The surrender (5)
“You are fake news!”
Chapter 188 – The surrender (5)
Despite Huang Ming’s promise, Songdan was still suspicious. After some back and forth negotiations, Songdan escorted Huang Ming to the top of the city walls and providing encouragements with the point of his dagger.
Left with no choice, Huang Ming was forced to lead the way. His presence allowed Songdan to have easy access to the battlements, just like what Xilei had done for him previously. Songdan affixed his personal wax seal of his insignia on Huang Ming’s letter of surrender and tied a small bell to it. Songdan then shot the arrow-letter towards the Jin camp.
“You could have done this yourself, I have already signed the letter,” Huang Ming grumbled later.
“I wanted to look you in the eyes as you did it. To see if you really meant it,” Songdan replied. Inwardly Songdan was annoyed that he did not detect any hint of deceit from Huang Ming. Yet Songdan was also exulting at the fact that he was going to achieve what the Jin army outside could not: opening the gates of Beihai.
Huang Ming shrugged. “Well, since I’m not dead yet, I think you are satisfied. In any event, your Jin friends have three days to suss out whether General Yin is coming.”
They waited atop the battlements, their eyes straining in the night towards the Jin camps for signs of movement. Within the hour, they could make out the distant lights of torches begin to stir. A dark mass of vague shapes began to leave the Jin camps, and both Huang Ming and Songdan knew it was a sign that the Jins have received the arrow-letter.
“Well, that’s done. Now let me go home and get some sleep,” Huang Ming said.
He moved to return to his residence, only to see Songdan following him closely in the deserted streets.
“What are you doing?” he asked the Jin spy with a frown.
“I am not letting you out of my sight,” Songdan said menacingly.
Huang Ming stared at him and leaned back warily.
“I am not into men,” he said with a tremor.
It took all of Songdan’s self-control so as not to stumble in mid-step.
“I meant to keep an eye on you to make sure there is no funny business,” Songdan growled as he felt the veins on his face pulse.
Huang Ming grinned. “Funny business? You mean, like this?” he asked brightly.
He snapped his fingers: a loud sound in the quiet of the night.
It was a distinct signal and torches were suddenly lit, lighting up the area. A dozen or so Wu soldiers led by the grizzled White Wolf veteran appeared, their military weapons gleaming in the moonlight.
Songdan brandished his dagger but the situation was hopeless. The Wu soldiers quickly overpowered him before he could take his own life, forcing him to kneel.
He glared hatefully at Huang Ming. The fracas had exposed the hideously half of his face, the fury twisting the scars and veins in a ghoulish manner.
“You tricked me!” Songdan howled. He had expected deceit, but perhaps his ambitions to score merit and to promote himself to the Princess of Jin had given him hope beyond hope.
“But of course. Did you really not expect it?” Huang Ming returned.
“You could have captured me at any time? Then why the deception?” Songdan asked in anguish, his chest full of regret that he did not simply use his dagger to eliminate this foreign distraction that was occupying the attention of his princess.
“I needed you to deliver the letter, I wasn’t sure how it was going to be done,” Huang Ming shrugged.
Songdan’s shoulders slumped, but the anger in his eyes still smouldered. “You are still outnumbered, there are still breaches in your wall! What is the point of three measly days?”
“And thanks to your wax seal of authenticity, one little letter has gained me three days free from molestation. Though, I would have preferred five,” Huang Ming said nonchalantly.
“Do you really think you can repair the walls in three days?” Songdan barked harshly.
“Who said anything about repairing them?” Huang Ming laughed.
This time even his White Wolf bodyguard was puzzled “Eh? We’re not?” the grizzled veteran asked in lieu of Songdan.
“No, we’re not,” Huang Ming affirmed.
Songdan was astonished, but soon it was replaced by bitterness. “Such a simple trick,” he muttered, furious with the duplicity.
“Well, technically you were not tricked. I will open the gates three days later,” Huang Ming reminded him.
“Ah. You plan to lure the Jins into a trap?” the White Wolf veteran asked.
Huang Ming shrugged. “Who knows? I haven’t decided yet.”
All those present had their mouths agape.
“Hey, this is war, not a weather forecast. Things can change from day to day,” Huang Ming said defensively.
“Be honest, you have no idea what to do, do you?” his bodyguard guffawed.
“You’re right, I’m making it up as I go along,” Huang Ming confided, and the soldiers laughed.
“How could I have been tricked by you…” Songdan despaired.
“How could you not? Look at yourself, your face basically screams ‘I’m a villain’, whereas I am ruggedly handsome and have all the features of a great hero,” Huang Ming scoffed.
Songdan exploded in a paroxysm of invectives, and the soldiers had to stuff his mouth with a cloth to cut off his stream of curses towards Huang Ming. Even the rough and tumble White Wolf leader was annoyed by the colour of Songdan’s language, and bade his men to take him away.
“Now that the spy is gone, what do you have planned?” the veteran asked Huang Ming with his brows furrowed.
“Relax, it’s all on schedule,” Huang Ming said. “Have you caught the malcontent?”
His bodyguard nodded. “Sir Quan Lu led us straight to them. As you suspected, they are mostly the formerly rich and powerful of the city, they bear a grudge against your seizure of their wealth.”
“Mm, I provoked them. But it was necessary to prepare for this. The main thing about money is that it makes you do things you don’t want to do,” Huang Ming quoted wistfully.
“What about Miss Xilei?” the older man asked.
“Quan Lu will know what to do,” Huang Ming replied.
“If you say so,” The White Wolf veteran said hesitantly.
Huang Ming smiled, knowing his doubts.
“Don’t worry, he is more decisive than I am.”
A feather in one’s cap.