Chapter 161: Do you like me? Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Xie Anwu stood there in shock. Lou Zigui didn’t pressure him, instead he sat down to wait. There was a loud rumble of thunder from above their heads that set the doors and windows shaking. Xie Anwu shook his head at Lou Zigui and said, “I’m not going back.”
Lou Zigui replied, “Right now, the Grand Preceptor needs a useful son at his side. If you were willing to go back, he definitely wouldn’t blame you. He’d even pretend that you never turned your back on the Xie Clan at all.”
Xie Anwu grew angry at those words. “Supreme Commander, are you asking me to go back?”
“I’m not,” Lou Zigui said. “I only hope that you’re clear on what you, yourself want to do. This is me giving you a chance. If you want to go back anytime after today, I’ll kill you.”
There was another rumble of thunder before a flash of lightning tore through the gloomy skies. Xie Anwu fell silent again before lifting his head to look at Lou Zigui. “I’m not going back.”
Perhaps he really could be one of a kind if he returned to the Xie Clan, but the fourth young master of the Xie Clan felt nothing for his father. This was very understandable since Grand Preceptor Xie had always heavily favored his three sons from his official wife. Even if the Xie Clan was in trouble and his father worked with him through it all, what would happen once they recovered their wealth and ranking? Unless I’m the only son left by father’s side, Xie Anwu thought with a chuckle, he’ll cast me back in the mud all the same.
Lou Zigui was sitting in the shadows as he watched Xie Anwu’s subtle change of expressions beneath the lantern light. “You’ve thought it through?” he asked.
Xie Anwu nodded.
“Good,” Lou Zigui replied. “Today, His Majesty will issue a decree breaking your ties with the capital city’s Xie Clan. From then on, you’ll have no relations with the Xie family anymore. Fourth young master, are you willing?”
Since he had decided to leave, he might as well part with the clan as well. He would never get to enjoy the wealth and high status of the Xie Clan, nor would he have any relation to them when they fell into trouble.
“I want to send you to Jiangnan,” Lou Zigui said as he signaled Xie Anwu to sit again. “It’s unlikely that the Grand Preceptor will spare you if you stay in the capital.”
“I have to go to Jiangnan?” Xie Anwu’s heart turned heavy.
“Go find Qin Xuan,” Lou Zigui said. “I want you to take over the businesses that the Xie Clan has left in his hands.”
Xie Anwu’s eyes flickered, but he didn’t lose his cool. “Supreme Commander wants me to become a merchant?”
“How could official work for His Majesty be the same as being a merchant?” Lou Zigui leaned forward slightly, his expression sincere. “You will be His Majesty’s imperial envoy, stationed in Jiangnan. You not only have to get the businesses from Qin Xuan, but also need to find ways to bankrupt all of the Xie Clan’s investments and businesses in Jiangnan.”
Xie Anwu sucked in a cold breath.
“Only by toppling the Xie family can you replace them with your own,” Lou Zigui said. “His Majesty will give you the power and properties; the rest is up to your own abilities.”
Xie Anwu felt fired up by Lou Zigui’s words, but quickly thought to ask, “His Majesty trusts me that much?”
“No need to doubt,” Lou Zigui said. “Moreover, I’ve already given you a chance to choose your side.”
Betrayal would only mean death.
Xie Anwu was inwardly intimidated, but he also saw the distant possibilities of a glorious future before him. If he kept on this path, he would never be able to turn back. But if he succeeded, it’d be like a carp leaping over the Dragon’s Gate to success.
“Rest well,” Lou Zigui strode forward to press a hand on Xie Anwu’s shoulder. “I’ll go make the arrangements for severing ties to your clan.”
Xie Anwu said, “Qin Xuan hates the Xie Clan so much. Will he agree to cooperate with me?”
“You’re not a member of the capital city’s Xie Clan, so why should Regional Commander Qin hate you?” Lou Zigui laughed. “He wants the Xie Clan dead. Isn’t that your wish as well?”
Xie Anwu lowered his head. That is indeed my wish.
Lou Zigui walked out of the room into a wet and windy world. Elder Li was standing alone in a nearby corridor, and waved at Lou Zigui. Lou Zigui closed the door behind him and walked to Elder Li.
“Is a man who betrayed his family really trustworthy?” Elder Li asked before Lou Zigui could speak.
“Elder heard everything?” Lou Zigui murmured back.
“Answer my question first,” Elder Li insisted.
“He wants the Xie Clan to fall most of all. Why can’t we use him?” Lou Zigui retorted.
Elder Li shook his head. “Aren’t you afraid that he’ll come back to bite us instead? If he can turn his back on the Xie Clan today, he can do the same to us tomorrow.”
Lou Zigui turned to look at the rain falling beyond the covered walkway.
“Men with no virtue will…”
“Elder Li, most of the men with morals and high principles have already died by Xie Wenyuan’s hands,” Lou Zigui spoke softly, still staring at the rain. “Moreover, Elder, do you really think you’re a match for Xie Wenyuan?”
“You,” Elder Li choked, on the verge of losing his temper.
“You couldn’t save the crown prince or myself,” Lou Zigui turned back, his eyes cold. “None of you can help His Majesty, either. Aside from exchanging verbal spars with Xie Wenyuan, Elder, you’re can’t do much of anything at all.”
Elder Li’s face crumpled as he shuddered a few times, but he didn’t speak.
“I know exactly what Elder thinks of me,” Lou Zigui added. “‘Military men are just dogs or horses built to serve, so it’s natural to order them about.’ This is how we soldiers rank in your heart of hearts, Elder. But now, it’s a simple soldier like me subtly guiding things at court. This must be very provoking to Elder, correct?”
Lou Zigui’s blunt words left Elder Li surprised. But he recovered enough to answer coldly, “Does the refugee incident in the western part of the capital truly have nothing to do with Supreme Commander, then?”
Lou Zigui simply sidestepped Elder Li to open his umbrella and walk from under of the covered corridor. He didn’t say another word. The puddles in the courtyard rose to meet the steps, the raindrops sending ripples across their surfaces. It was still daylight, but the storm clouds had changed the sky into a hazy, dim yellow. In Elder Li’s eyes, the skies signified the future of Yongning. The path to times of peace and prosperity seemed like a difficult journey.
Lou Zigui had just walked through the vine-covered courtyard doors when Ning Xiaoyao, who had been spying on him and Elder Li with Big Boss Black, grabbed him by the sleeve and started heading rapidly towards the main audience hall.
“I still have something to do,” Big Boss Black said after glancing at Supreme Commander’s gloomy expression. He jumped off Ning Xiaoyao’s shoulder and ran off.
Ning Xiaoyao turned to glance at Lou Zigui and said, “Supreme Commander, were you arguing with old gramps just then?” Although she’d heard every single word, she wasn’t sure if the two were really having a spat.
“I suppose it could count as one,” Lou Zigui replied.
Ning Xiaoyao widened her eyes as they reached the cover of the palace walkways.
Lou Zigui said, “I thought it was better if I made some things clear to the Elder.”
Ning Xiaoyao applauded and replied, “Supreme Commander, you’re so amazing. You actually left old gramps speechless! My God, even I can’t do that!”
“……..” said Lou Zigui.
“Just then, he almost lectured me to tears,” Ning Xiaoyao tattled.
“What did he say?” Lou Zigui asked as he shook raindrops off his umbrella.
“Urk,” Ning Xiaoyao shook her head. “I didn’t understand them. N-nor do I remember them.”
“Then it should be Elder Li who wants to cry right now,” Lou Zigui tugged on Ning Xiaoyao as they kept walking forwards.
“Are you mad at Elder Li?” Ning Xiaoyao asked, still looking up at Lou Zigui.
“No,” Lou Zigui replied, “He doesn’t like me, but he’s still a loyal official to Your Majesty.”
Ning Xiaoyao’s mouth gaped before she pouted. “Both of you are the same gender, plus he’s old enough to be your grandpa. If he really ends up liking you, wouldn’t there be serious troubles?”
At first, Lou Zigui didn’t understand what Ning Xiaoyao meant. But when he finally figured it out, his face grew even darker.
“I think it’s better if you say you’re both walking on different paths,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “That there, reading more is good for you.”
“Just what kind of things have you put in your brain?” Lou Zigui thwapped Ning Xiaoyao on the head. She stuck out her lip in response.
“Then what about you?” Lou Zigui kept his hand on Ning Xiaoyao’s head. “Do you like me?”
“Ah?” Ning Xiaoyao opened her mouth.
“Hm?” Lou Zigui said.
Ning Xiaoyao scratched her palms with her fingers. She’d never seriously considered the question before, so she couldn’t come up with an answer right away. “Then, then do you like me?” Ning Xiaoyao quickly asked back.
Lou Zigui stared at Ning Xiaoyao with his dark, intense eyes. Ning Xiaoyao averted her gaze, feeling that his good looks were breaking all the rules. Lifting up Ning Xiaoyao’s chin with his hand, Lou Zigui said, “Xiaoyao, if my heart yields to you, will yours yield to mine?”
Heart yields? Ning Xiaoyao kept scratching her palms. Is that another way to say ‘like?’ How vexing, I didn’t read enough books for this.
When he couldn’t get an answer, Lou Zigui released her chin and retreated a step before murmuring, “Let’s go.”
Ning Xiaoyao was startled at the change. We’re not chatting about life anymore?
Lou Zigui began to walk away stoically.
“That’s not it,” Ning Xiaoyao chased after him. “Supreme Commander, just what’s the matter with you?”
“Nothing,” Lou Zigui replied.
“Fine then,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “I’ve thought it over, I really do kinda like you.”
Lou Zigui stopped walking.
“I gave it serious thought just back there,” Ning Xiaoyao said with a solemn expression.
Lou Zigui rested a hand against his forehead. That was only a few seconds.
“What kind of expression are you making?” Ning Xiaoyao asked. He’s the one asking about likes and dislikes, so why does he look like he wants to die now? (Author: How exactly are you deciding that Supreme Commander wants to die? o(╯□╰)o)
“How much do you like me?” Lou Zigui asked offhandedly.
“Quite a bit, ah,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “Not a tiny bit, or a teeny bit, but quite a bit. That means I like you very much.”
Lou Zigui raised a hand to rest it against Ning Xiaoyao’s cheek.
“Well, I’ll be!” Ning Xiaoyao was now looking beyond the covered corridor. “The rain’s stopped.”
Lou Zigui turned to look. It had been raining buckets when he and Ning Xiaoyao sought cover under the walkways, but now the storm had stopped. A few rays of sunshine peeked through the dense cover of clouds, bright enough to make Lou Zigui squint. Ning Xiaoyao tossed more sugar beans into her mouth and crunched on them as she spoke.
“I’m telling the truth, ah. We’ve slept together once, but I wanna sleep with you again. Doesn’t that mean that I like—”
With a clap, Supreme Commander Lou muffled His Majesty Ning’s mouth. There was nobody else in the covered corridor at the moment. Now that the rain had passed, the sun was coming back. There was the scent of flowers in the breeze and the pleasant smell of petrichor from the earth.
“Stop speaking nonsense,” Lou Zigui said to Ning Xiaoyao with a flushed face. Ning Xiaoyao pushed aside Lou Zigui’s hand, unhappy.
“Dangit, you’re the one who asked, ah. When I didn’t say anything, you were unhappy, but now that I have, you think I’m speaking nonsense instead?” I won’t be able to have any fun with him at this rate!
Lou Zigui heaved a sigh. After thinking for a long time, he finally managed to say, “Girls should be more reserved.”
Ning Xiaoyao glared daggers at him. “If we’ve slept together, then we’ve slept together. You’re telling me to act reserved now? That’s right, do you even like me back? I told you, but you haven’t told me. Doesn’t that mean I’m at a disadvantage?”
Lou Zigui didn’t answer, but lowered his head to kiss Ning Xiaoyao on the lips. Like a dragonfly skimming the surface of the water, the movement was soft and light.
This should mean he likes me, right? Ning Xiaoyao thought as she scratched her palms. …right?