“Soon, I will have a new apprentice … one far younger and more powerful.”
--Darth Sidious, ‘Revenge of the Sith’
Chapter 268 – Another
“What do you mean?” Huang Ming asked with honest ignorance.
Qiong Ying laughed but refused to answer. “You should follow your father, there should be a good show soon,” she suggested.
Huang Ming felt he was missing something important, something completely obvious. There was a nagging feeling in his mind, but he could only agree and quickly went after his father.
Huang Zheng had rushed back to the Li Residence with all haste. He ignored the doorkeeper who was sweeping the area and easily smashed open the gates with a double-palm strike. By the time Huang Ming and Qiong Ying had caught up, the general was already striding into the residence with large powerful steps. One could easily see how agitated and anxious the general was.
Without a pause and not caring for the stunned servants and maids, the general barged his way directly to the private gardens. When he saw Madam Li quietly tending to the plants, he increased his speed further.
Madam Li did not notice his arrival until the general had actually reached over and picked her up, sweeping her off her feet and hugging her close.
Madam Li was of course startled, and then outraged. Her face flushed attractively as she futilely try to break free from his embrace.
“What are you doing! Put me down!” she exclaimed as she pounded her fists on his chest. It was reminiscent of some shy maiden’s gesture… only that Madam Li did practice martial arts in the past and had some considerable strength behind her blows.
But Huang Zheng seemingly did not notice the pain. There was a silly smile on his face he gingerly set her down on her feet. He loosened his embrace but still kept his hands around her waist.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” he asked gently.
Madam Li stiffened but quickly turned away, the flush of anger on her face was now a flush of embarrassment instead.
“I have no idea what you are saying,” she groused.
“I have been such an idiot,” Huang Zheng said apologetically, “I should have realized that you are pregnant.”
Of course, this was the point when Huang Ming and Qiong Ying arrived at the scene. Huang Ming’s mouth fell open.
“What? But you are so old…” he let slip.
Qiong Ying possibly saved his life from being incinerated by his parents’ ire by giving him a swift jab with her elbow into his side. As a result, he doubled over in a coughing fit and therefore missed the double death glare from both his parents.
As it was, the married couple ignored their stricken son, as if they were in a bubble of their own.
“Who said I am pregnant?” Madam Li denied unconvincingly.
Huang Zheng was not deterred. “I am such a blockhead. I should have remembered the difficulties you had when you were pregnant with that no-good Ah Ming,” he lamented.
“Why me?” Huang Ming managed to whimper as he caught his breath.
His parents continued to ignore him.
“I should have paid more attention to your diet, to your moods… they are all like the time when you were carrying that idiot in your belly,” Huang Zheng continued.
“Well.. you should have,” Madam Li relented.
Her admission delighted the aged general. He raised her up with joy once more, this time even giving her a short spin for added measure.
“Put me down, you old fool!” Madam Li complained, but there was a smile on her face.
“This is great news! You should have told me!” Huang Zheng laughed.
“Yeah, you should have,” Huang Ming added as he rubbed the side of his stomach.
“Do you know how embarrassing it is to be pregnant at my age?” Madam Li huffed.
“...that’s what I said. How did this even happen?” Huang Ming muttered.
“Did you say something?” Madam Li asked sharply.
“I mean, at dad’s age. Yes,” Huang Ming hastily amended.
His father was not impressed. “This has nothing to do with you, get lost,” Huang Zheng said.
“Nothing to do with me?” Huang Ming echoed. “This has everything to do with me. It’s a huge deal!”
“What do you mean?”
Huang Ming smirked. “There are only a few years difference between me and my brothers, and now you are giving me a brother with a twenty-year age gap? Aren’t Huang Lang and Cao Tianyun expecting as well? Wouldn’t their kid need to call your kid ‘uncle’ or ‘aunt’ even though they are of the same age?”
“So what? Making a mountain out of a molehill… Since when you have been concerned with such trivialities?” Huang Zheng asked roughly, not really seeing the problem. As a man in his mid-sixties, he was of course pleased to have further proof of his virility.
Huang Ming paused, realizing that his father had a point.
“Sister,” Madam Li interjected.
“It will be girl, because heavens know I am tired of having boys. I am due a daughter if the heavens have any eyes,” Madam Li vowed.
Qiong Ying chuckled as she fanned herself, quietly enjoying the family banter. She was completely at ease, even though she was still dressed as Quan Lu and in the midst of Huang Ming’s parents.
“And you,” Huang Ming turned towards her. “Why didn’t you tell us?”
Qiong Ying blinked innocently. “I only just tied it all together after hearing from the general,” she reminded him.
Madam Li sighed. “I’ll never live this down,” she lamented. “Imagine the ridicule I will face from all my peers…”
“They are just jealous,” Huang Zheng beamed, thinking about the ways he could crow about his achievement to his peers.
“Well, if you are that bothered by it, you can just get around it,” Huang Ming said.
“Oh?” Madam Li was very interested.
“Have dad take a concubine and then declare the child as hers.”
There was deathly silence as Madam Li’s phoenix eyes narrowed. Huang Zheng was aghast.
“Over my dead body!” Madam Li scowled.
“You unfilial son!” Huang Zheng cursed at the same time, horrified at his son’s temerity.
“It was only a suggestion,” Huang Ming shrugged nonchalantly, secretly pleased that his parents have reconciled and even joining forces to condemn him.
Huang Zheng was still fuming, but then Madam Li’s visage took on a cunning look.
“But there is no need for such a ruse, is there?” she asked conversationally. She glanced at Qiong Ying and the cross-dressed woman’s fanning hand stopped, suddenly feeling danger.
“I don’t think…” Qiong Ying began to protest.
“On second thought, you are right, it’s really no big deal at all…” Huang Ming began to caught on, but even as he started to backpedal, his father grabbed him by the collar.
“That’s right,” Huang Zheng grinned. “There’s you!”
Madam Li nodded in agreement. “Yes… you two are just the ready-made solution.”
Huang Ming shook his head. “I really don’t think you should pass off my potential brother-”
“Sister!” Madam Li insisted.
“...right, my sister as my daughter. It will be ridiculous.”
“It will be just temporary,” his mother persisted.
“Why not ask Huang Ke and Liu Yuchun? I’m not even married!” Huang Ming complained.
Of course, this opening was exactly what Madam Li had waited for.
“So, when will you get married then?” she demanded.
“Useless,” Madam Li declared, and she instead turned her interrogative eyes on Qiong Ying.
“We are still sorting it out with Ms. Zhao Sunli,” Qiong Ying manage to say with a smile.
“Well, that is fortunate,” Madam Li said triumphantly as she pulled out an envelope. “When I asked her about this, she wrote back that Huang Ming had already promised her, and it was all up to you now.”
They were cornered,
And forced forward.