Chapter 102: Supreme Commander asks, where’s my older brother Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Ning Xiaoyao turned back to Shadowgale and the trio. “We’ll start dinner when Supreme Commander returns.” She had to treat née Qin’s paralysis, but using her healing skills would take up all the energy she got from the banquet food. If she didn’t eat dinner, she would have to go to sleep hungry. How heartbreaking would that be?
“Yes,” Shadowgale could only accept the decree, half-hoping that Supreme Commander Lou would come back late. The Head Commander of the Dragon Guards really feared that His Majesty’s stomach would be ruined if he kept gorging himself at this rate.
Meanwhile, Lou Zigui was sitting in the torture chambers of the Hall of Punishment. The raw stench of blood permeated the air, but there was only him and Lady Xiang in the room. Supreme Commander Lou was sitting, while Lady Xiang was still tied to the torture rack. Lou Zigui rapped his knuckles against the armrest of his chair before he said, “I’ve already sent everyone else away. What is it you want to tell me?”
Lady Xiang was severely injured, but she hadn’t been allowed to sleep at all. Both of her eyes were red and bloodshot. Despite her venomous glare, Lou Zigui remained unmoved.
“Why don’t you tell me, what you want to know?” Lady Xiang said with effort.
Lou Zigui stood up and slowly walked to her side. Lady Xiang continued, “Xie Wenyuan never collaborated with the Northern Hu through me. It’s the truth.”
The corners of Lou Zigui’s lips drew up into a cold smile.
Lady Xiang said, “Your Yongning has vassal lords and large-scale merchants that do business with the Northern Hu.”
“I know that already,” Lou Zigui said in a low voice. “People like them deserve to die.”
“Aside from me, you’ve already captured all the other Northern Hu scouts in the capital,” Lady Xiang said next.
“Liar,” Lou Zigui said decisively. Lady Xiang choked before her eyelids drooped. Lou Zigui raised his hand and swiped it against her shoulder, re-opening her old wounds so that they started bleeding again. The semi-conscious Lady Xiang was pained awake once again. She was on the edge of crumbling apart and let out a wretched cry.
“I’m not going to ask you about other spies,” Lou Zigui said as he dropped his hand.
“Just what do you want to know?” Lady Xiang shouted.
Lou Zigui stepped even closer and murmured, “Anyone who could be sent to Xie Wenyuan’s side must be an important figure to your Wolf King.”
Lady Xiang weakly shook her head. “My mother was a Yongning woman.”
“So you’re a mixed-blood,” Supreme Commander Lou laughed.
Lady Xiang’s lips trembled, but she didn’t speak. The Northern Hu had called her a mix as well. Her mother was still in Northern Hu. If it wasn’t for her sake, why would she run all the way to the capital to serve a man older than her own father?
“The embroidered wolf’s head on that cloth,” Lou Zigui said, “Had pupils made from gold thread. You father is one of the imperial kinsmen of the Northern Hu royal court.”
Lady Xiang’s bloodshot eyes widened. When Lou Zigui recalled how the embroidered wolf cloth that the Northern Hu worshipped had been used by Ning Xiaoyao to line the snow wolf cub’s bed, his smile turned somewhat warm. The fat black cat had scratched and swiped at Ning Xiaoyao after she gifted the brocade cloth to the wolf pup. Perhaps he had been jealous. In any case, Supreme Commander Lou still found the memory hilarious.
Lady Xiang trilled, “What do you want to know?”
Lou Zigui’s smile froze over as he asked, word for word, “Where’s my older brother?”
Lady Xiang was startled at first, before she laughed. “Supreme Commander’s father and brothers are all dead. Where did this old brother come from?”
“If you won’t tell me, I can keep you like this indefinitely,” Lou Zigui said. “Since you’re a woman of the royal clan who’s been sent to seduce someone in Yongning, it’s likely your mother’s still alive. Otherwise, how would the Northern Hu made sure you listened to them? I have ways to make sure your mother has a life worse than death. Do you believe me?”
Lady Xiang’s poisonous glare turned downright grief-stricken.
After a long silence, Lou Zigui spoke up again. “I’ll ask you one more time. Where’s my older brother?”
Lady Xiang said coldly, “Eldest Young Master Lou died a long time ago.”
Lou Zigui nodded before turning to leave. “I’ll ask Prince Zhi to help me out later. He can send a message to your Wolf King and say that the Northern Hu woman by Xie Wenyuan’s side already fully confessed–my Yongning has vassal lords and large-scale merchants doing business with the Northern Hu. In addition, it was through this woman’s help that we were able to capture the spies in the capital before.”
“Lou Zigui!” Lady Xiang shrieked.
Lou Zigui reached the door and placed his hand on the bolt.
“I don’t know where your older brother is!” Lady Xiang screamed.
The hand on the bolt shook, before Lou Zigui slowly turned around.
“I’ve only heard that the Wolf King has a slave in his imperial hunting grounds who used to be a general of Yongning,” Lady Xiang continued, “The Wolf King disfigured his face by burning his skin, then cut off his tongue. He’s broken the tendons in his right hand and his left foot, but ordered guards to make sure the slave wouldn’t die.”
Lou Zigui walked step by step in front of Lady Xiang and asked, “Which of the Wolf King’s hunting grounds?”
“I don’t know,” Lady Xiang shook her head. “I’ve only heard that a man like him exists. Lou Zigui, if your older brother really isn’t dead, he might be that slave.”
Lou Zigui nodded.
“When are you going to let me go?” Lady Xiang asked.
Lou Zigui seemed to have lowered his head in thought before he looked back and retorted, “Why do I have to let you go?”
“When did I ever say I’d let you go?”
Lady Xiang was so angry she cursed him. “Villain!”
Lou Zigui turned to leave.
“All of you Yongning types are vile, petty men!” Lady Xiang shouted, “One of my aunts were brought beyond the pass by your Yongning merchants, but she was hounded to death by her clansmen! My mother asked, what was her crime as a married woman? Men are useless!”
Lou Zigui’s steps faltered.
“Ha,” Lady Xiang seemed to have lost her mind as she broke into laughter. “So what if your Lou Clan fell for the country’s sake? Do you know how your father and brothers died in that lost battle six years ago?”
Lou Zigui stood in place, seemingly unaffected. “What’s your brilliant opinion on the situation?”
“While your father and brothers were still fighting in the battlefield, your emperor had already signed a contract with our Wolf King,” Lady Xiang cackled, “Our Wolf King required your father and brothers to pay with their lives for killing so many Northern Hu men. For the sake of truce, your emperor agreed. Hahaha, Lou Zigui! So what if you come from a clan of martyrs? Your family members were nothing more than sacrificial pieces!”
A sudden gale swept into the room, extinguishing its two oil lamps. Lady Xiang’s laughter turned sharp and malicious. “The Wolf King sent my father to seal the deal, while your emperor sent Xie Wenyuan. My father treated the deaths of your family as a joke to tell my aunt, and I heard it! I heard everything!” Lady Xiang was laughing so hard that tears flowed from her eyes. Indeed, this was a joke worth laughing to death about.
Lou Zigui looked at Lady Xiang.
When Lady Xiang saw that he was still smiling, her laughter screeched to a stop. “You don’t believe me?” she asked.
Lou Zigui asked, “That slave is in one of your Wolf King’s hunting grounds?”
Lady Xiang nodded with effort.
“The Wolf King won’t let him die?” Lou Zigui asked next.
“Yes,” Lady Xiang answered.
Lou Zigui approached the torture rack and coaxed softly, “How many other people did you father tell the joke to?”
“You want to find witnesses?” Lady Xiang asked. “There’s no one else. If I hadn’t been waiting on my aunt that day, I wouldn’t have found out about it at all. My father never again mentioned that battle in the wilderness six years ago.”
“If that’s the truth,” Lou Zigui said, “Do you think my emperor would still let me live, much less commandeer the frontier soldiers as their general?”
Lady Xiang’s gaze flickered before she burst into laughter again. “It’s your choice whether or not you believe me.”
Her eyelids seemed to weigh a thousand pounds. Lady Xiang shut them once again, feeling simply too sleepy. Lou Zigui lifted his hand and closed it around her throat. The lack of air startled Lady Xiang awake once again, her eyes widening on her beautiful face. There was a sound of snapping bones before Lou Zigui released his grip.
Death came quickly. After being whipped and kept awake continuously, Lady Xiang’s sufferings finally drew to an end. Lou Zigui’s hand dropped to his sides, looking frighteningly pale in the dim light. In a corner of the cell, the little mouse Oil Jar curled up into a ball, not daring to move a muscle. Lou Zigui stared listlessly at the corpse in front of him. Six years ago, Grand Preceptor Xie had brought men to Night Crow Pass and claimed to be ill for a month. He declined all visitors and refused to meet with anyone. However, one month would have been enough time for the Grand Preceptor to leave Night Crow Pass in secret and settle the armistice contract with the Wolf King.
At that time, all of the reinforcement troops had ran into blockades from the Northern Hu that forced them to retreat. Could it be that Heaven’s will hadn’t decimated his Lou Clan men, but a man-made disaster instead?
After the big battle, they discovered the bodies of his father, second eldest brother, and third eldest brother. His oldest brother had been missing from the bodies, so he’d always persisted in thinking the man had survived. He even ordered his men to search for his news all over Northern Hu. Had big brother ended up being Wolf King Modou’s slave? His face burnt away, his tongue cut out, his tendons sliced away in his hand and foot?
Lou Zigui’s body swayed before he reached out to grab the bloodstained torture rack. He steadied himself, but could taste blood in his own throat. This is the result of being loyal unto the end? This is what happened to my clan?
When Supreme Commander Lou opened his mouth again, it was to vomit blood onto Lady Xiang’s still-warm corpse. The wind had extinguished the oil lamps, and their faint glimmer was completely incapable of dispelling the darkness before Lou Zigui’s eyes. The answer he’d searched so desperately for in the past six years had finally yielded this. Lou Zigui’s heart plummeted once more into blackness. His hatred burned like fire, his anger seethed like poison. Despite this, his heart was cold and knew no pain. He didn’t know how many scars it already bore. Supreme Commander Lou stood next to the dead body, as still as a statue in the darkness, for a long, long time.
“Supreme Commander?” Fang Tang knocked on the door. He’d been waiting outside for awhile before he got anxious after it had been quiet for so long.
Lou Zigui raised his hand to wipe the blood from his lips, before blinking away the haziness before his eyes. Gradually, he turned around and headed for the tightly shut iron door.
“Supreme Commander, Supreme Commander?” Fang Tang’s voice grew more worried when he didn’t hear a reply.
Lou Zigui pulled aside the bolt and opened the iron door. Fang Tang’s hand was still half-raised to knock, but he felt relieved at the sight of his Supreme Commander. “Supreme Commander, just why did that woman ask for you?”
Lou Zigui smiled and said, “She had nothing but a mouthful of nonsense. I’ve already taken care of her.”
“Ah?” Fang Tang stepped to the side so he could look past Lou Zigui’s shoulder, where he saw Lady Xiang’s head nearly dangling to her waist. A woman who’d broken her neck was dead beyond a doubt.