Chapter 89 Remembrance: The Truth
Naturally, a man as smart as Li Hengba quickly figured out the cooperation between Situ and General An. But all he could do was to play along with the trap they had laid out for him, lest he wanted to drop all pretense in front of them. Meanwhile, the situation back in the kingdom of the Huns was getting ever more crucial as the days progress, each of the princes vying for the throne, with the favourites being the First and Third princes.
He had hoped to garner some support from the Xianbei kingdom through the wedding of the Crown Prince, and now his death, while the First Prince was busy trying to settle his own problems back home. However, the tables have now turned on him. He was now stuck in the Xianbei kingdom, trying to maintain a false pretence while his royal brother slowly eats away at his influence back in the kingdom of the Huns. If he did not do anything about the situation, the throne would be out of his grasp soon enough.
Li Hengba nodded at General An. “You are right. Please allow me to return to my courtyard, then. Feel free to question me anytime you need.”
General An nodded back at him. “I thank you for your cooperation, Third Prince.”
Li Hengba forced out a smile and left the courtyard. As soon as they were out of earshot, he hissed at his attendant.
“What’s the situation like right now?” His expression was dark and foreboding.
“It hasn’t hit rock bottom yet, but that’s soon to come if you don’t head back to stabilise the situation, your Highness.”
“I know that!” Li Hengba stomped into his courtyard, kicking the stone table in frustration. “Damn you, Situ Muye. What role do you exactly play in this?”
One of his attendants advised carefully, “Why don’t you just tell them the truth, so that they’ll allow you to return home?”
“You’re asking me to give up on the support of the Xiongnu kingdom? That’s impossible; it plays a crucial factor for me to succeed the throne.”
Another stepped forward. “Why don’t we simply smuggle the prince back home?”
Li Hengba pondered the idea for a moment, but denied the possibility. “They’re definitely waiting for me to do that; I cannot walk straight into their trap just like that.”
The first attendant suggested another method. “If we now know that General Situ is behind all of this, why don’t we focus on stopping him instead?”
“Situ Muye is not one to be so easily manipulated.” Li Hengba rejected it quickly, but something came to mind. “But he does seem to have a weakness right now. That certainly does change things.” He waved the attendant over. “I need you to do something for me.”
Back in General An’s study, Situ and General An sat facing each other. “What shall we do next?”
“We wait for another hour before sending one of your men to look for him again. He might not tell us everything, but what he says will be enough for you to identify the murderer.”
“Sounds like a plan.” General An exclaimed and changed the topic, his voice turning soft. “You really have changed Situ. The you in the past wouldn’t have helped us at all.”
Situ smiled, but did not comment.
General An chuckled. “I’ve known you for a long while, and this is the first time I’ve ever seen you around a woman. What’s up? Planning to start your own family?”
“Well, fate brought us together.” Situ was honest.
General An smiled. “That’s good to hear. I’ve always believed that the North will be a peaceful place to be as long as you were in charge. I have more reason to believe in that, now that you’re no longer alone.”
“The lands will definitely stir once again, when the new kings of each kingdom step up to succeed the throne from their forefathers.” Situ raised his cup. “We’ll have to serve our own masters when that they comes.”
General An smiled bitterly. “I don’t even know if I’ll even get to see that day.”
“You will.” Situ was certain.
Two appeared in front of Situ. “General. Miss Feng was shadowed by a group of men when she was in the gardens, but Quattor quickly took care of them.”
“Whose men were there?” Situ frowned.
“Li Hengba.” Two quickly explained, “They admitted everything as soon as we started extracting the information. Their aim was to abduct Miss Feng to use her against you, so that you might stop interfering with the affairs of the Huns.”
“Hmph.” Situ smirked. “Seems like he didn’t like the way out I’ve left for him, eh? How dare he touch Luodi. Send someone to exacerbate the situation.”
“Yes, General.” Two hesitated for a moment. “Quattor suspects that Miss Feng might have found out about his existence.”
Situ frowned, but did not speak.
Two bit his lips and decided to continue. “She doesn’t seem to like the idea of someone following her every move, even if it was for her own good. Perhaps you should tell her as early as possible, General.”
“I understand.” Situ’s face remained stoic. “Go on ahead with your duties.”
When Situ returned to the courtyard, Quattor immediately appeared in front of him. “I’m sorry for my mistake, General. I did not manage to conceal myself well enough.”
Situ shook his hand. “It’s alright. Resume your duties.”
“Yes, General.” Quattor was surprised, but quickly returned to his position in the surrounding darkness.
Situ looked at the closed door of Feng Luodi’s room, but did not approach.
When noon came round, the remaining guests were gathered in the antechamber once again.
“It’s been days already. Are you not letting us leave yet?” The Ambassador of Sushen was visibly displeased.
The Ambassador of Fuyu smiled. “Let’s just wait for a while longer, shall we?”
Situ ignored the conversation, his eyes intently trained on Feng Luodi, watching as she toyed with a teacup in her hand. A man entered the antechamber and whispered in Situ’s ear.
“It seems like you have new, General Situ.” The Fuyu Ambassador’s eyes lit up. All eyes were immediately trained on Situ, knowing how much influence he wields on these plains.
Situ raised an eyebrow. “General An has already arrested the murderer. You are now free to leave.”
“Wait, are you serious?” The Fuyu Ambassador shook his head in disbelief. “Is it really the Third Prince? The one of mixed descent?”
“It’s the Fourth Prince.” Situ answered his question. “The King of the Xianbei will be his judge, and the case is now closed. I thank your cooperation over the past few days on behalf of General An. You may now return to your own kingdoms.”
Sushen’s Ambassador smiled, hiding all indications of his displeasure. He smiled, but did not ask about the details of the murder. “We are all saddened by the passing of the Crown Prince, but General Situ, do you perhaps know anything about the crowning of the next Crown Prince?”
Situ looked surprised. “Why is there a need for another Crown Prince?”
“Hahaha!” The Fuyu Ambassador roared in laughter. “Are you trying to be cheeky, General Situ? The Crown Prince is dead, and the king is on his deathbed. Who will the throne be passed on to if a new Crown Prince is not chosen?”
“That is not of your concern, sir. I am well and healthy, and Father will go on to live many years.” A foreign, yet mildly familiar voice sounded from the entrance of the antechamber. The crowd turned their heads around just in time to see a familiar figure crossing the threshold.
“The Crown Prince of Xianbei?” The Fuyu Ambassador gasped. “Aren’t you dead?”
The Crown Prince smiled. “How can I afford to die? I have a newly wedded wife waiting for me back at home!”
The few ambassadors exchanged looks as their gaze darted between Situ and the Crown Prince.
The Crown Prince continued. “Whatever happens next is the private business of our royal family, and it does not concern the rest of you. You are now invited to leave the kingdom.”
When the antechamber was empty save for Situ, Feng Luodi and the Crown Prince, the Crown Prince bowed towards Situ. “Thank you for your help this time, General Situ. I can finally rest at ease.”
“How will you explain to General An?” Situ asked casually.
The Crown Prince laughed bitterly. “I can sense a lecture coming already. I should have discussed the plan with him sooner, but I had to keep him out of the loop to achieve such important results.”
“As long as you know what you’re doing.” Situ stood up. ‘That’s all I can help you with, I’m afraid. I hope you can deliver what you promised.”
“Of course.” The Crown Prince smiled confidently. “As a friend of yours, and as the future King of the Xianbei, you can count on my word.”
“That’s good to hear.” Situ got up and took his leave. “I’ll be heading back, then. Send my regards to General An.” He turned to Feng Luodi.
Feng Luodi was still dazed by the appearance of the Crown Prince. She mumbled quietly to herself. “Situ, you lied to me!”
“Hmmm?” Situ looked at her quizzically.
Feng Luodi jumped to her feet and bowed at the Crown Prince, turning to leave the antechamber. Situ quickly followed, leaving the Crown Prince alone in the antechamber, a light smile on his face.
“What are you saying? When did I ever lie to you?” Situ stopped Feng Luodi outside the antechamber.
Feng Luodi looked at him, hurt apparent in her eyes. “You’d told me that the Crown Prince was dead!”
Situ frowned. “That was just a casual reply. Moreover, the less you know, the safer you were. After all, his death does not affect you at all.” Situ could not understand the source of her anger. Why is she getting mad at me over the safety of the Xianbei Prince?
Feng Luodi widened her eyes and stared at him for a moment, before breaking out into laughter. She shrugged his hand off her sleeve and adopted a casual tone. “You’re right indeed; it does not concern me. I shall head off to pack my things then!”
Situ frowned, staring at her retreating figure. I don’t understand her at all…