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Thread: A step into the past - 寻秦记 - by Huang Yi (Unabridged)

  1. #261
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2004


    Book 23 Chapter 01 - Shes Married

    Xiang Shaolongs mind entered a psychic realm and became as still as water. His footsteps developed into a regular momentum, as if he is marching to an invisible rhythm. Concurrently, he can accurately sense the speed and distance of his approaching attacker.

    Ever since he travelled to this period of the Warring States via the time machine, not a single day goes by without him using a weapon to some extent. As a result, he is acutely familiar with the different types of weapons in this era. Focusing on his hearing abilities, he instantly rejected his earlier hypothesis that his assailant is using a spear. Instead, he concluded that the enemy is wielding a long halberd.

    A halberd is a combination weapon, as it can be used to stab like a spear or slash like a sabre. It is a piercing weapon that also allows for a hook attack. Thus, the swishing sound of the weapon is obviously unlike that of a spear.

    Xiang Shaolong is dying to turn around and have a look but acknowledges that if he does that, he would fail to deploy his strategy of unpredictability. Moreover, it will only irk his opponent to increase his speed in a fierce assault.

    A strong gust of wind came blowing and Xiang Shaolong nearly had to close his eyes because of the snow and rain peppering his face

    The resonating of the halberd became muffled against the noisy wind.

    Presently, the rider is about seven metres behind him. If the assassin chooses to utilize his full strength, his crushing blow will land on Xiang Shaolong in the blink of an eye.

    Out of the blue, like the sound of lightning striking the ground from behind, a voice reverberated: Shen Liang, prepare to meet your maker!

    Xiang Shaolong instantaneously closed his eyes and took a step to his right, standing in the lane meant for horses and carriages. His right hand released its grip on the sword handle as his left hand simultaneously drew out his sword.

    All along, he has been walking slowly on the pavement to the left and was clutching his sword with his right hand. Any potential aggressor attacking from the back would expect him to shift to the left side, increasing the distance between the two of them and using his right hand to draw out his sword to parry any incoming blows. Unexpectedly, Xiang Shaolong chose to do the exact opposite, stepping to his right onto the vehicle lane, resulting in the enemys long halberd stabbing in the wrong direction.

    A miss is as good as a mile.

    Furthermore, this is a life and death situation.

    The man cried out in surprise and tried to alter the direction of the attack but it was too late.

    Without turning his head back, Xiang Shaolong used a backhand move and stabbed the backside of the horse as it dashed past him.

    The warhorse whinnied in pain and wildly sprinted ahead, nearly throwing the rider off.

    Watching the single assailant disappear into the snow and rain as if he is running for his life, Xiang Shaolong was greatly humoured.

    Winning this battle appears to be easy on the surface but it is requires courage, critical timing and perfect coordination between body movement and footwork.

    The sudden gust of wind and snow is a blessing in disguise.

    Although Xiang Shaolong himself is slightly blinded, his opponent who is riding against the wind would feel a much greater impact. Otherwise, it would be much more challenging for Xiang Shaolong to execute this strategy.

    Returning his sword to its sheath, Xiang Shaolong tunneled through a horizontal alley and walked briskly for quite a distance in the direction towards Xie Residence. He got to his destination within an hour.

    Reporting his name to the family warriors guarding the front gate, he was led into the property and told to wait at the external sitting room.

    The serving maids were bearing strange expressions on their faces as they scrutinized him and whispered among themselves as if he is an eccentric creature who came out of nowhere.

    Under their direct stares, Xiang Shaolong was feeling out of place when Xie Ziyuan suddenly appeared with an ashen face. After dismissing the servants, he sat down beside him and uttered in a soft voice: This time round, we have picked a bad timing. Someone has reported to my wife about my visit to the brothel last night. She just threw a tantrum and nearly laid her hand on me. Brother Shen, you must leave while you can. She would not believe our words right now.

    Xiang Shaolong was sympathetic: In this case, I will look for Brother Xie two days later.

    Pulling him to his feet, Xie Ziyuan hurried: Quickly!

    As the two men hastily walked towards the main gate, a shrill voice screeched from behind: Where do you think you are going!

    Xie Ziyuans entire body shook once and he froze on the spot as if his acupoints has been blocked

    Filled with disbelief, Xiang Shaolong was badly shaken as well and was stunned on the spot.

    Accompanied by the sound of her tinkering accessories, Xie Ziyuans shrew wife came to the back of both men and coldly laughed: Where are you going? Do you think I am in the dark about the conspiracy between the two of you?

    She shrieked: Xie Quan, come here you 1diot. I want you to tell me everything that happened last night. EVERYTHING. I guarantee that nothing will happen to you.

    Xie Ziyuan felt like he was struck by lightning for even the last servant loyal to himself has switched sides.

    Xie Quan suddenly appeared and kneeled down, confessing in a quivering voice: Young Master! Your servant was forced to betray you.

    Turning around like robot, Xie Ziyuan looked as if he is going to burst out crying. He declared: This is wholly my idea and has nothing to do with Brother Shen.

    With his back still facing Xie Ziyuans wife, Xiang Shaolongs heart is intertwined in countless knots, for he recognized the voice of Xie Ziyuans wife to be Shan Rou whom he once deeply love.

    She has finally given up her dream of leading a wandering lifestyle, returning back to her roots, becoming the Mistress of the Xie household and even giving birth to two sons.

    His only wish right now is to leave the Xie Residence without looking back so that Shan Rou would never know that he did came by.

    He could instinctively understand why Xie Ziyuan loved her and feared her simultaneously. Frankly speaking, that is the kick Shan Rou gives to men.

    Until today, he has fond memories of his dalliances with Shan Rou.

    He is touched at Xie Ziyuans gesture of brotherhood loyalty for shouldering all the blame upon himself.

    His mind wanted to leave but he could not lift his foot to take a single step.

    Turning his attention to Xiang Shaolong, Shan Rou scolded: You are named Shen Liang right? You look so tall and muscular but you are acting like a coward. Do you lack the guts to turn around and face me?

    The crowd of servants began giggling among themselves

    Xiang Shaolong calmly pleaded: Would Mistress Xie please invite everyone else to leave the hall? Shen Liang (I) would like to talk to you privately on behalf of Brother Xie.

    Xie Ziyuan swiftly interrupted: This matter does not concern Brother Shen. Dear wifey, can you let Brother Shen go? If you want to punish someone, let me be the one.

    To everyones astonishment, Shan Rou turned speechless and was fixated on the spot as if her acupoints are blocked.

    Xiang Shaolong can feel Shan Rous piercing gaze on his back and his heart is filled with an indescribable feeling.

    As everyone present is in a state of bewilderment, Shan Rou commanded: Everyone get the he11 out of here.

    Xie Ziyuan was traumatized: Does hubby (I) have to leave too?

    Shan Rou shouted: Hubby my @rse, you better be the first to scram!

    In a split second, everyone has cleanly left, leaving only the two of them in the spacious hall.

    Shan Rous excited and fast breathing can be heard from behind as Xiang Shaolong gradually turned his body around. As the four eyes exchanged glances, both parties shuddered as if they were being electrocuted. Shan Rou has put on some weight but is far more enchanting than before.

    Shan Rou took two steps towards him and stopped, excruciatingly trying to suppress the urge to throw herself into Xiang Shaolongs arms.

    Xiang Shaolong felt as if his throat is entangled. He has so many things to tell her but did not know where to start. Ultimately, he let out a long sigh, shaking his head with a bitter smile and strode towards the main door.

    Shan Rou tried to catch up by taking two steps forward, softly calling: Shaolong!

    Over ten pairs of eyes are now focused at him. Regardless whether they are servants or family warriors, every single persons mouth is wide open with surprise that Xiang Shaolong managed to come out of the hall unscathed and with his clothes in a tidy manner.

    Xie Ziyuan extracted himself from the crowd and put his hand around Xiang Shaolongs shoulder as he led him towards the main gate. What did Brother Shen tell her? He asked excitedly.

    Xiang Shaolong spouted nonsense: Sister in law (polite way to address) is domineering to some extent but she can be quite understanding if you talk to her nicely. I explained to her the simile: The more she oppresses you, the more resistance she can expect in return. For example, if she allows Brother Xie to fool around, I guarantee Brother Xie will grow tired of it after some time.

    Xie Ziyuan wondered: Why would I grow tired of fooling around? What is her reaction?

    Xiang Shaolong lied: She says she wants to think it over.

    Xie Ziyuan was overjoyed: It is a miraculous 180 degrees turn! Can Brother Shen stay and accompany me for a chat?

    Right now, Xiang Shaolong is feeling depressed as if his intestines are all entangled together. Therefore he is certainly not in the mood for idle chatter. He intentionally threatened: The first thing you should do now is to obediently spend more time accompanying Sister in Law. Otherwise, she may have the impression that you are still up to no good and would not even consider letting you fool around.

    Xie Ziyuan was thunderstruck and hastily withdrew his hand from Xiang Shaolongs arm. His expression is priceless.

    Waving his goodbye, Xiang Shaolong walked to the main road. The sky is filled with falling rain and snow.

    He felt lost.

    Ever since he came to Lin Zi, he has been trying ways and means to locate Shan Rou. He did not anticipate meeting her under such circumstances and moreover, she is the wife of another man.

    Xie Ziyuan should be a good husband. Aye!

    In the past, when Mei Canniang got married to another man, he did not undergo any emotional turmoil, as their love has no depth.

    But he did love Shan Rou intensely.

    He respects Shan Rous decision. Furthermore, he himself has a fulfilling marriage and a complete family. The only issue is he is now far away in Qi, a foreign territory, and it is easy for feelings of loneliness and the desire for companionship to arise. As a result, he is feeling disheartened as he could not continue his previous relationship with Shan Rou.

    As the wind and snow assault his face in a cold and hurting manner, he felt as if he had just woken up from a dream.

    After heaving another breath, Xiang Shaolong started making his way back to his accommodation.

    Let bygones be bygones!

    He sincerely wished Shan Rou happiness and is relieved that she has given up her plan for revenge.

    Back at the guesthouse, Xiao Yuetan has been waiting for him for some time. Observing his early return, he was astonished: I heard your men saying that you would be back late in the night and was about to take my leave. Eek. Why are you wearing such an ugly expression on your face?

    Pulling Xiao Yuetan into his room and after they both sat down, Xiang Shaolong began: You should have heard of Shan Rou, right? She is (Zhao Zhi) Zhi Zhis blood sister and we used to be lovers. She is presently married to Xie Ziyuan.

    Xiao Yuetan was stupefied: Another coincidence!

    Not wishing to dwell on this matter, Xiang Shaolong changed the topic and enquired about Zou Yan. With a puzzled expression, Xiao Yuetan revealed: Grandmaster Zou has wandered off looking for a suitable burial plot for himself. He hasnt been home for several days.

    Xiang Shaolong can feel his heart throbbing with pain and did not know what to reply to that.

    Xiao Yuetan lowered his voice: Lu Buwei has arrived this afternoon by ship. He is accompanied by Han Jie and Xu Shang.

    Xiang Shaolong was mystified: Isnt Han Jie working for Lao Ai?

    Xiao Yuetan articulated: From this gesture, we can conclude that Lu Buwei and Lao Ai are in cahoots with each other. Han Jie is one of the four top disciples of Qixia Sword Saint. With him paving the way, the swordsmen of Qixia may align themselves with Lu Buwei and Tian Dan. This could potentially tip the balance in power.

    Pausing for a while, he continued: Based on Lu Buweis method of scheming, he would definitely try to give the King of Qi the impression that appointing Tian Jian as the next Crown Prince will be detrimental to the relationship between Qin and Qi. If Cao Cuidao were to side with First Prince Tian Sheng and Tian Dan, it would not be unexpected if Tian Jian is the loser in this power tussle.

    Xiang Shaolong could not be bothered: Whoever wins or lose is Qis internal affairs. My utmost concern is how to assist these beauties of the Song & Dance Troupe to realize their dreams. Lu Buwei can do whatever he wants to.

    Xiao Yuetan was taken aback: It is indeed rare to see Shaolong so despondent. Dont you find any meaning in tripping Lu Buwei up? Please have a good nights rest, for you may change your mindset when you wake up tomorrow.

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly laughed: Unless I can reappear as Xiang Shaolong, otherwise, it would be impossible to exert influence over the King of Qi. But if I do so, it would be openly inviting Lu Buwei to scheme against myself. Oh! I forgot to tell you. Both Li Yuan and Lord Longyang have seen through my disguise.

    Xiao Yuetan speedily pressed for details and after Xiang Shaolong finished telling his story, Xiao Yuetan gleefully cheered: In this case, the situation is far from bleak. For the time being, the greatest fear of Qi is an alliance between Chu and the Three States (Han Zhao Wei), suppressing their ambitions towards Yan. As long as Tian Dan do not directly confront you, our job would be much easier!

    Xiang Shaolong was in a dilemma: Whenever there are gains, some losses would inevitable be incurred. As Xiang Shaolong, Lu Buwei, Tian Dan or even Guo Kai would start to plot against me. If I continue to masquerade as Shen Liang, I would have to contend against the likes of Zongsun Long as well as the swordsmen of Qi. I am stuck between a rock and a hard place.

    The sound of knocking can be heard. It turned out to be Little Pinger who is here on Feng Feis orders, inviting Xiang Shaolong for a meeting. After Xiao Yuetan whispered see you tomorrow and took his leave, Xiang Shaolong followed Little Pinger to see Feng Fei.

    Feng Fei is playing a zither on the second storey of the main block with full concentration, filling the air with subtle, divine music as if it came from the nine heavens itself. Until Xiang Shaolong sat down opposite her, she did not show any signs of knowing that he has arrived.

    After Little Pinger excused herself to the lower floor, Xiang Shaolong half-slouched, half-sat on a soft cushion, feasting his eyes on this beautys attractiveness and immersing himself in the celestial music. His disenchantment over Shan Rou decreased by about 30%.

    Strumming the zither strings, Feng Fei let loose another series of melodies before stopping in an instant. Lifting her pretty head to meet his gaze, she quizzed with her eyes shining: Does Mister Shen recognise this part?

    Xiang Shaolong was in a daze and shook his head in a flabbergasted manner.

    Feng Fei sweetly chirped: This is a combination of melodies I extracted and edited from snippets of your songs. You ah! How can you miss it?

    Xiang Shaolong awkwardly scratched his head: I really cannot distinguish my songs from your melodies. Why is this so?

    Feng Fei gently cooed: I obviously cannot religiously follow your original tune. After several modifications, this is the final outcome! Do you like it?

    This is the first time Feng Fei is cajoling Xiang Shaolong, surprising him. He praised: Mistress is truly talented. Have you assign new song tunes for the Birthday routine?

    Her lovely eyes gazing at the snowy night outside her window, Feng Fei sighed: Do you know I just realized that it has been snowing heavily outside? After listening to your bizarre tunes, Feng Fei (I) felt as if I am possessed, churning out one new song after another. It is unbelievably easy.

    Xiang Shaolong was ecstatic: My heartiest congratulations to Mistress.

    Shifting her gaze back his face, she sharpened her stare and mused: What kind of man are you, seriously?

    Xiang Shaolong snorted: I have arms, legs, eyes, ears, a mouth and a nose, just like everybody else.

    Feng Fei observed: But in my eyes, you are like an immortal from heaven, coming down to earth to help those in need. Aye! If immortals truly exist, that would be so wonderful. There are too many frustrating issues plaguing humans. Sometimes, I would even hate myself.

    After some contemplation, Xiang Shaolong nodded: It is true that certain things in life are rather annoying but in the eyes of many others, Mistress is regarded as an unreachable sacred being, light years away from themselves. Being able fall beneath your skirt is already an unmatchable honour.

    Feng Fei shifted her body to lean on a cushion, giggling: Your descriptive proverbs are really weird. What is unreachable sacred being, light years, fall beneath my skirt? Aye! Feng Fei is only an ordinary person too. I only feel superior to others when it comes to creating music and performing.

    Following her statement, she glanced at him with her starry eyes and pleaded: Would you please stay for the night and accompany me for a night of chit-chatting? Every time I have a new composition, I would have difficulty sleeping and moreover, I usually lack a friend I can confide in.

    Xiang Shaolong had quite a scare at her suggestion and he warily cautioned: Ultimately, I am a lowly servant. Wouldnt it invite rumours if I spend the night in Mistresss bedroom?

    Feng Fei grumbled: Where was the same display of courage two nights ago? If it was another man in your shoes under the present circumstances, he would not leave even if I try to chase him out.

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly laughed: Ever since I know that Mistresss secret admirer is Xiang Shaolong, I have become more and more jittery. In the near future when we arrive at Xianyang and if he learns that I did spend a night in Mistresss bedroom, even if nothing happened between us, my life would be in jeopardy. Mistress, do you agree with me?

    Feng Fei was speechless and did not know how to reply to that.

    Xiang Shaolong was amused. This is called: Using your words against yourself. It is indeed preposterous to use her Xiang Shaolong to suppress himself, the authentic Xiang Shaolong.

    After some time, Feng Fei lamented: All along, I have the impression that men are fearless when it concerns matters of the fairer sex. Why are you such a bold character on other issues but is acting like a coward in this field.

    Pretending to be surprised, Xiang Shaolong wondered: Judging from the tone of Mistress, it seems like we would be doing much more than idle chatter by the candlelight.

    With a girly chortle Pu Ci, Feng Fei enticingly batted her eyes at him, cheerfully stating: Talking to you is so meaningful. For the longest time, only I, Feng Fei, get to tease other men. To think that now, you are the one teasing me instead. Bring it on!

    Xiang Shaolong was astounded: Bring what on?

    Feng Feis mouth curled up seductively and suggested: My dear manager, please help me take off my shoes first?

    Xiang Shaolong glanced at her for a short spell and whispered: Mistress, are you serious about this? Once we start the ball rolling it would be difficult to stop. By then, it would be impossible even if Mistress wants to back out.

    He is not kidding. With a beautiful disposition to match Ji Yanran and Qin Qing, together with her strong intention to seduce, even a meditating monk would be tempted by her, not to mention him, Xiang Shaolong.

    Out of the blue, the wind and snow outside, coupled with the lantern-covered candle light, on top of the warm feeling from the burning firepot strengthened the already romantic and inviting atmosphere in the room by several times.

    Scanning her blossoming beauty, refined brows, seducing aura, protruding breasts and slender waists, the temptation is simply irresistible.

    Feng Fei shot him a look, clarifying: Manager Shen is thinking too much. Before climbing onto my bed and going to sleep, I would need to take off my shoes first. Since Little Pinger is not around, I shall have to trouble you instead!

    Xiang Shaolong was so angry he nearly burst his arteries. Gnashing his teeth, he shifted forward, using his hand to support her right foot.

    Feng Fei let out a surprise wail, frowning: Manager Shen, can you please be more gentle?

    Xiang Shaolong can feel his own breathing quickening. Using his left hand to support her foot, his right hand slithered north, softly caressing her flawless calf, sighing: A shining example of: as smooth and white as jade.

    Feng Feis body shuddered in response to his touch. Closing her eyes halfway, she lightly approved: As long as your hand do not move any further up, I dont mind letting you take advantage of me like this. Take it that I am rewarding you for helping me solve this problem.

    Xiang Shaolong was infuriated: Judging from Mistresss words, are you instigating me to progress further? As he spoke, he vulgarly shifted his hand further up her leg.
    As Feng Fei felt Xiang Shaolongs hand slide past her kneecaps, exploring her out-of-bounds thigh, she let out a squeal and pressed down his hand underneath the fabric of her dress.

    Xiang Shaolong withdrew his hand in a flash and gingerly took off her two cotton shoes with an official expression. He then proceeded to massage her feet, causing Feng Feis body to turn into jelly and her pupils began to dilate.

    In one swift movement, Xiang Shaolong lifted her in his arms and strode towards her bedroom.

    Feng Fei tightly embraced his neck, fragrantly puffing beside his ear, hissing: You are going to land Feng Fei in hot soup!

    Xiang Shaolong was confused: How is that possible?

    Feng Fei protested: If you make me fall in love with you, wouldnt that land me in hot soup?

    Xiang Shaolong came to his senses and secretly gave thanks for this close shave. He should not have a physical relationship with this beauty whose heart belonged to another man. Otherwise, it would only complicate matters and result in unbearable consequences.

    After tucking her in, Xiang Shaolong lowered his head and gave her a kiss on the lips before warmly reassuring: Mistress can put your mind at ease! Whenever I remind myself you are Xiang Shaolongs woman, even if I have ten times more guts, I would not dare to lay a finger on you.

    After speaking, he quickly left as if he is running for his life.

  2. #262
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2004


    Book 23 Chapter 02 - Unfinished Love

    Just as he left Feng Feis bedroom, he was intercepted by a subordinate who made the following report: Zhang Quan was ambushed outside the Villa, suffering heavy injuries and is barely alive.

    Although Xiang Shaolong knows that Xiao Yuetan is behind this incident, he cannot choose not to attend to him. Outside Zhang Quans room, he ran into his (Zhang Quan) trusted follower Kun Shan. This scoundrel was enraged: It must be the doing of Zongsun Long. Lin Zi is a lawless place, full of outrageous hooligans calling the shots.

    Xiang Shaolong is secretly glad that they are mistaken, saving him the trouble to mislead them. He questioned in a low voice: How are his injuries?

    Kun Shan responded: He received a few punches to his head and face. Now, his eyes are puffy and he can barely see while the corner of his lips is bruised and bleeding. It is upsetting to see him in such a condition.

    Completing his answer, he walked away, sighing.

    Stepping into the room, Xiang Shaolong was amazed to see Dong Shuzen and two maids tending to Zhang Quans wounds.

    As per Kun Shans description, Zhang Quans head is swollen like a pigs head. It would be impossible for him to face the public in the near future.

    This is the vicious strategy employed by Xiao Yuetan, intentionally causing Zhang Quan to lose his usefulness to Lu Buwei, indirectly forcing Lu Buwei to rely on Xiang Shaolong instead.

    Sitting by Zhang Quans bedside, Dong Shuzen gave Xiang Shaolong a sad look and sighed: These people are really ruthless. Look! They have beaten Assistant Manager to such a sorry state.

    Zhang Quan groaned: Is it Brother Shen?

    Recalling the fact that this gorgeous Dong Shuzen did spend a few nights with this ruffian, Xiang Shaolongs heart is brimming with hatred. He faced Dong Shuzen and demanded in an uncouth manner: All of you need to leave the room for a while. I need to talk to Brother Zhang.

    An annoyed Dong Shuzen frowned with her brows knitted together. After dismissing her two maids, she firmly insisted: What secrets are there that Shuzen has to be kept in the dark about?

    With much difficulty, Zhang Quan begged: Second Mistress, please excuse yourself for a short while.

    Dong Shuzen was taken aback and left unhappily.

    It is now Xiang Shaolongs turn to take Dong Shuzens seat. Lowering his head, he asked in a soft voice: Brother Zhang, how are you doing?

    His mouth swollen like a pigs lips, Zhang Quan can only mumble his words vaguely: My body is fine as they only hit my head, forcing me to tell them why did I visit my employer. Of course I refused to tell them anything. Aye! My biggest loss is the sum of money from my employer, which they robbed! The money is actually meant for you.

    This clearly demonstrates the brilliance of Xiao Yuetans stratagem. Not only did Zhang Quan fail to come up with the money to bribe Xiang Shaolong, he cannot go back to see Lu Buwei.

    Xiang Shaolong probed: Who did Brother Zhang went to visit?

    Zhang Quan cautioned: I cannot tell you yet. Aye! I did not anticipate Zongsun Longs involvement. Presently, every one of our Troupe member is placed under close supervision by his cronies.

    Xiang Shaolong is not in mood to chat further and stood up, advising: Brother Zhang, please have a good rest!

    Pulling his sleeve to restrain him, Zhang Quan anxiously beseeched: No matter what, you must help me. I will definitely get the money for you as soon as possible.

    Xiang Shaolong questioned: What can I do for Brother Zhang?

    Zhang Quan briefed: Try to become Feng Feis confidante and find out what is the relationship between Lord Longyang and herself.

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly laughed: If you were Feng Fei and I am now your confidante, would you tell me your life-changing secrets?

    Zhang Quan replied after much agony: Feng Fei trusts no one but herself, and that includes Lord Longyang. Moreover, the King of Wei harbours designs on Feng Fei so at the end of the day, she can only rely on you. Do you understand?

    Xiang Shaolong was momentarily shaken before he nodded: Fine! I shall see what I can do about it. But until I receive my money, Brother Zhang can forget about my collaboration.

    Pushing his hand away, he walked out of the room all by himself.

    Dong Shuzen was waiting by the door and saw him leaving the room. Dragging him to a pavilion in the garden, she lamented: Are you still upset with me?

    Xiang Shaolong denied: Your lowly servant dare not. No matter how Second Mistress tries to scam me or distrusts me, I, a lowly manager, can only submissively follow your commands.

    With a Pu Ci, Dong Shuzen giggled: Look at your angry countenance. Shuzen begs your pardon, ok? Aye! I really do not know how to gain your affections. Are you someone who prefer males and not females?

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly laughed: Is every acquaintance of Lord Longyang considered a gay man?

    Pressing her entire body onto Xiang Shaolong and using her exquisite hands to entangle his neck, Dong Shuzen smiled: There is no use hiding it. Witnessing his coquettish expression when he stares at you and the excitement in his eyes, I am certain that you are his male lover. Unless you are not his partner, he would not react in such a fashion. Now, Shuzens only hope is that besides men, you are also into women.

    Xiang Shaolong was stupefied, thinking that he has reached a dead end and he could never redeem himself from this wrongful grievance. Exerting some strength to give her butt a playful slap, he helplessly pleaded: You can continue to evaluate me along those lines. Second Mistress, can you please release me back to my room for a rest?

    Dong Shuzen exaggeratedly cried out in pain and gave him a bear hug. Biting his ear, she hinted: If you are into other forms of deviant 5ex, Shuzen is willing to play along.

    Xiang Shaolong grabbed her aromatic shoulders and pushed her slightly away before declaring in an official tone: Your lowly servant has to pass up Second Mistresss kind intentions. Nonetheless, there is something you still do not comprehend: Even if you and Xiuzhen do not sleep with me, I, Shen Liang, would make suitable arrangements for you two and no one will have to end up as a concubine or mistress of the rich and powerful. If there is any falsehood in my words, may I, Shen Liang, die a horrible death.

    Dong Shuzen calmed down and hazily eyed him with suspicion for a while. She softly quizzed: What is in it for you? Are you aware that one wrong move can result in death and disaster? If Feng Fei gets to know that you are out to spoil her plans, she will be the first to come after you.

    Xiang Shaolong swore: You can label me a fool, an id1ot or whatever you desire but I have committed myself to make this a reality. All I need is your full obedience and I will definitely come to a solution.

    Wriggling her body sensually, Dong Shuzen cajoled: Are we not obedient?

    Xiang Shaolong counselled: Your obedience has gone overboard and your obedience is not only limited to me but also towards Zhang Quan, Sa Li and whoever that is useful to you. This is not the obedience I am looking for. Please go back and give it some thought but time is not on your side. We must make our move immediately after the performance. If you miss the boat, do not blame me for not offering you salvation.

    Her entire body trembling, Dong Shuzen leaned into his bosom, flustering: Shen Liang ah! I am at a complete loss after hearing your words! Can you please tell me clearly what plans do you have for Shuzen?

    Xiang Shaolong lovingly kissed her charming face and sincerely revealed: If the two of you are still unwilling to place complete trust and share all your information with me, there is a limit to how much I can assist you. My plan is to promote you to become another famous courtesan to continue Feng Feis legacy, allowing her to retire peacefully and living the life she wants to live.

    A frightened Dong Shuzen pitifully reminded: This would be an ideal arrangement but how is it possible? Feng Fei regards me as her enemy and would never give her consent. Even if she somehow agrees, it would require the approval of everyone in the troupe. This is an impossible task.

    Xiang Shaolong was full of conviction: I will settle Feng Feis side. But whether can you eventually become another famous courtesan comparable to Feng Fei will have to depend on your own abilities.

    Dong Shuzen was shocked: What abilities?

    Xiang Shaolong articulated: I will convince Feng Fei to allow you to play the role of the main character in one of the Song & Dance routines. As long as you do a good job, I can sing your praises in front of Lord Longyang and other influential figures, persuading them to invite you to perform at their official banquets. Ha! What do you think will happen next?

    Dong Shuzen jolted once and suddenly moved away from him. With a pair of lovely eyes shining with never-seen-before brilliance, she pondered in a throbbing voice: Can you really convince Feng Fei?

    Stretching his hand out and lifting her pretty head, Xiang Shaolong unconsciously gave her a deep kiss on her lips. Only until she started panting did he release her, promising: Give me three days and I will get Feng Fei to give you her consent personally. However, Xiuzhen and you must give up all your devious plans. Right now, I need you to go to bed obediently.

    Her body turning limp from his kissing and her pupils dilated, Dong Shuzen pestered: Can I spend the night with you? Shuzen is feeling so h0rny from your provocation.

    Xiang Shaolong is feeling desperate too, secretly cursing himself for stirring her flames of passion. Strengthening his will, he turned her 5exy body around and pushed her for ten over steps, reaching the corridor leading to her bedroom, laughing: Didnt you mentioned I am into males? Go and look for Xiuzhen and tell her about this good news! You must remember not to let a third person know about this plan; otherwise, it will not come true!

    Finishing, he quickly fled back to his room.

    Before he could have his breakfast the next morning, a subordinate came to report that Xie Ziyuan is looking for him. Xiang Shaolong was alarmed, for his greatest fear is Shan Rou telling him about their relationship. If this was the case, it would be really awkward to see him.

    Fortunately, Xie Ziyuan is still as friendly as ever when Xiang Shaolong came to meet him in the front sitting hall. After getting him to dismiss the serving maids, Xie Ziyuan excitedly expounded: Brother Shen is superb. Not only did wifey not give me a hard time last night; she gave me permission to befriend you. She mentioned that with you looking after me, it is all right even if I go out and have a bit of fun. Ah! Brother Shen is truly my best friend and savior!

    Xiang Shaolong groaned inwardly, knowing that Shan Rou still harbour feelings for himself, resulting in this decision which made Xie Ziyuan deliriously happy.

    Brother Xie need not attend morning court today? Xiang Shaolong was curious.

    Xie Ziyuan answered: Our great King caught a cold last night so todays court session has been adjourned. Hey! Is Brother Shen available tonight?

    Noticing that he is as joyful as a dog without a lease, Xiang Shaolong cautioned: You better be careful for your significant other could be testing you.

    Slapping his chest as a sign of guarantee, Xie Ziyuan swore: My wifey is a woman of her words and will not lie to me. She wants to invite Brother Shen to our humble abode tonight for dinner before allowing us to go out and have fun, giving Little Brother (me) an opportunity to play a good host. Ha!

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly laughed: You looked as if you cant wait for tonight.

    Without the slightest trace of guilt, Xie Ziyuan validated: Of course. Only when lying in the arms of an unknown lady and breathing in her womanly scent can my creative brain juices start flowing. Aye! You have no idea how much pressure the great King is exerting on me. If I do not come up with the lyrics for Soft Boned Beautys congratulatory birthday song, I will be in hot soup.

    Realizing the genuine motivation behind it all, Xiang Shaolong became agitated: Over the past two days, did you attend Lan Gongyuans rehearsal?

    With a pained expression, Xie Ziyuan grieved: Without an excellent composition, I do not dare to face her. I ran into her lover Qi Yu in the palace yesterday and was at the receiving end of his sarcasms and insults. Fortunately, I was in a good mood or else I would teach him a lesson or two.

    As if he suddenly recalled the matter, he rapidly enquired: What is going on between you and Zongsun Long?

    After Xiang Shaolong cut the story short and explained the chain of events, Xie Ziyuan groaned: This is bad. Yesterday, he sent someone to probe about our relationship. Not suspecting anything amiss, I truthfully mentioned that we are newly acquainted. Oh. I better speak with him personally. If he is still adamant, I will get the Second Prince to intervene. That will surely force him to yield.

    Wanting to keep things simple, Xiang Shaolong assured: It is not wise to blow up the matter and Brother Xie need not intercede. Even if things go out of hand, I will be able to handle it.

    Xie Ziyuan was suspicious: Does Brother Shen knows about Zongsun Longs incredible influence in Lin Zi? He is more powerful than a Marquis and now that he has suffered at the hands of Brother Shen, he would not give up his quest for revenge so easily.

    Xiang Shaolong promised: Relax! If I do require Brother Xies assistance, I would not refrain from asking for it!

    Xie Ziyuan affirmed: In the future, feel free to confide your problems in me. I have to rush back to my official ministry for work; shall I pick you up tonight?

    Xiang Shaolong has nothing to say about that and nodded his head in agreement.

    As Xie Ziyuan rose with delight, out of a sudden, the sentry announced: First Mistress is here!

    Xie Ziyuan had a big shock and welcomed her respectfully with Xiang Shaolong.

    Clothed in an ordinary yellow dress adorned with white flowers and decked with a cotton singlet on the outside, Feng Fei lightly stepped into the hall, escorted by a bevy of maids. Xie Ziyuans eyes started to glow at the sight of her elegance and captivating beauty.

    After giving Xiang Shaolong a vicious glare, Feng Fei knitted her brows and frowned at Xie Ziyuan: What is the matter with Official Xie? It is normal for someone to pass by without entering, but now that Official Xie has passed by and entered, you did not even say hi to Feng Fei? Is Feng Fei someone unworthy of Officials attention?

    Xie Ziyuan is justly worth his weight in gold; prostrating himself to the floor without a moments hesitation, he narrated: Miss Feng has wronged me! Ever since I first laid my eyes on Mistress during the palace banquet, my soul has been hooked away by Mistresss charisma. Only today did I finally reclaim my soul and thus, dare not pay another visit to Mistress.

    Feng Fei and the maids could not hold back their laughter.

    Feeling like a child playing games, Xiang Shaolong put an arm over Xie Ziyuans shoulder and used the other hand to cover his eyes, pushing him towards the main gate. Towards Feng Fei, he laughed: Your servant (I) had better escort Official Xie out.

    Feng Fei was laughing vigorously, causing Xiang Shaolong to quickly look away, afraid that he would lose his soul like Xie Ziyuan.

    Pushing Xie Ziyuan out of the Villa, he removed his hand covering his eyes.

    Xie Ziyuan exhaled a breath: Such a pristine treasure, such a rare encounter. No wonder Zongsun Long is going all out to obtain her.

    Xiang Shaolong mused: Brother Xie is interested as well?

    Xie Ziyuan solemnly state: You may not believe my words but every time I reached home, I would cleanly forget about all my external liaisons.

    Xiang Shaolong was gratified and commended: How wonderful. I finally got it! Brother Xie chose to fool around because it is your unique way of getting inspiration to compose music and write lyrics.

    Xie Ziyuan sighed: Only Brother Shen knows me.

    After sending Xie Ziyuan off, Xiang Shaolong found Feng Fei waiting in the hall for him to have breakfast together, resembling a wife anticipating to serve her husband, sending chills down his spine.

    Dismissing Xiao Pinger, the beauty interrogated: When you are around, Xie Ziyuan seems like a totally different person and appears to be in great spirits. Why is he looking for you?

    Xiang Shaolong intentionally hid the truth from her: It is boys stuff. It is better for Mistress to be unaware of it.

    Feng Fei loudly wailed: You are becoming more and more insolent. Dont you forget that I can be nasty too.

    Xiang Shaolong smiled: Please be appeased my Mistress. We are simply going to have some fun at a brothel tonight.

    Feng Fei was astounded: Are all men born cheap and low-class? We have top rated beauties right here and yet you are paying money for those normal looking girls.

    Xiang Shaolong was startled: Is Mistress implying that your servant (I) can kiss you any old how?

    Feng Fei was annoyed: How dare you speak like this!

    Xiang Shaolong was greatly amused: Mistress must not forget that it was you who said that you are being forced!

    Feng Fei was so angry she nearly wanted to box him but instead calmed herself down, sighing: Looks like I am the one who has lost my soul to you. Whenever you want me to be happy, Feng Fei must be happy. When you want me to be angry, Feng Fei must be angry. Can you please tell Feng Fei once and for all, what do you want me to do?

    Xiang Shaolong gently remarked: Of course I want to you obediently listen to my instructions, allowing me to accomplish my dream.

    Resuming her icy demeanor, Feng Fei stared at him for a second before softly asking: Speak!

    In an official tone, Xiang Shaolong enunciated: My dream is to allow everyone in this Troupe to realize their wishes and ambitions.

    Feng Fei sighed: I am beginning to believe your sincerity but my question is: What makes you think that you, Shen Liang, has the ability to achieve all these? It is not as simple as getting my consent for this issue involves several other parties.

    Xiang Shaolong plainly state: The most crucial factor lies with Mistresss approval. I will take care of the other matters.

    Feng Fei challenged: All right! Take it that you have my consent. How are you going to deal with the likes of Han Chuang, Zongsun Long, Lu Buwei and Tian Dan?

    Xiang Shaolong was about to give his reply when a servant came to report that Han Chuang is here.
    Last edited by kohchun; 07-16-13 at 07:26 PM.

  3. #263
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2004


    Book 23 Chapter 03 - Rectifying Misjudgments

    From afar, Han Chuang paid his respects to both of them: My greetings to Miss Feng and Shen Liang!

    Xiang Shaolong instantly loosen up, knowing that Han Chuang came over after learning his whereabouts from Lord Longyang. Thus, he would be mentally prepared to see Xiang Shaolong here and not arouse further doubts about his identity.

    Feng Fei was stupefied: Marquis is an acquaintance of Shen Liang?

    Striding over in huge steps, Han Chuang chuckled: Years ago in Handan City, Brother Shen assisted me greatly regarding several matters. How can I not recognize him?

    Feng Fei did not show any signs of suspicion and it appears that Xiang Shaolongs standing in her heart has been enormously elevated due to Han Chuangs testimony. She joyfully offered: Shall Feng Fei (I) excuse herself so that Marquis can have a good catching up with this old friend?

    Of course she is just being polite but to her dismay, Han Chuang vigorously nodded his head: Miss Feng is truly considerate and hospitable to our needs.

    Feng Fei was taken aback because this signifies that Xiang Shaolong is more revered by Han Chuang than herself. But since she had made the offer and could not withdraw her suggestion, Feng Fei retreated from the hall together with her serving maid Little Pinger.

    Sitting down beside Xiang Shaolong, Han Chuang gleefully remarked: Knowing that Shaolong is safe, I was so happy I could not sleep at all!

    Xiang Shaolong was in a daze after hearing his declaration. All along, he wasnt a fan of Han Chuang and never expected him to place their friendship above his loyalty to his country.

    He bitterly laughed: Do not forget that little brother (I) is still the most wanted man of your esteemed country (Han)!

    Han Chuang sighed with a breath of air: That is something beyond our control as we all strive to serve our own kings. For all you know, we may meet in the battlefield once again. However, our countries are not at war now so it is friendship above everything else!

    After a bitter smile, his eyes began to glow with deep gratitude before Han Chuang softly revealed: In that battle which I lost and was eventually captured, I thought I was destined to die there and then. Unpredictably, Shaolong set me free without the least hesitation. I, Han Chuang, have never been so touched all my life. Right now, even if someone points a sword to threaten me, I would never do anything against Shaolongs interest.

    Xiang Shaolong swore in a low voice: The day of the official coronation of the Crown Prince is the same day I will depart Qin for the wild plains beyond the borders. Therefore, Marquis need not worry about facing me in battle.

    Han Chuang was shocked: Why would Yingzheng release you? Without you, Qin is as good as a body which has lost a limb.

    Xiang Shaolong reminded: This is a pact between me and the Crown Prince. However, you must not be complacent because of my departure. Qin possesses countless valiant generals. Wang Jian, Huan Qi, Meng Wu and Meng Tian are not to be trifled with.

    Han Chuang disagreed: I do not believe there is any general who is as good as you.

    Xiang Shaolong recapped: Lest you forget, Li Mu gave me a thorough trashing and reduced me to a state of desolation.

    Han Chuang articulated: Winning and losing is part and parcel of a military life. Moreover, you were defeated in the most splendid fashion and maintained the strength of your core army. So it can hardly be considered a genuine defeat. After the skirmish, Li Mu and I had a good discussion over it and he expressed his admiration for your war strategies. He originally intended to annihilate your entire army since it is deep in foreign territory but did not expect your faction to put up a fierce resistance in sacrifice. With this dragging him down, he is unable to pursue Teng Yis main army body before they returned to Zhongmou City, missing this golden opportunity. If he had been successful, we may organize another allied campaign and attack all the way to Xianyang Capital. Aye! The difference between a win and a loss is often determined by a single stratagem.

    Xiang Shaolong laughed: Going by your reasoning, you should hate me to the core.

    Han Chuang awkwardly countered: Shaolong need not tease me. After all, whatever happened has happened. The fact that I can still stay alive and have a good time now is all due to Shaolongs kindness.

    Xiang Shaolong nodded: Since we are all comrades, we can dispense with the pleasantries and formalities. I suppose there is more than meets the eye concerning your current trip to Lin Zi.

    Han Chuang smiled: Shaolong knows me best. I personally cannot be bothered with the birthday of the King of Qi. However, I would never object to a trip to Lin Zi. Have you tried the local Qi girls? They will give you a night to remember.

    Xiang Shaolong was not the least surprised: You are incorrigible, womanizing wherever you go.

    His face turning red, Han Chuang corrected: Do not mock me for this is called: Living life to the fullest. In the future when the great Qin army marches east, the first to be eliminated is our State of Han. When that happens, it will be impossible for me to womanize even if I wanted to.

    Xiang Shaolong joked: I am just kidding.

    Han Chuang heaved a sigh of relief: Frankly speaking, I am fearful of you to a certain extent but in a respectful manner. As a result, you must speak to me in a lenient tone. Otherwise, it would be disastrous if I develop a phobia of womanizing.

    Both men exchanged a look and could not hold it any longer, bursting out in wild laughter, reveling in the sensation of barrier-less brotherhood.

    Recalling an issue, Han Chuang brought up: Did you know that the idi0t Guo Kai presented your strange weapon to the King of Qi as a birthday gift, causing a huge dilemma over whether he should accept it or not. Ultimately, somebody suggested a counter strategy where the King of Qi would bestow the weapon upon Cao Quidao and enshrined it in the main hall of Qixia College.

    Xiang Shaolong is itching all over with agony: I shall steal my Hundred Battle Sabre tonight.

    Han Chuang was aghast: You must never do that. With his maturing years, Cao Cuidao that old fellow has made tremendous advancements upon his already godly sword skills. Shaolong may be an adept sword wielder but it would be inadequate against him.

    Xiang Shaolong laughingly jested: I am going to steal, not going to rob. What is there to fear?

    Still worried as ever, Han Chuang advocated: After Shaolong make your way back to Qin, you can request Yingzheng to write a letter demanding Qi to return your weapon. I guarantee Qi would obediently follow his instructions. Why should you risk your life at this juncture?

    Xiang Shaolong inquired: Let me think about it. Hey, it may be good to flex my muscles and see some action. Oh yes, did you have a secret agreement with Feng Fei?

    Han Chuang was awkward: So you knew about it too. Is there a problem?

    Focusing his gaze on him for a while, Xiang Shaolong smiled: You really do fear me, dont you?

    Han Chuang bitterly laughed: Even Li Mu is terrified of you, not to mention me. Just tell me what you have in mind! I can never envisage your motives.

    Xiang Shaolong probed: On this occasion when Feng Fei requested for your assistance, what benefits did she promise you?

    Han Chuang sighed: Originally, it is a fair deal but since Shaolong is intervening, I shall have to painfully surrender my only opportunity to kiss Feng Fei on her lips. Xiang Shaolong was astounded: What?

    Han Chuang was surprised: You did not know about it? If I knew you have no idea, I would not have told you about it.

    Inside his mind, Xiang Shaolong is experiencing a rising tsunami. Since the beginning, regardless of Dong Shuzen or himself, everyone has been utterly deceived by Feng Fei into believing that Feng Fei will present Dong Shzuen and her fellow courtesans to Han Chuang in return for his assistance. As this arrangement appears logical from all angles, even Xiang Shaolong did not have any doubts about its existence. Only now did he realize that it was a smokescreen by Feng Fei.

    Why is she lying? What is the Head of the Three Famous Courtesans really cooking up?

    When they first met, Feng Fei disclosed that she has accepted an assassination contract to poison him but decided to give up her attempt. The mastermind behind this assassination could be her secret lover.

    He, Xiang Shaolong, has enemies all over the land. He is unable to make a guess from the countless possibilities.

    After a long while, Xiang Shaolong inhaled a deep breath to clear his mind before whispering: What does Feng Fei ask of you?

    Han Chuang divulged: She needs to hide in one of my villas in Han for about three months. When the public has lost interest in her affairs, she will take her leave.

    Xiang Shaolong questioned: Does that mean she will leave Lin Zi under your escort?

    Han Chuang confirmed: Of course. Who would dare to undermine my authority?

    Xiang Shaolong has unearthed another lie of Feng Fei for she did mentioned she would require Xiang Shaolong to assist her in leaving Lin Zi before meeting up with Han Chuang.

    What is she trying to accomplish with all these schemes?

    Han Chuang sighed: Aye, we never expected Shaolong to be involved; I guess Lord Longyang and I can only watch helplessly as our missions end in failure!

    Xiang Shaolong had a big shock: The two of you are assisting her while harbouring selfish motives?

    Han Chuang replied in a grieving tone: She is a rare and exceedingly attractive beauty. Who, in their right minds, would allow her to enter a reclusive life? Aye! In actual fact, Lord Longyang and I had a deal, letting me enjoy her for some time before allowing Lord Longyang to present her to the King of Wei. Presently, this deal is as good as gone, landing Lord Longyang in a predicament.

    Xiang Shaolong instead breathed in a mouthful of cool air before enquiring: Do you know who is Feng Feis secret lover?

    Han Chuang was mystified: Her heart has finally found a home? No wonder she became much more appealing and dazzling!

    Xiang Shaolong had a brainwave: When did you first notice this change in her?

    After some contemplation, Han Chuang slowly announced: It should be after her trip to Xianyang.

    Xiang Shaolong slapped the table and exclaimed: In this case, her lover must be someone she met in Xianyang, paving the path for her retiring and marrying mindset. But why did she have to come all the way here before slipping away? Based on her intellect, she should know that no one is reliable, even the two of you.

    Han Chuang bitterly laughed: After hearing your deductions, I am only more confounded than before. How should I proceed from here?

    Xiang Shaolong pondered: Pretend that you are still in the dark and continue to liaise with her just like before. You must take care not to leak any information. We shall discuss further at a later date.

    Han Chuang agreed: All right. I will now speak briefly with her before leaving. Are you aware of my current lodgings? I am residing at Tingmei Villa just two blocks away. Feel free to come to me if you need any help.

    When Han Chuang left for the inner courtyard to look for Feng Fei, Xiang Shaolong remained in the hall deep in thought.

    Assuming that Feng Feis lover is from Xianyang and it is the same guy who instigated her to kill himself, Xiang Shaolong, therefore, it is highly probable that her lover is someone who belongs to Lu Buweis organization. But who can it be?

    For someone to gain the affections of Feng Fei, he cannot be an ordinary folk. Can it be Guan Zhongxie or even Xu Shang?

    On a more insightful level, it doesnt make sense because if her lover is working for Lu Buwei, Lu Buwei need not go to the extent of bribing Zhang Quan to investigate the identity of her lover.

    Additionally, regardless of whether it is Guan Zhongxie or Xu Shang, neither man would abandon his glorious career for Feng Fei.

    If her lover is not related to Lu Family, then who can he be?

    In the middle of his intense, troubling speculation, Little Pinger came and invited him to see Feng Fei. He easily concluded that Han Chuang has left before entering Feng Feis room on the second storey of the main block. Once Little Pinger excused herself to the lower floor, the conniving beauty glared unwavering at him with her lovely eyes, interrogating: It seems like the powerful and influential men from various states are all your old buddies. This is really baffling, isnt it? Based on your impeccable connections, why were you living in desolation for two years in Daliang and eventually lowering yourself to become an ordinary carriage driver?

    In his mind, Xiang Shaolong was as steady as a rock for Zhang Quan genuinely recruited him from the official stables of Daliang. He plainly state: It is because they are indeed my friends that I do not wish to implicate them.

    Bewildered, Feng Fei pressed on: What do you mean by that?

    Xiang Shaolong explained in a serious tone: Guo Kai, the Premier of Zhao, and I are on irreconcilable terms. Moreover, if not for my intricate maneuvers, Great General Lian (Po) may have difficultly leaving Zhao in one piece. Thus, whoever that takes me in is akin to making himself an enemy of Guo Kai.

    Stunned for a short spell, Feng Fei slowly remarked: You are well acquainted with several influential men all over the land but your relationship with them is not clear to me. How do I know I can trust you?

    Xiang Shaolong snapped: Is there a difference? You had never trusted me.

    Her charming face turning frosty, Feng Fei unhappily disputed: Except for the early stages of knowing you, when did I display any signs of misgiving?

    Hardening his resolve, Xiang Shaolong coldly hissed: Who is Mistresss secret lover?

    Feng Fei was thunderstruck: Didnt I tell you already?

    His face wearing a cool smirk as his eyes glowed like an icy blizzard, Xiang Shaolong very slowly shook his head, exposing: That is just a delay tactic you used on me. Otherwise, Mistress would want to go to Zhongmou and not Xianyang.

    Upset, Feng Fei rebutted: Is Manager Shen being too reckless when you assumed my distrust based on this singular point?

    With thoughts running through his mind at the speed of electricity, Xiang Shaolong simply proposed: Why dont your servant (I) try to guess the identity of Mistresss secret lover, the man whom you are willing to live together with for the rest of your life.

    With a composed demeanor, Feng Fei serenely dared: Your mouth belongs to you. Guess all you want.

    Xiang Shaolong is aware that she thinks he would never make the correct guess and to be honest, he had no idea too but is just employing a scare tactic. He laughed: Does Mistress think it would be a difficult guess?

    Feng Fei shot him a look: Any more rubbish from you and I will chase you out of my room.

    Brimming with confidence, Xiang Shaolong challenged: Mistress would not bear to do so, for you love to play the scheming game. With a worthy opponent like myself, you are secretly overjoyed at my presence.

    Feng Fei howled: How dare you pass this judgment on me!

    Xiang Shaolong was steadfast: Like spotting glow worms among chicken feed, Mistress need not conceal the obvious. You should know better than anyone whether my words are true or false.

    Feng Fei was in a stupor: Glow worms in chicken feed? Are there really worms that glow? How clever of you to think of that.

    She continued in a worried tone: Say it! Do not beat around the bush.

    Xiang Shaolong was thrilled: The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. Based on your words, it is obvious that Mistresss secret lover is not Xiang Shaolong.

    Her mouth curling up with disdain, Feng Fei remarked in an ordinary tone: I am only curious at your crazy ideas. At no time did I acknowledge or deny anything.

    Moving to her back, Xiang Shaolong stretched out his hand, caressing her tender, zero fat abdomen with a small amount of strength, causing Feng Fei to moan in her sweet voice as she collapsed into his arms.

    Nibbling her cute ear lobe and deeply inhaling her womanly fragrance, Xiang Shaolong gently revealed: Your lover is from Qin and not only is he not Xiang Shaolong, he happens to be Xiang Shaolongs nemesis.

    Feng Feis petite frame trembled but she insisted: You have gone over the top. Where is the logic in all these predictions?

    Sticking his own face to her smooth face, Xiang Shaolong laughed: It is very simple logic. You believed Zhang Quan is in cahoots with me and is using me to relay a message via Zhang Quan to Lu Buwei, causing him to mistakenly assume Xiang Shaolong is your lover.

    Feng Fei wondered: But how did you infer that he is at loggerheads with Xiang Shaolong?

    Only now did Xiang Shaolong realize he has exposed his own shortcoming. In his eagerness to succeed, he has inadvertently disclosed too much of his own knowledge. Only he himself knew about the incident when Feng Fei tried to assassinate him and he obviously could not divulge this piece of information. Frowning his brows, he spouted gibberish: This news would serve to increase the enmity between Lu Buwei and Xiang Shaolong. If not for the fact that your lover is Xiang Shaolongs enemy, why would you sabotage him in such a manner?

    Feng Fei whined: Do not utter nonsense. Firstly, I did not suspect you and Zhang Quan were partners and secondly, my lover is indeed Xiang Shaolong. Aye! I am confused after hearing your analysis. Can we take a break and will you please give me a kiss?

    Xiang Shaolong plainly state: Is Mistress afraid of what I am going to say next?

    Feng Fei viciously struggled and extracted herself from his embrace. Turning her slender body around to face him, she confronted: Bring it on! I want to hear what other outrageous thoughts that you may have!

    Using a finger to prop up her chin, Xiang Shaolong lightly pecked her lips before smiling: What remains is an easy guess! In Xianyang, Xiang Shaolongs mortal enemies are Lu Buwei and Lao Ais organizations. Whoever that can gain the affections of Mistress must hold some standing in society and is likely someone with both brains and brawn. It is neither Lu Buwei nor Lao Ai themselves because otherwise, Mistress need not scheme and lie your way through. Thus, it is as clear as day who our mystery figure is.

    With a mixture of fear and shock initially printed on her face, Feng Fei instantaneously recomposed herself. Lowering her head, she conceded: Please stop your meaningless charade. Feng Fei will definitely do your bidding in the future!

    Xiang Shaolong pressured on: Finally showing your true colours? Or else you would not be singing a different tune now.

    Feng Fei angrily threatened: These are my heartfelt words; if you dont believe me, get lost.

    Out of the blue, Xiang Shaolong stood up and served another scare: I know who he is.

    Feng Fei tranquilly commented: I am very tired and I dont care if you know or do not know. I only wish for some peace and quiet right now.

    As Xiang Shaolong made his way towards the stairs, he suddenly turned back with his body shaking. Glaring ferociously at Feng Fei, he declared: He is Han Jie.

    Feng Fei was visibly shaken and there was no trace of blood on her face anymore.

  4. #264
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2004


    Book 23 Chapter 04 - Evil Upon Ones Door

    Despite Feng Feis lack of admission, Xiang Shaolong is unwaveringly assured that her lover is Han Jie.

    He can visualize Feng Fei getting to know Han Jie in Xianyang and both parties begin to rendezvous with full awareness that Lu Buwei or Lao Ai would surely object to their relationship. The critical factor is Lu Buwei is in cahoots with Lao Ai so even if Lao Ai approves of their relationship, it would still be in jeopardy.

    As a result, the couple has decided to reunite in Qi before eloping or executing a similar plan. Since Han Jie is one of Cao Cuidaos top disciples, he can openly travel with Lu Buwei to Qi with good reason.

    In this aspect, Xiang Shaolongs role as a troupe manager is absolutely crucial as Feng Fei requires someone to see to her travel arrangements and an appropriate cover up, allowing her to leave Qi unmolested.

    Supposing Han Jie is Feng Feis Prince Charming, the perpetuators behind his assassination must be a joint scheme between Lao Ai and Lu Buwei. For Feng Fei to change her mind, it must be due to her intention to elope with Han Jie. It would be unwise to bear the risk of this murder charge.

    Delving deeper, Feng Fei could be acting on Tian Dans instructions and was given the poisonous ring by Lu Buwei. With a slow acting venom taking his life several days later or a venom that causes blindness, she can safely depart once she completed her assignment.

    He may not possess all the fine details but Xiang Shaolong is confident that he has a good grasp of the big picture.

    Before he could step out of the front hall, he collided with Xiao Yuetan who had came looking for him. The two men isolated themselves in the quiet eastern chamber.

    Xiang Shaolong began: Is there a way for you to obtain a blueprint of Qixia College?

    Xiao Yuetan was incredulous: What do you want it for? Cao Cuidao is not to be trifled with.

    Xiang Shaolong explained: I am only going to steal something that rightfully belongs to me. The King of Qi has bestowed my Hundred Battle Sabre to Cao Cuidao and it is now hanging in the main hall of Qixia College.

    Xiao Yuetan questioned: I was about to tell you about it. Who did you get this information from?

    Xiang Shaolong told him everything about Han Chuangs morning visit. Knitting his brows in a giant frown, Xiao Yuetan thought long and hard in complete silence.

    He finally warned: Shaolong must not blame me for being a nag but I know Han Chuangs character very well. He is a greedy pervert and is extremely selfish. To achieve his goals, he can forsake his integrity and morals. Although he owes you a huge debt of gratitude, it makes no difference when it comes to fulfilling his agenda.

    Recalling Han Chuangs sincere outlook this morning, Xiang Shaolong found it arduous to agree with Xiao Yuetans point of view. Nevertheless Xiao Yuetan meant well and momentarily, Xiang Shaolong did not know what to reply.

    Doing his best to persuade Xiang Shaolong, Xiao Yuetan advised: Shaolong cannot afford to let your guard down. Presently, you are jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. You are not out of the woods yet. If I were you, I would never trust anyone from the Three States (Han Wei Zhao). Inversely, Li Yuan is much more reliable because at the end of the day, Chu is not under direct threat from Yingzhengs aggressiveness.

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly smiled: I am alone by myself. It would be awfully easy for Han Chuang or Lord Longyang to take my life.

    Xiao Yuetan shook his head: You are too gullible. Firstly, Han Chuang and company knows that they must remain confidential about your presence. If Qi knows the truth, the King of Qi may welcome you as a VIP and honourably escort you back to Xianyang.

    Pausing, he added: Or he may simply use this opportunity to get rid of you for good and no one will be the wiser.

    Xiang Shaolong kept silent.

    Xiao Yuetan continued: Currently, no one would dare to shoulder the responsibility of being your murderer. He who kills you today can expect the Great army of Qin descending on his city gates the next morning. I can assure you this is hardly amusing.

    Xiang Shaolong wondered: If they killed me in secret, who would know about it?

    Xiao Yuetan replied: At least Li Yuan would know. Han Chuang and Lord Longyang cannot choose to sit idle too.

    He added in laughter: Our Shaolong is not a sitting duck and your sword skills are top notched. If you managed to escape a murderous attempt and coupled with the fact that this is not the territory of the Three States, who would have the guts to try and take your life a second time round? If I were in their shoes, I would do my best to reduce your suspicions and defenses, thereafter steadily luring you into an inescapable dead end before making my move. Even with your consummate abilities, strength and tricks, it would all be useless as you are ambushed and butchered.

    Though his entire body is breaking out in cold sweat, Xiang Shaolong is still doubtful and gave a cursory assurance: I will be careful!

    The objective Xiao Yuetan nodded: Maybe I have been thinking too much! But it is better to be safe than sorry. Theoretically, Lord Longyang has tried to harm you before and it would be more challenging for him to harden his resolve to repeat this crime. However, a mans heart is unfathomable. Furthermore, this implicates the survival of ones country and clan. Shaolong had better give it some serious thought!

    Patting Xiao Yuetans shoulder, Xiang Shaolong gratefully thanked: Now, Senior Brother you is the only man I can place all my trust without any reservations. Feng Feis issue has grown in complexity.

    Xiao Yuetan hastily enquired and after Xiang Shaolong revealed his conclusions, Xiao Yuetan mused with his brows locked in a frown: I do not know Han Jie personally but seeing that he came all the way to Xianyang to seek his fortune, would he be willing to give up his career over a lady?

    Xiang Shaolong agreed: It is said that Han Jie is a member of the Han Royalty and got acquainted with Lao Ai in Han a long time ago. For someone to be a close friend of Lao Ai, one can hardly expect him to be a man of integrity. If he is out to deceive Feng Fei and does not truly love her, the problem will be bigger than what I imagined.

    Xiao Yuetan chuckled: As outsiders, it is tough for us to comprehend the truth. Feng Fei is a definitely a beauty who can cause a man to sacrifice everything for her. Why dont Shaolong have a go at her, at least it is better than letting Han Jie obtain her.

    Xiang Shaolong shook his head: Knowing that her lover is Han Jie, I would be less inclined to get involved with her.

    Slamming the table, Xiao Yuetan exclaimed: Ive got it! Feng Fei must have decided to elope to Xianyang and become Han Jies secret mistress. This matter has been approved by Lao Ai and all they need to do is keep Lu Buwei in the dark.

    Xiang Shaolong sighed: Feng Fei is really a cunning fox. Back on the ship when I confess to her that Lu Buwei is the mastermind behind Zhang Quan, she pretended to be surprise and desperate, thoroughly misleading me and implicating me in her devious scheme.

    Xiao Yuetan disclosed: I have discovered a piece of information that will only add to your worries. Are you keen to hear about it?

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly laughed: I am already numb to all these upheavals. It would not affect me much even if I know about it.

    Xiao Yuetan went on: Upon my instructions, Zongsun Heji went looking for Zongsun Long to gather intelligence and he found out that this bloodsucker secretly spread rumours among the wayward students of Qixia, professing that you are proud of your capable swordsmanship and regarded the swordsmen of Qi with contempt. Aye! What a despicable cad. He is afraid of offending Li Yuan or Xie Ziyuan to resort to this underhand, indirect attack.

    Xiang Shaolong shrugged his shoulders, remarking: Someone already tried to assault me but he failed miserably. If they wish to attack me in an open manner, there is nothing to be afraid of. Dont tell me Cao Cuidao will personally come for me!

    Xiao Yuetan cautioned: You must be extra vigilant against Ma Chenjia and Min Tingzhang. These two men enjoy creating trouble wherever they go and they simply thrive in chaos. In addition, their sword skills are truly amazing.

    Before he could complete his sentence, family warrior Fei Chun came to report in a flustered manner: Manager, bad news, a gang of hostile swordsmen have come barging in, demanding to see nobody but you.

    Both men exchanged a look of astonishment, secretly startled at the coincidence.

    Xiang Shaolong do not wish for Xiao Yuetan to be embroiled in this troublesome affair and expose their intimate friendship. He insisted on facing this rowdy crowd all by himself.

    Since he uncovered Feng Feis lies from his conversation with Han Chuang this morning, his act of chivalry is being replaced by feelings of disillusionment.

    With regards to Han Jie, which swords skills are comparable with his own, Xiang Shaolong neither adore nor detest him but if he were to label this man, Han Jie is unquestionably a man with dubious morals. Still, Feng Fei has fallen in love with his handsome looks so Feng Feis standing in his heart has fallen drastically. He may not be interested in Feng Fei but in the end, he would want her to dedicate the rest of her life to someone of good character.

    With his new change of heart, he dreams of arranging the future paths of Dong Shuzen and her fellow courtesans, thereby accomplishing his mission and retiring from the scene. He would head back to Xianyang to reunite with his pretty wives and lovely son, and wait patiently for Xiao Pans coronation and his showdown between Lu Buwei and Lao Ais organization.

    Xiao Yuetan may have pointed out Han Chuangs unreliability but he still holds faith that Han Chuang places their friendship beyond the reach of the dark side.

    Until today, he still has the nave mindset that there is goodness in everyones heart because he himself is one shining example.

    There is no one who abhors war and violence like himself but in these ancient times, it is as common as breathing.

    In the midst of his thoughts, Xiang Shaolong crossed the door ledge and took his first step into the main hall of the front courtyard.

    Five young Qi swordsmen of uneven height were standing in a single file in the centre of the hall. In the instant he treaded into the hall, he became the single focus of the ten eyeballs.

    They were dressed in lavish warrior uniforms and by simply observing their ornate swords; one could tell that they are either the descendants of high ranking officials or the sons of rich businessmen.

    Zhang Quans trusted follower Kun Shan, together with family warriors Feng Liang and Lei Yuner were wearing an angry expression on their faces as they stood at a side. It is obvious that they are annoyed at these arrogant and overbearing ruffians.

    To be honest, Xiang Shaolong is not in the best of moods and would not mind venting his frustration on these men who had volunteered to be his punching bag. He is fully aware that acting out his emotions would only serve to blow the matter out of proportion and eventually lead to confrontations with the likes of Zongsun Xuanhua, Dan Chu, Ma Chenjia and Min Tingzhang, all the best fighters of Qi.

    From their composure and aura, the five men in front of him are many notches below these accomplished swordsmen.

    Nonetheless, he could not appear too subservient. Otherwise, these opponents would take advantage of the situation, causing him to lose his standing in Lin Zi.

    Finding a balance among these factors is the true test of his competency.

    Among them, the tallest and most burly youngster coldly grunted: Are you the self-proclaimed Sword without Equal, dog-slave Shen Liang?

    Xiang Shaolong icily snorted and advanced quickly towards them.

    The five men were shocked and all their hands move to press down on the hilt of their swords.

    Halting suddenly about five feet away from the five men, his keen eyes speedily scanned and memorized the reactions of every one of them before Xiang Shaolong guffawed: Who is this gentleman here and why did you make two mistakes in a single sentence?

    The lanky and stout youth seems to be the leader of the five men pack. Staring back, he answered in a sharp voice: Throughout my life, my name is the owner of all my actions and will never change; Fast Sword Nian Chang is the gentleman you are referring to. What mistakes did I make?

    From his tone, Xiang Shaolong knew that he (Nian Chang) has been stifled by his (XSL) own awe-inspiring aura. Secretly tickled, he plainly retorted: Firstly, I do not think very much of my sword skills and secondly, I am not a dog-slave.

    Another shorter and stocky youth jested: As a servant to the courtesans, who are you but a dog-slave?

    As the other four men began to jeer and howl with laughter, somebody added: Get your Master to come out and apologise and we will consider letting you off!

    The expressions of Kun Shan, the two family warriors as well as Fei Chun who came in with Xiang Shaolong started turning ugly at the insults. In the same breath, they acknowledge that these men cannot be trifled with and were dejected with helplessness.

    With an air of unaffectedness, Xiang Shaolong acted surprised and yelled: AH! So anyone who is working for somebody else is classified as a dog-slave. Therefore, in Qi, everyone besides the King is a dog-slave too?

    The five men are all brawn and no brains. Dumbfounded, they did not know how to verbally counter him.

    His voice turning gentle, Xiang Shaolong saluted: May I boldly ask the five gentlemen here, who personally told you I boasted about my swordsmanship as being without equal. Can we find this man to corroborate his statement with me? If it turns out to be true, I, Shen Liang, would kowtow to make amends.

    The five men glanced at one another speechlessly.

    Using this break, Kun Shan interrupted: Your servant had already told you it must be somebody slandering Manager Shen!

    With an irritated expression, Nian Chang dared: Since we came all the way here, we cannot leave empty handed. Why dont Manager Shen show us a move or two?

    Xiang Shaolong cackled: This is easy. My sword skills may not be as good as the five gentlemen but I have some other tricks of my own. Watch it!

    In the middle of his roar, he lifted his left and right arm concurrently, allowing two concealed daggers to smoothly slide into his hands from his sleeves. In the same momentum, he shot out both daggers horizontally to his front, flawlessly and accurately embedding them into the frame of a window. There is no difference in height between the positions of the two daggers.

    The faces of everyone present became void of colour, including Kun Shan.

    The most challenging part is a simultaneous attack from both hands with deadly speed and accuracy.

    Conscious that he has displayed enough prowess to satisfy these clowns, he bowed and paid his respects: I have errands to run and will not send gentlemen off! He solemnly turned his back to them and left the hall.

    Under the cover of Xiao Yuetans carriage, Xiang Shaolong left Tingsong Villa and proceeded in search of the most reliable Li Yuan.

    Xiao Yuetan praised: Shaolong understood the psychology of Qi citizens very well, mindful that they value their reputation above all else. After your excellent display, the five kids would surely hide the truth and lied that you apologized to them, causing other troublemakers to lose interest in you.

    Xiang Shaolong shook his head and sighed: Zongsun Long is a Qi national too who values his reputation more than anyone else. He will not give up easily.

    Xiao Yuetan grinned: Now that you are getting Li Yuan to intercede, Zongsun Long will have to let you go no matter what happens.

    Pausing, he questioned in a low voice: Do you know that just a while ago, Feng Fei and Little Pinger were escorted by several of her trusted subordinates out of the Villa through the back door?

    Xiang Shaolong was astounded: How did you know?

    Xiao Yuetan responded: It was Yun Niang who saw it and told me about it.

    Xiang Shaolong frowned: Are they going to rendezvous with Han Jie? How I wish I can stalk her.

    Xiao Yuetan advised: You are not familiar with Lin Zi and it would be a miracle if no one discovers you.

    In this moment, the sound of hoof beats can be heard as several horses tried to catch up to the carriage from the back.

    Sticking his head out for a look, Xiang Shaolong saw that it was Boss Jin, Jin Chenjiu chasing him with several of his troupe members. Boss Jin called out: Manager Shen, please wait up.

    Xiao Yuetan commanded the driver to stop the carriage.

    Cantering to the side of the carriage window, Boss Jin professed: Is Manager Shen available for a quick chat?

    Xiang Shaolong would never reject him and nodded his head in consent. To Xiao Yuetan, he whispered: Senior Brother must remember to get me a map of Qixia College. I will make my way to Li Yuans residence on my own.

    As Xiang Shaolong disembarked from the horse carriage, Boss Jin dismounted from his horse and led him to a nearby wine house. After locating a secluded and quiet corner, he sat down and cautioned: Brother Shen! Trouble awaits you.

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly laughed: My troubles are endless as of now. An extra one would not make any difference.

    Gesturing a thumbs up, Boss Jin praised: Brother Shen is a true hero indeed. I, Boss Jin, did not befriend the wrong person.

    Xiang Shaolong can feel his heart warming up: Boss Jin is the better buddy between the two of us. What is it about?

    Boss Jin explained: Tian Dan hosted a welcoming banquet for Lu Buwei last night and both Sufang and I were present. Incidentally, I was seated at the same table with a subordinate of Zongsun Long. As we chatted idly, he asked if I knew who you are. Of course I did not tell him the truth about our friendship.

    Xiang Shaolong chortled: Are they issuing a reward for my precious head?

    Laughing raucously, Boss Jin commended: Brother Shen is really open minded. Things are not so serious yet though. Have you heard of Qixia Sword Meet?

    Xiang Shaolong shook his head to indicate his ignorance.

    Boss Jin articulated: On the first day of every month, Qixia College would host a riding and archery jamboree, providing newcomers a platform to showcase their abilities. Today is the 27th. The next Sword Meet is three days later. As usual, they would invite some guests to participate. Hey! It is just a polite way of saying it. In actual fact, they are looking for dueling opponents.

    Xiang Shaolong snickered: If they try to invite me, I would fake an illness to reject the invitation. Dont tell me they can make me attend the Sword Meet by force!

    Boss Jin sighed: The invitation cards are sent out by the King of Qi. Does Brother Shen have the guts to reject the Kings invitation? I heard that Zongsun Xuanhua, the son of Zongsun Long, is infuriated with Brother Shen and has decided to personally teach you a lesson on the dueling ground. He would not dare to take your life and only wooden swords are used but due to his sword strength, he can easily break one of Brother Shens legs.

    His brows immediately creased into a huge frown. Xiang Shaolong is not concerned about the unbeatable fighter of Lin Zi, Zongsun Xuanhua. He is more concerned that Tian Dan and Lu Buwei may be spectators at the Meet and it would be a miracle if they failed to single him out.

    Boss Jin assured in a low voice: Brother Shen should leave Lin Zi under the cover of the night. I am positive Miss Feng would not bear grudges against you.

    Xiang Shaolong is highly motivated for this is a brilliant plan but what about Dong Shuzen and the other ladies? If he left without a care, this episode would surely become a knot in his heart and he will never find peace for the rest of his life.

    Boss Jin continued to egg him on: Zongsun Longs influence is overwhelming such that even high ranking officials and men of influence and stature are terrified of him. Brother Shen can never hope to overcome him.

    Xiang Shaolong sighed with a breath of air: My utmost appreciation for Bosss reminder. I may just have a way to manage this situation.

    Finishing his sentence, he patted Boss Jin on his shoulder and went in search of Li Yuan.

  5. #265
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2004


    Book 23 Chapter 05 - Touring Cow Mountain

    Li Yuan is a guest resident at Tingzhu Villa, which is located just two streets away from Tingsong Villa. From this arrangement, one can infer that Feng Feis status is equivalent to that of a State Chancellor Li Yuan.

    Arriving at the Villa entrance, he reported his name Shen Liang to the sentry. Upon hearing his name, the guard came to attention and respectfully saluted: Good day to you Master Shen, Chancellor has left instructions about your possible visit. However, Chancellor has just left the Villa. Would Master Shen like to leave a message?

    Xiang Shaolong initially wanted to leave a note asking Li Yuan to come and look for him but rationalize that it is inappropriate given his lowly status. He simply remarked: I have to trouble Mister to inform Chancellor that I did came by. Thats all.

    At this juncture, the central gate swung wide open and an elaborate carriage escorted by several riders in the front and back drove out of the residence. As the carriage window curtains are not drawn up, the passenger could not been seen.

    As the carriage drew further and further away, Xiang Shaolong suppressed the urge to inquire about its occupant and began trekking his way home.

    The weather was excellent; it was cold but it was a comfortable kind of cool. As Xiang Shaolong strode along the congested and lively streets among other pedestrians and vehicles, his heart, on the other hand, was feeling lonely and solitary.

    While he was on the run, all his energy and time is dedicated towards avoiding enemy search teams and related considerations. Although he has entered Lin Zi and is now surrounded by both old and new friends, he was feeling lonesome instead.

    He glanced about his surroundings, soaking in the magnificent views of the Qi Capital, deeply experiencing the meaning of the proverb Surrounded by luxury, feeling sad and lonely.

    Besides Xiao Yuetan, there is no one he could trust.

    The most maddening fact is that he did not have any warriors at his personal disposal. Otherwise, he could simply send someone to keep Han Chuang under surveillance and easily determine if Han Chuang would betray him or not. For example, if Han Chuang visits Guo Kai on a regular basis, it would indicate his disloyalty.

    The Three States have always been on intimate terms with one another and Guo Kais Lady Boss is Han Chuangs clanswoman Han Jing. If he wants to do something against Xiang Shaolongs interests, both men would definitely form a partnership. Under those circumstances, even Lord Longyang could not voice his objection.

    Their only stumbling block is Li Yuan but whether Li Yuan would risk offending the Three States to protect him is still an unknown fact.

    As his mind weighed down with these issues, his senses suddenly tingled with alarm. A single horseman is seen riding towards him from the front and as he got nearer, the rider gazed downwards at him, checking: How do I address Brother?

    Xiang Shaolong stared at him with astonishment and after confirming that he has never seen this man before in his life, he raised his alertness and quizzed: What is going on?

    The rider was reasonably polite and smiled: My Mistress is Lady Qingxiu and I was commanded by her to invite Mister to meet her. As Mistress did not tell me the honourable name of Mister, I had to trouble you for it.

    Realizing that the convoy which departed earlier from Tingzhu Villa belongs to Lady Qingxiu, Xiang Shaolong secretly thought: either Li Yuan has told her about his presence in Lin Zi or his disguise is really terrible.

    Thus, he gave his name as Shen Liang and accompanied the horseman to meet this beauty who has had an unhappy marriage.

    Boarding Lady Qingxius carriage that was waiting by the roadside, the beauty who has concealed her gorgeous face behind a few layers of veil greeted in her usual wintery voice: How are you doing, Great General! Please sit beside Qingxiu.

    Xiang Shaolong is feeling disappointed that he did not get to see her face. Additionally, he is conscious that her invitation for him to sit down beside her is not because of intimacy but rather a more convenient way to hold a secret conversation. He hurriedly stabilized his emotions and sat down.

    A whiff of womanly fragrance began invading his nose and mind as the carriage move slowly along the busy highway of the ancient capital.

    All of a sudden, his loneliness has completely evaporated. As the carriage shook occasionally, causing their shoulders to knock against each other, he could not help but recall the wonderful and moving time in Daliang when Ji Yanran shared a similar episode with him.

    Lady Qingxiu plainly state: Great Generals masquerade is truly brilliant. If not for Qingxiu hearing about Great Generals arrival in Lin Zi from Chancellor Li (Yuan), I would not have recognized you.

    A relieved Xiang Shaolong bitterly smiled: I certainly hope Chancellor Li would not tell everyone he met that I am here in the State of Qi.

    Lady Qingxiu was displeased: Chancellor Li is not someone who does not know what he is doing. He did not hide the truth from me because after all, Qingxiu is the best friend of Grand Tutor Qin!

    Xiang Shaolong shot his mouth off: I thought Your Ladyship is not on good terms with Chancellor Lee!

    Looking out of the window through the curtain, Lady Qingxiu kept silent for some time before softly suggesting: It is snowing again. I wonder what scenery Cow Mountain will offer? Is Great General interested to accompany Qingxiu for a tour of Cow Mountain?

    Xiang Shaolong did not expect her to propose a tour out of the blue and even invited him to accompany her. He stammered: Cow Mountain? At the same time, his heart was filled with surprise and shock at her warm hospitality.

    The sky began to darken as flakes of snows gently and feebly descended on earth.

    Appearing to be in deep contemplation, Lady Qingxiu stared out of the window and gently articulated: Touring Cow Mountain during the rainy Spring season is widely regarded as the top attraction among the eight top touring locations of Lin Zi. Due to recent deforestation, Cow Mountain is wastefully degenerating into a barren highland. Fortunately, after a bout of tree planting, it is overheard that it has regained its spread of bountiful forestry and seas of greenery. Of course this cannot be seen as it is still winter!

    Xiang Shaolong finally discovered the origin of the saying: As barren as Cow Mountain. He nodded: Since Your Ladyship is feeling adventurous, I dare not reject your offer.

    After instructing the convoy to proceed towards Cow Mountain, Lady Qingxiu enthused with anticipation: When Qingxiu was young, I did visit Cow Mountain with my late father. It was in March during Spring. There were gushing streams formed by spring water seeping out of crevices of Cow Mountain, materializing into a descending body of water. With mass evaporation, it resembles a combination of rain and mist, giving the impression of a smoky downpour. Till today, the scene is deeply ingrained in my memory.

    Listening to her eloquent description and witnessing her graceful aura, Xiang Shaolong was immensely mesmerized. Secretly picturing her face veils to be the smoky rain of Cow Mountain, he was bedazzled at her attractive though blurry face.

    Lady Qingxiu continued: Qingxiu is always perturbed when revisiting past sites of beautiful sceneries. I am deeply fearful that it may become different from what I previously remembered.

    Xiang Shaolong was taken aback: Then why are we revisiting this attraction?

    Lady Qingxiu shook her head slowly: I do not understand too. Maybe it is because I am presently accompanied by the earth-shattering figure Xiang Shaolong!

    Xiang Shaolong noted: It appears that I hold certain weightage in the heart of Your Ladyship.

    Glancing at him, Lady Qingxiu whispered: Earlier, when I noticed Great General standing alone outside the Villa gates and comparing it to Great General being at the top of the command chain in Xianyang, I can clearly experience a world of difference between the two and the intense sensation of how things have changed with the times. Finally, I could not bear it and had to stop my carriage to see Great General. Does Great General find me ridiculous?

    Xiang Shaolong was startled: So Your Ladyship is feeling sympathetic towards me.

    Shaking her head, Lady Qingxiu clarified: It is not sympathy but adoration. Does Great General know that you are in grave danger?

    At this moment, the carriage drove through the city gates and headed towards the south.

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly smiled: I am sure there is a logical explanation behind Your Ladyships words. Shaolong is all ears.

    Lady Qingxiu simply admired: In my entire life, it is once in a blue moon for Qingxiu to experience anything that matches Great Generals nonchalance and indifference about his safety. Even if it is not on the account of Senior Sister Qin, Qingxiu would assist you all the same.

    Suppressing his voice to a lower volume, Xiang Shaolong questioned: Can your bodyguards be trusted?

    Lady Qingxiu assured: Great General can put your mind at ease! These family warriors have been in my service for over ten years; in addition, they would never have guessed that you are Xiang Shaolong! After a pause, she leaned in closer and speak with her breath landing on his ear and her veil occasionally rubbing against his face: Chancellor Li entered the palace yesterday to look for my sister, Lady Ning and was wearing a depressed and pained expression. Only upon my interrogation did he reveal your affairs.

    Xiang Shaolong was thunderstruck: This is bad. Did he say anything else?

    Lady Qingxiu lamented: He would never confide the truth to me but I am certain that he truly appreciates and view Great General as his bosom buddy. However, he is the Chancellor and it is more often than not where he has to put aside his personal feelings and put the States interests above his own. Otherwise, he would not be so troubled.

    As if she does not want to get too close to him, Lady Qingxiu suddenly turned her face away, sighing a breath as she gazed out of the window.

    Sighing along with her, Xiang Shaolong was speechless for some time. He concluded that when Li Yuan initially saw him, that was his genuine and authentic behavior but in afterthought, reality and practicability would set in. His troubled mind could also be due to Han Chuang giving pressure.

    Except for Xiao Yuetan, who else can he trust now?

    A word at a time, Lady Qingxiu slowly advised: If not for the terrible weather, I would recommend Great General to simply depart now that we are outside the city. It will be a good and clean getaway.

    Recalling the days when he was critically ill and staggering along the unfamiliar roads of Daliang, Xiang Shaolong was filled with apprehension. He sighed: I still have some unfinished business. Besides, I would certainly not be a sitting duck even if someone tries to come after me. Aye! Before Your Ladyships warning, I did anticipate this development.

    Lady Qingxiu nodded: History has long proven Xiang Shaolong to be someone who is able to overcome danger and difficulties. Until now, no one has a clear picture of what is going. Maybe I am just overly worried! Abruptly, she joyfully pointed to a faraway hill beyond the window and exclaimed: Look! That is the tomb of Guan Zhong, the famed Premier who assisted Henggong to acclaimed success and dominance.

    Naturally leaning forward and trailing her far gaze, Xiang Shaolong can only see the mountainous wilderness blanketed with a layer of silver snow and every tree branch laden with snowflakes. It was an absolutely spotless, breath-stopping white wonderland. The snowy landscape seems to have merged with the sky, resulting in no difference between the two.

    Not far away a huge mountain stood erected as River Zi and River Nv, the two rivers meandered from east to west. Lined along the river shores were towering, centuries-old pine and birch trees. The backdrop was unbelievable.

    Several mountains were connected to the first along the southern direction, forming a series of peaking mountain range. It was a breathtaking sight.

    Lady Qingxiu lowered her head, softly remarking: Great General, you

    Only now did Xiang Shaolong realize his own chest is tightly pressed against the side of her shoulder. He awkwardly shifted away and after observing the environment, he perceived: Without a ship to cross the river, we cannot ascend the mountain and enjoy the fantastic view from above!

    Lady Qingxiu simply decided: It is time to go back! If I wanted to look for Great General in the future, what should I do?

    Noticing her tone turning chilly, Xiang Shaolong can feel his pride swelling and replied in a low voice: Your Ladyship has better not get involved in this matter. Life and Death is predetermined. If Heaven does not bless me, Xiang Shaolong, what can I do? Man cannot go against the Will of Heaven.

    Lady Qingxiu lightly shuddered: Man cannot go against the Will of Heaven. Great General is indeed open-minded. I shall not interfere any further.

    Back at Tingsong Villa, Xiang Shaolongs mind is still persistently filled with images of Lady Qingxiu.

    He could not understand the strong influence she exerts over him. It could be due to her indifferent and cold attitude towards life or her graceful style of cool arrogance that has moved his heart.

    Fortunately, he is bristling with alertness at the slightest sign of danger. Using his spare time, he analyzed the layout of Tingsong Villa down to the smallest details in readiness of a swift evacuation in times of peril. Only after retrieving his grappling hooks and ropes and securely fastening them around his waist did he finally steadied his frayed nerves.

    Once he settled some routine troupe responsibilities and visited the bedridden but recovering Zhang Quan, he retreated to his own room for a break. Just as he was about to fall asleep, Dong Shuzen came a knocking.

    Hugging his blanket, Xiang Shaolong sat up as Dong Shuzen nestled herself on the side of his bed. She was astonished: Has Manager Shen caught a cold?

    Xiang Shaolong laughed: I am as fit as a fiddle and can kill two tigers right now. What is the purpose behind Second Mistresss visit?

    Calming down from her shock, Dong Shuzen patted her perky bosom, exclaiming: You gave me a fright! Shooting him a look, she admonished: Must I visit you only when I have a purpose? Come! Let me give you a massage. I guarantee you will have a good nap thereafter.

    Flipping his body and lying prostrate on his bed, Xiang Shaolong was pleased: Let me experience the excellent massage skills of Second Mistress.

    Dong Shuzen took off her outer coat and conveniently kicked her cotton shoes away. Sitting on his back, she reached out and grinded his shoulder muscles, revealing in a low voice: I have discovered the culprit who switched the song sheet.

    Without thinking at all, Xiang Shaolong remarked: It is Little Ning. Little Ning is Zhu Xiuzhens personal serving maid.

    Dong Shuzen was thrilled: This time round, Manager Shen is wrong. The criminal is Zhang Quan himself. Little Ning did catch him acting sneakily near her room and found the room to be slightly untidy upon entering but did not think too much about it. She only confessed to this after Xiuzhens interrogation.

    Xiang Shaolong shook his head: I do not believe a word of it. It is Little Ning framing Zhang Quan for her own wrongdoing. Ow! This spot is really comfortable. I am going to doze off!

    Dong Shuzen panicked: Do not doze off yet. Do you have any news regarding the promise you committed to me?

    Xiang Shaolong knows she is asking about the issue of Feng Fei allowing her to sing solo for one of the routines. Distressed, he honestly admitted: I have not had the opportunity to talk to her about it. Shall I update you tomorrow instead?

    Dong Shuzen prone down and embraced him in a bear hug, biting his ear as she questioned: I heard that you and Han Chuang go way back and are old buddies. Would you assist him in harming me?

    Xiang Shaolong is not as confident about Han Chuang as before. He bitterly smiled: We are just acquaintances! And definitely not old buddies as you mentioned. Second Mistress can put your mind at ease. As long as I am still breathing, I would do my best for Second Mistress.

    Dong Shuzen shivered once and wondered: Shen Liang, why are you sounding so negative today? Where has your confidence and willpower disappeared to?

    Xiang Shaolong did a big body flip, pressing her below his body and greedily kissing her tender lips. It was only when she began to moan did he release her, explaining: Life is unpredictable; no man can be confident about everything in the future. We can only strive to do our best which is why I require full trust and cooperation from both of you.

    Her pupils dilating as she stared at him, Dong Shuzens eyes begin to shine with searing flames of passion as she whispered: You are not only into men (but women as well).

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly laughed: When did I ever admit I am into men? At the same time, he was becoming highly aroused.

    Ever since he reckoned the possibility of betrayal by Han Chuang or the others, his spirits have sunk to unfathomable depths and are at an all time low. He was desperate to indulge in some excitement to distract himself and Dong Shuzen has volunteered to provide the excitement he needs.

    Maybe it is only through her 5exy figure can he forget about all the unhappy events.

    Hooking his neck with her arms, Dong Shuzen softly dared: Words are just empty talk. I need to see some real action to prove that you are into women.

    As his wall of determination came crashing down, Xiang Shaolong lowered his head and was about to taste the lipstick on her lips when someone called out beyond his door: Master Shen, Official Xie Ziyuan is here and is waiting for you in the main hall.

    Xiang Shaolong can feel a sense of uneasiness. There are several hours till sunset. Why is Xie Ziyuan so early?
    Last edited by kohchun; 08-10-13 at 12:15 AM.

  6. #266
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2004


    Book 23 Chapter 06 - Expired Love

    Xie Ziyuan had a ghastly expression on his face and appears to be in distress. The moment he saw Xiang Shaolong, he began dragging him towards the main entrance, explaining: Little Brother unexpectedly has something urgent to attend to and may not be able to fetch Brother Shen at the predetermined time. Therefore, I chose to come by much earlier.

    Xiang Shaolong suggested: Since Brother Xie has an important task at hand, we can simply postpone our activities.

    Xie Ziyuan shook his head and apologized: That would land me in hot soup. Originally, I thought of sending someone to fetch you but felt that was inappropriate after reconsideration. Moreover, it is more convenient this way, as I will be passing by. Once I delivered Brother Shen back to my residence, youll have to make do without Little Brother for some time.

    As the two men stepped out of the main gate, they entered the square where thirty odd family warriors were awaiting their esteemed presence with horses and a carriage.

    This is the first time Xiang Shaolong witness Xie Ziyuan in such a grand and imposing procession. He was amazed: Brother Xie is truly awe-inspiring.

    Shaking his head, Xie Ziyuan sighed: It is not my style to take on a high profile but Zongsun Long demanded I do so. Lets speak further in the carriage.

    An attendant opened the carriage door and the two men climbed aboard, taking their respective seats. As the carriage drove out of the Villa, Xie Ziyuan sighed with a breath: Dont be misled by the lively and prosperous appearance of Lin Zi. Behind the scenes, every person can barely fend for themselves and one will never know when trouble will come knocking.

    Xiang Shaolong probed in a low voice: Is Brother Xie referring to the two princes fighting for the throne of Qi?

    Xie Ziyuan was astounded: I did not expect Brother Shen to know about these insider information.

    Xiang Shaolong wondered: I just have a rough idea about what is going on. Looking at Brother Xies heavy frown, has something abrupt happened, causing Brother Xie so much anxiety?

    Sighing again, Xie Ziyuan insisted in a deep voice: For Brother Shen, some things are better left unknown. I shall send Brother Shen to my residence first for a talk with my wife. After meeting Zongsun Long, I shall return back to see Brother Shen. Hey! No matter what, we must definitely have a good time tonight. Brother Shen should be capable of negotiating with my wife, right?

    Xiang Shaolong had a good laugh: I thought Brother Xie has forgotten all about it.

    Xie Ziyuan bitterly laughed: Compared to all previous occasions, Little Brother is most wanting now for a visit to a brothel to de-stress.

    Xiang Shaolong is concerned about Shan Rou and his love covers her family, which includes Xie Ziyuan as well. Nonetheless, he is conscious that Xie Ziyuan would not easily reveal the intricacies of the palace infighting to an outsider like himself. His mind thinking at the speed of electricity and grasping the genuine reason, he tested his theory: Is it Lu Buwei deploying some devious scheme?

    Xie Ziyuan was thunderstruck: How did Brother Shen know about this?

    Lowering his voice, Xiang Shaolong clarified: I did stay in Xianyang for a period of time and was on extremely good terms with the movers and shakers of the Qin Court, leading to my familiarity with Lu Buweis evil methods, resulting in my calculated guess.

    Xie Ziyuan was caught in a daze for a while before reflecting: Movers and Shakers. This is the first time Little Brother has heard this phrase and after thinking thoroughly, it is such an apt description. Who are the people that Brother Shen is familiar with?

    Xiang Shaolong mentioned the names Li Si, the Lord Changping Brothers and naturally included his own name.

    Upon hearing, Xie Ziyuan was left gaping with his mouth wide open and tongue-tied. Exhaling a breath, he observed: That means Brother Shen is well-acquainted with the loyal subjects of Yingzheng? The best of the lot is Xiang Shaolong. Despite using every trick in the book, Lu Buwei is still unable to trip him up. By the way, Brother Shen, is Yingzheng the son of Lu Buwei and Zhu Ji?

    Xiang Shaolong resolutely affirmed: Of course not! Otherwise, their relationship would not be so strained. What did Lu Buwei do exactly that has caused Brother Xie so much agony? Did he make some remarks to your Great King?

    Xie Ziyuan is truly a kind soul. Shaking his head, he enlightened: The affairs which I am involved in are of such importance that any allusions would result in the extermination of ones clan. Little Brother is afraid of implicating Brother Shen. It is better for Brother Shen to stay out of this.

    Xiang Shaolong knows that it would be unkind to press on any further and he secretly swore to prevent anyone from exterminating the household of Shan Rou. However, he is unable to come up with a suitable solution for he is unaware of the whole picture.

    Xie Ziyuan changed the topic: It seems like Feng Fei holds Brother Shen in high regard!

    Remembering the ever-complex relationship between Feng Fei and himself, he plainly muttered a reply. Focusing his attention back to the succession dispute of Qi, he realized that he could not longer ignore this event for it has a direct impact on Shan Rous household.

    Tian Dan and Lu Buwei are professionals when it comes to the scheming game. Faced with opponents like Zongsun Long, Xie Ziyuan and supported by the other States, it is still unclear who will be the final victor.

    It would be wonderful if Zou Yan is still around. All this world-famous fortune telling grandmaster has to do is to point to the stars and say a few words to overpower all the persuasion and debating strategies thrown at the King of Qi.

    By this time, the carriage has arrived at Xie Residence and Xiang Shaolong disembarked. Without dismounting at all, Xie Ziyuan rode the same carriage to Zongsun Longs Villa for a secret meeting with their allies.

    A maid led Xiang Shaolong into the inner residence to see Shan Rou. Along the way, Xiang Shaolong repeatedly warned himself mentally, reminding himself that Shan Rou has become the wife of another man and there must not be any rekindling of past love. Otherwise, he would be acting against his own conscience.

    Shan Rou, without a doubt, is still Shan Rou. Without the slightest display of womanly vulnerability, she expectedly chased all her servants to the side hall before going straight to the point: Have I become a man-eating tiger after getting married? How dare you flee for your life at the first sight of me? Have you developed a habit of running for your life?

    Continuing with a pu ci giggle, she shot him a look with the aura of a milf, laughing as she panted: An ******* will be an ******* wherever he goes. How dare you collaborate with Ziyuan to deceive me? If not for Zhi Zhis (Zhao Zhi) account, I would have broken both your dog legs.

    Witnessing Shan Rous ferociousness, Xiang Shaolong was instead relieved. Vulgarly taking a seat, he smiled: Why arent you bringing me your two white and chubby sons for a look? Little Brother is extremely fond of anyone who resembles Madam Rou. Are they born inherently with fist fighting and leg kicking skills?

    Shan Rou laughed heartily like the shaking of flowers on branches, collapsing onto the floor. She wailed: How I wish I can give you a beating right now. Aye! After become the Mistress of the Xie household, it is not easy to find someone who would retaliate physically or verbally. With Master unwilling to duel and coupled with his batch of useless disciples, my hands are really itching.

    Xiang Shaolong finally understood: No wonder Brother Xie is terrified of you.

    Glaring viciously at him, Shan Rou hissed: Dont make me sound so frightening. Shall we have a friendly duel using wooden swords?

    Xiang Shaolong had a brainwave: Your Master has four top disciples and I know two of them are Han Jie and Zongsun Xuanhua. Who are the other two?

    With a look of contempt on her face, Shan Rou disparaged: What four top disciples? I have no idea. I only know Master is most fond of me, Shan Rou. That turtle egg Zongsun Xuanhua is just a cowardly good for nothing. Every time I suggested a friendly exchange, he would make up all sorts of excuses. How I wish I could cut his balls off. Hee!

    Hearing that, Xiang Shaolong could not help but hold his tummy and burst out into laughter. Even though this obstinate beauty has become a mother of two children, she did not lose a single bit of her unique style, satisfying him to a great extent. He took the opportunity to ask: Does Tian Dan know you have become Madam Xie?

    Shan Rou coldly grunted: So what if he knows about it. That old crook should prepare a huge prayer session to thank his ancestors and Heaven that I did not pursue the matter any further. Aye! It is really bizarre. After killing the fake dummy, all the hatred and anger in my heart has dissipated. Although that villain is still alive and kicking, I have long regarded him as a dead man.

    Xiang Shaolong grew solemn: Shall we talk about something more serious? Are you familiar with Han Jie? What kind of person is he? What is his character like?

    Pouting her cute little mouth, Shan Rou scorned: What kind of good man would end up as Lao Ais partner in crime? He has earned neither my admiration nor respect. However, his sword skills do hold water.

    She suddenly frowned: Why are you not on your way back to Xianyang? Zhi Zhi must be worried sick.

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly smiled: I ended up here because there was no other way out. Do you think I am here to tour the local sights?

    Shan Rou nodded: I heard both the roads and the river has been blockaded due to several days of continuous snow storm. One cannot survive without a decent fire stove. When the weather gets better, I will get Ziyuan to send you away!

    Xiang Shaolong had a big shock: You must never do that. Brother Xie must not know about my real identity. If this matter leaks out, he would be found guilty of deceiving the King.

    Shan Rou proudly declared: Based on the reputation of the Xie Family, worse come to worse, he would only lose his official post. Whats so good about being an official?

    Xiang Shaolong is aware that her hatred and opposition is due to her father holding an official post and eventually facing a clan extermination order. He agreed: Brother Xie is too kind and gullible! It is not very suitable for someone of his character to thrive in officialdom.

    Shan Rou chuckled: Neither you nor him are good people anyway; forever thinking of having a good time outside with other women. You nearly became an accomplice.

    Xiang Shaolong simply reasoned: The less he gets, the more he wants. You can try forcing him to visit brothels for ten straight nights. I guarantee he would be so sick of them he would avoid them like plague in the future. Besides, he visits brothels for inspiration for his music composition and is not really sleeping around.

    Her almond shaped eyes staring at him, Shan Rou interrogated: Did he plead with you to negotiate with me on his behalf?

    In actual fact, like Xie Ziyuan, Xiang Shaolong is terrified of Shan Rou. He raised his arms, surrendering: Big Sister Rou should know whose side I am on!

    Thawing, Shan Rou sweetly smiled: Of course I know la! It is wonderful that you are here. How about this? While Ziyuan is having a good time outside, you shall accompany me.

    Xiang Shaolong stammered: What?

    Shan Rou justified: It is only fair!

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly smiled: To be honest, I am spending every day thinking of how to preserve my life. I

    Shan Rou scolded: Forget it! You think you are so desirable? Who needs your company? Both of you better scram as far as you can; otherwise, do not blame me for being merciless.

    Xiang Shaolong was dumbfounded at her words.

    Shan Rou instead shot him a look and cackled with a pu ci: Im just scaring you. How would I bear to chase you away? Master Xiang is little girls first lover. If I cannot even grant such a small request, how can you face up to Ziyuans expectations? How about this? I shall permit the two of you to have all the fun you want tonight but you must return by 11 oclock, otherwise, Ziyuan will have to sleep at your place. Rubbing her tummy, she wailed: We shall not wait for Ziyuan any longer! Im hungry.

    When dinner is over and there is still no sight of Xie Ziyuan, Xiang Shaolong took the opportunity to bid farewell and made his way back to Tingsong Villa. Just as he stepped into the Villa, the sentry reported: Chancellor Li from Chu sent someone to look for Master Shen but Master Shen is not around so he left. Hey. Master Shen is truly well connected. Our band of brothers will follow you in the future!

    In his mind, Xiang Shaolong was thinking: I can barely fend for myself, how am I supposed to take care of so many of you? As he gave a token response, this young family warrior named Chi Zichun lowered his voice and disclosed: Your servant has something to report to Master Shen. It is something for Master Shen to be aware of and it mustnt be known to others that it was I who leaked this information to you.

    Xiang Shaolong was surprised: What is it?

    Chi Zichun began: Earlier today, I saw Gu Ming and Fang Sheng behaving in a suspicious manner and the two men slipped out into the streets. I decided to stalk them and witnessed them conversing with Sa Li. I believe they are up to no good and I am worried that they are plotting something against you, Master Shen.

    Xiang Shaolong thought: I have my limitations and cannot cope with so many issues cropping up at the same time.

    The best solution is to make another pair of ice skis and while the snow outside the city is waist deep, it is the perfect timing to skate away. Even if all the soldiers of the six states were to jointly pursue him, it would still be fruitless.

    This plan is indeed appealing but the problem lies with him being unable to convince himself. Moreover, Xie Ziyuans problem is unresolved and he can never leave with a peace of mind.

    Patting Chi Zichuns shoulder and dispatching some words of encouragement, he ambled towards the inner courtyard.

    Chi Zichun instead caught up to him and pulled him to a corner before adding: These is something more I need to tell Master Shen. Upon Gu Mings return, he went to look for Second Mistress. Following that, Second Mistress and Miss Xiuzhen left the Villa too.

    Xiang Shaolong was burning with rage. Up till today, Dong Shuzen and Zhu Xiuzhen dont know whats good for them and have remained in cahoots with Sa Li. To think he is still risking his life by staying behind for their sake.

    Back at the inner residence, Xiao Yuetan is waiting for him in a small side hall in the same courtyard where his bedroom is located. He gleefully exclaimed: Big Brother has fulfilled your request. Look!

    As he spoke, he produced a roll of parchment from his bosom and opened it up for Xiang Shaolongs perusal. It was indeed a blueprint of Qixia College that Xiang Shaolong desired.

    Xiang Shaolong was overjoyed: Thats fast. Xiao Yuetan enlightened: It took me four long hours to finish drawing it.

    Pointing to the city gate drawn on the right side of the map, he gushed: This gate is named Beishou Gate and is situated at the west of Big City. It is also known as Qi gate and the college is beyond it. Qixia College is built near the river, increasing transportation conveniences. With the river flowing partially around it, the college becomes even more mesmerizing to look at and is among the top eight touring sites of Lin Zi. It is a must-see attraction.

    Scrutinizing the parchment map, Xiang Shaolong sighed: Qixia College is like a small city outside the city. It even has its own city wall and roads. If I were to abruptly barge in looking for my sabre, it would be like finding a needle in a haystack.

    Drawing attention to a cluster of magnificent buildings, Xiao Yuetan indicated: This is Qixia Hall, serving as the assembly grounds for the college as well as the place where all ceremonies and prayers would be held. Your Hundred Battle Sabre is hanging on the south wall of the big hall.

    Xiang Shaolong was fiercely determined: Tonight is the night I will get my sabre back.

    Xiao Yuetan was stunned: This is not the best time, right? Why dont Shaolong steal the sabre when you are about to leave Qi? Xiang Shaolong swore: After I steal the sabre tonight, I will leave Lin Zi first time tomorrow morning, saving Han Chuang and his conspirators plenty of headache and consideration.

    Xiao Yuetan was mystified: The heavy snow has paralyzed all forms of transportation beyond Lin Zi City, how are you going to leave?

    Xiang Shaolong confidently assured: I have my ways of travelling across heavy snow, otherwise, I would not have landed up here. Big Brother can put your mind at ease.

    Xiao Yuetan frowned: It would be best if you can leave here immediately but didnt you commit to assisting Feng Fei, Dong Shuzen and the other courtesans?

    Xiang Shaolong coldly hissed: That is purely my one-sided and nave thinking. In fact, I am merely one of their pawns. Presently, I am feeling disheartened and will only make plans for myself.

    His words are filled with strong emotions. Right now, his only worry is Shan Rou. However, the internal strife of Qi is beyond his jurisdiction and he cannot help much even if he stays.

    The minute he decides to leave the next morning, he can feel his entire body relaxing tremendously. Whatever that is about to happen is totally none of his business.

    Since Feng Fei, Dong Shuzen and the others are treating him like an id1ot, why should he occupy himself with their affairs?

    Xiao Yuetan supported: I will prepare clothing and provisions for you at once. Tomorrow morning, I shall smuggle you out of the City.

    Suddenly recalling something, he frowned: How are you going to steal your sabre tonight? Unless you have a special travel pass, nobody is going to open the city gates for you in the middle of the night.

    Slapping his forehead, Xiang Shaolong cursed: I forgot the city gates would be closed. He began to feel anxious as he can foresee snow accumulating on the walls of the city, causing them to be impossible to climb. But he continued brainstorming at the speed of light, rationalizing that if even Mount Everest can be scaled, what is a measly city wall? Inspired, he wondered: Is there any way Elder Brother can get his hands on a dozen iron chisels?

    Seemingly understanding his intentions, Xiao Yuetan was pleased: Tomorrow, I will buy them for you from the blacksmith along the neighbouring street! Do you need a hammer too?

    Xiang Shaolong chuckled: Since I am going to steal, I might as well steal the hammer and chisels tonight. It would shield Elder Brother from any future implications too.

    Xiao Yuetan agreed: Since you are planning on leaving, it is always better to leave earlier than later. Reaching out and holding Xiang Shaolongs hand, he hinted: After Lu Buweis downfall, I may accompany you to the borderlands. I am really sick of the Central Plains.

    When Xiao Yuetan left, Xiang Shaolong retrieved Bloodwave and inspected the climbing equipment on his body. Upon completion, he is still feeling agitated so he concealed a dagger on each calf and had a short rest before putting on his clothes and heading to the rear entrance of the Villa.

    With heavy snow continuously landing from above, everybody within the Villa is keeping to his or her respective bedrooms.

    When the rear entrance came into sight, Xiang Shaolongs senses suddenly picked up something and he hastily scrambled behind a large tree.

    The rear entrance door sprung open and three silhouettes slipped in.

    Borrowing whatever blurred illumination the faraway lanterns could offer, Xiang Shaolong recognised two of them to be Feng Fei and Little Pinger. The third person is a tall and imposing man whose face remains hidden.

    After a reluctant Feng Fei converse briefly with the man, he reminded in a deep voice: You must not let your heart soften. This Shen Liang is only after your money and body.

    Xiang Shaolong was shaken for he could pinpoint the voice to be that of Han Jies.

    There is a difference between knowing something and affirming something. All of a sudden, he is beginning to resent Feng Fei. Based on her intelligence, she could not tell that beyond Han Jies handsome outlook, he is basically a wolf in sheeps clothing.

    Feng Fei had wanted to say something but held herself back and sighed with a breath.

    When Han Jie left, both owner and servant returned back to their building.

    Hit by a brainwave, Xiang Shaolong ran out in pursuit. In the dark alley, the carriage Han Jie was using to send Feng Fei home was about to drive off.

    As the alley is narrow and slippery, the carriage is moving at a slow pace.

    Xiang Shaolong darted over and scaled the back of the carriage, noiselessly landing on the roof and prostrating down.

    He did not think about the purpose of this tactic and is just trying his luck. If the carriage is not heading towards his ideal direction, he can leave anytime he wants.

    With this kind of weather, it is a perfect setting for crime.

  7. #267
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2004


    Book 23 Chapter 07 - The Sword Saint Of Qixia

    The carriage made a turn onto the highway and began picking speed.

    Glancing around and trying to make sense of his surroundings, Xiang Shaolong concluded that the carriage is not moving in the direction of the Chancellor Residence where Lu Buwei is supposedly residing. Where is Han Jie heading to? He wondered.

    He initially wanted to make use of Han Jies carriage to discreetly leave the Villa, avoiding the detection of spies who are keeping Tingsong Villa under surveillance. However, his curiosity is significantly aroused and he might as well enjoy his free ride and investigate further.

    A long night looms ahead and there is more than sufficient time for him to execute his original grand scheme.

    Pulling up his hood from his windbreaker, he was feeling at ease.

    Ever since Xiao Yuetans morning warning, the fear of betrayal by his buddies has formed an indistinguishable source of stress, making him bitter and despondent. The moment he vowed to leave with great determination, the horror has completely disappeared without a trace. His only concern is Shan Rou. If Xie Ziyuan turned out to be the loser in this conflict, based on Tian Dans cruel methods, Shan Rou could face another calamity of clan extermination. Regarding this, he is at his wits end and can only look on helplessly.

    As the carriage swerve left and right occasionally, it finally entered the highway leading to Xie Residence.

    Xiang Shaolong was astounded. Who is Han Jie rendezvousing?

    The carriage came to a stop at the main gate of Zongsun Longs residence. The next second, a side door swung open as a tall and remarkable fellow dashed out and swiftly boarded the carriage.

    Once again, the carriage began to move forward slowly.

    Xiang Shaolong is incredibly puzzled. Han Jie came to Lin Zi along with Lu Buwei and should therefore align himself with Tian Dan, who is at loggerheads with Zongsun Long. Why did Han Jie meet up with someone from Zongsun Longs residence and is behaving furtively as if they are afraid of being spotted by someone.

    Contemplating to this point, he would not hesitate any longer. Shifting to the edge of the carriage, he leaned over and placed his ear against the wall of the carriage and focused all his attention into eavesdropping.

    A voice as deep as a bass instrument sounded from within the carriage: Xuanhua pays his respects to Elder Martial Brother. I miss you a lot.

    The man turned out to be the holder of the title: Lin Zis number one swordsman. It is Zongsun Longs capable son, Zongsun Xuanhua.

    Han Jies voice rang out: You are much more awe-inspiring compared to before. I am sure you have made significant improvements in your sword skills.

    After Zongsun Xuanhua gave a modest reply, he praised: Elder Martial Brother is giving me too much credit. What is the situation in Xianyang now? I heard Elder Martial Brother is doing very well!

    Han Jie guffawed: Lao Ai is in urgent need of talented men and is naturally hospitable towards me. However, this man is extremely narrow-minded and cannot accommodate others better than himself. He can never amount to anything great. On the other hand, Lu Buwei is indeed a hero who can see the big picture. If not for Xiang Shaolong, he would have gained absolute control of Qin.

    Zongsun Xuanhua coldly grunted: Is Xiang Shaolongs swordsmanship as formidable as what the rumours say?

    Han Jie sighed: He is as unfathomable as a ghost. No one has ever comprehended what he is genuinely up to. You should have seen his Hundred Battle Sabre right! Who could imagine and create such a unique weapon that can both hack and slash?

    Zongsun Xuanhua agreed: After esteemed teacher received the sabre from the Great King, he toyed with it for some time. Although he did not say anything, I can tell that he is moved. I rarely witness this expression on his face over the past ten years.

    Han Jie warned: Back to business. You should take precautions in case Tian Jian and Tian Dan form a partnership.

    On the carriage roof, Xiang Shaolong was immensely stunned; finally understanding why Xie Ziyuan is behaving like it is the end of the world. Expectedly, Zongsun Xuanhua sighed with a breath: We already knew about this and never anticipated Tian Dan to use this trick. Does Elder Martial Brother have a good counterstrategy?

    Han Jie articulated: Lu Buwei is the mastermind behind this scheme, using his connections to pull Tian Dan and Tian Jian to the same side of the fence. Aye! Ultimately, Tian Dan is the most powerful official of Qi. If he is willing to sacrifice Tian Sheng, it is with absolute certainty that Tian Jian would be the next King of Qi. This is unlike the past where the winner remains unpredictable. Thus, the circumstances are highly unfavourable for you and your allies.

    Zongsun Xuanhua was infuriated: Both Father and myself have done so much for Tian Jian, how can he simply switch sides to rely on our nemesis?

    Han Jie sighed: Power tussles within the Court are simply the way it is. From Tian Jians point of view, whoever that can assist him in becoming King is a useful official. Moreover Aye! I do not know how to continue. Lu Buwei gave Tian Jian his assurance that as long as Tian Dan stays in power, Qin would never invade Qi and would even harass the Three States (Han Zhao Wei), permitting him to invade Yan without any reservations. You can see for yourself how tempting the conditions are.

    Zongsun Xuanhua icily snorted: Only a fool would be taken in by these lies. At the end of the day, this is just Qins strategy of: Befriending Afar; Conquering Near.

    The eavesdropping Xiang Shaolong is even more confused than before. Whose side is Han Jie on?

    Han Jie suddenly suppressed his voice and speaks even softer than before. Xiang Shaolong could not catch a single word and was about to curse him when Zongsun Xuanhua dismissed: This is preposterous. My father and Tian Dan cannot see eye to eye and would never reconcile. In addition, given Tian Dans unscrupulous reputation, it would be a matter of time before we become cannon fodder.

    Han Jie reasoned: This is merely using their strategy to your advantage. Tian Jian has unwavering trust in Xie Ziyuan. If you can offer the same terms to Tian Jian, I guarantee Tian Jian would still lean towards your side.

    Up till this point, Xiang Shaolong has lost all interest in the conversation. He carefully and gingerly somersaulted off the carriage and vanished into the gloomy lanes.

    Locating a shadowy and secluded corner along the west city wall, Xiang Shaolong tore off a part of his shirt and wrapped it around the head of the hammer. He incessantly hammered one chisel after another, one higher than the other, into the city wall, which had accumulated a large amount of snow. He then began to step on the iron chisels and ascended the city wall just like mountain climbers.

    To avoid the wind and snow, the patrolling soldiers have fortified themselves within a battlement. Using the grappling hook and ropes, Xiang Shaolong easily flipped himself out of the city and treaded on the snow towards Qixia College.

    Despite the flying snowflakes and dim illumination of lanterns, he caught sight of the tall surrounding wall around the courtyard where Qixia College is situated. The college sits atop a small hill beyond the west gate and is formed by countless conjoined buildings, emitting an impressive sensation.

    Currently, Xiang Shaolong is no longer concerned about Xie Ziyuans fate in the power tussle for the throne of Qi. Since Xie Ziyuan is Tian Jians most trusted subordinate, even if Tian Jian switched sides and relied on Tian Dan, Xie Ziyuan would retain his usefulness. The sacrificial lambs would be limited to Zongsun Long and First Prince Tian Sheng.

    Once he obtained his Hundred Battle Sabre, he could instantly run as far away as he likes, filling him with infinite joy. With the aid of snow skis, he would be back in the warm comfort of his own home in Xianyang within thirty days. In this world, is there anything more delightful than this?

    Utilizing the cover of snowy forest on the left of Qixia College, he slithered towards the east wall, fully displaying this forte of the Special Forces. As the wall is only a third as high as Lin Zis city wall, he simply somersaulted over the colleges outer wall.

    Identifying the main cluster of buildings, Xiang Shaolong raised his alertness to a maximum as he snuck towards his goal.

    From the lanterns glow, the corridors linking the various courtyards were void of pedestrians and noise. From afar, the sound of a flute and a zither is audible. It was a scene of tranquility.

    The time is nearly eleven oclock and most of the population should be fast asleep in bed, granting Xiang Shaolong much convenience.

    Arriving at the garden of the main hall, he finally observed three men who are dressed in scholarly uniforms walking by. Promptly concealing himself behind a clump of trees, he did not anticipate the three men to suddenly halt and began admiring the snow. Stuck, Xiang Shaolong could neither advance nor retreat and was forced to listen to their exchange.

    Out of the blue, one of the men started to ponder about Heaven. He professed: A ruler must first familiarize himself with Heaven. Not knowing the workings of Heaven and the laws of Nature, the ruler will be like scratching an itchy feet without taking off the shoe. Tutor Shen, what is your opinion on this?

    The man named Tutor Shen wondered: Is Lecturer Lao feeling the effects of the relentless snowstorm and becoming pessimistic, thereby allowing these thoughts to arise?

    The third man laughed: Nobody understands Lecturer Lao better than Tutor Shen but I would connect his present thinking to his recent research of Xun Kuangs System of Heaven.

    The camouflaged Xiang Shaolong is first hand experiencing for himself the culture of hollow discussion by Qixia scholars. He prayed they would leave as soon as possible.

    Lecturer Lao solemnly explained: This time round, Lecturer Chou is mistaken. I am in full disagreement with Xun Kuangs System of Heaven. Xun Kuangs Non Intervention is only good in theory but is non-executable. It is a wide departure from reality despite the wide topics that have been debated. Compared to Guan Zhongs Man King Heaven Earth, they are poles apart. The latter book relates a necessary and practical approach to recognizing the correlation between Heaven and Man.

    Tutor Shen bellowed with laughter: Lecturer Lao has stirred my interests! Come! Let us return to our rooms before cooking some wine and chatting into the night.

    After the three men have wandered off, Xiang Shaolong thanked Heaven & Earth. Scooting out, he furtively made a wide detour around a frozen pond outside the main hall. Coming to a west facing window of the main hall, he pried open a window shutter and opened it slightly. Upon peeping in, he observed a tall, spacious and wide inner structure that could easily accommodate a hundred men. Towards the south wall, a portion of it stands an elevated platform that is usually reserved for prayers. Right above the stage is a giant signboard, which the four words Qixia Hall were sculptured.

    What left Xiang Shaolong the deepest impression were the craved flowers on the beams situated at the top of the hall. Coupled with huge, red painted pillars, they give the hall an authoritative and formal ambience while appearing intimidating at the same time.

    In this moment, the other doors and windows are securely fastened. The only source of light is two oil lamps positioned on the platform, bathing the main hall in dim red illumination and from bright to dark depending on the distance between lamps and the section of the hall.

    Scanning the hall a few times, he finally pinpointed his Hundred Battle Sabre hanging high up in the middle of the East wall. If he tried jumping, he should be able to touch the end of the sabre.

    Exhilarated, Xiang Shaolong crossed the window ledge and somersaulted into the hall, briskly walking towards the Hundred Battle Sabre.

    The interior of the great hall is still void of noise and human but in his heart, Xiang Shaolong was instead experiencing an indescribable feeling, causing him extreme discomfort.

    His hand wrapping around the hilt of Bloodwave, Xiang Shaolong stopped walking.

    With an Eeek sound, the door leading to the front portion began to swing open despite the lack of wind or action.

    Xiang Shaolong groaned inwardly. He was about to make a run for it but it is already too late.

    What followed was a cold snigger as a man dressed in white arrogantly entered the hall. Every time his step lands on the ground, it would create a sound; seemingly playing a melody that resembles a death knoll. The bizarre thing is although he was not walking very quickly, Xiang Shaolong could sense that this man could intercept himself if he had tried to retreat through the window.

    What was truly disheartening and frightening was: Although this man has yet to draw his sword, he is already emitting an overpowering and domineering aura, making Xiang Shaolong feel that he would lose without a doubt.

    An encounter with such a fearsome swordsman is a first for Xiang Shaolong.

    Xiang Shaolong bravely turned around to meet his opponent face to face.

    The man leisurely stopped about ten odd feet away from Xiang Shaolong. With charcoal black hair that laid spread over his wide and muscular shoulders, he possess a nose hooked like an eagles beak and a pair of deep set, penetrating eyes, giving the impression that he is a man without mercy. Hanging by the side of his body, his two hands are longer than the average man and the skin of his face and hands are as white as snow. In terms of appearance and body built, it is something even Xiang Shaolong considers rare. He is even taller and ferocious looking than Guan Zhongxie, giving others a ruthless vibe.

    His eyes are profound and unfathomable, glowing with focus and a sense of fearlessness, and felt like they never need to blink.

    The sharp contrast of black hair and white skin portrays him to be like a Warrior Chief from Hell who has broken through the earth to enter the human realm.

    Xiang Shaolong gasped with a surprise breath: Cao Cuidao?

    The man assessed him swiftly and nodded: That is right. I did not expect the sabre thief tonight when I just received news this very afternoon. Report your name. I wish to see who is it that has the guts to create trouble at my, Cao Cuidaos, place.

    Xiang Shaolongs heart sank all the way to the bottom.

    Only two men, Han Chuang and Xiao Yuetan, know about his intention to commit theft. The latter obviously would not betray him. Only Han Chuang remains. Despite saving his life on multiple occasions, Han Chuang has resorted to using this despicable scheme of Borrowing someone elses knife to kill himself, causing Xiang Shaolong to feel depressed and hurt.

    From the standpoint of the Three States (Han Zhao Wei), it would be excellent if Xiang Shaolong was killed by a Qi native. When Qin and Qi wage war on each other, the Three States will stand to benefit without paying any price.

    Casting aside all desires to retrieve his sabre as well as all irrelevant thoughts, he fixated his attention on surviving this encounter. Once he composed his emotions, he drew Bloodwave out with a Jiang! and hollered in a low voice: Awaiting instructions from the Saint!

    He is aware he cannot get off the hook easily and a quick battle is the best way out. In the meantime, he will look for a window of opportunity to make a getaway. If more people are alerted and rushed over in assistance, he would not be able to escape even if he grew wings.

    Cao Cuidao plainly state: You have got guts. For the past ten years, nobody has dared to draw his sword in front of me. You have come with pure defiance as I have given strict orders, forbidding anyone to enter the great hall at night. I will personally deal with all offenders and you happened to be the first.

    Witnessing that with his sword still sheathed, this man is already eyeing the world with contempt and behaved as if he is unstoppable, he dared not be complacent and shifted slightly forward and pointed his sword at him, generating his own fighting aura that can barely withstand the invisible pressure coming from his opponent. Only the best fighters are able to produce such an astounding effect.

    His eyebrow twitched as Cao Cuidao revealed a small sign of surprise on his face. He demanded: Show me what you have!

    How glad was Xiang Shaolong when he heard these words. Fighting against this widely acknowledged number one swordsman whose sword skills have attained a saintly level, he was actually filled with horror. Looking at his posture as if he need not use his sword, Xiang Shaolong cannot afford to hold back and unleashed Mozis most powerful attack from the Three Killing Stances: Attacking while Defending. Coupled with his striding footwork, Bloodwave whizzed towards Cao Cuidao.

    Xiang Shaolong could not think of another swordplay that was more suited for this kind of situation. Even if Cao Cuidao has three heads and six arms, this would be his first encounter with such an amazing sword style. No matter what, he would have to adopt a defensive position for a few moves before counterattacking. When that happens, he could use this advantage to run for his life.

    With a Yi! sound, the front of Cao Cuidao abruptly exploded into a mass of sword flashes.

    Xiang Shaolong has never seen such a fast sword in his whole life. The moment he saw his opponents hand move, the sword flashes instantly advanced towards himself. Not only is there no sign of a defensive position, it is a hardcore style of facing an attack head on with his own attack.

    His mind processing at the speed of electricity, he concludes that beside a fast sword, his opponents sword strength and sword skills are beyond comparison, achieving an amazing and fascinating level. Based on past formidable opponents such as Guan Zhongxie, Cao Cuidaos fighting ability is at least two levels higher up. Simply put, Xiang Shaolong is definitely not his match.

    As the thoughts sink in, his fighting spirit decreased by half and he no longer possess the courage to attack forcefully, deciding to concentrate on defending instead. He swung his sword out.


    Using all his innate abilities, Xiang Shaolong shifted horizontally by three feet. Coupled with his footwork, he barely parried the incoming sword Cao Cuidao has sent flying towards his chest. He could instantly feel the strength of his opponent crushing down on him like a mountain and could not help but take half a step back.

    Retrieving his sword and standing still, his eyes shone with delight as Cao Cuidao cheerfully laughed: You actually managed to block an attack that I have launched with full strength. This is wonderful. It is hard to find a worthy opponent nowadays. If you can withstand another nine strokes from me, I will let you leave.

    Xiang Shaolongs right hand is turning numb as he realized his opponent is born with the strength of an ox, easily surpassing his own. No wonder he has yet to meet with defeat.

    Just by forcefully slashing with a sword, he could easily overwhelm most swordsmen. Moreover, he has trained to become an outstanding and invincible swordsman, inducing fear wherever he goes.

    In front of this master swordsman, even though they are about the same height, Xiang Shaolong would somehow view himself as being the shorter one.

    Dont even talk about nine strokes of his sword. He would be glad if he could successfully block the next strike.

    Xiang Shaolong knows that without confidence and hope, he would certainly and regrettably meet his demise in this hall tonight. However, his opponents stifling effect has never left the scene, giving him the sensation of futility as if his every effort would surely be thwarted. At his level of accomplishment, he is already undergoing such pressure. If it were a less skillful swordsman in his shoes, his heart and gall would have imploded, ending his life without the sword necessarily piercing his body.

    Cao Cuidao is able to surpass all other swordsmen because his cultivation of the sword has reached a godly state.

    Cao Cuidao coldly rumbled: The second stroke!

    With a SWA! sound, the opponents long sword came slashing down.

    Xiang Shaolong has gathered all his energy in preparation for this blow but this attack of Cao Cuidao has somewhat given him the allusion that it is unblockable.

    This strike is neither a fast strike nor a slow strike. Cao Cuidao is in full control of the speed of the attack but Xiang Shaolong could inherently sense that Cao Cuidao is putting all his strength into this blow.

    Logically, the more strength one puts into the attack, the faster the weapon would move and vice versa. However, Cao Cuidaos strike is neither fast nor slow but is able to create the perception that it carries his full strength behind it.

    Xiang Shaolong is exceedingly depressed. What strongly bugged him was this strange and unexplainable sword move and the conflicting speed. His conviction is beginning to waver and he could not fix the point where he wishes to parry the attack, causing tremendous anxiety. In all his duels and battles, this is the first time he felt so powerless despite his abilities.

    His fear may consume him but the inbounding sword needs to be parried nonetheless. Fortunately, his mental energy has always been steady. Notwithstanding this disadvantageous scenario, he is able to swiftly recollect his emotions and resumed his calm demeanor.

    His intuition tells him if he were to step back, the opponents sword would attack with the force of a bursting dam and death will be a likelihood.

    Running out of choices, Xiang Shaolong adopted a horse stance and twirled his sword, trailing a crescent of sword brilliance before piercing towards Cao Cuidaos abdomen.

    Theoretically, his attack is faster than Cao Cuidaos by a tiny bit. Therefore, unless Cao Cuidao increases his attacking speed, he would have to block Xiang Shaolongs blow instead. Otherwise, by the time Xiang Shaolongs sword impaled his abdomen, Cao Cuidaos sword would still be about six inches away from Xiang Shaolongs face.

    As cool as ever, Cao Cuidao snorted once and twisted his wrist downwards, flawlessly and accurately chopping down on the sword tip of the advancing Bloodwave. It is as if Xiang Shaolong had purposely prepared the sword for him to chop down on.

    Xiang Shaolong secretly cursed. With a DING! sound, the top section of Bloodwave, around an inch long, has been sliced off. With the vibrating hilt causing much pain to his hand, he has no choice but to take a step back.

    Cao Cuidao let out a string of laughter. His sword stance becoming strong again, he roared: The third stroke! In a flash, his sword is about to reach Xiang Shaolongs chest.

    Xiang Shaolong finally and thoroughly experienced the worldly sword skills of this world famous Grandmaster Swordsman. His swords skills are simply extraordinary and behind a seemingly ordinary move are countless hidden variations and tricks, which one can never expect or guard against.

    For example, this is an ordinary attack but it would somehow give the impression that he has devoted every muscle in his body, all his feelings and spiritual energy concentrated into one single blow. As a result, even a plain move like this is filled with a devastating power that one cannot hope to resist against.

    In the past, no matter what types of marvelous sword moves Xiang Shaolong encounters, he could easily launch a counterattack. On the contrary, confronted with Cao Cuidaos simple looking but complicated sword style, he felt as if his hands and legs are tied and could not put up a successful defence.

    To make it worse, Xiang Shaolong was in the middle of taking the step back while Cao Cuidaos sword is fast approaching him like a lightning strike, causing him to be in a dilemma whether to step back or forward. From this episode, it demonstrates Cao Cuidaos excellent grasp of timing.

    Since the beginning of the duel, Xiang Shaolong has been encountering restrictions in all his sword moves. If this goes on, it would be a miracle if he did not end up dead.

    Xiang Shaolong viciously gnashed his teeth and turned his body while attacking with his sword. He simultaneously kicked out from below at the speed of light, aiming at Cao Cuidaos right calf, which happened to be taking a forward stride.

    Cao Cuidao bellowed in a low voice: How dare you!

    Hacking his sword against Cao Cuidaos sword, Xiang Shaolong was surprised when he did not hear the sound of weapons clashing. It turned out that when both swords came into contact, Cao Cuidao displayed an uncanny move by twisting his sword around Xiang Shaolongs, forcing him to stumble forward with the same momentum and naturally negating his kick from below.

    In his mind, Xiang Shaolong knows he is in deep trouble. As the whistling of the sword rang out in the air, an ominous atmosphere descended on him from all directions, making him feel like he is caught in the middle of a tsunami.

    In this life and death situation, Xiang Shaolong casted off every single notion about escaping away that has been occupying his mind. With regards to Cao Cuidaos aggressive sword stances, he treated them with emptiness and gathered all his vigor to launch a blow towards Cao Cuidaos head.

    Under the present circumstances, he could only rely on the fastest speed and selecting the shortest route, forcing his opponent to parry this attack no matter what. Otherwise, even the powerful Cao Cuidao would end up in a scenario where both men would be severely injured.

    Nevertheless, he has underestimated Cao Quidao once again.

    Out of a sudden, he can feel a cold sensation emanating from an area near his left ribcage. Cao Cuidaos sword had stabbed his body before flipping upward, breaking his killing move.

    Although the opponents sword only penetrated about an inch into his flesh, Xiang Shaolong can feel fresh blood gushing out of the wound. If this loss of blood were to go on, it would not be long before he would lose the ability to fight. Cao Cuidaos sword is so quick that up till this point in time, he has yet to feel the pain from the injury.

    Cao Cuidao laughed boisterously: The fourth stroke!

    Rapidly formulating a plan, Xiang Shaolong pretended to collapse, discarding Bloodwave onto the ground and at the same time, staggered a few steps backwards.

    Just as Cao Cuidao was still reeling with astonishment, Xiang Shaolong retreated to the spot below the Hundred Battle Sabre. He hurriedly leapt up, grabbing the end of the sabre sheathe, finally obtaining his beloved treasure weapon.

    Cao Cuidao furiously thundered: You are asking for death! Conjuring a multitude of sword flashes with the sword in his hand, he darted forward with steady footwork, propelling another attack at Xiang Shaolong.

    Xiang Shaolong drew out the sabre from its sheathe, something that he hasnt done for quite some time. With his left hand clutching the sheathe and his right hand gripping the sabre, his confidence increased by several folds.


    Unanticipated by Cao Quidao, Xiang Shaolong vehemently parried his sword with the sheathe and with a wave of his wrist, SUA! SUA! SUA! He made three continuous chops at his opponent, resembling three lightning strikes. The chops were indomitable and overbearing to the max.

    Cao Cuidaos is vulnerable as this is the first time he is fighting against a sabre which forte lies in chopping moves. To make it worse, Xiang Shaolong is using the sheathe to block his sword and simultaneously counterattacking with the sabre.

    Nevertheless, he did not exhibit the slightest display of fluster and for the first time, adopted a defensive position. Without taking a single step backwards, he resisted torrent after torrent of sabre chops.

    The sound of clashing of the sword and the sabre rang out non-stop.

    Xiang Shaolong senses that his opponent is like a fortress which cannot be conquered. Regardless of the angle he struck with his sabre, Cao Cuidao is always able to negate his attack. This consciousness is beginning to weigh down on his mind, resulting in a form of stress. Nonetheless, being able to force him into a defensive position within a short space of time is something he can be proud of.

    Letting out a long laugh, Xiang Shaolong delivered another earth smattering strike before retreating and calling out: How many strokes is it now?

    Cao Cuidao halted in bewilderment, realizing that they have long exceeded the agreed ten strokes.

    Picking up Bloodwave along the way, Xiang Shaolong made good his escape through the window.

  8. #268
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2004


    Book 23 Chapter 08 - Edge Of Death

    After ten odd steps, both his legs softened and Xiang Shaolong collapsed in the snowy garden. The area around his sword wound was splattered with blood, soaking through his clothes. He is beginning to feel a heart wrenching pain.

    His head spinning, he forced himself to get up. It could be due to his earlier overexertion or the substantial loss of blood. Either way, it is impossible for him to leave this place.

    But if he chose to stay in this freezing weather, it would be a miracle if he did not end up as a stiff, frozen corpse tomorrow morning.

    He could detect some voices from afar. It appears that the noise generated from their fight has cause some alarm among the College residents. However, nobody dared to investigate due to Cao Cuidaos strict orders!

    Digging out his dagger, Xiang Shaolong tore off a section of his clothes and brought out the external wound medicine Xiao Yuetan had prepared for him to bring on his journey. After applying the medicine, he bandaged the wound and recomposed his emotions before getting back on his feet.

    The voices he heard earlier have dissipated and are replaced by complete silence.

    Discarding Bloodwave among a clump of tall grass, he tied Hundred Battle Sabre securely on his back. Enduring the heart throbbing pain, he limped towards the outlying area one step at a time.

    Passing by several houses, Xiang Shaolong could not take it any longer and had to stop for a break. He thought to himself: It would be great to have a horse carriage right now. Regardless of where it is heading, he would not mind at all. In his current condition, skiing back to Xianyang is but a crazy dream.

    Inspired, he quickly and furtively proceeded towards the square in the front courtyard.

    It is the usual practice to leave the carriage body in the square after the horses have been led away. If he can sneak into an empty carriage box and last till tomorrow morning, he may be able to find a way to leave this place.

    In a short while, he had made his way to the driveway leading to the square. All around him, most of the houses have extinguished their lanterns and are filled with darkness. Only two or three windows are still illuminated, likely belonging to students who are defying the cold to continue their studies.

    Because of overexertion and loss of blood, Xiang Shaolongs body temperature is decreasing rapidly and he is shivering nonstop. Right now, even taking a single step is an arduous task for him.

    Right at this second, the sound of carriage wheels rotating can be heard from behind.

    Xiang Shaolong was greatly amazed. It is deep into the night. Who is riding a carriage and leaving the College at this hour? He hurriedly shied to a side.

    The carriage came closer and closer. It turned out to be Han Jies carriage and Xiang Shaolong could recognise the clothes of the driver.

    Xiang Shaolong thanked the Heaven and Earth. As the carriage drove past him, he used his last ounce of energy to climb onto the carriage roof, allowing the carriage to deliver him back into the ancient city of Lin Zi.

    After additional difficulties and hardships, he finally found his way back to Tingsong Villa. The moment he tumbled into bed, he was knocked out immediately. He pretty much laid there without moving an inch until midday when Xiao Yuetan roused him awake, wondering: Why is your face so dreadful looking?

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly laughed: After being pierced by Cao Cuidaos sword, who can maintain a healthy appearance?

    Xiao Yuetan was aghast: What!

    Xiang Shaolong updated him about everything that happened last night before adding: We are able to prove two things from this episode. Firstly, Feng Feis lover is none other than Han Jie and secondly, Han Chuang has betrayed me.

    Xiao Yuetan was upset: Based on your current condition, you are not ready to travel.

    Xiang Shaolong swore: I will make a full recovery in three days time. By then, I can go as far as I wish and ignore everything at hand.

    Xiao Yuetan advised: I will spread the word that you have fallen ill. For the next three days, you should try to stay within the boundaries of Tingsong Villa. No matter what, it is safer here.

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly smiled: Lets hope so!

    After Xiao Yuetans departure, Xiang Shaolong pretended to be asleep to avoid entertaining well-wishers.

    Xiao Yuetan came over to change his dressing and medication when it was late in the afternoon. He whispered: It is truly puzzling. There were simply no signs of excitement or news from Qixia College. It is as if nothing has happened last night. They should at least inform the public about the theft of Hundred Battle Sabre.

    Xiang Shaolong mused: From your understanding, would Cao Cuidao correctly deduce the thief he encountered last night was me, Xiang Shaolong?

    Slapping his thigh, Xiao Yuetan nodded: Of course he would. Only someone familiar with the qualities of Hundred Battle Sabre is able to showcase the full abilities of the weapon. And only Xiang Shaolong has the potential to match Cao Cuidao in terms of swordsmanship.

    He then frowned: But if Cao Cuidao exposes your presence to the Qi Court, future problems would only increase in complexity.

    Xiang Shaolong disparaged: No matter what, I am going to leave soon. So it is no big deal. Most crucially, nobody dares to deal with me in an open and aboveboard manner. Even Han Chuang has to make use of someone elses hand to take my life. Recalling this matter, he could not help but sigh with a breath. Being betrayed by a good friend really hurts.

    Comprehending his pain, Xiao Yuetan patted him, quizzing: Did Li Yuan send anyone to ask about you?

    Xiang Shaolong shook his head: Logically, since Li Yuan knows that I am looking for him, he should come over and visit me.

    After a short contemplation, Xiao Yuetan suggested: Maybe he is feeling guilt-ridden and is too embarrassed to face you. Aye! Is Cao Cuidao really that good?

    Still retaining some horror from last night, Xiang Shaolong described: His swordsmanship has exceeded all physical limits, surpassing the capabilities of human and entered a godly state. Against him, I am totally powerless and is basically a punching bag for him.

    Xiao Yuetan informed: Do you know that when he duels with other challengers, most of them could not even stand properly. Without him making a move, they would have discarded their sword and admit defeat.

    Xiang Shaolong had a similar experience and he confessed: I know how that feels like.

    Xiao Yuetan analyzed: If you were equipped with Hundred Battle Sabre at the start of the fight, what would be the outcome?

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly smiled: The outcome would be my demise.

    Xiao Yuetan was surprised: You are really a modest person and do not place too much emphasis on victory or defeat. From my point of view, the main reason he has the upper hand is because you just discovered that a good friend had betrayed you. Thus, your mind is too distracted to summon your full fighting spirit. Moreover, your mind is also clouded with thoughts of wanting to escape, resulting in you harnessing less than half of your full potential. In a different setting and equipped with Hundred Battle Sabre, I am certain you would be a worthy adversary to Cao Cuidao.

    Xiang Shaolongs confidence has been shattered by Cao Cuidao the night before. He sighed: Right now, I just want to run away as far as possible and never come back. In the past, regardless of how terrifying or perilous the situation is, death would never cross my mind. However, Cao Cuidaos sword is like a weapon constantly reminding me about my fear of death. With such extraordinary sword skills, he is someone I both fear and admire.

    Xiao Yuetan sighed with a breath and changed the topic: Has Feng Fei been here?

    Xiang Shaolong answered: Almost everyone has been here except for her who has been keeping away from me. With regards to her, I have given up all hopes.

    Learning that he was awake, Dong Shuzen came to visit. Xiao Yuetan took the opportunity to excuse himself.

    Taking small steps, the beauty sashayed to his bedside and sat down. Reaching out with her hand and stroking his face, her eyes glowed with intense emotions as she soothingly asked: Are you feeling better? Aye! You do not appear to be a feeble man. How did you suddenly fall sick?

    Xiang Shaolong wished he could interrogate her about her continuing liaison with the despicable cad Sa Li but eventually suppressed the urge. He weakly replied: Regarding this, you have to seek the answer from Heaven.

    Dong Shuzen threw herself on his chest and began crying wretchedly.

    Xiang Shaolong could feel her agony and stretched out his uninjured left hand, caressing her fragrant shoulder. In a loving and sympathetic tone, he consoled: This is not the time to grieve. For your future, Second Mistress must learn to be strong.

    Dong Shuzen pitifully mourned: All my hopes for the future can only be decided by men. Now that you are down with a strange illness, what should I do?

    Xiang Shaolong can feel his anger stirring. He lamented: I am not the only person you can rely on. Why is Second Mistress so distraught?

    Her petite frame trembled once before Dong Shuzen straightened her back. With tear filled eyes, she questioned in a surprised tone: What do you mean by that? Currently, Xiuzhen and I have placed all our hopes on you. We do not have other arrangements.

    Xiang Shaolong was filled with disdain: If this is true, why did you secretly communicate with Sa Li yesterday?

    Dong Shuzen panicked: That is a baseless allegation. If Xiuzhen or myself is still in cahoots with Sa Li, may we die a horrible death.

    Scrutinizing her body language, Xiang Shaolong can tell that she is not putting on an act. Concurrently, he was enlightened about the fact that Chi Zichun is a follower of Sa Li. He had intentionally made these comments to frame the two ladies, Dong Shuzen and Zhu Xiuzhen, and at the same time, he could gain the trust of Xiang Shaolong in preparation of laying another trap. He was nearly tricked.

    However, another problematic issue has arisen. With the two ladies placing their faith in him and him alone, he can no longer leave without with a care in the world. Presently, he is barely able to fend for himself. How can he afford to extent his protection to them?

    Tears began welling up in the pretty eyes of Dong Shuzen and two large tears the size of a bean soon rolled down her face. She bitterly sighed: Xiuzhen and I are now trusting you without any reservations, you

    Xiang Shaolong used a finger to press on her full, red lips, breaking off her sentence. He whispered: Is there any way for you to notify Lord Longyang, asking him to come and see me.

    Dong Shuzen nodded: I understand. Shuzen will see to this straightaway and it will be accomplished without anyones knowledge.

    After Dong Shuzen left, the seemingly unperturbed Feng Fei finally came to visit him. For some reason, Xiang Shaolong can sense that her attitude is somewhat different from before. Her eyes appear to be hiding some sort of secret.

    In her usual graceful and elegant fashion, she sat down by his side and stretched out her right hand to touch his forehead before gently speaking: Fortunately, your fever is not very high. I heard Mister is attending to your healing. You should make a full recovery in a short while.

    Relating her presence to Han Jie, Xiang Shaolong sighed with a breath: My sincere thanks to Mistress for your concern. How is the ongoing rehearsal? The birthday banquet for the King of Qi is in five days time.

    Feng Fei bitterly wondered: From your tone, it sounded like we are complete strangers. Since when did our relationship degenerate to such a state?

    In this instance, Xiang Shaolong noticed the side of her hair is a little messy, as if she cannot be bothered to groom herself. Raising his hand to arrange her hair, he enquired along the line: Didnt Little Pinger help to comb your hair and apply your makeup today?

    Feng Fei bitterly smiled: After learning that such a healthy man like you has become unwell, she has lost focus in her duties.

    As she talked, Feng Fei naturally raised her pair of dainty hands to tidy her own hair.

    Xiang Shaolongs gaze firstly landed on her chest. Due to Feng Fei raising her arms, her curvy and protruding breasts are much more highlighted than before and Xiang Shaolong could trace their outline. Shifting his gaze upward, his attention was immediately captured by an exquisite silver ring on her slender finger. His heart was instantly filled with shock.

    Feng Fei stopped arranging her hair and questioned with astonishment: Why is your face so ghastly looking?

    In his mind, Xiang Shaolong is experiencing a tsunami.

    That silver ring, as he remembered correctly, was a secret killing weapon with a concealed poison needle. Back at Xianyang Drunken Wind Brothel when they first met, Feng Fei frankly admitted to him that someone has instructed her to use this ring to murder him, Xiang Shaolong. Eventually, she discarded the ring on the floor, demonstrating her abortion of the assassination plan. Presently, this dangerous ring has suddenly appeared on her lovely finger. Needless to say, it must be Han Jie egging her to kill himself in order to demonstrate her loyalty towards Han Jie. No wonder her bearing is so much different compared to before.

    Of course Feng Fei did not know he has seen through her scam. She whined: Why are you not answering me?

    Suppressing his surging emotions, Xiang Shaolong is deeply troubled.

    If Feng Fei tries to prick him with the poison needle in the ring, what should he do?

    He naturally could not allow himself to be pricked but if he exposed her right now, it would be as good as telling her he is Xiang Shaolong. He was stuck in a dilemma.

    While he was as dazed as a piece of wood, Feng Fei threw herself across his chest, grieving: Why does Feng Fei have to meet a man like you under such circumstances?

    Xiang Shaolong knows that she is having an emotional outburst but his main concern is still centered around the killing weapon on her jade finger. Swiftly grabbing her poisonous hand which is trying to hug him around the neck, he simultaneously distracted her: Why would Mistress fall in love with a man who happens to be Lao Ais partner in crime?

    Guilt ridden, Feng Feis hourglass figure shuddered violently and as she sat upright, retracting her poisonous hand. Pretending to be angry, she furiously derided: Can you stop making wild guesses? I do not know this Han Jie at all.

    Still occupying himself with the poisonous ring and anticipating an attack anytime, Xiang Shaolong tempted: You are still trying to hide the truth from me. Does Mistress wish to know who did Han Jie visit after sending you home last night?

    He was simply saying the first thing that came to his mind but as the words left his lips, he was shaken by a new realization.

    Isnt Zongsun Long desperate to obtain Feng Fei for himself? Now that Han Jie is on close terms with his son, wouldnt it appear controversial?

    Feng Fei made an Ah! sound and turned speechless.

    Xiang Shaolong began to calm down; knowing that she would not ambush him without first finding out who did Han Jie went to see. He cheekily smiled: If Mistress continues to deny the truth, there is no point in discussing this any further.

    Lowering her face, Feng Fei questioned in a low voice: Who did he went to see?

    Xiang Shaolong plainly state: Zongsun Xuanhua.

    Feng Fei gasped: What?

    Reaching out and patting her face with his hand, Xiang Shaolong mumbled incoherently: Mistress had better think carefully over it! I am dead tired and need a rest. Only in my dreams can I avoid this scheming and deceitful world that is filled with hatred and violence, and visit Paradise.

    Feng Fei was taken aback: What is Paradise?

    Xiang Shaolong began telling her the story from Tales of Paradise, authored by Tao Yanming. He altered the characters and the timing of the story according.

    Out of the blue, Feng Feis face was all covered with tears and she cannot even speak properly from her crying. Leaping into his arms once again, she bemoaned: What should I do?

    Xiang Shaolong honestly advocated: Regarding this matter, patience and further observation is required. Although Han Jie did went to see Zongsun Xuanhua, it does not amount to anything yet. Will Mistress grant your servant some time to investigate further?

    Feng Fei shook her head: At least he should tell me he is going to meet Zongsun Xuanhua!

    On behalf of all men, Xiang Shaolong apologized: It is a habit of men to withhold knowledge of his activities from women.

    After some thought, Feng Fei slowly revealed: If it were someone else, given the present circumstances, he would surely speak badly of Han Jie. Aye! Shen Liang ah! What kind of person are you?

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly smiled: Till now, you have no idea? I am an authentic, real life dummy, which nobody can deny. Despite knowing Mistress lying and plotting against me, I could not bear to see you crying and in pain.

    Feng Fei sat upright and allowed Xiang Shaolong to wipe away her tears while maintaining a wooden expression.

    Xiang Shaolong did not know what to say next. Luckily, Lord Longyang happened to come by and prevented an awkward scenario.

    After Lord Longyang took over Feng Feis seat, Xiang Shaolong nonchalantly remarked: I nearly died at the hands of Han Chuang and I thought I will never see Your Lordship again.

    Lord Longyang was thunderstruck: What do you mean?

    Xiang Shaolong is conscious that Lord Longyang has feelings for him and would be truthful. Therefore, he concluded that he is in the dark about this matter and told him about everything that happened last night.

    His face continuously drained of colour, Lord Longyang contemplated for a short period of time before deciding: The snowing has finally stopped. When the weather improves over the next two days, I will immediately escort you out of Lin Zi.

    Xiang Shaolong cautioned: We must never do that; otherwise, Your Lordship would be found guilty of committing treason. Right now, I only want to find out if Han Chuang had informed Guo Kai about my affairs.

    Lord Longyang affirmed: You can count on me. Now that you have mentioned it, Han Chuang did verbally test my loyalty towards you. This ******* is always saying one thing but doing another. How contemptible!

    Xiang Shaolong reassured: I would not pin all the blame on him. I am sure he has resorted to this because he had no other choice. Based on our friendship, it is not difficult to guard against him but if he had informed Guo Kai, then the situation would be much more dangerous.

    Standing up, Lord Longyang swore: I will launch my investigations immediately. All I need to do is to pretend to scheme against you in front of Han Chuang. I guarantee he will divulge all his plans.

    After Lord Longyangs departure, Xiang Shaolong can feel his mood improving, aiding in his recovery and healing by more than half.

    This time round, he made the correct bet.

    Based on the friendship between Lord Longyang and himself, it would be challenging for Lord Longyang to plot against him for a second time.

    In the midst of his thoughts, he unknowingly drifted into slumber. By the time he woke up again, it was already evening time.

    Xie Ziyuan is here.

  9. #269
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2004


    Book 23 Chapter 09 - Enemies Are Bound To Meet On A Narrow Road

    Settling down on a cushion beside Xiang Shaolongs bed, Xie Ziyuan scratched his head, wondering: How did you end up in such a terrible state? Little Brother was thinking of asking you out for some fun.

    Xiang Shaolong was stunned: Have you resolved your problem?

    Xie Ziyuan lamented: Even if it cannot be solved, Little Brother is still required to compose a finale song for Lan Gongyuan. This time, I am in trouble and I am afraid the Great King would hold me responsible.

    Feeling anxious for him, Xiang Shaolong panicked: There are only five days left. What should we do? Cant you go on your own?

    Xie Ziyuan bitterly smiled: Wifey only trusts you and you alone. If I do not bring you home for her approval, I would be stuck at home.

    Xiang Shaolong suggested: Why dont you say you are going over to Zongsun Longs place for an important discussion?

    Xie Ziyuan sighed: Zongsun Xuanhua is terrified of her. She will know that I am lying by just simply questioning him.

    Pushing his blanket aside and rising from his bed, Xiang Shaolong gave in: Then Little Brother has to put my health at risk and accompany you despite my illness.

    In actual fact, other than his face turning ashen white due to substantial loss of blood, Xiang Shaolong is not as bad as he looks. After half a night and a full day of rest, he has recovered his physical strength. All that remains is an occasional pain from his wound.

    Arriving at Xie residence, Shan Rou was equally shocked at his appearance. Sending Xie Ziyuan away for an errand, she privately inquired: What happened to you?

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly laughed: I was injured by your Masters sword.

    Shan Rou was confounded: What?

    In a brief manner, Xiang Shaolong highlighted the important points to her. Before Shan Rou could say anything in reply, Xie Ziyuan had returned and they are forced to change topics.

    The minute they stepped outside Xie Residence, Xie Ziyuan seemed to transform into a rope-playing monkey. He enthusiastically gushed: We are going over to Lan Gongyuans Jade Orchid Brothel tonight. That girl has expressed some interest in me.

    Compared to Shi Sufang and Feng Fei, Lan Gongyuan barely knows about himself so Xiang Shaolong nodded: I shall follow Brother Xies arrangement.

    Xie Ziyuan joyfully chirped: If I inform this Soft Boned Beauty we are there for the purpose of composing a new song, she would surely pay us a visit regardless of her busy schedule.

    Xiang Shaolong reminded: Do not forget we must be home by eleven oclock. Otherwise, even the King of Qi cannot save you.

    Xie Ziyuan solemnly promised: Whenever Little Brother visits the brothel, it is only to soak in the ambience of the red light district, evoking inspiration for my songs. I do not bear any ulterior motives and four hours is more than sufficient for me!

    Xiang Shaolong laughed: I see. In this case, I can put my mind at ease.

    Xie Ziyuan suddenly sighed with a breath and stared out of the carriage window at the pure white landscape formed after the snowfall.

    Xiang Shaolong understandingly enquired: Are you still bothered about work?

    Xie Ziyuan resentfully smiled: I would be lying through my teeth if I say I am not bothered. I just met the Second Prince this morning. Aye! I should not tell you about my affairs.

    Following that, his spirits rose as he exclaimed: We are here!

    Under a bevy of escorts at the front and back, the carriage drove into the compound of Lin Zis most famous Jade Orchid Brothel.

    With great fanfare, both men were ushered into the brothel.

    The sky is turning dark and the lamps are being lighted at this point in time. Jade Orchid Brothel is already filled with guests and the atmosphere is extremely lively.

    The two men have been assigned to a luxuriously furnished lounge and the maids naturally provided excellent service. Xiang Shaolong was curious: Why does everybody in the brothel seem to be familiar with and going all out to flatter Brother Xie? Xie Ziyuan proudly explained: You must not forget that it is compulsory to play Little Brothers compositions here. Moreover, I specially implored Zongsun Long to book this lounge for me last night. In Lin Zi, everyone has to give face to him.

    At this instance, the supervisor of the brothel, Madam Orchid, entered the room. Smiling widely before uttering a word, she batted her eyelashes seductively and informed: When Yuan Yuan knows Official Xie is coming to visit her, she is so excited she forgot about everything else. Right now, she is having a shower and applying makeup and will be here shortly. Does Official Xie or Master Shen wish to ask for another two ladies to add to the festivities?

    Although she is approaching middle age, her pleasant grooming, coupled with a good sense of fashion and on top of her well-maintained figure, Madam Orchid is still rather appealing to the eyes. With her mind-blowing eloquence, she exudes a captivating and wanton bearing, arousing excitement in men and provoking dirty thoughts. Scrutinizing her, Xiang Shaolong is full of praise for the Qi Lady. Regardless of their age, they truly possess a unique character. Shan Rou and Zhao Zhi are two shining examples.

    Taking in her praise, Xie Ziyuan was laughing with his mouth wide open. He swiftly decided: No need! We came specially for Miss Yuan.

    Carrying a womanly fragrance, Madam Orchid came to Xie Ziyuans side, sitting between the two men. With half her body leaning onto Xie Ziyuans body, she placed her lips beside his ear and began whispering secretively.

    Observing Xie Ziyuans intoxicated look, Xiang Shaolong easily deduce that Madam Orchid is sweet-talking him and is telling him things that are pleasing to the ears.

    Following that, Xie Ziyuan and Madam Orchid suddenly burst out laughing simultaneously. Only then did she bother to shift her mesmerizing gaze to Xiang Shaolong. She cheerfully offered: Tonight, Yuan Yuan shall accompany Official Xie. Does Master Shen want me to help you to select a good female companion?

    Xiang Shaolong hurriedly rejected: I am just accompanying Official Xie.

    Madam Orchid did not press on and coquettishly sashayed away.

    As foretold, Xie Ziyuan indeed became highly invigorated. Producing a roll of parchment from his bosom, he ordered the maid to deliver some ink and brushes and began composing on the spot.

    Xiang Shaolong dared not disturb him and half prone on a soft cushion, pretending to be asleep. The two young and pretty maids are very attentive and well trained. Without any prompting, they started to massage the back and shoulders of the two men. Xiang Shaolong, on the other hand, gained a new insight. He is beginning to comprehend the importance of ones status.

    Now that he is masquerading as Shen Liang, he is obviously at a different status level compared to Xiang Shaolong. In the past, wherever he went, he would, without a doubt, gain the attention of the crowd and end up as the centre of attraction. Presently, even Madam Orchid cannot be bothered with him.

    In the midst of his thoughts, he actually fell asleep.

    In a blurry state, he imagined hearing a soft, gentle as cotton singing of a lady. It was heavenly to his ears.

    He could not make out the lyrics of the song but can relish the wonderful sweet sensation in between the words she spouted. He felt as if he is high up floating among the mists and clouds as the tune swayed continuously in a melancholic water ripple and yet feeling light and soothing as if it was a gentle breeze blowing across a grass field.

    Xiang Shaolong thought that he was dreaming but when he opened his eyes, he discovered that Lan Gongyuan had arrived and was presently prostrated against Xie Ziyuans back and lightly singing the song he newly composed.

    On a table opposite him sat a sturdy and tall youth. Noticing Xiang Shaolong stirring from his slumber, he gestured a greeting before refocusing his attention to Lan Gongyuan and Xie Ziyuan.

    At the end of the song, the young man began clapping: The song is exhilarating and Miss Yuan is a superb songstress. Xuanhua take my hat off the both of you!

    Xiang Shaolong was taken aback, finally realizing the man in front of him is Zongsun Longs son, Lin Zis famed swordsman Zongsun Xuanhua.

    Leaning back into the bosom of Lan Gongyuan, Xie Ziyuan threw a side glance at Xiang Shaolong, cheerfully exclaiming: Brother Shen is awake. Lets drink. No one shall go home sober tonight.

    Her lovely eyes shifting to Xiang Shaolong, Lan Gongyuans eyes rotated two rounds before shifting back to Xie Ziyuan. She unyielding protested: I hereby ban Official Xie from mentioning the word: Home. Allow me do my best to serve you tonight!

    Xie Ziyuan and Zongsun Xuanhua exchanged glances and burst out laughing.

    Embarrassed, Xiang Shaolong sat upright and wondered: How long did Little Brother slept?

    Zongsun Xuanhua laughed: I have been here for two hours and Brother Shen has been asleep throughout my stay. If not for Miss Yuans delightful singing, Brother Shen may have continued dozing.

    Lan Gongyuan personally poured wine for all three men. With the presence of the Soft Boned Beauty, the ambience of the room is much more lively as if Spring had arrived.

    After three rounds of toasting, Lan Gongyuan leaned back into Xie Ziyuans bosom. Witnessing their intimacy and Lan Gongyuans clinging, any man would definitely feel jealous.

    To Xie Ziyuan, Zongsun Xuanhua sighed: A beauty paired with a talented gentleman. This is the first time Little Brother has seen Miss Yuan behaving so submissively! Little Brother has yet to experience Miss Yuans tender loving care.

    Xie Ziyuan is fully intoxicated like a flying immortal and his soul seemed to have left his body.

    Inheriting his fathers long and narrow face, Zongsun Xuanhua turned to Xiang Shaolong. His chilling eyes flashing, Zongsun Xuanhua insinuated: Brother Shens flying dagger skill has left a lasting impression on my father. Little Brother wonders if he has the good fortune to witness it with his own eyes.

    Groaning to himself, Xiang Shaolong smiled: You would have to wait till Little Brother recover from my sickness. He then secretly laughed for he would have slipped away by then.

    Zongsun Xuanhua nodded his head and replied with sarcasm: Of course. Ha! Brother Shen is truly lucky to have befriended Official Xie.

    Lan Gongyuan was stunned: Flying Dagger Skill? Young Master Zongsun, can you stop beating around the bush?

    Xie Ziyuan laughed: It is only a misunderstanding! Miss Yuan, this Brother Shen here is currently the Troupe Manager for Mistress Feng.

    Taken aback, Lan Gongyuan glanced towards Xiang Shaolong. Her eyes glowing with additional signs of contempt and arrogance, she acknowledged with a Mm sound but did not pass any comment.

    Just as Xiang Shaolong was feeling extremely uncomfortable and was planning to use his illness as an excuse to leave early, Madam Orchid came into the lounge. Passionately sitting down beside Zongsun Xuanhua, she cajoled: Your servant wishes to borrow Yuan Yuan for thirty minutes. I hope three masters can give me some leeway and dont take it to heart.

    Lan Gongyuan wailed: They may not mind but I do mind! But since Aunty Orchid takes such good care of Yuan Yuan, Yuan Yuan cannot bear to object so I will definitely oblige!

    In his heart, Xiang Shaolong was full of praise. Every single one of these famous courtesans is an expert when it comes to eloquence and mind games. With the flawless coordination between the two of them, how can they voice any objections?

    Zongsun Xuanhua is no pushover too. He plainly inquired: Is it because of Brother Qi Yu?

    Madam Orchid giggled: Young Master Zongsun has hit the jackpot. He is accompanied by the Qin heavyweight, Great Chancellor Lu.

    His eyes flashing with electricity and ice, Zongsun Xuanhua coldly snorted: If we are talking about Qin heavyweight, the most befitting is Xiang Shaolong. Lu Buwei? Humph!

    Reacting emotionally, Lan Gongyuan sighed with a breath and stood up from Xie Ziyuans bosom. She gently swore: I will just pay my respects and be back before you know it.

    Xie Ziyuan hurriedly stood up to send her off and winked at Xiang Shaolong, reassuring: Miss Yuan need not hold it to heart. It is also time for me to go home.

    It is unclear if she is being genuine or just putting on a show when Lan Gongyuan stubbornly remonstrated: No matter what, I will not let Young Master (XZY) leave. If this is the case, I will remain here.

    Turning to Madam Orchid, she questioned: Who else is accompanying Imperial Uncle (Lu Buwei)?

    This time round, it is Xiang Shaolong who had a big shock. He quickly suggested: It would not be nice if Miss Yuan refuses to pay your respects!

    Madam Orchid smiled: After learning that Official Xie and Young Master Zongsun are here, Imperial Uncle is coming over to exchange greetings! She left after finishing her sentence.

    Without a moments hesitation, Xiang Shaolong apologized: Little Brother is feeling dizzy and my legs are giving way. Please excuse my early departure. My heartfelt thanks to all three of you for tonights session.

    Ignoring the strange looks from the three of them, Xiang Shaolong strode towards the door in huge steps. The instance he opened the door, he came face to face with Madam Orchid who is escorting a high-spirited Lu Buwei. Behind him are three men, namely Qi Yu, Dan Chu and Han Jie.

    As the two men exchanged looks, Lu Buweis giant frame shook excessively and he halted his footsteps in astonishment, unable to believe that he is staring at his old nemesis Xiang Shaolong.

    Han Jie, Qi Yu and Dan Chu have yet to identify Xiang Shaolong. They stared at the two men with surprise.

    An ignorant Madam Orchid giggled: What a coincidence! I happened to run into Imperial Uncle and these fellow masters making their way over here.

    Stuck in a dilemma, Xiang Shaolong groaned to himself. Forcing himself to face the music head on, he smiled and greeted: Shen Liang pays his respects to Imperial Uncle.

    With a complicated look flashing across his eyes, Lu Buwei swiftly resumed his demeanor and loudly chuckled: Mister Shen resembles an old friend of Lu Buwei, giving me a fright.

    Hearing the name Shen Liang, Han Jies eyes blazed with a murderous aura.

    Xiang Shaolong is aware that Lu Buwei has identified himself but has decided not to expose him. He retreated back into the lounge to avoid blocking the entrance. Out of the blue, he can feel his fighting spirits surging to new heights and casting aside all his reservations.

    Frankly speaking, he is sick of always pretending to be someone else.

    Lu Buwei took the lead to enter the room and everyone including Zongsun Xuanhua hastily stood up to pay their respects. A minute ago, Zongsun Xuanhua had indicated his disrespect for Lu Buwei but right now, he is behaving in an uptight manner. Thus, he was likely stifled by Lu Buweis reputation and bearing.

    Giving up the best seat in the lounge, Xie Ziyuan shifted to Xiang Shaolongs table. As there are only four tables in this room, Xiang Shaolong and Xie Ziyuan had to share a table. Observing Lan Gongyuan clinging onto Xie Ziyuan, Madam Orchid personally served Lu Buwei.

    Squeezing between Xiang Shaolong and Xie Ziyuan, Lan Gongyuan suddenly leaned towards Xiang Shaolong and queried in a low voice: Why is Master Shen still here?

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly smiled: It would be considered rude if I were to leave now.

    Lu Buwei firstly raised his cup to toast everyone and with his second cup, he faced Xiang Shaolong and professed: Miss Feng is indeed lucky to have Brother Shen Liang managing the Troupe for her!

    Xiang Shaolong is conscious that Lu Buwei has seen through his ruse: Sabotaging his efforts to obtain Feng Fei from within the Song & Dance Troupe. Raising his cup in a return toast, he smiled: It is nothing. Little Brother is just doing my best!

    Besides the two of them, everybody else was astounded. In terms of status, these two men are worlds apart but ever since Lu Buwei entered the room, all his attention seemed to be centered around Xiang Shaolong.

    Qi Yu, Han Jie and Dan Chus interaction with Xiang Shaolong is minimal and therefore, they are unable to pinpoint Xiang Shaolong as quickly and as efficiently compared to Lu Buwei. All three men are awfully confused; why is Lu Buwei behaving as if he knows this insignificant character and is placing so much emphasis on him?

    Pouring wine for Lu Buwei, Madam Orchid enquired from the side: Have Imperial Uncle and Mister Shen met before?

    His eyes shining with a deathly killing aura, Lu Buwei plainly state: We know each other previously and it was truly unexpected to meet under such different circumstances.

    Listening to the intense emotion in Lu Buweis tone, the crowd can sense his high valuation of this Shen Liang and began to reassess their previous judgment of him.

    Fully aware that Lu Buweis brain is filled with thoughts of how to get rid of himself, Xiang Shaolongs mind speedily churned a reply: I did not expect to meet so many old friends during my Lin Zi trip.

    Taking in his words, Lu Buwei was flabbergasted and sank into silence.

    Xiang Shaolong obviously understood his predicament. Even if he is ten times braver, he would not dare to plot against him, a Great General of Qin. If Xiao Pan eventually learns that Lu Buwei did meet him here and subsequently, he, Xiang Shaolong was murdered, Lu Buwei can forget about disassociating himself with the crime.

    The only way that Lu Buwei can carry out his nefarious plot is when nobody knows Shen Liang is actually Xiang Shaolong.

    He would certainly not reveal this secret to anyone to prevent the news from leaking out, especially to Qi. It would be a disaster for Qi if they are found guilty of harming Xiang Shaolong.

    Zongsun Xuanhua is now treating Xiang Shaolong very differently from before. He tested: I did not realize Brother Shen has such a wide network of friends all over the land. No wonder even Marquis Han and Lord Longyang are considered your acquaintances.

    From his comment, Xiang Shaolong instantly concluded that Zongsun Long has planted a spy within the Troupe. For all you know, it could be Sa Lis gang.

    Lu Buweis huge body frame shuddered lightly, appearing to realize that he has lost the opportunity to assassinate Xiang Shaolong. In fact, he even had to resort to protecting him from harm. Otherwise, in the future, he could end up as a target of suspicion or be found guilty of Xiang Shaolongs death. He is at a great disadvantage.

    Everybody was staring at Xiang Shaolong, unable to comprehend how did this newly appointed manager of Feng Feis Song & Dance Troupe managed to gain the friendship and high regards from the heavyweights of various States.

    Xiang Shaolong raised his cup and toasted: It is all due to their kindness. Little Brother toasts every one of you.

    Nobody could understand the meaning of his words and returned the toast with a puzzled expression

    Only Lu Buwei realize that Xiang Shaolong is warning him not to act rashly. Finishing his drink, he officially proposed: Is Brother Shen available over the next two days? Can we schedule a time to meet or I can personally pay you a visit?

    When the words left his mouth, everyone present was left with their mouths wide open with astonishment. What is going on? Based on Lu Buweis status and his usual condescending attitude towards the world as well as his arrogant and self-serving behavior, why would he lower himself to pay a visit to this Shen Liang?

    Xiang Shaolong smiled: Not meeting is better than meeting. Imperial Uncle, please reconsider.

    Everyones expression went from shock to speechless, guessing that the relationship between the two of them is not as simple as it meets the eye.

    Even Madam Orchid who was pressing her bountiful breasts against Lu Buweis arm forgot about everything and was sitting with her back straight.

    From the side, Lan Gongyuans captivating eyes stared unblinkingly at Xiang Shaolong, scanning him at a speed that is neither fast nor slow.

    His eyes glowing with anger, Lu Buwei lowered his head and glared at the empty cup in his hand. He replied in a deep voice: Shen Liang is truly Shen Liang. When I heard Mister Shen barging into Zongsun Residence all by himself, I should have guessed that it was this old acquaintance.

    Zongsun Xuanhua immediately became uneasy and dryly coughed once.

    Cursing inside, Xiang Shaolong knows that Lu Buwei is purposely revisiting the old enmity between himself and the Zongsun Family, even covertly hinting his fake identity to the others. The best outcome would logically be a famed swordsman like Zongsun Xuanhua issuing a challenge to Xiang Shaolong. If Xiang Shaolong perished in an open and fair duel, even Xiao Pan cannot hold Qi responsible. However, Lu Buwei cannot directly expose his true identity and intentionally constructed this confusing statement.

    Right now, the lounge is so quiet you can hear a pin drop. From far, the sound of a flute and zither playing can be heard, adding to the awkward atmosphere.

    Xiang Shaolong simply articulated: Regarding that incident, it was all due to Brother Zongsuns esteemed father who showed great mercy, coupled with Chancellor Li putting in a good word for me. Otherwise, it would be impossible for Little Brother to be here drinking wine and listening to Miss Yuans heavenly singing.

    Hearing Xiang Shaolongs modest words and giving praise to Zongsun Long, Zongsun Xuanhuas stiff face became relaxed. Raising his cup, he respectfully clarified: That That was only a small misunderstanding!

    Xie Ziyuan finally had the chance to speak up. He laughed: It is genuinely a small misunderstanding. Lets drink up.

    Dan Chu and the others were all feeling doubtful and reluctantly raised their cups and drink the wine while remaining deep in thought. Lan Gongyuan poured wine for Xiang Shaolong first before pouring for the others. With Lan Gongyuan away from her seat and no more obstruction between the two of them, Xiang Shaolong moved to Xie Ziyuans side and whispered: Do not forget about Sister in Laws instructions.

    Stupefied, Xie Ziyuan exclaimed: I beg everybodys pardon. Little Brother needs to rush home now!
    Last edited by kohchun; 08-14-13 at 03:38 AM.

  10. #270
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2004


    Book 23 Chapter 10 - No More Hiding

    When Xiang Shaolong returned to Tingsong Villa, Chi Zichun who is bearing a malicious agenda welcomed him in front of the main courtyard: Your servant has something to report to Manager.

    Feeling doubtful, Xiang Shaolong checked: What is it?

    Peering to his left and right, Chi Zichun whispered: Why dont we proceed to the garden before we speak further? At the garden, it is less likely to be spotted by the others.

    Xiang Shaolong frowned: It is so late; who would spot us?

    Behaving as if he has something serious to reveal, Chi Zichun disclosed: Actually, I wanted to bring Manager to the garden to witness a rendezvous between two shameless individuals.

    Xiang Shaolong was momentarily stunned and wondered if Dong Shuzen was lying earlier despite swearing that she is loyal only to himself. Suppressing his voice, he quizzed: Is it Second Mistress?

    Chi Zichun nodded his head: And Sa Li too. It is all due to me paying extra attention to the movement of Gu Ming and company, discovering that they have smuggled Sa Li into the Villa.

    His anger rising, Xiang Shaolong icily hissed: Lead the way!

    A surge of delight flashed past Chi Zichuns face and was gone the next instance. He led Xiang Shaolong to a wide detour around the buildings, following a small path towards the rear garden.

    Stepping into the garden, it was all quiet and serene. The moon is shining brightly high up in the sky and there were no signs of human activity.

    Growing suspicious, Xiang Shaolong interrogated: Where are they?

    Pointing to a storage hut located far away in the corner of the rear courtyard, Chi Zichun warned: Right there where we store our firewood. We must take precautions for Gu Ming or someone else could be stationed nearby to act as a lookout. Manager, please follow me!

    Without waiting for Xiang Shaolongs acknowledgement, Chi Zichun went around a bush of flowers that was planted on the left side of a pavilion within the rear garden. He is apparently trying to take a small path along the rear wall.

    Xiang Shaolong can smell a rat. While it is not surprising if Dong Shuzen and Sa Li are still in cahoots but given the present circumstances, coupled with him voicing his misgivings about Sa Li and herself earlier today, it would be illogical for them to rendezvous under these constraints. As he thought further, an image of Chi Zichuns earlier delight surfaced in his brain. It is as if he cannot hide his exhilaration at successfully luring Xiang Shaolong into a trap.

    Ten odd steps later, Chi Zichun noticed Xiang Shaolong still standing at the same spot and shooed: Manager, come quickly!

    Xiang Shaolong gestured for him to come back and brought him to the back of a clump of small trees, explaining: There is something I do not understand.

    Chi Zichun asked: What is it?

    Pointing to something behind him, Xiang Shaolong questioned: Who is that?

    As Chi Zichun turned around in astonishment, Xiang Shaolong grabbed him from behind and whisked out his dagger, pointing it at Chi Zichuns throat. He bellowed in a chilling voice: Why are you lying to me? I saw Second Mistress in her bedroom with my own eyes.

    Chi Zichun begged in a quivering voice: Master Shen, please spare my life. Your servant is not aware that Second Mistress has returned to her room.

    From these words, Xiang Shaolong knows that Chi Zichun is in a state of panic and could not tell that Xiang Shaolong is simply fabricating a lie.

    Using a merciless tone, Xiang Shaolong frostily interrogated: Who is laying an ambush for me? If you dare to say you have no idea, I will instantly cut a section of your throat and let you slowly bleed till death.

    Chi Zichun is much more timid than what Xiang Shaolong expected. His entire body trembling, he stammered: Master Shen, please spare my life. It is Sa Li who forced me to do this.

    Recalling that Zongsun Xuanhua is extremely familiar with the Troupe affairs, he had a brainwave and demanded: How many men did Zongsun Long send to assist Sa Li?

    By now, Chi Zichun is a broken man. He quavered: So Master Shen knows about everything. Your servant recognizes his mistakes.

    Finally discovering the perpetuator behind Sa Li, Xiang Shaolong can feel his body loosening up. Without someone backing him up, Zhu Xiuzhen and Dong Shuzen would not give a [email protected] about Sa Li. In the same context, those bootlickers Gu Ming, Fu Yan, etc, would not obey his instructions.

    If not for his injury, he would teach Sa Li and the other swordsmen a lesson they would never forget. But if he does not use this opportunity to punish them, it would be letting these despicable cads off too easily.

    Pulling out Chi Zichuns belt, Xiang Shaolong used it to tie him up securely. Tearing a portion off Chi Zichuns shirt, he made it into a ball of cloth and stuffed his big mouth with it. He then snuck out and headed towards the firewood hut in a different direction.

    Moving without detection and camouflaging his tracks is a daily routine he practices as a member of the Special Forces. He managed to arrive at the vicinity of the firewood hut and the enemies are none the wiser.

    Surveying his surrounding, Xiang Shaolong observed that the two door panels facing the garden are slightly ajar. There were another two men laying in ambush on the roof and were armed with bows and arrows. If he had trotted down the path Chi Zichun had recommended, it would be a miracle if he did not end up with countless arrows sticking from his body. After more scrutiny, he discovered that there were men hiding in the trees as well. It is an accurate depiction of: Danger lurking at every corner.

    Xiang Shaolong was amused and darted towards the back of the firewood hut. Using a dagger, he stealthily pried open a window at the back. Pushing the window marginally open, he stared into the hut.

    In a short period of time, his eyes grew accustomed to the darkness within the firewood hut. Borrowing some light from the moon, he could barely make out two men hiding in ambush behind every window, ready and waiting in anticipation.

    Sa Lis voice happened to sound out: What is that dog slave Chi Zichun doing? Why is he hiding there with that [email protected]?

    Another man replied in a deep voice: Something is not right.

    Xiang Shaolong is not interested in the rest of the conversation. Concealing himself at a side, he lighted his fire stick and very quickly dashed to the side of the window, throwing the fire stick towards a pile of dry grass and whatnots.

    Cries of help can be heard from within the hut and it was a state of mayhem.

    The wooden doors are thrown open as several strongmen pathetically staggered out and began running towards the rear courtyard exit.

    Xiang Shaolong leapt out from behind the hut and fiercely roared: Where do you think you are going!

    Identifying Sa Li, his dagger left his hand.

    Letting out a tragic howl, Sa Li crumbled to the ground with an injured calf.

    The men on the trees were all jumping down and joining the men from the hut in making their swift escape via the rear exit.

    Xiang Shaolong casually strolled over and came to Sa Li who is still lying flat on his face. Using his leg, Xiang Shaolong flipped his body over.

    Sa Li wretchedly begged: Dont kill me!

    As the firewood hut dissolved into a huge ball of fire, it clearly illuminates Sa Lis cowardly expression. It was as ugly as a toad.

    Feng Fei blew her top and immediately fired all Troupe members who are in cahoots with Sa Li or are spying for him. Tying Sa Li securely like a giant mummy, Feng Fei is going to deliver him to the King of Qi tomorrow morning and demand justice to be served.

    By the time Sa Li was escorted away, it is already past midnight. Feng Fei requested Xiang Shaolong to accompany her back to the main building. When they are alone in the small sitting room of the upper floor, Feng Fei retorted with sarcasm: I thought Manager Shen is so sick he was confined to his bed? In the blink of an eye, he had slipped out with Xie Ziyuan to have a good time and even showcased his mighty prowess in capturing a villain and delivering justice.

    Xiang Shaolong is completely drained of energy and is leaning against his chair. He simply remarked: I saw your lover just now.

    With her back to him as Feng Fei glanced out of the window, she calmly replied: From tonight onwards, Feng Fei no longer has a lover and will never have one in the future.

    Xiang Shaolong can detect the sensations of grief and pain in her tone. He sighed: Arent you overreacting?

    Feng Fei shook her head and denied: You would not understand. I did bring up Zongsun Longs issue to him and implored him to intercede for me since he is the Elder Martial Brother of Zongsun Xuanhua but he flatly rejected me. At the same time, he swore to me he would never meet Zongsun Xuanhua privately. Aye!

    She melancholically added: Feng Feis heart is dead and only wishes to find a secluded place and live the rest of my life in tranquility. I want nothing to do with all the fame and glamour.

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly smiled: That is my ideal dream as well. I have grown sick of all the wars and revenge killings.

    Feng Fei turned her petite frame around and stared at him viciously, declaring: Finally willing to tell the truth? Feng Fei already guessed you are such a man.

    Xiang Shaolong cannot be bothered and offered: Whatever. If Mistress is agreeable to letting Second Mistress become your successor, I can guarantee that Mistress will realize your dream.

    Feng Fei challenged: On what basis are you offering this guarantee?

    Xiang Shaolong smiled: Based on the three words: Xiang Shaolong. Is it sufficient?

    As Feng Feis fragrant body shuddered uncontrollably, her eyes are shining with utter disbelief. Bewildered, she gazed at Xiang Shaolong for a long long time before collapsing onto a chair, exclaiming: You have got to be kidding me!

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly smiled: If it is anyone but me, Little Brother would not be petrified upon seeing the poisonous ring when Mistress came to ask about my illness and was forced to reveal the secret meeting between Han Jie and Zongsun Xuanhua.

    With considerable embarrassment, Feng Fei lowered her head. Lost and confused, she muttered: Feng Fei did not treat you kindly; why are you still helping me?

    Xiang Shaolong reasoned: Mistress originally is not evil in nature. It is just due to constant interaction with people who are harbouring evil designs on Mistress. Thus, you do not trust anyone easily!

    Feng Fei dejectedly wondered: What should I do now?

    Xiang Shaolong highlighted: Earlier tonight, Lu Buwei has learnt that Shen Liang is in fact Xiang Shaolong is disguise. Therefore, continuing this masquerade is not beneficial but harmful instead. Tomorrow, I might as well seek an audience with the King of Qi as Xiang Shaolong. By then, anyone who wishes to lay their hands on you would have to reconsider the consequences.

    Feng Fei was taken aback: Arent you afraid of being assassinated?

    Xiang Shaolong boisterously laughed: If anything were to happen to me here, Qi cannot claim ignorance. I have grown to detest a life of lies and deceit. Right now, I miss my home terribly and my only wish is to return home as soon as possible to reunite with my wives and son. If Mistress wishes to settle down in Qin, I can guarantee it will be done.

    With hot tears flowing down her cheeks, Feng Fei softly grieved: Feng Feis heart is dead. I shall adhere to Great Generals arrangements.

    Before Xiang Shaolong could accumulate enough sleep the next morning, someone roused him from his slumber, saying that Zongsun Xuanhua is waiting for him in the main hall.

    Recalling Sa Lis issue, he had a good grasp of the situation and proceeded to the hall to meet Zongsun Xuanhua. As anticipated, after a round of pleasantries, Zongsun Xuanhua immediately went to straight to the point: Little Brother has an inappropriate request and prayed that Brother Shen will grant this allowance to my Zongsun Family.

    Xiang Shaolong knows what he is up to. After observing Lu Buweis attitude towards himself last night, Zongsun Xuanhua is now having a better opinion of him. Moreover, Xie Ziyuan is a good friend of him as well and has decided to back down from the flying dagger issue. Now that Xiang Shaolong has a chance to do Zongsun Xuanhua a big favour, he smiled: With Brother Zongsuns words, I, Shen Liang, would never disagree. Sa Li will be handed over to Brother Zongsun and no further words are necessary.

    (meaning that there is no need to say thanks)

    Zongsun Xuanhua did not expect Xiang Shaolong to be so easygoing and reached out with a hand of friendship: Brother Shen is now my buddy.

    Stretching out his own hand to grab Zongsun Xuanhuas hand, Xiang Shaolong affirmed: Little Brother has always regarded Brother Zongsun as a friend.

    Before Zongsun Xuanhua could reply, Fei Chun barged in with a flustered expression and reported: Qins Imperial Uncle Lu Buwei is here to look for Manager!

    Zongsun Xuanhua did not expect Lu Buwei to really come looking for Xiang Shaolong. Moreover, Xiang Shaolong had openly hinted he did not wish to see him. Utterly shocked, he stared at Xiang Shaolong in a daze.

    Patting his shoulder, Xiang Shaolong assured; Brother Zongsun should have guessed that Shen Liang is just an alias of Little Brother. Lets have a detailed discussion in the future!

    With skepticism written all over his face, Zongsun Xuanhua slipped out from the rear exit.

    Lu Buweis grand arrival has every single troupe member buzzing with excitement. Except for Feng Fei who has seen it coming, the rest are still feeling puzzled.

    The moment this world famous Qin Imperial Uncle stepped in, he requested to speak with Xiang Shaolong privately. Once everybody else has retreated from the hall, Lu Buwei let out a long sigh: Shaolong is truly amazing to disguise yourself as Shen Liang and hide yourself in Lin Zi.

    Xiang Shaolong plainly questioned: Have I caused Imperial Uncle a great deal of disappointment?

    His two eyes flashing a chilly aura, Lu Buwei stared at him and promised: Shaolong, why are you speaking like this? The Crown Prince is worried sick over your survival. Now that I have ran into Shaolong, I will definitely do my best to protect and escort Shaolong back to Xianyang. I am here today to ask about your plans.

    Xiang Shaolong concluded: We shall discuss about it later. Now that I do not have a valid reason to continue my disguise, I hope Imperial Uncle could officially notify the King of Qi about my presence and allow me to seek an audience with him.

    After a moments contemplation, Lu Buwei sighed again: Why did our relationship degenerate to such a terrible state?

    Xiang Shaolong sarcastically replied: It doesnt seem like I am the correct person to blame.

    Lu Buwei conceded: It is my fault and I only wish to know if there is a way to redeem our relationship. As long as we work hand in hand to assist Crown Prince Zheng, all the lands would eventually end up as Qin territory.

    Xiang Shaolong had a big shock.

    He knows Lu Buweis character extremely well; a strong willed man who always rises to the occasion and would never admit defeat or his wrongdoings in any situation. For him to behave in such a submissive manner, it only indicates that he has gotten a trump card and is temporary making peace with himself.

    What formidable scheme has he formulated?

    Xiang Shaolong plainly state: From the beginning till the end, I, Xiang Shaolong, have always been a peace loving man and was forced by circumstances to retaliate. The differences between the two of us can no longer be resolved by just bare words.

    Putting on an earnest face, Lu Buwei clarified: Imperial Uncle would not hold it against Shaolong for having such thoughts. Back then, Imperial Uncle had wanted to marry Niangrong to Shaolong, expressing my sincerity to repair the ties between us. That obstinate daughter refused to obey me and ruined my plan.

    Pausing, he glared at Xiang Shaolong and slowly avowed: Right now, Imperial Uncle will inform the King of Qi about Shaolongs presence. Shaolong, please give some thought about Imperial Uncles words. Even if Shaolong is unwilling to forgive me, Imperial Uncle has made up my mind to forget about all the disputes I have with Shaolong. Time shall be my witness.

    After Lu Buwei took his leave, Xiang Shaolong is still sitting in a daze.

    He is one hundred percent certain that Lu Buwei has come up with a plan to kill himself, explaining his pretense at making amends. If he is unable to expose the murderous plot, he could incur a terrible defeat.

    Even if he, Xiang Shaolong, is dead, as long as Xiao Pan is still alive, Lu Buwei cannot consider his victory to be a complete triumphant. Thinking about this point, his entire body suddenly broke out in cold sweat.

    He believes he has discovered Lu Buweis trump card. It is the only but deadly loophole that can cause immediate and total devastation to Xiao Pan and him, Xiang Shaolong: The truth behind Xiao Pans birth.

    Via Zhu Ji, Lao Ai could learn about the process and could also retrieve the address of the couple who had raised the real Yingzheng. After bringing the couple back to Xianyang and spilling the beans, not only would Xiao Pan lose the throne, Xiang Shaolong himself would be found guilty of treason.

    But looking at it from another direction, if this had indeed happened, Qin Shihuang would not have appeared in the records of history.

    Despite guessing correctly about Lu Buweis trump card, there is nothing he can do to stop it due to time constraints. He can only live according to fate and pray that history cannot be altered.

    Although he is adopting this mindset, his heart is still filled with anxiety, causing him much irritation. He nearly wanted to beat his own chest and shout out loud to vent the frustration amassing in his heart.

    At this juncture, Feng Fei came into the hall and gracefully sat down beside him. She suggested in a low voice: Shall we make clear our intentions to Shuzen and the others?

    Xiang Shaolong suppressed his turbulent emotions and nodded in agreement.

    After several trials and tribulations, the affairs plaguing the Song & Dance Troupe are more or less resolved. However, regarding his personal troubles, this is just the beginning. Presently, he has lost all interest to stay in Lin Zi and only wishes to return to Xianyang as early as possible and join hands with Xiao Pan to manage his Identity Crisis. How long must he wait before he can enjoy days of peace?

  11. #271
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2004


    Book 23 Chapter 11 - Meeting The King Of Qi

    With a serious expression, Xiao Yuetan is helping to restore Xiang Shaolong original appearance while the latter is weighed down by troubling thoughts, causing the tension in the room to be very heavy.

    Finally noticing Xiao Yuetans serious demeanor, Xiang Shaolong was thunderstruck: What is bothering Elder Brother?

    Xiao Yuetan sighed with a breath: I am only too familiar with Lu Buweis methods. He would never allow you to return to Xianyang alive. The more pleasant his words are, the more brutal the methods he will employ.

    Xiang Shaolong was instead worried about Xiao Pans identity crisis, secretly blaming himself for being too slow to realize that the moment Lu Buwei and Lao Ai joined forces, this would be a loophole they would exploit sooner or later. To make it worse, he could not get other people to help out and get them involved in this matter.

    Xiao Yuetan continued: Given the current situation, it is difficult for me to lend a hand. On one side, we have Li Yuan, Han Chuang and Guo Kai who are scheming to get rid of you and on the other side, we have Lu Buwei and Tian Dan who wants to murder you. Your situation is a hundred times more perilous than before. If they can stage an accident, for example: a house collapsing or a ship sunk by huge waves and strong wind, it would be impossible for Crown Prince to hold anyone responsible.

    Xiang Shaolong thought of Lord Longyang, concluding that he could be the only person who can save him now. However, he did not understand why is he not back with any news yet? Logically, after he has tested Han Chuang, he should make his way back to give his report. Is there more than meets the eye? Contrary to his thoughts, he assured Xiao Yuetan: At least I will be safe in Lin Zi because no one would dare to openly assassinate me.

    Xiao Yuetan reasoned: That is hard to say. If Tian Dan arranged for someone to challenge you to a duel and kill you in the process, it would be an uphill task for Crown Prince Zheng to avenge you. How is your injury?

    Peering into the bronze mirror at his familiar and yet unfamiliar original appearance, Xiang Shaolong flexed his shoulder muscles and determined: I should make a full recovery in a maximum of three days.

    Xiao Yuetan reminded: It is no longer convenient for me to visit you on such a regular basis, for it may arouse Han Chuangs suspicions. Aye. With these new developments, I am really worried.

    A subordinate came in at this time to report that Lord Longyang is here.

    Receiving Lord Longyang in the East Hall and sharing with him the intention to end his masquerade, Lord Longyang was badly shocked and he professed in a troubled tone: This has greatly complicated matters.

    Xiang Shaolong do not wish to expend further energy on this bothersome issue and questioned him about Han Chuangs reaction. Lord Longyang firstly lowered his head and contemplated for a short while before raising his head and gazed at him, suggesting: Is it possible that Cao Cuidao coincidently happened to be there when you are about to steal your sabre?

    Xiang Shaolong resolutely shook his head and affirmed: Impossible. He personally informed me that someone has tipped him off. What did Han Chuang say?

    With his eyes glowing with distress, Lord Longyang replied in a low voice: I proceeded accordingly to the plan and suggested to Han Chuang about hatching a plot against you but received an earful from him instead. It seems like he was not the one who betrayed Shaolong. Could Shaolong have forgotten somebody else he may have revealed this matter to?

    Xiang Shaolong could only think of Xiao Yuetan and immediately strike out this possibility. He quizzed further: Is it possible for Han Chuang to see through Your Lordships ruse to test him?

    Lord Longyang attested: I can feel that he is not putting on an act. We have been friends for so many years and it would be rather tough for him to successfully deceive me. This affair is indeed baffling.

    Xiang Shaolong grew hopeful. If Li Yuan, Han Chuang and Lord Longyang are on the same side of the fence as him, it would be a walk in the park for him to arrive safely in Xianyang.

    Lord Longyang reassured: Shaolong need not fret. No matter what happens, I will always been on your side. Why dont we make plans to leave tonight? Once we have reached Wei, I will have a way to send you back to Qin.

    Xiang Shaolong was visibly tempted. He mused: But what about Feng Fei and the others?

    Lord Longyang recommended: If you can leave a letter to Han Chuang or Li Yuan, imploring him to watch over them on your behalf, I am sure they will follow your instructions despite whatever plans they already have in mind.

    Xiang Shaolong is even more motivated than before and asked about the road conditions. Lord Longyang swore: For the past two days, the weather has become significantly warmer and absent of snow. The river should have thawed by now. I will use an excuse to deploy a ship to send you off and I guarantee that even if someone wishes to pursue you after your departure, it will only be a futile attempt.

    Firstly, Xiang Shaolong is desperate to go home and secondly, Lin Zi is not an ideal place to continue loitering. He ultimately agreed to Lord Longyangs offer and finalized the details of his escape tonight. At this point in time, Han Jie and Dan Chu arrived together and announced that it is time to enter the palace and meet the King of Qi.

    This is the first time Xiang Shaolong is entering Small City from Big City as he headed north towards the palace on a carriage. Along the way, he observed that the buildings are much more imposing compared to the largely residential Big City.

    Lined along both sides of the highway are enormous mansions of the rich and powerful or high-ranking officials, coupled with numerous state buildings, all radiating with a luxurious and grand aura, majestic and magnificently designed.

    The two men Dan Chu and Han Jie are behaving very respectfully on the surface, courteous and accommodating. Dan Chu even provided a travel commentary and introduced the various sights and buildings along the way.

    Arriving at the palace, Lu Buwei and Tian Dan came up together and welcomed him as per standard diplomatic courtesy.

    Concluding the usual pleasantries, Tian Dan, who still retained his heroic air, let out a chuckle: Regardless of Great Generals ally or enemy, everyone is full of admiration for Great General. The world would be a much more boring place without someone as earth shattering as Great General.

    Regaining his past grandeur, Xiang Shaolong smiled: Life is but a game. Witnessing Chancellor Tians open mindedness, Shaolong should be the one expressing admiration. At the same time, he observed that Tian Dan is already displaying signs of aging and vulnerability, a far cry from his young and valiant days.

    Putting on an act of sincerity and intimacy, Lu Buwei suggested: We are all old friends and since the Great King is anxious to speak to Shaolong, lets talk further at the welcoming banquet Chancellor Tian will host for Shaolong.

    King Qi Xiang will be meeting Xiang Shaolong at the most outstanding structure within the palace: Henggong Pavilion. It is also the same place where Feng Fei will be performing and the birthday banquet will be held three days later.

    Henggong Pavilion is the most remarkable cluster of buildings within the royal grounds. It is situated at the northwest area of Small City and is only 800 feet away from the Small City west wall. It can be considered tall and overwhelming. The rectangular shaped pavilion measures 250 feet in length from south to north and about 200 feet in width from east to west. It stands at a height of about 50 feet and its brilliance is unimaginable. From the top of the pavilion, one could view the colossal parade square located between Henggong Pavilion and Golden Imperial Palace that could accommodate ten thousand soldiers executing their drills.

    Henggong Pavilion itself is quite unique and resembles a pyramid with a flat top. There are two storeys at the tip of the pavilion and the three corners of east, west and north is inclined at a sharp angle while the south side is less steep. From the bottom to the top of the pavilion are one hundred stone steps and on the pavilion top, grey bricks are stacked in a certain manner to create a distinctive pattern. In the middle of the pavilion top is a squarish stage about 5 feet tall and the flooring of the stage is lined with mosaic tiles, exuding an impressive and elegant sensation.

    The King of Qi is waiting at the lower deck of Henggong Pavilion, which is also known as Dianjiang Hall, to meet Xiang Shaolong. Accompanying him are First Prince Tian Sheng and Second Prince Tian Jian.

    King Qi Xiang is around seventy years of age, short and overweight. With a lethargic expression, he looks as if he will breathe his last anytime.

    Both princes Tian Sheng and Tian Jian are of medium built and share limited resemblance. Despite their royal heritage, they are ordinary looking and do not possess the bearing of a King. If held in comparison, Tian Sheng has the typical playboy look who had overindulged in alcohol and women while Tian Jian is much more energetic looking.

    The ambience is unexpectedly relaxing and friendly.

    After paying their respects, Xiang Shaolong and Lu Buwei sat down in front of the King of Qi but at a lower level while Tian Sheng, Tian Jian and Tian Dan sat at the side.

    Using his blurred eyesight to scrutinize and assess Xiang Shaolong, the King of Qi then began to laugh and articulate from his elevated throne: In the past when Zhang Yi visited Chu as a guest, he attended a banquet where they are showcasing the national treasure of Chu, a jade disc. The jade disc was passed around and was abruptly stolen. Someone suspected Zhang Yi to be the culprit and gave him a beating. When Zhang Yi got home, he asked his wife if his tongue is still there. He declared that as long as he still has his tongue, there is nothing he would fear. Ha

    (jade disc和氏璧&s...w=1439&bih=780 )

    Everyone laughed along in a flustered manner although they do not have a clue why he is sharing this story.

    The King of Qi gladly added: Based on his tongue (eloquence) which was not severed in the beating, he was made a marquis and eventually became the Chancellor. Based on the sword in your hand, Great General Xiang was promoted to Great General. A tongue in the past, a sword in the present. Both have been used to achieve greatness.

    This is the first time Xiang Shaolong is confronted with the weird imagination of the Qi populace. He responded: The Great King has made an excellent comparison.

    Tian Sheng laughed: However, Great General has switched to using the long dagger he created and has abandoned his sword.

    The King of Qi shot Tian Sheng a glare and countered with annoyance: Are you hinting that I am ignorant? I have already sent someone to retrieve Great Generals precious weapon.

    This time round, it is Xiang Shaolongs turn to feel extremely awkward. He opened his mouth and wanted to say something but did not know how to express himself. He cannot possibly reveal that he himself has already stolen his sabre and even received a stab from Cao Cuidaos sword. Concurrently, he could see for himself the hostile relationship between the King of Qi and First Prince Tian Sheng. No wonder Tian Dan made a last minute turnaround and switched to Tian Jian instead. But judging from Tian Dans feeble appearance, he would not outlive King Qi Xiang for long.

    King Qi Xiang is in the mood to chat and began talking nonstop: Ever since the late King launched the campaign Dominate Barbarians and Be their King, we, Great Qi, bear the ambition to surround the world, living peacefully regardless of whether one is civilised or uncivilized. When Qin underwent reform to introduce the rule of law, the two countries Qi and Qin have become the two large states with one in the east and one in the west. It is obvious that cooperation is mutually beneficial and estrangement will only bring about harm. This time round, with Imperial Uncle making a personal trip and Great General as a guest, it serves to reinforce the close ties between the two States. This is the best present I could ever ask for.

    Within the hall, every person has a different expression written on his face. Tian Sheng who had just been reprimanded by his King father kept his head low and was fearfully quiet. Tian Jians eyes are shining with passion as he stared at Xiang Shaolong. Lu Buwei may be laughing along but his body language is very unnatural. Tian Dan is still maintaining his deep and unfathomable outlook, possibly concealing a hidden agenda.

    At this moment, a nearby official walked up to the throne. Kneeling down, he passed a letter to the King of Qi and whispered a few words to him.

    Surprised at the words he heard, the King of Qi looked over to Xiang Shaolong and revealed: Grandmaster Cao says he has already returned the precious weapon to Great General. He has also a letter here that he wishes me to pass it to Great General.

    Tian Dan was taken aback: What is going on? Has Great General met up with Grandmaster Cao?

    Feeling exceedingly uncomfortable, Xiang Shaolong gingerly nodded his head.

    The King of Qi got the inner official to pass the letter to Xiang Shaolong. After opening and reading the letter, Xiang Shaolong smiled: Since Grandmaster Cao has a favourable opinion of Great General, he has invited Great General to Qixia Colleges Stargazing Pavilion on the day after the birthday banquet to exchange pointers. It is truly an honour for Great General.

    While the faces of Tian Dan and Lu Buwei flashed quickly with delight, the King of Qi trembled excessively and his face turned ashen white.

    Xiang Shaolong was secretly humoured. Three days later he would be safely in the territory of Wei; even if others jeer at him for being afraid of Cao Cuidao, he would not give a hoot.

    There are only two men he dreaded meeting. One of them is Li Mu and the other one is the fear-inducing Cao Cuidao.

    The minute Xiang Shaolong left Henggong Pavilion, he was intercepted by Xie Ziyuan. Dragging him to one side, Xie Ziyuan gasped: Great General has deceived Little Brother thoroughly, so you

    Firstly winking at Xie Ziyuan (to hint that it is inconvenient), Xiang Shaolong then paid his respects to Tian Dan and Lu Buwei: Great General dare not bother the two of you any further and will leave the palace by myself!

    Tian Dan nodded: Lets find some time to catch up over the new few days. Finishing, he left with Lu Buwei.

    Scrutinizing Xiang Shaolongs chiseled features, Xie Ziyuan sighed: Brother Xiang is indeed handsome looking and outstanding.

    Shoulder to shoulder, the two men strolled out of the palace gate. Xiang Shaolong plainly state: Brother Xie is certainly well-informed.

    Xie Ziyuan proudly affirmed: Nothing in the palace can escape my detection.

    Xiang Shaolong guffawed: In this case, are you aware that Cao Cuidao has just issued a challenge to Little Brother, fixing the duel at Qixias Stargazing Pavilion four days later? In addition, no one is allowed to witness the battle.

    His face losing colour, Xie Ziyuan was petrified: What should we do? Aye, to think you can still smile at a time like this.

    Xiang Shaolong of course knows that he can still smile because he is going to slip away tonight and it would be a different outcome four days later. He consoled: Worse to worse, I will just discard my sword and admit defeat. Will he still kill me after that?

    Xie Ziyuan was horrified: Wouldnt Yingzheng be upset if Brother Xiang really abandon the fight?

    Only now did Xiang Shaolong realize that he is representing the glory of Qin and forsaking the fight is certainly not an option. However, escaping for his life is a totally different perspective.

    After all, anything is better than dying under the merciless blade of Cao Cuidao. Suppressing his voice, he assured: Brother naturally has a way to resolve the problem. Brother Xie need not worry for me.

    Xie Ziyuan bitterly laughed: I would be lying if I say I am not worried. Grandmaster Caos sword skills have reached an immeasurable level and countless well-known master swordsmen are like children challenging adults when dueling him; they can barely defend themselves.

    Xiang Shaolong deeply understood that sensation. Arriving at the carriage parking lot, an attendant pulled the carriage door open for the two men to board.

    After they sat down, the horse carriage started to move.

    Xiang Shaolong enquired: Where are we heading?

    Xie Ziyuan disclosed: To see Zongsun Long. He wishes to apologise to Brother Xiang in person.

    In his heart, Xiang Shaolong can feel his emotions stirring. Life has its ups and downs; human feelings have its warmth and coldness. What an apt description!

    Ever since he has resumed his Xiang Shaolong persona, the entire environment seems to have changed. Within the Song & Dance Troupe, everyone is worshiping him like a deity and going all out to get into his good books.

    On the other hand, as Shen Liang, he can witness the more genuine side of their characters.

    Xie Ziyuan added: Once the Zongsun father and son knows that you are Xiang Shaolong, they are exhilarated and quickly begged me to plead with Brother Xiang, inviting you to join hands with them to oppose Lu Buwei. With Brother Xiang on our side, the Second Prince may change his mind once again.

    Xiang Shaolong suggested: Can Brother Xie arrange for me to meet the Second Prince today? I am doing this not for the Zongsun father and son but for Brother Xie.

    Xie Ziyuan was visibly touched and decided: Brother Xiang is a true friend indeed! I shall fix the appointment to be tonight!

    Looking at the streets through the window, Xiang Shaolong observed the people of Qi busy sweeping snow off the roads and property. The harsh winter is nearly over.

    Contradicting their usual habits, Zongsun Long and his son are waiting for them at the door with overwhelming friendliness.

    Xiang Shaolong has become their only savior.

    To the people of Qi, there is nothing more critical than maintaining good relations with Qin. Only then can Qi occupy the lands of their nemesis Yan without any distractions and slowly expand their territory and eventually uniting the lands.

    The reason why Tian Dan can wrest control of Tian Jian from the hands of Zongsun Long is purely because he has Lu Buwei, this ace card.

    If Xiang Shaolong who wields greater influence over Yingzheng compared to Lu Buwei decides to stand on Zongsun Longs side, Tian Jian need not switch sides to Tian Dan who had previously supported his own brother.

    With this given circumstances, Zongsun Long is naturally treating Xiang Shaolong with utmost hospitality.

    Seating themselves in the main hall, Zongsun Long firstly apologise to Xiang Shaolong. Before he could say anything more, Xiang Shaolong declared ahead of him: Whether privately or officially, I, Xiang Shaolong, will do my best for Brother Xie and Master Long. There is no need for any pleasantries.

    Zongsun Long father and son were deliriously happy.

    Xie Ziyuan wondered: Little Brother will enter the palace immediately and seek an audience with Second Prince to make the necessary arrangements for tonights banquet. Where is a good place to hold it?

    Zongsun Long decided after a quick analysis: Why dont we have it at Jade Orchid Brothel? Over there, the ambience is more relaxing

    Xie Ziyuan was ecstatic: Yes. That is a very good place.

    To Xiang Shaolong, Zongsun Xuanhua presented: Xuanhua has specially selected a batch of top rated swordsmen and will assign them to Great General to use at your disposal. Their integrity and character are above suspicion. While Great General is in Lin Zi, they will only take orders from Great General.

    Xiang Shaolong thanked: Brother Zongsun is really considerate. However, can this arrangement be postponed until tomorrow? In his mind, he was thinking that hell be long gone by tomorrow.

    Zongsun Xuanhua respectfully consented: We shall adhere to Great Generals instructions.

    He then frowned: I heard my Master has issued a challenge to Great General. This is indeed troubling. Xuanhua will pay his respects to Master later and will try to persuade him to retract his challenge.

    Xiang Shaolong shook his head and dismissed: There is no need to go to such an extent. Your Masters decision is something even your Great King is unable to influence. Moreover, Little Brother is interested to try out Grandmasters Cao ultimate swordplay.

    Zongsun Long anxiously stammered: Grandmaster Cao may be a nice and approachable person but once his sword leaves its sheathe, he becomes a heartless fighter. If Great General happens to meet with some misfortune, that will Aye!

    If he had not tasted Cao Cuidaos prowess before and someone like Zongsun Long is speaking as if he would surely lose, Xiang Shaolong would be greatly offended. Presently, he obviously would not react the same way. He laughed: I have my ways of keeping myself safe. Master Long need not fret.

    Zongsun Xuanhua had a brainwave and exclaimed: Why dont Martial Sister and myself visit Master together? He is most fond of Martial Sister and may make an exception, altering the duel to a friendly match just to exchange pointers.

    Xiang Shaolong has his own plans and smiled: I really do not require any help from you. Brother Zongsun is a fellow swordsman and should understand how a swordsman think!

    Deflated, Zongsun Xuanhua nodded: Great General is truly one of a kind. Master has lost interest in dueling a long time ago and only Great General is able to stir his fighting spirit. It must be partly due to Great Generals precious sabre.

    Zongsun Long reminded: Brother Xiang is remarkably famous. In my opinion, I think Xuanhua had better warn the two troublemakers Ma Chenjia and Min Tingzhang. It would be hard to resist if they come forward and challenge Brother Xiang too.

    His eyes blazing with a chilling aura, Zongsun Xuanhua coldly grunted: If they are thinking of dueling with Great General, they will have to contend with me, Zongsun Xuanhua, first.

    Since he is running away tonight, Xiang Shaolong leisurely proclaimed: It is all right as I could use some practice with my sabre. Brother Zongsun is too kind.

    With a mixture of hero worship and admiration, Zongsun Xuanhua respectfully and solemnly suggested: Now wonder the whole of Xianyang is in awe of Great General. Just be simply observing Great Generals open mindedness and indomitable aura, one can deduce that Great Generals sabre skills have attained a godly state. Xuanhua can only admit defeat. Nevertheless, if there is an opportunity, Xuanhua hopes Great General can give Xuanhua some pointers.

    Xiang Shaolong exposed: Brother Zongsun is really itching for a fight or is he trying to gauge Little Brothers skills in order to decide to beg your Master to let me off or not?

    With Xiang Shaolong seeing through his ruse, Zongsun Xuanhuas face turned red and he awkwardly insisted: Great General must be kidding. Xuanhua is sincere in learning from Great General.

    Zongsun Long abruptly apologized: I, Zongsun Long, would like to use this opportunity to bare my soul to Great General, hereby swearing that I no longer bear any ulterior motives towards Miss Feng Fei. If I break my word, may I, Zongsun Long, die in the wilderness with an exposed corpse. Will Great General please relay this message to her and tell Mistress I, Zongsun Long, is truly sorry.

    Xiang Shaolong had an idea and checked: Little Brother may have to leave Lin Zi before Mistress. I may have to trouble Master Long to protect Mistress on Little Brothers behalf.

    Thumping his chest, Zongsun Long swore: You can count on me, Zongsun Long. Great General can put your mind at ease.

    The aggressor is now the protector. Life is indeed unpredictable.

    Xie Ziyuans body shuddered once and he recommended: Why dont Brother Xiang find an excuse to return to Qin before the duel with Grandmaster Cao? That would solve everything without a hitch.

    Zongsun Xuanhua was the first to praise: You can lie that your Father in law is sick. With this justification, no one would blame Great General for missing the appointment.

    In his mind, Xiang Shaolong could not agree more and this scenario best depicts: Only a hero will recognize another hero. Pleased, he ended: We shall decide further after discussing with Second Prince tonight.

    Noting that he did not reject this idea, the other three men could finally calm down.

    Xiang Shaolong stood up and bid farewell. Zongsun Long reluctantly send him all the way to the main entrance before the other two men, Zongsun Xuanhua and Xie Ziyuan accompanied him back to Tingsong Villa.
    Last edited by kohchun; 08-15-13 at 11:59 PM.

  12. #272
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
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    Jul 2004


    Book 23 Chapter 12 - Dilemma

    Back at Tingsong Villa, Fei Chun came up to welcome him: Reporting Master Xiang, the two men, Zhang Quan and Kun Shan have left.

    Xiang Shaolong has forgotten about these two men and was stunned upon hearing this news. He interrogated: Did they take any luggage with them?

    His hands relaxed by the side, Fei Chun respectfully replied: Their belongings took up two carriages. Mistress knows about it too.

    Secretly acknowledging that the cleanup is now completed, Xiang Shaolong is about to return to his room when Fei Chun awkwardly questioned: Master Xiang, after the disbandment of the Song & Dance Troupe, can our band of brothers throw in our lot with you?

    Patting his shoulder, Xiang Shaolong advised: The Song & Dance Troupe would not be disbanded. You guys should do your best and support Second Mistress. Touring the various States is much better than cooping yourself in one place. Finishing his sentence, he began to climb the stairs leading to the main hall.

    Fei Chun caught up to him and added: First Mistress and Second Mistress are looking for you. And there is Miss Xinyue too. Oh, it nearly slipped my mind; Mister Tan is here as well and is waiting for Master Xiang in the East Hall. He says it is a matter of life and death!

    Although he is now more popular than before, Xiang Shaolong is feeling more troublesome instead. He naturally went to look for Xiao Yuetan first.

    Standing in front of the window, a dazed Xiao Yuetan was staring at the garden scenery beyond the window with his arms akimbo. Until Xiang Shaolong arrived at his back did he calmly divulge: Shaolong, I have a piece of terrible news for you.

    Xiang Shaolong had a big shock and enquired: What terrible news?

    Xiao Yuetan described: Today, I disguised myself and stalked Han Chuang. This ingrate actually went to visit Guo Kai in secret. They had a two hour discussion before he finally left.

    His heart swelling with a sour feeling, Xiang Shaolong thought to himself: I do not offend others; yet others try to offend me. What more can I say? This fella is getting better and better. Even Lord Longyang has been deceived by him. He cannot be bothered and replied: It doesnt matter anymore. I will be leaving tonight. Lord Longyang has arranged everything for me.

    Turning his body around, Xiao Yuetan used his hands and grabbed both of Xiang Shaolongs shoulders. He seriously remarked: How do you expect to leave? Both the river and roads have been blockaded by heavy snow. Lord Longyang and Han Chuang are in it together. Both of them are after your life!

    He continued: The reason for my suspicion is because Lord Longyang came to visit Han Chuang. After a short discussion, Han Chuang then left to look for Guo Kai. What do you think they are up to?

    His face drained of colour, Xiang Shaolong stammered: What?

    Xiao Yuetan sighed: Shaolong, you are too trusting with your friends. You must understand that when the interests of the Country and the glory or shame, life or death of their entire clan is concerned, every strand of relationship will be cast aside. To the people of the Three States (Han Zhao Wei), the three words Xiang Shaolong is equivalent to their Soul Reaper. Only with your demise can they put their mind at ease.

    Xiang Shaolong can feel his head turning numb. If he does not leave, he would have to face Cao Cuidaos godly swordplay and handle other annoying issues.

    He decided: I will leave by myself.

    Xiao Yuetan disagreed: You arm injury has yet to recover fully. Leaving now is too dangerous.

    Pausing, he continued: I heard Cao Cuidao has issued a challenge to you. Are you leaving and forsaking the duel?

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly laughed: What else can I do? Elder Brother is well-informed indeed.

    Xiao Yuatan warned: It is not that I am well-informed but there is someone intentionally spreading this news, announcing this to the whole city and making it difficult for you to avoid this battle. Aye, did you ever think that if you had really slipped away, it would be significantly detrimental to yourself? Lu Buwei will definitely make a big hoo ha over this matter and damage your revered status among the Qin military.

    Xiang Shaolong was taken aback: You are asking me to fight Cao Cuidao despite knowing that I will surely get killed?

    Xiao Yuetan reasoned: Based on your current disposition, you will lose without a doubt. But since he personally issued the challenge, he must have regarded you as a worthy adversary.

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly smiled: It could be Lu Buwei who ordered Han Jie to invite him to issue this challenge to me.

    Xiao Yuetan dismissed: You are saying this because you do not understand Cao Cuidao. There is no one in this world who can influence him. With a passion for sword fighting, he toured the land since he was young, looking for challengers to better himself. After the age of twenty five, he has yet to taste defeat and ultimately gained the admirable title of Sword Saint.

    Xiang Shaolong was amazed: And you are still asking me to fight him?

    Xiao Yuetan officially articulated: I am just being realistic. The population of Qin values the glory of its military and swordsmen. You can afford to lose but you cannot afford to run away from the duel. The impact on your reputation is beyond imagination. Maybe you can persuade Cao Cuidao to limit the fight to ten strokes. That may perhaps create a win win scenario and both parties can maintain their personal standing without committing offence.

    Xiang Shaolong is highly enthusiastic and nodded: Why dont I make an official petition to the King of Qi. Of course I will be tactful about it and mention stuff like not wanting anybody to be hurt, etc.

    After a moments contemplation, Xiao Yuetan suggested: Why dont we write directly to Cao Cuidao? Since this old fella is unable to overcome you the last time, it must surely bug him and he may approve of this condition. Moreover, if nobody else knows about this arrangement and you manage to successfully deflect ten strokes from him, everyone would have the impression that you are evenly matched with Old Cao. This will enhance your reputation significantly without any side effects.

    Xiang Shaolong secretly thought that Cao Cuidao may have studied and understood his sabre moves and it will not be a repeat of their first encounter when he could only defend without attacking. He dejectedly mused: These ten moves are not easy to defend against. Regardless of speed, strength or skill, I am inferior to him.

    Grabbing Xiang Shaolongs shoulders and violently shaking him once, Xiao Yuetan fiercely painted: Xiang Shaolong. Look at me. This is either make or break. If you persist in thinking that you will lose this duel, you can never return to Xianyang and see your wives and son. As long as you can walk down Qixia College Stargazing Pavilion three days later with your life intact, you can leave Lin Zi that very night, returning back to Qin for an ultimate showdown with Lu Buwei. Otherwise, all your previous efforts would have come to naught.

    His whole body breaking out in cold sweat, Xiang Shaolong was shocked into awakening. His sharp eyes teeming with energy, he stared back at Xiao Yuetan and swore in a deep voice: I got it. Xiang Shaolong would not let Brother Xiao down. I, Xiang Shaolong, will definitely return to Qin in one piece.

    Xiao Yuetan released his grip on him and concluded: I will proceed to draft the letter in your room. Once you have signed it, I will personally deliver it to Cao Cuidao. After that, we can only pray for his gallantry.

    Xiang Shaolong made his way to the enormous garden of the rear courtyard. With the area swept clean of snow, Feng Fei and the others are conducting an outdoor rehearsal. Right now, Dong Shuzen is practicing the critical main song.

    Now that he is better at assessing a womans artistic talents, he discovered that compared to Feng Fei, Dong Shuzen evokes a totally different aura.

    Unlike Feng Fei sloppy and diva attitude, Dong Shuzen carries an exquisite and enchanting aura that reminds him of a poem or a work of art. Even when she is feeling upset or angry, she can still radiate an indescribable sensation of playfulness and passion. It is truly captivating.

    As the courtesans are fully immersed in the performance, none of them noticed Xiang Shaolong stepping into the garden. Only Feng Fei approached his side and whispered: Once Shuzen finish singing this song, Great General will then announce Feng Feis retirement and her subsequent marriage into the Xiang Family. Shuzen shall officially succeed Feng Fei and be responsible for the performance at Qixia College.

    Xiang Shaolong was thunderstruck: What?

    Chuckling with a Pu Ci, Feng Fei jested: What is your what about? Didnt you impersonate Shen Liang to seduce me?

    Xiang Shaolong realizes that she is just fooling around and changed the topic: Did Han Jie look for you?

    Feng Fei shot him a look and replied in a slow and melancholic manner: I was looking for you regarding this issue. He told me he went to see Zongsun Xuanhua because he wants to gather more information about Zongsun Long and my case. He even swore to Heaven & Earth that he would never let me down. I am so confused by his promises and I am at a loss now.

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly smiled: As an outsider, it is impossible for me to intervene. However, Zongsun Long did swear that he no longer bears any malice towards you. He even guaranteed to safely escort you to wherever you wish to go.

    Her petite frame shivered once, as Feng Fei demanded: From your tone, you sounded as if Lord Longyang and Han Chuang are both unreliable and at the same time, hinting me to give up Han Jie. What is going on?

    By now, the song has reached its highest peak and the environment was packed with a joyful and celebratory atmosphere like an energetic and dazzling display of fireworks. With the striking of the bell, the entire performance came to a stop instantaneously. However, the images of the spectacle continue to linger in ones memory.

    Leading her fellow courtesans, Dong Shuzen came to the front of Xiang Shaolong and Feng Fei, bowing and paying their respects in their shrill voice.

    Xiang Shaolong intensely felt that the bearing of the whole Song & Dance Troupe has improved tremendously, with every member working with a high fighting spirit and full of hope that the future is bright and can only get brighter.

    If he had left tonight without saying goodbye, it would severely impact their morale. Thus, he can feel his own heroic sensation arising and matching their high morale.

    His phobia towards Cao Cuidao has been cast to the back of his brain.

    When Dong Shuzen stood up again, her eyes are filled with hot tears and glowing with utmost gratitude that no words can describe.

    At this juncture, a subordinate came to report that Yan General Xu Yizhe is here to seek an audience with him.

    Sighing to himself, Xiang Shaolong knows that another set of troubles await.

    Xu Yizhe came to visit him in ordinary clothes and without any followers. His entourage is completely different from Lord Longyang and the others.

    It has been years since they last met and the wrinkles on his face have increased considerably, signaling a tormenting lifestyle.

    After exchange pleasantries, both men sat down according to their status as host and guest. This famed General of Yan lamented: Today we may be pouring our hearts out to each other but tomorrow we could be meeting in the battlefield. This is truly dreadful.

    Xiang Shaolong can comprehend his emotions and enquired about Prince Dans situation.

    Xu Yizhe sighed: With wolves and tigers as neighbours, who can enjoy a day of peace? Great General should be aware of Qis ambitions towards our territory. This time round, we initially did not wish to send anyone over. However, Guo Kai kept egging Prince Dan, promising that if we can support Tian Jian and suppress Tian Dan, it will result in a different outcome. Thus, here I am. And I have discovered that regardless of whoever is in power, halting these ambitions is simply impossible.

    Xiang Shaolong sighed to himself. The people of Zhao and Yan are mired in gratitude and hatred themselves. In the same year when he took the time machine and travelled to this era, the Yan invading army has just been freshly defeated by Lian Po, who subsequently attacked all the way to the capital of Yan. At that time, Wei, Han, Qi and Chu joined hands in pressuring Zhao, forcing them to withdraw. Taking advantage of the situation, Qi invade Yan and this time round, Chu came in to attack Qi from the back, as the Three States are unable to cope with Qi due to the fierce threat from mighty Qin.

    The entire history of the Warring States is a record of large States conquering the smaller States. Every State has its expansionary policy and increased its own strength by absorbing territory from other States. If they do not increase their own strength, they would be conquered by others to be used to increase the strength of others. For example, if Yan is a bigger state than Qi, the people of Qi would be the ones feeling depressed now.

    Ever since their crushing defeat at the hands of Zhao, Yan has been struggling at the brink of extinction. If not for Prince Dan who sent Jingke to assassinate Xiao Pan in the later years, probably nobody would have a deep impression of Yan.

    Xu Yizhe added: Prince Dan is currently based at Wu Yang, it is a developed city beside River Wu and it is nearer to the South border in preparation for any threats from Qi. If Great General can spare the time, Prince Dan would love to meet his old buddy.

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly laughed: Now, I am not even confident if I can make it safely back to Xianyang alive and would not burden myself with other matters.

    Xu Yizhe officially state: Is Great General referring to the duel with Cao Cuidao? I am certain it is Tian Dan and Lu Buwei fanning the flames from behind. Great General must exercise caution when dealing with it. We did send a few top swordsmen to challenge Cao Cuidao, hoping to ruffle the feathers of Qi. Unexpectedly, they could not even overcome Zongsun Xuanhua, causing us some distress.

    Xiang Shaolong is conscious that his present predicament is indirectly caused by Han Chuang. Not wishing to discuss any further, he changed the topic: When is Brother Xu going back to Yan?

    Xu Yizhe answered: I had planned to leave the next morning after the birthday banquet but right now, I would only leave after witnessing Great General triumph over Cao Cuidao.

    Xiang Shaolong shook his head: Brother Xu is expecting too much from me.

    Xu Yizhe was slightly stunned and queried: The match has not yet begun. Why is Great General already feeling disillusioned?

    Xiang Shaolong obviously could not tell him he had experienced Cao Cuidaos prowess before and could only mutter some gibberish and changed the topic again.

    After some idle chatter, Xu Yizhe finally brought up the topic that Xiang Shaolong feared most of all: Besides paying my respects to Great General, Xu Yizhe has a special request.

    Xiang Shaolong could only respond: Brother Xu, please speak without any reservations.

    Xu Yizhe solemnly explained: Although we took part in the allied campaign and attacked your State, we did so reluctantly and were in fact forced by circumstances. Otherwise, we would be helpless and alone the next time Qi attacks us. If we can get rid of this thorn in the flesh, I guarantee that my State will never participate in any allied campaigns.

    Xiang Shaolong frowned: This is a high level decision. Can Brother Xu have the final say?

    Xu Yizhe sighed: This is no longer regarding who has the final say but this is the dream of the key decision maker. Now that Tian Dan and Lu Buwei are in cahoots and the might of Qin military is suppressing the Three States (Han Zhao Wei), causing them to be unable to divert any resources to the north, giving Tian Dan the opportunity to occupy our territory. All I ask of is for Great General to hint Qi that Qin will not sit by and watch while Qi expand their borders. With that, even if Qi has all the guts in the world, they would not dare to be complacent. With just one sentence, Great General shall win the friendship of my State on behalf of your State.

    This is the first time Xiang Shaolong found himself in such a complicated dilemma. Although he could influence Xiao Pan, that is purely because he does not possess any selfish motives and is always thinking from Xiao Pans point of view.

    Ever since Qin implemented Shang Yangs reforms, they have a policy of befriending distant States while invading neighbouring States. For example, they maintained cordial relations with Qi and Chu while making inroads into the lands of the Three States. With regards to Yan, Yan did enjoy a glorious period when King Yan Zao constructed a Golden Pavilion to recruit famed generals such as Le Yi who successfully repelled the Qi army. Presently, Qin cannot be bothered with pathetic Yan, which is situated in the desolated northeast. Therefore, Qin would never forsake their relationship with Qi for Yan.

    From another angle, he has to make provisions for Shan Rou and assist Xie Ziyuan in regaining Tian Jians cooperation. To a certain extent, he has to match the same promise Lu Buwei has committed to Tian Jian. The promise naturally involves Yan, this juicy piece of meat.

    He knows better than anybody that he is not someone who is suitable for political work. Of course he could easily win the affections of Xu Yizhe by pretending to agree first and subsequently doing the opposite. However, this is something his conscience would never allow.

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly smiled: It may appear easy for me to accept your proposition and just mention this one sentence; however, I am afraid it cannot be done.

    His countenance slightly altered, Xu Yizhe admitted: Then it must be my imperfect judgment, assuming that Great General is a true friend of Prince Dan.

    Xiang Shaolong clarified: Brother Xu is mistaken. Friends are friends. This fact would never change. The problem is that I am not officially visiting Qi on behalf of Qin and with Lu Buwei posing an obstruction, it would be challenging for me to put your message across. Therefore, I dare not recklessly agree. Can you give me some time to think this through?

    Sighing, he added: If I succumbed under Cao Cuidaos sword, all my undertakings would be meaningless.

    His expression turning warm, Xu Yizhe was slightly embarrassed: It is me who had jumped to conclusions. We shall speak again after Great General return victoriously from Qixia College.

    Xu Yizhe concluded his visit, standing up and bidding farewell. After sending him off at the Villa entrance, Li Yuan happened to come along.

    In the past, Xiang Shaolong has the free time to take an afternoon nap. Presently, he is handling one appointment after another, working himself to death.

    Firstly instructing Li Yuan to wait for him in the main hall, he proceeded to put his signature on the letter Xiao Yuetan had prepared. While he was rushing towards the main hall, Little Pinger detained him, demanding: Mistress is urgently looking for you and insists that you see her at once.

    Witnessing the melancholic and pitiful glow of her eyes, Xiang Shaolong can feel his heart grinding with agony. However, there is nothing he can do about it as he had made up his mind to refrain from taking another wife or concubine. Love is in fact the greatest burden of all. Since the passing of Princess Qian, the only women who have moved his heart are Qin Qing and Li Yanyan.

    Xiang Shaolong was in a fix: But Li Yuan is waiting for me in the main hall!

    Little Pinger declared: Nevertheless, you must visit Mistress first because Lady Qingxiu has sneaked into her bedroom.

    Only now did Xiang Shaolong knows Lady Qingxiu and Feng Fei are acquainted. After weighing his options, he hurriedly made his way to meet this gorgeous lady.

    As anticipated, Lady Qingxius face is covered with several layers of veil as she refuses to let Xiang Shaolong view her actual face. After Feng Fei knowingly excused herself, Lady Qingxiu went straight to the point: Does Great General knows that you are in an extremely dangerous situation?

    Nodding, Xiang Shaolong quizzed in a deep voice: What updates does Your Lady have for me?

    Lady Qingxiu enlightened: Chancellor Li naturally would not talk to me about his affairs. However, I did send someone to keep an eye on him. For the past two days, Han Chuang visited him several times and held secret discussions. Great General yourself is an observant man and should be aware that Han Chuangs character is deplorable. All along, Chancellor Li does not have a high opinion of Han Chuang. When they are suddenly behaving so intimately, I sense something is afoot.

    Xiang Shaolong sighed: I understand. Thanks so much Your Lady. I am extremely grateful.

    Lady Qingxiu simply state: I am doing this for Yanyan; otherwise she would certainly blame me. We are just ordinary women and in our eyes, Great General has done Chancellor Li a huge favour and Chancellor Li would be at fault if he repays your favour with evil. We do not care about other details. I dare not hold Great General back from your official work anymore. Great General, please help yourself.

    Xiang Shaolong is used to her icy demeanor, seemingly putting an enormous chasm between her and everybody else. He paid his respects and bade farewell before heading to meet Li Yuan.

    Sitting alone in the main hall, Li Yuan was sipping his tea in silence. Wearing a look of anguish, it may be due to the fact that he is betraying Xiang Shaolong, causing his mind to be turbulent.

    Settling down by his side, Xiang Shaolong can feel his anger rising. He coldly hissed: I shall have to trouble Brother Li to inform your best friend that I have decided not to leave tonight.

    Li Yuan shuddered forcefully: Is Brother Xiang leaving tonight?

    Observing his body language, Xiang Shaolong deduced that he is not putting on an act. Mystified, he wondered: Didnt that ingrate Han Chuang tell you about it?

    Li Yuan swore to heaven that he was wronged: I really do not know about this matter. I came to look for you today because I wanted to tell you that the fella Han Chuang has convinced Guo Kai to get rid of you and frame Lu Buwei for it, causing internal strife within Qin. Hey? Are you assuming that I am in the same league as him? If I really stoop so low, can I, Li Yuan, be considered a human being? Yanyan will hate me for life.

    His thoughts jumbling up, Xiang Shaolong can no longer discern who is a friend or foe. He disputed: Why didnt you visit me over the past two days? If I had tried to leave tonight, wouldnt I be falling into Han Chuangs and Guo Kais trap?

    Li Yuan was guilt-ridden: Han Chuang did approach me consistently over the past few days. I did intend to stay out their affairs but eventually, I could not answer to my conscience any more. Shaolong, please do not blame me. It is Little Brother who is lacking in willpower.

    Xiang Shaolong sighed: Did it ever cross your minds that as long as I am alive and confining Lu Buwei in a power tussle, it would be unlikely for Qin to attack your States with its full potential. I am certain all of you can imagine what would be the alternative if I am not around.

    He could not help but recall Xiao Pans identity crisis again. This event would cause both him and Xiao Pan to be at a severe disadvantage. Even if Lord Changping and the others continue to express their support for Xiao Pan, he would have lost the legal and moral right to rule.

    Li Yuan bitterly smiled: Essentially, Lord Longyang could not bear to betray Shaolong too. Due to a moment of carelessness, he did mention to Han Chuang he once saw you in Daliang. After the incident, he did not make a report to Wei. Thus, he was blackmailed by Han Chuang into cooperating with him because this information could lead to the annihilation of his clan. His affections towards you is deeper than any one of us and he is naturally experiencing the most agony. Brother Xiang should understand what I meant.

    Xiang Shaolong was incensed: This fella Han Chuang has gone overboard. On the surface, he is spouting all kinds of friendship and integrity quotes. No wonder he has a special fear of me; his conscience is overpowered by guilt. Aye, since he could feel pangs of guilt, that means his personality is not completely evil.

    Li Yuan bitterly smiled: I cannot imagine that Brother Xiang is still in the mood to joke. Han Chuang is indeed exceedingly troubled. Part of the reason behind his actions is due to pressure from Guo Kai. The loophole is that someone from Han Chuangs entourage is a spy of Guo Kai, causing this information to be leaked out. Currently, Han cannot afford to offend Zhao and Han Chuang himself is terrified of Han Jing. If she lodges a complaint against him to the King of Han, he would be in hot soup.

    His anger faintly subsiding, Xiang Shaolong chuckled: If I had knew about this earlier, I should have killed Guo Kai when I had the chance. It will save me from facing all these problems.

    Li Yuan reminded: Even if it was somebody else, there would be no difference because in order to survive, men have been known to use all forms of despicable methods. However, this is simply against my conscience. In my opinion, even without your intervention, Han Chuang would terminate his scheme to escort you out of Lin Zi tonight. Using Cao Cuidaos sword to get rid of you is surely better than getting his own hands dirty.

    From this sentence, Xiang Shaolong is confident that Li Yuan did not participate in this scheme; otherwise, he would be aware that Lord Longyang was the one escorting him away. On the surface, Han Chuang is supposed to be ignorant about this arrangement.

    His mood improving, Xiang Shaolong perceived: In this case, I should be safe before my duel with Cao Cuidao.

    Li Yuan sighed: Logically, that is correct. However, I am concerned that the idle swordsmen of Lin Zi may be eager to challenge you and assess your swordsmanship beforehand.

    Xiang Shaolong coldly snorted: I am in a terrible mood right now; they had better not mess around with me.

    Li Yuan wondered after some contemplation: Cao Cuidao is truly a brilliant and exceptional swordsman. There has never been a swordsman as skillful as him. Does Shaolong have the confidence to defeat him?

    Recalling Xiao Yuetans Ten Strokes proposal, Xiang Shaolong immediately felt better and nodded: I should have no difficulty in defending myself.

    Li Yuan was amazed at his reply and did not probe further. Just as he was about to continue the conversation, Xie Ziyuan came looking for Xiang Shaolong. Knowing that it is inconvenient for him to stick around, Li Yuan swiftly left.

    As Xiang Shaolong welcomed Xie Ziyuan into the hall, the latter bitterly laughed: The appointment is fixed. However, Little Brother is facing a new setback. My wifey does not believe that we are going out together tonight and must witness your presence before she will give her approval.

    Xiang Shaolong is conscious that Shan Rou is only making up an excuse to see him. He bitterly smiled: This time round, I shall fetch Brother Xie at your residence.

    Xie Ziyuan was elated: Brother Xiang is a true friend indeed. When Second Prince knows that he is finally meeting you, he was overwhelmed with happiness. He states that in front of Yingzheng, a word from you is way more effective than ten words from Lu Buwei.

    Xiang Shaolong secretly felt that the eventual demise of Qi is precisely due to this kind of mindset.

    Xie Ziyuan fantasized: Once again, we must get Soft Boned Beauty to accompany us tonight. It is an incredible sensation to feel her leaning onto my body.

    Xiang Shaolong was alarmed: Isnt she working for Tian Dan? It would be inappropriate for her to overhear our conversation!

    Xie Ziyuan assured: You can put your mind at ease. She is famous for not meddling in political affairs. Moreover, our discussion is not fully confidential. We mainly need to make it clear to the Second Prince that you are on our side.

    Recalling the incident this morning when the King of Qi scolded the First Prince Tian Sheng without mincing his words, he could comprehend why everybody is having a better opinion of Tian Jian and his higher chances at the throne.

    Suppressing his voice, Xie Ziyuan clandestinely revealed: It is rumoured that the Great King will announce the Crown Prince succeeding his throne during the birthday banquet. It will unquestionably be Second Prince. As a result, we need to borrow Brother Xiang to ruffle the feathers of Tian Dan and Lu Buwei.

    In his wildest dream, Xiang Shaolong could not imagine pitting himself against Lu Buwei and Tian Dan in this political struggle. It clearly demonstrates that political battles can kill without shedding blood.

    From being an insignificant being, he is now a Qin political heavyweight and can even influence the political outcome of other States. Life is truly beyond anticipation.

    After informing him the appointed time, Xie Ziyuan speedily left to update Zongsun Long father and son.

    Retrieving the Hundred Battle Sabre which he had securely hidden in his room, Xiang Shaolong hung it around his waist. In his mind, he decided that in the event that Cao Cuidao refuses to accept the ten-stroke proposal, he would immediately flee with Feng Fei once the festivities of the birthday banquet have been completed. Staying alive is of utmost importance. The swordsmans glory is only secondary.

    Reminiscing Cao Cuidaos amazing swordplay, all his fighting spirit drummed up earlier by Xiao Yuetan disappeared without a trace.

    But if Old Cao is willing to accept the ten-stroke limit, he does not mind giving it a go. No matter how inferior he is, he can surely defend against ten moves.

    He obviously understood that Xiao Yuetan is thinking from his point of view. Fleeing from a duel will leave a huge blemish on his celebrated life as a warrior. It is considered an unwise move, especially during this period when Xiao Pan is undergoing an identity calamity.

    Nevertheless, no one understands him better than himself. Cao Cuidaos sword cannot be defended with pure strength alone. Dying in such a manner is not worthwhile, causing him to think of ways to avoid the fight. In addition, he cannot afford to leave his wives and child behind.

    Until now, he is still unsure if Lord Longyang has betrayed him or not. The truth will come to light depending on whether he will cancel the arrangement to leave Lin Zi tonight or not.

    He felt inclined to practice his sabre moves in the garden but on hindsight, if Old Cao is unwilling to accept the ten-strokes suggestion, all his practice would be meaningless. Absorbed in his thoughts, a fragrant smelling Xinyue suddenly squeezed herself into his arms and embraced him tightly. She faintly panted: Great General has thoroughly deceived us!

    Hugging her enticing, curvaceous body and facing her attractive features, Xiang Shaolong is speedily losing his self control. However, he does not wish to hurt her feelings and could only quiz: Doesnt Miss Xinyue need to participate in the rehearsal?

    Xiang Shaolong is asking this question because he can occasionally hear traces of music coming from the garden.

    Her eyes shining and gazing at him, Xinyue cajoled: First Mistress is currently tutoring Second Mistress in her singing methods and hand gestures. I was pining for Great General and took this opportunity to slip away and look for you!

    A beauty is always hard to resist and moreover, Xiang Shaolong does not bear any ill feelings towards this particular courtesan. Unable to harden his heart and reject her outright, he could only distract her by questioning: Will you continue to pursue your art and assist Second Mistress?

    Xinyue articulated: Of course I will. As touring courtesans, we have an unspoken tradition: Never marry into a rich family. If we must marry, we would rather marry into a common family or stay single for life. Aye, we have seen all kinds of men while plying our trade. We no longer believe in true love.

    Initially shocked, Xiang Shaolong was comforted and sighed with relief: Nonetheless, courtesans like you who are able to decide your own life journey is limited in numbers. The courtesans who are employed by the rich have no say in their future.

    Kissing his lips, Xinyue coquettishly smiled: When I was still misled that you are Shen Liang and knowing that the Song & Dance Troupe is disbanding in the near future, it did cross my mind to marry you. But right now, I can only do my best and serve Great General. Shall I come to your room tonight? You are much more dashing than before.

    Xiang Shaolong is greatly tempted but felt that he would be letting Ji Yanran and the others down. Thus, he politely rejected: At this point in time, I have to preserve my strength in order to face that old fella Cao Cuidao in a showdown. If I managed to survive, I would approach you even if you did not approach me.

    Xinyue was thrilled: Its a deal! Serving up another fragrant kiss, she was highly alluring.

    After her departure, Xiang Shaolong took a glance at the sky. Instead of moping and wasting his energy on mindless thoughts, he might as well stroll along the streets and enjoy the sights, eventually walking to Xie Residence to see Shan Rou and Xie Ziyuan.

    Making up his mind, he changed into a warrior uniform and wore a long sleeved cotton windbreaker on the outside. Completing his attire with a cap, he slipped out to the streets.

    The weather is fantastic and the sun is about to set behind the western mountains. The streets are exceptionally lively and packed with pedestrians and carriages.

    Now that his sword injury is almost healed and with Hundred Battle Sabre by his side, he could survive any encounter unless he happened to be surrounded by a huge body of warriors. However, no one would dare to openly make a move on him. If a single challenger approaches, it would be an excellent opportunity for him to practice his sabre moves.

    Initially, he was on full alert mode but after utilizing various methods to test for stalkers, he concluded that no one is trailing him. Finally letting his hair down, he turned his focus towards the sights and sounds of this ancient capital as he leisurely strolled along.

    The open-mindedness of the Qi lady is ranked third after Qin and Zhao.

    Inheriting the uncivilized behavior of barbaric ancestors, the womenfolk of Qin are largely gypsies by nature. Due to a lack of men in Zhao, the royal family is encouraging the population to procreate. As a result, the ladies of the two States Qin and Zhao are unafraid of men. Bubbly and full of passion, they have been known to flirt unabashedly with strangers they met on the road.

    On the other hand, the typical Qi lady is born with inherent passion. It is not known if such a nature is consistent with people who are born in a State next to the sea. They seldom exhibit signs of bashfulness.

    Walking alone on the streets, Xiang Shaolong would occasionally encounter groups of Qi ladies who would bat their eyelashes continuously at him or gaze at him meaningfully, resulting in a romantic and amorous ambience.

    Of all the places he has visited, the ladies of Chu are the most conservative. The extreme ones would be someone like Lady Qingxiu who would not even expose her true face to men. In addition, from her bearing and speech, one can sense her aloofness and inapproachability.

    He could not help but think about Lady Zhuang. She originates from a southern minority race and is much more direct in her advances.

    With light-hearted steps, he stepped into Xie Residence. Without the need to relay his arrival, the servant brought him straight to Shan Rous residing courtyard.

    Dragging him to the side hall, Shan Rou loudly wailed: How can you accept Masters challenge? Have you already forgotten that he stabbed you a few days ago?

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly laughed: He is now the provocateur; Little Brother is just the innocent victim.

    Furiously stomping her feet, Shan Rou cursed: You fool! You think I, Shan Rou, is unaware of your, Xiang Shaolongs, skill level? This is as good as committing suicide. Go ahead and lose. Its no big deal anyway.

    Xiang Shaolong sighed: I am now representing the glory of Qins swordsmen. I am not committing suicide as not all duels have to end with the death of the loser right?

    Shan Rou was hopping mad: You do not understand Master. With a sword in his hand, he becomes void of emotions and no one can influence him. His past opponents were either killed or seriously injured. You have no idea how lucky you are to be able to escape with a minor sword wound the last time round.

    She added: Earlier, I visited Master and pleaded with him to retract the challenge. However, he mentioned that it is rare for him to encounter a worthy adversary like you and refuses to change his mind. It is truly maddening.

    Xiang Shaolong could not bear to see her in a worried state of mind. He first made her promise to keep it an absolute secret before telling her about Xiao Yuetans ten-stroke proposal.

    After learning about this, Shan Rou exhaled with a cold breath: Master has always overpowered his enemies within a few strokes. Do you think these ten strokes are easy to defend?

    Patting his baby around his waist, Xiang Shaolong proudly assured: If I had failed to withstand ten strokes from him, I would not be alive and standing here at the receiving end of your anger.

    Noticing his Hundred Battle Sabre, Shan Rous pretty eyes started to glow and she vulgarly grabbed it from him and began to toy with it. She gleefully exclaimed: It has been a long time since I exchanged moves with an expert. Lets see how you fare.

    Xiang Shaolong obviously recognizes her prowess and hurriedly countered: It is not a good time to fight now. Please grant Little Brother one more night of rest. When I have fully recovered from my injury, I shall then pit my skills against yours.

    Shan Rou viciously declared: I shall look for you tomorrow. If you are still making lame excuses, I shall give you a trashing.

    Finishing with a Pu Ci, she broke out in a string of giggles and is as mesmerizing as ever.

    Xiang Shaolong sighed to himself. Shan Rou is one of the ladies he would sincerely love to retain by his side. However, she is now the wife of another man, resulting in another one of lifes helpless regrets.

    Compared to Chu Empress Li Yanyan, he already foresee that it would be a simple one night stand and was mentally prepared. Thus, he was not the least bit upset.

    He even retains wonderful memories of their rendezvous.

    Leaning slightly closer to Xiang Shaolong, Shan Rou solemnly described: If you can cause Old Thief Tian (Dan) to lose power, it would make him much more miserable than just killing him. It is as good as avenging my family. That is why I have never permitted Ziyuan that scoundrel to work hand in hand with him. It is amusing how Zongsun Xuanhua develop the mistaken impression that I have a favourable opinion of him and his father.

    Xiang Shaolong nodded: I got it. Despite all obstacles, I will accomplish this mission for the sake of Sister Rou.

    Laughing like a blossoming flower, Shan Rou guffawed: All along, I knew you are a good man!

    At this juncture, Xie Ziyuan returned to the residence and had a change of clothes. Sending them off at the gate, Shan Rou reminded Xiang Shaolong that she would look for him tomorrow for a sparring match.

    As the carriage drove out of Xie Residence, Xie Ziyuan warned: Within Lin Zi, almost every swordsman has suffered at the hands of my wife. Even Zongsun Xuanhua is afraid of accepting her challenges. Brother Xiang had better be careful.

    Xiang Shaolong sighed: If I cannot even overcome her, I can forget about dueling with Senior Cao Cuidao.

    Thinking back, Xie Ziyuan thought so too and laughed at himself for being muddle-headed.

    Listening to the light hoof beats, Xiang Shaolong closed his eyes and was instantly teleported to his warm and inviting home in Xianyang.
    Last edited by kohchun; 12-27-18 at 03:46 AM.

  13. #273
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
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    Jul 2004


    Book 24 Chapter 01 - The Victorious Hundred Battle Sabre

    When they reached Jade Orchid Brothel, Zongsun Long father and son are already respectfully awaiting and brimming with brotherly affections. Compared to their initial encounter, it was a world of difference.

    This time round, the banquet lounge and the setting is far better than before as Zongsun Long had reserved the most luxurious courtyard Jade Orchid Brothel can offer. It naturally included the companionship of their eight top courtesans, which Lan Gongyuan is obviously part of. Even Madam Orchid had been specially engaged to oversee their gathering.

    Noticing Xiang Shaolong who has resumed his original appearance, Lan Gongyuan personally welcomed him. Hooking his arm and leading him to his seat, she leaned towards his ear and whispered: The last time round, I knew I had hit my mark. Why are you still alive and kicking?

    Xiang Shaolong secretly thought that it was brilliant of her to use a casual remark to resolve their enmity into a round of flirting between a man and a woman. He smiled: Why is Miss Yuan acting on the orders of Tian Dan? Is it because of Qi Yu?

    Lan Gongyuan plainly state: As a citizen of Qi, Yuan Yuan must contribute my part to Great Qi. On a personal basis, I am full of admiration for Great General.

    Right now, Zongsun Xuanhua who was seated at the second table burst out laughing: Tonight, Yuan Yuan is experiencing a change of heart and is only concerned with whispering sweet nothings to Great General. Do you think you deserved to be punished with a cup of wine?

    After lightly pecking Xiang Shaolong on the cheek, Lan Gongyuans pretty eyes glanced sideways at Xie Ziyuan who is behaving intimately with another gorgeous courtesan. She laughed in reply like a blossoming flower: The one who is experiencing a change of heart is somebody else. The person who should be punished is Official Xie instead of me.

    Raising his wine cup and chuckling, Xie Ziyuan suggested: Yes, yes, I deserved to be punished but Yuan Yuan cannot be spared too. However, she can sing instead of drink. Ha!

    Xiang Shaolong was greatly amused. Once he stepped into a brothel, Xie Ziyuan seems to be HIGH despite not taking any intoxicants and is behaving like a completely different person. Nonetheless, witnessing that he is not aroused by even a super beauty like Lan Gongyuan, Xiang Shaolong can deduce that he is just a playacting, harmless visitor and would never be addicted to lust, alcohol or other vice activities.

    With reference to the three Famous Courtesans, he does not have an inkling of fantasy towards Lan Gongyuan. The reason is probably his constant deep fear of suffering at her cruel hands. After all, her entire gang of troupe members and fellow conspirators has lost their lives in Xianyang because of him. It would be surprising if she does not bear any hatred towards him.

    While he was immensely tempted by Feng Fei, he can feel his attraction for her dwindling after discovering her numerous lies and attempted murder.

    On the other hand, the unique and aloof beauty Shi Sufang has piqued his interest and curiosity.

    Among the shrill laughter and cheers, everyone raised their cups and toasted one another.

    Zongsun Long was seated opposite Xiang Shaolong and was surrounded by a bevy of beauties. After raising his cup and toasting Xiang Shaolong, he wondered: Why is Second Prince late?

    As expected, no one could answer him. Xie Ziyuan recommended: Why dont we send someone to rush him?

    Zongsun Xuanhua immediately commanded a subordinate to handle this task. He then turned towards Xiang Shaolong: I heard from Official Xie that Junior Martial Sister Rou will be sparring with Great General tomorrow. If Great General does not mind, can Xuanhua tag along and witness Great Generals amazing skills?

    Secretly annoyed at Xie Ziyuans big mouth, Xiang Shaolong has no grounds to object and could only reply: My skills are mediocre and not befitting Brother Xuanhuas proficiency.

    Zongsun Long merrily guffawed: Great General is too modest!

    In his mind, Xiang Shaolong is aware that Zongsun Xuanhua has invited himself to personally assess his prowess and calculate the probability of him surviving his Masters sword. If Xiang Shaolong is proven incapable, they (Zongsun family) would have to make other plans because if Xiang Shaolong is slain, all their grand plans would evaporate into thin air.

    Leaning towards his ear again, Lan Gongyuan quizzed: Has Great General met Grandmaster Cao before?

    Xiang Shaolong will not be truthful to her and shook his head. When he was about to say something, three men strode into their lounge in huge steps. One of them was astonishingly Lan Gongyuans lover Qi Yu. The other two men are about the same age and were dressed in a warrior uniform and a scholar robes accordingly.

    The warrior has a tall and burly frame that radiates with ferocity. With thick shoulders and neck, his face is pockmarked and his eyes are protruding. Coupled with a nose like a lions, he can be classified as an ugly man. Despite all that, he exudes an intense masculine aura.

    The man dressed as a scholar is skinny and tall, with eyes that betray his intelligence. He somewhat resembles Tian Dan, allowing Xiang Shaolong to easily conclude that he is Tian Dans son Tian Bang, causing him a certain amount of shock.

    This does not seem like an appropriate place for him to show up.

    Zongsun Long and the others fell into a daze, not knowing how to react.

    The courtesans are already kneeling down and paying their respects.

    Tian Bang took the lead and cupped his hands together as a sign of respect. To Xiang Shaolong, he grinned: After learning that Great General is here, Tian Bang specially came to have a look for myself. I hope Great General would not hold it against me for barging in.

    Xiang Shaolong stood up and returned his greetings. As he shifted his gaze to Qi Yu, the fellas eyes flashed with a penetrating hatred. The corner of his mouth curling up to shape a cold smile, Qi Yu sniggered: Seeing Brother Xiang after so many years, I hope you are doing well. I heard Lady (Zhao) Ya died in the foreign territory of Xianyang. This is truly lamentable.

    (For some Chinese, it is considered inauspicious or bad to die in a foreign place. Example: overseas, on the roads or even hospital. Many prefer to die at home. Somewhat linked to their ego that they have a home to die in and not die in the wilderness. Therefore, family members usually arrange for their bodies to be sent home before burial or cremation. For Zhao Ya, a Zhao royalty to die in Qin, can be interpreted that she is a jinx.)

    Xiang Shaolong is conscious that he intentionally brought up Lady Ya, reminding him the agony of having a loved one snatched away by another man. For a brief moment, his heart was pricking with pain. Xiang Shaolong forcefully smiled and did not answer him.

    The warriors attitude is even more conceited than the other two. Cupping his fists, he bellowed: I am Ma Chenjia and I have always desired to witness a display of Great Generals swordsmanship. I wonder if I can have a taste of your brilliant skills before Great Generals duel with Grandmaster Cao?

    Zongsun Long father and son as well as Xie Ziyuan were instantly agitated. For Ma Chenjia to openly challenge Xiang Shaolong in this manner and demanding it to take place before Cao Cuidaos appointment, not only did he fail to account for their presence, he is also hinting that Xiang Shaolong would certainly perish at the hands of Cao Cuidao. Nevertheless, given the present circumstances, it is difficult for them to intervene.

    Zongsun Xuanhua himself is not a noble gentleman too. He secretly swore that once Xiang Shaolong rejected the challenge, he would stand up at once and issue his own challenge to Ma Chenjia, going all out to take his life. Zongsun Long, on the other hand, has made up his mind that even with Tian Dan sheltering Ma Chenjia, he would still get his henchmen to break both his legs.

    Within the courtyard, the tension in the air is electrifying.

    While living in the 21st Century, Xiang Shaolong is already a troublemaker in his own right and has the habit of getting himself into bar fights. Now that he has matured, his temper has mellowed and no longer finds any meaning in these pointless scuffles. That is why he refrains from fighting and it is absolutely not because of fear.

    Now that Tian Bang, Qi Yu and famed Qi swordsman Ma Chenjia are gatecrashing their party with a bullying attitude, Xiang Shaolong can feel his blood boiling but at the same time, he is doing his best to calm down. He simply smiled: Since Brother Ma is so keen, I can easily exchange some pointers with you. However, it is not a good time now, why dont

    Qi Yu abruptly interrupted: If Brother Xiang is expecting Second Prince, you can save your energy. Imperial Uncle and Official Han (Jie) just started a meeting with him. I doubt Second Prince can make the time to come over.

    Zongsun Long and everyone else were greatly traumatized. Isnt this a clear sign that Tian Jian has decided to throw in his lot with Lu Buwei and Tian Dan? Only Xiang Shaolong is able to decipher the true picture, acknowledging that Tian Jian is concerned that he would succumb to the sword of Cao Cuidao, causing him to place his bet on the wrong man. Consequently, he is temporary evaluating the situation further and hence, chose to avoid this meeting. Presently, Lu Buwei and Han Jie must be using all their powers of eloquence to destabilize Tian Jians trust in his current allies.

    Ma Chenjia chortled: Since this is the case, why dont Great General draw your sword now and let me have a taste of your prowess!

    Earlier, Xiang Shaolong has accumulated plenty of frustration due to the betrayals of Han Chuang, Lord Longyang, etc. Now that he is faced with Tian Jians indecisiveness, resembling grass on a wall that bends in whichever direction the wind blows, coupled with this frog in a well Ma Chenjia who is purposely stirring trouble, he is ready to erupt. He forcefully discarded his coat, revealing his sturdy built that is unquestionably more muscular than Ma Chenjia and snarled: Since you are so persistent, lets do it!

    Among the crowd, no one anticipated his courageous demeanor and instant reaction to Ma Chenjias provocation. They were stunned on the spot.

    Observing his newly exposed wide shoulders, broad chest, slender waist and long legs forming an incredible physique, coupled with his awe inspiring and indomitable bearing, all the ladies were intoxicated and Lan Gongyuan is of no exception.

    Xiang Shaolong is now gripping the handle of Hundred Battle Sabre as he took giant strides towards the centre of the lounge, cumulating into a terrifying and dominating pressure.

    Tian Bang and Qi Yu were rattled and they clumsily retreated to the back, inadvertently enhancing Xiang Shaolongs daunting posture as if it was an aggressive dragon coming out of its cave.

    Ma Chenjia did not expect him to make his move without the slightest indication. Stuck in the line of fire, he can sense the incoming threat Xiang Shaolong posing.

    In this context, it is preposterous for Ma Chenjia to request Xiang Shaolong to back off and give him a break. Coldly grunting once, he took a step back to avoid the advancing menace.

    With his rich battle experience, Xiang Shaolong knows that he has gained the first mover advantage and obviously would not let Ma Chenjia regain his footing. Noting Ma Chenjia stepping backwards, he faced the sky and laughed loudly. Concurrently, with a JIANG! sound, he pulled out Hundred Battle Sabre and continued pressing forward.

    The moment the sabre left its scabbard, the entire hall became clogged with a chilling sensation, causing everyone present to be petrified.

    Only now did Ma Chenjia remember that his opponent is not using a sword but a weapon which he is unfamiliar with. In his heart, he became even more fearful and had to take another two steps back to give himself the opportunity to assess Xiang Shaolongs attacking style.

    Xiang Shaolong obviously would not miss this opening. Swiftly proceeding with steady footwork, he raised Hundred Battle Sabre above his head and simultaneously held the sabre with his left hand as well. He ferociously roared: Draw your sword!

    In the same instance, Ma Chenjia felt as if he is being overwhelmed by a surge of attacking power and hastily drew his sword.

    Xiang Shaolong darted towards his goal and by now, Hundred Battle Sabre has crossed its tipping point and is now a cold sabre flash chopping down on the tangled and disconcerted Ma Chenjia like a bolt of lightning.

    If he is a smart man, Ma Chenjia should realize that the best way to resolve this predicament is to continue retreating or even retreat out of the room and reengaged the fight on the open grounds of the courtyard.

    Unfortunately, he happens to be the aggressor and was passing condescending remarks earlier. Under the gaze of the crowd, he could not retreat like a cowardly turtle as this is only the first move. Gnashing his teeth, he raised his sword horizontally to ward off the strike.

    Conscious that his opponent is defending in a state of panic and is only using one hand to hold his sword, Xiang Shaolong was secretly delighted and chopped down with his full strength


    Ma Chenjias long sword has been severed by the sabre. Amidst the sounds of screaming, Xiang Shaolong has retreated and his sabre has reentered the scabbard.

    Ma Chenjias expression is worse than that of a corpse. Still holding his broken sword, he stood in a daze at the same spot. A new blood scar is now running from his front hairline to between his eyebrows. As fresh blood began streaming down his face, it was a horrifying sight.

    Everyone knew that Xiang Shaolong had shown mercy. However, it is even more shocking to witness his precision and mastery of the sabre.

    Who could have guessed that one sabre strike is all it takes to deliver a crushing defeat to one of Lin Zis famed swordsman Ma Chenjia? Even Cao Cuidao himself may not necessarily be able to accomplish such a feat.

    Xiang Shaolong secretly thanked his lucky stars. If he had been equipped with Bloodwave, it would have exhausted much more energy to resolve this issue.

    For a short spell, the whole lounge is completely silent.

    Ma Chenjia suddenly shouted incoherently and discarded his broken sword. Embarrassed beyond redemption, he wildly tore out of the room.

    Zongsun Xuanhua stood up and raised his wine cup, sighing: No wonder Great Generals fame has penetrated every corner of Xianyang. Even my Master is stirred into issuing a challenge to you. Such superb sabre skills are rare indeed.

    With horror written all over their faces, Tian Bang and Qi Yu were still staring at Xiang Shaolong with disbelief. Speechless, they were awkwardly standing there, not knowing whether to stay or leave.

    Scanning the crowd, Xiang Shaolong could tell that everyone is still reverberating in the earlier scene and that due to a nice coincidence, he had managed to showcase his prowess. Smiling broadly, he concluded: Since Second Prince is not coming, why dont we return home and have a early night!

    Barely stepping over the door ledge, Xiang Shaolong was summoned by Feng Fei.

    At the upper loft sitting room of the main block, the stunning beauty was facing her zither and staring into space. Noticing his return, she then broke out of her stupor and pulled him to a corner before sitting down together. Feng Fei wondered in a slow and sad tone: Han Jie came looking for me and sweet-talked me for a long time. However, my heart is already dead and I wasnt moved at all. This is so strange. In the past, whenever I think of him, there would be this sweet fondness in my heart. Now, I only regard him as an empty shell with a handsome outlook. Why is there such a huge disparity in my attitude?

    Xiang Shaolong was secretly alarmed and is concerned that Feng Fei may have shifted her affections towards himself. He tested: Mistress, what are your plans for the future?

    Her eyes shimmering with a pitiful glow, Feng Feis tone was remarkably calm. She gently professed: For the time being, I only wish to live a peaceful and tranquil life. Can Great General please see to this arrangement?

    Xiang Shaolong felt as if a big burden has been lifted off his shoulders and heaved with relief: After I settle Cao Cuidao, I would immediately escort you back to Xianyang. With my protection over there, there is nothing you need to fear.

    Feng Fei was taken aback: I know you are an accomplished swordsman but in the eyes of Qi, Cao Cuidao is no longer considered human and is worshipped like a deity. Why are you still as confident as ever? Cao Cuidaos sword is famed for being merciless. If anything were to happen to you, how do you expect me how Aye! Feng Fei does not wish to live too!

    Xiang Shaolong did not misinterpret her meaning, acknowledging that she does not wish to live because she would be helpless after losing him, her pillar of support and is thus having suicidal thoughts.

    Of course Xiang Shaolong would not disclose to any Tom, Dick or Harry about his ten-strokes proposal. He simply smiled: Cao Cuidao is merely an ordinary man whose sword skills happened to be better than his challengers! I am not trying to prove anything to anyone too. If I do not have confidence in preserving my life, I would have fled with you tonight!

    Half believing him, Feng Fei doubted: You mustnt be overconfident. Although the people of Qi often exaggerate their words, it is still an undeniable fact that Cao Cuidaos swordsmanship has dominated the Six Eastern and Southern States.

    Her gaze trailing to his Hundred Battle Sabre, Feng Fei lightly revealed: Han Jie is afraid that I would shift my affections to you and heavily criticized you, causing me to despise him even more.

    Xiang Shaolong had anticipated this behavior from Han Jie and is unaffected by this revelation. He chuckled: Who can be loved by every person in the world? Let them jeer or criticize as much as they like. Yi! Mistress seems to be very interested in my sabre.

    Reacting to his teasing, Feng Fei broke out into a smile, lifting her face and kissing him on the cheek. She whined: The people interested in your baby are Cao Cuidao and the other swordsmen of Qi. I am only interested in you as an individual. What is the fun in fighting and killing? Nevertheless, you men are the ones who indulged incessantly in it and even got us, the vulnerable women, involved. Before Han Jie left, he mentioned that you might not even survive to see Cao Cuidao but Feng Fei is not intimidated by him.

    Xiang Shaolong grinned: Do you know who is Ma Chenjia?

    With a voice full of disdain, Feng Fei remarked: Not only do I know who he is, I have even met him in person at Tian Dans Chancellor Residence. In terms of swordsmanship, with the exception of Zongsun Xuanhua and Dan Chu, he and Min Tingzhang are considered the best.

    She then frowned: Why did you bring him up? This man is extremely annoying and his attitude is overbearing, giving me the impression that he behaves with disrespect. Additionally, he imagined himself to be very popular with ladies but personally, I feel disgusted whenever I see him.

    Xiang Shaolong laughed: I did not know that your love or hatred for men can be so extreme. However, I am sorry to say that you would be unable to see this person in the near future. Earlier, he approached me for a duel and using one strike, I left an inerasable mark on his face.

    Feng Fei was thunderstruck: Just one strike?

    Xiang Shaolong plainly state: Little Brother has exaggerated a little. I did take a few steps too.

    Collapsing into his bosom, Feng Fei shrilly laughed: I cannot stand your self-gratified and irritating demeanor. But you simply chose not to fall for me.

    Xiang Shaolong honestly declared: I did fall for you. Aye! Who can resist falling in love with you? It is just that the burden of love is too much for me to bear. I already have three virtuous wives waiting for me at home and dare not get involved in new relationships.

    Feng Fei replied in a unhurried and melancholic fashion: I already knew and understood where you are coming from. I am sure the passing of Lady Ya and Princess Qian dealt you a severe blow, right?

    Xiang Shaolong was astounded: How did you know about it?

    Feng Fei answered: Of course somebody told me about it.

    In his vast mind, the lovely silhouette of Lady Qingxiu began to materialize. Was she the one who told Feng Fei his past? If this is so, this beautys heart is definitely in contrast to her external cold countenance whenever she faces Xiang Shaolong.

    Stretching out her lovely hand and stroking his cheek, Feng Fei affectionately suggested: Great General must be tired. Why dont you spend the night in Feng Feis room!

    Xiang Shaolong was about to reply her when footsteps sounded on the stairs, startling the two of them who quickly separated from each other.

    Little Pinger voice resounded from the stairs: Lord Longyang is here to look for Great General.

    Recollecting his appointment with Lord Longyang, Xiang Shaolong icily sniggered to himself, wondering what excuse this old friend would cook up in order to terminate tonights escape plan.

    After Feng Fei uttered a reply on his behalf, she faintly pleaded: No matter how late you return tonight, please remember to drop by my place. Feng Fei is not asking for any status or responsibility but only wishes for a night of passion!

  14. #274
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2004


    Book 24 Chapter 02 - Full Confidence Recovery

    Xiang Shaolong squirreled into the carriage compartment and the carriage began driving.

    Lord Longyang could not hold back his emotions and leaned half of his petite frame closer to Xiang Shaolong. With his pretty eyes glowing, he cheered: Using the excuse that I wanted to admire River Zi night scenery, I have laid my hands on a City Pass that allows me to leave the city. The minute we board the ship and raised the sails, cruising to the west, I guarantee we would be untouchable.

    Xiang Shaolong was taken aback and frowned: I heard the river route is still blockaded by ice and snow, can we still operate the ship?

    Lord Longyang assured: I have already sent someone to check on this. Although the roads are still unfit for travelling, since yesterday the river has thawed and boats have begun arriving at Lin Zi from the east. Shaolong can put your mind at ease.

    Hearing his description, Xiang Shaolong was dumbfounded. Is Xiao Yuetan lying to him?

    Logically speaking, if Lord Longyang and Han Chuang have joined hands to get rid of him, they should have aborted all their schemes and plans upon learning that Cao Cuidao has issued a challenge to him. Even if Xiang Shaolong had survived Cao Cuidaos sword, it is not too late assassinate him.

    But upon witnessing Lord Longyangs serious demeanor, it is as if he is indeed doing his best to help Xiang Shaolong flee away from Lin Zi. Moreover, the passion radiating from him is something that cannot be falsified. What in the world is going on?

    With his friends, Xiang Shaolong is generally straightforward. He could not bear it any longer and questioned: Isnt Your Lordship concerned about Han Chuangs blackmail?

    His tender physique trembling violently and his face turning ashen white, Lord Longyang stammered: How did Shaolong know about this?

    Xiang Shaolong plainly indicated: So it is true.

    After a short spell of silence, Lord Longyang sighed: Marquis Chuang is forced by circumstances as one of his men leaked this piece of information to that traitor Guo Kai. However, now that Shaolong has declared your real identity, Guo Kai instantly degenerated into a state of panic and is at a loss, not knowing whether to proceed or not.

    Scrutinizing Lord Longyangs body language, Xiang Shaolong was curious: Does Han Chuang knows about our plan to slip away tonight?

    Lord Longyang answered: Of course he has no idea about it. I have sacrificed everything and would never allow Shaolong to perish in the hands of Cao Cuidao. I have witnessed one of this old fellas fights and his sword skills are truly earth shattering and mind blowing.

    Xiang Shaolong cannot help but put his arm around his fragrant shoulders, sighing: Knowing that Your Lordship did not betray me, Little Brother is brimming with joy and my exhilaration cannot be expressed in words. However, I cannot implicate Your Lordship. Please tell the carriage driver to turn back.

    Lord Longyang shuddered once and cautioned: Shaolong need not put up a strong front. According to my sources, Han Chuang and company did met up with Cao Cuidao in secret and advised him to kill you at all costs; otherwise, Qi will never enjoy days of peace. Thus, you must not assume that Cao Cuidao will show any mercy to you.

    Xiang Shaolong simply smiled: I heard even the King of Qi is unable to influence Cao Cuidao. Who does that Han Chuang think he is?

    Momentarily stunned, Lord Longyang movingly declared: I know Shaolong is worried about me but I have my own methods when dealing with Han Chuang. At the end of the day, he has many issues that requires my collaboration and would not dare to act recklessly.

    He sighed with another breath: I am not speaking up for him but he is in a difficult position as well. His friendship towards Shaolong is genuine.

    Right now, Xiang Shaolong is not interested in fleeing anymore. He decided: If I have to leave, I will leave after my bout with Cao Cuidao. In fact, I did exchange blows with him before and this precious Hundred Battle Sabre is what I robbed from him during that same encounter. Otherwise, how would I come to know that Han Chuang that fella has betrayed me.

    Lord Longyang was incredulous: You exchanged blows with him before?

    Xiang Shaolong gently persuaded: Why dont Your Lordship order the carriage to turn back first? I shall furnish Your Lordship with the details after that!

    When Xiang Shaolong woke up, the sky is barely lighted.

    Due to the frosty weather and him sleeping late last night, he does not feel like leaving his warm and comfortable bed and blankets.

    Last night, he hardened his resolve and did not go over to Feng Feis room because he does not want to lose perspective of the situation by getting involved in another relationship. His grand plan is to endure the ten strokes from Cao Cuidao and get Xie Ziyuan to arrange for him to slip out of Lin Zi. With regards to Feng Fei, he can rely on Zongsun Long father and son to safely escort her away. Based on his standing and that this is not Lu Buweis territory, the other courtesans should not be in any danger.

    Back in Xianyang, he would refuse to lead an army to participate in any battles. His only fantasy now is that Xiao Pans identity crisis is not as bad as what he imagines. However, he acknowledges that this is merely his own positive wishful thinking.

    Based on Lu Buweis intelligence and such an obvious loophole, he cannot always rely on luck.

    Out of the blue, the sound of noisy quarrelling can be heard from the front courtyard. Shortly, a mans painful scream resounded. Just as Xiang Shaolong was hugging his blanket and sitting up on his bed with shock, Shan Rou broke into his room and darted to his front. Slamming his chest and grabbing the front of his shirt, she vociferously scolded: You lazy bum. Get out of bed at once. To think that you are still idling in bed despite knowing that you are facing Master three days later.

    Hammered by Shan Rou until their faces are bruised and lips are swollen, Fei Chun, Lei Yuner and other family warriors stumbled into his room in an extremely pathetic manner. Witnessing the magnificent Great General of Qin Xiang Shaolong wearing a helpless expression on his face while letting this shrew grab the front of his shirt, they were flabbergasted and froze on the spot, not knowing how to react.

    With a bitter smile, Xiang Shaolong introduced: This is Madam Xie whom even Cao Cuidao has troubling managing. The next time you see her, gentlemen should know what to expect.

    Rooted to the ground with his mind and body united as one, Xiang Shaolong sliced at different angles with Hundred Battle Sabre, nullifying Shan Rous fierce and agile attacks with every stroke, causing her to be unable to launch a series of combo attacks. Shan Rous attack resembles using a sword to cut water into half; it can never be done.

    Accumulating experience from the recent years of war, Xiang Shaolongs familiarity with his sabre skills had reached another peak and he now attacks with deadly precision.

    After another ten more strokes, Shan Rou is unable to gain any advantage and finally retreated after exhausting herself. Holding her sword horizontally and standing still, she aggressively glared at him with her round, almond eyes.

    The spectators of the fight include the band of family warriors, Feng Fei, her fellow courtesans and their waiting maids. Also present are Zongsun Xuanhua and his ten odd followers.

    Everyone in the crowd suppressed their urge to clap and cheer for fear of earning the wrath of Shan Rou the super shrew.

    Her beautiful face suddenly thawing, Shan Rou giggled with a Pu Ci and laughed: Kid, you did improve significantly. I shall let you win this time round! I am sure you can hold your ground against Master.

    Xiang Shaolong is worried that she would leak out the ten strokes proposal and hastily cradled his sabre and paid his respects: Many thanks for Madam Xies guidance!

    The crowd finally dared to cheer.

    Drawing his personal sword, Zongsun Xuanhua stepped out to the front of Xiang Shaolong and smiled: Xuanhuas hand is itching for some time already. Would Great General kindly grant some pointers.

    Facing this ranked below Cao Cuidao and equal to Dan Chu Qi swordsman extraordinaire, Xiang Shaolong dare not be complacent. Brandishing his sabre horizontally to protect his front, he smiled: Brother Xuanhua, after you!

    In trepidation of Zongsun Xuanhuas reputation, the spectators dare not even breathe loudly.

    His bearing as calm as still water, Zongsun Xuanhua held his sword and took two steps forward. Xiang Shaolong instantly sensed a formidable sword aura emanating from his opponent and dare not waver. Raising his eyebrows, he moved his sabre backwards.

    With his blazing eyes scanning Xiang Shaolong, Zongsun Xuanhua suddenly roared and executed a quick stab.

    Xiang Shaolong is stirring with heavy emotions.

    Zongsun Xuanhuas sword skills are not inferior to Guan Zhongxies but compared to Cao Cuidao, he is still light years away. It clearly demonstrates that Cao Cuidaos talent in swordfighting is a gift from Heaven for even his most outstanding disciple is only able to inherit his skills but not his cultivation.

    With a JIANG sound, Xiang Shaolong deflected the blow with his sabre.

    Reeling from the enormous impact from Hundred Battle Sabre, Zongsun Xuanhua is unable to execute his subsequent moveset and was forced to retreat.

    Xiang Shaolong would not allow his opponent to recompose and prepare another attack. Flourishing Hundred Battle Sabre once, he advanced and attacked Zongsun Xuanhua like relentless churning of the ocean waves.

    Zongsun Xuanhua is at a disadvantage because he is unfamiliar with the attacking style of Hundred Battle Sabre. In the meantime, he could only defend himself and took a step back every now and then.

    The more Xiang Shaolong fought, the more he immersed himself into the fight, rotating between sweeping moves, narrow slashes, long strikes and short stabs. For a brief period, he even utilized close combat techniques with every sabre stroke forming a killing move, causing the audience to hold their breaths in awe and seemingly forgetting to exhale.

    Between the clashes of the sabre and sword, the space between is so minute not even a strand of hair can pass through. The ladies began to shriek and trembled in fear, having the impression that they are fighting for real and are going all out to kill each other.

    Only an expert like Shan Rou could tell that Xiang Shaolong has gained full control of the initiative and is holding back some of his strength and prowess. Employing all the merciless moves, he is trying to carve an understanding of Cao Cuidaos swordplay through Zongsun Xuanhuas moves.

    Right now, Xiang Shaolong is changing his attacking strategy. Although his moves are amazingly slow, Zongsun Xuanhua seems to be deflecting them with greater difficulty.

    Presently, Xiang Shaolong has recovered all the confidence that Cao Cuidao had frightened away, attacking, defending, advancing and retreating with ease. Every time Zongsun Xuanhua tries to counterattack, he is able to swiftly negate it, limiting Zongsun Xuanhuas potential.

    In the eyes of the crowd, including Dong Shuzen and the other courtesans who do not comprehend swordfighting, Xiang Shaolongs sabre moves are ever-changing and comprises of both hard and gentle blows, giving them the sensation that he is the king of the world, dominating all his subjects from high up above.


    Stepping forward, Xiang Shaolong launched three successive sabre strokes, every stroke flawlessly chopping on the same crack of Zongsun Xuanhuas sword regardless of which direction Zongsun Xuanhua wields it. It is incredibly unbelievable to pull off a combo like that.

    The long sword broke into two equal parts.

    Returning the sabre to its scabbard, Xiang Shaolong laughed: Brother had the advantage of a superior weapon!

    Zongsun Xuanhua is a hero in his own right. Discarding the broken sword in his hand, he boisterously laughed: Great General holds true to your fame. Little Brother can put his mind at ease.

    Loud clapping can be heard from afar.

    Feng Fei and Xiao Yuetan came up to them and Feng Fei cheerfully invited: Feng Fei has prepared breakfast, offering our esteemed guests some hospitality. Shall we adjourn to the front hall?

    Everyone went on his or her way after breakfast is concluded.

    Shan Rou is rushing home to tend to her sons while Zongsun Xuanhua, who has military duties, is off to attend to his responsibilities. Feng Fei and the courtesans resumed their rehearsal for the birthday banquet which is two days later, leaving the two men Xiang Shaolong and Xiao Yuetan in the hall to converse in secret.

    In a low voice, Xiao Yuetan praised: Cao Cuidao is truly a grandmaster and agreed to the ten strokes proposal without the slightest hesitation. However, judging by his appearance, it seems that he has discovered a way to defeat you within these ten strokes.

    Xiang Shaolong felt as if a heavy burden has been lifted off his shoulders. He grinned: This is fantastic. Regardless of any circumstances, I dont believe I cannot withstand merely ten strokes from him.

    His eyes flashing with a strange glow, Xiao Yuetan warned after some uncertainty: You cannot afford let your guard down. Shaolong had better not sheathe your sabre the minute the ten strokes are over. For all you know, Old Ghost Cao may use this opportunity to launch another two more strokes.

    Xiang Shaolong light-heartedly laughed: I dont think so! Old Cao, after all, is a grandmaster and should be a man of his word. That night, he could only stare blankly as I slipped away. You can put your mind at ease.

    A flustered Xiao Yuetan is behaving as if he wanted to say something but could not due to certain reasons. He advised: No matter what happens, you must promise me that you will exercise extreme caution. If possible, treat it like a Hundred Strokes Agreement or even a Thousand Strokes Agreement.

    Xiang Shaolong was puzzled: Why is Elder Brother behaving as if you are certain that Old Cao will go back on his word?

    Xiao Yuetan dryly coughed once and gazed at him, honestly declaring: All along, you have trusted me. Just trust me one more time.

    Xiang Shaolong may be completely baffled but never really doubted Xiao Yuetan. Changing the topic, he updated him about Li Yuan and Lord Longyangs encounters. He also took the opportunity to enquire: You did mention that the river route has been blockaded by ice and snow. Is it possible that you had made a mistake?

    With awkward and unnatural body language, Xiao Yuetan replied: That is what I heard from other people. Maybe Lord Longyangs news is more accurate than mine.

    Xiao Yuetan then changed the topic: The entire Lin Zi city is now fervently discussing about last nights incident when you defeated Ma Chenjia with one sabre stroke. Many of them who originally bet that you would lose to Cao Cuidao are now betting that you would win. The odds from one-to-thirteen have plummeted to one-to-five now. Looks like the odds are in your favour now!

    Remembering the gambling fever linked to Guan Zhongxie and his duel, Xiang Shaolong was amused to witness a reenactment in Lin Zi. He chuckled: Paying five to one is a pretty good deal. Nonetheless, my victory last night was due to coincidence and luck. It is really strange. Whenever I grip Hundred Battle Sabre in my hands, I can feel my confidence swelling.

    Xiao Yuetan was delighted: The way you chopped off Zongsun Xuanhuas long sword earlier was truly exciting, even a miracle if I may say so. No wonder the gamblers of Lin Zi have bestowed the respected title: Sabre King, to you. The title is as glamorous as the title Sword Saint and both titles are on the same par.

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly smiled: I know myself best. I, Sabre King, is definitely not as skillful as Sword Saint. If not for the Ten Strokes Agreement, I would have fled within these two nights.

    His face flashing with a bizarre look once again, Xiao Yuetan solemnly counseled: You must never think like this. Otherwise, you would succumb even before the ten strokes are up. Have you decided on your Lin Zi escape plan? In my opinion, Zongsun Long is more reliable.

    Unconcerned with Xiao Yuetans odd behavior, Xiang Shaolong nodded: Relax! I believe I have attained a certain understanding of this Sword Saint. Although Zongsun Xuanhua is not as skillful as him, he can be considered a doppelganger, benefitting me to a huge extent.

    Pausing, he added: I already made it clear to Xie Ziyuan and Zongsun Xuanhua last night that I am depending on them to arrange for me to leave Lin Zi after the duel.

    Satisfied, Xiao Yuetan reminded: It would be great if you can engage Zongsun Long father and son to put Guo Kai and company under surveillance. We do not want to walk into an ambush because of our negligence.

    Secretly praising his vast experience and well-rounded thinking, Xiang Shaolong nodded in agreement.

    A servant happened to come in and reported that Boss Jin is here to look for him. Xiao Yuetan took this opportunity to excuse himself.

    Xiang Shaolong personally went to welcome Boss Jin. When the latter caught sight of him, he happily chortled: There I was, thinking that a new hero is born. Unexpectedly, it turned out to be our famed Xiang Shaolong of the northwest. Great General has deceived me thoroughly.

    Xiang Shaolong apologized: I was forced by circumstances and hereby seek Bosss forgiveness.

    Boss Jin hooked Xiang Shaolongs arm as they strode into the hall together. He whispered: When Great General destroyed Ma Chenjias reputation with one sabre stroke last night, it has caused a loss of face for Qi. Within these two days, there may be some desperados who will come and create a scene. Great General must take some precautions.

    He continued: There are a band of warriors standing outside but they do not appear to be the soldiers of Qi. I wonder who sent them?

    Only now did Xiang Shaolong recall that they are his personal escorts that Zongsun Xuanhua had dispatched. He answered: They are family warriors from Zongsun Residence. I did not know they had arrived.

    Once they got seated, Boss Jin warned in a serious tone: Zongsun Long father and son are not the law-abiding kinds. Once Great General is no longer useful to them, they can simply turn their cannons towards Great General.

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly smiled: With my prior experience with Lu Buwei teaching me an unforgettable and excruciating lesson, I know what I am up against. While everyone knows how to butter up to the rich, someone like Boss Jin lending a critical helping hand to the unfortunate is truly rare.

    His face turning red, Boss Jin explained: Great General is giving me too much credit. This is simply my innate character and even if I suffer a loss in the process, I just cannot alter this habit. Oh yes! After Sufang learns about your genuine identity, she was quite upset and pleaded with me to invite you for a meeting with her. Since the last encounter in Xianyang, she retains a deep impression of you!

    Xiang Shaolong was bewildered. All along, Shi Sufang does not exhibit any interest in men. Why is she suddenly yearning to see him?

    Back when they first met, it was due to Pu Hu (Po Hu error)s arrangement. Now that Pu Hu has been executed for treason, it does not make any sense for her to get closer to him.

    As per Xiao Yuetans advice, he should not let his guard down. Choosing not to meet her sounds like a better choice.

    Boss Jin added: I understand that before Great Generals duel with Grandmaster Cao, you would need sufficient rest and inviting you to a banquet is inappropriate. Why dont we fix the appointment on the evening the day after Great Generals triumph victory? What does Great General think?

    Conscious that he would have fled by then, he did not foresee any issues with temporary agreeing to the appointment. When the time comes, he would simply leave a message, asking for Shi Sufangs forgiveness. He agreed with a smile.

    After some idle chatter, Boss Jin knowingly bid farewell to him.

    Just as Xiang Shaolong was sending him out of the door, accompanied by Xie Ziyuan, Second Prince Tian Jian came by unexpectedly.

  15. #275
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2004


    Book 24 Chapter 03 - Plagued By Gratitude And Hatred

    Not knowing that Qi Yu had let the cat out of the bag, Tian Jian firstly apologized to Xiang Shaolong for missing last nights appointment, giving the excuse that his royal father is unwell. Of course Xiang Shaolong will not expose him.

    Besides Xie Ziyuan, Zongsun Long father and son, an egotistic Qixia Tutor named Yan Xiang was tagging along.

    Entering the hall and seated accordingly to their status, a few pleasantries were exchanged. Finally, Tian Jian, who was seated on the VIP table, praised: Last night, Great General defeated Ma Chenjia with one sabre stroke; this morning, Great General utilized a special technique, breaking the precious sword of Xuanhua. Great General truly lives up to your fame and has earned our admiration.

    Only now did Xiang Shaolong understand the reason behind him switching sides again. It is because he has proven himself to be somebody who is capable of defending himself against Cao Cuidao. He quickly uttered a modest reply while Zongsun Long and the others are praising him to the skies.

    Unexpectedly, this Qixia Tutor Yan Xiang glared at him from the corner of his eye, interrupting: Presently, in the large state of Qin, who is the real powerhouse?

    Xiang Shaolong intentionally acted surprised: Of course it is Crown Prince Zheng. Who else can it be?

    Yan Xiang confidently retorted: But according to Qins Imperial Uncle, as long as Crown Prince Zheng is not coronated, his authority is not official. What does Great General think?

    Xiang Shaolong can instantly feel the entire length of his spine turning cold. This straight-talking and arrogant Qixia Scholar has accidentally spill the beans that Lu Buwei is indeed highly suspicious of Xiao Pans identity and is using this claim as a means to win Tian Jian to his side.

    If it turned out that Lu Buwei had already sent someone to Handan in search of the couple who raised Yingzheng, it would be a disaster for he could easily topple Xiao Pan or use it as a bargaining chip to blackmail Xiao Pan.

    Noticing his change of countenance, Tian Jian quizzed: What is Great Generals opinion about this?

    His mind processing his thoughts at the speed of electricity, Xiang Shaolong recomposed himself and plainly state: Mister Yans words has reminded me about the possibility of someone rebelling. However, the tragic consequences of Pu Bu and the others should be a wake-up call.

    Xie Ziyuan laughed: Wake-up call? Hee. What an interesting description!

    Yan Xiang posed another question: I wonder what is Great Generals impression of our Great Qi?

    Xiang Shaolong is feeling tormented as he is not used to flattering other people. He barely managed to describe: Seeing that Mister Yan can speak in front of Second Prince without any reservations, it clearly illustrates the open mindedness of Qis rulers, which can be interpreted as valuing talent. I believe this is also the reason behind the thriving success of Qixia College. These are just my humble observations and I hope Mister does not mind my naive thoughts.

    Yan Xiang nonsensically articulated: On the south of our Great Qi is Mount Tai, to the east is Langya Hills, to the West we have River Qing and finally Bo Ocean at the north. Thus, Qi is known as the Land protected by four passes. However, with an inefficient ruler, even if he is blessed with vast territory, millions of soldiers and supplies piling up as high as a mountain, he would still be a toothless tiger who is unable to conquer the world. After the passing of Henggong and Guan Zhong, Qi has opened up its communication channels and rewarded those who gave constructive feedback with carriages, exquisite clothing and money, signaling our intention to attract talent all over the lands. Our Great Qis present success is not due to pure luck.

    This is the first time Xiang Shaolong is listening to a conceited scholar of Qixia making all the unrealistic comments and having a taste of his shameless boasting. Yan Xiang is apparently still intoxicated in the past golden era when the King of Qi Henggong was building the country from strength to strength. He further observed the burning brilliance radiating from Tian Jians eyes, demonstrating his pride in the words of Yan Xiang. Sighing to himself, he pretended to nod his head in agreement.

    Rotating his head (like scholars composing poems), Tian Jian complimented: Great General is very sharp to note that the success or failure of our Great Qi is closely connected to the prosperity of Qixia College. In the past, Henggong posed this question to Guan Zhong: How can I rule the lands perpetually and how can I perpetually rule without being complacent? Guan Zhong replied: 黄帝立明台之议者,上观于贤也;尧有衢室之问者,下听于人也,尧有告善之挂,而主不蔽也。Be cause of this statement, Qixia College was born.

    (like the songs, the above is some double triple poetic meaning words which I lack the depth to translate and will leave it as it is.)

    Xiang Shaolong can feel his own emotions stirring. As royal descendants, they would more or less be fixated on a certain past glory. For example, the people of Qi would quote Henggong and Guan Zhong on a daily basis. Instead of living in the past, they should seek to improve based on their present conditions, creating a new future while keeping in mind the current trends and world developments. Although he mentioned the King of Qi is open to new ideas, it can similarly be interpreted that his authority is weak. During this era of wars, being able to consolidate power, dominate politics and conquer other States is the most critical characteristic a strong ruler must possess. The fake Yingzheng, Xiao Pan, is lucky to be free of these mental burdens of a typical royal descendant. Moreover, he is not restricted by family ties and can focus all his energy into seizing power in order to establish his own authority. Incidentally, he has become the most promising and wisest King of this generation.

    It is no accident that Qin is able to annihilate the other six States and unite the lands. It is partly because no other ruler shares the same background and upbringing of Xiao Pan.

    Zongsun Long interrupted: It is a well known fact that Crown Prince Zheng relies heavily on Great General. Now that the various states are hostile and preparing for war, does Great General have any plans to assist Qi?

    Remembering Prince Dan and Xu Yizhe, Xiang Shaolong is feeling conflicted. Zongsun Longs words are obviously hinting himself to provide the same guarantee that Lu Buwei is offering Tian Jian in order to wrest Tian Jian from the hands of Tian Dan.

    On hindsight, no matter what he says, he can never change the course of history. But for Shan Rous sake, he must come up with a commitment.

    Scanning the crowd and savoring the looks of anticipation from the eyes of everyone, he officially states: Crown Prince Zheng is still a juvenile and will only be coronated next year. As a result, he is focusing his attention on internal politics. The construction of Zhengguo Canal is taking up the bulk of his time. With regards to external invasion, he has always adopted a passive stance. One of the agendas of my trip to Qi is to affirm the strong ties between our two States.

    Yan Xiang sarcastically pointed: Ever since Yingzheng returned to Qin, Eastern Zhou has been conquered, followed by Hans Munian City and Rongyang City. There is also Zhaos Taiyuan City who was overwhelmed and became a new city of Qin. Lastly, Wei lost thirty-seven cities to Qin too. These facts do not seem to tally with Great Generals statement.

    Xiang Shaolong had intentionally designed his words to trick him into making this accusation. He calmly replied: We all know who is the perpetuator behind Eastern Zhous military campaign. The other territories were captured by Meng Ao. I guess it is pretty obvious why Meng Ao is able to monopolize control of the Qin military. Instantly, Tian Jians countenance changed faintly.

    Xiang Shaolongs words are actually made up of half-truths. In terms of occupying territories, Xiao Pan, the future Qin Shihuang, is even greedier than Lu Buwei. Due to his adolescence, he could easily shift all responsibility to Imperial Uncle Lu Buwei who, in reality, has no authority despite such a grand title. The recent military maneuvers were indeed drafted personally by Xiao Pan but this information is not known to outsiders.

    Yan Xiang is adorably honest and nodded: Great General is right. Tian Dan is getting muddle-headed in his old age and has failed to perceive Lu Buweis innate character. Second Prince should know who are your ideal partners by now.

    Hearing this testimonial, Zongsun Long and the others are overjoyed. Tian Jian, on the other hand, was feeling awkward and dryly coughed once: Speaking with Great General is truly enlightening. Hey! After Great Generals duel with Grandmaster Cao, Tian Jian will host a banquet to honour Great General.

    Since nobody else has anything to add, the meeting was concluded. After Yan Xiang and the others left, Zongsun Xuanhua stayed behind and introduced Xiang Shaolong to Yao Sheng, one of the warriors that is in his escort team: Yao Sheng is born and bred here. If Great General requires any errands to be completed, feel free to assign the task to him directly and you need not go through us at all. After repeating the same instructions to Yao Sheng, he took his leave.

    Scrutinizing Yao Sheng, Xiang Shaolong estimated him to be around thirty years old and has eyes that glow with wisdom. With a handsome face, he comes across as someone who can remain calm and steady in any situation. Hit by a brainwave, he instructed: I wish for Brother Yao to keep Han Chuang and Guo Kai under surveillance and report their movements to me. You must not allow them to detect your presence.

    Yao Sheng respectfully bowed: You can call me Yao Sheng. Great General has gained my admiration. This is a small issue and I will definitely accomplish Great Generals mission.

    Finishing, he left to execute the order.

    Using this break, Xiang Shaolong returned to his room for a nap. After dozing for about two hours, he woke up and discovered that Han Chuang has been waiting for him for some time. He is certain that this ungrateful fellow must be up to no good again. On the other hand, he has to visit Xiang Shaolong sooner or later; otherwise, it would arouse suspicions about himself.

    After he had washed up, he received Han Chuang in the front hall.

    A significantly impatient Han Chuang is already pacing up and down the hall. Noticing Xiang Shaolong, he cheered: Shaolong is finally awake.

    Observing that Han Chuang does not display the slightest sign of guilt, Xiang Shaolong was annoyed and coldly hissed: No matter how long a dream is, one would have to wake up eventually. To think you still have the guts to come and see me.

    His face turning white, Han Chuang wondered: What is this all about? Two days ago, Lord Longyang came and tested my loyalty. Today, Shaolong is mercilessly laying blame on me. What offence did I, Han Chuang, committed?

    Advancing to his front, Xiang Shaolong stared piercingly at him with his shining eyes, accusing: If you dont want to be caught, dont do it. You are the only person who knows that I am going to Qixia College to steal my sabre At this juncture, he detected Feng Fei about to enter the hall from the corner of his eye. Gesturing with his hand, he bellowed: Mistress, please excuse yourself. I am not through yet with this ungrateful fellow.

    Noticing the two men arguing heatedly, Feng Fei was shocked and her face was completely pale. She hastily retreated from the scene.

    Xiang Shaolong continued: If not for you letting the cat out of the bag, why would Cao Cuidao know about my burglary attempt and was using me to practice his sword moves?

    Han Chuang panicked: This has nothing to do with me. Remember I was advising you not to go? Aye! How did this happen?

    Xiang Shaolong has to admit that his acting is fantastic. Originally, he wanted to apply the same deceit to Han Chuang, feeding him with lies and fabrications. However, upon seeing this old friend, he can feel his anger rising and lost control of his emotions.

    Not willing to back down, he countered: Would you have advised me to go instead? Putting this matter aside, why are you holding secret discussions with Guo Kai over the past few days? And even blackmailed Lord Longyang to get rid of me.

    His face drained of colour, Han Chuang stammered: Lord Longyang told you?

    Xiang Shaolong coldly smirked: None of your business. If you even try to lay your hands on him, when I get back to Xianyang, I will expose your Zhengguo Canal Grand Plan. The very next day, I will lead an army to raid your nesting place.

    Han Chuang shuddered excessively: So you knew about everything; why did you hide it from Yingzheng?

    Xiang Shaolong sighed with a breath: Dont you ungrateful fellas get it? Only by building this canal will the Qin military be tied down and unable to participate in any eastern campaigns for the next eight to ten years. It is against my desires to watch my friends become stateless citizens, which is why I resisted exposing this matter and dealing Lu Buwei a blow. In return, how have you treated me?

    Han Chuang promptly broke down and collapsed onto his seat with hot tears sprouting out like spring water. He grieved: I was forced by circumstances too. Someone has revealed my meeting with you to Guo Kai and he kept threatening me using hard and soft tactics. But I have tried my best and even hinted Lord Longyang to escort you out of Lin Zi. Shaolong, you must believe me! I have been doing everything within my power to obstruct Guo Kai and in fact, I came to see you today to warn you about him.

    Xiang Shaolong felt that it is impossible for him to trust Han Chuang like before because his acting is simply amazing. He sighed with another breath: How then, do you explain the sabre theft tip-off?

    With a mixture of tears and snot on his face, Han Chuang wept: If I was the one who leaked this information, may I die within a year! I am heavily indebted to Shaolong and no matter how heartless I, Han Chuang, am, I would never stoop to such a despicable act.

    Xiang Shaolong reflected: Could it be somebody else eavesdropping on their conversation and overhearing this exchange?

    By now, his anger has been appeased and he sat down besides Han Chuang, castigating: You are a grown man; can you stop crying like a damsel in distress?

    Using his sleeves to wipe his tears, Han Chuang shook his head in a pitiful manner, wheezing: Over the past few days, I spent all my waking hours locking horns with antagonists. The pain is almost unbearable. Now that Shaolong has given me a piece of your mind, I somehow felt much better.

    Patting his shoulder, Xiang Shaolong consoled: You should go home! Both of us should spend some time in quiet contemplation.

    Han Chuang cautioned: There is one thing Shaolong must never underestimate: Guo Kai is in cahoots with Lu Buwei and Tian Dan, going all out to prevent you from ever returning to Xianyang. Qi, after all, is Tian Dans playground. If you are negligent, you may fall into his ambush.

    Xiang Shaolong plainly state: As along as my friends dont betray me, I can handle any situation. This matter is far from simple, you had better not get involved or Guo Kai may take you down as well.

    He then frostily grunted: It seems like I, Xiang Shaolong, is a pushover in their eyes. Guo Kai this old thief must be tired of living.

    Han Chuang exhaled a breath of cold air and mused: I finally had a taste of Shaolongs unimaginable forbearance and magnanimous attitude. Before your match with Cao Cuidao, Lu Buwei and Guo Kai should be keeping their paws off you. But if you happened to win, the situation will be entirely different!

    Seizing Han Chuang, Xiang Shaolong pushed him towards the main door and hinted: Go back and tell Guo Kai, tell him that for the glory of Qin Swordsmen, I will definitely have a go with Cao Cuidao.

    Han Chuang was immensely shocked: Arent you planning to flee the city before that?

    Pushing him straight out of the door, Xiang Shaolong smiled in return but did not offer a reply.

    After tearing off Han Chuangs mask, he felt much more peaceful. Lord Longyang is right. Although Han Chuang is no noble character, his friendship towards him is sincere. Greatly comforted by this fact, he was glad that human goodness does exist in everyone.

    Currently, he can no longer differentiate between friend or foe. Except for Shan Rou and Xiao Yuetan, he would never place his full trust in anyone else, including Li Yuan and Lord Longyang. Who can guarantee that they may not have a change of heart or are simply lying to him from day one.

    This is the first time in his life when he cannot distinguish between his allies and his enemies.

    Barely stepping over the door ledge, he was welcomed by Feng Fei. She quizzed: What is going on between you and Marquis Chuang?

    Xiang Shaolong smiled: It is nothing. It is now sunshine after the rain.

    Feng Fei slowly and sadly shot him a look, angrily interrogating: Why didnt you come over last night? Am I, Feng Fei, not worthy of Great Generals attention?

    Xiang Shaolong groaned: It is the exact opposite. I am concerned that after relishing Mistresss enticing body, I would lose control of my emotions. That will give rise to unforeseeable consequences while we are trying to escape.

    Putting on an air of disdain, Feng Fei admonished: Will you stop linking every issue to that? The situation is very clear to me now. Even those who hate you to the core are unable to do anything to you. Since you do not love me, why dont you simply say so!

    Xiang Shaolong can instantly feel the heavy thumping in his head. Pulling her sleeve, he led her towards the inner courtyard and changed the topic: Arent Shuzen and the others rehearsing? How can they do a good job with you, First Mistress, giving instructions by the side?

    Feng Fei giggled with a Pu Ci. She chuckled: You ah Your best skill is skirting issues whenever they become too hot for you to handle. Now that I do not have a lover, I may lose control one night and slip underneath your blankets while you are in bed. When that happens, I want to see how long you can hold out.

    Aroused, Xiang Shaolong smiled: Didnt Mistress say your heart is dead? Why are you suddenly so passionate again?

    Curling her cute little mouth, Feng Fei coquettishly stared at him, censuring: It is all your fault, trying to seduce me while acting gentlemanly, hugging me when you feel like it and giving me deep kisses whenever you are in the mood. Even your words are amorous and ambiguous. Feng Fei is just an ordinary lady and would naturally seek your love and attention after being stimulated by you on multiple occasions.

    Xiang Shaolong can feel his own urges rising but reminded himself that this rare beauty Feng Fei is better left untouched. Fortunately, all his desires for her would vanish straightaway whenever he thinks of her past affections for Han Jie.

    He is no longer the same Xiang Shaolong who arrived in this era years ago. Growing out of the age of one night stands, he would now consider the consequences of his actions.

    Suppressing his agitation with all his willpower, Xiang Shaolong solemnly explained: Isnt our present relationship perfect? Once we are physically involved, the gameplay would be totally different and in the future, you would abhor me for being a heartless man.

    By now, Feng Fei has arrived at the stone steps leading to her chambers. Halting her footsteps, her eyebrows tightened slightly to form an indistinct frown. Seconds later, she displayed a smile, acknowledging: Great General is right. Once you have obtained my body and yet do not marry Feng Fei, Feng Fei would certainly be resentful despite promising earlier that there are no strings attached.

    Seeing that she is so understanding, Xiang Shaolong was thrilled: Why dont we just limit ourselves to hugging and kissing, Ouch!

    Shoving him away with a push, Feng Fei glared at him viciously before breaking out into a sweet smile and proceeded to climb the stairs to the upper deck.

    Xiang Shaolong had to summon every shred of his willpower to prevent himself from following her upstairs. Turning around, he left.

    To avoid getting himself into trouble, Xiang Shaolong chose to spend his whole day within Tingsong Villa. Nevertheless, he could not avoid the provocation of the courtesans. Among his harassers, Dong Shuzen and Zhu Xiuzhen are obviously included and so are Xinyue and Yunniang who kept trying to get into his good books.

    Fortunately, he has already made up his mind to run away from here once he managed to withstand Cao Cuidaos ten blows. Otherwise, if these harassments were to continue, he may lose his inhibitions one day and fall into this beauty trap.

    In the evening, Xiao Yuetan came looking for him and the two men headed to the garden for a stroll. After Xiang Shaolong described his encounter with Han Chuang to Xiao Yuetan, the latters face lost colour: Shaolong should not have disclosed your knowledge about Zhengguo Canal; this may inadvertently force Han Chuang to kill you.

    Xiang Shaolong had a big shock: Are you sure? He was crying his eyes out and his nose was running. It was a genuine display of emotions!

    Xiao Yuetan sighed: All human beings are made this way. In the heat of the moment, they would react emotionally but after careful consideration and weighing the pros and cons, they would cast aside all personal relationships for the sake of their country.

    Xiang Shaolong nodded his head: Elder Brothers words always makes the most sense. Luckily, I need not depend on him. Zongsun Long and I are in a mutually beneficial partnership; he should be much more reliable!

    Xiao Yuetan bitterly smiled: This is precisely why I came to look for you. Remember Zongsun Heji? He just gave me a fresh update, reporting that Han Jie brought Lu Buwei to pay a visit to Zongsun Long father and son. However, he is not aware about their meeting agenda.

    Xiang Shaolong was thunderstruck: Doesnt Lu Buwei fear Tian Dans wrath?

    Xiao Yuetan coldly sniggered: Doesnt Shaolong understand this Old Thief by now? Tian Dan is getting on in years and is no longer the Tian Dan of the past. Due to his early contributions, the royal family is still accommodating towards him. One of the reasons why the King of Qi stripped Tian Sheng of his Crown Prince title is because Tian Sheng approves Tian Dans demands unquestioningly. Moreover, Lu Buwei is known for securing his objectives at all costs, even if it includes working together with his past enemies.

    Xiang Shaolong chortled: I am conscious that Zongsun Long is no gentleman but presently, I am much more useful to him compared to Lu Buwei. I am confident that he would not switch sides.

    Xiao Yuetan frowned: Do not underestimate Lu Buwei. For him to openly approach Zongsun Long, I am sure he has some compelling reasons. All you need to do is wait and see if Zongsun Long would take the initiative to tell you about Lu Buweis visit. From there, you can determine if they are still loyal to you or not.

    Xiang Shaolong was secretly alarmed, recalling Xiao Pans identity crisis. If Lu Buwei is using this trump card on Zongsun Long father and son, it is possible that they may switch allegiance to Lu Buwei.

    Another critical aspect is Han Jies unique status. With him moderating the discussion and aligning their interests, it is possible for the impossible to happen.

    At the end of the day, Zongsun Long is still hankering after Feng Fei. If he assumes Xiang Shaolong to be simply a paper tiger, this calculative bloodsucker may harden his resolve and commit himself to the unexpected.

    Ultimately, the people of Qi share the mentality of the other five eastern States, regarding Xiang Shaolong as the number one enemy. Years ago, Qin General Bai Qi inflicted catastrophic damages upon them. Now that he, Xiang Shaolong, is widely acknowledged as the Bai Qi of today, who wouldnt wish to see him dead?

    Based on these fresh developments, his grand plan is no longer viable and he has to reconsider the trustworthiness of his allies.

    Even if he is all alone by himself, most of his tasks are still accomplishable. The problem is that he cannot abandon Feng Fei.

    Xiao Yuetans voice sounded beside his ear: For the next two days, we must brainstorm and formulate a plan to slip away without anyones knowledge.

    Xiang Shaolong realized that the situation must be really deplorable if even this wise and experienced friend is feeling the same helplessness as him. It looks like the best way out is for him to slip away first while imploring Xie Ziyuan to extend his protection to Feng Fei.

    The golden question remains: Is Xie Ziyuan able to do so?

  16. #276
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2004


    Book 24 Chapter 04 - Discovering A Shocking Conspiracy

    That very night, Zongsun Xuanhua came to visit Xiang Shaolong. After opening the conversation with some unimportant topics, he quizzed: Xuanhua is curious about one thing: When the Crown Prince was escorted back to Xianyang from Handan, there were rumours circulating that he was an illegitimate son of Lu Buwei. Even the royal family and court officials were aware of it. However, why did they continue to give him their full support?

    Xiang Shaolong was secretly horrified and troubled. It is not Zongsun Xuanhuas question that he was worried about but the agenda behind the question.

    In the past, he was only suspicious but right now, he is fully convinced that Lu Buwei has grasped the Achilles heel of him and Xiao Pan. Given Lu Buweis prowess, he could easily employ several hard or soft tactics and invite the foster parents of the real Yingzheng back to Xianyang from Handan. By then, he could effortlessly use these witnesses to blackmail Xiao Pan.

    Thinking about this point, Xiang Shaolong could not help but secretly detest Zhu Ji. However, it is possible that she does not care if Xiao Pan is her own son or not. As a result, for her to reveal this secret is no big deal, which is why it is not surprising for her to disclose this fact to Lao Ai after being sweet-talked by him.

    This is indeed the only way Lu Buwei can salvage the entire situation.

    If this scandal is exposed, Xiao Pan and him, Xiang Shaolong, would be labeled as conmen. Everyone who is related to or supportive of them would receive the heaviest mental blow and suffer a drastic change of lifestyle.

    Within Qin, Lu Buwei is already deep-seated in power. By forcing Zhu Ji to join hands and publicly stripping Xiao Pan of the Crown Prince title, he can then support an incompetent royal family member to succeed the throne, wielding full power over the country indirectly. By then, he can easily dispose Lao Ai, leaving his authority unchallenged.

    Although history will remain unaltered, Xiang Shaolong is currently mired in the centre of it all and cannot take things for granted. It is like fate; until an event has factually happened, who can know for sure that it is due to fate? Therefore, his heart is filled with anxiety.

    Lu Buwei must have leaked certain clues regarding the matter to Zongsun Long father and son, instigating Zongsun Xuanhua to specially approach him and test Lu Buweis theories. Once tested, they can make up their minds to switch sides to Lu Buwei or continue to partner Xiang Shaolong.

    On the surface, Xiang Shaolong naturally put on a leisurely appearance, concealing the horror within his heart. He replied with a tinge of surprise: This matter has long been concluded. Years ago, to satisfy Lu Gongs suspicions, a blood test was administered and it is proven that Crown Prince Zheng and Lu Buwei are not related in any way.

    Zongsun Xuanhua laughed mysteriously: I heard the blood of Crown Prince was personally drawn by Great General!

    Xiang Shaolong pretended to be astonished: Brother Xuanhua knows about this too?

    With an unnatural body language, Zongsun Xuanhua replied: This information was lifted off Tian Dan, provoking my curiosity about another question. It is rumoured that even Qins Empress (Zhu) Ji is uncertain whether Crown Prince Zheng is the son of Lu Buwei or the late King; why would Great General have the guts to administer the blood test? If it turns out that Lu Buwei is the real father, what would Great General do?

    Xiang Shaolong is already prepared for this question from him; in fact, it could be due to Lu Buwei egging him to make this inquiry on his behalf. If Xiang Shaolong displayed any signs of hesitation, Zongsun Xuanhua would know that Lu Buwei is telling the truth. It also meant that Lu Buwei could use this fact to topple Xiao Pan. Hence, they should cross over to Lu Buweis side of the fence and plot against Xiang Shaolong.

    From Zongsun Longs point of view, it would be ideal if Qin is plagued with infighting and subsequently declined from strong to weak, allowing Qi to have an opportunity to be the next dominant State.

    Additionally, if Cao Cuidao happened to kill Xiang Shaolong, Xiao Pan would have lost a powerful ally and may consequently be defeated by Lu Buwei.

    Utilizing all his acting skills to put up a nonchalant front, Xiang Shaolong casually remarked: It is simply a smokescreen created by Empress. During that period, Lu Buwei has a monopoly on power and fearing for the safety of her son, Empress deliberately created a confusing scenario. Without a doubt, Crown Prince is the son of the late King.

    Zongsun Xuanhua was contemplating for some time before suppressing his voice and asking: There is something that Xuanhua wants to say but does not know if it is inappropriate. If I cause any offence, I hope Great General will not hold it against me.

    Xiang Shaolong could already guess what he wanted to say next and even deduced that it was Lu Buwei who instructed him to do so. On one hand, he could test his own reaction and on the other hand, he could distract him mentally, causing him to perish under Cao Cuidaos sword because of emotional baggage. Xiang Shaolong pretended to laugh: There is nothing to hide. Brother Xuanhua can speak your mind without any reservations.

    Zongsun Xuanhua tried to say something but the words never left his lips. After some time, he finally uttered: We have a spy within Tian Dans residence. According to him, Lu Buwei told Tian Dan he has already gathered sufficient evidence: There is a couple who lives in Handans public housing and they can provide additional information on Crown Princes identity.

    Xiang Shaolong is even more convinced than before that this is Lu Buweis ultimate scheme. As his heart sank all the way down, his external expression was that of surprise, followed by loud laugher: Lu Buwei is getting more and more muddle-headed. He must be referring to the foster parents who raised Crown Prince. A long time ago, Crown Prince has already arranged for them to move to Xianyang. However, this is a highly confidential issue and only a handful of people are aware of it. Has Lu Buwei gone mad?

    These words are simply brilliant. It is as good as telling Zongsun Xuanhua that even if there is a problem, the problem has already been solved even before it arises.

    It is now Zongsun Xuanhuas turn to be greatly surprised. After a short daze, he laughed along: My sentiments exactly. If I were Crown Prince, I would naturally fetch my foster parents back to Xianyang and allow them to retire happily in return for raising me for so many years.

    Xiang Shaolong secretly sighed, accepting the fact that he is not heartless enough to be a good politician. If it was someone else, he would have murdered that couple before leaving Handan, preventing a similar calamity from occurring today.

    At that point in time, he did not even consider this aspect and even when he recalled this affair later, he simply brushed it off. This is also because only three individuals, him, Zhu Ji and Xiao Pan knows about the couples name and address. Unexpectedly, Zhu Ji leaked this information.

    Losing the interest to speak further, Zongsun Xuanhua mentioned some unrelated topics before bidding farewell.

    Xiang Shaolong is certain that he is going to rendezvous with Lu Buwei. Hit by a brainwave, he checked: Will Brother Xuanhua see Official Xie tomorrow?

    Zongsun Xuanhua nodded: Do you need Xuanhua to pass a message to him?

    Xiang Shaolong made up a story: I have something for him and have to trouble Brother Xuanhua to pass it to him on my behalf. Brother Xuanhua, please wait for a while.

    Finishing his sentences, Xiang Shaolong swiftly returned to his room and changed into dark coloured clothes and fitted his climbing apparatus. Concealing his new outfit with a coat, he went back to Zongsun Xuanhua and apologized: I forgot that I have already sent the item to Official Xies residence. There is no need to bother Brother Xuanhua anymore. Zongsun Xuanhua did not suspect anything and left after assuring Xiang Shaolong repeatedly that it is no trouble at all.

    Pulling up his hood, Xiang Shaolong slipped out into the streets via a side door. He brisk-walked in the direction of Zongsun Xuanhuas carriage.

    Not only does Xiao Pans identity predicament affect his and Xiao Pans reputation, it encompasses the life and death of many other families. For the first time, he could understand the dilemma that Lord Longyang, Han Chuang and the others are facing. In the 21st century, only the criminal alone is being punished.

    If he got into trouble during this era, not only will his wives and son receive the same punishment but the entire Wu Family Clan and even Teng Yi and Jing Juns clans would be exterminated.

    In conclusion, the more information he possess regarding this issue, the better can he handle this huge disaster.

    Since the beginning of history, gathering intelligence is always the first priority for any army. Since there are no tapping devices for him to employ in this era, he could only personally venture out and hear for himself what are the schemes Lu Buwei is cooking up with Zongsun Xuanhua.

    Fortunately, he has been through Special Forces training, making him a professional at sneaking into urban areas. Compared to the skyscrapers of the 21st century, the properties of this era are defenceless playgrounds in his eyes. As long as he can avoid detection by family warriors and guard dogs, he can trespass any residence at will.

    Today, Zongsun Xuanhua is only engaging a small convoy, comprising of a single carriage and a handful of followers. As the roads are occupied by numerous carriages driving up and down, their convoy is hobbling along at a snails pace. By increasing his pace, Xiang Shaolong easily overtook his carriage and is waiting for him at the front.

    According to his estimates, Lu Buwei would not be meeting Zongsun Xuanhua at the Chancellor Residence where he is currently lodging.

    At the end of the day, Tian Dan and Zongsun Long father and son are at loggerheads with each other. Despite Lu Buweis overbearing character, there is no way the meeting can be held right in front of Tian Dans eyes.

    Although it is not snowing tonight, the weather is still freezing. Compared to the earlier nights with snow flying all around, the temperature is definitely much more hospitable. Furthermore, the bone chilling winter wind has stopped blowing.

    Due to the thriving economy, more and more politically savvy tycoons like Zongsun Long are emerging. His own Wu Family, Lu Buwei and even Qin Qing are shining examples.

    In the midst of his thoughts, Zongsun Xuanhuas horse carriage made an unanticipated stop. Scrutinizing the courtyard in question, the entire length of Xiang Shaolongs spine turned cold.

    It turned out to be Li Yuans Tingzhu Villa which is two streets away from Tingsong Villa.

    While the carriage is driving into the compound, Xiang Shaolong has already familiarized himself with the place and entered by climbing over a side wall.

    These ten odd courtyards are used specially to host foreign dignitaries and are similar in design. Since he has memorized the layout of Tingsong Villa, navigating Tingzhu Villa is childs play to him.

    Demonstrating his dexterities and forte as a Special Forces member, with a mixture of quick darts and slow steps, he made his way across the side garden while avoiding the occasional family warrior on patrol. Ascending the main block which overlooks the front and back courtyard, he landed on the roof about the same time Zongsun Xuanhua entered the building from below, clearly displaying his incredible climbing skills.

    Within seconds, Zongsun Xuanhua exited from the other side of the main building and took the corridor leading towards the Eastern Chamber. Xiang Shaolong hurriedly slid down the building with the aid of a grappling hook. Using bushes and trees as cover, he scampered to the west window of the Eastern Chamber. Underneath the translucent window where the illumination of a lamp is barely visible, he squatted down and began eavesdropping in silence. As it is bright inside the chamber and dark on the outside, his shadow would not shine into the chamber. Li Yuans voice sounded: Xuanhua, pray take a seat before speaking.

    What followed were sounds of tea pouring and someone sitting down.

    Xiang Shaolong reprimanded himself for not being thorough in his contemplation. When he first met Li Yuan here, he was conducting a secret discussion with Zongsun Long, clearly illustrating their intimacy.

    In addition, Lady Qingxiu did warn him on two occasions to take precautions against Li Yuan. However, Li Yuan managed to utterly deceive him with just a few sentences, gaining his full confidence again and again. It is also partly due to his habit of judging others with an overly positive perspective.

    In fact, regardless of Li Yuan, Han Chuang or Lord Longyang, they are all true blue politicians who prioritize benefits and gains over relationships and emotions.

    Lord Longyang is probably not as unscrupulous as the rest. But with regards to Li Yuan, it is obvious that he is able to cast aside his hatred towards Xiang Shaolong for snatching Ji Yanran away and work hand in hand with him in Shouchun. This clearly proves that he values power and status. Anything else is secondary.

    If he had succumbed to his laziness and did not stalk Zongsun Xuanhua, he would probably die without knowing the truth behind his death.

    Li Yuan is truly intelligent to reveal Han Chuangs betrayal, misleading Xiang Shaolong that he values his past contributions.

    As the sound of footsteps of the dismissed servants faded away, it was replaced by sounds of sipping tea and wine.

    From the noises generated, it seems like there is more than just Li Yuan and Zongsun Xuanhua in the room. As anticipated, Zongsun Longs voice sounded: What explanation did Xiang Shaolong offer?

    Zongsun Xuanhua sighed with a breath of air: The circumstances may be different from what the cunning old fox Lu Buwei has described. Not only did Xiang Shaolong didnt show any signs of shock, he even mentioned that Yingzheng had fetched that couple back to Xianyang. Aye!

    Another man countered: Didnt Lu Buwei say that he has custody of the couple?

    Xiang Shaolong can sense his entire body shuddering. Besides being alarmed at these words, he was also shaken upon recognizing the speaker. It is none other than Han Chuang who had been cursing himself and crying his eyes out to him earlier today.

    In an unhurried tone, another gentle and familiar voice sounded: Xuanhua, why dont you reiterate the full chronicles before we draw any conclusions and decide if Xiang Shaolong is lying or Lu Buwei is spouting nonsense.

    His heart sank all the way to the bottom for he could identify this speaker to be his nemesis Guo Kai.

    Presently, he can confirm Lady Qingxius implicit meaning and unspoken warning: Li Yuan, Guo Kai and Han Chuang are working together against him. However, he did not expect Zongsun Long to be involved too.

    After delving on it, he is certain that Zongsun Long father and son joined their gang at a later stage, explaining their earlier sincere behavior. They probably entered this collaboration after Lu Buweis visit.

    As his thoughts trained till this point, Zongsun Xuanhua had articulated the chain of events and he added: Throughout the exchange, not only did Xiang Shaolong fail to exhibit any signs of agitation, inversely, he found the whole affair pretty hilarious. If I were in his shoes, I would definitely freak out.

    Disappointed sighs echoed from the hall.

    Guo Kai lamented: If this is true, we would have lost a golden opportunity to topple Yingzheng. This kid is smart and formidable; his methods are deadly and devastating. With his overwhelming ambitions, we can forget about getting a good nights sleep if he officially becomes the King of Qin.

    Li Yuan wondered: Xiang Shaolong is a talent when it comes to faking reactions and he is blessed with quick reflexes. Could he be actually reeling in shock but was able to conceal it?

    Zongsun Long mourned: If he hadnt chased away the men that I have bribed, we would be able to find out what is his after-reaction.

    Han Chuang analyzed: Judging from Lu Buweis tone when he spoke to Master Long, he probably got the couples Handan address from Lao Ai just as he was departing from Xianyang. Otherwise, Xianyang would have degenerated into chaos and he definitely cannot spare the time to come to Lin Zi. Therefore, I am certain that he cannot guarantee actual custody of the witnesses. Zongsun Long grieved: In this case, Xiang Shaolong is not lying.

    Guo Kai viciously declared: No matter what, we must never let Xiang Shaolong return to Xianyang alive. Without him, Yingzheng is merely a toothless tiger and may perish under the hands of Lu Buwei and Lao Ai. From then on, Qin would be riddled with internal strife and subsequently lack the means to invade eastwards.

    Zongsun Long quickly interrupted: We need to discuss this further. Lu Buwei only wishes to blind him, letting him stay alive to answer treason charges when he returns to Xianyang.

    Petrified and infuriated, Xiang Shaolong can only listen on helplessly outside the window.

    Han Chuang faintly sighed: I rather he loses his life under the sword of Grandmaster Cao than to see him becoming a blind man.

    Li Yuan calmly reasoned: The interests of the State comes first and personal relationships do not account for anything. Xiang Shaolong can only blame himself for becoming another Bai Qi of Qin. If he happened to die at the hands of Grandmaster Cao, so be it. Otherwise, we must step into destroy him. Because of his affairs, I havent slept well in days. Whenever I visualize tens of thousands of common folks and children of the Eastern States being trampled by the aggressive army of Qin, I cannot help but discard all my feelings of gratitude and friendship.

    Guo Kai warned in a scheming tone: We must take precautions against Lord Longyang. Unlike Chancellor Li and Marquis Chuang, I dont think he sees the big picture.

    Zongsun Xuanhua cautioned: We must execute our plans carefully. If Yingzheng eventually became King and Xiang Shaolong happened to die in Lin Zi, Qi would be in hot soup.

    Guo Kai laughed: We can simply frame Lu Buwei for it and let Yingzheng focus all his hatred onto Lu Buwei. While they are at each others throats, we can raise our wine cups in celebration.

    Li Yuan reminded Zongsun Long father and son: Second Prince and Xie Ziyuan must not know about this; otherwise, there may be unforeseen developments. I have already gotten Lady Ning to hint Second Prince that his King father is unhappy with First Prince mainly because of his close ties with Tian Dan. Thus, Second Prince should know what to do and Xiang Shaolong is no longer of any use. Moreover, I did make it clear to Second Prince, telling him that as long as Tian Dan stays in power, Qi and Chu will never be allies. In fact, the outcome has been established. The King of Qi just relayed a new order, commanding First Prince to leave Lin Zi before the birthday banquet. I am sure it is as clear as day what the end result will be. Zongsun Long father and son hastily responded and professed their thanks.

    Li Yuan additionally instructed: The two of you must do your best to deceive Xiang Shaolong and gain his full trust, misleading him into thinking that Lu Buwei and Tian Dan are scheming against him. Try to arrange for his getaway after his duel with Grandmaster Cao and have someone ambush him along the way. It would be ideal if you can sacrifice some men during the ambush and give him the impression that it is Lu Buwei trying to blind him. That would result in mayhem within the Court of Qin.

    Guo Kai supplemented: Try to communicate to Xiang Shaolong that Lu Buwei wants to keep him alive in order to face criminal charges back in Xianyang. That would surely complicate matters between them.

    Pausing, he added: We must keep this secret from Lord Longyang. If Xiang Shaolong learns about this, based on his unfathomable skills, he may clandestinely slip away first. With him alive, Master Long can forget about laying his hands on Feng Fei.

    It is now Xiang Shaolongs turn to coldly snigger to himself. He has given up all hope on Han Chuang and Li Yuan while doubting that they can inflict any harm on him.

    At this juncture, he knows that it is unwise for him to loiter around and he swiftly departed.

    His biggest burden now is how to safely escort Feng Fei away. As he does not wish to implicate Lord Longyang, Shan Rou or Xie Ziyuan, the only confidante that remains is Xiao Yuetan.

  17. #277
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2004


    Book 24 Chapter 05 - Unexpected Gains

    Shan Rou wailed: I quit! Withdrawing her sword, she retreated.

    Resting the back of the sabre on his shoulder, Xiang Shaolong chuckled: Despite raising two kids, Madam Xie can still pack a punch.

    Staring curiously at him, Shan Rou was amazed: Stop bluffing. Why have you improved so much compared to yesterday? Every sabre stroke is beyond my anticipation.

    Xiang Shaolong is conscious that due to motivation from his predicament and hurt from his friends betrayal, he is now brimming with immense willpower and fighting spirit for the sake of his family and his own survival. He has decided to fully commit himself and discarded all non-related considerations. Treating this duel as a final showdown where he would be staring at the face of death, he managed to unleash his hidden potential.

    As per his instructions, the huge crowd that was present yesterday is absent today. Exchanging blows with this beauty who used to be intimate with him, Xiang Shaolong is exceedingly alert.

    Since his return last night, he surprisingly slept all the way till dawn. Before Shan Rou arrived, he had already practiced a round of Hundred Battle Sabre Play, explaining his remarkable familiarity.

    He is no longer worried about Cao Cuidaos duel that is taking place two nights later. As long as this opponent keeps his promise of limiting the fight to ten strokes, he is confident that he will emerge unscathed.

    Now that he is aware of Zongsun Long, Li Yuan and the others who are plotting against him, he is mentally prepared and knows what to expect in the future, increasing his conviction level.

    Perhaps now that he has finally determined his friends and foes, and admitting that Xiao Pans identity crisis cannot be solved by pure luck, all his doubts are cleared and the days of wild speculation are over, allowing him to sleep in peace.

    It does not mean that he has found a way to counter Lu Buwei and Lao Ai but his gut feel tells him that history will not be altered and Xiao Pan will certainly become Qin Shihuang. There is no documentation of him, Xiang Shaolong, as a historical figure and naturally no record of him creating a fake Yingzheng. This clearly illustrates the ability of Xiao Pan to protect his legacy but there is no indication if he, Xiang Shaolong can preserve his life in this incoming onslaught.

    Somehow, the more Xiang Shaolong thought about it, the more fearful he felt. Luckily, Little Pinger came by at this juncture, announcing that Feng Fei has invited the two of them to her main building for breakfast. Feng Fei is still unable to comprehend the relationship between Shan Rou and Xiang Shaolong. By right, they should be newly acquainted but their mannerism is too friendly for her to stomach. To her, Shan Rous lack of respect towards Xiang Shaolong is something exceptionally baffling. After all, Xiang Shaolong is currently a powerful and popular Qin Great General.

    Without Xiao Yuetan and Zongsun Xuanhua around, Shan Rou is even less inhibited. Squinting her eyes at Xiang Shaolong first, she then peeped at Feng Fei before enquiring from her: This fella is very good at seducing ladies; have you become one of his women?

    Feng Fei was so embarrassed that even the root of her ears turned red in an instant, wishing that she could find a hole in the ground to hide her face.

    Xiang Shaolong was mortified at Shan Rous broaching of this taboo subject. He chided: How can Madam Xie ask such a question?

    With a Pu Ci, Shan Rou giggled: Why is everyone afraid of telling the simple truth? Just answer Yes or No! With her innocent schoolgirl laughter, it is truly impossible to get angry with her.

    Enduring her bashfulness, Feng Fei resumed her well-versed calm demeanor and replied in a low voice: The relationship between Feng Fei and Great General is prim and proper and we are definitely not an item. Madam Xie has wronged Great General; He is a true gentleman. Pausing for a while, she inquired in return: Are Madam Xie and Great General previously acquainted? It is rumoured that Madam Xies swordsmanship is comparable to Young Master Zongsun, gaining much glory for us females.

    Shan Rou was not the least flattered and asserted: I am who I am, why must I compare myself against men for glory? Hng! I have to go, I have some errands to run in the palace. Raising her sleeve and using it to wipe her mouth, she left without even looking back.

    Xiang Shaolong and Feng Fei stared at each other with a stunned expression before smiling with amusement.

    Feng Fei state in a low voice: I heard Madam Xies original surname is Shan and her family was destroyed by Tian Dan. However, she has now gained the affections of the concubines of the King and Princes who are all begging her to impart sword skills to them. In addition, Xie Ziyuan is highly regarded by the Court of Qi. Faced with her constant and direct insults, even Tian Dan has to bear with her.

    Xiang Shaolong finally learned about Shan Rous status in Lin Zi and understood why Zongsun Xuanhua is so accommodating towards her.

    Feng Fei continued: Are we leaving here the night after tomorrow? I am getting tired of Han Jies harassment and desire to leave this place as soon as possible.

    Xiang Shaolong wavered on the spot, unable to determine if Feng Fei can be trusted. The fluctuation of a womans affections is hard to grasp. Today, she can say that she hates Han Jie but tomorrow, she can leap back into his bosom. If she reveals his secrets, he would have to return to Xianyang as a blind man.

    Noticing the change in his expression, Feng Fei had a shock and questioned: Is there something wrong with our plans?

    Xiang Shaolong nodded: Does Mistress wish to leave Lin Zi after the Qixia College performance?

    After a short daze, Feng Fei responded: Since we are leaving, why do we need to wait another five days?

    Xiang Shaolong intentionally answered: The main reason is for Second Mistress and the others. I would feel more at ease if we leave as a group.

    Feng Fei is truly sharp. Sighing with a breath, she observed: Looking at you hesitating and carefully choosing your words, you must be withholding some grievances in your heart.

    Xiang Shaolong is conscious that if he chooses to deny, it would arouse her suspicions. Nodding his head, he professed: I am concerned about Guo Kai. This man is a devil. If we successfully make our getaway, he may vent his frustration on Shuzen and the others.

    Feng Fei was astounded: With Zongsun Long protecting Shuzen and the others, what is there to fear?

    At his wits end, Xiang Shaolong firmly concluded: Stop asking any more questions. To avoid any unwelcomed surprises, we will only leave together as a group after the Qixia College performance. Arent you concerned about their welfare?

    Feng Fei kept quiet and mounted a silent protest.

    Xiang Shaolong realized that his tone is too harsh. Shifting forward and hugging her fragrant shoulder, he gently apologized: It is my fault. I beg Mistresss pardon.

    Feng Fei softly exhaled: Why is Great General is such a bad mood today? This is the first time Feng Fei has seen you getting upset for no rhyme or reason.

    Xiang Shaolong thought: How can I be in excellent spirits now? How I wish I could embark on a killing spree to vent the anger in my heart. He was about to utter a reply when Feng Fei admitted with a tinge of guilt: Feng Fei knows that you no longer trust me because I went to meet Han Jie in secret yesterday. But since we are breaking up, we should at least formally communicate about it!

    Xiang Shaolong did not expect this amazing and accidental side effect from his moody temperament, coincidently getting Feng Fei to make a spontaneous confession about her meeting with Han Jie. Based on her words, she had initially wanted to hide it from him.

    Staring at him with a melancholic expression, Feng Fei slowly hinted: Does Great General want to know what did he and Feng Fei talk about?

    Xiang Shaolong plainly state: Of course he would say things like you would meet a terrible ending if you choose to side with me!

    Her petite frame trembling violently, Feng Fei was horrified: How did you know? Observing her shyness, Xiang Shaolong decided to trick her: Not only did I overhear your conversation, I even heard the two of you sharing a kiss.

    Feng Fei was embarrassed to the max. She protested: He forced himself on me and I was the unwilling party. But it is daytime, where were you hiding?

    Xiang Shaolong continued fabricating: Dont you know that a human can easily conceal himself under a carriage?

    Assuming that he is telling the truth, Feng Fei pitifully wailed: You should understand that I was only trying my best to appease him. Most of time, I was lying to him.

    Hit by a brainwave, Xiang Shaolong recollected Lu Buweis visit to Zongsun Long last night and connected it to Han Jie who had lifted the information off Feng Fei. He frowned: But it is wrong of you to tell Han Jie that we are leaving Lin Zi in two days and are depending on Zongsun Longs assistance. Doesnt Mistress know that Han Jie and Lu Buwei are partners in crime?

    With these words from Xiang Shaolong, Feng Fei no longer has any doubts about him spying on her meeting with Han Jie. She explained: Han Jie belongs to Lao Ais camp and he came all the way to Lin Zi because of me. Although he was not upfront with me about his liaisons with Zongsun Xuanhua, my heart did once belonged to him and we even planned a secret rendezvous. It is very agonizing for me to sever this relationship so abruptly. Shooting Xiang Shaolong a dejected look, she added: Feng Fei had wanted to borrow Great General as a temporary substitute to forget him but Great General is reluctant to grant this favour.

    Acknowledging that Feng Fei will be an important factor in this tussle between him and his enemies, Xiang Shaolong is determined to win her to his side. He icily laughed: Do you know that after Han Jie learnt about our relationship with Zongsun Long father and son, Lu Buwei and Han Jie visited them last night and persuaded them to work together?

    Her face whitening, Feng Fei stammered: Is that so?

    Xiang Shaolong solemnly declared: Believe it or not. If Mistress continues to feed information to Han Jie, not only would I, Xiang Shaolong, die without a burial place but even Mistress would not be able to escape a dreadful consequence. Han Jies feelings towards you may be true but a man like him who prioritizes benefits over everything else may painfully sacrifice you. It is impossible to find a magnanimous man among the followers of Lu Buwei and Lao Ai.

    A guilty Feng Fei admitted: Feng Fei is not considered a magnanimous person too. What should we do now?

    Xiang Shaolong resolved: It is better for us to leave as a group after the Qixia College performance. At Xianyang, you can fall in love with whoever you want but for the time being, you must never reveal any of our secrets.

    Feng Fei swore: I understand. From this minute onwards, Feng Fei will only trust Great General and nobody else.

    At this interval, Xiang Shaolong could not think of any use for Feng Fei yet. After dispensing further instructions, he stood up and left.

    This can be considered an unexpected gain for Xiang Shaolong. He finally learned about Han Jie being a double-headed snake, in cahoots with both Lu Buwei and the Zongsun Family. If his estimate is accurate, Han Jie may be officially working as Lao Ais right hand man but has been bribed by Lu Buwei a long time ago.

    Additionally, his fidelity to Lu Buwei is not all-embracing. At the very least, he has been hiding his relationship with Feng Fei from this traitor.

    How would Han Jie resettle Feng Fei in Xianyang without leaking her presence? He probably has no idea too.

    Once a man and a woman are romantically involved, the complication between them are unfathomable and a clean break is often more tedious than it looks. His own relationship with Zhao Ya is a shining example.

    Tomorrow is the day of the birthday banquet as well as the first performance. The courtyards are remarkably tranquil and the days of rehearsals have come to an end.

    Despite being weighed down by several issues, Xiang Shaolong has to act casual and even engaged Fei Chun, Lei Yuner and other friendly family warriors in idle chatter. From them, he learnt that Feng Fei had personally disbursed a generous amount of money to each of them as troupe disbandment benefits. However, the majority of them would stay behind and continue to support Dong Shuzen, who is considered more accommodating and approachable than Feng Fei.

    Among the courtesans, only Xinyue has chosen to retire back to her hometown. Yunniang has not made up her mind and she is probably waiting for Xiao Yuetans input.

    One of them even hinted at the possibility of throwing their lot in with Xiang Shaolong but was flatly declined by him.

    He can barely protect himself and does not wish for others to risk their lives with him. In addition, he would not want to weaken the protective forces of the Song & Dance Troupe. They may be powerless when it comes to behemoths like Zongsun Long but dealing with common thieves and robbers is a piece of cake to them.

    Out of the blue, he received news that Zongsun Xuanhua is here and is asking for him. Xiang Shaolong was mentally prepared for this visit. As anticipated, upon meeting him at the main hall, Zongsun Xuanhua started the conversation off with some unimportant topics, such as Second Prince expressing his admiration for him, etc. Eventually, he proposed: We have already prepared a top quality sailboat for Great General. Two nights later, we would fetch Great General at Qixia College and set sail immediately. Would Mistress be leaving with Great General or would she stay behind and leave after the Qixia College performance?

    Feigning a troubled look, Xiang Shaolong groaned: This is the source of my agony now. She insisted on leaving only after the successful conclusion of both performances. Without her, how can I leave with a peace of mind?

    Zongsun Xuanhua appears to have gotten wind from Han Jie, knowing that Feng Fei is leaving with Xiang Shaolong on the same night after the duel. He could not conceal his astonishment and exclaimed: Havent the two of you come to an agreement?

    Xiang Shaolong is intentionally wedging a rift between him and Han Jie, sighing: It was decided some time ago but she somehow changed her mind today. Hng. Does she think she can deceive me? On one hand, she is cozying up to me but on the other hand, she is seeing someone else. She may have her own spies but so do I.

    Zongsun Xuanhua apparently is still ignorant about the relationship between Han Jie and Feng Fei. Hearing Xiang Shaolongs words, his face turned pale and he probed: Who is her lover?

    Shaking his head, Xiang Shaolong apologized: This is Mistresss private affairs; pardon me for not being able to reveal him. Nonetheless, it is only a few days delay. I will leave after the Qixia College performance!

    Zongsun Xuanhua instantly freaked out and worriedly questioned: Lu Buwei has decided to return home the next morning after Great Generals duel with Grandmaster Cao. Doesnt Great General wish to leave before him?

    Xiang Shaolong knows that he is still trying his luck and testing himself. He reacted with bewilderment: Whats the hurry? Moreover, I have dispatched a messenger to Xianyang, updating Crown Prince about my situation. I also told him that wherever I am killed, the State which owns the territory would surely be involved and implored him to take revenge for me. I do not believe Lu Buwei or Tian Dan would come personally for me. What they would do is instigate others to become their sacrificial lambs. He then coldly grunted: My Wu Family is packed with experts; whoever that wishes harm upon me had better be prepared to live as a fugitive for the rest of his life. Brother Xuanhua can put your mind at ease.

    With a guilty conscience, how can Zongsun Xuanhua maintain his calmness? Taking in those words, his face became drained of colour and he was dumbfounded.

    Li Yuan and the others would not dare to openly assault Xiang Shaolong too. Like Lu Buwei, they are instigating Zongsun Long father and son to be their scapegoats.

    Since the battle of Handans Wu Family Fortress, the fame of Wu Family Warriors has spread near and far.

    If Zongsun Long father and son were exposed to be the perpetuators behind Xiang Shaolongs assassination, they would face punishment from the royal family of Qi. Furthermore, they can forget about having a good meal or a good nights sleep with the assassins of the Wu Family seeking revenge on them.

    Xiang Shaolong would not let up the pressure on Zongsun Xuanhua. He analyzed: If I were Lu Buwei, I would get idiots like Ma Chenjia to try and kill me. Once completed, I would purposely leak the information to the public. When that happens, Qin will officially demand Qi for Ma Chenjias head. What do you think the King of Qi would do?

    Zongsun Xuanhua cannot help but shuddered once, realizing: This is truly a devious scheme of Killing with a borrowed knife.

    Xiang Shaolong was amused, knowing that he has finally seen through Lu Buweis faade of abandoning Tian Dan. It is actually Killing two birds with one stone. Firstly, get the father and son to kill Xiang Shaolong and secondly, using their crime to get rid of this father and son.

    Using this example, they should know that if something were to really go wrong, Li Yuan and the others would push all the blame to them too.

    Zongsun Long is not a fool, otherwise, he could not have amassed his present wealth and status. Due to his oversight that Yingzheng and Xiang Shaolong are in trouble, he has lost sight of his main goal and fell into this dilemma.

    As Xiang Shaolong has heard of their disloyalty and even eavesdropped on their secret meeting last night, he was able to enlighten Zongsun Xuanhua that he has been used by Lu Buwei, Li Yuan and company, and even Han Jie in just a few sentences.

    Zongsun Xuanhua is in a hurry to discuss these developments with his father and is not interested to carry on the conversation. With a panicky expression, he hastily scampered away.

    Lifting his arms and stretching his back, Xiang Shaolong went in search of Feng Fei

    Unless his guess is off the mark, Zongsun Xuanhua would definitely interrogate Han Jie, who will in turn press Feng Fei for details.

    Since Lu Buwei is leaving in three days time, Han Jie has to leave too. Regardless of whether it is for himself or for Lu Buwei, he would not allow Zongsun Long to obtain Feng Fei.

    But because of all these transitions, Xiang Shaolong knows that even if Zongsun Long is ten times more courageous, he would not dare to lay a finger on Feng Fei.

    If Zongsun Long were to act against the interests of Xiang Shaolong, Feng Fei will become his incriminating evidence. It would seem logical that Zongsun Long is getting rid of Xiang Shaolong because of Feng Fei.

    Out of the blue, light has appeared at the end of the tunnel.

    Li Yuan and the others have deceived him thoroughly. He is now turning the tables and giving them a taste of their own medicine.

    Feng Fei appears to have given up Han Jie entirely, obediently following each and every one of Xiang Shaolongs instructions. Their coordination was incredible. It was only when Xiao Yuetan came to look for him did Xiang Shaolong finally left the main building. In the side hall of the front courtyard, he detailed yesterdays and this mornings events to Xiao Yuetan.

    Slapping his thigh, Xiao Yuetan sighed: Xiang Shaolong is indeed Xiang Shaolong. With a small mistake by the adversaries, you are able to grasp the initiative. Zongsun Xuanhua is still inexperienced and bared his soul with just a few words from you. Pausing, he stared at Xiang Shaolong, quizzing: Shouldnt Shaolong be worried that Lu Buwei may locate that couple who raised Yingzheng?

    Xiang Shaolong could recognize Xiao Yuetans doubts about Xiao Pan too. However, besides Wu Tingfang and Teng Yi, even Ji Yanran who is so close to him has no idea about it. Indeed, this is a secret that mustnt be shared, and even Xiao Yuetan is of no exception. Putting on a frank expression, Xiang Shaolong nonchalantly replied: So what if he locates them? Unless Lu Buwei has bribed them to fabricate charges, there is nothing to be worried about.

    Xiao Yuetan was stunned: Actually, Elder Brother has always wanted to ask you this question. Among the letters that Manager Tu (Xian) writes to me, he did mentioned that you ganged up with the senior veterans of Qin Military to conduct a blood test for Lu Buwei and Crown Prince. After proving that they are not related, the Crown Prince and yourself are able to obtain the full support of these veterans in suppressing Lu Buwei. My question is, why is Shaolong so confident that Crown Prince is not the son of Lu Buwei?

    That was the same question that Tu Xian posed years ago and what Xiang Shaolong dreaded answering. Sighing with a breath, he confessed: I did asked Zhu Ji the exact question face to face but even she herself is unsure who is the father. That means the chances are fifty-fifty that it is Traitor Lus son. Given the circumstances, if I were to reject Lu Gongs recommendation, it would mean the loss of support from these Qin veterans. Therefore, I decided to stake everything in the gamble. Luckily, it was the right bet.

    Xiao Yuetan nodded in agreement: With one-to-one odds, the gamble is worth it. Nevertheless, your present scenario is not very optimistic. Although Zongsun Long has been startled by you and would never become a murder weapon for somebody else, you still cannot rely on him. Pausing, he added: It is truly a blessing that nobody has discovered the relationship between the two of us; everyone simply regards me as a connoisseur of Feng Feis music. The only viable plan now is for you, Shaolong, to leave first. If you can successfully escape, Feng Fei and the others would be safe!

    Xiang Shaolong thought to himself: Feng Fei and the others can come under the joint protection of Shan Rou and Lord Longyang. If the King of Qi is planning to announce Tian Jian as the new Crown Prince at the birthday banquet tomorrow night, Xie Ziyuans status would be greatly elevated and Zongsun Long father and son would be doing their best to get into his good books. Simultaneously, Tian Dan would have to take additional precautions against him.

    Li Yuan and the others would probably chip in to protect Feng Fei and company, granting Xiang Shaolong this favour. After all, maintaining a friendship is better than creating an enemy. If the Zhengguo Canal scandal is exposed, Han Chuangs great merit would instantaneously become his great disaster. As a result, it is crucial for him to return safely to Xianyang.

    The ever-conniving Xiao Yuetan reminded: This fella Han Jie is not a simple man. Born into the royal family of Han, he became a top disciple of Cao Cuidao. Appearing to be working for Lao Ai, he maintains a close relationship with Lu Buwei. Because of Feng Fei, he may become insanely jealous and undertake some risks. For example, he could gather the outraged swordsmen of Qixia and ambush you. This is something you must guard against.

    Xiang Shaolong concluded: After fighting off Cao Cuidao, I intend to run away as far as possible. It is wonderful that Qixia College is based outside the city, making it rather convenient for me.

    Visualizing the snow skis he needed to make his getaway, Xiang Shaolong suppressed his voice: Time is not on our side. Can Brother Xiao get his hands on a piece of premium wood for me? I need to construct a pair of snow travelling equipment. When the time comes, you can bury it alongside some food provisions at a place near Qixia College, allowing me to make a swift escape upon retrieving them.

    Xiao Yuetan himself is an expert craftsman. Astounded at his requests, he pressed Xiang Shaolong for the details of the snow ski. When Xiang Shaolong finished sketching the snow ski and snowboard, he was so taken aback that he was gaping for some time before exhaling with amazement: How did you ever think of something like that? This happens to be the theory behind snow sleds. Leave this to me. Elder Brother will start looking for the raw materials and manufacturing your snow skis immediately. I guarantee that it would be much more ergonomic than your design and they will be completed by the allotted time.

    Xiao Yuetan had barely left Tingsong Villa when Xie Ziyuan came a knocking. He exclaimed with enthusiasm: If Great General is available, why dont we take part in the festivities and watch Soft Boned Beauty rehearse Little Brothers song and dance composition!

    Xiang Shaolong is initially uninterested but recollected that it is a critical strategy to give others a false impression. By behaving leisurely and occupying himself with performances, it further strengthens the notion that he has nothing to fear and nothing worthwhile for Lu Buwei to expose.

    Pretending to be elated, he accompanied Xie Ziyuan out of the Villa.

  18. #278
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2004


    Book 24 Chapter 06 - Separating Gratitude And Enmity

    Aboard Xie Ziyuans carriage and listening to his light-hearted whistling, Xiang Shaolong can realign his focus and reflect on the activities over the past few days.

    When he first ran into Li Yuan at Zongsun Residence, Li Yuan is likely a well-meaning friend without any malicious intentions. When he could not bear it any longer and started communicating with Han Chuang, it eventually gave rise to the idea of getting rid of Xiang Shaolong, a potentially huge threat to their States. How Guo Kai came into the picture is anyones guess.

    They are aware that Xiang Shaolong has a special place in Lord Longyangs heart. Moreover, he had expressed regret at betraying Xiang Shaolong in the past. Therefore, they chose to keep Lord Longyang in the dark about this affair.

    Lord Longyang only happened to run into him when he was actually looking for Feng Fei.

    When Han Chuang visited him for the first time and learnt about his plans to steal his sabre from Cao Cuidaos Qixia College, he probably hasnt made up his mind to get rid of him or not.

    But when Han Chuang mentioned this to Li Yuan or Guo Kai, it inspired them to make use of Cao Cuidao to kill him. When Cao Cuidao is unable to take his life, Han Chuang knows that he has become the main suspect. He chose to avoid Xiang Shaolong while sending Li Yuan to make enquiries.

    Li Yuan is truly clever, intentionally revealing Han Chuang and Guo Kais partnership and earning Xiang Shaolongs trust. And he himself is silly enough to divulge Lord Longyangs plans to secretly whisk him away.

    Lord Longyang is probably conscious that Li Yuan and the others are going to make things difficult for him but is unable to prove it, explaining why he is abandoning everything and leaving Lin Zi with him.

    Instead, it was Xiang Shaolong who went back on his word and rejected his kind intention.

    If not for him spying on their secret meeting yesterday, this chain of events would probably remain a mystery to him.

    Surprisingly, he was feeling hurt but without a shred of hatred.

    Because he understands that everyone is forced by circumstances.

    At this point, Xie Ziyuan quizzed: Are you acquainted with Xu Shang? He is originally from Shangcai and is very talented.

    Only now did Xiang Shaolong remember that Xu Shang had accompanied Lu Buwei to Qi. As they have not met each other here, he has cleanly forgotten about him. He nodded his head to acknowledge their acquaintance.

    Xie Ziyuan updated: Presently, Qi Yu and him are locking horns over Lan Gongyuan. Lu Buwei appears to be rather lenient towards Xu Shang.

    Xiang Shaolong pondered: If my guess is correct, Lan Gongyuan must have starting dating Xu Shang back in Xianyang years ago. Hey, are you aware that Lan Gongyuan once disguised herself as a serving maid and tried to assassinate me?

    Xie Ziyuan was thunderstruck: Is that so? However, she did underwent special training and her skills are pretty remarkable.

    Xiang Shaolong might as well tell him the whole story. Once completed, Xie Ziyuan concluded with a serious expression: That circus you are talking about must be Bian Dongshans Dongzhou Circus. All along, they have been touring and performing at the various States but suddenly, they simply vanished without any news. It looks like the circus members were completely annihilated at Xianyang.

    Xiang Shaolong enquired: Who is Bian Dongshan?

    Xie Ziyuan sighed: Among the top four disciples of Cao Cuidao, Bian Dongshan is the best, followed by Zongsun Xuanhua, Han Jie and wifey. Bian Dongshans forte lies in his agility and parkour skills, and he is a first-rated assassin. He often carries out assignments for Tian Dan.

    Xiang Shaolong mused: He must have lost his life at Xianyang.

    Xie Ziyuan shook his head, advising: A few months ago, I heard Zongsun Xuanhua saying that he has just met him. According to hearsay, he had travelled to the Capital of Yan to assassinate a Yan General. The people of Yan trembles with fear at the mention of his name. Great General may be highly skilled but an assassins methods are often undetectable. Great General must not be complacent.

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly smiled: If he wishes to assassinate me, this is the best opportunity.

    Xie Ziyuan officially remarked: On the contrary, while you are here, Great General can put your mind at ease. Bian Dongshan is fiercely loyal to Great Qi and would never do anything that will put Great King in a difficult position. However, it would be a different story if you leave the territory of Qi. The people of Yan nicknamed Bian Dongshan as The Assassin with a Hundred Faces. His art of disguise is unfathomable and unsurpassed. One cannot predict his next appearance or new identity.

    For the time being, Xiang Shaolong cannot be bothered with Bian Dongshan. Recalling Zhang Quans theft of the song sheet, he shared the story with Xie Ziyuan too. He added that Feng Fei has composed a new song and even if Lan Gongyuan chooses to perform the stolen song, it would not affect Feng Fei.

    Xie Ziyuan was infuriated: It must be Qi Yu masterminding the theft. He tried to woo Feng Fei in the past but was rejected by her. Thus, he hates her to the core. I will take care of this. I, Xie Ziyuan, would not condone these shameless acts by Yuan Yuan.

    The carriage is now entering Jade Orchid Brothel. At this time of the day, the brothel is not open for business yet and the gigantic courtyards are so peaceful they seemed like an isolated world away from the rest of the city. From the rear courtyards, hints of music can be heard.

    The two men got off the carriage and started walking towards the exceptionally grand Performing Hall situated at the rear courtyards.

    Xie Ziyuan whispered: In the past, when the Great King is much healthier, he loves to frequent the Performing Hall for song and dance performances, saying that the courtesans here are much more lively. What does he expect? Courtesans who enter the palace may never get to leave. Firstly, they may unknowingly offend the King and be sentenced to death. Secondly, they may be retained by the King and after one night of passion, be relegated to a harem of forgotten concubines. In fact, there is no difference between the two outcomes.

    Xiang Shaolong thought to himself: In comparison, Xiao Pans self control is admirable.

    Xie Ziyuan sighed: The Great King has a dream, which is seeing the Three Famous Courtesans performing simultaneously in front of him. He has tasked us with this mission and demands for it to be accomplished at all costs. This can be considered his only dying wish, which allows him to last till today. Otherwise he would have Hey!

    Xiang Shaolong finally comprehended the intricacies behind this grand birthday celebrations. This clearly demonstrates the empty boasts of Qi as well as their culture of instant gratification.

    With this laid back mindset, not only has this huge country failed to become the leader of the Eastern States, it has constantly disrupted allied talks which happens to be the only way to curb the aggressiveness of Qin.

    At this juncture, a melodious tune filled the air. It was a group of courtesans singing in unison. With crystal clear voices and fantastic beats, Xiang Shaolong was drawn into the music.

    Xie Ziyuan proudly proclaimed: This was the composition I created at the lounge that night. It can be considered one of my best works.

    Xiang Shaolong guffawed: Does that mean that the rehearsal is ending?

    Xie Ziyuan burst out laughing and crossed the ledge into the Performing Hall.

    At the heart of the Performing Hall, there were nearly sixty courtesans who are waving multicoloured dance ribbons, materializing into countless formations, resembling different clutters of coloured clouds encircling an elaborately dressed Lan Gongyuan who was singing and dancing in the centre. It was a mesmerizing sight.

    By now, Lan Gongyuan was singing solo.

    Witnessing her soft and flexible petite frame bending to fashion all sorts of extreme and enticing dance poses, coupled with the highs and lows, pauses and stretches in the song, it felt like a performance by heavenly maidens, causing the observers to experience the sensation of entering the heaven realm where immortals reside.

    Arranged at a side were a group of forty musicians who were playing music and generating a delightful ambience within the Performing Hall.

    Besides Qi Yu and a gang of ten odd Qi locals whom Xiang Shaolong does not recognize, the audience comprises of Xu Shang as well.

    Once the song finishes, Qi Yu and the others broke out into applause and cheers.

    Abandoning the rest of the crowd, Lan Gongyuan approached Xie Ziyuan and Xiang Shaolong. Smiling like the blossoming of a flower, she cajoled: Why took Official Xie and Great General so long to come over?

    Probably concerned about the Song Theft issue that Xiang Shaolong mentioned, Xie Ziyuan apologized before pulling Lan Gongyuan aside and speaking to her in private.

    Qi Yu and the others started walking towards him while the courtesans were all paying special attention to him. Whispering and giggling among themselves, they are radiating with passion.

    Xu Shang greeted Xiang Shaolong with a military salute as per the laws of Qin. He added with a serious tone: I have not had the chance to officially pay my respects to Great General; I beg Great Generals pardon for my tardiness.

    Xiang Shaolong chuckled: This is not Xianyang; lets keep things simple.

    With an apprehensive expression, Qi Yu peeped at an irate Xie Ziyuan who is speaking to Lan Gongyuan some distance away from them. With a distracted tone, he questioned Xiang Shaolong: It has come to my attention that Great General is a music connoisseur. How would you rate the previous song?

    Xiang Shaolong is conscious that it was Zhang Quan who told him about it. Guilt-ridden, he solemnly state: Brother Qi must be kidding. In the field of music, Little Brother is just an amateur. However, even to a music newbie like me, I find the earlier song an exciting and unparalleled composition. It is somewhat able to evoke strong emotions in me.

    A well-built and young warrior standing besides Qi Yu interrupted: My name is Min Tingzhang. I hereby pay my respects to Great General.

    Realizing that he is the acclaimed swordsman of Qi who shared the same skill level as Ma Chenjia, Xiang Shaolong replied that it is his pleasure to meet him while paying extra attention in assessing him.

    Compared to Ma Chenjia, Min Tingzhang is much more approachable and has a cultured look. Overall, he is pleasing to the eye.

    Noticing Min Tingzhang gazing at his Hundred Battle Sabre, Xiang Shaolong simply untied the weapon and scabbard, handing it to him for a closer look.

    The famed swordsman was caught unaware by Xiang Shaolong. After receiving it, he analyzed and toyed with it as the other curious onlookers joined him. Gushes of admiration were expressed by each and every one of them.

    The three men, Qi Yu, Xu Shang and Xiang Shaolong were left standing there in silence, leading to an awkward situation.

    A few of the more courageous and captivating courtesans advanced towards them, greeting and paying their respects to Xiang Shaolong. After serving him a series of meaningful glances, they giggled and sashayed away.

    Fortunately, Xie Ziyuan and Lan Gongyuan happened to rejoin the group. With a wronged expression on her face, Lan Gongyuan appears to have been reprimanded by Xie Ziyuan. However, judging from her body language, she appears to be willing to bear the responsibility for this mistake.

    Qi Yu winked at her enquiringly but Lan Gongyuan deliberately ignored him, seemingly venting her anger on him.

    Moving to Lan Gongyuans side, Xu Shang wondered: Yuan Yuan, are you upset?

    Unexpectedly, Lan Gongyuan stared at Xiang Shaolong, checking: Yuan Yuan has yet to pay my respects to First Mistress. Is Great General going directly back to Tingsong Villa?

    Except for Xie Ziyuan, the others were flabbergasted.

    Xiang Shaolong did not expect Xie Ziyuan have such a big influence over Lan Gongyuan. He nodded with a smile.

    Lan Gongyuan questioned: Can we leave immediately?

    Unable to comprehend the situation, Qi Yu and the others are baffled.

    Overhearing their exchange, Min Tingzhang returned Hundred Battle Sabre to Xiang Shaolong with both hands, praising: I heard this unique weapon is personally designed by Great General. It is truly a masterpiece and an eye-opening experience for us.

    Xiang Shaolong knows that he has won the respect of this usually arrogant swordsman due to his one sabre stroke victory over Ma Chenjia. After giving a modest reply and getting ready to leave for Tingsong Villa with Xie Ziyuan and Lan Gongyuan, Min Tingzhang abruptly invited: Tomorrow is Qixia Colleges monthly Sword Meet. Would Great General honour us with your presence and give us, your juniors, some pointers?

    With a look of distress, Xiang Shaolong sincerely replied: To be honest, meeting Grandmaster Cao under such circumstances is rather awkward.

    Another man cheerfully exclaimed: For the past ten years, Grandmaster Cao has been absent from the Sword Meet; Great General can put your mind at ease.

    Unwilling to increase his commitments, Xiang Shaolong gave a superficial answer: Lets talk about it tomorrow! Feeling curious, he probed: Isnt the Sword Meet held on the 1st? Why has it been postponed?

    Qi Yu explained: It was postponed due to the Great Kings birthday celebration. However, this Meet would be even more majestic than usual. Great General must remember to come!

    Someone promptly informed him about the time and place of the Sword Meet.

    Not thinking very much of it, Xiang Shaolong followed Lan Gongyuan and Xie Ziyuan out of the hall as Qi Yu and Xu Shang stared at him with jealousy.

    Upon reaching the main courtyard, Xie Ziyuan indicated his desire to return to his workplace and cannot accompany them further. Leaving his carriage behind for them, he rode off on a horse.

    Xiang Shaolong did not anticipate that he would be left alone with this Soft Boned Beauty. Raising his alertness, he suggested: Miss Yuan can take the carriage. I will ride a horse.

    Shooting him a glare, Lan Gongyuan plainly state: It has been some time since I rode a horse. Lets give these horses some exercise for their legs.

    Yao Sheng and the others hurriedly gave up two good horses. Despite her elaborate costume, Lan Gongyuan nimbly flipped onto the horse like a fox, earning cheers from everyone.

    Putting a leg over the back of the horse, Xiang Shaolong and Lan Gongyuan rode side by side out of Jade Orchid Brothel, instantly attracting the attention of everyone on the streets.

    Yao Sheng sent four riders ahead to pave the way and divided the remaining riders to the two sides and the back, creating an awe-inspiring sight.

    Riding closer to Xiang Shaolong, Lan Gongyuan teased: Is Great General feeling uncomfortable? Despite all your attempts, you still end up riding and talking with me.

    Xiang Shaolong thought to himself: A criminal reporting a crime. He beamed: I have not forgotten that Miss Yuan once tried to take my life!

    After a short silence, Lan Gongyuan lightly described: In this world, there are three persons Yuan Yuan is indebted to. Is Great General interested to know who they are?

    Xiang Shaolong conjectured: The first one should be easy. Is it Official Xie?

    Lan Gongyuan was elated: Talking to you is certainly easy, saving me the long explanations. Try and guess the second person. He perished under the hands of Great General.

    Xiang Shaolong chuckled: No wonder you came to kill me.

    Lan Gongyuan nonchalantly disclosed: Great General is such a lousy guesser! That person is Xiao Weimou. Yuan Yuan can be who I am today is all because he gave me to a man surnamed Bian who raised and trained me. If not, I would probably have starved to death on the streets.

    Xiao Weimou was actually beaten to death by Teng Yi but he obviously would not mention it. Inspired, he asked: Is it Bian Dongshan? Now I know why you possess such remarkable skills. He should be the third person you are indebted to!

    Beyond his expectation, Lan Gongyuan gnashed her teeth and cringed: It is the exact opposite. He is the person I hated the most. I never want to remember the disgusting things he did to me.

    Xiang Shaolong was thunderstruck: Arent you working with him during the Xianyang Mission?

    Lan Gongyuan simply articulated: That is a pure business deal. As long as I act according to plan, regardless of success or failure, I would have nothing to do with Bian Dongshan anymore. Besides that, I am doing it to repay Xiao Weimous debt of gratitude. We do not owe each other anything anymore.

    Xiang Shaolong sighed with a breath of air: It is true that everyone has a complicated story behind them. But the risk you took was too great. Hey, I never thought that Xiao Weimou could perform good deeds.

    Lan Gongyuan dismissed with contempt: Both he and Bian Dongshan are only attracted by my good looks. Their morals are non-existent. Lets not talk about them! Can Great General guess who is the third person?

    Xiang Shaolong shook his head, surrendering: I cannot even guess Xiao Weimou. The third person would be even more difficult to guess. However, I probably knew this person, right? Could it be Tian Dan, or maybe Lu Buwei?

    Lan Gongyuan kept shaking her head and is grinning happily like a little girl. She concluded: The guesses are incorrect.

    Xiang Shaolong is starting to find this Soft Boned Beauty quite an interesting character. He admitted defeat: I give up!

    Covering her mouth as she giggled, Lan Gongyuan announced: Its Xiang Shaolong! Xiang Shaolong shouted with disbelief: What?

    All along, they have been suppressing their voices to keep the conversation solely between the two of them. With his abrupt outcry, Yao Sheng and the others turned towards them and stared with astonishment.

    Lan Gongyuan gratefully articulated: There is nothing illogical about it. It is really you. From the time of my assassination attempt until my successful departure from Xianyang the very same night, I was mentally prepared to be captured and executed by you. However, you chose to let me off. How can Lan Gongyuan not be indebted to you? Back then, Lu Buwei also mentioned that the City Guards are all under your command and even he is unable to protect me.

    Dazed for some time, Xiang Shaolong reasoned: You need not feel indebted to me. Putting things in perspective, you are just a pawn who is being used by somebody else to kill me. Executing you does not make any sense to me.

    Lan Gongyuan solemnly declared: Xiang Shaolong is truly Xiang Shaolong. Chancellor Tian and General Dan may view you as their enemy but they are full of respect for Great Generals integrity. On the contrary, they are full of contempt for Lu Buweis character.

    Feeling his emotions stirring, Xiang Shaolong lamented: Integrity is useless. Presently, who is not chasing after personal benefits? As long as I pose a threat to their welfare, people are using all sorts of despicable methods to get rid of me.

    With a Pu Ci, Lan Gongyuan cackled: It is not often that Great General speaks with this tone. I can tell that your opinion of Yuan Yuan has improved. Using a visit to Feng Fei as an excuse, I was actually creating an opportunity to speak with you privately. Great General must safeguard yourself against this bunch of Zongsun Family Warriors. They are originally a gang of ruffians and outlaws, specializing in collecting bad debts for Zongsun Long. Quite a number of my gambling addict sisters have suffered immensely at their hands. If you dont believe me, just take a closer look at them. Every one of them is focusing their ears on eavesdropping our secret conversation.

    She purposely finished the last two sentences with an increase in volume, startling Yao Sheng and the others who automatically increase the distance between themselves and the two of them.

    Xiang Shaolong could not help but experience her prowess.

    The Three Famous Courtesans have their own unique points. Among them, Lan Gongyuans mannerism is considered the most unbecoming. It could be due to her unhappy childhood, giving rise to a certain style of self-degrading behavior. Although she treats men like playthings, in her heart, she can differentiate between gratitude and enmity, earning Xiang Shaolongs respect.

    Resembling the tingling of bells, Lan Gongyuan giggled non-stop. As she attracted more eyeballs to her, she rode closer to Xiang Shaolong and whispered: Does Great General despise Yuan Yuan for dating Qi Yu and other loathsome scoundrels? Aye. How many good men are there in this world? At least Qi Yu is rather handsome and is an excellent sweet talker. Regarding the song theft, I was innocent. Qi Yu even lied to me, saying that it was his own creation.

    Xiang Shaolong laughed: Thats the Lan Gongyuan I know!

    With Tingsong Villa in sight, Lan Gongyuan lightly advised: Great General must not let down your guard against Shi Sufang. She used to be on good terms with Pu Hu and may classify you as an enemy!

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly smiled: I have room for more!

    Receiving Lan Gongyuan in the front hall, Feng Fei appeared to be friendly and approachable. If she is still upset with Lan Gongyuan over the stolen music score, there was no sign of it on her face.

    As both ladies scrutinized each other, Xiang Shaolong is having an eyeful as well. As Lan Gongyuan is dressed in her elaborate performing costume while Feng Fei has also put on a nice outfit, he is able to draw comparisons between their beauty.

    Despite the insignificant gap in their age, not only does Lan Gongyuan appear younger looking but in front of the cultured Feng Fei who is of noble birth, she resembles a juvenile delinquent.

    Xiang Shaolong is probably having this impression because Lan Gongyuan is here to apologise to Feng Fei. Despite her wrongful conviction, Lan Gongyuan was behaving in a modest and subservient manner, further earning his admiration.

    Lan Gongyuan apologized: Greetings to Senior Sister. Yuan Yuan is specially here today to ask for your forgiveness about the song theft. Yuan Yuan will have it destroyed later

    Before she could go on, Feng Fei put up a hand to halt her conversation. She exhaled: Whats done cannot be undone. But today is a day of forgiveness. Now that Junior Sister has seen the folly of your ways, Feng Fei is more than satisfied. The birthday celebration will be Feng Feis final show. With this work-related issue reaching a happy conclusion, there are no more regrets in Feng Feis heart.

    Xiang Shaolong can feel his own emotions stirring. From an insiders perspective, it is amazing that Feng Fei has yet to suffer a nervous breakdown. Going to Xianyang must be the worst decision of her life. She must have met Han Jie during one of the official banquets and was smitten by his handsome looks and intellectual thoughts. Moreover, he is a royal descendant just like herself. Back in the earlier days, Lao Ai and Han Jie were plagiarizing the ladies of Han, therefore, their sweet talking skills and understanding of women psychology must be one of the best. If Feng Fei, Shi Sufang and Lan Gongyuan are the Three Famous Courtesans; Qi Yu, Lao Ai and Han Jie can be considered the Three Famous Playboys.

    In Xianyang, an emotional Feng Fei made two life-changing decisions: fall in love with Han Jie and disbanding the Song & Dance Troupe. Currently, not only has she lost her affections for Han Jie, she will become a forgotten celebrity without her Song & Dance Troupe. The only positive outcome is that she no longer has to deal with lustful men trying to obtain her body. In addition, her fortune should be sufficient for a life of luxury.

    Lan Gongyuan was touched: Senior Sister is truly fortunate to go out with a bang. Yuan Yuan is full of admiration for Senior Sisters song composition skill and the courage to move on at the peak of your career. What are Sisters future plans?

    Glaring at Xiang Shaolong once, Feng Fei replied: I intend to retire at a secluded and peaceful place. Great General is making the necessary arrangements.

    She added: Among the three of us, I heard Junior Sister has the most tormenting childhood. For Junior Sister to accomplish so much despite life dealing you a set of bad cards, Feng Fei has nothing but respect for you.

    Not anticipating this comment from Feng Fei, Lan Gongyuan flinched. She professed: Yuan Yuan has learnt that only you can give up on yourself. If you can make it past today, tomorrow would definitely be better. It is Yuan Yuans good fortune to meet Senior Sister and Great General today. Yuan Yuan has to go, as Jade Orchid Brothel is opening for business soon.

    With that, she mounted the same horse and left.

  19. #279
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2004


    Book 24 Chapter 07 - Qixia Sword Meet

    After Lan Gongyuan departed, Feng Fei interrogated with disdain: I heard she sleeps around. Is Great General interested in this kind of women?

    Xiang Shaolong is walking her back to the main building. Taking in her words, he retorted: Since when did I express any interest in her? How is Shuzen doing?

    Feng Fei proudly proclaimed: With Feng Fei personally instructing her, how bad can she turn out? Dont change the topic. How did you get involved with her?

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly smiled: Can you not use the words: get involved? It is so demeaning! Little Brother and her are just platonic friends. She said she wanted to visit you and ask for your forgiveness; can I say no to that? Look at yourself. Earlier, you are so sweet and accommodating towards her, as if she is your own sister. The minute she left, you began criticizing her and portraying her as somebody without any good attributes.

    Covering her mouth as she giggled, Feng Fei warned: This is how a jealous woman looks like. Since you chose to ignore me, I would not allow you to pay any attention to other women. Otherwise, youll get it from me.

    By now they have arrived at the stairs of the main building. Xiang Shaolong was about to leave when Feng Fei held onto his sleeve and dragged him into the building. Turning around, she threw herself into his arms, whispering: Is Great General thinking of leaving Feng Fei behind and leaving by himself?

    Although Xiang Shaolong is embracing a fragrant and enticing body, his mind is brimming with bitterness. He did planned to make use of the snowboard and slip away first while getting someone to take care of Feng Fei and the others. Unexpectedly, this peerless beauty with her matching intelligence has exposed his secret. He could not bear to lie to her but feared her overreaction should he chose to confess the truth. What should he do?

    Raising her exquisite face, Feng Fei pitifully squirmed: You need not reply. Your expression has given me the heartrending answer.

    Xiang Shaolong sighed with a breath: Do you know that as long as I am alive, no one would dare to lay a finger on you.

    Feng Fei quizzed: Didnt you mention that Zongsun Long will protect us?

    Xiang Shaolong explained: The problem lies with your ex lover and his close relationship with the Zongsun Family. I just received news that due to Han Jies facilitation, Lu Buwei and Zongsun Long had a two-hour secret discussion. What do you think they are planning to do?

    Momentarily stunned, Feng Fei melancholically replied: Since this is the case, why are you still abandoning me?

    Hit by a brainwave, Xiang Shaolong mused: Why dont you leave one day before me. I will meet up with you after that. Lord Longyang should be able to make the necessary preparations.

    Hugging him with all her strength, Feng Fei grieved: Before knowing the result of the duel, how can Feng Fei leave Lin Zi? Fine! Do whatever you want with me. Feng Fei will leave my fate in your hands.

    Xiang Shaolong can fully comprehend her helpless feelings of being alone and deserted. Based on her beauty and talent, all the men in the world would be won over by her. Maybe Heaven is jealous of her accomplishments, letting her fall in love with a scoundrel and crossing paths with himself who is unwilling to fall in love with her, eventually breaking her heart into pieces.

    Comforting her to the best of his abilities, Xiang Shaolong finally left for his own room after Feng Fei has recomposed herself. He had barely rested when Zongsun Xuanhua came to look for him.

    Seating themselves in the Eastern Chamber, Zongsun Xuanhua started: Does Great General know that Lu Buwei paid us a visit?

    Xiang Shaolong deduced that he has held a discussion with his father and advisors, deciding that Lu Buwei cannot be trusted and is trying to salvage the situation with him. He naturally would not bring Guo Kai, Li Yuan or the others into the picture.

    Xiang Shaolong smiled: Even if I did not see it personally, I could easily imagine it. What other new tricks can Lu Buwei come up with? Moreover, Han Jie is your martial brother. Oh yes! What is the relationship between the two of you?

    Faced with Xiang Shaolongs abrupt interrogation about his Achilles heel, Zongsun Xuanhua freaked out on the spot. He stammered: Our relationship is not clearly defined but we are definitely acquainted.

    Xiang Shaolong openly declared: Compared to Lu Buwei, Han Jie should be more eager to kill me. This is because Lu Buwei assumes that he has a trump card that would cause my complete downfall. Han Jie should be insanely jealous of me and an insane man would act without thinking twice about the consequences.

    Zongsun Xuanhua is no fool and he already guessed that Feng Feis lover is Han Jie; otherwise, why would he be so familiar with Feng Feis activities? His face losing colour, he lowered his head to conceal it. As he stared at the floor, he probed with a deep voice: Has Great General decided on your departure date?

    Xiang Shaolong is highly amused, knowing that through his intricate scheming, he has caused both father and son to lose their bearings. He somberly remarked: After careful consideration, I would officially bid farewell to your Great King and Second Prince. At the same time, I would request for soldiers to protect me and openly parade back to Qin. It is way better than sneaking around and becoming a lightning rod for rumours.

    Zongsun Xuanhua nodded: Xuanhua fully agrees. Great General can seek Official Xies assistance in relaying the message. I guarantee that everything will be well-arranged.

    With these sentences, Xiang Shaolong knows that Zongsun Long father and son would not dare to participate in any more anti-Xiang Shaolong schemes after weighing the pros and cons.

    If Xiang Shaolong is sent home by Qis official escort, both Li Yuans team and Lu Buweis team would lack the grounds to instigate Zongsun Long father and son to assassinate him.

    Nevertheless, this is not an ideal outcome. The King of Qi cannot afford to dispatch an army to escort him. Moreover, there may be spies within the escort team. With these unknown factors, it would be a miracle if he can travel safely through Chu and the Three States.

    The Qi escorts would not serve him wholeheartedly. If they run into trouble, they would scatter like mice.

    But in Feng Feis case, this would be an excellent arrangement. He made a mental note to approach Tian Jian about this. Hopefully, this would relieve him of this pressing issue.

    Zongsun Xuanhua frowned: Min Tingzhang came to see me earlier, saying that Great General has agreed to participate in the Sword Meet tomorrow. I have been doing my best to reject these meaningless appointments. Why did Great General give him your consent?

    Xiang Shaolong refuted: I did not give him my consent. I only gave a perfunctory reply, saying that I will think about it!

    Zongsun Xuanhua was incensed: This fellow is getting out of hand and even dared to overstep his boundaries. I must teach him a lesson.

    Xiang Shaolong assured: Relax! There is no reason for me to go too.

    Zongsun Xuanhua swore: Actually, there is no harm going. Whoever dares to cross Great Generals path would have to deal with me first. Xuanhua will warn all those frog-in-the-well fellows that whoever is upset with Great General, it is as good as being upset with me, Zongsun Xuanhua.

    Xiang Shaolong knows that he is trying to make up for his earlier mistake by flattering himself. He casually dismissed: Lets see what happens tomorrow!

    Zongsun Xuanhua suggested: Tonight

    Xiang Shaolong interrupted him: It is not appropriate for me to indulge in night activities. Otherwise, I would lack the vitality to deal with Grandmaster Caos saintly sword.

    Zongsun Xuanhua can detect that Xiang Shaolong is no longer as friendly and trusting as before, recognizing that Lu Buweis issue has cast a shadow over their relationship. Stuck without a choice, he left dejectedly.

    After carefully studying his options, Xiang Shaolong sent a messenger to invite Xie Ziyuan over. He went straight to the point: Little Brother has something that requires Brother Xies assistance.

    Xie Ziyuan was overjoyed: You can count on me. Brother Xiang can speak without reservations.

    Xiang Shaolong honestly explained the whole scenario, as he is concerned that any misunderstandings would result in unnecessary troubles. The only thing he held back was Zongsun Long father and son ganging up with Li Yuan and company. He only hinted that the people of Chu and the Three States are not reliable, for they are secretly planning to increase the hostility between Qin and Qi.

    Exhaling a breath of cold air at the end of his lecture, Xie Ziyuan was disappointed: Doesnt Zongsun Long understand the intentions of the Great King and Second Prince? Even a fool can tell that Lu Buwei would have a terrible ending.

    Xiang Shaolong reminded: On the surface, you must pretend that everything is normal. Privately, please inform Second Prince that I may leave without saying goodbye and beseech him to take care of Feng Fei, Dong Shuzen and the others.

    Patting his chest, Xie Ziyuan agreed: You can count on Little Brother. After Brother Xiangs departure, I will advise Second Prince to offer them temporary residence within the palace. Once everything has died down, I would send them over to Xianyang.

    His face revealing an expression of reluctance, Xie Ziyuan sighed: Without Brother Xiang, life would be less exciting.

    Xiang Shaolong chuckled: Are you afraid that you cannot fool around anymore?

    His face turning red, Xie Ziyuan prayed: Wifey is much more lenient with Little Brother now. It would be wonderful if she can maintain this attitude even after the departure of Brother Xiang.

    Several jokes and conversations later, Xie Ziyuan took his leave.

    Next, Xiang Shaolong looked for Dong Shuzen. After giving her the necessary instructions, the eyes of Dong Shuzen began to turn red. In a flustered tone, she wailed: Right now, we are so worried about your duel with Cao Cuidao two nights later.

    Xiang Shaolong can understand where she is coming from, as he seems to be reading out his will through the instructions that he gave her. By planning all their future activities, it sounded inauspicious. Luckily, he is confident that he would survive the duel with Cao Cuidao. With a smile, he consoled her: Everyone would have to face different challenges in life. Your top priority is to train hard for your performances. In the future, you must come to Xianyang and perform for me.

    A grateful Dong Shuzen leapt into his bosom.

    Embracing her alluring body, this is the first time Xiang Shaolong could feel the absence of all 5exual connotations. What he felt instead was an awesome borderless friendship that surpasses the kind of love between a man and a woman. Due to his past restraints, he was rewarded with this mind-blowing sensation.

    Within his heart, an immense fighting spirit began to stir. For his loved ones and for himself, he would fight till the end, never giving up and never surrendering.

    That night, everyone from the Song & Dance Troupe gathered in the main hall for a pre-celebration. Regardless of their status, every person is exhibiting their support and enthusiasm for the Troupe, unlike the fearful and selfish behavior that was witnessed earlier.

    During the banquet, Xiang Shaolong officially announced that he would be inviting the Dong Shuzen-inherited Song & Dance Troupe to Xianyang for a performance. All expenses will be borne by his Wu Family, much to the delight of the crowd.

    Although Feng Fei is no longer actively involved, she was enjoying herself too.

    With Xiang Shaolongs support, it is the equivalent of providing the Song & Dance Troupe with a reliable backer. This is highly beneficial for the standing of the Troupe. The only shadow looming over the celebration is Xiang Shaolongs duel with Cao Cuidao two days later. Of course nobody dares to mention this.

    Many people are wasted that night, including Feng Fei.

    Xiang Shaolong, on the other hand, did not touch a single drop of wine. After carrying Feng Fei back to her room, he went to the rear garden all by himself to practice his Sabre skills.

    He can feel his cultivation of the sabre improving by leaps and bounds.

    This was forced by Cao Cuidao.

    After exchanging blows with this earth-shattering grandmaster swordsman, he caught a glimpse of an unimaginable level of martial arts that he never thought existed. With the mind and the sword combined as one united force, the pressure radiating from this stance is several times more powerful than one who is fighting with ferocity or kamikaze adrenaline.

    In the past, Xiang Shaolong is able to overcome other swordsmen mainly because of his deep knowledge of Mozi Swordplay Meditation, on top of his physical health and innate strength. During the duel, he is able to maintain absolute calmness and display the essence of the swordplay.

    Cao Cuidao has unknowingly aroused his willpower, confidence and an indescribable type of mental and physical strength combination. This newfound aura is critical to ones victory in battle.

    That night, he meditated for an hour before retiring to bed. Sleeping all the way till dawn, he woke up fully rejuvenated and felt so powerful that he can kill a tiger with his bare hands. Proceeding to the garden, he did some warm up exercises before starting to practice his sabre once again.

    Recalling that day when he scored victory with one sabre stroke, causing Ma Chenjia to discard his weapon and flee, he realized that besides mastering the precision of the attack, the main reason behind his success was that he was holding the sabre with both hands. By following a samurai attacking style, the strength of his blow would increase by several folds.

    He can feel a sense of excitement surging within him, thinking that this may be the only way to counter Cao Cuidaos colossal strength.

    Finding the appropriate time and method to execute it is vital to its success.

    With a mere ten strokes, he does not believe he cannot withstand the blows.

    Even if Cao Cuidao has three heads and six arms, he would be able to counter him with his sabre and scabbard combination. Moreover, the ten strokes will be over in a flash.

    Remembering the earlier days when he was depressed and despondent, lacking confidence in even handling the ten strokes, he could not help but feel amused. Deep inside, he was deeply grateful towards his good buddy Xiao Yuetan.

    His earlier notions of fear and escape have disappeared without a trace.

    Now that he has completed all his preparations, he looks forward to face Cao Cuidao tomorrow night with an undistracted mind. At the end of the duel, he would make use of the cover of the night to make good his escape, heading back to Xianyang to reunite with his wives and son.

    With this formidable foe exerting pressure on him, Xiang Shaolong can literally feel himself unleashing his hidden potential as he practice his moves. With every strike, he can experience himself reaching another peak in his mind. It was a surreal sensation that he had never encountered before.

    Out of the blue, he felt as if he is in the centre of a massacre. As his men collapsed one by one around him, followed by Zhou Liang tragically dying in front of his eyes and King Eagle attacking the enemy to avenge its master, his mind was crammed with feelings of grief and anger.

    Recalling his friends who had betrayed or abandoned him due to differences in loyalty, he came to the conclusion that while all things may change, the Hundred Battle Sabre in his hand would forever serve as a trusty companion.

    He released a weak slash.

    Time seemed to have stopped still.

    Shan Rous voice sounded from his back: Im not fighting you today! You are becoming more and more powerful.

    Returning the sabre back into the scabbard, Xiang Shaolong came to Shan Rous side, jesting: I thought Elder Sister Rou does not know the meaning of fear?

    Shan Rou elbowed an area near his waist, causing him to cry out in pain. She cursed: To he11 with your nonsense. Outside the Villa, Min Tingzhang and the others are awaiting your esteemed arrival, ready to escort you to Qixia College to attend the Sword Meet. If not for them, I would have kicked you all the way back to Xianyang.

    Rubbing the painful bruise, Xiang Shaolong pleaded: I have to trouble you to tell them that I am planning to stay indoors today, conserving my energy

    Shan Rou interrupted him: You are not allowed to back out. I am all excited and looking for someone to be my punching bag. Tell you what, you can tag along with me to join the festivities.

    Before Xiang Shaolong can recover from his daze, Shan Rou is dragging him so hard that he stumbled along.

    More than five hundred Qixia Swordsmen are performing the opening formation named Sword Salute.

    Their movements are well synchronized and neat, resulting in an awesome performance.

    Xiang Shaolong is seated at the VIP seats of the college parade square. On his right is Tian Jian, followed by Lu Buwei, while Tian Dan is seated on his left. Shan Rou has somewhat disappeared into the crowds.

    Each and every one of Lin Zis rich and famous, officials, minsters and even the royal family were in full attendance. It was a grand and imposing sight.

    There are plenty of warriors and commoners who are here to join in the festivities. With at least four thousand of them in attendance, they filled the four corners of the parade square to the brim.

    At the end of the Sword Salute display, Tian Jian enthusiastically represented King Qixiang in reading out the rules of the Meet. A Qixia Tutor himself, Zongsun Xuanhua led a pack of several Tutors and swordsmen into the parade square, simultaneously conducting tests for swordsmanship, riding and archery. Min Tingzhang is a Tutor too and wasted no time in showcasing his abilities.

    Seated on the other side of Tian Dan is Xie Ziyuan. Skipping Tian Dan who is in between them, he winked at Xiang Shaolong, indicating the smooth execution of his requests.

    Lu Buwei who was chatting with Tian Jian suddenly leaned closer and proposed: Let me escort Shaolong to Qixia College tomorrow evening! This matter concerns the glory of our Great Qin, we must have a decent entourage.

    Xiang Shaolong thought to himself: You can come, but I would certainly slip away and make you lose face in front of your men. Smiling in return, he could not be bothered with him.

    Unexpectedly, Tian Jian overheard this exchange and interrupted: Let me and Imperial Uncle escort Great General together, giving him a boost of courage.

    Xiang Shaolong groaned to himself and helplessly agreed.

    On the other side, Tian Dan chortled: By now, First Mistress should have entered the palace in preparation for tonights performance!

    Xiang Shaolong found it hilarious, recognizing that he is trying to make small talk. Muttering a reply, he turned his attention back to the parade square. Coincidently, a warrior happened to hit the bulls eye on a target two hundred steps away, earning a series of wild cheers.

    Compared to the ambience of Qins Hunting Fair, the Qixia Sword Meet is much more inferior, illustrating the pathetic culture of martial arts in Qi vis a vis Qin.

    At this juncture, someone came to Tian Dans side and whispered a few sentences to him.

    After the man left, Tian Dan faced Lu Buwei and chuckled: There is a challenger who is interested in dueling Imperial Uncles Shangcai Number One Swordsman. I wonder if Imperial Uncle is open to allowing Xu Shang to enter the ring and have some fun?

    Xiang Shaolong can smell a rat, deducing that it is Qi Yu instigating this fight, hoping to ruffle the feathers of his love rival.

    After getting to know Soft Boned Beauty better, he is conscious that regardless of Qi Yu or Xu Shang, they would definitely end up with a huge disappointment if they thought that she would fall in love with them. Nonetheless, Xu Shang is an expert swordsman, almost as good as Guan Zhongxie. Even if it was Zongsun Xuanhua or Min Tingzhang taking the fight, they may not be able to overcome him.

    Momentarily stunned, Lu Buwei quizzed: With our super swordsman Great General here, why would the people of Qixia want to go for anyone else?

    Tian Jian officially replied: My royal father has just issued a strict decree that nobody is allowed to challenge Great General before and after his duel with Grandmaster Cao. Ma Chenjia has already been punished.

    Lu Buwei lightly sniggered to conceal the awkwardness and unease in his heart.

    Tian Dans face darkened, as he is partly responsible for Ma Chenjias case.

    In his mind, Xiang Shaolong applauded this decision and also knew that it is Tian Jian helping him in secret. He intentionally blurted: Maybe it is Brother Qi Yu who wants to have some fun with Commander Xu.

    Realizing that Xiang Shaolong has learnt about the two men fighting over Lan Gongyuan, Lu Buwei and Tian Dan started to fidget unnaturally.

    Lu Buwei was about to say something when the crowd suddenly erupted into loud cheering.

    As everyone turned their attention back to the parade square, the faces of Xiang Shaolong, Tian Dan and Xie Ziyuan had a change in expression.

    Shan Rou was proudly walking to the centre of the square. She shrilly called out: It is now the beginning of our dueling event. Shan Rou wishes to seek the guidance of Tian Bang.

    Tian Dan violently shuddered once, knowing that Shan Rou is banking on her husband Xie Ziyuans rising authority, openly bullying him and is now using his precious son as a revenge target.

    Although Tian Bangs swordsmanship is above average, it cannot be compared to Shan Rou who happens to be one of Cao Cuidaos top disciples. Fighting her is as good as sending him to the slaughterhouse.

    If Tian Bang were to reject her, he can forget about raising his head high up again. Moreover, his opponent is a female, exacerbating the situation.

    Zongsun Xuanhua and the other senior disciples who are organizing the Sword Meet are thrown into disarray, not knowing how to resolve this kind of scenario.

    Seated at the back of the grandstand, Tian Bangs face turned deathly grey.

    If the challenger was an ordinary Qixia swordsman, he could send a representative. But his opponent this time happens to be the prestigious Madam Xie who asked specifically for him. By hook or by crook, he has to take her on in person.

    Tian Jian guffawed: Madam Rou is even braver than some of our men.

    With this comment from him, no one would dare to voice any objection.

    Tian Bang was about to stand up but Dan Chu, who was seated beside him, held him back. Standing up himself, he icily grunted: Since Madam Rou is in such high spirits, why dont Dan Chu have a go first!

    This time round, it was Xie Ziyuan and Xiang Shaolong who flinched.

    After all, Shan Rou has given birth to two kids and her physical stamina is a far cry from before. Against a master swordsman like Dan Chu, she may bear the brunt of the fight.

    Left without a choice, Xiang Shaolong boisterously laughed before Shan Rou can reply: My hands are itching too. Let Little Brother have this fight on behalf of Madam Rou!

    In a split second, the entire crowd exploded with deafening cheers, drowning out Shan Rous protest and objection.
    Last edited by kohchun; 09-03-13 at 11:39 PM.

  20. #280
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2004


    Book 24 Chapter 08 - Goodbye Kiss

    Dan Chu lingered on the same spot, not exhibiting the slightest intention to enter the ring while Xiang Shaolong remained in his seat. By now, the crowds have shouted until their voices are hoarse. Witnessing this strange phenomenon, the rowdy calls gradually came to a stop and the parade square is now completely silent.

    Exchanging glances with the exasperated Shan Rou who is still standing in the middle of the square, Xiang Shaolong grinned to himself.

    Before he offered to take Shan Rous place, he already knew that Dan Chu would not dare to take him on.

    This risk is not worthwhile for Dan Chu. Before leading his army to war victories and obtaining Hundred Battle Sabre, Xiang Shaolong is already a force to be reckoned with. The present Xiang Shaolong is definitely much more formidable, causing Dan Chu to lack the confidence in winning the fight. Moreover, Cao Cuidao will personally take him on tomorrow; there is no need to risk his life now.

    As anticipated, Dan Chu politely state: The Great King has issued a strict decree, forbidding anyone to duel with Great General. Grandmaster Cao is the only exception. How can I defy the decree?

    The spectators instantly jeered with disappointment.

    Seated within vicinity of Tian Jian, Zongsun Long stood up and loudly roared: Who dares to defy Great Kings decree!

    The crowd instantaneously subsided, feeling bizarre that Zongsun Long is the one showcasing his authority.

    Shan Rou was pleased: In this case, why dont General Dan show me a thing or two!

    Dan Chu glanced pleadingly at Tian Jian.

    Tian Jian understood his dilemma and laughed: Everyone in Lin Zi stands in awe of Madam Rous swordsmanship. General Dan probably reacted in the spur of the moment. Although Great General has made his offer, the fight would be unlawful. Lets annul this duel.

    These words are highly appropriate, hinting that Tian Bang is inferior to Shan Rou, preserving her prestige.

    With this future King of Qi intervening, Shan Rou knows that the fight is over even before it begun. Shooting a vicious glare at Xiang Shaolong, she dejectedly returned to her seat.

    Xiang Shaolong is aware that Shan Rou will not let him off. However, he is not worried at all because suffering under her fists and scolding is one of the happy events of life.

    Xie Ziyuan glanced at him with gratitude in his eyes.

    The Sword Meet progressed on and despite some duels, there was nothing worth cheering for the crowd. Before midday, it came to a close and nothing was further heard about Xu Shangs supposed challenge.

    At Qixia College, Xiang Shaolong joined Tian Jian, Tian Dan, Lu Buwei and the others for lunch. Xiang Shaolong could not endure it any longer and used this break to question Zongsun Xuanhua: Why didnt I see any emissaries from the other States? Didnt Brother Xuanhua invite them?

    Zongsun Xuanhua behaved as if he is very intimate with Xiang Shaolong. In a hush-hush secretive manner, he replied: Two days ago, our Great King held a meeting with the emissaries of the other States. Due to differences in opinion, the meeting ended on a distasteful note. Today, they must have intentionally given us the cold shoulder; otherwise, the Sword Meet would be much more lively.

    From his words, Xiang Shaolong was enlightened that their discussion must be concerning Qin resistance efforts. Since Qi is persisting in outdated methods of engagement, their negotiations with the other eastern States would surely end up in a deadlock.

    He recalled that he himself was responsible for destroying two rounds of allied military campaigns. The first time, he employed a scheme. By releasing Wei Zhen back to his country and using him to arouse the Wei Kings suspicions of Prince Xinling, he was able to deceive the King of Wei into recalling Prince Xinling from the battlefield. Left leaderless, the coalition fell apart.

    The second time, he personally led an army and defeated the allied forces soundly as they were en route to Xianyang, causing them to suffer heavy losses and eventually disintegrating.

    In the eyes of the five eastern States, he can be considered their greatest enemy. No wonder Li Yuan and his other old buddies are turning their cannons on him, Xiang Shaolong.

    Seated besides Tian Jian, Xiang Shaolong used this opportunity to tell him that Feng Feis performance tonight will be her last and farewell performance before she retires. He hopes that Tian Jian can make an official announcement regarding this occurrence.

    Tian Jian suggested: My royal father has the highest admiration for First Mistresss performances. Getting him to announce it would be even better.

    Xiang Shaolong praised: That would be really wonderful! After I offer my congratulations tonight, I will return home earlier to rest in preparation for the duel tomorrow night. Please confer my thanks to the Great King on my behalf.

    Tian Jian acknowledged and agreed to his requests.

    Using this opening, Xiang Shaolong bid farewell and slipped away.

    Back at Tingsong Villa, most of the Troupe members have entered the palace for the performance, leaving only a few maids and servants to watch over the premises. The ambience is now cold and uninviting.

    Just as Xiang Shaolong was about to climb the stairs to the main hall, Yao Sheng caught up to him from the back, exclaiming: Great General, your servant has something to report.

    Only now did Xiang Shaolong remember that he had instructed him to put Guo Kai and Han Chuang under surveillance. After he discovered Zongsun Long father and son secretly working with his enemies, and thinking that Yao Sheng is from Zongsun Family, he did not follow up with his progress.

    Once the two men sat down at a corner, Yao Sheng narrated with a serious expression: For the past two days, emissaries of the Three States, Chu and Yan were engaged in one meeting after another. The most frequent meetings occur between the two States of Zhao and Yan. After further investigation, my subordinates reported that swordsmen of both States have sneaked into Lin Zi City while posing as tourists or guests of the birthday celebrations.

    Xiang Shaolong asked his first question: Did you tell Master Long or Brother Xuanhua about these information?

    Yao Sheng shook his head, declaring: Young Master has given specific instructions, saying that as long as we are assigned to Great General, we need not report anything to them. Therefore, they have no idea about this.

    Xiang Shaolong praised: Only people like you and your men who are familiar with Lin Zi and local issues are able to distinguish the real identities of these Yan and Zhao swordsmen.

    Suppressing his voice, Yao Sheng added: Yesterday evening, Yans Xu Yizhe and Zhaos Guo Kai went on a tour of Qixia College together. According to the observation of my stalkers, they seemed to be conducting some sort of site inspection.

    Xiang Shaolong was hit by realization: Could Guo Kai and company be so intelligent to correctly guess that he would make his getaway tomorrow and is therefore laying an ambush for him?

    Of course that would only happen after the duel with Cao Cuidao.

    For the sake of their own States, everyone is resorting to ruthless methods; even Xu Yizhe is of no exception. If they can somehow impersonate themselves as Qi swordsmen and murder Xiang Shaolong in the territory of Qi, it would be a miracle if Qin and Qi can avoid going to war.

    Yao Sheng updated: Is Great General aware that Grandmaster Cao has requested the Great King to issue an imperial decree, stating that no one is allowed to view or disturb the duel between him and Great General. As a result, before the end of the duel, everyone must stay within the city and even we are not allowed to step into the perimeter of Qixia College.

    In his mind, Xiang Shaolong grasped that while this is highly beneficial for him who is planning a getaway, it too, provides great convenience for anyone who is trying to ambush him.

    Frowning, he interrogated: Does the report include details such as where they make special stops or spent an extended period of time?

    Producing a geographical map of Qixia College and its surroundings, Yao Sheng painstaking and clearly indicated the travelling path of Guo Kai and Xu Yizhe, where they stopped and how long was each stop.

    Xiang Shaolong was taken aback: Your stalkers are truly meticulous!

    Yao Sheng cheerfully answered: Your servant recognizes the importance of this matter and was personally involved in the stalking.

    From the bottom of his heart, Xiang Shaolong praised him and instructed him to keep this report strictly confidential.

    Yao Sheng was hoping mad: The people of Yan are scoundrels and it is so obvious to me that they are here with malicious agendas, trying to disrupt the friendly diplomacy between us and Qin. Why dont Great General directly feedback this scheme to the Great King, beseeching him to send soldiers to protect Great General or specially allowing us to wait for Great Generals triumphant return at the bottom of Stargazing Platform?

    As Xiang Shaolong have other plans in mind, he would not accept his suggestion. Smiling as he patted his shoulder, Xiang Shaolong wondered: They would not dare to make any moves within the vicinity of Qixia College. In my opinion, they would probably lay an ambush on the road back to the city. Both sides of the road are thick, snow-covered forests, making it a perfect ambush location. Can you prepare a fire rocket for me? When I am on my way back to the city, I will light the rocket and summon you guys to me.

    Agreeing that this is the best way out, Yao Sheng could not help but ask: Isnt Great General angry with them?

    Xiang Shaolong sighed: Xu Yizhe and Guo Kai can be considered my acquaintances. Although we would surely meet on the battlefield one day, I hope I can avoid these petty clashes with them. Live and let live.

    With admiration written all over his face, Yao Sheng excused himself.

    Sitting alone in the hall, his mind is once again filled with thoughts. Recovering from his short daze, he returned back to the rear courtyard.

    As he strolled along, he can sense the cold and lonely aura of Tingsong Villa, feeling melancholic as it is now an empty nest with its occupants all gone.

    But once he reminded himself that he is going back to Xianyang tomorrow night, his heart immediately warmed up and felt fuzzy instead.

    Back home, he must do his best to comfort his pretty wives and lovely maids. Recalling that year when he was returning to Qin from Zhao, Ting Fangshi passed away while pining for him. He could not help but start to feel helpless and frustrated again.

    You rascal! I finally found you!

    As Xiang Shaolong turned around in shock, Shan Rou was racing towards him, ready to vent her anger on him.

    With all his unhappiness chased away by this beauty, Xiang Shaolong opened his palms, challenging: What does Elder Sister Rou plan to do to Little Brother?

    Grabbing his shirt at the chest area, Shan Rou glared at him with her almond shaped eyes and cursed: How dare you spoil my fun! Who needs your help? Do you really think you are better than me? Finishing her sentences, she could not help but burst out in giggles.

    Xiang Shaolong cannot resist her allure and patted her smooth face, chuckling: As a mother of two kids, you are still indulging in violence and fighting. Elder Sister Rou should spare a thought for Brother Xie and avoid getting into scuffles with others.

    Since they met in Lin Zi, this is the first time they are sharing such physical intimacy. Her face turning slightly red, Shan Rou wailed: Do you believe I will hack off your hand if you continue to touch me?

    Xiang Shaolong groaned: I am leaving tomorrow night; let me take advantage of you while I can!

    Shan Rou was incredulous: Why didnt you tell me earlier?

    Xiang Shaolong whispered: I just made up my mind. You must not tell anyone about this. After withstanding ten blows from your Master, Ill be on my way.

    Revealing her concern for Xiang Shaolong, Shan Rou checked: Except for the river route that is passable, all road leading away from Lin Zi are all blockaded by snow. Tomorrow, you will be at the centre of everyones attention; how can you possibly sail away? Who is the person arranging your transport?

    Pulling her to the garden, Xiang Shaolong explained: I have a safe and excellent travelling method; otherwise, how could I avoid the massive manhunt of the Three States? Do you want to pass a message to your two beloved sisters?

    With a Pu Ci, Shan Rou laughed: Tell them I would definitely outlive Tian Dan. In fact, I am spending my days relishing his suffering and decline.

    Her face reddening again, Shan Rou bit her lower lip and suggested: Since there is nobody around, why dont we go into the room and be intimate with each other!

    Xiang Shaolong had a big shock and stammered: How can we do this? Brother Xie is my buddy.

    Shan Rou retorted: I purposely allowed him to fool around because I wanted to fool around with you too. That will equalize the score and it is very fair and just.

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly laughed: You are wrong about Brother Xie. Only when he is in a brothel setting can his creative juices start to flow and allow him to compose new songs. He did not commit any shameful acts behind your back.

    Momentarily dazed, Shan Rou passionately leaned closer and offered her lips, declaring: Then lets share a kiss! Treat it as a kiss of encouragement for your duel and also a goodbye kiss for your trip!

    Shan Rou had barely left when Xie Ziyuan arrived.

    Xiang Shaolong thought: What a close shave!

    After scrutinizing him for a while, Xie Ziyuan heaved a sigh of relief: Little Brother thought she would have given you a beating! Xuanhua told me that after she learnt that you had returned home, she hurried over here like a mad woman.

    With his fingers crossed, Xiang Shaolong remarked: Sister in law is not an unreasonable person. It is just that her temper is unbearable!

    Taking a seat, Xie Ziyuan observed: Now that this place is deserted, I find it rather peaceful instead. We can speak our hearts without fear.

    Sitting down beside him, an astonished Xiang Shaolong probed: What is on Brother Xies mind?

    Xie Ziyuan sighed with a breath of air: You might find it unbelievable but I am thinking of quitting! However, Second Prince would not hear of it.

    Xiang Shaolong was puzzled: Brother Xie is doing very well in your official career. Why are you suddenly thinking of retiring?

    Xie Ziyuan bitterly smiled: As officials, most of us would have a terrible ending. The higher our ranks, the more enemies we have. When you are riding high, nobody could touch you but when you eventually make mistakes, others would start vying for your position. Besides managing your subordinates, you have to live in constant fear of offending your superiors. Such a life is truly meaningless. Wifey has always mentioned that I am ill suited for an official career as I am not vicious enough. For example, Zongsun Long father and son have disappointed me thoroughly. Till now, they have not told me about their secret meeting with Lu Buwei.

    Sighing along with him, Xiang Shaolong advised: There is a trick to quitting an official career. Just feign an illness.

    Enlightened by his words, Xie Ziyuans eyes began to glow. Slapping the table, he exclaimed: Brother Xiang is wise indeed. Thats it. For all you know, I may be able to visit Brother Xiang in Xianyang in the near future; and not forgetting Talented Lady Ji. Hey! With Brother Xiangs connections, I may even get to meet Widow Qin!

    Xiang Shaolong knows that he is not aware of the relationship between Qin Qing and himself. Patting his chest, he swore: You can count on Little Brother.

    Concurrently, his heart skipped a beat as he recollected Xiao Pans identity crisis.

    Gazing at the sky outside the hall, Xie Ziyuan suggested: I have to enter the palace earlier than usual. Later, allow me to get somebody to fetch Brother Xiang!

    Xiang Shaolong politely rejected his offer and personally sent him off before returning to his room. Lying on his bed, he took out Yao Shengs map and began analyzing it.

    If he was Xu Yizhe or Guo Kai, he would definitely place an ambush on both sides of the mile long official road between Qixia College and the City highway. If an arrow attack is launched under the cover of the thick and snowy forests on both sides of the road, the target would be unable to react in time and his death is guaranteed.

    If he had pretended to walk back to Lin Zi City but suddenly run away in the direction of the snowy wilderness, how would the ambushers react?

    The sound of knocking is heard and in came Xiao Yuetan.

    Xiang Shaolong jumped out of bed and passed the map to him while repeating Yao Shengs report.

    Pointing to a southwestern mark outside Qixia College, Xiao Yuetan described: Tomorrow, I will bury travelling clothes and the snowboard on top of a small hill over here. It will be at the top of a west facing slope, allowing you to conveniently slide down.

    Xiang Shaolong was delighted: Is it completed?

    Xiao Yuetan shook his head: It should be completed after a nights work. I will be skipping the banquet tonight and at the same time, prevent Lu Buwei from identifying myself.

    Xiang Shaolong is feeling bad: Isnt it a waste?

    Xiao Yuetan nonchalantly state: Entertainment accounts for nothing. Only when Shaolong has safely returned to Xianyang can we continue our campaign against Lu Buwei. You may not see me tomorrow. Elder Brother came here specially to bade farewell to you.

    Stretching out his own hand and strongly gripping Xiao Yuetans hand, Xiang Shaolong gratefully thanked: The deepest gratitude lies beyond thanking. I do not know what to say to express the emotions in my heart.

    Xiao Yuetan grinned: I am sure these thoughts would change in the near future. Everything I do is for your own good. Help Elder Brother send my regards to Yanran and the others, tell them Elder Brother misses them terribly.

    Xiang Shaolong was baffled: Why is Elder Brother speaking like this? No matter what happens, I, Xiang Shaolong, would never blame you for anything.

    Staring intently at Xiang Shaolong, Xiao Yuetan warned: A mans heart is impossible to fathom. Do not keep thinking that you can get away with merely ten strokes. You must always take precautions in case he changes his mind due to aggravation.

    Xiang Shaolong nodded: After making the mistake of trusting Li Yuan and Han Chuang, I am not as gullible as before.

    Hearing his words, Xiao Yuetan became visibly relaxed. He further reminded: If you can survive this difficulty and successfully return to Xianyang, your victory would be complete. Otherwise, all your previous efforts would have gone down the drain.

    In his mind, Xiang Shaolong knows that he still have to resolve Xiao Pans identity predicament. Unfortunately, he cannot share this burden with Xiao Yuetan. He solemnly swore: I would not lose this fight.

    Xiao Yuetan was elated: Shaolong has finally regained your confidence!

    Xiang Shaolong muttered to himself: It is very mysterious. Having lost Hundred Battle Sabre and repossessing it later, I felt like a completely different person. I felt as if I did not suffer a crushing defeat at the hands of Li Mu. It was a full recovery from the period of time when I was utterly depressed.

    Xiao Yuetan stood up and bade: There is no need to send me off. Please take good care of yourself. There may come a time in the future when we will head out to the borders together and turn our sights to the huge grasslands.

    His eyes trailing Xiao Yuetans back until he disappeared at the extreme end of the corridor, Xiang Shaolong suddenly remember the first time when he met Xiao Yuetan in Handan. After this talented and capable man finished their official discussions, he immediately requested a courtesan from the Wu Family to accompany him to bed, leaving him a bad impression of this man. Never in his wildest dreams did he expect Xiao Yuetan to be a righteous hero and even ended up as his soul mate.

    The path of life is never a straight line.


    Since he is going to the birthday banquet, he might as well be early.

    Since he became a fugitive, not a day goes by without him pining for his home. Only at home can he find the long awaited feelings of true happiness and peace.

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