Chapter 142: The ruined incense burner Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
“Do we really have to do it today?” Ning Xiaoyao asked. “Isn’t that disrespectful towards the old madame?”
“How could that be?” Lou Zigui replied. “The old madame will be all too happy to know that Your Majesty is sending her off, so how are we disrespecting her?”
“This and that are two different things, aren’t they?” Ning Xiaoyao asked. “It might even be that little white flower who had finished her off.”
“The Xie Clan didn’t deliver her to the authorities,” Lou Zigui pointed out. “So the culprit can’t possibly be young née Wang.”
“True enough,” Ning Xiaoyao nodded her head in agreement inside the carriage.
Big Boss Black took advantage of the fact that Lou Zigui couldn’t see him to scratch Ning Xiaoyao. “Since you’re stupid, you should listen to what others say. Whatever Supreme Commander says, goes!”
Ning Xiaoyao picked up Big Boss Black and threw him outside the window. “Supreme Commander, you need to look after your cat!”
Lou Zigui met eyes with Big Boss Black, who had ended up landing on his horse. “Miaow~” Big Boss Black meowed at him. Lou Zigui found the entire situation unintelligible. Since when has this cat been mine?
“This subject Xie Wenyuan respectfully greets Your Majesty!” Grand Preceptor Xie’s voice sounded from outside the carriage. Ning Xiaoyao straightened out her clothes before she stuck her head out the window and saw a crowd of people gathered outside. She immediately had an urge to slip back into the carriage again. Dammnit, why are there so many people again?! Humans from the apocalypse all feared large groups of people. Being part of a large crowd when zombies attacked only made escaping that much more difficult. Every survivor in the apocalypse was experienced enough to know such things. Although Ning Xiaoyao knew that zombies didn’t exist in this world, old habits die hard.
“Your Majesty.” Lou Zigui extended his hand towards Ning Xiaoyao.
Swallowing a gulp, Ning Xiaoyao placed her hand in Lou Zigui’s. He half carried her short, skinny frame off the carriage, where Big Boss Black resumed his perch across her shoulders.
“Rise,” Lou Zigui told Ning Xiaoyao. “Tell them to rise.”
“Rise,” Ning Xiaoyao told the members of the Xie Clan. Grand Preceptor Xie got up without help from his two sons only to stare at Big Boss Black, who was perched on Ning Xiaoyao’s shoulders. His face fell at the sight. If a corpse sees a black cat, it’ll rise from the grave. What kind of person brings one along to offer condolences? As expected, this lass surely came with ill intentions.
Ning Xiaoyao had no idea about the taboo of black cats, but looked sincerely at Grand Preceptor Xie and said, “Grand Preceptor, don’t feel too sad.”
Grand Preceptor Xie lowered his head. “This subject thanks Your Majesty.” Do you really think a single cat will raise Old Madame from the dead or lose face for our Xie Clan? Grand Preceptor Xie invited Ning Xiaoyao into the estate, all the while smiling coldly inside his heart. This only shows that Ning Yu is still childish at heart. How could one take such superstitions as the truth?
Ning Xiaoyao strode through the Xie Clan doors and looked left and right. “Aiya, looks like the door and walls have been rebuilt.”
Immediately, all of the Xie Clan’s residents felt their hearts leap to their throats. Does he want to tear it down again?!
“Not bad,” Ning Xiaoyao told Grand Preceptor Xie. Respecting the dead was more important, so she wouldn’t cause trouble for him today.
“This subject thanks Your Majesty for the praise,” Grand Preceptor Xie hastened to reply.
“It really isn’t bad,” Ning Xiaoyao said again.
“This subject thanks Your Majesty for the praise,” Grand Preceptor Xie replied. The two of them stared at each other before His Majesty turned away and Grand Preceptor Xie looked down, as if weary of the whole business. Standing side-by-side like that, they looked the very image of a heartbroken pair.
“Grand Preceptor,” Lou Zigui spoke up. “Perhaps you can lead the way to the mourning hall.”
Grand Preceptor Xie’s expression resumed its visage of deep grief as he turned slightly to gesture at a path. “Your Majesty, please come this way.”
The various sons and nephews of Grand Preceptor Xie all shot hateful glares at Lou Zigui. Who do you think you are, Lou Zigui? Ordering our father (our elder uncle, our younger uncle) about like some sort of lackey? All you did was earn His Majesty’s favoritism. You’re just a small man intoxicated by success!
“What kind of looks are you giving?” Ning Xiaoyao asked as she looked at Xie Anji and Xie Anshi, then the rest of the gathered men. “Why do I feel like none of you are sad at all that Old Madame Xie’s died?”
All of the Grand Preceptor’s sons and nephews hastily lowered their heads.
“Your Majesty, they’ve simply been overcome with grief,” Grand Preceptor Xie lied through his teeth.
“Enough already, let’s go to the mourning hall,” Ning Xiaoyao replied. “Once I send off Old Madame, I’ll return to the palace.” She didn’t want to hang around an awful place like this for a second longer than necessary. Grand Preceptor Xie led the way, mentally wishing that a bastard like her could disappear faster as well.
Elder Li brought up the rear, puzzling over Ning Xiaoyao’s words. What does he mean by ‘sending off the Old Madame?’ The funeral procession isn’t scheduled for today…
White streamers hung inside the mourning hall, where the Xie Clan’s womenfolk were all sobbing bitterly. Old Madame Xie’s mahogany casket rested behind the altar, covered by a white sheet that fluttered with the intermittent breeze.
Ning Xiaoyao listened to the sounds of crying for a while before muttering to herself, “There’s no sound of that little white flower.”
A’Mo immediately volunteered himself, “Xiaoyao, I’ll help you look for her.”
“Mm,” Ning Xiaoyao agreed. “Thank you, A’Mo.” The ant crawled to the floor from Ning Xiaoyao’s body and scurried outside.
Big Boss Black gave a large meow. “You have to be faster this time, miaow!”
At the sound of a cat, all of the sobbing within the hall ceased. Even if Grand Preceptor Xie didn’t believe in old superstitions, it was no guarantee that his womenfolk felt the same way.
“Why is there a cat!?” Lady Wang said frantically. “Who sent in a cat?!”
A servant girl peeked out from the inner rooms and saw Big Boss Black sitting on His Majesty’s shoulders, before stammering back, “My Lady, there’s—there’s a person who brought along a black cat.”
“What?” Lady Wang was about to lose her temper.
The servant girl quickly added, “This servant thinks that person looks like, like His Majesty.”
Lady Wang froze. His Majesty brought along a black cat to offer condolences? Has he lost all faith in the Grand Preceptor’s estate? She felt her legs go weak right before she collapsed to the ground.
Meanwhile, Grand Preceptor Xie gave three sticks of incense to Ning Xiaoyao. “Your Majesty, if you please.”
“Put the incense sticks in the incense burner,” Lou Zigui instructed her quietly. Ning Xiaoyao took the incense and stood awhile in front of the Old Madame’s casket, which was bordered by the altar table. The coffin itself was the size of a double bed, so the old woman most likely found it too wide to sleep in. (Author: Why are you worrying about those kind of details?)
“There’s fish,” Big Boss Black said in a low voice.
Ning Xiaoyao glanced over at the altar table. There was not only braised fish, but also various snacks, fruits, and white rice. “The person’s already dead, but she still has to eat?” Ning Xiaoyao asked Big Boss Black.
Big Boss Black simply looked at the fish as he drooled. “It smells delicious.”
“I don’t think we can eat this one, right?” Ning Xiaoyao didn’t move to take the fish.
“You still owe me five big fish!” Big Boss Black started bringing up old debts again.
Ning Xiaoyao glanced at Grand Preceptor Xie, wanting to ask him if they could eat the red braised fish, but the killing intent emanating from the old man gave her a start. I haven’t even done anything yet, but I’ve already provoked him?
“The coffin looks pretty good,” Ning Xiaoyao attempted to salvage the atmosphere. Elder Li and his disciples stood calmly waiting for Grand Preceptor Xie’s reply. His Majesty praised the coffin. Do you have the will to thank him for that? No one could compare to His Majesty when it came to striking people’s sore spots.
Lou Zigui walked to Ning Xiaoyao’s side and murmured, “Put the incense sticks in the incense burner. What if they burn your hands?” (Author: So that’s what you were worried about, Supreme Commander…)
Ning Xiaoyao stuck the three incense sticks into the incense burner.
“Be careful,” Big Boss Black said, “This incense burner looks expensive. If you wreck it, you’ll have to pay them back a ton of money.” Ning Xiaoyao trembled upon hearing such words. A dratty incense burner’s worth that much money too? She opened her eyes wide to study the burner, but found nothing noteworthy about it.
She looked askance at Lou Zigui and asked, “Are things like this worth any money?”
Lou Zigui glanced at the incense burner and said, “No, this is just an incense burner.”
Now Ning Xiaoyao could stop worrying. She lifted a finger and flicked the incense burner, before rolling her eyes at Big Boss Black. How could this piece of pottery be worth any money?
One of the Grand Preceptor’s stewards took this chance to arrive at the mourning hall, but was quickly stopped by a Dragon Guard before he could announce himself. “What’s your business?” the guard asked.
The shout attracted the attention of everyone inside, who looked back at the entrance. Meanwhile, the incense burner immediately developed seven to eight cracks after making contact with Ning Xiaoyao’s finger flick.
“It’s over, you’ve ruined it,” Big Boss Black said. The guilty Ning Xiaoyao quickly withdrew her hand and stole a few peeks at the crowd. Fortunately, nobody was paying attention to her right now.
“What do we do?” Big Boss Black meowed.
“Just pretend nothing happened,” Ning Xiaoyao patted Big Boss Black’s head. The latter immediately decided to drop the subject.
“What is it?” Grand Preceptor Xie asked his steward.
Kneeling at the entrance, the steward replied, “Grand Preceptor, the eldest young master’s returned.”
“What?” Grand Preceptor Xie gave a start.
“Hmm?” Ning Xiaoyao spoke up. “Isn’t he…”
“This is by His Majesty’s grace,” Lou Zigui tugged on Ning Xiaoyao’s hand as he spoke up. “To allow Xie Anyi to return home and send off Old Madame for the final time.”
Grand Preceptor Xie bowed towards Ning Xiaoyao. “This subject thanks Your Majesty.”
Now that he was even thanking her, what could Ning Xiaoyao do? She simply nodded and said, “Have Xie Anyi come in and offer some incense to the old madame.” The steward obeyed and ran off to fetch Xie Anyi.
“Father?” Xie Anshi felt that something was fishy, and quietly called for Grand Preceptor Xie, who simply waved a hand at his third son. It was better if Xie Anshi kept quiet for now. Soon enough, the steward brought over Xie Anyi, who was still dressed in convict’s robes. He fell to his knees outside the mourning hall and started crying.
Grand Preceptor Xie heaved a long sigh and said, “This is by His Majesty’s grace. Why aren’t you giving thanks yet?”
Xie Anyi saw Ning Xiaoyao standing in front of his grandmother’s coffin and quickly lowered his head to cover up the wrath in his eyes. Ning Xiaoyao said, “Stop kneeling and come offer some incense.”
Xie Anyi kowtowed three times before the mourning hall, but it was already enough to give bruises to his forehead. He then took three sticks of incense from Xie Anji and prepared to put them in the incense burner. Lady Wang stood in the hall as tears flowed down her face, feeling distressed for her son’s sake.
“But you broke the incense burner,” Big Boss Black whispered by Ning Xiaoyao’s ear. “Is it alright to put in more incense sticks?”
“……” said Ning Xiaoyao. That’s right, the burner’s ruined.
Xie Anyi’s hands had hardly reached the incense burner when it suddenly cracked and broke into pieces. The incense sticks fell off the table, while the ashes from the pot scattered all over the floor. Xie Anyi was stunned by the sight.
Grandmother didn’t want my incense offerings, so she even broke the incense burner?!
Ning Xiaoyao sniffled a few times. This has nothing to do with me. I didn’t do a thing!