Apologies for the delay. mmm national day weekend...



“When in doubt, don't.”
--Benjamin Franklin


Chapter 218 - Cleared

Zhao Sunli had climbed up the stairs with some trepidation in her heart.


From a distance, she could hear the commotion from the temple, and she easily deduced what was happening. Qiong Ying had already written to her to make some arrangements and Sunli knew that she would be arriving today as planned.


Sunli had done her part in the drama that was unfolding at the temple: she had gone to the temple and infiltrated as a wandering warrior. There she had bested their strongest fighter, Bian Qing. In return for their hospitality, Sunli offered to train some of them to protect themselves from wild animals and the occasional hoodlums that would bother the nuns whenever they went down the mountain.


She was prepared and knew what to expect, yet there was slight hesitation in every step she took, for she knew that Qiong Ying was not alone. Huang Ming was also at the mountain.


She gripped her spear tighter.


It had been some time.


What sort of face would he show her when they meet?


She was uncertain of herself, and so she put on an impassive face and steeled herself as she climbed up the stairs. By the time she reached, the commotion was already over. She arrived just in time to see a hunched over Prince Chu Feng being ushered into the temple by worried young nuns.


Huang Ming was standing beside Qiong Ying. It was like seeing something out of a novel: as if Sunli could see the backs of two celestial beings standing side by side, the sun highlighting the outlines of their bodies with a majestic temple as the backdrop, framed by the soaring mountains and drifting clouds.


Her heart seized at the sight: What I am doing here?


Then Qiong Ying said something and Huang Ming turned around.


His eyes widened when he saw her … and he smiled with genuine surprise.


Whatever self-doubt she had before vanished.


“You’re here!” he said brightly.


‘Ah, I like him.’



It wasn’t that she was enamoured by a pretty face (though it’s quite pretty…), but the sincerity in his eyes assuaged the worries that had clouded her mind.


She allowed herself to smile slightly, and she could see he was slightly dazed by it. Sunli could feel a wave of pleasure sweeping over her body; she enjoyed knowing that she had that effect on him.


“I am here,” she said simply.


They gazed at each other’s eyes, allowing the moment to linger.


“Ahem,” Qiong Ying coughed discreetly. “There is nobody else here now, but we should still be wary.”


“Mmm,” Huang Ming nodded.


---


“So, that Bian Qing is yours?” Huang Ming asked later in one of the tea rooms provided by the temple.


“No, she really is a nun here,” Sunli said. She calmly sipped her tea even as Huang Ming and Qiong Ying stared at her incredulously.


“Really?” Qiong Ying asked.


“Really,” Sunli repeated. “Apparently she ran away from her home and the temple took her in a few years ago. Not sure if they regretted their decision.”


“I can imagine,” Huang Ming said lightly.


“Yes. She’s quite boisterous, and when I first arrived she immediately challenged me to a spar.”


“Oh? What happened?” Huang Ming asked.


“Naturally, I kicked her ass,” Sunli replied with a straight face. It made Huang Ming smile, and Sunli had to hide her own pleasure by taking another sip of her tea.


“Well, this was not what I expected, but I guess it worked out in the end,” Qiong Ying commented.


Huang Ming arched an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”


“I had thought Sunli would be the one knocking down the prince,” she admitted.


“The thought had crossed my mind, but I did not expect to see someone like Bian Qing here. Once I proved myself as guest instructor, she was very eager to learn, and she learned quickly. It was inevitable that she would find someone to test her new skills.”


“That is a blessing,” Huang Ming smirked. “We can honestly say that we have nothing to do with Prince Chu Feng being beaten up by a nun.”


“Well, that is fine too,” Qiong Ying laughed. “I am afraid if Sunli was the one who dished out the beating, the prince would be smitten by her. Beautiful, strong female figure and such,” she said airily.


Huang Ming grimaced, and Sunli saw the irritation on his face.


Somehow, she was glad to see his reaction.


“Fall in love with someone who beat the crap out of him? This is not some romance novel,” he disagreed.


‘But that’s what happened to me,’ Sunli thought, and then she quickly banished it away before her cheeks could redden.


“Oh, don’t be too sure,” Qiong Ying said mischievously. “Men are quite simple, really. The prince looks like someone who has been under the thumb of his mother all his life, and so he would find someone who is as powerful as she is in his mind to be quite desirable.”


“Are you suggesting that I resemble his mother?” Sunli asked flatly as she narrowed her eyes.


Qiong Ying shrank back to hide playfully behind Huang Ming.


“I was only joking!” she grinned.


“I am laughing. This is my laughing face,” Sunli said expressionlessly.


Huang Ming smiled. “Where did you pick up a sense of humour?”


‘From you,’ Sunli thought. But instead, she said, “I always had one. But enough of this. What do we do next?”


“I think we can push Prince Chu Feng to the brink, with Bian Qing’s help,” Qiong Ying said with a wink.
 

The prince was given a beating,
'twas a bitter pill to swallow,
But in another meeting,
There was more plotting to follow.​