Chapter 52: Bloody battle at the Grand Preceptor's estate Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Grand Preceptor Xie was already asking for people, while Empress Dowager Xie had yet to express a view, when the court mama from before suddenly spoke out again, frightened out of her wits.
“Esteemed Empress Dowager, His, His Majesty’s arrived.”
Empress Dowager Xie immediately grew angry. What was that damned girl doing back again?
Grand Preceptor Xie shook his head at her and said quietly, “If we can’t keep her back, then let her in.” This person could tear the empress dowager’s palace gates off at a whim and dismantle houses like toys. Would it be any use to tell her you didn’t want to see her?
Empress Dowager Xie felt blood surging up from her heart before she calmed herself down and managed to speak with difficulty. “Invite His Majesty in.”
Before the court mama could reply, Ning Xiaoyao had already walked to the doors and pushed them open to enter. She blinked her large eyes and smiled at them as if trying to be charming. But in the eyes of the Xie father and daughter pair, she looked like a detestable evil spirit.
“Back again, ah,” Ning Xiaoyao nodded towards Grand Preceptor Xie as he rose at her entrance. “Long time no see.”
“.....” said Grand Preceptor Xie.
“What has Your Majesty come to This Dowager’s place to do this time?” Empress Dowager Xie asked. “Have you, perhaps, found an unsightly balcony somewhere that you want to tear down with our own hands?”
Ning Xiaoyao sat down on Empress Dowager Xie’s right, directly opposite Grand Preceptor Xie. “I haven’t found one yet. That there, if there’s any room you don’t like, just tell me and I’ll take it apart for you. It takes money to build a house, but all you need is strength to break one down. You don’t have to be polite with me about that.”
Empress Dowager Xie didn’t want to talk with this idiot anymore.
“Then Your Majesty’s purpose for this late night visit is?” Grand Preceptor Xie queried.
“I’m not asking a Grand Preceptor like you why you’re seeking out the empress dowager here so late,” Ning Xiaoyao said, “In any case, it’d be a waste if I did ask, because I’m sure it’s no good business.”
“Your Majesty!” Empress Dowager Xie exclaimed angrily.
“I came here for two things,” Ning Xiaoyao waved a hand at Empress Dowager Xie for her to be quiet. Then she looked at Grand Preceptor Xie and spoke. “I heard that someone invaded the Grand Preceptor’s estate tonight to burn and kill people?”
Grand Preceptor Xie bowed towards Ning Xiaoyao. “Yes.”
“Oh, then you should restrain your grief,” Ning Xiaoyao said sincerely.
Grand Preceptor Xie felt blood surging up from his heart as well. Were condolences supposed to be used like this?!
“I’m worried for the sake of you and your family’s safety ah, Grand Preceptor,” Ning Xiaoyao said. Grand Preceptor Xie just stared at her.
“So, I had Supreme Commander take the Dragon Guards and the imperial guards to protect your family at the estate. In the meantime, we can check to see if there are still bad guys lurking around, hehe.” Ning Xiaoyao waved a hand at Grand Preceptor Xie. “There’s no need to thank me, it’s something I should do anyways.”
The Xie father and daughter reached a new understanding about the extent of Ning Xiaoyao’s shamelessness. Ning Xiaoyao next looked at Empress Dowager Xie and said, “I was so worried about the Grand Preceptor and his family that I couldn’t fall asleep, so I came to have a chat with you.”
Empress Dowager Xie’s hands were trembling violently. She even harbored thoughts of murdering Ning Xiaoyao, who tilted her head to the side and looked back at Grand Preceptor Xie again.
“Or maybe you, Grand Preceptor, can chat about life with me instead?”
Grand Preceptor Xie gave a quiet sigh. “Your Majesty, just what do you what?”
“The Imperial Jade Seal,” Ning Xiaoyao replied immediately.
As expected. These words rose in both Empress Dowager Xie and the Grand Preceptor’s hearts. Ning Xiaoyao had her hands clenched into fists, her palms slick with sweat. She had come here to plague them with unreasonable demands so these villains wouldn’t have time to think twice. She just wasn’t sure whether she’d succeed.
“Father should return to the estate,” Empress Dowager Xie said. Capturing his spies and finding the Imperial Jade Seal was more important. How was there time to talk pointlessly with that abominable girl, Ning Yu?
Grand Preceptor Xie murmured in the affirmative as he bowed towards Ning Xiaoyao. “Your Majesty, this subject is an outsider male and cannot stay long within the palace. This subject takes his leave.”
“.....” said Ning Xiaoyao. So this man actually knew that outsider males shouldn’t linger within the palace?
After Grand Preceptor Xie had left, Empress Dowager Xie steadied her heart and said, “Your Majesty, This Dowager has something to remind you of.”
“What is it?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
“The various hegemons have already enumerated their reports in full detail to the capital,” Empress Dowager Xie said. “Before, the refugees were rising in revolt amongst the 16 garrison posts in the southeast. The late emperor sent troops to suppress them and had delayed payment of last year’s official salaries to the hegemons. This time, Your Majesty needs to give them the combined salaries from last year and this year. Originally, the Grand Preceptor was going to come up with a plan, but he’s unable to do as much as he like. Thus, it’ll be up to Your Majesty to think of a solution by yourself.”
Since they were enemies now, then Ning Yu could take care of the unreasonable hegemons herself. Empress Dowager Xie looked at Ning Xiaoyao as she viciously imagined the hegemons leaving her with no way to retreat. Ning Xiaoyao ‘ohh’d’ in response but didn’t pay the matter any attention. She didn’t have any money even if she wanted some, and she only had this one life. How could His Majesty Ning the hoodlum fear anything like this? As she raised her head to look at the rain outside the windows, Ning Xiaoyao wondered how Supreme Commander and the others were doing. Had they killed their way into the Grand Preceptor’s estate yet?
Right at this moment, Shadowbolt[1. Shadowbolt (影电) - Ying Dian, one of the four great commanders of the Dragon Guards. Ying means “shadow,” Dian in this context means “lightning.”] was jumping off the walls of an alleyway near the Grand Preceptor’s estate. He landed in front of Lou Zigui and said softly, “Supreme Commander wasn’t wrong. There are troops lying in ambush by front, back, and side doors, they’re from the capital’s militia. Together, their forces number at least 2,000 people.”
Lou Zigui peered at the nearby Grand Preceptor’s estate, which was big enough to claim an entire street. There was a tall archway at the end of the street as well. Both civil and military officials had to stop and get off their carriages or horses in respect when passing this archway. It was the clearest example of the Xie Clan’s power and influence.
Shadowgale was worried. “So there are 2,000 troops.” In other words, double the number of their own men. How were they supposed to fight this battle?
“We’ll charge in,” Lou Zigui was still looking at the upturned eaves of the Grand Preceptor’s archway, his voice cold. “As long as we have the Xie family in our hands, we won’t need to fear even if the entire capital’s troops come killing our way.”
Fang Tang unsheathed his sword. “Then what are we waiting for? Supreme Commander, let’s kill our way in.”
“Should the Dragon Guards use the back door?” Shadowgale had unsheathed his sabre as well.
“There’s no need to split up our forces,” Lou Zigui said. “We’ll go in via the front door. Seventh Song, light that door on fire first.”
Song Jin nodded. “Yes.”
“What’s that Cuckoo Lou staring at from the alley?” Standing with their backs to the light, a few capital city troop members stared at Supreme Commander Lou. One of them grew impatient and asked, “Is he having second thoughts after coming to the door?”
“It’s best if he turns back now,” an older officer replied, his face anxious. Lou Zigui had brought along the Dragon Guards and the imperial guards. What did that mean? It meant that the person looking for trouble at the Grand Preceptor’s estate was none other than the current emperor. Once the two sides started fighting, they wouldn’t have the chance to pledge loyalty to His Majesty anymore.
The rain grew stronger.
Lou Zigui half-raised a hand before quickly swiping it down. A thousand Dragon Guards and imperial guards all walked on foot towards the long street with the archway.
“Not good,” a military officer shouted, “They’ve made their move!”
A dozen or so arrows flew simultaneously through the night, piercing the air with their sharp, shrill sounds. Inside the Buddhist worship hall at the Grand Preceptor’s estate, the Old Madame Xie dropped her string of prayer beads on the ground.
“Old Madame!” Right now, the ladies of the house were all gathered at the worship hall. Grand Preceptor Xie’s wife, née Wang, hurried to the Old Madame’s side as soon as she saw her drop the beads.
Old Madame Xie forced herself to calm down. “It’s all right. This old woman would like to see how that Lou Zigui’s planning to enter our Xie family’s house.”
“It’s caught on fire!”
“The front door’s caught on fire--”
Old Madame Xie’s words had hardly landed before cries of alarm came from the front courtyards of the Grand Preceptor’s estate. All of the women inside the hall looked in the direction of the front door. Beyond the ajar wooden door, they saw the bright red flames reflected in their irises amidst the pouring rainstorm.
“Burn it,” Lou Zigui commanded coldly stood in front of the stone screen wall before the Grand Preceptor’s front gates.
Song Jin was in charge of setting things on fire tonight, and gave a nod of assent before turning to Fang Tang and the rest. “What are you lot still doing, standing around?” Fang Tang shook the blood off his sword before leading a legion of imperial guards to charge inside the houses.
“Lou Zigui, you have some gall!” cried General Chen Lu of the capital city barracks as he strode into the Grand Preceptor’s estate. A flash of lightning cut across the horizon, followed by a billow of spring thunder. Within that spark of light, General Chen saw that Lou Zigui was smiling.
“So the Grand Preceptor told you to come,” Lou Zigui said as he looked at Chen Lu. “It looks like you didn’t end up marrying his Xie Family girl after all.”
Within the storm, Chen Lu gritted his teeth.
“I’m merely here on imperial orders,” Lou Zigui said. “But what about you, General Chen?”
Chen Lu had been bitterly disappointed. Because the Nine Gate Infantry Commander, Tao Chen, was the Grand Preceptor’s son-in-law via his third daughter, he could sleep snugly at home. But while Chen Lu was a general who could only dispatch troops when foreign armies were attacking, he had been sent out this time to roast on the racks. There was still a world of difference in treating those who were family, and those who were not.
Lou Zigui raised a finger to tap at his temples before he said, “General Chen, let this Supreme Commander give you a bit of advice. A smart bird chooses the branch upon where it rests[2.. a smart bird chooses the branch upon where it rests (良禽择木而栖) - liangqin zhemu erxi, a saying meaning that smart people will pick a place that allows them to use their talents freely, while being treated fairly.].”
Chen Lu gave a start. Was this a hint from His Majesty? While he was spacing out, Lou Zigui and his men circled around the stone screen wall blocking the front door[3. stone screen wall blocking the front door (照壁) - zhaobi, literally a stone wall placed in front of doors to offer the residents some privacy. Some examples can be seen here.] and went inside the Grand Preceptor’s estate.
Another flash of lightning lit up the skies, illuminating the stone screen wall in a bloody light. In the upper left hand corner, the God of Longevity holding onto the peaches of immortality took on a ferocious expression in the eerie light. At the same time, the inner rooms of the Grand Preceptor’s estate rose with the alarmed cries of hysterical females. Perhaps their shouts were the one to bring Chen Lu to his senses; perhaps the God of Immortality’s suddenly fierce visage was to blame; in any case, he came to a realization. Now that he was in the same boat as the Xie Clan, could he really get off? Even if there was an excellent, tall branch waiting for him, he still lacked the chance to climb that high.
“After them!” General Chen ordered loudly. “Capture Lou Zigui and all the rest!”
The military officers under General Chen’s command were all inwardly shaking their heads. It’d only taken a second of his inattention for Lou Zigui to kill all the way to the back courtyards. He’d already captured the womenfolk of the Xie family, so how were they supposed to fight now? Who could bear responsibility if the Xie family females got hurt?
At this very moment, Lou Zigui had reached the entrance to the underground chambers. He raised his sword and slit the throat of the guard on duty. Shadowgale and the Dragon Guards killed their way through the imperial and Xie estate guards. Shadowrain and a few other Dragon Guards used their bodies and took turns ramming down the metal door until it burst open. Lou Zigui grabbed a nearby Xie estate guard before he fully kicked open the door.
Arrows flew out from the underground chamber, but buried themselves in Lou Zigui’s convenient human shield, killing him right then and there. Shadowrain and a few Dragon Guards hacked and chopped at the metal door until they pried it off the wall, then used it as a shield before them as they charged inside.
“Supreme Commander,” one of the Black Frost Cavalry generals ran over and reported in a low tone, “Xie Wenyuan’s returned to the estate.”
Lou Zigui nodded before descending into the underground chambers.
“It’s the study, the study’s on fire! And, and the Grand Preceptor’s bedroom as well!”
Currently, Grand Preceptor Xie was standing outside his estate as he listened to his head steward’s cries. Since they can’t find the Imperial Jade Seal, they’re burning down the place with the highest possibility of concealing it? Grand Preceptor Xie laughed coldly in his heart.
So this is the extent of your skills, Lou Zigui.
Note on Teasers:[expand]
(Translator has decided to focus on more translations recently so she'll only write teaser dialogues if the mood hits!)
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