empress go to Supreme Splendor Hall?” another mama asked.
“Prepare food and wine,” Empress Zhou ordered them. “When His Majesty comes later, this consort will accompany him for a simple meal.”
Traditionally speaking, an empress who left the palace and returned again should seek out the emperor proactively, but none of the mama and eunuchs could very well go against Empress Zhou’s wishes now. They busied themselves with preparing her meal instead.
“Help this consort run a message,” Empress Zhou told the little eunuch by her side. “And tell His Majesty that this consort has prepared food and wine to await his arrival.”
The eunuch murmured an assent before scurrying off to Supreme Splendor Hall. He ran into Shadowbolt who was standing guard in front of the gates. Rather unhappily, Shadowbolt said, “His Majesty is in the middle of dealing with national affairs. You should go back.”
The little eunuch shot him a timid glance.
“You still have business?” Shadowbolt asked.
The little eunuch quickly shook his head and scampered off. Shadowbolt paced back and forth in front of the gates while deep in thought. It’s been so long, but His Majesty’s still not back yet. Neither is there any news from big bro. Just where did His Majesty go to buy snacks?! When Shadowbolt recalled the image of the yellow weasel crouched on His Majesty’s desk, holding a message between its paws, he soundly slapped himself upside the head. His Majesty actually keeps a weasel as a pet? Can those things even be domesticated?!
After the little eunuch returned to the palace, he reported everything that Shadowbolt had said. Empress Zhou waved at him to withdraw. What kind of national affairs could Ning Yu be busying himself with now? He’s probably thinking of counter-schemes against the empress dowager. She felt in her sleeve for her hidden dagger and made sure it was still there before she felt a bit better. Then she raised a hand to smooth out her hair and slowly went to sit down at the dressing table. The face in the mirror was wan and sallow, the skin an unhealthy yellow. The empress dabbed some rouge on her dry lips to spruce up her appearances. No matter what, she couldn’t face His Majesty looking dirty or unkempt.
Ning Xiaoyao ended up returning to the palace near dusk, bringing along Shadowgale and his team, who had nearly scoured the entire capital city trying to look for her. Lou Zigui even bought her a bag of egg yolk guoba, which Ning Xiaoyao had half-polished off in the carriage.
When Shadowbolt saw Ning Xiaoyao return, he quickly went forward and reported the empress’s wishes to her ear.
“Right now?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
“Yes,” Shadowbolt replied.
Ning Xiaoyao asked Lou Zigui, “Have all the preparations been finished on our side?”
Lou Zigui told Shadowbolt, “Send someone to tell Esteemed Empress that His Majesty will see her at her palace three days later. For now, she should just rest well there.”
Ning Xiaoyao nodded at Shadowbolt. “Listen to what Supreme Commander says.”
Shadowbolt summoned one of the Dragon Guards and had him report to the empress’s palace.
“Let’s go,” Lou Zigui whispered as he stood behind Ning Xiaoyao.
“Three days later…” Ning Xiaoyao muttered to herself, before entering Supreme Splendor Hall.
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