Outside the city gate, the guards looked solemn and stern as they stood straight like arrows. A red carpet was placed on the ground, stretching all the way into the Taihe Hall.
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Peng Han, Shangshu of the Ministry of Rites, together with Yun Feiyu, Lin Siyuan and other officials came to meet the envoys sent by the Shi kingdom, their procession of carriages slowly arriving from a distance.
Lin Siyuan turned sideways and whispered to Yun Feiyu: “Why did the Shi kingdom suddenly send an envoy to our country? Is it because our country has good relations with the Wu kingdom and so they intend to destroy the relationship between our two countries.”
Yun Feiyu’s eyes flashed. He looked at the long line of carriages and said: “This should be just one of the reasons. The Crown Prince’s New Laws have caused a lot of clamor. The surrounding countries have already noticed it, but they are still waiting. However, I didn’t expect the first one to come was actually the Shi kingdom.”
As one of the three strongest kingdoms, the Shi kingdom’s team of envoys was certainly not lacking in pomp, the gorgeous and strong procession causing one to feel envious.
Lin Siyuan said: “This Shi Ran is really hateful, and must have no good intentions to send an envoy at this time.”
Yun Feiyu said with a solemn expression: “I’m afraid the Qing kingdom will not be at peace anymore.”
The Qing kingdom was originally just a small and humble country. Neither its geographical position or culture had any advantage. The only thing that it was famous for was its frightening Crown Prince, his reputation causing “foreigners” who originally did not want to come to the Qing kingdom, a poor and backwards country, even more afraid to come. In Lin Siyuan’s opinion, the Emperor of Shi sent envoys not to find the Crown Prince, but to make trouble.
One must know, not long ago, the Crown Prince had executed a large number of people who opposed the New Laws and made trouble for him. But now the Crown Prince’s New Laws had initially stabilized and anyone who was clever would know what that meant. Shi Ran’s intention to foster puppet forces in the Qing kingdom essentially failed. It would be a strange thing if he would let the Qing kingdom continue to develop stronger.
Just as the two of them were talking, the carriages in the distance had already come to the front. Peng Han, with a goatee, hurriedly smiled and bowed towards the carriage, saying: “This humble one is the Shangshu of the Ministry of Rites, Peng Han, here to greet the envoys of the Shi kingdom.”
The curtain was lifted, and a pale, polished hand with strong joints stretched out to place on the arm of a servant as he got out of the carriage. He was wearing the official robes of the Shi kingdom. From the pattern, it seemed that his official position was also not low.
Hong Tao glanced at the “low and shabby” walls of the Qing kingdom in front of him, and then at Peng Han’s unsophisticated demeanor and said with disdain: “A small country with few people is indeed a barbaric place that cannot be enlightened.”
Hong Tao glanced around, and found that in addition to the old man in front of him, there were two young men and a few other unremarkable looking officials. There were fewer than twenty people in the greeting committee. Hong Tao suddenly said, “Is there such a small number of people in your country? There is not even a decent greeting committee. How can the emperor of your country have the heart to let you run around when you are already this old? Is it because there is no one else usable in your country?”
Peng Han admired the power of the Shi kingdom, and it was unavoidable that he felt a bit inferior in the face of the Shi kingdom envoys, but he was still a little displeased to be slapped in the face like this on the spot. Peng Han stood up straight and said: “Your Excellency is standing in the Qing kingdom. How can you say that there is no one in this country?”
Seeing that Hong Tao was angry, Peng Han did not give him a chance to speak, saying: “The Crown Prince of our country has set up a banquet, please follow me.”
Hong Tao snorted coldly and was about to lift his foot when a gentle voice sounded from behind him, saying: “Lord Hong, Ben Gong is unwell, so I won’t be attending today. You can go ahead without me.”
The voice came from an inconspicuous carriage in the procession. When Hong Tao heard the voice, the displeasure and arrogance on his face disappeared immediately. He immediately walked to the carriage and said respectfully: “But Princess, it is really unsafe here. What if some uncouth villager here disturb Your Highness, this official won’t be able to bear the responsibility. This official should send Your Highness to the embassy residence to rest. It will not be too late for the Crown Prince of Qing kingdom to see you tomorrow.”
What did he mean by tomorrow not being too late? This was simply too arrogant.
The woman’s voice sounded from inside the carriage again: “In that case, the matter of seeing the Qing kingdom’s Crown Prince will be changed to tomorrow. My body is really uncomfortable, and Lord Hong should relay this to the Qing kingdom’s Crown Prince and ask him not to be offended.”
Hong Tao repeatedly said yes, then turned around, his expression once again arrogant, and said to Peng Han: “Lord Peng, you have also heard that our Princess is unwell and is not suitable to see guests today. Please notify the change of the welcoming banquet to tomorrow to your Crown Prince.”
Was a banquet something that could be changed on a whim? There was no way to preserve food here. A lot of the food that had been prepared for the banquet would now be wasted and if they were to prepare new food, there was also the problem of simply not having enough time. Not to mention that the Crown Prince had already been waiting in Chaoyun Pavilion for a long time.
However, the Shi kingdom was indeed not a power the Qing kingdom could easily offend. So the angry officials could only follow their wishes and arrange Hong Tao and the rest of the envoy team into the embassy residence and then ask the Crown Prince to decide.
In the Crown Prince’s Palace, Lin Siyuan said to Su Mu angrily: “This Hong Tao doesn’t have any regard for Your Highness at all. Does he think he is the emperor of the Shi kingdom! His manner is too arrogant, and that princess, what could be their purpose?”
Yun Feiyu’s expression was also a bit solemn and he said to Su Mu: “Hong Tao’s actions are likely at the Emperor of Shi’s acquiescence, and that princess is also not an amiable figure. They are clearly intending to make things difficult for Your Highness.”
Su Mu’s face expression was also not very pleased when he heard he was stood up by them: “Qing kingdom is separated from Shi kingdom by more than a dozen countries, Shi Ran’s hand stretches too long.”
Yun Feiyu pondered for a while and said: “Shi Ran supported Chen Chuan and Tian Guohai in the Qing kingdom rebellion. It is likely that his original intention was to have these two be in power, and then launch a pincer attack to annex all the countries in the middle.”
Su Mu said coldly: “Shi Ran has quite the ambition. It’s likely that all the countries have his spies and puppets, but I don’t know what he means by sending a princess. The letter did not mention any Princess Qingshuang.”
Su Mu frowned and felt something was wrong. He had a nagging feeling that he had heard the name ‘Qingshuang’ somewhere before, but he couldn’t remember where.
“It seems that this princess is the main problem.” Yun Feiyu frowned slightly and said: “Your Highness, be careful, I feel that something is wrong.”
Su Mu nodded. Although his martial arts were strong, there was nothing wrong with being too careful.
It’s just that Su Mu and the others could not have imagined that even if they were careful and took the most precautions, some things just couldn’t be avoided.
After all, it was a diplomatic relationship between the two kingdoms. Although the strength of the two had a large disparity, Hong Tao dared not really offend Su Mu. Moreover, he had already collected all the intelligence he could collect. After learning of the terrifying “history” of Su Mu, he felt both afraid and contemptuous.
Hong Tao changed his clothes and arrived at Princess Qingshuang’s room to invite her to accompany him to the banquet.
The door was opened with a creak, and an aqua-blue skirt first appeared in front of Hong Tao. The charming fragrance of a young woman did not cause Hong Tao to become intoxicated. He respectfully greeted Princess Qingshuang, and then walked forward and led the way downstairs.
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Princess Qingshuang, who walked out of the doors of the embassy residence, raised her deep eyes and looked up at the sky that she hadn’t seen for so many years, and privately thought: Sister, I have kept my promise and returned, but you are no longer here.
With face hidden under a veil, Princess Qingshuang slowly stepped onto the carriage with the help of a maid.
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