Chapter 107: A large house on Fragrant Gauze Alley Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Grand Preceptor Xie’s letter was only a few lines at most. It told Empress Dowager Xie to keep enduring, while the last line read: It is impossible for your oldest younger brother to recover from his blow. If you insist on protecting him, it’ll harm the image of our Xie Clan. This subject has already written to admit his wrongs. In addition, Xie Anshi has betrayed the clan and is currently inside the palace.
Empress Dowager Xie held the letter in her right hand while her left pressed against the armrest of her chair. Waves cascaded in her heart, but she knew that there was nothing else she could do. The mama who delivered the letter remained standing with her head bowed. She seemed much calmer than the other mama in the empress dowager’s palace, who didn’t even dare to breathe.
“It was née Qin who was incompetent,” Empress Dowager Xie snarled, “She’s the one who couldn’t earn her husband’s favor, but in the end it was my little brother who was in the wrong? She deserves to die! And that son of a servant, Xie Anshi, he deserves to die too!”
Nobody replied to her words. Née Qin was currently under the protection of His Majesty, so what could the mama say?
“Go take out 5,000 taels worth of silver drafts,” Empress Dowager Xie ordered a mama by her side. The mama hastily went to the inner rooms before returning with a few silver drafts.
“Take these out of the palace,” Empress Dowager Xie instructed the mama who delivered the letter. “I want to give this to my brother. You must be sure to give them into his hands. Also, pass on this message: Even if I can’t live in this empress dowager’s palace, I’m still going to protect him.”
Compared to Grand Preceptor Xie’s resolution to break off relations, Empress Dowager Xie wasn’t quite so ruthless towards the Xie Clan’s eldest son by the first wife. She had known Xie Anyi for years and had grown up with him as siblings. For the sake of those feelings, Empress Dowager Xie refused to see his future prospects ruined into a life of despair.
The mama who delivered the letter accepted the silver drafts, knelt down to kowtow to Empress Dowager Xie, and retreated from the palace. Empress Dowager Xie waved a hand and sent the covers of her bed tumbling to the ground. Then her tea set and fruit bowl were smashed into pieces against the floor. The various mama still left in the palace still didn’t dare to make a peep. The empress dowager had been left in dire straits after fighting a few rounds with His Majesty without gaining a single advantage. They couldn’t figure out how she was planning to protect her brother in her current state.
Ning Xiaoyao ground her teeth as she spied on the scene from the roof. 5,000 taels of silver in silver drafts! She was poor as death, but the empress dowager could take out 5,000 taels on a whim! Oil Jar was perched on Ning Xiaoyao’s shoulder, and both of them were thoroughly drenched by the rain. When he heard Ning Xiaoyao grind her teeth, he rolled his eyes in thought before speaking.
“Xiaoyao, it’s okay if the empress dowager doesn’t like you. Supreme Commander likes you fine, ah. Just think, she’ll definitely die before you, so it’ll be Supreme Commander who’ll always stay by your side.”
Ning Xiaoyao’s lips twitched. In the eyes of this little mouse, were she and Supreme Commander Lou already married? “That there,” she said as she stroked his head. “Right now Supreme Commander and I are hated enemies. My old dad killed his father and brothers, oh.”
Oil Jar said, “Will it work if you apologize to Supreme Commander?”
Ning Xiaoyao stood on the roof, her eyes following after the mama who had delivered the letter to the empress dowager. When she heard Oil Jar’s question, she suddenly remembered a well-known saying in her world. If apologies worked, would zombies still bite you? She heaved a long sigh before taking Oil Jar to jump off the roof, leaving a hole via exposed roof tile behind her.
Because Ning Xiaoyao had been blocking the hole with her body, no rain had fallen through. But now that she was gone, raindrops fell through the hole to drip onto the boxes below. The sound of the rain outside completely muffled the noise for Empress Dowager Xie and her mama. A fine drizzle began to fall within the palace…
“Xiaoyao, where are we going?” Oil Jar asked in a low voice.
Ning Xiaoyao had randomly plucked a luxuriant, leafy vine from a flower bed as she walked by. As she braided the vine, she said, “Supreme Commander told me that no one’s able to enter the empress dowager’s palace. So how did that subordinate of Grand Preceptor Xie’s get in?”
Oil Jar said, “She flew inside.” He’d seen how that mama had flew right over the palace walls.
“That’s flipping over the wall, thanks,” Ning Xiaoyao finished weaving her hat of vines and places it on Oil Jar’s head. “Judging by that mama, I can tell that the Grand Preceptor has an information network in the palace.”
Oil Jar didn’t know what an information network was, but it sounded serious.
“If I follow her, I might be able to find out the other members of the information network,” Ning Xiaoyao’s eyes were bright and piercing in the rain. She’d track down the members of Grand Preceptor Xie’s information network within the palace, then take the silver drafts from their very hands!
Ning Xiaoyao followed the mama to the laundry department, then a head eunuch who came in contact with her from the Department of Rites. A younger eunuch from the same department met with the head eunuch, so Ning Xiaoyao followed him next to the imperial kitchens, where he talked to a middle-aged mama. She took a break with Oil Jar in the kitchens by splitting a mantou between them before following the mama to the clothing department. Ning Xiaoyao didn’t know much about the palace, but she ended up trailing the members of the Grand Preceptor’s information network until she went through all 24 offices and departments within the palace itself.
“So, so many people, ah!” Oil Jar had already turned dizzy from all the stalking, and sighed.
Ning Xiaoyao was currently tailing a vegetable delivery cart outside the palace. She ground her teeth and said to Oil Jar, “See how ruthless our enemies are!”
Grand Preceptor Xie even had subordinates housed in unoccupied residences within the palace. Was this the imperial palace, or a second Grand Preceptor’s estate? Ning Xiaoyao felt thoroughly stifled. One of the gate guards opened the door to allow the horse cart to pass before closing it immediately. He felt something pass by over his head during the process, but when he looked up, all he saw was rain and a dark night sky.
Was I imagining things? The imperial guard blinked before returning to his post.
Oil Jar clapped once they were out of the palace. “Xiaoyao, so you can fly, too.”
Ning Xiaoyao was quite modest. “That was just a jump.”
Jumping like flying? Oil Jar expressed his admiration of Ning Xiaoyao once more. Ning Xiaoyao looked at Oil Jar with an expression that invited him to praise her some more, even as she said, “Let’s not create a personality cult around me, ah.”
“Xiaoyao, you’re so amazing,” Oil Jar sighed.
Ning Xiaoyao’s eyes crinkled into a smile. It feels great to be praised~
The horse cart headed towards the north of the city, crisscrossing through streets and alleys and even over six separate bridges. Finally, it entered into a long, narrow lane. Oil Jar glanced at the lane and said, “This is Fragrant Gauze Alley. Xiaoyao, Oil Lamp lives around here.”
The horse cart stopped before the third house on the left. Ning Xiaoyao recalled that Oil Lamp had told her this was where the head steward of the Xie Clan, Xie Laibao, kept his lover. The middle-aged driver walked up to the door and softly knocked against its surface. It opened just wide enough to fit five fingers in the crack. The horse cart driver only spoke a few words with the person inside, before handing over his oil-paper package containing the empress dowager’s silver drafts. Then he returned to his cart, whipped the horse, and kept going.
Ning Xiaoyao walked to the newly shut door and lifted her head to look at the two meter tall gates. So Grand Preceptor Xie knows that Xie Laibao has a lover as well as a wife? One of them keeps a mistress, while the other keeps a lover. They’re a pair of scoundrels! (Author: Why are you worrying about those kind of details at a time like this?)
“Should we go in?” Oil Jar asked nervously.
Ning Xiaoyao pressed her ear against the door to listen for sounds inside. Once she was sure there was nobody near, she patted Oil Jar’s back comfortingly and scaled the wall on the right side of the door to get inside.
“Should I go find Oil Lamp?” Oil Jar asked in a small voice.
“Go on,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “If you can’t find me, we’ll arrange to reconvene here.”
“Mm,” Oil Jar jumped off of Ning Xiaoyao’s shoulder and disappeared like a streak of smoke. Ning Xiaoyao ran ahead until she caught up with the gatekeeper. He was dressed like a retainer of the house, and she followed him all the way through the covered corridor and two separate courtyards before they reached a little flower garden. Ning Xiaoyao saw the retainer enter a hazy, candlelit room and give the silver drafts to the middle-aged person within. He also repeated Empress Dowager Xie’s message word by word before withdrawing to leave.
The middle-aged person sat staring at the oilpaper package in the room for a long time before rising to their feet. They pressed a switch located at the top of a treasure cabinet to reveal a secret compartment hidden in the wall, then slipped the silver drafts inside. Next, the middle-aged person closed the hidden compartment and blew out the candle before leaving the room that resembled a study. Ning Xiaoyao stood, waiting outside the window until she was sure the person wasn’t returning, before running inside the room and pressing the switch herself. The entire process took less than two seconds for her.
The hidden compartment was quite large, and inside lay two copper boxes as well as a stack of letters. In addition, Ning Xiaoyao noticed as she grinned from ear to ear, there were 24 sheafs of silver drafts! She didn’t have time to count all the money, but stuffed the letters and silver drafts into the oilpaper package from the empress dowager. Then she took off her outer robes and wrapped them around the package as well as the two copper boxes. Once she placed everything on her back, she left the room in high spirits. She’d struck it rich again, so she hadn’t come in vain.
“Xiaoyao!” Oil Lamp cried. He’d followed Oil Jar to track her down by her scent.
“Shh!” Ning Xiaoyao grabbed the banisters of the covered walkway and crouched down. Two guards on night watch were standing at the other end of the walkway.
One of them shone the lantern in the walkway and said, “What was that?”
“Squeak, squeak~” Oil Jar made some noise.
The two guards left when they heard the mouse squeak. They had no obligation to catch mice for their master. Ning Xiaoyao sat on the floor of the corridor as she felt Oil Lamp’s recovered tail. “Have you been doing well lately, Oil Lamp?”
“I’m doing very well,” Oil Lamp said. “Xiaoyao, Oil Jar said you came to catch some bad guys. Did you get them?”
Ning Xiaoyao patted the giant bundle on her back with a grin. “I struck it rich.”
“………” said Oil Lamp and Oil Jar. What about the bad guys?
In the midst of her happiness, she heard a distant scream.
“Xiaoyao, what’s the matter?” Oil Jar scrambled up to perch on Ning Xiaoyao’s shoulder again.
Ning Xiaoyao raised a hand to point in the direction of the scream. “It sounds like someone’s being hurt over there.”
Oil Lamp looked in the direction she was pointing and ran up Ning Xiaoyao’s shoulder as well, sitting right next to Oil Jar. He lowered his voice and said, “That’s the back gardens of the estate. Rumors say there’s a big treasure deposit there!”
A depository of treasures, or a treasure depot? Ning Xiaoyao’s eyes shone.
Oil Jar said, “But Xiaoyao said someone was being hurt over there. Elder cousin, have you never gone to the back gardens before?”
“There’s a big green snake who lives there called King Flower. We can’t go to a place like that,” Oil Lamp said seriously.
Ning Xiaoyao and Oil Jar both fell silent.
‘So did King Flower just bite someone?’ thought Ning Xiaoyao.
‘Elder cousin Oil Lamp’s house even has a giant snake, how terrifying!’ thought Oil Jar.