Chapter 25: Gray linen handkerchief Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
“Ridiculous!” Lou Zigui blurted out. If his body was any better, he’d give Ning Xiaoyao a slap. Fang Tang, Song Jin, and the rest all remained silent. Had their Supreme Commander gone mad? Ning Xiaoyao was speechless as well. Couldn’t he respect her as an emperor a bit?
“You…” Lou Zigui felt a bit regretful at his outburst. He didn’t want to curse others, but the thought of Ning Xiaoyao stripping in public made his heart burn in anger. He wasn’t sure why, but he knew it’d make him furious!
Ning Xiaoyao stared at him blankly. You what? If there’s something to say, hurry up and say it, she was anxious to save lives.
From Empress Dowager Xie’s angle, Ning Xiaoyao looked like she was leaning on Lou Zigui’s shoulder by standing on top of the threshold. Her mouth seemed to be practically plastered against Lou Zigui’s neck as well. This position was far too intimate. Her hands curled into fists until she felt pain emanating from her palms. When she lifted her hand, she found out that the sharp points of her finger sheaths had pierced her skin.
“Your Majesty,” Dropping her hand, Empress Dowager Xie spoke up. “Are you going to hold onto the late emperor’s testamentary edict indefinitely?”
Hearing her words, Ning Xiaoyao turned around and prepared to fight. Lou Zigui murmured, “You can’t take off your clothes.”
Ning Xiaoyao’s mouth twitched. Why not?!
“Your Majesty,” Empress Dowager Xie shouted.
Ning Xiaoyao walked over. Even if she ate the testamentary edict right now, it wouldn’t solve any problems. This woman probably made sure everyone in the courtyard had a look. Ning Xiaoyao stuffed the edict into the arms of the eunuch behind the empress dowager before drawing in front of her mother to whisper in her ear. “You can’t kill people recklessly.”
Ning Xiaoyao’s words were equivalent to telling the empress dowager that she knew the edict was fake. Empress Dowager Xie glanced at the few people behind Lou Zigui, including Shadowrain, before replying without a change in expression. “This Dowager is determined to kill them today. What does Your Majesty plan to do against This Dowager?”
“Nothing,” Ning Xiaoyao rubbed her nose. “If you kill them, I’ll just kill myself.”
Empress Dowager Xie’s eyes widened abruptly.
Ning Xiaoyao stood like a hooligan as she scratched her head in thought. Then she turned aside and beckoned an eunuch holding a tray of poison. “You, come over here.”
The eunuch didn’t dare disobey an imperial command and walked to Ning Xiaoyao’s side. Ning Xiaoyao reached out to take the bowl of poison. “It’s still hot. Perfect, I just happen to enjoy drinking warm things. This bowl should do it.”
Before a big crowd, Empress Dowager Xie couldn’t reach out and snatch away the emperor’s things. Tears glimmered in her eyes as she spoke. “Did you listen to someone else’s instigations? This really was your father’s testamentary edict.”
“Mm, who said it wasn’t?” Ning Xiaoyao replied.
“Hurry up and let them go, or else I’ll drink.”
Empress Dowager Xie was beginning to regret why she’d given birth to such an unfilial daughter in the past!
“Are you or aren’t you letting them go?” Ning Xiaoyao raised her gaze, only to discover that the Esteemed Empress Dowager was crying.
“Just what happened?” Empress Dowager Xie asked as she wept.
If Ning Xiaoyao didn’t know the ending of this story already, she really would have been defeated by Empress Dowager Xie’s tears. She’d never seen a woman cry so beautifully, looking so delicate and helpless. “It’s not right to recklessly kill people,” Ning Xiaoyao tried to reason. “A life is such a precious thing. Why don’t you cherish it?”
Empress Dowager Xie smiled coldly. How precious were human lives? To become the favorite of the imperial harem, kill the empress, poison the crown prince, and sit on the throne as empress dowager, the blood on her hands was enough to dye herself in red ten times, if not enough to make a river. “With the testamentary edict here, is Your Majesty planning to disobey? Ah, Your Majesty, all the imperial sons of the previous dynasty, as well as countless vassals, all have their eyes on you. Your Majesty has only recently ascended the throne and can’t make any mistakes right now. This Dowager carried Your Majesty in the womb for ten months before giving birth, so would This Dowager really hurt Your Majesty?”
“... …” Ning Xiaoyao was mute. She said such things as if they were true, was this woman some sort of movie queen?[1. movie queen (影后) - yinghou, an actress considered to be the top of her line by public and critics alike.]
“Your Majesty, This Dowager will definitely find the villain who instigated you,” Empress Dowager Xie raised a hand to wipe her tears. “This Dowager will definitely ask that person, just what their motives are!”
“Then you take your time searching,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “Right now, just hurry up and let them go. I’m hungry, so let’s wrap this up quickly. Then you can look after your son while I go back to eat.”
Empress Dowager Xie suddenly took a step back and grabbed Ning Xiaoyao’s hand. In a low voice, she asked, “You want to move against your little brother?”
Whaa? Ning Xiaoyao thought that Empress Dowager Xie jumped to conclusions too quickly. What did all this have to do with Ning Xin?
“You,” Empress Dowager Xie stuttered, “Just what do you want to do?”
“Save lives,” Ning Xiaoyao shook off Empress Dowager Xie’s hand and spoke as a matter of course. “Otherwise, why would I show up? To fool around?”
Empress Dowager Xie felt like Ning Xiaoyao was plaguing her with unreasonable demands by pretending to act like an idiot, while Ning Xiaoyao felt that she was incapable of communicating properly with Empress Dowager Xie. The empress dowager lowered her head to look at the porcelain bowl in Ning Xiaoyao’s palm.
“It’s alright,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “Even if you knock this bowl over, there’s plenty of others. I’ll just get one and drink from that.”
“Then Your Majesty wants to force This Dowager to death?” Empress Dowager Xie’s tears had all dried up. “By disobeying the late emperor’s testamentary edict and forcing This Dowager to die, how will Your Majesty face the people of the world?”
Ning Xiaoyao lifted the bowl for a sniff. She didn’t want to talk to the empress dowager anymore.
“Your Majesty insists on willfully having your way?” Empress Dowager Xie asked.
Still, Ning Xiaoyao remained silent.
The atmosphere in the courtyard turned increasingly stagnant. All of the officials were standing with their heads bowed, looking at themselves without saying a word. None of them were idiots, and they understood full well what it meant for the emperor if the Dragon Guards were replaced with the Xie Clan’s men. But with the late emperor’s testamentary edict on hand, how could His Majesty resist while protecting his reputation as a filial son? And how could he save these three to four hundred Dragon Guards at the same time?
“Can the ninny make this work?” Big Boss Black anxiously asked Yellow Great Immortal. “You, think of something.”
Yellow Great Immortal drew back the corners of his mouth, baring his fangs into the process. “I don’t know.”
The courtyard that had been turned into execution grounds was plagued by the night winds as well as cat meows and weasel cries, making the people inside shake with fright.
“Your Majesty,” Lou Zigui called out.
Ning Xiaoyao gave a start. This was the first time she could recall Supreme Commander Lou calling her ‘Your Majesty.’ After some hesitation, she walked over and asked, “What is it?”
Lou Zigui lowered his voice. “It’s useless even if Your Majesty threatens her with your death. Once you die, these Dragon Guards won’t escape their death sentence, either.”
“Why not?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
“Because they forced Your Majesty to take poison. Naturally, they’d be sentenced to death for the crime,” Lou Zigui explained.
Ning Xiaoyao glanced at Empress Dowager Xie and released a breath. “Then you don’t have to worry. Esteemed empress dowager can’t kill me. What will she do once I die?”
“But right now, she has no way to extricate herself from this situation,” Lou Zigui replied. “After falsifying an imperial edict, how is she supposed to take back a supposed order from the late emperor?”
Ning Xiaoyao’s mouth opened wide. Was there any justice to this at all? In the end, she was the one who had to wrack her brains to think up solutions for the Xie father and daughter’s sins?
It was at this point that Empress Dowager Xie started to softly weep again, murmuring ‘late emperor’ under her breath. The eunuchs and court ladies under her command also started to cry, as if they’d been grossly bullied.
“Your Majesty,” a minister stepped out with a bow. “This minister asks Your Majesty, when shall we follow through with the late emperor’s testamentary edict?”
Lou Zigui said softly, “If there’s no way to prove that the testamentary edict was falsified, then Your Majesty can’t say it’s a fake.”
The little gyrfalcon lightly pecked Ning Xiaoyao’s head and gave a low cry. “Is there nothing we can do? Then I’ll go beat up that bad woman!”
Ning Xiaoyao patted the gyrfalcon’s wings. If even death couldn’t solve the issue… She stared at the fake edict in the eunuch’s hands. Fake, fake… The little person in Ning Xiaoyao’s heart was scratching at the walls. Even though she knew it was fake, she couldn’t say anything without proof? For what reason? Who could explain to her the logic behind this?
Wait, a fake.
Ning Xiaoyao chuckled. If esteemed empress dowager could make a fake to trick others, then why couldn’t she fake one as the emperor to save others?
“It’s not that I…”
The gyrfalcon pecked Ning Xiaoyao’s head again.
Ning Xiaoyao’s face contorted from the pain, but she changed her words. “It’s not that Zhen won’t follow through with the late…”
“Imperial Father,” Lou Zigui reminded her in a low voice. “That’s your Imperial Father.”
Could she keep talking at this rate?! Ning Xiaoyao pulled at her collar in annoyance before she spoke. “It’s not that Zhen won’t follow through with Imperial Father’s testamentary edict. It’s because Zhen’s Imperial Father left Zhen another testamentary edict after writing the one about burying these guards alive with the dead. He said he changed his mind and to let these Dragon Guards live well so they can kill zombies for the country--oh, I mean, so they can render services to the country.”
A commotion followed Ning Xiaoyao’s words. You only entered the palace after the late emperor died. How could you have his testamentary edict in your hands?
Ning Xiaoyao felt around her body but found nothing, so she ended up extending her hand towards Lou Zigui. “Before Zhen came over, I had Supreme Commander look over the testamentary edict. Supreme Commander, hand over Zhen’s Imperial Father’s testamentary edict.
“...” said Supreme Commander Lou.
“... …” said the generals of the Black Frost Cavalry and Shadowrain.
Empress Dowager Xie’s gaze turned cold as she looked at Ning Xiaoyao. “Oh? Was there really such a thing? Then may Your Majesty please present the late emperor’s testamentary edict.”
Ning Xiaoyao beckoned for Lou Zigui with her fingers.
Lou Zigui took out a gray linen handkerchief from his sleeve and placed it in Ning Xiaoyao’s hand.
(￣△￣；), went the generals and Shadowrain.
Ning Xiaoyao took the handkerchief and walked to Empress Dowager Xie, her head held high as she clapped it in the woman’s hands. “There, Zhen’s Imperial Father’s testamentary edict.”
Empress Dowager Xie looked at the linen handkerchief in her palm. You could buy one of these for two copper coins at the shops in the marketplace.
Ning Xiaoyao handed off the bowl in her hands to the same eunuch from before and said, “This bowl’s turned cold, give me, give Zhen a hot one instead.”
Empress Dowager Xie’s hands trembled.
“Hurry up,” Ning Xiaoyao urged the eunuch, who trembled with fear as he looked at Empress Dowager Xie.
Empress Dowager Xie knew that she was in a disadvantageous spot. She still had a son and her clan members to consider, so she couldn’t die. But the daughter before her had clearly taken advantage of this fact, while she had nothing to counter her with, because the same thing that could control Ning Xiaoyao was the very thing that could sentence her, Ning Xin, and the Xie Clan to death.
“This consort[2. chenqie (臣妾) - a humble form of self-address for females equivalent to ‘your subject’ or ‘your servant/consort’.] receives the decree,” Empress Dowager Xie proclaimed loudly as she raised the gray linen handkerchief above her head.
The victor Ning Xiaoyao stood stark straight before the empress dowager. She was certain that this was the start of Empress Dowager Xie’s tragic end.
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