Chapter 71: Waiting for riches, honor, and disaster Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
The girl standing in the courtyard was currently in the prime of her youth, with curvy eyebrows and phoenix eyes. Her skin was white as snow and seemed delicate enough to break with but a puff of wind. She was wearing a white dress embroidered with various flowers, which fluttered in the breeze and made for a very pleasing picture for all who saw her.
“You cannot be impudent,” Old Madame Xie scolded the girl by her side with a look. The girl hastily ducked her head, but flickered her eyes up to steal peeks at Ning Xiaoyao, who had moved to stand behind Supreme Commander Lou instead. This girl is giving me goosebumps.
“Her name is Xie Duoying,”1 Big Boss Black said in a low voice. “She’s the Grand Preceptor’s granddaughter from one of his sons. Meow a mi, is she here to seduce my Supreme Commander?”
“……….” said Ning Xiaoyao. The girl was only staring at her. How was that seducing the Supreme Commander? A few of the princes exchanged meaningful glances with each other. It looks like the Xie Clan wants to send women to the Son of Heaven again.
Old Madame Xie said, “I don’t know whether Your Majesty could give this old woman some face and come rest a bit in my main hall? Have a taste of the pastries made by this old woman and our fifth lass.” The girl named Xie Duoying was quite good with her timing, because she lifted her head right then to steal another timid peek at Ning Xiaoyao.
Pastries again? Ning Xiaoyao shook her head. Judging from the level of pastry she’d tried before, this old lady would be better off giving her a plate of red braised pork.
“Elder cousin,” Xie Duoying again called out to Ning Xiaoyao.
“That’s His Majesty!” Old Madame Xie scolded her great-granddaughter again. “How could you be such a ill-behaved girl? Hurry up and kneel to ask His Majesty for punishment!” Old Madame Xie raised her walking stick and pounded it onto the ground.
Xie Duoying knelt on the ground. This time, her eyes were filled with tears as she looked at Ning Xiaoyao, the pupils bright and clear. Ning Xiaoyao thought it over for a long time before she figured out what was up. This young Miss of the Xie Clan was a girl that lured others to dote on her. Lou Zigui only laughed coldly. It looked like this old madame of the Xie Clan had no idea that His Majesty was a female. Otherwise, she wouldn’t invite herself to court such dishonor.
Hearing Lou Zigui laugh, Xie Duoying’s entire body stiffened. But she wasn’t a girl who simply looked at any man, so she ignored him. Fifth Young Miss Xie understood in her heart that the old madame wanted to present her to His Majesty. His Majesty Ning Yu had been living in the Xie estate for 14 years, but he’d always been cut off from the rest of the world. No one knew about him, and even members of the Xie Clan often forgot that such an imperial son existed on their premises. If they knew this personage would turn into a dragon overnight, then Fifth Young Miss believed that His Majesty would have had long had a Xie Clan woman at his side by now.
Ning Xiaoyao glanced back at the half-open doors of the study. Nothing stirred inside.
“This one admits her wrongs,” Xie Duoying confessed her faults to Ning Xiaoyao. By now, it should be Ning Xiaoyao’s cue to speak so the girl could retreat from her stage. All of the vassal lords looked at Ning Xiaoyao. Here was such a delicately sweet and pretty beauty kneeling right before them. His Majesty was simply a boy who had a single empress consort by his side. How could he be able to hold himself back?
Ning Xiaoyao simply walked past Xie Duoying. This girl had called her elder cousin, which meant she was at most 13 to 14 years old. Ning Xiaoyao wasn’t petty enough to find faults with a little girl.
“Your Majesty!” Old Madame Xie cried out anxiously when she saw her leaving. Tears streamed out from the corner of her eyes. Ning Xiaoyao paused at the shout to look back. Well great, the old lady’s already kneeling down. The Xie girl was crying like a person made out of tears, too.
“Your Majesty, ah,” Old Madame Xie cried, “This old woman is only someone from the back courtyard. This old woman doesn’t have much experience with the world, but knows that watching Your Majesty grown into adulthood filled me with joy in my heart. This old woman only hopes that Your Majesty will be in good health all your life and become an illustrious sovereign.”
The old lady’s words had completely befuddled Ning Xiaoyao. She’d brought over a pretty girl to see him, then refused to explain anything about the girl in favor of reminiscing over the past and looking into the future. Was she simply offering her affections that she’d refused? Or did she pick up this girl on the way because it was inconvenient to walk by herself?
Old Madame Xie continued to speak. “This old woman cannot oversee matters outside the estate, but only asks that Your Majesty take this old woman’s old age into consideration and offer me some stability.”
“Hold on, you,” Ning Xiaoyao said, “You’re not living a stable life right now?” This old woman had such a big house and looked well-fed and well-clothed. Even the person who helped her walk here was a beautiful girl. More importantly, there weren’t any zombies in this world! What more could this old lady ask for?
Both the people inside and outside the study fell silent. You had a falling out with the Grand Preceptor. Right now, Fang Tang’s taking the imperial guards to search through the estate, and it sounds like they’re confiscating property too. How do you expect the old lady to live a stable life?
Old Madame Xie seemed unable to bear it any longer. Her body swayed as she knelt on the ground, looking at Ning Xiaoyao with a face full of tears. Ning Xiaoyao moved to the side and said, “I don’t like this, this younger cousin.”
Fifth Young Miss Xie’s face immediately drained of blood. Ning Xiaoyao was very sincere as she spoke. “Maybe I’m assuming there’s feelings being offered when there’s none. Old lady, maybe I’ve misunderstood, but I think it’s best if I say things clearly.”
Lou Zigui took that moment to walk to Ning Xiaoyao’s side and murmur, “This subject asks that Your Majesty returns to the palace.”
Ning Xiaoyao simply turned and left the courtyard with him following behind. The various princes walked past Old Madame Xie and Xie Duoying as well, their heads shaking as they saw the distracted-looking pair. The girl was a pretty one, but it was a pity that His Majesty had a heart made out of steel. Looks like the old lady’s beauty trap is useless.
After everyone left, Old Madame Xie fell back to sit on the ground. Xie Duoying knelt in front of her, alarmed. “Old Madame, did….did Ying’er make a mistake somewhere?”
The old madame looked at the girl before her. Of all the Xie Clan girls carrying the Duo name,2 this one was the brightest and most beautiful, valued by all the elders of the clan. But if Ning Yu couldn’t be swayed by her beauty, then none of the other Xie Clan girls would even stand a chance. Xie Duoying began to cry. What was she supposed to do in the future, now that His Majesty had rejected her in person? If anyone married a girl that the emperor had slighted and then treated her like a treasure, what would that mean? Would the man be accusing the emperor of having bad taste when it came to women? Would any man in the world dare to invite such an assumption upon themselves?
Elder Li laughed from inside the room as he spoke to Grand Preceptor Xie. “Yet another play, Grand Preceptor. Your Xie Clan was once acclaimed for its literary talents as well, what a shame.”
Elder Li had only spoken half of what he wanted to say, but it was already a sound box on the ears for Grand Preceptor Xie and his three sons of the first wife. All the old, great families would offer their daughters to win favor. It was no different from selling off the women for honor and glory, but no one from the great families would admit it openly. Elder Li’s sigh just then was simply tearing a mask off of the Xie Clan.
“Let’s go,” Elder Li told his pupils. “Follow this old man to see how General Fang is doing.”
Once Elder Li left with his people, the Grand Preceptor’s faction took their leave as well. Right now, the Grand Preceptor was ill and the old madame wailing in the courtyard. Forget about state affairs, the Xie Clan had enough problems to deal with at home. If they stayed any longer, wouldn’t they just be causing more trouble themselves?
“Go on,” Grand Preceptor Xie told his cohorts. “This old man’s body is fine, there’s no need for you all to worry.”
The various officials were somewhat comforted by Grand Preceptor Xie’s words. Rather than his health, what Grand Preceptor Xie really meant was that he himself would be fine. As long as the Grand Preceptor was still standing, the rest of them would be fine as well. All of the officials respectfully withdrew from the study. As they reached the courtyard, they shielded their faces with their sleeves to avoid seeing the two crying woman on the ground. Grand Preceptor Xie had Xie Anyi, his eldest son, support him outside. Only his family was here now. The old madame remained sitting on the ground as she asked, “Back then, when you had His Majesty stay in the West Courtyard of the estate, you said he didn’t like to see other people. You forbade anyone from disturbing his peace and quiet, which is why I prohibited entrance into the West Courtyard. Now Grand Preceptor, tell this old woman the truth. Does His Majesty really dislike company?”
The old madame had thought it over for a while, but couldn’t find any place in terms of food or clothing where they’d shortchanged Ning Yu. If there was anything to hate by Ning Yu, then it was that they hadn’t offered him any support and made him live 14 years like an old mountain hermit in seclusion. Grand Preceptor Xie had Second Young Master Xie help the old madame into his study before ordering his eldest son to take his brothers and daughter to wait outside his rooms. He would speak to Old Madame personally.
Old Madame Xie was still crying and highly agitated. “Say something!” she cried.
Grand Preceptor Xie waited a while before he lowered his voice. “Has mother forgotten the fortune told by that old monk 14 years ago? ‘This child is destined to be at odds with the empress since birth, and they shall not reconcile in this lifetime.’ Empress Dowager has always wished to give birth to another son and place him on the throne; unfortunately, the late emperor passed away when she gave birth to Prince Cheng. Forget about putting a baby in swaddling clothes on the throne. Even if he was made emperor, rules for such a child decree that one keeps the son and disposes of the mother. That isn’t something I or Empress Dowager can accept.”
Old Madame Xie stood up from her chair and trilled, “In other words, you father and daughter pair have been treating His Majesty as a disposable piece from the start? And His Majesty knows it?”
Grand Preceptor Xie gave a pained smile. “Judging from His Majesty’s actions recently, he is naturally aware of it.”
Old Madame Xie collapsed back into her chair again.
“So mother shouldn’t think of sending any more Xie Clan females into the palace for the future,” Grand Preceptor Xie said, “It’s an impossible thing.”
Grand Preceptor Xie couldn’t tell Old Madame Xie that Ning Yu was female, because the fewer people that knew, the better. At the same time, he feared that the truth would frighten the old woman to death.
Old Madame Xie cried and asked, “But what now?”
“His Majesty will grow to understand that he’s inseparable from our Xie Clan,” Grand Preceptor Xie comforted his mother. “So this son can give mother some stability on my own. There’s no need for you to beg it from others.”
Old Madame Xie stomped the floor with her walking stick, scared yet vexed. “I’ve ruined my fifth granddaughter!”
The Xie Clan was a flourishing family. Grand Preceptor Xie had three sons and five daughters by his first wife, each of whom had numerous offspring of their own. There were about 20 some unmarried girls by first wives alone, so Grand Preceptor Xie didn’t care about the plight of Fifth Young Miss Xie. All he did was say, “Mother need not be saddened. Why fear that we won’t find matches for our Xie Clan daughters?”
Old Madame Xie didn’t quite believe Grand Preceptor Xie’s words. If nothing’s wrong, then why would you have fainted as you did? Were you simply playacting? She lightly shook her head, feeling cold all over. Certainly, she might be a respected member of the Xie Clan, but in the end she still relied on her son and grandsons. If they were finished, then she would be finished as well, yet she couldn’t do a thing. She was only capable of waiting until riches, honor, or disaster alike struck their home.
- Xie Duoying (谢朵莹) – Duoying could mean “a jade-like stone, lustrous and transparent.” ↩
- Duo name – Chinese families traditionally assign a character to each generation of children born in the family. In this case, the children that were born in the same generation as Xie Duoying would all be grandchildren of the Grand Preceptor, and all have their names start with Xie Duo “something.” Side note: the translator hails from the 30-31st generation of her family, and all her siblings and cousins carry names with the character for Jing (静), or “silence, peace, stillness.” ↩