Chapter 201: Is this girl even human? Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Ning Xiaoyao flipped over the wall to enter the courtyard, her movements cool enough to pierce through the Heavens. She smoothly landed on the ground without alerting anyone and successfully infiltrated the empress dowager’s estate outside the palace.
Sesame Speck and Wheat went to ask for news from their fellow sparrows in the courtyard, while Big Boss Black accompanied Ning Xiaoyao to wait below the wall. Bored, Ning Xiaoyao began to pull tufts of grass from the ground while Big Boss Black carefully licked his fur and cleaned his face. By the time Ning Xiaoyao pulled all the grass around her bare, Sesame Speck and Wheat had returned.
They landed on her shoulders before Wheat spoke. “Xiaoyao, we’ve made inquires already. Someone was kidnapped here today, but they were sent away before it got dark.”
“Sent away?” Ning Xiaoyao asked hastily. “Where to?”
“The city gates,” Wheat replied.
“Was that person Zhou mama?” Big Boss Black asked.
“Yes, chirp,” Sesame Speck replied. “Tiger and the rest saw her face.”
A sparrow called Tiger? Ning Xiaoyao sucked on her lips. That doesn’t really fit, does it? (Author: You’re still in the mood to think about sparrow names now?) Big Boss Black didn’t speak, but simply scratched Ning Xiaoyao. “To the city gates!” What would this ninny do without me?
Ning Xiaoyao flipped over the walls again and brought Big Boss Black and the two sparrows towards the southern city gates. By the time they reached there and saw the body covered by a straw mat lying in a corner, Ning Xiaoyao’s steps ground to a halt. She didn’t step forward.
“Xiaoyao, this should be the one,” Wheat said. “Tiger said that the straw mat was tied together with black cloth.”
There were quite a few bodies scattered near the gates here, all of them belonging to people with no relatives to claim them. Some were covered with cloths or mats, while others were simply tossed by the gates without a speck of clothing on them.
Big Boss Black told Ning Xiaoyao, “Once it gets light, there’ll be government officials here to move the bodies out of the city and throw them away.”
Ning Xiaoyao rubbed her eyes and approached the straw mat tied with black cloth. She tore the cloth bindings apart to open up the mat and saw a woman covered in torture scars all over her body. The bones on the left side of her face had been completely fractured, causing it to cave in while the other side swelled up. It was impossible to recognize what she looked like when she was alive.
“This is Zhou mama?” Big Boss Black asked.
Ning Xiaoyao examined the bone structure of the corpse and nodded her head. “She’s Zhou mama.”
“How did she die?” Wheat asked.
Ning Xiaoyao pointed at Zhou mama’s open mouth. “She’s lost her tongue. The remnants of it blocked her airway, asphyxiating her to death.”
“She bit her tongue and committed suicide,” Big Boss Black explained to the two little sparrows, who understood at last.
Ning Xiaoyao took off her own outer robes and draped it over Zhou mama, then used her hand to wipe the old woman’s face clean of blood. She’d been too naive when she heard Sesame Speck and Wheat say that the woman had been sent to the gates. She assumed that they were delivering her to another one of the empress dowager’s estates, not dumping her body for collection.
Big Boss Black said, “Who knows if she confessed in the end?”
“If she did, why would she have bitten her tongue off? Even if the empress dowager didn’t want her alive, they would’ve killed her using other means,” Ning Xiaoyao said as she half knelt by Zhou mama’s side. She wiped her blood stained fingers against her clothes and added, “But since she came, the empress dowager found out everything she wanted to know.”
“What does that mean?” Big Boss Black realized for the first time that the ninny could sound mysterious, too.
“How many people could force this mama to die rather than confess?” Ning Xiaoyao irritably clutched at her hair. “It would’ve been better for her to tell the truth so she could hold out until I saved her.”
“Xiaoyao, did you want Zhou mama to sell out Esteemed Empress?” Sesame Speck asked.
Ning Xiaoyao shook her head. “Anyone knows that Zhou mama is nothing but loyal to Empress Zhou. If she simply sold out the empress without suffering at all, would the empress dowager ever believe her words? Couldn’t she have made something up to stall for time? I’m saying that this mama died all for nothing.”
Sesame Speck grew serious. “Xiaoyao, the mama isn’t as smart as you, so she wouldn’t have thought of the idea.”
“You must be Xiaoyao.” At this moment, a large yellow dog padded over to Ning Xiaoyao’s side.
She looked at him and said, “Yeah, ah, I’m Xiaoyao. Who are you?”
“Big Yellow,” the large dog replied. “This is my turf.”
“Hallo, Big Yellow,” Ning Xiaoyao formally greeted the owner of the turf.
“Fifth Flower, the big dog on East Alley, wanted me to pass on a message,” Big Yellow said. “The Tao Yu that you’re looking for is on the southern end of East Alley in the 15th house. The Grand Preceptor locked him up in the western end of the estate in the basement of the third house from the left.”
“I got it,” Ning Xiaoyao replied.
“Ninny, you remembered all that?” Big Boss Black asked. “This cat feels light-headed from all those words.” First east, then south, and even numbers, too. Then there was a west side and a left and right there. Just where is this basement?
“Stupid cat,” Big Yellow said coldly.
Before Big Boss Black’s fur could stand on end, Ning Xiaoyao held him fast in her arms. “Big Brother Yellow, I’ll come visit you when I have time.”
Big Yellow gave Ning Xiaoyao a slight nod before turning to scamper off, not wasting another word. This was the first time in her life that Ning Xiaoyao had seen such an aristocratic air on a dog. He was nothing but cold and lofty.
Big Boss Black yelled angrily after Big Yellow, “If you have the guts, don’t run!”
Ning Xiaoyao stood up while patting Big Boss Black on the head. “Restrain yourself. You’re not on the same level as Big Yellow.” Look at him, so cool and noble. The cat in my arms is nothing but a country bumpkin in comparison.
Big Boss Black had no way to chase after Big Yellow for a fight, so he settled for scratching Ning Xiaoyao to vent his temper instead. She simply tossed him back on her shoulders before bringing Sesame Speck and Wheat on a wild run towards East Alley. There was no time to mourn for Zhou mama when she had to save another life first.
Within a room on East Alley, Tao Yu groggily regained his senses. He could hear voices talking in front of him and wanted to open his eyes, but found himself too exhausted to do so. He had borne torture all day until it turned dark.
“Master,” Xie Laibao might not be able to stand, but he still paid his respects to Grand Preceptor Xie from his chair.
“Did he yield?” Grand Preceptor Xie asked.
Head Steward Xie wore a pained expression as he lowered his voice. “Master, this servant ordered men to beat his body until all the flesh tore, but he still didn’t yield.”
Grand Preceptor Xie looked at prone form of Tao Yu, who was currently dripping with blood from head to toe.
“Master, what should we do?” Xie Laibao asked.
“You’re awake, so why aren’t you opening your eyes?” Grand Preceptor Xie asked Tao Yu.
“Are you two just going to stand there?” Xie Laibao quickly demanded of the two torturers standing on the side. One of them quickly brought a red-hot iron drill and pressed it against Tao Yu’s chest. The sharp, sudden agony made Tao Yu’s eyes fly open.
Grand Preceptor Xie said, “The members of the Poison Sect have joined His Majesty. Currently, they should be on their way to the palace. Were you the one to pass them the message from His Majesty, or do you have helpers who did the deed?”
The Poison Sect members had been under his watch ever since they entered the capital city. They looked free, but spies had been keeping tabs on them the entire time. It would have been impossible for any one of Ning Yu’s people to get close to them. Her only chance would have been to use Tao Yu or one of Tao Yu’s men who followed him into the Grand Preceptor’s estate. In Grand Preceptor Xie’s eyes, Tao Yu was the perfect target for Ning Yu to use and plant traps by his side.
“His Majesty personally received those Poison Sect members?” Xie Laibao asked in surprise.
Grand Preceptor Xie only looked at Tao Yu. “Who else is doing jobs for His Majesty in the capital’s military barracks?” He would die before he let His Majesty get her hands on the Nine Gates Infantry Commander and capital city barracks as well.
Tao Yu’s breaths were labored as he replied, “I’m not one of His Majesty’s people.”
Grand Preceptor Xie only chuckled. He had been suspicious when Ning Yu didn’t contact the Poison Sect members, but now it was time to carry out the death sentence. “I want the truth.”
(Author: Grand Preceptor, His Majesty really did run into them by chance…)
A whip covered with spikes lashed against Tao Yu’s body, ripping more flesh off his skin. His wounds had stopped bleeding, but a few more hits were enough to form a fresh puddle of blood at his feet.
Xie Laibao quietly asked Grand Preceptor Xie, “Master, will this lash him to death?”
“Tao Yu has been trained by the military, he has a strong body. He won’t die this easily,” Grand Preceptor Xie said coldly. In fact, he was starting to suspect whether Tao Yu was involved with the deaths of his third daughter and Tao Chen as well.
“You should just admit your guilt,” Xie Laibao coaxed Tao Yu. “His Majesty might have saved the Poison Sect members, but he can’t save you.”
Grand Preceptor Xie continued, “His Majesty will go to the Grand Preceptor’s estate to find you, but he has no idea you’re here instead.”
Tao Yu didn’t know what to say. He had no connections with the emperor at all!
“You trust His Majesty to save you this much?” Grand Preceptor Xie laughed coldly. He had plenty of private residences scattered both within and without the capital city. Even if Ning Yu knew about them all, she wouldn’t be able to track them down without a few days’ work ahead of her.
At this moment, someone kicked open the entrance to their basement, causing the metal door to topple down the steps. The loud sound deafened the ears of the people inside.
“W-what’s going on?” Xie Laibao stammered loudly. Before he could finished, the door to the torture chamber was kicked down as well. Grand Preceptor Xie turned to see Ning Xiaoyao tossing a brick in her hand as she stood in the doorway. In that moment, he was really, absolutely, completely unable to believe his eyes. How could this be possible?!
“My God,” Ning Xiaoyao ignored Grand Preceptor Xie to stare at Tao Yu, who was tied to a torture rack by iron chains. Her own body ached at the sight. What kind of grudge does Grand Preceptor Xie bear to beat him to that state?
“N-Ning Yu?” In his shock, Grand Preceptor Xie even forgot to act the part of a subject and directly called His Majesty by name.
Ning Xiaoyao glared at him.
“Take him down for this old man!” Grand Preceptor Xie suddenly ordered.
Xie Laibao wished he could burrow into the ground and hide himself. His master was really looking to revolt!
“Otherwise, this old man will take your life!” Grand Preceptor Xie’s orders turned vicious.
Ning Xiaoyao was never a girl who stood around waiting to be beat up, so she brandished her brick and charged into the room. The Grand Preceptor’s guards were all strong opponents, or else they never would have earned their positions. They all ganged up against Ning Xiaoyao, but held back from killing blows since Grand Preceptor Xie hadn’t said he wanted His Majesty dead.
Meanwhile, Ning Xiaoyao was a genetically evolved human. Although she was on her own and surrounded on all sides, she had the skills to hack down zombies and had risked her life countless times on the battlefield. Her field experience had only taught her to kill so her enemies would never have a chance to fight again. As Grand Preceptor Xie, Xie Laibao, the two torturers and Tao Yu on the torture rack watched, she used a single brick to subdue all 30 of Grand Preceptor Xie’s guards until each man laid sprawled on the ground.
“Do you have any more men?” Ning Xiaoyao tossed the brick in her hands up and down after finishing her fight.
“…….” said Grand Preceptor Xie. Is this girl even human?!