Chapter 76: When His Majesty took out the brushes...
“That’s what happened, so everyone here can stand as witnesses,” Ning Xiaoyao stood in the corridor of the jail area as she explained to Elder Li and the imperial clansmen. Her manner and mien was like that of a person saying she owed her next door neighbor some copper coins and they were there to acknowledge her IOU.
After Prince Xi, Ning Guangzong, was sure that Ning Xiaoyao wasn’t joking, he asked, “If Your Majesty can’t fulfill these conditions, what does Prince Fu stand to gain?”
Ning Xiaoyao shrugged and replied, “I won’t want his land anymore.”
Prince Zhi, Ning Guangyuan, asked, “Then of Prince Fu’s crime?”
“He didn’t mention that part,” Ning Xiaoyao waved a hand as if saying she was helpless.
“........” went the imperial clansmen. Did Prince Fu get his brains addled by poison? The most troublesome thing for him now is his punishment for attempted regicide. Why are you wrangling with His Majesty over your lands instead?
Lou Zigui took the written agreement from one clansman’s hands and handed it back to Ning Xiaoyao. “If Prince Fu isn’t willing to sign his name, you can’t force him in front of all these people,” he murmured to her softly.
Ning Xiaoyao had thoroughly thought out her plan already. “He’ll definitely sign.”
Next, everyone followed His Majesty into the prison cell. As soon as Prince Fu saw his clansmen come in, he prepared to rise. Ning Xiaoyao crouched down and held him in place. “Why are you so excited? Seen your family or something?”
“.......” said the imperial clansmen. But we are his family!
Prince Fu struggled until he realized he couldn’t move, and glanced down at Ning Xiaoyao’s small hand and skinny arm. He really didn’t understand how a person as scrawny as a chicken whelp could be so strong.
“Those two conditions you stated,” Ning Xiaoyao said, “You’re not going to reconsider?”
Prince Fu smiled coldly. “I’ve said it long before, it’s only just those two.”
“Think it over some more,” Ning Xiaoyao said in a negotiating tone. Prince Fu stared at her, and she returned his gaze sincerely. As Prince Fu saw it, the little lunatic was starting to panic.
“You can make up some new ones if you’d like. I’ll agree to three of them,” Ning Xiaoyao said.
Prince Fu shook his head, determined. “It’ll just be these two.”
The vassal lords grew agitated as they shouted at Prince Fu. “You…”
“If these princes have words to say, shouldn’t you request permission first?” Lou Zigui asked as he looked at the vassal lords. The Supreme Commander was standing in an area filled with shadows, making it impossible for the vassal lords to read his expression. They could only feel that his voice was as cold as ice.
Ning Xiaoyao nodded at Prince Fu. “Fine. If you’re a man, don’t change your mind.”
Prince Fu smiled icily. “Once a gentleman gives his word, even a pack of four horses wouldn’t be able to drag it back.”
“Then it’s done,” Ning Xiaoyao placed the written agreement before Prince Fu’s eyes. “Take a look. If there’s no problems, we’ll both sign our names.”
Prince Fu gave a start at the sight of the agreement. His requests were impossible to begin with, so why had this little lunatic bothered to put them down in writing? Lou Zigui saw Prince Fu hesitating and knew that he was starting to get suspicious of them. He took a step forward and prepared to take the agreement away.
“If you won’t sign, then change your two conditions,” Ning Xiaoyao clarified.
Prince Fu raised his hand and pressed down on the agreement before Lou Zigui could pull it away. It was impossible that the Grand Preceptor would hand over those 24 brushes etched with scenes from Jiangnan. Nor could he get skinnier just from eating meat at every meal. Prince Fu looked at Ning Xiaoyao, and then Lou Zigui. These two are bluffing! They have to be!
“You don’t want to sign?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
“Your Majesty is fulfilling this subject’s heart’s desire. Why wouldn’t this subject sign?” Prince Fu said.
“Did you hear that? He’s even referring to himself as ‘this subject’ now,” Ning Xiaoyao whispered in Lou Zigui’s ear.
Lou Zigui held on to a corner of the agreement without moving. Prince Fu saw his fingers and grinned. “Supreme Commander, do you have any more words to say?”
Prince Zhi, Ning Guangyuan, took this chance to speak up. “How long is Your Majesty planning to take to make Prince Fu skinny?”
All of the imperial clansmen cast sidelong glances at Prince Zhi. Do you really want to join in their madness? Prince Fu will be a fatty for the rest of his life. Maybe he’ll be lucky and be skinny in his next life, but it’ll be impossible in this one unless his meat is sliced off. (Author: You guys are thinking the same way as Supreme Commander. o(╯□╰)o)
Ning Xiaoyao wanted to say ‘immediately,’ but stopped herself with it at the tip of her tongue. It probably wouldn’t be good to be too outstanding. Thus, she simply glanced at Supreme Commander Lou. How long does it take for people to lose weight in this country?
Lou Zigui said, “A year.”
Prince Fu shook his head.
“Then make it a month,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “It can’t be any less than that.”
Prince Fu extended his hand towards Lou Zigui. “Hand over a brush.”
Ning Xiaoyao grabbed Prince Fu’s hand and scraped his fingers against the floor, causing him to give out a wretched cry. He’d always lived in comfort, but His Majesty had scraped a layer of skin right off his hand. When Ning Xiaoyao lifted his hand up again, many of the relatives saw his bloody fingertips and began to harbor second thoughts in their hearts. The written agreement had not mentioned anything about keeping Prince Fu alive. Was His Majesty really going to strip the meat from Prince Fu’s body?!
Ning Xiaoyao pressed Prince Fu’s bloody finger to the written agreement, then turned to ask Shadowbolt for the Imperial Jade Seal. Once that was done, she stamped the seal against the paper. Prince Fu cradled his bleeding fingers and shot Ning Xiaoyao a furious look. Ning Xiaoyao stood up and handed the written agreement to Elder Li. “Old gramps, you should sign too. You’re the witness.”
Elder Li’s face had sunk so much that he could be practically underwater. He wanted to throw this farce of an agreement at Ning Xiaoyao’s head. Ning Xiaoyao quickly backed away to stand next to Lou Zigui. She told the clansmen, “You guys should all sign as well. All of you are witnesses, so you can’t favor one and discriminate against the other.”
Nobody was in the mood to tell His Majesty that being choosy wasn’t the issue. All of the clansmen followed silently behind Elder Li and signed their names on the agreement. When the paper came back to Lou Zigui’s hands, Ning Xiaoyao asked quietly, “Are there any more questions?”
Lou Zigui looked over the gathered signatures. “There’s no issue with the written agreement, but what about Prince Fu’s fat?”
“Have him lose it first,” Ning Xiaoyao hastened to say. “If he can’t lose enough, we’ll cut it off then. Supreme Commander, don’t be so hasty to kill off this fatty.”
Lou Zigui folded the agreement into a square and held it in his hand. Ning Xiaoyao walked in front of Prince Fu and said, “Since you’ve signed with your fingerprint, you can’t regret it anymore.”
Prince Fu said, “When is Your Majesty planning to go to the Grand Preceptor’s estate to ask him to give up his most cherished possession?”
Ning Xiaoyao dug into her bag. Everyone’s eyes focused on her fingers. Ning Xiaoyao pulled out a set of brushes and placed them on the ground in front of Prince Fu. “Nah, I’ll give you the brushes first.”
“Th-this is impossible,” Elder Li rushed to Prince Fu’s side. Ning Xiaoyao quickly backed away to give Elder Li space. Elder Li knelt down to examined each of the brushes in detail before turning to look dazedly at Ning Xiaoyao. So Xie Wenyuan really did lose his treasure. Your Majesty was the one who stole it!
“Elder,” a clansman asked, “Is, is that the real Jiangnan set of 24 brushes?”
Elder Li could only nod in reply.
A deathly stillness stole upon the prison cell. The imperial clansmen, Dragon Guards and everyone else were all stupefied.
“Impossible,” Prince Fu muttered as he grabbed the jade-handle brushes with wide eyes. The Jiangnan set of 24 brushes were originally a cherished possession of Prince Fu’s imperial father, Emperor Mingzong.[1. Mingzong (明宗) - Ming is “bright, brilliant, light,” Zong is “clan, great master, purpose.”] They were the only set of brushes ever carved by the great painting sage, Gentleman Wu. When Emperor Mingzong was still on the throne, he’d once said that he’d give these treasured items to Prince Fu. Unfortunately, after Emperor Mingzong’s death, Prince Fu failed to gain the throne. His imperial brother became Emperor Yuanzong and bestowed the brushes to Grand Preceptor Xie instead. That became Prince Fu’s second greatest source of resentment in his life after losing the imperial throne. Because of that, Prince Fu could tell the authenticity of his heart’s desire with but a single glance. His hands trembled and the brushes fell to the ground before he raised his head to look at Ning Xiaoyao.
The prison cell was silent.
Ning Xiaoyao said, “Count them. 24 brushes, I don't owe you a single one.”
“H-how could this be?” Prince Fu felt a little like falling apart.
Ning Xiaoyao laughed. “These brushes and you must have some mutual fate. When I went to the Grand Preceptor’s estate today, I saw them lying beneath the walkway. It didn’t look like anyone was using them, so I took the set.”
Supreme Commander Lou’s mouth twitched. That was Xie Wenyuan leaving his brushes out to dry. It wasn’t that he didn’t want them! Elder Li wanted to argue with Ning Xiaoyao, but when he recalled all the lands of Prince Fu, he held himself back.
A clansman piped up with a stammer, “S-shouldn’t the Grand Preceptor be informed first?”
Ning Xiaoyao creased her eyebrows. “Why do I need to tell the Grand Preceptor about something I took from my bag?”
None of the clansmen could speak up. This person snatched things with so much assurance on her side. What could we even begin to say in reply to that? Elder Li straightened up and stared at Ning Xiaoyao. “Now that the first condition’s been fulfilled, when will Your Majesty make the prince lose weight?”
“Don’t be in such a rush, there’s an entire month,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “I’ll have someone send over some meat for the prince to eat soon.”
All of the imperial clansmen were worried for Prince Fu’s sake. Are you sure you won’t just cut off his flesh to lose that weight? They wanted to ask, but they feared the answer. Suppose that’s really the case? What would they do then? Fight to the death to rescue Prince Fu from his prison cell? None of their guards were here right now, and they were surrounded by Dragon Guards. It’d be hard for them to fight for Prince Fu’s life, but on the other hand, it would be very easy for Ning Yu to end theirs. The various imperial clansmen huddled together to talk in whispers.
Lou Zigui didn’t wait for them to finish their conversations before he spoke up. “Since everyone’s already signed their names, you gentlemen may now leave the palace.”
The clansmen looked over at Lou Zigui. Though the cell was filled with lit oil lamps, this star of misfortune insisted on standing in the only dark corner of the room. His gloomy eyes gave him a cold aura.
“Your subjects take their leave,” the various princes and clansmen knelt down to bid farewell to Ning Xiaoyao.
“Goodbye, I won’t bother with seeing you out,” Ning Xiaoyao replied.
The clansmen didn’t spare Prince Fu another glance, but followed Shadowrain out of the prisons. Elder Li stared at the brushes clutched tightly in Prince Fu’s hands before he spoke to Ning Xiaoyao in a quiet tone, “This subject will be waiting for Your Majesty’s good news.”
Ning Xiaoyao patted her chest. “No problem. I’ve specialized in helping people lose weight for a hundred years.”
Elder Li left with a calm face. If he listened to His Majesty talk nonsense any longer, he’d be shortening his own lifespan!
Now, only His Majesty Ning, Supreme Commander Lou and Prince Fu were left in the cell. Once again, Ning Xiaoyao crouched in front of Prince Fu and asked, “How much meat do you want to eat later?”
Prince Fu looked at Ning Xiaoyao and trembled.
“You don’t want to eat meat anymore?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
“You know how to cure me?” Prince Fu asked Ning Xiaoyao.
Ning Xiaoyao said, “Then let’s start with one bowl first. I’ll have Supreme Commander bring it to you personally. Is the prince satisfied with such service?”
Lou Zigui turned to walk out. Prince Fu raised his voice. “You know how to cure me?”
Ning Xiaoyao placed a hand on top of Prince Fu’s head, a pale green light emitting from her fingertips to sink into Prince Fu’s hair. “I know how to treat you, ah,” she said as she let him go.
“You can, you really can make me skinny?” Prince Fu grabbed onto Ning Xiaoyao’s hand.
Ning Xiaoyao cocked her head and gave him an answer that was asking for a spanking. “Why don’t you take a guess?”
Prince Fu would rather they died together. “It’s impossible,” he said.
Ning Xiaoyao gave a significant chuckle. Oh, my farmland~