Chapter 115: Ning Xiaoyao, don’t cry Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Lou Zigui pointed at the stack of letters he’d put on the tea table. “These are letters from various local officials. They talk about money they’ve given, or officials they’re backing up, or subsidy fees paid for a courtesy call.”
“What are subsidy fees paid for a courtesy call?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
“Fees paid so they can meet with certain people,” Lou Zigui explained.
In other words, an interview fee, Ning Xiaoyao expressed her understanding. Yet still, she protested, “These are my things!” She pointed at the chests by her feet.
“Is Supreme Commander worried that the Grand Preceptor will get angry?” Shadowgale asked.
Ning Xiaoyao said, “I’m not afraid of him. Just earlier, I even cracked his brains. That old geezer fell over with a face covered in blood.”
“……….” said Shadowgale and the rest. So His Majesty ran over to the Grand Preceptor’s estate to beat him up.
Lou Zigui rested his forehead in his hand before he stood up and grasped Ning Xiaoyao’s hand. “Let’s talk in private.”
“It’s no use no matter what you say,” Ning Xiaoyao remained standing stubbornly in place. “The money and jewels are mine!”
“Be good and listen to me,” Lou Zigui murmured in a small voice. When the Dragon Guards saw Supreme Commander Lou coaxing their emperor into another room like a child, they all swiveled to look at Shadowgale. Is Supreme Commander really treating His Majesty as his son?
“I had Third Young Master Ning return to Fengzhou,” Lou Zigui explained his entire process with Ning Xiaoluo inside the room, as well as his arrangements and plans for the boy.
Ning Xiaoyao was still stubborn in the beginning, but she slowly grew more shocked as the narrative went on. The Grand Preceptor wanted to kill Ning Xiaoluo just to worsen relations between her and the Duke of Yue’s estate? “Wasn’t it because our faces?” Ning Xiaoyao asked doubtfully as she pointed at herself.
“You’re talking about faces, too?” Lou Zigui asked, mystified. “What’s wrong with Ning Xiaoluo’s face?”
“He looks a lot like me, ah,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “The Grand Preceptor’s already found someone who looks exactly like me, and Ning Xiaoluo’s the backup. Isn’t that what’s going on?”
“What did you say?” Lou Zigui said. “The Grand Preceptor found someone who looks exactly like you?”
“That’s right,” Ning Xiaoyao answered. “He even turned him into an idiot. After he kills me off, he’ll probably make that idiot the emperor in my place. Then the Grand Preceptor will revive.”
Lou Zigui’s expression had sunk so low that he might as well be underwater. His chest felt stifled and unable to breathe. “This, this is massive news. Why didn’t you tell me?” he questioned sternly.
“Ah?” Ning Xiaoyao asked. “Aren’t I telling you now?”
Supreme Commander Lou wondered whether Shadowgale would kill him now if he decided to beat up Ning Xiaoyao.
“You…” Ning Xiaoyao backed away as she sensed the dangerous aura emanating from him. “Is this all that important?”
Lou Zigui didn’t want to talk to her anymore.
“It’s alright,” Ning Xiaoyao scooted closer again and laughed. “I can restore that boy’s original face, so what’s there to worry about?”
“You can restore his face?”
“It was only a face lift,” Ning Xiaoyao said as she gestured to her own face. “Since they used knives, it’ll leave incision marks. As long as I restore the incisions to their original state, that guy won’t look like me anymore.”
Her words sounded reasonable, but was that really possible? Lou Zigui wasn’t sure.
“I’m a doctor–a very, very good doctor,” Ning Xiaoyao patted her chest with a promise. “As long as the patient’s not dead, I can cure any kind of illness!” Since there weren’t any zombies in this world, she wasn’t really boasting at all.
Lou Zigui’s heart lurched before he asked, “Then what about blindness and broken limbs?”
“Sure!” Ning Xiaoyao agreed resolutely. If she couldn’t, then she would this time! She had to!
Perhaps this was hope for his older brother? Lou Zigui stared blankly at Ning Xiaoyao, who dug her nails into her palms and tried to sound him out. “Has anyone been injured?”
What happened to Lou Zigui’s older brother was part of his private affairs. It was still something painful, so she could only pretend that she knew nothing until Lou Zigui told her outright. You had to respect other people. After stressing the fact to herself once more, Ning Xiaoyao fixed an ignorant expression on Lou Zigui.
Supreme Commander Lou felt his throat get choked up before he murmured in a low voice, “I was just curious.”
“Oh, haha. You were curious,” Ning Xiaoyao was still wearing her simple, scatterbrained smile.
“I’ll take the imperial guards back to Fragrant Gauze Alley,” Lou Zigui drew Ning Xiaoyao close and helped wipe off her still-damp face. “Replace those things where you’ve found them, alright?”
“Do I have to?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
Lou Zigui nodded.
Ning Xiaoyao pouted so much that someone could hang a jug of oil off her lips.
“We’re only returning them temporarily,” Lou Zigui coaxed His Majesty Ning.
“If the money’s not in our bags, then it doesn’t count as our money,” Ning Xiaoyao was still unhappy. She’d busied herself for half the night for nothing. (Author: Hey hey, is money the only thing you can remember?)
What to do when a girl was unhappy? Lou Zigui raised a hand and smoothed out Ning Xiaoyao’s pout. “I promise I’ll get the jewels and silver drafts back for you.”
“Hmph,” Ning Xiaoyao humphed.
“As soon as next month arrives, we’ll go eat egg yolk guoba,” Lou Zigui said next.
A vision of glistening gold yellow, fragrant, crispy egg yolk guoba suddenly appeared in Ning Xiaoyao’s head. She slurped back her drool and said, “Alright.”
And thus, egg yolk guoba cured His Majesty Ning of all of her ills.
“No matter what happens after this, don’t expose yourself,” Lou Zigui urged Ning Xiaoyao again.
“Mhm,” Ning Xiaoyao nodded.
Lou Zigui hugged Ning Xiaoyao.
Ning Xiaoyao grew serious. “We made a deal. Egg yolk guoba.”
Supreme Commander Lou felt crushed. Could it be that his hug was nothing compared to some egg yolk guoba? (Author: How should I say this….)
After the two differing minds came to the same agreement, Lou Zigui and Ning Xiaoyao emerged from the room. Ning Xiaoyao was staring at her toes, refusing to stare at the chests of treasure and stacks of silver drafts. If she saw them now, she’d physically ache.
Lou Zigui called in Fang Tang, who was standing guard outside, and said, “Go find some imperial guards and prepare to leave the palace.”
Fang Tang answered in assent and ran off.
Lou Zigui then told Shadowgale, “Bring some men to guard His Majesty as you travel to Fragrant Gauze Alley.”
Shadowgale nodded. They were going to cause trouble for the Grand Preceptor again.
Ning Xiaoyao crouched down and told Erya, “Erya, I’ll hoard a dowry for you another time. Right now, we have to return all these things.”
“How come?” Erya asked.
Ning Xiaoyao glanced at the two chests with some distress. “Because we have to defeat the bad guys first. Erya, ah, grow up a bit slower. If you grow up too fast, I won’t have any money to give you for your dowry. Right now, Your Majesty’s very poor.”
It really was a tragic reason. Erya was a very good child, and replied, “Your Majesty, Erya won’t marry anybody. Let’s save up money to find a wife for Xiaoqiu instead. Xiaoqiu grows even slower than me.”
“……….” said everyone else. This little girl has foresight, too.
That’s right, Xiaoqiu needs money as well to start a family. Ning Xiaoyao rubbed her eyes. She told herself, Ning Xiaoyao, don’t cry. You have to make sure you’re rich before Erya and Xiaoqiu grow up!
Everyone else watching the scene couldn’t help but feel that His Majesty seemed heroically tragic, for some odd reason. Lou Zigui simply turned and walked out of the room, unable to take any more.
After getting news that trouble had come to the Grand Preceptor’s estate, third son Xie Anshi forced himself to wait until the smoke and fires dissipated from the rockery formation before hastening back with his men on horseback. But it was then that a troop of imperial guards suddenly kicked their way in. They not only blocked off the back door, but the entire back alley. Some of the residents heard the commotion and opened their doors to have a look, only to be fiendishly shouted back into their homes by the guards.
“Lou Zigui.” Xie Anshi spat as his face twisted upon recognized the man blocking the street. He gritted his teeth and said coldly, “Lou Zigui, what’s the meaning of this?”
“Impudence!” Fang Tang pointed a finger at Xie Anshi. “You’re only the vice-head of the Ministry of War, yet you dare to hail our Supreme Commander by name?”
Xie Anshi turned to Fang Tang. “And just what kind of thing are you?”
“Go in and search,” Lou Zigui ordered the imperial guards while raising a hand to tell Fang Tang to keep quiet. The imperial guards dismounted their horses and swarmed through the doors of the estate. It was impossible for the Grand Preceptor’s men to keep them out.
“Lou Zigui, just what are you doing?” Xie Anshi asked, furious.
Lou Zigui didn’t even look at Xie Anshi, but instead dismounted his horse and walked towards the doors. Fang Tang and the rest clustered around him like human shields. Xie Anshi had no choice but to dismount himself and chase after Lou Zigui. Privately, he wagered that news of the underground chamber had already leaked out somehow. Fortunately, everyone down there was already dead, so Lou Zigui was late by a step.
Ning Xiaoyao carried her giant bundle into the lampless study, pressed the switch, and opened the secret compartment. Then she replaced all the chests, letters, and silver drafts into their original places.
“What a shame,” remarked Oil Jar, who had tagged along with Oil Lamp.
Ning Xiaoyao sighed. “Yeah, what a shame. My body’s aching right this moment.”
Oil Lamp said, “Oil Lamp didn’t understand Supreme Commander’s words.”
Oil Jar quickly nodded in turned, “Did you understand, Xiaoyao?”
“What Supreme Commander meant was that we have to let the Grand Preceptor think that Ning Xiaoluo’s already dead,” Ning Xiaoyao shut the secret compartment and reluctantly restored the area hiding the switch. Her conscience was quivering even as she ached.
“How come?” Oil Jar still didn’t get it.
“Because Supreme Commander wants to see the Duke of Yue’s estate have a fallout with the Grand Preceptor over Ning Xiaoluo’s fake death,” Ning Xiaoyao lowered her head as she walked out. “Supreme Commander says it’s called ‘meeting a plot with a plot,’”1
“But,” Oil Lamp raised a paw, “But doesn’t the Duke of Yue take orders from the Grand Preceptor to start with? Supreme Commander said the Grand Preceptor wanted to shift the blame of Ning Xiaoluo’s death to you, Xiaoyao. Did a bad cat gnaw out the Grand Preceptor’s brains?”
A bad cat gnaws out the brains. Ning Xiaoyao’s mouth twitched. She’d learned a new turn of phrase from mice.
“That’s right,” Oil Jar felt the whole thing was odd as well. “Xiaoyao, there’s no need for the Grand Preceptor to go to such lengths just to sow discord.”
Ning Xiaoyao said, “I told Supreme Commander the whole fuss was because of my face, but he didn’t believe me.”
Oil Jar said, “But doesn’t the Grand Preceptor already have somebody who looks like you? Why did he need Ning Xiaoluo in the first place?”
Ning Xiaoyao said, “Maybe he was worried that other guy would die halfway, so he had a backup just in case?”
“Then,” Oil Lamp said, “Shouldn’t the Grand Preceptor be worried that the Duke of Yue will recognize his son if he’s used as a replacement for you instead?”
Ning Xiaoyao squatted on the floor of the covered walkway as she scratched her head in thought. “That’s true.” No matter how loyal the Duke of Yue was to the Grand Preceptor, he’d still be able to recognize Ning Xiaoluo if he was made to be a stand-in for Ning Xiaoyao. Faces weren’t so easily forgotten.
Oil Jar said, “The Grand Preceptor must have another plot on hand!”
“What could it be?” Ning Xiaoyao solicited the two mice for advice.
Oil Jar and Oil Lamp didn’t have any answers for that. Oil Jar said, “Xiaoyao, you humans are so complicated.”
Ning Xiaoyao nodded. “That’s right, those humans are way too complicated. Even I can’t understand them.” (Author: You’re a human too, ah! Wake up already!)
Currently, Lou Zigui was standing at the foot of the fake rock formation that Ning Xiaoyao had mentioned. As Lou Zigui stood in the heavy downpour, he saw that the formation was made up of stacks of Jiangnan lake rocks. But there were no visible traces of the fire that had supposedly swept through the rockery tunnels.
By now, Xie Anshi had followed them here as well. He watched Fang Tang enter through the stone door in the rock formation’s cave and said to Lou Zigui, “There was a fire in the basement just a while ago. If Supreme Commander came to put out the flames, I’m afraid you’re a little too late.”
- meeting a plot with a plot (将计就计) – jiangji jiuji, or ‘to turn someone’s trick against them,’ ‘to beat someone at his own game. ↩