“You are all my reasons.”

--John Nash, ‘A Beautiful Mind’

 

Chapter 253 – Sees differently

 

Huang Ming quietly chuckled as General Yin Yanzhao left in an obvious foul mood.

 

“Are you deliberately trying to put your hand into the fire?” Qiong Ying asked.

 

“I am just stirring the pot. The general is not someone who will be too affected by the unexpected for too long,” Huang Ming replied.

 

“I saw how he reacted when you mentioned my sister. I mean; the Princess of Jin,” Qiong Ying said as she sat beside him.

 

The night wind was blowing, causing the trees to rustle and sway. Qiong Ying shivered from the chill and she snuggled closer. Huang Ming did not resist as she hugged his arm, allowing himself to enjoy the warmth. The luminous light from the full moon made her pale skin glow.

 

For a few moments, he allowed himself to stare.

 

Then he looked away to refocus.

 

“You mean he has a real crush on her?” he asked.

 

“Crush?”

 

“Besotted,” Huang Ming said instead. “Smitten. Blinded by love.”

 

Qiong Ying shrugged. “That murderous look in his eyes when you revealed that letter had jealousy all over it. Perhaps it is all one-sided. In the end, she is a married princess and he is a general from a rival kingdom.”

 

“Maybe that is why he is doing all this. Seize the kingdom, so that he can be on her level,” Huang Ming sighed.

 

“Is that a hint of sympathy I detect in your tone?” Qiong Ying asked.

 

“He can eat shit,” Huang Ming rolled his eyes. “No. It is all a farce, the selfish desires of one man. Normally I would not care, but because of this lovesickness he is willing to gamble with the lives of others. It is stupid and unforgivable.”

 

Qiong Ying gazed at the man she had chosen. She saw the resolve in his eyes, and she was glad she had trusted her instinct back then.

 

“You are quite harsh,” she commented.

 

“I am not that cynical to dismiss the power of love, but that does not mean the general has the excuse to harm those around me. He is a grown man but behaving like some addle-brained delusional teenager,” he grumbled. “Can’t he just write love letters or serenade the princess instead of involving the fate of the entire kingdom?”

 

It was Qiong Ying’s turn to sigh. “Love can cause people to do irrational things.”

 

Huang Ming leaned forward so that he could prop an elbow on his knee and cup his cheek glumly.

 

“Mushy, but true,” he admitted.

 

***

 

Huang Ming was correct in that General Yin Yanzhao was not too affected for too long. Even as he had turned away from Huang Ming, the gears within his mind were already turning.

 

He had underestimated Huang Ming. Beneath the lackadaisical attitude and frivolous façade was a scheming and unscrupulous trickster.

 

Just like him.

 

Once his head had cooled down, Yin Yanzhao mentally stepped back to analyze what had happened.

 

The Princess of Jin actually communicated with Huang Ming.

 

How did this happen?

 

‘You. You made it happen,’ he told himself coldly.

 

He thought back to the time when he himself had written to the Prince of Jin. It was a clever, if round-about plan to prod the prince into action.

 

After all, he did not lie to the prince. At the time, Beihai was indeed ripe for the taking. The princess did made known her interest in Huang Ming, via her trusted circle of agents. It was a simple matter for him to subtly inform the prince that this person of interest was in this weakened city at this certain time. A winter assault was risky, but wasn’t the princess developing some wall-breaking cannons? Why not use them to attack Beihai, capture Huang Ming and validate the effectiveness of her new weapons?

 

The Prince fell for it, and really launched a dangerous winter campaign on Beihai.

 

And it failed spectacularly: his forces were routed, the cannons were destroyed, and Huang Ming survived as the hero of Beihai.

 

Yin Yanzhao was surprised by the outcome, but not disappointed. He had plotted this siege as every outcome would work in his favour: Had the attack succeeded, he would have gained the prince’s trust. Huang Ming would be removed, and he would be one step closer to reach the princess.

 

If Huang Ming was successful which was indeed the case, the prince would be humiliated. The priceless cannons were destroyed without even given a chance to fire, and countless men were lost in the rash endeavour. And for what? Just so that the prince could satisfy his jealousy? In the end, the princess was completely infuriated by her husband.

 

From his eyes and ears in Jin, the defeat caused a rift to develop between the prince and the princess. The ill-fated attack on Beihai not only cost her the cannons that she had spent years developing, but also three of her inner circle agents that were in the city. They had been sent to spy on Huang Ming, and Yin Yanzhao deliberately timed his letter to the prince so that when the attack came, they would be unable to escape in time.

 

All he had to do now was to balance the scales between Huang Ming and the Prince of Jin so that they would exhaust themselves against each other. No matter who won, the Princess’s relationship with the prince would worsen.

 

And with no one by her side, naturally the Princess would seek him out. Didn’t she save him all those years ago for this purpose? Perhaps she thought he would be a useful tool to crack open the stubborn Kingdom of Wu… but he will prove to her that he could be so much more… Much more than the imbecilic prince.

 

But it did not work out that way.

 

She did not contact him as he had hoped.

 

Instead, she had written to Huang Ming.

 

Why? What did he have?

 

The general glowered at the round moon above.

 

‘So close, yet so far.’

 

His eyes hardened.

 

A few more steps.

 

Then he will make her see.

 

            He has harmed and maligned,

            Because of his heart, he was blind.