“Can't argue with a confident man.”
--Napoleon Wilson, ‘Assault on Precinct 13’ (1976)
Chapter 142 – Enticed
Though there was fire lit in Nangong Xie, the Handsome Scholar was still rational enough to realize that attacking Huang Ming in public hours was too eye catching and would attract the attention of the authorities.
Therefore he cannily dispatched his men in groups, sending them to various places to surround the house of pleasure Huang Ming was in. Nangong Xie himself chose the upper floor of a restaurant overlooking the brothel. He gnashed his teeth as he glared hatefully at the brothel, waiting impatiently for for the streets to be empty.
Inside the brothel, Huang Ming took a short break from regaling his half-drunk audience.
“This is killing me,” he complained to Cao Shuang who had little sympathy for Huang Ming’s pretend drinking and lechery.
“You? You are not even drunk,” Cao Shuang scoffed. “If anyone is suffering from this play, it would be me. Do you realize how expensive this plan is becoming? The customers who should spending their gold with the women here are instead listening to your inane stories.”
Huang Ming held up his palms defensively. “It is not as if I forced them to listen, maybe your girls are not attractive enough,” he said defensively. Then he frowned. “When did you become a pimp anyway?”
It was Cao Shuang’s turn to be defensive. “You’re the pimp! I only took this place over as a cover,” he said gruffly as his face reddened.
Huang Ming rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Yet, I had heard that you were furious at Quan Lu for being grabby with ‘your woman’,” he teased.
“Shut up,” Cao Shuang growled. “I bought everything here including their contracts, so she literally is my woman.”
“Ah, but you can’t just toss words out like that, you would just lead the woman on,” Huang Ming tsked.
“You are the one to talk. How are you juggling your two fiancées?” Cao Shuang sneered.
“I am handling it,” Huang Ming said flatly.
“Really. From what I see, you might get speared by Miss Zhao, or having her being stolen by General Yin,” Cao Shuang goaded.
“Oh, I’m sure it is just a phase for her,” Huang Ming said airily.
Cao Shuang rolled his eyes, but whatever derisive comment he was about to say was interrupted when the subject of their discussion appeared, fully armoured and armed with her spear.
“What is it?” Zhao Sunli asked suspiciously when she saw how the two men avoided her gaze.
“Nothing. Has something happened?” Huang Ming diverted.
“Your nonsense stories worked. Nangong Xie has come, he and his men are surrounding this place. At least a hundred of them,” the tall woman reported.
Huang Ming was delighted. “Finally! I was beginning to think that he was deaf.”
“It worked too well! I did not expect him to bring so many people,” Cao Shuang grunted.
“Think of it as a very wide target selection,” Huang Ming replied cheerily. “Don’t worry, we have some capable people here,” he added, motioning towards Sunli.
The Amazon gripped her spear tighter and nodded.
“This is no joking matter, what are you going to do if they overwhelm us?” Cao Shuang said.
“That depends. How valuable is this place to you?”
The hours passed by all too slowly for Nangong Xie. He leapt to his feet the moment he deemed that the streets were sufficiently empty.
With a swagger, he led a group of men towards the entrance.
“We’re closed,” the gatekeeper drawled as he swept the grounds, not batting an eyelid at the approaching mass of thugs.
“Get out of my way!” Nangong Xie shouted.
“Has your thing grown too hard? Take care of it yourself and come back tomorrow!” the gatekeeper protested.
Nangong Xie was perfectly furious. He had stewed over on how to deal with Huang Ming for the better part of several hours, and now this lowly peasant dares to talk back to him?
He bared his teeth murderously and his men surged forward. The gatekeeper yelped and ran away into the streets, carrying his broom with him.
“Surround this place, lock all the entrances! Nobody gets out except as a corpse!” Nangong Xie ordered.
Full of murderous air, Nangong Xie entered the brothel.
The first thing, the only thing he saw was a lone table in the middle of the floor, occupied by Huang Ming. The object of his hatred was drinking by his lonesome. Save for the discreet musicians and several scantily clad dancing girls atop the brothel’s stage, Huang Ming was completely alone. His focus was towards the stage, and thus it seemed he did not even see Nangong Xie’s entrance.
Somehow it just made the Handsome Scholar even more maddened.
“Huang Ming!” he shouted, his voice full of venom.
The musicians stopped playing and the dancing girls stopped their alluring routine.
Huang Ming slowly turned around on his seat, a cup still half-raised towards his mouth.
He blinked, and then waved in recognition.
“Yo, Brother Xie! Fancy meeting you here!” he called out.
The Handsome Scholar ignored his greeting and stomped forward. His men quickly swarmed the table, the thugs glaring down menacingly on Huang Ming.
“Brother Xie, what is the meaning of this?” Huang Ming asked with a smile.
In another time, Nangong Xie would find Huang Ming’s calm behaviour while surrounded to be strange, but currently he was too clouded by rage to care.
“I have tolerated you for far too long,” Nangong Xie hissed and he circled around Huang Ming like a predator stalking its prey.
“What do you mean?” Huang Ming asked with feigned ignorance. He was not worried at all, for Nangong Xie was showing all the classic signs of going into evil gloating mode.
“Don’t give me that, you fool!” Nangong Xie began, affirming Huang Ming’s cynical thoughts. “You think you are so smart, so clever, didn’t you?”
“But Brother Xie, you’re the scholar, not me,” Huang Ming said with a lazy smile.
Nangong Xie snarled, the smirk on Huang Ming’s face was becoming unbearable.
“Don’t look so smug! I know what you’re thinking, that you’re better than me. How dare you get in my way time and again!” Nangong Xie raged.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, we have not met since… well, ever since that business with Lord Fang La. You didn’t even show up for the wedding of my brothers, I don’t even know what you have been up to since then,” Huang Ming lied, knowing that it would infuriate the scholar.
“You… You!” Nangong Xie shrieked. “You dare to claim ignorance?”
Huang Ming gestured towards the table. “Come sit down, have a drink and eat a bun,” he said jocularly as he poured a fresh cup.
Nangong Xie violently swiped the proffered drink. The small cup fell to the floor and broke into pieces with a loud clash.
“Why so serious?” Huang Ming asked, still smiling.
The Handsome Scholar’s eyes bulged and veins on his head threatened to burst. To observers, the situation was extremely tense, and one might think that Nangong Xie would have strangled Huang Ming with his bare hands there and then.
Suddenly there was a jangle of tiny bells and rustling of silk from the dancing stage, drawing the attention of Nangong Xie and all his minions.
A slender beauty wearing a shortened qipao had appeared on the stage, her face covered by a veil. Tiny dancing bells adorn her wrists and ankles, they tinkled with her every movement. In her hands were silk shawls, so fine as to appear translucent. Her one piece dress was tight-fitting and short and accentuated her figure, enticing and yet not raunchy.
She was unlike the previous exotic dancers who bared much skin and left little to the imagination. This beauty wore enough to cover herself decently, yet the qipao was like a gift wrapper that promised much more.
It was enough to distract even Nangong Xie, and his men began to drool.
“What is this…” the Handsome Scholar started to mutter in confusion, finding the woman on the stage to be familiar.
“Ah, here’s the opening act!” Huang Ming exclaimed loudly.
First step used words and jokes,
So that he would be provoked.
Second step of the plan,
Lure him into the den.
The third action,
A fatal distraction.