I love the above picture of Li Bing Bing. Although I imagine Wang Huan looking like the actress Jiang Xin, I think the above picture captures perfectly the warrior princess mode that Wang Huan is transforming into. She’s going into battle – a battle of food. Haha.
I would also like to thank my readers for their support. I get really happy when people tell me that they have been following the story since Little Moon. My greatest fear when starting The Sun’s Dark Love is that this would be a disappointment after Little Moon – because I think it’s very hard to write a true standalone story for a ‘second’ male lead. I don’t think I would have attempted it if not for the fact that when I planned Xi Yang’s character for Little Moon, I always imagined him ending up in a ‘contract’ marriage with a foreign princess!
Chapter 11: The Crown Prince Has a Picky Tongue
Ri thought that Wang Huan was like a rabbit – all wide-eyed excitement and nervousness, she did not seem to know where to look.
Finally, when Wang Huan’s eyes stayed in line with his, he replied, “I am under no one’s orders.” Her eyes brightened, “But it’s true that I guarded you for Crown Prince Sun.”
Ri watched as Wang Huan blinked back what seemed like disappointment. But, quickly, she raised her eyes into his again, “What is the promise you wanted?”
Ri leaned back with an arrogant smile, “A promise you can only give if you win the challenge.”
Wang Huan gave a soft dry laugh, “So, you have heard about the challenge too.”
“You will win, won’t you?” Ri asked with a slight hint of teasing in his voice.
Wang Huan turned away to look at the stars, “That is what they all tell me.”
No one bothered to ask if she wanted to win, only that she will win, Wang Huan thought to herself as she watched the faint glimmer of the stars. She willed herself then to close her heart – willing any heat she had felt earlier to disappear like the diminishing twinkle of the stars with the rising of the dawn.
Ri watched as Wang Huan turned her head away and he hid a smile and quickened the pace of his winged horse. Due to the abrupt change in speed, Wang Huan was startled and she felt her body fall back onto Ri.
Ri laughed, “You didn’t think that this was all?”
Wang Huan unwillingly grabbed onto Ri’s robes as the horse made a steep ascent downwards. She did not want to fly off Ri’s horse and she did not have the confidence that Ri would not let her fall.
Ri swiftly guided the winged horse to a clean landing and Wang Huan curiously lifted up her head. She let out a small gasp of air, because dozens and dozens of stars were spinning above her in spirals of lights and colour. She turned around and saw that they had landed on top of a palace wall. It seemed like they were no longer in the Heavenly Realms.
Ri smiled, “We are at the Destiny Realms. This is the Wish Palace of the Destiny Lord.”
Wang Huan stared at the glimmering balls of light above her – was it the stars or her eyes that were spinning?
“Each light is a wish sincerely made by an individual,” Ri said as he raised his head up as well, “It is said that the Destiny Lord fulfills the wishes that catch his eye.”
As if drawn by an irresistible force, Wang Huan’s eyes turned to meet Ri’s gaze. Ri smiled, “Don’t you still have unfulfilled wishes?”
Wang Huan watched the multi-coloured lights dance in the sky – will her wish shine or be dark like greed?
“And do you?” Wang Huan looked into Ri’s eyes.
Ri did not look away as he leaned forward towards Wang Huan, “I hope your wish comes true.”
Wang Huan felt a soft piercing in her heart. Slowly and carefully, she took out the doll Ri had passed to her from her robes, as if she was pulling out a fine needle that had been pinning her.
She stretched out her hand with the doll towards Ri, “I am returning this to you.”
Ri looked down at the doll, “Isn’t he wearing your clothes?”
Wang Huan did not know why but she felt her cheeks flush, “That’s because I pitied how sad your dolls looked!” As soon as the words left her mouth, Wang Huan wanted to bite her tongue.
Ri’s face did not betray any emotion. He nodded his head, “The doll is indeed pitiful.”
Although Wang Huan felt like she was walking into a trap, she kept the doll back into her robe, “Fine, I will take pity of it and take care of it for you.”
Ri smiled and said nothing. Wang Huan felt that nothing could be more unbearable than this silent moment, but she immediately knew she was wrong when Ri finally spoke.
“Do you hate Crown Prince Sun?” Ri asked in a tone so soft Wang Huan thought it was merely the night wind breezing past her face. She was not sure if Ri had actually asked such a question so she remained silent.
Ri added, “You are not planning to poison him at the challenge are you?”
Wang Huan scoffed, “In front of the Jade Emperor and Heavenly Empress?”
Ri arched a brow, “Are you sure you will be able to cook?”
Wang Huan gave Ri an annoyed look and took out the parchment Yi Mei had prepared for her regarding the things Crown Prince Sun did not like to eat, “Your Master is so picky that I think I might have to end up boiling water for him!”
Ri looked over the parchment. He suddenly transformed an ink calligraphy brush in his hand and started to add items onto the parchment as well.
Wang Huan gave out a light disapproving “tsk” sound as she watched Ri add a long list of things, “I’m surprised that Crown Prince Sun even eats.”
“Are you sure you don’t need my help?” Ri looked seriously at Wang Huan.
Wang Huan quickly shook her head, “Win or lose, it must be by my own strength.”
Ri handed the parchment back to Wang Huan. “Actually, I have a wish," He said as he looked upwards at the spiraling stars, “ I hope you will give Crown Prince Sun a chance.”
Both of them wordlessly looked up at the night sky, each wondering if their wishes will be beautiful enough to catch the Destiny Lord’s eye.
During the preparation for the Cooking Challenge, Xiao Mi distressedly reported to Wang Huan that she realized that a large amount of the rare and precious ingredients and food gifts given by the Dark Lord from the Dark Realms have disappeared.
Wang Huan knew that they were most likely stolen – either because some other goddesses planned to use those ingredients or to stop her from doing so. Wang Huan smiled, her dish would not require such ingredients anyway.
Wang Huan informed Xiao Mi not to worry as she continued to study her brown notebook and the recipe book from Zui Town… which dish should she cook?
Yao Feng looked nervously at Crown Prince Sun as he received the edict the Crown Prince had prepared for him to work on, “Your Highness, are you sure you want to ask the Jade Emperor and the Dark Lord to give a royal pardon to the remaining members of the Spider Demon Tribe who were banished to the outskirts? The whole point of banishing those that were uninvolved in the actual killings was to prevent future bloodshed and revenge….. Your Highness, if I may be so bold, you will be the first person they come after if they are allowed to come back.”
Xi Yang gave a determined look to Yao Feng, “Yao Feng, you know me well, have I ever feared such matters?”
“But, your Highness…”
Xi Yang shook his head, “I have decided.”
On the day of the Cooking Challenge, the Royal Palace Hall had ten specially prepared kitchen platforms for Wang Huan and the nine other goddesses chosen to participate in the competition. Wang Huan heard that the list of goddesses that wanted to take part ran into the hundreds but the Jade Emperor had whittled the list down to a final nine. Wang Huan did not know what criteria were used, but she noticed that Jin Mei made the list and most noticeably, Bao Fu (宝福 - words indicating treasure and prosperity, and sounds like fullness), the oldest daughter of the Cooking God.
Crown Prince Sun was going to do a blind tasting of the dishes, so he was not present when the Cooking Challenge commenced. Each participant would have the passing of the time from one zodiac animal to another (*this chinese timing is equivalent to two hours) to finish preparing a dish.
Wang Huan knew her dish would take less than half the time allotted to prepare so she took her time to prepare the kitchen platform and sort out her ingredients. She would even watch the other goddesses prepare their dishes. The gods and goddesses in the audience would whisper that it was clear the Royal Princess Wang Huan could not cook!
As the other goddesses started to prepare their dishes, Wang Huan thought to herself that Crown Prince Sun must really like seafood for all of the goddesses were preparing some rare ingredient from the sea. Bao Fu, especially, while her exotic looking fish was being steamed, she was carving corals out of vegetables as decorations!
Jin Mei snorted when she look at the pathetic looking vegetables on Wang Huan’s kitchen platform. She raised up her plate towards Wang Huan, “This is the rare ice lobster that sleeps in the deepest part of the ocean… the crystalline shell will melt in your mouth with the luscious flesh…”
Wang Huan nodded smiling, “That does sound special.” Wang Huan looked curiously at some of the herbs on Jin Mei’s platform, why do they look rather familiar? Herbs from the Dark Realms?
Sensing the direction of Wang Huan’s gaze, Jin Mei waved her hands in front of Wang Huan’s face and scolded, “Mind your own business! Even if you can’t cook, don’t try and sabotage my cooking.”
Wang Huan gave Jin Mei a confused look and returned to her platform. Who was asking me to look at her ingredient?
The Heavenly Empress exchanged an anxious glance with Yi Mei when she saw Wang Huan chopping vegetables slowly at her platform. She leaned towards Yi Mei and asked softly, “Doesn’t Wang Huan know that Xi Yang doesn’t eat vegetables?”
Yi Mei nodded her head quickly, “I wrote down a list of things that Crown Prince Sun didn’t eat for her!” Yi Mei added hopefully, “Maybe it’s just garnishing?”
But their anxiety did not stop, for after Wang Huan finished chopping the vegetables, she took out a frying pan and oil……
At this, the Heavenly Empress felt faint, for not only did Xi Yang disliked vegetables already… he hated oily food……
Of all things, the Royal Princess Wang Huan had successfully combined the two things Xi Yang hated in one simple dish.
The Heavenly Empress thought to herself, the only way this dish could be more a failure is if Wang Huan added garlic.
At this moment, Wang Huan’s eyes widened, she gave a reassuring smile to the Heavenly Empress who had been giving her anxious looks continuously while she was cooking. She had almost forgot to chop the garlic!
At the end of it all, there were nine exotic sea food dishes and one oily fried garlic Chinese long bean dish. The Heavenly Empress had to admit – Wang Huan was unique.
The ten dishes were served on a long banquet table. Wang Huan could hear derisory laughter at her simple dish, but she was unaffected. After much thought, she had decided to cook the fried chinese long bean dish that she had cooked for Ri in Zui Town… that was the first dish she ever cooked for anyone.
Although a part of her hated Crown Prince Sun, she did not set out to lose. She knew that Crown Prince Sun did not like oil or vegetables, but this dish held her sincere feelings – just like how Ri had asked her to give Crown Prince Sun a chance, she wanted to know if Crown Prince Sun himself was someone who would look beyond the surface. During the six days of preparation, Xiao Mi and Wang Huan had tediously prepared a flask of special oil from sunflowers she had requested from the Flower Goddess… oil that would be so light that it won’t give the greasy taste that Crown Prince Sun disliked.
Because Wang Huan had been sincere, she was not nervous. But, even she felt her heart race skip a beat, when she heard a sharp trumpet sound and the attendant announcing Crown Prince Sun’s arrival.
From afar, she could already hear the excited twitters and swooning from goddesses around the entrance. Although she had long heard that Crown Prince Sun was considered the most handsome god in the Heavenly Realms, nothing could have prepared her for when she laid her eyes on him.
Grand yellow robes with gold trimming, a distinguished figure, a long aquiline nose, strong eye brows, twinkling mocking eyes…. Yes twinkling mocking eyes!
All kinds of questions stormed in Wang Huan’s head but the answer was clear when all the god and goddesses bowed towards Ri except the Jade Emperor and Heavenly Empress.
She felt Xiao Mi pulling her down to her knees. But, her head remained up, her eyes staring straight at this familiar wickedly handsome face.
His eyes showed no signs of recognition as he smiled and bowed towards his parents, “Your humble son pays his greetings to the Jade Emperor and the Heavenly Empress.”
Wang Huan held her head very, very still. She told herself that she could not cry.
She watched as Ri, no, Crown Prince Sun, circled the table, with an arrogant, almost taunting smile.
What Wang Huan did not know was that when Xi Yang looked at the table, he did not know whether to laugh or cry. That silly girl, he thought as his eyes fell on the simple plate of fried long beans. He hated vegetables, especially fried vegetables, but seeing Wang Huan’s eager face when she first offered him the dish in Zui Town, he could not bear to refuse her.
Did she gain the wrong impression that the dish was actually delicious?
But, to the consternation of everyone, Crown Prince Sun walked to the end of the table, where the pathetic vegetable dish laid. He picked up the chopsticks next to the dish and scooped a few long beans into his mouth.
The Heavenly Empress was shocked. She had never seen her son willingly eat vegetables. She thought she saw Xi Yang winced slightly at first, but then his eyes widened and then the tips of his mouth arched up.
The palace hall was silent and the competing goddesses waited for Crown Prince Sun to rebuke the dish. They were not disappointed.
“I hate vegetables,” Xi Yang declared strongly, “I especially hate fried vegetables. And, I absolutely hate garlic.” Xi Yang visibly shuddered.
However, to the astonishment of everyone, Xi Yang scooped up a few more long beans in his mouth, “But, why does this dish that have everything I hate… why does it make my heart itch? Why does it make me want to eat more?”
Crown Prince Sun smiled, a radiant confident smile, “I pick this dish.”
Jin Mei rose and cried indignantly, “But you have not tried the other dishes?”
Crown Prince Sun looked towards the other nine dishes, “These?”
“Yes, they look so much better than the dirty weeds!” Jin Mei pouted.
Crown Prince Sun observed the other dishes and nodded, “I suppose so.”
Crown Prince Sun looked straight at Jin Mei and smiled maliciously, “But, I only want to eat this.”
Crown Prince Sun turned away from Jin Mei who was red with fury. He turned towards the crowd, “So, who made this dish?”