Chapter 39: His Majesty Ning fighting alone Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Grand Preceptor Xie was in an awkward, unfavorable plight. He could either turn hostile towards Ning Xiaoyao and thoroughly become her enemy, or kneel on the ground to admit his errors and ask for punishment. Who told him to be a subject while Ning Xiaoyao was the sovereign? Ning Xiaoyao earnestly wished that Grand Preceptor Xie could rush up and bite her right now so she had an excuse to beat him within an inch of his life. Empress Dowager Xie started to feel uneasy. Had Lou Zigui really died? Was this really His Majesty acting as if all hope was lost?
“This subject doesn’t dare,” Grand Preceptor Xie knelt down with head bowed.
“Then Zhen isn’t mentally deficient?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
One of the ministers stepped forward then to ask, “Your Majesty, what is ‘mentally deficient?’”
“It means blockhead,” Ning Xiaoyao snapped in annoyance. The people in this world didn’t even know what “mentally deficient” meant!
There were some ministers who suddenly wanted to laugh, but bit down painfully on their tongues to stop themselves. Ning Xiaoyao patted the armrest of the Dragon Throne and said,”Say something, ah.”
“This subject doesn’t dare. Your Majesty has been exceptionally intelligent since childhood,” the Grand Preceptor kowtowed to Ning Xiaoyao again. “The sun and moon themselves can stand witness to this subject’s care towards Your Majesty.”
Ning Xiaoyao narrowed her eyes. Just then, the Grand Preceptor was still angry, but now he had calmed down. Psychologically speaking, his mental fortitude was formidable.
Finally, the Grand Preceptor’s camp appeared to make their move. One minister stepped forward and said, “Since it was the late emperor’s wish…”
“Hold it, you,” Ning Xiaoyao raised a hand towards the speaker. “Didn’t you just hear the empress dowager say she was only a married woman? She hasn’t even held court from behind a screen yet, and she’s already crying like this. Do you want me to force her to her death?”
“…..” said the minister in question. His Majesty was a blackguard and a rascal, wasn’t he?!
“Your Majesty misunderstands,” Empress Dowager Xie hastened to say.
Ning Xiaoyao replied, “Just then, the Grand Preceptor said that Zhen has been exceptionally intelligent since childhood. How could Zhen still not understand what others mean?”
Empress Dowager Xie dearly regretted her actions now. Why had she pretended to be modest and unassuming while showing off her weak side? “How could we disobey the late emperor’s last will?” she asked, using the late emperor to directly suppress Ning Xiaoyao.
“The late emperor’s last will,” Ning Xiaoyao echoed, “Does it come with an imperial edict?”
“These were the late emperor’s verbal instructions,” said Grand Preceptor Xie.
“Who heard them?” Ning Xiaoyao asked again. “Does a last will exist just because you father and daughter pair said so?”
“This subject heard it with his own ears!” in response to Ning Xiaoyao’s words, a dozen or so voices chorused simultaneously before their owners knelt down.
“……” said Ning Xiaoyao. She was going to be beat up by the crowd at this rate.
“Is Your Majesty blaming This Dowager?” Empress Dowager Xie covered her face and burst into tears. Her body trembled, and she looked on the verge of fainting away.
Ning Xiaoyao seized the chance to chase her off. “If you’re not feeling well, go back to the imperial harem.”
Empress Dowager Xie fell until she was sitting on the steps to the throne. Ning Xiaoyao didn’t catch how she fell, but felt that her movements were inexorably beautiful, almost like someone dancing.
“Esteemed Empress Dowager!” Grand Preceptor Xie shouted.
Empress Dowager Xie softly beat her chest as she sobbed. “This Dowager would rather pass away like the late emperor right now. Your Majesty, This Dowager is but a woman. Now that my husband’s dead, I defer to the son. Whatever Your Majesty wants This Dowager to do, This Dowager will do it. In the past, it was This Dowager who did a disservice to Your Majesty and made you stay at the Grand Preceptor’s estate for over a decade without a chance to even see the late emperor. This is This Dowager’s fault. Your Majesty, ah~” Empress Dowager Xie’s sobs were soft, but were still enough to tug at the heartstrings.
Ning Xiaoyao viciously pinched herself on the leg. She wanted to cry too, because she could tell that the empress dowager was pretending to be pitiful in front of the ministers. Still, Ning Xiaoyao still couldn’t cry even after pinching herself multiple times. Pretending to be weak and weepy was one of her weak points!
Grand Preceptor Xie shot a glance at the place where the rest of the imperial clan was standing. These imperial sons and noblemen were currently just looking on, unconcerned.
“Your Majesty.” Within the Hall of Golden Chimes, an old but steady voice spoke up. Grand Preceptor Xie gave a start at the voice. Ning Xiaoyao looked over, and saw a white-haired, bearded old man around 70 years old. He was thin, and his bowed head made it impossible for Ning Xiaoyao to see his face. Instead, she felt guilty of committing a sin by accepting a kowtow from someone so old.
“You have business?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
The old man opened his mouth and said, “Your Majesty, acting this way is inappropriate.”
Ning Xiaoyao dug her fingers into her palms. Here was another one of those opposed against her. Meanwhile, doubts plagued Grand Preceptor Xie’s heart. This Elder Li was one of the few remaining in the palace who could still oppose him. He had always praised himself for being the leader of the qingliu, or clear stream–those groups of scholars who were concerned with politics but held themselves aloof from those in power. Was he standing on the Grand Preceptor’s side today?
Elder Li bent forwards as he spoke out sternly with the force of justice. “Esteemed Empress Dowager is Your Majesty’s own mother. How could Your Majesty treat Esteemed Empress Dowager like so?”
Elder Li’s words suddenly cleared up Grand Preceptor Xie’s mind. What was the strongest weapon in their hands? Wasn’t it filial piety? Even if Ning Yu was the most noble Son of Heaven, she had no excuse pushing her mother to the point of pained tears in the great hall.
“Aye,” Grand Preceptor Xie sighed in a low voice. “His Majesty is still young. Elder Li, you cannot excoriate His Majesty.”
Elder Li said, “A son should conduct himself with filial piety towards his mother. Does one need to look at age for this? Which sage taught it this way?” His first criticism against Ning Xiaoyao began to attract followers from the officials who took him as their teacher. Women of the imperial harem shouldn’t meddle in politics, but mistakes in filial piety weren’t permitted either. His Majesty had to conform to conventions in this case.
Ning Xiaoyao felt like stamping her feet. By that logic, wouldn’t she have to kneel and beg the empress dowager to hold curtain from behind the curtains? And then have Grand Preceptor Xie squander the country for a dozen more years until more good people, more citizens died? All for the sake of a lying woman who didn’t cherish human life? Ning Xiaoyao wanted to speak sense to these people, but Elder Li’s faction were all qingliu who were learned scholars well-versed in literary Chinese, pedantic terms, and Confucius says quotes. They could crush Ning Xiaoyao until she was left speechless without an argument. How was she supposed to argue with them when she wouldn’t understand their words? （TOT）
“This subject asks that Esteemed Empress Dowager holds court from behind the curtain,” a member of the Grand Preceptor’s faction shouted as he knelt on the ground in the wake of Elder Li’s censure.
“Your Majesty still isn’t inviting Esteemed Empress Dowager to rise?” Elder Li gave Ning Xiaoyao a disapproving look.
“Late emperor…” Empress Dowager Xie continued to cry.
“May Esteemed Empress Dowager hold court from behind the screen,” men from the Grand Preceptor’s faction continued to shout.
Ning Xiaoyao leapt up from the Dragon Throne. It looked like she couldn’t talk sense to anyone anymore. “Fine then,” she said loudly. “If Esteemed Empress Dowager holds court from behind the curtain today, Zhen will abdicate tomorrow.”
Her decisive statement stunned Empress Dowager Xie and the gathered ministers. Ning Xiaoyao stood from a commanding height as she looked at Empress Dowager Xie. Isn’t your life goal to live a luxurious life as the empress dowager while holding court from behind the curtain? Then I won’t be the emperor anymore. I don’t want to play around with you, so what now?
“You,” Empress Dowager Xie was really shaking now, but from anger. Was this girl determined to fight her to the death? “Your Majesty, do you want to force This Dowager until she dies?” she asked.
“Your Majesty!” Elder Li was angry.
Ning Xiaoyao waved a hand at the old man. “Don’t talk just yet, let Zhen speak first. Filial piety, is it? Me letting Esteemed Empress Dowager work like a coolie to govern the throne and administer affairs of state is filial piety? Do you all know what true filial piety is?”
Elder Li said, “May Your Majesty instruct us.”
“Tomorrow, Zhen will take the empress dowager to travel around the world,” Ning Xiaoyao pointed towards the outside of the palace. “When a person gets old, they should enjoy a happy life of ease and comfort!”
The ministers were all silent. Was the empress dowager really that old?
Empress Dowager Xie, with her head full of black hair, only loathed the fact that Ning Xin was still too young. Right now, she couldn’t let Ning Xiaoyao die.
“These are Zhen’s words today. If nothing else works, Zhen will abdicate,” Ning Xiaoyao was a completely clever hoodlum.
Elder Li said, “Imperial power was bestowed by the Heavens. How could Your Majesty treat it as a game?”
Ning Xiaoyao replied, “Imperial power was bestowed by the Heavens? Hasn’t Zhen been treated like a trained dog by everyone all the same? Do you even believe your own words?”
How could anything train the emperor like a dog? Elder Li fell to his knees. Ning Xiaoyao shifted to one side to avoid it. Having someone so old kneel to her was more than she deserved. Elder Li knocked his head against the floor and said, “This subject only tried, to the greatest extent, to present sincere advice. Sincere advice is often grating to the ears, the Sage said…”
“Elder one, that’s enough,” Ning Xiaoyao wanted to die as soon as she heard the Sage said. Sages said so many things, yet the world was still full of people who lived in worse state than dogs. (Author: Can you give it up with the dogs already?)
Elder Li gave a start when he heard Ning Xiaoyao call him ‘elder one.’ Why would such a moniker show up in the Hall of Golden Chimes? Ning Xiaoyao had already worked up a sweat from her impatience. She reached out a hand and tugged at the collar of her dragon robes. These clothes looked distinguished and imposing, but was she allowed to say that she preferred pure cotton clothes instead?
As soon as Empress Dowager Xie saw Ning Xiaoyao tugging at her collar, she cried out, “Your Majesty!”
Ning Xiaoyao’s hand stiffened in response. She lowered her head to peer at Empress Dowager Xie. Had she thought of another scheme to counter her again? Empress Dowager Xie stood up from the steps all by herself and faced the crowd of ministers. Grand Preceptor Xie’s expression shifted. What was his daughter planning to do?
Empress Dowager Xie suddenly bent down on one knee to bow towards the crowd. When that happened, no one else besides Ning Xiaoyao dared to remain standing in the great hall. All the ministers fell to their knees in haste. Empress Dowager Xie spoke sorrowfully, “The late emperor passed away without His Majesty having a chance to see him once. After entering the palace, His Majesty cried himself bitterly into unconsciousness multiple times. If not for the rules of our forefathers, and the fact that today’s the date for a large assembly, then His Majesty would still be convalescing quietly in the imperial palace.”
Ning Xiaoyao wanted to spit up blood. This woman could act and speak nonsense all too well!
“His Majesty’s body is indisposed. As This Dowager sees it, today’s large assembly should just end here,” Empress Dowager Xie continued. “His Majesty is filial, so there’s no way he wouldn’t obey the late emperor’s last will. Nothing more needs to be said. This Dowager understands the bitterness in His Majesty’s heart, so I ask for your excellencies’ understanding towards His Majesty’s grief.”
“This subject solemnly obeys Esteemed Empress Dowager’s decree,” Grand Preceptor Xie led the way with a cry. Ning Xiaoyao looked dumbstruck at Empress Dowager Xie’s back. What did this mean? She was going to hold court from behind the screen just like that?
“Please rise,” Empress Dowager Xie raised her hand at the kneeling ministers.
“Hold on, you,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “How come you’re the one issuing orders here now?”
Empress Dowager Xie turned to face Ning Xiaoyao. “Someone come. Why aren’t you hurrying to send His Majesty back to the palace?”
The two eunuchs standing by the Dragon Throne answered in the affirmative before walking towards Ning Xiaoyao. Now she finally understood–the empress dowager wasn’t planning to argue with her, but had resorted to violence instead. The two eunuchs bowed as they reached Ning Xiaoyao and grabbed one of her hands on each side. Ning Xiaoyao chuckled as their hands touched. These two weren’t eunuchs at all! Their androgen levels fell well within normal range in their bodies. Like hell they’re eunuchs!
Grand Preceptor Xie released a breath in relief as the two “eunuchs” grabbed hold of Ning Xiaoyao’s hands. He knew Ning Xiaoyao knew martial arts, so he hand chose these two experts from his own estate. They were there to keep Ning Xiaoyao at bay in case a scuffle broke out.