Chapter 165: His Majesty’s apology Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
When the Lord Protector heard his servants say that His Majesty and Supreme Commander Lou were coming, he had a fright. How many years has our estate stood desolate? Why is His Majesty coming today of all days?
The Lord Protector Pei Yi hurried to the old matriarch’s rooms. Despite his unruffled expression, the old matriarch could tell that her eldest son was walking twice as fast as usual, a sure sign of his uneasy heart.
“It’s alright,” the old matriarch smoothed out her hair as she followed the Lord Protector out. “His Majesty’s been fighting nonstop against Xie Wenyuan, so he can’t cause us any trouble.”
The Lord Protector replied, “Mother, His Majesty summoned our entire family to see him. Should second little brother come too?”
The old matriarch gave a start at the news.
“What if second brother says something unthinkable in front of His Majesty?” the Lord Protector was worried. “What do we do then?”
“We’ll go see His Majesty first,” the old matriarch said as her son supported her out of her house. She dropped her voice and added, “We can decide what to do afterwards.”
By now, Ning Xiaoyao was already standing outside the front gates of the Lord Protector’s estate. The Lord Protector’s family was one of 13 clans that helped to fight and pave the way for the Ning Dynasty in the past. They had very imposing gates but few, if any visitors. There was even a crack in their front steps.
“Call to be let in,” Lou Zigui ordered Shadowthunder, who ran towards the front gates.
Ning Xiaoyao tugged on her collar and said, “Will the Lord Protector’s family curse me later?”
Lou Zigui’s mouth twitched. She was asking that exact same question on the way here. She’s still not over it?
“I won’t be afraid if they curse me,” Ning Xiaoyao tried to reassure herself. “And if the Lord Protector wants to hit me, I’ll just run away.”
“Who dares to hit you when I’m around?” Lou Zigui said as he rested a hand against his forehead.
“Supreme Commander, you should run away with me,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “I’m the one in the wrong here.”
Lou Zigui only nodded. “Alright, I’ll run away with you.”
“If it comes to a fight, we’ll all escape together,” said Ning Xiaoyao before she looked worriedly at the Dragon Guards who’d come along today. “It’s not good for us to fight back.”
“…….” said the Dragon Guards. Chase the emperor out of their house? Wouldn’t the Lord Protector be seeking death if he does that?
Shadowthunder reached the front gates and only managed to knock once before they opened up. The old matriarch was the first to step outside the door. Ning Xiaoyao expressed her surprise before running in front of the old woman with an exclamation. “Are you the old matriarch of the Lord Protector’s estate? We’ve met before, ah.”
The old matriarch sank to her knees and said, “At the spring banquet, this old woman saw Your Majesty’s imperial countenance. This old woman has earned blessings from three lifetimes, this old woman…”
Before she could finish, Ning Xiaoyao reached out a hand and pulled her up so she wouldn’t kneel. “No need to bow, no need to bow, I’m only here to look around the estate. Haha, old matriarch, may I come in?”
“Your subject Pei Yi greets Your Majesty. May Your Majesty be blessed for tens of thousands of years,” the Lord Protector and his kinsmen all fell to their knees in a formal bow to Ning Xiaoyao. She wanted to duck away, but Lou Zigui held her fast from behind.
The old matriarch noted Lou Zigui propping up Ning Xiaoyao’s back before she said respectfully, “Your Majesty, if you please.”
“Aye, alright,” Ning Xiaoyao walked through the front doors, still feeling contrite. But since she was familiar with the old matriarch, it should be easier to invite the Lord Protector to work for her, right? (Author: You’ve only spoken to her today. Since when have the two of you been any kind of familiar?)
As Ning Xiaoyao sat in the main hall of the Lord Protector’s estate, she glanced towards Lou Zigui, who was standing by her side. He murmured in a low voice, “Don’t speak yet, see what the old matriarch says first.”
Ning Xiaoyao obediently sat waiting for the old matriarch to talk. The old woman paid her respectful regards. “Your Majesty has come to our humble home today. I don’t know whether—”
“You call this home humble?” The old matriarch’s civilities spurred Ning Xiaoyao into action. “Old matriarch, you just don’t have as many people in these houses as others, but nothing else about it is lacking.”
Choked off by Ning Xiaoyao’s reply, the old matriarch couldn’t help but wonder. Does His Majesty not understand formal civilities, or is he teasing me for sport?
“Really,” Ning Xiaoyao emphasized.
“Many thanks to Your Majesty for the praise,” the old matriarch managed to say.
“It’s not praise,” Ning Xiaoyao grew earnest. “I’m telling the truth.”
The rest of the Pei Clan simply stared at Ning Xiaoyao. So you came to praise our house today?
The Lord Protector next tried, “This subject’s house was the former residence of a prince of the first rank in the previous dynasty.”
“Is that so, ah,” Ning Xiaoyao nodded as she listened to the Lord Protector expound on the centuries old history of the estate. Eventually, she ended up knitting her brows. That’s not right, I didn’t come here to hear these things!
“Someone, come,” Lou Zigui finally called out by the time Ning Xiaoyao realized they were getting off-topic. A Dragon Guard came forward with a carved wooden box and stopped right in front of the old matriarch. Lou Zigui stepped forward and opened the lid, revealing the neat phoenix coronet and folded tassel cape resting inside upon a bed of red silk. It glimmered with radiance and wealth.
The old matriarch shook at the sight of the coronet and toppled back a few steps. Lou Zigui said in a soft tone, “His Majesty came today to return this to the Lord Protector’s estate.”
“This,” the old matriarch stared at Ning Xiaoyao. “How did Your Majesty come by this item?”
“Urk,” Ning Xiaoyao thought hard. Could she say it was part of her inheritance? That seemed like it would hurt the old matriarch’s feelings. This was the family heirloom of the Lord Protector’s family to begin with, so when it did turn into Old Madame Xie’s legacy? Finally, Ning Xiaoyao stuck up her chest and said, “Didn’t Old Madame Xie die? So I just took it myself. Anyways, this didn’t belong to her in the first place.”
The old matriarch wore a pained smile. “Your Majesty, the things we give away won’t belong to us anymore.”
“No,” Ning Xiaoyao replied. “Things taken by force and bullying are called stolen goods. This belongs to your Lord Protector’s estate, so accept it already, old matriarch. I think it’s worth a lot of money.”
To the Lord Protector’s family, this phoenix coronet and cape was a priceless treasure. How could it be as simple as a question of net worth? The old matriarch’s eyes reddened at the sight of the coronet in the box. Her husband’s tragic end and the grief that had been forced on her clan afterwards, the injuries of her youngest son that made it impossible for him to have children, were all things that flashed through her mind. The old matriarch slowly bent her knee and knelt down in front of Ning Xiaoyao until her head rested against the ground.
In a voice choked with sobs, she said, “This old woman gives thanks to Your Majesty.”
Immediately, all the rest of the Pei Clan followed suit, falling to their knees in respect to Ning Xiaoyao. Ning Xiaoyao jumped out of her chair in alarm. Why are they all kneeling again?! Lou Zigui waved at her, and she quickly came to her senses to help the old matriarch to her feet.
“No need for thanks. To tell you the truth, I should apologize to you and the Lord Protector, ah.”
The Pei Clan gave a collective start.
Ning Xiaoyao backed up three stepped before bending forward in apology for her bastard dad, the previous emperor. But then she suddenly remembered the different customs in their world and simply fell on her knees instead, before quickly making three kowtows towards the old matriarch and the Lord Protector. Her actions were so sudden that it stunned the matriarch and Lord Protector, to say nothing of Lou Zigui and the rest of the Pei Clan.
After her three kowtows, Ning Xiaoyao remained on her knees to look up at the old matriarch. “What happened with the old Lord Protector was all my father’s fault. Old matriarch, I’m sorry, ah.”
As soon as she finished speaking, Ning Xiaoyao gave herself a poor review. Just then, those words hadn’t sounded sincere at all! But she really didn’t know how to talk properly, dangit!
The room was absolutely silent. Everyone else in the house had been taught since childhood about the proper hierarchy between Heaven and earth, sovereign and subjects, family, teachers, and everything else in between. For an emperor to fall on his knees and kowtow was too much of a shock. Right now, none of them knew what to do, much less what to say. Ning Xiaoyao looked around at the various faces and wondered if the old matriarch thought she hadn’t meant her words. (Author: Can you stop thinking whatever you want…)
The old matriarch seemed frozen as she stared at the kneeling Ning Xiaoyao, who scratched her head and tried, “I haven’t read many books, so I don’t really know how to make a proper apology. But I know the old Lord Protector had to be a good guy.”
“How does Your Majesty know that?” the old matriarch asked.
“Only good guys would place their innocence above all else,” Ning Xiaoyao replied. “When have bad guys ever cared about the same?” Grand Preceptor Xie did no end of evil deeds and was universally cursed, but you didn’t see him running off to commit suicide for the sake of his honor.
The old matriarch nodded. Then she tossed aside the cane in her hands and slowly sank to her knees.
“Ah!” Ning Xiaoyao wanted to tell her that wasn’t necessary, but realized she was still kneeling as well, making it impossible for her to help the other woman up. Tears streamed down the old matriarch’s face. Even if His Highness Crown Prince had cleared her husband of all charges in the past, all the previous emperor did was say the old Lord Protector was innocent. Xie Wenyuan was still left in charge of the court and palace, while her husband died unmentioned and forgotten. A single human life vanished just like that without a murmur—how could she feel anything but hate?
“Don’t cry, ah,” Ning Xiaoyao raised a hand to wipe away the old matriarch’s tears. “Old matriarch, I have no way to revive the old Lord Protector, but your days will be better from now on. I guarantee it.”
The old matriarch kowtowed to Ning Xiaoyao. “This old woman thanks Your Majesty for your grace and benevolence.”
Once again, the rest of the Pei Clan followed suit. Ning Xiaoyao’s actions today had thoroughly dissolved the long years of anger trapped in their hearts. Ning Xiaoyao had only wanted to apologize, so the reactions of the Pei Clan made her turn a pleading look towards Lou Zigui. Did I make a mistake again? Why is the Lord Protector’s clan kneeling to me after I said sorry?
Lou Zigui simply nodded towards Ning Xiaoyao to indicate that she’d done well. At this, Ning Xiaoyao set her heart at ease. She pulled up the old matriarch at the same time she got up herself, then told the rest of the clan, “All of you should get up. If you keep kneeling like that, I won’t know if you’ve accepted my apology.”
The Lord Protector rose to his feet. He was a big, stalwart man, but now his eyes were red as he spoke. “It was Xie Wenyuan who hurt our Pei Clan. That has nothing to do with you, Your Highness.”
Ning Xiaoyao scruffed her shoes against the floor, a little shamefaced. “But I was born from Empress Dowager Xie, ah. Grand Preceptor Xie’s my relative, too.”
“……..” said the Pei Clan members.
Lou Zigui rested his forehead in his hands. Why are you bringing that up now?
“Hah.” The sound of a male’s snicker came from the front doors. Ning Xiaoyao could feel the ill intentions in the laugh before she even turned to see who the culprit was. Meanwhile, all of the Pei Clan members wore blanched expressions at the sound. When Ning Xiaoyao looked out the door, she saw a man dressed in spring green robes, his eyebrows furrowed downwards even as his lips quirked up into a grin. He was a very attractive young man.
“That’s Pei Yan,” Lou Zigui lowered his head to murmur by Ning Xiaoyao’s ear.