“A feeling of dread hangs over you... But you stay determined.”
--Waterfall SAVE Point, ‘Undertale’
Chapter 274 – Onwards
When the Princess of Jin’s entourage finally entered the Wu capital, they were met with subdued fanfare. The city was in a festive mood, but that did not prevent the citizens from eyeing the Jins suspiciously as they were led to their diplomatic residence in the affluent quarter.
Princess Wu Liying who was a huge admirer of her Jin counterpart had given a warm welcome. It was a historic meeting of two powerful women of the age. Their first encounter was brief but proper according to diplomatic protocol. Polite well wishes and toasts were exchanged before they retired.
“Well, that was underwhelming,” Princess Wu Liying sighed as she leaned back in her chair once she had returned to her private residence. With her were Prince Chu Xiong and Huang Ming, the two men having skipped the event so that Princess Wu Liying would appear to stand tall and proudly alone as an equal to Princess Jin Hua.
“I thought you would be thrilled to have met your idol,” Chu Xiong grinned.
“There is the fact that her husband tried to conquer Beihai,” she reminded him.
“Yes, I seem to recall that I was there,” Huang Ming said dryly as he poured tea for them. Once he was done, he looked at the delicate porcelain pot critically. ‘What would I give for some coffee…’ he thought wistfully.
“She asked about you, you know,” Princess Wu Liying said suddenly.
“Eh? Not me?” Chu Xiong demanded and affected a jealous look that was acknowledged but unfortunately ignored by his wife-to-be.
Huang Ming had half-expected such a thing, but he arched an eyebrow in feigned surprise. “What did she say?”
“She is interested about the man who defeated her husband in Beihai,” Princess Wu Liying replied. “I wonder if we should send you to seduce her. It would certainly simplify matters,” the princess added mischievously.
“I rather hope that you not,” Huang Ming objected immediately.
“Why not?” the princess scoffed. “Don’t tell you are not interested. I won’t believe it.”
“I have enough women troubles. Perhaps you could ask my brother Huang Lang instead, he is a more beautiful man than I, as much as I hate to admit it,” Huang Ming offered shamelessly.
“Isn’t your sister-in-law pregnant?” the princess asked.
“Yes, which is why my brother might want this opportunity to be away,” Huang Ming said with a smile, but it quickly faded when he saw that they appear to be mystified. The humour was lost on the couple, having no reference to draw upon due to their royal, sheltered life. They did not have the chance to be acquainted with the whims and demands of a pregnant woman.
“Ahem,” he coughed to change the subject. “Well, what was she like?”
“Very beautiful,” the princess admitted with the same reluctance that Huang Ming had shown about his brother.
“Oh?” Chu Xiong asked with some interest. It was snuffed out with a withering, cold look from his fiancée.
“I was not referring to her physical beauty. There was something… otherworldly about her,” she clarified. “…But yes, she is very beautiful. Charming eyes, slender, graceful.”
“Surely not as beautiful as you my dear,” Chu Xiong quipped, and the princess chuckled at the bald-faced appeasement.
“But how is she as a person?” Huang Ming asked. To say that he was not curious was a lie: obviously he was interested in the enemy Avatar, but he had already waited this long; he could wait a few hours more before having their first confrontation. Qiong Ying had told him about her sister Qiong Hua, or Princess Jin Hua as she was now known. The various events and deeds surrounding her seemed almost lifted out of a typical Chinese novel.
“So you are interested,” the princess said triumphantly.
“Mind you, she is married to a prince. And I am also getting married. To two women at that,” Huang Ming continued to deflect. He could hardly tell her that he and Jin Hua were both reincarnated persons destined to be enemies.
“Why would that stop you? Didn’t you court one while you were still engaged to the other? How admirable,” Prince Chu Xiong mocked.
“Oh?” Princess Wu Liying vocalized.
“I mean, only someone like him would do such a brazen thing,” the prince hastily amended.
“I have a feeling that we will be very incompatible,” Huang Ming said wryly.
“Nonsense,” the princess insisted. “I am sure your glib tongue will find a way. The two women you are marrying are way out of your league too and somehow you managed to snag them. It would be a patriotic merit if you manage to turn the princess to be better disposed towards us.”
“Alas, my legs are old and bent. My ears are grizzled. My eyes are poor. My nose is knackered,” Huang Ming listed.
“Are you insulting your wives-to-be?” the princess said disarmingly.
“Hardly. Rather, their hearts are magnanimous and their minds open to have accepted someone as poor as me,” Huang Ming answered smoothly.
“Fine, fine, it is obvious that you won’t accept such an order,” the princess said resignedly.
Hardly had he spoken those words when a eunuch arrived bearing a message.
“The Princess of Jin has requested the presence of Sir Huang Ming.”
Princess Wu Liying smirked. “See? Even the heavens are in favour of this.”
Huang Ming shook his head. The heavens?
How was he to tell her that he and the Princess of Jin were part of an interdimensional game being played by incomprehensibly powerful beings?
“I will do my best,” he said vaguely as he followed the eunuch out.
He had expected and planned for this encounter, but perhaps in his heart he did not want it to happen yet.
From a certain point onward, there was no longer any turning back.
Time at last,
Meeting of the main cast.