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“I have experience. And patience. A man can do anything if he has those.”

--Helmut Zero

 

Chapter 303 – Waiting game

 

Back in Tigertrap Fort, tensions were riding high ever since Huang Ming’s contingent left for the summit.

 

The moment Huang Ming disappeared over the horizon, Ran Wei began to make caustic remarks and swaggered around the fort as if he owned the place.

 

None were more irked than Huang Ke. Though he had been cautioned by Huang Ming before he left, Huang Ke chafed and bristled at Ran Wei’s antics.

 

It started innocently enough. Barbed words, bragging. Ran Wei would demonstrate his strength by lifting great weights and being victorious in wrestling contests and sparring matches, in full view of the Chuwu soldiers. At night, he would host raucous feasts that would frequently devolve into unruly drunken disorder, causing discontent and annoying the Chuwu garrison. Why were the guests behaving as if they were the owners, while the rightful host had to stand guard and clean up their mess?

 

The disdain and ridicule intermingled in both factions, a potent and combustible mix.

 

After days of provocation, Huang Ke confronted Ran Wei over the behaviour of his men that had caused quarrels and fist fights.

 

Ran Wei did not take him seriously. “My men are idle, and they needed a way to blow off steam,” he said.

 

“If you can’t rein them in, then I will,” Huang Ke growled.

 

Ran Wei’s lackadaisicalness vanished. “They are my men. They will obey no one but me. Certainly not a young pup like you.”

 

Huang Ke bristled, but Ran Wei was unimpressed. The Wei marshal stood to his full height and towered over the already considerably tall Huang Ke. If Huang Ke was as solid as a great tree, Ran Wei was like a mountain.

 

“You may have some measure of reputation, but in the grand scheme of things you are still a brat in my eyes,” Ran Wei scoffed.

 

Then a sarcastic smile reappeared on his face. “Your brothers have more steady heads on their shoulders. And all three of you pale in comparison to your absent father. If he was here, then things would be different.”

 

Huang Ke seethed. The subject of his father was a sensitive one. By now, even Ran Wei have heard how Great General Huang Zheng had been retained in the capital for urgent consultations, but rumours abound that the ministers had been displeased with the way Huang Ming had been making arbitrarily decisions.

 

It was just a polite form of hostage taking. First it was the mother, but she was later released. Only now, it was the father’s turn.

 

Unable to muster a retort, Huang Ke stomped away angrily.

 

“Any longer and that dog will finally bite down,” Ran Bing commented to her brother.

 

“So it appears. But it might be just all a play for our benefit,” Ran Wei chuckled humourlessly.

 

His sister was surprised. “You mean… they are waiting for us to make the first move?”

 

“They are waiting for something, that is for sure,” Ran Wei said. His eyes narrowed as he recalled the image of Min Guang in his mind.

 

“Has the girl done anything yet?” he asked, referring to Min Guang.

 

Ran Bing shook her head. “I have people watching her constantly. Not that I think that we need to. Shouldn’t you have subdued her already? Is she still putting up a fight?” she asked bluntly.

 

“Keep a close eye on her. Just like Huang Ming, she is surely planning something,” Ran Wei stated. “There is nothing more scary than a woman with ill intentions,”

 

“I’m a woman too,” she told him.

 

The corner of Ran Wei’s lips tugged in a smile. “Then act like one. You should have been married and have several children by now.”

 

“You didn’t dare to say that to Zhao Sunli, but you would pick a bone with me?” his sister sneered.

 

“She is married,” he reminded her.

 

“When has that ever stopped you from doing anything?” Ran Bing said disdainfully. “In fact, why are you even waiting to take action? How long are we supposed to wait?”

 

“Be patient,” Ran Wei admonished. “We have come this far, we only need for them make a mistake…”

 

“Waiting this long could be a mistake,” Ran Bing mumbled off-handedly.

 

“What did you say?” Ran Wei demanded suddenly.

 

His sister was taken aback. Ran Bing rubbed the slight scar that cut across the bridge of her nose. “I meant we finally got Huang Ming out of the fort, but we are still unable to take action.”

 

Ran Wei suddenly realized that she was right.

 

How many days has it been?

 

“Shit!”

 

As if in answer to his expletive, gongs run loudly in warning from the distance.

 

---

 

“So, he didn’t try to lash out?” Huang Lang asked.

 

“Hey, I tried my best. It’s my face at stake out there,” Huang Ke grumbled as he sat down to join his brother for tea.

 

“I am sure,” Huang Lang said dryly. “How much of it was acting, and how much was it from your true feelings?”

 

“That Ran Wei is a real piece of work. He knows that we are familiar with that Min Guang, and he can’t resist showing her off at every opportunity,” the taller brother said with disgust.

 

“Enhance your calm,” Huang Lang advised.

 

Huang Ke snorted. “Can you blame me for being irritated? Little brother waltzed into a Jin trap, while father is being detained in the capital. And we’re stuck here house-watching! We can’t even rescue a little girl from his clutches!”

 

He exhaled heavily after he had vented.

 

“And I do want to wipe that smirk off his face,” he added.

 

“You mean Ran Wei, or Ah Ming?”

 

“Both!” the middle brother spat. “How long does he intend for us to wait?”

 

“Ran Wei, or Ah Ming?” Huang Lang asked again with amusement.

 

Huang Ke glared at him. “Ah Ming. How long would the summit be anyway? The trip there and back shouldn’t take so long!”

 

 Huang Lang arched an eyebrow and waited patiently.

 

His brother was not pleased. “Well? Say something, damn you. That Ran Wei could take action at any moment.”

 

“But he hasn’t, because he’s not sure what we have planned. And even though Min Guang is in his hands, Ran Wei is suspicious because Huang Ming haven’t done anything to free her.”

 

Huang Ke frowned. “So what of it?”

 

“How many days has it been?” Lang asked.

 

“What?”

 

“Do you know how many days we had gained since Huang Ming left?” the handsome brother asked again and sipped at his tea.

 

Huang Ke was still digesting it when the sounds of alarm rang.

 

“About time,” Huang Lang smiled.

 

 

His actions minimal,

Might appear despicable.

Ignored the gossip,

But focused on the hostage.