Lunch At The Inn

 He Peng and Lan An  sit on the river bank eating while watching  people skate around on the frozen river . “Thank you An, this meat is tender and delicious.” He Peng wipes the grease on his sleeve tossing down an empty skewer.

     Lan An looks at the pile of empty skewers next to He Peng, “I’m glad you liked them, my cake is very sweet, thank you for standing in line to get it for me.” He Peng reaches over and brushes some crumbs from her lips. “We should get back His Highness should arrive soon.”

     “You are right, I wonder who he is meeting?”

      He Peng likes to do his work and mind his own business. “Sometimes I feel the less I know the better.” 

     He pulls her up into his arms, “Lan An, I hope we can be married soon.” He kisses her tenderly and takes the remnants of the skewers from her hands to throw away. They stroll along looking at the shops, enjoying their momentary freedom, it isn’t often they get to spend time together in the day.

     They arrive back at the Angel Sky Inn to see a flutter of activity outside. Villagers are gawking at a pair of beautiful people that just descended from the sky. Wang Li Jie used his qinggong to go down the mountain not considering the villagers seldom see cultivators use this technique, that their entrance would create a stir simply landing in front of the Inn. He chuckles as he hears the comments from the crowd calling Xiaolian a celestial goddess from heaven as he sets her down on the ground.

     He didn’t want his identity known so when He Peng and Lan An saw them they simply bowed and said, “Master, your room is prepared, it is on the third floor”

     Wang Li Jie motions for Xiaolian to follow him into the Inn, and they walk directly to the third floor. He Peng opens the door for them, “ Lan An will bring the tea for you and when your guest arrives we will serve you, I already instructed the Innkeeper you are not to be disturbed.”

     “Very good. You may go.”

     Xiaolian takes off her coat and  the hairpin from her bun, her long bla hair cascades down her back. She massages her temples, that hairstyle gave me a massive headache.

     “Wang Li Jie you didn’t say a word on the way here, are you angry with me?” She rubs her neck, he held her so tight while they were coming down the mountain her whole body aches.

     He has had a chance to calm down and realizes he overreacted earlier. He has decided they will stay the night at the Inn allowing him to spend one more night holding her in his arms.. After the meeting with Kang Longwei I will take her to a romantic spot and confess my love. I will ask he to be my Empress.

     “No, I was never angry.”

     “It seemed like you were very angry  after I changed my dress.”

     He twirls the jade ring on his finger, “I was anxious to leave and you were dawdling.”

     She walks over to the window, peers down at the street.” Wang Li Jie come over here, Isn’t that Huang Howan? The maid I met at your palace? She seems to be collecting money from someone.”

     Wang Li Jie lazily strides to the window and sees Huang Howan with a man dressed like an official. He is wearing a blue brocade robe, could he be the Mayor, why is she receiving money from him, he will have Yang Chang investigate.

     Lan An knocks on the door “ I have your tea.”

     “Enter”

     She sets the teapot on the table and pours them each a cup.

     “Wang Li Jie, I heard this village is famous for its Dragonflower wine, do you think you could order some with our lunch?” Xiaolian is feeling very stressed right now, since she raised her level of cultivation she can see people’s auras so clearly. It is distressing when someone is saying one thing but their aura is telling another story. Li Jie right now denied being angry earlier but his aura was ink black at the time, she truly was frightened of him for the first time since she has known him.

     “Lan An when you bring lunch make sure to bring the wine Zhang Xiaolian requested. Also tell the Innkeeper to alert Kang Longwei we have arrived.”

     When Lan An runs down the stairs she bumps into Wan Cuifen who is standing at the bottom staring up the stairs. “Sorry, Miss”, Lan An bows and apologizes.

     Wan Cuifen recognized Wang Li Jie when they arrived as the man who was with Kang Longwei yesterday. Why is he back , maybe I could use him to get revenge on that golden haired man who humiliated me.

     “It was an accident I’m fine. I’m Wan Cuifen and you?”

     “Sorry Miss, I must hurry my Master wants me to find a jug of Dragonflower wine to go with their lunch.”

     Wan Cuifen wonders why they would want that evil wine. “I work here at the Inn we have some in our cellar.” It was left by men who had stayed at the Inn several years ago, after they killed two of their fellow travelers and destroyed half the Inn, They were powerful officials and were able to escape prosecution claiming it was demons who had done it. They remembered nothing of the incident.

     “I will add it to our lunch bill then, there will be another gentleman joining them so… two jugs? How big are they?

     “For three people two jugs would be the appropriate amount.” Wan Cuifen is devising a plan, this simpleminded girl can be used. She will create a chaotic atmosphere between the three of them resulting in a deadly fight.

     “Can you have the Innkeeper tell Kang Longwei my Master has arrived?”

     “I saw him leave earlier, I will leave a message for when he returns.”

     Lan An bows, “Thank you.”

     Kang Longwei saw Wang Li Jie arrive and wanted to rush over to meet Xiaolian but from the impression he got from Wang Li Jie he is very possessive. He doesn’t want to ruin their reunion with a bitter atmosphere which might upset her, he wants to find out the full story about her connection to Wang Chao Han. I will buy her a gift then go to the meeting, he walks down the street to where there are some jewelry shops, she might like a local craftsman’s work.

     In the private room there is tension in the air as Wang Li Jie and Xiaolian sip their tea. Xiaolian sits at the table ignoring Wang Li Jie. She wants some sort of apology from him but sees he is steadfast in his denial of being angry. She taps her fingers on her cup looking around the room. Wang Li Jie can’t stand the frosty atmosphere between them, but he is the Emperor he can’t apologize. What am I to say? I was jealous? She looks so beautiful in that dress she created but her delicate little face has a hint of sadness he can hardly take it.

     “Xiaolian, I..I..”

     She stares at him with an icy look, “What?” 

     He reaches across the table, taking her soft hands into his palm, should I tell her the truth I was jealous, what will her reaction be? “I was jealous..there I said it..I was jealous.”

     “What are you talking about?”

     “I was jealous,better to put it mildly, of your friendship with Kang Longwei.”

     She wants to laugh he looks cute right now not like an imposing Emperor. “Li Jie I barely know Kang Longwei, I owe him a debt is all so wanted to repay it by showing him our country.”

     Wang Li Jie can see she is sincere in her answer, but that is not totally the point. She entices men without even being aware how seductive her innocent look is to a man. Before he can continue there is a knock at the door,

    “ Wang Li Jie it is Kang Longwei.”

     “Enter” what great timing he has, Wang Li Jie continues to tightly  hold her hands, making her nervous.

     Kang Longwei saunters into the room, “Wang Li Jie, Zhang Xiaolian.” He smiles brightly towards Xiaolian thinking she certainly is a rare beauty. He looks at her tiny hand enveloped in Wang Li Jie’s hand. I need to find out their true relationship.

     After what Wang Li Jie just said Xiaolian feels anxious, she shyly says, “Kang Longwei.” She eases her hand from Wang Li Jie’s. “Would you like some tea?” Xiaolian doesn’t want to make eye contact for fear Long Ji Lie will get upset. Since when did he care who she speaks to anyway?

     “Why is the atmosphere in here so stifling?”, Kang Longwei remarks sarcastically, he must have interrupted something.

     “Have a seat, lunch will be served soon.”  Wang Li Jie holds his temper in check, but Xiaolian can feel the cold pressure surrounding him.

     “No, thank you, I had some while I was wandering around the town earlier.” He feels in his pocket for the small wooden box. He was surprised he could find such a simple yet elegant piece of jewelry in this village. It contains a golden ring encrusted with  Ice Fire Spirit Stones. Not only are the stones beautiful but they will protect her from a thousand poisons. He admires the dress she is wearing, the ring would match perfectly with the soft green hue of the dress. But he isn’t stupid, if he gave it to her now sparks would fly. He will give it to her as a parting gift.

     He has barely sat down at the wooden table when Lan An is alerted by He Peng who is guarding the door. that the guest had arrived. She was in the Inn’s kitchen making sure all the dishes were presentable. “He Peng can you help me carry these dishes up? Those two jugs of Dragonflower wine also. She points to two brown stone jugs on the far table.

   “Two jugs?”

   “The Inn’s kitchen manager told me two would be right for three people.”

  “ Maybe three sturdy Generals who have just been in battle and want to forget their own names. It isn’t for casual drinking. It has mind bending qualities, is outlawed in the surrounding Kingdoms for ordinary people to drink. It is a specialty of this village but is usually used in Sect ceremonies. Your Miss looks like if she has a whiff of it she could lose her mind.”, He starts laughing picturing the scene in his mind.

     “That’s not funny He Peng! She is entrusted to me by His Highness, and I like her!  I don’t understand, I think she is the one who suggested it.” Lan An thinks I will keep an eye on her. Why would she want to drink such a potent wine?

     “Never mind, it’s not our business”. He Peng balances a tray of food with one hand,  the two jugs in the other and heads up the stairs.

     Wan Cuifen  lurks behind the stairs watching them take the wine and food to the private room. This should be fun she thinks to herself. If they destroy the entire Inn after drinking the wine who cares, that miserly uncle of mine could have spared me more than a hundred silver taels, how would that arrogant man know.

     He Peng knocks on the door, “Your Highness we have the meal.”

     “Enter.”

     Lan An bows, “Your Highness, I also was able to request two jugs of Dragonflower wine from the Inn’s cellar you requested.”

     Kang Longwei glances at all the delicacies on the table, he can’t remember the last time he enjoyed delicious food and wine with a beauty. “Dragonflower wine?”, he looks at Xiaolian, “Have you ever tasted it, Zhang Xiaolian?” He feels it is best not to stir Wang Li Jie up by speaking informally. He has been shooting daggers at me with those crazy purple eyes since I entered the room.

     “No, she hasn’t and wanted to sample it.” Xiaolian is wondering why he is answering for her, but thinks this is too uncomfortable, she begins to fidget in her seat.

     “Have you had this wine before Wang Li Jie?

     “No, I never heard of it before. Why are you asking so many questions!” He is beginning to get irritated at this bothersome man already.

     Kang Longfei is weighing whether he should tell Wang Li Jie of the effects of the wine. He only had it once himself , he blacked out and remembers nothing of that night but he woke up with several bites marks all over his body. It is known to bring your inner desires out, it  isn’t casually drank at lunch..

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