Chapter 63: I'm still a pauper? Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Elder Li saw Grand Preceptor Xie lose control of himself all too clearly. “Has something happened again?” he asked while knowing the answer.
Grand Preceptor Xie straightened up. Of all the times to come, Elder Li had chosen tonight of all nights, when the western suburbs had met with trouble. He looked at Elder Li and nodded. “This old man still has matters to take care of. If Elder Li still wants to search elsewhere, do as you wish.”
Elder Li replied, “I can have my subordinates take care of the torture chamber issue. This old man also has matters to discuss with the Grand Preceptor.”
Grand Preceptor Xie pushed aside the steward supporting him and strode in front of Elder Li to say in a low voice, “Did Lou Zigui tell you to come?”
“What does Grand Preceptor mean?” Elder Li replied. “What does this old man have to do with Lou Zigui when I’ve just come to inspect your torture chambers?”
“Elder Li should return,” Grand Preceptor Xie ignored how Elder Li feigned ignorance. “This old man doesn’t want to get angry.”
Elder Li even dared to scold Emperor Ning Xiaoyao like a dog in the Hall of Golden Chimes, so why would he fear Grand Preceptor Xie’s threats? He gave a chilly laugh and spoke to his subordinates. “There’s still over half of the Grand Preceptor’s estate that remains untouched. Why are you all still standing around?”
Grand Preceptor Xie was a tolerant person. Though his heart was raging, his expression didn’t betray a single thing. He cupped his hands before his chest and said, “Then may Elder Li do as he pleases.”
Then he turned to leave. Elder Li was about to give chase when he was held back by two of his pupils who were officials at the Ministry of Punishments. They were worried that leaving the two men alone would end up with Grand Preceptor Xie poisoning their teacher to death! Grand Preceptor Xie walked like the wind as he spoke to the steward who’d brought him the latest news.
“This happened as soon as it got dark, so why did you only tell me now?”
The steward wore a pained expression as he murmured, “Supposedly, they were being targeted by assassins the whole way back. They finally managed to get the city gates open with the Grand Preceptor’s token, but Elder Li’s men then kept them back at the estate’s front gates. If they hadn’t shouted and made a racket, they wouldn’t have been able to enter.”
Grand Preceptor Xie was filled with loathing as he gritted his teeth. “Where’s Xie Laibao?”
“This servant doesn’t know,” the steward replied.
By the time Grand Preceptor Xie reached the courtyard in front of his study, the three sons by his first wife were all waiting for him. They rushed forward at his entrance.
“What are you all doing here?” Grand Preceptor Xie asked.
Eldest Young Master Xie and the Minister of Revenue Xie Anyi[1. Xie Anyi (谢安易) - An means “peaceful, at ease,” Yi means “easy, amiable.”] said, “Father, are we just going to let Elder Li rampage like this?”
“That’s right, father,” Second Young Master Xie added. “Is our Xie estate a place that Li thing can search?”
“All right,” Grand Preceptor Xie said when he saw that his third son wanted to speak up too. “This old man has no guilty conscience, so why not let him search?”
“Father!” all three of his sons grew anxious.
Grand Preceptor Xie waved a hand at his sons. “Don’t say anymore. These things have nothing to do with you, so return to your rooms. Father still has business to attend to.”
The three young masters saw Grand Preceptor Xie walk through the full moon door leading to his quarters, but none of them had the nerve to follow after him.
“Grand Preceptor,” the person who’d come to deliver the message was waiting at the flight of the steps leading to his house. He ran to Grand Preceptor Xie’s side and sank to his knees. “Grand Preceptor, Supreme Commander Lou’s robbed the granary.”
“You’re certain it was Lou Zigui?” Grand Preceptor Xie asked.
“Your servant heard someone shout his name from the direction of the granary.” The subordinate didn’t dare to speak up, but suppressed his voice to answer him.
Grand Preceptor Xie examined the subordinate, whose face was covered in dust, his clothes were torn with multiple gashes, while his injuries exposed swollen skin. He wasn’t even wearing any shoes.
“This servant was on the lookout in the woods.” Three of the subordinate’s toenails had fallen off during his run, but he could care less about the pain now. He went on to report, “When this subordinate saw that someone was going to steal the grain, it was already too late to shout a warning.”
“Why was it too late?” Grand Preceptor Xie asked.
The subordinate replied, “Because they didn’t take the forest paths, but cut straight through the bushes.” It wasn’t that the lookouts were useless, but that the thieves hadn’t used the paths at all! (Author: You’d have to blame Big Boss Black for leading the way, then~)
“Where’s His Majesty?” Grand Preceptor Xie asked. “Did His Majesty head towards the mountains?”
The subordinate grew stupefied before shaking his head.
“Do you not know, or did His Majesty not go?” Grand Preceptor Xie asked.
The subordinate said, “T-this servant doesn’t know.”
“The granary didn’t catch on fire?” Grand Preceptor Xie asked.
The subordinate shook his head. Grand Preceptor Xie didn’t allow him to get up, but simply walked past his kneeling form to go inside his study. The steward followed behind him, watching the Grand Preceptor as he walked with his hands behind his back. The steward didn’t dare to say a word. Grand Preceptor Xie furrowed his brows. They’d discovered the granary without setting off the fire. So Lou Zigui actually had the key to the granary? How could this be? Was Xie Laibao actually one of Ning Yu’s men?
“Impossible,” Grand Preceptor Xie muttered to himself. The lives of Xie Laibao’s entire family was in his hands, so it was impossible for him to betray him.
So what had happened for Lou Zigui to have the key? Grand Preceptor Xie couldn’t find an answer no matter how he thought it over.
“Father,” Eldest Young Master Xie Anyi’s voice called from outside the study.
“Come in,” Grand Preceptor Xie stood leaning against his writing desk. Xie Anyi entered the study and got a fright from his father’s face. Right now, Grand Preceptor Xie looked ashen white, and even his breathing had turned labored.
“I told you to go back to your rooms,” Grand Preceptor Xie said, “Why didn’t you listen?”
Xie Anyi walked forward a few steps and said quietly, “How could your son sleep peacefully with matters like this in the estate?”
When the steward saw father and son speaking, he quickly retreated from the scene.
“Father,” Xie Anyi said, “Your son believes that Elder Li didn’t charge here without a reason.”
“That’s right,” Grand Preceptor Xie said, “Lou Zigui robbed our grain stores in the western suburbs overnight.”
Eldest Young Master Xie’s face looked at a loss. Grand Preceptor Xie harbored a splitting headache as he realized that even the eldest son of his first wife didn’t know of the existence of the western granary. How then, did news of it leak out? When Eldest Young Master Xie found out the news from Grand Preceptor Xie, he toppled back a few steps and fell into an empty chair.
“It couldn’t be Lou Zigui,” Grand Preceptor Xie said, “If he did, he would’ve made his move against this granary long ago.”
Eldest Young Master Xie tried a few times before he could speak. “Then who was it?”
“His Majesty,” Grand Preceptor Xie replied.
Xie Anyi opened and closed his mouth a few times, losing his ability to speak once more. Grand Preceptor Xie resumed his pacing around the study. He had to work things out. Xie Anyi sat dazed for a while, the shock causing his entire body to break out into sweat. His voice trembled as he spoke. “Father, then what should we do?”
By now, the light outside the windows was growing ever lighter. Grand Preceptor Xie stood before them as he muttered, “A crafty rabbit has three holes. Your father wouldn’t have hid all the grain in one place.”
Xie Anyi rose to his feet and walked with weak steps behind Grand Preceptor Xie. “Then the other places…”
“There’s no way anyone can find those other places,” Grand Preceptor Xie stared at his son. “Before father dies, I’ll tell you their locations. But now isn’t the time.”
Xie Anyi felt as if a heavy weight was pressing upon him as he bent forward in a bow. “Your son understands.”
Grand Preceptor Xie looked at the gradually brightening window, his back still as straight as a brush handle.
“Why didn’t Esteemed Empress Dowager send any news when Lou Zigui left the palace?” Xie Anyi suddenly asked.
“The palace gates have already been sealed,” Grand Preceptor Xie said. “Both the Dragon Guards and imperial guards are in His Majesty’s hands. How could a single woman like Esteemed Empress Dowager be able to fight against him?”
This was another blow to Eldest Young Master Xie. “Then, then our next move…”
“We wait,” Grand Preceptor Xie said before his son finished his question. “This old man would like to see whether His Majesty dares to raise a sword against our Xie Clan.”
Ning Xiaoyao waved the saber in her hand a couple times before saying to Fang Tang, “Your saber is seriously too light. Is this a toy sword or what?”
For a second, Fang Tang didn’t even want to talk to His Majesty anymore.
Ning Xiaoyao asked, “If we sell this saber, how much money would we get?”
Fang Tang took back his saber from Ning Xiaoyao. He was wrong to have stuffed it in His Majesty’s hands. On one side, Shadowthunder wiped his face that was covered in sweat and asked, “Your Majesty, we’ve found half a room full of gold and silver, but you still need money?”
Ning Xiaoyao’s body instantly straightened as she grinned. That’s true, half a room full of gold and silver and lots and lots of rice and flour. She was finally rich!
Everyone looked at the mountain valley before them. It was surrounded by cliffs on four sides with no way out. Anyone who could find that fissure and the path leading to this gorge like His Majesty was worthy of worship. Not only was His Majesty extraordinarily brave, but filled with discernment!
Lou Zigui walked over from the southern end of the cliff and said, “There’s a zip line leading down the cliffs; that’s probably how they lowered down the grain and gold.”
“Then do we need to lift them back up?” Ning Xiaoyao raised her head to look at the top of the mountain. This really was a bit too high up.
“I’ve looked around,” Lou Zigui said, “They use the path we just took to move the supplies out.”
Fang Tang clicked his tongue. “A different path to bring things in and take them out. It looks like Xie Wenyuan’s spent quite some care to preserve the secret of this place.”
“It wasn’t just Xie Wenyuan,” Lou Zigui said in a low voice. The Xie Clan were people of the capital, so this place must have been the results of generations of Xie Clan work.
Ning Xiaoyao rubbed her hands together. “Let’s talk about stuff later. Shouldn’t we move everything away right now?”
Lou Zigui glanced at Fang Tang and Shadowthunder, who hastened to lead the way to the storeroom. Because they didn’t have enough people, generals and commanders alike needed to pitch in a hand and work. After everyone left, Lou Zigui told Ning Xiaoyao, “There’s no way to empty out this place without ten days to half a month.”
“Then we’ll do it gradually,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “I don’t mind if there’s too much stuff.”
“How is Your Majesty planning to use this money?” Lou Zigui asked.
Ning Xiaoyao thought it over and replied, “I want to use the grain to raise the refugees. As for the money, save some to buy seeds and the rest, urk, do you want it, Supreme Commander?”
Lou Zigui was startled. She was asking him if he wanted it? Ning Xiaoyao waved her hand again. Why wasn’t this guy talking anymore, again?
“Your Majesty isn’t using it?” Lou Zigui grabbed Ning Xiaoyao’s hand.
“What do I want money for?” Ning Xiaoyao asked. She lived in a big house with cabinets full of clothes and plenty of food. What would she do with money?
“Then will you give all this money to me?” Supreme Commander Lou asked.
“......” said Ning Xiaoyao. He wanted it all?!
When Lou Zigui saw that Ning Xiaoyao was speechless, he slowly let go of her hand.
“Supreme Commander, are you really short of money?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
“Very much,” Supreme Commander Lou’s two-word answer was resolute and decisive.
“The room’s half full of money,” Ning Xiaoyao shouted.
“Last year, the soldiers of my Anyuan’s Six Provinces were denied their pay and provisions,” Supreme Commander Lou began to settle accounts with Ning Xiaoyao. “Their winter clothes are still from three years before. Not a single horse entered their stables last year either, and now half of the cavalry have no horses to ride. When the soldiers get injured and have to withdraw, their compensation fee is a trifling 10 taels of silver, but the royal court hasn’t compensated them for years. Moreover…”
“Don’t, don’t say any more,” Ning Xiaoyao looked like she wanted to die as she clutched her head. “So what you’re saying is that money like this isn’t enough? I’m still as poor as a pauper?!”
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