Chapter 80: Shrieking Prince Fu Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Empress Dowager Xie backed away until she was leaning against her chair again. After staring at Mute Nanny for awhile, she dismissed her from sight. Then she continued to sit by herself in a room that had once witnessed a life of luxury and dissipation.
Mute Nanny jumped over the wall to leave the empress dowager’s palace, her restless heart finally at ease. She would always be a servant of the Xie Clan in this life, but she once had a family as well. They had died in the great famine of the north ten years ago, and the only surviving members of her clan today had been reduced to refugees themselves. As she ran towards Supreme Splendor Hall, Mute Nanny couldn’t help but think how great it would’ve been if this little emperor had been on the throne ten years ago. That’s why, this time she hadn’t made the wrong choice.
“She didn’t tell?” Big Boss Black licked his lips as he perched by the wall.
“Is that good news?” Oil Jar asked.
Big Boss Black said, “I don’t know. But since she didn’t spill the secret, this old woman shouldn’t be a bad guy, right?”
Oil Jar couldn’t help but worry. “Ancestral Grandfather went to the ancestors’ hall to find Grandfather Tortoise for a talk. Otherwise, Oil Jar could just ask Ancestral Grandfather.”
“Humans are really complicated!” Big Boss Black declared.
“Squeak!” Oil Jar raised a paw. Food for thought!
“Forget it, I’ll go catch a rat to eat,” Big Boss Black ran off. Only rat meat could calm his nerves now.
“.........” said Oil Jar. Has this cat ever considered my feelings? He told me to my face he’s going rat hunting! (TOT)
“Good night.” Currently, Ning Xiaoyao was bidding Lou Zigui farewell at the Supreme Splendor Hall. “We’ll go see Prince Fu tomorrow.”
“Alright,” Lou Zigui nodded.
His Majesty Ning lay on the bed and quickly fell asleep with snores, but Supreme Commander Lou spent a long time sitting beneath the wutong tree in the flower gardens. When Big Boss Black returned after catching his rat, he quietly lay down between Supreme Commander Lou’s legs. The other little animals had all left after Ning Xiaoyao returned to her rooms to sleep. After all, it took courage to stick to close to the cold and icy Supreme Commander.
By the morning of the next time, Ning Xiaoyao was still sleeping under her covers when Shadowgale rushed outside her door with shouts.
“What is it?” Ning Xiaoyao yawned beneath her covers.
“Prince Fu. Prince Fu, he, he,” Shadowgale stuttered as he talked, unable to form a sentence.
That’s right! Ning Xiaoyao rolled off the bed. Fatty Fu’s still waiting for me in the Hall of Punishment!
Lou Zigui had only gone back to his rooms to wash his face and change into a different set of clothes. By the time he returned and saw Shadowgale’s rare loss of self-control, he only asked, “What’s happened to Prince Fu?”
Shadowgale turned towards Lou Zigui and shouted to him and everyone else who had rushed over at the commotion, “He’s skinnier. That fatty’s gotten skinnier!”
Σ(°△ °|︴, went everyone else.
(⊙_⊙), went Supreme Commander Lou, who’d been planning to bring people to slice off Prince Fu’s flesh.
“Really?” Fang Tang rushed in front of Shadowgale.
Shadowgale furiously nodded his head. He hadn’t believed his eyes, so he’d ran into the cell to pinch Prince Fu’s stomach personally. That fatty had really turned thinner!
“Then is the prince still alive?” a Dragon Guard piped up cautiously.
“So His Majesty gave the prince some meat capable of poisoning away his flesh? The prince not only got skinnier from the poison, but was poisoned to death as well?” another Dragon Guard guessed.
Though the words sounded like magic, many people found them logical.
‘Can’t you have more faith in me?’ thought Ning Xiaoyao as she stepped out of her rooms.
“Your Majesty,” Shadowgale’s expression grew more excited at the sight of Ning Xiaoyao. It was impossible to express his current feelings with words.
Ning Xiaoyao tied up her waistband and said, “Enough now, let’s go to the Hall of Punishment.”
At this moment, one of the Black Frost Cavalry’s generals came running over before he bowed to Ning Xiaoyao and reported, “Your Majesty, the imperial clansmen, Elder Li, Grand Preceptor Xie and the officials of the Six Ministries are all asking for an audience outside the palace walls.”
Ning Xiaoyao rubbed her nose. It looked like everyone was wondering whether Prince Fu had lost weight. Seems like they’re all impatient types.
“Let them go to the Hall of Punishments,” Ning Xiaoyao told the general. “We’ll all go see Prince Fu together.”
The general looked at Lou Zigui, who nodded. Then he accepted the decree and left. Though Ning Xiaoyao didn’t notice this action, Shadowgale did. His joyful heart felt a chill at the sight, but he didn’t reveal his feelings. Do His Majesty’s imperial decrees need Supreme Commander’s approval before they’re accepted? Shadowgale glanced at Ning Xiaoyao, who was making a mess of her hair the more she tried to pat it in place, and felt a thread of worry in his heart. Grand Preceptor Xie isn’t anyone good, but how easy is it to control this group of military men?
The imperial clansmen followed an imperial guard to the Hall of Punishments, with Elder Li, Grand Preceptor Xie, and the officials from Grand Preceptor Xie’s faction. It was Spring, so the green trees afforded them shade while the flowers bloomed in profusion; unfortunately, no one in the crowd was in a mood to enjoy such sights.
Prince Zhi saw that they were about to arrive, so he instructed his clansmen in a small voice, “If His Majesty tries to force Prince Fu to death later, we have to kneel and beg His Majesty to spare him.”
The imperial clansmen looked at the gates to the Hall of Punishment before nodding in unison. Then they took deep breaths. It wasn’t easy fighting against the emperor. But if they couldn’t preserve Prince Fu’s life today, their own might be forfeit in the future.
“Let’s go,” Prince Zhi said as he stepped over the tall threshold. Everyone was harboring thoughts about Prince Fu’s death as they followed Prince Zhi inside.
Currently, Ning Xiaoyao and the rest were standing in the jail cells. Aside from Ning Xiaoyao, everyone else was staring wide-eyed at the person sitting on the ground inside the prison. He couldn’t be any more than 170 to 180 pounds. Was this really the same man as the meat mountain from yesterday?
Prince Fu had already fallen apart once upon waking up. Now he was sitting there senseless. When he saw Ning Xiaoyao, he fell apart again. “H-how is this possible?!” Prince Fu shrieked at Ning Xiaoyao.
A proper and upright prince was now screaming like a girl. The Dragon Guards who’d gotten bolder after spending time with His Majesty only looked at him with disdain. This is what you call a prince? As they stared, their eyes narrowed until they grew stunned. But he’s really gotten skinnier!
Ning Xiaoyao didn’t react to Prince Fu’s shrill cries. Compared to the howls of zombies, his screams sounded more like singing. Ning Xiaoyao grabbed Lou Zigui’s hand and presented Prince Fu to him like some sort of treasure. “Look, he’s skinnier, right?”
Still amazed, Lou Zigui did exactly what Shadowgale had done before: get on his knees and pinch Prince Fu’s stomach. Then he pinched Prince Fu’s face and rose to his feet. After staring at the prince for ages, he said, “It really is Prince Fu.”
“........” said Ning Xiaoyao. You thought I found someone to pretend to be him?
Prince Fu reached out a hand to grab Ning Xiaoyao, but Lou Zigui simply shielded Ning Xiaoyao behind him. Ning Xiaoyao poked out her head and waved at Prince Fu. “Prince, you’ve slimmed down into a handsome uncle. Aren’t you happy?”
Everyone was silent, but Prince Fu look half-scared to death. Prince Fu pointed a finger at Ning Xiaoyao and shouted, “You, you know witchcraft?”
Ning Xiaoyao’s face fell. “If I really knew witchcraft, I’d make you disappear. No, that’s not it. I’d make your entire family disappear so I could have all your things. Why would I waste time with this?” No matter what, she couldn’t make the people of this world think she was some sort of monster and burn her to death. Ning Xiaoyao’s gaze turned cold as she looked at Prince Fu.
Why did that little lunatic’s eyes turn so frightening all of a sudden? Prince Fu felt a chill down his back.
It was at this moment that the imperial clansmen, Elder Li, Grand Preceptor Xie, and the officials from Grand Preceptor Xie’s faction in court arrived at the scene. The Dragon Guards backed away to make room, leaving a bunch of people to gape at Prince Fu.
“Y-you’re really Prince Fu?” Prince Zhi only managed to ask after a long time had passed.
Prince Fu looked at Ning Xiaoyao, who said, “You don’t recognize what Prince Fu looks like?”
A young clansman stammered, “I...I’ve never seen Prince Fu before he got fat before.”
“Then can’t you tell by his bones?” Ning Xiaoyao grew impatient. “Even with less meat, his skeleton won’t change, ah!” Did these people have to be like this? All they have to do is confirm his identity!
“.........” said everyone else. This was the first time they’d ever heard of recognizing someone by their bone structure.
“It’s imperial brother, without a doubt,” Prince Xi spoke up. He was about Prince Fu’s age, so he’d seen him when he was still at a normal weight.
“Supreme Commander, the written agreement,” Ning Xiaoyao stuck out a hand to Lou Zigui, who took the agreement out from his sleeve. It was adorned with Prince Fu’s fingerprint and the stamp from the Imperial Jade Seal.
“Everyone’s seen this already,” Ning Xiaoyao said as she waved around the written agreement in her hands. “Starting from now, Prince Fu’s land and all the fields within it belong to me.”
“No!” Prince Fu cried out. Ning Xiaoyao flashed the written agreement in his face.
“If you’re a man, you have to accept the truth,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “You raised the conditions yourself. You’ve even planted your fingerprint on the paper, so why are you saying no?”
Prince Fu looked blankly at the agreement in Ning Xiaoyao’s hands. His fief was located at Fenglin City,[1. Fenglin (凤临) - feng means “phoenix,” lin means “overlook.”] which overlooked 90,000 mu[2. mu (亩) - unit of measurement. 1 mu = 0.16 acres, while 90,000 mu = 14,826 acres, or 60 km², or 60,000,000 m².] of nonirrigated farmland. He only had 40,000 mu of rice paddies, a little fewer than some, but now he stood to lose all 130,000 mu (21,416 acres or 86,666,667 square meters) with just a single piece of paper?
“If you’re not talking, then you’re accepting the terms tacitly, ah” Ning Xiaoyao said as she kept waving the agreement before Prince Fu’s eyes.
Prince Fu wanted to speak. He even wanted to roar with rage and scream, but what was he supposed to say? Meanwhile, Ning Xiaoyao was jubilant. She looked over all the officials present before picking Elder Li in the end again. “Old gramps, I’ll leave this matter to you. You’ll be in charge of dividing up Prince Fu’s land.”
Elder Li was actually feeling quite touched at the moment. But he was still stern as he spoke. “This subject would like to ask Your Majesty, to whom am I dividing the land to? And how should I split it up?”
Ning Xiaoyao said, “Give it to the refugees, ah. As for the details, you can decide what to do, old gramps. But you can only give land to refugees. For splitting it up--urk--old gramps, you decide on that too. As long as it can help people survive, it’ll be fine. My requirements aren’t that hard, right?”
Dividing up the land was a phrase with only a few words, but the actual task involved hundreds of thousands of refugees. A sizable portion of them existed within the capital city, so the actual job was very difficult. In fact, one could even call it extremely challenging.
Ning Xiaoyao thought things over before scooting next to Elder Li and whispering in his ear. “First, give land to those who can’t live on no matter what. I’ll find ways to get more land in the future.” When she finished, she winked at Elder Li as if to say, ‘you know what I mean.’
Elder Li lifted up his robes to kneel on the ground and cried, “This subject accepts the decree!” He didn’t understand why Ning Xiaoyao had blinked, but he trusted that His Majesty would be able to take the lands of the other vassal lords just like how he took Prince Fu’s. (Author: Actually, old gramps, you understood her perfectly.)
“Wait, wait a minute,” Prince Fu finally found his voice and spoke up “If you split up all my lands, then what’s to become of me?”
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