A big hug
“I know. It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories Mr. Frodo.”
--Samwise Gamgee, ‘Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’
Chapter 132 – A big hug
Huang Ming and the newly arrived guest exclaimed simultaneously, pointing at each other in surprise.
It was none other than his very own brother, the one who was said to be missing, the one and only Huang Lang. Other than the new addition of a groomed moustache, the Celestial Qilin looked in perfect health. Even the moustache was not able to detract from his handsome and gallant posture, it only lent a distinguished air to his bearing. But to Huang Ming it looked disconcerting and ill-fitting, it was as if his brother was pretending to be older.
“What are you doing here?” Huang Lang asked, raising an eyebrow questioningly.
Huang Ming was speechless, then elated when he saw his that his brother was well. When Uncle Li had told him that his brother had gone missing, all sorts of dark thoughts came to his mind. The possibility of seeing his sister-in-law the graceful Cao Tianyun spending the rest of her life in tears was almost too difficult to bear.
The recent political developments and dangers surrounding his situation with Lord Aidi the Jin ambassador and Prime Minister Tong Xuan had the silver lining of distracting Huang Ming from his brother’s disappearance, but seeing Huang Lang standing before him in the depths of the King of Wu’s palace of all places… it was like a rock was lifted from his heart.
Thus Huang Ming leapt to his feet and rushed forward to hug his elder brother in joy.
Huang Lang who was famed for his calm demeanor did not resist and allowed the warm gesture, though his own arms hung out awkwardly at the sides before finally reciprocating. It was after all a little discomforting, he was never really that close to this prodigal younger brother until recent times.
The King of Wu and his daughter Princess Wu Liying watched on with their mouths agape. It was the first time that they had felt completely ignored.
Yet, they could not help but be entranced at the sight of the two brothers. The two young men were akin to a beautiful painting, a warm feeling of sunlight and flowers emanating from their heartfelt embrace.
Just as Huang Lang was still thinking about what to say, he felt Huang Ming’s hold getting tighter. It was apparent that Huang Ming’s emotional squeeze was turning into a bearhug filled with strength… and resentment.
“What are you doing?” Huang Lang asked quietly even as the pressure on the small of his back and his sides increased dramatically. Huang Ming had locked his hands together and the expression of joy on his face was replaced by gritted teeth and glowering eyes.
The aura of warm sunlight and flowers was replaced by bloodthirst and anger.
“Do you have any idea what you have caused?” Huang Ming shot back, recalling the worried countenance of his mother and Cao Tianyun as he was leaving for the capital.
“Let us discuss this calmly later,” Huang Lang said with a strained smile as he tried to push his brother off.
“You have a lot of explaining to do,” Huang Ming growled and released his hold.
“First, let me greet the king,” Huang Lang said mildly.
Huang Ming started, and turned around to see the bewildered looks of the King of Wu and Princess Wu Liying.
Huang Lang shook his sleeves and smoothed out the wrinkles caused by his brother’s hug before kneeling down reverently to the King.
“Thy humble servant greets Your Majesty,” he said in courtly fashion.
“Rise,” the King of Wu said gravely.
Huang Lang bowed his head and stood up slowly.
“Father, this is Sir Hui Tian,” the Princess of Wu introduced, a flush of excitement on her face.
Huang Ming’s own face scrunched up when he heard the unfamiliar name, and it did not escape the King of Wu’s notice.
“You two know each other?” the sovereign asked.
Huang Ming held his tongue, he did not know what his elder brother’s plan was. Perhaps he had already spoiled his brother’s hidden intentions with the hug earlier, and he did not want to worsen things further.
Then Huang Lang intervened. Yes, his little brother had ruined things, but unknowingly it too had lifted the concerns he had. After all, he had deceived Princess Wu Liying into leading him into the king’s sanctum…
“Your Majesty, I am Huang Lang of Tianxin City,” he announced.
It took a moment of silence before the full import of the revelation struck the King of Wu and Princess Wu Liying.
“You’re the one they call the Celestial Qilin? The eldest son of Great General Huang Zheng?” the king asked slowly.
“Yes, that is correct,” Huang Lang confirmed.
“And so, you two are brothers?”
“Thy servants have the fortune to be so,” Huang Ming said snarkily, aping his brother’s courtly language.
Huang Lang wished he could reach out to pull his brother’s ear. Their mother would probably faint and their father would cough up blood if they had witnessed Huang Ming’s frivolous attitude towards the king.
“But, but-” Princess Wu Liying stammered. Obviously she was terribly taken aback by this unexpected development. All sorts of confused threads were tugging and pulling in her mind. Like the small matter of Huang Lang being considered as a potential husband to create bloodties and ensure the loyalty of General Huang Zheng.
Huang Lang bowed contritely to the princess. “I apologize for the deception, but there are too many eyes surrounding you,” he said solemnly.
The princess could only look to and fro at Huang Lang and Huang Ming, trying to convince herself about their identities.
“Yes, we’re brothers,” Huang Ming repeated in self-satisfaction, almost mockingly at the princess.
“Do not be so rude,” Huang Lang admonished.
“Rude? I’m not the one who lied to the princess,” Huang Ming pointed out, causing Huang Lang to grimace.
Fortunately, the princess was too frazzled to respond.
In contrast, the King of Wu was extremely pleased.
“We had planned and schemed to get divine assistance, and today you two appeared before us. We had thought we could restore the kingdom with the help of one, and as now we have you both, surely we will rise again!” the king rejoiced.
Huang Lang nodded. “We shall not spare any effort in ridding the villain Tong Xuan,” he said.
On his part, Huang Ming gave his brother a strange look.
Huang Lang frowned. He had expected his younger brother to voice his agreement, yet Huang Ming remained silent.
“What are you thinking?” Huang Lang asked, unsettled by the way his younger brother was studying his face.
“I’m thinking that you should shave that disgusting thing off your face,” Huang Ming said.
An unexpected reunion,
Adding to the confusion.
-Hui Tian is Chinese for "Return to Heaven". In Japanese, it would be 'Kaiten'.