Chapter 144: High-ranking military officers from the south Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Xie Anji, Xie Anshi and the rest were all shocked by the battered state of Old Madame Xie’s corpse. It was obvious that they hadn’t know how she’d died, either. Grand Preceptor Xie couldn’t find an excuse this time. Could I say that Ning Xiaoyao faked the wound on Old Madame’s body? But no, any coroner would be able to determine when the injury had occurred. Even if his power could keep all the coroners in the capital from spreading the news, experienced officers in the army had the same skills to deduce the wound. The same went for people who were doctors. There was no way for him to shut them all up.
“It was the cat!” Lady Wang shouted between her sobs.
Ning Xiaoyao was surprised to see the woman pointing at her own Black Tubby. “You’re saying that my cat took a bite out of your old madame’s head?” she asked.
“Miaow!” Big Boss Black meowed pitifully. All I did was gnaw on some fish!
“Raising the dead,” Lady Wang went on, “Black cats raise the dead!”
“The heck is that all about?” Ning Xiaoyao didn’t understand her words, but they sounded pretty awesome.
“Married women shouldn’t be speaking nonsense!” Elder Li rebuked her angrily.
“She’s saying that black cat—that is, ones like Your Majesty is raising—made the Old Madame’s corpse come to life,” a Dragon Guard murmured in response to Ning Xiaoyao’s questioning look.
Ning Xiaoyao could’ve fallen at Lady Wang’s feet right then. No wonder. She’s from the same clan as that little white flower. A noble lady like her can come up with drivel like this too? “Why aren’t you saying how Old Madame died full of discontent and so came back to seek her revenge?” Ning Xiaoyao asked Lady Wang. Left speechless, Lady Wang shrank back. It was true that His Majesty had grown up in the Grand Preceptor’s estate, but she’d never met him then. Even after a decade living side by side, she was still strangers with him.
“Your Majesty,” Elder Li approached Ning Xiaoyao and spoke next with a low voice. “She is still your maternal grandmother. Your Majesty must show discretion in your speech.”
“What discretion?” Ning Xiaoyao had lost too much of her temper to fear Elder Li now. She pointed at Lady Wang and said, “Is she the only one who’s allowed to speak nonsense? What about me?”
“……..” said everyone else. So you know you were speaking nonsense too?
“Oh, that’s right,” Ning Xiaoyao caught sight of the two Dragon Guards who had taken Xie Anyi into custody again. She pointed at the eldest young master of the Xie Clan and said, “Maybe the Old Madame’s spirit rose from the dead because she was unbearably furious with this bastard!”
Lady Wang’s lip trembled as she watched her dazed, stunned son. She burst into wails and shouted to the coffin, “Mother, mother open your eyes and look at this! Mother, ah!” As soon as she started crying, all the other Xie Clan womenfolk joined in. Ning Xiaoyao was caught off-guard. What’s going on now? Since they can’t beat me in a verbal spar, they’re resorting to tears instead?
“This…! Whatever next?!” Elder Li pointed at the Xie Clan women as he admonished Grand Preceptor Xie.
While Elder Li and Grand Preceptor Xie were having their face-off, Shadowgale took the chance to point out various men in the crowd as he whispered in Ning Xiaoyao’s ear. “Your Majesty, those are the ones who were spotted outside the palace with troops in tow.”
Ning Xiaoyao swept her eyes over the culprits and counted seven of them in total.
“They’re not part of the capital’s soldier barracks, or the Nine Gate Infantry Commander’s men,” Shadowgale added. “They should be the Grand Preceptor’s high-ranking military officers he called in from other regions beyond the capital.”
Ning Xiaoyao remembered that Grand Preceptor Xie had been slowly gathering troops in the city, and murmured back, “General Qin said that these were southerners. Do you think so?”
Shadowgale watched the men, who were whispering amongst themselves, and replied, “This servant will go over and listen to them talk.”
Ning Xiaoyao nodded. As Shadowgale vanished into the crowd, Lou Zigui lowered his head and asked, “What were you two talking about?”
“Hmph!” Ning Xiaoyao harumphed before turning her attention back to Elder Li and Grand Preceptor Xie’s verbal spat.
“…..” said Lou Zigui. Is she mad at me?
After listening to Elder Li and Grand Preceptor Xie prattle on without any idea of what they were saying, a lightheaded Ning Xiaoyao began to grow weary. She rubbed at her sleeves and wanted to eat some sugar beans when she suddenly remembered she was going to give them to A’Mo as a prize. Dropping her hand, she continued to feel weary. If I’d known paying respects with incense sticks was so troublesome, I wouldn’t have come in the first place.
Shadowgale eavesdropped on the men for a while before coming back to report. “They aren’t speaking the official dialect. This servant believes their speech carries a southern accent.”
Ning Xiaoyao had only come to understood what ‘official dialect’ meant a few days ago. It was equivalent to modern day Mandarin, or the standard Chinese officialized by the country. “Southern accents,” Ning Xiaoyao scratched at her palms. “So what do we do next?”
Before Shadowgale could speak up, Lou Zigui said, “Catch them.”
Shadowgale replied, “They’re not in uniform. If they refuse to admit that they brought in those troops, how are we supposed to take them into custody?”
“Right, ah,” Ning Xiaoyao agreed. “Suppose those seven men claim that they’re the Grand Preceptor’s distant relatives or something?”
Lou Zigui turned to Shadowgale. “Bring someone with you who understands the southern dialect over there to verify your findings.”
Shadowgale found a Dragon Guard fluent in the southern dialect and slipped into the crowds again.
“Do you want to eat this?” Lou Zigui asked as he held out his palm. Ning Xiaoyao took a glance at it. Hnn! A sugar bean!
“I have half a bag here,” Lou Zigui said softly. “Want some?”
Ning Xiaoyao’s mouth twitched.
“Are you mad at me?” Lou Zigui asked, confused.
Ning Xiaoyao’s cheeks puffed up. Supreme Commander Lou might be inexperienced in the ways of love, but he was a sharp man. Miss Ning’s harumph had already enlightened him as to what was going on.
“It was too chaotic back then and that girl was about your height,” Lou Zigui explained. “I didn’t mean to bring her with me, I just grabbed the wrong hand.”
Ning Xiaoyao glanced over at Fifth Young Miss Xie, who was still sitting on the floor, and whispered, “How are we in any way similar? Obviously there’s a big difference! She’s got a huge rack!”
Lou Zigui rested a hand against his forehead. Why would I be interested in staring at girls’ chests when there was a fire raging?
Ning Xiaoyao plucked the bean from Lou Zigui’s hand and tossed it into her mouth. “You’ve got nothing else to say about it, do you?”
Lou Zigui had no other choice. “She’s not my type.”
(￣△￣；) , went Ning Xiaoyao. Supreme Commander likes flat chests?!
“Why did that woman try to approach you?” Lou Zigui asked.
“To beg for my help?” Ning Xiaoyao randomly guessed.
Lou Zigui had guessed the girl’s motives as soon as he recognized her as Xie Duoying. She must have had designs to make herself the emperor’s woman. But when he saw Ning Xiaoyao’s round, wide eyes, he decided to leave her in the dark.
“You really don’t like her type?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
“No,” Lou Zigui shook his head adamantly. How could I ever like a woman from the Xie Clan?
“Supreme Commander, you really have weird aesthetic sensibilities,” Ning Xiaoyao shot another glance at Xie Duoying. She’s such a pretty girl, too. It’s a pity that Supreme Commander likes them flat! (Author: You and Supreme Commander are never on the same wavelength, you know?!)
By now Shadowgale had returned with a nod to Ning Xiaoyao. “They’re southerners,” he confirmed.
Ning Xiaoyao formed her small hands into fists and smacked them against each other. “What now?” she asked Lou Zigui. “Shall we sic ‘em to death right here?”
Lou Zigui shook his head. Ning Xiaoyao wanted to defy him. Again? We can’t kill them? Geez, how am I supposed to have any fun at this rate?!
“Fire!” one of the Grand Preceptor’s men suddenly shouted.
Whaa? Ning Xiaoyao turned and looked back doubtfully. Hasn’t the fire been burning this entire time?
Aiya, my God!
Only after turning back did Ning Xiaoyao realized that the rows of houses behind the mourning hall had caught on fire as well.
“The flames caught onto the tree branches in the backyard, then move onto the houses,” Lou Zigui replied seriously, the very picture of professionalism.
“You can laugh if you want,” Ning Xiaoyao replied. “There’s no need to hold back.”
Lou Zigui really did chuckle in response. Ning Xiaoyao couldn’t help but think back to the origins of the fire. If she hadn’t broken that incense burner, the flames might not have started in the first place. How vexing, it looked like this was all her fault.
“What are you lot standing around for?” Grand Preceptor Xie shouted at his men. “Hurry and put out the flames!”
The servants of the estate ran off to fight the fire. Ning Xiaoyao turned back and snagged a pageboy from the estate. “I’ll pay you a sugar bean for some intel. Why is the Grand Preceptor panicking like this at a time like this?”
The pageboy looked blankly at the emperor. More and more houses are being consumed by the flames. Who wouldn’t be panicking?
“Alright, maybe you don’t understand what I’m saying,” Ning Xiaoyao said after observing the boy’s blank look. “Let me put it this way. What’s the purpose of those houses back there?”
The pageboy snuck a peek at his flustered master before babbling out in a rush, “I heard they’re there to store grain.”
Ning Xiaoyao smirked, and the pageboy stammered, “Y-Your Majesty, may I go now?”
Ning Xiaoyao was currently digging out a sugar bean from Lou Zigui’s pouch. “Hey, this is something you, me, and Heaven alone knows.1 If you don’t say anything, I won’t either, alright?”
The little page boy nodded his head like a pestle pounding the mortar. If the Grand Preceptor finds out about this, I’ll be dead for sure! Meanwhile, Shadowgale and the rest could only look on, speechless. We heard everything. Is this still something you, he, and Heaven alone knows?
“Alright! If you get into trouble in the future, come find me,” Ning Xiaoyao said. She was about to pat the pageboy on the back, but Lou Zigui quickly barred her way. In the end, all she could do was wave at the servant. “Goodbye.”
The pageboy scampered off like he’d been bitten by a dog.
“Windy, ah,” Ning Xiaoyao said affectedly, “Quick now, hurry and call in the imperial guards that are stationed outside to help with the fire.”
“Are we going to steal the grain?” Shadowgale asked as he knelt with one knee on the ground.
Ning Xiaoyao nodded and split her lips into a grin. She was thrilled to gain such a big advantage again. “At least we didn’t come in vain!”
Shadowgale rubbed his nose before sending one of his comrades to alert the guards outside.
“Those seven men are trying to leave,” a Dragon Guard by Ning Xiaoyao’s side murmured.
“We can’t let them get away,” Lou Zigui told Ning Xiaoyao.
“…..” said Ning Xiaoyao. We can’t fight them or kill them, so what’s the use of telling me things like this? Am I supposed to run over there and stop them myself?
“Nobody’s allowed to leave from this courtyard,” Lou Zigui raised his voice. “The facts about Old Madame Xie’s death are still unclear. Seal off the Xie Estate until we capture the culprit!”
Shadowgale was quick to accept his Supreme Commander’s command. “Yes!”
Ning Xiaoyao looked between them both. Since when have Supreme Commander and Windy worked together so well?