Wednesday's chapter.



“See, what we have here is a failure to communicate.”
--Major Benson Winifred Payne, ‘Major Payne’


Chapter 160 – Almost a bloody nose

Pandemonium. Absolute pandemonium.


The Black Bears were stung, and the White Wolves were more than happy to jeer at at them.


Huang Ming did not know who threw the first punch. The moment the aggrieved Black Bears yelled and rushed towards him, it sparked an immediate retaliation from the White Wolves.


The training field which had been converted into a race track devolved into an all out melee. The riders wisely and hastily rode their horses away, but those who remained were more than eager to fight. A hundred or so men from the two units brawled using their fists and kicks. Spurts of blood, broken teeth and shouts of pain began to fill the air as mayhem ensued.


In such a hotbed of furious action, Huang Ming kept his calm. The White Wolves were more interested in fighting their Black Bear rivals than actually protecting him, and thus he had to fend for himself. He was not being deliberately picked out yet, and so he ducked and weaved and bobbed his way to avoid being caught in the crossfire.


Eventually Huang Ming found himself being hemmed in by a whirlwind of paired off fights. Fortunately all the combatants were busy fighting each and other and their martial dance formed a rough circle around him, as if he was in the eye of a tornado.


Despite the circumstances, Huang Ming took a few seconds to catch his breath. Everything seemed to move in slow motion around him, the men of the White Wolves and the Black Bears were too preoccupied with bashing each other to notice his serenity.


Huang Ming couldn’t help but carve a small smile at his precarious position. It was like watching a deadly ballet all around him. After all, how often do you find yourself in the middle of such a maelstrom, watching everything blitzing by harmlessly? Especially when you were the one who had caused it.


He was still feeling slightly smug at himself when a stray fist landed on his shoulder. The person delivering it was aiming for someone else who had avoided it. The combatants completely ignored Huang Ming and continued their duel, moving around him as if he was an obstacle.


“Damn it!” Huang Ming cussed as he staggered from from the blow. He crashed on another pair of fighters.


They did not take kindly to his interruption.


“Wait!” Huang Ming yelped, but they unceremoniously kicked him away to resume their personal combat, treating him like he was a mere bag of garbage.


Of course, their actions caused more grief for Huang Ming. He landed directly in the middle of yet another fight. He used one hand to block the punch of a White Wolf soldier, and raised his knee to block the kick from the Black Bear counterpart.


The two soldiers looked at Huang Ming in surprise.


“Sorry!” Huang Ming said… and ducked as both of them turned their attentions on him instead. As if affronted by having their attacked stopped by a young man in scholarly robes, the two soldiers growled and attacked Huang Ming, high and low.


Huang Ming had strengthened his physique since arriving in this world, but these men were trained soldiers. He put up a decent defence for several exchanges, but the soldiers simply had more weight behind their moves. Their flurry of attacks were heavier and unbalanced Huang Ming.


Eventually an incoming punch broke past his guard and he was forced to use both hands to stop the blow from reaching his chest. However, that meant his arms were now lowered, and the second attacker seized the chance to swing at his face. Huang Ming jerked back but the man’s knuckles violently grazed his nose, causing his eyes to water. It was as if someone had slapped a piece of sandpaper across his nose.


“Sunuva-!” Huang Ming swore loudly.


“WHAT’S GOING ON HERE!” a voice bellowed in fury. It thundered through the field, stopping the brawl in its tracks. The soldiers of the White Wolves and Black Bears literally froze in mid-pose, their fists and kicks hanging in the air as they turned to see who had shouted.


It was General Li Jing, his face nearly purple with rage. With his reddened teeth, it was a sight to behold. The terrifying visage was enough to cause the soldiers to tremble.


Li Jing was perfectly furious. He had long known of the gambling racket, but he had turned a blind eye to it as he had considered a necessary evil that was part of a soldier’s life in the barracks. Besides, the problem seemed to melt away whenever he went to investigate.


But not this time. This time, the sheer scale of the melee could not be hidden. After all, there were a hundred or so men in various states of injury all over the training field.


The way those men stared back at him with ashen faces and dull eyes made Li Jing even angrier.


“ASSEMBLE!” he roared, the ball of red srih paste in his mouth threatening to spill out.


The White Wolves and Black Bears hastily leapt to their feet, dragging their fallen and groaning brethren up with them as they quickly fell into formation.


Of course, this meant Huang Ming who was not one of them was left conspicuously alone by his lonesome once the men had grouped up.


It was Li Jing’s turn to become slack-jawed, and this time the srih paste in his mouth really fell out.


“Royal Inspector, what are you doing here?” Li Jing asked in disbelief.


“Oh, you know, just doing my job,” Huang Ming said with a scrunched up face as he rubbed his tweaked nose. Fortunately it was not broken, but Huang Ming could still feel the heat from where it was grazed. He walked over to join the general at the head of the assembly.


Almost as one, the soldiers of the White Wolves and Black Bears turned their eyeballs to see who had so casually responded to their general. Their eyes nearly popped out when they saw that it was the young scholar who had sparked the brawl in the first place.


Wait, what did the general call him?


“You were here the entire time? What happened?” General Li Jing asked.


Huang Ming slowly pat the dust off his robes and shot the soldiers an evil look. He wondered which one of them had landed the grazing hit on his nose.


“Well…” he drawled musically, deliberately dragging the word and causing the assembled soldiers to sweat.


“Well?” General Li Jing echoed impatiently.


“They were just having some harmless fun,” Huang Ming answered.


General Li Jing stared at him, his mouth agog. He dramatically gestured at the White Wolves and Black Bears, his sweeping wave encompassing their ripped and tattered clothes, the missing teeth, purplish bruises, broken noses and black eyes.


“Harmless fun! You call this harmless fun?” General Li Jing exclaimed.


“Haha!” Huang Ming laughed and clapped the general’s back jovially. “Surely some roughhousing is to be expected among soldiers. They just have a lot of pent up stress, that’s all!”


“But-!”


“Don’t worry about it!” Huang Ming interrupted his protest and winked.


“Well, if you say so…” General Li Jing mumbled. “What are you going to do with them?”


Huang Ming rubbed his sore nose and squinted at the White Wolves and Black Bears.


“Leave them to me, I’ve got some ideas,” Huang Ming said with a cold smile, and the men shivered.


Li Jing saw the glint in Huang Ming’s eyes and almost felt pity for the soldiers.


“You’re the Royal Inspector,” he said. “They are yours to command as you see fit.”


Huang Ming cupped his hands and bowed. “I’ll make good use of them,” he said solemnly, and once more the men shuddered.


Li Jing quashed the urge to ask what exactly he had planned. He gave the soldiers one last glance and shook his head before walking away.


The White Wolves and Black Bears stood still, eyeing the Royal Inspector with doubts and trepidation.


“You guys are dead,” Huang Ming growled.
 

Taking command,
With a firm hand.​