Chapter 175: Vying for the empress Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
When Oil Jar finally found Ning Xiaoyao, Supreme Commander had hurried off to busy himself with something else again, so there was only the snow wolf pup and her in the room.
“Oil Jar, what did you drop by for?” Ning Xiaoyao asked as she gave him a portion of her baked flatbread.
Oil Jar nibbled a few bites of bread before he said, “Xiaoyao, the empress dowager suspects that Esteemed Empress is pregnant with a baby, ah.”
“Aroo?” the snow wolf pup raised its head.
“Whaa?” Ning Xiaoyao’s half-eaten flatbread dropped from her nerveless fingers to land on the floor.
“There’s a spy in the empress’s palace,” Oil Jar explained. “She just reported her findings to the empress dowager.”
“Hold on,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “The spy told the empress dowager that the empress was pregnant?” What kind of spy is this? Why are her eyes so sharp?!
Oil Jar tried his best to recall the exact conversation and said, “She said that Esteemed Empress favored sour foods, threw up, and looked fatter, so that’s why she suspects the empress of being pregnant.”
Ning Xiaoyao said, “Then what did the empress dowager said?”
“The empress dowager said that she understood and,” Oil Jar tried his best to extend his two front paws, “She even gave that spy two of these really, really long nail sheaths, oh!”
“Dissipating the family fortunes,” Ning Xiaoyao cursed.
Big Boss Black jumped onto the windowsill and yawned. “You say that like those things belong to you.”
“Shut up.” Ning Xiaoyao felt like exploding whenever she saw the big black furball now.
“Xiaoyao, what should we do?” Oil Jar asked with worry.
“The empress dowager said she understood,” Ning Xiaoyao rubbed her chin as she thought hard. “That means the empress dowager will look into this matter. How will she investigate?”
The snow wolf pup said, “Cut open the empress’s stomach for a peek herself, aroo~”
“……..” said Ning Xiaoyao, the cat, and the mouse. Although he looks like a puppy, this is still a wolf in the end! Too savage!
Big Boss Black jumped off the windowsill to land by Ning Xiaoyao’s feet before scratching the snow wolf pup and telling him to shut up. Then he said to Ning Xiaoyao, “Do you even need to ask? Any woman that gets pregnant inside the palace has a mama to verify for them first.”
“Not an imperial physician?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
“They ask for those, too,” Oil Jar said as he raised a paw.
Ning Xiaoyao replied, “Then what should I do to ensure the empress isn’t hurt by the empress dowager?”
The three animals all exchanged glances before shaking their heads at Xiaoyao, who clutched her own head in thought. When she finally looked up, she realized that Grandpa Sparrow, Big Boss Black’s comrades, Wifey and Husband Magpie and Yellow Great Immortal had all shown up.
“Xiaoyao, did you think up a solution yet?” Oil Jar asked.
Wifey Magpie added, “Today the empress even rescued a little swallow with a broken wing. Xiaoyao, the empress is surely a good person.”
Ning Xiaoyao wore a bitter expression. “But the gender’s all wrong, so there’s no way the empress and I can love each other.”
“………” said Wifey Magpie. That’s not why I brought that up!
Grandpa Sparrow flew to the table and gave Ning Xiaoyao a stern look. “Xiaoyao, share your thoughts with us first.”
Ning Xiaoyao said, “Send the empress out of the palace so she can find love with her General Xu once and for all.”
All of the little animals fell silent at that. Ning Xiaoyao observed them all and their silent states. Finally, she asked carefully, “Judging from your expressions, that General Xu’s already dead?”
Grandpa Sparrow quickly shook his head. “No, General Xu’s not dead.”
“Ah, geez,” Ning Xiaoyao released a breath. “If he’s still alive, then it’s alright. A dead man leaving a pregnant wife before is a true human tragedy.”
Yellow Great Immortal said, “Xiaoyao, if General Xu being alive counts as good news, do you want to hear the bad news?”
Ning Xiaoyao’s eyes widened. “T-there’s still bad news? Is the baby in the empress’s stomach someone else’s?”
Big Boss Black had no idea how he had managed to put up with this ninny so long. He viciously scratched the girl and bellowed, “General Xu wants to revolt and steal the empress from your hands, miaow!”
Ning Xiaoyao’s mouth moved a couple times before she said, “That’s not as bad as her being pregnant with someone else’s baby.”
“………” said the little animals.
“Alright,” Ning Xiaoyao rubbed her face so she could calm down. “Tell me now, how far has General Xu gotten in his rebellion plans?”
Grandpa Sparrow said, “I heard he’s still gathering soldiers and buying horses. He’s already recruited plenty of young refugees in secret, chirp.”
Ning Xiaoyao could understand the logic of that. Recruiting young men to be privates in the army was easy after some minimal training. Oil Jar began to fret. “Xiaoyao, what are you going to do?”
“It’s alright,” Ning Xiaoyao said as she rubbed her chin. “Sounds like I can still salvage the situation.”
“Aroo?” the snow wolf pup tilted its head up to look at Ning Xiaoyao, indicating that he hadn’t understood.
“I’m not afraid of him recruiting troops and horses,” Ning Xiaoyao said, “I’d be more worried if he was ready to kill his way into the capital tomorrow. With the current situation, I still have time to run away, though—I don’t think Supreme Commander or Elder Li would let General Xu off, right?”
Yellow Great Immortal said, “Neither would Grand Preceptor Xie.”
“What’s this General Xu’s full name?” Ning Xiaoyao found it fortunate that she finally had a chance to ask.
“Xu Feiyu,”1 Big Boss Black was too tired to scratch her again.
Ning Xiaoyao repeated the name silently to herself three times before giving her approval. “Pretty good name.”
“No matter how good his name is, he’s still the empress’s man,” Wifey Magpie said worriedly. “Xiaoyao, you already have Supreme Commander, ah.”
Ning Xiaoyao fell silent.
“Moreover, General Xu wants you dead,” Big Boss Black added. “This cat feels that Supreme Commander’s name sounds the best of all.”
Ning Xiaoyao’s mouth twitched, but she had enough conscience not to rip out Big Boss Black’s lungs. Naming a man after a cuckoo bird is really too awful.
“What kind of expression are you making?” Big Boss Black looked at Ning Xiaoyao warily.
“This matter has nothing to do with your Supreme Commander, so can you stop bringing him into everything?” Ning Xiaoyao ruffled the fur on Big Boss Black’s head until it was all a mess. “Come on, pals. Tell me all about the empress’s childhood sweetheart. What’s with her remaining faithful unto death to General Xu? And how did she even end up as my empress in the first place?”
“You’re the one that married her,” Big Boss Black escaped from Ning Xiaoyao’s fingers. “Don’t you know?”
“I don’t,” Ning Xiaoyao shook her head helplessly. By the time she transmigrated, the empress was already pregnant with General Xu’s child.
“Grandpa Sparrow, you should tell Xiaoyao,” Oil Jar pleaded.
Grandpa Sparrow replied, “It was the Grand Preceptor who set his sights on the empress.”
“Tch,” Ning Xiaoyao clicked her tongue in reply. I knew it, old geezer Xie must have stuck himself in here somewhere.
“The empress has an older brother called Zhou Junqi.2 He failed to suppress some bandits that caused the death of one of the late emperor’s uncles,” Grandpa Sparrow explained. “The late emperor wanted to execute the brother, but the Grand Preceptor said to marry his sister off to you instead, Xiaoyao. Thus, he guaranteed that Zhou Junqi wouldn’t die. After that,” Grandpa Sparrow paused to spread his wings, “Zhou Junqi really did survive.”
“Grand Preceptor helped you snatch an empress,” Big Boss Black summarized the cruel truth. Ning Xiaoyao sat gloomily scratching her palms.
Wifey Magpie said, “Xiaoyao, don’t be sad. Grand Preceptor’s the bad guy here.”
“Where’s this Zhou Junqi now?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
“I know the answer to that,” Husband Magpie piped up. “He’s in a temple located north of the capital.”
“H-he became a monk?” Ning Xiaoyao said in astonishment.
“His hands were chopped off by the bandits,” Husband Magpie explained, “So he couldn’t fight battles or lead troops anymore. The late emperor ordered him to become a monk.”
“Then what about his soldiers?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
“General Xu acknowledged Grand Preceptor Xie as his godfather,” Wifey Magpie said, “So Grand Preceptor Xie gave him command of the Zhou Clan troops.”
Ning Xiaoyao stared. There’s even the saga of a godfather and foster son in this story? Noticing her gaze, Wifey Magpie added quickly, “General Xu had no other choice either. If he didn’t ally himself with Grand Preceptor Xie, the Zhou Clan troops would’ve really fallen into that bad guy’s hands.”
“So he took the Grand Preceptor as his godfather while thinking of ways to finish me off?” Ning Xiaoyao pointed at her nose. Is there any reason left in this world?
All of the animals expressed their sympathy for Ning Xiaoyao after her words. She really was an unlucky girl, forced into an unwanted position that made her shoulder all sorts of undeserved grudges.
“Who told you to be the emperor?” Big Boss Black rolled his emerald green eyes at Ning Xiaoyao.
Ning Xiaoyao fell into a momentary depression before she revived her spirits. Clapping her hands, she said, “Fine then, as long as she has a big brother, that works. I’ll send the empress to him first.”
Grandpa Sparrow quickly shook his head. “The empress dowager would never agree to it.”
“Forget about her,” Ning Xiaoyao said irritably, before emphasizing, “That’s my wife!”
“…….” said the little animals. That’s true, the empress really is Ning Xiaoyao’s wife.
“But then wouldn’t the empress dowager know the empress is pregnant without doing any investigations?” Oil Jar said. “And when she thinks about men who are on good terms with the empress, won’t that expose General Xu?”
Ning Xiaoyao glanced at Oil Jar, who was clutching a half-eaten cracker, and realized he really was a smart mouse.
“Oil Jar is right,” Grandpa Ash said. “Xiaoyao, I heard that you humans have plenty of ways to make your women lose their babies.”
Ning Xiaoyao couldn’t believe it. “The empress dowager would dare try something like that?”
“She could threaten the empress to do so,” Big Boss Black said. “And make General Xu send out his troops against Supreme Commander instead.”
“Can’t you worry about some other humans besides your Supreme Commander for a chance?” Ning Xiaoyao huffed. “Me, for example?”
“This cat just wants to tell you that it’s better to make the empress dowager think the empress isn’t pregnant, rather than sending her out of the palace,” Big Boss Black replied.
“Do you have any ideas?” Ning Xiaoyao asked.
Big Boss Black fell silent. All of the little animals discussed amongst themselves for a solution, but couldn’t come up with anything good.
“Human affairs are so complicated,” Oil Jar sighed with a black expression.
“Arooo~” the snow wolf pup expressed his agreement. Ning Xiaoyao couldn’t sit still any longer and stood up to pace in circles around the room.
Finally, she asked Grandpa Sparrow, “Is it really possible that the empress dowager would make a move against the empress’s baby?”
Grandpa Sparrow nodded. That empress dowager is so wicked, what wouldn’t she do?
“Then forget about everything else,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “I’m sending the empress out of the palace immediately.”
“What if the empress dowager tries to threaten the empress?” Oil Jar squeaked.
“The empress will still be a little safer by her big brother’s side,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “The empress dowager is invincible inside the palace, but that’s not necessarily the case beyond its walls. Even if she tries to threaten the empress, at least the empress can talk things over with her big brother there, right? Some sort of support is better than none at all. The baby will only grow healthy if the mother is in a good mood.”
“And what about you?” Big Boss Black asked. The empress might be fine, but what will the ninny do?
Ning Xiaoyao cracked her lips into a grin at the little animals. “Someone like me is dashing enough to pierce through the Heavens. I don’t need to fear a thing, yah~”