“It wasn’t much!”
--Souma Yukihira, ‘Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Souma’
Chapter 199 – Rude
Suddenly, the doors were thrown open violently.
A tall and powerfully built man strode dramatically into the room without waiting for the doors to open fully, a sign of a confident man who was used for things to simply happen because he had wished for it. He was handsomely dressed in beautiful ornate military armour with a flowing cape. He had a prominent widow’s peak, his jaw was square and there was a contemptuous sneer carved on his lips.
Huang Ming saw at once that this was Prince Chu Feng, for he looked every inch a bigger and healthier version of the dandy Prince Chu Xiong who was still lounging on his seat.
“I heard you have guests, dear brother!” Prince Chu Feng boomed imperiously without pausing his stride.
His powerful motions meant the Wu delegation who were in his path parted to make way for him, keeping their heads low as they retreated to the sides.
Except for one.
Prince Chu Feng brow furrowed and he came to a stop when he realized that the young scholar standing between him and his royal brother was not budging.
Huang Ming looked up at the prince who was a full head taller than him. The prince looked just as imposing as his brother Huang Ke, yet there was something different... something lacking. Huang Ming gazed at the prince frankly, looking up and down at the taller man blatantly.
“Who are you?” the prince demanded, arching a displeased eyebrow at the scholarly looking young man in his way.
“I am the envoy of Wu,” Huang Ming said casually.
“A mere envoy dares to block the path of a prince in his very own kingdom? A good dog should know better than to block the road, lest it receive a kick!” Prince Chu Feng smiled coldly.
“Why would a rock fear a strike from an egg?” Huang Ming asked blandly.
Prince Chu Feng’s visage twisted with fury. “Who’s the egg-”
“Well, it’s definitely not me,” Huang Ming interrupted.
The prince was outraged, having never experienced such flippancy before. “How dare you! I am a Prince of Chu!” he shouted.
Huang Ming squinted at him. “You’re lying,” he said. “A prince should know better than to barge uninvited into a private meeting.”
Prince Chu Feng’s mouth opened and closed wordlessly as he pointed a shaking finger at Huang Ming. Despite his towering rage, the prince found himself unable to refute Huang Ming’s words. Whatever regal bearing that he had brought with him when he entered the room had now vanished, replaced by lost composure.
From his seat, Prince Chu Xiong clapped. “Looks like he had you there, dear brother,” he chuckled.
“You would do well to disassociate yourself from these insolent Wu scoundrels!” Chu Feng said quickly, switching his focus from Huang Ming to his brother.
“We all have our own quirks and interests, brother. If you can entertain guests from Wei, why couldn’t I entertain guests from Wu?”
“We have more in common with Wei than these glib Wu devils,” Chu Feng said vehemently.
“Don’t be too quick to judge, dear brother,” Chu Xiong said with a smile. “They are not just all bark and no bite. For instance, that envoy is more than meets the eye.”
Huang Ming frowned, not liking the mischievous tone in Chu Xiong’s voice.
‘He’s going to tell him my name, any second now…’
Chu Feng snorted derisively. “From what I have seen, he is nothing but all talk.”
“You of all people should be interested in him, brother. For this envoy is the one called Huang Ming, the one who had orchestrated Ran Wei’s defeat,” Chu Xiong said impishly.
‘There you go…’ Huang Ming thought, mentally rolling his eyes in exasperation.
“What?” Chu Feng was genuinely shocked; he whipped his head back towards the unassuming but rude scholar from Wu.
“This scrawny guy defeated Ran Wei?” Chu Feng exclaimed, pointing a finger in disbelief. It was Prince Chu Feng’s turn to stare at Huang Ming from head to toe.
“Impossible. I refuse to believe it,” he declared.
“I defeated Ran Wei in war, not in a duel,” Huang Ming replied. “Size has nothing to do with it,” he added. From the corner of his eye he could see that Chu Xiong was leaning back on his seat, as if he was savouring the entire situation.
Chu Feng seized on that statement. “So you never actually faced Ran Wei in personal combat?”
“Of course not…” Huang Ming answered honestly.
“You see what I mean? These Wu devils rely on deceit and cheap tricks!” Chu Feng announced triumphantly.
“Ran Wei was defeated long before I could even see his face,” Huang Ming continued smoothly.
“Only with treachery!” Chu Feng said hotly.
“Yes, but I still defeated him,” Huang Ming said calmly. ‘He sounds like one of those obsessive fans whose idol had been badmouthed.’
Once more, Chu Feng was stunned into gaping silence as his brother Chu Xiong erupted into laughter.
For some reason, Huang Ming found the foppish prince’s laughter to be annoying.
‘Having fun at my expense, eh?’
Huang Ming clasped his hands together and bowed. “Prince Chu Xiong, I think we can adjourn for now. I will draft the agreement document for your perusal within the day.”
Chu Xiong’s good humour vanished.
“What document?” the two Chu princes said simultaneously, albeit in very different tones.
“Why, a formal treaty between Chu and Wu, of course,” Huang Ming said matter-of-factly.
Chu Feng glared at his brother Chu Xiong. “You pretend to be disinterested, yet how quick you are to act, ‘dear’ brother,” he said with cold fury.
Chu Xiong thought of explaining himself. But in that moment he saw the eyes of his royal brother: they were full of anger and hate. It was then that he knew that his brother was implacable.
The truth did not matter, the mere possibility was sufficient for Chu Feng. Such suspicion was enough justification for blood to be shed in countless power struggles throughout history. No matter how Chu Xiong would protest his innocence, his brother would never believe him. Once Chu Feng had secured the throne, Chu Xiong would be ‘invited’ to go Onward to ease the new king’s mind.
Seeing his brother’s becoming quiet, Chu Feng snorted. With a flourish of his cape, he turned and stomped out of the room.
A deathly silence was left in his wake.
All the casual, easy-going and lackadaisical attitude disappeared from Chu Xiong.
“Feeling proud of yourself?” he asked Huang Ming directly. “With just a few words, you have plunged us brothers to a deadly struggle.”
“The moment you allowed us in here, you had already anticipated this. All you can do now is win and become the king,” Huang Ming said.
“Oh, is that all?” Chu Xiong asked sarcastically. “You call yourself a rock, but as you can see, my brother is as big as a mountain.”
“My brother is bigger than your brother.”
Prince Chu Xiong frowned. “Please be serious, this is no time for perverted jokes.”
Huang Ming rolled his eyes. ‘You’re the pervert!’
“Let’s not waste any more time,” he said instead. “It was bound to happen anyway. What do you have to lose?”
The prince stared at him.
“My wealth? My women? My life?” he said glumly.
Stirred into action,
Committed into a faction.