# 149. Story (II)
*A story that happened a year ago...* Xu Qi'an's mood transformed from one of disappointment to that of excitement. Without a doubt, this story that Hengyuan wanted to say would be the story of Henghui and Princess Pingyang.
Whatever that had happened to them was the key to unravelling the Sangpo case. So far, the Yao had yet to show up in the capital, only Henghui using the sealed item was making waves here. This would make anyone think, what did the Wanyao Kingdom want exactly?
Sabotage? Yet there had been just a single case of a family extermination, that of Count Pingyuan's House. It had a great impact but didn't cause much damage. Henghui could have gone on a killing spree and bathed the capital in blood yet he hadn't done that.
The sealed Item? If their motive had been the sealed item, Henghui would have left the capital long ago.
*The case of Henghui and Princess Pingyang, had already upstaged the Sangpo case… I have a feeling that the ones behind the scenes deliberately exposed Henghui…*
Yang Yan aimed his spear, emitting a burst of qi that shredded the sleeves of monk Hengyuan. His arms may have been muscular, but they weren't in any way demonic.
"Henghui is indeed dead. He had died a year ago. All that remained was merely a living corpse, a zombie. Now, he has been liberated. This is no conspiracy." Looking at his junior brother’s body, dark clouds gathered in Hengyuan's eyes.
After a short while, the dark clouds in Hengyuan’s eyes subsided, giving rise to a torrential rain carrying the past.
Henghui had been sent to the Qinglong Temple by his parents when he was six. He was a spirited child back then, and was immediately spotted by Abbot Monk Panshu and accepted as his apprentice.
Henghui was fully enlightened under the care of his senior brother, monk Hengyuan. The burly senior brother, with a bitter past and deep hatred, was the one who taught him to read and write, who taught him to meditate and chant the scriptures and also taught him the principles of life.
He respected and loved this senior brother as a father.
In a blink of an eye, many years passed, the clever and spirited little monk had grown into a handsome monk, with a similarly handsome countenance. He initially believed that he would spend his fleeting life under the light of the Buddha, just like his master and senior brother.
Until one day, when he met a girl...
That day was a sunny spring day. He was washing clothes in a stream when he saw a handkerchief falling floating down it. When he picked it up subconsciously, a clear voice, gentle like a bird, reached his ears.
"Master, that's my handkerchief. Can you return it to me?"
Henghui raised his head and saw a slender elegant woman standing on the bluestone pavement upstream. She was wearing a long lotus-pink dress. her long hair was combed, like the hair of an unmarried young woman. Although her face looked plain, it glowed under the sunlight, revealing a beauty anyone would love.
"Miss... Are you a pilgrim in the temple?"
"Why, Are you not going to return my handkerchief if I'm not a pilgrim?" She pinched her waist and acted flirtatiously.
"No, no. I just felt that miss was unfamiliar." After explaining, he offered the handkerchief to her with both hands.
"Hmmph. You only know to bow your head and chant scriptures every day, and don't put us, pilgrims, in your eyes at all."
"How would you know, Miss?"
"Because I've been following you for a long time."
On a bright spring, near a gurgling stream, thus their first meeting went.
Continuing, the acquaintance and friendship of the two was something to be expected.
Whenever Henghui meditated, the young girl would be by his side, either reading forbidden story books or simply fanning her fan gently as she stared at Henghui's focused face in a daze.
She would occasionally tickle him with dog tail grass, making him unable to concentrate on meditation. This annoyed the young master a lot. So, He would angrily say, "If you continue like this. This monk will leave once and for all."
Just after that, She would stick out the tip of her tongue, and apologise half-heartedly.
Now and then, they went on a trip to the mountains together. The scenery of White Phoenix Mountain was beautiful. In spring, the mountain and fields were filled with flowers. When she smiled in these flowery bushes, the source of the beauty was undetermined, unknown if it was the beauty of man or the beauty of nature.
Gradually, rumours about their relationship began to spread among the monks of Qinglong Temple. It was said that he wasn't pure, that he had broken the precept of lust, and that he was a lewd monk.
So, Master Panshu asked him three questions in front of the sculpture of the Buddha, Whether he was still devout to the Buddha; Whether he was interested in that woman; and whether he wanted to return to the mortal world.
He said, firmly that he was still devout to the Buddha; that he didn't have any intentions on the woman; and that he wasn't interested in the mortal world.
For this matter, the abbot only requested one thing of him: He was not to exchange a single word with that woman again.
As to the reason why he was the one prohibited from speaking to her instead of her being forbidden from entering the temple, Henghui later found that the abbot had actually wished to do so. But, he couldn't do it.
She was Princess Pingyang, the daughter of King Yu.
From that day on, Henghui no longer paid any attention to her. He would close his eyes and meditate whenever she neared, indifferent to her teasing and pranks.
Every day, She would arrive filled with hope and expectation, and every day, she would leave with greater disappointment and loneliness.
"Monk, Is this flower beautiful? I think it matches me very well."
"Monk, do you want to listen to my Qin? I specially brought it from home today."
"Monk, I'm feeling uneasy. Don't you care about me?"
"Monk, Do you have to insist on this solitude?"
Then, She finally stopped coming. She didn't set foot in Qinglong Temple for a month and completely withdrew from his life. It was as if she had never existed.
*I can continue to accompany the Buddha, and no one will disturb me anymore...* He was relieved, feeling as if his sincerity had touched the Buddha.
But, She came again one day. She looked devastated, and her face was thin, looking equally haggard.
"Monk, I'm about to get married."
For some reason, his prayer beads fell to the ground.
At the time, King Yu was at a critical point in his career. He was then serving as the Minister of War and was expected to enter the Cabinet with the support of the Aristocratic Bloc.
It wasn't an uncommon matter for people from an Aristocratic Clan to become the Prime Minster in this dynasty. There had been five such examples in the 600-year history of the country.
The weakening Aristocratic Bloc believed that the rise of King Yu would reverse their fortunes. So, their hope continued pushing him forward on this path.
King Yu, on the cusp of this storm, arranged a marriage for Princess Pingyang. It wasn't merely to find a good home for his daughter, It was also to gain more support for himself through marriage.
"Monk, Are you willing to elope with me?"
Henghui agreed. He finally realized his true intentions and chose to face the truth.
They then began to plan for their elopement. Princess Pingyang was always accompanied by guards when she went out of her home. If she disappeared for more than half an hour, the guards would search the mountains, and a message would be sent to King Yu's mansion.
Therefore, they required a Magical Item capable of shielding their aura if they wanted to elope successfully, as they required it to hide from the hunt by the Arcanists from the Sitianjian.
In the end, they also required a channel for new identification documents and their exit from the capital.
For this matter, Princess Pingyang asked for the help of a trustworthy friend, hoping that he would help them.
"Count Pingyuan's son... that friend is Count Pingyuan's son‽" Xu Qi'an said, interrupting Hengyuan's narration.
Everything suddenly became clear. Count Pingyuan controlled a Brokerage Organization, which was surely proficient in forging identities and smuggling people to and from the capital. It was also reasonable for Princess Pingyang to know of Count Pingyuan's capabilities, even if she didn't know of the exact nature of his business.
King Yu had said that Count Pingyuan had been consorting with the Official Bloc, and was drifting from the Aristocratic Bloc. So, Count Pingyuan definitely had the motive to assassinate Princess Pingyang.
*This later led to the extermination at Count Pingyuan's mansion... Still, I wonder about the role of the Minister of War in the incident...* Xu Qi'an looked at Six, and then continued in his head, *You thought they were abducted because you knew they had been in contact with a Brokerage Organization, didn't you?*
However, he didn't dare speak in front of the watchful eyes of everyone present.
After hearing Xu Qi'an's analysis, several Gold Gongs looked at Hengyuan with a questioning tone.
"Yes." Hengyuan lightly nodded, "Poor Princess Pingyang was pure minded and didn't recognize the complex situation of the imperial court, let alone recognize the viciousness hidden in the human heart. A girl with no worldly experience and a monk who only knew to recite scriptures and praise the Buddha. This tragedy was doomed from the moment they decided to elope together."
"At that time, Count Pingyuan had long since decided to break ties with the Aristocratic Bloc. After he learned of this matter from his son, He immediately discussed it along with Zhang Feng, the Deputy Minister of War, and Sun Mingzhong, the Minister of Revenue, and made a plan to send Princess Pingyang away from the capital, thereby destroying King Yu's plan to gain status."
"Where's Princess Pingyang now, then?" Jiang Lyuzhong asked, his voice deep.
Seeming to have not heard him, Hengyuan continued, "People's hearts are as poisonous as snakes and scorpions. After sending the couple off from the capital, Count Pingyuan's son, along with the children of Minister Sun Mingzhong and Minister Zhang Feng, tried to assault Princess Pingyang in the way."
"Both of them tried to resist. They resisted desperately. In the end, one was killed and the other committed suicide by swallowing her hairpin. To cover up their crime, the group buried the bodies of Princess Pingyang and Monk Henghui in the barren hills, together with the magical artefact that could shield their aura."
The outside world only knew that Princess Pingyang had disappeared without rhyme or reason. Even if they tracked her to Qinglong Temple, It would only be thought that the two had eloped. Who would have thought that they had died a year ago?
*Princess Pingyang is dead...* The Gold Gongs silently looked at each other. Their faces grew scarily serious.
Princess Pingyang was the daughter of King Yu and the niece of Emperor Yuanjing. The murder of a princess was a serious crime, one that leads to three familial exterminations.
Nangong Qianrou clutched his sabre handle, squinting, "How did Henghui appear here a year later if he's already dead?"
That was also the doubt occupying everyone's head.
A person couldn't be resurrected like a lamp being reignited after being extinguished.
"He is dead," Hengyuan said something no one understood.
"He had died a year ago. However, his body was reanimated by someone using a secret technique to seal his primordial spirit within his body. This turned him into a zombie. All that supported him in the year was vengeance, revenge for Princess Pingyang."
"If you don't believe me, you could take his body to the Nightwatcher Office to be examined by a coroner."
"Who reanimated his body?" A Gold Gong asked.
Hengyuan shook his head.
The Gold Gong looked around at Yang Yan and the others, before he asked, "Where's the body of Princess Pingyang? Take us there."
After pausing for a while, he ordered the surrounding Silver Gongs, "Send Henghui's body back to the office."
Several Gold Gongs escorted Hengyuan away from the small courtyard and gave him a horse. Afterward, the group grandly left the city.
Xu Qi'an rode along, his heart still heavy. After being speechless for a while, He whispered, "Is that Hengyuan? Is it possible that he's possessed or manipulated?"
The grey cat lying on his shoulder lazily replied, "It is Hengyuan. Although I can't do much. I still have my own methods to recognize people."
"Is Henghui really dead?" Xu Qi'an still couldn't believe it.
"His life or death isn't really relevant to the case." The grey cat whispered, "He is merely a puppet. As the Demonic Hand has gone, his life and death were no longer important to the one behind the scenes. You should be happy for the case to be solved than be sad that the case was easier to solve than you thought."
"I can't be happy, actually. Princess Pingyang and Henghui were quite pitiful." Xu Qi'an's lips twitched, revealing a smile that wasn't completely a smile occupying his face.
Sighing, He changed the subject, "There's still something wrong with Henghui's case. It seems as if the one behind the scenes deliberately pushed it to the fore."
At the border of Taikang and Changle County, on a certain barren hill, Hengyuan looked around as he trekked, as if he was searching for something.
The search was inefficient and slow. He had told the Gold Gongs that Henghui had only told him the general location. He had been told that Princess Pingyang was buried in the shadow of an old locust tree, one whose trunk was as wide as three people.
The Gold and Silver Gongs formed an encirclement around Hengyuan, guarding him at the centre, and preventing his escape.
After half an hour, they finally found the old locust tree. The three silver gongs cut down the bushes and weeds near the locust tree and then used their sabres as shovels to dig up the ground. After they dug around for a while, the black soil revealed some bones.
"Sir, I found the body." A Silver Gong excitedly shouted.
"Dig it out!" Nangong Qianrou said, his voice heavy.
Princess Pingyang's bones were finally exposed to everyone's eyes. She had finally reappeared after a year.
The flesh and blood had already rotted away, leaving just white bones with tattered cloth attached to them, which should have been the clothes she was wearing before her death. Additionally, a gold hairpin of a dull colour was found between the throat and the chest of the corpse.
As Hengyuan had said, she had committed suicide by swallowing a hairpin.
"Amituofo!" Hengyuan couldn't bear to look anymore and closed his eyes to recite the Buddha's name.
"There's no way to prove this corpse belongs to Princess Pingyang without any other details." Jiang Lyuzhong frowned.
"It's normal." While the Gold Gongs pondered, Xu Qi'an walked under the locust tree and said, “Princess Pingyang had eloped with her lover. So, she should have disguised herself, and didn't bring along valuables with her that would draw attention from others.
"Let's put the body in a coffin first, bring it to the office. We'll then send someone to King Yu's mansion. Maybe King Yu will recognise the gold hairpin."
After the bones were transferred to a coffin, everyone walked outside the hills. Jiang Lyuzhong patted Xu Qi'an on the shoulder, "Good Job!"
Yang Yan, who didn't like talking, also nodded slightly, and said, "You are the one with the most merit for this case. Even if the Sangpo case isn't solved at the end, His Majesty will likely absolve you of the crime for this merit."
Xu Qi'an was about to speak when he felt as if a knife was cutting into his back.
He didn't need to turn his head to know that the knife-like gaze had come from Gold Gong Zhu.