Chapter 160: His Majesty says, Supreme Commander isn’t a villain Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Elder Li went to beg for an audience at the palace before daylight had even broke the horizon. Ning Xiaoyao had just warmed up her covers, but was now forced to crawl out of bed, yawning, as Shadowgale told her the news.
Shadowgale said, “Your Majesty, this servant tried to coax Elder Li to wait until it was brighter, but he still insisted on seeing you.”
“If he wants to, then let him. All that dying and burning in the city probably made it impossible for the old gramps to sleep,” Ning Xiaoyao attempted to comb her hair with her fingers until she managed some semblance of a bun.
Shadowgale glanced at the bun atop Ning Xiaoyao’s head. Though the style fit Ning Xiaoyao as a person, it didn’t suit his identity as the reigning emperor at all. He wanted to help Ning Xiaoyao redo his hair, but he didn’t have the skills to do so.
Grabbing a sugar bean to plop in her mouth, Ning Xiaoyao asked, “Where’s Supreme Commander?” She definitely needed a companion when meeting with Elder Li.
Shadowgale replied, “Supreme Commander went to meet with Xie Anwu. Does Your Majesty wish to summon him?”
Ning Xiaoyao patted her chest confidently. That’s right, Xie Anwu. He’s the son of Grand Preceptor Xie’s concubine that Supreme Commander had brought to the palace to meet me. I have been so busy I forgot all about him.
“Shall this servant go call Supreme Commander?” Shadowgale asked again.
“Forget it,” Ning Xiaoyao replied. “Windy, you come with me to see old gramps. It’s not good to disturb other people’s conversations, after all.”
Shadowgale had absolutely no idea how His Majesty’s mind worked. An imperial decree doesn’t count as a disruption… Ning Xiaoyao straightened out her clothes as she thought of Elder Li’s thin, never-changing-for-a-thousand-years-face. She had a momentary flash of panic and resolved to get in good graces with Elder Li’s wife as soon as possible.
“Your Majesty?” Shadowgale saw that Ning Xiaoyao was still standing by the doorway and spoke up.
“Let’s go,” Ning Xiaoyao said, but missed the threshold of the door and tripped, flailing forwards.
“Your Majesty!” Shadowgale quickly ran over to her.
“It’s alright,” Ning Xiaoyao said as she picked herself up from the floor.
“There’s dust on your face…” Shadowgale wanted to say, but after seeing His Majesty cup some rainwater to wash it off, he shut up.
“I have to give old gramps a explanation for last night’s events,” Ning Xiaoyao said, sipping a few palmfuls of rainwater as well. “I might be at fault, but so is the Grand Preceptor, right?”
Shadowgale was all straight faced as he asked, “Where did Your Majesty possibly go wrong?”
“I was too greedy,” Ning Xiaoyao answered. “After coveting so much of the Grand Preceptor’s land and houses, why wouldn’t he lose his temper?”
Shadowgale couldn’t accept Ning Xiaoyao talking about herself like that and immediately moved to speak up, but she beat him to it.
“Enough, Windy. You don’t have to say anything,” Ning Xiaoyao waved her hand at him. “No need to comfort me, I understand everything.”
“……..” said Shadowgale. What is this ‘everything’ that you understand?
Ning Xiaoyao took the umbrella from Mute Nanny’s hands and opened it up to enter the rain. Mistakes are mistakes, you have to own up to them when you make them.
Elder Li had been brought to a small study by Shadowthunder. When Ning Xiaoyao entered, she didn’t wait for him to bow but shouted, “No need for formalities. Old gramps, have a seat.”
Elder Li still paid Ning Xiaoyao a respectful bow and thanked her for her grace before sitting in the chair to her left. Ning Xiaoyao observed Elder Li’s face, but couldn’t discern anything from his expression. Elder Li scrutinized Ning Xiaoyao as well, and felt that she didn’t look like someone who had a sleepless night.
“Your Majesty,” Elder Li said after withdrawing his gaze, “Many officials wanted to come, but this official stopped them to speak with Your Majesty alone.”
“Oh,” Ning Xiaoyao replied. “Then old gramps, speak up. I’ll hear you out.”
Elder Li glanced at Shadowgale, who was standing next to Ning Xiaoyao, and she said, “Windy’s not an outsider. Old gramps, feel free to say anything.”
Elder Li said, “This official would like to ask Your Majesty, what were the true causes of the fires in the capital last night?”
“Urk,” Ning Xiaoyao gulped. “I received quite a bit of the Grand Preceptor’s houses and other deeds. The Grand Preceptor didn’t want to give them to me, so he sent his men to burn down the most valuable of the houses and shops.”
Elder Li then asked, “Then why was there an insurrection with the refugees?”
“Because of Xie Anshi, ah,” Ning Xiaoyao replied. “He heard the refugees bad mouthing his Xie Clan and burned a bunch of them to death. Then the refugees got mad and killed their way to Tao Chen’s house, where he was staying.”
Elder Li said, “Your Majesty, what did Supreme Commander do?”
“Supreme Commander?” Ning Xiaoyao glanced at Shadowgale. Did Supreme Commander do something bad?
Shadowgale murmured back, “Your Majesty, this servant was off collecting the lands outside the capital, so your servant doesn’t know.”
Ning Xiaoyao pursed her lips. Well, I was at the palace, so I have no clue, either.
Elder Li saw that Ning Xiaoyao had fallen silent and said, “How about this official put it another way: was Supreme Commander involved in the refugee uprising in any way?”
“Nope,” Ning Xiaoyao hastened to say. “Supreme Commander didn’t poison the refugees, so how could he stir them up?”
“…….” said Elder Li. Is poison the only way to stir up a crowd?
Ning Xiaoyao was still lost. “Old gramps, why are you asking about that?”
“If Supreme Commander Lou used the refugees as tools in a scheme, then how is he any different from Xie Wenyuan?” Elder Li gave Ning Xiaoyao a piercing stare. “Your Majesty, what do you think about this matter?”
Ning Xiaoyao considered the question for a bit and found that Elder Li’s words made sense.
“Your Majesty,” Elder Li continued. “Ruling a country means ruling people’s hearts as well. You should keep able officials at your side and distance the small and petty men. Only then can the country truly prosper.”
“Urk, but Supreme Commander’s not small or petty,” Ning Xiaoyao shook her head at him. “Supreme Commander’s not that kind of man. He’d never do something like that, honestly.”
“Your Majesty is certain of that?” Elder Li asked.
Shadowgale was looking at Ning Xiaoyao as well. Are you sure about that?
Ning Xiaoyao nodded without hesitation. “Mhm.” Even if Supreme Commander Lou has a bag of evil tricks up his sleeve, he’ll never be someone like that evil old geezer Xie, ah.
Elder Li thought over her words carefully. If it wasn’t Lou Zigui, then was it someone else that hated Xie Wenyuan? His son’s severely injured while his daughter and son-in-law’s family are all dead. If Xie Wenyuan takes revenge, not one of the capital’s refugees will survive. All of their lives depend on a single thought in Xie Wenyuan’s head. His disposition is too cold and sinister to let this slide.
“If Xie Anshi hadn’t killed people, the refugees wouldn’t have gotten angry, either,” Ning Xiaoyao spoke up for the crowd. “Old gramps, if you’re feeling sorry for the Tao Clan’s children, are you saying those refugee children deserved to die instead?”
“First, he murdered people, then he went to visit his older sister’s house like nothing had ever happened,” Ning Xiaoyao added. “That Xie Anshi didn’t treat refugee lives like anything at all. I don’t care what you think, old gramps, but I don’t pity him a bit. As for Tao Chen—you can blame Xie Anshi for that.”
Elder Li said, “Supreme Commander Lou was present when Xie Anshi was dying.”
“It’s not like Supreme Commander owes him anything, so why should he have helped that bastard?” Ning Xiaoyao arched an eyebrow. “Old gramps, I just realized, but you’re here to stir up trouble for Supreme Commander, aren’t you?”
“Dare I ask Your Majesty in which place have I erred?” Elder Li countered.
“You haven’t even toppled the Grand Preceptor yet, but you’re now setting your sights on Supreme Commander too?” Ning Xiaoyao asked. “Aren’t you just shooting your cannons all over the map?” This old gramps, why does it feel like he’s everyone’s enemy?
Elder Li stared at Ning Xiaoyao for a long time before asking cautiously, “What is ‘shooting your cannons all over the map?’”
“Let’s talk about that another time,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “Supreme Commander’s not a villain, oi.”
Lou Zigui silently walked away from his position by the door. Shadowthunder exhaled in relief when he saw his commander leave. Just then, he’d hardly dared to breathe. Ning Xiaoyao glanced at the closed study door and wondered whether Supreme Commander felt hurt after hearing how Elder Li suspected his character. (Author: Why don’t you worry about yourself instead…)
Elder Li didn’t have enhanced hearing like Ning Xiaoyao, so he never knew Lou Zigui had come and gone during their conversation. Instead he asked, “Your Majesty, why would the Xie Clan’s titles and deeds be in your hands?”
“The Old Madame bequeathed them to me,” Ning Xiaoyao answered confidently.
Elder Li shook his head. “Your Majesty, Old Madame Xie was suddenly assassinated. How could someone who was violently murdered leave behind a legacy for her descendents?”
“Ah?” Ning Xiaoyao had an inkling that things were getting complicated again.
“If she didn’t know she was going to die,” Elder Li carefully explained, “How could she know how to arrange her inheritance matters?”
Ning Xiaoyao stammered, “A-aren’t these things prepared ahead of time?”
“Your Majesty resides in the palace,” Elder Li said, “So when did Old Madame Xie get a chance to tell you of her arrangements?”
Ning Xiaoyao scratched her palms with her fingers. What if I just make something up?
Shadowgale spoke up for her and said, “Elder, are you doubting His Majesty?”
“Impudence!” Elder Li whirled towards Shadowgale. “Since when have the Dragon Guards earned the right to meddle in business between a sovereign and his officials?”
Shadowgale was rendered mute by Elder Li’s words.
“Aiya,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “Is it really that big of a deal?”
Elder Li stood up to kneel at Ning Xiaoyao’s feet, before proclaiming loudly, “Your Majesty, these are established customs. Officials have officials’ duties, just as guards have guard duties. How could the two of them ever mix?”
Ning Xiaoyao clutched her head. Can I quit being the emperor?! This is too annoying. Old gramps can even talk big about why people can’t talk!
“Your Majesty,” Elder Li wanted to continue.
“Stop talking already, I’m begging you,” Ning Xiaoyao cut in. “Just spare me, I’ll tell you the truth, alright? Old gramps, you get up first.”
Elder Li rose to his feet. “Did Your Majesty claim them for yourself?”
“No, I really didn’t,” Ning Xiaoyao began to tell Elder Li about the pickled vegetable jars. Finally, she finished and said, “Old gramps, you were there too. Grand Preceptor said he’d give them to me, so how could that be me claiming them for myself?”
“…….” said Elder Li.
“That there,” Ning Xiaoyao picked up a title deed for land off a table and waved it in Elder Li’s face. “The land’s already in our hands. Old gramps, bring some people with you to have a look at them. See how many refugees from the capital you can move over there.”
Elder Li stared at the deed in Ning Xiaoyao’s hands, still too speechless to talk. How can this be? The fires in the western part of the capital, the insurrection of the refugees, the extermination of Tao Chen and his family, Xie Anshi burning as a human torch—all of it came from such a ridiculously laughable reason?!
Ning Xiaoyao stared at Elder Li, who was neither moving nor speaking. Did I talk so much that he doesn’t want to continue the conversation anymore again?
Lou Zigui went through the complicated maze of covered corridors until he reached Xie Anwu’s temporary quarters in the palace and pushed open the door. Inside, the fourth young master of the Xie Clan was sitting about idly in the room until Lou Zigui’s arrival made him scramble to his feet.
“Sit down,” Lou Zigui gestured to Xie Anwu, who obediently found a seat.
“Xie Anshi has been severely injured,” Lou Zigui took one of the empty chairs facing Xie Anwu. “Even if he survives, he’s nothing but a cripple now.”
Xie Anwu had just sat down when Lou Zigui’s words startled him into standing up again. Lou Zigui looked over at Xie Anwu, his expression temperate and mild. Then he remarked, “You still have time to return to the Xie Clan now if you wish. Xie Anji isn’t suited for grand plans. Two of the official wife’s three sons have been completed eliminated, leaving only the one useless spare. Now is the time for you concubine’s sons to make a name for themselves.”