“Biting's excellent. It's like kissing. Only there's a winner.”
--Idris, ‘Dr. Who’

Chapter Fifty Four - Amusing

“Why did you help me?” Huang Ming asked in a low voice as he held the beautiful woman.

Qiong Ying smiled, her eyes glimmered. “Because you amuse me,” she whispered back teasingly.

“You don’t look like someone who would do something for nothing,” Huang Ming said.

“I am not,” Qiong Ying confirmed as she looked up at him. “And you still look like someone who prefers men,” she added mischievously.

It wasn’t mere bravado, she had half-calculated her words to poke him after he had unknowingly peeved her with his aloofness. Such teasing would inevitably cause the man to try to kiss her. Of course, she wouldn’t let it happen; already her toes and legs were tensing up and ready to breakout from Huang Ming’s loose embrace. She had it all planned: She would deftly avoid a clumsy approach, and then mask it all with flirting laughter and a wave of her silk sleeves, dazzling the man and hold him captive with a seductive wink and smile. Then the man would be powerless, charmed by her to be led on and moulded as she wished. It was a push-and-pull technique, one she had taught her girls to ensnare eligible, worthy men and find a path to a better life.

“Girl, don’t provoke me,” Huang Ming warned.

“Or else what?” Qiong Ying said, jutting her chin challengingly, her eye lashes fluttered in anticipation.

“Or else you’ll regret it,” Huang Ming said with a roguish grin.

Qiong Ying smiled but sighed inwardly; it was all going according to her script. She had baited Huang Ming with such an outcome in mind. But it was still disappointing to see her quarry reacted the way she had expected.

“I’ve heard such talk before. So many think they could impress me. Why don’t you show me what you got?” she goaded.

Then, Huang Ming went off her script. He tickled her. His fingers dug in, poking and stroking her waist and stomach, causing her to lose strength. Qiong Ying gasped and twisted here and there, but the arm around her waist held her firmly. She broke into spasmodic laughter, and Huang Ming grin got broader when he saw her eyes turn watery from his tickling.

Eventually he relented and she collapsed to the ground, panting and heaving, her clothing crumpled, her hair in disarray and her skin flushed. It was a breathtaking sight of a woman in the afterglow of joy. Not exactly the sort of joy one would expect while in the Lichun, but any lesser man who saw the mythical Qiong Ying in such state would lose their reason.

But not Huang Ming. He squatted down before her like a hoodlum, that infuriating grin still on his lips, the playful glint still in his eyes.

“This is what I’ve got,” he said with vast amusement.

Qiong Ying glared at him, her eyes blazing with fury. She had never been physically harassed in such a way. There had been close calls with certain clients who wanted more than just her company and music, but she had always managed to wriggle free and kept them satisfied with wine and other distractions.

She mustered what dignity she had left and tugged her clothes straight, taking deep breaths to calm herself as she swept back her tussled hair. Then she imperiously held out her hand to him, her fingers curving slightly in expectation.

“Help me up,” she ordered like a queen.

Still amused, Huang Ming obliged her. He gripped the proffered hand and gently pulled. But Qiong Ying sprang to her feet and crashed into him, and he fell on the ground with her in his arms.

‘Not again…’ he groaned as he felt his back ache. He was reminded of the time when Sunli had tangled with him in the courtyard, this time with less ferociousness.

When he looked down, he saw Qiong Ying lying on him, body-to-body. Her hands were splayed out on his chest, her upturned emerald eyes shining with mischief like a cat. He could feel her warmth through their clothes. Qiong Ying’s face was flushed, her nostrils flaring as she panted from her sudden attack. It made her all the more desirable. Huang Ming was not made of wood, holding such a peerless woman closely had stirred him slightly. It was the same case with Sunli, it was not just their beauty or strength of character that tugged on his heart strings, but sparks and memories of old loves that their encounters had brought forth. Wilfully he pushed such thoughts away, he would mope and reminisce later.

“You can rape me, just don’t kill me,” he said gravely.

“You rogue!” Qiong Ying said and laughed at his impertinent words. She gently smacked his face in a playful manner; he did not resist nor avoid it.

“I would appreciate it if you could stop sexually harassing me,” Huang Ming said.

“Rubbish!” Qiong Ying huffed. She moved to smack him again, but this time Huang Ming caught her hand before it landed. Nonplussed, she raised her other hand but Huang Ming caught that too.

“Not in the face!” Huang Ming pleaded.

She scowled. “It’s payback for earlier. Why did you tickle me?” she demanded.

“Because it amuses me,” Huang Ming answered flippantly, turning her words against her. “I figured that it would be unique enough for you to remember me by,” he added.

Qiong Ying narrowed her eyes, and Huang Ming felt an element of danger. Before he could react, she lunged forward and bit him on the neck. He hissed in pain as she drew back with a triumphant look on her face.

“Now you will have something to remember me by!” she said smugly.

“Oh, I’ll remember you. Like a mosquito,” he replied in a disgruntled manner as he rubbed his neck.

“A mosquito!” Qiong Ying exclaimed. She was exasperated, was this man completely immune to her wiles?

“Ahem,” Madam Xu coughed discreetly, and the moment was broken.

“Ah, you were here,” Huang Ming remarked.

“I was here all along,” Madam Xu told him as she took out a box of cosmetics and a bronze mirror and busily attended to the dishevelled Qiong Ying.

“Is your cousin Quan Lu still not back yet?” Huang Ming asked as the tousled Qiong Ying slowly returned to her delicate, dignified visage. He wondered which was her true self, the playful woman who had bitten him or the courtly lady who had enthralled those who had seen her.

“What is so urgent that you keep asking for him?” Qiong Ying demanded as Madam Xu combed her loosened hair.

“My mother wants to see him for dinner,” Huang Ming replied.

Qiong Ying gasped in exaggeration, as if scandalized. “Has things progressed so fast that it’s time for him to meet the parents formally?” she asked.

“It’s for dinner as a sign of gratitude for saving my life,” Huang Ming explained.

Qiong Ying nodded. “When my cousin returns, I’ll send word for you.”

“No need. Tell him to visit whenever it is convenient. I don’t want to come here again,” Huang Ming said with a smile.

“Do you despise me so?” Qiong Ying asked, her heart a mix of emotions.

Huang Ming waved a hand in dismissal. “I more frightened by my mother! What would she say if she knew I was here again?”

Qiong Ying giggled. “To think that you’re still but a child, a mama’s boy.”

“Speak less nonsense or I’ll tickle you again,” Huang Ming warned, wriggling his fingers for her to see.

“And you will just get bitten again,” Qiong Ying scoffed.

“Just as well that you reminded me. We will need to discuss fees,” Huang Ming said.

“Fees?” Qiong Ying asked sharply.

“Don’t tell me you’re going to eat and run? You thoroughly took advantage of me just now, it is fair for you to pay compensation for defiling my body,” Huang Ming said with a lazy grin.

Qiong Ying snatched a pillow and threw it at Huang Ming’s face. He avoided it with an exaggerated leap backwards towards the door. Seeing his monkey like movements inflamed Qiong Ying, she moved to grab another pillow.

“Never mind, we’ll settle it next time!” Huang Ming laughed.

Hearing the words ‘next time’ caused Qiong Ying to stay her hand.

“What’s the matter, you really want to see me again?” Huang Ming teased when he saw her hesitation.

“Get lost!” Qiong Ying shouted with anger and threw the pillow with all her might. Again Huang Ming avoided the missile, he sketched a sloppy salute and quickly escaped, laughing all the while.

“What just happened?” Qiong Ying asked, suddenly feeling the heat on her face. She rubbed her cheeks with both hands as she frowned in thought. “How is it that I sought to ensnare him, but ended up getting confused instead?”

“Maybe it’s love, my lady,” Madam Xu said dryly.

Qiong Ying glared at her attendant, but the older woman paid it no mind.

As for Huang Ming, the moment he left the Lichun he rounded into an alley to be away from prying eyes. He recalled what had happened with Qiong Ying and cringed when he remembered the words exchanged. He rubbed the spot where she had bitten him, wincing when he touched the broken skin.

“What am I doing? I’m behaving like I’m in some sort of cheesy love drama!” he muttered to himself.

Huang Ming shook his head wryly and quickly made his way back home.

A slight taste, a little bite,
Not to worry, it wasn’t a fight.​