Chapter 49: Oil Lamp's gift Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
“Withdraw your teeth,” Grandpa Ash scolded Oil Jar, before speaking to the little mouse behind him. “Oil Lamp, let Xiaoyao take a look at your illness. Don't be afraid, Xiaoyao’s one of our people.”
“Heheh,” said the Ning Xiaoyao who had been treated as one of the group. Grandpa Ash didn't say she was ‘one of our mice,’ ah.
Oil Lamp walked out from behind Grandpa Ash, his body shivering as he timidly offered his greetings. “Hello, Xiaoyao. My name is Oil Lamp.”
Ning Xiaoyao cradled Oil Lamp in her hand as she brushed against the tumor on his tail. It felt hard to the touch, which was no good news.
“Xiaoyao, can this illness be cured?” Oil Jar asked nervously.
“No problem,” Ning Xiaoyao sat on the bed. Since she couldn't find a knife, she picked up a pair of scissors instead. “No illness exists that I can't cure.”
“If you're treating Oil Lamp’s illness, why use a blade?”
Oil Lamp was scared to death as he moved his body to try and see Ning Xiaoyao’s hand. Ning Xiaoyao said, “Oil Lamp, there's a peanut in front of you.”
Oil Lamp quickly turned to face forward. “Peanut? Where?”
Grandpa Ash and Oil Jar looked forward as well. The allure of peanuts were too powerful. Ning Xiaoyao took advantage of Oil Lamp’s distraction to snip off his tumor, taking off half of his tail in the process as well.
“Squeak!” The pain caused Oil Lamp to give out a miserable shriek, scaring all the animals inside and outside to death. For some reason, the window blew open the door to the room at this very moment, revealing Mute Nanny and a court lady holding a serving tray. They locked eyes with Ning Xiaoyao. As soon as the court lady saw Ning Xiaoyao, she screamed and threw aside the tray in her hands. Ning Xiaoyao tossed aside the scissors and held onto Oil Lamp’s severed tail, partly to stop the bleeding, partly to look bewildered at the pair outside the door. What was wrong with them?
“Your, Your Majesty, have mercy,” the little court lady kneeled on the floor to kowtow to her. Mute Nanny looked at if she’d lost her soul as she stood there as dull as a block of wood. Blood had splattered to cover half of His Majesty’s face, also staining the scissors that were in her right hand. In her left hand was a dead, blood-drenched mouse. Was His Majesty murdering mice in cold blood?!
“Did I look at you the wrong way?” Ning Xiaoyao asked the little court lady, her face half covered in blood.
The little court lady was crying so much that she couldn't speak. His Majesty’s too scary!
Ning Xiaoyao peeked to see what had dropped on the floor. Fortunately, it was just tea. If it was food, she'd have felt much sadder. “If there's nothing else, then you can withdraw. I have enough water to drink here.” Ning Xiaoyao didn't know why the court lady was crying, nor did she have time to ask. So she asked her to leave instead.
Mute Nanny quickly helped the court lady away. Ning Xiaoyao used a sleeve to wipe the blood off her face before opening her fingers to check on Oil Lamp’s tail. By now, the blood had stopped, and the tumor had been cleanly clipped away, thus making this surgery a success. Ning Xiaoyao grabbed a clean handkerchief and wrapped up Oil Lamp’s still healing tail before setting him lightly on the ground. “All right, keep your tail away from water for the next few days. Come back three days later so I can have another look.”
The weight that had always dragged him down had disappeared, along with the pain. Oil Lamp was so happy that he could dance for joy. Grandpa Ash jumped onto the bed and stared at Ning Xiaoyao with his beady eyes. Ning Xiaoyao was about to pick up the discarded tumor on the ground for closer examination, but felt nervous from Grandpa Ash’s state. She proactively admitted her wrongs and said, “That there, I haven't prepared the peanuts yet.”
“I heard you cursed the empress dowager?” Grandpa Ash asked.
“Mm.” Ning Xiaoyao nodded.
“She's your mother,” Grandpa Ash was very serious. Ning Xiaoyao pursed her lips. Her bad luck all came from this mother of hers.
“You can't scold her on the subject of her chastity,” Grandpa Ash lectured Ning Xiaoyao.
Ning Xiaoyao’s mouth twitched. She hadn't even said some of the worse things.
“Understood?” Grandpa Ash asked. Ning Xiaoyao nodded, even if she didn't get it. This mouse was just like Elder Li, someone she couldn't afford to offend.
“The Grand Preceptor was cursing Xiaoyao too,” Oil Lamp spoke up.
“Hm?” Ning Xiaoyao hurried to say, “Oil Lamp, you live at the Grand Preceptor’s estate?”
“I live in the third big house on the left side of Fragrant Gauze Alley,” Oil Lamp replied. Ning Xiaoyao could only shake her head since she was unfamiliar with the capital city.
Big Boss Black licked his whiskers. “Fragrant Gauze Alley, third house on the left, that should be where the head steward of the Grand Preceptor’s estate keeps his little woman Yan Hong[1. Yan Hong (艳红) - a name that means ‘scarlet.’], right?”
“Yep,” Oil Lamp nodded.
“.....” said Ning Xiaoyao. Even a steward had his own little woman? Was that any good at all?
“Xiaoyao,” Oil Lamp looked at Ning Xiaoyao, “That head steward says the Grand Preceptor calls you a simpleton in his estate.”
“That old bastard! I'll bite him to death!” Big Boss Black snarled. The little gyrfalcon furiously flapped his wings as well to express his anger.
Ning Xiaoyao waved a hand at them both and said, “He’s the one who's a simpleton. His entire family are simpletons.”
Oil Lamp asked, “Xiaoyao, did you have the things from the palace brought out to be sold, and then used the money to buy rice for the refugees?”
Ning Xiaoyao was very surprised. “How do you know?”
“The head steward said so,” Oil Lamp replied. “He also said that the Grand Preceptor’s already given orders to stop you for fishing for fame and compliments, or bribing people’s hearts to your side, and some other things I can't remember, squeak squeak.”
Ning Xiaoyao dig her fingers into her hands. Great, so the Grand Preceptor already knew about her sending Shadowgale and the rest off to sell the items that she'd scraped off the royal insignias from. Was the palace capable of keeping any secrets?
“Isn't Xiaoyao doing good deeds?” Oil Jar asked, “Why is the Grand Preceptor cursing her?”
“The Grand Preceptor said that there are too many refugees, and that Xiaoyao can't afford to raise them all,” Oil Lamp replied. “And the Grand Preceptor’s also given orders to all the grain shops in the capital, to not sell any grain to Xiaoyao anymore.”
Ning Xiaoyao wanted to spit blood. That old geezer’s reach actually extended to the grain shops of the capital? Wasn't he defying the natural order of things? Even the little animals were stunned.
Oil Lamp swished his half-cut tail and said, “Xiaoyao, I’m going to give you a present.”
A dejected Ning Xiaoyao could only reply, “Thank you, but there's no need.”
“I know the location of the Grand Preceptor estate’s secret grain depot,” Oil Lamp said out of the blue.
Ning Xiaoyao whipped her head up, light shining once more from her eyes. “Secret grain depot?”
“Mm,” Oil Lamp said, “The Grand Preceptor secretly prepared it for his army.”
Ning Xiaoyao didn't want to talk anymore. The Grand Preceptor even had his own army?
“Don't speak nonsense,” Grandpa Ash said, “Those soldiers belong to the reigning dynasty.”
Oil Lamp seemed to fear Grandpa Ash very much, because he lowered his head and said in a small voice, “But those troops all listen to what the Grand Preceptor says.”
Grandpa Ash glared at him. “You're still talking?”
“Fine, fine, fine,” Ning Xiaoyao stroked the white furs on Grandpa Ash’s back. “We can discuss those details later. Oil Lamp, where's the grain depot?”
“Eastern outskirts of the capital city, at the Xie Clan’s ancestral graves,” Oil Lamp replied immediately.
Ning Xiaoyao nodded. That old Xie geezer sure was something, hiding his grain by the ancestral graves.
“The head steward has the key,” Oil Lamp said as he ran outside. “Xiaoyao, wait for me a bit.”
Ning Xiaoyao asked Grandpa Ash, “Oil Lamp’s even going to bring back the key?”
“He had one in his mouth when he came,” Grandpa Ash replied.
Ning Xiaoyao mentally gave Oil Lamp a ‘like.’ Mighty Oil Lamp!
Soon enough, Oil Lamp jumped back through the window with a key in his mouth. “Ngh, it’s this one.”
Ning Xiaoyao took the key into her hands as her eyes narrowly avoided being filled up with warm tears. She finally had some grain in her hands! As for how the Grand Preceptor would support his troops without the grain, that was something for him to worry about. What did that have to do with His Majesty? (Author: o(╯□╰)o )
Now the little gyrfalcon spoke up. “If the head steward’s lost the key, will the Grand Preceptor change the locks?”
“This is Yan Hong’s secret copy of the key,” Oil Lamp said, “She's on intimate terms with the head captain in charge of guarding the grain depot. They're planning to secretly steal the grain and sell it for money without telling the head steward.”
Ning Xiaoyao suddenly felt that the key in her hands was very heavy. There was even a story of love, hatred, passion and enmity behind it.
“This matter can be done,” Grandpa Ash said severely.
Ning Xiaoyao hit the bed and said, “Done!” If she didn't steal the grain, wouldn't she be a real fool?
“Then Xiaoyao, you have to be quick. The rice in the grain depot will be moved away in a few days,” Oil Lamp climbed onto Ning Xiaoyao’s foot.
Ning Xiaoyao stood up holding Oil Lamp in her hand as she scratched Oil Lamp’s head and rubbed his stomach. Then His Majesty Ning made a promise. “Oil Lamp, I’ll give you a sack of peanuts too.”
“Okay, okay,” Oil Lamp was so happy that his entire body shook.
“Black Tubby,” Ning Xiaoyao turned to call for Big Boss Black.
“I said before, my name is Big Boss Black,” Big Boss Black shouted.
“Oil Lamp, you take Black Tubby to see the grain depot,” Ning Xiaoyao told Oil Lamp. “I need to know its location. Oil Lamp, ah, can you take my household’s Black Tubby there?”
Big Boss Black originally wanted to take a stand for his name, but after hearing Ning Xiaoyao say ‘my household’s Black Tubby,’ he suddenly felt touched again. He was Xiaoyao’s household cat now?
Oil Lamp looked timidly at Big Boss Black and said, “He won’t eat me, right?”
“If he eats you, I’ll tear off his skin!” Ning Xiaoyao said powerfully.
Big Boss Black suddenly lost all traces of feeling touched.
“Done,” Oil Lamp nodded. Ning Xiaoyao walked to the window, took out two sugar beans, and stuffed them into Oil Lamp’s mouth. Then she placed him on top of Big Boss Black’s head and scratched beneath the cat’s chin.
“Black Tubby, you have to take good care of Oil Lamp. He’s still injured.”
Big Boss Black felt stifled enough to die. Asking a cat to take care of a little mouse, this ninny was hopeless!
“You can’t manage this by yourself, can you?” Big Boss Black showed Ning Xiaoyao a paw. “Aren’t you going to discuss it with Supreme Commander?”
“Figure out the location first,” Ning Xiaoyao rubbed her chin as she mentally calculated. “Then I’ll find the Supreme Commander to discuss things.”
“Achoo!” Inside the study, the Lou Zigui that Ning Xiaoyao and Big Boss Black were currently discussing let out a sneeze.
Song Jin turned pale with fright before sitting up from his chair. “If that’s the case, won’t Old Huo and the rest get captured by the Grand Preceptor?”
“They’ll have to suffer,” Lou Zigui raised a hand to press against his nose before continuing in a low voice, “But they won't need to worry about their lives. At most, I’ll have Xie Wenyuan release them after a day.”
“For the sake of the Imperial Jade Seal?” Song Jin asked.
Supreme Commander Lou didn’t answer Song Jin’s question, but said instead, “Make sure Old Huo and the rest don’t let themselves be captured without a fight when they search through the Grand Preceptor’s estate at night. Have them set fire and burn the estate for me.”
Song Jin couldn’t help but think. If they burned the Grand Preceptor’s estate, then how many of their men still left in the capital would survive?
“Go on, do as I said,” Supreme Commander Lou looked up at Song Jin. Military men had always been duty-bound to follow commands. Song Jin accepted the orders with an affirmative before turning to leave the room with large strides. Supreme Commander Lou tapped his finger lightly against the table. The small assembly one day later would definitely be very lively.
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