Chapter 23: The Dragon Guards to be buried alive by imperial decree Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
“If I say the testamentary edict was faked, will the empress dowager be condemned to death?” Ning Xiaoyao’s eyes fired up. If it was that simple to defeat one of her enemies, wouldn’t she be able to live happily in this world afterwards?
“Do you have proof?” Big Boss Black raised his head and slanted his eyes at Ning Xiaoyao. Why couldn’t this ninny understand the situation?
“The testamentary edict should have the emperor’s stamp, you know,” Yellow Great Immortal said.
“What’s the emperor’s stamp?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
“The Imperial Jade Seal,” Big Boss Black said. “Do you know what that is?”
This, Ning Xiaoyao actually knew. She’d heard old people say how the imperial jade seal was the emperor’s stamp. An emperor without the Imperial Jade Seal gained an unrighteous name and unfavorable words. “The Imperial Jade Seal’s with the empress dowager?” Ning Xiaoyao exclaimed. Did she have any respect left as the emperor?
“That woman, Empress Dowager Xie, is planning to hold court behind a screen1 on the day of the assembly,” Big Boss Black drove another knife into Ning Xiaoyao’s heart. “Your own mother’s going to be a female emperor, ah, miaow.”
Ning Xiaoyao didn’t know what ‘holding court behind a screen’ meant, but as an otherworlder, she understood the implications of a ‘female emperor.’ In other words, she was to squat at the wall while Empress Dowager Xie sat on the dragon throne. No wonder that woman got rid of her daughter in the end!
By now, the gyrfalcon had gotten impatient listening from the side. “So His Majesty can’t save my master?” he whined plaintively.
Ning Xiaoyao swore she saw tears stream out from the gyrfalcon’s eyes. “Don’t be afraid,” she waved a hand. If she could save Supreme Commander Lou from the execution platform, then she could save the gyrfalcon’s master, too.
“What do you plan on doing then?” Yellow Great Immortal asked.
Ning Xiaoyao scratched her palms before saying outrageously, “What’s there to fear? If the empress dowager doesn’t let them go, I’ll just die. Once I’m dead, how will she keep being the empress dowager? Hehe.” If that little brother of hers could be emperor now, would that father and mother pair be in a such a rush to make her emperor instead? Thinking up to here, Ning Xiaoyao felt reassured by the reality of the situation.
“S-so shameless.” Yellow Great Immortal hadn’t been surprised that Ning Xiaoyao knew animal speech, but he was shocked now.
“Hm hm,” Ning Xiaoyao humphed, and told the gyrfalcon, “Lead the way, we’re going to save your master.”
Big Boss Black and Yellow Great Immortal exchanged glances before following after her. They had to see what would happen.
Currently, Lou Zigui was sitting with his back leaning against a chair in an audience hall with difficulty. He looked gloomily at a youth covered in blood and said, “You’re Shadowrain?2”
Fang Tang brought out a chair, while two generals on either side of the youth helped him sit down.
“You came to look for His Majesty?” Lou Zigui asked. The youth stared at him.
“If it wasn’t for us, you’d be dead outside the Imperial Palace by now,” Fang Tang said. “You think this is a place you can charge in casually?”
A few generals coughed lightly. It seemed that they’d charged right on in when it was daylight. Lou Zigui stared at the badly mangled chest of the youth and told a general at his side, “Call for Imperial Physician Gao.”
The general replied an affirmative before walking out with quick steps.
“You’re one of the four main commanders of the Dragon Guards,” Lou Zigui said. “Why do you look like a prisoner now?”
“Esteemed Empress Dowager took out the testamentary edict of the late emperor,” the gaunt and bony Shadowrain had an excessively delicate-looking face that was now filled with anger. “She said the late emperor wanted us Dragon Guards to be buried alive with him after death.”
“What!?” the generals cried out in surprise.
Lou Zigui lightly shook his head. The Dragon Guards were only loyal to the emperor, so to make Ning Yu into a puppet, they had to be eliminated and replaced with one’s own people as his bodyguards. Without a doubt, this was the Xie father and mother’s way to ensure that absolutely nothing could go amiss.
Fang Tang felt a trace of fear as he asked, “If we hadn’t gone to the Imperial Physician Courtyard to get medicine just then, how would you have gotten into the Supreme Splendor Hall?” If he hadn’t recognized Shadowrain, Fang Tang thought, he wouldn’t have saved him, either.
“I-I want to see His Majesty.” Shadowrain said in a low voice.
“His Majesty’s not here.” Right now, it wasn’t convenient for Lou Zigui to say how Ning Xiaoyao had jumped out the window and fled.
At this, Shadowrain lost all hope. “His Majesty…His Majesty went over to esteemed empress dowager’s place?”
“Where were you all imprisoned?” Lou Zigui asked. “How did you escape?”
“Where is His Majesty?” Shadowrain was still stubborn on this point.
“His Majesty isn’t at the Supreme Splendor Hall,” Fang Tang said. “We don’t know where he went either.”
The disheartened Shadowrain had nothing more to say. The new emperor was the last hope for the Dragon Guards, so even if he knew the sovereign was Empress Dowager Xie’s own son, they still had to give him a try. They were useful servants, after all, so perhaps His Majesty could save them on account of their usefulness? But where was he supposed to find His Majesty now? By the time he did, would his fellow brothers still be alive on this Earth?
“Supreme Commander?” the general standing behind Lou Zigui’s right bent down to ask him.
“How do we know you’re not sent by the empress dowager herself to send Supreme Commander to his death?” At this moment, the shrewd and astute Deputy General Song Jin3 under Lou Zigui’s command spoke up. “Do you want our Supreme Commander to disobey the late emperor’s testamentary edict?”
“I know the tortoise breathing technique,” Shadowrain hastened to explain. “The Hall of Punishment thought I died. I escaped while they were moving out dead bodies.”
“The wound on your chest was from torture,” Lou Zigui said with effort. “If it was me, I’d slash your heart and wait to send out your corpses with your fellow Dragon Guard brothers after they died. Since you were going to die anyways, why would I bother doing the same thing twice?”
Shadowrain was startled by Lou Zigui’s words. He hadn’t escaped through luck, but because someone allowed him to flee intentionally?
Song Jin nodded. “Supreme Commander’s words are right. The one who let you go knew you’d come ask for help at the Supreme Splendor Hall because His Majesty’s the only one who can save you. That person knows our Supreme Commander is here, so as long you shouted loud enough, our Supreme Commander and Fang Tang would both recognize you and save you.”
“Is that person Esteemed Empress Dowager?” Fang Tang tightened his fists. After being schemed against again and again, few would be able to keep their cool.
“Was there really a testamentary edict from the previous emperor?” Lou Zigui asked Shadowrain.
“None,” Shadowrain shouted, unable to control his depression. “The late emperor ordered us to devote ourselves to the new emperor. Since he told us that, why would he order us to be buried alive with him?!”
Song Jin walked to Lou Zigui’s side and bent down to speak in a low voice. “Since the esteemed empress dowager says there’s a testamentary edict, then it must exist. Moreover, His Majesty hasn’t officially come of age and taken the reigns of rule, so the Imperial Jade Seal must be with the empress dowager as well. Supreme Commander, if we defy the late emperor’s testamentary edict, it’ll be a death sentence.”
“Even if I want to save someone, what can a few people like us do to get them out of the Hall of Punishment?” Lou Zigui asked quietly.
Song Jin shook his head and sucked in a breath. Right now, they had enough trouble preserving themselves, much less rescuing others.
“These Dragon Guards were personally trained by my father, the Supreme Commander,” Lou Zigui’s face was unusually pale. If he really thought about it, he and these Dragon Guards were fellow apprentices of the same master.
Song Jin quickly shook his head. “Supreme Commander, lack of tolerance in small matters upsets great plans. His Majesty hasn’t officially come of age yet. He can save you once, but not necessarily twice.”
Shadowrain couldn’t hear Lou Zigui and Song Jin’s words clearly, but propped himself by the armrest of the chair to stand up shakily. He bowed towards Lou Zigui and said, “Supreme Commander, Shadowrain takes his leave.”
Fang Tang was quick to speak. “Where are you going?”
Shadowrain smiled “Back to the Hall of Punishment.”
“You want to go back and die?” Fang Tang reached out a hand to hold Shadowrain back.
“I can’t save my brothers if I’m alive, and I’d implicate Supreme Commander as well,” Shadowrain smiled mildly. “I can’t live on by myself.”
Lou Zigui was about to speak when the ground beneath them suddenly shook.
“The ground moved?” a few generals cried out. It had only happened once. The night insects outside kept on with their cries as if nothing had happened.
“The southwest.” Though it’d only happened in a flash, Lou Zigui could still pinpoint the direction of the disturbance.
Hearing this, Shadowrain exclaimed, “The direction of the Hall of Punishment?”
At the front gates to the Hall of Punishment, Ning Xiaoyao rubbed her aching hand that had punched the door. This door really is too solid. She’d kicked and pounded enough to shake the earth, but it still wouldn’t fall over!
The gyrfalcon circled around in the air before landing on Ning Xiaoyao’s shoulder. “Your Majesty, there’s people inside.”
“I know there’s people inside,” Ning Xiaoyao said unhappily. “I can hear them all breathing, hey!” She continued to pound on the door as she shouted, “I’m the emperor, you dare treat me like I’m dead?! I’ll kill your entire family! Hear that? Your entire family!”
Yellow Great Immortal was right next to Ning Xiaoyao as he spoke. “That’s called the nine familial exterminations.”
“Oh, right. I’ll exterminate your nine families, open the door!” Ning Xiaoyao started kicking it again. The cast copper door had already caved in from Ning Xiaoyao’s kicks and punches, but even in its distorted form it didn’t fall over.
“Esteemed Empress Dowager.” Inside the Hall of Punishment, the empress dowager’s Lai mama 4 bowed rather fearfully to the seated matron as she spoke in a low voice. “Things can’t keep going on like this.” Even if the empress dowager was His Majesty’s own mother, she couldn’t be so disrespectful to the emperor.
Empress Dowager Xie had ordered her people to let Shadowrain escape and arranged 500 archers in the Hall of Punishment. She knew that Lou Zigui was too severely injured to come, but she was waiting for his high-ranking military officers to show up instead. If they defied the posthumous edict of the late emperor, then Lou Zigui wouldn’t escape death, either. Empress Dowager Xie had also considered that she wouldn’t suffer any losses even if Lou Zigui steeled his heart and didn’t help at all. Even with all her planning, she never expected His Majesty himself to come instead!
When Ning Xiaoyao saw that the doors still weren’t opening even after she threatened to kill families, she decided to scale the walls instead. Big Boss Black and Yellow Great Immortal saw her scrabble up the side and ran off to the western wall of the Hall of Punishment, where there was a dog tunnel for them to enter through.
At the same time, Empress Dowager Xie told Lai mama, “You go, coax His Majesty away. Burying someone with the dead is a great matter. No one’s allowed to disrespect the late emperor!”
Lai mama was about to leave when another mama near the empress dowager said, “Esteemed Empress Dowager, H-His Majesty’s on top of the wall.”
Empress Dowager Xie raised her head and looked up at the three-meters tall wall surrounding the Hall of Punishment’s courtyard. Her daughter was crouched on top…
Ning Xiaoyao didn’t spot Empress Dowager Xie sitting beneath the eaves. Instead, her attention was on the dense, dark group of people kneeling on the ground with their hands tied behind their backs. All of them were going to be buried with the dead?!
- hold court behind a screen (垂帘听政) – chuilian tingzheng, to sit behind a screen and receive ministerial reports, usually done by an empress regent in the imperial court, who was supposed to be concealed from the sight of ministers at audience. ↩
- Shadowrain (影雨) – Ying Yu. Ying means “shadow,” Yu means “rain.” ↩
- Song Jin (宋谨) – Song is a surname, Jin means “careful, cautious, solemn, sincere.” ↩
- mama (嬷嬷) – a form of address for an elderly female servant, also a wet nurse. ↩