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Chapter 221: Xiaoqiu’s promise
"It's too late," Grand Preceptor Xie told the group. From the start, they had taken a neutral stance to East Ji's conflicts, so how could they talk with Prince Fu now? Fenglin City was Prince Fu's fief and his wife and children were there. That place was equivalent to Prince Fu's own life, but if they told Prince Fu they'd tried their hardest to help now, would the man believe him?
"This old man needs to think this over first," Grand Preceptor Xie waved a hand at his followers. "It's not time to panic yet. Even with Prince Fu's money and grain and Tao Yu's efforts, it's not certain that the royal court will win this battle."
"Grand Preceptor!" an official cried out in alarm. You're actually hoping that we'll lose? Even if you're struggling for power, you can't let those roving rebel bands get the upper hand, can you? If there's no more country, what power is there to struggle for?
Grand Preceptor Xie looked coldly at the man who spoke out. "This old man knows the weight of the situation."
The official in question fell silent.
"All of you should go home," Grand Preceptor Xie said. "This old man will say the same thing as always: now is not the time to panic."
The crowd could only stand and bid their farewells. Anyone who spoke a bit more now risked angering the Grand Preceptor, so who would?
"Go take a look around the streets," Grand Preceptor Xie ordered Xie Laibao once the officials were all gone. "See what Prince Fu is doing right now. And also, if possible, invite him to the estate for a meal."
Xie Laibao only felt weary in his heart. We've offended the prince so much, how are we ever going to invite him here to chat? Aren't you just telling me to ask for a slapping from Prince Fu?
"If you can't get him to come, then forget it. Don't force the issue," Grand Preceptor Xie added. Everything's worth a try. Prince Fu may hate me now, but doesn't he hate Ning Yu all the same? As long as he does, then there's still something to discuss.
Xie Laibao accepted his orders and left the Grand Preceptor's estate with a few retainers and guards. Meanwhile, Ning Xiaoyao was in the flower gardens in front of the main palace, her mouth stuffed full of osmanthus honey candy. She kicked the cloth ball at her feet to Xiaoqiu and said to Lou Zigui, "I'm not worried about anything else as much as the Grand Preceptor, that piece of sh**.
Lou Zigui murmured back, "You're a girl, you shouldn't say things like that all day long."
Ning Xiaoyao thought it over before saying, "But he is a piece of sh**!"
"Fine, he's a piece of sh**," Lou Zigui could only back down. "What do you really want to tell me?"
"That's not it, ah," Ning Xiaoyao said. "Didn't you tell me that there are Grand Preceptor Xie's men amongst the generals at East Ji too?"
"Are you worried about those people?" Lou Zigui asked
"Suppose they listen to the Grand Preceptor's orders and cause trouble for General Tao? And become a burden to him?" Ning Xiaoyao asked. "This is a war, oh. Human lives will be lost, so we can't afford to joke."
"Then," Lou Zigui said with some amus.e.m.e.nt. "Shall we kill them all?"
Ning Xiaoyao swallowed her candy and asked, "Raise swords against our own generals before we even start fighting?"
"They're not on our side," Lou Zigui reminded her. Ning Xiaoyao gave a start. That's true, they're Grand Preceptor Xie's men.
"I can take arrange these things," Lou Zigui gave a cup of water to Ning Xiaoyao. "Drink some water. You've eaten so much sweets, aren't you sick of them by now?"
"What are you going to arrange, ah?" Ning Xiaoyao raised her arm and finished the cup. "How's this? Let General Tao bring along Xie Anji as well."
This was exactly Lou Zigui's plan, though he hadn't had a chance to tell Tao Yu or Prince Yu yet. When he heard Ning Xiaoyao's words align with his thoughts, he uttered an 'oh' in a rising pitch.
"Oh?" Ning Xiaoyao echoed. "Hold it, all I said was an idea and you gave me back an 'oh,' Supreme Commander? That there, help me think it over. Besides sons of the big wife, are there any little wives' sons that Grand Preceptor favors?"
"A single Xie Anji will be enough," Lou Zigui said.
"Not enough," Ning Xiaoyao shook her head. "A shameless b.a.s.t.a.r.d like that Grand Preceptor is capable of killing off née Wanh when all his main sons are dead, just to instate a little wife in her place. When that happens, won't he have more 'sons of the consort' all the same?"
Lou Zigui rested a hand against his forehead. "Xiaoyao, we Yongning have a law that you can't change concubines into consorts."
"……" said Ning Xiaoyao. What kind of person thought that up? Just how much of a grudge do they hold against the little wives?
"So a consort-born child will always be consort-born," Lou Zigui murmured. "And a concubine-born child will always be concubine-born."
"Oh," Ning Xiaoyao said. "In other words, even though my old ma's already the empress dowager, she'll always be a little wife in her life, right?" Ahahahahaha~ The little person in Ning Xiaoyao's heart began to laugh uproariously at the idea. After all the empress dowager's efforts to kill off the empress and crown prince, she was still a little wife, ah! Ah geez, Ning Xiaoyao decided, If the empress dowager causes a ruckus in front of me next time, I'll call her 'little wife!' I wanna abuse her to death, ah! (Author: And if you don't abuse her to death, what then? ╮(╯▽╰)╭)
Ning Xiaoyao was thinking of Empress Dowager Xie while Lou Zigui realized he'd said the wrong thing. How could he speak of consorts and concubines to Miss Ning's face? Wasn't he just reminding her of her status as concubine-born? "I didn't mean it like that," Lou Zigui hastened to explain.
"Whaa?" Ning Xiaoyao's face stiffened. "So you're saying that little wives still have the hope of rising to be first wives?" How am I supposed to abuse the empress dowager then?
"That's not it," Lou Zigui quickly rejected again.
"Oh," Ning Xiaoyao stared at him, waiting for an explanation.
"In my heart, there's no difference whether you're consort or concubine-born," Lou Zigui said in a small voice.
Ning Xiaoyao blinked as she thought over his words, before venturing to say, "Thanks, ah."
Lou Zigui was clueless. "Why are you thanking me?"
"Thanks for not caring that I'm born from a little wife." Ning Xiaoyao rewarded Lou Zigui with a piece of osmanthus honey candy. "Come, I'll treat you to sweets."
"….." said Lou Zigui as his mouth was flooded with the flavor of osmanthus flowers. That isn't what I wanted to say. I wanted to say that Ning Xiaoyao will always be Ning Xiaoyao, which has nothing to do with her birth. Why did it turn into whether or not I 'mind' in her words?
"I think it's better to be prudent when it comes to matters like this," Ning Xiaoyao was now thinking of Grand Preceptor Xie again. "How about this? Let's get ahold of all of his sons this time. Supreme Commander, what do you think?"
"What do you want to do?" Lou Zigui asked.
"Invite the Poison Sect head to do something, ah," Ning Xiaoyao suggested. "Like poison or whatever?"
Lou Zigui shook his head.
Disappointed, Ning Xiaoyao said, "So your plan wasn't to have him use poison? Isn't he the leader of the Poison Sect? Doesn't he poison people?"
Lou Zigui said, "The Xies are a big clan. Even if we kill off all of Xie Wenyuan's sons, what of it?"
Ning Xiaoyao rubbed her chin. "Then the Grand Preceptor will definitely rebel and bite us to death, ah."
"That's not my idea."
"Oh my G.o.d," Ning Xiaoyao grew impatient. "Then what is your idea, Supreme Commander?" Can't we speak properly?
"My idea is," Lou Zigui was finding it hard to articulate as well, "With all of his own sons dead, Xie Wenyuan could adopt a male son from one of his relatives, just like how the Tao Clan found a successor to Tao Chen. Do you understand what I mean, Xiaoyao?"
"His sons all die and he wants to adopt another instead of biting us back," Ning Xiaoyao mumbled. "How could that piece of sh** bear to endure all that?"
This has nothing to do with how much he can take. Lou Zigui held his forehead in his hands and replied, "If we want to use Xie Anji and the rest to make Xie Wenyuan suffer, it'll have some effect, but not an absolute one. Xie Wenyuan still has plenty of candidates to pick from after that."
Ning Xiaoyao polished off another cup of water. "No matter what effects it has, have Xie Anji accompany General Tao."
Lou Zigui replied, "When the two armies face off against each other, Tao Yu won't have any way of guaranteeing Xie Anji's safety." Taking Xie Anji with the army was a safeguard as well as a burden to Tao Yu. If anything happened to him in the army, how was Tao Yu supposed to explain himself to Xie Wenyuan? Even if Ning Xiaoyao was there to support him, Tao Yu would have no choice but to stay by her side to avoid calamity from the Grand Preceptor. That would be simply ruining his life.
"Then have Xie Anji follow Prince Fu," Ning Xiaoyao couldn't think as deeply as Lou Zigui on such issues. She only felt that it was tiring to both fight a war and protect Xie Anji at the same time.
"You trust Prince Fu that much?" Lou Zigui asked.
"Then, then if I can't trust anyone, how am I supposed to live my days?" Ning Xiaoyao was really desperate now. "No matter what, we just can't let the Grand Preceptor mess things up this time. I want Tao Yu to come back alive."
"Alright," Lou Zigui quickly grabbed Ning Xiaoyao's hand when it looked like she was going to run off again. "I understand, I'll make arrangements for Prince Fu to bring along Xie Anji."
Because Ning Xiaoyao had been anxious, she'd raised her voice when speaking. Now the chubby little fair-skinned Xiaoqiu came trundling over from the courtyard where he'd been playing with Little White Fatty. Seeing this, Lou Zigui let go of Ning Xiaoyao's hand.
"Your Majesty!" Xiaoqiu shouted at Ning Xiaoyao.
"Be good, eat some candy," Ning Xiaoyao stuffed sweets into his mouth and patted his head. "Your Majesty's right here. When Xiaoqiu grows up, the world will be a better place."
"Aroo?" Little White Fatty came scampering over as well, howling as he saw the candy bag in Ning Xiaoyao's head. Ning Xiaoyao gave him a piece of osmanthus honey candy too.
Lou Zigui knit his brows. "Can wolves eat something so sweet?"
Ning Xiaoyao simply stuffed another piece of candy into Little White Fatty's mouth. With her here, why coudn't this chubby thing eat what he liked? If she could treat humans, she could definitely treat dogs—er, wolves—as well.
"Your Majesty," Xiaoqiu tugged on Ning Xiaoyao's clothes.
"Xiaoqiu qiu, do you still want candy? Come, Your Majesty will give you another piece," Ning Xiaoyao said.
Xiaoqiu held the sweet candy in his mouth and said, "Your Majesty, when Xiaoqiu grows up, Xiaoqiu, Xiaoqiu will be a general too. And help Your Majesty fight, fight," he paused to glance at Lou Zigui. "And help Your Majesty fight the world!"
"Xiaoqiu qiu~" Ning Xiaoyao was moved by his words.
"Your Majesty, wait til Xiaoqiu grows up," Xiaoqiu's chubby face pouted as he vowed, "Xiaoqiu grows very fast!"
"Alright!" Ning Xiaoyao hugged Xiaoqiu and gave him a kiss. "If anyone bullies me in the future, Xiaoqiu will go beat them up!"
"Mhm!" Xiaoqiu nodded.
"Good boy," Ning Xiaoyao wanted to give Xiaoqiu another kiss, but Lou Zigui suddenly reached out and carried Xiaoqiu from her arms. Or rather, it was more like he tore him from her grasp. Ning Xiaoyao gave a start before she laughed. "Supreme Commander, so you like little kids this much? Then you can hold him, haha. Hold him lots."
"….." said Lou Zigui.