Chapter 174: (Title at End of Chapter) Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
By the time General Deng Rong1 of the Black Frost Cavalry had left through the southern gates of the palace, Little Peach Blossom was already a long ways off. The mama who had escorted her out of the palace was long gone as well. Deng Rong felt that it wouldn’t be good to murder someone too close to the palace, so he simply ended up following Little Peach Blossom from a distance.
Little Peach Blossom didn’t stop to take a break until she heard the sounds of a crowd up ahead. This meant that she was already far from the palace. After catching her breath, Little Peach Blossom adjusted the bundle on her shoulder before walking forward again. Deng Rong, on the other hand, preoccupied himself with how to kill the girl in front of him. She was such a petite girl that he could kill her with a single thumb without ever drawing his saber.
Little Peach Blossom’s heart finally sank back in her chest after slipping into the crowded city streets. I should be safe here, right?
A few children ran past her, one of them holding a pinwheel. The sight of it momentarily distracted Little Peach Blossom.
Deng Rong stepped forward.
A man dressed very much like a refugee suddenly rushed out from under the awning of a nearby shop and ran to Little Peach Blossom’s side. His right hand struck at Little Peach Blossom’s waist while his left snatched the bag off her shoulders. He fled as she fell to the ground.
Deng Rong stopped walking.
By the time the people around Little Peach Blossom recovered their wits, they saw the girl already had blood dripping by her feet.
“M-murderer!” a woman shrieked. Some of the men ran in the direction of the fleeing assailant, but he weaved and twisted his way through the crowds until he quickly vanished from sight. Little Peach Blossom pressed her hands against the wound on her waist, but blood seeped through her fingers all the same. Soon a red puddle had pooled beneath her body.
Deng Rong parted the crowds and crouched down by her side to murmured, “I had orders to come after you, but someone made their move before I had a chance to strike.”
Little Peach Blossom widened her eyes.
“You chose the wrong master,” Deng Rong said. How would the empress dowager ever be kind enough to spare a court lady who’d ruined her plans? As it turned out, this was all an elaborate play to showcase her mercy before her subordinates. In the end, she still wanted this court lady dead.
Deng Rong looked unsympathetically at Little Peach Blossom and said, “Windy is a good man. If you had told him the truth from the start, you wouldn’t have ended up like this.”
When he was finished speaking, he stood up and turned to leave. Meanwhile, people in the streets were calling for a doctor. Little Peach Blossom’s hand pressing against her wound gradually began to lose strength.
Told him the truth from the start? Back then, I still had dreams of flying up to the branch and becoming a phoenix. How could a man like Shadowgale ever enter her eye in the past?
“Miss, hold on a bit longer, the doctor will be here right away,” a good-hearted woman shouted at Little Peach Blossom.
Two streams of tears flowed down Little Peach Blossom’s face. It was all nothing but a beautiful delusion. I ended up being nothing more than a pawn in the fight between the empress dowager and His Majesty.
“Miss?” a few women surrounded Little Peach Blossom as they called out to her.
Head Commander Shadowgale still doesn’t know my real name, Little Peach Blossom thought to herself.
There was a clinic right on this road, so the doctor on duty was quickly pulled over by the surrounding passerby. The crowd parted to make way while urging him to save Little Peach Blossom. As the doctor bent down, he saw all the blood staining the ground. Then he raised a hand below Little Peach Blossom’s nose to test her breathing before shaking his head.
“This girl has already passed away,” he told the crowd.
The women around Little Peach Blossom fell into a daze. One of them finally recovered enough to reach out a hand and shut the girl’s eyes, only to find that she must have died with lasting regrets in her heart. No matter what she did, those pair of eyes refused to shut.
“Who is she?” another woman asked. Everyone exchanged glances. None of the girls’ relatives or kin had shown up to look for her, so was this girl all by herself?
One of the older woman patted Little Peach Blossom’s body up and down before she sighed. “She must have incurred retribution for her sins. There’s nothing on her body.”
Many others in the crowd joined her with their signs. No kin and not a single identifying document on her body to tell us her name or where her family’s from. Then the only thing they could do was have the officials toss her body in the barren hills to be a lonely ghost. A man dressed in a short jacket squeezed his way out of the crowd and ran quickly in the direction of the palace. Soon enough, the attendants of the Nine Gates Infantry Commandery arrived. They personally checked Little Peach Blossom’s breathing, then frisked her body one last time, before tossing her unidentified corpse onto a cart and hauling her away. Most of the people in the streets had a healthy dread of government officials, so none of them dared to ask whether they caught the original killer.
Deng Rong returned to Supreme Splendor Hall and reported his findings. He and Lou Zigui stood under the covered walkway before he finally said, “That bloke looked quite skilled. The empress dowager has people like that by her side?”
Lou Zigui asked, “Did that person see you?”
“No,” Deng Rong replied. “This soldier hadn’t even made any moves. I was standing quite far from the girl.”
Lou Zigui looked at the gardens beyond the walkway. By now, the sun was setting in the west, and a group of young eunuchs were following the lead of their senior to light the lanterns in the palace grounds.
“Supreme Commander,” Deng Rong asked, “Isn’t there something fishy about all this?”
Lou Zigui said, “Even if this man doesn’t meet with the empress dowager personally to report his deed, he’ll have someone send a message in his place. Go search for him.”
Deng Rong’s gaze turned chilly. “And after I find him?”
Lou Zigui made a chopping motion with his hand, indicating his unspoken answer. Deng Rong accepted his orders and turned to leave. Two eunuchs stopped near Lou Zigui with firestarters in their hands, afraid to approach him. Lou Zigui glanced up at the colored glazed lamp above him and beckoned at the two little eunuchs before he went inside to look for Ning Xiaoyao.
Currently, Ning Xiaoyao was sitting in her room with Erya, each of them holding a file in their hands. They were rubbing off the royal insignias on some vases, the screeching of metal against copper enough to drive people mad. Lou Zigui entered the room and told Erya, “Go look for Xiaoqiu, it’s almost dinnertime.”
Erya obediently ran off with a half-filed brass vase in her arms. Ning Xiaoyao was still sitting there with her head bowed, rubbing and rubbing away. I’ll file this away, file this away, file, file, file this away~
Looking at her nearly empty rooms, Lou Zigui settled to sit by her side and murmured, “Are you planning to sell off everything in Supreme Splendor Hall?”
“Mhm,” Ning Xiaoyao nodded. That would be the best, ah. I’m only afraid that I won’t be able to clear the place.
Lou Zigui said, “That court lady named Little Peach Blossom, she’s dead.”
Ning Xiaoyao stopped filing and looked at Lou Zigui.
“You didn’t want her to die?” Lou Zigui asked.
Ning Xiaoyao shrugged. “I don’t care either way. Fourth Lightning said she tried to drag Windy down with her, so it doesn’t matter to me whether she lives or dies.”
“The empress dowager rewarded her in her palace and had her sent away, before ordering someone to kill her outside in the streets,” Lou Zigui added.
Ning Xiaoyao was stunned. The empress dowager even knows how to kill people in so many different ways? She opened her mouth to curse, “That little bit—”
Lou Zigui muffled her instantly. “You can’t curse her wantonly, she’s your mother.”
“That’s right,” Ning Xiaoyao pried off Lou Zigui’s hands with a pout. “She’s my old ma, your mother!” The last two words were meant as a curse.
“…….” said Lou Zigui.
“Let Little Peach Blossom turn into ancient history,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “Don’t mention her again in the future.”
Lou Zigui nodded. He assumed that she would ask him why he’d sent someone to follow her in the first place, but she didn’t say a peep.
“What are we eating tonight?” Ning Xiaoyao asked instead. Lou Zigui felt his mouth twitch. That’s always been the most important question for Miss Ning.
The residence of the empress dowager was quite dim after dinner. Even the empress dowager herself only had a single lantern lit in her quarters, its faint yellow light only illuminating a small circle of space.
“Esteemed Empress Dowager, news came in from outside the palace. Little Peach Blossom is dead,” the eunuch bowing in front of the empress dowager reported.
Empress Dowager Xie’s face was full of scorn as she cursed under her breath. “That worthless slut.”
The eunuch remained silent with his head bowed.
“Reward him,” Empress Dowager Xie said. “And have him keep a close eye on the Grand Preceptor’s estate for This Dowager as well.”
The eunuch asked, “Is empress dowager worried about the Grand Preceptor?”
“Worried?” Empress Dowager Xie echoed coldly. “He doesn’t need This Dowager to worry about him. This Dowager simply wants to understand one particular thing.”
The eunuch raised his head slightly.
“You can’t trust anyone in this world,” Empress Dowager Xie said, “It’s better for This Dowager to rely on myself.”
The eunuch quickly dropped his head again. “Empress dowager speaks rightly.”
“You can withdraw,” Empress Dowager Xie said. “Be careful not to let His Majesty catch you.”
The eunuch muttered an assent before withdrawing from the palace. Empress Dowager Xie took off the nail sheath from her left index finger and played around with it in her hands. But then she suddenly threw it at the floor. The pure silver sheath clattered against the ground with a loud, clear ring. Though the court ladies and eunuchs stationed outside the room all heard the sound, none of the dared to take a peek inside.
Empress Dowager Xie stared at the rest of her nail sheaths. She couldn’t simply be a sitting duck under these circumstances. If this went on, both her and Ning Xin would die by Ning Yu’s hands before her son ever had a chance to grow up.
“Empress dowager?” a mama’s voice called from outside.
“Come in,” Empress Dowager pulled off her remaining nine nail sheaths and tossed them on her couch. The mama muttered an assent and entered the room. This was the agent that Empress Dowager Xie had planted in the empress’s quarters. She waited until the woman finished her bows before saying, “You may rise now. Has something happened to the empress for Chen mama to seek out This Dowager?”
Chen mama intoned, “Empress dowager, recently the empress has been favoring sour foods. This servant witnessed her throwing up multiple times as well.”
Empress Dowager Xie had been leaning against her seat, but now sat bolt upright. “What are you implying with those words?”
Chen mama said, “This servant isn’t able to get close to Esteemed Empress, but this servant can tell from a distance that Esteemed Empress is much plumper than before.”
“Preference for sour foods, vomiting, and weight gain. Are you trying to tell This Dowager that the empress is pregnant?” Empress Dowager Xie asked.
Chen mama said, “This servant dares not confirm it, because Esteemed Empress said that her period had come again today.”
Ning Yu was female, so how could she ever get the empress pregnant? Empress Dowager Xie stared at Chen mama and said, “Has the empress asked for any nourishing soups to bolster her body recently?”
Chen mama replied, “Empress dowager, even if Esteemed Empress drinks such soups, she’d never let this servant know.”
“This Dowager understands,” Empress Dowager picked up two of her nail sheaths and told Chen mama, “This is your reward.”
Chen mama accepted the gift before bowing down to express her thanks and leaving. On the rafters, Oil Jar said to Grandpa Ash in a frantic tone, “What do we do? The empress dowager knows that Esteemed Empress has a baby, ah!”
Grandpa Ash was very calm. “At present, she only suspects it.”
Oil Jar said, “But her suspicion means that she’ll send someone to investigate, ah.”
“Go find Xiaoyao,” Grandpa Ash said. “It’s her wife. If she won’t take care of her, who will?”
Oil Jar’s expression grew stern at his words. “Xiaoyao is Supreme Commander’s wife, oh~”
“……..” said Grandpa Ash. A wife who has a wife of her own, what do you call this situation?
Spoiler Title – Chapter 174: Death of Little Peach Blossom
- Deng Rong (邓荣) – Deng is simply a surname, Rong means “glorify, luxuriate, flourish.” ↩