Chapter 26: Elite troops loyal to His Majesty Ning Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Another burst of night winds rose, lifting the handkerchief from Empress Dowager Xie’s hands. Under the eyes of everyone present, it was blown into a lantern stand about half a man tall, where the linen came in contact with the flames and was reduced to ashes. Ning Xiaoyao grinned. This was good, death of the principal witness had destroyed the evidence. Empress Dowager Xie stood up from the ground to stare at Ning Xiaoyao.
Ning Xiaoyao knew that the empress dowager wanted to bite her death this very moment, but she wasn’t afraid. If she really had the guts, she should turn into a zombie first, and then bite her!
Lou Zigui was still standing with support from two generals as he spoke in a low voice. “It looks like Your Majesty fulfilled the last wish of the dead and took back the testamentary edict.”
Fang Tang and the rest were still speechless. This was the first time they’d discovered their Supreme Commander had the potential to tell tall tales. The ministers and officials exchanged glances. Everything that had happened here had turned into a joke between the imperial mother and son!
“Imperial Father only left Zhen this one reminder of him,” Ning Xiaoyao was a typical example of someone who showed off their cleverness even after gaining an advantage. “You should have held on tighter to the imperial edict, it would’ve made a good keepsake. None of the ministers got to see it, so what if they accuse Zhen of making up lies to cheat them now?”
“These subjects don’t dare,” the ministers and officials hastened to kneel again. Who would dare to accuse the emperor of lying?
Empress Dowager Xie tasted blood in her mouth as she forced a smile. “Such a thing, Your Majesty should’ve told This Dowager sooner.”
Ning Xiaoyao said, “Oh, Imperial Father’s death caused Zhen too much sorrow. My brain was no good, so I forgot to mention it.”
Empress Dowager Xie narrowly avoided spitting a faceful of blood at Ning Xiaoyao. Were these still human words?!
“It’s all right, you can all leave now,” Ning Xiaoyao told the gathered officials. “You’re all still loitering around, do you want Zhen to invite you out for dinner?”
None of the ministers or officials knew how to reply Ning Xiaoyao’s words. If they said His Majesty was joking, he still looked serious when he spoke. If His Majesty wasn’t joking, which one of them dared to ask him to treat them? Weren’t they sick of living then?
“You really want me to treat you guys to a meal?” Ning Xiaoyao glared. She still hadn’t eaten anything yet! The gyrfalcon was too lazy to peck Ning Xiaoyao again for using “me.” There was no helping His Majesty.
A shrewder minister reacted quickly enough to pay his respects. “This subject takes his leave.”
One after the other, the ministers and officials took their leave. Whether or not the royal court would fall into the Xie father and daughter’s hands seemed up to debate again. Now that Lou Zigui was standing on His Majesty’s side, there would probably be another ugly faceoff at the assembly in three days’ time.
Empress Dowager Xie allowed Lai mama to support her out the doors of the Hall of Punishment. When Lou Zigui died from poison three days later, she’d like to see how Ning Xiaoyao could make any waves with just these three to four hundred Dragon Guards. Ning Xiaoyao didn’t speak as she watched Empress Dowager Xie leave, but ran into the courtyard to loosen the Dragon Guard’s bonds.
“Go help,” Lou Zigui told Fang Tang and the rest while he sat down on a flight of steps beneath the eaves.
When Ning Xiaoyao reached the Dragon Guards, she finally realized why none of them had spoken up. All of their mouths had been gagged with cloth. The gyrfalcon gave a cry and flew to the youth kneeling at the head of the crowd. He nuzzled his head affectionately against the man’s face. Ning Xiaoyao felt a little stifled at the sight. This gyrfalcon had abandoned her so naturally; didn’t he feel any reluctance at all? Was he casting her aside after using her? (Author: Can you think of something useful instead?)
“Get to work,” Fang Tang called towards the eunuchs on the side. How could the few of them untie all 300 plus people?
Ning Xiaoyao took out the gag from Shadowgale’s mouth and tossed it aside before asking in concern, “Are you alright?”
Shadowgale and the Dragon Guards behind him were all currently muddle-headed and ignorant. Their minds were still reeling from the fact that they were all alright after having one foot in the grave.
The gyrfalcon stood cutely on Shadowgale’s shoulder to express his gratitude. “Your Majesty, thank you. I’ll definitely catch you lots and lots of rabbits.”
“Spare the rabbits,” Ning Xiaoyao whispered. What was the point of carrying around a sackful of rabbits? Give me money instead, little falcon brother!
Shadowgale was at a loss. “W-what?”
“Nothing, haha,” Ning Xiaoyao laughed as she pulled him up and rested her hand on his body. One touch was enough to ascertain that this fellow had been tortured, but the injuries weren’t enough to hurt his bones and muscles. He’d be fine after recovering for a few days. After being hauled to his feet, Shadowgale looked blankly as Ning Xiaoyao helped loosened the bonds of Shadowthunder and Shadowbolt[1. Shadowthunder...Shadowbolt (影雷, 影电) - Ying Lei...Ying Dian. Lei is thunder, while Dian is lightning.] on his left and right. After Ning Xiaoyao pulled up Shadowbolt as well, Shadowrain ran over to kneel with a thump.
Ning Xiaoyao hastily jumped to the side and said, “No need, no need to kneel.”
Shadowrain’s kneeling awakened Shadowgale to his senses as he fell on both knees as well. Shadowthunder and Shadowbolt had been pulled to their feet by Ning Xiaoyao, but quickly followed suit to kneel in turn. Shadowgale knocked his head heavily against the ground in kowtow as he spoke, “Servant Shadowgale thanks Your Majesty!”
The Dragon Guards all followed suit to thank Ning Xiaoyao for saving their lives. With 300 people kneeling towards her at the same time, there was no place for Ning Xiaoyao to escape. She gave an awkward smile before saying, “There’s no need to be polite, i-it’s what should’ve been done.”
Her own mother and maternal grandfather were the assailants here, a fact that made Ning Xiaoyao’s ears turn red as she faced the Dragon Guards who’d narrowly avoided death. As Shadowgale knelt on the ground, he still couldn’t fully control his emotions as his body involuntarily shuddered. Ning Xiaoyao reached out a hand to pull him up, this time using enough strength to lift Shadowgale straight off the ground. Next came Shadowthunder, Shadowrain, and Shadowbolt. When she looked up and saw the mass of Dragon Guards littering the courtyard, Ning Xiaoyao gritted her teeth. Slowly, she’d pull them up. Worse came to worst, she’d get everyone on their feet before going to eat!
Lou Zigui sat on the steps as he watched Ning Xiaoyao toil along in low spirits to help up the Dragon Guards one by one. Supreme Commander Lou knew that from this point on, these Dragon Guards would have a new master. At the same time, Ning Xiaoyao had gained a battalion of elite troops that would obey her without regard to the Xie father and mother pair. Still, Lou Zigui’s face darkened as he watched Ning Xiaoyao pulling these Dragon Guards up and patting their backs. Didn’t this person know that men and women should keep their distance?
With effort, Ning Xiaoyao pulled up everyone from the ground and wiped her face before speaking. “All of you go home and rest. I’ll give you guys three days’ break before you come back for work. Uh, your wages will be as before. How does everyone think of my arrangements?”
Shadowgale was about to lead the crowd to kneel again.
“Don’t!” Ning Xiaoyao’s sharp eyes caught his intention as she shouted out loud. “If you kneel, I’ll have to pull you all up again. That’s exhausting!”
“Pfft,” Fang Tang couldn’t hold back a snicker.
The rest of the Black Frost Cavalry couldn’t resist laughing as they looked at Ning Xiaoyao. A single command would’ve been enough to let the Dragon Guards rise, but this emperor insisted on helping his men up one by one. It made it impossible for the Dragon Guards to dare and get up on their own. All of them could only remain kneeling until it was their turn to be helped up. Why did His Majesty have to take such pains?
Shadowgale bowed towards Ning Xiaoyao. “Your Majesty, we servants need no rest.”
“That won’t do,” Ning Xiaoyao shook her head. “You can’t go to work with injuries. I still have a tough battle to fight at the court assembly in three days’ time. You’re, you’re called Shadowgale, right?” Ning Xiaoyao asked as she peered at Shadowgale.
Shadowgale hastened to reply. “Yes, this servant was bestowed the name Shadowgale by the late emperor.”
“Oh,” Ning Xiaoyao said, “So your surname is Shadow?” Did such a name exist in the Hundred Family Surnames?
“You idiot!” Big Boss Black ran over to Ning Xiaoyao’s feet with a meow. “Shadow is the assumed name of the Dragon Guards. These 300 guards all have Shadow in front of their names. Ninny, why don’t you know anything? Miaow!”
“... …” Ning Xiaoyao was silent. Why was this tubby black furball still hanging around?
The gyrfalcon cried out. “My master is the leader of the Dragon Guards. My master’s super tough, my master’s…”
“Shut your mouth,” Ning Xiaoyao shouted. Fanboys were the most annoying! All of the people in the courtyard gave a start. Nobody had said anything.
After lifting her leg and kicking Big Boss Black aside, Ning Xiaoyao spoke to Shadowgale again. “Take your fellow brothers to rest. We’ll meet again in three days. Windy[2. Windy(大风) - da feng, a nickname for Shadowgale. Da Feng literally means “big wind,” or a lot of wind.], you have to be obedient. Goodbye.”
Ning Xiaoyao turned to continue her quest of hunting for the kitchens. She wasn’t in the apocalypse anymore, but her stomach was still starving. This was unforgivable.
“Windy?” Shadowrain didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as he looked towards his big brother. Ning Xiaoyao had long stepped over the tall threshold of the Hall of Punishment and walked away.
Shadowgale’s face was wooden. He was the type of person who remained loyal above all else once he recognized a master. Ning Xiaoyao was his master now, so it was fine whether he was called Windy or Rainy or even Snowy.
Lou Zigui slowly stood up from the steps. What used to be an effortless move now cost him endless effort. Song Jin ran forward to steady him as he studied Lou Zigui’s complexion. “Supreme Commander, are you feeling unwell?”
Lou Zigui shook his head. “Let’s go,” he said in a low voice.
Shadowgale walked by Lou Zigui just then, followed by Shadowthunder, Shadowrain, and Shadowbolt. As the commander of the guards, he gave a deep bow to Lou Zigui and said, “Many thanks to Supreme Commander for your assistance.”
“It was His Majesty who saved you,” Lou Zigui said softly.
Shadowgale didn’t speak, but gave Lou Zigui another deep bow. His body was riddled with torture wounds, so after kneeling to Ning Xiaoyao and bowing to Lou Zigui, his wounds split open again. However, it was hard to see the blood with his black clothes. Lou Zigui was a man of the battlefields, so he clearly caught the scent of blood from Shadowgale’s body.
His voice lowered further as he spoke, “Don’t go to the Imperial Physician Courtyard. Head to the Supreme Splendor Hall, there’s an imperial physician there who can treat your wounds. I’ll have Fang Tang and the rest buy medicine outside the palace.”
Shadowgale’s eyes flew up to look at Lou Zigui.
“Esteemed Empress Dowager isn’t someone who easily admits defeat,” Lou Zigui raised his hand with effort and weakly patted Shadowgale’s shoulder. “Since His Majesty saved you all, he wouldn’t want you to fall into another perilous situation. Go to the Supreme Splendor Hall. Only be staying alive can you serve His Majesty thoroughly.”
“Yes,” Shadowgale was moved by Lou Zigui’s words. Their lives were cheap, but since such lives were useful for His Majesty, they had to make sure they survived.
Lou Zigui had exhausted most of his strength, but mustered up one last breath to speak. “I’ll go back to the Supreme Splendor Hall with you all.”
Shadowgale and the rest of the Dragon Guards had been locked up in the dungeons on the night following the late emperor’s burial via the testamentary edict in Empress Dowager Xie’s hands. They had no idea what had happened to Lou Zigui. When Shadowgale heard that he was coming with them, he gave a start. It was already so late. Was Supreme Commander Lou planning to stay overnight at the Imperial Palace?
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