Chapter 55: Chaos like a pot of porridge at the Hall of Golden Chimes Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Empress Dowager Xie spent a sleepless night watching over the fake Imperial Jade Seal. The next morning, she applied heavy rouge and powder via her reflection in the mirror before hiding the dark circles beneath her eyes and her wan and sallow skin. Ning Xiaoyao didn’t have a good night’s rest, either. The sun had just started peeking out from the east when she got dressed in her dragon robes and went to the Hall of Golden Chimes in fine mettle for a fight. Compared to the large assembly from two days ago, today’s assembly had far less people. The ones who were present were all important ministers of the current dynasty.
Ning Xiaoyao swept her eyes over the officials assembled before the steps to her throne, feeling her heart give a jolt at the sight of Elder Li. He’s already so old, so can’t he call in a sick leave or something?
After making his grand bow, Elder Li rose and glanced at the imperial writing desk. The casket for the Imperial Jade Seal was missing, causing his heart to rise in his chest. Lou Zigui had already burned the Grand Preceptor’s estate twice, but still didn’t find the Imperial Jade Seal?
Ning Xiaoyao cleared her throat. She hadn’t understood a thing in her first time at assembly, but Lou Zigui’s sudden coaching had taught her enough. Right now, it was time for her to speak. “That there,” Ning Xiaoyao said, “Today, we’ll discuss the matters of the refugees with everyone.”
“Your Majesty,” Grand Preceptor Xie stepped forward from his position amongst the rows of officials.
Ning Xiaoyao said, “Let Zhen finish speaking, won’t you?”
Grand Preceptor Xie said, “May Your Majesty summon Esteemed Empress Dowager to the hall and request her for the hereditary Imperial Jade Seal.”
Ning Xiaoyao sighed. She supposed this guy would die unless she brought up the issue of the seal. “Imperial Jade Seal?” Ning Xiaoyao looked at Grand Preceptor Xie intently as she asked. “You have to chose today of all days to discuss the Imperial Jade Seal with Zhen?”
Grand Preceptor Xie knelt on the ground and said sincerely, “You Majesty, ah, the hereditary Imperial Jade Seal is an important treasure of the nation, it is the origin of our country…”
“Enough with you,” Ning Xiaoyao cut off his lecture before it began. She’d looked into that Imperial Jade Seal herself. It was nothing more than a piece of jade, more worthless than mantou in the apocalypse. (Author: Enough with you as well…)
“Your Majesty,” Grand Preceptor Xie still wanted to shout.
“Finefinefine,” Ning Xiaoyao said, “Have the Empress Dowager enter the hall.” If those two wanted to seek death that much, what could she do?
The echoing summons for the Empress Dowager to enter accompanied the woman herself. Just like that day at the large assembly, she was dressed from head to toe in mourning apparel as she took slow, unhurried steps inside. Although she’d injured her leg that day, and imperial physician had examined her and said she’d only hurt her muscle. Thus, Empress Dowager Xie was currently hobbling her way through.
Ning Xiaoyao smiled at the sight of Empress Dowager Xie and said, “Imperial Mother, so you’ve come.”
Empress Dowager Xie was already nursing secret motives. When she saw Ning Xiaoyao’s smile, her steps faltered. She couldn’t help but feel that her expression was exceptionally sinister, as if something about the entire situation was off.
“This subject greets Esteemed Empress Dowager, may Empress Dowager live for thousands and thousands of years,” Grand Preceptor Xie led the rest to pay obeisance to the empress dowager. Empress Dowager Xie glanced at herself. She was now inside the Hall of Golden Chimes for the sole reason of presenting the Imperial Jade Seal. Even if she wanted to back out now, the chance was far gone. She took the box containing the seal from a mama behind her and took a step towards the stairs to the throne. When Lou Zigui saw that Ning Xiaoyao was still sitting there unmoving, he coughed lightly in response. She looked over and saw him motion her to rise, and pursed her lips. She was unhappy, so she wouldn’t get up!
“……” said Lou Zigui. Hadn’t they arranged for her to get up when the empress dowager came? Why was she refusing to do her part now that it was time?
Elder Li raised his head then to glance at Ning Xiaoyao before creasing his brows and intoning, “Your Majesty.”
Immediately, Ning Xiaoyao leapt up from the Dragon Throne and said to Empress Dowager Xie, “Imperial Mother, walk slowly in case you fall down.”
Lou Zigui suddenly felt displeasure in his heart. Were Elder Li’s words that useful? Then what did he count for? (Author: Do you have to compete for favor at a time like this? Wake up already!)
Empress Dowager Xie walked to the imperial writing desk before saying lightly, “Your Majesty isn’t kneeling to accept the Imperial Jade Seal?”
For a second, Ning Xiaoyao felt the urge to plaster this woman’s face in poop. Forget about the real deal, she was even holding a fake and demanding her to kneel? Where did she get her self-confidence from?
“Your Majesty?” Empress Dowager Xie urged Ning Xiaoyao, who stood stubbornly unmoving.
I just won’t kneel, see what you can do about that!
Empress Dowager Xie wanted to smash the box in her hands against Ning Xiaoyao’s face. This girl still wanted to oppose her at a time like this!
“Your Majesty,” While both parties were refusing to budge, an eunuch announced loudly from the door, “Prince Fu, Ning Guangshun, Prince Zhi, Ning Guangyuan, Prince Xi, Ning Guangyu, Prince Qi, Ning…”
“Let them come in,” Ning Xiaoyao said before the eunuch even finished rattling off the names. She didn’t mind if more people were here to see the show, so these princes might as well join in. Grand Preceptor Xie’s forehead furrowed. What were these vassal princes doing in the hall? Because they had the Imperial Jade Seal, were these people thinking of forcing the emperor to abdicate? Empress Dowager Xie harbored the same thoughts as Grand Preceptor Xie as she shifted her gaze from Ning Xiaoyao to the gates of the hall.
Ning Xiaoyao took the chance to seize the box holding the Imperial Jade Seal from the empress dowager’s hands and place it on its designated place on her desk. Even if this seal was a fake, it still had to be made of jade. Later on, she could sell it off for money.
The vassal princes quickly entered the Hall of Golden Chimes and bowed in obeisance to Ning Xiaoyao.
“Rise,” Ning Xiaoyao said, “Since you’re all here, stand by the side and watch.”
All of the princes stood to one side and really did settle down to watch the proceedings.
“Let’s talk about the refugees, then?” Ning Xiaoyao proposed.
Grand Preceptor Xie said, “Your Majesty, this subject discussed things with various ministers yesterday. We’ve decided that it’s best if the Imperial Jade Seal remains with Esteemed Empress Dowager for a short time.”
Ning Xiaoyao said, “And if Zhen doesn’t agree?”
Grand Preceptor Xie lowered his head, looking extremely respectful and modest. “Your Majesty, this subject believes that Your Majesty should place emphasis on nursing your health first and foremost.”
Here it comes.
Ning Xiaoyao just knew that this old man wouldn’t let her off. “I–Zhen isn’t ill,” Ning Xiaoyao said. “If Zhen’s not sick, why bother with nursing the body?”
Grand Preceptor Xie said, “Your Majesty, since time immemorial, doctors have never treated themselves. Your Majesty cannot hide your sickness for fear of treatment.”
By now, Elder Li had stepped forward as well. “His Majesty’s already said that his dragon body is in good health. Grand Preceptor, you keep claiming that His Majesty’s unwell, but just what kind of illness is it?”
“The Grand Preceptor is His Majesty’s maternal grandfather,” an official from the Grand Preceptor’s camp accepted the challenge. “Could the Grand Preceptor not know if His Majesty’s dragon body is unwell?”
“Rulers and ministers, rulers and ministers,” Elder Li said coldly. “Since when have a ruler and his ministers been led by one’s maternal ancestors? Grand Preceptor Xie, you ought to remember your duty as an official first and foremost.”
“This old man is terrified by Elder Li’s words,” Grand Preceptor Xie personally took the stand to fight back. “His Majesty’s health concerns the country and its citizens. Could this old man dare to make irresponsible remarks?”
Elder Li stared at Grand Preceptor Xie and said, “This Grand Preceptor should be clear in his heart where he stands.”
Grand Preceptor Xie took out a pile of case histories from his sleeve and said to Ning Xiaoyao, “Your Majesty, this subject braves death today to petition the throne, all because this subject wishes for Your Majesty to preserve your dragon body and quickly recuperate at ease.”
Half of the ministers in the hall had already fell on their knees to ask Ning Xiaoyao to look after her health. Ning Xiaoyao dug her fingers into her palms. Supreme Commander Lou had told her that all of the ministers present today were big shots. But as it turned out, three-fourths of them already belonged to the Grand Preceptor’s faction.
“What’s that in your hand?” Elder Li asked.
“His Majesty’s former health records,” Grand Preceptor Xie said.
“You,” Elder Li’s face suddenly changed colors. “Xie Wenyuan, you have some gall!”
Since ancient times, the Son of Heaven’s health records had never been officially publicized so as to avoid others taking advantage of the information. Today, Grand Preceptor Xie had actually submitted the emperor’s records as a memorial to the sovereign. Did he still hold the emperor in his eyes?
Grand Preceptor Xie’s eyes filled with tears as he kneeled on the ground. “Your Majesty, as long as Your Majesty preserves your dragon body, this subject is willing to die to atone for his crimes. Your Majesty, this subject kneels to ask Your Majesty to place the country first and foremost. Your Majesty, ah!”
Ning Xiaoyao felt goosebumps growing all over her body. This really was like daughter, like father! If she was a movie empress, then he was a movie emperor!
Elder Li ignored Grand Preceptor Xie’s act and angrily exclaimed, “Since time immemorial, the imperial harem has never participated in the likes of politics. His Majesty has already taken over the reins of government, so the Imperial Jade Seal should be left safely on the imperial writing desk. Leave it for a short while with Esteemed Empress Dowager? Xie Wenyuan, just what are you planning to do?”
Grand Preceptor Xie didn’t reply, but lay prostrate on the ground to cry out for His Majesty. Ning Xiaoyao pursed her lips and said, “Don’t make a racket. Zhen isn’t sick.”
Grand Preceptor Xie began to read the medical records in a loud voice. Elder Li took a few steps and bent down, intending to snatch the records from Grand Preceptor Xie’s hands.
Ning Xiaoyao widened her eyes, feeling that things had turned big again. While Grand Preceptor Xie and Elder Li were engaged in a mutual tussle, the other ministers got tangled in a mob as well. Very soon, the solemn and respectful Hall of Golden Chimes had descended into a chaotic vegetable market. Ning Xiaoyao cupped her chin in her hands as she looked at the crowds below. This was her royal court, so lively!
The ever silent Lou Zigui turned a cold eye on the two factions before them. He was already fed up with this batch of civil officials. Besides verbal competitions and party plays to grasp influence in the court, they didn’t leave even half a foothold for the military in the palace. Just what had they ever done for their country?
In the midst of his struggles with Elder Li, Grand Preceptor Xie dropped the medical records in his hands. The wind blowing through the open, spacious Hall of Golden Chimes scattered the hundreds and hundreds of pages until they filled the air. They looked like paper money sent airborne by the breeze. A few of the papers flew to land on the imperial writing desk, where Ning Xiaoyao gave them a glance. The traditional Chinese characters made her head ache, so she simply crumpled them up and tossed them away.
Elder Li was a fierce fighting old man, but still the members of his faction were too few compared to the rest. Very soon, he fell at a disadvantage against their numbers. But the ‘clear stream’ civil officials had never feared death in court. Even like this, they were still determined to struggle to the end, cursing their opponents as crafty, fawning types. Though some of them had been injured already, they didn’t stop fighting. As a result, things grew more and more riotous in the Hall of Golden Chimes.
Some Ning clansmen couldn’t bear to watch their compatriots get hurt and wanted to tell them to stop, but a few well-placed glares from elder members of their faction sent them shrinking back.
“Someone, come,” Grand Preceptor Xie yelled towards the entrance. Immediately, a troop of soldiers from the capital rushed inside.
“Capital city soldiers?” a clansman cried out in surprised. “The Xie Clan actually transferred the capital’s forces into the palace?” All of the clansmen who’d been watching the show found their faces turning green. In the end, this hall belonged to their Ning Clan. What was Xie Wenyuan doing by bringing the capital city’s troops here? What kind of place did he think the imperial household was?
“Pah!” Elder Li spat on Grand Preceptor Xie’s body and shouted, “Traitor Xie, do you want to rebel?!”
“Take away these scoundrels who don’t have His Majesty in their eyes, and who dare to defy the royal laws and decrees!” Grand Preceptor Xie didn’t even spare Elder Li a glance. They had been feuding against each other for two successive emperors now, so it was about time to end it all.
“Your Majesty!” one of Elder Li’s allies, a rather clear minded official, took the chance to call for Ning Xiaoyao. Ning Xiaoyao heaved a sigh. Ah geez, these people finally remembered Their Majesty still exists.
“Take away the criminals!” Grand Preceptor Xie ordered coldly.
Ning Xiaoyao rubbed the box of jade before her. She didn’t know how much money a broken jade was worth. Meanwhile, Empress Dowager Xie had been staring at her daughter the entire time. When she saw Ning Xiaoyao grab the Imperial Jade Seal, she was quick to press it back down with a hasty question.
“What is Your Majesty doing?”