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“No one loves the messenger who brings bad news.”
Chapter 172 – Reunion
Huang Ming yawned widely, and General Li Jing chuckled even as he continued to chew his srih leaves.
“What’s so funny?” Huang Ming asked.
“Just that I was waiting here for you back then, and now we’re both here standing in the snow,” Li Jing replied after he spat out the spent leaves.
Huang Ming frowned. “That is a disgusting habit,” he said. The two had worked closely lately and had grown comfortable at being blunt with each other.
“’tis is my only vice. Not all of us are as fortunate as you, to be so handsome and popular with women,” Li Jing said slyly. He was fully aware of the rumours surrounding Huang Ming, and after seeing the much-talked about Miss Xilei in person; he was of the opinion that those rumours were right.
“You are already married, how does your wife tolerate your addiction?” Huang Ming deflected.
“She doesn’t. Why else do you think I’m chewing this?” General Li Jing said, winking conspiratorially as he placed a fresh leaf into his mouth.
Huang Ming responded by rolling his eyes. “Some family man you are.”
“I don’t want to hear that coming from you,” Li Jing shot back with good humour. “Besides, you haven’t seen my wife,” he added with a grimace.
It was Huang Ming’s turn to chuckle.
The light-hearted mood disappeared when they finally caught sight of approaching riders. Having been warned of their arrival, Huang Ming knew that they were General Yin Yanzhao’s small entourage.
Li Jing’s previously good cheer now replaced with a sour expression. Like many others in Beihai, he was disappointed when the famous General Yin transferred to the capital. It was not a case of hero worship, but Li Jing was more than a little aggrieved when he was given the unwanted job of stepping into Yin Yanzhao’s shoes.
“Here he comes,” Li Jing muttered quietly. He then plastered a wide smile on his face and cupped his hands to greet the general.
General Yin Yanzhao own smile faltered slightly when he saw Li Jing’s red-stained teeth.
“I have returned,” he greeted, pushing down his feeling of revulsion.
But Huang Ming saw the twitch on Yin Yanzhao’s face.‘Looks like there is some truth about Yin Yanzhao running to the capital to avoid Li Jing,’ he grinned.
“Beihai welcomes your return,” Huang Ming said as he bowed deferentially.
Yin Yanzhao smiled. “I have heard good things out of Beihai, I am pleased that you are doing a good job,” he praised.
“It is because you have laid such sturdy foundations,” Huang Ming said with a poker face.
General Yin seemingly did not notice the subtle sarcasm. He clapped Huang Ming heavily on the shoulder in a show of camaraderie.
“Let’s not waste any more time here, I am eager to see the changes that you have brought to my city,” General Yin said. Li Jing obligingly led the way.
‘Your city?’ Huang Ming repeated mentally as he trailed behind them. But he didn’t want to dwell on the general’s possessiveness, as he was far more interested in the woman who had followed the general.
Who else could it be but Sunli, his dusky War Goddess? That tall height, slim and toned profile… a true Amazon.
Huang Ming remembered their first encounter, when he had joked about desiring her more than Zhao Hongqi the wahaha girl. It was in jest, but the revelation that Sunli really was his fiancée only increased the awkwardness between them.
“Hi,” he greeted mildly as he walked beside her.
Sunli was as stone-faced as ever. She merely nodded curtly and said nothing, her eyes facing forward and not looking at him.
Seeing her reticence caused Huang Ming to shake his head in self-depreciation.
‘I asked for it,’ he admitted wryly to himself. ‘I asked too much of her and gave her too little in return.’
“We’re still officially working, personal matters can wait,” she murmured, her eyes still forward.
Huang Ming nodded, a smile brightening his face. Then he looked up and saw that General Yin was looking back at him.
Their eyes met. Words were not spoken, but both had the same thoughts.
‘He hasn’t given up.’
They toured the streets of Beihai, and the citizens turned out in droves to see the returning General Yin Yanzhao. Though he had transferred to the capital, they still regard him as the local hero, one of their very own.
Huang Ming could not help but feel a little sour inside as General Yin stopped frequently to shake hands and greet this or that familiar person. Though Huang Ming had only been in charge of Beihai for a short while, he had revitalized Beihai quite dramatically. Yet here he was, forced to see firsthand the influence and popularity of General Yin.
Huang Ming was not a very petty person, but nobody would enjoy seeing someone else reap the fruits of one’s labour. Many of the commoners still attributed Beihai’s recent development to General Yin despite his absence, that he had somehow gone to fight for them in the distant capital successfully.
The general himself did nothing to dispel their misconception. One might think that he was too embarrassed to tell them the truth, and so he merely laughed and moved on.
“You have done very well. The city is much more lively than I ever remember. I had thought the stories to be exaggerated, but you have really breathed new life here,” Yin Yanzhao said.
Huang Ming merely bowed.
“I hope you don’t mind, but explaining to them one at a time will get tiring,” the general said.
“Do not worry, it is understandable,” Huang Ming replied. “It matters little to me, as I would not be here for too long.”
“I am not too sure about that,” General Yin said mysteriously. “You are doing good work here, and the king is very pleased.”
“Oh?” Huang Ming arched an eyebrow in question.
Then General Yin took out the royal decree.
Huang Ming frowned.
‘What is that king up to now? He said it was temporary.’
A king’s royal order,
Sent to him at the border.