Forgive the mistakes. My mother had a fall and suffered a fright, this was rushed out as a distraction to pass the time.

It's not right for a woman to read. Soon she starts getting ideas, and thinking...

--Gaston LeGume, ‘Beauty and the Beast’


Chapter 298 – The honey trap


“Will you come with me?” Huang Ming asked quietly.


“You already know that I wouldn’t,” Min Guang replied with a smile.


“What do you plan to do?”


Min Guang’s smile became sly. “I’ll do what you have taught me.”


It had a double meaning, masked by a brave smile. Behind the shadow of doubt in her eyes,  Huang Ming could see the determination of someone willing to forge ahead despite knowing the terrible danger.


“If I cannot escape Ran Wei, then I will have to change him,” Min Guang continued as she got out of the bed naked. She slowly put her male garb back on.


Huang Ming watched on frankly from the bed, and she did not shy away from his eyes.


“The irony is not lost on me, that I would be doing what I was raised to do, but on someone from Wei instead of Wu,” she chuckled as she retied her hair.


She looked down at his hands, the very same hands that had taught her so much so recently.


“I will have to remould him to my liking,” Min Guang said.


She saw the expression on his face and reached into his loosely open robe to touch him on the heart tenderly.


“Don’t give me that look. I know the risks,” she whispered.


Min Guang leaned in and brushed a fleeting kiss on the lips. Then she stood to leave.


“If you change your mind, find me,” Huang Ming said. Hollow-sounding words, he told himself.


But it still affected Min Guang. She paused for a moment to take a deep breath and suppressed her trembling. Then she raised her head resolutely and walked out, never turning to give Huang Ming another glance.


The moment the tent flaps closed behind her, Min Guang exhaled. Now that she had chosen this path, she steeled herself to walk it to the end. She quashed the sensation of pain…


…Then all thoughts fled from her mind when she immediately came face to face with Zhao Sunli.


The dark-skinned Amazon was just arriving in time to see Min Guang leaving Huang Ming’s tent.


Perhaps it was intuition, perhaps it was the awkward movements, but Sunli immediately knew what had happened, and Min Guang knew that she knew.


Min Guang froze as Sunli approached. The Amazon’s face was inscrutable, and Min Guang held her breath at her every step, hearing the blood pumping in her ears.


Just as she thought her heart would burst, Sunli walked past her and entered Huang Ming’s tent.


Min Guang’s heart slowed, the fearful anticipation had been replaced by relief. There had been a faint smile and a slight nod of acknowledgement from Zhao Sunli as she brushed past. There was no coldness, no contempt in her eyes.


A tiny gesture, but Min Guang truly appreciated it.


Once more she found her resolve, and Min Guang continued on her way…


Inside the tent though, it was Huang Ming’s turn to feel dread.


“So you tricked another one,” Sunli said with an arched eyebrow.


“She tricked me first,” Huang Ming said defensively. “Besides, all I did was to… er, give her some pointers.”


“I see,” Sunli said blandly as she looked over his shoulders towards the tussled bed.


“Ahem. Did Ran Wei approach you?” Huang Ming coughed.


Sunli looked at him oddly. “How did you know?”


“I heard he has an interest in women who are already attached.”


“What…” Sunli paused. Her eyes widened with shock, and then narrowed with a mixture of anger and disgust. She did a half-turn to look back at the tent’s entrance.


“You mean…”


“Yes,” Huang Ming said simply.


“And you’re letting her go just like that?” Sunli was outraged.


“I tried. It is her decision.”


Sunli stared at her husband in disbelief. She was about to spin on her feet to march back out, but Huang Ming grabbed hold of her arm to prevent it.


“Don’t. You will only insult her if you try to talk her out of it. She has her own circumstances,” Huang Ming said.


“Then why do you look to be in pain?” Sunli demanded.


Whatever sombre mood was instantly destroyed with her follow-up:


“Don’t tell me you let her…” Sunli trailed off as she eyed his languid posture on the bed suspiciously.


“Definitely not,” Huang Ming replied and immediately sat up to demonstrate it.


Sunli could not resist a slight grin. She sat down beside him on the bed and placed a hand over his.


“My dear man. I do not believe you are so tender-hearted to have let her go,” she said.


“I took advantage of her,” Huang Ming admitted. When he saw Sunli’s eyes narrowed, he hastily added: “I meant that she was in a conundrum, and the way out that I gave her is going to be full of dangers.”


“But you did take advantage of her…” Sunli muttered.


Huang Ming ignored the jibe. “Basically I told her to seduce Ran Wei. She felt that she could not escape his clutches, and so she would have to entice him and earn his favour.”


Sunli did not look impressed..


Huang Ming raised an eyebrow. “You don’t believe she would succeed?”


“Where did your confidence come from? From what I can see, her only experience is with you,” Sunli said sharply.


Huang Ming winced at the rebuke. It looked like she was never going to forget this incident.


“Well, Min Guang did pull the wool over my eyes for years,” he offered, “She is intelligent and steadfast.”


“She will need more than that to deal with Ran Wei,” Sunli growled.


Huang Ming sat a little straighter. “Did he try something…?” he asked, his concern tinged with fire.


Sunli felt a little pleased by the tone of possessiveness.


“What would you do if he did?” she challenged.


“I will find a way to kill him as soon as possible, this alliance be damned,” Huang Ming answered coldly.


A detached observer would find Huang Ming to be quite cynical. He had literally just laid his hands on another man’s woman, but would not suffer to have the same done to him. Well, technically, that woman had yet to belong to that man…


“No need for that,” Sunli grinned, knowing that he meant every word. “Just don’t be surprised if he shows up tomorrow wearing a full face helmet.”


Seeing the vicious smirk on Sunli’s lips was reassuring to Huang Ming. Sunli was someone who was quite taciturn and someone who had never seen her private manner would be quite shocked… and frightened.


“I see. Such luck for this to happen. Min Guang would be clever enough to seize this chance to do something with this opportunity that you have provided,” Huang Ming nodded.


 “All more the pity,” Sunli groused.


“I say, you seem quite stuck on this point,” Huang Ming remarked.


Sunli glared at him. “If it was between you or Ran Wei, you would obviously be a better choice. Handing her over to that brute is like planting a flower on a pile of dung.”


Huang Ming chuckled. “You never know. Things might take an unexpected turn…”


True to Sunli’s prediction, Ran Wei really did show up with a full face helmet the next day for another meeting. Yet, there was no hostility emanating from him. In fact, Huang Ming could detect smugness from the former marshal even though his face was obscured and his voice muffled.


It seemed Min Guang had already put her wiles into action.


There was no way for Huang Ming to know for sure, for he would not see her again for quite some time.


She climbed to the zenith,

And flew off like a phoenix.

Leaving behind a memory,

All that it could ever be.