“Despair… so delicious”
--Captain Falric, ‘World of Warcraft’
Chapter 127 – No
It was all about the timing.
When Princess Wu Liying strode excitedly into the King of Wu’s sanctum, the first thing she saw was her father standing with a pensive look on his face. He had shed his royal headdress and robes, and he looked like a very ordinary middle-aged man.
The second thing she saw was the annoying Huang Ming sitting casually with a cup of tea near his half-smiling lips. Huang Ming was dressed respectably for the visit to the palace that day, and so he appeared like a rich young man. The only thing missing was a folding fan in his free hand to display his arrogance and superiority in a more refined manner.
The two figures juxtaposed combined to form a jarring image: that of a young master and an attentive servant.
Princess Wu Liying immediately banished the thought from her sight, as it meant her royal father the King of Wu was the servant in that insulting picture.
Although it was her own consciousness that had conjured up the image, in her mind it was Huang Ming’s fault to have caused it. What was that dandy doing, sitting down without a care while the king was up and about?
Where was the decorum, where was the respect?
“You!” she spat venomously, her phoenix eyes blazing with fury.
Still with the cup of tea near his face, Huang Ming blinked. The princess’s entrance was a like thunder on a clear blue day, and Huang Ming was impressed with his own self-control in not dropping the cup. As it was, not a single drop was spilled.
Thus, Huang Ming really couldn’t help it when a slow smile of relief spread across his lips as he sipped the tea.
Of course, the princess viewed his reaction differently.
The way Huang Ming’s eyes moved away from her to his tea cup, the self-indulgently smile and the calm and collected way he drank and ignored her presence… it was infuriating.
The princess drew a deep breath, causing her bosom to expand, her nostrils to flare and her cheeks hot with an attractive flush as she prepared to breathe fire on the impudent man…
“Daughter,” the King of Wu called out sternly.
One single word was enough to take the wind out of her sails, and the princess turned to look forlornly at him.
“Father! What is he doing here?” she demanded.
“You missed the morning court session, where were you?” the king asked in return.
“I had better things to do than to sit around and watch some self-important old men talk,” the princess huffed.
The King of Wu pulled a long face, displeased by her attitude. “It was a session to decide your future, what else could be more important?”
Princess Wu Liying rolled her eyes, the flash of anger momentarily forgotten.
“Surely you are not seriously entertaining the idea of appointing Huang Ming as my tutor?” she asked.
Then she belatedly remembered the young man’s presence in her father’s inner sanctum. Huang Ming was there, which meant that her father was indeed entertaining the idea seriously.
Her face turned pale. Her mouth dropped open and she turned slowly to stare at Huang Ming in horror.
It just so happened that Huang Ming was in the middle of pouring himself yet another cup of tea, and thus the princess somehow managed to see him once again preoccupied with something else than her royal self.
Then their eyes met, and Huang Ming gave her a small wave.
“Hello,” he greeted brightly, as if they were casual acquaintances meeting each other in the street.
Despite the non-aggressive and simple salutation, the princess felt as if she had been stabbed through the heart.
“Father!” she cried out in despair.
Both the King of Wu and Huang Ming had a similar sadistic streak. They shared a conspiring glance and in one split second, came to an agreement. They allowed the princess to wallow in her torment and watched on passively as her eyes reddened.
“Father!” Princess Wu Liying cried out once again.
In her eyes, her father suddenly seemed so cold and unfeeling.
Just as those reddened eyes threatened to give way to actual burst waterworks, the King of Wu coughed.
“We are still in the midst of negotiations,” he said regally, so that her daughter could hear every single word clearly.
It achieved the desired effect; the princess sniffled loudly and blinked to prevent the outbreak of tears.
“Negotiations?” the princess asked suspiciously.
“He has yet to accept,” her father explained.
“Oh,” Princess Wu Liying vocalized, half-glad, half-confused.
“Find someone else, I’m not doing it.,” Huang Ming said brusquely.
The princess was annoyed at his tone, but quickly grasped at the lifeline.
“Father, he’s too young to be my tutor,” the princess pleaded.
“Mmm, we see your point,” her father agreed. Then, without warning, he asked: “What about as a husband?”
Princess Wu Liying’s eyes grew as wide as saucers with disbelief.
“What?” she managed to squeak.
“No,” Huang Ming rejected quickly.
“Our daughter is well-educated and beautiful. And she is the sole heir to our kingdom. She would make a wonderful wife for you,” the King of Wu persuaded with the charms of a merchant peddling his wares. He pointedly ignored the incinerating glare from his daughter.
Huang Ming played along. “I don’t know, she seems too much of a spitfire,” he said uncertainly, giving the princess a critical look.
That quick glance enraged Princess Wu Liying. She had never felt more offended in her entire life.
“Well, she is indeed a little wilful,” the king admitted. “But we are certain you are up to the task of handling her.”
Huang Ming shook his head. “I don’t like her, there are no feelings between us.”
“Feelings can grow with time,” the king insisted.
“Too much trouble,” Huang Ming fired back.
The king sighed. “Is she lacking in any way?” he asked, a real question this time.
For a moment, Princess Wu Liying had the same question. Did Huang Ming really find her so detestable?
“I already have charming women around me, stop trying to catch the wind. It’s pointless to continue this further,” Huang Ming answered bluntly.
“We can make your father the Grand Marshal, and give your brothers prominent positions. We can ennoble your entire clan if you wish,” the King of Wu offered.
The princess could hardly believe what she was hearing.
“I said I’m not available. The world is not enough to convince me to take her in,” Huang Ming scoffed.
Take her in? It was all too much for Princess Wu Liying.
“How dare you!” she exploded with fury.
Huang Ming calmly looked her in the eyes. “You don’t want this either,” he stated matter-of-factly.
“Of course not!” she yelled.
“Then why are you so angry?” Huang Ming asked with a smirk.
“You-! You impossible man!” Princess Wu Liying raged, stamping her feet in impotent rage.
Huang Ming turned to the King of Wu who had a bemused look on his face.
“You see? We’re like oil and water,” Huang Ming said. Then he added as an afterthought, “Besides, looking at her now, I think she might already have someone else in mind.”
“Yes!” the princess blurted angrily.
“What did you say?” the King of Wu asked slowly.
It was that moment that Princess Wu Liying knew that she had slipped up.
A slip of the tongue,
The warning bell was rung.