Apologies. This was hammered out in a rush and while knackered. What a rough time.



“Happiness is a warm gun.”

--The Beatles

 

Chapter 288 – Firepower

 

“Let me wrap things up here first.”

 

“I can see why,” Huang Ming said dryly.

 

The request from Sunli was not wholly unexpected, because Sunli was now a high-ranking and important member of the new, professional army of the kingdom. The face of war was changing thanks to the new, devastating weapons being introduced.

 

All of this entailed a lot of work, as evidenced by the pile of documents on her desk at the army headquarters outside of the capital.

 

“We gave you advance notice, you should have cleared up your matters by now,” Qiong Ying admonished.

 

“There is just so much stuff,” Sunli grumbled as she eyed resentfully at the documents.

 

“There is no need for you to handle everything yourself. You have subordinates, just delegate it to them,” Huang Ming said.

 

Sunli leaned back on her chair. “You don’t even take your own advice.”

 

There was a hint of accusation in her tone, and Huang Ming knew his wife was right. Despite his officially minor title and the network of friends that he had placed in important places, there were many times Huang Ming worked through the night, even on the occasions when Sunli had returned.

 

“What is the most pressing of the concerns here?” he asked, glancing at the pile of documents.

 

“It is about those new… ‘firearms’ we are getting,” Sunli admitted.

 

“Is it too difficult to use?”

 

It was her turn to shake her head. “No, that is not the problem.”

 

“Perhaps I should wait outside,” Qiong Ying offered, knowing that they were about to discuss a sensitive military matter.

 

Sunli stopped her. “Thank you, but please stay.”

 

There are no secrets between us.

 

The two women smiled at each other.

 

Looking at his wives, Huang Ming wondered. Perhaps his mother was right, in that he might be doing them wrong. Then again, it was not as if he was deliberately refusing to give them children. Heaven knows they have tried. Repeatedl.y

 

Huang Ming could not help but feel his own lips curve. His two wives were very different but very similar in many ways. Both were outstanding and were strong, confident women.

 

“What with the self-satisfied grin on your face?” Qiong Ying demanded.

 

“I am actually impressed.”

 

“Oh?” Sunli arched an eyebrow, daring him to make a sarcastic comment.

 

“I was just thinking that it is such a tragedy that the two of you have deprived this world of a male god,” Huang Ming chuckled.

 

The two women rolled their eyes in sync.

 

“You do have a nice-looking face,” Sunli replied with all seriousness.

 

Indeed, Huang Ming had indulged in his two wives in many unexpected ways. Whenever the three of them were home, Huang Ming would make them a home-made meal. Now that he had the wealth and prestige, it was easier for him to source the spices and ingredients from all across the kingdom and beyond.

 

“We really only took you in because of your culinary skills,” Qiong Ying said wistfully.

 

“Oh, is that all?” he asked with a leer.

 

The two women refused to take the bait.

 

“Ah, but you two certainly have the divine right to do so,” Huang Ming smarmily continued. Then he eyed lasciviously at their bosoms. “You also have the divine left too.”

 

This time the two women reached out to smack him on each shoulder as their faces reddened.

 

Then they shared a laugh, something that they have learned to do quite often during the two years of their marriage to this incorrigible man.

 

“What was that about the firearms?” Qiong Ying asked as she dabbed away the tears from the corners of her eyes with her sleeve.

 

Sunli’s face became serious once more. “These weapons are terrifying, but can you come up with ways to improve them even more?” she asked.

 

“I was planning to visit Ma Jun and the rest anyway,” Huang Ming shrugged. “Maybe he is already working on new developments.”

 

“I am asking you.”

 

Huang Ming paused. The two wives were now looking at him directly.

 

They had never asked, never pried about his ‘talents’. Perhaps they were not aware how strange he was. Or more likely, they did not care.

 

He smiled appreciatively. “I am sure I will think of something.”

 

“Good. Reloading needs to be done faster, and to be able to function in damp conditions,” Sunli said. “My father enjoys the shock value of a volley, but he said there is still a long way for these guns to replace the bow and arrow.”

 

Huang Ming recalled similar words of complaints from a politician on Earth.

 

“We have to keep up with the Jins. They had cannons even during Beihai, and they were generous enough to send more to Wei. There is no telling how far ahead they are in the race, and we need every edge we can get.”

 

“Is that a good idea?” Qiong Ying ventured. In one of their outings together, they had taught her about the weapons. A smaller version that would fit in the palm of one’s hand. She was astounded by the power it could unleash, though she did not want to go through the experience again. Since that one time, she had found various excuses to avoid handling the devilish firearms.

 

“What do you mean?” Huang Ming asked, anticipating her reply. This was one of the perks of his condition. He liked seeing other people figuring things by themselves.

 

“We are already mass producing these firearms. They are for war, I know, but what about afterwards?” Qiong Ying said. “What if they fall into the wrong hands?”

 

Sunli nodded. “It is easy to train men on how to use them. I too want one for personal use.”

 

“For hunting?” Huang Ming asked.

 

Sunli merely looked at him quietly.

 

He knew she was joking, but the impassive face was quite ominous.

 

“Well,” Huang Ming breathed out, “Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you see it, production is still difficult. And expensive. For the time being, we are focusing on field pieces.”

 

“Yes… the artillery,” Sunli muttered pensively.

 

Though massed cannon fire had not been used ever since the defense of Tigertrap Fort two years ago, she could understand just how devastating such firepower was. Quite a number of the people clearing away the torn and smashed up remains of the battlefield that day retired from the grisly business completely.

 

“Once we have settled Jin, I will propose to end the production of such weapons,” Sunli said. “They are too dangerous and too easily to be trained in their use.”

 

“Too easy?” Huang Ming repeated, giving her a knowing look.

 

She did not disappoint him. “Yes. Anyone can be taught. Anyone.

 

They both turned to look at Qiong Ying.

 

“There’s really no need for me to learn this,” she blinked.

 

“Times have changed. Your swordplay is no longer sufficient, and you can more easily conceal a handgun than a sword,” Huang Ming said. One of the side effects of removing the powerful corrupt was a more stringent enforcement of the law. Righteous and upright officials who were forced to hide or compromise during the dark times had re-emerged to uphold the laws of the land. The days of wandering swordsman and errant-knights to enact their own brand of justice were fast coming to an end.

 

None more exemplified this than his very own brother, Huang Lang. Once a renowned figure with ties to the martial underworld, the eldest of the Huang brothers had settled into married life and taking charge of respectable businesses.

 

“Our family is too eye-catching, and there are always those who do not wish us well,” Sunli added.

 

Our family.

 

The two words alone were enough to stifle Qiong Ying’s potential arguments.

 

“Don’t worry, I’ll design something that is more discreet and concealable for the two of you,” Huang Ming said as he ran his eyes up and down their legs. He was already imagining measuring them for holsters around their thighs.

 

Mmm. They were indeed excellent specimens of the female persuasion, and he could not help but feel a little proud that he had access to them.

 

Qiong Ying was not one to suffer a loss easily, and so she gave him a grin of her own.

 

“I have a request about my handgun,” she said.

 

“What is it?”

 

“I’d like it to be bigger,” she said, deliberately arching an eyebrow as her eyes traveled down.

 

“Really?” Huang Ming retorted defiantly even as he stirred. “And you too?” he asked Sunli.

 

Qiong Ying nudged her conspiratorially, but unexpectedly, the martial woman flushed and avoided their gaze.

 

“I’m fine with it as it is…” she said softly.

 

Finger on the trigger,

Bigger is better.