“We are men of action, lies do not become us.”
--Westley


Chapter Eight - Sacrificing one’s brother

The roar came from the street outside. Huang Ming glanced over the balcony, careful not to reveal himself.


He saw that it was Liu Xiang the Iron Tiger. He was a good-looking man, with bright eyes and thick eyebrows. He held a long spear with a viper-like tip with one hand. His muscular body’s bearing was made even more impressive by his military armour, a red sash on his waist making him look all the more heroic.


Huang Ming drew back from the balcony and glared at his brother.


“I know we are not very close, but you’re asking me to court death!” he exclaimed.


Huang Lang shook his head. “I want nothing of the sort, but if that is what it takes to mollify Liu Xiang and bring him and his troops over to our side, then it has to be done. There is too much at stake here, little brother.”


Muge Jian looked at the two brothers anxiously; he could hardly believe his ears. Huang Lang shot him a look before he could say anything.


“No, you can’t help him. It would enrage Liu Xiang,” he warned.


For short moment, Huang Ming’s fingers tapped the table in a rhythm as his mind raced.


“Fine, I’ll do it!” he said at last, “But I’ll do it my way, and whatever happens afterwards, you’ll need to take responsibility.”


Huang Lang nodded. “Very well.” Then he added, “I regret doing this, but time is of the essence.”


“Time is not important, only life is,” Huang Ming mumbled absent-mindedly.


He walked back to the balcony to show himself and waved at Liu Xiang. “Brother Liu Xiang! I’m here!” he called out.


“You! Come down here!” Liu Xiang shouted, pointing two fingers at him.


“Fine, fine, looks like you can’t wait! Ha-ha!” Huang Ming laughed joyfully, a huge smile on his face. But the moment he went back in, his smile disappeared as he made his way to the stairs.


“Don’t run away, I already have people watching the exits,” Huang Lang thoughtfully warned, earning him a baleful look from his younger brother.


“Are you really letting him go to his death?” Muge Jian asked as Huang Ming went off.


“Of course not. If worse comes to worst, I’ll rescue him even if it means making an enemy out of Liu Xiang,” Huang Lang said as he placed a hand on his sword’s pommel.


As Huang Ming went down the stairs to meet the Iron Tiger, he could feel a million stares stabbing his back. He could hear hushed voices gossiping how he was doomed and that he deserved a terrible fate, making him wonder just how many people the original Huang Ming had offended.


The moment he saw Liu Xiang, he really felt he was looking at a real tiger that was ready to pounce. In his many experiences, Huang Ming had faced countless perils, from being hunted as prey to being locked in mortal combat against implacable foes. This Liu Xiang looked every inch the powerful warrior and had an oppressing aura that could rival even the most dangerous of predators.


From the moment Liu Xiang had roared, a large crowd had formed. The surrounding buildings had their windows opened and balconies filled with onlookers, all eager to witness what could very well be the execution of the youngest son of the city’s great general.


It was a tense atmosphere that reminded Huang Ming of the cowboy films he had watched back on Earth, a showdown at high noon; where he was the dead man walking. One could almost see the veins on Liu Xiang’s neck as he gripped his spear tighter.


Just when the spectators thought Liu Xiang would stab first and ask questions later, Huang Ming spread his arms wide and laughed loudly in delight, as if welcoming a long-awaited guest.


“Brother Liu Xiang! Are you so happy of the good news that you came in such haste to meet me here instead of the Huang residence?” Huang Ming exclaimed loudly in a happy voice.


Liu Xiang was surprised at first, then his eyes glared fiercely. “Good news? Happy?” he bellowed in disbelief as he strode forward. One hand still holding his spear, he used his other hand to grab a handful of Huang Ming’s shirt.


“Brother Liu Xiang, what are you doing?” Huang Ming exclaimed, “Are you unhappy at the proposal?”


“Proposal? What nonsense are you talking about?” the Iron Tiger asked.


“Did no one tell you what happened?” Huang Ming asked in feigned astonishment.


Liu Xiang and his legion of men had just returned to the city, he truly did not know what Huang Ming was inferring. He boiled with rage when certain people told him what had happened to his sister. When he heard Huang Ming was leisurely enjoying breakfast at the restaurant, he jumped back on his horse and rode directly there. It did not even occur to him to go home first and verify the rumours. As far as he was concerned, the gossip was reason enough for action as he knew of Huang Ming’s reputation.


But now, doubts crept into his mind. What he had thought to be a simple business of beating up this wastrel had suddenly became strange.


“Explain!” he demanded as he roughly pushed Huang Ming back.


Huang Ming tilted his head to one side, as if pondering something. Then he snapped his fingers and put on a look of belated realization.


“I see, I think I know what has happened. Tell me, have you heard anything from my brother?” Huang Ming asked.


Liu Xiang shook his head.


“You didn’t hear anything from your sister either?” Huang Ming continued, making sure Liu Xiang could see his incredulous look.


“I had just returned from my duties and came here immediately to find you,” Liu Xiang replied stiffly. His temper began to cool and he slowly realized how rash he had been.


“In that case, why would you come here and call me out like this?” Huang Ming asked indignantly, as if he was wronged. The spectators were speechless, the rumours had been circulating like wildfire. In their hearts they felt Huang Ming was beyond shameless in trying to deny the undeniable.


Liu Xiang’s faltered, he did not expect this at all. His face, which had been flush with anger earlier, now became heated due to rising embarrassment.


“Don’t change the subject! The entire city is gossiping how you had taken my sister to stay at your home, do you admit this?” he asked angrily.


“Yes, I did bring your sister to my home,” Huang Ming said fearlessly, raising his chin and sticking out his chest in a challenging manner.


The onlookers gasped as Liu Xiang levelled his spear at him. Even Huang Lang who was spying from above frowned in concern.


“I did it for my brother!” Huang Ming shouted just as Liu Xiang was about to let fly.


The fury which had been welling up within Liu Xiang seemed to collapse on itself; his bafflement was such that he nearly dropped his viper spear in a daze.


“You...you…” Liu Xiang stuttered. He grasped his head to ease the pounding of blood, he was thoroughly confused.


“Like I said, I did it for my brother,” Huang Ming repeated.


“I... I don’t understand. What do you mean?” Liu Xiang asked.


The onlookers leaned closer and strained their ears to listen.


“I don’t know which villain is spreading evil rumours; they obviously don’t know the whole story!” Huang Ming said challengingly.


He had his arms akimbo as he glared at the crowd, a veritable picture of a person falsely accused by rumours!


Evil tongues causing harm,
Against a man without charm.
He made a blunder,
And became ripe for slander.​