“All is fair in love and war.”
Chapter 184 – The surrender (1)
Huang Ming triumphantly led his raider back into the city completely unmolested. The Jins were still in confusion and putting out the fires and rounding up their startled horses.
The city cheered at the return of the little band that dared to conduct a raid against a much larger force, but Huang Ming received a different sort of welcome.
Qiong Ying in her Quan Lu disguise was waiting for him with an evil eye on her face, her arms folded and her feet tapping impatiently. Her handsome visage combined with displeasure gave her the features of a devilishly irritated person, a coldly wrathful apparition of fire and ice.
Huang Ming smirked, but he spied something and quickly signalled with his eyes. Despite her growing anger, Qiong Ying caught the gesture.
“Well done, young lord!” Quan Lu exclaimed while clapping sarcastically.
“Thank you, Sir Quan. Sorry to have inconvenienced you in this mess, but you were the one who insisted on visiting Beihai,” Huang Ming said, twisting truth into the fiction.
The corner of Quan Lu’s face twitched, adding realism to the drama.
“I came because of commitments to your family,” he said stiffly. “Even to the last moment, you reassured me that nothing will go wrong.”
Huang Ming laughed and spread his arms wide. “Well, my friend, as you can see, everything went well!”
Quan Lu narrowed his eyes, they glinted maliciously. “And for how long can you keep this up? How many times will you ride out and fight? You claimed to be able to hold the city for thirty days, but already our walls have suffered a breach. How do you plan to save the people of the city?”
Huang Ming’s arms dropped down, and he returned an icy look of his own. “I did not know that you are that concerned with the city’s fate, my friend. You have been secluded for all this while, I had thought you no longer have any worldly concerns. But if you are that worried, feel free to contribute to the city defences,” Huang Ming said mockingly.
Quan Lu stared hatefully at Huang Ming and withdrew in humiliation; one could see the irrevocable rift between them.
The little exchanged was witnessed by Miss Xilei. The expression on Quan Lu’s face tugged at her heartstrings, and she decided to approach the man who had taken liberties with her.
“Sir Quan, are you alright?” she called out softly.
Quan Lu chuckled bitterly. “I have shamed myself,” he said, causing a twinge in Xilei’s heart. He reached out to brush Xilei’s hair. “Poor little maid, now you too are stuck in this forsaken place because of him,” he whispered.
Xilei bit her quivering lips, her eyes watery. She was loyal to the Princess of Jin and obeyed the princess’s orders to spy on Huang Ming, but she did not expect to find such an enchanting man here.
Being a temptress herself, Xilei was wary of being emotionally invested. But Quan Lu’s fine-looking features and outrageous flirting stuck in Xilei’s mind, and seeing his distressed face now raised unfamiliar feelings within her.
“It is no fault of Sir Huang that the Jins has attacked Beihai,” Xilei said softly.
“Is that what you think? Did you know that he had deliberately antagonized and humiliated the Jins at the capital? He all but gave the Jins the excuse they needed to come here,” Quan Lu said. “The citizens of Beihai cheer for him, but how many of them know that the fault lies entirely with him?”
Xilei affected a look of shock.
“But, but he is a hero of our country of Wu,” she stammered convincingly.
“A hero? It’s just a fancy story made to make himself look good. He is only doing this out of sheer pride, not duty,” Quan Lu sneered. “If you consider the facts carefully, the only people who benefited from his strategies were his family. He allowed the campaign in Wei to fail, and yet added Tigertrap Fortress to their sphere of influence.”
He leaned closely at Xilei, causing her heart to skip a beat at the proximity.
“Make no mistake about it, he is a selfish creature, and he is gambling with the lives of everyone in Beihai,” Quan Lu said. “He offended General Yin Yanzhao, and that caused the veterans to be taken away. He gave General Li Jing a menial task, and now he had deserted out of disgust. I do not blame them, I should have left long ago.”
He shook his head in regret. “If not for fulfilling a promise to his mother to accompany him, I would not have come here at all,” he added. Then he smiled faintly, his green eyes glimmering at her.
“But I suppose I wouldn’t have met you otherwise, so there is a silver lining in all this,” Quan Lu murmured.
It was as if a hurricane swept through Xilei. She made up her mind there and then.
“Sir Quan, there are some people I would like you to meet…”
“So, how did it go?” Huang Ming asked.
“Perfectly. She introduced me to her merry little band, and we’re plotting all sorts of nefarious plans to take you down,” Qiong Ying said lightly.
Qiong Ying’s face turned solemn. “They have been hard at work ever since the siege, you should not understand them.”
“Did they try to rile up the disaffected wealthy and powerful people in the city?” Huang Ming asked cynically.
Qiong Ying was both astonished and annoyed. “How did you know?” she demanded.
“I antagonized them when I had their riches seized, I would be disappointed if those spies haven’t tried to approach them.”
“You did it on purpose? How far are you planning ahead?” Qiong Ying asked.
Huang Ming shrugged. “There will always be dissatisfied people inside a city under siege, I only done so to make it easy for them to identify each other. Do you know what do they have planned?”
“Nothing concrete as yet. Seems your successful raid had given them some pause,” she replied.
“Well, that’s disappointing,” Huang Ming sighed. “Come, I’ll give you some ideas to feed them.”
“Before that, we have some other things to discuss,” Qiong Ying interrupted.
“Hmm? What about?”
“You lied to me. You told me you won’t be riding out to fight the Jins,” Qiong Ying said, her eyes narrowing.
“But I didn’t lie,” Huang Ming protested.
Qiong Ying was unamused by his blatant lying. “You personally lead the raid!”
“Ah. But I wasn’t fighting the Jins in the raid. The raid was so successful that you can’t call it fighting.”
“Then what do you call it?” Qiong Ying asked waspishly.
“That wasn’t fighting, that was a beating,” Huang Ming said with a grin.