“I love chicken wings.”
--Tong Pak Fu, ‘Flirting Scholar’
Chapter 246 – Recipe
Despite Huang Ming’s confident prediction, he was not immediately called to the palace. He had waited at home for the summons, yet it never arrived.
When asked by his uncle, Huang Ming’s lips curved with a knowing smile.
“Looks like the princess has the matter well in hand,” he had said.
By now the entire city was fully aware of the impending royal marriage. The storytellers and rumormongers grew bolder, singing songs and stories about a fanciful romance between their beloved Princess Wu Liying and the dashing Prince Chu Xiong. Of course, they were discreetly paid for. It was simple enough to convince the citizens that it was a heavenly match: People do love romantic stories, especially when it involved royalty.
Huang Ming chuckled, wondered how General Yin was feeling. After all, he was the one who had organized all those public outings to bolster the image of his closeness to the royal family. The king and princess had endeared themselves to the common folk with simple gestures, like how the English royal family had done on Earth.
Too often the political machinations of the past meant many princes and princesses would marry and nobody would truly care. Entire generations of subjects would pass without ever catching a glimpse of those they supposedly serve.
But Princess Wu Liying was different: did she and the king not travel the length and breadth of the land to comfort the people in the wake of recent troubles? The land knew of her drive and hard work to rebuild the kingdom.
Huang Ming then used the unexpected leisure time by catching up on his reading and writing copious amounts of letters. For several days, observers noticed the stream of couriers streaming in and out of the Li Clan residence. Some bore nothing more than letters, others carried mysterious boxes and packages that were guarded jealously. Not even Uncle Li Hong or Madam Li knew what they contained.
“Where is that son of yours?” Uncle Li Hong demanded excitedly one day after receiving yet another messenger. At first he was annoyed, but then he saw the seal on the envelope and his eyes boggled.
“In the kitchens, maybe.”
“What the hell is he doing?”
“He did say he was going to cook me something,” Madam Li chuckled.
Li Hong stared at his sister with disbelief. “This is no time to be cooking!” he stated in a huff.
He stomped to the rear, willing himself not to accidentally crumple the precious letter in his hands.
After all, it wasn’t everyday that he would hold in his hands a letter from the palace itself, even though it was not addressed to him.
Li Hong burst into the courtyard full of eagerness, only for his eyes and nose to be assaulted by the sight and smell of Huang Ming and a few servants leisurely roasting meats over a grill and a makeshift fireplace made of bricks.
One of the servants was examining a plate of shiny black sauce that glistened.
“Don’t drop that, that sauce is made with premium oyster extracts given by the King of Chu himself,” Huang Ming warned. “Just brush the chicken lightly and make sure they are roasted evenly.”
“This smells amazing, young master!” the servant exclaimed.
Li Hong was about to agree when he saw that they were using calligraphy brushes of all sizes to smear the sauce over the chicken. Most importantly, they were his calligraphy brushes.
“What the hell are you doing with my precious brushes!” he howled in horror.
“Oh, hi Uncle,” Huang Ming greeted. “Don’t worry, they have been properly cleaned and sterilized.”
Li Hong was ashen.
Huang Ming blinked, realizing that his uncle was absolutely devastated.
“Auntie said you don’t need these any more. She said you needed to trim down your collection,” Huang Ming said slowly. He glanced at the servants to back him up, but they had mysteriously dispersed.
Then he noticed the letter that was being crumpled by his uncle’s trembling hand.
“Is that for me? I’ll just take it, thanks…” Huang Ming murmured as he pried open his catatonic uncle’s fingers. He quietly stepped away before his uncle came to his senses.
Then Huang Ming snapped his fingers as he remembered.
“Uncle, remember to flip the meats every few minutes before they get burnt!”
He hurriedly escaped as Uncle Li Hong exploded into a paroxysm of curses.
The letter of course, was the long awaited royal summons.
But Huang Ming was slightly disappointed that he was not getting a Zhuge Liang-style debate confrontation. Instead of facing a cadre of officials and bureaucrats eager to accuse him of selling out their kingdom, he was instead ushered to the rear palace for a simple dinner with the Prince of Chu and Princess Wu Liying.
“Well, you two sure move fast,” Huang Ming commented.
“This is your fault,” Wu Liying said sternly, hoping that her face was severe enough to hide the rising blush.
“You are the one who brought me here,” Chu Xiong added.
“And now you two are ganging up on me?” Huang Ming sighed exaggeratedly.
They shared a laugh.
“You two have agreed then?”
“It will be difficult but I will face it bravely,” Wu Liying quipped.
Chu Xiong smirked. “But in my case, I won’t be able to find any one better, so of course I agree.”
This time the princess was unable to hide the redness in her cheeks.
“Don’t be so sappy,” she said, but the curve on her lips fooled nobody.
“Be serious and stop flirting for a moment,” Huang Ming interrupted with a smile. “I thought I would be called in to debate your proposal, were there no opposition to this union?”
“Of course there was,” Wu Liying scoffed. “But it wasn’t anything that I couldn’t handle.”
“So I’m no longer called a sell-out?” Huang Ming asked.
“I am not too sure about that,” she replied jokingly. “I really am in the process of being entangled with a foreign prince because of you, after all. I have thinned them out, but you will still need to explain yourself to them.”
“So I’m still a sell-out? Make up your minds.”
“Not to me, at least. I am quite grateful for this scheme of yours,” Chu Xiong said casually.
“I’d say so. You’re getting a wife and adding an entire kingdom to yours,” Wu Liying sniffed.
Huang Ming looked back and fro at the couple. ‘Yes, they really are a couple,’ he thought. A few more years like this and they would be in danger of becoming one of those husband-and-wife duo that would be damned likeable.
“What about General Yin?” he asked.
The atmosphere turned gloomy instantly.
“He has yet to return, still on that ‘patrol’ of his,” the princess said. “You don’t suppose he’s actually planning a coup, are you?”
“If he wanted to do a violent overthrow, he would have done it long ago before I returned with a prince for you,” Huang Ming said.
“That is no guarantee that he isn’t planning one now. Especially since you are here now. All in the bag, so to speak,” Wu Liying said grimly.
“Don’t worry, I have Zhao Sunli shadowing him.”
“Ah, so that is why you have been sending and getting so many couriers lately. I heard you have been doing some big project at home,” Chu Xiong said.
“I was cooking,” Huang Ming said honestly. “Ah… I hope my uncle didn’t burnt the meats…”
They stared at him.
“You were really cooking?”
“It wasn’t much,” Huang Ming quoted.
“And I thought you are scheming something while hiding in your home,” Chu Xiong said with annoyance. “This is no time to be cooking!”
“I didn’t say I was only cooking.”
“Well, don’t keep us in suspense,” the princess interjected.
“I am no prophet. I don’t know what the general is planning. But I can make some contingencies. Besides, you two need a grand wedding.”
“Do we need to?” the princess rolled her eyes.
“I’d prefer a smaller ceremony myself,” Chu Xiong added.
“Nonsense. You will need to make it as grand as possible,” Huang Ming smiled broadly. “How often do you read about two kingdoms unifying like this in history? Invite everybody, spare no expense.”
“Everybody?” Wu Liying repeated warily.
“Everybody. Including… the Princess of Jin.”
Huang Ming ignored the looks on their faces.
“It will be the wedding of the century.”
Cantonese Roast Chicken
2kg of chicken
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 ginger, sliced
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup oyster sauce
2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly grounded black pepper
1. Shamelessly ripped from Stephen Chow's "Flirting Scholar" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vq3jqQi3hXc
2. "Zhuge Liang Disputes With The Southern Scholars" https://www.threekingdoms.com/043.htm