Chapter 326: Empress Dowager imprisoned on a remote island
Seeing Grandmaster Kumu appearing before her eyes, Empress Dowager Xie abruptly realized that Lou Zigui didn't just want to take Ning Xin away and coerce her to leave the Empress Dowager Palace. This person seriously wants to force her to shave her head and become a nun!
"You're unwilling?" Lou Zigui lowered his head to look at Empress Dowager Xie. The corner of his mouth was slightly upturned except that his smile looked very cold. The sword in his hand was still unsheathed. It reflected the reddish-orange candlelight but didn't appear to have a warm hue at all.
Empress Dowager Xie opened her mouth but couldn't produce a sound. Her body shook with fear once she thought Lou Zigui was really going to kill her. The moment one becomes afraid and loses courage, they are at the mercy of their predator.
"Grandmaster, please." Lou Zigui took a step back.
Grandmaster Kumu stepped forward and glanced at Empress Dowager Xie. The son was still alive but the mother was forced to shave her head. This was something unthinkable in ordinary households. But when this matter was placed in the imperial household, people weren't taken aback. Family ties crumble in front of the word 'power'.
Grandmaster Kumu took the razor and with a few slight movements, Empress Dowager Xie's black hair consecutively fell to the ground. As her hair piled up on the ground, Empress Dowager Xie burst into tears.
Grandmaster Kumu stopped and turned his head to look at Lou Zigui. The corner of Lou Zigui's mouth still carried a sneer, displaying his heartless temperament. The tears of this woman were not worth a single cent in his eyes.
"Amitābha." Since Lou Zigui remained unmoved, Grandmaster Kumu could only chant the name of Buddha in a low voice and continue using the razor in his hand.
After the time it took to burn half an incense stick, Empress Dowager Xie's black hair had all been shaved. Her tears also seemed to have dried up from crying too much. She laid prone on the floor and was motionless. If it weren't for her body trembling a few times every now and then, others would have mistaken Empress Dowager Xie as a corpse.
Lou Zigui waved his hand at Grandmaster Kumu. For the majority of his life, no one dared to order Grandmaster Kumu around like this. However, Grandmaster Kumu had no choice but to obey when faced with Lou Zigui's intimidating sword. Thus, he immediately retreated from the palace chamber. Lou Zigui lowered his head to look at Empress Dowager Xie. "There are Dragon Guards outside. They will escort you to the Buddhist hall."
Empress Dowager Xie continued to lay prone on the ground and didn't speak.
"You're still not leaving?" Lou Zigui asked. Empress Dowager Xie blundered a few times before she stood up from the floor.
Lou Zigui used the tip of his sword to push the door open. "Please, Esteemed Empress Dowager."
Empress Dowager Xie walked out of the palace chamber and was welcomed by a cool breeze. Under the shadow of the moon, the flowers and trees swayed and emitted rustling sounds. The scenery she was so accustomed to now gave her a feeling of dread and hopelessness. As she walked down the steps, she thought to herself. If the late emperor had still been still alive, how would she have declined to this plight today? The late emperor would have protected her, pampered her and killed off all those who didn't respect her, but, Empress Dowager Xie staggered, that man who would protect her with all his heart and soul was no longer around.
When Shadowgale and a few others saw Grandmaster Kumu outside the courtyard door, they already had an idea of what Supreme Commander was planning. However, they didn't expect to see a bald Empress Dowager Xie walking out. Shadowgale and the others were stunned and simultaneously turned to stare at Lou Zigui in amazement. His Excellency Supreme Commander is really daring!
"Go to the Buddhist hall." Lou Zigui told Shadowgale. Shadowgale glanced at Grandmaster Kumu who stood at one side.
Lou Zigui randomly assigned a Dragon Guard for the task and instructed, "Take Grandmaster to Supreme Splendor Hall."
Grandmaster Kumu humbly looked down with his eyes shut. The Dragon Guard hurriedly accepted the order and took him away.
"Lead the way." Lou Zigui allowed Shadowgale to walk in front.
Just like that, Empress Dowager Xie was escorted by Lou Zigui all the way to the Buddhist hall.
The Buddhist hall Shadowgale found for Empress Dowager Xie wasn't a proper Buddhist hall from the imperial palace. Instead, it was a secluded residence of an imperial consort that had fallen out of favor decades ago. Inside the main room, there was a wooden statue of Guanyin* that was approximately half the size of a human. This was already sufficient for one to worship Buddha and cultivate one's moral character.
Lou Zigui stood in the courtyard and swept his eyes across the Buddhist hall. There were a total of four rooms and he felt rather satisfied. This location was remote and surrounded by water. There was no bridge so people would need to rely on a boat to enter and exit. With Empress Dowager Xie residing in such a remote island, he no longer had to worry about her communicating with the outside world. She would no longer be able to harm Miss Ning with her evil ideas.
"No one here should be working for more than a month. The servants must be changed regularly." Ignoring the wailing sounds coming from within the Buddhist hall, Lou Zigui left some orders for Shadowgale. "Ideally, choose those you can trust. Those assigned to serve here should have absolutely no relationship with the Empress Dowager's palace or Grand Preceptor's estate. If you can't find these types of people, then I would rather have no one serving here. You can just personally deliver three meals per day."
Shadowgale nodded and replied with an assent. After advising Shadowgale, Lou Zigui climbed up the steps to take a look inside. The Buddhist hall wasn't big and had already been tidied. The windows were bright, the tables were clean and the incense in front of the Guanyin statue was already lit. The whole Buddhist hall was suffused with the scent of sandalwood.
When Empress Dowager Xie saw Lou Zigui, her cries came to a sudden stop.
When Shadowgale and the others saw Empress Dowager in this state, they couldn't help but wonder, did Supreme Commander beat Empress Dowager up?
Lou Zigui gave Empress Dowager Xie a brief stare but didn't make any more threats. Then, he turned around and descended the steps. He beckoned his hands at Shadowgale and the others. "Let's go."
Once Empress Dowager Xie could no longer hear the footsteps, she dashed out of the Buddhist hall. There weren't any flowers, trees, nor decorations in the courtyard. In fact, it was only a patch of empty land. The courtyard wooden doors were already shut and looked extremely thick and heavy. Empress Dowager Xie went up to the doors but didn't even have the courage to knock against it.
"Would anything happen to her if we just leave her here?" Shadowgale was concerned and turned his head back to glance at the dark grey wooden door.
"No." Lou Zigui lowered his voice, "If something were to happen to Esteemed Empress Dowager, it would have happened long ago. It wouldn't happen today."
Basically, Lou Zigui was telling him that if Esteemed Empress Dowager had wanted to die, she would've died long ago. She wouldn't have waited until now.
Empress Dowager slid down against the wooden doors and sat on the ground. The wind howled as it blew past the open space. Empress Dowager Xie started to cry again. She was on a remote island sealed inside a small courtyard. Who would come and show some compassion towards her? She was merely a woman sitting on the ground, crying in anguish.
At this moment, Little Gyrfalcon brought Grandpa Ash and Oil Jar to the top of the courtyard's wall. It shook the feathers on its body and the little gyrfalcon vented his extreme anger, "This evil woman is finally getting what she deserves!" Up until now, the little gyrfalcon hadn't forgotten how Empress Dowager Xie had attempted to kill his master.
"She looks a little pitiful," Oil Jar expressed his own opinion. Grandpa Ash raised his paw to knock Oil Jar's head. "She isn't pitiful. She has been defeated." This is what humans mean when they say, 'the victors become the ruler while the losers are reduced to bandits'.
Oil Jar's small eyes rolled in circles. "So if Xiaoyao didn't win this time, she would be the one crying here instead?"
Grandpa Ash shook its head. "Grand Preceptor Xie wouldn't have let Xiaoyao live."
Oil Jar and Little Gyrfalcon didn't speak for a very long time. The two suddenly rejoiced in their hearts. Fortunately, Xiaoyao didn't lose!
Meanwhile, Ning Xiaoyao was sitting in the main hall of Supreme Splendor Hall with Xu Feiyu. She was tongue-tied and staring at Xu Feiyu with her eyes wide. "How's that possible?" The Empress' fetal signs aren't stable? She had clearly treated the Empress before. Did something happen again?
Xu Feiyu lowered his voice, "Many thanks for Your Majesty's concern. This subject has invited a physician for her. This subject will try his best to preserve the child, but if the child cannot be saved, this subject…"
Ning Xiaoyao became tense. "Then what will you do?"
Xu Feiyu replied, "Then this subject will definitely save the adult."
It looks like this is indeed true love. Ning Xiaoyao looked at Xu Feiyu and nodded at him. It wasn’t an injustice for the empress to get pregnant with General Xu and she wasn't pointlessly stabbed after all!
The awkward atmosphere between Xu Feiyu and Ning Xiaoyao was initially fading, but when the empress was mentioned, Great General Xu felt uncomfortable again. Although he and the empress were childhood sweethearts and their feelings resonated with each other, the empress was still the lawful wife of the emperor. The matter between him and the empress was something that could not be disclosed to the public.
Ning Xiaoyao wanted to say 'You can send the empress back for me to take a look' but on second thought, the empress probably doesn't ever want to see her again in this lifetime, right?
"Live your days well." In the end, Ning Xiaoyao simply told Xu Feiyu, "My medical skills aren't bad. If the situation is really disastrous, you can ask Em-Miss Zhou, ask her if she is willing to make a trip back to the capital."
Xu Feiyu replied, "This subject has noted Your Majesty's words."
From Xu Feiyu's expression, Ning Xiaoyao felt that Great General Xu hadn't put her words to heart.
Xu Feiyu sat in a daze for a while before he opened his mouth to ask Ning Xiaoyao, "Your Majesty, the war in the capital is already over. How does Your Majesty plan on handling the Zhou Junqi matter?"
"Eldest Young Master Zhou is here." Lou Zigui replied to Xu Feiyu and entered the main hall with Grandmaster Kumu. Behind them, Zhou Junqi was being supported by Shadowgale.
Ever since the Zhou Family met with a mishap and Zhou Junqi was imprisoned in Iron Buddha Temple, Xu Feiyu hadn't seen this Eldest Young Master. Looking at the gaunt man supported by Shadowgale, it took Xu Feiyu a while before he was able to recognize him. He abruptly sprung up from the chair and knocked the chair slanted.
Eldest Young Master Zhou was given prior notice that Xu Feiyu was speaking to His Majesty in the main hall. As a result, he had already mentally prepared himself for this meeting. Thus, he appeared more composed than Xu Feiyu. He nodded and smiled at Xu Feiyu. This guy could finally end up with his younger sister. Furthermore, he could even speak to His Majesty in an even-tempered manner. What more could they ask for?
It only took Xu Feiyu a few steps to stand before Zhou Junqi. Glancing at Eldest Young Master Zhou's hollow sleeve, he gulped and choked two times before lowering his voice to address him, "Elder Brother."
Zhou Junqi replied, "Aye."
Ning Xiaoyao laughed heartily in her seat. "Big Bro Zhou, you're here already? General Xu was just asking about you. This time, leave with him! Eat more meat and grow fatter!"
Lou Zigui went over to Ning Xiaoyao and lightly poked Miss Ning's back. Why does it matter to you whether Zhou Junqi becomes fatter or thinner?
Zhou Junqi wanted to kneel and pay his respects to Ning Xiaoyao. "No need." Ning Xiaoyao waved her hand. "You just need to obey the decree and grow fatter."
Xu Feiyu inwardly heaved a sigh of relief. His Majesty was willing to release Zhou Junqi. In that case, even if this was His Majesty's stratagem to win people's hearts, he was still willing to die for him.
"Grandmaster, why did you come?" Ning Xiaoyao turned her attention to Grandmaster Kumu. "Did you purposely come to send my Big Bro Ning off?"
"Replying to Your Majesty, Empress Dowager wanted to shave her head. This poor monk received Esteemed Empress Dowager's imperial decree to enter the palace to help shave her head."
Empress Dowager could still send an imperial decree outside the palace? No, that can't be right. Ning Xiaoyao blinked her eyes as she pondered. Why does she need a monk to cut her hair? "What does this shaving head mean?" Next to her, Ning Xiaoyao whispered to Lou Zigui. It doesn't seem like a haircut to me.
"It means to shave off one's head to become a nun," Lou Zigui softly replied.
Ning Xiaoyao sat in a daze. Going to the Buddhist hall isn't enough? Esteemed Empress Dowager has to become a nun too?!
*T/n: Refers to the Bodhisattva of Compassion, also known as Avalokiteśvara.
Here is a Wikipedia page about Guanyin if you are interested: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guanyin
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