Chapter 132: A mighty flood of refugees Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
“All of you be careful,” Ning Xiaoyao told the gathered crowd. “There’s obviously some kind of poison powder down there, capable of dissolving you all into liquid in no time.”
All of the officials and ministers backed away. Quite a few of the civil officials began to gag when they recalled the curious mix of red and yellow fluids at the bottom of the shaft.
“If you’re going to throw up, hurry up and go do it outside,” Ning Xiaoyao said hastily. A place as big as this one would be super expensive to clean up. (Author: You’re still worrying about cleanup expenses at a time like this? o(╯□╰)o) Following her shout, 20 or so figures made a dash for the doors.
“Did Your Majesty scatter that poison powder?” one of the military officials asked.
Ning Xiaoyao looked at Grand Preceptor Xie and said, “Grand Preceptor, how should I explain it this time?”
Grand Preceptor Xie borrowed Ning Xiaoyao’s words and said, “There’s poison powder in the underground chamber, but why is Your Majesty unharmed?”
“I…” Ning Xiaoyao wanted to say that she was immune to hundreds of poisons, but Lou Zigui tightened his grip on her hand, causing her to swallow her words.
“Was Grand Preceptor hoping for His Majesty to get hurt?” Lou Zigui retorted.
There has to be a hidden traitor amongst the ranks of the Poison Sect! Grand Preceptor Xie thought to himself. How could Ning Yu have escaped unscathed if she didn’t have the antidote in the first place? How many hands did this poison powder pass through before it came to me? Grand Preceptor Xie’s brain flew into action with his mental calculations.
Elder Li looked at Ning Xiaoyao and Lou Zigui, then at Grand Preceptor Xie, where his gaze lingered before he spoke up. “No matter what, we need to get to the bottom of what happened today.”
“We do have to look into this,” Grand Preceptor Xie agreed, “Elder Li, what do you think we should investigate first?”
Elder Li stared at the addled youth dressed in dragon robes.
“That boy’s already lost his wits,” a minister said, “How are we supposed to interrogate him?”
I can heal him, Ning Xiaoyao thought to herself, but now wasn’t the time to incriminate Grand Preceptor Xie and kill him for his crimes. Besides, what would be the point if I healed the boy right here, right now? If the boy couldn’t out argue Grand Preceptor Xie, he might be accused as the criminal instead. Mhm, I can’t heal him just yet. Ning Xiaoyao dug her fingers into her palms. I’ll treat him later tonight instead.
Meanwhile, the rest of the officials and ministers had all broken out into arguments over how the investigation should proceed. Ning Xiaoyao listened to them fight and realized it was the Grand Preceptor’s faction against Elder Li’s faction again. She dug out another sugar bean from her pocket and popped it into her mouth, before slowly making her way towards Grand Preceptor Xie. While everyone else was debating, she would take the chance to thrash that old geezer a few times.
Meanwhile, the huddle of officials of the astronomy department were holding back the urge to tell all these people to pipe down while inside the hallowed ancestral hall. None of them dared to speak up, because they couldn’t afford to offend a single member of the personages inside!
“Don’t they know where they are arguing right now!?” one of the astrologers whispered. The head astrologer kept his mouth shut, because he didn’t want to speak up!
By now, Ning Xiaoyao had made it to over in front of Grand Preceptor Xie. The latter was still seriously considering the problem of a traitor in his ranks when Ning Xiaoyao raised a fist. Only then did he notice and look up. “What are you planning to do me?” he asked in a rush.
Everyone else turned back to look their way as well and saw Ning Xiaoyao about to thrash Grand Preceptor Xie.
“……….” went Ning Xiaoyao. So do I hit him now, or not?
“Your Majesty!” Shadowrain suddenly rushed inside, only to see the hall full of people and a gaping hole in front of the altar. He couldn’t spot His Majesty from there.
“Over here!” Ning Xiaoyao started waving her arms. Being short really was a tragic affair.
Shadowrain ran over in front of Ning Xiaoyao and fell to his knees to report, “Your Majesty, chaos has broken out in the capital. There are people looting and burning, targeting the citizens of the city.”
Ning Xiaoyao glanced over at Grand Preceptor Xie. Did you do this too?
Elder Li had reached Lou Zigui by now, and murmured, “Are you still planning to take His Majesty away from here?”
Lou Zigui replied, “It looks like there’s no need for that now.” Since the doppelganger plan had failed, why should I whisk Ning Xiaoyao away?
Elder Li released a breath. “Then, this is the end?” He hadn’t been able to make heads or tails of everything from beginning to end.
Lou Zigui raised a hand to call for one of his generals. He was about to tell the man to have Fang Tang stop attacking the gates when one of the leaders of the capital’s militia quickly ran into the hall to Grand Preceptor Xie’s side. Lou Zigui paused to see what was the situation was.
Currently, a few dozen refugees were lying on the ground in front of the free porridge station located by the northern gates of the city. Blood flowed from each of their seven orifices, and their faces were swollen as they clutched at their stomachs while screaming and rolling around on the ground.
“His, His Majesty wants to poison us to death,” the old man who had made a deal with the Grand Preceptor yesterday yelled in a loud voice. “I’ve said so before, there’s poison in the porridge!”
“People have been dying all over the past few days,” another voice called out from the crowd to support the old man. “His Majesty just wants to poison us to death!”
More and more voices joined in to support the old man’s claims, making the refugees increasingly furious. The old man’s legs shook as he looked on with an increasing unease at the thrashing, bleeding, screaming forms on the ground. At this moment, someone pushed him from behind, knocking him to the ground. Blood stained a patch of his hand, dying it red.
“What do we do now?!” one of the married women sobbed. The baby in her arms had already stopped moving.
“Let’s go, go!” the old man crawled to his feet with a rousing shout. “We’ll head for the palace. We’ll…we’ll ask His Majesty ourselves, ask him–”
“Ask him why we’re not allowed to live!” someone finished off his sentence. The old man turned to the sound of the voice and found someone dressed in refugee clothes. But his eyes were surly and arrogant, and his calloused hands were that of a soldier’s, not a civilian.
“What are you staring at?” the man asked the old man, who hastily turned back and stopped looking.
“Let’s go!” that surly man led the way down the streets.
“We’ll carry these brothers with us!” someone else shouted from the crowd. “We’ll make His Majesty see their pitiful plight!”
The pained cries of the poisoned refugees, combined with the artful comments designed to fan the flames into a roaring inferno, created a mob mentality that sent the refugees picking up their suffering brethren and following the leader to the palace. The people in charge of the porridge had long hidden themselves away once they saw refugees falling prey to a poison. Now they could only watch the crowd head towards the palace, helpless to do anything.
The events of the north gates soon spread by word-of-mouth to all the refugees in the city. Some said His Majesty couldn’t chase them out of the capital, so he was poisoning them instead. Others said the meat found in the porridge bowls came from the dead bodies of other refugees. There were even rumors that the imperial physicians wanted refugees’ bodies as reagents, that the military used them as target practice to train their troops to kill, or that His Majesty and Esteemed Empress drank the blood of refugee children to nurture their bodies. All sorts of sayings ran rampant, increasing the size of the horde heading for the palace. In the end, they became a mighty torrent that poured towards its gates.
“The refugees have made their move,” the young leader of the capital militia murmured to Grand Preceptor Xie.
Grand Preceptor Xie glanced at the addled youth in Shadowthunder’s arms before he said coldly, “Let them in.”
The soldier gave a start at the Grand Preceptor’s words.
Grand Preceptor Xie leveled him with a look. “Well?”
The soldier bowed his head and said, “This soldier understands.”
Ning Xiaoyao was standing a bit farther away from Grand Preceptor Xie by now, but she still heard each and every word. Refugees? Ning Xiaoyao rubbed her nose as she thought. What does this have to do with the refugees? What to do when she didn’t understand? Naturally, run to Lou Zigui and ask him.
“Refugees?” Lou Zigui creased his brows at Ning Xiaoyao’s words.
“Yeah,” Ning Xiaoyao nodded.
Lou Zigui glanced at Grand Preceptor Xie, who had already shut his eyes. We can’t use Ning Yu anymore, but I still have a chance to help Ning Xin onto the throne. Since the imperial Ning Clan also had a tradition of eliminating the mothers of young emperors, he would have to be sure to get rid of his daughter when the time came.
Empress Dowager Xie had no idea that Grand Preceptor Xie was already preparing to forsake her. She ordered the mama at her side, “Go ask the Grand Preceptor what we should do next.”
The mama ran with small steps to Grand Preceptor Xie, who simply glanced at the empress dowager after listening. He smiled towards his daughter, before telling the mama in a low voice, “It’s impossible to continue with today’s Grand Sacrificial Ceremony. Have the empress dowager return to her palace. Tell her that I’ll be alright.”
The mama ran back to Empress Dowager Xie with the message. Lou Zigui watched the mama run back and forth between the Xie father and mother pair before he suddenly ordered Shadowrain, “Bring as many men as you can and head for the empress dowager’s palace. Take Prince Cheng to the Supreme Splendor Hall and forbid all visitors.”
“Ah?” Ning Xiaoyao’s mouth gaped. What is he planning now?
“Why are you lot still standing around?!” Lou Zigui reprimanded Shadowrain, who felt a cold chill crawl down his spine before he nodded and ran off.
“What’s going on, ah?” Ning Xiaoyao tugged at Lou Zigui’s sleeve.
“The refugees are planning to revolt,” Lou Zigui said coldly.
Ning Xiaoyao’s jaw dropped. Grand Preceptor Xie hadn’t even revolted yet, but the refugees were? What kind of logic was that?!
“Elder!” Lou Zigui shouted for Elder Li.
“Xiaoyao!” a tiny voice reached Ning Xiaoyao’s ears. She looked down.
“It’s me, A’Mo!” A’Mo had finally crawled his way into the palace and tracked down Ning Xiaoyao. Now he was panting for breath. The entire trip had nearly exhausted the poor ant to death!
Ning Xiaoyao quickly crouched down and extended a finger, allowing A’Mo to crawl onto her hand.
“Xiaoyao, it’s bad! There’s trouble brewing!” A’Mo shouted at Ning Xiaoyao, who brought them outside the hall to find somewhere more quiet..
“Everyday’s been bad for me recently. A’Mo, what’s going to happen to me next?”
A’Mo brandished his feelers and told Ning Xiaoyao all about how Grand Preceptor Xie had bribed an old man to his side. When he was finished, he asked, “Xiaoyao, what are you going to do?”
“Heheh,” said Ning Xiaoyao as she sat at the top of the steps. Was there any fun left in this world? Using poison to harm your own people? Idiots like that still existed? He even trusted Grand Preceptor Xie’s word!? Ning Xiaoyao wanted to die as much as she wanted Grand Preceptor Xie to die. In any case, she was sick of staying in this world. Why was everything so annoying?!
“Xiaoyao?” A’Mo carefully bumped against Ning Xiaoyao’s fingers.
Ning Xiaoyao stuffed another sugar bean into her mouth and handed A’Mo some of the crumbs. She needed some peace and quiet. Meanwhile, everyone else watched Ning Xiaoyao feeding and making conversation with an ant, afraid to even breathe too loudly. Has His Majesty lost his wits from rage? He seems strange all over!