Chapter 103: What Supreme Commander won’t throw away and what the Grand Preceptor will Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
“Send the body to the Grand Preceptor’s estate,” Lou Zigui ordered Fang Tang in a low voice. “There’s no need to take any pains, just dump it there and leave.”
Fang Tang was used to Supreme Commander’s orders and didn’t question him. He summoned two eunuchs of the torture chambers before heading inside the room. Of the eunuchs still left behind, there was an elder head eunuch with a head full of white hair. He secretly snuck a peek at Lou Zigui, his shrewd eyes sensing something off about the Supreme Commander’s complexion. But before he could take a closer look, the man had already left the scene. His figure was as straight as a young pine, his steps authoritative and unhurried.
Lou Zigui walked along the corridor until he turned left to stop before the cell holding Prince Fu. He peeked through the window of the door, where a much thinner Prince Fu was currently sleeping on a wooden bed. The sheets on the bed looked new, while a few bowls rested on a small bedside table. Half of the snacks had been eaten in those bowls, most of them looking like they’d been just made today.
“You’ve taken cares to serve him well,” Lou Zigui smiled as he shook his head.
The head eunuch who had been following Lou Zigui hastened to say, “These were His Majesty’s orders. We servants dare not slight them.”
Lou Zigui turned back to continue on his original path. When the head eunuch looked at Supreme Commander Lou again, he didn’t see anything amiss. He rubbed his eyes and wondered whether he’d been mistaken in the first place.
By the time Lou Zigui left the Hall of Punishment, the skies were already turning towards dusk. It had even started raining, the thin droplets splashing against his face like ice. A little eunuch ran over with an umbrella, meaning to shield him from the rain, but Lou Zigui simply waved him off and continued through the downpour. The little eunuch didn’t dare chase after Lou Zigui, but could only shoot the head eunuch a helpless glance.
Fang Tang had exited the Hall as well by now, followed by two eunuchs with a corpse in tow. “It’s raining again?” he asked.
The head eunuch quickly spoke up. “General Fang, Supreme Commander didn’t let anyone wait upon him with an umbrella.”
Fang Tang carelessly waved a hand. “It’s only a bit of rain, what do we need umbrellas for? It’s not like we’d stop fighting during a battle to put umbrellas over our heads.”
“……..” said the head eunuch. But nobody’s fighting anyone right now?
Fang Tang had gone out the gates before he turned back and added, “Your capital city has too many rainy days.”
The head eunuch simply smiled. The skies themselves decided to rain. What does that have to do with me?
Ning Xiaoyao stood in the covered walkway leading to Supreme Splendor Hall, her head raised towards the skies. She furrowed her brows and asked, “Is the sky leaking? Why is it raining again?”
Shadowgale had no words to say either. If he told the skies to stop raining, would they listen to him?
“He’s only gone to interrogate a prisoner,” Ning Xiaoyao turned back to talking about Supreme Commander Lou once she ignored the sky. “Why is Supreme Commander taking so long? Just how many questions does he have to ask?”
Shadowgale seized the chance and asked, “Your Majesty, how about you interrogate that Northern Hu woman, too?”
“What am I supposed to ask her?” Ning Xiaoyao questioned.
“This servant thinks that the woman can’t be anyone ordinary, if she can stay by the Grand Preceptor’s side.”
“That so?” Ning Xiaoyao wrinkled her brows. “I just know she has no human feelings at all. Did you see how she boiled Little Tangerine? She wanted to kill her servant girl just because she lost a few hairs from a combing session. Dangit, it’s a perfectly normal part of human metabolism to lose hairs. She’s uncivilized and her heart’s foul to boot. Women like that are hopeless.”
Shadowgale felt that he was pretty hopeless, too. What does metabolism mean? What was he going to do if he could never understand what His Majesty was saying?
“Huh? Supreme Commander!” Ning Xiaoyao exclaimed towards the courtyard. Shadowgale turned and saw Lou Zigui stepping in through the courtyard gates. My hearing’s not as good as His Majesty, either, he thought despondently.
Lou Zigui strode over with quick steps, shaking the raindrops off his clothes. “The eunuch at the gates said Your Majesty had urgent business to see this subject?”
“That’s right, ah,” Ning Xiaoyao replied. “I’m waiting for you so we can eat dinner.”
“I’ll go change my clothes. Your Majesty, please wait for me a while longer,” Lou Zigui replied with a smile.
“Okay,” Ning Xiaoyao reached out a hand to touch Lou Zigui’s face. His body temperature was normal, so it looked like a little rain wouldn’t hurt him. Lou Zigui headed for his rooms, while Ning Xiaoyao said in delight, “Windy, let’s prepare to start the meal.” She’d gone to treat née Qin once more, so she was starving by now.
When Lou Zigui reached his rooms, a eunuch brought over hot water, which he poured into a large wooden tub. The steam from the water rose above the screen, turning the entire room foggy. Lou Zigui ducked his head beneath the hot water as well until his entire body was warm again. Only then did he feel a little better. He next splashed his face with water while he soaked, lost in thought. There was no way now to rescue the man who might be his brother. The Wolf King Modou had around 18 separate hunting grounds, some of which existed in the hinterlands of the great deserts. It would be hard enough to track down the man, much less save him.
Troops and horses couldn’t leave the pass without an imperial decree, an iron rule that cut off all possibility of rescue. As the water gradually cooled, Lou Zigui was still lost in thought. How much of Lady Xiang’s words were true? Without concrete proof, all he had were her words and a few suspicions on his own side. Could he be certain that the late emperor really had sold them out? With him dead and Xie Wenyuan not speaking, could he find the people who accompanied Xie Wenyuan to Night Crow Pass instead? At this, Lou Zigui recalled the head steward of the Xie Clan once again.
Meanwhile, Head Steward Xie Laibao was shaking in bed. When he saw the rain outside his window, he shouted at his wife, “Can’t you see it’s raining? Close the window.”
Head Steward Xie’s wife was one of the older female head servants at the Grand Preceptor’s estate. She spent most of her days serving Lady Wang. In her youth, Lady Wang had bestowed with the name of A’Tang, so everyone at the estate called her Sister-in-Law Tang when they saw her.
She rolled her eyes and told Xie Laibao, “It’s good that neither you nor Second Steward Xie can budge right now because of your injuries. There’s mishaps happening all over the estate nowadays, leaving everyone alarmed. The two of you should just stay at home–I think that’s the safest place of all.”
Head Steward Xie had already learned of Eldest Young Master Xie and née Wang’s plight from his wife. He gave a lamentable sigh and said, “Did master’s family offend something? That’s quite some misfortune.”
Sister-in-Law Tang replied, “The mistress wants to see the Grand Preceptor now, but he’s sitting in his study and refusing to meet with anyone. Even the Old Madame can’t summon him. He keeps saying he’s busy.”
Xie Laibao shook his head. In the end, it was still eldest young master who’d been at fault. Otherwise, how could His Majesty have pinned him for favoring his concubine and neglecting his wife?
“Sister-in-Law Tang,” a servant girl called from outside.
“Mistress must need someone to wait on her now,” Sister-in-Law Tang lowered her voice as she walked outside. “You just stay here. It’s better to lie low now than anything else.”
Xie Laibao smiled bitterly. He wanted to lie low, but there was a knife hanging above his head this very instead. If Supreme Commander Lou came to find him, could he really avoid the man?
When Sister-in-Law Tang entered Lady Wang’s bedroom and saw her mistress lying on the bed, she had a fright. The woman had been perfectly fine during the day, but now she looked gravely ill and short of breath.
“Mistress,” Sister-in-Law Tang knelt by the bed as tears begin to flow from her eyes.
“Don’t cry,” Lady Wang replied. “Open my personal storehouse and take 500 taels of silver to the justice courts.”
“This servant understands,” Sister-in-Law Tang said in a rush. “Mistress, you don’t need to worry. This servant will make sure to ask the jailer treat eldest young master and the little mistress…”
“You only need to mind after eldest young master,” Lady Wang cut her off. “If the money’s not enough, come back and tell me.”
Sister-in-Law Tang assented before leaving the bedroom, mentally shaking her head. In the end, daughters were still worth less than sons. With mistress looking after the son, née Wang’s fate could only be left for Heaven to decide.
As soon as Sister-in-Law Tang left, another head female servant walked in and quietly reported, “Mistress, the doctor’s examined Xiping’s face already. He said it’s possible her injuries will leave scars.”
“Dismiss those two damnable servant girls,” Lady Wang pushed aside her bed covers and sat up, her face furious. “If those base servant girls hadn’t incited the issue, would the husband and wife be at this state now? Dismiss all the servants under née Wang!”
The head female servant didn’t dare to say much beyond agreeing and withdrawing. The sound of shattering porcelain came from the room. The two female servants standing on call in the walkway didn’t show any expression on their faces. If mistress hadn’t doted on née Wang and backed her up, how would eldest young master have favored her over his wife in the first place? People could never recognize their own shortcomings. The two servants could only silently sympathize with the soon to be dismissed servants. They wouldn’t have much in the way of prospects if they were sold off because of their perceived faults.
Lady Wang smashed things in her room in anger while Grand Preceptor Xie stayed in his study. The officials who’d come to find him for advice had already left for their own homes, leaving only his two sons present.
“Any news from Anshi?” Grand Preceptor Xie asked.
Both his second and third son shook their heads. Third Young Master Xie said, “Father, could he still be in the palace?”
“I don’t think he’s coming back,” Grand Preceptor Xie said.
“What?” Second Young Master Xie, who was still sporting a bandage around his head from where Ning Xiaoyao had kicked him, looked stunned.
“Yesterday, I ordered him to leave for Jiangnan,” Grand Preceptor Xie set down his brush to speak slowly. “I wanted him to take over the business there.”
Both of his sons wore stiffened expressions. The four classes of ancient China consisted of scholars, farmers, artisans, and merchants. All businessmen were prohibited from having their sons and grandsons participate in the imperial examinations for the next three generations. If Xie Anshi had taken up the post, he and his descendents would have lost any chance to make a name for themselves in their lifetimes.
“Unfilial son,” Grand Preceptor Xie smiled coldly. “He didn’t even stop to think. His surname is Xie, so how could His Majesty ever think to use him?”
“I’ll go bring that bastard back,” Second Young Master Xie prepared to leave, but the Grand Preceptor stopped him.
“Hold it right there,” he said, “Do you think you can enter the palace without a decree?”
Xie Anji stopped moving.
“Father, what of elder brother?” Third Young Master Xie asked. He didn’t care about Xie Anshi, who was only the son of some servant. He was only interested in Xie Anyi’s plight.
“This is the booklet I wrote admitting my wrongs and asking for punishment,” Grand Preceptor Xie tapped the paper on his desk. “The son is unfilial because the father was wrong. I didn’t teach your elder brother well enough.”
“Will His Majesty release elder brother if father admits your wrongs?” Second Young Master Xie asked.
“I asked His Majesty to exile him and née Wang to the borderlands,” Grand Preceptor Xie said calmly. “That scoundrel’s neither benevolent nor righteous. He doesn’t deserve to be a scion of our Xie Clan.”
Second Young Master Xie stood there blankly, while Third Young Master Xie silently exhaled in relief. Father’s thrown elder brother away.