Chapter 130: Grand Preceptor, are you sure that’s His Majesty? Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
One of the generals standing at the corner of the square now walked up to Lou Zigui to whisper a report in his ear. “3,000 men are here. The capital’s military forces have surrounded the front gates of the palace with their troops and horses,they’re about 5,000 strong.”
Lou Zigui nodded his understanding.
“It’s highly possible that the Grand Preceptor’s blockaded the side gates as well,” the general’s voice grew urgent. “Supreme Commander, how are our paltry forces supposed to protect His Majesty and kill our way out?”
Lou Zigui turned to smile at his subordinate, his tone utterly normal. “We’re not attacking a city or pillaging any lands. Why do we need that many men? All we need to worry about is carving out an escape route when the time comes.”
The general grit his teeth at Lou Zigui’s words. That’s right. This is a smaller battlefield than the ones we’ve faced against the Northern Hu. Isn’t it just a charge from an isolated force?
“Release the whistling signal arrows,” Lou Zigui said as he patted the general’s shoulder. The general nodded and turned to leave with quick steps. Grand Preceptor Xie watched it all coldly. He knew that Ning Yu and Lou Zigui wouldn’t sit by idly and wait for death. But any plans they made were now all useless. As long as Ning Yu falls into that pit, there’s no chance that she’ll survive. Even corpses can’t exist in a death trap like that. Anything that touched the poisonous powder would simply melt away, bones, flesh, and all. No matter if you’re an Arhat or some divine being, you’ll find yourself hard-pressed to avoid being dissolved into liquid. Ning Yu, you might be formidable, but can you be tougher than those supernormal beings?
Lou Zigui got out of the way. Grand Preceptor Xie resumed his trek up the steps, with Lou Zigui following close behind him.
“Supreme Commander,” Grand Preceptor Xie said, “Military men aren’t allowed to ascend these steps. Don’t you know the rules?”
Lou Zigui’s voice was frosty. “I’m only going to ask His Majesty one question–whether he ordered the Grand Preceptor to enter the palace.”
“This old man is afraid you won’t be able to explain yourself if you offend the gods and ancestors,” Grand Preceptor Xie pretended he had Lou Zigui’s interests at heart. “It’s not as if this old man will run away. It won’t be too late if you ask His Majesty after the Grand Sacrificial Ceremony.”
“If this one offends the gods, then this one is willing to die to atone for his crimes,” Lou Zigui said, frigid and steadfast as ever. “There’s no need for Grand Preceptor to trouble himself with these matters.”
Grand Preceptor Xie nodded with a smile and an ‘alright,’ and didn’t speak to Lou Zigui again.
Empress Dowager Xie was standing atop the flight of stairs. Ning Xiaoyao had completely ignored her existence. Now that she saw her father ascending the steps, her heart sank back in her chest. Elder Li moved to stand in front of Grand Preceptor Xie, his expression stern as he barred the latter’s path.
“Why are you here?” he asked.
Grand Preceptor Xie repeated the conversation he had with Lou Zigui. At this, Elder Li’s head whipped over to look at Lou Zigui. How can you directly question the emperor on his orders? And how can Grand Preceptor Xie be so fearless?
Grand Preceptor Xie glanced at Empress Dowager Xie, who shook her head. Her meaning was that she hadn’t heard any commotion from the ancestral hall at all.
A few whistling arrows shot through the air, their shrill cries piercing everyone’s ears. The assembled crowd grew restless at the sound. Was a fight about to break out?! Large masses of clouds came to cover up the sun, plunging the day into a gloomy gray. The storm clouds seem to carry ominous foreboding for Yongning’s capital city.
At the north gates, Fang Tang heard the signal and smashed his teacup to the ground. A few steps brought him to the city gates, where he raised his crossbow and aimed at the general in charge of guarding the entrance. The 500 imperial guards under his command had all hidden themselves in an alleyway to the right side of the gate. Now they swarmed up the steps to the watchtower like an overturned anthill. The capital’s soldiers had been forewarned that there’d be unrest at the city gates today, so they unsheathed their sabers at the first sign of attack and fought back. In an instant, fights broke out in the city as battle cries filled the air.
When the denizens near the north gate saw this scene, they could only run away in confusion. The chaos spread like an infectious plague from the north gate to the entirety of the capital. At the same time all this was occuring, née Wang was accepting a small porcelain bottle from Old Huo, who then proceeded to retreat into a dimly lit corner, his eyes boring into young née Wang’s.
Young née Wang placed the bottle into her sleeve with shaking fingers before staggering up the flight of steps and knocking on Grand Preceptor Xie’s estate side doors. The same time she knocked, Empress Dowager Xie questioned Lou Zigui in a stern voice.
“Lou Zigui, what are you doing?!”
Lou Zigui was full of disrespect. “This subject would like to ask Esteemed Empress Dowager the very same thing. What are you doing?”
Shadowgale and the rest wanted to approach them, but were obstructed by a few strong, unfamiliar men.
“You’ve brought those military men to the steps of the ancestral hall,” Empress Dowager Xie pointed at the few general standing behind Lou Zigui as she raised her voice. “Lou Zigui, what gall you have! This Dowager sees that you’re planning to rebel!”
Lou Zigui looked at the Xie father and daughter pair standing side by side and gave a cold laugh. “What now? Esteemed Empress Dowager wants to punish this subject with a capital offence as well?”
Empress Dowager Xie gave orders to the eunuchs lined up on both sides of the steps. “What are you all doing standing around? Apprehend Lou Zigui for This Dowager!”
There was the sound of blades unsheathing as the Black Frost Cavalry generals all brought their sabers to bear. At the sight of those weapons, the eunuchs in charge of guarding the steps also took out their swords in turn. The two sides ended up in a faceoff on the steps. By now, the seven astrologers had huddled into a group by the temple door. Finally, they understood why His Majesty had told them they’d regret it. If those two groups started fighting now…
Save us! We really need those pot lids!
Elder Li shielded his disciples behind him as he stepped forward and pressed his hand against Lou Zigui’s saber-wielding one. His tone was low and serious. “Why don’t we invite His Majesty out first.”
Everyone stared at the head astrologer, who gulped. He had managed to regain his calm with difficulty and said, “It’s not time yet. His Majesty cannot leave the ancestral hall.”
“Then we’re just going to wait like this?” one of the Black Frost Calvary asked stormily.
The head astrologer quickly shook his head. “His Majesty cannot come out until the proper hour.” There were already weapons bared outside the ancestral hall. If His Majesty really wanted to come out, wouldn’t he have done so already? The head astrologer only felt that he knew the truth–and that was that His Majesty didn’t have the courage to reveal himself!
“This subject respectfully requests Your Majesty to come out of the ancestral hall,” Elder Li raised his voice at the closed doors.
The various ministers and officials on top of the steps all exchanged glances, before chorusing in unison, “We subjects respectfully request Your Highness to come out of the ancestral hall.”
There was nothing but silence in response. It was as if nobody was in the ancestral hall at all!
“Your Majesty!” Elder Li shouted again. Why has Grand Preceptor Xie shown up at the palace? Did the Xie father and daughter pair cheat and coax His Majesty again? The possibility grew more probable as Elder Li thought further. Otherwise, where would Xie Wenyuan get such daring? Such self-confidence?
“What do we do?” one of the generals asked Lou Zigui in a low voice. “Should we charge inside?”
“We can hold Xie Wenyuan and the empress dowager hostage,” another general suggested. “With them in our hands, it’ll be easy enough to kill our way out of the capital.”
“As I see it, we should just kill them both,” the general on Lou Zigui’s right muttered, “Stick them with a white blade and leave with a bloodied one. We’ll kill our fill with them.”
Lou Zigui raised a hand to call for silence from his subordinates, before speaking to Elder Li. The old man was still gripping his hand. “His Majesty might be in trouble. If the situation turns perilous, I’ll take His Majesty away.”
Elder Li glanced at Lou Zigui, his heart heaving in terrifying waves. Despite this, his expression was as calm as a still pond. “Back to Anyuan?” he asked.
Lou Zigui nodded.
“Is Xie Wenyuan still the cause of it all?”
Again, Supreme Commander Lou nodded.
Elder Li withdrew his hand and murmured, “Are you certain that you can thoroughly assist His Majesty?”
“Uncertain,” Lou Zigui said, “But I won’t let anyone harm His Majesty before I die.”
Elder Li hesitated before minutely nodding his head.
“No matter what I say later on, I ask that Elder Li doesn’t suspect me,” Lou Zigui said next. If there were suddenly two Ning Xiaoyaos later, which group were Elder Li and his faction supposed to trust?
“Father, are you absolutely confident this time?” Empress Dowager Xie was questioning Grand Preceptor Xie at the same time Elder Li was sounding out Lou Zigui.
“May Empress Dowager set your cares at rest,” Grand Preceptor Xie said. “If anything goes wrong, Esteemed Empress Dowager need only think of yourself.”
“What does father mean by this?” Empress Dowager Xie hastened to ask. Does father want to draw a clear line between us? She began to grow guarded.
Grand Preceptor Xie smiled. “This subject simply does not wish for anything to happen to Empress Dowager.” If that witless fool really becomes the emperor, would there be any need to make Ning Xin ascend the throne? Grand Preceptor Xie had long made plans in his heart, but for now, he had to calm the heart of his ruthless, venomous daughter.
Empress Dowager Xie only felt that her father was hiding the truth behind his words. Have I missed something somewhere? She began to make mental calculations of her own.
Grand Preceptor Xie observed Lou Zigui as he drew closer to the doors of the ancestral hall, before raising his hand to muffle a light cough. The eunuch hiding beneath the altar heard this cough and took it as a signal. He ran out of the altar and began knocking down all the enshrined memorial tablets and incense burners on the table, throwing them onto the ground without exception. The clash of porcelain, bronze, and various other wares against the floor startled the addled youth on the cushion, who began to clutch his head with shrill cries.
Lou Zigui’s hand stilled before the ancestral hall’s doors at the shrieks. That isn’t Miss Ning’s voice.
“Your Majesty?!” Grand Preceptor Xie ran forward a few steps, shoving aside the officials from the astronomy department hovering next to the door. He pushed open the red sandstone doors engraved with auspicious clouds and entered the ancestral hall. Meanwhile, the eunuch had returned to his hiding place beneath the altar. The addled youth was huddled up in a ball on the ground, trembling nonstop.
The ancestral hall wasn’t a place where just anyone could enter. But nobody cared about the rules now. Everyone followed Grand Preceptor Xie inside, only to find him half kneeling on the ground, cradling a fearful youth in his arms. In an urgent tone, he asked, “Your Majesty. Your Majesty? Just what has happened to you, Your Majesty?”
The youth was still clutching his head, his arms currently concealing his face from Grand Preceptor Xie’s eyes.
“Lou Zigui!” After looking at the mess on the floor, Empress Dowager Xie turned to point at Lou Zigui in rage. “You must have offended the gods and ancestors by bringing military men here! Now you’ve caused His Majesty a fright!”
Lou Zigui ignored Empress Dowager Xie and approached Grand Preceptor Xie and the youth. He half crouched on the floor before pulling aside the hands clutching that head. A cold smile formed on Grand Preceptor Xie’s lips. Meanwhile, Ning Xiaoyao finished her last sunflower seed and stood up, warming up her limbs as she prepared to return to the surface. She wasn’t sure how they’d built this underground chamber, but it allowed air to pass through. Moreover, she could even hear the conversations happening aboveground. Before leaping to the surface, Ning Xiaoyao shook her head. It really was a pain to deal with that father and daughter day after day. When will I be able to take back the military power in his hands?
On the surface, Lou Zigui asked Grand Preceptor Xie in a cold voice, “Grand Preceptor, are you sure that’s His Majesty?”