Chapter 67: His Majesty says, Zhen has no money Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Prince Fu, Ning Guangshun, took pleasure in the misfortune of the Xie Clan’s eldest son when he came with a personal invitation to the Xie estate. At the same time, he was caught between laughing and crying. Xie Wenyuan had been shrewd his entire life. When he wanted wind, wind would come; when he wanted rain, rain would come. In the end, the very grandson he’d helped onto the throne had left him in a sorry plight. Perhaps this was simply his retribution; perhaps Ning Yu had been born as a wolf that couldn’t be tamed.
Xie Anyi lowered his posture before this prince, but kept all of his father’s words at heart. When Prince Fu heard those words, he lost the mood to laugh at Grand Preceptor Xie. Dismiss the vassal lords? Isn’t that just asking for their lives?
Inside the Grand Preceptor’s estate, second steward Xie Laifu was helping Grand Preceptor Xie take his medicine. At the same time, he reported, “Grand Preceptor, the kitchens are already preparing Prince Fu’s favorite tea and pastries. But will he really come?”
Prince Fu had once struggled for the throne with the previous emperor, while the Grand Preceptor had been the main force to helping the previous emperor to win his position. To put it bluntly, Grand Preceptor Xie was one of the culprits that had lost Prince Fu his throne. Second Steward Xie really couldn’t fathom how Prince Fu would acknowledge the Grand Preceptor.
Grand Preceptor Xie checked the color of the skies outside the window and said, “The prince should be just about arriving. Have my two sons go to the gates and greet him.”
Second Steward Xie hastened to obey. “Yes, this servant will do so now.”
After the length of time it took to burn half a stick of incense passed, Prince Fu, Ning Guangshun, appeared before the Grand Preceptor’s gates. Xie Laifu sighed with feeling in his heart. His Grand Preceptor really was something. Nobody could escape from his grasp! Prince Fu didn’t say much to the three sons of Grand Preceptor’s first wife. After a few civilities, he was brought to the Grand Preceptor’s study. There, Grand Preceptor Xie was half lying on a long and narrow couch. He didn’t rise when Prince Fu entered, but clasped his hands together to apologize. “This official has difficulty rising due to sickness. I ask the prince to forgive me for being unable to receive you personally.”
Prince Fu glanced at Grand Preceptor Xie’s complexion. Truly, he looked severely ill, with dark circles under his eyes and ashen white skin. It seemed like he’d aged a decade or more.
“All of you withdraw,” Grand Preceptor Xie ordered his three sons.
Prince Fu sat down before Grand Preceptor Xie and said, “Grand Preceptor, since you’re too ill to rise, then this prince will make a long story short. Lou Zigui’s really mentioned dismissing the vassal lords to His Majesty?”
Grand Preceptor Xie wore a pained smile. “If the prince doesn’t believe me, then why come to my estate?”
“This prince believes that the most pressing issue for His Majesty and Lou Zigui now is disposing of you, the Grand Preceptor,” Prince Fu said coldly.
Grand Preceptor Xie said, “Prince, this official is simply blocking the blows from the front lines. Has prince ever considered where Lou Zigui’s blade will fall once this official is disposed of? The late crown prince once said the the vassal lords had brought calamity to the country. Lou Zigui is simply promoting the late crown prince’s phrases.”
Prince Fu fell silent, before he asked, “Then what is Grand Preceptor’s meaning?”
“His Majesty is still young,” Grand Preceptor Xie shook his head with a forced smile. “Right now, Lou Zigui has blinded him. This official has worked hard to coax him, but earned his ire instead. With things as they are now, the only way to have His Majesty dispose of the vile men by his side and bring in virtuous officials is to make him understand that Lou Zigui is incompetent when it comes to managing a country.”
Just who were the vile men and who were the virtuous officials?
Prince Fu widened his eyes as he discovered, to his shock, that getting older had only made Xie Wenyuan even more shameless.
“Prince,” Grand Preceptor Xie said, “This official is powerless now.”
Prince Fu replied, “We princes will go ask His Majesty for the official salaries he owes us. If Lou Zigui can’t produce the money or help His Majesty, then His Majesty will naturally realize his incompetence. What is Grand Preceptor planning?”
Grand Preceptor Xie clasped his hands at Prince Fu again and said, “Prince possesses vast talents.”
Prince Fu laughed. “This prince is simply a defeated foe at the hands of the Grand Preceptor, not some vast talent. Grand Preceptor, what can this prince get out of helping you?”
Grand Preceptor Xie smiled. “Prince, helping others is helping yourself.”
Prince Fu smiled as well. Is it that easy to deal with Ning Yu? If the current emperor was an easy foe, would you be bedridden now, Xie Wenyuan? If he wanted the vassal lords to exert themselves, how could a simple verbal threat be enough?
At the same time, the hard-to-deal-with emperor was currently listening to the Head Commander of the Dragon Guards talk about the vassal lords.
“Your subordinate heard all this from His Highness, the late emperor,” Shadowgale said in a low voice as he walked with Ning Xiaoyao. “All of the vassal lords own their own territories, but they’re not allowed to own private armies. Still, everything else within those territories, including the land, farmers, and craftsmen, all belong to them. These lords neither pay taxes nor enlist in active service, but receive a large official salary from the imperial clan each year.”
Ning Xiaoyao clicked her tongue. “Vassal lords are treated that well?” If she knew this earlier, she might as well transmigrate as a vassal lord instead! (Author: You make it sound like you can call the shots. o(╯□╰)o )
Shadowgale said, “His Highness Crown Prince said the forefathers of the country set down those rules to take care of the imperial sons who couldn’t inherit the throne. To prevent them from suffering too much, the country ended up raising its own princes.”
Ning Xiaoyao thought it over. “But as time passes, we’d only get more and more princes. The country only has so much land and money. If we need to raise more and more people each year, these princes will become the burden of the country. Isn’t that right? Dangit, that means we’re basically raising a litter of big, fat pigs. And we can’t even eat them after we fatten them up! We have to keep raising them until they’re old, and then raise their children, forever?”
What kind of logic was this?! Ning Xiaoyao wanted to keel over at that founding Ning emperor’s feet. Shadowgale pretended he didn’t hear anything about ‘fat pigs’ or whatever. Truly speaking, His Majesty was far more brutal with his words than the crown prince.
Xie Laifu stood by the front gates and saw Ning Xiaoyao swaggering over from a distance with her men in tow. Second Steward Xie couldn’t believe his eyes. His Majesty was coming?!
Ning Xiaoyao stood at the entrance of the Xie estate and glanced at the two stone lions flanking its gates. There were eleven steps that led up to the front door, which was still unpainted. Two horse head walls[1. horse head wall (马头墙) - matou qiang, an element of traditional Chinese architecture, usually a tall wall between houses that is accented with a horse sculpture at the ends. Horse head walls were used to fireproof houses in densely populated areas, and often had heights that extended above the house’s original roofs.] bordered both sides of the door. This was the place that Ning Yu had lived for the first fourteen years of her life. Ning Xiaoyao tried her best to feel something from the premises, but got nothing.
Shadowgale murmured to Ning Xiaoyao, “Last time, the Supreme Commander ordered these front doors burnt down.”
Ning Xiaoyao replied, “A good burning. He should’ve burned a bit more.”
Shadowgale didn’t say anything else. His Majesty’s grudge with the Grand Preceptor is really too deep. Xie Laifu could verify that this was indeed the reigning emperor at their gates. But right now, his two legs were shaking so much that he couldn’t even speak. There were a few men of the Xie estate who didn’t recognize Ning Xiaoyao at all. When they saw the big group of people stop by the front gates, one of them pointed at her and asked, “Who are you?”
Ning Xiayao’s foot pushed off against the ground before she landed atop the eleven steps to the front door. Shadowgale at the rest hastened to follow and stand behind her.
“You guys,” the speaker quickly moved to step in front of Ning Xiaoyao. “This is the Grand Preceptor’s estate, yet you…”
Shadowgale raised a hand and sent the man sprawling down the steps with a cold voice, “Impudence!”
“Your, your servant greets Your Majesty,” Xie Laifu kneeled towards Ning Xiaoyao.
The gate guards grew stunned at these words, too frozen in shock to bow at the emperor, much less report his arrival to the estate.
Ning Xiaoyao stared at the kneeling man before her and said, “After hearing that the Grand Preceptor fell ill, Zhen’s come to pay a call.”
“........” said Second Steward Xie. Weren’t you the one that made my Grand Preceptor so angry that he spat up blood?
Ning Xiaoyao strode into the Grand Preceptor’s estate. She didn’t even need to ask to know where he and Prince Fu were staying, because Wifey Magpie’s cousin was leading the way ahead of her. Ning Xiaoyao was a fast walker, and the Dragon Guards all had good lightness techniques. By the time Xie Laifu blinked, they had all disappeared.
“W-what should we do?” a gate guard asked, staring at the empty space before the doors.
Xie Laifu immediately crawled to his feet and half ran, half stumbled into the estate, shouting at the top of his lungs, “His Majesty’s arrived! The emperor is here!” No matter the emperor’s motive, he still had to let the estate know of this esteemed ancestor’s arrival! Following Second Steward Xie’s shouts, the entire Grand Preceptor’s estate descended into chaos.
Ning Xiaoyao followed Wifey Magpie’s cousin to the courtyard outside Grand Preceptor Xie’s study. She had Shadowgale and the rest take care of the guards while she knocked one over herself and stepped into the courtyard.
When Grand Preceptor Xie heard the sounds of fighting outside, he asked out loud, “What’s happening?”
Ning Xiaoyao opened the study door and said, “Grand Preceptor, Zhen’s come to see you.”
At the sight of Ning Xiaoyao, Grand Preceptor Xie sat bolt upright. Prince Fu was absolutely dumbfounded by the sight Why was this little emperor running over here?
Ning Xiaoyao stood at perfect military stance before the bed and said to Grand Preceptor Xie, “Eh? You were just lying down before, but now you’ve sat up since Zhen’s arrived. If Zhen spends time to chat with you about life a bit, maybe you’ll completely recover, Grand Preceptor.”
When an official saw His Majesty, they were supposed to make the the most formal of bows. For example, Prince Fu was already kneeling on the ground. But Grand Preceptor Xie didn’t want to bow, so he simply looked at Ning Xiaoyao. He had watched this girl grow up, so recognized her facial features and figure as Ning Yu without a doubt. But Grand Preceptor Xie still felt that she was unlike Ning Yu at all. The Ning Yu he knew didn’t have this kind of towering courage and always stood a little hunchbacked. The Ning Yu he knew respected and even feared him a little, and would always avoid his gaze while admiring him. Currently, this person… Grand Preceptor Xie dearly wanted to ask this Ning Yu before him now, ‘Just who are you?'
Grand Preceptor Xie slowly crept off the ground to kneel. Ning Xiaoyao reached out with her hands and helped up Grand Preceptor Xie and Prince Fu. “There’s no need to be so polite, let’s sit down and talk.”
Grand Preceptor Xie said, “Your Majesty’s presence brings light to this humble dwelling. The reason Your Majesty came today was…”
“Zhen heard you’re asking Zhen for money?” Ning Xiaoyao asked Prince Fu before Grand Preceptor Xie finished his civilities.
Prince Fu subconsciously replied, “This official doesn’t dare.”
Ning Xiaoyao laughed and praised, “Zhen knew that you wouldn’t! You’re a loyal subject!”
“........” said Prince Fu.
Grand Preceptor Xie’s voice turned even more respectful as he spoke. “Your Majesty, the official salaries were an ancient rule of our forefathers.”
Prince Fu hurried to continue the topic. “That’s right, Your Majesty. These are the forefather’s rules; moreover, the vassal lords have thousands of men in these estates…”
“You have a thousand people in your house?” Ning Xiaoyao interrupted.
Prince Fu nodded his head. Ning Xiaoyao spread out her hands. “It’s useless even if you have 10,000 men. Zhen has no money.”
Prince Fu stood startled before he spoke. “Your Majesty is the Son of Heaven!” Aren’t you shameless, saying that you don’t have any money as the emperor?
“It’s useless even if I’m some Son of Heaven. Zhen really has no money,” Ning Xiaoyao told Prince Fu sincerely.
Prince Fu fell silent. So are you going to be shameless until the end to renege on your debt?
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