Chapter 30: Little sparrow delivers a golden tooth Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
The gathered crowd had no idea what a wretched plight ruse was, but they could figure it out after thinking it through. It sounded more or less like a self-injury ruse[1. self-injury ruse (苦肉计) - kurouji, a strategy where one inflicts injury to oneself to win the confidence of the enemy.].
“Besides,” Ning Xiaoyao felt her idea was reasonable the more she talked. “What does this have to do with the Grand Preceptor? We’re doing it as a show for the populace, aren’t we?”
That’s true, thought the gathered men. What does this have to do with the Grand Preceptor? When everyone believed them instead, who cares what the Grand Preceptor rambled about?
“If the Grand Preceptor accuses Supreme Commander of betraying his country then,” Ning Xiaoyao said, “We’ll box his ears!”
“... …” replied everyone. It seemed like His Majesty had a big grudge against the Grand Preceptor.
“Are we going to do it this way?” Ning Xiaoyao asked her companions.
“Do it!” Fang Tang was the first to yell. Everyone else looked at Song Jin. How about you come up with an idea?
Song Jin said, “Your Majesty, what should your subjects do?”
“I’ll take Supreme Commander out to stroll around the streets,” Ning Xiaoyao already had her plan in place. “Meanwhile, Windy takes his fellow comrades--eh, Lil’ Big Bro Fang, you guys go too--in different clothing. We’ll sit around and wait for the northern barbarians to charge us and kill Supreme Commander.”
“It’s that simple?” Fang Tang asked.
“Then how else do you want it to go, Lil’ Big Bro Fang?” Ning Xiaoyao replied.
“Go to the Fragrant Storey on West Street,” Song Jin spoke up. “Your Majesty can bring Supreme Commander there, it was where the late emperor often went to mingle with the people incognito. Northern Hu won’t be too suspicious if Your Majesty goes. They’ll just assume Your Majesty is taking Supreme Commander to drive away his cares.”
“Done,” Ning Xiaoyao clapped her hands. “Then I’ll take Supreme Commander to the Fragrant Storey.”
At this, Shadowgale raised a question. “Your Majesty, what if Supreme Commander doesn’t want to go? What do we do then?” Supreme Commander Lou didn’t look like someone who was good-tempered, much less easy to convince. But Ning Xiaoyao didn’t worry and just waved a hand.
“It’s fine. Worse comes to worst, I’ll carry him over.”
Fang Tang and the rest all wore odd expressions on their faces. Carry him again?
“Then let’s split up and prepare,” Ning Xiaoyao stood up and gulped the contents of her teacup. She wiped her lips and said, “Meeting dismissed, we’ll leave the palace on time tomorrow night.”
“Why nighttime?” a guard asked Ning Xiaoyao.
“Because Windy and the rest are still injured. It’s no good for them to get up early,” Ning Xiaoyao explained.
Shadowgale and the rest suddenly felt touched again.
“Besides, who’s going to murder someone in broad daylight?” Ning Xiaoyao said. It’s not like they were going to kill zombies.
“... …” said everyone else. Why does it seem like His Majesty’s an expert in such matters?
In the corridors outside the main audience hall, two mama [2. mama (嬷嬷) - a form of address for an elderly female servant, also a wet nurse.] were kneeling to wait for Ning Xiaoyao. When they saw her walk over with her hands behind her back, one mama hastily spoke up. “Your Majesty, this servant brought Mute Granny over to help you bathe.”
“Mute Granny?” Ning Xiaoyao looked at the mama kneeling behind the first one. “She can’t speak?”
This woman who looked to be in her fifties hurriedly nodded her head, opening her mouth so Ning Xiaoyao could see. She only spotted the remnants of a tongue in the mouth. Empress Dowager Xie really was a prudent type, arranging a mute servant to help with her bathing. This way, even if she knew her body was female, this mama won’t be able to say a thing. Mm, Ning Xiaoyao mused, this mama is probably illiterate too.
She bent down to help Mute Granny up before telling the other servant, “I’m not bathing. You go arrange for the Dragon Guards and Black Frost Cavalry’s generals to bathe instead. The water has to be hot.”
After accepting the decree, the mama asked, “Then this Mute Granny?”
“Leave her here,” Ning Xiaoyao said. If she chased this one away, wouldn’t Empress Dowager Xie just arrange for a second or a third Mute Granny instead? Why make such a fuss?
The mama took along Mute Granny and left. Ning Xiaoyao pushed open the door to her rooms. As a person with healing powers, all she had to do was activate her ability all over her body and it’d clean up all impurities from inside out. Ning Xiaoyao didn’t need to bathe at all! Right now, Lou Zigui was still sleeping soundly on the couch. The Spring’s evening breeze was soft and gentle as it lightly brushed against Lou Zigui’s hair. Big Boss Black perched on the window to guard his Supreme Commander, his green eyes narrowed into slits.
Ning Xiaoyao picked up Lou Zigui princess-style and delivered him to the bed, before putting the covers over him and touching his forehead. She exhaled a breath. He wouldn’t need more than two days before his injuries recovered. Big Boss Black ran to the foot of the bed and scratched at Ning Xiaoyao with his paw again.
“Are you planning to sleep with him too?” Ning Xiaoyao asked. “Wake up, you’re male. Nothing will come of it if you sleep with Supreme Commander!”
Big Boss Black made a determined effort to scratch Ning Xiaoyao’s shins. This ninny was insulting his adoration for the Supreme Commander! Ning Xiaoyao kicked Big Boss Black aside before jumping out the window into the flower gardens.
“You’ve made your decision?” Grandfather Sparrow was still standing on the same branch as before.
Ning Xiaoyao sat beneath the tree and nodded. “Mm, we’ve decided. We’ll make our move tomorrow night.”
Grandfather Sparrow flew to land on Ning Xiaoyao’s crossed legs. “Then how are you going to tell Northern Hu that Supreme Commander’s left the palace?”
Ning Xiaoyao conjured out a mantou from a pocket and fed some to Grandfather Sparrow as she explained. “That’s why I want to ask you, Grandfather Sparrow, to help me out. Can you guys steal something from the northern barbarians?”
Grandfather Sparrow gave a start. Did sparrows steal from humans? Were they sick of living?
“You guys just need to lure a northern barbarian to glimpse a view of Supreme Commander, that’s all,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “When they see the Supreme Commander, they’ll definitely come to kill him.”
Big Boss Black quietly approached Ning Xiaoyao’s side. “Then what should be stolen?”
“Anything,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “As long as it’s a treasure of the Northern Hu, it’ll work.”
Grandfather Sparrow pecked a few bites of mantou from Ning Xiaoyao’s hand before giving a sigh. “Supreme Commander is a good person.”
Ning Xiaoyao and Big Boss Black both nodded their heads.
“Then I’ll help you on this matter, Xiaoyao,” said Grandfather Sparrow.
“Thank you, Grandfather Sparrow!” Ning Xiaoyao raised him up and kissed his little head. Grandfather Sparrow hastily flew out of Ning Xiaoyao’s hands. Males and females shouldn’t be so intimate. Did this Xiaoyao understand or not, ah, chirp~
“I want to go tomorrow, too,” Big Boss Black said.
“I’m going to fight, what are you going for?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
Big Boss Black showed off his claws. “I can scratch those Northern Hu to death.”
Ning Xiaoyao’s lips twitched. If you have the skills, why not scratch the Xie father and daughter to death?
From outside the walls, the sound of the night watch carried over. A fine drizzle fell from the skies, so Ning Xiaoyao carried Big Boss Black back into the rooms. She placed him on the couch before lying next to Lou Zigui. Since they had to fight tomorrow, she wanted to sleep a bit. When Lou Zigui rolled over, Ning Xiaoyao was in the middle of self-cleaning herself. Her entire body was enveloped in a soft green light. Lou Zigui raised a hand and tightly hugged Ning Xiaoyao, sighing deeply in his sleep. His lips rested on Ning Xiaoyao’s face as if he’d finally found a lost treasure.
“... …” said Ning Xiaoyao. They couldn’t accuse her of stealing Supreme Commander’s innocence this time, right? Moreover, wasn’t this guy treating her as a body pillow?
The drizzle fell all through the night and next day until dusk. Ning Xiaoyao spent her entire day eating and drinking as she got familiar with Fang Tang and Shadowgale’s crew. Once it got dark, she watched the Dragon Guards and Song Jin’s men leave the palace in casual garb before yawning and carrying the still sleeping Lou Zigui onto the carriage.
“Windy, let’s go,” she told the carriage driver.
The general of the imperial guards looked like he’d swallowed goldthread [3. goldthread (黄连) - huanglian, a type of plant used in traditional Chinese medicine to help with stomach problems. Perhaps a certain emperor is giving the imperial guards stomachaches? ;)] when he saw Ning Xiaoyao stick her head out the carriage window. He couldn’t hold back the Dragon Guards, much less His Majesty, from leaving the palace. But how was he supposed to explain things to the empress dowager if they did go?!
“Supreme Commander’s not feeling very well,” Ning Xiaoyao lied without a change in expression. “I’m taking him out of the palace to find a doctor.”
The general of the imperial guards hastened to reply, “This soldier understands.”
Shadowgale struck out with the whip in his hands, and the two horse carriage galloped out of the palace gates. Ning Xiaoyao had just left when Empress Dowager Xie received the news.
“His Majesty said that Supreme Commander’s not feeling very well?” Empress Dowager Xie asked the head eunuch who brought in the report.
“Yes,” the head eunuch replied while half-bowed. “His Majesty brought Supreme Commander out of the palace to see a doctor.”
Nobody dared to speak up. If it was an issue of illness, there were physicians on duty at the Imperial Physician Courtyard all day and night. His Majesty hadn’t summoned an imperial physician but went out to look for a doctor. Wasn't this clearly telling everyone that he didn’t trust the imperial physicians or the empress dowager in charge of managing the palace affairs?
Empress Dowager Xie gave a soft exhale as she waved tiredly for the head eunuch to withdraw. She seemed saddened, but there was a cold smile in her heart. Lou Zigui’s been poisoned, so of course his body won’t get any better. She’d like to see what her daughter looked like after Lou Zigui died.
When Lou Zigui heard the sound of carriage wheels, his eyes flew open in alert. Why would the palace sound like moving wheels? The vision before him was a smiling face that still carried traces of baby fat.
“Awake?” Ning Xiaoyao grinned at Lou Zigui.
“Miaow,” Big Boss Black greeted, staring at Lou Zigui as well.
Lou Zigui sat up and glanced at Ning Xiaoyao, then at the interior of the carriage, before asking in a low voice, “Where are we going?”
“Fragrant Storey,” Ning Xiaoyao replied.
“Where?” Lou Zigui thought he’d misheard. Why would this woman take him to the capital city’s most famous brothel?
Ning Xiaoyao thought over her words. There was no mistake, Song Jin had said ‘Fragrant Storey’ last night. “Fragrant Storey, ah.” Ning Xiaoyao said confidently.
“Ridiculous!” Lou Zigui was angry. Did women talk about brothels?
“You’re not going?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
“No, we’re going back,” Lou Zigui said.
Ning Xiaoyao’s expression turned wooden. “We’re going even if you don’t want to. Today we have big things to accomplish. All you have to do is flash your face.”
Lou Zigui had no idea what was going on. Why couldn’t he understand this person when she talked? “Flash my face? How am I supposed to flash it?”
“It means to show your face,” Ning Xiaoyao felt a bit hurt. It was hard to make connections when your language ran along different systems.
Take him to the brothel to show his face? Lou Zigui just couldn’t figure out what Ning Xiaoyao was planning!
“Your Majesty,” Fang Tang’s voice called from outside the window. Ning Xiaoyao hastily lifted the curtains.
“Thieving bird!” a guttural voice cried out from behind the carriage, along with a chorus of laughter. A sparrow flew past the window and loosened its claws, depositing a shiny gold object into the carriage. Ning Xiaoyao picked it up and saw, aiyah, a golden tooth. Though the shape wasn’t as fine as the ones from the apocalypse, it was a tooth beyond a doubt. Chirping noises came from the sparrows atop a wall encircling a nearby house. Ning Xiaoyao spotted Grandfather Sparrow amongst the crowd.
“Do well,” Grandfather Sparrow shouted at Ning Xiaoyao. “You have to restore Supreme Commander’s innocence, chirp~”
Ning Xiaoyao nodded at Grandfather Sparrow. She definitely would!
Supreme Commander Lou was speechless. What was this person doing, nodding her head out the window while holding a golden tooth delivered by a sparrow? Had she been possessed?
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