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Chapter 251: I’ll live and die with this house
Lou Zigui made a total of three more trips before getting enough water for Ning Xiaoyao's bath along with her bag of sugar beans. Ning Xiaoyao had never taken a bath in a tub before. She circled around the giant wooden tub once before sighing with emotion.
"This tub is so big, there'll still be room even if we bathed in it together."
Lou Zigui neither spoke nor looked at Ning Xiaoyao. She noticed the tips of his ears turning red and suddenly realized something. "You want to bath with me?" she asked.
"Hurry and wash up," Lou Zigui said with another dry cough. "I'll be right outside, so call me when you're finished."
Afraid that Ning Xiaoyao would say something else to provoke his body and heart rate again, Lou Zigui strode quickly out of the bedroom without another word. Ning Xiaoyao just shrugged. If you don't want to do it, just say it. Why are you being so bashful?
Lou Zigui went to sit in a chair in the outer chambers, his heart still beating fast. He poured himself a cup of tea and drained its contents before feeling a little more normal. Ning Xiaoyao soaked in the hot water while humming a tune. Giant sabers hack zombie heads~ As she hummed, she realized that this world was still a beautiful place if you ignored all the annoying things. You could soak in hot baths and didn't have to worry about zombies biting you, how nice.
Meanwhile in front of the palace gates, General Shen Mu was feeling that the world just wanted to let him die. Scores of officials and ministers crowded around the entrance, making him wonder whether all the government offices in the city had sent out their officials to the palace.
"I feel like we can't hold them back," one of the imperial guard commanders said with a pained expression.
Shen Mu said, "Would these men dare to force their way in?"
"Who knows?" the commander's expression turned even more pained.
"If they really do force their way in, what should we do?"
"They're just a bunch of civil officials. Are you afraid you won't be able to best them in a fight?"
"Can we use killing strikes against them?" the commander asked.
"……" said Shen Mu. My Supreme Commander didn't tell me that part.
"There are swords and spears everywhere. Who can guarantee that we won't lose a few lives when we really start fighting?" the commander muttered to himself.
"Why are there so many people here?!" Shen Mu couldn't help but ask. "Do we have this many officials serving the dynasty?"
The commander shook his head. "A lot of them I don't even recognize."
Shadowbolt managed to squeeze his way over then and told the pair, "I saw Elder Li and Grand Preceptor Xie standing together and talking. They couldn't have decided to team up, right?"
The commander of the imperial guards immediately looked towards Shen Mu. Will your Supreme Commander stand for it if those two formed an alliance?
Sweat broke out on Shen Mu's forehead.
"Let's shut the palace gates," the fourth commander of the Dragon Guards suggested.
Shen Mu thought it over and decided that he couldn't call the shots. "I'll go back and consult with my Supreme Commander."
"Should we ask him over here instead?" the imperial guard commander asked. "Isn't it better to clarify the situation to everyone?"
If my Supreme Commander wanted to come, he would have come long ago. Shen Mu looked at the commander before muttering that he'd pa.s.s on the word, then turned to run back into the palace.
"You know what kind of personality that Lou Zigui has, Elder," Grand Preceptor Xie said to Elder Li. "Right now, His Majesty's injuries are still unknown, but Lou Zigui's taken over the palace. Just what does he want to do?"
Elder Li's face was serious. "How much do you know about His Majesty's wound?"
Grand Preceptor Xie shook his head with worry. "Not a thing."
Elder Li glanced towards the palace gates, where the imperial guards were standing fast. It was far from his present location and separated by a crowd of people, so he couldn't even recognize the faces of the various sentries. All he could see was the summer sun glinting off their armor and weapons. Although the sight was blinding, Elder Li only felt ice in his heart.
"Elder," Grand Preceptor Xie said, "If you still believe in Lou Zigui's loyalty, then this old man has nothing more to say."
Elder Li withdrew his gaze and looked at him. "What does Grand Preceptor want to do?"
"Naturally, to see His Majesty," Grand Preceptor Xie replied.
Elder Li pointed a finger at the palace gates.
"If Lou Zigui won't give us pa.s.sage, then we have no choice but to force ourselves in," Grand Preceptor Xie stated.
Elder Li ran a hand through his white hair.
Grand Preceptor Xie said, "If His Majesty's unharmed, then this old man will immediately accept the death penalty for trespa.s.sing into the palace.
Elder Li's heart was waging a battle against itself. He trusted neither Lou Zigui nor Xie Wenyuan. If he let Grand Preceptor Xie's capital barracks soldiers fight their way into the palace, how was he supposed to keep his military power in check? But what if Lou Zigui harbored ill intentions this time as well?
This matters concerns His Majesty's life. I can't afford to gamble. Elder Li furrowed his brow, stuck between the two men. Studying his expression, Grand Preceptor Xie said, "His Majesty has always respected you. If His Majesty was leading the palace right now, wouldn't he have ordered someone to inform you of his condition?"
Elder Li's eyes flickered.
"His Majesty is severely injured," Grand Preceptor Xie said, "But Lou Zigui won't let us in to find out what happened. What is he planning?"
"The amount of soldiers in Lou Zigui's hands are limited," Elder Li murmured back, "He wouldn't be stupid enough to rebel at a time like this."
"Grand Preceptor," one of Grand Preceptor Xie's stewards ran over to report. "Someone's come out of the palace."
"Who was it?" Elder Li asked immediately.
The steward gave a start at Elder Li's question and took a step back, before looking towards his own master. Grand Preceptor Xie just sighed. "If Elder wants to know, then come with this old man."
Elder Li followed Grand Preceptor Xie to his carriage, were a young eunuch about 15 years old was waiting for them. At the sight of both men, he quickly kneeled on the ground. Grand Preceptor Xie stopped before him and asked without letting him get up, "How is His Majesty doing?"
"To reply Grand Preceptor's question," the eunuch began, "His Majesty's body was covered in blood. Imperial Physician Gao from the Imperial Physician Courtyard was kneeling in front of his bed and crying."
Grand Preceptor Xie fell silent before he asked, "There was only Imperial Physician Gao in front of His Majesty's bed?"
"Yes," the young eunuch replied. "Only Imperial Physician Gao was by the bed, and the Dragon Guards standing outside."
"Where was Lou Zigui?" Grand Preceptor Xie asked.
The eunuch shook his head. "This servant only works in the clothing department, so I don't have permission to enter Supreme Splendor Hall. This servant doesn't know what Supreme Commander was doing."
"What about the person who pa.s.sed on the message from Supreme Splendor Hall?" Grand Preceptor Xie asked.
"He was killed by a pursuing Dragon Guard right after he pa.s.sed on the message," the young eunuch trembled as he spoke.
"Imperial Physician Gao was watching over His Majesty and crying instead of treating his wounds?" Elder Li asked sternly.
The eunuch replied, "His Majesty was wearing clothes soaked in blood. Imperial Physician Gao didn't—he didn't treat His Majesty's wounds."
If Imperial Physician Gao was treating Ning Yu's wounds, then the truth about her gender would already be out. Grand Preceptor Xie slowly circled around the eunuch. Looks like the empress killed Ning Yu on the spot. The dead need no treatment from physicians. Meanwhile, Lou Zigui must have been too busy arranging his retreat in the wake of Ning Yu's death to worry about putting her body in a coffin.
He looked at Elder Li and asked, "Elder, how do you see this?"
Imperial Physician Gao was crying over His Majesty instead of treating his wounds. His Majesty's clothes were soaked in blood, but n.o.body bothered to change them. What did this mean? Elder Li could only think of the worst scenario. Blood drained from his face as he stared at the eunuch on the ground. "Do you know the consequences if you're making this up?"
The eunuch quickly kowtowed to Elder Li. "This servant doesn't dare to make anything up."
Elder Li felt his body sway as he sank to sit on the ground. Grand Preceptor Xie watched coldly from the side as he began his calculations. Before Lou Zigui gets his hands on Ning Yu's corpse, I have to find a way to turn that girl's body into ashes. He beckoned to the steward and whispered in his ear, "Tell Chen Lu to hurry over and meet with me."
The steward obeyed and galloped off on horseback. Elder Li was helped to his feet by various people at his side. Tears streamed down his face as he muttered to himself, "It can't be." He had finally found a bright and brilliant ruler. His Majesty was still young. How can he be gone just like that?!
Ning Xiaoyao climbed out of the tub and haphazardly threw on her clothes before rus.h.i.+ng into the outer rooms to talk to Lou Zigui. "I suddenly discovered a plot hole!"
"Plot hole?" Lou Zigui echoed. "Is there a leak somewhere?"
"Not a leak in the house," Ning Xiaoyao said. "Supreme Commander, look, ah. I'm dead."
Lou Zigui's face fell at her words. "Don't say things like that."
"Alright, let me put it this way. Aren't I still pretending to be dead?" Ning Xiaoyao said. "They can't just leave my body out like that, right? I wanted to ask, do you guys need to re-dress the dead so that they're wearing clean clothes?" The apocalypse didn't have customs like that, but Ning Xiaoyao had remembered Old Madame Xie wearing brand new clothes in her coffin.
"We do," Lou Zigui nodded.
"That's a problem," Ning Xiaoyao said. "Won't that expose my ident.i.ty as a girl? Supreme Commander, how are you planning to explain things to the Grand Preceptor?"
Lou Zigui pulled Ning Xiaoyoa a little closer and murmured, "That's why I ordered people to start a fire."
"Whaa?" Ning Xiaoyao's eyes widened.
"Once the body's been burnt to ashes, no one will need to worry about that problem anymore," Lou Zigui added.
Ning Xiaoyao looked at Lou Zigui. So you're saying that I've not only been poisoned and stabbed, but have to lose a house as well? She felt unwell all over.
"The fire won't start until a bit later," Lou Zigui said. "Right now I should be hurrying to arrange my own retreat first."
Ning Xiaoyao scratched her palms before plopping to sit on Lou Zigui's legs. "Can we not burn anything? Or just light some torches for show so the Grand Preceptor and the rest can see some smoke from outside the palace? Wouldn't that do as well?"
"You can't bear the loss?" Lou Zigui asked.
"This is a house!" Ning Xiaoyao said desperately. "How much money do you think this is worth? And you're going to burn it down just like that?"
Lou Zigui didn't speak. By his standards, a play should be done realistically to the end. If they burnt down the imperial bedchambers now, they could always rebuild it later.
"Don't burnnnn it," Ning Xiaoyao hugged Lou Zigui's neck as she swayed back and forth. "I'm poor to begin with, so where am I supposed to get the money to build another house if you burn it down? Don't do it, donnnn't. Can't you just not burn it?"
"You can't! " Ning Xiaoyao switched tactics when she realized charming him wouldn't work. With a glare, she declared, "I'll live and die with this house. n.o.body should even think of burning what's mine down!"
"What if the Grand Preceptor comes into Supreme Splendor Hall?" Lou Zigui tried to reason with her.
Ning Xiaoyao had her rational side too. After a long time of thought, she said with a pained look, "Then just burn down the smallest one, please."