“It's truly, truly outrageous.”
--Jem and the Holograms
Chapter 271 – Wedding planning
“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Qiong Ying asked.
Huang Ming turned to look at cross-dressing woman. The long hair was tied in a simple pony-tail and the subtle curves meant she was not making any serious attempt to hide her gender. She had grown accustomed to wearing male clothing casually, inadvertently causing random women on the streets to swoon at her mistakenly.
“What are you talking about at this time? Mom already said no backsies,” Huang Ming said reminded her as they walked.
“Oh heavens, I wasn’t about to change my mind. It already took this long to happen, who knows when the next chance will come?” Qiong Ying narrowed her green eyes. Then her face became solemn. “I am concerned about the timing.”
“You want to push it back?” Huang Ming asked.
“We should. What would your political enemies think if you hold a wedding on the same day as the royal wedding?” Qiong Ying said.
Huang Ming smiled. “What would they think?”
“Don’t play dumb. There will be talk that you are trying to take advantage of the timing to promote yourself. They might even accuse you of disrespecting the royal wedding.”
Huang Ming wagged a finger. “Tut-tut. You can rest assured, I have it all planned out.”
“Well? What is it?” she asked impatiently.
“Patience,” Huang Ming grinned.
“This is my own wedding we’re talking about,” Qiong Ying complained.
“Calm down,” Huang Ming said as he gently stroked her cheek, causing her to fluster.
“What are you-”
“I know you are worried, since you don’t have a family of your own. You might be thinking how we are going to hold the wedding, what about the traditional rites and ceremony, right?” Huang Ming said tenderly.
Qiong Ying was stupefied. “What? I mean, yes, but-”
Huang Ming interrupted her: “Sigh, you will not be shamed. Believe in me. We will do it western style.”
“Western style? What does that mean?” she asked reflexively though she wanted to stop his flow.
“You will be able to walk with your head held high, as a proper and respectful lady. And the whole world will know of your marriage to me,” Huang Ming went on.
“Listen to me-” Qiong Ying said exasperatedly.
“Say no more, I know that deep inside, you are still a naïve young woman who dreams of a princess-like wedding,” Huang Ming continued, deliberately ignoring her. “Do you want a white horse too?”
“You know, your Prince Charming on a white horse,” Huang Ming smirked as he pointed at himself.
“Can you please be a little bit serious!” Qiong Ying exclaimed.
“I am being as least serious as I can,” Huang Ming said seriously.
“I can’t keep up with you,” Qiong Ying massaged her forehead. “You should be more concerned with Mr. Meow.”
Huang Ming laughed, still amused by the codename they had assigned to General Yin Yanzhao.
“You are taking this all too lightly. You are organizing the royal wedding already. Now you want to have our own wedding on top of keeping an eye out for him?” she continued.
“I can handle it,” Huang Ming said.
Qiong Ying was not convinced. “There is no need for you to handle everything at the same time,” she pointed out.
“You can’t possibly attend the princess’s wedding and then our own at the same time,” she protested.
Huang Ming leaned in close, startling her with the sudden intimate distance.
“Who says I can’t be everywhere at once?” he chuckled.
Qiong Ying flushed. “Braggart,” she said as she pushed him away.
“Heh. Come and see what this braggart can do,” Huang Ming said and pulled her by the wrist.
“Where are we going?”
“To the palace.”
“Oh,” Qiong Ying muttered. Then: “What? Why”
“We’re all getting married on the same day, I should officially introduce you to the Princess of Wu. Besides, she could use some female friends, and it wouldn’t hurt to have my future wife being one of them,” Huang Ming smirked.
Qiong Ying was shocked and tried to struggle free. “You are out of your mind! I can’t go to the palace!”
“Why? You scared?” Huang Ming taunted.
“For one thing, I’m not dressed appropriately,” Qiong Ying said, gesturing at herself.
“Hah, so now you’re self-conscious,” Huang Ming teased. “Don’t worry, the princess will get a kick out of this. I’d think you two will get along quite famously.”
“...But I don’t want to get kicked…” Qiong Ying mumbled as Huang Ming pulled her on.
As Huang Ming predicted, Princess Wu Liying was more than delighted to be formally introduced to Qiong Ying.
“First it was Miss Zhao Sunli, now here is Miss Qiong. How exactly did you swindle such outstanding women to marry you?” the princess demanded suspiciously.
“Please do not besmirch my reputation, princess. She was the one who captured me,” Huang Ming stated as a matter of factly.
Qiong Ying responded by planting an elbow into his ribs.
“Hahaha, he was indeed a difficult catch, your highness. I had to dress as a man to catch his attention. It made me wonder of his preferences,” Qiong Ying smiled.
“Mm. We see your point, perhaps there is something to your words,” the princess agreed. “After all, Miss Zhao is also quite handsome too.”
“Miss Zhao did tell me that there are certain literature involving him,” Qiong Ying said conspiratorially.
“Ah, we have heard of such things. Scandalous, absolutely scandalous. One day we will need to acquire a few books for, ah, research purposes. We mean, investigative purposes.”
The two women giggled.
Huang Ming knew it was futile to interrupt them and silently bore with their banter.
“We do find male clothing to be more convenient,” Princess Wu Liying sighed wistfully. “But ever since royal father’s abdication, we find ourselves lacking the freedom to be as wilful as before.”
“It is called ‘having responsibilities’, your highness,” Huang Ming said dryly. In the short time since the royal engagement with Chu was confirmed, the princess had matured very quickly. The wild spark within her was now a tempered flame, the recklessness of youth squashed by the weight of adulthood.
“You are the princess,” Qiong Ying pointed out. “And the future queen of two kingdoms. Who would dare to stop you?”
“You may be right,” the princess nodded. Then she turned her phoenix eyes at Huang Ming. “Speaking of responsibilities. You said you will be taking charge of our union with Prince Chu. Our chamberlain and the Chu Minister of Rites are tearing what hair they have left because you are keeping them in the dark.”
Huang Ming remembered meeting those men. Their hair were already sparse to begin with.
The princess rolled her eyes. “They went through the royal libraries to find a precedent. They are afraid of offending the various traditions and customs of both our countries.”
“Did they come up with anything?”
“Obviously not. You know as well as we do that there haven’t been a female monarch like us, nor a direct union of two countries such as ours before. They want to play it safe by incorporating all the rites from both countries. We and Prince Chu are not foolish enough to agree, otherwise old age would come to us all by the time the wedding is done.”
Huang Ming’s eye twinkled. “Is your highness and the prince up for some fun?”
Huang Ming could see that the princess was interested. Previously she would have agreed without thinking, just to relieve her boredom.
As he explained, the eyes of the princess and Qiong Ying widened and their mouths fell open.
“How did you even think of such a thing?” Qiong Ying wondered.
“It is completely unheard of. We love it,” the princess smiled. Then she leaned back in her throne and propped a finger on her temple. “But you obviously did not plan this without a reason. What are you up to this time?”
“Your highness is wise and discerning,” Huang Ming praised blandly.
“Get on with it,” the princess urged.
“It’s like this…”
Once more the eyes and the mouths of the two women widened.
“How audacious,” the princess commented, the mischievous glint in her eyes taking the sting out of her rebuke.
“I am glad your highness approve,” Huang Ming said with a straight face.
Qiong Ying however, was aghast. “This is your brilliant plan? We’re supposed to contain the fire, not to start it!”
“If there’s going to a fire, I’d rather be the one doing it on my own terms,” Huang Ming shrugged.
“But… that’s too dangerous,” Qiong Ying shook her head, still in shock.
“What’s so dangerous?” Prince Chu Xiong asked brightly as he entered the room.
“You should sit down, you are part of this,” the Princess of Wu advised with a chuckle.
“Really?” Prince Chu said doubtfully.
Later, after Huang Ming had once again repeated his proposal:
“Really?!” Chu Xiong exclaimed.
“We agreed. It is better to settle everything as soon as possible. This affair is getting tiresome,” the princess said imperiously.
“It is my wedding too, don’t I have a say in this?” Chu Xiong grumbled.
Princess Wu Liying raised an eyebrow.
“You prefer a those boring ceremonies proposed by the other ministers?” she asked.
Chu Xiong coughed. “On the other hand, this would be pretty fun. Let’s do it,” the prince said brightly.
In the east they planned for the day,
The southern prince obeyed.