Chapter 235 – Set up
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Set up

 

Back after my customary break after the end of a part. Happy belated New Years and all that jazz.

 

“Make way for Prince Ali! Say hey! It’s Prince Ali”
--Disney’s ‘Aladdin’

Chapter 235 – Set up

The journey back to Wu was considerably different than Huang Ming’s arrival to Chu. Whereas he had boarded a small boat by his lonesome, his return was a grand and official affair. A large Chu embassy was following him to Wu, much to the shock of the Wu diplomat Liu Han whom had so coldly received Huang Ming before.

An auspicious date was chosen and a flotilla of Chu ships was prepared to transport the embassy. Stalwart guards, beautiful maids, musicians, acrobats and a treasure trove of gifts of precious jewels and exotic animals captured from the steaming jungles were handpicked and chosen to give Prince Chu Xiong a majestic and awe-inspiring presence in his state visit.

When the Wu river patrol discovered the small fleet, alarms were raised and challenges thrown to discover its intent. Only when Huang Ming had revealed himself and shown the official mandate from the King of Chu that the Wu patrol allowed the warships to anchor at the nearest Wu port.

From there, the citizens turned out in droves to see a magnificent Chu procession disembark from the ships, the gleaming armour of the guards and sheer wealth and pomp on display shocking all who had seen it. Indeed, the only thing missing was a herd of elephants to complete the re-enactment from Huang Ming’s past.

Messengers were hastily dispatched to the capital and a Wu honour guard was quickly organized to escort Prince Chu Xiong’s retinue.

Despite the ceremonious grandeur, the prince in question was none too pleased by the affair. The prince had sulked during the entire journey to Wu.

“How did things turn out this way?” the prince complained even as they made their way to the Wu capital.

“Why, what’s wrong?” Huang Ming asked blandly.

They were in the prince’s personal carriage. Ahead, Sunli had taken charge of the Wu escorts due to her rank and prestige, while Qiong Ying was in another carriage.

The prince scowled. “I thought it would end with me being on the throne.”

“You didn’t want to be the king,” Huang Ming pointed out.

“That’s besides the point. How is it that I’m the one being sent away?”

Huang Ming rolled his eyes. “Stop complaining. When we first met, you kept whining about wanting to stay out of the royal struggle and to be able to enjoy your life. Now you’re reconciled with your brother, your father is hale and hearty and keeping the queen and concubine in check. What more do you want?”

The prince became annoyed at his own inability to refute him. “I want you to pretend to be a tortoise,” he said at last.

“I’m escorting you to propose to the Princess of Wu, be serious!” Huang Ming sighed. “Pretend to be a tortoise indeed…” he muttered underneath his breath, recalling a film quote from his past. There was the beginning of an unsettling feeling as he remembered the scene.

“Who said I wanted to marry?” the prince demanded. “You and royal father went off and decided all on your own!”

“Don’t worry. You might not be able to hook Princess Wu Liying anyway,” Huang Ming said snidely.

The prince opened his mouth to counter, but then paused suspiciously.

“You’re just trying to use… what do you call it… ‘reverse psychology’ against me.”

Huang Ming shook his head. “Not really. The princess is a talented and driven person, completely your polar opposite. You seek to eat, drink and sleep all day; she on the other hand has ambitions to improve the kingdom and the livelihoods of the people.”

“See, we have nothing in common,” the prince said, albeit grudgingly.

“Yeah, you have no chance at all,” Huang Ming agreed gravely.

Despite his suspicion, Prince Chu Xiong could not help but feel irritated by Huang Ming’s dismissive attitude.

“Speaking of which, we need to work on your attitude,” Huang Ming said suddenly.

“Eh?”

“I do not like how our characters are beginning to overlap.”

“What on earth are you talking about?” the prince demanded.

“I decided to be your mentor to help you out, not to make you a copy of me,” Huang Ming said.

Chu Xiong stared at him in disbelief. “A copy of you?” he exclaimed. “You are so full of yourself, aren’t you?”

Huang Ming stabbed an accusing finger at him. “See that? Earlier on, you are the complete wastrel: lazy and languid and completely disinterested. I taught you to be more healthy and aware of what people think, but why are you also copying my mannerisms and way of speech?”

“I am?” the prince wondered doubtfully.

“I know I’m pretty awesome, but you need to be your own man,” Huang Ming said sagely. “Right now you’re in a foreign land and a clean slate, take advantage of it!”

“Easy for you to say,” the prince said sarcastically.

Huang Ming wagged a finger in warning. “That’s the sort of thing I would say. Stop copying me.”

“Well, what do you expect? I only have the one brother to model on and you are the closest thing to a male friend that I know,” the prince admitted.

From within his sleeves, Huang Ming tossed out several books at him.

“Here are some manuals. You are a prince, start acting like one,” Huang Ming said.

Filled with curiosity, the prince looked over the covers of the books.

Enchanting Alchemist… Trial Husband… Malicious Empresss…” His lips began to twitch as he read the titles.

“Manuals? These are novels for women!” the prince exclaimed.

“Of course they are. What better way to know the fantasies of women than to read about their dream male?” Huang Ming said.

“You want me to pretend to be some black-belly, overbearing and domineering male from novels for women?”

“Who said anything about pretending? I’m saying that you can learn a few lessons from them. You can’t go around ordering women to sleep with you for the rest of your life,” Huang Ming pointed out.

“And why not? I am a prince!”

“Do you want an equal partner for life or a living doll that obey your orders?” Huang Ming asked quietly.

The prince closed his mouth and begrudgingly took the books.

“Why do you even have these books?” the prince muttered.

“One must be widely read to know a lot of things,” Huang Ming said solemnly. For the sake of his personal well-being, he was not going to tell the prince that the books belonged to the fearsome War Goddess Zhao Sunli of all people.

“These books won’t help you land Princess Wu Liying, she’s much too smart for that,” Huang Ming continued. “Still, it might prove useful for you to court your future loved one.”

“I still get the feeling that I am being set up,” the prince mumbled.

Suddenly the carriage came to an abrupt stop. A thunderous explosion had roared ahead, throwing the entire procession into chaos!

The prince was stressed,
As he went in duress.
After some mental chess,
He unknowingly acquiesced.
Just as all went well,
More trouble came to dwell.

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