Chapter 37: His Majesty Ning is poverty-stricken Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
His Majesty’s gyrfalcon pooped on the dignified Grand Preceptor, making the old man’s cohorts uneasy and disbelieving. His Majesty had been raised by the Grand Preceptor since young, but they'd become enemies after he ascended the throne? Was the imperial clan naturally cold-hearted, capable of casting off all affection for the sake of power? Or had something happened between His Majesty and the Grand Preceptor that the rest of them didn't know?
Empress Dowager Xie was so angry that she didn't eat all day. Nobody had caused her and her father to lose so much face since the previous two emperors ascended the throne. Fang Tang and company were jubilant and only regretted that they hadn't been able to witness it firsthand.
But Lou Zigui creased his brows and told Ning Xiaoyao, “Once news of this spreads, you'll be hard pressed to avoid accusations of being ungrateful and harsh.” Since he accepted the idea of Ning Xiaoyao being emperor, he wanted this girl to get through it in one piece without anyone denouncing her.
Fang Tang and company felt their smiles stiffen. Ning Xiaoyao wasn't worried at all as her head rocked back and forth. “What's there to fear? I'll say that he mistreated and starved me back then. Who doesn't know how to open their mouths and talk?Just you all wait. If I'm not happy, don't think the Grand Preceptor will be either.”
“.....” said Lou Zigui.
“.....” said Fang Tang and the rest.
Was it really all right to make up nonsense like this?
“Hmph,” Ning Xiaoyao snorted. “Besides, am I to blame for the little gyrfalcon pooping? The Grand Preceptor manages Heaven and Earth, but can he tell a little gyrfalcon where it should poop?”
Fang Tang broke into applause. That’s right, His Majesty’s words were perfectly true. Xie Wenyuan, you manage Heaven and Earth, so could you lower yourself to bother about where a bird poops?
Lou Zigui sighed as his head began to hurt. Pooping here and pooping there, did this person have any sense of being a female at all? (Author: Supreme Commander, your requirements for His Majesty are too high…)
Song Jin coughed dryly twice before proceeding with business. “Your Majesty, generals of the army like us aren't allowed to enter the imperial audience hall during court assembly without being summoned.”
Ning Xiaoyao looked at Song Jin. In other words, she was left to fend for herself that day?
Song Jin saw that Ning Xiaoyao didn't seem to understand, so he could only add, “After all the officials have paid their respects to Your Majesty, please summon us subjects into the imperial audience hall.”
“Oh, that's no problem,” Ning Xiaoyao got it now. She patted her chest and promised, “Lil’ Song, don't you worry. I'll definitely let you guys into the golden hall.”
Song Jin looked at His Majesty, who had a long-furred white cat resting around her shoulders. Though His Majesty had done a splendid job these past few days, he still felt that she was somewhat unreliable.
“Your Majesty,” an eunuch called just then from outside.
“What is it?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
“Esteemed Empress Dowager wasn't feeling well, so the imperial physicians went to pay a call,” the eunuch replied. “Esteemed Empress Dowager sent over a mama to say that she wanted to see Your Majesty.”
Ning Xiaoyao curled her lips contemptuously. “Isn't it just because she didn't eat? Do I look like rice or mantou to you? Or is it that once the Esteemed Empress Dowager sees Zhen, she'll be reminded of red braised pork?”
The eunuch outside the doors fell silent. These didn't sound like human words no matter how he listened!
“If she's sick, she should take medicine,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “What's the use of seeing me?”
“Your, Your Majesty?” the eunuch stammered.
“Aiya, you still don't understand my words?” Ning Xiaoyao turned impatient. “I'm not going, not going. Got that?”
The eunuch ran off. His Majesty and Esteemed Empress Dowager couldn't be genial anymore. Ning Xiaoyao shook her head after chasing off the eunuch before using a file to continue scraping off the stamp of a crane-shaped incense burner in her hands.
“Your Majesty, you're really not going to see Esteemed Empress Dowager?” Lou Zigui asked.
“Not going,” Ning Xiaoyao kept her head bowed as she worked. “If I see her before attending the assembly, I might not be able to keep myself from…”
Clap! Lou Zigui hit the table with his hand. A startled Ning Xiaoyao swallowed the words at the tip of her tongue.
Of all virtues, filial piety is most important. Everyone in the world except for Ning Xiaoyao could speak ill of Empress Dowager Xie. Lou Zigui shook his head at her and said, “Esteemed Empress Dowager’s only been bewitched by the Grand Preceptor.”
Ning Xiaoyao gaped at Lou Zigui with her mouth hanging open. Was Supreme Commander sick again, or had he taken the wrong medicine? He actually thinks the Empress Dowager’s a Little Red Riding Hood tricked by the Big Bad Wolf!
Song Jin could only keep with his dry coughing. Right now His Majesty looked extremely foolish, making it hard for him to see her straight-on.
Fang Tang took this chance to ask, “Your Majesty, why are you scraping away the stamp on this incense burner?” This morning he'd seen the girl Erya that His Majesty brought back using a file to scrape the insignia off a reticulate silver flower vase, too.
“We can't sell off these things if the stamp’s still there,” Ning Xiaoyao said, “So this is the only way.”
“Sell them?” Song Jin exclaimed.
“I don’t have money,” Ning Xiaoyao wasn’t afraid to tell others she was poor.
“How could Your Majesty not have money?” a general on Lou Zigui’s left side asked.
Ning Xiaoyao had on a bitter expression. “I asked around yesterday. The empress dowager’s taking care of my money for me. In other words, if I want money, I have to ask her for it.”
“.....” said everyone else. This truly was something painful.
“Yesterday, Supreme Commander and I saw tons of refugees,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “So many people are starving, so I need money to buy them food!”
The generals fell silent as they watched Ning Xiaoyao file away at the incense burner without even lifting her head. The current emperor was someone who thought of the common people. Lou Zigui waved a hand at the assembled generals and pointed at the shut gates of the palace. One after the other, the generals withdrew, each and every one of them thinking of ways to get money. They couldn’t just stand there and watch His Majesty sell off the family properties.
Lou Zigui poured a cup of water for Ning Xiaoyao and said, “You can just have the eunuchs do things like this.”
Ning Xiaoyao didn’t stop working as she shook her head. “Those eunuchs are all the empress dowager’s men. How could I dare to use them?”
Lou Zigui’s forehead creased into a lump. Ning Xiaoyao paused then to survey her work. Not bad, she’d managed to get rid of the stamp. You really can work faster if you have the strength! Ning Xiaoyao gave herself a brownie point. Erya had been filing away since this morning, but still hadn’t managed to remove the insignia on her flower vase.
“Even if you sell off everything in this room, it won’t solve the problem,” Lou Zigui looked at Ning Xiaoyao’s reddish hands and felt as if a needle had pricked his heart.
“If I don’t do a thing, won’t that solve the problem even less?” Ning Xiaoyao resisted the urge to roll her eyes. She’d looked into things already. The money her father had left her was with the empress dowager, while the national treasury was under the jurisdiction of the Board of Revenue. As to the boss of that Board, hurhur, he was none other than Grand Preceptor Xie’s eldest son! Both the money from the imperial clan and the country were in the Xie Clan’s hands, much to Ning Xiaoyao’s distress.
Lou Zigui sat for awhile after getting a file from Ning Xiaoyao. He too, began to help her file away the emperor’s insignia on various items. His Majesty’s words weren’t wrong; rather than sitting around feeling anxious, it was better to do something practical. (Author: So Supreme Commander, your ‘practical work’ consists of spending time together with His Majesty and rub, rub, rubbing away?)
When Empress Dowager Xie heard the eunuch repeat Ning Xiaoyao’s words in her palace, she raised a hand and smashed a teacup on the floor. All of the people present in her hall were as silent as a cicada in the cold--keeping quiet out of fear. Even back when Esteemed Empress Dowager had been feuding with the empress and the 72 concubines of the imperial harem, she never lost control of herself like today. His Majesty had angered Esteemed Empress Dowager to this extent.
Right now, Empress Dowager Xie couldn’t wait for the next day, when Lou Zigui would die from poison. How would her unfilial daughter Ning Yu kneel before her to ask for mercy then?
Lai mama carried over Ning Xin to stand by Empress Dowager Xie, coaxing her in a soft voice. “May the empress dowager calm her anger. As long as the empress dowager hasn’t done wrong, then all the fault will lie with His Majesty.”
Between mother and son, if the mother was kind and the son unfilial, then everyone would condemn the son. Empress Dowager Xie understood Lai mama’s words, but she couldn’t swallow her indignation. As the person laying the pieces, she’d been bitten by her own piece instead! “Great Master [1. Great Master (大师) - a courtesy title used to address Buddhist monks] Kumu [2. Kumu (枯木) - “dead tree.”] was right,” Empress Dowager Xie muttered between clenched teeth. “His Majesty and This Dowager [3. aijia (哀家) - a personal pronoun used by a widowed empress to refer to herself.] will bring bad fate to each other when we’re together. There’s no way His Majesty and This Dowager could be a kind mother and filial son!”
As she spoke, Empress Dowager Xie felt even more saddened. She took Ning Xin from Lai mama’s arms as tears flowed down her face. Lai mama sighed. Her mistress had never treated His Majesty as her own son. If you just give birth without ever raising the child, how can you hope for His Majesty to show you any feelings? As a bystander, Lai mama saw the situation best, but she didn’t dare say such words aloud. A servant like her had no place speaking for a mother of the imperial clan.
“Imperial Mother[4. muhou(母后) - or “imperial mother,” in which the mother is an official consort/empress rather than a concubine.] can only rely on you,” Empress Dowager Xie’s tears fell on Ning Xin’s face, her voice choked with sobs. “Prince, you must grow up a little faster.”
His face soaked with cooling tears, the Prince Cheng, Ning Xin, began to wail loudly. In a flash, the empress dowager’s palace was filled with the sound of sobbing, making it dreary and miserable.
When night fell, Ning Xiaoyao took Erya and her brother to sleep in the imperial palace. Meanwhile, Lou Zigui stepped out of his temporary quarters, a spring jacket casually draped across his body. Song Jin’s steps hurried through the corridors before he stopped in front of Lou Zigui.
“Go make some inquiries,” Lou Zigui said in a low voice as he looked at the courtyard full of cuckoos. “Find out who usually looks after Prince Cheng.”
Song Jin’s eyes suddenly flashed. “Supreme Commander?”
“A single ‘unfilial’ can suppress His Majesty on the day of court assembly until he can’t move,” Lou Zigui said. “Besides His Majesty, the only other person that the Xie Clan relies on is Prince Cheng. If the Xie father and daughter wants to fight, then have them fight.”
“This soldier understands,” Song Jin replied.
“Find those of us arranged in the imperial guards,” Lou Zigui added. “I didn’t want to involve them, but now I’ll need to use them.”
Song Jin dropped his voice. “Where does Supreme Commander want to meet them?”
“Bring the head to meet me here tomorrow,” Lou Zigui said. “If His Majesty refutes the empress dowager’s attempts to hold court behind a curtain, then the Xie Clan’s dogs within the imperial guards will have to be killed.”
Song Jin had seen plenty of killing, so when Lou Zigui put it so frankly, he simply gave a straightforward nod. The two of them could have been discussing what to eat tomorrow.
“It’s not good to agitate the Xie father and daughter either,” Song Jin said. “All of the troops in the capital city and its surrounding areas are under the Xie Clan’s control. Wouldn’t they…”
“They won’t,” Lou Zigui said without waiting for Song Jin to finish. “Prince Cheng is still young. If they kill His Majesty and make Prince Cheng the emperor, then Empress Dowager Xie would have to die with her son as tradition dictates. Would that woman be willing?” How could a woman who coveted power treat her life as anything less than precious?
“You go arrange things,” Lou Zigui patted Song Jin’s shoulder. “Be careful while you do.”
Song Jin nodded and turned to rush off. Lou Zigui stood by himself in the corridor, the lamps casting his long shadow in relief against the ground. Big Boss Black ran to Lou Zigui’s side and meowed twice. Lou Zigui looked down at him.
Big Boss Black jumped to the banisters of the walkway and nuzzled his head against Lou Zigui’s hand as he meowed, “Supreme Commander, you don’t have to worry. Xiaoyao’s really tough!”
Right now, the really tough Ning Xiaoyao had just turned over on the bed. In her dream, a table full of crispy fried chicken was waving a hand at her. As His Majesty Ning opened her mouth, drool poured onto her pillow.
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