Chapter 152: Secret of the pickled vegetable jars Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
“What are you planning to do with those seven men?” Ning Xiaoyao asked Lou Zigui now that they’d shifted topics.
“What do you want to do with them?” Lou Zigui asked back.
Ning Xiaoyao blinked her eyes out of habit.
“No ideas?” Lou Zigui asked next.
Ning Xiaoyao said, “I want the military power that’s in their hands, ah. Can’t I just invite them out to eat?”
Will those soldiers throw down their lives for you just because you treated them to a meal? Lou Zigui wanted to lecture her, but the sight of Ning Xiaoyao’s blinking face made him swallow his words. “I’ll have a gander at them,” he said instead. “But there’s no guarantee that I’ll succeed.”
“It’s fine even if you don’t.” As long as it didn’t involve killing any zombies, Ning Xiaoyao wouldn’t add any pressure. She stopped blinking and broke into another foolish smile. “If they don’t want to mix with the likes of me, they can just go home.”
She’s still affable even with the prospects of failure? Lou Zigui didn’t even rest his hand against his forehead this time, but simply replied, “Alright, I understand.”
I understand and I promise were two completely different things, but Ning Xiaoyao couldn’t tell the difference. She cheerfully stuck her head back in the carriage and began thinking about what was for dinner.
After reaching the next intersection, their entourage turned left. Lou Zigui heard a long, drawn-out whistle and followed the sound to see Old Huo standing unobtrusively beneath the eaves of a random house.
“I’ll be right back,” Lou Zigui told the person inside the carriage as he rode off.
“Your Majesty?” Shadowgale called out when he heard no reply from Ning Xiaoyao after Lou Zigui had rode off.
“Windy, what do you think we’ll eat for dinner tonight?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
“……..” said Shadowgale. Aren’t you the least bit concerned with what Supreme Commander Lou’s up to?
Lou Zigui reached Old Huo, who took his horse by the reins and murmured, “Supreme Commander.”
Lou Zigui got off the horse and glanced around them, then replied, “Did you bring the imperial guards to East Lane?”
“Yes,” Old Huo replied, “There has been no movements from the men inside those residences yet. However, this subordinate believes that they won’t stay still for long.”
“Understood,” Lou Zigui replied. “There’ll be a verdict on how to deal with them by tonight. In the meantime, prepare the wood and oil first.”
Does he mean to burn those smuggled soldiers to death? Old Huo glanced at Lou Zigui before he lowered his head. “This subordinate will prepare them right away.”
“Go on,” Lou Zigui turned to mount his horse again, but Old Huo hastily spoke up.
“Supreme Commander, what of young née Wang?”
“No need to worry about her,” Lou Zigui said from atop his horse. “Remember, you’ve never seen that woman before in your life.”
“Yes,” Old Huo assented.
Lou Zigui dug into Little Red’s flank with his heels and galloped off after Ning Xiaoyao’s carriage. Old Huo looked after him silently before disappearing into the crowds. Lou Zigui hadn’t ridden far when he noticed the Wang Clan brothers’ sedan chairs. Four of them filled the street traveling in a line with their retainers making a path for them. It was quite the impressive sight. One of them spotted Lou Zigui and quickly reported to the head of the Wang Clan, the vice-head of the Ministry of Civil Personnel. “Old Master, Lou Zigui’s behind us.”
“Stop the carriage,” Wang Furong1 ordered after a pause.
All four of the Wang Clan carriages came to a halt. Behind the old master’s carriage were his three brothers, all of whom dismounted the carriages in time to see Lou Zigui ride his horse up to their eldest brother’s carriage window.
“What does eldest brother have to say to that star of disaster?” young née Wang’s father, the third-eldest brother of the Wang Clan, asked angrily.
His fourth brother pulled him aside and murmured, “Listen to him first. Don’t lose your temper so early.”
Their second brother shot his third brother a look. Right now, their Wang Clan was plagued by misfortune, but little third was still muddleheaded. If they offended His Majesty’s current favorite, Lou Zigui, it wouldn’t help their clan at all.
“Supreme Commander,” Wang Furong remained in his carriage. “About today’s events…”
“The Grand Preceptor has told His Majesty,” Lou Zigui cut him off, “That Old Madame was killed by young née Wang.”
All of the Wang Clan brothers’ breath caught at the words. That girl killed Old Madame Xie? Is Xie Wenyuan trying to doom all of our Wang Clan daughters to die of spinsterhood in the family?!
“But His Majesty didn’t believe it,” Lou Zigui added. “You may determine the rest yourselves.”
“Does the Grand Preceptor plan to shield those seven ‘distant relatives’?” Wang Furong asked.
“Those seven are military officers,” Lou Zigui coldly smiled. “As to whether or not they’re really related, we’ll know true after the interrogation.”
The Wang brothers thought over Lou Zigui’s words a while before Wang Furong suddenly asked, “From what Supreme Commander is saying, those seven aren’t the true culprits?” No matter how petty Xie Wenyuan might be, or how much he lusted after power, it would still be impossible for the man to protect his mother’s killers, right?
Lou Zigui said, “I don’t care who killed Old Madame Xie. What do the Xie Clan’s affairs have to do with me?” He rode away, leaving Wang Furong to steep in his thoughts alone. Finally, one of his brothers couldn’t take it anymore and shouted for him.
The eldest Wang brother replied, “No wonder Lady Wang was against us.”
Young née Wang’s father hastened to say, “Elder brother, you believe Lou Zigui’s words?”
“Think about what Lady Wang said to you,” Wang Furong replied. “She accused a servant girl, Cui Yun,2 of being the one responsible harming the Old Madame.”
“You mean to say that the Grand Preceptor fed her those words?” the fourth Wang brother seemed unconvinced. “What reasons could that Cui Yun lass possibly have for hurting Old Madame Xie?”
“Let’s go,” Wang Furong said in a voice laced with exhaustion. “We’ll wait and see what happens after two more days.” Without a clear handle on things, it was better to wait and see. That was the Wang head’s philosophy when it came to dealing with things.
“You can’t drive the Wang Clan to a dead end,” Grand Preceptor Xie was currently sitting in Lady Wang’s quarters. “If you go and expose née Wang’s misdeeds in front of everyone, how will any of the Wang Clan daughters be able to marry in the future? Any clan who raised a daughter capable of hurting her elders would be unacceptable to the other old and established families.”
Lady Wang looked hateful. “This wife understands, but what should we do about that wretch’s deeds? Aren’t we going to avenge Old Madame?”
“Née Wang could end up dead from illness, from drowning, from all sorts of methods. Are you afraid that she can’t die at all?” Grand Preceptor Xie spat coldly. “What use is it to you if the Wang Clan’s name is ruined? Don’t forget, Lady Wang, they’re Anyi’s maternal clan, too.”
Lady Wang’s heart calmed down at Grand Preceptor Xie’s words. It would have been normal for the man to even divorce her after young née Wang had committed such a crime. That was why she had wanted née Wang dead—to clear up any connections between them.
“Take a trip over to the Wang Clan in a few days,” Grand Preceptor said. The Xie Clan wasn’t enjoying the height of glory anymore, but the members of the Wang Clan still were all part of the Six Ministries, which oversaw rewards and punishments at court. Grand Preceptor Xie had no wish to make them his enemies.
Lady Wang assented, and Grand Preceptor Xie rose to his feet. “Go pay a visit to the mourning hall,” he suggested next. When he recalled how his mother’s murderer was young née Wang, he didn’t hold much sentiment for his wife, either. But with the path before him unclear, there was no reason to raise a row and cause domestic strife, too.
One of the Old Madame’s servants was called into Lady Wang’s courtyard by a steward. Grand Preceptor Xie looked at the servant and said, “Clean up all of the things in Old Madame Xie’s rooms. Have the accountant assess their worth before bringing them all to me.”
The servant muttered an assent before she said, “Grand Preceptor, the Old Madame had made arrangements so that Grand Preceptor could oversee all her affairs after she passed away.”
“Mm,” Grand Preceptor Xie nodded.
The servant then continued, “The Old Madame’s dowry and a few of the most precious gifts that Grand Preceptor gave her as a filial son were all stored by the Old Madame in her pickled vegetable jars.”
Grand Preceptor Xie heard a roaring in his ears. “What did you say?”
In the resplendent palace, a mystified Shadowgale was currently bringing Ning Xiaoyao over to look at the pickle jars they’d brought back from the Grand Preceptor’s estate. Ning Xiaoyao was rubbing her hands, eager for a taste of some salted vegetables.
Instead, Shadowgale said, “Your Majesty, there’s only two jars of actual pickled vegetables.”
“Ah?” Ning Xiaoyao was surprised. “Then what about the rest? Is it salted meat instead?”
Shadowgale shook his head.
“Oh, then maybe fish?” Ning Xiaoyao guessed next. But Shadowgale shook his head again.
Aside from vegetables, meat, and fish, Ning Xiaoyao had no idea what else one could pickle. Her mouth drooped as she asked, “Could it be that the rest were all empty?”
Well, at least I can sell the empty jars for some money, she comforted herself.
Shadowgale hunched down and opened one of the lids. “Your Majesty, this servant doesn’t know how to explain it. Maybe you should just see for yourself.”
Ning Xiaoyao looked down and saw her vision fill with precious jade. Her jaw dropped, while Shadowgale passed a hand over his face. “Your Majesty, Old Madame Xie liked to store her treasures in pickle jars?”
“I, I don’t know, ah,” Ning Xiaoyao seemed lost in a dream as she opened up all the other jars too. Before long, the entire room had turned into a treasure trove. She pinched herself, then Shadowgale, before she asked, “I’m not dreaming, right?”
Shadowgale said, “Your Majesty, this servant sensed something wrong with the weight when I picked up a jar, but I didn’t dare to mention it back then.”
Ning Xiaoyao jumped onto Shadowgale’s back and shouted, “Windy, why are you so smart? I love you to death!”
Shadowgale hastily put his hands behind Ning Xiaoyao to keep her in place as she hugged him. She was about to lower her face and kiss him out of sheer excitement. Who wouldn’t kiss in a situation like this?
At that very moment, Lou Zigui walked into the room. The place was filled with dazzling jewels and treasures, while a certain Miss Ning was clinging to Shadowgale’s back as he held onto her butt. In two strides, Lou Zigui reached the pair and plucked Ning Xiaoyao off him. He hadn’t seen any of the treasure at all, his mind being filled with nothing but the sight of her on his back.
“You,” Lou Zigui started furiously.
An overjoyed Ning Xiaoyao pecked Lou Zigui’s cheek as she laughed. “Hahaha, Supreme Commander, look! We’ve struck it rich again!”
Lou Zigui’s temper evaporated instantly. Shadowgale stood on one side, a little apprehensive. Why did His Majesty kiss Supreme Commander?
“Haha,” Ning Xiaoyao was now dancing in front of the pickle jars. Rich, I’m really rich again!
Lou Zigui touched the place where Ning Xiaoyao had kissed him before turning to Shadowgale. “What’s going on here?”
Head Commander Shadowgale shook his head in bewilderment. I don’t know a thing…