The royal banquet (4)
“You spin me right 'round, baby, right 'round
Like a record, baby, right 'round, 'round, 'round”
--Dead or Alive, ‘You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)’ (1985)
Chapter 113 – The royal banquet (4)
“I’m no mere woman!”
The giant woman roared in fury and lunged forward towards Huang Ming, her arms spread wide so as to catch him. The banquet hall erupted into uproar and shock, but nobody dared to step up to stop her. The guards stationed in the hall stiffened, but one gesture from Prime Minister Tong Xuan stilled their movement.
With everyone distracted by the commotion, nobody thought to question Tong Xuan’s ability to silence the royal guards, not even the King of Wu. He too was focused on the impromptu bout.
Huang Ming easily avoided the Jin woman’s telegraphed move, sidestepping out of the way at the very last moment so that she grabbed nothing but air. Some of the guests who led sheltered lives were shocked at the sudden outbreak of violence; and for a brief moment Huang Ming wondered if these nobles and officials would faint should they ever experience anything similar to ancient Rome’s gladiatorial exhibitions.
Another charge, another sidestep. Each failure inflamed the giant woman even more. Huang Ming was enjoying the rush from brushing with danger, akin to a matador toying with a raging bull. Ever since he had arrived he had dealt with troubles big and small: from the courtship of his brothers to the naked plot from the former Marshal Gao Fang to harm his family. Here he was, in a situation where he might be responsible for an act that could very well lead to war. Yet the workout allowed him to push aside his accumulated stress, to temporarily forget all of that.
At the sidelines, Sunli had shot to her feet to intervene. She was about to jump into the fray when she saw Huang Ming’s half-smiling face. Then she relaxed her fists, knowing that he had the situation well at hand. Still, her fingers flexed every now and then, yearning to grip an imaginary sword that she wished she had.
Another person who was worried was Lord Aidi. He did not expect Huang Ming’s agility; he had assumed that the so-called hero strategist would be a bookish person who did not value the physical. After all, Huang Ming looked every inch the ordinary scholar with his unassuming clothes and untarnished complexion. Lord Aidi knew a little of Huang Ming, having only heard of his literary compositions previously. There were also rumours of his womanizing in the past.
So how was it that the one visibly having trouble was his trusted giant henchwoman, while the scholarly-looking man was still smiling with barely a sweat on his brows?
Nettled by his warrior woman’s inability to actually touch Huang Ming, Lord Aidi exclaimed derisively, “Sir Huang, do you only know how to run away?”
Huang Ming laughed. “This is new to me. I have long chased after women; I did not expect to be chased by one!”
From her seat, Sunli rolled her eyes.
Meanwhile, the giant woman’s face was absolutely red with fury; the veins on her neck and arms bulged as she roared out like a lioness. Her cry echoed throughout the banquet hall, shocking the guests with her display of bestial wrath.
“Stop dancin’ around!” she shouted.
“Dancing? If I was dancing I would be doing this,” Huang Ming said nonchalantly. Then, right before the eyes of all present; Huang Ming performed this particular world’s first ever moonwalk.
The banquet hall was filled with guests who had slack-jaws and saucer-wide eyes as Huang Ming seemingly walked in a forward motion and yet travelled backwards. He ended the few steps with a spinning flourish, his hands stretched as if to invite applause.
Instead, he received a stunned silence.
‘Oops, I got carried away,’ Huang Ming thought sheepishly.
“Sorcery!” a particularly superstitious person yelled.
Huang Ming winced, remember the times he had been burned at the stake after similar accusations.
“Nonsense, it was just acrobatics!” a skeptic shot back, albeit in an unsure tone.
Huang Ming was about to explain himself when the giant Jin woman took advantage of his lapse in attention to launch a punch at him. However she had severely misjudged his alertness. Huang Ming easily avoided her attempt and once more stepped aside slightly from her lunge. But this time his own hand jabbed forward open-handed to meet her punch, like a fencer striking forward.
The banquet guests gasped, horrified that he was meeting her rock-like fist directly. Surely he would break his fingers on her fist!
At the last moment, his palm deftly snaked around her fist so that he was able to spin and latch onto her wrist. It was almost comical because she was so much larger than him and he could barely get a grip around her thick hand. In one swift motion, he stepped back and pulled. With the woman’s forward momentum from her own punch, Huang Ming was able to easily swing her outstretched arm down and back in a circular movement. It applied a leverage action on her arm and up to her shoulders, causing a chain reaction whereby her entire body tumbled forward in a clumsy roll.
There was a sharp cry of pain and then a floor-shaking crash as the Jin woman was literally forced to rotate under herself to land on her back. Despite the harsh fall, her outcry was due to the dislocation of her shoulder from the way Huang Ming had torqued her arm like a wrench.
The impact of her crash was such that the cutlery on the tables jumped, and small puffs of dust rose from the ground where she had landed.
Once more the banquet hall fell into silence; the guests were absolutely stunned by Huang Ming’s manhandling of someone much bigger. It was as if he was performing juggling with a great ball.
They did not know it, but Huang Ming had performed this world’s first ever Aikido wrist throw.
Then there was a wail from the fallen woman. She wriggled and trashed about on the ground as she cried, her free hand clutching the affected shoulder and loosely dangling arm. It was obvious that the entire limb was disabled.
Huang Ming sighed and knelt beside the stricken woman. He tapped on her other shoulder to get her attention, but she was simply in too much pain and moving about violently to notice it. Thus Huang Ming slapped her gently with three fingers, it was strong enough to shake her off her delirium. Her eyes glared furiously when she saw who had struck her face, but she was too preoccupied with clenching her teeth from the pain to shout profanities at him.
“Hold still, I’ll fix it,” Huang Ming said. Before she could protest, he unceremoniously grabbed hold of her tree-trunk like arm, placed one knee beneath her arm pit and quickly yanked. Again she issued a painful scream. She trashed free and scrambled to her feet to deliver vengeance on Huang Ming, raising her fist high to cave his skull in.
“Better?” Huang Ming asked mildly, looking up unblinkingly at her.
The woman paused, and found herself surprised by the movement of her previously dislocated shoulder. She lowered her raised hand, hissing as she realized that most of the debilitating pain had disappeared.
“You have lost,” Huang Ming stated.
The giant woman hung her head in miserable acknowledgement of her failure. Then she jerked back up to belatedly stare in panic at her superior, Lord Aidi. She had admitted defeat without his permission!
Like the rest who had witnessed the entire spectacle, Lord Aidi’s mouth was hanging open. It was only when his henchwoman had turned to look at him that he realized that it was all over.
The ambassador’s face flushed with shame and anger.
For a minute, nobody knew what to say or do.
“I thought you said you don’t hurt women,” Sunli commented, breaking the silence.
Huang Ming shrugged. “She’s no mere woman,” he said, echoing the Jin’s own words.
With one turn,
He made the Jins burn.