Chapter 129: His Majesty falls into the underground chamber Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
“Just what’s going on?” Ning Xiaoyao rubbed her eyes. There’s no eye poop here, ah.
“Nothing,” Lou Zigui withdrew his hand and resumed his flat tone. Ning Xiaoyao chewed noisily on the rice ball in her mouth. She really didn’t understand the humans of this world.
“I’ll be right at the foot of the stairs leading to the ancestral hall during the Grand Sacrificial Ceremony two days later,” Lou Zigui told Ning Xiaoyao quietly. “I won’t be very far.”
“Mhm,” Ning Xiaoyao nodded. At the same time she reached for a rice ball, she flashed him a broad smile. “Supreme Commander, don’t worry. Nothing will happen to us with me here.”
Lou Zigui softly murmured an ‘alright’ before he asked, “Xiaoyao, do you want to come to Anyuan with me?”
The sudden question made her start. “Anyuan?” Ning Xiaoyao echoed. “Is that where your home is, Supreme Commander?”
Lou Zigui nodded. “It’s not as prosperous as the capital city, but I’ll definitely take good care of you. I….”
“I want to,” Ning Xiaoyao interrupted before he finished. “I want to go.” If she wanted to save Elder Brother Lou, then she’d have to go to the Anyuan Six Provinces and the Night Crow Pass at some point. She tore off a chunk of riceball and silently offered encouragement to the possibly living elder brother of Lou Zigui. He had to survive until the day he could go home!
“Alright,” Lou Zigui lifted his hand to touch Ning Xiaoyao’s head again. Perhaps he’d be able to forget that this girl was a scion of the imperial clan and Empress Dowager Xie’s daughter after they went to Anyuan.
The two days passed while Lou Zigui and Grand Preceptor Xie were planning their schemes and calculations, while Ning Xiaoyao was stuffing herself with food, and while everyone else was worrying about what would happen. On the morning of the third day, the rosy clouds dyed the skies pink. Ning Xiaoyao put on her dragon robes and semi-circular jade pendant by her waist. As she stood at the head of the stairs with the breeze fluttering through past her clothes, she looking rather steady and grounded despite her youth. The vast skies above the ancestral hall, its surrounding square, and the landing atop the steps seemed to solidify around their new monarch, making it a little hard to breathe.
You have to be serious and fearsome. You can’t blink, and you have to show the impressive might of a true dragon son without falling into wrath.
Standing atop the landing, Ning Xiaoyao reviewed Lou Zigui’s words in her head. She silently took in the various civil officials and imperial guards both before and below her, imagining them all as zombies. As a result, her expression turned even more stern, her gaze now positively frigid. The killing intent that emanated from her figure commanded an aura of respect and veneration.
But the onlookers didn’t quite understand His Majesty. Here was the Grand Sacrificial Ceremony, an occasion to make sacrifices to the gods and one’s ancestors while praying for peace, good weather, and abundant harvests for the populace. It was a place to be humble and ask for help, so why did His Majesty look ready for an all-out brawl with the gods and ancestors alike? (Author: That’s why, Supreme Commander, you taught the wrong thing. Your Majesty, you’re wearing the wrong expression as well. o(╯□╰)o )
The head astrologer looked at Ning Xiaoyao’s creased brows and asked timidly, “Your Majesty, shouldn’t you go into the main hall now?”
Ning Xiaoyao said, “Did you guys bring your pot lids?”
His Majesty’s words were an imperial decree, so how could they dare disobey? “To reply Your Majesty, we subjects brought them,” the head astrologer answered.
“Really?” Ning Xiaoyao curved her fingers to rap against the head astrologer’s old, wizened chest. “I’m touching human skin right now. Where are your pot lids?”
The head astrologer’s expression was wooden “Your Majesty wanted us subjects to carry the pot lids on our bodies?”
“What else could I have meant?” Ning Xiaoyao said.
Humiliation revealed itself on the head astrologer’s face. Your Majesty, even if you loathe us subjects, you can’t disgrace us this way! When Ning Xiaoyao saw that the head astrologer looked on the verge of tears, her mouth twitch. Could it be he doesn’t fear death and wants his share of the action, too?
“Your Majesty, are you going to enter the main hall?” the head astrologer said in a respectful and professional tone. Please don’t bring up the pot lids again.
“You guys will regret it,” Ning Xiaoyao pointed her finger at each of the seven astrologers. “You definitely will.”
“………” said the seven astrologers. We subjects definitely won’t!
Ning Xiaoyao took a deep breath and felt her pockets to make sure her sugar beans, sunflower seeds, and peanuts were still there. Then she lifted a hand and pushed open the doors to the ancestral hall.
“Kneeeeeel~” one of the officials of the astronomy department shouted.
Everyone fell to their knees. Ning Xiaoyao stepped over the threshold of the door and cast one more glance at the altar with its imperial memorial tablets. Already, she could see that the setup was different from her last visit here. There was an extra piece of green cloth spread over the altar that reached to the ground. With one foot in and one foot out, Ning Xiaoyao paused over the threshold. Most likely, the villain in charge of trapping her was hiding behind that cloth with her doppelganger.
“Your Majesty?” the head astrologer asked from behind her.
Ning Xiaoyao turned back to glance at him. “Are you hurrying me to my death?”
The head astrologer quickly fell to his knees. It looks like he doesn’t just want to humiliate me, but take my life as well!
Ning Xiaoyao harrumphed and continued inside. Two more members of the astronomy department quickly closed the doors behind her before looking sympathetically at their head astrologer. They couldn’t help by feel that something big would happen at today’s Grand Sacrificial Ceremony.
One of the windows on the left side of the hall was slightly open, allowing Big Boss Black to squeeze himself inside. He landed on the floor and met gazes with Ning Xiaoyao, before both of them nodded in unison.
“Miaow!” Big Boss Black cried. “It’s begun!”
The eunuch hiding beneath the altar only found it strange. Why is there a cat meowing in the ancestral hall?
Big Boss Black dove beneath the altar. Ning Xiaoyao followed the sounds of his meowing to stick her head inside as well. There were two people sitting beneath the altar. One of them was the eunuch from the other day, while the other was someone with his face swathed in a black cloth. His body proportions were extremely similar to Ning Xiaoyao. Without another word, she reached out a hand and pressed it against his face.
The eunuch had a fright, but recovered quickly enough to aim a hit at Ning Xiaoyao’s head. Afraid that Ning Xiaoyao needed more time to fix the doppelganger’s face, Big Boss Black jumped onto the eunuch’s head and started clawing him furiously. Wracked with pain, the eunuch still kept quiet, not daring to make a sound. He grabbed Big Boss Black by the tail and flung him out from under of the altar.
Ning Xiaoyao took her hand off the youth’s face and pretended to be stunned. “Y-you, just who are you?!”
The eunuch had no choice but to resort to desperate measures. He lifted a leg and viciously kicked Ning Xiaoyao at the same time he threw his body towards the left table leg. Ning Xiaoyao was a lightweight, so the eunuch’s kick send her careening out of the altar. At the same time, a hole opened up in the ground, catching the free-falling Ning Xiaoyao as she plummeted down into its depths. When the eunuch saw that, he quickly moved the left table leg again to re-seal the opening in the floor.
Big Boss Black ran to the windowsill and jumped onto the ledge, then fled from the ancestral hall. The eunuch wiped away the cold sweat on his brow before dragging the other youth out of the altar. He brought out a brocade cushion and placed the boy upon it in a kneeling position, then ripped off the black cloth swaddled around his head.
The youth stared blankly at the eunuch before him, who peered back. Something about the boy’s face looked different, but after closer scrutiny, the eunuch decided it was only his imagination. This had to be His Majesty’s face.
Once again, the eunuch returned to hide beneath the altar. The youth kneeled dully on the cushion. Because he’d lost his wits, he didn’t feel worried or nervous at all. Instead, he started to rock and sway, his mouth opening to make indistinct noises that sounded like singing and speech all at once.
Meanwhile, Ning Xiaoyao was sitting in complete darkness to munch on her sugar beans and sunflower seeds. Her fingers pinched a bit of the powder covering the ground at her side before rubbing it between her fingerpads. This hadn’t been here two days ago, either. When she brought it up to her nose for a whiff, she didn’t catch any scent.
“The heck is this?” Ning Xiaoyao muttered as she took out a dagger she’d brought along. She wanted to get more samples with the blade so she could study it closer. But as soon as the powder touched the weapon, it started to bubble and froth. Within seconds, a layer of foam formed on the surface of the metal blade before burning a hole through to the other side. If the powder could do this to metal, what about human flesh?
Ning Xiaoyao tossed a peanut into her mouth. Grand Preceptor Xie, you vilehearted old geezer. He wanted to turn me into a pile of meat pulp, ah! She spat on the ground and cursed, “Damned old geezer, you’re just asking to be bitten by zombies!”
Outside the ancestral hall, Grand Preceptor Xie had brought men with him to the square below the flight of steps leading to the temple. All of the officials and ministers were stunned at his arrival. Did His Majesty summon the Grand Preceptor here?
Grand Preceptor Xie confidently strode past the neat rows of subjects to head for the steps leading up to the ancestral hall.
“Grand Preceptor, why have you entered the palace?” Lou Zigui stepped forward to block his way.
Grand Preceptor Xie’s voice was gentle and mild. “This old man is naturally acting on the orders of the emperor.”
“Emperor’s orders?” Lou Zigui said coldly. “That’s impossible.”
Grand Preceptor Xie looked at Lou Zigui and smiled. “It was His Majesty’s verbal instructions. How does Supreme Commander expect this old man to produce an imperial edict?”
Lou Zigui simply fixed Grand Preceptor Xie with a cold stare.
Grand Preceptor Xie said, “If Supreme Commander doesn’t believe me, we can simply ask His Majesty when we see him later.”
Two teams of rank-and-file soldiers now ran into the square and lined themselves up on opposite sides to stand behind the imperial guards protecting the area. Immediately, the air grew tense.
“Supreme Commander?” Grand Preceptor Xie asked with a grin.
“Who are these men?” Lou Zigui pointed at one of the soldiers standing nearby.
“They should be part of the troops His Majesty transferred to the capital city,” Grand Preceptor Xie seemed a little uncertain as well. Lou Zigui stared at a soldier in question, who felt his legs go soft beneath the scrutiny. He ended up lowering his head.
“Could Supreme Commander make way?” Grand Preceptor Xie asked.
Lou Zigui creased his brows even further. One of the Black Frost Cavalry generals suddenly ran out and yelled, “Who knows if you speak the truth?”
The two rows of soldiers immediately raised their spears. At this, the imperial guards took out their weapons as well. The various ministers and officials felt their throats choke up at the sight, making it difficult to breathe. Lou Zigui half-raised his hand, and the imperial guards retreated to one side with weapons in tow.
Grand Preceptor Xie smiled. “Supreme Commander Lou, this old man has already told you everything. If you don’t believe my words, you can certainly ask His Majesty about it later. If this old man truly didn’t enter the palace on the emperor’s orders, then I’ll atone for the crime with my life.”