Chapter 126: His Majesty wants to fight, Supreme Commander wants to retreat Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
The eunuch re-lit the altar lamps in the hall before looking all around him. When he found nothing strange, he felt for the sword that Ning Xiaoyao had replaced at his waist before calming down. Then he walked to the left hand corner of the shrine and kicked against the table leg. There was a clack, before the floor tile covering the dungeon split in half down the middle and opened up to reveal the hole hidden beneath. The eunuch stood at the edge of the hole and peered down into the pitch-black darkness before sucking in a cold breath.
Ning Xiaoyao was lying beneath the altar table as she realized the secret switch was the table leg. She even began to imagine how the old Ning Clan forefather had killed off his little brother all those hundreds of years ago. As soon as he kicked the table leg, the floor would’ve opened up it’s gaping maw and sent the brother falling into the dungeon cell. Then a second kick would seal up the door and muffle all of the man’s cries and curses. She shivered at the thought. The emperor’s throne really was a precarious position!
While Ning Xiaoyao was sighing over an emperor’s lot in life, Shadowgale was already too impatient to sit down back at the Supreme Splendor Hall. He stood in front of Lou Zigui, shocked at the revelation. The Grand Preceptor was simply trying to revolt!
“Then, then what do we do?” Shadowgale anxiously asked Lou Zigui. When he heard that the Grand Preceptor had already snuck in troops to the capital, he was utterly discomfited.
“He just finished making a replacement emperor,” Lou Zigui waved his hand to indicate the Dragon Guards to sit. “I don’t think the Grand Preceptor’s planning to use these soldiers at the Grand Sacrificial Ceremony.”
“Then what are they for?” Fang Tang asked. He and the rest of the Black Frost Cavalry generals were more objective about the situation, but anxious all the same.
“Xie Wenyuan feels ill at ease as a result of all the recent events,” Lou Zigui said coldly, “So he transferred his external troops into the capital. They came at just the right time to help him out.”
“Can’t we give them a show of force first?” a Black Frost Cavalry general asked. “Before the Grand Sacrificial Ceremony, even?”
Lou Zigui shook his head. “Then wouldn’t we give the Grand Preceptor a legitimate reason to stage an uprising?”
The room lapsed into silence.
“Prepare a set of civilian clothes,” Lou Zigui ordered, before telling Shadowgale, “If we can’t defeat them, then we’ll escape with His Majesty.”
“That’s right!” Fang Tang leapt out of his chair. “We can take His Majesty to Anyuan, ah. Who the hell’s afraid of Xie Wenyuan there?”
The four head commanders of the Dragon Guards exchanged furtive glances. If they went to Anyuan, then His Majesty would have to listen to this Supreme Commander Lou for everything again.
“Supreme Commander,” one of the Black Frost Cavalry generals on his left said. “Taking His Majesty to Anyuan is one solution, but how will we get everyone out of the palace? And after that, how do we get out of the city? Even if we manage all that peacefully, how are we supposed to escape Xie Wenyuan’s assassins the entire way back?” His successive questions plunged the room into silence again. All of the capital’s troops were under Grand Preceptor Xie’s command. How could it be a simple matter to take His Majesty out of the city?
Lou Zigui’s finger lightly tapped against the tea table by his side as he muttered, “It’ll be very difficult, no doubt, but that’s the path to survival. If Xie Wenyuan insists on calling a stag a horse then, we’ll have no choice but to take His Majesty away.”
“……….” said everyone else in the room. It’s fine if you use the stag analogy for the doppelganger, but should you really compare His Majesty to a horse? Isn’t that a little too outrageous?
“What’s wrong?” Lou Zigui asked.
Everyone shook their heads. Now wasn’t the time to argue semantics with Supreme Commander Lou.
“I’ll give you 500 imperial guards,” Lou Zigui told Fang Tang. “Dress them up like how Xie Wenyuan disguised the foreign troops he brought into the city. If anything goes wrong in the palace, I’ll order someone to shoot a whistling arrow as a signal. When that happens, you have to take possession of the north city gates.”
Fang Tang cupped his fist to accept the order. “Yes.”
“I can only spare you 500 men,” Lou Zigui emphasized. “Fang Tang, can you handle it?”
Fang Tang’s youthful face took on a faint trace of arrogance. “Supreme Commander, don’t worry. This soldier understands what he has to do. As long as we keep the city gates open, it’ll be fine.”
Lou Zigui nodded, before reminding him, “To catch brigands, first catch their king. When the time comes, kill off all the generals in charge of guarding the capital first.”
“Yes!” Fang Tang shouted.
Lou Zigui next began handing out assignments to the other troops and Shadowgale’s crew. On the day of the Grand Sacrificial Ceremony, they had to figure out how to protect Ning Xiaoyao and how to attack or retreat. Unlike Ning Xiaoyao, who’d imagined a desperate fight of fists against the Grand Preceptor himself, on that day, Supreme Commander Lou was trying to commandeer a full retreat of all friendly troops from the capital that day. Although Ning Xiaoyao said she’d be able to restore the doppelganger’s face to its original looks, Lou Zigui didn’t have the resolution to bet all his chances on something he’d never heard of happening before. Arranging an escape route from here to Anyuan was the one thing that could soothe his nerves.
All the while, an ignorant Ning Xiaoyao was watching the sword-wielding eunuch leave the ancestral hall. Once he was gone, she waited a while longer before climbing out from beneath the altar to speak with Big Boss Black and Grandpa Ash.
“On the day of the ceremony, I’ll bring along some food with me–lots of it. Otherwise, how am I supposed to spend my days down in that hole?”
Big Boss Black and Grandpa Ash both found this logical. Big Boss Black said, “I’ll go outside the palace and catch a few fat mice for you.”
Ning Xiaoyao unconsciously glanced at Grandpa Ash, who didn’t make a single squeak of protest. Big Boss Black might not eat him, but that didn’t mean he had the right to bar him from all micekind.
“Will ten be enough?” Big Boss Black asked.
“Thanks, but I want to take along meatbuns instead,” Ning Xiaoyao said. Mice meat wasn’t inedible, but she just wasn’t interested! Big Boss Black swished his tail in silence. This ninny, she can’t tell good from bad.
“If you can bring over some egg yolk guoba…”
“That’s impossible for this cat, thanks,” Big Boss Black coldly shattered Ning Xiaoyao’s wild fantasy. One human and one cat engaged in a staring contest.
Grandpa Ash sighed and said, “Xiaoyao, can you really fix that doppelganger’s face?”
“I can,” Ning Xiaoyao replied. Grandpa Ash still looked worried.
“C’mon, Black Tubby, scratch me,” Ning Xiaoyao told Big Boss Black. “Aim for the face.”
Big Boss Black scratched Ning Xiaoyao, his sharp claws buried so deep into his paw jellies that it was more like a thwap. Ning Xiaoyao rubbed her uninjured face and said in disdain, “Black Tubby, is that all you’ve got? Did you forget? I slept with your Supreme Commander, oh.”
This was the sole regret in Big Boss Black’s life. The fat cat clawed Ning Xiaoyao without the slightest hesitation, but grew anxious when he saw her face bleeding. “Blood!” he shrieked with his fur standing on end. Grandpa Ash was shocked as well, never expecting Big Boss Black to truly harm his owner.
Ning Xiaoyao pointed at her wound for Grandpa Asha’s sake. “Grandpa Ash, see this?”
“Imperial physicians!” Big Boss Black wailed for help.
Ning Xiaoyao threw Big Boss Black onto the ground before tapping her face with a finger. A few streams of pale green light glimmered before they vanished into her wound. Grandpa Ash and Big Boss Black stared, dumbstruck, as Ning Xiaoyao’s face returned to normal.
“Divine arts,” Grandpa Ash said.
“Demon magic!” Big Boss Black shouted.
Ning Xiaoyao smacked Big Boss Black again.
“Alright, I’m not worried now,” Grandpa Ash nodded. Although his expression didn’t change, Ning Xiaoyao felt like he was smiling.
“I’m going to sic that old geezer to death on the day of the grand ceremony!” Ning Xiaoyao vowed as she waved her fists.
“There’s no need to worry about that,” Big Boss Black said, “Just put more thought into Supreme Commander’s big brother. That’s the most important thing!”
“……….” said Ning Xiaoyao. See that? This bastard only cares about his Supreme Commander.
“Have you lost your wits?” Big Boss Black yelled at Ning Xiaoyao. “This cat is talking about my Supreme Commander! Give me a reaction ah, miaow!”
“I’ll give you a reaction!” Ning Xiaoyao placed Big Boss Black across her legs and started to spank him!
“Miaow!” Big Boss Black shined his claws in front of Ning Xiaoyao. Once again, human and cat devolved into a fight before Grandpa Ash’s eyes.
At the same time this was happening, Xie Anshi saw his own mother appear in the justice court’s imperial prisons.
“Mother?” Eldest Young Master Xie couldn’t believe his eyes. He threw himself against the bars and called out for Lady Wang.
When Lady Wang saw her eldest son dressed in prison garb, with his dishevelled hair and dirty face, she immediately began to cry. Her child had always lived in luxury, eating jade-like meals while wearing brocade clothings. When had he ever suffered this much?
“Mother, why are you here?” Xie Anshi asked anxiously.
“Son, ah,” Lady Wang wiped away her tears and dropped her voice. “Mother came here in secret without telling your father. I was only able to get out because Old Madame gave the word.”
Xie Anshi’s expression darkened. “Father’s really planning to disown me?”
“He won’t,” Lady Wang said hurriedly. “I can see that your father’s started to busy himself again these days. Mother heard him say something about troops.”
“Troops?” Xie Anshi was surprised.
Lady Wang said, “I don’t know the details, nor do I have ways to find out. But son, just bear with it here for a few more days. Mother feels that you’ll be fine once your father succeeds. Hold out a bit longer.”
“Mother,” Xie Anshi asked anxiously, “What is father planning to do?”
“Why would your father ever tell me about imperial court matters?” Lady Wang shook her head. “This is just mother’s intuition. Your father’s probably planning to fight against His Majesty again.”
Xie Anshi’s lips quivered twice as he found himself unable to speak.
“Mother came to set your mind at ease,” Lady Wang took out a handkerchief to wipe Xie Anshi’s face. “Your father invited a personal tutor for your little son today. If he was really planning to disown you, why would he get a tutor in the first place?”
Xie Anshi felt somewhat relieved at Lady Wang’s words. His Majesty had denied any of his sons and grandsons from ever becoming officials at the imperial court again, but father had actually found a personal tutor to instruct his son, which meant he hadn’t been abandoned.
“Mother can’t protect you any more than this,” Lady Wang said after she finished cleaning off Xie Anshi’s face. She rubbed at her tears again and said, “Mother will be leaving now, so you have to take care of yourself.”
Xie Anshi kneeled on the grow to kowtow towards his mother, who shut her eyes at the sight. It was as if a knife had pierced her heart, she felt so pained. On the way out of the prison cells, she turned left and was met with née Wang throwing herself at the bars.
“Aunt!”1 she cried.
Lady Wang stopped.
Née Wang had just lost her baby, so her body was weak and her face devoid of color. In the past, she’d take cares to dress herself up everyday, but now she had unkempt hair and no makeup for her features. Lady Wang suddenly felt that this niece of hers had ordinary looks at most.
- Aunt (姑母) – gumu, though Lady Wang is technically née Wang’s mother-in-law, she was her aunt first and foremost because they both hail from the Wang Clan. ↩