Chapter 58: All the good cabbage went to the little white pig[1. all the good cabbage went to the little white pig (好白菜都让小白猪拱了) - haobaicai dourang xiaobaizhu gongle, in this context, the saying is supposed to mimic ‘pearls before swine,’ or giving a good prize to someone who can’t appreciate its value properly.] Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Currently, Shadowgale wasn’t worried about losing his job because he couldn’t outrun His Majesty, but holding onto his own gyrfalcon after what had happened. He really wanted to kill this animal, but still felt reluctant.
“That was Elder Li,” Shadowrain said anxiously. “Why did it have to be him of all people?” Elder Li had fought against Grand Preceptor Xie for a decade. Though he’d never won once, he’d kept fighting again and again despite all setbacks. Was it easy to provoke a man that even Grand Preceptor Xie hadn’t been able to kill?
All of the Dragon Guards sucked in a breath. Gloomy clouds floated over the courtyard. By the time Ning Xiaoyao rushed over, Shadowgale was holding the little gyrfalcon like a chicken in one hand and a knife in the other.
Ning Xiaoyao rushed over and snatched the little gyrfalcon into her own arms. Then she yelled at Shadowgale, “What are you planning to do to him!?”
“Awoo,” the little gyrfalcon felt greatly wronged as he burrowed his head next to Ning Xiaoyao’s neck.
“Your Majesty, Elder Li…” Shadowgale’s expression looked pained.
“Why are you blaming the little gyrfalcon when a bird pooped on Elder Li’s head?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
Everyone felt that something sounded off somewhere. Ning Xiaoyao patted the little gyrfalcon’s wings and glared at Shadowgale. “Even adulterers have to be caught in the act on the bed. Did you see the little gyrfalcon poop? Don’t all gyrfalcons look the same? Don’t speak carelessly without proof, you’ve frightened the precious thing!”
“........” said Shadowgale.
“...........” said the rest of Dragon Guards. For some reason, they always felt that His Majesty’s words were utterly devious.
“Supreme Commander went to see Elder Li,” Ning Xiaoyao said as she prepared to leave with the little gyrfalcon in her arms. “Eat early tonight, we’re going out of the palace to work.”
“Your Majesty isn’t going to take a look at Elder Li?” Shadowthunder asked. Ning Xiaoyao glanced at him. Was she really going to go over to get yelled at? Did all second-in-commands have personalities that gave people a second of cringe?[2. a second of cringe (二的特性) - er de texing, a pun that plays on the meaning of 二 (er) or two/second in Chinese. In this case, to be “er” is to be awkward, unable to read the mood, or somewhat off-kilter. Shadowthunder is the second-in-command of the Dragon Guards, so his nickname is 二雷, or Er Lei, in Chinese. Calling “Er Lei” an “er” means Ning Xiaoyao finds his comments to completely miss the point by focusing on Elder Li’s plight instead.] For example, there was someone like this Second Thunder.
“Second Thunder,” Ning Xiaoyao spoke to Shadowthunder seriously, “When we do things, we have to focus on the main point.”
Shadowthunder was the type of man with a strong and sturdy build. He scratched his head and smiled sheepishly at Ning Xiaoyao, revealing a row of white teeth. “W...whut main point?”
Ning Xiaoyao’s hands shook as she pulled out one of the little gyrfalcon’s feathers. With Shadowthunder’s build and his fierce, brave features, he could fully be trained into someone who could kill with looks alone. It’d be a unique skill, but in actuality? This guy was a dullard, how disenchanting!
Shadowgale pulled Shadowthunder aside and asked, “Just then, Your Majesty mentioned something about working?”
Ning Xiaoyao dropped her voice. “I’ve discovered where the Grand Preceptor keeps his secret grain depot. Tonight we go to steal his grain!”
The sound of breaths sucked in simultaneously filled the courtyard.
“Really?” Shadowgale asked in disbelief.
“Really,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “It’s even more real than pearls. When the sun sets, we’ll make our move. Our slogan will be, ‘Don’t leave the Grand Preceptor even a single grain of rice.”
The Dragon Guards suddenly felt that the Grand Preceptor was truly pitiful. His Majesty’s grudge against the man must be as deep as a sea of blood.
“Keep it a secret,” Ning Xiaoyao pointed at the Dragon Guards. “We can’t let the Grand Preceptor know.” All of the Dragon Guards nodded. They didn’t need His Majesty to tell them that. After that Xie father and daughter pair had nearly caused their deaths a few days ago, they too, held a grudge against them as deep as a sea of blood.
“Where is this grain depot?” Shadowgale asked as he left with Ning Xiaoyao. As for Elder Li...heheh, who was that again?
By the palace gates, Elder Li had already regained consciousness. His pupils had washed his hand clean and hidden away the stained official’s hat. Since it couldn’t be thrown away, they’d take it home and wash it up themselves. Lou Zigui and Fang Tang slowly made their way over from inside the gates with a few imperial guards in tow.
“That, that falcon,” Elder Li grew agitated at the sight of Lou Zigui. Just then, he’d been considering His Majesty as an enlightened sovereign before the emperor had gotten this bird to poop on him. Don’t think he wasn’t aware of how a bird had pooped on Grand Preceptor Xie as well!
Supreme Commander Lou stood in front of Elder Li and asked the imperial physician who had beaten him here by a step, “How is Elder Li’s condition?”
The imperial physician was quick to answer. “To reply Supreme Commander, Elder Li is unhurt. It was just a momentary attack of nerves that caused him to faint away.”
Fang Tang truly felt that this physician was in a difficult position. It was obvious that Elder Li had fainted away from disgust because of the bird poop.
“Why haven’t any of you helped Elder Li to his feet yet?” Lou Zigui asked the members of Elder Li’s faction, whose foreheads broke out in sweat at his words.
“Where’s that falcon?” Elder Li didn’t allow anyone to help him up, but asked Lou Zigui while sitting on the ground. A few of his followers wanted their teacher to stop making a fuss. Sure, he could fight to the death with Xie Wenyuan, but he couldn’t do the same with His Majesty as well, could he?
Supreme Commander Lou bent down and forcefully pulled Elder Li up, before half carrying him to his sedan chair. “I don’t quite understand Elder Li’s words,” he said.
Elder Li attempted to struggle free, but Lou Zigui didn’t even need the strength to swat a mosquito when it came to dealing with him. “That gyrfalcon was raised by His Majesty,” Elder Li said angrily.
“His Majesty hasn’t raised any falcons,” Supreme Commander Lou said.
“That one was personally raised by His Majesty himself.”
“Is that so? That isn’t something this subordinate knows.”
Elder Li was unable to get out of Lou Zigui’s grasp, flaring his temper all the more. “Lou Zigui, do you think this old man is ignorant of what happened to Xie Wenyuan that day?”
“Where’s your proof?” Lou Zigui pushed Elder Li into the government sedan chair, his hand on the door as he murmured, “Elder, you released the one falcon who deserves ten thousand deaths to run free. There are tens of thousands of other falcons under the broad sky, so how can Elder tell the difference between them all, much less catch them?”
Fang Tang’s mouth twitched as he stood listening on the side. His Supreme Commander was acting like a rascal, forcing people to submit. Elder Li was so angry that he nearly choked.
“Last night, I entered an underground room in the Grand Preceptor’s estate,” Lou Zigui stuffed a roughly sketched map into Elder Li’s hands. “It was a torture chamber, complete with a secret room behind the north wall.”
Elder Li looked at Lou Zigui. Yongning had laws in place forbidding private torture chambers in the homes of ministers and scholar-officials. But who still abided by those laws today?
Lou Zigui continued to speak. “There’s a collection of bloodstains on that wall, and various torture tools within the chamber. Without a doubt, it’s used for torture.”
“What do you want to do?” Elder Li asked.
“Uncover this torture chamber,” Lou Zigui said in a low voice. “Isn’t this yet another crime on the Grand Preceptor’s record?”
“This is child’s play,” Elder Li said in a low voice. “Fabricating an Imperial Jade Seal could only reduce him to reflecting on his wrongs behind closed doors. The existence of a single torture chamber can’t hurt Xie Wenyuan a whit.”
“I’m a military man,” Lou Zigui smiled. “I only know that you have to hit a dog in the water[3. dog in the water (落水狗) - luo shui gou, slang for a villain who is down on his luck.] where it hurts. Isn’t it good to make Xie Wenyuan stay home to reflect for a few more extra days?”
Elder Li bent his body forward to close the distance between them, before saying, “You chose this old man to stir up troubles for Xie Wenyuan. Just what are you planning?”
“Naturally, to put my life on the line and assist His Majesty in governing the country,” Lou Zigui replied softly.
Elder Li withdrew and straightened up so he was sitting properly in the sedan chair. Then he looked at Lou Zigui and said, “This old man understands.” Lou Zigui straightened up as well, giving Elder Li a slight bow before turning to leave.
“Supreme Commander Lou,” Elder Li left him with some last words. “This old man will remember your words today. Don’t forget them in the future when Supreme Commander is standing with one man above and tens of thousands below.[4. one man above...tens of thousands below…. (一人之下，万人之上) - yiren zhixia, wanren zhishang, a saying to refer to a man in a position of power second to only the emperor, the sole figure “above” him in terms of authority. Elder Li is predicting that Lou Zigui will one day grow to be such a man under Ning Xiaoyao.]”
With his back facing Elder Li, Lou Zigui gave a slight nod. Then he resumed his journey into the palace. Elder Li sat in the sedan chair and watched him enter the palace gates before lifting his foot to stomp on the carriage. “Leave.”
Currently, Ning Xiaoyao was lecturing the little gyrfalcon in her room with Big Boss Black listening in on the side.
“But that old man wanted to torment you,” the little gyrfalcon still felt very wronged. He did a good thing by pooping on Grand Preceptor Xie’s head, but when he did the same thing to Elder Li, who had already treated Xiaoyao poorly, he was a bad guy instead? What kind of logic was that?
Ning Xiaoyao shook her head and said ,”Disciplining doesn’t mean the same thing as tormenting, ah.” This is why they say you should never provoke illiterates.
“Then what does it mean?” the little gyrfalcon asked.
“It means to maltreat someone,” Ning Xiaoyao explained. “Stuff like burn you in a fire, starve you, or leave you in a snowstorm with only a cotton-padded jacket.” (Author: Are you sure you’re explaining the concept of ‘discipline’ here? o(╯□╰)o)
Hearing this, the little gyrfalcon still felt that he hadn’t done anything wrong at all. Meanwhile, Big Boss Black wanted to find Elder Li and leave cat poop on his face.
“Aye!” Ning Xiaoyao sighed. It looked like that old man wasn’t planning to let her off. What should she do? Even when Lou Zigui entered the room, she was still sighing and exhaling.
He sat next to her and asked, “What is it, Your Majesty?”
Ning Xiaoyao’s head hung as she said, “I’ve found out that Elder Li isn’t planning to let me off.”
“He won’t do such a thing,” Lou Zigui said, “I told him to go to the Grand Preceptor’s estate tonight, so it’ll be the Grand Preceptor he doesn’t let off.”
“Whaa? Haha,” Ning Xiaoyao immediately laughed. “For real? Supreme Commander, how’d you manage that?”
“We’re going to the grain depot tonight,” Lou Zigui silently lifted Big Boss Black off Ning Xiaoyao’s shoulders and brushed away the stray cat fur on her collar. “If word of it leaks out and alerts the Grand Preceptor, he’ll send a troop of capital soldiers, or maybe even the Nine Gate Infantry Commander’s men. How would we be able move away the grain once they show up? I think that Elder Li can at least buy us some time if he’s at the Grand Preceptor’s estate.”
“Oh,” Ning Xiaoyao cocked her head to one side to look at him. Sighing with emotion, she declared, “Supreme Commander, you’re pretty evil, yo.”
Lou Zigui laughed, the sound like a gentle breeze. “I’m evil?” he asked Ning Xiaoyao.
Ning Xiaoyao split her face into a grin as she wrapped her hands around his neck and bent over him. There was a soft mwah as she planted a kiss on his face and said, “Not evil, not evil a bit! I like!”
The sudden kiss turned Lou Zigui’s smile stiff. No, it was more accurate to say that Supreme Commander Lou’s entire body had frozen up. Ning Xiaoyao was still imagining how they would completely empty out the grain depot while Elder Li was teaching Grand Preceptor Xie a painful lesson in his house. The more she thought, the happier His Majesty Ning became. She held onto to Supreme Commander Lou and mwah, mwah, kissed him multiple times. Of course she had to reward such an amazing partner!
“This is wonderful, we’re going to have rice and flour really soon!” Ning Xiaoyao leaped up from the bench, completely ignoring Big Boss Black, who looked like he wanted to bite her to death. “I’ll go to the kitchens and see what we’re having for dinner tonight.”
She wanted to leave right after kissing him?
Lou Zigui saw that the bouncy girl before him was about to escape, so he reached out to grab her hand.
“Hm?” Ning Xiaoyao said with a smile. “Supreme Commander, is there something else?”
Supreme Commander Lou grit his teeth before efficiently pulling Ning Xiaoyao into his lap until she was sitting on his leg. Forget about maintaining distance between a man and a woman. Haven’t we already experienced skinship together? Seeing this, Big Boss Black felt unwell all over. He jumped off the table and out the window to escape. He had to find a place to calm down, because it turned out that his Supreme Commander like ninnies like Xiaoyao. Was the fate of all good cabbages to be eaten by little white pigs? (Author: What kind of nonsense are you spewing?)
“Why did you do that?” Lou Zigui asked Ning Xiaoyao. There were some questions that demanded proper answers.