“Sometimes the truth hurts. In these situations, I recommend lying.”
--Michael Westen


Chapter Nine - Selling one’s brother

Huang Ming glared all around, daring someone to contradict him.


The crowd couldn’t believe what they were hearing. Knowing the wastrel’s poor reputation, it seemed obvious to them that he had taken Liu Yuchun to his home for nefarious reasons, and yet now he stood before them and had the gall to push the blame to his brother.


“You did it for your brother?” Liu Xiang asked incredulously.


“That’s right,” Huang Ming nodded.


“Spit it out!” Liu Xiang said impatiently.


Huang Ming folded his arms. “Originally I did not want to reveal this, but it seems the matter has gone such that my good intentions have twisted by certain people. Although this involves something delicate, it is best for me to say it here and now in front of all these people,” he said solemnly.


The ring of onlookers around the drama inched closer; those further away cupped their ears to catch every word.


“My brother is in love with your sister!” Huang Ming declared loudly.


“What?” Liu Xiang gaped in shock.


“What?” the spectators collectively gasped.


“What...” Muge Jian and Huang Lang muttered as they watched from the balcony above.


Liu Xiang and the crowd were stupefied.


“Now, you people may think whatever of me, but I do care for my family,” Huang Ming said, glaring at the surrounding throng. Then his expression softened as if recalling some memory, and he began to wax eloquence:


“One night I saw my brother Huang Ke, drinking by himself under the pale moonlight. My brother, who carries a weight on his shoulders! My brother, whom every one looks up to! Yet there he was, lonely, sighing to himself, no one to share his burdens with!”


An image began to form within the minds of the spectators. They thought of Huang Ke and his rugged features, sitting alone at night and pondering his troubles, loneliness on his face. Almost like a romantic painting.


“I saw him being troubled such, and I went to ask him, ‘What ails you, my brother? Pray, tell me your troubles!’ And then he said to me, ‘My younger brother, you would do well not to ask further.’ How could I bear to see him thus?” Huang Ming continued as if he was a story-teller.


Of course, neither the listeners nor Liu Xiang knew that he was just telling a pack of lies. They were enthralled by the narrated drama.


“I pretended to put off the question, and sat down with him. ‘If you do not wish to share your troubles, then I can least share a drink with you, my brother!’ And so we drank the night away. Now you all know my capacity for drinking is not small. Even my brother is not my match! Very soon he got drunk, and I asked him once more. And lo, like a man that finally found release, he stood up and said to me, ‘I am madly in love with Liu Yuchun!’ Yes, he said it!” Huang Ming dramatically mimed a pose, one hand over his heart, the other hand reaching out longingly.


The women in the crowd sighed; their romantic image of the manly Huang Ke was enhanced.


Huang Lang’s tense grip on his sword lessened as he sensed the crowd was buying into Huang Ming’s story. Muge Jian saw his friend’s face and saw traces of relief.


“Yes, he is madly in love with Liu Yuchun!” Huang Ming continued, “I said, ‘Isn’t it good that you found someone you like? Send her family a proposal then. What is the problem?’ My brother shook his head and said, ‘I am ignorant in matters of the heart, I know not of how she thinks of me. But speak no more; it was a mistake to tell you this much!’ And so our night ended. But when I knew of his difficulty, I felt the need to help him! Yet, how do I go about to do so?


“Then my friend Nangong Xie ‘The Handsome Scholar’ gave me a scheme. ‘Visit Smithy Liu,’ he said to me, ‘Use your loan to him as a pretext to take Liu Yuchun home and arrange for her to meet your brother.’ So I did what he said and pretended to be a villain, I kept her in the guest house. Then I went out with Nangong Xie to thank him for his idea. Alas, we drank so much that I went home in a carriage and our scheme miscarried. Miss Liu ended up staying the night, and my brother ignorant of the whole matter. So don’t believe those rumourmongers, I did not touch Liu Yuchun!”


Huang Ming saw some in the crowd nodding their heads; they knew of the original Huang Ming’s night out with Nangong Xie, they had witnessed him being roaring drunk and ended up being carried into a hired carriage that night. Furthermore, didn’t Nangong Xie very excitedly buy a lewd statue recently? It stood to reason that such a depraved person would come up with such a dastardly scheme.


It was simple extrapolation for them to agree with Huang Ming’s declaration.


Liu Xiang too noticed the changed mood of the people. While he did not know the veracity of Huang Ming’s words, it seemed that the masses were inclined to believe him. If indeed Huang Ke was in love with his sister, it would be flattering. After all, Huang Ke was a respected man as a fellow legion commander, as well as son of the great General Huang. He was a true warrior, a real man. Surely he would be a great catch for his sister.


“The next day, I woke up and remembered what I was supposed to do. Belatedly I brought my brother to meet your sister. Of course, she was most distressed at what had happened. My brother was furious; he actually hit me with his fist! He berated me in front of Miss Liu, and took her home himself!” Huang Ming smiled wryly and rubbed his chest as if remembering the pain.


By now some of the crowd remembered the other incident about Huang Ke rescuing Smithy Liu’s daughter and even escorted her home personally. They put two and two together.


Obviously, Liu Xiang did not know this.


“Then… earlier when you mentioned good news and being happy?” he asked cautiously.


Huang Ming shrugged. “You came looking for me in such great haste, I thought my brother finally decided to propose to your sister. Alas, judging from this misunderstanding, it seems that my brother had failed to muster his courage to do so.”


On the balcony, Huang Lang exhaled in relief and relaxed his grip on his sword. ‘I am sorry for Ah Ke, but better him than me,’ he thought. He had no malice towards Liu Yuchun, he knew she was a very fine girl with a good character, but what man would enjoy being sold off into a sudden relationship like this? Huang Ke was not even present, and now the entire city would sing of his love life.


Indeed, future story-tellers would say thus:

 

The Mountain-Splitter sighed under the moonlight,
For his heart was tied.
His brother saw this and was affected,
Ill-advised, he had the lady collected.
The Mountain-Splitter saw the lady was shy,
So he beat up his brother and rescued her pride!​



Huang Lang marvelled at his younger brother’s glib tongue. He had even tied up Nangong Xie in the matter and painted himself as a naïve fool who was overly enthusiastic in helping his lovesick brother.


Then Huang Lang remembered that he had promised to take responsibility for Huang Ming’s words. He grimaced at the notion of explaining to Huang Ke later…