Chapter 42: Piles of corpses at the empress dowager's palace Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Lou Zigui had a limited number of soldiers on hand, while the Grand Preceptor controlled the capital city, its surrounding environs, and the troops associated with both. Lou Zigui was clear in his heart that they couldn’t corner the Xie father and daughter like dogs to a wall until they jumped. There was no guarantee that they’d claim victory then. Ning Xiaoyao felt hurt. Leaving aside all her work and being lectured like a mutt, she’d even thrown away the Dragon Throne. Now she had to make good with the Xie father and mother and continue to act like family with them? Was there no end to this?!
“Your Majesty,” Lou Zigui said to Ning Xiaoyao. “How about you adjourn this court session?”
Ning Xiaoyao was filled with reluctance but managed to mutter, “Adjourned.”
“.....” said the people in the hall. Adjourned just like that? First there were quarrels, then people had died, then the great hall itself had been torn apart. Were things just going to end here?
Lou Zigui didn’t even spare the ministers a glance as he told Ning Xiaoyao, “Let’s go.”
“Lou Zigui,” Empress Dowager Xie saw them turning away and hastened to cry out, “Give Prince Cheng back to This Dowager.”
Lou Zigui jostled the baby in his arms a couple of times and replied, “Prince Cheng is His Majesty’s biological little brother. His Majesty is taking Prince Cheng to the imperial palace for a short rest, so Esteemed Empress Dowager can send someone to pick him up there.”
“You,” For the sake of protecting her son, Empress Dowager Xie was still willing to risk her life and defy Lou Zigui.
Grand Preceptor Xie half knelt down and patted Empress Dowager Xie’s hand. In a small voice, he said, “Nothing will happen to the prince. Empress Dowager need not worry, let them leave.”
Empress Dowager Xie stared at Ning Xiaoyao and said wretchedly, “He’s your own little brother!”
“Heheh,” Ning Xiaoyao replied. As if being of the same blood ever stopped anyone from killing each other. By now, Song Jin had found the eunuch in charge of announcements behind a pillar and brought him to the foot of the stairs leading to the throne.
“Didn’t you hear His Majesty say to adjourn the court?” he asked.
This eunuch was shaking with fear as he opened his mouth and shouted, “Adjourned!”
Only after His Majesty left with Lou Zigui did the other members of the imperial clan speak up. “So the empress dowager won’t hold court from behind a screen?”
The puffy Prince Fu, Ning Guangshun, swayed his body as he tottered out of the palace and replied, “The Grand Preceptor’s even knelt to recognize his wrongs and said he misunderstood. How could Esteemed Empress Dowager hold court from behind any screen now?”
“Then, then His Majesty won?” another relative asked.
Prince Fu smiled coldly. It was nothing more than a dog biting another dog. Who cared about the losers or victors?
“Aye,” Ning Xiaoyao carried a branch in her hand on the trip to the Imperial Palace, scratching it against the ground as she sighed. Right now, His Majesty Ning’s head was dizzy, and all she could think about was how nobody respected her position as emperor.
When Lou Zigui heard Ning Xiaoyao’s sighs, he asked, “Your Majesty is unhappy?”
Ning Xiaoyao wore a bitter expression. “Is there anything worth being happy about?”
Lou Zigui arched an eyebrow. “The empress dowager couldn’t hold court from behind a screen. Isn’t Your Majesty happy about that?”
Ning Xiaoyao gave a start. That’s right, the empress dowager couldn’t hold court from behind a screen today. It should be the empress dowager who’s unhappy, right? Once she figured this out, Ning Xiaoyao grinned. As long as Empress Dowager Xie wasn’t happy, she was! Big Boss Black ran ahead to avoid her foolish grin. As a cat, he couldn’t stand how stupid it looked on her face.
“Hah,” Ning Xiaoyao tossed away the branch in her hands and turned towards Fang Tang and the rest. “I only just realized, we scored a victory today!” Why didn’t Fang Tang and the rest feel touched at all?
Lou Zigui’s eyes showed hints of laughter when he saw the melancholy Ning Xiaoyao suddenly turned bright and cheerful. Those who were easily satisfied were typically more simple and pure. Upon returning to the Imperial Palace, Ning Xiaoyao stood on tiptoe to look at the child in Lou Zigui’s arms again. Though she’d wanted to kill Empress Dowager Xie from the first second she met her, Ning Xiaoyao had no such thoughts toward Ning Xin. It was senseless to shout and fight against an infant, wasn’t it?
But Lou Zigui handed the baby over to Song Jin and simply said, “Take it out of the palace.”
“Ah?” Ning Xiaoyao was floored again. “You want to send him away?” Wouldn’t Empress Dowager Xie go crazy?
Lou Zigui looked at Ning Xiaoyao’s large, dark eyes and suddenly smiled. “Your Majesty, this isn’t Prince Cheng.”
“Whaa?” Ning Xiaoyao was still stunned. This wasn’t Ning Xin? Then they’d cheated their way against the Xie father and daughter pair?
Lou Zigui waved a hand at Song Jin, who awkwardly held onto the babe and bowed to Ning Xiaoyao. Then his large strides took him out of the great hall.
“I’m not preparing to hurt Prince Cheng,” Lou Zigui told Ning Xiaoyao. “In that case, it doesn’t matter whose child I carried into the Hall of Golden Chimes, because the effects were all the same.”
“Then what about that charm?” Ning Xiaoyao still remembered how pained she felt over the broken jade charm.
“That was real. It was taken from the empress dowager’s palace.” Lou Zigui sat down and looked at Ning Xiaoyao. “Without that charm, how could we have convinced the Xie father and daughter that the baby was Prince Cheng?”
“That’s not it,” Ning Xiaoyao was a little confused from being run around circles by Supreme Commander Lou. “If you could take the charm out, why not take Prince Cheng directly as well?”
“Believe me,” Lou Zigui replied, “When the Xie father and mother return to the empress dowager’s palace and see Prince Cheng, they’ll be even more alarmed.”
Ning Xiaoyao couldn’t manage any more questions, so she turned to look at the dumbfounded Fang Tang. “Do you have trouble understanding him?”
Fang Tang nodded. Now that she had a companion, Ning Xiaoyao stopped worrying about her IQ. She nodded in turn. “I didn’t understand it either.”
Supreme Commander Lou rested a hand on his forehead. The other generals looked at the two figures standing in solidarity. Were they uniting under their stupidity? (Author: Can’t you guys treat His Majesty with a bit more respect?)
“Go and take care of the matter with the imperial guards,” Lou Zigui told the generals under his command. “Get rid of the ones we can’t keep.”
The generals accepted their orders and withdrew. Ning Xiaoyao asked weakly, “Are we discharging the ones we can’t keep?”
Fang Tang felt a sudden sense of superiority then. He wasn’t the stupidest one!
Lou Zigui glanced at Fang Tang and said, “You’re still standing here?”
Fang Tang ran out of the room.
“That’s right,” Lou Zigui said after the man had gone. “Since those men only obey the empress dowager and Grand Preceptor’s commands, what’s the use of leaving them by Your Majesty’s side?”
Oh, then they’re getting discharged. Ning Xiaoyao rubbed her nose and said, “Then we won’t have them. Let’s do some major recruiting. There are so many refugees in the streets, so won’t it be simple to get some to do the work of imperial guards?”
“.....” said Lou Zigui. It seemed that this person didn’t understand a thing about imperial guards, either. (Author: Supreme Commander, you’re wrong. This person doesn’t understand a thing about this world, period. o(╯□╰)o )
“Whose baby was that?” Ning Xiaoyao asked again.
“A colleague’s grandson,” Lou Zigui answered.
“Oh,” Ning Xiaoyao released a breath. As long as they hadn’t bought off someone, it was all good. After asking all the available questions, the room fell into silence between the sitting and standing pair. Her large eyes stared at his small ones for a while before Ning Xiaoyao asked, “Are you hungry?”
Supreme Commander Lou didn’t get to speak before Big Boss Black couldn’t take it anymore and cried, “You ninny, do you only know how to eat?!”
Ning Xiaoyao lifted up Big Boss Black and threw him out the window. Didn’t he promise to stop calling her a ninny once she restored Supreme Commander’s innocence? This fat black furball wasn’t trustworthy at all!
“Your Majesty,” a palace maid reported after Big Boss Black fell out the window. “Elder Li begs for an audience.”
As soon as she heard it was that old man, Ning Xiaoyao trembled. The old grandpa wasn’t going to let her off?
“Go tell Elder Li,” Lou Zigui said, “His Majesty’s feeling unwell and gone to rest. If Elder Li has any business, he can say it at the small assembly two days later.”
Though the palace maid was unable to get Ning Xiaoyao’s words, she replied in the affirmative and left with Lou Zigui’s answer.
“Speaking of which, exactly what kind of official is that elder?” Ning Xiaoyao asked. “Is he higher than the Grand Preceptor, or lower?”
Lou Zigui furrowed his eyebrows at the question. It looked like there was plenty of things for His Majesty to learn. Meanwhile, Ning Xiaoyao glanced at herself, then at Supreme Commander Lou, and asked, “Huh? How come I have to stand?”
Lou Zigui fell silent. Who knew?
“Oh, that’s right,” Ning Xiaoyao slapped her forehead again. “I need to go back to the Hall of Golden Chimes.”
“For what?” Supreme Commander Lou asked.
“I’ve seen the Dragon Throne, it’s not pure gold,” Ning Xiaoyao said seriously. “But the outside layer of gold plating is worth a lot of money if I scrape it off. I’m going to carry it back."
“You,” Supreme Commander Lou found it difficult to form words as he replied, “Do you know the significance of the Dragon Throne?”
Ning Xiaoyao tilted her head in thought. Not understanding, she replied, “Isn’t it just a chair?”
“That’s the Dragon Throne,” Supreme Commander Lou stressed.
“Well, I didn’t change into a dragon,” Ning Xiaoyao said disdainfully. “What’s the use of sitting on a Dragon Throne? Didn’t that grandpa Li lecture me like a dog all the same?”
“Elder Li scolded you?” Lou Zigui’s gaze turned heavy. Ning Xiaoyao shrugged her shoulders and sat next to Lou Zigui. She took a pastry from the dish on a table and placed it in Lou Zigui’s hand before getting one for herself and eating half of it in one bite.
“I don’t know for sure if he was scolding me, but he looked pretty emotional when he was talking. Almost like he wanted to bite me.”
“I didn’t understand anything,” Ning Xiaoyao rolled her eyes. Lou Zigui fell silent. If Elder Li heard His Majesty’s words, maybe he’d feel like dying?
“Eh, Supreme Commander, are you hungry?” Ning Xiaoyao asked again.
Lou Zigui looked at the pastry in his hand. Did they have to change topics to food?
Big Boss Black ran out of the Imperial Palace. After going with Supreme Commander to the Hall of Golden Chimes, he had to show off in front of his fellow brothers. But before he found them, he heard a few gray pigeons fly overhead and speak.
“A lot of people’s died at the empress dowager’s palace, coo coo.”
“That’s right, coo coo, it’s frightening. Let’s not go see.”
Big Boss Black turned blank. He changed directions to run towards the empress dowager’s palace instead. How could there be lots of dead people?
Empress Dowager Xie was carried over to her palace on a sedan chair, but there was no sound of anyone once the doors were opened. Only the caws of crows filled the air, along with a stench of blood that made her want to throw up.
“At the very least, Prince Cheng is unharmed.” the Grand Preceptor didn’t think there was anyone living left at the empress dowager’s palace. These were the only words he could say to calm down his eldest daughter.
“How, how could this be?” Empress Dowager Xie’s voice trembled.
“The Dragon Guards,” Grand Preceptor Xie said in a low voice. “Most of the imperial guards went to the assembly hall, so the ones remaining here were no match for them.”
The sedan chair arrived at the main doors. Beyond them was a pile of corpses, upon which carrion-eating crow tits were hopping back and forth in search of food. Two severed pieces of intestines had been picked out of a body and lay across the threshold. It was now completely covered in flies. Empress Dowager Xie’s hands clenched with a death grip around the handlebars of the sedan chair to avoid falling out of her seat entirely. Still, she couldn’t hold back the wave of nausea. As soon as she opened her mouth, it was to vomit.
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