Chapter 209: Living up to imperial favor and honoring imperial decrees
Once Ning Xiaoyao finished speaking, the Hall of Golden Chimes sank into a long silence. Eventually, Elder Li bowed towards Ning Xiaoyao and said, "Your Majesty is wise and brilliant."
"You're welcome," Ning Xiaoyao replied.
"……" said Elder Li. What 'you're welcome?'
Ning Xiaoyao stared at Great General Luo until she felt like he was going to cry, then averted her gaze in satisfaction. (Author: How did you know that general was going to cry, anyways? o(╯□╰)o)
"His Majesty is venting anger for your sake," the Lord Protector murmured to Pei Yan just outside the hall. "You should distinguish between good and bad."
Pei Yan stared at the high doorstep before them and didn't speak. The Lord Protector couldn't tell what his younger brother was thinking, either.
"When you hear nasty things later on," the Lord Protector warned again in worry, "Just pretend you didn't hear a thing. We can't cause trouble for His Majesty right now."
Pei Yan still remained staring at the doorstep.
"Can you at least react to your brother?" the Lord Protector asked desperately.
"Mm," Pei Yan intoned.
(#‵′), went the Lord Protector. He really did only 'react' to me.
"Your Majesty," the official in charge of the gates called out in a loud voice. "The Lord Protector Pei Yi and his younger brother Pei Yan have arrived."
"Come in," Ning Xiaoyao replied immediately.
"The two of you, please go in," the guard muttered back.
With the Lord Protector leading the way, the duo entered the Hall of Golden Chimes. It was absolutely silent inside as everyone watched the two brothers walk forward. This was the first time the Pei brothers had entered Yongning's imperial court since the old Lord Protector committed suicide by ramming headfirst into a pillar outside the hall. Both of them sank to their knees to pay their respects to Ning Xiaoyao as subjects to their sovereign.
"Rise," Ning Xiaoyao was quite cheerful.
The Lord Protector gave thanks and rose to his feet before Pei Yan followed in his wake.
Grand Preceptor Xie began, "Lord—"
"Don't talk!" Ning Xiaoyao instantly pointed at Grand Preceptor Xie, who choked on his spit and started coughing uncontrollably.
"Oh! Did your illness get worse?" Ning Xiaoyao remarked. "Quick, send the Grand Preceptor away. Have him see a doctor and take some medicine." It'll be much easier to talk with that poop out of the way.
Grand Preceptor Xie extended his neck and forced himself to stop coughing, then said in a hoarse voice, "This subject is fine. Many thanks to Your Majesty for your concern."
Concern, your sister! Ning Xiaoyao only felt vexed from her seat on the dragon throne.
"Your Majesty," an official from the Grand Preceptor's faction stepped forward. "This official believes that Pei Yan is not qualified." Although they had prepared to disparage the Lord Protector until circumstances rendered their arguments useless, they still couldn't see a castrated man take the position of Nine Gates Infantry Commander.
"If he's not qualified, are you?" Ning Xiaoyao retorted.
"This official is incompetent," the man hastily replied.
"If you're incompetent, what are you doing here?" Ning Xiaoyao asked. "Taking pay from my hands, that—what do you call it again?"
"Official's salary," Lou Zigui offered.
"Oh, right, official's salary," Ning Xiaoyao said while staring at the officials. "You're taking an official's salary from my hands while calling yourself incompetent?!"
The official was left at a loss for words. He was only saying civilities! Your Majesty, can't you understand these figures of speech?!
"Official Zhou is not well-versed in the military arts," Grand Preceptor Xie spoke up.
"Then why is he butting in?" Ning Xiaoyao asked.
"As a minister of this court, Official Zhou is speaking on behalf of government affairs. Where is he in the wrong?" Grand Preceptor Xie challenged Ning Xiaoyao, who rolled up her sleeves.
Grand Preceptor Xie felt a chill steal upon his heart. She's got nothing more to say, so she's planning to get physical instead?
"Cough," Lou Zigui quickly covered his mouth. Elder Li glared at Ning Xiaoyao's rolled-up sleeves. Ning Xiaoyao's expression stiffened before she smoothed out her sleeves again. Seeing this, many of the officials in court let out breaths of relief. For the past few assembly sessions they'd been seeing nothing but live martial arts displays. Who could bear such things?
Grand Preceptor Xie said, "Your Majesty, why don't you let Official Zhou finish?"
Ning Xiaoyao replied, "He's still not done yet? 'The outsider knows no more of the secrets of the craft than he knows of another country,' do you understand? He doesn't know martial arts and can't even catch a thief, but he still wants to meddle in the Nine Gates Infantry Commander's affairs?"
Grand Preceptor Xie's voice was cold. "This official doesn't practice martial arts, either."
"So you don't have to worry about it either," Ning Xiaoyao quickly retorted.
Once again, Grand Preceptor Xie was rendered mute, but still strove to shot back, "Pei Yan is nothing more than a castrated man."
Ning Xiaoyao felt that it'd be better to start brawling instead. It was impossible to talk reason with such a jerk. The Lord Protector's face was starting to look angry as well, and it took all he had to keep from striding forward and kicking over the Grand Preceptor's chair.
"Ha," Pei Yang took this moment to chortle, his cold laughter filled with mocking.
"Impudence!" someone from the Grand Preceptor's faction spoke up at once. "Is the Hall of Golden Chimes any place for you to act so wanton?"
Pei Yan replied, "His Majesty didn't even say I was being wanton, so what are you so upset about, official? Could it be that you're treating the Hall of Golden Chimes as your own house instead?" Treating the Hall of Golden Chimes as one's own house? You want to revolt?
Pei Yan's words nearly sent the official to his knees to proclaim loyalty to Ning Xiaoyao, but Grand Preceptor Xie spoke up with, "Pei Yan, don't speak such nonsense."
Pei Yan glanced at Grand Preceptor Xie, a half-smile playing upon his features. "Just then, Grand Preceptor said I was a castrated man?"
"Aren't you?" Grand Preceptor Xie replied.
"Grand Preceptor can send me a girl," Pei Yan said. "I'll have my way with her while the Grand Preceptor watches."
An uproar broke out in the Hall of Golden Chimes at his statement. Pei Yan was still the son of a public official, so how could he speak like a despicable lowlife? Ten or more officials from the Grand Preceptor's faction stood out right then to yell at him.
"Oh, I forgot to mention it," Pei Yan looked at Grand Preceptor Xie while ignoring them all. "I'm still the son of nobility, so I'm not interested in commoner girls. How about Grand Preceptor give me one of the Xie Clan daughters instead? Ha," he paused to laugh, "But I've nearly forgotten again. The Xie Clan daughters are the type to sabotage their own sisters. Such kindnesses from such beauties are really hard to dispel."
Grand Preceptor Xie clenched his fists until his veins bulged out from his hands.
"Impudent boy!" the Grand Preceptor's faction chorused simultaneously.
"What?" Pei Yan stopped smiling his radiant grin to turn cold. "In these excellencies' eyes, is only the Grand Preceptor allowed to speak insults about others, while I'm forbidden from saying a single thing?"
An official angrily raged, "When has the Grand Preceptor ever said any insults?"
"You," Pei Yan lifted a finger to point at the minister. "Are a castrated man."
"…….." said the official. Should I keep being mad? But if I do, it'll feel like I'm slapping the Grand Preceptor's face instead. Being angry would prove that being called a castrated man is an insult.
"Pei Yan," Grand Preceptor Xie suppressed his rage and prepared to speak.
"Your Majesty," Pei Yan turned to kneel at Ning Xiaoyao's feet. "This official accepts the decree."
"Done," Ning Xiaoyao patted the armrest of her dragon throne. "From this moment on, you're the Nine Gates Infantry Commander!"
"This official will never be undeserving of imperial favor nor disgrace imperial law," Pei Yan said seriously as he kowtowed three times.
"Rise," Ning Xiaoyao said. "I trust that you'll be a capable Nine Gates Infantry Commander." Just by his verbal sparring skills alone, he'll definitely make Grand Preceptor Xie unhappy.
Pei Yan rose to his feet and bowed once more to Ning Xiaoyao. "This official thanks Your Majesty."
Lou Zigui turned to face Pei Yan. "Congratulations to Your Excellency Pei. 'Never be undeserving of imperial grace nor disgrace imperial law'—may Your Excellency Pei remember today's words in the future."
Pei Yan cupped his fist at Lou Zigui and replied, "Many thanks to Supreme Commander. This humble official dare not forget."
Elder Li's disciples were all staring blank-faced at their leader. What to do now? Are we really going to make an incomplete man the Nine Gates Infantry Commander?
Elder Li simply looked at Pei Yan. When Pei Yan was four, the Lord Protector's men had carried him out of the castration chamber with his body covered in blood. Elder Li had clearly remembered the sight. Now it was another dynasty with its own sovereign, but the Pei Yan standing before him now in dark blue brocade robes had a handsome face and a tall, graceful build. His former youth had already given way to adulthood.
With a soft sigh, Elder Li bowed towards Ning Xiaoyao. "Your Majesty, this official believes that it is good that Pei Yan is the Nine Gates Infantry Commander."
"Hahaha, isn't it?" Ning Xiaoyao stopped worrying now and grinned openly at Elder Li. "Old gramps, isn't my insight great?"
Ning Xiaoyao was smiling so broadly that her eyes had all but disappeared, while Elder Li wasn't grinning at all. Still, he nodded and said, "The fact that Your Majesty recognizes the worth of men is our Yongning's good fortune."
Ning Xiaoyao was even more smug upon being praised by Elder Li. "Mhm. Old gramps, do you feel that I'm dashing enough to pierce through the Heavens?"
"……" said Elder Li. Dashing enough to pierce through the Heavens? What dratted nonsense is that?
"Your Majesty," Lou Zigui had to speak up. Is this the time to bring that up now?
"Your Majesty!" Grand Preceptor Xie couldn't accept yet another defeat.
"Court adjourned," Ning Xiaoyao jumped up from her throne and ran off
"Your Majesty!" Now it was Lou Zigui's turn to shout. In the blink of an eye, Ning Xiaoyao had already reached the doors to the Hall of Golden Chimes, but she stopped at the cry.
"Tao Yu, ah!" Shadowrain reminded Ning Xiaoyao in a small voice from outside the hall.
Slap! Ning Xiaoyao hit her forehead. Dammnit, I forgot about Tao Yu. She silently turned around and walked back to the dragon throne and sat down.
Grand Preceptor Xie said, "Your Majesty, this official feels that the matter of the Nine Gates Infantry Commander is inappropriate."
"I've already issued the imperial decree. Do you want me to slap my own face?" Ning Xiaoyao waved a hand. "Next we'll talk about Tao Yu instead."
Grand Preceptor Xie said, "Tao Yu has already been expelled from his clan. What now, is Your Majesty going to concern yourself with internal clan matters as well?"
"I'm not concerned," Ning Xiaoyao shook her head. "I can't even take care of my own domestic matters, so why would I bother with the Tao Clan's?"
All of the imperial clan members present pursed their lips in response. Have you ever concerned yourself with the imperial clan since locking up Prince Fu, Your Majesty?
"Have Tao Yu enter the hall," Ning Xiaoyao said loudly.
"Tao Yu is only a deputy general of the military barracks," someone from the Grand Preceptor's faction piped up. "How could such a post be qualified to enter the Hall of Golden Chimes?"
"Do I need you to worry about who I want to see?" Ning Xiaoyao furrowed her brows. "Who are you? How big of a face do you have?"
All of the Grand Preceptor's faction fell silent. Talking with His Majesty was nothing short of torture.
"Grand Preceptor," Ning Xiaoyao looked at him as she spoke. "I want to see Tao Yu, should I beg for your permission first?"
What else could Grand Preceptor Xie say besides that he 'didn't dare?'