Chapter 50: The Supreme Commander’s not wearing clothes, His Majesty wants to beat him up Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
That night, rain fell in the capital again. The evening breeze also carried with it a chill rarely felt in late spring. Due to the national mourning period, none of the Grand Preceptor estate’s usual lamps were lit. The residence couldn’t be compared to the emperor’s Imperial Palace, but it was still one of the very best estates in the capital city. A night watchman sounded the call for the second watch1 as he walked past the Grand Preceptor’s estate, only to smell something burning. The night watchman hastily looked towards the estate and promptly dropped the gong in his hands. Frightened, he cried out, “Fire, the Grand Preceptor’s estate is on fire!”
The silent stillness of the rainy night was broken by the night watchman’s shouts.
Less than an hour later, the Grand Preceptor was sitting in an old-fashioned wooden armchair in an underground chamber of the estate, facing five men trussed up on a torture rack. Each of the men sported injuries on their bodies, while two of them had already lost consciousness. The head steward Xie Laibao ran briskly into the underground chamber and bent down to speak to Grand Preceptor Xie’s ear.
“Grand Preceptor, the servants have put out the fires. Half of the storehouses were burnt down. The old madame had a scare, but her ladyship has already ordered someone to take the Grand Preceptor’s tag to invite an imperial physician from the palace.”
Grand Preceptor Xie sat there without saying a word. Xie Laibao retreated out of the room, his figure still bent over.
“Setting fires,” Grand Preceptor Xie said coldly as he looked at the five men on the racks. “Lou Zigui has truly toxic designs!”
The three men who were still conscious on the racks showed no reaction to Grand Preceptor Xie’s words. The head guard standing by Grand Preceptor’s side said, “Grand Preceptor, are we still keeping these five men?”
As the victim of a house fire, how could Grand Preceptor Xie not harbor thoughts of killing these men? But he still shook his head at the guard. These men were Lou Zigui’s subordinates, so they were now collateral in his hands. Their lives would only be worth something if they weren’t dead.
“It’s too good for them,” the head guard said resentfully.
One of the oil lamps in the basement burst into a shower of sparks with a pah. For the sake of the Imperial Jade Seal, the hereditary symbol of a country, Ning Yu and Lou Zigui were as anxious as dogs trying to jump over a wall. Of this, Grand Preceptor Xie was very clear in his heart. It’s just a pity, Grand Preceptor Xie grinned, That the Imperial Jade Seal isn’t in the Grand Preceptor’s estate.
The head guard couldn’t help but get goosebumps at the sight of that smile. Had the Grand Preceptor gone mad with anger? Half of his storerooms gone, how much money did the Xie Family lose in this fire? It’s like losing half a gold mountain at once, but His Excellency Grand Preceptor can still smile?
Xie Laibao returned again to run to Grand Preceptor Xie’s side, bending over to say urgently, “Grand Preceptor, a eunuch arrived from the palace. Esteemed Empress Dowager wants to invite you there for a trip.”
“Why are you so flustered?” Grand Preceptor Xie looked coldly at his head steward. Why was this servant less and less able to endure such events? Of the six men in black, only one had escaped. Ning Yu and Lou Zigui must have gotten news of their missing men by now. Today, His Majesty had even gone to find Esteemed Empress Dowager and kick up a row. As Grand Preceptor Xie understood it, his eldest daughter must be summoning him to the palace for that affair.
Xie Laibao slapped himself in the face before saying, “This servant deserves to die.”
Grand Preceptor Xie rose to his feet and glanced at the five men on the racks one more time. He then ordered the head guard, “Have them write down their testimonies, but remember not to let them die.”
“Yes,” the head guard obeyed in a loud voice.
Grand Preceptor Xie brought along Xie Laibao as he left the basement. When he recalled that he’d be facing off that local ruffian, the rascal Ning Yu again, his head suddenly began to ache.
Currently, Empress Dowager Xie had just about turned her bedroom upside down. She pulled everything off her bed onto the ground, even the mosquito net hanging over the bed. The rouge and face powder on her dressing table, along with her jewelry case, had all been knocked to the floor, filling the room with the scene of cosmetics. The wardrobe doors had been flung open, its neat, orderly, and folded clothes left in a messy pile. The end effect looked like someone had ransacked through the respectable empress dowager’s rooms.
Empress Dowager Xie fell back into her chair as words echoed in her head: The–imperial–jade–seal–was–gone! A few mama and court ladies shook with fear as they guarded the door outside. After all the commotion by the empress dowager, they didn’t even dare to turn around and look inside. Outside in the courtyard, a few stewards and eunuchs also stood there helpless, their expressions nervous.
“After His Majesty left the empress dowager’s palace today, he skinned a young eunuch alive,” a steward whispered to his cohorts. “Is Esteemed Empress Dowager saddened for His Majesty’s sake again?”
The other stewards and eunuchs stared at the speaker. He sure could talk. Why would the Esteemed Empress Dowager bother getting sad over an eunuch’s death. It was more likely that His Majesty had provoked her somehow again. (Author: All His Majesty did was perform a surgery to treat a little mouse. When did that turn into killing a young eunuch? Can’t these rumors be more reliable?)
Empress Dowager Xie was wondering where her Imperial Jade Seal was at the same time Ning Xiaoyao was pacing around in her room. Big Boss Black had left with Oil Lamp that afternoon to check out the Grand Preceptor’s secret grain depot. Now that it was dark, why hadn’t they come back yet? Just where did they go to find that grain depot?
The little gyrfalcon was getting dizzy from her pacing and said, “How about I go look for Big Boss Black and Oil Lamp?”
Ning Xiaoyao shook her head. “Don’t, I don’t want to lose you in the process too.”
“Then what do we do?” Oil Jar had already finished nibbling through half a sack of peanuts. “Oil Jar is anxious too.”
Ning Xiaoyao glanced at Oil Jar, who was nearly buried beneath empty peanut shells, and fell silent. Was this really someone who felt anxious?
“Then how about letting my master look for them?” the little gyrfalcon suggested.
“Don’t drag your master into this,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “What if Windy gets captured by the Grand Preceptor’s men? Forget it.” Her right hand formed into a fist and pounded into her left palm before Ning Xiaoyao came to a decision. “I’ll go look for them myself!”
“Miaow.” Big Boss Black’s meows came from the window just then.
Dang! Ning Xiaoyao hurried to open the window. This fat black furball’s finally come back.
Big Boss Black scurried up the window ledge, his fur all tangled up. He was covered in dust. “Xiaoyao,” Big Boss Black meowed, “The Grand Preceptor’s estate is on fire.”
“Whaa?” Ning Xiaoyao hastened to ask. “Did Grand Preceptor Xie burn to death?”
Big Boss Black scratched the back of Ning Xiaoyao’s hand with his claw. “What kind of good news are you hoping for? Supreme Commander’s men were captured by the Grand Preceptor. He told people to hit them and they were beaten terribly.”
Ning Xiaoyao was stunned. Another mishap!
Big Boss Black was impatient. “Xiaoyao, what do we do now?”
Ning Xiaoyao turned on the spot and decided right then to find Supreme Commander Lou. Currently, Lou Zigui had gotten the Dragon Guards to get him some hot water and taken off his clothes in his room. He was using a hand towel to wipe off his body.
Ning Xiaoyao slammed the door open and rushed directly into the room.
The naked Lou Zigui stiffened.
“Supreme Commander, it’s not good!” Ning Xiaoyao shouted. On her shoulders, Big Boss Black raised his paws to cover her eyes.
“You’re not allowed to look at the Supreme Commander’s body!” the cat cried.
Ning Xiaoyao threw the fat furball on her shoulders outside the room, too vexed to listen to him. Was he turning from a fanboy into an idiotic fanatic? Once again, Supreme Commander Lou witnessed the sight of His Majesty tossing a cat away. He placed his towel on the edge of a washbasin and began to look for his clothes.
Ning Xiaoyao ran until she was standing right in front of Lou Zigui and said, “At a time like this, how could you still be in the mood to get dressed?”
“…..” Lou Zigui was speechless. Was he supposed to stay naked without any clothes on?
Ning Xiaoyao gestured madly with her hands as she explained, “It’s no good, your people were captured by the Grand Preceptor. What should we do? Should we bring along Windy and the rest and slaughter our way to the estate and rescue them?”
“Who told Your Majesty this?”
“Black Tubby, oh, that’s not it,” Ning Xiaoyao said, “Saving people is more important. Supreme Commander, don’t worry about who told me the news.”
Big Boss Black began to cry out from outside the room. “It was this cat, this cat told her. Ninny, you’re blotting out my contributions in front of Supreme Commander. Miaow, you’re a scoundrel!”
“Shut up!” Ning Xiaoyao shouted towards him.
When Lou Zigui heard the cat outside stop meowing, he only said, “This cat listens to Your Majesty’s words rather well.”
“I’m talking about saving people!” Ning Xiaoyao was so anxious that sweat had broken out on her forehead. “The important thing is rescuing them, rescuing them is more important, ah, geez!”
“I understand.” Ning Xiaoyao was making such a din in the middle of the night that Lou Zigui could already hear footsteps hurrying this way. He was quick to coax her. “You calm down first.”
“How can I calm down?” Ning Xiaoyao clutched her head and spun in place again. “The Grand Preceptor had them beaten, their bodies are covered in blood!”
Lou Zigui’s eyes dimmed. Of course he knew that Old Huo and the rest would suffer through torture, but he’d seem mountains of corpses and seas of blood ever since joining the army at twelve. Lou Zigui’s heart had long turned as cold as ice and as hard as iron. “They’re still alive, aren’t they?”
He raised a hand to stroke Ning Xiaoyao’s head before putting on the clothes he’d left by the bed. By now, Ning Xiaoyao had realized one thing. If she already had the Imperial Jade Seal, why were the Supreme Commander’s men still running over to the Grand Preceptor’s estate? “You want,” Ning Xiaoyao asked Lou Zigui, whose back was to her as he got dressed, “You want to set a fire and burn the Grand Preceptor’s family to death?”
If that was possible, then Lou Zigui would do exactly that.
“Is there something I don’t know?” Ning Xiaoyao ran to sit on Lou Zigui’s bed as she looked at him. “Tell me about it, or else I’ll just feel anxious. Then I won’t be able to fall asleep.”
“Your Majesty?” Shadowgale’s voice called from outside the door.
Lou Zigui quickened his rate of dressing.
“I’m here,” Ning Xiaoyao answered.
Shadowgale stood outside the door and said, “The Grand Preceptor entered the palace and went to see the empress dowager.”
“It’s over,” Ning Xiaoyao jumped up and grabbed Lou Zigui’s hand. “That old geezer’s come to the palace to lodge a complaint.” Ning Xiaoyao’s action pulled down half of Lou Zigui’s clothes again.
“Windy, you don’t have to say another word. Find some men and come with me.” When she didn’t hear Lou Zigui’s reply, Ning Xiaoyao lost the patience to wait and went around him to run out. Those people had to be saved. As for why they’d set fire to the Grand Preceptor’s estate in the first place, that was something that could be asked about after the rescue.
When Shadowgale heard Ning Xiaoyao shout, he popped his head into the room and asked, “Where is Your Majesty going?”
“To the Grand Preceptor’s estate,” Ning Xiaoyao replied.
“…..” said the Head Commander Shadowgale. His Majesty told me to gather the other fellows. Are we planning to kill the Grand Preceptor’s entire family while he’s out of the house?
When Lou Zigui realized that Ning Xiaoyao was about to run out of the room, he caught up from behind and tried to grab her hand. When he missed, he could only wrap Ning Xiaoyao into a hug.
“…..” said the Head Commander Shaowgale. For some reason, it looked off when Supreme Commander Lou hugged His Majesty.
“It’s all right,” Lou Zigui told Shadowgale as he held onto Ning Xiaoyao. “I’m going to say a few words to His Majesty.” Shadowgale withdrew his head and even closed the door for Supreme Commander Lou.
“You’re not going to save them?” Ning Xiaoyao pushed aside Lou Zigui. She was very strong, so Lou Zigui had to stagger back three steps before he came to a stop. “Just what’s going on?”
Ning Xiaoyao stared at Lou Zigui. If he couldn’t give her a satisfactory answer, then she’d, then she’d… Ning Xiaoyao thought it over before deciding that she’d definitely beat him up!
- second watch (二更) – ergen, the second of five night watches, takes place from 21:00-23:00 ↩