Chapter 256: The Grand Preceptor is Supreme Commander's jinx Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
“What did Supreme Commander find me for?” Song Xu asked. He didn’t serve under Lou Zigui’s command, but was still on good terms with the man. Thus, he didn’t feel restrained or awkward in the other man’s presence.
Lou Zigui smiled. “I never got to ask you how Seventh Song was doing. Today I’m sitting in the watchtower and watching the show, so I found you for a chat.”
Song Xu smiled back at his words. “Old Seventh’s in the army as well. Supreme Commander will be able to see him in a few days.”
“Mm,” Lou Zigui nodded slightly. “It’s good that he’s unharmed.”
“Old Seventh’s martial arts skills aren’t bad. Whatever could happen to him?” Song Xu asked. “Supreme Commander, you don’t have to worry.”
“Something happened to Fang Tang,” Lou Zigui said suddenly as he looked at Song Xu.
Song Xu gave a start. “Fang Tang?”
Lou Zigui nodded and lowered his voice. “I can’t verify the news, but I’m still investigating.”
Song Xu grew concerned. “What kind of news is it?”
“I received word that Fang Tang might have been captured by Xie Wenyuan,” Lou Zigui murmured.
Song Xu grew alarmed.
“Perhaps not,” Lou Zigui added. “So that’s why I’m still looking into it. If Fang Tang was captured, then the Black Frost Cavalry’s advance towards the capital would have been exposed.”
Song Xu asked, “And if it is?”
“If it is exposed, then we’ll have to give up the idea of the Black Frost Cavalry invading the city. I’ll think of another way,” Lou Zigui replied. “Fortunately, it’s still not too late to withdraw the men.”
Song Xu asked, “Where did Supreme Commander get word that Fang Tang was captured?”
“I asked if you saw Fang Tang before,” Lou Zigui wiped his face, seemingly looking exhausted. “And you said no, which was when I began to suspect. Fang Tang followed right after Seventh Song’s footsteps, so he should have returned to Anyuan like normal.”
“So Supreme Commander sent someone out to investigate?”
“Mhm,” Lou Zigui said as he continued to stare at Fang Tang. “I have to thank you for that. If you hadn’t mentioned it to me, I would never had thought to investigate Fang Tang’s whereabouts. No matter what, I owe you big for this.”
Song Xu’s expression changed minutely, but he recovered within the next second. Still, Lou Zigui noticed the micro changes and took it to heart. Is he afraid that the situation’s changed and he’ll be credited with making it happen, thus making Xie Wenyuan think he’s defected to my side again?
Song Xu rose to his feet and approached Lou Zigui with a murmur. “How is Supreme Commander planning to investigate this?”
“I have my own methods,” Lou Zigui smiled at him. “You don’t need to worry.”
Song Xu nodded. “I hope Fang Tang’s alright.”
“I feel the same way. Alright, your injuries haven’t recovered yet, so you should go rest,” Lou Zigui waved a hand at him.
Song Xu didn’t dawdle but left after a bow.
“Shadowbolt, come in,” Lou Zigui called after he was gone. Shadowbolt entered the room.
“Follow after Song Xu,” Lou Zigui ordered him in a low voice. Shadowbolt grew alarmed.
“No matter what you see, make sure not to alert him,” Lou Zigui added. “Be careful, don’t let him catch you.”
Shadowbolt nodded and hurried out.
Meanwhile, Ning Xiaoyao was sitting in the great hall, staring at the rather skinny calico cat in front of her. She asked Big Boss Black, “Is this one of your new little pals?”
“Blossom,” Big Boss Black said, “She came to the capital from Anyuan to look for food.”
“Hello Blossom, I’m Xiaoyao,” Ning Xiaoyao extended her hand in greeting. Blossom glanced at her before licking her lips and placing her paw in Ning Xiaoyao’s palm. “Hello Xiaoyao, I’m Blossom.”
“Oh, there’s a thorn in your paw,” Ning Xiaoyao realized as soon as they touched. She quickly grasped Blossom’s paw and sent a small ball of faint green light into her foot.
Oblivious to what had just happened, Blossom asked, “What’s happening?”
“Try running around,” Ning Xiaoyao patted Blossom’s head. She did and found that her aching paw had stopped hurting all of a sudden! When she lifted it for a look, she remembered the thorn she couldn’t get out no matter how she licked. Now it was gone! Blossom meowed in excitement and began to run around in circles chasing her tail.
Seeing her so happy, Big Boss Black sighed and said, “Chase your tail later, Blossom. Tell Xiaoyao your news first.”
“What’s going on?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
Big Boss Black scratched Ning Xiaoyao, then told Blossom, “The important news.”
Blossom settled on her haunches in front of Ning Xiaoyao and said, “Xiaoyao, I didn’t see the Anyuan troops head their way to the capital.”
(⊙_ ⊙;), went Ning Xiaoyao.
Both Grandfather Sparrow and Wifey Magpie began to panic from their perch on the windowsill and flew to land on Ning Xiaoyao’s table. Wifey Magpie asked Blossom, “Supreme Commander said the Black Frost Cavalry disguised themselves as civilians. Blossom, is it possible you didn’t recognize them, cheep?”
Blossom scratched her head in confusion. “Really? But their horses couldn’t have disguised themselves as civilians’ horses, right?”
Ning Xiaoyao exchanged glances with her animal pals. That did seem like a difficult feat.
“Do you know any of the Black Frost Cavalry horses?” Grandfather Sparrow asked.
“I do,” Blossom replied. “Mommy gave birth to me in their stables, meow~”
Ning Xiaoyao looked at Blossom in a new light. Here was a cat born from a military family. (Author: At a time like this, shouldn’t you be thinking of something more useful?! o(╯□╰)o)
“What if you didn’t run into them?” Grandfather Sparrow asked.
Blossom shook her head. “I’m familiar with the paths to the capital. Blossom didn’t see any big horses on the way.”
“Maybe they haven’t reached the city yet,” Ning Xiaoyao guessed.
“But Supreme Commander said they’d only take three more day,s” Grandfather Sparrow reminded. “The Black Frost Cavalry should have long reached the borders of the capital by now.”
“And it’s not just Blossom,” Big Boss Black said with his head hung. “I even ran to look for caravans, horses and mules from Anyuan, as well as one single parrot. None of them saw the Black Frost Cavalry, meow.”
With the brutal reality before her, Ning Xiaoyao suddenly lost all desire to continue the topic.
“We’re doomed,” Wifey Magpie flapped her wings and cawed. “Supreme Commander’s been tricked!”
“So I drank the poison and got stabbed for nothing,” Ning Xiaoyao said blankly. “Now what?”
“Hurry up and tell Supreme Commander!” Big Boss Black cried.
“Even if I do, can Supreme Commander summon the Black Frost Cavalry out of thin air?” Ning Xiaoyao retorted.
Big Boss Black glared at her. “At least Supreme Commander’s smarter than you. He’ll think of another way, miaow!”
Ning Xiaoyao rolled her eyes at him before digging her nails into her palms. She sighed and said, “I discovered a tragic truth.”
What was it? All of the little animals looked to Ning Xiaoyao. She wore a serious expression as she stated, “The Grand Preceptor is Supreme Commander’s jinx. Supreme Commander’s already been cheated by him twice. If he succeeds this time, I think he’ll beat the Supreme Commander in their next bout, too!”
“......” said the little animals. That really is tragic.
“Don’t have your fur stand on end. Even if you’re like that, it won’t change the truth.” Ning Xiaoyao pointed at Big Boss Black, who was baring his fangs. Utterly depressed, the cat clutched his head and started to roll around on the ground.
“Xiaoyao, what do we do now?” Grandfather Sparrow asked.
Ahhhhhhhhhhhh-- Ning Xiaoyao scratched her head. “Destiny tells me that we can’t release Supreme Commander if we want to deal with the Grand Preceptor!”
“Is Supreme Commander a dog? What do you mean by re-leashing him?!” Big Boss Black’s fur stood up on its end again.
“Aroo?” Little White Fatty took this chance to scamper into the room. Ning Xiaoyao and the other animals all sighed all the same time. Should they consider him a wolf or a dog at this point? After that, Ning Xiaoyao patted herself on the chest and decided to stop worrying about that for now. She had to think of a solution, a definite solution, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…..
Outside the back walls of Supreme Splendor Hall, Shadowbolt stood on a branch of the wutong tree. Summer was the perfect season for it to be filled with lush leaves, thus hiding him from even passerby underfoot. Nearby, Song Xu was speaking with one of the head eunuchs.
“You shouldn’t have sought me out,” the eunuch that Shadowbolt had never seen before said with a disapproving look.
Song Xu replied, “Lou Zigui’s already suspecting that something’s happened to Fang Tang. If he realizes the news of the Black Frost Cavalry is false, he’ll think of a different solution. From what I’ve heard, he already has a backup plan.”
The head eunuch stared at Song Xu, who sighed and added, “There’s no need for me to lie at this point.”
“What made Lou Zigui suspect?” the eunuch ask.
“Me,” Song Xu replied. “I said the wrong thing.”
If the head eunuch had asked for more details, such as what did you say wrong, then Song Xu would have explained how Lou Zigui had asked if he’d seen Fang Tang and how the man had left the capital in the footsteps of Song Jin. Eventually he would have exposed the Supreme Commander’s lies, but this head eunuch wasn’t interested in the details. He only nodded at Song Xu and hurried off. Two gray doves hooted a couple times from the treetops before flying towards the audience hall. Song Xu stood by himself for a while before slowly turning to walk in the direction of Supreme Splendor Hall. Shadowbolt grit his teeth and waited until the man was far away before flying out of the tree and heading towards the palace watchtower.
Ning Xiaoyao was still fretting over what to do when the two gray doves arrived calling for her name. They told her everything about Song Xu and the eunuch’s conversation.
Oh God. Ning Xiaoyao was completely dejected. She had a sliver of hope before that her animal friends might have missed the soldiers coming in disguise, but now that was all gone. There was no ways about it, they weren’t showing up!
“Xiaoyao, Shadowbolt was listening in on them too,” the doves bobbed their heads.
“Then where did Fourth Lightning go after that?” Ning Xiaoyao asked. “Did he beat up that Song Xu?” If she was there, she’d definitely thrash the traitor to death!
“Xiaoyao, Shadowbolt went to find Supreme Commander Lou,” a little sparrow chirped from the window.
“Ah,” Big Boss Black cried, “Supreme Commander knows too? I’ll see if he has any ideas.” So speaking, he shot off like a streak of smoke.
Blossom saw him leave and wanted to follow, but stopped when she saw Ning Xiaoyao.
“What is it?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
Blossom said, “Xiaoyao, can you be my owner?”
Although Ning Xiaoyao wasn’t sure whether she could survive the oncoming chaos, she still nodded with a noise of agreement. “Yes.” At least she still had the means to feed an extra kitty.