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Chapter 159: A small boat swaying in the midst of a raging storm Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
It had started to rain again. Ning Xiaoyao peered up at the skies, where a previously fine drizzle had suddenly turned into a torrential downpour. “Ah, ah!” Ning Xiaoyao splashed happily in the storm as she clapped her hands. “With this heavy rain, the fires will stop for sure!”
It wasn’t just Ning Xiaoyao who was celebrating. Many of the people present who were about to watch their houses burn down were currently thanking the Heavens for its life saving rain. Lou Zigui picked up the happily soaked Ning Xiaoyao and flipped her onto his horse before kicking it into a gallop while heading towards the palace.
Ning Xiaoyao said, “Are we going back just like this?”
“Wait and see,” Lou Zigui bent forward as much as he could in order to s.h.i.+eld her from the falling rain.
Ning Xiaoyao ran her fingers over the snow wolf cub’s furry head before asking curiously, “What are we waiting for?”
“To see what Xie Wenyuan will do next after all of this,” Lou Zigui murmured. “And to see how much he can endure.”
Ning Xiaoyao automatically translated Lou Zigui’s words in her head to mean that they were testing Grand Preceptor Xie’s limits.
“Xie Ans.h.i.+ was the one who murdered first,” Lou Zigui continued, “It’s not guaranteed that Xie Wenyuan will seek revenge for him.”
“Seriously?!” Ning Xiaoyao couldn’t quite believe it. Grand Preceptor Xie could tolerate a lot of things, but this was his own blood related son they were talking about.
“The mouths of many s.h.i.+ne like gold,” Lou Zigui replied. “He can do as many bad things in secret as he wants, but on the surface he still has to be Xie Wenyuan, a n.o.ble and righteous gentleman.”
Ning Xiaoyao switched over to scratching Big Boss Black’s head instead until the cat scratched her. “Why don’t you just come out and say that he’s good at pretending?” She withdrew her scratched hand from the fluffy tubby.
“If it were any day before today, he could still s.h.i.+ft the blame to you for those murdered refugees,” Lou Zigui furtively glanced at Ning Xiaoyao’s injured hand before rapping his knuckles against Big Boss Black’s head. “But now, n.o.body will believe him if he tries anything else against you.”
“Right,” Ning Xiaoyao rapped her fingers against Big Boss Black’s head as well. “He framed me once, so how could he frame me again? It’s not like I’m a ninny!”
Lou Zigui sighed despondently over her train of thought. What does being framed once or twice have to do with whether or not you’re a ninny?
“Then I’ll stop worrying about him,” Ning Xiaoyao raised a hand to play with the raindrops. “I’ll sit and wait until the Grand Preceptor dies from heartbreak.”
Lou Zigui held Ning Xiaoyao a little tighter. Another good point about this girl was her generous heart. Even if Xie Wenyuan sought revenge, he’d aim for Lou Zigui, not the refugees. They were too far beneath him.
“I think the refugees have great rebellious spirits,” Ning Xiaoyao remarked after some thought. “No wonder armies fighting for just causes exist here.”
“Don’t speak nonsense,” Lou Zigui tapped the top of Ning Xiaoyao’s head with his chin. “What ‘armies fighting for just causes?’ Those are all just rebels.”
Ning Xiaoyao shut her mouth at that. But when those armies of justice charge their way into the capital and make the head of the peasants their emperor, no one will call them rebels anymore. (Author: Are you looking forward that much to the end of your country? o(╯□╰)o)
While Lou Zigui was bringing Ning Xiaoyao back to the palace, Lady w.a.n.g had already cried herself unconscious and woken up anew back at the Grand Preceptor’s estate. Now she was clutching Grand Preceptor Xie’s sleeves as she sobbed loudly, “Grand Preceptor, you can’t forgive the ones who hurt my Ans.h.i.+!”
Grand Preceptor Xie sat in the corridor where the red paper lanterns shone on his forehead as they shook in the strong winds. The flickering light mixed with the storm outside, made Grand Preceptor Xie feel like he was nothing more than a boat being tossed about in the wind. It was as if a single mistake would sink his s.h.i.+p beneath the waves forever.
The door to the rooms opened just then, and an old, white-haired doctor strode out. Lady w.a.n.g released Grand Preceptor Xie’s sleeve and cried out, “How is it?”
The old doctor bent forward and muttered, “If third young master can survive past his fever, then he’ll manage to preserve his life.”
“And if not?” Lady w.a.n.g asked worriedly.
The old doctor remained bowed without uttering a word. His silence was obvious—if Xie Ans.h.i.+ didn’t get past the fever, he would die. Lady w.a.n.g collapsed on the ground. When two of her servants went forward to help up her, she shoved them aside.
“Nothing can happen to Ans.h.i.+,” Lady w.a.n.g cried to Grand Preceptor Xie. “Something’s already happened to Anyi, so how could something happen to Ans.h.i.+ as well?”
“Grand Preceptor,” a steward ran towards them with a report. “General Chen Lu is here.”
Grand Preceptor Xie rose to leave, but Lady w.a.n.g dragged him back. “This consort wishes to see Chen Lu, too,” Lady w.a.n.g sobbed. “This consort wants to know just who was the one who hurt my son!”
Grand Preceptor Xie creased his brows before finally relenting. “Bring him over here.”
The steward soon brought Chen Lu into the courtyard. Lady w.a.n.g had already been helped to a seat by Grand Preceptor Xie, her swollen eyes still flowing with tears like a burst dam. Chen Lu greeted the couple.
“Have you found Tao Chen and his wife?” Grand Preceptor Xie asked after he straightened up.
Chen Lu gave an awkward glance in the direction of Lady w.a.n.g. Grand Preceptor Xie explained, “Tao Chen’s wife is our daughter, so my wife will have to endure the news even if she can’t bear it. Just say it outright.”
Chen Lu’s head drooped at Grand Preceptor Xie’s explanation. “There were no survivors from the Tao Estate. His Excellency Tao and family weren’t at home, but this soldier asked around and found out that they were—that they had been killed off in the streets outside the estate by the refugees.”
Grand Preceptor Xie’s eyes flashed at the news. Lady w.a.n.g grew dazed before she trilled, “All four members of the family are confirmed to have died?”
“Yes,” Chen Lu couldn’t bring himself to offer condolences for their loss, and only nodded his head. Lady w.a.n.g clutched her chest as her breathing quickened. The rain poured down in torrents as everyone in the courtyard remained mute.
A long time later, Lady w.a.n.g gave an agonized sob that was more akin to a primal howl.
“Take your ladys.h.i.+p back,” Grand Preceptor Xie ordered the servants present expressionlessly. The two female servants stepped forward but couldn’t budge Lady w.a.n.g. Two more joined the first set until they succeeded in lifting her out of her chair.
“I’m not leaving!” Lady w.a.n.g screamed at Chen Lu, looking absolutely mad. “Tell me, who did it to my boy?!”
“Take her away!” Grand Preceptor Xie slapped the armrest of his chair. Four elderly female servants carried Lady w.a.n.g away bodily, with two more servant girls holding onto her hands so she couldn’t struggle free. Lady w.a.n.g’s wails were still perceptible in the courtyard long after she disappeared.
“Sir, please examine my wife as well,” Grand Preceptor Xie spoke to the old doctor. “This old man doesn’t want something to happen to her again.”
The old doctor was quick to mutter an a.s.sent before taking his two young disciples with him, following after Lady w.a.n.g. Grand Preceptor Xie waved a hand towards Chen Lu as he told the rest of the courtyard, “All of you, withdraw.”
As the servants dispersed, Chen Lu walked out of the rain and under the covered walkway. Grand Preceptor Xie remained sitting in his chair, next to a door that was sitting slightly ajar.
“How is third young master doing now?” Chen Lu asked in a low voice.
“Not too well,” Grand Preceptor Xie shook his head. “Where is Tao Chen’s body right now?”
When Chen Lu recalled the giant bags of flesh and pulp he’d brought with him, he momentarily lost track of the excuses he’d prepared ahead of time.
“Go on, speak,” Grand Preceptor Xie urged.
“They were trampled to death by the refugees,” Chen Lu said. “There’s not enough left of their bodies to lay in a coffin anymore.”
Grand Preceptor Xie soundly pounded on his armrests. Chen Lu stood with his head hanging. No words of comfort would possibly help now.
“Lou Zigui,” Grand Preceptor Xie spat out the words between gritted teeth. “You sent your men to tell me that he was present at the scene?”
Chen Lu hastened to answer, “Yes, this soldier saw him.”
“Did you speak to him?”
Chen Lu began to stutter again.
“This old man can take the news,” Grand Preceptor Xie replied. “Tell me.”
“Lou Zigui said, ‘The Grand Preceptor should be giving His Majesty an explanation for the fires in the capital tonight,’” Chen Lu replied in a small voice.
“An explanation,” Grand Preceptor Xie echoed.
“Grand Preceptor,” Chen Lu said. “The refugees have already scattered. If we want to capture them…”
“The chief culprit is Lou Zigui,” Grand Preceptor Xie interrupted him. “Why should this old man seek out the refugees?”
Chen Lu simply nodded in agreement as that was all he could do.
“The fact that I couldn’t slice that cuckoo of the Lou Clan into pieces,” Grand Preceptor Xie said, gripping the armrest, “Is the single greatest mistake of my life!”
Chen Lu didn’t dare follow up Grand Preceptor Xie’s words. If anyone was to blame for that, it was the person who had saved Lou Zigui. But that was the reigning emperor, so how could he curse him?
Meanwhile, sobs filled the bedroom behind them. Chen Lu couldn’t resist glancing towards the sound, but Grand Preceptor Xie merely ignored it to ask, “Did Xie Ans.h.i.+ really set fire to the refugees?”
Chen Lu replied, “That shouldn’t be false. The woman who accused third young master has already committed self-immolation, but many of the people present heard her words.”
Grand Preceptor Xie stood up. Seeing how unsteady he looked, Chen Lu hastened to support him. Grand Preceptor Xie walked out of the porch and cursed under his breath. “Unfilial son.”
Chen Lu simply pretended he hadn’t heard a thing, before asking, “Grand Preceptor, what should we do next?”
“Endure,” was Grand Preceptor Xie’s only reply.
Chen Lu was rendered speechless.
“Tomorrow, this old man will write an account admitting my errors and asking for punishment,” Grand Preceptor Xie continued while striding forward in the pouring rain. “Xie Ans.h.i.+’s murders should take precedence over the burning houses. Even death would be too good for that vile swine.”
“Grand Preceptor wants to disown third young master?” Chen Lu asked in alarm.
“It’s useless to keep him,” Grand Preceptor Xie sighed lethargically.
This man… Chen Lu thought as his throat clenched tight. In his eyes, the Grand Preceptor Xie behind him now was nothing more than a freak. How can you actually judge your sons by how useful they are?
“This old man won’t fall apart that easily,” Grand Preceptor Xie said next.
Chen Lu was a tall, strapping young man, but even he was reduced to a subservient yes-man in Grand Preceptor Xie’s presence. He dreaded Xie Wenyuan from the very bottom of his heart.
Meanwhile, the rains had put out the fires in the western side of the capital. Many braved the downpour to start collecting the dead and finding doctors for the wounded. They salvaged items from half-burnt houses while the capital barracks’ soldiers piled the refugee corpses into a cart and hauled them away.
A returning Shadowgale called for the western gates of the city to open up, and was frightened by the carts heaped with dead bodies waiting just inside the gates. He quickly asked one of the defending generals, “Where did all of these bodies come from?”
The general had a position in the watchtower up above and had naturally witnessed everything that had happened in the city. When he heard Shadowgale’s question, he gave a brief account of what had happened before examining the man from head to toe. The head commander of the Dragon Guards was braving the rain to hurry somewhere, but he still reeked of blood despite having no signs of it on his body.
How many people did he kill tonight? Or perhaps, the defending general thought, The question I should be asking is—just how many died in the capital tonight?