Chapter 51: That’s not how comrades-in-arms should act Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
“I had them go,” Lou Zigui carelessly tied his sash as he avoided meeting Ning Xiaoyao’s wide-eyed stare. He dropped his voice and added, “If we have our subordinates seek death recklessly for the sake of the Imperial Jade Seal, the Grand Preceptor won’t be able to figure out just who has it.”
For the sake of the Imperial Jade Seal, he was sending his own people to be tyrannized by the Grand Preceptor? Ning Xiaoyao didn’t know anything about court intrigue, nor did she have experience with political struggles or crafty schemes. She just couldn’t figure it out, and her heart even turned a little cold. How could it be like this? Ning Xiaoyao stared at Lou Zigui. Sending troops on an expedition in the struggle for power and profit was something done by opposing parties to cheat the other. Lou Zigui didn’t see any problems with his methods, but Ning Xiaoyao’s constant staring made him crease his forehead.
Again he stressed, “They’ll be fine.”
“You’re still calling it fine even though they’ve been beaten?” Ning Xiaoyao shook her head with a sigh. She didn’t understand this world, but this wasn’t how comrades-in-arms should act.
“You still don’t understand?” Lou Zigui asked Ning Xiaoyao. She had managed to muster up a force of her own right under Grand Preceptor Xie’s eyes, enduring humiliation for the sake of her important mission. At court, she used her power to gain the upper hand and wrathfully beat back all opponents. Didn’t she know to make small sacrifices for the greater good?
“What does it matter what I understand if you’ve already gone and done it?” Ning Xiaoyao said as she sank down in the chair behind her. She held her head, wanting to quiet down and calm her nerves a bit. Maybe then she’d get it?
While Ning Xiaoyao was trying to figure things out, Lou Zigui was as well. He half-knelt in front of Ning Xiaoyao and, after a pause, reached out to tug aside the hand cradling her head. “Are you angry? Why?”
“How could you send your own people to get beaten up by the Grand Preceptor?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
Lou Zigui gave a start. “It’s only a ruse. At most, it’ll just last a day before I’ll rescue them.”
“They were perfectly fine, so why did they have to run over for a beating?” Ning Xiaoyao muttered to herself. The current emperor who’d transmigrated from an apocalypse and the local native Supreme Commander both fell silent. They were of different births and hailed from different environments, so their ways of thinking were even more different. It was impossible for them to connect their thoughts.
After a while, Lou Zigui spoke, “Your Majesty is blaming me for being cruel.”
“A bit,” Ning Xiaoyao’s head drooped.
“You,” Lou Zigui really felt like a villain after seeing her dejected-looking head. After thinking it over, he didn’t speak. He had ordered Old Huo and the rest to subject themselves to torture while thinking that they wouldn’t die. But he’d never stopped to consider anything else. How could someone in the role of a general possibly attend to the feelings of each and every soldier under his command?
“Forget it,” Ning Xiaoyao had already organized her thoughts by the time Supreme Commander Lou was starting to revisit his decision. Zombies and humans were different, so she couldn’t use her methods for dealing with zombies on human enemies here, right? Even though she didn’t get it, she believed that the man in front of her now wasn’t a bad guy. If that was the case, she had to accept his methods.
“Forget it?” Lou Zigui was startled again.
“Then does Supreme Commander still have words to say to me?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
“You, you’re not angry?” Lou Zigui said doubtfully. This girl was sunny one moment and stormy the next, was she fooling around with him?
“I’m not angry. Why should I be angry with Supreme Commander?” Ning Xiaoyao said. “I’ve got an idea.”
Supreme Commander Lou had a bad premonition.
Ning Xiaoyao jumped up from her chair and said proudly, “There’s an idiom I know, called ‘the more one tries to hide, the more one is exposed.’”
Supreme Commander Lou didn’t understand what knowing an idiom had to do with anything.
“Supreme Commander,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “Aren’t you afraid that your plan will make the Grand Preceptor and Empress Dowager suspect you of trying to cover things up?”
Lou Zigui rose to his feet and shook his head. “They’d suspect, but I’ve never done foolish actions. It’d be rare for me to make a mistake like ransacking the house, so the Xie father and daughter pair wouldn’t be sure whether I was faking my idiocy or not.”
Ning Xiaoyao pursed her lips. “Did you already forget how they caught you and sent you to the execution grounds?” If he wasn’t stupid, how could he have gotten caught in the first place?
Supreme Commander Lou fell silent. Big Boss Black stood by the door with his paws over his head. When you give someone a blow, you’re not supposed to aim for their face! This ninny really doesn’t understand a thing!
“I’ve decided,” Ning Xiaoyao said as she circled around Supreme Commander Lou. “I’m going to take Windy and the rest to the Grand Preceptor’s estate. Didn’t you say that you’ve already re-organized the imperial guards so they’ll listen to my commands? I’ll bring them along too.”
“What are you going to do?” asked Lou Zigui.
“Save people, ah,” Ning Xiaoyao said assuredly. “Right now, we’re just two villains hiding schemes in our hearts.”
Lou Zigui rested a hand on his forehead. “We’re not the villains.”
“Aye, it’s just an analogy,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “How could it be all right for the Grand Preceptor to capture our men? Suppose they sell us out?”
“Isn’t this just in case they do?”
Lou Zigui began to carefully ponder Ning Xiaoyao’s proposal. There was always the fear of ‘what if.’ This really was an excuse to invade the Grand Preceptor’s estate for a rescue while he was out.
Ning Xiaoyao cocked her head to look at Lou Zigui and said, “I even heard that this thief, the Grand Preceptor, has a lot of money. There’s like mountains of gold and silver in his estate. We can bring some back with us during our trip.”
“……” said Lou Zigui. Snatching money while snatching people at the same time. If this girl shed her dragon robes, she could go straight on to being a bandit instead.
“How about it?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
Lou Zigui said, “I’ll take some people over. Your Majesty can just wait in the palace.” The military forces of the capital city were still in the Xie Clan’s hands. Was it that easy to invade the Grand Preceptor’s estate? Lou Zigui didn’t want to see Ning Xiaoyao risk her life again. Though Ning Xiaoyao really wanted to come along, she didn’t argue with Supreme Commander Lou on the matter.
“Done,” Ning Xiaoyao nodded.
“Someone, come,” Lou Zigui shouted towards the door.
Outside, Shadowgale, who had been standing guard the entire time, replied with an affirmative and entered the room.
“Collect the Dragon Guards and all the imperial guards who are not on duty tonight,” Lou Zigui ordered. “We’re going to the Grand Preceptor’s estate.”
Shadowgale had been keeping his head bowed while listening to Supreme Commander Lou, but now he lifted his head to give a startled glance at Ning Xiaoyao. Ning Xiaoyao grinned broadly and said, “Windy, take your brothers and thoroughly kick some Xie Clan butts!”
Shadowgale accepted the orders and ran out of the room. If their master wasn’t afraid to cause a giant ruckus, then what was there to be afraid of for them as servants?
While the two figured in the emperor’s palace prepared to rob the Grand Preceptor’s estate, Empress Dowager Xie was questioning the Grand Preceptor in her own hall. “Do you think this is Lou Zigui’s plan to cover things up?” The Imperial Jade Seal had disappeared after Ning Yu charged into her palace. Who else could it be besides Ning Yu that stole the seal?
Grand Preceptor Xie shook his head. “How could Lou Zigui be stupid enough to try such petty tricks?”
“Then father’s thoughts are?” Empress Dowager Xie wasn’t in a mood for guessing games and asked him outright.
Had Ning Yu and Lou Zigui grown desperate enough to send people to infiltrate the Grand Preceptor’s estate? Or were they trying to cover over the fact that they had the Imperial Jade Seal already? Grand Preceptor Xie couldn’t be certain.
Empress Dowager Xie couldn’t sit still and urged again, “Father still won’t decide when it’s time to make a choice?”
Grand Preceptor Xie inwardly sighed. This daughter of his might scheme all she liked, but she was only adept at competing for favors in the imperial harem. Her perspective was limited. What did she mean by ‘decide when it’s time?’ A careless move now would cost them the entire game, so how could they not be careful??
“Father!” Empress Dowager Xie cried.
“Even this subject doesn’t know where Esteemed Empress Dowager keeps the Imperial Jade Seal,” Grand Preceptor Xie spoke in a low voice. “Who else knows of its location in the empress dowager’s palace?”
Empress Dowager Xie shook her head. The Imperial Jade Seal was an object even more important than her own life. Nobody else would know its location besides her herself.
“The Dragon Guards bathed the empress dowager’s palace in blood and killed off all the servants, but still didn’t find the Imperial Jade Seal. What kind of person has the skills to know its location and take it away?” Grand Preceptor Xie asked.
Empress Dowager Xie couldn’t think of anyone who could.
“When His Majesty and those men left the palace today, the Imperial Jade Seal wasn’t with them,” Grand Preceptor Xie said. The size and shape of the seal made it impossible to hide it on one’s body without making it obvious.
“You’re saying all these things,” Empress Dowager Xie said impatiently, “Is father simply telling This Dowager that Ning Yu doesn’t have the Imperial Jade Seal? Fine then, if that’s the case, who has it now?”
Grand Preceptor Xie raised his eyes to look at Empress Dowager Xie. “Empress Dowager, think it over again. Have you ever mentioned its hiding place to anyone else?”
“I haven’t!” Empress Dowager Xie was convinced. Grand Preceptor Xie fell deep into thought.
“Father, ah,” Empress Dowager Xie was anxious enough to shout when she saw that the Grand Preceptor was still calm and unhurried.
“Empress Dowager, don’t be flustered,” Grand Preceptor Xie intoned. “The more things are like this, the less we should panic.”
Empress Dowager Xie sucked in a deep breath, her fingers on the arm of her chair still shaking.
“Empress Dowager,” a palace mama called from outside the door.
“Speak,” Empress Dowager Xie replied.
“Just now, Supreme Commander Lou took the Dragon Guards and about a thousand imperial guards to leave the palace,” the mama said in a flurried tone. Empress Dowager Xie immediately rose to her feet.
“Understood,” Grand Preceptor Xie said towards the door. “You may withdraw.”
Empress Dowager Xie stood dazed for a while before striding to Grand Preceptor Xie’s side. “Lou Zigui’s taking men to the Grand Preceptor’s estate?”
“Yes,” Grand Preceptor Xie nodded. “Five of his men are in this subject’s hands. That cuckoo’s taking advantage of the fact that this subject is here to kill his way into the estate.”
Empress Dowager Xie’s trembling hands closed into fists. “Taking troops to attack the Grand Preceptor’s estate? Has Lou Zigui gone mad?”
The capital city’s own troops numbered 80,000, while the Nine Gate Infantry Commander had 40,000 troops of his own. Lou Zigui’s own men numbered 1,000 at the most, so did he think he was capable of fighting and winning against the capital’s 120,000 troops and horses?
“Before this subject entered the palace, I took precautions against Lou Zigui in case he got desperate,” said Grand Preceptor Xie. “This subject has already sent someone to request troops from the capital’s barracks.”
“Then Ning Yu doesn’t have the Imperial Jade Seal?” Empress Dowager Xie muttered to herself.
“It might be better if she did,” Grand Preceptor Xie said softly.
“What?” Empress Dowager Xie was shocked.
A gloomy look came into Grand Preceptor Xie’s eyes. “Did Empress Dowager think that killing the crown prince would stop the other imperial sons from coveting the Dragon Throne?” His words caused the Empress Dowager’s heart to turn cold.
“Internal struggle,” Grand Preceptor Xie shook his head, “Empress Dowager, those imperial sons and vassals would rather see us struggle amongst ourselves so they could reap the spoils of victory without lifting a single finger.”
Empress Dowager Xie stood there for a long time before gritting her teeth. “Ning Yu deserves to die!”
Grand Preceptor Xie gave a long sigh. “If the Dragon Guards spared anyone in the empress dowager’s palace, then Empress Dowager can hand them over to this subject.” Dead people told no tales and caused no trouble. There weren’t many eunuchs and court ladies who had accompanied the Empress Dowager to the large assembly that day, but Grand Preceptor Xie was convinced that he only needed a day to find the spy amongst them and unseal their lips.
Original Chapter Teaser: Ning Xiaoyao: This is my disapproving face. Lou Zigui: It’s only a ruse…
Ning Xiaoyao: Well, I think your ruse sucks!
Lou Zigui: Why?!
Ning Xiaoyao: What kind of plan hurts your allies more than your enemies? I-d-i-o-t!
Lou Zigui: By pretending to show weakness to our enemies, we–
Ning Xiaoyao: –totally let them beat us up, is that right? They’re just gonna bully us more now!
Lou Zigui: We’ll pay them back in time.
Ning Xiaoyao: I don’t like intentionally leaving debts!
Ning Xiaoyao: This is my disapproving face.
Lou Zigui: It’s only a ruse…