Chapter 203: You might not care, but I do Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
“So how about it?” Ning Xiaoyao offered her hand to Tao Yu, who simply hung his head and said nothing. Ning Xiaoyao’s hand waited and waited. Supreme Commander Lou had forced this man to a point of no return, so where else could Tao Yu go, if not with her?
Tao Yu slowly lifted his head and looked at Ning Xiaoyao. “Does Your Majesty still want to use someone who’s betrayed his master?”
“Betrayed his master?” Ning Xiaoyao was astonished. “You’re a general of Yongning. Does betraying the Grand Preceptor count as betraying your master? Hey, hey, General Tao! Can’t you show some respect to an emperor like me?”
“……” said Tao Yu.
“Although I don’t have the means to kill Grand Preceptor Xie now, he can’t kill me either, right?” Ning Xiaoyao said. “And what’s more, let me remind you of this, general. When you hit someone, don’t go for the face. We’re all aware that plenty of people take the Grand Preceptor as their master, but that’s something we can keep in our hearts. Give this Majesty a bit of dignity and don’t say it out loud, will you?”
By now, Lou Zigui had hurried back to the palace and stopped right out the room in time to catch this conversation. Beyond the half-open door, he could see Ning Xiaoyao sitting next to Tao Yu on the same bed, a scene that made his expression turn black. Inside, Tao Yu wanted to laugh at Ning Xiaoyao’s words, but felt that would be inappropriate. They were talking about serious subjects, after all. Ning Xiaoyao had heard Lou Zigui’s footsteps stop by the door, but didn’t turn to look at him. She only stared at Tao Yu because he was more important right now. Sesame Speck and Wheat, who had spotted Lou Zigui arrive from their perch on the window, now chose the time to quietly fly away.
“Scaredy cat,” Big Boss Black muttered from the headboard he glanced with disdain at Sesame Speck and Wheat. Is my Supreme Commander really that scary?
Tao Yu grasped Ning Xiaoyao’s hand. He had no choice. If he didn’t want to die or become a fugitive pursued by Grand Preceptor Xie’s forces to the end of the world, he could only follow His Majesty.
“Aye,” Ning Xiaoyao grinned. “That’s what I’m talking about! Shake hands, we’ll be good brothers from now on!”
Lou Zigui knocked once on the door before stepping into the room. Tao Yu gave a start and quickly lifted his head. When he saw that it was Lou Zigui, he immediately glanced at Ning Xiaoyao. Lou Zigui can have an audience with the emperor without being announced ahead of time?
“Relax,” Ning Xiaoyao patted Tao Yu’s shoulder. “Supreme Commander’s here to see you.”
Lou Zigui stood in front of the bed and stared at the two holding hands before asking, “How long are you guys going to stay like that?”
“Ah?” Ning Xiaoyao was still clueless.
Big Boss Black meowed, “How can you hold hands with another man? You’re not guarding your wifely virtues!”
“……” said Ning Xiaoyao.
Lou Zigui picked Ning Xiaoyao off the bed and set her on a chair somewhat further from Tao Yu before asking, “Why is there blood on your body? Are you injured?”
“Nope,” Ning Xiaoyao glanced at her clothes. “It’s not my blood.”
“Where’s your outer robes?” Lou Zigui asked next.
I used them to cover Zhao mama’s corpse. When she recalled Zhou mama again, Ning Xiaoyao’s face fell. The old woman had committed suicide after the empress dowager forced her to her limits, but it was Supreme Commander Lou who’d sent Zhou mama into the empress dowager’s hands in the first place. She looked up at Lou Zigui, who was standing in front of her, and said, “Zhou mama’s dead.”
Lou Zigui had predicted Zhou mama’s death amongst his calculations. She was a loyal servant of the empress, so she’d either die from torture or suicide. But when Ning Xiaoyao said it out loud, he felt unwell. Subconsciously, he hadn’t wanted Ning Xiaoyao to see that side of him—his darker self.
“Is there anything you want to tell me?” Ning Xiaoyao asked him.
“Let’s talk outside,” Lou Zigui pulled at Ning Xiaoyao.
She stayed put. “General Tao is one of our people now. Speak what you will.”
Lou Zigui couldn’t budge Ning Xiaoyao, so he simply bent down and picked her up in his arms.
“Well, dang,” Ning Xiaoyao raised her fists. “I don’t want to go out!”
Lou Zigui suffered through multiple painful punches from Ning Xiaoyao, but as long as his bones didn’t break, he would still take the abuse.
“Put me down!” Ning Xiaoyao shouted. But Lou Zigui simply calmly walked out of the room with her in his arms.
“…..” said Tao Yu, who’d been left behind. Isn’t there something wrong with that picture?
Big Boss Black wanted to chase after them, but suddenly realized that there’d be no one to watch Tao Yu if he left. Thus, he kept his perch on the headboard. His Supreme Commander had expended supreme effort to scheme this man to their side, so he couldn’t let him escape. (Author: Enough, you…)
Lou Zigui carried Ning Xiaoyao all the way to the courtyard before setting her down. Ning Xiaoyao leaned against the elm tree behind her and crossed her arms.
“Xiaoyao,” Lou Zigui strode forward a few steps.
“Hmph,” Ning Xiaoyao snorted.
“I can explain about Zhou mama,” Lou Zigui began.
“What’s the use of your explanations if she’s already dead?” Ning Xiaoyao asked. “Did you have to do it that way?”
“That mama hates you,” Lou Zigui said.
“I know she doesn’t like me,” Ning Xiaoyao replied. “What of it? If it’s not gold, jewels, or money, I can’t love them at first sight, either.”
“You knew?” Lou Zigui asked.
“Damn it, Zhou mama looked like she wanted to rush over and bite me to death every time I saw her,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “I’m not blind, why wouldn’t I be able to tell?”
“But you still wanted to keep her?”
“Does everyone who hates me have to die?” Ning Xiaoyao asked. “Then why isn’t Grand Preceptor Xie dead yet?”
“Then what do you want me to do?” Lou Zigui asked.“Zhou mama’s already dead. Do you want me to pay for her life with my own?”
“What?” Ning Xiaoyao glared at him. “You want to threaten me with your suicide now?”
“Then Xiaoyao, what do you want to say to me?” Lou Zigui asked in a low voice.
Ning Xiaoyao rubbed her nose as her expression twisted. “That’s right, what am I supposed to do with you? What can I do? It’s not like I can hit you or kill you.”
“If the Grand Preceptor hadn’t surrounded Iron Buddha Temple with his soldiers, the empress and Zhou Junqi wouldn’t have come to beg you for help,” Lou Zigui took off his outer robes and draped them across Ning Xiaoyao’s shoulders. “They’ll think of running away to General Xu Feiyu’s troops.”
“Then let them run, ah. My original idea was to let the empress reunite with her General Xu,” Ning Xiaoyao said. That was her ultimate goal. Had she inadvertently made a mistake instead?
“Then what about you?” Lou Zigui asked Ning Xiaoyao. “Once they’re home free, what will you do?”
Ning Xiaoyao blinked. “I’ll keep on fighting against Grand Preceptor Xie and his faction, ah. What else can I do? If the empress and General Xu want to help me, they’re welcome to. If they hate me and don’t want to help, then I’d just drop the matter. You think you can force others to help?”
“Drop the matter?” Lou Zigui smiled, but his expression was cold. “How can we just drop the matter like that?”
“What’re you getting at?” Ning Xiaoyao grew a bit nervous. Is Supreme Commander planning to off the empress after he’s offed Zhou mama?
“If you fulfill their desires, will they accept your good intentions?” Lou Zigui asked in a low voice. “How many truly loyal officials to their sovereigns exist in this world?” If Yongning had its share of them, would the country be reduced to its current state? It was swaying in the midst of a tempest, its common people struggling to even survive.
“No way,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “What you’re saying is, ‘this isn’t a matter of whether or not we drop the matter, but whether they’ll lead troops to rebel against us instead?’” Please no, I can’t hold off an attack like that!
“Xiaoyao,” Lou Zigui said. “Née Zhou married you, then secretly conceived a child with Xu Feiyu…”
“I’m the one who’s first at fault,” Ning Xiaoyao cut him off. “I’m the wrong gender to begin with, so we couldn’t be a real husband and wife pair.”
“You’re only thinking about that?” Lou Zigui asked. “Alright, let’s not talk about right and wrong. When those lovers did that, where did they put you in their eyes? After entering the palace, née Zhou discovered that she was pregnant. All she thought about was how to protect the baby and lie to you and the rest of the world so her and Xu Feiyu’s baby could be born with surname ‘Ning!’”
Ning Xiaoyao’s mouth twitched. That sounds about right.
“She’s never considered for your sake,” Lou Zigui said as he looked at Ning Xiaoyao.
“It’s not like I’m her true love. Why does she need to consider for my sake?” Ning Xiaoyao shrugged.
“But I have to consider for your sake,” Lou Zigui suddenly spoke up.
Ning Xiaoyao opened and closed her mouth.
“I’ve said it before, I’ll protect you,” Lou Zigui said. “Whether it’s as a man of honor or a base and shameless wretch, I’ll be it all. As long as it can protect you, I don’t care.”
Ning Xiaoyao was originally in a mood to battle, but Lou Zigui’s words left her absolutely floored. No one was around, so Lou Zigui wrapped Ning Xiaoyao into his arms, his chin restly lighting against her head. In a soft voice, he murmured, “You have to trust me, Xiaoyao.”
Ning Xiaoyao sniffed. Lou Zigui’s body carried the faint, clean scent of Chinese honeylocust. “I didn’t not trust you,” she mumbled back. “But I don’t like it when you hide things from me.”
“Alright, I won’t hide anything from you in the future,” Lou Zigui promised.
“Mhm.” Lou Zigui looked down and kissed her on the forehead. “Don’t be angry anymore.”
“I,” Ning Xiaoyao wanted to say that she wasn’t mad, but after some thought, decided she couldn’t tell a lie.
Lou Zigui kissed Ning Xiaoyao on the lips as she leaned against the old elm tree. Moonlight cascaded down through its leaves, forming dappled patterns against Lou Zigui’s body. A light-headed Ning Xiaoyao could only think hazedly that summer was really coming.
“You might not care about some things, but I do,” Lou Zigui whispered by Ning Xiaoyao’s ear. That’s why I’ll kill people like Zhou mama again in the future even if you value human lives. He hugged Ning Xiaoyao to himself, not expecting her to read between the lines and understand his meaning. There were some things one simply had to do, that’s all. With his back to the moonlight, the figure in his arms was covered in shadows. He couldn’t help but tighten his hold on her as if that would turn her lively again.
“Mama still isn’t back,” Empress Zhou once again returned from outside, her expression growing frightened as she looked at Zhou Junqi.
“Perhaps she met with His Majesty and he’s currently thinking of ideas,” Zhou Junqi had the empress sit as he consoled her. “His Majesty couldn’t possibly think of a solution so quickly when it comes to dealing with Xie Wenyuan.”
“I don’t know how much effort His Majesty will expend to save us,” Empress Zhou was still panicky after she sat down. “Will he?”
“He will,” Zhou Junqi replied. “If he wants the Zhou Clan soldiers, he has to make sure you don’t die, little sister.”
Empress Zhou’s hands hugged protectively over her stomach. After a while, she suddenly blurted out, “Let’s still try to find some way to contact A’Xu. I, I don’t, I don’t trust His Majesty very much.”
Compared to Ning Yu, the empress had more faith and desire to rely on Xu Feiyu. When she saw her brother nod at her, she finally felt calmer. If A’Xu can come, then my big brother, the baby, and I will all be free.
Zhou Junqi could only inwardly shake his head at his sister. If Xu Feiyu really had a way to save us, why would he make you promise to stay by His Majesty over these years?