Moving into position
“Nooo!! How!? Why!? How could I let this happen!? The Raven Guard, out sneaked by a toad!?”
--Bro Trip 40,000: A Tale of Two Primarchs Episode 1
Chapter 170 – Moving into position
It was the middle of the night in Beihai. A hooded, female figure made its way to an obscure alley, moving from shadow to shadow as a precaution from prying eyes. Eventually she reached a cul-de-sac, a dead end surrounded by brick walls.
“Took you long enough,” a sarcastic voice said.
The hooded figure whirled around to confront the voice. “You could have picked a better time,” she responded waspishly as she withdrew her hood.
If Huang Ming was present, he would have confirmed his suspicions about the former maid of General Yin as a spy. The hooded person was the very same woman that he had brought back from the Yin family graveyard.
Gone were the worn looks, frayed hair and malnourished body. After she had returned with Huang Ming, she quickly regained her vitality. Now she was a strikingly beautiful woman, with raven hair and luscious lips. Though she was dressed modestly, the simple clothes could not conceal the voluptuous figure underneath.
Indeed, the soldiers that had accompanied Huang Ming that day were singing praises of their boss for being able to see past her previous haggard self. Much to Huang Ming’s annoyance, it only added further traction to stories and rumours of his playboy reputation.
Those who had dismissed her as a simple rescued peasant now lamented at their short-sightedness, for they have lost the chance to put the woman known as Miss Xilei in their debt. Before her transformation, they did not even give her a second glance.
Now they tripped over themselves to approach her at every opportunity, only to be rebuffed by her steadfast dedication to Huang Ming. She ignored her amorous pursuers and deflected their flirtatious calls by using her new position as Huang Ming’s personal maid, much to their chagrin. The womenfolk of Beihai on the other hand mocked their foolishness, while praising Miss Xilei’s sense of gratitude to the man who had brought her back from the wilderness.
All sympathized with Miss Xilei after hearing her determined penance at the Yin family graveyard. ‘Tending to the dead to mollify the living’ became a lauded proverb, turning her into a popular figure among Beihai’s populace. She was not just a maid, but the maid. After all, she had first served the legendary Yin family, and now served the rising hero of the kingdom.
Yet, none of them had the slightest inkling of Miss Xilei’s nocturnal activities. They would be shocked to see the Maid of Beihai consorting with a shadowy figure in some back alley.
“A better time?” the man in the alley chuckled. “Your last update was more than a week ago. You all but forced me to contact you directly. Or do you prefer me to write back to Princess Jin Hua about how you’re too distracted to do your job?”
The man stepped out from the shadows and threw back his own cloak. The movement brushed aside his hair to momentarily reveal a partially disfigured face, hideously deformed and scarred that cast a gloomy aura.
Xilei rolled her eyes dismissively. “Don’t try to threaten me, Songdan. I don’t answer to you. Only the princess can tell me what to do.”
“And you have been remiss in sending your reports!” Songdan fired back.
“It is not easy,” Xilei sniffed. “I simply can’t get away these days, there are too many people around me. ”
“You should have held back on your seductive wiles. The princess told you to spy on Huang Ming, not to seduce him. You took your honey trap too far, and now you are like a dung heap surrounded by flies,” Songdan snorted.
“Is it my fault that I’m too beautiful? These people in Beihai are just too backward,” Xilei scoffed, tossing her hair alluringly. She knew it would have no effect on Songdan, but she did it anyway to flaunt her beauty and annoy the gloomy young man.
Songdan narrowed his eyes disdainfully at her. “I don’t know whether if I should laugh or cry at you. I actually don’t mind you trying to entice Huang Ming, but your plan has yet to bear fruit. What happened to your much vaunted seduction skills?”
Xilei’s luscious lips drew back in a snarl as she threw up her hands in exasperation. “That man is busy beyond belief! I only see him during meal times most days,” she complained.
“Perhaps our information about his promiscuous past was in error. Otherwise, he would have jumped your bones already,” Songdan mused.
“Hmph. Perhaps. Our information came from dubious sources after all,” Xilei said.
“Maybe he prefers men,” Songdan muttered. “I have heard rumours that he is often in the company of a very beautiful man. Any truth in that?”
Xilei flushed. “Nonsense!” she snapped, surprising Songdan.
“It was just a theory, why so upset?” he asked.
Xilei took a deep breath to calm herself. “You heard right, he often consorts with a beautiful man, I have seen him myself.”
“Oh? Who is he?”
“He is called Quan Lu. Maybe a distant cousin to Huang Ming, I am not too clear about it. What I am sure is that he is not into Huang Ming,” Xilei explained, her cheeks reddening.
“What do you mean?” Songdan asked. He was puzzled by her fidgeting. Why was this vixen acting so bashful before him?
“That, that Quan Lu is a rogue! He takes advantage of me!” Xilei said through gritted teeth, her ears fully red.
“He… he gropes me, whenever we meet!” Xilei sputtered. Her body trembled as she recalled the way Quan Lu had cornered her multiple times, sometimes blocking her escape by slamming his hand against the wall and leaning in so closely that she was drowned in his emerald green eyes and devastatingly handsome face… while his other hand roamed over her weak spots…
Songdan stared at her disbelievingly. “What the hell is wrong with you? You’re no chaste virgin, why are you so flustered by him?”
“What do you know, Mr. Virgin!” Xilei lashed out, stung by his rebuke. “I am just telling you that Huang Ming’s beautiful man is just his friend and not his lover, that is all!”
“You are the one who complained about being taken advantage of!” Songdan retorted, his own temper flaring at her impertinence.
“Enough,” a new voice interrupted. Songdan and Xilei turned to see a hunchbacked figure joining them. They flushed with shame at being caught unaware by an old man with a bad back.
Songdan and Xilei mumbled their apologies, but the elderly man waved it away.
“You two are supposed to keep a low profile, how do you expect to be effective spies if you are arguing so loudly out in a public area?” the old man admonished. “Let us go somewhere more private, lest someone comes to check on your argument. Follow me.”
The trio then hastened to another place, unaware that the entire drama was being spied on by a pair of emerald green eyes…
Sunli blinked at General Yin Yanzhao’s sudden request.
“Sir?” she said hesitantly, unsure of his intentions.
General Yin waved a sealed golden scroll before her. “I have a decree from the king, I am going to send it on his behalf. I am asking you to come with me.”
Sunli thought it was reasonable. She had not actually seen the presentation of a royal edict before, the closest encounter she had was the time when Huang Ming was first summoned to the capital. Even then, she had just missed seeing the emissary and the actual presentation by mere minutes.
“What decree would require you to deliver it personally?” she asked.
“Actually, I just want to stretch my legs a little. Going back and forth between my office and the palace is the extent of my horse riding these days,” General Yin confessed.
Sunli nodded, she too had felt a little constrained within the capital city. Having grown up in army camps all her life, sometimes she longed for the days where she could simply jump up onto a horse and ride into the wilds for a hunt.
“Understood. When do we leave?”
The general was pleased and smiled. “In a few hours. I suggest you scrounge up some winter clothing and some cloaks,” he said.
Sunli frowned. The only place in Wu that would be cold this time of the year was in the north…
“That is right, we are going to Beihai,” General Yin confirmed. He seemed to enjoy the troubled look on the War Goddess’s face.
“Rejoice, you are going to reunite with your fiancé.”
Deceit and lies.