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

  1. #141
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
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    Book 13 Chapter 03 – The Female Warriors


    Under the gaze of nearly a hundred female warriors, Xiang Shaolong and Lord Changping entered the main hall led by Ying Ying.

    Xiang Shaolong has the perfect body tightly dressed in a simple warrior suit. Except for the dirty mark on his shoulder, he strolls in gracefully with his right hand on his sword hilt and his left arm swinging by his side, almost like a modern male model striding down the cat walk. Everyone in hall could not help but be mesmerized by him.

    The women warriors who attacked him earlier realised that it was Xiang Shaolong who is the dream man of many Xianyang ladies. They were especially taken aback.

    Ying Ying went back to her seat. Before she could sit down, another beauty next to her jumped up and whispered into her ears before resuming their seats together.

    Xiang Shaolong, Lord Changping, Lord Changwen and An Gu were seated at a table full of dishes and wine. Lord Changping sighed: “Thanks to Shaolong’s presence, we brothers have finally fulfilled our sister’s demand.”

    Lord Changwen was disappointed: “Why didn’t Shaolong bring Talented Lady Ji and let us have a look at her? Big Brother said he reminded you.”

    An Gu smiled: “Shaolong! Now you finally got a taste of how irritating they are. Luckily, I have to leave the city for my duties. I shall pass on this burden to you. Good luck!”

    Xiang Shaolong is already burdened with countless worries and sadness. Now, as he is facing these three friendly and sincere men in a place filled with young, passionate girls, his accumulated stress begin to go away. Finally relaxing, he grabbed his wine cup and was about to drink when Ying Ying’s voice rang out behind him: “Don’t drink wine! Otherwise when you lose, you will say that we are being unfair to you.”

    Xiang Shaolong was surprised and suspicious. Holding back his wine cup, he turned around and questioned: “What does drinking wine have to do with winning and losing?”

    The whole hall quietened down.

    Ying Ying and the pretty girl seated with her came in front of him, both putting on the airs of a spoilt and stubborn character.

    Behind him, An Gu sighed: “Shaolong should know their prowess by now. If they attacked openly with a fair fight, I will lose without a single complaint. Somehow, they have so many tricks up their sleeves and I was taken by surprise every single time.”

    The beautiful girl stared at him and giggled sweetly. Her mouth curled up with a proud look, she plainly state: “Dear General An, I had regarded you as someone important in Xianyang City! Hng! Since young, you have always been repudiating. Commander Xiang is not like you and will face our challenges bravely.”

    Xiang Shaolong looked back and exchanged a helpless grin with An Gu. Lord Changping came to his ear and whispered: “They called themselves the Royal Reviewer. Hei! They joked that Generals promoted by the Qin court has to undergo a second review with them to prove their worthiness. ”

    Ying Ying impatiently cut in: “Cut the [email protected] Shaolong will now compete with Dan’er in wine drinking.” When she mentioned Dan’er, she arrogantly pointed to the pretty girl beside her with her thumb.

    Xiang Shaolong eyes landed on Lu Dan’er petite face and begin to scrutinize Lu Gong’s stubborn granddaughter.

    Lu Dan’er’s eyes matched his gaze. She has a nice smile and her eyes are glowing with happiness, mischief and arrogance.

    But she is indeed pretty and does not look a day over sixteen. In these ancient times, it is a marriageable age. But just looking at her wild and formidable aura, a weak husband will be unable to control her.

    Compared to Ying Ying, she is shorter by half a head. She has a well-proportioned body and did not have any excess fats due to constant exercise. Any normal man who saw her will be aroused.

    Like Ying Ying, they are energetic, lively and full of enthusiasm. With healthy complexions and white glowing skin, they are truly alluring.

    However, Ying Ying is slightly more appealing than her.

    Scanning her body next, Xiang Shaolong lowered his gaze and caught sight of her full and perky chest.

    While he was secretly praising the full bosoms of Qin ladies, Lu Dan’er’s face reddened and she looked down.

    An Gu and the Lords laughingly retaliated: “Ha! Dan’er’s face is red with embarrassment. What a rare sight!”

    Ying Ying was astounded and glanced at her partner. Stomping her feet, she called: “Dan’er!”

    Lu Dan’er shot a vicious look at Xiang Shaolong who has embarrassed her and denied: “Who is embarrassed? It is because the weather is too hot! Bring the wine!”

    At last, Xiang Shaolong is fully familiar about these female warriors. They are just troublemakers in Xianyang City. As most of them are related to high-ranking officials and are spoilt by nature, they are able to terrorise the commoners without much repercussions.

    Several giggling young ladies came in carrying a few jugs of wine. The battle is about to begin.

    An Gu came to Xiang Shaolong’s side and smiled: “How is your alcohol tolerance? This lady’s liqueur capacity is not something to laugh about.”

    Xiang Shaolong was curious: “Why do we have to hold a drinking contest?”

    Ying Ying stepped forward and proclaimed: “Wine drinking is a man’s forte. We want to challenge you men in your best forte. Understand?”

    An Gu produced a spitting sound and barked: “What are you so proud about? You wanted to get Commander Xiang drunk and then compete with him in martial arts. When you have won, you will brag about it. I know all your dirty tricks!”

    Lu Dan’er is bitter about An Gu embarrassing her earlier and arrogantly retorted: “You are our defeated opponent and how dare you speak like that? You lost in the last archery contest and blamed us instead of your own incompetency. What a loser.”

    Au Gu faced Xiang Shaolong with an agonized smile: “Now you should know what I mean.”

    Xiang Shaolong could only smile weakly in return.

    The imposing Ying Ying commanded: “Except for the contestants, everyone else return to your seats.” She led her warriors back to their seats, leading by example

    Lord Changping whispered before he left: “Good luck!” and returned to his seat with Lord Changwen and An Gu.

    Slightly fearful of Xiang Shaolong, Lu Dan’er sat down and raised the wine jug in front, commenting: “Let’s drink up our share of wine and compete our archery skills in the rear garden. Quick! Why are you hesitating like a woman!”

    The female warriors burst out in laughter and made all sorts of jeering noises.

    Xiang Shaolong felt his own tummy and realised that he had not eaten a single meal today. It is a taboo to drink wine on an empty stomach and he is bound to lose. He hardened his resolve and shot back: “Such an impatient little doll. You have already lost to me in terms of patience.” He purposely looked at her chest again and walked towards Ying Ying. Sitting down opposite her, his stomach began to rumble.

    Ying Ying raised her eyebrows and implored: “Since when did you last eat something?”

    Everyone in the hall laughed loudly.

    Xiang Shaolong could not be bothered with her and started eating. At the same time, he was puzzled. An Gu is a great drinker and how could he lose to a young girl.

    Suddenly, he was inspired and thought about the bar girls in the 21st century. Their drinks are always diluted to earn more money and also to prevent them from getting drunk.

    Remembering this, he turned back and returned to the ‘battleground.’ Sitting down across her, he conveniently placed his wine in front and her and pointed to the jug she is hugging. He demanded: “I will drink your wine and you will drink mine!”

    The entire hall quietened down.

    Lu Dan’er was flustered and shrilled: “The wine is the same. You drink your own wine!”

    An Gu laughed loudly and jumped up, exclaiming: “I see! I see! No wonder I lost the last time!”

    Lu Dan’er is so furious her face became red again. She shot an angry look at Xiang Shaolong before giggling out loudly. She put down her wine jug and slipped back to her seat.

    An Gu and the two Lords cheered loudly and received the victorious Xiang Shaolong back to his seat. Xiang Shaolong has never seen them so excited before.

    All the girls are laughing so hard they can barely sit straight. None of them felt guilty about their trick being exposed.

    Ying Ying and Lu Dan’er had a quick discussion and came up to their table. Ying Ying declared: “So it is considered a draw!”

    Lord Changwen is confused: “Shaolong has obviously won. How come it is a draw?”

    Displeased, Ying Ying retorted: “Second Brother has eyes that cannot see. The mark on Commander Xiang’s shoulder is left by my boot. Isn’t this a draw? To determine the winner, we must have another round of competition.”

    An Gu was curious: “What happened?”

    Ying Ying stubbornly interrupted: “Don’t deny it if you are a man. Come! We shall compete on strength.”

    Xiang Shaolong was taken aback: “Compete on strength!”

    Ying Ying charmingly smiled: “Of course we must compete in everything. I dare you to say ‘women are weaklings’ in the future.” Finishing, they returned to their table.

    Lord Changping advised Xiang Shaolong: “Do not underestimate her. This woman possesses brute strength. Not many people in Xianyang City can win her.”

    Xiang Shaolong noticed a huge woman coming out from the crowd and a girl bringing out a long rope and another girl drawing boundaries on the floor. It looks like a game of tug of war.

    Xiang Shaolong was baffled. Women are limited by nature to be weaker than men. Even if they have a large body, they can defeat common men but not martial arts practitioners like Lord Changping. He unconsciously looked down to her feet and saw some sort of talcum powder scattered on the floor. He guessed it is another trick and suggested to the huge lady: “To prevent cheating, I suggest we take off our shoes before we compete!”

    The ladies became silent and there is a strange expression on their faces.

    As if this is the first time she saw him, Ying Ying stared blankly at Xiang Shaolong for a short while. Stomping her feet, she hissed: “Exposed by you again. Why can’t you give us a break?” Even her two brothers are stunned by her stubborn behaviour.

    Before she finished speaking, the ladies were laughing uncontrollably and the atmosphere is very cheerful.

    Amused, Xiang Shaolong went back to his seat. The three men are laughing so hard that their stomachs hurt.

    An Gu held his breath and barely spoke out: “What an exciting night! All my frustrations have been vented out.”

    Lu Dan’er yelled: “Stop laughing!”

    Everyone stifled their laughter.

    Lord Changping challenged: “What other tricks do you have?”

    Xiang Shaolong understood that these females are just troublemakers who use tricks to ridicule men. They do not have any ill intentions and there is no real damage done. Thus, the people of Xianyang tolerated their antics.

    Lu Dan’er proclaimed: “We have competed on tricks and Xiang Shaolong has won. Now, we will compete on real abilities.”

    An Gu snorted: “What is there to compete? Can you defeat Wang Jian? Shaolong fought Wang Jian and it was a draw. You better save your breath. Come! Dan’er! Sing me a song and let’s see how much you have improved.”

    Lu Dan’er made a face at him. Displeased, she remarked: “Previously, we are testing if Commander Xiang is an idi0t like you. Now we are playing for real.”

    An Gu was speechless.

    Xiang Shaolong smiled: “We can compete in anything but I must choose the topic. Otherwise, forget it.”

    Lu Dan’er invited: “Let’s hear it!”

    Ying Ying dared not underestimate Xiang Shaolong anymore and kept tugging Lu Dan’er’s sleeve.

    Lu Dan’er softly assured: “We need not fear him!”

    It is now the three men’s turn to laugh and jeer, making the situation extremely lively.

    Xiang Shaolong raised his wine jug and drank two large mouthfuls.

    The scorching wine entered his throat and he was reminded of Shan Rou. Grieved, he sighed loudly.

    Lord Changwen leaned over and whispered into his ear: “Is something troubling Shaolong?”

    Xiang Shaolong shook his head and summoned his courage. Facing Lu Dan’er he began: “First, you can send anyone you want to accept my challenge. This person will represent your group. If she loses, then your group has lost. In the future, you must not harass me with other competitions.”

    The ladies gathered together and discussed in secret. They dared not let down their guard against him anymore.

    To the three men, he commented: “Shoot the horse to capture the man, catch the bandit king and the bandits will succumb. Watch and see!”

    An Gu praised: “Shaolong is so capable and vented the frustration for all the bullied men of Xianyang City.”

    The ladies have concluded and Ying Ying stood up. Puffing her chest, she declared: “If we’re fighting, I will be your opponent. But you can only hit my sword and my body. If you happened to injure me, you will not be able to compensate.”

    Xiang Shaolong is already aware of their unfair and stubborn ways to achieve victory. Expectedly, he exclaimed: “You will be fighting me? That’s wonderful! Let’s have a wrestling match!”

    Every girl started to protest.

    Ying Ying is so angry her face turned red and furiously state: “You are so demanding.”

    The three men clapped loudly and cheered in approval.

    An Gu seems to have plenty of ‘deep grievances’. He chortled: “After the wrestling, Sister Ying has to leave the female army and marry into the Xiang family as Shaolong has touched every part of your body. If he does not marry you, then it will really be hard for him to compensate you.”

    Xiang Shaolong began to recognize how open the people of Qin are when talking about such matters and was slightly regretful. If he made Ying Ying fall in love with himself, he will have plenty of headaches in the future.

    On the other hand, he felt very excited and it was like he is flirting with girls back in the 21st century.

    Lu Dan’er ‘righteously’ spoke: “If this is the battlefield, weapons will be used to fight for survival. This is just a banquet friendly match. Must we watch them wrestle like that? Obviously not!”

    The girls begin to protest to help Ying Ying and they are noisier than the marketplace. For a while, it was chaos.

    Xiang Shaolong let out a long laugh and gathered everyone’s attention. He solemnly mentioned: “When fighting a battle, every method has to be used. When you want to capture an enemy, you may have to use some tricks. Are you going to tell the enemy that no wrestling is allowed during the fight?”

    Everyone was humoured and broke out into laughter, forgetting their differences. Infuriated, Lu Dan’er stomped her feet and screamed, stopping the laughter. However, some girls continued to chuckle in the background.

    Xiang Shaolong kept forcing his way: “Bring me a mat. You girls mentioned that whatever men can do, you can do better. Stop your whining and stop embarrassing yourself.”

    Ying Ying held back her own laughter. Shooting him a dirty look, she swore: “You are good, but this is not over yet. We will temporary retreat and show you the might of our Qin Female Army at a later date. Dismiss!”

    The four men stared in amazement as all the girls left the hall simultaneously. They did not look angry but were still giggling, showing that they have a good impression of Xiang Shaolong.

    The four men were elated and drank to their heart’s content.

    It was four am when they reluctantly concluded the banquet.

    Xiang Shaolong left with An Gu. As they travelled down the street, Xiang Shaolong recomposed himself and officially asked: “There is something I need to bother Brother An!”

    Riding beside him on this quiet street at night, An Gu smiled: “I get along with Shaolong very well. Just call me Gu. Tell me about it. As long as it is within my abilities, I will do my best.”

    Xiang Shaolong noticed their escorts are not too far away from them. He lowered his voice: “I want Gu to help me seal the border leading to Chu and arrest every messenger from Qi.”

    An Gu was slightly shaken: “Shaolong wants to attack Tian Dan?”

    From his quick thinking and intellect, Xiang Shaolong is certain that An Gu did not take any shortcuts to earn his former rank as the Head of the Palace Guards.

    Xiang Shaolong continued in a low voice: “That’s right. The real person I am attacking is Lu Buwei. The Crown Prince and Lu Gong knew about this too but this is a huge secret. Brother An may verify with them on this.” An Gu assured: “Why bother? Will Shaolong want to harm me? Leave this to me.”

    After a short contemplation, he offered: “I have a plan that can cause the two armies of Qi and Chu waiting at the border to retreat by more than ten miles. I wonder if it would help.”

    Xiang Shaolong was mystified: “How can Gu accomplish this?”

    An Gu confidently revealed: “The Qin Chu border is an uninhabited, mountainous area. No one knows where the border line is and we assumed the river from Sanchuan is the dividing line. We can pretend to clash with their armies and I will meet the generals from Qi and Chu for a truce. To show goodwill, everyone has to retreat by ten miles. This way, when Tian Dan leaves our border, he must still travel some distance before he meets up with his own army. Even if the Qi army receives word and presses near to our border, we can use the excuse that they have crossed the border to surround them or chase them away. This will make it easy for Shaolong to execute your plan. Hei! Qin is afraid of no one!”

    Xiang Shaolong was over the moon. Finalising the details with him, they went on their own ways.

    On the way home, Xiang Shaolong once again experienced the uncertain feeling of whether this is a dream or reality.

    He was once a homeless scavenger and now he is the top favourite subordinate of Qin Shi Huang. Moreover, he is battling the powerful Left Premier Lu Buwei and even planning to kill the legendary Tian Dan. What a feeling!

    Like an invisible hand, fate is guiding him flawlessly to create history based on the history he learned.

    But history did not mention anything about a man named Xiang Shaolong. Why?

    What is his ending? He could not help but feel muddle-headed.

  2. #142
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    Book 13 Chapter 04 – Feelings


    Back at the Wu residence, Teng Yi is still awake and is drinking alone in the dark.

    Xiang Shaolong is sure that he is agonizing over Shan Rou’s death and sat beside him without saying a single word.

    Teng Yi passed him some wine and disclosed: “Tian Dan went to find Lu Buwei after he met you and left after a long time. He must have been complaining to Lu Buwei about you. After that, he went to find Li Yuan. A single sentence from Third Brother has terrified him so much.”

    Xiang Shaolong swallowed a gulp of wine and his tears begin to fall uncontrollably from his face. In a deep voice, he commented: “This is better than I expect. To comfort him, Lu Buwei will swear to kill me during the hunting festival. They will allow Li Yuan to return to Chu first and leave Tian Dan behind. After all, he wanted to see me dead before he can return to Qi with peace of mind.”

    Smelling strongly of alcohol, Teng Yi remarked: “I did not think about that. It must be Rou’er assisting us from Heaven to take his miserable life.”

    Xiang Shaolong inquired: “Has Yanran started work on the fake letter?”

    Teng Yi nodded: “Yes. I got a pigeon messenger to send it back to the farm immediately. According to Yanran, Uncle Qing and his men just need one night to forge a fake letter based on the letter from Lord Chunshen to Zhao Mu. It is guaranteed to be foolproof.”

    The pigeon messenger is a new secret weapon Xiang Shaolong introduced to the Wu Family Elite Warriors. This will speed up communication between the farms and Xianyang City and was implemented recently.

    Xiang Shaolong silently drank another two cups of wine and wiped away his tears. “Have you told Jing Jun?” he asked in a deep voice.

    Teng Yi sighed: “Tomorrow! He ought to know. He was overjoyed with his Yan beauty and let’s give him another day of happiness!”

    He asked: “Will Li Yuan really leave after receiving the letter?”

    Xiang Shaolong coldly sniggered: “Similar to Lu Buwei using women to gain power, Li Yuan is using her pretty sister as a gift to the same effect. If he learns about Xiaolie’s condition, he will not be bothered about Tian Dan. Lu Buwei will encourage him to return immediately and execute their plan. I expect that they will try to take Lord Chunshen’s life. The Lord is so amusing and yet pitiful.”

    Teng Yi sighed: “Third Brother is becoming more and more formidable, covering every aspect of the plan flawlessly.”

    Xiang Shaolong icily laughed: “For Shan Rou and Second Brother, I will do whatever I can to kill Tian Dan. Killing Mo Ao is another crucial part of the plan. If this man continues to provide them with strategies, we may be killed by Tian Dan instead.”

    Teng Yi sighed: “This is my biggest worry too. If Lu Buwei sent his own warriors and escort Tian Dan all the way until he meets his own army, it will be impossible for us to act.”

    Xiang Shaolong confidently explained: “Remember the last time we spoke about Lord Gaoling conspiring with Zhao General Pang Nuan? If I am not mistaken, these two men will try to rebel during the hunting fair. Lu Buwei will be too busy dealing with them and will not have time for Tian Dan. As long as we misled Tian Dan that Xianyang City is an unsafe place, he will rush back to Qi via Chu as soon as possible, giving us the golden opportunity.”

    Speaking till here, the sky is gradually brightening up but neither man felt the least urge to sleep.

    Xiang Shaolong stood up: “I don’t know what but I am pining for Ji Yanran and the ladies. Since it is still early, I will visit them at Qin Residence. Second Brother should spend some time with Sister-in-law.”

    Teng Yi appreciated: “You go ahead! I still want to think about some things.”

    Qin Qing is pruning her plants in her garden and saw Xiang Shaolong coming to her place before the sky is fully bright. Stunned, she put aside her gardening tool carefully in an intricate bronze box and instructed her attendant to bring it into the house. She simply state: “They are still asleep. I heard that Commander Xiang has the habit of sleeping late and they have inherited your habit as well. Why don’t we take a stroll?”

    How can Xiang Shaolong reject her? He walked beside her and enjoyed her fabulous garden with many unique plants and the fragrances of flowers filled the air. They travelled down a zigzag path that snakes through carefully pruned trees and bushes.

    Birds are chirping loudly, filling the garden with a sense of liveliness.

    With a solemn expression, Qin Qing led him down the path. With a hint of blame in her tone, she asked: “Your hair is messy; your clothes are untidy and there is a dirty mark on your shoulder area. Both of your eyes are red and swollen and you smell strongly of alcohol. You must have stayed up the whole of last night?”

    Xiang Shaolong did not anticipate this and was astonished: “You only peeped once at me and you can deduce so many things?”

    Qin Qing turned her head at shot him a look, scolding: “Your words are vulgar and rude. Who is peeping at you?”

    Xiang Shaolong can sense the happiness in her scolding and knew that she is not really blaming him. He bitterly laughed: “I am not fully conscious yet. Ai! I really look disgraceful compared to Grand Tutor Qin. My smelly alcohol fumes has polluted your fragrant scent!”

    Qin Qing abruptly stopped walking and turned around. Before she could say anything, an aimless Xiang Shaolong bumped right into her.

    Both of them shrieked out in fright and backed off instantly.

    Qin Qing’s face is burning red and a flustered Xiang Shaolong apologised: “Ai! So sorry! I am so muddle-headed! Did I hurt you?” As he is saying this, the feeling of Qin Qing’s tender and bouncy breasts on his own chest has left an everlasting impression.

    Qin Qing shot him a vicious look and resumed a blank face. She lightly mentioned: “We are both careless. Forget it! But I must still reprimand you. As a gentleman, how can you pass such a comment about a lady’s natural scent?”

    Xiang Shaolong shook his head: “I am not a gentleman and am not interested to be one! Honestly, I am quite afraid to talk to you. I may offend you without even knowing it!”

    Qin Qing’s face darkened and coldly replied: “So you are afraid to see me and thus advised me to leave for Bashu so that I will not pose as a hindrance to you?”

    Xiang Shaolong was dumbfounded at this baseless accusation. He surrendered: “I only mentioned it by mistake! Grand Tutor Qin is still grudging me for this sentence? Let me kneel and kowtow to you for my mistake.”

    Qin Qing was startled and stopped him: “A man must not kneel down easily! Hng! You are playing a fool.”

    Xiang Shaolong stretched out in a yawn and took a deep breath. He left the small path and cut through the flowers, arriving at a small stream near a bridge. He kneeled down and used his hand to scoop up the running water, happily washing his face.

    Qin Qing came to his back and was frowning at his uncouth behaviour. At the same time, her eyes twinkled with interest.

    Xiang Shaolong used more water to wet his hair and combed it with his fingers. Rejuvenated, he looked up at the blue sky and the white clouds. Raising his hands, he declared: “Today is the first day of the rest of my life. I will live my life to the fullest.”

    Qin Qing repeated his words twice before she grasped its meaning. She was slightly shaken and remarked: “No wonder Yanran often mentioned that you are a very intelligent person. Words casually sprouted by you have such deep meanings and philosophies.”

    Xiang Shaolong blinked hard and gazed back at her, laughing: “Unexpectedly, I managed to hold a nice conversation with Grand Tutor Qin. Unfortunately, I have some matters to attend to but I am very satisfied already.”

    Qin Qing revealed a sweet and intimate smile, gently correcting: “It is really my honour. Actually, there is something I wanted to discuss with Commander Xiang. Can you spare some additional time?”

    Actually, Xiang Shaolong did not have anything urgent to attend to but he is afraid he may start flirting with her if he stayed any longer. Qin Qing’s charm is nothing to joke about. Unsure of her feelings towards him, he was tempted and teased her: “So there is something important. I thought Grand Tutor Qin treats me like a special person.”

    Qin Qing’s jade face begin to glow and her almond shaped eyes stared at him as she exclaimed: “Commander Xiang! How can you use these flowery language on me?”

    A shy looking Qin Qing is even more enchanting.

    Xiang Shaolong slightly regretted his action but was highly excited at the same time.

    In the past, Qin Qing will walk off and ignore him forever upon hearing these words. Her cheerful reply reminded him about his uncertain feeling about all these being a dream or reality.

    Luckily, he has some strand of sanity left in him and bitterly smiled: “Please do not be angry. I am not clear-minded and was just joking with you!”

    Qin Qing calmed and softly commented: “Yesterday, Empress Ji spoke to me about matchmaking the Crown Prince and asked for my opinion.”

    Xiang Shaolong was immediately alerted and was slightly shocked. “What does the Empress think?” He asked.

    Qin Qing stepped forward and came within an arm’s length of Xiang Shaolong. Her eyes deep in thought, she divulged: “She told me Lu Buwei explained to her the benefits of Crown Prince marrying the Princess of Chu, saying that it will prevent the six states from working together against Qin. But she is hesitant due to the violent objections of Lu Gong, Xu Xian and the other high ranking officials.”

    Unconsciously, Xiang Shaolong inched towards her and observed her unparalleled beauty. He then asked in a deep voice: “What advice did Grand Tutor Qin give her?”

    Qin Qing apparently cannot tolerate the proximity between them and retreated half a step. She lowered her head and softly replied: “I told her that the Crown Prince may be young but has his own mindset and thinking. She should ask him directly.”

    Xiang Shaolong’s nose is filled with her nice fragrance and was intoxicated. He took another small step towards her and lightly guessed: “She would reject your suggestion.”

    Qin Qing retreated again and was surprised: “How did you guess correctly?”

    Xiang Shaolong wanted to see her reaction when she is distressed and stepped forward again. Now, they can almost smell each other breaths. He is almost invading her personal space and nearly touching her fast-heaving chest. He stared at her lowered head and whispered: “This is called having a guilty conscience. For the past few days, she has been trying her best to avoid him.”

    Qin Qing ran out of space to retreat and her ears are burning red. She complained in a low voice: “I am most fearful of the smell of alcohol!”

    Xiang Shaolong was jolted awake and recognized that he had nearly molested her. He took two steps back apologetically and stammered: “I better take my leave.”

    Qin Qing’s cheeks are red hot and her eyes are flashing with excitement. She glanced at him in silence.

    Xiang Shaolong began to panic and uttered: “Hey! Why are you looking at me like this?”

    Qin Qing broke into a smile: “I wanted to see if you will leave without finishing your words like what you did in the past, showing that you have a guilty conscience too!”

    Xiang Shaolong secretly cursed: [email protected] it!

    The lady who beauty equalled Ji Yanran is someone unique, elegant and classy. Her most attractive part is her wisdom. Every time he met her; he could not help but be attracted by her.

    He came here early in the morning to lessen his pain by indulging himself with Ji Yanran and the girls. He secretly hoped to see Qin Qing as well. This is a very complicated and ironic thinking.

    As Ji Yanran has mentioned, Qin Qing is the model lady who is widely respected and regarded by the people of Qin. Pure and chaste, she is a top beauty who cannot be violated.

    But it is due to her special position and status that his desire to eat this forbidden fruit is even more challenging and exciting.

    To a modern man from the 21st century, this is not a question of morals.

    Qin Qing does not belong to the people of Qin. She belongs to herself.

    Xiang Shaolong suppressed his temptation but could not resist rebutting her. He shrugged his shoulders and opened up his palms: “I have never stolen anything in my life so why should I feel guilty?”

    Qin Qing is a master at handling her emotions. Resuming her icy blank expression, she casually reminded: “That’s great! How? You have not told me your views about the marriage!”

    Xiang Shaolong was agonized and implored: “This is not my forte. Will Grand Tutor Qin please enlighten me on the crucial aspects of the marriage?”

    Qin Qing is annoyed: “Sometimes, you are incredibly clever like you can predict the future. Sometimes, you are as dumb as a bell. The marriage itself is crucial. Xu Xian and Wang Ling wanted Crown Prince to marry Lu Gong’s granddaughter Lu Dan’er so as to preserve the purity of Qin’s blood in the royal family. Lu Buwei wanted to spoil their plan as he is not a Qin native himself. Does Commander Xiang understand now?”

    Xiang Shaolong was blown away by this insight.

    At the end of the day, it is Qin’s racist mindset. To an outsider like him, it doesn’t mean anything but to the Qin, it represents their determination against Lu Buwei. If this matter is not handled well, it will put Xiao Pan in an unfavourable situation.

    Qin Qing sighed: “I advised Empress to reconsider her thinking and wait for some time. She should decide only when she has a clearer understanding of the full picture.”

    Xiang Shaolong reasoned: “That’s the best plan for now. Lu Dan’er is really pretty but is actually a formidable tigress.”

    Qin Qing laughed: “You finally met the female army!”

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly laughed: “That was what happened last night.”

    Astounded, Qin Qing glanced at him: “You accompanied them throughout the night?”

    Xiang Shaolong simply replied: “I am not so free.”

    Qin Qing questioned in a low voice: “What has happened? Last night, Yanran was playing the qin alone in the garden and her music is full of sadness, making everyone feel like crying. Are you treating me like an outsider? Why don’t you share with me your sorrow?”

    Xiang Shaolong intimately revealed: “We received news about the death of someone close to us. But only Yanran knows this. Grand Tutor Qing...”

    Qin Qing nodded: “I understand. Does Commander Xiang want to take a look at Yanran and the rest? They should be up by now!”

    Xiang Shaolong shook his head: “I will make a quick trip to the Command Centre. If I have time, I will visit them later!”

    Qin Qing advised: “Commander Xiang should speak to Crown Prince about the marriage. I am sure he has the ability to make a good decision.”

    Xiang Shaolong nodded in agreement and left.

    A sense of longing is growing within his heart.

    The longing is intertwined with complicated excitement and thrill.

    Both Qin Qing and Xiang Shaolong know that they are travelling along a ‘very dangerous’ path. Sooner or later, they will lose their self-control.

  3. #143
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
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    Book 13 Chapter 05 – A Well-Devised Plan


    Back at the Cavalry Command Centre, the sweet memory of Qin Qing is still lingering in Xiang Shaolong’s mind.

    And he was annoyed.

    Hasn’t he sworn not to be involved in relationships anymore?

    Due to Shan Rou’s news, he was in a terrible mood and did not sleep at all last night. Coupled with his unclear mind from all the wine he drank, he became irrational and unconsciously flirted with Qin Qing.

    Humans are unpredictable. Even he cannot explain his own actions.

    If Qin Qing is her usual impenetrable self and censured him soundly, it may not be so bad. However, this chaste and pure beauty is warming up to him.

    Her retorts are filled with secret delight and her rejections filled with secret acceptance.

    The unique relationship between them is the most tempting factor.

    Lost in his daydreaming, he bumped into Jing Jun at the main gate. Jing Jun secretly whispered: “Third Brother! We caught a big fish last night!”

    Xiang Shaolong was puzzled: “What big fish?”

    Jing Jun proudly declared: “Have you heard of this man named Lu Bang?”

    Xiang Shaolong sobered up and inquired in a low voice: “Is he one of Lu Buwei’s men?”

    Jing Jun explained: “Not only is he one of the traitors from Lu, he is the son of Lu Xiong. Somehow, this fella was attracted to someone’s wife and tried to harass her. Coincidently, Xu Xian was passing by and saved her. The couple has left the City quickly to avoid them but this kid still harbours ill intention and did not give up. He led several family warriors out of the city in pursuit. They caught up with them, beat the husband up and were about to [email protected] the wife when I caught up to them. They have all been arrested. Ha! Is this fish big enough?”

    Xiang Shaolong was curious: “How did you know they were up to no good?”

    Jing Jun was on cloud nine about his accomplishment. He laughed: “It is all thanks to Tao Fang’s intelligence unit. The moment they knew about this, they told me about it. I am familiar with Lu Bang’s character. If he is onto something, he will go all out to achieve it. I therefore assigned someone to trail him and caught him red-handed. This is going to be exciting. Qin has strict laws regarding 5ex criminals. If we send him to the law bureau, he will be heavily punished. It would be great if he is castrated. Lu Xiong would be devastated and we would have taken some revenge for Princess Qian.”

    Xiang Shaolong pondered on this for a while and questioned: “Where is Lu Bang being held and do people from the Premier Residence know about this?”

    Jing Jun led him past the main hall and towards the back hall. He happily reported: “Last night, I secretly brought everyone back here, including the young couple. Lu Xiong and his men are now in prison. Ai! There is a problem here. That kid is denying everything and the couple are terrified to know that their attackers are from Premier Residence. They did not want to provide evidence of their crime and kept pleading me to release them, saying that they will never come back to Xianyang City in the future.”

    Xiang Shaolong was agonized. Without witnesses, Lu Bang can instead accuse him power abuse and he will be in trouble. He asked: “Where is Second Brother?”

    Jing Jun sighed: “Since morning, he has been in a horrible mood. He slapped Lu Bang heavily after the interrogation barely began. Now, he is interrogating the young couple. I am really afraid he will resort to violence.”

    Xiang Shaolong understood Teng Yi’s character well. He panicked: “Let’s check on him first!”

    They increased their pace towards the inner hall where the couple is being held.

    Before they stepped over the door ledge, Teng Yi’s loud scolding can be heard. The men guarding the doors have a helpless look on their faces, signalling that the interrogation has been unfruitful.

    Xiang Shaolong entered the inner hall and was startled at the sight of the young couple in front of Teng Yi. The young couple exclaimed: “Benefactor!”

    Xiang Shaolong was amazed at the coincidence. It is the young couple he helped when he was on his way to meet with Tu Xian. He saved them in the market when they were chased by thugs and even gave them a large sum of money.

    Teng Yi was stunned: “You know Official Xiang?”

    Xiang Shaolong sincerely pleaded: “Let’s talk about that later! Mister and Madam have been assaulted by evil doers and why don’t you testify against them? We must not let them remain free and cause more trouble to other people.”

    This man named Zhou and his wife exchange a glance and resolutely promised: “We will do as Benefactor advised without the slightest hesitation.”

    Teng Yi cheered: “Both of you need not worry. I will get someone to bring you safely far away from here.”

    Xiang Shaolong simply added: “By tomorrow morning, both of you will be far away from danger.”

    By now, he has a good plan to deal with Lu Xiong.

    Lu Xiong is one of the culprits behind Zhao Qian’s death. He will surely take advantage of this golden opportunity to take revenge.

    After Xiao Pan finish hearing his story, he frowned: “The only criminal is Lu Bang. Moreover, he did not violate the woman yet. At the most, we can give him a severe beating.”

    Li Si smiled: “I think Commander Xiang has thought of a special plan already!”

    Xiang Shaolong smiled: “Nothing can hide from Official Li’s eyes. I planned to leak the news to Lu Xiong, deceiving him that his son has [email protected] and killed a woman. If he panics and barges into the Cavalry Command Centre to save his son, I have a way to trick him.”

    Xiao Pan thought it over and slowly asked: “What kind of a man is this Lu Xiong?”

    Xiang Shaolong and Li Si exchanged a glance of amazement.

    The Crown Prince Zheng is becoming more formidable and is developing his own thinking style and observations.

    Xiang Shaolong leisurely explained: “This is a man who takes shortcuts to success and is an idi0t who good at claiming credit for himself. Since he came to Qin, he has been the second most important man among Lu Buwei’s clansmen. He is so arrogant that it is rumoured that he does not pay respects to Guan Zhongxie despite being the assistant Imperial Infantry Commander.”

    Xiao Pan was stunned: “Why is Subject Xiang so familiar with Premier Residence’s developments?”

    Xiang Shaolong will naturally protect his spy Tu Xian and casually mentioned: “Lu Buwei can bribe my warrior and I can do the same.”

    Xiao Pan contemplated for a while and gingerly state; “If Lu Xiong is as what you had described, we can make use of him.”

    He turned to Li Si and instructed: “Subject Li please summon Lu Buwei, Lu Gong, Xu Xian, Wang Ling, Meng Ao, Cai Ze, Wang Wan and various officials for a meeting. I want to deprive Lu Xiong of any mental support and make him even more reckless.”

    Li Si was pleased and left to execute his order.

    Xiao Pan waited until only Xiang Shaolong and himself was left in the study before he happily cheered: “It will be even better if this matter is blown out of proportion. I can use this chance to show my authority and put down Lu Buwei. This traitor has been even more overbearing now that he has the support of Empress. He even proposed to Empress to promote himself to be the Regent of Qin. What a shameless cad!”

    Xiang Shaolong frowned: “What did Empress say?”

    Xiao Pan furiously disclosed: “Empress has been bewitched by Lao Ai. Except for matters regarding Master, she approves all his other requests. She has spoken to me twice regarding this matter already. Ai! I have been unable to sleep for the past two nights because of this as well.”

    Xiang Shaolong recalled that in the movie, people addressed Lu Buwei as Premier Mentor. ‘Mentor’ refers to a kind of officials that is found in the state of Qi which can also mean ‘Father.’ This will give Lu Buwei some sort of promotion and hint at his fatherly status. He could not help laughing: “Let’s make him a Premier Mentor instead and create more trouble for him.”

    Xiao Pan was elated and asked for the details.

    Xiang Shaolong added: “This must be done after the blood test or it will have the opposite effect.”

    He explained the meaning of Premier Mentor and its double meaning as well.

    Xiao Pan frowned: “Isn’t that asking me to acknowledge a traitor as my father?”

    Xiang Shaolong casually mentioned: “This is just a name without real authority and we have two advantages from this promotion. First, we assured this traitor of his position and he will not make any more ridiculous requests. Secondly, we can increase the dissatisfaction of Lu Gong and the military. With evidence that you are not his son, they will assume that he gave himself that title and will give him more trouble.”

    Xiao Pan was shocked: “How can Master leisurely think of such a unique position?”

    Xiang Shaolong was slightly awkward: “I am not sure too. The name just came up me all of a sudden.”

    Xiao Pan stared at him for a while and gently remarked: “Let me think about this further. Master! It is not that I do not trust you but this is an important issue and I want to hear Li Si’s opinion.”

    Xiang Shaolong was pleased: “I am more than happy to know that Crown Prince is taking up the responsibility of his own decision making. Seeing you grow up to be a great man is my greatest reward.”

    He stood up and bade farewell: “By now, Lu Xiong should have received my news. I should head back to handle him.”

    Xiao Pan stood up and stammered: “Can Master pay a visit to Empress? Only you can make Mother break out of Lao Ai’s control.”

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly laughed: “I’ll see what I can do!”

    Stepping out of the study, he was detained by Lord Changwen. Lord Changwen apologised: “Shaolong, please forgive me for divulging your whereabouts. My sister is waiting for you outside the palace. Hei! You should know that she is up to no good.”

    Xiang Shaolong is in a rush to return to the Cavalry Commander Centre to implement his trap to trick Lu Xiong. He was astounded: “Then I had better leave by another exit.”

    It is Lord Changwen’s turn to be astounded. He begged: “You must never do that or they will know that I tipped you off. Please go and humour them a bit! Take it that you are doing it on account of our friendship. I will buy you drinks tonight as a form of gratitude.”

    Xiang Shaolong sighed: “I have only heard of fathers doting their children but never heard of brothers doting their sister.”

    Lord Changwen smiled bitterly and replied in a low voice: “I can see that my sister has a favourable impression of Shaolong. Of course she does! She may not admit it but I can tell it from her joyful expression last night. I have very sharp eyes! Ha! She is a good catch!”

    Xiang Shaolong shook his head and smiled weakly: “It’s not funny. Let’s see what she is up to.”

    They continued chatting as they walked towards the palace gates. When they went through the corridor and was about to reach the palace gates, Lord Changwen slipped away.

    Xiang Shaolong hardened his resolve and stride towards the Eighteen Guardians who were waiting for him. From afar, he caught sight of Ying Ying and Lu Dan’er the two stubborn Qin girls. They were trying out his horse Jifeng. Wu Shu and the other Guardians could only stare at them helplessly.

    Ying Ying noticed him coming and whipped the horse, riding towards him, chirping: “Good day General Xiang. We are not convinced by your prowess and are coming to challenge you again.”

    Admiring her stubborn, cute and youthful demeanour, Xiang Shaolong wished he could leap up the horse, embrace her slender waist, lean against the back of her body and ride one big round around the city. Unfortunately, it can only be a fantasy. He bitterly smiled: “When can this come to a conclusion?”

    Jifeng stopped beside him and stretched its long neck, nuzzling him.

    Xiang Shaolong lovingly hugged Jifeng and led the horse with Ying Ying on it back to Lu Dan’er and the Guardians. He bitterly laughed: “I surrender. Can Miss have mercy on me and let me go?”

    Ying Ying was displeased: “How can you go back on your word? Aren’t you a mighty hero? I don’t care; you are coming with us to compete on horse riding followed by other contests.”

    Lu Dan’er welcomed with a smile: “When have you become another coward!”

    Xiang Shaolong almost exploded. He had a brainwave and suggested: “Fine. I will compete with you but first of all, let me return to the Command Centre and run an errand. After that, I will play with you girls.”

    Ying Ying agilely jumped off the horse and exclaimed: “Who is playing with you? I just saw that you may have some small abilities and wanted to see for myself how good you really are.”

    Lu Dan’er added: “Men are all like that. When you treat them well, they think they are very important. Hei! [email protected]!”

    Xiang Shaolong acted like he did not care and declared: “If you don’t allow me to return to the Command Centre, I will not compete with you. If you don’t treasure it, too bad!”

    Both girls were surprised: “Treasure?”

    Roaring with laughter, Xiang Shaolong leapt up his horse and bellowed: “Whatever! Brothers, let’s head back to the Centre.”

    His legs dug lightly into Jifeng and he galloped towards the main gate.

    When Xiang Shaolong and the two stubborn girls jumped down the horse, they can all sense that something is going on in the Command Centre.

    The area outside the main hall was crowded with Cavalry soldiers and everyone has an angry look on their faces. Sounds of scolding can be heard coming from inside the hall.

    Xiang Shaolong was secretly glad and led the girls into the hall. The soldiers saw that Xiang Shaolong has returned and made way for him. Someone whispered: “Commander, someone from the Imperial Infantry is causing trouble here.”

    ‘Imperial Commander is here!’ was announced. Accompanied by the two girls, Xiang Shaolong was feeling excited as he stepped into the hall.

    The hall was split into two groups.

    On one side were Teng Yi, Jing Jun and ten over cavalry leaders. On the other side were Lu Xiong and twenty odd Infantry escort soldiers.

    Xiang Shaolong winked and the Eighteen Guardians fanned out and surrounded Lu Xiong’s group.

    Lu Xiong did not even turn around and coldly laughed: “The man who can speak is finally back.”

    These words matched Lu Xiong’s attitude and mindset. He did not regard General Xiang Shaolong who is ranked two ranks higher than him. In fact, he did not even regard him at all.

    Ying Ying is naturally familiar with the Qin military. She leaned towards Xiang Shaolong’s ear and whispered: “Aren’t the Infantry under your control?”

    With her scent and breath on his ear, Xiang Shaolong was feeling ticklish and yet comfortable at the same time. He softly replied: “The two of you stay here obediently. Do not let them know that you are here. I will need you to be my witnesses.”

    The girls are delighted and did not take offence at his commanding tone. They squeezed into the crowd.

    Once they are in place, Xiang Shaolong sauntered up and stopped between Teng Yi and Jing Jun. Facing Lu Xiong whose face is as dark as charcoal, he feigned surprise: “Official Lu mentioned ‘the man who can speak’, may I know who he is?”

    Teng Yi and Jing Jun wanted to aggravate him and purposely laughed in response. The other cavalry soldiers followed their example and laughed as well.

    His eyes flashing with murder and anger, Lu Xiong hissed: “Of course I am referring to Commander Xiang. Aren’t you a man who can speak?”

    Xiang Shaolong’s eyes focused and him and harshly roared: “How dare you!”

    The entire hall became completely silent and the atmosphere became very tense.

    Lu Xiong can never imagine Xiang Shaolong to be rude to him as he is an important figure of the Premier Residence. His face changing colour, he realised that he had said something wrong and undeserving of his military rank. He was lost for words.

    Xiang Shaolong simply threatened: “Lu Xiong, you saw me and did not salute me. This is disrespectful. You even pass rude comments and disregard military subordination. Are you aware of your wrongdoing?”

    The arrogant Lu Xiong has his own methods. He coldly laughed: “If Commander felt that I have committed a wrongdoing, he may feel free to complain to Premier Lu.”

    Every cavalry soldier began to protest.

    Jing Jun cheekily asked: “If you are send to war, will you only report to Premier Lu and nobody else? Is he the only person who can command you? Are you going to send someone to Xianyang City to ask him regarding every single thing?”

    The Cavalry soldiers burst out laughing again. Even Ying Ying and Lu Dan’er were giggling too.

    Lu Xiong was made into a joke and could not take it lying down. He barked: “Jing Jun, who the he11 do you think you are, how dare you...”

    Teng Yi interrupted: “If he is nobody, you are even worse off. Both of you are assistant generals but Jing Jun is still half a rank higher than you.”

    Hearing his words, the hall broke out into laughter again. The two girls even clapped loudly in approval, and nobody is afraid of Lu Xiong anymore.

    Lu Xiong and his men have an ugly expression on their faces.

    Xiang Shaolong will not allow him to recompose himself. “Lu Xiong, you are too much! Kneel down!” He barked.

    Everyone present quietened down and waited for their reaction.

    Lu Xiong was shocked and he took a step back. He challenged: “Xiang Shaolong, you better not force me.”

    Teng Yi knew that the time is right. He ordered: “Men. Apprehend this criminal!”

    The Cavalry soldiers had expected this. Over ten men stepped forward.

    Originally, all Lu Xiong wanted is to save his own son. Under the ridicule of Xiang Shaolong and his men, he fell into their trap. Moreover, he has been arrogant because he enjoyed the backing of Lu Buwei. With his status, he will not allow himself to be arrested like a common criminal. Jiang! He drew out his sword and like a fool, he wildly challenged: “Who dares to arrest me?”

    His men originated from the Lu Family Warriors and are arrogant men who enjoyed Lu Buwei’s backing. Unafraid of a simple Cavalry Commander, they drew and brandished their weapons, surrounding and protecting Lu Xiong.

    Xiang Shaolong, Teng Yi and Jing Jun exchanged looks. First, they called back their cavalry soldiers who are waiting to attack. Xiang Shaolong then shook his head and sighed: “If Assistant Commander Lu is not going to drop your weapons and kneel down, acknowledging your mistakes, I will not be merciful.”

    Lu Xiong grinned: “What can you do to me?”

    Xiang Shaolong smiled and gestured with his hand.

    The Eighteen Guardians agilely armed themselves with their crossbows that were slanged on their backs. They loaded their crossbows and assumed fighting positions. They aimed their crossbows at the enemies and forced Lu Xiong and his men to a corner.

    When they could no longer retreat, Lu Xiong sobered up and stopped his men from withdrawing. He cried: “Xiang Shaolong! What do you mean by this?”

    Jing Jun laughed: “The meaning of your swords is the same meaning as our crossbows. What meaning can there be?”

    As the atmosphere is very tense, no one dared to make any noise. Only Ying Ying and Lu Dan’er cannot be bothered and giggled at Jing Jun’s joke.

    Lu Xiong spotted them and questioned in a deep voice: “Who are the two girls?”

    A Cavalry Captain shouted: “You did not even know the famous Miss Ying Ying and Miss Lu Dan’er. What kind of Assistant Commander are you?”

    Lu Xiong was flabbergasted and felt that he is at a serious disadvantage.

    If there were only Cavalry soldiers around, he can deny everything regardless of his mistakes. With these outsiders, he is really in trouble.

    Xiang Shaolong saw his expression changing and knew that he is thinking of backing down. He will not give him any chance to apologise and roared: “If you are not throwing down your weapons and kneeling down, you will regret it!”

    He insisted on Lu Xiong kneeling down to make things difficult for him.

    Lu Xiong was hesitating for a while. Before he had a chance to reply, Xiang Shaolong ordered: “Shoot their legs!”

    The mechanism sounded and eighteen arrows shot out.

    With this kind of distance and environment, there is no place to hide. Eighteen of Lu Xiong’s followers fell down, all with an arrow wound on their thighs.

    The crossbows were reloaded immediately.

    Lu Xiong may not be injured but his fighting will is gone. Afraid that Xiang Shaolong may really kill him, he angrily threw down his long sword and cursed: “You are good! I want to see how you are going to account for this to Premier Lu.”

    The remaining seven of his uninjured followers threw down their swords and surrendered.

    Ying Ying and Lu Dan’er did not anticipate that Xiang Shaolong will really attack them and were dazed.

    Xiang Shaolong gestured again. The cavalry soldiers crowded forward, tying Lu Xiong and his men up. Lu Xiong and his men were then forced to kneel down.

    Within Xianyang City, the Cavalry are considered a prestigious force and will not tolerate these insults. They are impressed and happy with Xiang Shaolong’s brave actions.

    Ignoring the injured men, Xiang Shaolong faced Lu Xiong and plainly asked: “Assistant Commander Lu, why are you doing all these? Your son only injured a few men and you resort to violence?”

    Lu Xiong raised his head in surprise: “What?”

    Xiang Shaolong gently reminded: “Didn’t you hear what I said? Anyway, it doesn’t matter now. We shall see Premier Lu now and see which one of us is disrespectful and insubordinate.”

    Lu Xiong’s face was drained of colour. In the moment, he knew that he had been too reckless and was tricked by Xiang Shaolong’s well-devised plan.

  4. #144
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
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    Book 13 Chapter 06 – Shi Huang Shows His Might


    There is a Qin court in the west of Xianyang Palace. Xiao Pan is seated on the dragon throne on a platform that was raised three steps above the ground. Li Si the Imperial Librarian is seated behind him.

    Empress Zhu Ji is seated one step below him.

    The high ranking officials are seated on two rows on each side.

    On one side were Lu Buwei, Cai Ze, Wang Wan and Meng Ao; on the other side were Xu Xian, Lu Gong and Wang Ling.

    While they were in discussion over the Zhengguo Canal, a serious looking Lord Changping came in to report that Xiang Shaolong seeks an urgent audience. Everyone was caught by surprise.

    Xiao Pan had expected this and order Lord Changping to bring Xiang Shaolong in at once.

    Xiang Shaolong strode in and paid his respects to everyone. He detailed the entire situation and added: “Initially, this matter falls under my personally responsibility. However, Lu Xiong kept demanding he wanted Premier Lu to judge him. As this matter concerned Premier Lu’s reputation, I dare not act rashly and reported this to Crown Prince, Empress and Premier Lu.”

    Lu Buwei is so angry his face is almost green. He furiously scolded: “Where is that son of a b1tch?”

    From this sentence, everyone can sense how domineering Lu Buwei is.

    Under such a situation, the Crown Prince Xiao Pan should express his views first before others can comment. Apparently, Lu Buwei’s comment is tantamount to insubordination.

    Moreover, he is scolding Lu Xiong like a parent and not like a high ranking official.

    Xiao Pan was prepared and started: “Right Premier need not by angry first; we must first investigate and clarify all the details.”

    He turned to Zhu Ji and inquired: “Empress! Am I doing it correctly?”

    Zhu Ji looked down at the awe-inspiring Xiang Shaolong and her eyes are filled with mixed emotions. Noticing Lu Buwei also winking non-stop at her, she slowly sighed: “Yes. We shall let you decide.”

    Under such circumstances, she can only support her beloved son.

    Lu Gong and Xu Xian were stunned that this young Crown Prince is capable of handling such a complicated case.

    Everyone can tell that this is actually a clash between Lu Buwei and Xiang Shaolong. It can be an easy or complicated case.

    Xiao Pan suppressed his delight and ignored Lu Buwei. To Xiang Shaolong, he calmly enquired: “Lu Bang did not successfully committed his act as he was stopped but this attempted [email protected] is still a serious crime. Does Subject Xiang have any witnesses?”

    Xiang Shaolong responded: “The young couple are right outside the hall. We can summon them and Crown Prince can question them.”

    Cai Ze interrupted: “The Crown Prince’s time is precious and need not fret over such a small matter. The law bureau can handle this case. I suggest that we must first clarify whether Assistant Commander Lu was misled and thus clashed with Commander Xiang. The Imperial Army are two important pillars of our City defences. It is important to maintain good relationships between them and bury the hatchet.”

    These words are obviously meant to help Lu Xiong.

    Cai Ze is an ex-Premier and is well respected. If this was another case, Xiao Pan may relent but in this case, he will push his way through.

    Xu Xian and Lu Gong were about to say something but swallowed their words for the time being.

    Lu Buwei’s expression relaxed. Just as everyone except Xiang Shaolong and Li Si expected Xiao Pan to accept Cai Ze’s suggestion, this future Qin Shi Huang slammed his armrest and stood up. He stepped down to Zhu Ji’s front and coldly retorted: “Subject Cai’s words make no sense! Since Qin has undergone Shang Yang’s reforms, we hold military law as our top priority. The strict chain of command and our obedient soldiers have made our Qin army invincible.”

    He stepped down even lower to the lowest step and scanned the officials with his sharp eyes and officially state: “If someone violates the military law and is insubordinate but we did not handle this matter well, it will have further repercussions on the morale of our soldiers. I will judge this case personally. If it is proven that Assistant Commander Lu is guilty, we will punish him according to military law.”

    Everyone present was dazed as nobody imagined a young teenager using such strong and domineering words.

    Lu Buwei and Zhu Ji reacted as if this is the first time they met Xiao Pan.

    Only Lu Si is jumping for joy as these words originated from him.

    Lu Gong barked: “Great! This is befitting our Crown Prince. Strict military command with fair rewards and punishment has always been the backbone of our great Qin army.”

    Xiao Pan smiled but was flustered when everyone is now staring at him. He hurriedly went back to his seat and in a weaker tone, he asked: “Does anyone else have anything to say?”

    Cai Ze has been scolded by him and dare not voice his opinions. He lowered his head with dejection.

    Lu Buwei was furious and was in a dilemma regarding Xiao Pan. He dared not rebut him as he knew that his words make sense. He could only look towards Zhu Ji and hoped that she will speak up for him.

    Zhu Ji knew that Lu Buwei is hinting to her for assistance but because the person involved is Xiang Shaolong, she pretended not to notice his hints.

    Meng Ao dryly coughed: “Shaolong and Lu Xiong are people that I am well-acquainted with. By right, such a thing should not have happened. I am guessing that this could arise from the differences between the Cavalry and the Infantry. Moreover, both men are newly promoted and it can be easy for them to misunderstand each other.”

    Zhu Ji finally nodded: “Great General Meng’s words make sense. Crown Prince must conduct this investigation properly and not affect the harmony of the Qin military.”

    Lu Buwei was relieved that Zhu Ji finally spoke out. He recommended: “This matter can be handed over to me. I guarantee that all violators will be punished accordingly.”

    Xiao Pan, Xiang Shaolong and Li Si were at their wits end. Xu Xian, who has yet to speak, suddenly stood up and came to Xiang Shaolong’s side. He plainly state: “I wish to leave with Shaolong for a minute. When I am back, I will voice my opinions. Will Crown Prince please consent?”

    Except for Xiang Shaolong, Li Si and Xiao Pan, everyone else were shocked and wondered what he is up to.

    Xiang Shaolong cheerfully left with Xu Xian. Wang Wan wanted to take this opportunity to say something but Xiao Pan raised his hand to stop him, declaring: “Wait till the Left Premier is back!”

    Wang Wan did not expect Xiao Pan to be so forceful and swallowed his words.

    The Court was strangely quiet.

    Everyone could not help looking at Xiao Pan and assessed him as if this is the first time they saw him.

    He still resembles a child but is extremely calm and confident. Sitting steadily in his throne, his eyes are shining mysteriously and no one can guess what he is thinking.

    Zhu Ji had to admit her own son is now a young man.

    For the past few days, she has been indulging with Lao Ai and enjoying the pleasures of the flesh, numbing herself from the harsh realities of life.

    In her extraordinary life, the four men who made an impact are King Zhuangxiang, Lu Buwei, Xiang Shaolong and her son. But fate has caused her to share a complicated relationship with these men.

    Especially Lu Buwei who poisoned King Zhuangxiang to death and made her very guilty when she faced Xiang Shaolong and Xiao Pan. Now, she must excruciating bear with Lu Buwei to ensure the survival of herself and her son.

    Only Lao Ai can make her forget everything.

    In this instant, she can feel a big gap between herself and her son. She felt like she did not understand him as well as before.

    Lu Buwei is feeling even more ironic.

    All along, he has been treating this ‘son’ affectionately and did his best to cultivate him to be a useful man. In the future, this father and son team can control Qin hand in hand, unite the world and build an everlasting dynasty.

    That is one of the reasons he wants to kill Xiang Shaolong; he will not allow Xiao Pan’s love for him to be diluted.

    Never in his wildest dreams did he expect Xiao Pan to clash with him. In this instant, he clearly felt some sort of conflict.

    He has yet to see through that this is all part of an elaborate scheme conjured by Xiang Shaolong, Xiao Pan and Li Si. He simply assumed that Xiao Pan is judging this case based on the justice system.

    He is well aware of Lu Xiong’s idiocy and incompetence. Otherwise, he will not make Guan Zhongxie the main commander and Lu Xiong as the assistant commander.

    Xiang Shaolong’s elimination of Zhu Meng is a great blow to him and caused him to have some manpower issues. Now, Lu Xiong is in trouble too.

    Now, his main focus is to kill Xiang Shaolong. No one must stand between him and his dream.

    Cai Ze and Wang Wan who switched sides to Lu Buwei had a rude awakening and realised that the ultimate authority lies with Xiao Pan and not with Lu Buwei, Empress Ji or the other officials. As he grows up eventually, Xiao Pan will be the official King of Qin.

    Meng Ao’s thinking is much simpler.

    His present success is due to Lu Buwei’s support and is fiercely loyal to him. His military prowess is as good as, if not stronger than Wang Ling, making him Lu Buwei’s biggest supporter. Regardless of what might happens, he will definitely stick to Lu Buwei.

    Wang Ling’s thinking more complicated.

    This Great General of Qin is someone who favours war and expansion.

    Only by attacking the six states can he fulfil his life purpose. That is the reason he is leaning towards Lu Buwei. Lu Buwei is a courageous risk taker and they have a common goal of annihilating the six states.

    Out of a sudden, he can sense that the young King is already exhibiting the same characteristics, ambition and energy, forcing him to reconsider his options.

    Lu Gong, the most respected General, is someone who is an advocate of Qin supremacy and hated Lu Buwei from the beginning. Due to Xiang Shaolong, he has ditched his worries and believed that Xiao Pan is King Zhuangxiang’s flesh and blood. With Xiao Pan’s showing his might, he is even more convinced to support this future King.

    With everyone deep in their own thoughts, the room was strangely silent.

    In a short while, Xu Xian and Xiang Shaolong returned to the room.

    Xiang Shaolong stood beside Wang Ling while Xu Xian proceeded forward to face Xiao Pan.

    Xu Xian and Xiang Shaolong paid their respects and Xu Xian started: “I wish to inform Crown Prince and Empress that I can guarantee that this matter is not caused by a misunderstanding between the Cavalry and Infantry.”

    Lu Buwei is annoyed: “How can Left Premier be so certain?”

    In his usual affable manner, Xu Xian disclosed: “In the streets of Xianyang City, Lu Bang did harass the wife of a young man. I happened to pass by personally and stopped him. When I rebuke him, I can already sense that Lu Bang is dissatisfied. Just now, I went out to see if it was the same couple who was involved and it was them indeed. Therefore, it is definitely not the Cavalry soldiers making a false accusation at Lu Bang. There are also credible witnesses who saw Lu Xiong barging into the Cavalry Command Centre to demand for his son. He was also the first one to draw a weapon and disobeyed his superior’s orders.

    Finally, everyone understood his reason for leaving the room and even Meng Ao is speechless.

    Lu Buwei wished he can personally strangle Lu Bang. Despite Xu Xian ticking him off, he still got the guts to carry out this foolish deed.

    Xiao Pan coldly snorted: “Lu Bang must have decided to kill the couple after his crime; thus, he wasn’t concerned about Left Premier’s advice.”

    Everyone’s heart turned cold, knowing that this young Crown Prince has a killing intention.

    This is the wondrous part of the plan. With Xu Xian bearing witness, no one would guess that it was Jing Jun who masterminded Lu Bang’s capture.

    Zhu Ji frowned deeply: “Lu Bang is guilty of his crime but how does Left Premier know that Lu Xiong drew his weapon first and disobeyed his superior’s orders?”

    Xu Xian plainly state: “Because Ying Ying and Lu Dan’er are present and can verify this.”

    Lu Gong was stunned: “Why is Little Dan’er there?”

    Lu Buwei coldly laughed: “Can Shaolong please explain this strange occurrence?”

    Everyone’s eyes turned to Xiang Shaolong.

    Xu Xian added: “I have questioned Shaolong about this. We need to summon Lord Changwen to give a proper explanation.”

    Xiao Pan ordered: “Summon Lord Changwen!”

    The palace guard at the door left to summon Lord Changwen.

    Receiving his order, Lord Changwen rushed over and paid his respects to everyone. He continued to reveal that Ying Ying and Lu Dan’er detained Xiang Shaolong at the palace gates and wanted him to compete with them.

    Lu Buwei’s expression became very ugly. He stepped out and kneeled down, pleading: “Lu Xiong is my man and it is my fault that he is insubordinate. Please punish me instead.”

    Even Xiang Shaolong is caught unaware by this turn of event. Lu Buwei has shouldered the blame on himself and Zhu Ji will not allow Xiao Pan to make things difficult for Lu Buwei.

    Zhu Ji expectedly interrupted: “Premier please rise. Allow me to speak to the Crown Prince before we pass judgement.”

    Lu Buwei knew that Zhu Ji will protect him from Xiao Pan. He continued kneeling and ‘agonizingly’ exclaimed: “Empress need not say more. I deserved to be punished!”

    Zhu Ji secretly cursed him for putting on such an act but was helpless at the same time. She whispered to Xiao Pan: “Right Premier has accumulated many merits and may not be able to control his large forces well. Crown Prince must be lenient.”

    Xiao Pan was expressionless and silent for some time while everyone sat there anticipating his judgement. Ultimately, he declared: “With Right Premier’s intervention, father and son Lu Xiong may be spared from death. But this matter concerns our military morale and everyone including Lu Xiong will be sacked from their military positions and can never rejoin the army. Lu Bang will be sentenced to fifty strokes of the pole for his attempted crime. As Lu Xiong’s direct supervisor, Guan Zhongxie did not set a good example and will be demoted by one rank. The Imperial Infantry Commander will be assigned to Commander Xiang for the time being. Right Premier, please rise.”

    Zhu Ji is completely blown away and Lu Buwei is completely swept off his feet. He unsteadily stood up and forgot to give his thanks.

    Xiang Shaolong went forward and kneeled down, accepting his assignment. He secretly thought that this multiple combo attack which gave him control over the Imperial Infantry must have come from Li Si.

    Xiao Pan fiercely stood up and coldly barked: “This matter shall be decided then. Court dismissed!”

    Everyone kneeled down immediately.

    Xiao Pan helped Zhu Ji up and they left with Li Si under the escorts of the palace guards.

    Xiang Shaolong was experiencing mixed emotions. He knew that he, like the other generals and officials, have finally felt the forceful and suffocating aura of the future Qin Shi Huang.

    And he is still a teenager.

    To avoid Ying Ying and Lu Dan’er, he intentionally left with Lu Gong, Xu Xian and Wang Ling.

    The moment they stepped out of the hall, Lu Buwei and Meng Ao are waiting for them. When they saw Xiang Shaolong, Lu Buwei assured: “Lu Xiong is the culprit behind this incident, The Crown Prince may have let him off lightly but I will censure him myself. Shaolong need not hold it against him anymore.”

    Lu Gong and the other generals were surprised at Lu Buwei’s forthcoming attitude.

    Only Xiang Shaolong knew that Lu Buwei is determined to kill him at the three-day hunting fair that begins the day after tomorrow, which is why he is putting up a friendly demeanour. Mo Ao and Guan Zhongxie’s assassination plan must be a flawless one that will take his life for sure.

    Xiang Shaolong pretended to be embarrassed and apologised: “I am no other choice and seek Premier Lu’s forgiveness.”

    Lu Buwei laughed loudly and chatted casually with Lu Gong and the rest. He then accompanied Xiang Shaolong out of the palace, leaving Ying Ying and Lu Dan’er staring at him furiously and helplessly.

    Observing Lu Buwei’s friendly manner as if nothing had happened, Xiang Shaolong was secretly in admiration.

    The most powerful strategy is to hide a knife behind your smile!

  5. #145
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
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    Book 13 Chapter 07 – Hope At Death’s Door


    Lu Buwei insisted on sending Xiang Shaolong home. Resistance is futile and he joined him in his luxurious carriage.

    His carriage drove past the almost completed new Premier Residence. Lu Buwei proudly pointed: “After the hunting fair, I will move to this place with the best Fengshui in Xianyang City. But Mister Zou mentioned that after eight years, the Fengshui will move into Xianyang Palace. Ha! That is the same time as the Crown Prince coronation. What a coincidence!”

    Xiang Shaolong knew nuts about Fengshui and acted according to his knowledge of history. Upon hearing this news, he was in shock and dare not belittle Zou Yan the astrologer and philosopher.

    Lu Buwei stretched lazily and smiled: “With eight years of good luck, I can accomplish many things!”

    Xiang Shaolong was full of admiration. Lu Buwei had just been defeated but he is truly not bothered. Like a shrewd businessman, he did not mind losing out this once as he has other means of fighting back.

    Lu Buwei suddenly hugged his shoulder intimately and smiled: “The new Premier Residence has everything except a good son-in-law. Shaolong should understand my intention! Now that you have seen Niang Rong, I believe you would agree with me that she is an excellent catch! She is my favourite daughter.”

    Xiang Shaolong sighed to himself. This is the last time he can mend fences with Lu Buwei.

    Originally a businessman, this Qin Premier cooperated with him because there are benefits to be reaped. Next, he tried to kill him because he will benefit from his death. Presently, he is trying to secure his loyalty again to benefit himself.

    He is a man who is focused on benefits and power. Everything else is unimportant.

    If it was anybody else, that person would bear some grudges after being defeated. Lu Buwei did not bear any grudges at all but treated Xiang Shaolong even better than before.

    From these, he concluded that even if he became his son-in-law, he can still be a sacrificial pawn in the political game. Lu Xiong is an example.

    Xiang Shaolong can almost feel that Lu Buwei wanted to turn Qin into his own country via Xiao Pan. He may even want to be the King of Qin one day.

    Lu Buwei saw that he did not reject outright and thought that he was tempted. Patting his shoulder, he added: “Think about it! Give me an answer the next time we meet. No matter what, I will punish Lu Xiong that idi0t.”

    The carriage came to a halt and they have arrived at the main gate of the Command Centre.

    Xiang Shaolong gave his thanks and dismounted from his carriage. He is very confident that Lu Buwei will ask him for his reply during the hunting fair. If his answer is ‘no’, he will proceed to assassinate him.

    Back at the Command Centre, everyone is full of praise and respect for him. Xiang Shaolong realised that Xiao Pan had gained the respect of the Qin Court and he had gained the respect of the Imperial Army. In the future, no one will dare to question his authority.

    Teng Yi and Jing Jun had returned earlier. The moment they saw each other, they could not help but have a good laugh. Lu Xiong’s career is over and it is more satisfying than killing him.

    Teng Yi stopped laughing and officially state: “Even Guan Zhongxie the Infantry Commander has been demoted. This kid must have a lot of scores to settle with Lu Buwei.”

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly laughed: “We will soon be fighting him openly as he had just brought up the marriage proposal again. He must have an answer by the next time we meet.”

    Jing Jun blinked: “That Lu Niang Rong is quite attractive. Why don’t you marry her first for fun and take revenge at the same time?”

    Teng Yi furiously barked: “What kind of person do you think Third Brother is?”

    Jing Jun shut up at once.

    Xiang Shaolong sighed: “This is a troublesome issue. If we reject him, Lu Buwei will attack us but I cannot be bothered anymore.”

    Teng Yi was about to say something when an attendant reported that Ying Ying and Lu Dan’er are here to harass him again.

    Xiang Shaolong and the two girls rode out of the city along the official roads. Riding down a slope, they came to a piece of flat grassland. It is the middle of Spring and the grass is jade green. With these two stubborn but beautiful girls accompanying him, all his worries disappeared and he was in high spirits.

    Ying Ying rode cheerfully to his side and pointed to a hill nearby, stating: “That is Horse-resting hill. On the hill is a tall and ancient cypress tree with a spring beside it. That shall be our finishing line and whoever reaches first shall be the winner. For the next three months, the loser must pay obeisance to the winner every time they meet.”

    On his other side, Lu Dan’er giggled: “Of course it is not a simple horse race. You can use any method to prevent your opponent from winning but the rider and horse must not be injured. Do you understand?”

    Xiang Shaolong was astounded: “The horse will sprint very quickly and how can there be any time to attack the opponent?”

    Ying Ying shot him a look and used her long legs to dig into her horse’s stomach and rode off. She smiled like the Spring wind: “How would I know?”

    Lu Dan’er sped off at the same time.

    Xiang Shaolong is used to their ‘ruthless methods’ and did not have time to complain about their ‘false start’. He rode Jifeng and began to chase them.

    In terms of horse riding, he only learnt about it when he came to these ancient times. Compared to Wang Jian who can eat and sleep on horseback, he is far behind. But in terms of speed, he can easily win them with Jifeng. He thought about the girls helping him to trap Lu Xiong and did not mind losing to them and make them happy in the process. After all, paying respects to pretty girls is something fun to him.

    With this mindset, he lost the will to fight and rode leisurely towards the goal, trailing the tails of the two horses in front of him.

    He gradually left the grasslands behind.

    Xiang Shaolong could not help but think about Zhao Ya.

    If he can really kill Tian Dan and avenge Shan Rou, she should be in Xianyang City by the time he comes back.

    After so many twists and turns, he must treat her well and provide her with a comfortable life for the rest of her days.

    In front of him, the two girls rode into a forest.

    Xiang Shaolong turned his thoughts to Qin Qing.

    Love is a funny thing. Opposites do attract which best describes their relationship. They need not be in an official relationship; all they need is the special feeling whenever they meet and the excitement of eating the forbidden fruit. If they can stay like this forever, it would be perfect. The problem is one day, they may cross the line and it will be too late for regrets.

    In the 21st century, he would never stutter in front of a beautiful girl. But the inevitable has happened, showing how much he has changed.

    Deep in his thoughts, he came to the forest and entered it.

    Occasionally, he caught sight of the back of the two girls.

    Ladies of these historical times mature very early. It may be due to them getting married at fourteen years old which is very normal. Ying Ying and Lu Dan’er are barely fifteen or sixteen but are like flowers in full blossom. Moreover, they have picked up horse riding, sword fighting and archery skills. With a good figure, they are more enticing compared to girls from the six states. He would be lying if he said he is not tempted by them.

    But Xiang Shaolong had no desire to be involved with them.

    Firstly, he had no desire to get involved in new relationships, especially with Lu Dan’er. She is one of the girls shortlisted to marry Xiao Pan. If he gets involved with her, it is equivalent to him competing with Xiao Pan.

    This is not the 21st century where people have one night stands. Additionally, she comes from a prestigious family. Anyone who made love to her must be responsible for marrying her. What Xiang Shaolong fears the most now is responsibility to pretty ladies. The only exception is Qin Qing, whom he is troubled over.

    Still thinking about her, he suddenly felt something was amiss.

    He caught sight of a black figure from the corner of his eye and he looked over in that direction. A net was thrown towards his head and the attacker was hiding behind a short tree.

    Xiang Shaolong could have unsheathe Bloodwave and chopped at the net.

    But the net suddenly tightened and was intertwined with Bloodwave. The net continued to pull Bloodwave away from him.

    Xiang Shaolong was amused. Even if the two girls combined their strength, they are no match for him.

    Without thinking, he pulled hard at the sword and wanted to cut the net into two.

    Like a bolt out of nowhere, an unbeatable strong force pulled back and Xiang Shaolong was flabbergasted. He fell down his horse with his sword and landed squarely on his face.

    A rider-less Jifeng galloped a few steps forward and stopped. It turned back and looked at Xiang Shaolong with a quizzical look on its face.

    The opponent continued to pull very hard. Helplessly, Xiang Shaolong had to let go and lost his sword.

    Shrill giggles of the two girls can be heard from the bushes.

    Xiang Shaolong realised that they had used the horse’s strength to steal his sword. Exasperated, he continued to lie on the grass and gazed up at the blue sky and white clouds.

    Soon, the two attractive girls appeared by his side. Bending down to look at their defeated opponent, they were still laughing hysterically with satisfaction.

    Ying Ying chirped: “You are so useless. Next time, we will not be bothered with you.”

    Xiang Shaolong could feel that his body is tired. Lying comfortably, he smiled: “You are ignoring me for good? Nothing can be better than that.”

    Lu Dan’er placed Bloodwave beside his face and unhappily retorted: “[email protected] Do you think we longed after you? I wonder why Ji Yanran married you. You cannot even protect your own sword.”

    Ying Ying stomped her feet whining: “Dan’er! Why are you still talking to him? Are you deaf? He said it would be great if we ignore him. Let’s go! I never want to see him again.”

    Lu Dan’er is still hesitating when the incensed Ying Ying dragged her away.

    When the galloping sounds have faded, Jifeng came back to him. It lowered its head and stared at him.

    Xiang Shaolong sat up with a bitter smile. It is better this way but he still feared that they will make trouble for him.

    Ying Ying could not stand his joke as she had high regards and expectations of him. Therefore, she was especially angry.

    In this instant, Jifeng was alerted and its ears straightened.

    His sixth sense told him something was wrong. He slapped Jifeng on the rump and roared: “Go!”

    Jifeng could understand him due to their constant interaction. It galloped non-stop away from him.

    Simultaneously, Xiang Shaolong rolled behind the small tree where the two girls were hiding earlier.

    The crossbow mechanism can be heard.

    Ten over arrows whished through the forest.

    By then, Xiang Shaolong had rolled out from the other side and is now behind a giant tree. From his waist, he retrieved two flying needles.

    His attackers must have followed them from the city. When the two girls have left, they made their move.

    He was caught unprepared as he did not expect Lu Buwei to ambush him right now. If he was killed, he will be the main suspect.

    Swishing sounds were heard and an arrow came flying at him from the left.

    Xiang Shaolong quickly evaded. The arrow flew past his face and embedded itself in the tree behind him. It was a close shave.

    He somersaulted and continued to roll toward the archer.

    Hiding behind a tree, the masked attacker was about to load another arrow when Xiang Shaolong’s Bloodwave has pierced his body.

    From the corner of his eyes, he saw some human silhouettes. He did not have time to turn around and shot out his flying needles. Two tragic cries were heard one after another.

    Xiang Shaolong knew he cannot stop moving and rolled into another bush. Four arrows shot past the place he used to stand, showing how ruthless and desperate his attackers are.

    Listening to the footsteps behind him, Xiang Shaolong counted at least twenty enemies.

    He sheathed his long sword and retrieved two flying needles in each hand. He shot the needles behind him based on the footsteps he heard.

    A tragic cry was heard behind him. Out of the four needles, one found its target.

    The enemies hurriedly took cover.

    Until now, they have only used crossbows against him. It is fortunate that they feared his flying needles and dared not act rashly. Otherwise, he would have been killed.

    But this is not good enough. With so many enemies against him, he will also die if they managed to surround him.

    His only escape is through Jifeng whom he had chased away. If he can get on horseback, he has a chance to escape.

    Xiang Shaolong continued to roll forward and was about to reach another tree when his thigh was in excruciating pain. An arrow had grazed his thigh, taking away large chunks of his pants, skin and flesh. Fresh blood began to pour out of his wound. He grunted and moved behind the tree.

    Loud footsteps can be heard.

    Xiang Shaolong looked behind him and saw another masked man pouncing at him with his crossbow. He frantically shot out another flying needle.

    The man was hit on the face and fell backwards. His arrow shot aimlessly into the air.

    Another three arrows were shot at him. Luckily, he had shrank back in time.

    Fresh blood flowed out of his wound uncontrollably and he was in great pain.

    Xiang Shaolong knew that this is a crucial moment. He gathered his will to survive and forcefully rolled forward and hid behind a pile of rocks. His head started to swirl and he knew that it is a sign of losing too much blood. He quickly drew out a dagger and cut a portion of his long sleeve, using the sleeve to bandage his wound.

    Rustling sounds were heard as the enemies neared his hiding place.

    Xiang Shaolong was depressed. His injured leg will restrict his movement and he will be surrounded by the assassins before he can meet up with Jifeng.

    In this instant, he saw a tripping rope tied between two trees.

    Xiang Shaolong’s mind was turning over furiously. He guessed that this must be the second trap Ying Ying and Lu Dan’er had laid for him. He looked closer and saw another two tripping ropes further down the road.

    The footsteps are getting closer.

    Xiang Shaolong is exhilarated and annoyed at the same time. He was glad that Jifeng did not come this way and that this is his only chance of escape. Motivated, he jumped up and ran madly ahead. Concurrently, he whistled to summon Jifeng.

    Swishing sounds were heard.

    Xiang Shaolong leapt over the tripping ropes and rolled forward.

    Arrows flew past his head.

    He bounced up and Jifeng’s galloping sounds can be heard.

    A whistle was heard behind him and the enemies begin to run after him without any reservations.

    Xiang Shaolong weaved in and out of the trees and pushed his speed to the maximum, luring the enemies to fire their crossbows.

    Reloading a crossbow is a troublesome chore which may even require using one’s legs. After firing a shot, the enemies must stop temporarily to reload. If they did not want to lose sight of him, they must put their crossbows aside and focus on the chase.

    Without the threat of the crossbows, it is now a running competition.

    Jifeng suddenly appeared a hundred yards ahead on his left and galloped towards him.

    Due to his thigh injury, Xiang Shaolong was limping and his speed is dropping. Fortunately, the crossbows have stopped firing and only running sounds can be heard.

    It was followed by cries of surprise. Obviously, they have been tripped by the ropes.

    Xiang Shaolong took this opportunity to shout: “The enemies have been trapped. Attack!”

    Behind him, the enemies are in chaos.

    By now, Jifeng has reached his side. Xiang Shaolong leapt up his horse and galloped away horizontally.

    He turned around for a quick glance and saw several masked men who had tripped down. Among those who are still standing, he saw a familiar figure. This figure drew out his long sword and attack Jifeng. His sword stances and strokes are perfect.

    Xiang Shaolong used his own sword to block his attack and laughed loudly: “Dan Chu is indeed worthy of being Chancellor’s Tian top general!”

    He dug his heels lightly into Jifeng and rode off like a fleeting cloud.

  6. #146
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
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    Book 13 Chapter 08 – Deeply Intertwined


    In the Wu Residence, Teng Yi bandaged his wound personally and observed: “If the arrow is shot an inch higher, Third Brother would not be able to come back alive.”

    At this juncture, Jing Jun came back and reported: “I finished my checks. Dan Chu has yet to come back and the two stubborn girls are safely home.”

    Xiang Shaolong frowned and thought aloud: “I am dead sure one of the Qin Court officials tipped Tian Dan off. Otherwise, he would not have found such an excellent opportunity.”

    Beside him, Tao Fang nodded: “If Shaolong is killed, everyone will suspect Lu Buwei. Qin will be in chaos.”

    Jing Jun interrupted: “Will it be Lu Buwei who wanted to kill you through Tian Dan? After you are dead, he will push the blame to someone else!”

    Teng Yi countered: “Not likely. The attackers would have killed Ying Ying and Lu Dan’er as well. It is lucky that they left earlier and were not ambushed!”

    Xiang Shaolong sighed coldly. His earlier ambush and escape is an once-in-a-lifetime experience. If not for the girls laying the tripping ropes and caused the enemies to lose their footing, he will not be able to survive.

    Tao Fang added: “We should count our blessings that the arrows are not lace with poison. It must have been a hasty decision and they did not have much time to prepare. Otherwise, the consequences might be different.”

    Pausing, he continued: “We must investigate and find out which high-ranking official went to see Tian Dan after the Court was dismissed. We must know who the spy is or we will continue to suffer in his hands.”

    Xiang Shaolong advised: “It will not be easy! To conceal their secret relationship, they will have a covert communication method that will not be easy to discover.”

    Teng Yi cut in: “Based on the fact that they managed to guess that Ying Ying and Lu Dan’er will bring you out of the city, this spy has a deep knowledge of Xianyang City affairs and may even be someone close to them. From this deduction, your assassins are neither Lu Buwei nor Meng Ao.”

    Jing Jun was about to voice his opinion when Wu Shu came running in and reported: “There is a letter from the farm!”

    Xiang Shaolong was elated and took the bamboo container from him. He opened up the lid and withdrew a letter. As expected, it was the forged letter from Lord Chunshen to Li Yuan.

    As everyone scrutinized the letter, they were awe-struck.

    Tao Fang inquired: “How does Shaolong plan to hand this letter to Li Yuan?”

    Xiang Shaolong smiled: “Prepare the carriage. I have to trouble you people to support me to visit Lu Gong.”

    When he got down the carriage and his injured foot touched the ground, sharp pain shot right into his heart. Xiang Shaolong kicked himself for being too complacent.

    Wu Yan Zhu and another Guardian Jing Bieli hurriedly supported him on both sides. Together, they slowly moved towards Lu Gong’s main hall.

    The gatekeepers looked at him with astonishment.

    With a bitter smile on his face, Xiang Shaolong crossed the door ledge and sat down in the inner hall. The two Guardians left and waited for him beyond the doors.

    A servant girl served tea and secretly peeped at him, wanting to say something but held her tongue at the last moment.

    Xiang Shaolong was curious and wanted to ask her what she wanted to say. A yellow silhouette flew in suddenly like the wind and sat down opposite him with a complacent look on her face. Of course it is Lu Dan’er.

    Her lips were curled up and she proudly teased: “To think the high and mighty Imperial Cavalry Commander had a simple fall but broke his leg. What a joke and an embarrassment.”

    Xiang Shaolong gazed at her arrogant face and bitterly smiled: “Didn’t you girls decide to leave me alone? Why is Miss Dan’er so interested in me now?”

    Lu Dan’er was slightly stunned and countered: “Who is interested in you? It is you who come over to my house and yet you dare to sprout such nonsense?”

    Xiang Shaolong smiled: “It is my fault. Miss Dan’er, please do not be angry anymore.”

    Lu Dan’er was boiling mad and stared viciously at him. To the maid who was giggling at the side, she barked: “What are you looking at! Get lost!”

    The servant girl panicked and quickly left in a flustered manner.

    The atmosphere became awkward as neither of them knew what to say. Lu Dan’er is speechless for a while when Xiang Shaolong’s heart softened and started another conversation: “The day after tomorrow is the hunting fair. Has Miss Dan’er finished your preparations?”

    Lu Dan’er acted as if she cannot be bothered: “Who are you to mind my business? Hng! You do not know what is good what for and even made Sister Ying cry. I will never let you off.”

    Xiang Shaolong exclaimed: “What?”

    Lu Dan’er is even angrier: “What what? Who do you think you are? Must we come and beg you? How I wish I can kill you with one stroke.”

    Xiang Shaolong was secretly shocked. Like Qin Qing the untouchable beauty, Lu Dan’er is also untouchable as she is shortlisted to marry the Crown Prince.

    The opposite of love is hatred.

    For these proud girls from prestigious families, they cannot tolerate people being indifferent towards them, especially people whom they admired.

    He was dumbfounded for a moment when Lu Gong came in.

    Lu Dan’er whispered: “Xiang Shaolong! You’ll pay for this!” and slipped away.

    Lu Gong sat down on the host chair and shook his head, sighing: “She is a difficult child and sometimes even I cannot control her.”

    Xiang Shaolong can only smile weakly in reply.

    Lu Gong solemnly implored: “What happened to your leg? Did Dan’er injure you?”

    In a low voice, Xiang Shaolong disclosed his assassination.

    Lu Gong blew his top: “How dare Tian Dan try to kill someone in Qin? Are Qin people meant to be bullied by rascals like him?”

    Xiang Shaolong added: “It is hard to link this case to him. Moreover, Lu Buwei will shield him.” From his bosom, he retrieved the forged letter and handed it to Lu Gong.

    After Lu Gong finished reading, he nodded: “Leave this to me and Li Yuan will receive this letter by tonight. Recently, a guest-advisor from Lord Chunshen’s residence has come to visit me. With him delivering this letter, Li Yuan’s suspicious will not be raised.”

    Xiang Shaolong was delighted: “That’s wonderful!”

    After contemplating, Lu Gong uneasily revealed: “Little Dan is really troublesome!”

    Xiang Shaolong was astounded: “What is your granddaughter up to?”

    Lu Gong revealed: “For the past few days, Little Dan visited Guan Zhongxie besides you. She is full of praise for his sword skills and character. In addition, that man is good at sweet-talking young girls. Shouldn’t I be worried?”

    Xiang Shaolong’s spirits sank when he heard this. He frowned: “Isn’t her marriage decided by you?”

    Lu Gong shook his head: “Since ancient times, Qin has a custom of families staying under the same roof and relied on hunting and fishing as a way of livelihood. Children are taught martial arts from young and it is girls who look for a husband instead of boys looking for a wife. When they have kids, then we talk about getting married. Even with Shang Yang’s reforms, there are many old customs that still remain. So if Dan’er is really in love with Guan Zhongxie, there is nothing I can do.”

    It is Xiang Shaolong’s turn to be worried.

    This can be the best way for Guan Zhongxie to infiltrate the Qin’s circle of trust. If he manages to make love to Lu Dan’er and become Lu Gong’s grandson-in-law, Lu Dan’er can no longer marry the Crown Prince and Guan Zhongxie’s status will be raised. From then on, he will become a more formidable enemy.

    No outsiders can meddle with a love relationship.

    Without a single doubt, Guan Zhongxie is a charming man. Even he himself does not have the confidence to win him in this area.

    He bitterly smiled: “Didn’t you have the intention to marry Miss into the palace?”

    Lu Gong sighed: “That is what Xu Xian and Teng Sheng suggested! Dan’er used to accompany Crown Prince in his studies but lost interest after she got to know Guan Zhongxie. Lu Buwei is devious indeed; now it is hard for me to propose marriage to Empress.”

    Lu Gong’s eyes flashed with a murderous aura and added in a deep voice: “I sent someone to warn Guan Zhongxie that I will tear him to pieces if he dares to be involved with Dan’er. I am not afraid of Lu Buwei backing him. The problem is that it was Dan’er who looked for him every time.”

    Pausing, he questioned: “Has Shaolong fought him before?”

    Xiang Shaolong shook his head.

    Lu Gong described: “His swordsmanship is extremely formidable. During Lord Longyang’s farewell banquet last night, he displayed his true abilities and defeated the top swordsman from each state continuously. Even Tian Dan’s personal escort Liu Zhong Xia lost to him. It is now rumoured in Xianyang City that he is even better than you and Wang Jian. Hei! *******!”

    Xiang Shaolong was agitated: “What does Lu Gong think about his attacks?”

    Lu Gong replied in a deep voice: “His sword strokes are very peculiar and countered fast strokes with slow strokes. Compared to your sword skills, I say both of you have an equal chance of winning. But I afraid your arm strength is not as strong as his.”

    Xiang Shaolong is beginning to feel the threat of Guan Zhongxie. This martial arts competition must have been thought of by Mo Ao. This man must be killed soon or he will pose a bigger threat to them.

    If he manages to marry both Ying Ying and Lu Dan’er, he will enter the network of the high-ranking officials of Qin. He will be able to give Xiang Shaolong more trouble when that happens.

    If Lu Buwei sends him to war and he won some battles and score military contributions, he will be invincible.

    Thinking deeper, if he rejected Lu Niang Rong’s hand in marriage, Lu Buwei will marry her to Guan Zhongxie. He will then rise to become the second in command in the Premier Residence.

    Should he get rid of him? This will be a difficult and dangerous task. Or should he have duel with him? But remembering his godly strength and amazing sword skills, Xiang Shaolong was troubled and was in a dilemma.

    Leaving Lu Gong’s residence, he misses his wives, maids and son but was afraid that they may be worried about his injury and resisted visiting them.

    Deep in his heart, he knows that he misses Qin Qing too. Even without bodily contact, he is very satisfied just to see her pretty face, smile and alluring figure.

    Back at the Wu residence, Xiang Shaolong updated Teng Yi and Jing Jun about what happened at Lu Gong’s residence. When he was talking about Lu Dan’er and Guan Zhongxie, he sighed: “This scheme is unbeatable. Nobody can interfere in a love relationship. Worse still, Qin ladies are open-minded and are free to choose their husband. Their parents have no say in their marriages.”

    Jing Jun was tempted: “Lu Dan’er and Ying Ying are top beauties. If Guan Zhongxie marries them, many men including me will be dissatisfied. Ai! After all, I am also a prestigious Assistant General, why don’t I see them coming to look for me?”

    Teng Yi seriously commented: “Let’s stop all these idle chatter. Presently, we do not have time to attend to these affairs. There is one more day left till the hunting fair. We must plan how to kill Mo Ao and at the same time defend ourselves against Lu Buwei’s scheming.”

    Xiang Shaolong enquired: “Has Little Jun investigated the hunting grounds?”

    Jing Jun happily stood up and took out a cloth map, spreading it on the table. Tao Fang happened to enter the room and joined their secret discussion.

    Jing Jun explained: “The hunting area is about one hundred square miles situated between Xianyang City and Mount Liang. Half of the area is grasslands and rivers. The rest are mountainous forests. The camping grounds are based on a small hill east of the hunting grounds nearest to Xianyang City. River Jing flows here from the east to the west. The inspection square is this piece of large grassland below the camps. We have the day hunt and the night hunt. If we want to kill Mo Ao, naturally the night hunt will provide us with more opportunities.”

    Tao Fang was worried: “Shaolong’s leg injury may pose some problems.”

    Xiang Shaolong remarked: “This is a battle of wits, not strength. If I am on horseback, my injury will not affect me at all.”

    Teng Yi detailed: “There are hunting rules to be observed. No crossbows are allowed and no infighting is tolerated. There are also limits to the number of hunters. The highlight would be the night hunt on the third day. Every unit will send their best hunters to compete their hunting skills in the west hunting mountain. Tigers, leopards and other ferocious animals prowled that area. Whoever can come back with the most number of animal ears will be declared the victor.”

    Each unit is referring to each army unit. The Palace guards, Cavalry Guards, Infantry Guards are three individual units. The Lieutenant General Residence, Left and Right Premier residences are all considered as units. The aim of this fair is to promote hunting skills just like an archery competition is used to promote archery skills.

    To show their might and prowess, outsiders like Tian Dan will be invited to join and compete.

    Jing Jun whined: “Laying the trap is easy, baiting Mo Ao is hard. This man is a genius and it may be hard to trick him.”

    Xiang Shaolong asked: “Can you tell me more about the traps?”

    Jing Jun excitedly divulged: “One of them is to apply some liquid from the Queen Bee on Mo Ao’s body. If he goes near a bee hive, he will be stung to death.”

    Tao Fang frowned: “But if he is dressed in armour, only his face and hands will be stung. That may not be enough to kill him.”

    Teng Yi added: “There are some things Master Tao does not know about. In the west hunting mountain, there are ten over hives with poisonous bees. After ten stings, a normal human will faint. After a few more stings, even an immortal cannot save him. The question is how to get him there. He is considered an academic official and need not take part in the hunt. It will be easier to kill Guan Zhongxie.”

    Tao Fang’s face changed colour: “In this case, it will be easy for Lu Buwei to kill Shaolong too.”

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly smiled: “Just thinking that Mo Ao is the brains behind my assassination plan, I think it will be hard for me to escape alive. Seems like I must pretend to accept Lu Niang Rong’s marriage proposal first. When we have killed Mo Ao, we can break our promise.”

    Teng Yi sighed: “Third Brother is willing to resort to such methods?”

    Xiang Shaolong’s eyes shone: “We must use tricks in our fight against him or we may suffer huge losses. We can even use Guan Zhongxie and disrupt his plans. When that happens, we will just act according to circumstances.”

    Tao Fang thought of something and reminded: “I nearly forgot. Tu Xian wants to meet you tomorrow evening with news about the latest developments.”

    Teng Yi stood up: “It is late! Shaolong should get some rest! If you are limping like this, how can you meet up with Tu Xian secretly?”

    With two men supporting him, he returned to his bedroom.

    He was at a loss.

    In his fight against Lu Buwei, he may not be the overall winner but he was in a dilemma regarding Lu Niang Rong, Lu Dan’er and Ying Ying. Every one of them is considered a big headache for him.

    He could clearly sense that even with Mo Ao out of the way, Guan Zhongxie can still cause him to lose everything he has.

    In this moment, all he wishes for is to hug Ji Yanran and the others to sleep. It is too difficult to comprehend his own future.

  7. #147
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
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    Book 13 Chapter 09 – Hatred From Marriage Rejection

    When he woke up the next morning, the pain from his injury has been greatly reduced and the swelling has subsided.

    Xiang Shaolong was full of praise for Teng Yi’s herbal concoction. Teng Yi warned: “For the next two days, you must not exert yourself. If the wound reopens, you will take a longer time to heal.”

    Xiang Shaolong was inspired: “I have the best excuse against Mo Ao and Guan Zhongxie’s assassination plan. I will not participate in the hunting fair due to my injury. After all, in terms of hunting, every one of you is way better than me.”

    Teng Yi smiled: “But many people will be disappointed.”

    He added: “There are more news from the farm. Uncle Qing has produced a foldable crossbow according to your suggestion that can be easily hidden inside our clothes. He will need another ten days to complete the prototype.”

    Xiang Shaolong was overjoyed. The foldable crossbow is as powerful as an ordinary one except that it can be concealed. This is one of his inspirations from his knowledge as a modern 21st century man. With the blacksmiths of Yue working hard, he is able to increase the prowess of his elite forces by another notch.

    While he was having breakfast, Lu Buwei sent someone to summon him.

    Xiang Shaolong was reminded about Lu Niang Rong’s marriage proposal and could feel a giant headache coming. Without a choice, he made his way to the Premier Residence.

    At the door of the Premier Residence, he ran into Guan Zhongxie who politely paid his respects and smiled: “I had wanted to find Official Xiang for a drink but was too busy with work. I am so fortunate to run into you today. Since we have met now, why don’t we have dinner together later? We can invite the two brothers Lord Changping and Lord Changwen and have a good time together.”

    Due to their complicated relationship, Xiang Shaolong found it hard to decline and agreed. He pretended to apologise: “Because of Lu Xiong, I caused Official Guan to be demoted by one rank. I...”

    Guan Zhongxie laughed loudly and pulled him aside. In a low voice, he commented: “Official Xiang need not be bothered about this. Lu Xiong deserves this punishment and no one else is to be blamed. In fact, he is to be blamed for my demotion instead of you.”

    Xiang Shaolong’s heart became icy cold. This man is extremely crafty and even he cannot help but be alarmed.

    After fixing a time and place for dinner later, Xiang Shaolong went ahead to see Lu Buwei in the study room.

    Lu Buwei is having his breakfast and invited Xiang Shaolong to join him. In a serious tone, he questioned: “I heard from the Infantry guards that Shaolong was assassinated outside the City yesterday evening and was even injured. What is going on and do you know who did it?”

    Xiang Shaolong replied: “They are all masked men but unless I am mistaken, one of them is Tian Dan’s General Dan Chu.”

    Lu Buwei’s face changed colour and pretended to eat his food to hide his emotions.

    Xiang Shaolong can understand the reason for his reaction. If Tian Dan had succeeded, Lu Buwei will be the main suspect. This is equivalent to Tian Dan plotting against Lu Buwei.

    Xiang Shaolong frankly state: “Tian Dan already knew that I am Dong Horse Fanatic. He has captured a friend of mine and wanted to blackmail me. Luckily, I could tell that my friend has been killed already and I threatened to kill him for revenge. Thus, he wanted to kill me first.”

    Lu Buwei was silent for some time. He finally replied: “I wonder how did he find such a perfect opportunity to attack you. Just like that stupid Lu Xiong, he must have bore grudges and was dissatisfied with you. Luckily, I was the one who sent you back and had no time to instruct my men to assassinate you. Otherwise, I will be a key suspect too.”

    Xiang Shaolong was full of admiration at Lu Buwei’s demeanour and persuasive skills. It is no surprise so many people are willing to work for him or work with him. For example, the words he mentioned earlier are full of intimacy and sincerity.

    Xiang Shaolong divulged: “In Handan City, Tian Dan did hint to me that he is working with someone in Xianyang City and he is confident of dealing with me. He is obviously not referring to you but one of the six officials at the meeting yesterday.”

    Lu Buwei nodded: “Lu Gong, Xu Xian, Wang He and Meng Ao are above suspicion. The remaining are Cai Ze and Wang Wan. Cai Ze is more suspicious as I was the one who took over his Premier position. Hng! How dare he pretend to be loyal to me! Watch how I get rid of him!”

    Xiang Shaolong was shocked: “I think you should investigate further!”

    Lu Buwei coldly smiled: “I know what I am doing. Yes! Have you made up your mind about Niang Rong?”

    Xiang Shaolong recalled the saying ‘A true man must be ruthless’ and hardened his heart: “Premier Lu has such a high opinion of me. How can I not recognize it? This matter...”

    He was interrupted by a shrill voice outside the window: “Hold it!”

    Both men had a big fright when Lu Niang Rong came in dressed in fiery red. She faced Lu Buwei first and informed: “Father must not blame the guards for failing in their duty. It was me who told them to keep quiet about my presence.”

    Xiang Shaolong hurriedly stood up and paid his respects.

    Lu Buwei frowned: “Commander Xiang and I are having a secret discussion. How can Rong’er eavesdrop on us?”

    Lu Niang Rong stood proudly before them and declared: “As long as it concerns my future, I have the right to know. In Qin, do as the Qin people do. The Qin has a custom of girls choosing their husbands. As the daughter of the Right Premier of Qin, I should enjoy this right too. Am I mistaken?”

    Lu Buwei and Xiang Shaolong glanced and each other, not knowing how to deal with this stubborn girl.

    Lu Niang Rong’s gaze fell on Xiang Shaolong’s face. Showing displeasure, she arrogantly proclaimed: “To marry me, you must first defeat me in all areas. After that, you will be qualified to be ONE of the men who are suitable for my hand in marriage.”

    Irritated, Lu Buwei hissed: “Rong’er!”

    Lu Niang Rong stomped her feet and whined: “Father! Do you really love me?”

    Lu Buwei shrugged his shoulders to Xiang Shaolong, showing that he is powerless too and softly advised: “Xiang Shaolong is unparalleled in his character and swordsmanship. Of course Father loves you.”

    Xiang Shaolong is greatly amused. He had to agree to the marriage so that he can live past the hunting fair and Lu Buwei will not suspect him to be Mo Ao’s killer. To his surprise, this third daughter of Lu Buwei is eavesdropping on them outside the window and create a disturbance, fulfilling his wish indirectly.

    Lu Niang Rong sauntered to the front of Xiang Shaolong and raised her attractive face, assessing him. She insisted: “I didn’t say I do not like him! But there is someone who is better than him. Unless he can prove that he is better than this man, I will never choose him to be my husband.”

    She was facing Xiang Shaolong but her words are directed at her father. Her attitude is a revengeful one, as if she is insulting Xiang Shaolong in return for rejecting her hand in marriage earlier.

    She may be very enticing but because Lu Buwei is his sworn enemy, Xiang Shaolong has no feelings for her. He smiled: “Who is this gentleman Third Mistress is attracted to?”

    Lu Niang Rong’s lips curled up and shot him a look, challenging: “It is none of your business. Let’s see how you fare at the hunting fair!”

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly smiled at Lu Buwei: “I am afraid Miss will be disappointed.”

    Lu Buwei frowned: “Rong’er, watch your words. Shaolong has just been ambushed and his leg was injured. Tomorrow...”

    Lu Niang Rong was annoyed: “He cannot even protect himself and how can he qualify to be my husband? Father! You must not speak about the marriage anymore. I will rather die than to marry him.”

    With a loud Humph, she left quickly.

    Xiang Shaolong was secretly overjoyed but pretended to be dejected.

    Lu Buwei sat down and sighed: “I have spoilt her. Shaolong need not worry about it. I will speak to her over the next few days.”

    Xiang Shaolong hurriedly replied: “As you decide!” In his mind, he must somehow let Guan Zhongxie know about this so that Lu Niang Rong will not ‘change her mind’. If he made love to Lu Niang Rong, Lu Buwei will be unable to proceed with this marriage proposal anymore.

    Lu Buwei thought for some time and softly asked: “Does Shaolong really want to kill Tian Dan?”

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly smiled: “Of course I do but it is very difficult. I am angry and not thinking clearly when I said that. After I left, I realised that I have been too reckless.”

    Lu Buwei nodded his head and began to think again. When he wanted to say something, an attendant reported that Li Yuan is here with an urgent matter.

    Lu Buwei was taken by surprise and stood up: “Let me think about this further and we shall discuss more in the future. Let me first see what Li Yuan is up to.”

    Xiang Shaolong almost could not hide his happiness and stood up.

    Li Yuan has been tricked.

    Leaving the Premier Residence, he went straight to the palace and seek an audience with the Crown Prince. Xiao Pan received him in the hall of his bedroom.

    The palace girls serving him were pretty and enchanting. A few of them are even younger than him.

    After they got seated, Xiao Pan noticed him paying attention to the girls and smiled: “These are all top grade virgin beauties presented to me by each of the six states. If you are keen, I can give you some of them.”

    Xiang Shaolong remembered the day he stopped him from molesting Lady Ni’s maid and was feeling emotional. He shook his head: “Crown Prince is mistaken. I am afraid that you may indulge in women and damage your health.”

    Xiao Pan replied with determination: “Commander can put your mind at ease.” He gestured and dismissed the palace girls and intimately revealed: “Since Mother was [email protected] and died a tragic death, I have sworn to focus all my energy on vengeance and will not waste any of my precious time on women.”

    Xiang Shaolong thought that this must be one of the reasons why Xiao Pan can unite the world in the future. The other princes of the six states are all indulging in wine and women. Only with his Mother’s death can Xiao Pan focus absolutely on his revenge and ignored all the beautiful women beside him.

    He nodded: “Women can help to balance your physical and mental health as long as it is kept in control. Xiao Pan added: “You are right. Grand Tutor Qin gave me the same advice too.”

    Pausing, he continued: “I heard from Lord Changwen that you have an arrow injury. When I tried to visit you, you were asleep already and I was worried sick. What actually happened?”

    Xiang Shaolong told him the whole story and Xiao Pan had the same conclusion as Lu Buwei. He was agitated: “There must be a spy as Tian Dan can never predict the two girls will bring you out of the City for a contest.”

    Xiang Shaolong interjected: “Let Lu Buwei worry about this. Right! You ignored your Mother’s advice yesterday. Did she hold it against you?”

    Xiao Pan coldly smiled: “After she got involved with Lao Ai, she was a little afraid of me. She did lecture me lightly and insisted that I promote Guan Zhongxie back to his post during the hunting fair. I agreed as I did not want to fall out with her over such insignificant matters.”

    Speaking about Guan Zhongxie, Xiang Shaolong was reminded about Lu Dan’er and told Xiao Pan about their meetings.

    Xiao Pan’s eyes were glowing with murderous intent and coldly hissed: “How dare Lu Buwei send someone to seduce my woman? In the future, I will make him die a horrible death.”

    Xiang Shaolong can easily guess that he will force Lu Buwei to his death. He took the chance to ask: “Do you really like Lu Dan’er?”

    Xiao Pan smiled: “She is a demanding girl and in terms of beauty, there are many girls around me who can win her. She is only Lu Gong’s granddaughter! Hng! I do not like someone to arrange my marriage for me. I should be the one who decides my marriage.”

    Xiang Shaolong frowned: “I don’t think the Empress will allow you to make your own decision.”

    Xiao Pan proudly state: “I have my own ways of dealing with this.”

    Xiang Shaolong wanted to find out more when Li Si came in carrying a large stack of official documents.

    After he paid his respects, Li Si laid the documents on the table and reported: “As Crown Prince had instructed, I worked non-stop over the last two days and completed the documentation regarding the Outer Custodian. Please have a look.”

    Xiang Shaolong then remembered it was him who suggested this new post to promote Teng Sheng. He did not expect this post to involve so much documentation.

    Xiao Pan looked at Li Si with appreciation and asked: “Is the Yan beauty a virgin?”

    Li Si stole a look at Xiang Shaolong and replied embarrassedly: “For the past two days, I did not even have time to look at her.”

    Xiang Shaolong was confused when Xiao Pan cheerfully revealed: “Three days ago, Lu Buwei sent a Yan beauty to me and I transferred his gift to Subject Li. Subject Li was focused on his work and did not touch the girl at all. I appreciate this characteristic very much.”

    Li Si hurriedly kneeled down and thanked Xiao Pan for his praises. Xiang Shaolong can tell that Li Si is very touched.

    Xiang Shaolong finally understood that a good king will have good ministers serving him. If it was someone else, they would not notice Li Si’s dedication and diligence.

    After Li Si got seated, Xiao Pan rested his hand on the table and explained: “Empress and I had a deal. I made her lover an official and gave him a nice house to stay. She will have to give concessions on my marriage. I can accept the Chu Princess to be my concubine but my Queen will only be decided after my coronation.”

    Xiang Shaolong was full of praise. The chemistry between Qin Shi Huang and Li Si is unbeatable. History has proven that this is an invincible partnership.

    Li Si was concerned: “I heard that Official Xiang was injured by an arrow! I am glad to see that you are recovering well.”

    Xiao Pan interrupted: “Does Subject Xiang want to be examined by the Imperial Physician?”

    Xiang Shaolong politely rejected and was about to say something when Lord Changping came in and reported that Lu Buwei is here to seek an audience with Li Yuan.

    The three men knew what is about to happen next. Xiang Shaolong left with Lord Changping first while Li Si accompanied Xiao Pan to receive the guests.

    Slipping out from the back door, they came to the Royal garden. Lord Changping pulled Xiang Shaolong to one side and apologised: “It is my sister’s fault to bring you out of the city and caused you to be ambushed.”

    Xiang Shaolong smiled” “It is not her fault. Some things are just unpredictable!”

    Lord Changping scolded: “I wanted to bring you to a brothel when your men told me that you slept early due to your injury. I will be treating tonight and Official Guan said that you have agreed. Hng! If I find out who is behind this, I will kill him without hesitation.”

    Xiang Shaolong sighed: “Don’t be so boastful. It must be some formidable evildoer who dares to attack me. Hei! How is your sister doing?”

    Lord Changping sighed: “After she came back from outside the City, she threw a terrible tantrum and locked herself up in her room. She did not even have dinner. You should know that we brothers are busy with work and our parents have passed away. We simply do not have any time to humour her.”

    He uneasily asked: “What happened?”

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly smiled: “I admitted that I have lost and pleaded with them to stop pestering me. Your sister was infuriated and dragged Lu Dan’er away.”

    Lord Changping was delighted: “I can see that she is in love with you. Hei! Are you interested in her?”

    Xiang Shaolong sighed: “Since the tragic death of Princess Qian, I am devoid of emotions and focused my time on my duties. I am not interested in love or romance anymore.”

    Lord Changping sympathetically comforted: “I can understand your feelings. Three years ago, one of my concubines passed away due to illness. But men will always be men. Given enough time, you will get over it. As long as you do not hate her, it will be fine. But I understand Ying Ying’s character. She is a revengeful person and will make things difficult for you. Ai! I do not know what to say.”

    Now, it is Xiang Shaolong’s turn to comfort him.

    Lord Changping sent Xiang Shaolong to the palace gates before they split up.

    When Xiang Shaolong returned to the Command Centre, Teng Yi, Jing Jun had left with Lord Changwen to the western suburbs to prepare for the hunting fair tomorrow.

    He was doing some administrative work when an attendant reported that the Zhou couple is here to see him.

    Xiang Shaolong had assumed that they had left Xianyang City long ago. He only realised now that they are still in the Command Centre and hurriedly invited them in.

    After they got seated, Xiang Shaolong asked curiously: “Why didn’t you leave?”

    Mister Zhou shyly explained: “I have spoken with my wife and we are interested to follow Master Xiang. For three generations, my family runs a ship building business. Is there any way I can be of use?”

    Xiang Shaolong suspiciously assessed them and saw that they have a fine bearing and were unlike common folks. He could not help but asked: “Why did both of you come to Xianyang City?”

    Mister Zhou revealed; “Actually, we are from the royal family of Song. When our state was annihilated, we became wanderers. She...” He looked at his wife and solemnly state: “She is not my wife but my sister. We pretended to be a couple to make our travelling easier. We came to Xianyang City to try our luck, hoping to be a permanent resident here, get a job and stay here for good.”

    Xiang Shaolong was taken aback.

    His sister lowered her head and explained: “My name is Zhou Wei and my brother here is Zhou Liang. We are willing to accept any positions you may have.”

    Xiang Shaolong scanned her delicate face and noticed that she is indeed very attractive despite her simple clothes and lack of make-up. Now he understood why Lu Bang is besotted with her. Feeling sorry for them, he nodded: “I will do my best and help both of you. Ai! Get up! You are making me feel bad!”

    Both of them had kneeled on the floor and kowtowed with thanks.

    Xiang Shaolong the 21st century man is most uncomfortable with this gesture and hurriedly helped them up.

    After some discussion with them, an attendant reported that Prince Dan is here. Xiang Shaolong got someone to send them both to the Wu Residence and instructed Tao Fang to help them to settle down. He then went to the main hall to see Prince Dan.

    With Prince Dan are Physician Leng Ting, General Xu Yi Ze and the flamboyant advisor You Zhi.

    After the guards have all been dismissed, Xiang Shaolong smiled: “The Prince has received news about Li Yuan’s departure?”

    Prince Dan admiringly praised: “Commander Xiang is amazingly talented. Li Yuan is really returning back to Chu at once. What did you tell him?”

    Xiang Shaolong evaded his question: “It is nothing much. Has Prince decided to cooperate with me?”

    Prince Dan did not ask any further and put his hand out.

    Xiang Shaolong stretched his own hand and they shared a tight handshake and broke out into laughter. Their eyes are staring at each other and no words are needed between them.

    To Prince Dan, his biggest threat is not Qin but the ambitious and powerful Tian Dan.

    After they released each other’s hands, Prince Dan asked: “It is improper for me to participate personally but would it be sufficient if I hand Xu Yi Luan and his army of five thousand cavalry army under your full control?”

    You Zhi added: “I will assist you to ensure that they will follow your orders.”

    Xiang Shaolong was on cloud nine as he did not anticipate Prince Dan to be so easy-going and trusting of himself. Pleased, he replied: “If this is the case, Tian Dan’s death is guaranteed.”

    They discussed further on the details of their attack before Prince Dan left with his men.

    Xiang Shaolong was simply thrilled and suddenly longed for his wives, son and the Tian sisters. He left the Command Centre and head towards Qin Qing’s residence.

  8. #148
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
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    Book 13 Chapter 10 – Eastern Province Rebellion


    When he arrived at Qin Qing’s residence, she received him in the main hall, mentioning: “Sister Yanran and the rest have left the City to try their horses, preparing to show their true abilities during the hunting fair tomorrow. I am not feeling well so I did not accompany them.”

    Xiang Shaolong was concerned: “How are you feeling?” She did look slightly tired.

    Qin Qing lowered and shook her head lightly: “I am fine! I just did not sleep well last night!”

    Raising her head, her clear and pretty eyes look straight ahead at him and explained: “I am slightly worried. When I came back from the palace yesterday evening, I ran into Lord Gaoling and said hi to him. He was very energetic and I am concerned that he might cause some trouble.”

    Lord Gaoling is the man who was substituted by King Zhuangxiang to be the new King of Qin. Xiang Shaolong was alarmed as he was too focused on Tian Dan and neglected this man. Lord Longyang did alert him that Lord Gaoling and Zhao’s General Pang Nuan are in secret contact but he did not pay much attention to it as he did not have a high opinion of Pang Nuan. With Qin Qing’s reminder, he could not help but feel worried about it.

    Qin Qing dismissed: “I must have been over sensitive. With you protecting Crown Prince, I can set my mind at ease.”

    Xiang Shaolong thought that if the military is involved, he will be prepared but if it was some dark conspiracy, he may be taken by surprise! Oh! He should inform Lu Buwei about this and distract him and benefitting himself at the same time. Lu Buwei should be more concerned about Xiao Pan’s safety than him.

    Qin Qing saw that he was deep in thought and slowly sighed: “I was having a meal with Empress yesterday and that irritating Lao Ai is always by her side. Why is she so obsessed with such a disgusting man?”

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly laughed: “He is truly someone who looks good on the outside but has no substance all. Unfortunately, there are not many people like Grand Tutor Qin who can see that.”

    Qin Qing trembled slightly and her pretty eyes shone with surprise: “No wonder sister Yanran always say talking with you is the most refreshing and entertaining thing in the world and your conversations are never boring!”

    Xiang Shaolong was aroused and had to ask: “Does Grand Tutor Qin feel the same?”

    Qin Qing’s face turned red and she shot him a look. Lowering her head, she nodded slightly. She looked absolutely enthralling.

    Xiang Shaolong was bewitched by her charm but felt some regrets. He did not know what to say next and the room became quiet.

    The short silence seemed to last forever.

    Qin Qing asked in a low voice: “Has Commander Xiang eaten?”

    Xiang Shaolong blurted out without thinking: “Yes!”

    Qin Qing giggled and shot him an emotional look, declaring: “Finally I caught Commander Xiang lying. It is still late morning and lunch is not even prepared yet. If you do not want to have lunch with me, you can say that you are busy with work and I cannot expose you.”

    Xiang Shaolong was greatly embarrassed and stuttered incoherently. His face became as red as a fireball.

    Qin Qing was not the least upset and stood up, adding: “I have no time for you. I need to send lunch outside the City to your wives. Commander Xiang must be too busy to come along! Make sure you take your lunch!”

    Xiang Shaolong is beginning to understand her forceful character and softly replied: “I do have some work to do! Hei! Please forgive me.”

    Qin Qing smiled implicitly but meaningfully at him. Witnessing Xiang Shaolong fumbling, she regained her usual coolness and plainly invited: “Commander Xiang, please!” This is her way of dismissing her guests

    Following the direction her hand pointed, Xiang Shaolong walked towards the main door. Qin Qing followed closely behind him.

    Xiang Shaolong had an evil thought and purposely halted without warning. Qin Qing did not expect a respected man like him to try such a trick. Letting out a shrill cry, she bumped right into his back.

    It was a moment to die for.

    In this moment, Xiang Shaolong resumed his flirty behaviour and snaked his hand behind and embraced her slender waist. He intimately whispered into her ear: “Grand Tutor Qin! Be careful.”

    Qin Qing had not been hugged for a long time. Her body turned soft and her cheeks are burning hot. Trembling like a small bird, she tried to push him away.

    Xiang Shaolong dare not go overboard and took this chance to release her, saying: “Please excuse my behaviour. You need not send me any further.”

    Leaving Qin Qing with a frustrated and annoyed look on her face, Xiang Shaolong left happily.

    He has regained the romantic side of him.

    Due to all the complicated relationships, he was tormented by Qin Qing, Ying Ying, Lu Dan’er and Lu Niang Rong.

    Now, he felt like he has vented some of his frustration.

    Recollecting the feeling of embracing her, his heart leapt for joy.

    This is probably called Uncontrollable Love.

    He was filled with this uncontrollable love and desire.

    When Xiang Shaolong arrived at the Premier residence, Tu Xian came to welcome him and revealed: “There is a rebellion in Pingyuan Province. When Premier Lu received the news, he hurriedly left to seek an audience with Empress and Crown Prince.”

    Xiang Shaolong was alarmed. Pingyuan Province is made up of land that were seized from Zhao. The rebellion must be started by Pang Nuan but why?

    Lu Buwei’s natural reaction is to send the Qin army to protect the new province he had fought for. Otherwise, if Shangdang Province and Sanchuan Province followed their example and rebelled, with the intervention of Zhao and Han armies, it will be disastrous. The strategic eastern provinces will be lost and Lu Buwei’s earlier efforts would be annulled.

    To counter such a situation, Lu Buwei will send every available soldier to Pingyuan Province to crush the rebels. When that happens, Xianyang City will only be left with the Palace Guards, the Imperial Cavalry and the Imperial Infantry.

    Under normal conditions, these three armies are sufficient to protect Xianyang City. But during the hunting fair, Zhu Ji and Xiao Pan will be in the open wilderness of the western suburbs.

    If Lord Gaoling has an army of over ten thousand soldiers and know about the Xianyang’s army strength as well as Xiao Pan’s location, he may succeed with a well-planned ambush.

    The more he thought, the worse he felt. It is inconvenient to speak with Tu Xian now so he bade farewell and left.

    Tu Xian sent him out and reminded him about their appointment. Xiang Shaolong hurriedly left for the palace.

    When he was about to reach the palace, a group of riders came into view. Ying Ying and Lu Dan’er are among the riders and between them was Guan Zhongxie.

    Xiang Shaolong did not harbour any thoughts about the two girls but still felt sour about it.

    Both girls have their own beautiful ways but Ying Ying’s long legs, slender waist and full bosom is something very attractive to him.

    When the girls saw Xiang Shaolong, they pretended to be friendly towards Guan Zhongxie and were chatting and laughing happily. They acted as if they did not see Xiang Shaolong.

    Guan Zhongxie naturally cannot adopt the same attitude. He led several of his leaders and rode towards him, paying their respects.

    Xiang Shaolong returned the greetings. Guan Zhongxie held his horse steady and informed: “There is some trouble in Pingyuan Province. The Crown Prince, Empress and Premier Lu are having an emergency meeting.”

    The two girls followed Guan Zhongxie in stopping their horses but put on an air of discontent and stared at Xiang Shaolong with hostility.

    Xiang Shaolong was amused and greeted them. He proceeded to ask: “Where is Official Guan heading?”

    Guan Zhongxie replied: “These two ladies wanted to check out the hunting grounds in the western suburbs. I will accompany them and report this matter to Lord Changwen and the rest. The weather is pretty good to take a ride outside the city.”

    Xiang Shaolong laughed loudly: “With pretty companions, anything will sound good.” He did not wait for the girls to react and rode away.

    Ai! If not for Lu Buwei, Guan Zhongxie is a worthy friend and he would be truly happy for him. But now, he felt inferior as he had lost to Guan Zhongxie while he cannot do anything about it.

    When he entered the palace, the meeting is still ongoing in the Qin Court.

    Lord Changping pulled Xiang Shaolong to a corner and asked: “Did you manage to see Ying Ying?”

    Xiang Shaolong nodded his head.

    Lord Changping asked again: “Is she with Official Guan?”

    Xiang Shaolong nodded his head again and commented: “I heard they are going to the western suburbs to check out the hunting grounds.”

    Lord Changping sighed: “This morning, I was summoned by Left Premier Xu Xian for a scolding. He instructed me to discipline my sister and not let her get close to Lu Buwei’s men. I am in a dilemma. Does Official Xiang have any suggestions?”

    Xiang Shaolong naturally understood his intention and bitterly smiled: “You should know that Guan Zhongxie is very good with women. With his excellent credentials, body, swordsmanship and looks, even I may not be his match. Moreover, I am now her biggest enemy. You better resign to fate.”

    Lord Changping was flustered: “How can I resign to fate? Xu Xian is exceedingly farsighted and he is never wrong. If Ying Ying marries Guan Zhongxie, what will happen if one day, his entire household is to be annihilated? Lu Buwei may be powerful now but he is still ranked lower than Lord Shang Yang in the past. Eventually, Lord Shang Yang’s body was torn apart by horses. Outsiders will not have a good ending in Qin. The higher their official post, the more terrible their deaths.”

    Xiang Shaolong had not analyzed this problem from this angle and was left speechless.

    Among the two brothers, Lord Changping is more sharp and knowledgeable. Lord Changwen is less clever and loves to have fun.

    Lord Changping sighed: “You should understand my worries. Guan Zhongxie is considered our friend. How can I warn him to stay away from Ying Ying without a good reason?”

    Xiang Shaolong was humoured. Lord Changping is right. How can he tell Guan Zhongxie that he will die with Lu Buwei in the future so please leave his sister alone?

    Lord Changping was incensed: “You can still laugh about it. I am really at my wits end.”

    Xiang Shaolong apologised: “I was entertained by your words! Her marriage has to be approved by you two elder brothers. Guan Zhongxie should not be that daring.”

    Lord Changping was annoyed: “It would be good if it was that simple. But if Lu Buwei proposed marriage on his behalf and even got the Empress involved, what can we say?”

    Xiang Shaolong thought that sounded reasonable and helplessly advised: “At the end of the day, all you wanted was for me to woo your sister! Why don’t you try to send a warning to Guan Zhongxie? Lu Gong warned him already.”

    Lord Changping bitterly laughed: “Lu Gong is very senior and does whatever he wants. Forty years later, we can be like him but definitely not now. Hei! Are you that uninterested in my sister? In Xianyang City, she is the next prettiest after widow Qin Qing. Of course there is still the Talented Lady Ji whom we have not met.”

    Xiang Shaolong smiled: “You know your women well.”

    Lord Changping reached out and grabbed his arm, begging: “Stop hesitating. How about it?” Looking at his arm, he added: “Shaolong, you are very muscular.”

    Xiang Shaolong adored this friend and without a choice, he promised: “Let me have a go! But I do not guarantee that I will be successful!”

    Lord Changping was overjoyed. The meeting happened to end at the same time and Lu Buwei stepped out with Meng Ao with serious expressions on their faces. They were still talking as they were walking.

    Lu Buwei noticed Xiang Shaolong and waved him over.

    When Xiang Shaolong begin to walk over, Meng Ao had left Lu Buwei already. Lu Buwei received him and they walked to the rear garden together. Lu Buwei explained in a low voice: “Shaolong should know what has happened. After our discussion, Meng Ao has been selected to lead an army to Pingyuan Province to crush the rebellion. Wang He will lead another army and be stationed at the eastern Passes. This will serve as a warning to Shangdang and Sanchuan Province not to make any foolish moves. In case they rebelled too, he will move in and crush them.”

    Pausing, he added; “What a coincidence. In a short space of time, all the excess soldiers in Xianyang City have all been used up and now it is our hunting fair. What does Shaolong think?”

    Xiang Shaolong plainly state: “Lord Gaoling is planning a rebellion!”

    Lu Buwei was startled: “What?”

    Xiang Shaolong repeated his statement.

    Lu Buwei composed himself and thought it over. They arrived at a small bridge and he sat down on one of the stone railings and hinted Xiang Shaolong to sit on the opposite side. He frowned: “How did Lord Gaoling motivate the Pingyuan residents to rebel?”

    Xiang Shaolong sat on the opposite railing and looked down at the running water. Noticing some swimming fishes, he calmly replied: “Lord Gaoling did not have this ability but he can conspire with Zhao General Pang Nuan to achieve this.”

    Lu Buwei slapped his thigh: “No wonder he left in such a hurry after the funeral. It is all because of this.”

    His eyes shining with a killing aura, he slowly state: “Lord Gaoling! You must be tired of living.”

    Turning to Xiang Shaolong, he instructed: “If he wants to rebel, the hunting fair is a golden opportunity. I shall put you in charge of this. If I am not wrong, Lord Gaoling’s men will try to hide in the vicinity of Xianyang City today and tomorrow. With all the chaotic preparations, they can move undetected. We must also guard against Lord Gaoling’s family warriors within the city. I will get Zhongxie to take care of this.”

    Xiang Shaolong was secretly pleased. Indirectly, Lord Gaoling has helped him to distract Lu Buwei from assassinating himself. Moreover, he had agreed to Lu Niang Rong’s hand in marriage.

    Lu Buwei stood up, declaring: “I must see the Crown Prince and Empress. Shaolong must report everything to me so that I have a clear picture of what is going on.”

    Xiang Shaolong put on a respectful look until he left. He then rode his horse out of the city and towards the western suburbs.

  9. #149
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
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    Book 13 Chapter 11 – Exposing The Scheme


    When Xiang Shaolong and the Eighteen Guardians arrived at the West Gate, they ran into Ji Yanran and the rest who are about to return to the city.

    The carriages stopped along the wide road leading to the West Gate. Xiang Shaolong leapt down his horse and went to say hi to the ladies.

    Everybody have red and healthy looking faces, showing that they had a generous amount of exercise.

    Xiang Bao’er saw Xiang Shaolong and waved his little hand calling him Father.

    Zhao Zhi was annoyed: “Are you so busy that you cannot visit us?”

    Xiang Shaolong laughed along: “After the hunting fair, I will spend more time with all of you!”

    Wu Tingfang proudly state: “Ignore him Sister Zhi. We will have a good time with Sister Qing.”

    Xiang Shaolong reached out through the window and pinched the cute face of his son. He spoke briefly with the Tian sisters before he went to the second carriage.

    When the blind was lifted, it revealed Ji Yanran and Qin Qing seated inside. Qin Qing’s face was slightly red and was staring viciously at him.

    Xiang Shaolong’s heart begin to thump harder.

    Ji Yanran smiled sweetly and gently asked: “Hubby is going to the western suburbs?”

    Xiang Shaolong nodded and take this opportunity to inform Qin Qing: “The residents of Pingyuan Province are rebelling. This rebellion is likely to be linked to Lord Gaoling. Lu Buwei has been notified and I am fully in charge of this matter. Grand Tutor Qin can set your mind at ease.”

    Qin Qing could not stand his strong gaze and lowered her face. It was a magical and romantic moment.

    Ji Yanran trembled slightly and asked in a low voice: “Lu Buwei has been especially kind to you!”

    Xiang Shaolong remembered the marriage proposal and nodded.

    Ji Yanran intimately whispered into his ear: “He really wants to kill you! That is why he is doing all these things to make people less suspicious of him. If you don’t believe me, you can try asking Empress and Crown Prince. You will discover that Lu Buwei has given them a misleading impression of the hostility between you and him. Ai! Hubby is too trusting.”

    Xiang Shaolong was shocked but still have some doubts about it. He frantically nodded his head.

    Ji Yanran slapped his shoulder and cooed: “Think about it! With Lu Buwei’s intelligence, how can he not spy on Lord Gaoling and need you to remind him? If Lord Gaoling is rebelling, he will be the happiest man in Qin!”

    Qin Qing heard these words and her face is filled with care and concern.

    Xiang Shaolong’s body trembled and was finally enlightened. He bowed: “Thanks for wife’s reminder. Xiang Shaolong learnt something today.”

    Ji Yanran looked at Qin Qing who was staring at Xiang Shaolong. Noticing Ji Yanran penetrating gaze at her, she guiltily lowered her head.

    Ji Yanran shot Xiang Shaolong another look and intimately advised: “Be careful!”

    When the carriages are far away. Xiang Shaolong consolidated his thoughts and rode towards the western suburbs; however, his mood is very different from before.

    Riding Jifeng and escorted by the Eighteen Guardians, he sped all the way.

    The carriages transporting goods and other items to the hunting grounds formed a long queue and the atmosphere is very lively.

    Beside the official road are ancient forests with giant pine trees that are a few hundred years old.

    After leaving the city for three miles, the flat roads start to fluctuate up and down depending on the terrain. Every time they rode up a hill, they can see River Jing flowing in the south east direction. Below them, logs are flowing down the river towards the camping grounds. The logs will be used to build the campsite and inspection square.

    Spring is now slowly being taken over by Summer and the strong wind is blowing through the grasslands and forests alike, making Xiang Shaolong feel extremely comfortable. Listening to the peaceful rustling sounds of the leaves, his thinking becomes very clear.

    The Jing river is a few thousand miles long and it is intersected by many small rivers.

    The thick forests and wide grasslands is home to many unique birds and beasts.

    They rode through a deep valley with clouds on both sides of the slopes and the roads begin to widen. River Jing continued to flow in front of them and the thick pine trees are like poles pointing to heaven. Across the fresh green grasslands, there were countless tents that were pitched in an orderly manner. Thousands of Palace Guards and Cavalry Soldiers are busy with preparations and they have built two wooden bridges that go across River Jing.

    Xiang Shaolong stopped on a hill and looked around him.

    The grass straightened and bend down according to the wind and there are clusters of trees here and there. Herds of deer, horses, sheep and other wild animals are gathered around the river shore, drinking to their heart’s content, occasionally letting out a small cry. Tomorrow, they will be the targets of the hunters.

    The sun began to shift to the west where high mountains are stacked upon one another. That is where the most ferocious wild beasts roam.

    Xiang Shaolong believed that with all the thick forests surrounding the camping grounds, it is a piece of cake to hide an entire army.

    With his trained eye, he quietly scanned the surroundings and quickly grasped the geographical advantages and disadvantages. He then rode towards the main camp near the river.

    The air is filled with sounds of horses braying and dogs barking.

    An enormous flag embroidered with the word ‘Qin’ is flying grandly, competing with the beautiful clouds for everyone’s attention.

    As he rode past them, the workers will stop and greet him.

    Leading the Guardians, he rode past several tents belonging to the various high ranking officials and generals before he came to the centralised main tent.

    Lord Changwen is instructing his men to construct wooden gates in all four sides of the slope, providing additional protection to the main tent.

    There are ten odd tents on this flat hilltop. Except for Xiao Pan and Zhu Ji, the rest of the tents belonged to the other members of the Royal Family.

    Xiang Shaolong jumped down his horse and questioned: “Why are you building the gates now? Isn’t it too hasty?”

    Lord Changwen replied: “It is Premier Lu’s idea. He received news about the Pingyuan Province rebellion and insisted that I build the gates by tomorrow morning.”

    Xiang Shaolong thought to himself that it was a narrow escape. Ji Yanran is right. Lu Buwei knew about Lord Gaoling’s rebellion a long time ago and acted ignorant to deceive him, causing him to let down his guard and even mistook Lu Buwei for really forgiving him.

    Lord Changwen pointed to a group of men beside the river and commented: “Both assistant generals are there playing with the hunting dogs. My stubborn sister is there as well. She is the one dressed in a white and green warrior suit; the one dressed in yellow and purple is Lu Dan’er.”

    He added in a low voice: “Has Big Brother spoken to you?”

    Xiang Shaolong nodded his head slightly: “Is there no one your sister likes among all the young men in Xianyang City? For example, An Gu is even a better catch than myself.”

    Lord Changwen sighed: “An Gu is a talented man who is comparable to Shaolong. However, they grew up together and treat each other like siblings so it is impossible for them to fall in love.”

    Pausing, he added: “Qin is unlike the six states and it is very common for people to have pre-marital 5ex. Ying Ying has dated several guys before but none of them lasted long enough. She became serious only after she met you.”

    Xiang Shaolong countered: “She is only serious about Guan Zhongxie. The two of you are forcing me to join this disadvantageous competition.”

    Lord Changwen laughed along: “It is because we admired you! Hei! We dote on our sister dearly. Actually Zhongxie is not bad and he is a good fighter. Unfortunately, he is Lu Buwei’s man.”

    Cheers can be heard from the crowd. Guan Zhongxie had put on his armour and was playing with one of the hunting dogs.

    Xiang Shaolong climbed onto Jifeng and remarked: “Here I go!”

    Lord Changwen hurriedly asked for a horse and rode with him towards the crowd.

    Escorted by a large body of men, both men came to the edge of the crowd and dismounted.

    Teng Yi was focused on observing Guan Zhongxie’s intricate footsteps. When he saw Xiang Shaolong, he had a serious expression on his face. After he waved to Lord Changwen, he hinted at Xiang Shaolong to accompany him to one side. Arriving at a cluster of rocks near the river, he reported: “This man is extraordinarily shrewd. Even under such circumstances, he is still hiding his true abilities. What a frightening character!”

    Xiang Shaolong glanced back at them and nodded in agreement: “He is the most dangerous swordsman we have ever come across. This man had reached a very high level of swordsmanship and I have never seen anymore who can breathe so calmly. I admit that I have not reached his level of cultivation.”

    Teng Yi smiled: “But you are someone who never underestimate your enemy. If it was Jing Jun, he would never believe that someone can be better than him.”

    Xiang Shaolong laughed: “Right! Where is that kid?”

    Teng Yi replied: “He is out surveying. The more we know about the hunting grounds, the better chance we have at killing Mo Ao. How is your leg injury?”

    Xiang Shaolong replied: “Much better but I still cannot run or the wound will reopen for sure.”

    Teng Yi advised: “When I changed your dressing this morning, the swelling has subsided. Based on your physique, you should recover fully after two days.”

    Xiang Shaolong happily state: “Now, I must thank Tian Dan for injuring me. It will be harder for Lu Buwei to kill me now.”

    Teng Yi was stunned: “Didn’t Third Brother say Lu Buwei is patching up with you?”

    Xiang Shaolong heaved a sigh and repeated Ji Yanran’s words. He also told him about the Pingyuan Province rebellion and Lord Gaoling’s scheme.

    Teng Yi thought carefully and affirmed: “I will handle Lord Gaoling. If necessary, we will use our elite army. We must not let Guan Zhongxie gain this honour.”

    As he spoke, they noticed Guan Zhongxie, Lord Changwen, Lu Dan’er and Ying Ying walking towards them. Teng Yi winked at him and whispered: “I will go and join Little Jun!” and slipped away.

    From afar, Lord Changwen winked and shouted: “Official Xiang, let’s test the target boards at the archery grounds. Official Guan has an iron bow that only he is able to pull apart.”

    Xiang Shaolong was agonized. Lord Changwen is trying to create an opportunity for him to put down Guan Zhongxie in front of the two girls. Xiang Shaolong knew himself too well. He may be considered an expert archer but he is still inferior to Wang Jian, Teng Yi and even the dead Lian Jin. As long as Guan Zhongxie is a better archer than Lian Jin, he will be humiliated.

    Guan Zhongxie raised his hands to show his innocence: “I am not harbouring any intention of winning. It is Lord Changwen and the two Misses who wanted Brother Xiang to show us your skills!”

    Xiang Shaolong cursed secretly and acted apologetic: “I am afraid I have to disappoint Official Guan. My leg injury has yet to fully recover and it is not advisable for me to exert any strength. I think we can just watch Official Guan perform.”

    Guan Zhongxie was startled: “Forgive my impertinence. I noticed that Official is walking normally and thought that you have recovered!”

    Ying Ying’s face turned cold: “Is Official Xiang making excuses?”

    Lu Dan’er spat: “Coward!” Dragging Ying Ying, she unhappily turned around and shouted to Guan Zhongxie: “Official Guan! Let’s find something else to do!”

    Guan Zhongxie humbly paid his respects and left with the two girls.

    They left Xiang Shaolong and Lord Changwen smiling bitterly at each other.

    Xiang Shaolong thought of Tu Xian’s appointment and bade farewell, returning back to Xianyang City.

    On the way back, he thought of the girls’ cynical expressions but did not feel bad at all. He was amazed at his own change.

    In his wild days in the 21st Century, he must win every fight and every drinking contest.

    He has lost his eagerness to be the victor in everything. Now he looks at the bigger picture and does not mind these insignificant losses. That is why he is not bothered about the girls’ vicious attitude.

    Maybe he has finally matured!

    Back at Xianyang City, there was still some time so he returned to Wu residence first. He checked with Tao Fang about the Zhou siblings and went to visit them.

    Tao Fang has given them a nice accommodation in the east garden near where the Guardians are sleeping. It is quite a comfortable place to stay.

    When Xiang Shaolong stepped into the small hall, the pretty Zhou Wei is busy sewing in one corner while Zhou Liang was fiddling with a small metal mechanism on the table. When they saw him coming in, they hurriedly got up to greet him.

    It may be due to sympathy that Xiang Shaolong is especially caring towards them. He smiled at Zhou Wei: “Is Miss Zhou making new clothes?”

    Zhou Wei’s face reddened and she lowered her head, replying: “En!”

    Xiang Shaolong was feeling strange at her shyness and sat down on the other side of the table. Gesturing for them to sit down too, he asked Zhou Liang: “What is that toy you are playing with?”

    Zhou Liang handed him the metal piece and replied: “”This is a wrist guard for a hunting eagle to perch on. Watch!

    He lifted his sleeve and showed Xiang Shaolong his left wrist. There were over ten scars on his wrist.

    Xiang Shaolong was interested and asked: “So Brother Zhou is an expert in shipbuilding and eagle-rearing. Since there is a wrist guard, why are you still injured by the eagle claws?”

    Zhou Liang answered: “The wrist guard is meant for new eagles. An expert can train the eagle to vary its clawing strength. These scars are accumulated before I was fifteen. Since then, I have no accidents with them anymore.”

    Xiang Shaolong reasoned: “In this case, Brother Zhou must be an expert eagle handler.”

    Zhou Liang humbly replied: “That was in the past. Now, I felt guilty towards them. Under their fierce stares, I dare not rear them anymore.”

    Xiang Shaolong thought for a while and instructed: “From today onwards, Brother Zhou need not worry about his next meal or being bullied. Just focus on developing this and it may help me in the future.”

    Zhou Liang was delighted and his eyes were shining: “I dare not disobey Master Xiang’s orders. Hei! You can call me Little Liang. I dare not be addressed as Brother Zhou!”

    Xiang Shaolong officially state: “I have never regarded Brother Zhou as an outsider. You should not call me Master Xiang too. Can I ask you what is the secret of rearing eagles? How long does it take to train one and what are they capable of?”

    Zhou Liang brightened up and proudly revealed: “First, you must know which eagles are trainable. The easiest to train are King Eagles who share human instincts. After that, you need plenty of patience and hard work. The eagle must be reared from young and need about a year to be fully trained. Hei! Hunting is nothing to them. The pinnacle of rearing eagles is to train Warrior Eagles. They can chase the enemy from the sky, spy on surroundings and assassinate someone. They can be a formidable weapon.”

    It is now Xiang Shaolong’s turn to brighten up. He excitedly instructed: “We must not delay any further. Brother Zhou shall look for your King Eagle tomorrow. I will send some men to accompany you and make it easier for you.”

    Zhou Liang received his order gratefully.

    Xiang Shaolong noticed that it is about time to go and he bade farewell. Stepping out of the door, Zhou Wei’s voice rang out: “Official Xiang!”

    Xiang Shaolong turned around and smiled: “What can I do for Miss Zhou?”

    Zhou Wei came to him and shyly asked: “Big Brother has an assignment on hand. What about me?”

    Xiang Shaolong gently replied: “Your brother will rear eagles and you will sew clothes. Isn’t that what both of you are doing?”

    Zhou Wei’s face turned even redder and slowly state: “I wish to wait upon Master. Will you please give your consent?”

    From her expression, he knew that it is not as simple as it looks. She is willing to sleep with him for the rest of his life. He cannot blame her as he probably is her dream man. Moreover, it is a way of repaying her gratitude to him.

    Xiang Shaolong smiled: “That is too tough for you. Let me think about it and decide tomorrow.”

    Zhou Wei shook her head with determination: “Unless Master Xiang despises me and finds me clumsy, I have decided to wait on you for the rest of my life.”

    Frankly, Xiang Shaolong is also tempted by this pretty woman in front of him. Agonized, he thought that he will just agree for the time being and decide later.

    He sighed: “You are making things difficult for me. For the time being, we shall follow your wishes! But...”

    Before he can finish speaking, Zhou Wei joyfully interrupted: “Thanks for your approval!”

    With a contented look, she turned back into the house.

    Xiang Shaolong can only leave the house with a bitter smile on his face.

  10. #150
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
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    Book 13 Chapter 12 – Flying Dragon Spear


    At the appointed hut, Tu Xian is already waiting for him. When they saw each other, both men are equally delighted. Through these difficult times, they have built a trusting relationship and a strong friendship. If not for Tu Xian’s intervention, he would have been killed a long time ago.

    Tu Xian smiled: “You did a great job with Lu Xiong, catching Lu Buwei unaware and losing face in front of everyone. Back at the residence, this traitor threw a mad tantrum and summoned Mo Ao for a two hour meeting. Needless to say, they are plotting on killing you.”

    Xiang Shaolong inquired: “What happened to Lu Xiong and his son?”

    Tu Xian revealed: “Lu Xiong may not be badly beaten like his son but was publicly slapped and scolded by Lu Buwei in front of everyone. Lu Buwei has sent him to help out with the Canal and harass the villagers opposing it. No one is happier than Guan Zhongxie. Lu Xiong has been on loggerheads with him and with his exit, Guan Zhongxie’s importance is elevated within the Premier Residence. With a few more accomplishments, Lu Niang Rong will also be his.”

    Xiang Shaolong had a brainwave: “Guan Zhongxie is someone greedy for fame and power. Does Brother Tu think we can win him to our side?”

    Tu Xian seriously state: “You must never do that. This man’s shrewdness and ambitions are not inferior compared to Lu Buwei. Moreover, he is clear that he is an outsider and is only using Lu Buwei to pursue his own goals. In addition, he bore deep grudges against you over Lian Jin’s death. You must not waste any effort in this area.”

    Xiang Shaolong nodded in agreement. Tu Xian is an experienced man and his judgement will not be wrong.

    Tu Xian divulged: “Recently, I have been secretly monitoring Mo Ao’s activities. I discovered that he had got somebody to produce some floats as well as some snorkelling masks. I am positive that these will be used against you.”

    Xiang Shaolong was alarmed as this is something he did not consider at all. Rivers and lakes are part of the hunting grounds. Except for the two bridges across the Jing River, they will require rafts or even wade through the water. If someone attacks them underwater, such as shooting a poisonous needle, the victim will be caught with his pants down. He took a deep breath and sighed: “I am lucky that my leg is injured and I cannot go anywhere.”

    Tu Xian smiled weakly: “That’s the best plan so far. But you must still be careful. He will try to kill Brother Teng and Little Jun too. If they are killed, your strength will be drastically affected.”

    Pausing, he added: “I may not know what they are doing exactly but based on Mo Ao’s intelligence, he will create a situation where they can attack you when you least expect it.”

    Xiang Shaolong’s is perspiring with cold sweat. He did not anticipate Lu Buwei to target Teng Yi and Jing Jun too. With Tu Xian’s reminder, he realised how careless he is.

    Tu Xian described in a deep voice: “The most frightening thing about Mo Ao is that he is the silent killer in the background. He knows how to protect himself and cannot be bothered with fame and official posts. He is a man who goes for the big kill.”

    Xiang Shaolong questioned: “Doesn’t he have any flaws?”

    Tu Xian answered: “His only flaw is that he lusts after women! When he first saw Widow Qin Qing, he lost his bearings. Lu Buwei cannot do anything about her or she would have long entered his bedroom. I forgot to tell you. Lu Buwei is very jealous about Talented Lady Ji marrying you. On more than one occasion, he had mentioned that she is too good for you.”

    He added: “Comparing both of them, Guan Zhongxie has better self control. He has never touched any of Lu Buwei’s courtesans or maids. He spends most of his time practising his horse riding, archery, swordplay and even reads military classics. He repeats this schedule every day and his willpower is amazing. Moreover, no one knows what he wants or what he is thinking about. He will be a more difficult opponent to kill compared to Mo Ao. If an opportunity presents itself, you must kill him too so that we can all sleep better at night.” Xiang Shaolong was totally frightened by these words. Compared to himself, he is much more lecherous and lazy.

    Emotionless people like Guan Zhongxie are the most frightening opponents.

    Mo Ao has a weakness, which is Qin Qing.

    This weakness will cost him his life.

    Tu Xian sighed again: “Lu Buwei’s influence is growing drastically. Every day, there are countless official coming to flatter him or present gifts. Additionally, he controlled Empress through Lao Ai. If this continues, Qin will soon belong to him. If not for his strict security, I will present him with a cup of poison wine just like how he poisoned others.”

    Xiang Shaolong laughed: “Lao Ai may not be as beneficial to him as it looks.”

    He told Tu Xian about supporting Lao Ai to oppose Lu Buwei.

    Tu Xian was stunned and sighed after some time: “Shaolong may be better than Mo Ao in terms of scheming! Lao Ai is indeed a selfish and ungrateful man.”

    Xiang Shaolong was feeling guilty about this praise and asked about Lu Niang Rong.

    Tu Xian responded: “She is the only person I do not detest within the Premier Residence. Lu Buwei’s three sons are useless bums who indulges in wine and women. The other two daughters are ugly, incompetent and not worth his attention. Only Lu Niang Rong manages to win his affection. Whoever marries her will be considered to be Lu Buwei’s successor. If you can make her fall in love with you, Lu Buwei will be in trouble.”

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly smiled: “Even if she is my arch enemy’s daughter, I should not toy with her feelings. Moreover, I am not as capable as Guan Zhongxie. Even I can feel that he is a very charming man.”

    Tu Xian disclosed: “Guan Zhongxie has his own way of getting anything or anyone he desires. Additionally, he is humble, polite and never put on any airs and is not as inaccessible as Mo Ao. He knows how to win your respect and he has bribed everyone around Lu Niang Rong. Needless to say, Lu Niang Rong is deeply infatuated with him. You honestly do not have the slightest chance of marrying her.”

    He thought hard and frowned: “But things are not as simple as it looks. Since you rejected the marriage, she was annoyed but her interest in you grew. She loves people with extraordinary sword skills. If you can beat Guan Zhongxie, she may be moved.”

    Xiang Shaolong sighed: “That is even more difficult than winning her affections openly. Do you know if they had made love already?”

    Tu Xian affirmed: “Guan Zhongxie will never do such silly things that will anger Lu Buwei.”

    Glancing out of the window at the darkening skies, he added: “In the three days of the hunting fair, Shaolong must be fully alert and protect yourself. Do not give Lu Buwei any chance to assassinate you. You are his biggest obstacle and you must not be complacent when dealing with him.”

    Xiang Shaolong nodded his head in agreement and they parted.

    As Xiang Shaolong strode down the road, the street lamps are being lighted up. Xianyang City’s nightlife is not as lively as Handan City or Daliang City but there are still people walking on the roads. This is even more true on the main roads where the brothels are located. In fact, there are more people on those roads at night than in the daytime.

    They have decided to meet at Xianyang City’s biggest brothel Drunken Wind Brothel. Drunken Wind Brothel is a privately owned high class brothel and Xiang Shaolong do not know who the owner is but he is sure that he is a very popular man.

    Xiang Shaolong used to frequent pubs and nightclubs in the past. In this ancient period, this is the first time he is visiting a private brothel and he could not help but feel refreshing.

    Wearing a normal warrior suit and walking down a busy ancient street, he reminisce about his life and was intoxicated.

    Four years has come and gone.

    Xiao Pan the future Qin Shi Huang has transformed from a playful and innocent child into a determined and capable Crown Prince.

    Nobody among the six states could be bothered with him but are more concerned about Lu Buwei or himself. Ten years later, they will realise how wrong they are.

    While he was deep in his thoughts, he came to Drunken Wind Brothel’s vicinity and noticed it was crowded with horse carriages and people.

    The bouncer recognized him immediately and bowed deeply, welcoming him.

    Before he could move another step, a familiar voice called him from behind: “Official Xiang, please hold your step!”

    Xiang Shaolong recognized that it was Han Chuang’s voice and turned around with astonishment. He saw Han Chuang dismounting from his carriage and striding towards him in large steps. When he reached him, he held his sleeve and pulled him towards the entrance, whispering: “Dong Horse Fanatic, you have deceived me thoroughly.”

    Xiang Shaolong could not be bothered to deny, thinking that the whole world should know about his impersonation by now. He bitterly laughed: “Who told you?”

    Han Chuang was about to say something when a well-dressed middle-aged man accompanied by two attractive ladies with thick make-up welcomed: “Welcome to your first visit Official Xiang and welcome back Marquis Han. I, Wu Fu, am deeply honoured by your presence.”

    On his right, the beauty giggled: “I am Guiyan. When our girls heard that Official Xiang is coming, everyone is putting on their best make up, hoping to be chosen by you!”

    Han Chuang chided: “So no one is bothered about me?”

    The other beauty seemed to be familiar with Han Chuang. Batting her long eye lashes at him, she smiled: “Marquis Han is so jealous; shall I accompany you myself?”

    She then faced Xiang Shaolong and informed: “I am Bailei, please make yourself at home.”

    Han Chuang is an experienced brothel man and will not take it easy on them. He clapped Xiang Shaolong’s shoulder and exclaimed: “Bailei actually wants you to make yourself easy in her home!”

    The two girls incidentally burst out in giggles.

    Wu Fu was still laughing as he led them through the main hall and into an inner chamber. A pretty maid served tea and the two girls sat beside both of them.

    Xiang Shaolong was feeling puzzled over why they are seated there when Wu Fu clapped once and smiled: “This is Official Xiang’s first visit and we have prepared a little surprise for you. It is a just little gift and we hope you do not take it to heart.”

    Xiang Shaolong was highly amused. Corruption and bribery is the same in these ancient times. As the Imperial Cavalry Commander, he is as good as Xianyang City’s chief protector. These brothel owners must naturally treat him well so as to enjoy certain benefits in the future.

    Han Chuang smiled: “Boss Wu is knowledgeable man. Official Xiang will surely appreciate your friendship.”

    Half of Bailei’s body is already leaning on Han Chuang’s back and she teased: “Marquis Han is the knowledgeable man. Our boss pale in comparison!”

    On the other side, Guiyan leaned into Xiang Shaolong’s bosom and cooed: “Official Xiang must come here more often or the girls and myself will not let you off.”

    Xiang Shaolong finally realised the meaning of ‘A brothel is a hero’s home.’

    For the past two years, he has been avoiding all females except his own wives and maids. On one hand, he is satisfied with them already. The real reason is he wants to avoid the responsibility linked to relationships.

    The plus point of these women is the way 5ex is conducted. Everybody can fulfil their fantasies and simply leave without any repercussions. This is also a way to balance the human needs as long as it is not done excessively.

    When Xiang Shaolong first arrived in Handan City, someone brought him to the Official Brothel and he was faced with Su Nu’s tragic ending. This tragedy has left a scar in his mind, making him fearful of brothels and even more fearful of the tragic stories of the brothel girls.

    But he can tell that private brothels and official brothels was very different. Private brothels girls are women who are willing to enter flesh trade and are very open about their occupations.

    Remembering the days when he was down and out, he was lucky to be retained by Tao Fang. Otherwise, he may have to be a paid assassin or a gigo1o.

    Guiyan intimately whispered into his ear: “Why is Official Xiang so listless? Let me get Meimei to accompany you! Every guy who sees her will be mesmerized.”

    Xiang Shaolong thought that this name sounded familiar. His mind raced furiously and he recalled that it is Lao Ai’s old flame Dan Meimei who bewitched Wu Tingwei into betraying his family and eventually dying a tragic death. He was annoyed and barked: “This beautiful Guiyan accompanying me is good enough; who cares about the ugly Meimei?”

    Bailei sniggered: “Official Xiang is a lecherous man too. You are even better than Marquis Han is making girls happy!”

    Han Chuang laughed: “Official Xiang’s real abilities will scare both of you to death if you ever come to know about it! He is not only good at humouring girls.”

    His remarks were followed by a flurry of laughing and teasing.

    Wu Fu was curious: “So Marquis Han and Official Xiang know each other very well.”

    Xiang Shaolong and Han Chuang smiled knowingly at each other.

    At this moment, four pretty maids entered the room in two groups. The first two were holding a spear that was three metres long and the other two were holding onto a triangular shield that was one and a half metres tall.

    Xiang Shaolong was blown away.

    He anticipated a gift of some precious jewels or gems but he was presented with weapons instead.

    Wu Fu stood up and held the spear in his right hand and the shield in his left hand. He grunted and pretended to attack an invisible enemy and was incredibly entertaining and imposing.

    Guiyan intimately whispered into Xiang Shaolong’s ear: “This is our Drunken Wind Brothel sacred treasure that we use to ward off evil spirits. Three years ago, a guest presented this gift to us. When Boss Wu heard that Official Xiang is coming, he thought for a long time before he decided to give this to you.”

    Xiang Shaolong believed that this guest must have run out of money so he had to leave his weapons behind. In these times, top grade weapons can be used as currency but they are not easily available.

    Han Chuang received the spear and shield from Wu Fu and tested its weight. He was agitated: “These two weapons can fetch at least a hundred taels of gold. I cannot believe that Boss Wu have such a precious pair of weapons.”

    Xiang Shaolong secretly praised Wu Fu. With his gift of weapons, it is hard for him to reject and it is also hard to trace as a bribe. He stood up joyfully and received the spear. The body of the spear was straight, shimmering and engraved with motifs. The spear head is extremely sharp and made of top quality steel. This is the first time he has seen such a well-made spear.

    Wu Fu leaned over and pointed to the spear: “Official Xiang, please look here. This spear has a name.”

    Xiang Shaolong then noticed there were two ancient words engraved near the spear head. He naturally could not read them.

    Fortunately, Han Chuang excitedly leaned over and read: “Flying Dragon! Ha! So interesting. With this spear, Official Xiang’s career will fly high.”

    Wu Fu respectfully replied: “It is a small gesture and please do not mind its little value.”

    Guiyan moved closer to Xiang Shaolong and pleaded: “Official Xiang! Can I make a spear pouch for you?”

    Xiang Shaolong received the shield and lifted it twice. The shield is amazingly thin but extremely hard at the same time. Even if it is held for long hours, the holder will not feel tired at all. He was elated and thanked Wu Fu profusely.

    Guiyan whined: “Official Xiang has not answered my question!”

    Wu Fu smiled: “Official Xiang did not reject you so it is a yes. You have three days to produce the spear pouch and we will send the pouch and the spear together to Official Xiang’s residence.”

    Guiyan pinched Xiang Shaolong gleefully.

    Wu Fu apologised: “We have wasted some of your precious time. The two Lords and Official Guan are seated in the VIP seats in the rear garden awaiting Official Xiang. Will Marquis Han join Official Xiang’s table?”

    Han Chuang rejected: “I am here to drink with Prince Dan. Can Boss Wu give us some privacy? I have some confidential things to discuss with Official Xiang.”

    He whispered intimately to Bailei: “You are next.” And slapped her bum heavily.

    Bailei let out an exaggerated yelp.

    Guiyan slipped out of Xiang Shaolong’s bosom and cooed: “You must ask for me later!” Batting her eye lashes at him, she left the room with Wu Fu and Bailei and even closed the door for them.

    Xiang Shaolong sat down again and could not help but feel some temptation. Even if Guiyan is not fully sincere, she knows how to make men feel good about themselves. Any other man will also be tempted.

    Han Chuang softly smiled: “Wu Fu is really good and even brought his two best girls to accompany us. Even when we know that he is out to please you, we still fall into his trap willingly.”

    Xiang Shaolong felt the same and believed that with such men around, it is hard to be an uncorrupted official. He nodded: “Brother Han still did not tell me how you found out that I am Dong Horse Fanatic!”

    Han Chuang revealed: “Someone saw you going to see Tian Dan and my suspicions are raised. I heard that you came out with an ugly expression on your face and Tian Dan rushed to see Lu Buwei immediately. Did something happen?”

    Xiang Shaolong do not trust Han Chuang as much as he trusts Lord Longyang. He plainly state: “We have some slight disagreements! It is nothing serious.”

    Han Chuang sincerely commented: “If Brother Xiang wants to deal with Tian Dan or Li Yuan, you must not leave me out.”

    Xiang Shaolong responded: “If there is a need, I will definitely ask for your assistance.”

    Han Chuang’s expression suddenly turned vicious and asked: “Has Brother Xiang heard of this man named Lao Ai?”

    Xiang Shaolong recalled that Lao Ai seduced his concubine and was forced to escape to Xianyang City. He nodded to show that he has heard of him.

    Han Chuang gritted his teeth: “This [email protected] is an ungrateful man who is worse than a beast. I treated him well and yet he eloped with my concubine. He even strangled her to death when she became a burden to him. Such a heartless fellow; I cannot wait to tear him to pieces. Unfortunately, he is hiding in the Premier Residence and I cannot do anything about it.”

    Xiang Shaolong guessed that he does not know that Lao Ai is now Zhu Ji’s beloved. His constant patronage to this Drunken Wind Brothel must be due to Lao Ai and not because he likes to drink or womanize. He sighed: “Marquis must give up all hope. Lao Ai has entered the palace and is adored by Empress Ji. If you try to kill him, you will not return to Han alive.”

    Han Chuang trembled strongly and his eyes reddened, glowing with pain and agony. After some time, he dejectedly sighed: “I understand. In this case, I will return to Han tomorrow. If Brother Xiang needs my assistance in any way, I will do my best as long as it is within my power.”

    He softly added: “I still remembered and am grateful for your assistance in Handan City.”

    Xiang Shaolong can never imagine that Han Chuang can be such a thankful person. He could not hold back and promised: “Brother Han can rest easy. I guarantee with my head that Lao Ai will die a horrible death within seven years. I will avenge Brother Han’s injustice.”

    Han Chuang stared at him with disbelief for a while and finally nodded: “If these words come from anyone else, I will take it as a bad joke. But if they came from the mouth of Dong Horse Fanatic, I have absolutely no doubts about it.”

    Both men stood up and Han Chuang finished: “Sister Jing may be with Pang Nuan now but the man she truly loves is the dead Dong Horse Fanatic. I have decided not to tell her the truth.”

    Xiang Shaolong was stunned and an image of the pretty Zhao Empress appeared in his mind.

  11. #151
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
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    Book 13 Chapter 13 – An Evil Beauty


    With two pretty maids leading the way, Xiang Shaolong walked through a long corridor and stepped into a garden. The garden is filled with sounds of laughter and idle chatter.

    Under the illumination of the lamps, Xiang Shaolong noticed that there are many different kinds of flowers planted in the garden. They are neatly arranged to give a sense of peace and tranquillity, soothing the minds of those who see them.

    In the centre of the garden, there is a fake mountain and a fish pond. With the fresh green grass and insects chirping, it is hard to imagine that this is the garden of a brothel. Xiang Shaolong was so comfortable that he thought that he had returned home.

    The two maids leading the road are whispering and giggling to each other. They turned back occasionally to look and smile at him, trying to entice him.

    Xiang Shaolong knew that women are naturally attracted to him. Moreover, he is the mighty Imperial Cavalry Commander. These girls will feel honoured if they are linked to him.

    Ever since his promotion to this highly-sought-after post, he has been busy with work and family and did not have much time to know the common folks. Instead, all these work has been delegated to his men. Today, he finally get to know these commoners and felt the glory and intangible benefits of being the Imperial Cavalry Commander.

    No wonder so many people are interested to be officials.

    His men like Pu Bu and Liu Chao have benefitted from his glory too.

    Going around the fake mountain, a two-storey building came into view. The entrance was guarded by dozens of Palace Guards and Infantry Soldiers who are the escorts of the Lords and Guan Zhongxie. Xiang Shaolong is familiar with them as he saw them quite often.

    They may be standing guard outside the door but were not lonely at all as a group of maids are flirting with them, creating a lively atmosphere. When they saw Xiang Shaolong coming alone, they stood at attention and paid their respects but could not hide the look of surprise on their faces.

    When the maids announced his arrival, he smilingly strode into the main hall that was lighted with oil lamps.

    Inside the wide hall, there were four seats situated on each side. The tables are full of dishes and wine.

    Guan Zhongxie, Lord Changping and Lord Changwen are seated around the tables. When they saw him, they joyfully stood up and greeted him. The atmosphere is very friendly.

    The ladies serving them drinks kneeled down and kowtowed humbly.

    Guan Zhongxie laughed: “Official Xiang is late. Despite having a valid reason, we must still punish you with three cups of wine. When we compete in drinking later, you will not have an unfair advantage.”

    Xiang Shaolong found him to be more and more articulate and his words are full of reason. He smiled: “Official Guan’s words are as powerful as your sword skills. I will do as you wish.”

    After he got seated, a beauty came from Guan Zhongxie’s side and filled his wine cup.

    Xiang Shaolong caught sight of the crystal clear wine being poured into his cup and was reminded about Brandy. Feeling exhilarated, he put his hand on the shoulder of the pretty girl who was kneeling down beside him and pouring wine into his cup. He gently asked: “How do I address you?”

    Opposite him, Lord Changping burst out laughing: “This is news indeed. So Shaolong is an expert with women.”

    Lord Changwen interrupted: “He has to be, otherwise how can he win Ji Yanran’s affections? Big Brother should call him a brothel expert instead.”

    The beautiful courtesan batted her eyes at Xiang Shaolong and shyly answered: “My name is Yang Yu. Official Xiang must remember this.”

    Xiang Shaolong felt completely relaxed.

    The past few days have been too stressful and he was almost broke down.

    He needs to let his hair down and enjoy the nightlife of Xianyang City. He must forget about Shan Rou and numb himself in the brothel and forget about the world.

    He finished his drink in one gulp.

    Everyone was cheering for him.

    Seated beside him, Guan Zhongxie turned his head and cut in: “Wait. Before the second cup, you must order your dish first.”

    Xiang Shaolong stared at the dishes on the table with surprise and curiously asked: “Aren’t the dishes here already?”

    Everyone was bowled over with laughter.

    Lord Changwen was holding his stomach and suppressing his laughter. He stammered: “You have to order your women first. I suggest you limit yourself to two of them or you will not be able to wake up for the hunting fair tomorrow.”

    Guan Zhongxie added: “The Boss has reserved the best girls for your selection. The finest dishes are all available.”

    His words evoked another round of laughter.

    Lord Changping advised: “If you wish, you can have our girls too. Since this is your first visit, we shall go lightly on you!”

    The two girls beside him began to quarrel and the scene became slightly chaotic.

    His two hands holding the second cup of wine Yang Yu poured for him, he weakly smiled: “I did not force any of you to give way to me! I will not make things difficult for anyone. I will only need Miss Guiyan to drink with me. At the stroke of midnight, I have to return home.”

    Yang Yu, the other courtesans and the accompanying maids started to protest loudly.

    Guan Zhongxie sighed: “Unless Official Xiang is going to fight his way out, the brothel girls will not let you sleep in your own bed tonight.”

    As Yang Yu filled the third cup of wine for Xiang Shaolong, she softly invited: “Shall I accompany Official Xiang to sleep tonight?”

    Xiang Shaolong finished his drink in one gulp and bitterly smiled: “It is not that I am unwilling but I have my difficulties. My injured leg has yet to recover and I am really sorry. Will everyone please forgive me?”

    Guan Zhongxie apologised: “It is us who have mistaken him. We should all drink as a punishment.”

    Xiang Shaolong secretly cursed Guan Zhongxie for using this excuse to verify his leg injury without exposing his true intention. They began to toast each other and Xiang Shaolong drank as well.

    Yang Yu gently reminded: “Official must come back and look for me.” She lowered her head and returned to Guan Zhongxie’s side in a charming manner.

    Lord Changwen remarked: “There is a dish that Shaolong must definitely order or we will all be disappointed. That will be Xianyang City’s top courtesan Dan Meimei.”

    Xiang Shaolong is certain that Guan Zhongxie will be observing his reaction to this name so he can deduce whether he knows about Wu Tingwei and Dan Meimei’s relationship. He pretended to be surprised and laughed: “I must be working too hard. How come I have never heard of her name?”

    Every lady present is jealous of Dan Meimei and cheered when they heard this, adding to the festive atmosphere.

    Guan Zhongxie was speechless: “Luckily, Dan Meimei did not hear this or she will reject your invitation and she will cover her ears whenever she hears your name in the future. Men! Invite Miss Guiyan and Miss Dan Meimei for Official Xiang. I am the host tonight and we must give our guests the very best.”

    His words are slightly overbearing but it still sounds comfortable and acceptable.

    The maids received his order and left.

    Guan Zhongxie clapped loudly three times and the hall quietened down instantly.

    The female musicians seated near the door may be slightly older but still retain some charm and elegance. It is not surprising Drunken Wind Brothel has been named Xianyang City’s top brothel. If not for their official ranks, they are not fit to be seated where they are.

    The female musicians begin to play a melody.

    The two doors of the main hall were thrown open and a large group of courtesans ran in like a bunch of butterflies flying in. The spring in their steps signifies youth and liveliness, and they were a pleasing sight.

    Xiang Shaolong scrutinized them carefully and could tell that they are around the age of eighteen and nineteen. Every one of them has an excellent complexion and nice skin.

    In these warring times, men are more highly regarded than women. As a result, many poor families resort to selling their daughters. When Xiang Shaolong first ran into Tao Fang, he was acquiring beauties from all over the world. The courtesans in front of him are possibly acquired in the same manner.

    Thinking about this, he could not help but recalled the pitiful Ting Fangshi. Agonized, he wished he could leave immediately.

    He was still feeling sad as the music gradually stopped and the courtesans bade farewell and left.

    Their beautiful companions began to fill up their wine cups.

    An attendant announced: “Miss Guiyan has arrived!”

    Xiang Shaolong composed himself and gazed at Guiyan sashaying in. He thought about her name and the possible meaning behind it. He guessed that Guiyan is not a Qin native but gave herself this name to remind her of her hometown.

    (Translator note: Gui = Belong. Guiyan = Belonging to Yan.)

    Guiyan paid her respects to everyone and joyfully sat down besides Xiang Shaolong. All the other girls present have an envious look on their faces.

    Xiang Shaolong did not have a chance to say anything yet when Guiyan leaned on him and poured another cup of wine. Smiling brightly, she toasted: “I am grateful for your appreciation. Let me drink a toast to you!”

    Guan Zhongxie and the two Lords burst out laughing.

    Lord Changwen explained: “This is called intoxication with both women and wine. Shaolong may eventually risk his injury and stay overnight at Drunken Wind Brothel!”

    Guiyan was shocked: “Official Xiang is injured?”

    Xiang Shaolong sniffed at her fragrance and was slightly uneasy. Guiyan is a very charming lady, especially when she is trying her best to seduce you. In the past, Zhao Mu used Zhao Ya and a strong aphrodisiac to try to harm him. The best trick in the book is the Beauty Trap.

    Thinking about this, he recalled Guan Zhongxie’s sharp eyes staring at him when Dan Meimei’s name is mentioned. It was a really close shave.

    He was really complacent. If the wine he drank earlier was poisoned, he will be dead in no time.

    Mo Ao is a poisons expert. He may even create a poison that will only react a few days later. If that happens, no one will suspect Guan Zhongxie is his murderer.

    Guiyan noticed his expression changing and thought that his leg was in pain. She swallowed some wine herself from a cup and pass the same cup of wine to him, advising: “Wine can lessen your pain. Please have a drink.”

    Xiang Shaolong was relieved that she had drunk from the same cup and finished the cup of wine.

    His mind began to think furiously.

    To bribe a courtesan to harm him, the Imperial Cavalry Commander, is not an easy task. The entire brothel may be forced to close down and it will have huge repercussions. Moreover, Guan Zhongxie will not take such a risk. If he wants someone to kill Xiang Shaolong on his behalf, the only possibility is Dan Meimei. She has been bewitched by Lao Ai and will obey his orders without question.

    Lord Changwen smiled: “Guiyan is so sweet; Shaolong should reward her with a kiss.”

    Guiyan pretended to whine and collapsed into Xiang Shaolong’s bosom. Her left hand hugging his solid waist and her right hand hugging his thick neck, she raised her pretty face and closed her eyes, breathing heavily with anticipation.

    With her large breasts pressing against his body and witnessing her h0rny face, Xiang Shaolong was aroused and kissed her once on the lips.

    Everyone clapped and cheered loudly.

    Guiyan released him reluctantly and whined: “Official is so stingy.” She lowered her head and added: “Official is even more muscular than lions and tigers!”

    The attendant announced: “Miss Dan Meimei has arrived!”

    The entire hall quietened down and every single pair of eyes turned towards the main door.

    Accompanied by the sounds of her accessories tinkling, a tall woman sauntered towards them.

    Xiang Shaolong took a look at her and was taken aback.

    Dan Meimei is around the age of twenty with chiselled good looks, the sweetest smile and the most loving lips. She has an innocent aura that makes all men feel like protecting her from harm. Now that she is here, she has become the glowing moon while every other girl is just a shimmering star.

    The music started to play.

    Dam Meimei twisted and turned her body around and began dancing.

    Under the lamp’s illumination, the golden birds embroidered on her clothes seemed to have a life on their own and are flying around the room, making her resemble an angel from heaven.

    Dan Meimei, the most popular courtesan of Xianyang City, began to strike certain seductive postures. Out of a sudden, she started singing.

    Her voice is pure and refreshing, adding to her sensuality.

    Xiang Shaolong could catch some parts of the lyrics. The song is about a young lady bathing in the river and thinking about her beloved. She received a flute from her lover which is engraved with a pair of loving mandarin ducks, making her even more madly in love with him.

    Coupled with her dance gestures and her enchanting expression, Dan Meimei was absolutely mesmerizing and even Xiang Shaolong is captivated by her.

    Her beauty and grace is just one notch lower than Ji Yanran and Qin Qing. Xiang Shaolong did not expect such a beauty to be found in a brothel.

    With her beauty and performing ability, a rich man could have easily brought her home and add her to his harem. Why does she still need to work for a living?

    She continued singing: “Anyone can share my blanket while I think of my beloved. My fate has been decided.”

    Her beautiful singing slowly ended and everyone regained their self-control and cheered wildly for her.

    Dan Meimei paid her respects to everyone and tip toed to Xiang Shaolong.

    Xiang Shaolong reminded himself that this beauty before him is a vicious and evil woman in disguise. He stood up clapping and smiled: “Welcome, Miss Dan.”

    Dan Meimei giggled and her eyes gazed towards his face. The moment she got a closer look, her eyes lighted up with a mixture of fear, appreciation, doubt and hesitation.

    Xiang Shaolong is even more suspicious of Dan Meimei and is certain that she will be poisoning him as ordered by Guan Zhongxie and Mo Ao. Otherwise, she will not have such a strange look in her eyes.

    Her eyes cannot hide the truth. With Xiang Shaolong looking for tell-tale signs, she had inadvertently revealed the truth.

    When Dan Meimei laid her eyes on Xiang Shaolong, she was shocked as he reminded her of Lao Ai. But to her, Xiang Shaolong is even better than Lao Ai as he has a heroic air around him.

    Dan Meimei intentionally avoided his gaze and lowered her head. She came to Xiang Shaolong’s side and kneeled down.

    Xiang Shaolong peeped quickly at Guan Zhongxie and saw him staring at Dan Meimei with a nervous look in his eyes. He must have suspected that Dan Meimei is attracted to Xiang Shaolong.

    Xiang Shaolong bended down and reached out, holding onto her firm shoulders and helped her up.

    Dan Meimei raised her head and politely greeted: “Dan Meimei pays her respects to Official Xiang!” She lowered her head again gently but in a pitiful manner.

    But Xiang Shaolong knew that she has a guilty conscience and could not stand his righteous staring.

    Lord Changping smiled: “Dan Meimei must have been moved by Official Xiang to be so shy and quiet.”

    Lord Changwen added: “Has Official Xiang’s leg undergone a miracle healing?”

    Everyone laughed at his sentence.

    As Xiang Shaolong supported her to sit down, Guan Zhongxie suggested: “A beauty should match a hero. Meimei should offer Official Xiang a welcome toast.”

    Xiang Shaolong continued to observe Dan Meimei every little move. Her body trembled slightly when she heard Guan Zhongxie’s suggestion and was agitated. He was amused that Guan Zhongxie was afraid of her backing out and was forcing her to poison Xiang Shaolong at once.

    Mo Ao is truly brilliant. If Xiang Shaolong did not know that Dan Meimei is Lao Ai’s mistress, he would die a wrongful death.

    Dan Meimei hesitated for a while and finally her pair of jade hands appeared from her long sleeves and went ahead to pour some wine for Xiang Shaolong.

    Observing a delicate hairpin inserted into a bun of her shiny black hair and smelling her womanly scent, Xiang Shaolong is beginning to detest Guan Zhongxie for forcing this beauty to commit such an atrocious act.

    Dan Meimei’s jade hands trembled slightly.

    On his other side, Guiyan whispered intimately into Xiang Shaolong’s ear: “Official has forgotten all about me!”

    Xiang Shaolong chain of thoughts was disrupted by her. When she finished speaking, his hand snaked over, embracing her slender waist while he kissed her on her neck.

    At this point, Dan Meimei raised a cup of wine and cooed: “Meimei will first drink half a cup to represent my respect for you. Official Xiang shall finish the rest.”

    She raised the cup with one hand and put the other hand into her sleeve. With a magnificent posture, she lifted the cup and drank from it without making any noise.

    Xiang Shaolong focused hard and saw the other hand fiddling in the sleeve. He is certain that she is taking this chance to add poison to the wine.

    She lowered her sleeve and now held the cup with both hands, sending the cup to Xiang Shaolong’s lips but she looked down away from him.

    Lord Changping clapped and cheered loudly.

    Xiang Shaolong peered down at the cup half-filled with wine and had a sudden brainwave.

    Should he expose the truth about the poisoned wine? This will be the best chance to destroy Guan Zhongxie.

  12. #152
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
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    Book 14 Chapter 01 – Xianyang Happenings


    Xiang Shaolong took a closer look at the cup of wine Dan Meimei presented to him but could not see anything unusual.

    He did not believe that the poison will dissolve into the wine immediately. However, all he can rely on is the illumination of the oil lamp, which makes it more difficult for him to scrutinise the wine.

    He gave up the idea of exposing Guan Zhongxie. He wasn’t intimidated by him as he is confident that he can make Dan Meimei confess that Guan Zhongxie to be the mastermind behind the poisoning.

    The problem is by doing so; it is equivalent to openly opposing Lu Buwei. Their underground battle will come to light.

    Remembering that Lu Buwei has another several years of ultimate power, he decided to play safe for the time being.

    Moreover, this issue may become even more complicated and even affect Lao Ai indirectly.

    At the same time, he wonders if he can pretend to drink the poisonous wine. This will make Guan Zhongxie and Mo Ao leave him alone for time being. When the matter has passed, it will cause confusion among them. They may be misled into thinking that Xiang Shaolong is immune to poison or that Dan Meimei did not poison him in the first place. Their infighting will only benefit him.

    These thoughts flashed through his mind very quickly and he reached a decision in a split second.

    Xiang Shaolong held the poisonous wine with one hand and embraced Dan Meimei’s waist with the other and laughed: “Miss Meimei needs to drink another mouthful of wine to make it exactly half a cup.”

    With his back to Guiyan and Guan Zhongxie, he forced Dan Meimei to take another sip of wine.

    All the colour in Dan Meimei’s face disappeared and she strongly fought back and protested: “Official Xiang is so barbaric!”

    Xiang Shaolong took the chance to release his hold on her. As Dan Meimei has been resisting fiercely all the while, she lost her balance and fell on the floor.

    While everybody is focusing on Dan Meimei, Xiang Shaolong swiftly flicked his wrist and scattered the wine under the table. At the same instant, he pretended to help Dan Meimei up and concealed his extra movement. His cover-up was perfect.

    Dan Meimei sat upright in shock and was speechless.

    Xiang Shaolong laughed loudly: “It is my fault for causing Miss to fall down. I deserved to be punished!” He raised his cup and pretended to drink the poisonous wine.

    Opposite him, Lord Changping sighed: “Official Xiang is really amazing. This is the first time I saw Dan Meimei lying down on the floor in front of everyone.” Everyone burst out in laughter at his comments.

    Xiang Shaolong put down his wine cup and noticed Dan Meimei’s head still lowered with guilt. She did this to prevent others from witnessing the fear and unease in her eyes.

    On his left, Guiyan poured more wine for him.

    Guan Zhongxie smiled: “If Official Xiang can bear with some pain, I am sure Dan Meimei will lie down again tonight!”

    The two Lords broke out in more laughter while the other girls are expressing a mixture of smiles and jealousy.

    Xiang Shaolong embraced Dan Meimei’s slender waist and placed another cup of wine beside her lip, gently saying: “Please forgive me by drinking this cup of wine!”

    Dan Meimei parted her sexy lips and stared at him with mixed emotions in her eyes. She then drank the entire cup of wine silently.

    Everyone cheered loudly.

    On his other side, Guiyan was annoyed: “Official Xiang is so biased!”

    Xiang Shaolong could see that Guan Zhongxie was not suspicious of him and was secretly happy. He boasted: “I am the most unbiased man. Come! Let me serve Miss Guiyan in drinking wine too.”

    Lord Changwen egged: “You should feed her wine from your mouth to make it more interesting.”

    Guiyan chortled and actually lay down on Xiang Shaolong’s lap with an inviting and seductive look on her face. Luckily, her position did not affect his injured leg.

    Although a beautiful woman is lying on his lap, Xiang Shaolong is not the least aroused. Firstly, he was busy peeping at Dan Meimei and Guan Zhongxie’s reaction. Secondly, he knew that Guiyan is sent here to please him, the mighty Imperial Cavalry Commander, and is full of insincerity.

    Guiyan may not be as pretty as Dan Meimei but is considered the second prettiest among all the girls present. Only Guan Zhongxie’s Yang Yu can be considered on par with her. He could not resist taking advantage of her and poured a cup of wine into his mouth without swallowing it. He then lowered his head, matched her lips and let the wine slowly trickle out of his mouth.

    Guiyan moaned slightly and drank the wine skilfully. It is really not easy to drink wine lying down and it must be quite challenging for her.

    With everyone cheering him on, Xiang Shaolong was about to withdraw when out of a sudden, Guiyan grabbed him tightly and forced some wine back into his mouth.

    Xiang Shaolong was very aroused and forgot about his inhibitions. He sent his tongue into her mouth and they frenched for a while before separating.

    Everyone cheered wildly.

    Guiyan leaned on him weakly and seductively whined: “Can Official Xiang stay here tonight? I guarantee that your injury will not be affected.”

    As she was whining into his ear, only Dan Meimei on his other side can hear the words she mentioned. Dan Meimei trembled slightly and lowered her head again, as if she is lamenting over Xiang Shaolong’s impending death and that she is his murderer.

    Xiang Shaolong kissed Guiyan’s forehead and smiled: “If you do not make love wholeheartedly, it is not worth it.” His hand snaked over and hugged Dan Meimei again and feigned surprise: “Is something bothering Miss Meimei?”

    Dan Meimei was stunned and sadly replied: “Official Xiang only has eyes for Sister Guiyan so I am naturally upset.”

    Guan Zhongxie hurriedly spoke up for her: “Official Xiang is truly impressive and can even make Dan Meimei jealous. We brothers are all in awe of your talents.”

    Xiang Shaolong secretly cursed him for calling himself his brother. Lord Changwen smiled: “Looks like Official Xiang has to feed her a cup of wine too.”

    Xiang Shaolong thought that he might as well go all the way and tempt this female murderess. He prepared and held another cup of wine in his mouth and leaned over to match Dan Meimei’s lips. After he finished feeding her the wine in his mouth, he refused to let her go and frenched her deeply. Using all his kissing technique and tricks he learnt in the 21st century, he did his best to tempt and arouse her.

    Dam Meimei’s cold demeanour melted and starting burning with passion.

    Xiang Shaolong knew that with his kissing skills and his impending death, Dan Meimei will feel even more remorseful and may even really fall in love with him.

    After some time, tears can be seen in the corner of her eyes, affirming that she was forced to poison him.

    Xiang Shaolong did not want to leave yet as he is concerned that the spilt wine under the table has not evaporated yet.

    Guiyan came over to fondle him too. Inspired, Xiang Shaolong spilled another cup of wine under the table to hide the earlier spill.

    After a series of caressing, Dan Meimei surprising excused herself and took her leave.

    Without this popular babe, the Lords were less enthusiastic compared to before. Xiang Shaolong took the chance to take his leave too.

    Whether she is sincere or putting up an act, Guiyan actually sent him all the way to the front courtyard. She made him promised to come back for her before she allowed him to board Lord Changwen’s carriage.

    Suddenly, Xiang Shaolong finds himself more and more interested in this ancient ‘Black Leopard Bar.’

    Back at the Command Centre, he met Teng Yi who is on night shift and told him everything that happened. Teng Yi was relieved: “What a close call!”

    He added: “We are too rigid and kept thinking that he will only attack us during the hunting fair. To think that he will use the Beauty Trap tonight. If we know more about the poison, we can trick them instead.”

    Xiang Shaolong affirmed: “The poison will take effect after the fair.” Teng Yi was stunned: “What makes you so sure?”

    Xiang Shaolong explained; “Tu Xian informed me that Mo Ao has constructed a kind of tool that can kill underwater. It is meant for you and Jing Jun. When I die of poisoning later, there will be no one in Wu Family to counter them in the future.”

    Teng Yi was incensed: “If Mo Ao survives the hunting fair, I will change my surname to his.”

    Xiang Shaolong’s expression darkened: “We have always been thinking about ourselves. If they planned to assassinate Lu Gong and Xu Xian too, it will be disastrous.”

    Teng Yi breathed out in shock: “Will Lu Buwei be so daring?”

    Xiang Shaolong remarked: “Normally, he always play safe. But with the chaos caused by Lord Gaoling’s rebellion, he can easily push the blame to him. With his devious scheming, this is an opportunity he will not bypass.”

    Thinking about this, he became impatient and stood up, declaring: “I need to see Lu Gong now and warn him.”

    Teng Yi suggested: “I think you should see Xu Xian instead. In terms of intelligence, Lu Gong is way behind him. If he believes us, they will take the appropriate countermeasures.”

    Xiang Shaolong found it reasonable and left the Command Centre under the escorts of the Eighteen Guardians and a few hundred Cavalry soldiers. Pretending to patrol the City, he rode towards Xu Xian’s Left Premier Residence.

    As the Imperial Cavalry Commander, he is responsible for all security matters in the City except for the palace.

    As the dinner appointment ended early, it is only twelve plus now. Except for the brothel areas, the remaining streets are deserted except for the occasional horse carriage.

    At the Left Premier Residence, Xu Xian met him in the inner hall. This famous Great General of Qin smiled: “I knew Shaolong would look for me before the hunting fair.”

    Xiang Shaolong was taken aback: “Why is Premier Xu so certain?”

    Xu Xian sighed: “Since Mu Gong ruled Qin, we become a serious contender for power. Unfortunately, the roads to the east were heavily fortified by Jing so we focused on attacking the western lands. Finally, we conquered the other twelve states and gain plenty of territory. By the time Mu Gong passed away, we have amassed almost every piece of land on both sides of the Wei River. Since then, we did not conquer any new territories for over two hundred years. We can blame the enemy but it is actually our inability to overcome them. If you are powerful, who dare not succumb to you? It is as simple as that.”

    Xiang Shaolong had no idea about history during those times and kept nodding his head.

    Xu Xian became more enthusiastic and lectured: “When the eastern lands are divided, we should take the chance to attack them. It is a pity that the Qin court is in trouble and power was in the hands of evil ministers. Within forty years, we have a King who committed suicide, a Crown Prince denied of his succession, another King who was killed in the wilderness along with the Empress Dowager. Taking advantage of our internal strife, Wei invaded us and we lost all territories west of the river.”

    Xiang Shaolong is beginning to understand Xu Xian’s mindset. Lu Buwei is walking along the same old path. Whether Lu Buwei can control the Qin court or even remove Xiao Pan, ultimately, Qin cannot unite the world. This is Xu Xian’s main concern.

    Xu Xian stood up and mentioned in a deep voice: “Shaolong! Let’s take a walk in the rear garden!”

    Xiang Shaolong’s goose pimples stood up and knew that he has something confidential to say to him.

    Under the bright moonlight, the two men strolled slowly in the rear garden.

    Xu Xian sighed: “We are just as barbaric as Rongdi and can be extremely stubborn. Xianyang City may be a beautiful city but it is just a nice cover for our rough ways. If the city is gone, you will see our uncivilised lifestyle and customs. Fortunately, Xiao Gong implemented Shang Yang’s reforms and imposed harsh laws to make us learn how to respect rules. He built up our army and emphasized on military contributions that make us invincible wherever our armies go. Now, Lu Buwei entered the picture and kept promoting his own men. He even invited the inferior representatives from the six states to Qin, flattered them and secretly conspired with them. These actions are unfavourable to our state. I have read his Spring and Autumn Annals of Lu. Hng! If Shang Yang comes back to life, he will burn them at once.”

    Xiang Shaolong finally learnt about another set of thinking other than Lu Gong’s Qin racism. It is a clash of culture. Lu Buwei has been too arrogant and did not consider the feelings of the Qin people.

    The Qin people he met are honest, straightforward and do not employ schemes. Xu Xian, Lu Gong, Wang He, Lord Changping, Lord Changwen and An Gu are all alike.

    Lu Buwei, Mo Ao, Guan Zhongxie and Lao Ai are all scheming people.

    Qin’s invincibility comes from their strong family relations coupled with Shang Yang’s reforms.

    Lu Buwei uses military men like Guan Zhongxie and Lu Xiong who are all his own subordinates. Moreover, Lu Xiong’s denial of his wrongdoing is something Qin people detests the most.

    Xiao Pan’s strict punishment of Lu Xiong thus earned him the respect of the Qin people.

    Xu Xian stopped walking and gazed at Xiang Shaolong before mentioning: “I am not against Lu Buwei because he is an outsider. Shang Yang is from Wei but he is someone I respect the most.”

    Xiang Shaolong nodded: “I understand Premier Xu’s thinking.”

    Xu Xian shook his head and sighed: “Lu Buwei is too simple-minded. He thought that by poisoning the King, Qin will belong to him. Thankfully, Heaven has not abandoned us yet and gave us a capable ruler Crown Prince Zheng. Even at the sacrifice of my own life, I will ensure Crown Prince Zheng will be coroneted as the King of Qin.”

    Xiang Shaolong was shocked: “From Premier Xu’s words, our situation seems to be life-threatening.”

    Xu Xian led him to sit down on some stones beside a small bridge and whispered: “Initially, I am not worried. But because of the uprising in the eastern provinces, Lu Buwei has sent Meng Ao, Wang He and all our nearby forces to crush the rebels. Now, there is only the Palace Guards, Imperial Cavalry and Imperial Infantry protecting the capital. This is the most dangerous situation I have ever seen.”

    Xiang Shaolong frowned: “From what I know, the uprising is a scheme by Lord Gaoling and Zhao General Pang Nuan. Didn’t Lu Buwei mention this?”

    Xu Xian’s face become clouded and commented: “That’s true but we all know Lord Gaoling’s ability. Ten Lord Gaolings are still inferior to half a Lu Buwei. Lu Buwei is not someone who will be taken by surprise at the rebellion and send troops hastily to defend the provinces.”

    Xiang Shaolong can feel his body turning cold and softly asked: “Premier Xu is saying that...”

    Xu Xian concluded: “This has something to do with Lu Buwei. As long as Lu Buwei can time this scheme with Lord Gaoling’s rebellion, he can control him like a puppet.”

    Xu Xian’s face became more solemn and he added: “If Lu Buwei can kill you and your assistant Commanders, both Imperial Armies will land in his hands. What do you think will happen to Xianyang City? That is why I can guess that you will visit me before the hunting fair. If you are really not Lu Buwei’s lackey, you should sense something amiss with your level of intelligence. Does Shaolong understand?”

    Xiang Shaolong has a second close shave. It is not easy to gain Xu Xian’s trust. It is only until now that he fully believed that Xiang Shaolong is opposing Lu Buwei. He must be guarding against Lu Buwei’s spying.

    After an awkward silence, he replied: “Thanks for Premier Xu’s trust.”

    He still has some doubts and asked: “Even if both armies belong to Lu Buwei, they will not necessary obey him if he wants to overthrow the Crown Prince.”

    Xu Xian sighed: “Shaolong is still inexperienced. Unless Lu Buwei has full control of the military, he will not dare to harm the Crown Prince. But if he can kill Lu Gong and me and push the entire blame to Lord Gaoling, he will control the Qin court. Meng Ao is his lackey and Wang He the foolish assho1e dare not oppose him. With the Empress supporting him, there is nothing he dare not do.”

    His eyes flashed energetically and state: “He who acts first is in control; he who acts later is controlled.”

    As long as Lu Buwei is alive, everyone will suffer. The history of Qin will repeat as long as power is held in the hands of unscrupulous ministers.

    Xiang Shaolong nearly groaned.

    From Xu Xian’s point of view, everything is well-analyzed and the strategies are appropriate.

    However, Xiang Shaolong knew that before Xiao Pan’s coronation, nobody could kill Lu Buwei.

    If he cannot kill him, he will be killed. What kind of choice is this?

    He hated himself for not being able to use this reason to persuade Xu Xian. How can he explain to Xu Xian that history books have recorded that Lu Buwei will live for several more years?

    While he is agonizing, Xu Xian continued: “As long as Crown Prince nods his head, Lu Buwei will not survive these three days.”

    Xiang Shaolong sighed: “Has Premier Xu thought about the consequences?”

    Xu Xian coldly snorted: “There are three obstacles. They are Empress Ji, Meng Ao and Du Bi. Du Bi is the biggest headache. With Lu Buwei gone, he will support Chongqiao to be the Crown Prince. If not for this consideration, Lu Gong and I would have acted when the late King passed away. Of course! Wang He has been dissuading us from doing this. Therefore, I hope you will persuade Crown Prince. You are, after all, the person he trusts the most.”

    Xiang Shaolong suggested: “I have another plan in mind. First, we must conduct the blood test and prove that Crown Prince and Lu Buwei are not related at all. Secondly, we must kill Lu Buwei’s top advisor. With this man gone, Lu Buwei is like a tiger without teeth and claws and his prowess will be limited. Thirdly, we will...”

    Xu Xian waved his hand and interrupted him: “Are you referring to Mo Ao?”

    Xiang Shaolong was astounded: “Premier Xu has heard of this man?”

    Xu Xian simply dismissed: “If I have never heard of him, how would I dare to oppose Lu Buwei? It will be great if we can kill Guan Zhongxie too. Unfortunately, we are all guarding against each other secretly. If we openly fight, it will be hard to tell who the winner is.”

    Xiang Shaolong knew that based on this point, he can still dissuade this clever man. He whispered: “Thirdly, we will support Lao Ai and use him to counter Lu Buwei. As long as we can drag everything until the coronation date, Lu Buwei will be the eventual loser.”

    Xu Xian was blown away: “Isn’t Lao Ai a lackey of Lu Buwei?”

    Xiang Shaolong revealed his whole scheme to him and added: “I even recommended Crown Prince to name Lu Buwei the Premier Mentor to curb his ambitions.”

    Xu Xian inhaled a deep breath and stared at Xiang Shaolong as if this is the first time they met. Assessing him for a while, his eyes glowed and he remarked: “In terms of scheming, Mo Ao is inferior to you. No wonder you can still live healthily until today.”

    Xiang Shaolong secretly felt guilty and smiled: “Luckily, I did not finish one special cup of wine tonight or I would have failed your expectations.”

    Xu Xian pressed for an explanation and he revealed everything that has happened.

    After he finished listening, Xu Xian nodded in agreement: “You are right. If Mo Ao does not die, we will die under his hands one day. From my estimates, the poisoned wine will take effect after seven days. King Xiaowen drank Lu Buwei’s medicine and died from breathing difficulties seven days later. There has never been any poison that takes effect after seven days so even with our suspicions; there is no evidence to indicate Lu Buwei to be the mastermind. Ai! Now, nobody dares to eat food from Lu Buwei. It is really strange. The medication that King Xiaowen drank was also tested by an attendant. Why didn’t the attendant die of poisoning too?”

    Xiang Shaolong had to admit that Mo Ao’s poisoning skills are many times better than the dead Zhao Mu. Even if it is a slow-reacting poison, there will still be traces of poisoning when the poison has entered the stomach. How can there be a poison that will only react seven days later? Even in the 21st century, it is still not possible. The only likelihood is that the poison is carefully wrapped in a special capsule. When the capsule is in the stomach, it will stay there for some time before it leaks the poison and take the life of the person.

    Thinking about this, he was agitated. He wished he could immediately rush back to Drunken Wind Brothel and investigate the area where he spilled the poisonous wine and see if there is really such a capsule there.

    Xu Xian noticed his countenance changing and implored: “What have you thought of?”

    Xiang Shaolong replied: “I am thinking of how to persuade Premier Xu to delay his plans to attack Lu Buwei.”

    Xu Xian smiled: “I am not a brainless fighter. Since Shaolong has such a brilliant plan, Lu Gong and I will hold our plans back. But if you cannot kill Mo Ao, it will be our turn to attack Lu Buwei. It is better to die fighting for something you believe in than die an unexplainable death at home.”

    Xiang Shaolong beat his chest and swore: “Give me ten days! I may be able to use his own poison against himself and let him die a mysterious death!” Surprised, Xu Xian stared at him speechlessly.

  13. #153
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
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    Book 14 Chapter 02 – Re-visiting The Brothel


    Xiang Shaolong agilely leapt over the wall and landed in the garden of Drunken Wind Brothel.

    It is two am in the morning and the several entertainment buildings behind the main building are still lighted and filled with sounds of music and singing.

    Xiang Shaolong took some time before he could determine the exact building Guan Zhongxie had hosted him earlier. Strangely, the building is still lighted. Xiang Shaolong was perplexed, thinking that another batch of guests is now occupying their room.

    Curious, he took advantage of the shadows of the trees and bushes to creep nearer to the building. As silent as a mouse, he finally reached the perimeter of the building and hurriedly prone down with his heart thumping wildly.

    He was taken by surprise by several strongmen guarding the main door and he could recognize some of them to be Lu Buwei’s personal escorts.

    Is Lu Buwei here?

    He peered harder into the darkness and noticed that the building was securely guarded by men in all four corners.

    Of course, they do not pose an obstacle to an elite soldier like him who can climb walls and swing from buildings.

    He scrutinized his surroundings and chose a tall tree besides the building. He stealthily shimmied up the tree and shot his grappling hook onto a roof tile. Once the rope is tightened, he carefully glided onto the roof and peeped into the building through one of the ventilation gaps.

    He was so completely overwhelmed by what he saw that his body turned cold immediately and he nearly fell off the roof.

    Under the illumination of the bright oil lamps, he saw Guan Zhongxie, Mo Ao, Brothel Owner Wu Fu, Guiyan and Dan Meimei analyzing the spilled wine under the table.

    Wu Fu sighed: “Mister Mo is truly a genius. First, you advised me to use precious gifts to lower his guard; then we misled him that Meimei is going to poison him when the real culprit is Guiyan.”

    Guan Zhongxie commented:“I am full of respect for Brother Mo’s abilities. Now, that kid thought that he had managed to escape our poisoning and will lower his guard. What a thrilling outcome!’’

    The main door opened and a delighted Lu Buwei strolled in arrogantly.

    As Xiang Shaolong was totally flabbergasted at this revelation, Dan Meimei gracefully leaped into the arms of Lu Buwei and cooed: “Meimei has scored a huge merit for Premier Lu. How do you plan to reward me?”

    Lu Buwei hugged her slender waist before patting her hips and laughed:“Fine! Then let me serve you in bed tonight!’’

    Mo Ao’s hand snaked out and embraced Guiyan, adding:“Premier must not forget our dear Guiyan. Without her skilful tongue, Xiang Shaolong will not be tricked.’’

    Above them, Xiang Shaolong was nearly fainting. How he wished he can jump straight down and slaughter all of them at once.

    Heaven!

    There is a poison pill in his stomach now. He had no knowledge of surgery and his death is imminent.

    Still embracing Dan Meimei, Lu Buwei walked over to the spilled wine and took a closer look. He chortled:“Xiang Shaolong, even with your intelligence, you are only good enough to be my puppet. You made a mistake when you thought you have discarded the poisoned wine. When the poison takes effect, you will die an unexplainable death.’’

    Xiang Shaolong had a brainwave and saw a ray of hope.

    If the pill is stuck in his throat, he can still survive.

    Guan Zhongxie remarked:“Miss Meimei’s performance is brilliant. I am almost convinced by your acting too.’’

    Lu Buwei leaned forward and kissed her tightly on the lips, making her squirm and aroused.

    Guan Zhongxie clapped Wu Fu’s shoulder and smiled:“When everything is over, Boss Wu will surely be promoted to a high official post!’’

    Wu Fu gave his thanks and worriedly asked: “Is there a chance that he may spit the pill out?’’

    Leaning on Mo Ao, Guiyan assured:“Boss can put your mind at ease. The pill is very sticky and if not for his tongue entering my mouth, I will not be able to feed him the pill too.’’

    Mo Ao revealed: “The weakness of the pill is that it sticks to the bottom of the wine cup. Otherwise, Little Yan need not feed him with your tongue and let him take advantage of you.”

    Guan Zhongxie laughed:“He only took a little advantage. The big advantage will be taken by you tonight!’’

    All the men laughed while the ladies protested.

    Xiang Shaolong was in a state of panic. He could not wait to leave and remove the pill from his throat.

    What an excellent plan! In the midst of all the kissing, he was intoxicated and did not realize that it was a kiss of death.

    He was too careless and did not anticipate his opponent to guess that he knows Dan Meimei’s background. His earlier antics looked so ridiculous now.

    Lu Buwei smiled:“The night is painfully short. Mister Mo should retire to Guiyan’s room and serve her well for her hard work.’’

    He faced Wu Fu and added:“You have done well. I will see to your reward.’’

    Laughing, he left with Dan Meimei still his in arms.

    Xiang Shaolong groaned loudly.

    From his open mouth, Teng Yi used a pair of bronze clippers to extract a black pill and put it on a plate. The pill is extremely small and it is about the size of a housefly.

    Besides him, Tao Fang, Jing Jun, Pu Bu, Liu Chao, etc sighed with relief at the close shave.

    Xiang Shaolong’s throat was scrapped and he could not say anything for the time being.

    Teng Yi raised the pill to eye level and everyone clustered around to have a closer look.

    Jing Jun viciously demanded:“What can we do to put this pill in Mo Ao’s throat?’’

    Xiang Shaolong cleared his throat and spoke in a hoarse voice: “If this pill is put in a wine cup, it will stick to the bottom. However, it did not happen to King Xiaowen’s bowl of medicine.”

    Tao Fang happily exclaimed: “In this case, we can find out the recipe and use the same herbs but improve on its stickiness. Once we can make it stick only upon reaching the throat, it will be a piece of cake to kill Mo Ao. The recipe can be preserved for other uses too.”

    Teng Yi was shaken and glanced at Xiang Shaolong. They thought of Tu Xian and shook their heads at the same time.

    If Tu Xian can poison Mo Ao without any difficulty, Mo Ao will be dead long ago.

    Pu Bu interceded: “Even if we can improve the stickiness; it is still insufficient. How can we convince him to drink it in the first place?”

    Xiang Shaolong concluded: “Let’s act according to circumstances. I will carry the pill at all times and poison him whenever possible. It is late! Let’s have some rest to have enough stamina to face Mo Ao’s devilish schemes tomorrow. Second Brother and Little Jun must be especially alert.”

    Everyone agreed in unison and retired to their respective bedrooms.

    Back at his own chamber, Xiang Shaolong was reminded of Ji Yanran and his other pretty wives. Deep in thought, he was abruptly disturbed by a shrill voice: “Master is back!”

    Xiang Shaolong turned around in surprise and saw Zhou Wei lying on one side of his bed. Her clothes are slightly ruffled and she must have been sleeping before he came into the room. Staring at her tempting figure, Xiang Shaolong was agonized.

    Since the deaths of Zhao Qian and the maids, he was mentally tormented and spent a year in living hell. Moreover, he was discouraged at his lack of success in battling Lu Buwei. He no longer wished to add the burden of new relationships to his existing heavy load.

    That is the same way he feels about Qin Qing and Ying Ying.

    He may have promised the Changping Brothers to woo Ying Ying but it is an obligation and not resulting from his true passion. Additionally, he is not confident of winning her from Guan Zhongxie.

    Presently, Zhou Wei is giving him the biggest headache.

    From her characteristics, Xiang Shaolong deduced that she is a stubborn girl with plenty of self respect. She will either love him or hate him to the core.

    Fortunately, their relationship is just starting out and he can still worm his way out. He coughed: “It is so late and you should go back to sleep.”

    Zhou Wei got up and paid her respects to him. She proceeded to gently undress his cloak and cheerfully replied: “I slept already and am very energetic now. Master Tao has assigned a rear room for me. Shall I help you take a shower?” By the time she finished speaking, her two cheeks have turned completely red.

    Xiang Shaolong lamented secretly that he is truly lacking the company of his wives and his earlier brothel experience has aroused his 5exual desire. If he agrees to her company, he will have to bear with the consequences. But if he rejects her, would she be extremely offended?

    Luckily, just as Zhou Wei is beginning to undress him further, footsteps were heard.

    Astounded, Xiang Shaolong turned his head and saw Jing Jun. Stunned, he exclaimed: “Little Jun! What is so urgent?”

    Jing Jun is still under the impression that Zhou Wei is Zhou Liang’s wife and stared at her suspiciously.

    Xiang Shaolong instructed Zhou Wei to retreat into her own room and asked again: “What is going on?”

    Jing Jun watched Zhou Wei as she left and inquired: “What is she doing here?”

    Xiang Shaolong explained their sibling relationship and Jing Jun eyes lit up and sighed: “Third Brother is a blessed man. If she dresses up and apply make-up, her beauty will surpass the Tian sisters.”

    Xiang Shaolong was inspired and asked Jing Jun to take a seat before smiling: “Is Little Jun interested in her?”

    Jing Jun seriously answered: “Third Brother must be kidding. I will not dare to compete with you for her affections.”

    Xiang Shaolong was pleased: “She is not my woman yet. If you are keen, you can try wooing her. I do not mind at all but instead will be grateful towards you!”

    Jing Jun was overjoyed: “Hei! I shall give it a try! I am much better with girls now.”

    Xiang Shaolong decided: “It is settled then. Why are you not sleeping and came all the way here to look for me?”

    Jing Jun enquired: “Can Third Brother participate in an expedition with your injured leg?”

    Xiang Shaolong responded: “As long as it is not a fight, I should be fine. What bright ideas do you have?”

    Jing Jun whispered: “There is four hours from now till daybreak. If we want to kill Mo Ao, this is the best opportunity.”

    Xiang Shaolong frowned: “Mo Ao is heavily protected with his own escorts in addition to Lu Buwei’s escorts. How can we kill him?”

    Jing Jun detailed: “Of course we cannot resort to force. I am familiar with Drunken Wind Brothel’s layout and I know the location of the bedrooms of Dan Meimei and Guiyan. If we can slip in and force the pill down Mo Ao’s throat, we can turn the tables and wait for him to die an unexplainable death. Wouldn’t that be great?” Xiang Shaolong excitedly cried: “What’s the plan?”

    Jing Jun opened his palm and displayed a twig that was about three inches long. He proudly proclaimed: “This is a twig from the tree of slumber. When it is lighted, anyone who breathes in the fumes will start to fall asleep. Anyone already asleep will fall into deeper sleep that he will not be awakened even if he is being slapped. Does Third Brother understand now?”

    Xiang Shaolong thought it over and agreed: “You better inform Second Brother. If we leave him out of this fun, he will give us a terrible scolding.”

    With their climbing skills, the three brothers slipped into the Drunken Wind Brothel noiselessly and hid within the vegetation.

    Beyond the trees, bright lights can still be seen.

    The experienced Jing Jun explained: “There are four chambers in the building within the bamboo clusters ahead. They house the four great beauties of Drunken Wind Brothel who are Dan Meimei, Yang Yu, Guiyan and Bailei. Guiyan’s chamber is the left one at the back of the building. Once we can get through the bamboo plants, there is a chance we can slip inside. If I remember correctly, there are some cinnamon trees near the building which is a good place to hide.”

    Teng Yi frowned: “If Lu Buwei is in there too, security will be extra tight. A cluster of bamboo plants is harder to infiltrate compared to normal trees. If there is someone guarding the entrances and exits of the bamboo clusters, how can we slip in?”

    Xiang Shaolong asked: “Is there another alternative?”

    Jing Jun bitterly smiled: “It is completely surrounded by bamboo and thus, it is named the Secret Bamboo Rendezvous. Once we can pass the obstacle, Mo Ao is as good as dead.”

    Footsteps can be heard as two family warriors walked towards them. They seemed to be leading the way with the lanterns they carried and were chatting happily. The three men quietened down and strained their ears to eavesdrop on their conversation.

    The first man started: “The four great beauties truly live up to their reputations. Even our Master Guan is tempted and is spending the night in Yang Yu’s room.”

    The second man replied: “I heard the last one is Bailei. I wonder if she has an overnight guest. If not, we can have some fun with her.”

    The first man sighed: “Can you afford her? I heard that she may not even accompany you even if you have money.”

    When they have travelled out of earshot, Xiang Shaolong was inspired and revealed: “Bailei should be accompanying Han Chuang. We can use him to pass through the bamboo clusters.”

    Before he could finish speaking, a group of people are walking towards them from another building. Han Chuang and Bailei could be seen among them. Teng Yi anxiously exclaimed: “How can we avoid being identified by Bailei?”

    This group of people has walked down a garden path and is led by two pretty maids carrying lanterns. Behind the maids are four of Han Chuang’s family warriors, followed by the lecherous Han Chuang caressing and hugging Bailei. Behind them are another eight personal escorts.

    Witnessing this, Xiang Shaolong was at a loss.

    Jing Jun suddenly whispered to Teng Yi: “Bailei does not know who you are!”

    Xiang Shaolong had a brainwave: “Second Brother can masquerade as Prince Dan’s subordinate. Han Chuang just had a drink with him.”

    By now, Han Chuang’s party has walked past their hiding place and are walking down the straight path leading into the bamboo clusters.

    Teng Yi removed his sword and gathered his courage. He rushed out to the path and hailed: “Marquis, please hold your step. Prince Dan has instructed me to pass you a message.”

    Han Chuang’s party stopped walking and the personal escorts revealed a threatening look on their faces.

    Teng Yi strode towards him. Although he is unarmed, everyone stared at him with suspicions and their hands are on their sword hilts.

    Han Chuang released Bailei from his hold and coldly snorted: “What does Prince Dan wants to say to me?”

    Teng Yi knew that Han Chuang’s men will not allow him to get close to their master. He stopped walking and bowed: “I am Prince Dan’s Right General Long Shan. Has Marquis Han forgotten about me already?”

    Long Shan is Teng Yi’s fictitious name during their Handan City mission.

    Han Chuang was stunned for a while and came to realize the hidden meaning. He laughed: “Yes! Yes! I remember you! General, please forgive me for not recognizing you earlier in the dim environment.”

    He faced Bailei and ordered: “Please return to your room first. I will join you shortly.”

    Bailei is not the least suspicious. She reminded Han Chuang to be quick and sauntered off.

    Under Han Chuang’s cover, the three men disguised as his followers and passed through the heavily-fortified bamboo clusters safely. They arrived at a cinnamon tree which separates Guiyan’s chamber from Bailei’s chamber.

    Han Chuang winked at them and began to climb the stairs.

    Two of Bailei’s maids stepped forward to entertain them.

    Xiang Shaolong, Jing Jun and Teng Yi are afraid to be recognized by the maids. They had made earlier arrangements with the other subordinates of Han Chuang. Two of the escorts hurriedly dragged the two maids into another room and love-making sounds can be heard after a short while.

    With the other escorts acting as a lookout, the three men climbed up the cinnamon tree and reached the roof of Guiyan’s chamber.

    Sounds of snoring can be heard from within.

    Jing Jun is the most agile among them. He slipped into the room via a window and Mo Ao’s snoring is replaced by sounds of heaving breathing. Xiang Shaolong signalled Teng Yi to stay on the roof while he somersaulted into the room.

    Jing Jun was squatting beside the bed and signalled that everything is under control.

    Xiang Shaolong was delighted and joined him.

    With an oil lamp providing some light, Jing Jun has forced opened Mo Ao’s mouth. Xiang Shaolong quickly retrieved the poison pill and used the bronze clippers to insert it into his throat. When the pill is securely stuck in place, they tried to leave but were interrupted by footsteps outside the door.

    Xiang Shaolong and Jing Jun were terrified. They stepped over the two sleeping bodies and hid themselves in a dark corner between the bed and the wall.

    Heavy knocking is heard and a man shouted from outside: “Master Mo! Premier Lu is looking for you.” Mo Ao and Guiyan naturally did not respond.

    Xiang Shaolong knows about the workings of the human anatomy. He pinched Mo Ao heavily at the base of his foot.

    Fortunately, Jing Jun did not use a heavy dose of the slumber fumes. Awakened by the sharp pain, Mo Ao was roused from his sleep.

    The man shouted again: “Master Mo!”

    Mo Ao was in a daze as he just woke up. “What is going on?” He shouted back.

    The man replied: “Premier Lu has received urgent news and is waiting downstairs for Master Mo. Ai! Even Master Guan is waiting too.”

    Xiang Shaolong and Jing Jun were horrified. If Mo Ao notices them, they will be doomed.

    Suddenly, Lu Buwei’s voice is heard outside the door: “We are waiting for you at the external hall.”

    Mo Ao shoved Guiyan but she did not respond. He pinched her white breasts for some time before putting on his clothes and casually stepping out of the room.

    Xiang Shaolong and Jing Jun were elated. They quickly trailed him and eavesdropped outside the room.

    Lu Buwei began: “I just got word that the short-lived Xiang Shaolong went to find Xu Xian and they chatted for two hours before he returned back to the Wu Residence. Hng! Does Mister Mo think they will try any tricks?”

    Mo Ao is still under the effects of the slumber fumes and his head is still spinning. He remarked: “I think I drank too much and my head is in pain.”

    Guan Zhongxie advised: “Brother Mo should drink some tea to calm your nerves.”

    Sounds of water pouring and drinking can be heard. From the sounds he heard, Xiang Shaolong deduced that only Lu Buwei, Mo Ao and Guan Zhongxie are present.

    After some time, Lu Buwei questioned: “Is Mister Mo confident that the poison will act up on the last day of the hunting fair? Without the rebellion of Lord Gaoling, we will be the chief suspect if he dies.”

    Mo Ao took a deep breath and replied: “Premier Lu can put your mind at ease. I have tried the same poison on several other men and I am confident of the timing.”

    Guan Zhongxie smiled: “Without Xiang Shaolong, they will be in chaos. We are well-prepared to send the Crown Prince and Empress over the river first. When it is Lu Gong and Xu Xian’s turn, we will make the bridge collapse and assassinate them underwater. It will be a clean job and no one will suspect us.”

    Lu Buwei brought up: “I am concerned that Xiang Shaolong and Xu Xian will act first in the first two days. When that happens, we will be at a disadvantage.”

    Mo Ao confidently assured: “Relax! As long as they are not sure about Lord Gaoling’s ambush, they will not attack us and make it easy for Lord Gaoling. I doubt they have the guts anyway.”

    Lu Buwei sighed: “The Crown Prince is another issue. He still does not know he is my own flesh and blood. Ai! It is all because of that b1tch Zhu Ji. I have told her numerous times to clarify this with him but she flatly refuses. She is also unwilling to make me the Regent of Qin. Hng! Lao Ai is such a useless bum.”

    Guan Zhongxie suggested: “I think Xiang Shaolong is the main reason that Empress does not fully submit to Premier.”

    Mo Ao sniggered: “I have a secret plan to make her happy and make you the Regent at the same time.”

    The two eavesdroppers Xiang Shaolong and Jing Jun were excited and curious to know about his plan. At the same time, they have to admire Mo Ao’s quick thinking.

    Lu Buwei was pleased and asked for the details.

    Mo Ao smiled: “You must let Empress feel that you and Xiang Shaolong are no longer enemies to make her submit fully to you.”

    Guan Zhongxie was slightly irritated: “Is Brother Mo suggesting that we let Lu Niang Rong marry him!”

    Mo Ao smiled: “Don’t tell me Brother Guan is jealous of a man with only three days left to live!”

    Mo Ao explained in a low voice: “Premier Lu can invite Empress to announce the wedding plans for Third Mistress and Xiang Shaolong. At the same time, to promote Premier to Regent. When these two matters are carried out together, it indicates that if Empress allows Premier to be promoted, Premier will sacrifice his favourite daughter to guarantee the safety of Xiang Shaolong. In these circumstances, Empress will relent in order to protect Xiang Shaolong. Of course, Lao Ai needs to put in some effort too.”

    Xiang Shaolong has no idea what is the difference between a Regent and a Prime Minister but it should be a post of authority that will slowly diminish Xiao Pan’s right of rule.

    Guan Zhongxie did not object any further.

    Lu Buwei cheered: “This is a brilliant plan. Zhongxie! I have to bother you to persuade Niang Rong! She only listens to you. When she pretended to kick up a fuss as you instructed, even Xiang Shaolong was fooled.”

    Xiang Shaolong realised that Lu Niang Rong’s tantrum and marriage rejection was all a ploy and could not help but feel extremely hateful.

    Since she is such a vicious woman, he need not show her any mercy or pity in the future.

    As Jing Jun suggested, he should toy with her and it is as good as delivering a blow to Lu Buwei and Guan Zhongxie.

    Lu Buwei concluded: “So it shall be decided then. The sky is brightening soon!”

    Xiang Shaolong and Jing Jun dared not loiter any further and slipped away in the blink of an eye.

    Under such unexpected circumstances, they actually managed to gather such crucial intelligence. Now, the game will be played differently.

  14. #154
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
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    Book 14 Chapter 03 – The Great Hunting Fair


    Before dawn, an exhausted Han Chuang had to drag his tired body out of bed to escort Xiang Shaolong and his brothers to leave the brothel safely.

    When they reached the streets, they parted immediately to avoid suspicions.

    Back at the Wu Residence, the sky is beginning to brighten. The three men hurriedly changed their clothes and while Teng Yi and Jing Jun set off to the Command Centre to see to the hunting fair, Xiang Shaolong made his way to the palace.

    He ran into Xu Xian’s convoy and was invited to join him in the horse carriage. Lu Gong is in the carriage too and they were discussing on how to counter Lu Buwei’s schemes. Although they are fully dressed in hunting clothes, they do not seem enthusiastic about the hunting fair at all.

    Lu Gong noticed that his eyes are red because he did not sleep a wink last night. He nodded: “It must be hard on you.”

    Xiang Shaolong was glad: “My body may be tired but I am in a great mood.”

    Xu Xian was stunned: “Shaolong has such a confident expression. Have there been any new developments?”

    Xiang Shaolong lowered his voice and revealed his two adventures to Drunken Wind Brothel, including the eavesdropping of Lu Buwei’s secret meeting.

    Both listeners cheered at his accomplishment.

    Lu Gong slapped his thigh with delight and cried: “Even the poison pill can be extracted from Shaolong’s throat. This shows that Heaven is on our side.”

    Xu Xian decided: “Since this is the case, we shall adhere to Shaolong’s suggestion and use Lao Ai against Lu Buwei. Actually, Lu Buwei is quite a good administrator. Let’s give him a few years of peace. When our Crown Prince is coroneted, that will be the end of him.”

    Lu Gong agreed: “In the meantime, we will hold on to our military authority and cultivate good leaders. When it is time to act, we will be more than prepared.”

    Xiang Shaolong suggested: “I have a good man to recommend and it is none other than Wang Jian...”

    Xu Xian laughed and interrupted him: “Thanks for your reminder and in fact, we have noticed him as a potential leader as well. Let’s give him more time to fine tune his skills! Ai! Wang Chi is getting senile and it will soon be time for his son to succeed him.”

    Lu Gong is now in a good mood and laughed: “Is Shaolong ready to marry Lu Niang Rong while annoying Lu Buwei and Guan Zhongxie?”

    Xiang Shaolong smiled back: “I think this will in return give them a big headache.”

    Xu Xian mused: “But as the Regent of Qin, his authority will be beyond question and he will be like the acting King. Without his approval, no royal order can be issued.”

    Xiang Shaolong reminded: “Does Premier Xu recall my suggestion about the Premier Mentor? We can use this official post to humour Lu Buwei first. When Mo Ao dies three days later, he will be at a loss. By that time, Lao Ai will be promoted to be the Inner Custodian and it will be too late for Lu Buwei to object.”

    By now, the convoy is entering the palace and all the three men are in great spirits. They cannot wait for the three days to quickly pass and witness the retribution of these evil men.

    Xiang Shaolong’s anxious mind has been replaced by a new relaxing mood. Amazing!

    In the next few days, he will amuse himself with these evil men and even Lu Dan’er and Ying Ying will not be let off. After all, what is life without some fun!

    The palace courtyard is filled with men and horses assembled for the hunting fair.

    The participating hunters are either from the royal family, high ranking officials or the representatives of various departments. Everyone is dressed in light hunting clothes and mounted on their horses under their respective banners. Altogether, it was an impressive display of five thousand gallant men and stunning beauties.

    Ten thousand Palace guards are protecting the Imperial Convoy on both sides as they prepared to move to the hunting grounds.

    Lord Changping, Lord Changwen and Guan Zhongxie are fully occupied with managing the deployment of their men as well as maintaining law and order.

    Xiang Shaolong left the carriage and mounted Jifeng. Leading his Eighteen Guardians leisurely, he soaked himself in the festive atmosphere.

    One of the banners is embroidered with the word ‘Qi’ which reminded Xiang Shaolong of ‘his old friend’ Tian Dan. He was amused as Lu Buwei would have told Tian Dan about his impending death. Thus, Tian Dan would be delighted and complacent, making it easier for Xiang Shaolong to assassinate him.

    Xu Xian, Lu Buwei, Lu Gong and the other high ranking officials are lined up in two rows in front of the inspection platform. Guests like Tian Dan and Prince Dan are based further away. Han Chuang is apparently absent and he must have returned home to Han.

    The most outstanding are the Female Warriors led by Ying Ying. Over a hundred young ladies dressed elaborately in their hunting outfits stood out from the crowd of mostly men. They bantered noisily with the young men besides them and added some liveliness to the situation.

    However, the group that gained everyone’s attention are his own wives and Qin Qing. They did not have any banner but just stood on one side under the protection of their family warriors. Everyone near and far strained their eyes and their necks to catch a glimpse of their beauty.

    Ji Yanran and Qin Qing are beyond comparison; Wu Tingfang and Zhao Zhi are rare beauties themselves and the loving twin sisters Tian Zhen and Tian Feng only cause everyone to be intoxicated with their charm and elegance.

    Xiang Shaolong could not resist and rode up to them, smiling: “Which department do you girls represent?”

    All the girls giggled with pleasure.

    Qin Qing coldly state: “Empress has specially instructed us to accompany her for the next three days for the hunt. I think we belong to her department.”

    From her cold expression, Xiang Shaolong deduced that she must be bearing grudges at him for taking advantage of her and is now viewing him with suspicions. Sighing secretly, he smiled weakly and did not reply. Facing Wu Tingfang and Zhao Zhi, he questioned: “Where is Bao’er?”

    Wu Tingfang is so excited that her face is totally red. She cooed: “I wanted to bring him to the hunt but is concerned that he may catch a cold. I have left with at the Qin Residence under the care of the nanny.”

    Zhao Zhi exclaimed: “Hubby! Shall I introduce you to our two new nannies?”

    Behind her, the Tian sisters’ faces begin to burn like fire. Embarrassed, they were did not know where to hide when Wu Tingfang whispered: “Hubby! Can you come to our tent tonight? We missed you greatly!” Xiang Shaolong was tempted at her offer and hurriedly agreed.

    Sounds of drumbeats can be heard as Xiao Pan and Zhu Ji ascended the inspection platform under the escort of the palace guards.

    Everyone paid their respects and proclaimed their loyalty to them.

    The hunting fair has finally begun!

    The hunting teams stretched out over ten miles and it was a grand display of power.

    The cavalry army is standing guard at the boundaries of the hunting grounds and security is extremely tight.

    To show off the might of Qin, Xiao Pan and Zhu Ji rode on a horse each towards the hunting grounds. They were accompanied by Lu Buwei, Xu Xian, Lu Gong, Wang Wan, Cai Ze, other important officials as well as the palace guards.

    Xiang Shaolong was riding with Wu Tingfang and his wives when Li Si trailed behind the main group and came to find him. They left the official roads and rode on the byways.

    Li Si whispered: “Whenever I saw Grand Tutor Qin, I always feel that she is more enthralling than Talented Lady Ji; but whenever I saw Talented Lady Ji, I feel that Qin Qing is inferior to her. Now that I have seen both of them side by side, I finally understood that they are both without equal and are attractive in their own ways.”

    Xiang Shaolong observed: “Brother Li is in great spirits today!”

    Li Si shook his head: “I am appearing joyful despite my difficulties! The hunting fair is fraught with dangers and how can I be happy?”

    Carefully assessing Xiang Shaolong’s expression, he continued: “Brother Xiang must have a terrible night’s sleep. Your eyes are bloodshot and your voice is hoarse. I am worried for you.”

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly smiled: “I did not even sleep; so how can my sleep be bad? Regarding my throat, it was scrapped. If not for this throat injury, I may be dead.” He proceeded to divulge everything that that has transpired last night.

    Li Si was totally blown away and excitedly exclaimed: “I must report this to the Crown Prince. Ai! I am more and more impressed with Brother Xiang’s abilities.”

    He added: “No wonder Lu Buwei had earlier suggested marrying his daughter to Brother Xiang and petitioned Empress and Crown Prince to represent his wishes. Empress is naturally delighted but Crown Prince and I were puzzled. So this is the real motive behind his intention. Hei! Is Brother Xiang going to reject his marriage proposal?”

    Xiang Shaolong returned his question with his own question: “Do you think I will?”

    Both men looked at each other and broke out into laughter.

    Li Si remarked: “It is a Qin custom to announce important policies or promote officials during the hunting fair. Brother Xiang’s suggestion to make Lu Buwei the Premier Mentor is a wonderful suggestion. It will keep him guessing and curb his ambitions. The Crown Prince will use this idea if the Empress tries to force him to promote Lu Buwei again.”

    Xiang Shaolong noticed Guan Zhongxie riding towards them from the corner of his eye and hurriedly changed the topic to some irrelevant issues.

    Guan Zhongxie may be up the whole night but he is much more rejuvenated than Xiang Shaolong and approached them energetically. He greeted Li Si: “Since Official Li has entered the palace to serve the Crown Prince, we did not have much time to catch up. We should spend more time together during these three days.”

    Xiang Shaolong was hit by realization. He realised that Lu Buwei may even try to replace Li Si with Mo Ao to fully control Xiao Pan. Li Si must be the next person on Lu Buwei’s hit list. Why didn’t he think of this earlier?

    At the end of the day, he lacked a clever advisor like Mo Ao or Li Si to assist him.

    Li Si is the best candidate but he needs to focus on helping Xiao Pan and cannot be available to him. He recalled that he had Ji Yanran and cursed himself for not making use of his clever wife’s intelligence.

    Guan Zhongxie’s voice sounded out beside him: “Why is Official Xiang so melancholic?”

    Xiang Shaolong decided to play a trick on him and winked at Li Si, saying: “Can I have a private word with you?”

    Li Si understood his intention and bade farewell. He rode ahead and rejoined the main group.

    Guan Zhongxie was startled: “What does Official Xiang want to tell me?”

    Xiang Shaolong sighed: “Official Li told me earlier that Premier Lu has the intention to marry Third Mistress to me and it may be announced tomorrow. Honestly speaking, I know that Third Mistress is in love with Brother Guan instead! No matter where we stand, I am full of admiration for Brother Guan’s character and sword skills. Even if we are on opposing sides, this is a love matter and not a manly fight. As long as you say the word, I will speak to Empress and Crown Prince immediately and not spoil Third Mistress’s chastity.”

    Guan Zhongxie’s eyes were originally shining sharply but after hearing his words, his expression became mixed.

    Xiang Shaolong was impressed. Guan Zhongxie could easily deny everything and no one will be the wiser. But this will also indicate that he is a cowardly liar.

    Given the unique circumstances, no one else can understand their awkward positions.

    In actual fact, they are out to kill each other but are doing it secretly.

    In the eyes of Guan Zhongxie, Xiang Shaolong is nearly a dead man who still thinks he escaped the poisoning. With his upfront attitude, he is obviously not out to take advantage of Lu Niang Rong. From this, it shows that Xiang Shaolong is an honourable man who will not take revenge for the poisoning by seducing Lu Niang Rong. He was a true gentleman.

    Xiang Shaolong is secretly laughing and patiently waited for his response.

    Guan Zhongxie suddenly smiled bitterly: “I will not lie to you but Third Mistress’s marriage is something beyond my control and I should not come between two of you. In life, you win some and you lose some. That’s a fact. Third Mistress is no longer young but is still a wilful girl. I am sure you can still be a good and fitting husband. Official Xiang should not worry about this anymore.”

    Finishing, he rode off.

    Xiang Shaolong sighed to himself. Tu Xian is right about Guan Zhongxie being an assho1e. Even to a dying man, he is still faking his words. What a despicable cad!

    But this is what he expected. When he did not die three days later, Lu Niang Rong will become his fianc and it is due to Guan Zhongxie’s own arrangement. This will cause him great regrets and deal a blow to his pride.

    In the past, he seduced Wu Tingfang and Zhao Ya from Lian Jin, making him lose his rationality and cause him to be defeated by himself.

    Coincidently, the same scenario is repeated on Guan Zhongxie.

    What will he do when he loses his rationality?

    Thinking about this, he quickly caught up to Ji Yanran and wanted to consult her.

    Qin Qing, Ji Yanran and the other girls are travelling with Empress Zhu Ji and were chatting happily. Xiao Pan, Lu Buwei and the rest are travelling in front of them.

    Xiang Shaolong is afraid to see Zhu Ji and stayed at the back, trying to find an opportunity to isolate Yanran.

    Someone shouted: “Official Xiang!”

    Xiang Shaolong turned his head around and saw Lao Ai leaving his group and riding towards him. He greeted him respectfully when he reached his side.

    Xiang Shaolong returned his greetings and praised: “Official Lao is looking great! Life must be good in the palace.”

    Lao Ai lowered his voice: “It is all thanks to Official Xiang’s recommendation. Even the Crown Prince said the same thing.” He happily added: “During the hunting fair, the Crown Prince will officially promote me to be the Inner Custodian. Soon, we will have plenty of opportunities to work together!”

    Xiang Shaolong can feel that his thanks are sincere. For Lao Ai, he will be grateful to whoever that can bring him more wealth and authority. He used to obey Lu Buwei as he is looking for employment. Now, this unscrupulous and selfish man will forsake Lu Buwei for greater benefits.

    Xiang Shaolong inquired in a low voice: “Does Premier Lu know about this?”

    Lao Ai angrily swore: “He only knew about it yesterday and threw his temper at Empress. Fortunately, Empress rebutted him.”

    Xiang Shaolong pretended to be surprised: “Brother Lao is being promoted and enjoying a life of luxury. He should be happy for you but why is he opposing instead?”

    Lao Ai viciously hissed: “He naturally will not say that he opposes my promotion but he insisted that I am a criminal and should not be promoted or tongues will wag. Hei! Ultimately, he wants to keep me as a lowly servant forever.”

    Xiang Shaolong was secretly glad that Lao Ai and Lu Buwei are now openly on opposing sides. He officially state: “Brother Lao can put your mind at ease. I have spoken to Premier Xu and Lieutenant General Lu. They will support Brother Lao for sure.”

    Lao Ai was flabbergasted: “Hei! This... This...” He was speechless.

    Xiang Shaolong tried to control his laughter and strongly affirmed: “Lu Buwei is a [email protected] The higher your rank, the more jealous he is of you. But Brother Lao can relax. As long as I am in his way, you will be safe.” Lao Ai trembled and his expression grew serious.

    At this point, Tian Zhen noticed him and slowed down to join him.

    Xiang Shaolong patted Lao Ai’s shoulder and rode ahead to join her.

    The battle of Lao Ai and Lu Buwei is about to begin!

  15. #155
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
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    Book 14 Chapter 04 – The Incredible Talented Lady Ji


    An endless sea of tents and flags can be seen west of the River Jing.

    Xiang Shaolong, Ji Yanran, Wu Tingfang, Zhao Zhi and the Tian sisters are situated on a little hill near the royal tent. They were observing all the excitement happening below them.

    It may not be a real battle but the military movements are precise and according to the military law.

    Among the seven states, Qin has the heaviest emphasis on military contributions. Every young child would have learnt some form of martial arts and everyone is somewhat familiar with military formations.

    Since the terrain is wide grassland with no cover, a square campsite has been laid out.

    Xiao Pan’s tent is situated in the centre of the defending gates and is akin to a military command centre. Within the gates are about twenty tents which belong to the royal family and others like Qin Qing who share a special relationship with the rulers of Qin.

    On the two sides of the defending gates are two defending armies of palace guards led by Lord Changping and Lord Changwen respectively. Xiao Pan has direct control over the army to safeguard his own safety.

    The other soldiers are based in all four directions and act as defenders. Xiang Shaolong’s cavalry army is based far away and is protecting the entire camp from their location. If necessary, they can act as a vanguard or a distraction to a potential enemy.

    Besides the main tents, the other tents are in groups of ten and the space between them is wide enough for eight horses to travel side by side.

    There are some dedicated areas with stables and target boards for hunters to practise their shooting skills, riding skills and even sword skills. These areas are especially crowded like a festive parade.

    It is now four hours away from the evening hunt and everyone is enthusiastically assembled at the main assembly ground and challenging one another.

    The main assembly ground near the royal tent has become the playground for Ying Ying and her female warriors. Young men keen to woo these stubborn Qin ladies are all gathering around the area for their chance to interact with them. Thus, this area is much livelier than the others.

    Sounds of horses braying and people talking filled the air.

    The strong wind began to blow and the flags unfurled majestically, adding to the grandeur of the hunting fair.

    Ji Yanran has been updated on everything that has happened and smiled: “When Lord Gaoling is about to attack, he will first set fire to the tents furthest away from the royal tents and the river. Since it is now blowing the southeast wind, the fire will spread towards us and we can only escape by crossing the river and hiding at the north shore of River Jing.”

    Xiang Shaolong and the ladies turned their attention to the two wooden bridges and were shocked. If the two bridges are destroyed, the consequences will be unimaginable.

    Even if the two bridges are intact, they cannot support some many people crossing. Those who are unable to cross the bridge will have to swim over. During the chaos, it will be an easy feat for Lu Buwei to carry out his assassination.

    He recalled that Guan Zhongxie will ‘heroically’ escort Zhu Ji and Xiao Pan across the river to safety while he will ‘die of poisoning’ and Guan Zhongxie will ‘score a huge merit’. Mo Ao’s devious scheme is indeed a brilliant strategy.

    Rainfall is scarce and a fire attack is hard to prevent. Moreover, Lord Gaoling is familiar with the tents and in fact, his own tent is located at the southeast part of the campsite. He can easily set fire as Ji Yanran predicted.

    In addition, during the night hunt, every hunter would be busy in the west forests and their defences will be lacking. That would be the ideal time to ambush the Crown Prince and Zhu Ji.

    If the Lord Changping brothers are killed in battle, it is possible that Lu Buwei can insert his own subordinates to replace them as head of the palace guards.

    Xiang Shaolong took a deep breath and remarked: “Yanran is amazing and can predict Lord Gaoling’s ambush like a fortune teller. Therefore, we must pay close attention to the southeast tents. The moment Lord Gaoling’s men or Lu Buwei’s men tried to bring flammable materials to that area, we will know when they will strike.”

    Ji Yanran was overjoyed at his praise and smiled sweetly back at him.

    Hoof beats can be heard as Lord Changwen rode up to him and cried: “Let’s ride our horses to the assembly ground to join in the fun!”

    The ladies turned around to face him and he jealously stared at Ji Yanran and the girls with an intoxicated look on his face. He sighed: “Good evening ladies. Ai! I am so envious of Shaolong’s good fortune.”

    Wu Tingfang chortled and smiled prettily, asking: “Has Lord Changwen finished his duties?”

    Lord Changwen put on a busy expression and reported: “Empress and Crown Prince have settled down and Grand Tutor Qin is chatting with the Empress now. I was ordered to inform you ladies about this.”

    Xiang Shaolong yawned: “You go ahead and have fun! I wished to catch some sleep in my tent.”

    Lord Changwen burst out laughing and rode ahead between Xiang Shaolong and Ji Yanran. As he rode past Xiang Shaolong, he grabbed onto his horse’s reins and dragged him down the slope, shouting to the ladies: “We are going to have some fun!”

    The ladies saw Xiang Shaolong helplessly being dragged down the hill and giggled with laughter. They then chased them down the slope.

    Sou! Three arrows were shot out in succession and all three hit the bull’s eye of a target three hundred feet away. The observers cheered and clapped loudly.

    The archer Ying Ying proudly scanned her audience and cried: “Who else is next?”

    The various men may be itching to try but with this beauty challenging them, they are afraid to lose face if they failed to better her record. For some time, no one dared to accept her challenge.

    Guan Zhongxie laughed: “Our best shooter among the female warriors is invincible. Of course no one dares to accept her challenge.”

    Ying Ying was delighted at his praise and shot him a lovely glance. The other men were jealous but still did not have the courage to give it a try.

    Xiang Shaolong dismounted from his horse and was stunned at Ying Ying’s archery skills. He can hit the bull’s eye with one arrow but definitely not with three arrows in succession. No wonder Ying Ying is so arrogant.

    When the female warriors noticed Xiang Shaolong, every one of them had a look of displeasure on their faces but when they saw Ji Yanran, their expressions became envious.

    Lu Dan’er stepped out from the crowd and jeered: “Has Commander Xiang recovered from his leg injury? I heard that you are unbeatable in parrying arrows with your sword but I wonder how good are your archery skills?”

    Nearly a thousand pair of eyes looked at Xiang Shaolong before shifting over to Ji Yanran.

    Ji Yanran naturally knew the level her husband’s archery skill and recognizes that the people of Qin values martial talent. If Xiang Shaolong refuses to participate because of his injury, he will be ridiculed by the people of Qin. Grinning, she took off her cloak and revealed a figure-hugging white suit. She gracefully stepped forward and asked in her sweet voice: “Can I give it a try?” Her casual demeanour and alluring disposition caused everyone present to be mesmerized by her.

    When she finished speaking, everyone cheered at her decision and her attractive and athletic display.

    Ying Ying shot a vicious look at Ji Yanran before she reluctantly stretched out to pass her the bow.

    Ji Yanran noticed that Ying Ying is standing using the horse stance and guessed that she wanted to play a trick on her. Out of a sudden, she grabbed onto the end of the bow and applied downward pressure. Before Ying Ying could retaliate, the bow has been pried from her hands into the hands of the maiden who is even prettier than herself.

    Even Guan Zhongxie was taken aback.

    Standing besides Xiang Shaolong, Lord Changwen whispered: “It is good to curb that arrogant sister of mine!”

    Ying Ying did not anticipate Ji Yanran to see through her trick and dejectedly returned to Lu Dan’er’s side.

    Two cavalry soldiers happily stepped forward and presented three arrows to Ji Yanran.

    Ji Yanran pretended that everything is the same and leisurely fitted the arrows to her bow while maintaining that sweet smile on her face.

    The crowd quietened down.

    In a whirl of actions, Ji Yanran fired three arrows one after another while the crowd stared with their mouths wide open. Her arrows shot forward like shooting stars.

    She fired her first arrow with her back to the target board and her second arrow with a backhand. It was only until the final arrow did she face the target board properly.

    Zng! The first arrow hit the bull’s eye while the second arrow split the first arrow into two and the final arrow split the second arrow into two. It was as if she is the Goddess of Archery. No one could believe their eyes. Without question, her archery skill is way above Ying Ying’s.

    The crowd burst out into wild cheering which lasted for some time.

    Ji Yanran is furious at Ying Ying and Lu Dan’er for ‘bullying’ her husband and did not even spare them a single glance. She curtseyed to the crowd and left without a word.

    Xiang Shaolong can tell that their ‘hatred’ is becoming more intense.

    An escort came to report that the Crown Prince is looking for him.

    As he crossed past the wooden defending gates, he noticed a group of female warriors are riding behind him. Taking a closer look, he realised that it is Lu Niang Rong and her female escorts.

    When Lu Niang Rong saw him, she has a mixed expression on her face. She curled up her mouth proudly and whipped her horse, cruising past Xiang Shaolong.

    Xiang Shaolong detests her.

    Knowing that he is poisoned, she did not show the slightest pity. Like father, like daughter. She is an evil woman just like her father Lu Buwei.

    Hng!

    She will get her just deserts later.

    The open space in front of the main royal tent is filled with loud cheering. It appears that Xiao Pan is practicing his archery while Lu Buwei, Xu Xian, Lu Gong, Lord Changping and the other officials are cheering him on.

    Li Si caught sight of him and moved to welcome him. “It is time!” he whispered.

    Xiang Shaolong knew that Li Si is referring to the blood test. From Li Si’s anxious expression, Xiang Shaolong is certain that he is worried about the test results. If Xiao Pan is Lu Buwei’s son, it would be disastrous.

    Xiang Shaolong squeezed to where Lu Gong and Xu Xian were standing and took out the special needle while winking at them.

    Both men started to breathe heavily.

    Xiao Pan has shot ten arrows with four hitting the bull’s eye and the remaining near the bull’s eyes. This has surpassed his usual record and no wonder the officials are so happy for him. As long as he manages to hit the target board, it is enough to make the crowd go wild.

    As Wang Ben delivered another arrow to him, Xiao Pan detected Xiang Shaolong among the crowd. He turned over and raised his bow, exclaiming happily: “Grand Tutor! My archery skill has improved!”

    Xiang Shaolong is certain that he is providing an opportunity for him to draw his blood. He greeted him and advised: “If Crown Prince uses less of his eyes and more of his hands, your results will improve dramatically.”

    Xiao Pan was surprised: “Archery is all about eyesight. What is the hand used for?”

    Everyone including Xiao Pan was puzzled at his words and he became the centre of attention.

    Standing besides Lu Buwei, Lu Niang Rong and Mo Ao were staring viciously at him.

    Xiang Shaolong respectfully got Xiao Pan to turn around and while he is turning around, he lightly poked the special needle at his neck. As Xiao Pan is exercising, his blood circulation is very strong and the needle was filled immediately.

    Behind him, Xu Xian, Lu Gong and Lord Changping witnessed everything but the act was hidden from the eyes of everyone else.

    Xiao Pan yelped: “Ai!” He went to touch his neck and purposely cried: “There is a mosquito!”

    Xiang Shaolong stuffed the needle into Xu Xian’s hands and advised: “The Crown Prince must focus on the synergy between the eyes and the hands when shooting an arrow. However, it is easier to aim with the hand than the eyes. When the eye sees the target, it informs the heart and the heart will instruct the hand to shoot. This is quite cumbersome. If the hand is used directly to aim at the target, you will not have this issue. Look!”

    He simply drew out five flying needles and shot them towards the two hundred feet target board.

    Nobody expected that he would be shooting flying needles instead of arrows and were stunned. The five flying needles hit the target board neatly in a straight row and the centre needle hit the centre of the bull’s eye. The distance between each needle is exactly one inch. It was a result that even Xiang Shaolong did not anticipate.

    His flying needles may be famous but no one has actually seen it in action.

    Witnessing his accuracy on a two hundred feet target board, everyone agrees that he has a frightening and special way of throwing the needles with such deafening results. Lu Buwei, Lu Niang Rong and Mo Ao have a horrified expression on their faces.

    Everyone present clapped and cheered loudly at his excellent display of talent.

    Lu Buwei and Mo Ao exchanged a smile, thinking that Xiang Shaolong would be dead in a matter of days despite his godly ability.

    Wang Ben ecstatically wanted to retrieve the flying needles and return them to Xiang Shaolong and Xiao Pan stopped him. He instructed: “Leave the needles on the target board. I want to keep this as a souvenir. Let the target board stay like that for the next three days.”

    Xiao Pan was full of admiration: “I finally comprehend the essence of Grand Tutor’s terrifying flying needles. They were thrown with the hand rather than with the eyes.”

    Xiang Shaolong may have been promoted to be the Imperial Cavalry Commander but he is still holding the post as a Grand Tutor so that he may still impart lessons to Xiao Pan the Crown Prince.

    Xiang Shaolong secretly assessed Lu Buwei, Mo Ao and Lu Niang Rong’s expressions. He noticed that Lu Niang Rong has a lingering fear in her eyes which is probably caused by his excellent shot. Frankly speaking, he has no confidence of repeating this feat.

    During his usual practise, he was using his eyes to aim at the target. Only today did he really use his hands to aim at the target board.

    Lu Gong praised: “I am afraid no one can match Shaolong’s flying needles skill in the past, the present or in the future.”

    Lu Buwei laughed: “Rong’er! Now, you have seen Official Xiang’s true abilities.”

    Lu Niang Rong lowered her face to prevent others from detecting the dilemma expression on her face. Xiao Pan took this chance to invite: “Grand Tutor, please have a chat with me in my tent!”

    With Li Si in tow, they walked towards the main royal tent.

    Before Xiang Shaolong could take a step, Lu Gong whispered: “After you have seen the Crown Prince, come to my tent immediately.” He winked at him with a knowing expression.

    Xiang Shaolong could not understand how he managed to draw Lu Buwei’s blood or that he has something else to discuss with him. With this concern, he proceeded to the main royal tent. Within the tent, Xiao Pan sighed: “Grand Tutor must teach me how to shoot the flying needles the way you did.”

    Li Si praised: “No wonder Official Xiang has always been able to escape precarious situations and live another day to tell the tale. These flying needles are virtually undetectable when they are being shot and there is no way to parry them with a sword.”

    Xiang Shaolong sat down on a thick carpet and bitterly smiled: “The Crown Prince and Official Li need not praise me to the skies. Last night, I made an about-turn at the gates of hell. That is what I call pure luck.”

    Under Xiao Pan questioning, Xiang Shaolong revealed everything that has happened last night.

    When Xiao Pan learned about Lord Gaoling’s rebellion and Lu Buwei’s scheming, he angrily swore: “These two men are atrocious! Do they still regard me as their King?”

    Li Si hurriedly assured: “Please do not be angry. Official Xiang has plans to counter them.”

    Xiao Pan looked over to Xiang Shaolong and Xiang Shaolong nodded: “When we know the time that Lord Gaoling is attacking the camp, we can use our army to wipe him out. Here, I wished that Crown Prince will lead the army personally. First, we can destroy Lord Gaoling’s forces and secondly, we can counter Lu Buwei’s schemes. In the future, no one will dare to challenge your authority.”

    These words are what Xiao Pan wanted to hear. This future Qin Shi Huang loved to affirm his authority and he nodded: “Since Official Xiang is so confident, we shall act according to your plans.”

    Xiang Shaolong explained: “This matter will require precise intelligence and acting according to circumstances. I will keep in contact with Official Li. When I have gathered the appropriate information, I will report to Crown Prince.” He secretly winked at Xiao Pan.

    Xiao Pan understood his meaning. Xiang Shaolong will prepare the army orders while he himself will execute them accordingly. Elated, his face became reddish and he nodded: “We will follow your advice!”

    He continued: “Today, Empress told me that Lu Buwei wanted to marry his beloved third daughter to you. I thought Lu Buwei has a change of heart but it is all part of a trick. Ha! Mo Ao will die an unexplainable death. I am so happy.”

    Li Si and Xiang Shaolong heard his words and knew that he is in great spirits. They did not hold back and joined him in laughter.

    An attendant came to report that Lao Ai is here to report something. The three men immediately stopped laughing. Lao Ai came in and kneeled down, requesting: “The Empress wishes to see Crown Prince.”

    With a scornful look, Xiao Pan replied: “I got it! Please return first. I will join you shortly.”

    When Lao Ai has left the tent, Xiao Pan lowered his voice and asked: “Is Official Xiang ready to marry Lu Buwei’s precious daughter?”

    Xiang Shaolong coldly smiled: “When Lu Buwei saw me still well and alive, he will try to annul the marriage. But that is his problem!”

    Xiao Pan understood his meaning and nodded: “I know what to do!” And stood up.

    Xiang Shaolong and Li Si hurriedly kneeled down in respect.

    Xiao Pan went forward and helped Xiang Shaolong up, whispering into his ear: “Master, please be careful. If anything happens to you, the world will be meaningless.”

    He turned around and left.

  16. #156
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
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    Book 14 Chapter 5 – A Heartless Man Indeed


    A drop of Xiao Pan’s blood trickled out of the special needle and dripped into the bowl of special chemical.

    Xu Xian retrieved another special needle filled with Lu Buwei’s blood and brought it to the edge of the bowl but did not release the blood immediately.

    Everyone was staring at Xiao Pan’s drop of blood with excitement.

    Inside Lu Gong’s tent, there are ten over military leaders which are all important position holders. Except for Lu Gong and Xu Xian, there is Wang He, Jia Gongcheng, Lord Yunyang Ying Ao and Lord Yiqu Ying Lou. It appears that Xiao Pan’s relationship with Lu Buwei is of utmost importance to them.

    Xiang Shaolong was squeezed in the middle of all these generals and he inquired: “How did you manage to get Lu Buwei’s blood?”

    Lord Yunyang Ying Ao replied: “I dragged him out for archery while Lu Gong and Wang He were jostling with him. Thus, we took his blood without his knowledge.”

    Lu Gong is not interested in their casual talk and called: “Xu Xian!” Xu Xian hardened his resolve and poured the second drop of blood into the bowl of chemical.

    The crowd became as silent as a dormouse and everyone has a choked feeling. For an instant, everyone held their breaths.

    The drop of blood entered the chemical and swirled to for a while before it came into contact with Xiao Pan’s drop of blood.

    Amazingly, the two drops of blood separated immediately like the two different magnet poles repelling each other.

    The tent was filled with mad cheering.

    Xiang Shaolong sighed with relief.

    Knowing the future can be a burden. Even though he is certain that Xiao Pan will pass the blood test, he cannot helped but be worried like everyone else.

    Back in his own tent, Ji Yanran and the other girls are carefully cleaning Xiang Shaolong’s wound and applying fresh medicine. Teng Yi came back from his duties and sat down, reporting: “We have located Lord Gaoling’s men!”

    Xiang Shaolong was overjoyed: “Where are they?”

    Teng Yi is in a great mood and retrieved a map from his bosom, smiling: “The Qin hunting fair is child’s play in front a seasoned hunter like me. If I hunt personally, all the tigers and wolves would be frightened off.”

    Xiang Shaolong assisted him in spreading the map and laughed: “Second Brother should have told me earlier. Then, I would prepare a large quantity of tiger ears for sale at ten times the original price. I guarantee that the amateur hunters will not go back empty handed and I can even make a ton of money.”

    Ji Yanran and the girls instantly broke out in laughter and giggles.

    Teng Yi laughed: “Amateur hunters! That is a unique description.”

    Xiang Shaolong enquired: “Where is the cave that Lord Gaoling’s men are hiding in?”

    Teng Yi was stunned: “How did you know that?” Pointing to a group of mountains fifty miles from the campsite, he detailed: “This area has dense forests and is located at the upstream of River Jing. There are seven caves situated there which the locals have named the ‘Seven Connected Caves’. Lord Gaoling has planned their hiding spot well. Although we know that they are hiding there, it is impossible to locate their exact location. There is no way we can determine the size of their forces.”

    Wu Tingfang innocently suggested: “Second Brother is exaggerating. Why don’t you surround the forest and set it on fire? I am sure they will be forced out by the burning.”

    Xiang Shaolong loved her innocent and silly demeanour and smiled: “The forest is wet with the Spring dew. It is impossible to burn a forest. Ao!”

    He caught hold of Wu Tingfang’s incoming fist but did not relent: “Unless we use the super fire that comes from the mouth of Wu’s First Mistress.”

    Ji Yanran mocked: “Since our hubby came back from the jaws of death, he has become cheekier.”

    Zhao Zhi clamoured over to help Wu Tingfang withdraw her fist from Xiang Shaolong’s grasp.

    As Teng Yi took a closer look at Xiang Shaolong’s injury, he added: “But the moment they left the seven caves, they will not escape the detection of our Jing Village hunters. Hei! I think we should use our own men and allow them to gain more battle experience.”

    Xiang Shaolong clapped Teng Yi’s shoulder and agreed: “We shall do as Second Brother advised. Fortunately, Du Bi is not in Xianyang City or things could be more complicated. Hee! In Lu Buwei’s eyes, I am someone due to die in two days. No matter what I do in these two days, he will just bear with me and even pretend to support me so as to allay the suspicions of others. Most crucially, he must put on a fine act in front of Zhu Ji. Thus, I must find some things to do so as to give justice to Mo Ao’s brilliant scheming.”

    Zhao Zhi is bandaging his wound with Ji Yanran. When she heard this, she whined: “Before your leg has recovered, we will not allow you to participate in any fighting.”

    Xiang Shaolong feigned surprise: “Who said that I am going to fight with someone?”

    Ji Yanran smiled: “Sister Zhi, he is teasing you! Attack him now and see if he will retaliate or not.”

    In the midst of their fun, the tent attendant reported: “Grand Tutor Qin is here!”

    As the image of Qin Qing surfaced in his memory, he came to realise that everyone is so happy today because they have finally succeeded in countering Mo Ao. The presence of this man is a threat to their well-being.

    Ever since he delivered the poison pill back to his throat, they have become more relaxed and even the usually serious Teng Yi is more jovial now.

    But they must still keep their guard up. As long as Mo Ao is still alive, they must be careful and not allow the enemy to see through them.

    The Tian sisters have just finished tidying up Xiang Shaolong’s clothes when Qin Qing entered the tent with a heavy expression on her face.

    After all his encounters with her, this is the first time she came to Xiang Shaolong’s ‘territory’. He had a strange feeling inside him. But eyeing her serious expression, he felt that something is amiss.

    Wu Tingfang welcomed: “Sister Qin should have come earlier. We were having a big showdown!”

    Ji Yanran noticed her expression too and frowned: “What is bothering Sister Qin?” Teng Yi greeted Qin Qing and took the chance to take his leave.

    Qin Qing sat down opposite Ji Yanran and gently replied: “I need to speak to your husband privately.”

    The girls were slightly startled but Yanran firmly stood up and state: “We have to cross the river soon. We will be waiting for both of you outside.”

    Xiang Shaolong glanced at Qin Qing with astonishment and asked: “Why is Grand Tutor Qin so upset?”

    Qin Qing stared at him coldly and retorted: “I dare not be upset but have to congratulate Official Xiang instead for being able to marry the beautiful daughter of Lu Buwei!”

    Xiang Shaolong finally understood her concern and smiled: “Grand Tutor Qin is mistaken. This is a complicated affair. In reality, Lu Buwei does not want to marry her daughter to me and neither do I want to marry her.”

    Qin Qing was shocked: “Then why did Empress tell me that Lu Buwei has asked her to arrange the marriage and that you have agreed to the wedding?”

    Xiang Shaolong smiled at her and softly pleaded: “Will Grand Tutor Qin please trust me this once? After the hunting fair, you can find out the truth from sister Yanran.”

    Qin Qing’s face tightened and she shot with displeasure: “Why is Official Xiang always so secretive and says things halfway? Are you treating me like an outsider?”

    Xiang Shaolong did not mean to hide things from her but looking at her enthusiasm, he was tempted and asked: “Do you think I treat you like an outsider?”

    Both Qin Qing’s cheeks turned red and she wailed: “Official Xiang is going to be rude to me again?”

    Xiang Shaolong remembered that day when he hugged her slender waist. He coughed: “I dare not.”

    Qin Qing noticed his eyes focusing on her own waist and was infuriated. Lowering her head, she bit her lips and demanded: “Are you saying or not?”

    Xiang Shaolong saw her pouting like his lover and was aroused. Leaning forward towards her body, he moved his lips to her jade ears and enjoyed her nice fragrance. He whispered: “This is a big secret which cannot be known to a third person. Please forgive me for speaking to you in this manner.”

    Qin Qing trembled slightly and her ears were red already. Feeling itchy at the ears, she wailed: “Does Official Xiang know what he is doing?”

    Since Qin Qing did not shy away, Xiang Shaolong is even more excited at approaching this untouchable woman. He teased: “Shall I go ahead and tell you the secret then?” Qin Qing dared not look at him and nodded slightly.

    Xiang Shaolong held back the urge to kiss her earlobe but cannot resist staring at her fast heaving chest. He gently divulged: “Lu Buwei has sent someone to poison me and estimate that I will not survive these two days. Therefore, he decided to marry his daughter to me and even proclaim it to the whole world so that when I am killed, no one will suspect him and he can even deceive Empress.”

    Qin Qing shook strongly and her face became as white as a sheet. She turned to face him and their lips nearly met.

    Xiang Shaolong was stunned and retreated half a feet. Feeling regretful, he apologised: “I am sorry for alarming Grand Tutor Qin. Luckily, I have the poison removed from my body and Lu Buwei still has no idea. He will try his best to annul the marriage later and the Empress will know that he is trying to deceive her. That is the reason why I accept the marriage proposal.”

    Qin Qing sighed with relief and put her hands on her heart, scolding: “You gave me such a fright.” Her face began to regain some colour and it was a captivating sight.

    Xiang Shaolong was appreciative: “Thanks for Grand Tutor Qin’s concern.”

    Her face may still be slightly red but she has recomposed herself. Smiling lightly, she gently state: “I have mistaken you! And I forgive you for being rude to me but you must not do it again in the future. Oh! My ear is so itchy.”

    Xiang Shaolong is fully intoxicated and nodded with a smile: “Let me consider about whether I will be rude to you in the future and tell you my decision later. This is a big secret which you must keep it to yourself.”

    Qin Qing giggled and shot him a lovely look. She gingerly stood up and sighed: “You! You are incorrigible.”

    Xiang Shaolong stood up with her and shrugged his shoulders: “I will be thanking the heavens as long as Grand Tutor Qin is not always angry at me.”

    Qin Qing slowly sighed: “You are the reason for my anger! You are always so secretive and I always have to force you to tell me the truth. Right! When you shot the five flying needles earlier, it has caused such a commotion that now the whole camp knows about it. When I came out of the Empress’s tent, I saw Guan Zhongxie and Ying Ying analyzing the needles on the target board.”

    She lowered her head and softly pleaded: “Can Official Xiang give me one of your flying needles as a gift?”

    Without hesitation, Xiang Shaolong drew out a flying needle from his waist belt and smoothly grabbed her hand and pressed the needle in the centre of her palm. He coaxed: “Please forgive me for being rude to you again.” In normal circumstances, no man is allowed to touch her hand.

    Qin Qing was taken by surprise at his molest and quickly withdrew her hand, wailing: “You...”

    Xiang Shaolong put a finger to his lips and signalled her to keep quiet. He pointed outside the tent to indicate that he is afraid that others will hear her wailing. He then smiled: “This is the price to pay for being my confidante. In the future, I will look for you and will be polite and rude as I please.”

    Qin Qing’s expression became annoyed and walked towards the tent exit. At the exit, she stopped and coldly state: “You have arms and legs and you can visit me if you like and not visit me if you don’t like. Who cares!” She left in a huff.

    Xiang Shaolong shook his head with a bitter smile. He and Qin Qing are losing more and more of their self-control. One fine day, they will land up in bed and the consequences will be disastrous.

    But if he can conduct an illicit affair with her, it will be tremendously thrilling!

    The hunting parties crossed the river in different batches.

    Under Xu Xian’s instructions, another two more bridges were built so there is now a total of four bridges.

    The plains were filled with sounds of hunting dogs barking. Those with hunting eagles sent the eagles up in the air to showcase their grandeur and might.

    Xiang Shaolong thought about Zhou Liang’s Warrior Eagles and was very interested in them. In the future, he will have his own eagles to help his fight and they will be remarkable toys too.

    Ji Yanran, Qin Qing and the girls joined Empress Ji’s hunting party while he himself left to join Xiao Pan’s party.

    It is better for him to avoid Zhu Ji so as to prevent any awkwardness and it will also prevent Lao Ai from being jealous of him.

    When he came to the river bank, Xiao Pan has begun crossing the River Jing under the protection of the palace guards. Xiang Shaolong and the Eighteen Guardians rushed to the back of the queue and ran into Guan Zhongxie.

    Xiang Shaolong laughed: “I thought Official Guan has joined the Female Warriors!”

    Guan Zhongxie knew that he is teasing him for spending all his time with Ying Ying and Lu Dan’er. He plainly state: “Work is more important. If I do not chase them off, Official Xiang will blame me for neglecting my work.”

    Xiang Shaolong was hit by realization. Since they are killing Lu Gong, Lu Dan’er will no longer be of any use to them. That is why Guan Zhongxie is disregarding Lu Dan’er now.

    Ying Ying is Guan Zhongxie’s way to spy on the Lord Changping brothers. But since Xiang Shaolong, Lu Gong, etc will be killed during Lord Gaoling’s ambush, the Changping brothers will be blamed for their incompetence and Lu Buwei will force Empress Zhu Ji to execute them. Lu Buwei will then be able to fill up the posts of the leader of the palace guards with his own subordinates.

    After all, the Imperial Infantry army is behind protecting Xianyang City and will not be involved with Lord Gaoling’s ambush. Thus, Guan Zhongxie will be not implicated.

    As a result, this heartless man Guan Zhongxie cannot be bothered with Ying Ying anymore.

    Mo Ao’s devious scheme is truly formidable. Originally, Xiang Shaolong and the rest would have suffered a huge defeat. It is due to pure luck that they now have the upper hand!

    Guan Zhongxie saw that Xiang Shaolong is silent and thought that he is angry. He frantically flattered: “Official Xiang’s wondrous flying needles skill is unparalleled. I submit to your superior talents.”

    Xiang Shaolong dished: “It is nothing great!”

    As both men rode across the wooden bridge, heavy sounds of hoof beats can be heard as the horses are now stepping on wood.

    A strong wind blew towards them and Xiang Shaolong is in a great mood. The sun is slowly setting in the west horizon and its last rays shone across the flatlands like a sheet of gold.

    Guan Zhongxie reminded: “I nearly forgot. Premier Lu is looking for Official Xiang.”

    Xiang Shaolong grunted a reply and rode back to shore towards the main tents.

  17. #157
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
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    Book 14 Chapter 06 Campfire Banquet


    The east shore of River Jing is an unending wilderness for hundreds of miles. With occasional hills, thick forests and small streams, it is a hunters dream come true.

    Even with ten thousand hunters threading on the plains, they looked like small animals from the birds eye view. In an instant, everyone was split apart as they began hunting for animals.

    Xiao Pans hunting party is the largest as it includes Zhu Jis party as well as other members of the royal family. They did not participate in the hunt directly but were leisurely standing near the river bank and admiring the activities.

    Lu Buwei led Xiang Shaolong up a small hill and they looked down at the hunting dogs chasing and barking at a prey while Xiao Pan, Wang Ben, the Changping Brothers and a group of palace guards chasing behind them. He joyfully remarked: I have spoken to Empress. During the campfire banquet later, she will personally announce the marriage of you and Niang Rong.

    Xiang Shaolong is full of admiration at his convincing acting skills.

    Lu Buwei asked: You should be agreeable, right?

    Xiang Shaolong plainly replied: I am only concerned that I am not good enough for her.

    Lu Buwei chortled: I have always been appreciative of your humbleness. When I move into the new Premier Residence, I will see to the marriage immediately and fulfil one of my greatest wishes.

    Xiang Shaolong secretly sniggered that he will instead have a big headache when that really happens. Visioning their future troubles, he was jumping for joy inside.

    Lu Buwei asked again: Has there been any news about Lord Gaoling?

    Xiang Shaolong pretended to be worried: I have sent someone to spy on him but we have yet to detect any ambushing army. We may have been overly suspicious.

    Lu Buwei agreed: Well, it is better to be safe than sorry. I shall put you fully in charge of this.

    He then softly sighed: Shaolong! Are you still suspicious of my sincerity?

    Xiang Shaolong was caught unaware and he was speechless for a while. He stuttered: Why does Premier Lu say so?

    Lu Buwei bitterly smiled: Shaolong need not deceive me. When Zhongxie invited you for drinks at Drunken Wind Brothel last night, he saw you discarding the wine Dan Meimei poured for you. Ai! Do you think the wine is poisonous?

    Xiang Shaolong took his hat off him. He knew he must give a reply and smiled bitterly in return: As what Premier Lu says, it is better to be safe than sorry.

    They exchanged a glance and burst out laughing at the same time.

    Lu Buwei clapped Xiang Shaolongs shoulder and mentioned between his laughs: When Niang Rong marries you, you will be my son-in-law. By then, you can drink all the wine you want with peace of mind.

    Xiang Shaolong has to acknowledge his prowess. Lu Buweis words is trying to convince him that he has been overly suspicious with Dan Meimei and gain his loyalty even at the last moment before his death. This brainwave must have come from Mo Ao to prevent Xiang Shaolong from working with Xu Xian to attack them before the third hunting day.

    Thinking about this, he laughed happily.

    Under the shimmering stars and the bright moon, the camp is in a celebratory mood.

    The animals that were hunted were being promptly roasted over fire spits. Different campfires scattered around the campsite has made the entire camping ground glowing with a beautiful red.

    The ten best hunters have been invited to the royal tent to be rewarded by Zhu Ji and Xiao Pan and will join their table at the Campfire Banquet.

    Wu Tingfang is the best hunter among the girls and is busying cleaning her catch with Zhao Zhi and the Tian sisters. Ji Yanran and Qin Qing are seated on one side and are in deep conversation.

    Xiang Shaolong and the Lord Changping brothers have just come back from their patrol. They reminded the soldiers not to neglect their duties despite the festive mood and keep their guard up at all times. Teng Yi and Jing Jun came back shortly after them.

    Both men had just led the Wu Family Elite Army into battle positions and they are now spying on Lord Gaolings men. Xiang Shaolong can finally relieve this burden of ambush from his mind. After some discussion with them, he left to find Xu Xian. Just as he crossed the defending gates, he was detained by Ying Ying.

    This lass has an unfriendly expression on her face and she coldly state: Xiang Shaolong! Come with me!

    Puzzled, he followed her down the slope and they advanced deeply into a group of tents. Compared to the lights and sounds of the assembly grounds, they are now in a place where it is much more quiet, dark and serene.

    Ying Ying leaned against a tent and stared at him viciously.

    Her long hair was let down and it is still wet in some areas. She carries a fragrance that is associated with a womans scent after a shower. Needless to say, she must have had a nice shower in the nearby river.

    Out of a sudden, his mind is filled with various questions.

    Since he got to know Ying Ying, he has been troubled with her and it is hard to establish their relationship properly. Moreover, he was busy with work and countering Lu Buwei. Thus, he did not spend much time to think about her.

    Now that Mo Ao is going to die, he has some room to think about the future.

    Since he is opposing Lu Buwei, he should ruthlessly snatch her from the hands of Guan Zhongxie. Additionally, it is common for men in this era to have multiple wives. After all, she is a rare beauty too. When they are married, he will share a closer relationship with the Lord Changping brothers. The Qin military and the royal family will see him as their own family. At the same time, it will deal a blow to Guan Zhongxie.

    If Lu Gong is not going to die, the Lord Changping brothers will keep their jobs. Guan Zhongxie will then try to woo Ying Ying to secure his position in Xianyang City.

    For Lu Daner, Lu Gong has opposed their relationship and Guan Zhongxie cannot disregard this powerful general. Even if Zhu Ji interferes, Lu Gong will not budge. Ying Ying, on the other hand, does not have this issue.

    Whoever marries Ying Ying will only stand to benefit. Thinking about this, he cannot help but smile bitterly. There is a price to pay for marrying this stubborn girl. He wonders if he should harden his heart.

    If he wants to woo Ying Ying, the hunting fair would be his best opportunity as Guan Zhongxie will be disregarding her. After the hunting fair, he will have to contend with Guan Zhongxie for her attention. Frankly speaking, he could not be bothered about Guan Zhongxies antics.

    As these thoughts ran through his mind like a shooting meteor, Ying Ying hatefully exclaimed: Xiang Shaolong! Do you hate me a lot? Whenever I look for you, you are always so apprehensive and even use your leg injury as an excuse. Now, you can even perform your flying needles stunt in front of the Crown Prince. Now, the whole camp thinks that you are out to annoy me. How are we going to settle this debt?

    Xiang Shaolong realised that she had seen his exceptional flying needles and is now full of admiration for him.

    She may be putting on an aggressive front but is actually trying to mend fences with him. Thus, she came to find him alone without the rest of the female warriors.

    Xiang Shaolong took two steps forward and reached an intimate distance with her. They are now so close he can hear her breathing. He smiled: Fine! It is my fault. But my leg is really injured! If you dont believe me, I can take off my pants and show you!

    Ying Yings face reddened immediately and she stomped her feet: Who wants to see you without your pants? I want you to throw the flying needles again.

    Xiang Shaolong was agonized and knew that he cannot match up to his earlier performance. He bitterly smiled: When I threw the flying needles earlier, my wound reopened. Can we find some other things to do instead?

    Ying Yings attitude to him has indeed improved. She innocently asked: What shall we do?

    Xiang Shaolong was inspired as he recalled her brother saying that the people of Qin are uncivilised barbarians who are more open minded. His eyes cannot help but strayed to her full bosom. He asked: Where is your tent?

    Ying Yings face is burning red and she wailed: What are you looking at? She retreated half a step and her back is fully up against the tent.

    Xiang Shaolong mocked: Every man loves to look at the figure of a beautiful woman and Miss Ying need not over react! At dawn, I am going to your tent to seek your forgiveness and this should give you enough face already.

    Ying Ying was delighted and stretched out her pinkie, smiling: You promise?

    Xiang Shaolong stretched out his own pinkie and hook onto hers. Admiring her large and attractive eyes, he cautioned: You must not ambush me in your tent. Hng!

    Ying Ying knows that this man is eyeing her chest and yet she props her chest up even more and hissed: Who wants to ambush you? Remember! If you do not show up, I will hate you for the rest of my life.

    Using his pinkie, Xiang Shaolong pulled Ying Ying towards him. Ying Ying let out a shrill cry and fell on him and her pert breasts pressed against his muscular chest without any reservations. She was shocked and moved away hastily out of his bosom but did not appear to be annoyed. She shot him a look and described: My tent is to the west of the Royal Tent with a purple flag. There is a purple flower sewn on the door of the tent door. Do not forget. Smiling sweetly, she skipped away like a child.

    Xiang Shaolong did not anticipate that their grievances can be so easily settled and was pleased. He guessed that the people of Qin love hunting fairs because it is also a good time to date as well.

    The main assembly ground is used for the campfire banquet. It is an outdoor dining concept with tents, defending gates and defending walls surrounding it.

    Xiao Pan and Zhu Ji were the hosts of the banquet and took the northern seats. In front of them are three rows of sixty odd tables and each table can seat four to six men. Torches were placed between each table which adds to the atmosphere of the banquet.

    Wine was free flowing and food is naturally their hunting prey. There are all kinds of barbequed and fragrant fowl meat and animal meat.

    Except for Lord Gaoling and Tian Dan who excused themselves, everyone from the royal family is present. Besides some special guests like Lu Daner, Ying Ying, Ji Yanran, etc, the remaining participants are the ten best hunters. Ji Yanran, Wu Tingfang, Zhao Zhi and Qin Qing are sharing one table which caused Lu Gong to stare at their table occasionally. The younger men with less willpower are almost staring at them non-stop. Heading one of the rows is Prince Dan and Xu Yi Ze, who chatted with Zhu Ji once in a while.

    Ji Yanran and the ladies are adopting a carefree attitude and disregarded the fact that they are the centre of attraction.

    This is the first time Xiao Pan is hosting such a grand and unique banquet. He was fidgeting in his seat and his expression looked unnatural.

    But the most nervous man is Lao Ai who is seated behind Zhu Ji. Zhu Ji had informed him that the Crown Prince will personally announce his promotion later.

    The most unfortunate man is Xiang Shaolong. He was allocated to Lu Buweis table and was squeezed between Lu Buwei and the heartless Lu Niang Rong cum Guan Zhongxie. Mo Ao is not invited as his status is not high enough and it also suits his low profile.

    Everyone toasted Xiao Pan first before Lu Buwei gave a welcome speech. Following that, Xiao Pan took the stand and announced the start of the banquet.

    Lu Buwei toasted Xu Xian and Lu Gong first before he sat down and commented to Xiao Pan: I heard Crown Prince shot a condor earlier. This is a good omen. We shall enjoy a year of bountiful harvest and peace within the nation.

    Xiao Pan joyfully raised his cup: Right Premier, let me toast you.

    Lu Buwei quickly drank up.

    Besides them, Xiang Shaolong was cheering in his heart. Lu Buweis acting could have won him a Lifetime Achievement Award while Xiao Pan could have won the Best Male Actor Award. After all, he will be the main leader during this era.

    Guan Zhongxie spoke out: Will Official Xiang perform his flying needles stunt again to honour the banquet hosted by the Crown Prince?

    Xiang Shaolong cursed secretly and turned his head around. He could sense intense awkwardness from Lu Niang Rong and he weakly smiled at her before telling Guan Zhongxie: Mine is a lousy skill not worth mentioning. I have yet to see Official Guan with his iron bow. Will Official Guan fulfil my wish? He laughed to himself. He is sure Guan Zhongxie will somehow display his talent and impress the people of Qin just like what he did with the flying needles.

    Guan Zhongxie laughed loudly: As long as it is an order from Official Xiang, I will not dare to disobey. If not for Official Xiangs injury, I would love to spar with you and learn from an expert like yourself.

    From his words, Xiang Shaolong is certain that he will show off his skill at the assembly ground after the dinner.

    Behind him, Lu Buwei leaned over and instructed Lu Niang Rong: Niang Rong, you must serve Official Xiang well.

    Lu Niang Rong batted an eye at Xiang Shaolong and replied: But Official Xiang has not spoken to me yet!

    Lu Buwei patted Xiang Shaolongs shoulder and exclaimed; Shaolong! Make her happy.

    Xiang Shaolong can sense Zhu Ji, Ji Yanran, Qin Qing and everyone else looking at them. Totally uncomfortable, he bitterly smiled: I got it.

    Lu Buwei and Guan Zhongxie began to chat among themselves and provided an opportunity for them to interact.

    Xiang Shaolong looked at Lu Niang Rong and she happened to look back. Xiang Shaolong forcefully smiled: What did Third Mistress catch today?

    Initially, Lu Niang Rong managed to force out a smile but her face darkened when she faced his penetrating eyes. She lowered her head and shook it, replying: I am not in the mood to hunt today.

    Xiang Shaolong thought that she is not so bad after all as she is suffering from a guilty conscience. He wondered aloud: Am I the one behind your bad mood?

    Lu Niang Rong trembled slightly and raised her face, assessing him with a look of dilemma on her face.

    Under the illumination of the torch, Lu Niang Rong looks youthful and charming. Her beauty can be compared to Ying Yings but her figure is not as good as hers.

    He sensed that something is amiss. Apparently, Lu Niang Rongs eyes have turned red and she is crying.

    Even Lu Buwei saw her crying and frantically exclaimed: Niang Rong! Do you want to go back to your tent and rest?

    As Lu Niang Rong unsteadily stood up, she attracted the attention of Zhu Ji, Xiao Pan, Qin Qing, Ji Yanran, Wu Tingfang, Zhao Zhi, Lu Gong and Xu Xian. As the tears begin to fall from her face onto her clothes, she wailed: I am not marrying him! Despite Lu Buweis coaxing, she ran off into the tents in the background after finishing her words. As the majority of the crowd is busy engaging in wine and revelry, not many people are aware of her outburst. The lively mood of the banquet is not affected by her disturbance.

    Lu Buwei and Guan Zhongxie watched helplessly as she ran off into the darkness.

    Xiang Shaolong is beginning to have a better opinion of her. She is not totally like her father who can lie with his eyes wide open. At the same time, he concluded that she has some feelings for him.

    Lao Ai came over to invite Lu Buwei on Zhu Jis instructions. Lu Buwei winked at Guan Zhongxie before he left.

    Guan Zhongxie is about to chase after Lu Niang Rong when Xiang Shaolong grabbed him and reasoned: Let her go! Love cannot be forced.

    Guan Zhongxie was taken aback and returned to his seat, smiling bitterly: Official Xiang is right!

    Lu Buwei came back to their table and sighed in a deep voice: We will postpone the wedding until further notice! Ai! Shaolong! I do not know what to say.

    Xiang Shaolong is secretly delighted but feigned sadness: Premier Lu need not fret. Hei! I wish... He wanted to find a reason to slip away from Lao Ai approached their table again but it was Xiang Shaolong he invited this time round.

    Xiang Shaolong feared Zhu Ji the most and forced himself to go to her table. When he came to her, Zhu Ji plainly stated: Shaolong need not pay his respects. Have a seat!

    Xiang Shaolong sat down adjoining her and whispered: What instructions does Empress have? he noticed Lao Ai seated five feet behind Zhu Ji trying to listen to their conversation. The environment is quite noisy and he is sure Lao Ai cannot eavesdrop very well.

    Under Lao Ais nourishment, Zhu Ji is like a brand new person and is even more enchanting than before. She slowly assessed him and sighed: Shaolong! Both you and Zhenger have changed.

    Xiang Shaolong did not expect her to say these words. Shocked, he exclaimed: Empress!

    An irritated Zhu Ji scolded: I do not want to hear any hypocritical words from you. Ai! Are both of you blaming me? At the last sentence, she softened her tone and her words carried some tinge of helplessness.

    Xiang Shaolong is filled with emotions. He knew that he can prevent her from being seduced by Lao Ai but he cannot go against fate and allow himself to replace Lao Ai. That is why he did not succumb to her and allowed her to sink deeper into Lao Ais love trap. Guilt-ridden, he was dumbfounded.

    Zhu Ji leaned closer and whispered: Every time we did it, I imagined that I am doing it with you, understand?

    Xiang Shaolong shook uncontrollably and cannot help but look up to her pretty face.

    Zhu Jis eyes turned slightly red and she avoided his gaze. Recomposing herself, she calmly ordered: Commander Xiang, you are dismissed!

    Xiang Shaolong was stunned for a moment before he returned to Lu Buweis table.

    Before he can say a word to the two men, Lu Daner and Ying Ying were holding each others hands and skipped up to them. They insist on bringing Guan Zhongxie to their table to compete on wine-drinking but their eyes were mainly fixated on Xiang Shaolong.

    Guan Zhongxie is not in the mood and evaded: I am been ordered by Official Xiang to perform later. He faced Xiang Shaolong and continued: If Official Xiang does not want to see me screw up, he will have to substitute me in accepting the challenge of these two ladies.

    Xiang Shaolong is afraid that Lu Buwei will interrogate him on what Zhu Ji has said to him and laughed out loud: Official Guan is so eloquent! He turned around and left with the girls.

    Lu Daner is pleasantly surprised and happily pinched him, cooing: Looks like you are a clever man. Shall we bury the hatchet?

    Xiang Shaolong was amused that Ying Ying did not tell Lu Daner what had happened between them earlier. He winked at Ying Ying and is about to reply her when two men appeared and blocked their path. It was Lord Changwen and Jing Jun. Jing Jun smiled: Are the two Mistresses trying to make my Third Brother drunk? You have to challenge me first.

    The two ladies saw him with a wine flask in his left hand and a wine cup in his right hand. Stopping, they accepted: Do you think we are afraid of you?

    Xiang Shaolong did not expect Jing Jun to be so familiar with them and guessed that they have crossed paths before.

    Lord Changwen faced Xiang Shaolong and smiled: Has Official Xiang received the red flower from Sister and Daner?

    The face of both girls immediately became red and they stared ferociously at Xiang Shaolong.

    Lu Daner put her hands on her waist and wailed: What is the use of giving it to him? He is a useless cripple.

    Perplexed, Xiang Shaolong questioned: What is the red flower?

    Jing Jun joked: You can give him the flower but I will represent him in doing the deed.

    Both girls started to laugh and protest. Their faces are thoroughly red and they looked even more enchanting under the illumination of the torches.

    Lord Changwen stepped forward and explained to Xiang Shaolong: It is our Qin custom. During the hunting fair, an unmarried girl can present an embroidered red flower to a man she likes. The man can then visit her in her tent to spend the night. Hei! Now you understand!

    Xiang Shaolong did not expect the Qin ladies to be so open minded and was flabbergasted. He unconsciously shifted his gaze to the two ladies. Ying Ying stomped her foot and yelled: Second Brother, you are spouting nonsense.

    Lu Daner charmingly smiled: I have not decided who to give my flower to. Lets see what happens later.

    Xiang Shaolong was visibly excited. The open-minded Qin girl is something the other six states can never offer. He smiled at Jing Jun: Little Jun! Miss Daner is dropping you a big hint.

    Lord Changwen joked: So if your Fifth Brother gets the flower, are you performing the deed for him?

    Ying Ying and Lu Daner may be the butt of their jokes but did not mind them at all. They only coquettishly protest which makes them even more interesting.

    Jing Jun loves to flirt with women and smiled: If I managed to get both red flowers from both ladies, I will leave Miss Ying to my Third Brother and keep Miss Daner for myself. Ao!

    Lu Daner sent him a kick. Jing Jun sprang up and flipped to the side. His two hands were still holding the wine flask and wine cup but not a single drop of wine has spilled. The other four persons were amazed at his agility.

    The banquet is still in progress and the two hundred odd guests are still having a good time. Here, they are also having their own fun.

    This is the first time Lord Changwen had seen Jing Juns skills and he breathes in heavily: Based on this skill, Daner should give you her red flower.

    Lu Daner enthusiastically stared at Jing Jun: You monkey! Flip one more time for me.

    With a lazy and annoying look on his face, Jing Jun cheekily glanced at Lu Daner and joked: If you become a female monkey, I will become a male monkey and bring you to the trees and somersault non-stop.

    Lu Daner let out a war cry and rushed forward with two clenched fists. Jing Jun actually managed to drink his wine and avoided her blows at the same time. With Lu Daner hot at his heels, they soon disappeared among the tents.

    Xiang Shaolong was moved. Jing Jun may not be a Qin native but he is a sworn brother of him and Wang Jian. Moreover, he holds a military post. Lu Gong may agree to let him date Lu Daner.

    Lu Daner is a teenage girl and it is a stage where she is very indecisive. She is interested in Guan Zhongxie because of his heroic air. If Jing Jun can humour her and with Lu Gongs support, coupled with their compatible age and their similar love for fun, they may eventually fall in love. This will prevent Guan Zhongxie from using Lu Daner to penetrate the influential circles of the Qin military.

    A bell was struck and everyone quietened down.

    The three persons stood still and listened to Xiao Pans speech.

    Xiao Pan stood up and greeted the Empress. He then proclaimed the ten best hunters to be promoted to the rank of Captain with immediate effect.

    The ten young men were overjoyed and hurriedly kneeled down, giving thanks to Xiao Pan and swearing their loyalty to him.

    Xiao Pan continued to announce a slew of promotions, including promoting Teng Sheng as the new Outer Custodian and Lao Ai as the Inner Custodian.

    Some officials felt that Lao Ais promotion is undeserved. But looking at Empress Zhu Ji fawning over him and the lack of objections from Xu Xian and Lu Gong, they accepted the changes reluctantly.

    It was followed by ShowTime. First, Xiao Pan listed Lu Buweis achievements in conquering the three provinces and promoted him to become the new Premier Mentor. It is just a post without any authority. Needless to say, it was Li Si who prepared this speech for him.

    Although Lu Buwei wields plenty of power in the Qin Court, as long as the two influential men Xu Xian and Lu Gong do not object, this promotion will be official.

    Finally, everyone toasted one another and the banquet came to a conclusion.

    Lord Changwen frantically excused him and rushed forward to escort Xiao Pan and Zhu Ji.

    Slightly fearful, Ying Ying retreated two steps and whined: Remember what you promised.

    Xiang Shaolong objected: I take my word back. We have decided to reconcile but you flirted with another man in front of me. Now that he is gone, you are using me as a substitute.

    Ying Ying stomped her feet: It is not what you see. I actually wanted to... Ah! Who do you think you are? Why must I explain things to you?

    Xiang Shaolong saw that she was infuriated and she is beginning to cry. Beside them, everyone is leaving the banquet area. He softened and smiled: All right! I surrender. I am fine with being a substitute.

    Ying Ying is so incensed she nearly wanted to draw her sword. She roared: I said that you are not a substitute. I have always... Forget it! You try skipping our appointment! She turned around and stomped away.

    Xiang Shaolong shouted: What about the red flower?

    Ying Ying increased her pace away from him.

    Xiang Shaolong turned around and came face to face with Ji Yanran. The beauty batted an eye at him and sighed: Hubby has regained his flirty ways.

    Xiang Shaolong sighed and pulled her to one side, explaining the real reason behind Ying Yings seduction.

    Ji Yanran sighed: Hubby must be careful. Earlier, Guan Zhongxie has been paying close attention to all of you. He may try to sow discord between the two of you. After all, Ying Ying belongs to the royal family and Guan Zhongxie will only stand to benefit if he marries her.

    Xiang Shaolong assured: Since the demise of Princess Qian and the maids, I have lost my interests in girls and only hope to spend the rest of my life in peace with all of you. If Ying Ying chooses to marry Guan Zhongxie, so be it.

    Ji Yanran dragged him aside to avoid the men riding horses in their direction. She whispered: Do you swear that you have no feelings for Sister Qin?

    Xiang Shaolongs face reddened: Why did you bring her up?

    Ji Yanran questioned: Why did the two of you say in the tent? When she left, her face is thoroughly red and full of joy.

    Xiang Shaolong bitterly smiled: I speak normally! It is her skin which is too thin.

    Ji Yanran slightly whined: Sister Qin is someone with lots of self-control. She is in love with you and that is why her skin has become thin.

    Xiang Shaolong was stunned: It is my fault! Ai! Why do I always get into this kind of trouble?

    Ji Yanran smiled: You are good looking, kind hearted and eloquent. Otherwise, I will not have been won over by your antics and become your wife.

    Xiang Shaolong laughed: How dare you say I use antics to seduce you? I am not going to let you off!

    Ji Yanran charmingly giggled: Who needs you to let me off?

    Xiang Shaolong was aroused and cheerful Jing Jun happened to come back. He laughed: The night performances are about to begin. Are Third Brother and Third Sister going to stay here and enjoy each others company?

    In the midst of laughter and scolding, the three people walked towards the defending gates.

    Xiang Shaolong took this chance to ask him about Lu Daner.

    Jing Jun happily recalled: This lass is really b!tchy. Even after I molested her, she still came after me. Finally, I protected my head and allowed her to trash me. She may have a fearsome look on her face and her blows are definitely controlled to avoid hurting me. So exciting!

    As Xiang Shaolong waved to acknowledge everyone around them, he reminded: To win her heart, you must take advantage of these two days. Do you understand?

    Jing Jun nodded his head vigorously and instantly disappeared into the crowd in an unknown direction. Behind him, Xiang Shaolong and Ji Yanran could not help but break out into smiles.

  18. #158
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
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    Book 14 Chapter 07 – Exchanging Pointers On The Duelling Ground


    Four young lads were riding handsome horses and entered the assembly ground from the east. When they arrived at the centre of the grounds, they picked up speed and strung an arrow to their bow at the same time. It was a neat formation and the crowd of ten thousand people is cheering for them. Just as everyone expected them to shoot their arrows at the target boards, the four men actually flipped upside down and fire their arrows while they were positioned under the horses’ belly. Zng! All the four arrows managed to hit the centre ring of the target board while one arrow nearly hit the bull’s eye. While the arrows are still quivering on the target board, the four men have flipped back onto their saddles and rode across the grandstand, saluting Xiao Pan and Zhu Ji. The crowd burst out into loud cheering and applause.

    Most of the crowd were seated on the slope between the assembly ground and the royal tents. As they are looking down from a higher place, they actually enjoy a better view compared to those at the stands.

    After the four riders have left, everyone was still fascinated by their amazing performance. Since no one is confident of performing a better show, the stage was unoccupied for the time being.

    Xiao Pan stood up from his grandstand and threw four arrows down to the four riders.

    The four men are mad with glee. They leapt down the horse and picked up the arrows. They proceeded up the grandstand to receive their rewards from Xiao Pan.

    Xiang Shaolong, his three wives, two maids, Teng Yi, Qin Qing and the Eighteen Guardians were seated on the slope and watching the activities from afar. They are finally beginning to understand the importance of this hunting fair to the people of Qin.

    It is equivalent to the Olympic Games of the modern world.

    Every ambitious man will use these three days to showcase his talent so as to win military promotions and gain the favour of the royal family as well as the various high ranking officials.

    The really capable ones will even win the affection of girls from prestigious families like Ying Ying and Lu Dan’er. They will stand to benefit in their love life and career paths.

    The annual hunting fair is a highlight of Qin. But not everyone is eligible to participate. Except for the royal family and families of high ranking officials, other participants must go through a selection by their various departments before they can take part in the hunting fair.

    Among his three wives, Wu Tingfang is the most boisterous. She clapped and shouted nonstop at the performances.

    Xiang Shaolong was about to say something to Teng Yi when he noticed his brows furrowed. Curious, he implored: “Is something bothering Second Brother?”

    Teng Yi composed himself and replied in a deep voice: “I was just wondering – Lu Buwei has such a confident demeanour; isn’t he concerned that Lu Gong, Xu Xian and you might summon the Qin army to annihilate him? Although he is protected by first rate fighters, they are only numbering around one hundred. Even with a few more Guan Zhongxie, he is considered careless about his personal security.”

    Xiang Shaolong guessed: “I think he is sure that I cannot manipulate the palace guards to attack him. Moreover, the Crown Prince will protect him as the new Premier Mentor and he knew that we will not act hastily.”

    Teng Yi shook his head: “This is unlike Mo Ao’s usual methods. From the start, they have always been one step ahead of us while we are struggling to defend ourselves from them. In such a crucial juncture, it is less likely that they will be neglectful.”

    Xiang Shaolong agreed that his words make sense and began to think deeply too.

    Teng Yi stared at the grandstand opposite them where Zhu Ji and Lu Buwei are sitting and shifted his gaze to Prince Dan and Tian Dan beside them. He mused: “It is such a grand occasion. Why is Tian Dan’s favourite general Dan Chu absent?”

    Xiang Shaolong gestured Wu Yan Zhu and Wu Shu to his side and instructed them to spy on the Qi people, smiling: “It is no use thinking about it. Let’s spy on them and see what is going on.”

    On his other side, Wu Tingfang elbowed him: “That’s great! Hubby! Look! It is Little Jun!”

    Xiang Shaolong and Teng Yi were rejuvenated and looked down to the assembly ground.

    Under Jing Jun’s leadership, a few hundred cavalry soldiers rode out. Half of them are from the Wu Family Elite army. Everyone has a lance in their right hand and a shield in their left hand. Using only their legs to control their horses, they performed a variety of stunts and poses.

    Jing Jun is even more imposing. Barking command after command, he directed his men with utmost confidence, evoking loud cheers and whistles from the crowd.

    The female warriors were squeezed on one side of the crowd and they acted as Jing Jun’s cheerleaders under the leadership of Ying Ying and Lu Dan’er.

    On the grandstand, Lu Gong and the other military leaders nodded their heads in acknowledgement and praise. Once in a while, they will pass favourable comments.

    In these warring times, only a well-trained army can gain their attention.

    Zhao Zhi happily cried: “Little Jun is really something!”

    Suddenly, the soldiers split into two groups and carried out a mock attack on each other. As the horses brush past each other, sounds of weapons clashing can be heard. After a few exciting demonstrations, everyone in the crowd has shouted until their voices were hoarse.

    After the final clash, both groups combined into one group and face the grandstand resolutely. At the head of the group is Jing Jun armed with a shield and a lance. He first stood up on his saddle and executed a somersault over the horse’s head. While in mid air, his shield was moving rapidly to protect his body while he pierced his lance several times at an invisible enemy. When he finally landed, he kneeled down in a swift motion and paid his respects to Xiao Pan. It was a fluid movement altogether and there was no sign of breathlessness from him.

    The crowd exploded into their biggest cheers and applause since the beginning of the night performances. Even the cold Qin Qing could not hold back and cheered for Jing Jun too.

    Xiao Pan saw that he is Xiang Shaolong’s sworn brother and is highly-skilled at the same time. Delighted, he actually jumped up, withdrew his personal sword and threw it down to the ground.

    Jing Jun picked up his sword joyfully and howled another command. The cavalry troops marched neatly out of the assembly ground while he himself ascended the grandstand to claim his reward.

    Xiang Shaolong could see that the crowd is still high after Jing Jun’s performance. He turned his head to Ji Yanran and suggested: “If Talented Lady Ji will perform her incredible spear technique, I guarantee that the crowd will cheer loudly for you.”

    Ji Yanran and Qin Qing looked at him at the same time. With two of the world’s most beautiful faces looking at him simultaneously, Xiang Shaolong was aroused.

    Ji Yanran batted her eyes at him: “Yanran only needs Hubby’s love and not the crowd’s cheering.”

    Xiang Shaolong shifted his gaze to Qin Qing. She shot him a look and turned her face back to face the assembly ground.

    After a few performances by the Palace Infantry and the Palace Cavalry, Ying Ying’s female warriors took to the stage.

    They may not be as well trained as Jing Jun’s cavalry army but the two hundred young girls have their fair share of horse riding and archery experiences. Viewing their performance is also one of life’s pleasures.

    Among the crowd, the girls are clapping non-stop and the guys are even more generous with their cheering. Naturally, the cheering is even louder than the cheering for Jing Jun.

    A gong was sounded.

    Lu Gong stood up and paid his respects to Empress and Crown Prince. He proceeded to announce the main event of tonight – the Sword Duel.

    As the crowd became serious, he solemnly barked: “Whoever can win three consecutive fights will be rewarded with ten taels of gold from the Crown Prince. You may even win a promotion. Gentlemen, show us what you are made of!”

    Under thunderous applause, two men scrambled out.

    Lord Changping and several palace guards stepped forward and helped both men put their armour on and each man is given a wooden sword.

    After the two men bowed to each other, they began fighting. Within three strokes, one of the men was hit by his opponent.

    A gong was sounded and Xu Xian the referee announced the winner.

    After ten over fights, only a young man named Huan Qi managed to win three consecutive fights and he earned loud cheers from the crowd.

    Xiang Shaolong is trying to locate Guan Zhongxie among the crowd. To Teng Yi, he checked: “Will Second Brother enter the fight later to test Guan Zhongxie’s skills?”

    Teng Yi smiled: “Why not?”

    Both men exchanged a smile as another man entered the duelling ground. It is Lao Ai.

    There are not many people who recognized him but they were impressed with his sturdy built, imposing air and alert expression. It was only until he announced his position and name did everyone realised that he is the Empress’s pet Inner Custodian Lao Ai.

    In this instant, another man entered the duelling ground. Everyone is surprised at the challenger. Apparently, it is the expert swordsman Lu Chan. This man is one of the best fighters from Lu Buwei’s group after Guan Zhongxie.

    Teng Yi observed: “This will be spectacular. Lu Buwei is purposely out to ruin his reputation and put him down.”

    Xiang Shaolong focused on the grandstand and noticed the concerned expressions of Xiao Pan, Zhu Ji, Lu Gong, Xu Xian, etc. He was glad that Lu Buwei is now officially opposing Lao Ai. If not for the body armour, Lu Buwei would have instructed Lu Chan to injure Lao Ai’s groin and destroy his usefulness to Zhu Ji.

    Lu Chan has a rigid face, a fierce demeanour and is dark-skinned. Whoever sees him would be frightened by his appearance. After they have put on their armour, both men circled the assembly ground once and are viewing each other with caution.

    Ji Yanran sighed: “Lu Buwei is familiar with Lao Ai’s strengths and weaknesses. Since he sent Lu Chan, he must have a high chance of winning.”

    Xiang Shaolong saw the Lu Chan is expressionless and hard to fathom. He nodded: “This man’s strength should lie in forceful attacks. Lu Buwei must have wanted him to attack Lao Ai relentlessly and make Lao Ai lose face in front of everyone. This will lower Lao Ai’s standing in the eyes of Zhu Ji and the people of Qin.”

    Before he can even finish speaking, Lu Chan roared and attacked Lao Ai.

    Qin Qing praised: “Official Xiang is truly a genius to make such accurate predictions.” No one spoke out anymore as everyone is fixated on the intense fighting.

    Sounds of the wooden sword swishing through the air filled everyone’s ears. Everyone held their breaths as they witnessed the most intensive fight since the beginning of the duels.

    Lao Ai may realise that his arm strength is not as good as Lu Chan or he is out to waste Lu Chan’s energy. He did his best to avoid his blows and did not meet his attacks head on.

    Until Lu Chan’s fourth stroke brushed past his head did Lao Ai roar loudly and deflected his blows. He focused on defending and deflecting his blows rather than attacking him.

    Lu Chan’s killing aura grew and he changed his sword styles, attacking Lao Ai mercilessly.

    Lao Ai changed his sword styles too and defended himself well. He deflected his blows and retreated at the same time. After circling the assembly ground a few rounds, their steps were still firm and did not show any signs of exhaustion.

    It is truly different when expert swordsmen fight.

    Ying Ying’s female warriors are impressed with Lao Ai’s handsome looks and began cheering for him. Whenever he executed a skilful defensive stroke, they will cheer wildly for him. Teng Yi sighed: “Lu Chan has been tricked!”

    Xiang Shaolong knew what he meant. Lu Chan and Lao Ai’s swords skills are about the same level. Lu Chan has superior arm strength while Lao Ai is more agile. From the ongoing battle, it appears that Lao Ai is gaining the upper hand while Lu Chan is losing his energy very quickly. When he is exhausted, it will be Lao Ai’s opportunity to defeat him.

    Zhao Zhi was astonished: “Why didn’t Lu Buwei send Guan Zhongxie?”

    Xiang Shaolong looked over to her and noticed the Tian sisters nervously keeping their eyes closed as they were too afraid to watch the fighting. He cannot hold back but smiled: “Sending Guan Zhongxie will be the final straw.”

    Lu Chan is anxious to win and increased the intensity of the fight. Everyone is taken aback by his ferocity and their eyes followed his movements. Sounds of heavy clashing of the wooden swords filled the air.

    Lao Ai suddenly stopped retreating and yelled madly. Like an angry dragon rising from the sea, his sword sliced forward and with a loud ‘Pak!’ he actually forced Lu Chan to retreat half a step. He continued with a flurry of attacks that sent Lu Chan into a defending position. Loud cheers and whistles were heard from the crowd.

    Teng Yi shook his head and sighed: “There are so many advantages if you are handsome.”

    Lao Ai’s attacks became more and more fearsome and his sword is almost everywhere, forcing Lu Chan to take several steps back. But Lu Chan has high endurance. Despite being at a disadvantage, he did not panic and everyone is also impressed with his resilience.

    Out of the blue, Lao Ai ceased his attacks and took a few steps back. He bowed: “Brother Lu is highly-skilled. I cannot hope to defeat you.”

    The entire crowd quietened down.

    Lu Chan was stunned for a while before he returned his greetings. Both men then paid their respects to the grandstand.

    Xiang Shaolong and Teng Yi glanced at each other. They did not expect Lao Ai to end this beautifully. He gave face to Lu Buwei and at the same time, he retreated when he was gaining the upper hand. Otherwise, if Guan Zhongxie challenges him in the next round, he will be in deep 5hit.

    Xu Xian decided that it is a draw and rewarded each man with five taels of gold. The crowd was slightly disappointed.

    Fortunately, the next fighters were all experts from the cavalry army and the palace guards. After several battles, the last fighter is Great General Wang He’s Assistant General Bai Chong who has beaten two challengers. If he can win one more round, he will win the ten taels of gold.

    Xiang Shaolong felt that the present fighters are all men from prestigious backgrounds, causing all his cavalry soldiers to hold back from participating. He commented to Teng Yi: “Guan Zhongxie should be fighting soon!” Teng Yi reminded: “Not so fast! There is still Zhou Zihen!”

    Before his sentence ended, a short and stout Zhou Zihen stepped out of the crowd and entered the duelling ground.

    Everyone witnessed Bai Chong’s double victory and guessed that he will too defeat this nameless man. Energized by this thought, they cheered even louder and the atmosphere is electrifying.

    As everyone watched on, Zhou Zihen lifted the wooden sword and tested its weight. Abruptly, he brandished a dagger and swiftly sliced downwards. The end of the long sword was severed off, leaving only one and a half feet of sword length.

    Everyone was blown away by his way of shortening his sword. Moreover, he used a small dagger to sever the heavy wooden sword in one blow and it takes a very sharp dagger to achieve that. Everyone was flabbergasted.

    Zhou Zihen begged Xiao Pan’s pardon: “Please forgive me as I am used to using short swords.” Xiao Pan’s interest was piqued and he gestured his approval.

    Bai Chong has a suspicious look on his face as he brandished his sword and awaited his attack. With a serious expression, he was ready to counterattack anytime.

    In his heart, Xiang Shaolong deemed him to be a coward.

    There is a saying: An inch shorter is an inch of danger. If Zhou Zihen is using such a short sword, his sword skills would be unorthodox and hard to defend against.

    With only these two fighters, Lu Buwei is already instilling fear in others. Moreover, he still has Guan Zhongxie the champion swordsman.

    Zhou Zihen snorted and moved forward at lightning speed. His wooden sword has morphed into a flurry of quick sword stances and his sword seemed to be everywhere. Clashing head on with Bai Chong, this is the first time anyone has seen such a queer move.

    Bai Chong was stunned and roared. He took half a step back before sweeping his sword horizontally across.

    Du! Zhou Zihen’s short sword parried away Bai Chong’s long sword while his entire body crashed squarely into Bai Chong’s chest.

    Bai Chong was taken by surprise and suffered a heavy blow to his chest. He lost his grip on his long sword and he fell down in a sitting position.

    Nobody expected Bai Chong to lose in one blow and everyone forgot to cheer.

    Wang He and Bai Chong were disgraced while Lu Gong and the other generals were embarrassed. It was an awkward moment.

    Finally, Lu Buwei took the lead in clapping and cheering for Zhou Zihen.

    Like a dishonoured man, Bai Chong stood up and walked away.

    Xiang Shaolong sucked in some cold air. He deduced that Zhou Zihen is someone well-versed in fighting at close proximity and he may have a hard time fighting him himself.

    The atmosphere was tensed as Zhou Zihen proudly stood at the centre of the duelling ground, awaiting the next challenger. After some time, there were still no takers. Xiang Shaolong caught sight of Lu Buwei talking to Zhu Ji and he must have been bragging about his skilful subordinate. He had a brainwave and inquired: “Where is Little Jun?”

    Teng Yi had the same inspiration that only Jing Jun’s agility can counter Zhou Zihen and groaned: “I do not know where he has sneaked off to. Without our consent, he dared not fight.”

    At this time, Xu Xian announced from the grandstand: “If there are no more challengers, we will assume that Zhou Zihen from Premier Lu Residence has won three consecutive fights.”

    The crowd became so quiet you can hear a pin drop.

    Xiang Shaolong sighed to himself. If Zhou Zihen ‘won three consecutive fights’, the military would lose face as they cannot even defeat someone from Lu Buwei’s forces.

    At the instant, someone shouted: “Where is Commander Xiang?” The moment the shout ended, the crowd of ten thousand people were chanting his name.

    Ever since his duel with Wang Jian, he has been the number one swordsman in the eyes of the people of Qin. Moreover, he is a ‘Qin native’. With this outsider arrogantly waiting for a challenger, everyone naturally hope that he will take the stand and regain some glory.

    Cries of ‘Xiang Shaolong’ filled the mountains and valleys.

    Xiang Shaolong saw that everyone around him was now staring at him. He was agonized. Even without his leg injury, it will be a difficult task to overcome Zhou Zihen. Now that his movement is limited, what should he do?
    Last edited by kohchun; 08-03-10 at 01:37 PM.

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    Book 14 Chapter 08 The Mighty Jing Jun


    On the grandstand, Lu Buwei and Tian Dan have unnatural expressions on their faces as they did not expect Xiang Shaolong to enjoy such high standing among the people of Qin. In addition, Lu Buwei can clearly feel the racism of the Qin people against him and his family warriors. He felt a tinge of regret for trying to eliminate Xiang Shaolong. If they had been on good terms, the people of Qin may eventually accept him and he need not use Lao Ai to manipulate the Empress. He suppressed this thought from his mind. After all, Xiang Shaolong has only two more days to live and it is a fact that cannot be changed.

    Xiao Pan saw that Xiang Shaolong enjoys a favourable reputation among the military forces and the younger generation of Qin and was delighted for him. At the same time, it indirectly lowers Lu Buweis standing. However, he was concerned about his leg injury and that he will disappoint the crowd by being unable to battle. While everyone is shouting his name incessantly, a figure somersaulted from within the ranks of the female warriors. This person cart wheeled continuously over ten rounds quickly and his face is a blur. No one can identify him but everyone was flabbergasted at his agility.

    After a final mid air somersault, the person landed in front of the grandstand, kneeled down and pleaded: Assistant Cavalry Commander Jing Jun asks to fight on behalf of my Commander. Will the Crown Prince please give your approval?

    Xiao Pan was overjoyed: I approve Assistant Commander Jings request.

    Everyone saw that he was highly-skilled and volunteered himself first. Moreover, he is Xiang Shaolongs assistant commander and rewarded him with thunderous applause. Everyone anticipates a good fight between him and Zhou Zihen.

    Jing Jun did not stand up yet. He loudly declared: If I happened to win, all the glory of the victory belongs to Miss Daner.

    Xiao Pan was stunned and exchanged a glance with an equally shocked Lu Gong. He laughed: Fine! I approve.

    The people of Qin are open-minded. Witnessing the public love declaration of Jing Jun, everyones spirits rose greatly and cheered even louder. Their cheering sounds resonated throughout the plains.

    The female warriors are laughing uncontrollably. Ying Ying and the other ladies forcefully pushed an embarrassed but thrilled Lu Daner to the front of the crowd so that she will not miss any part of the action.

    Zhou Zihen still maintained his cool expression. He slowly glanced up at Lu Buwei who nodded slightly, indicating that he wants him to deal a heavy blow to Jing Jun and tarnish his reputation. He smiled to acknowledge this silent command. His eyes were shining like electricity as he shifted his gaze to Jing Jun who is putting on his armour and receiving his wooden sword.

    Unexpectedly, Jing Jun made a monkey face, stared straight back at him and joked: So Brother Zhou needs to seek Premier Lus consent for every little thing.

    Zhou Zihen was taken aback as he did not anticipate Jing Jun to see through their communication method. He plainly replied: Assistant Commander Jing must be joking!

    Lord Changwen is personally helping Jing Jun to put on his armour. Overhearing their conversation, he lightly patted Jing Jun and advised: Be careful! He led his men to the side of the duelling ground and left the two men standing there facing each other.

    The crowd became silent as everyone watched with abated breaths, wondering how Jing Jun can counter Zhou Zihens unorthodox fighting methods.

    There may be ten thousand pairs of eyes staring at him and it will be a crucial fight but Jing Jun maintained his aloof expression and stared lazily at his opponent. His sword is still resting on his shoulder and he seems to disregard Zhou Zihen.

    While everyone is anxious for him, the most anxious person is not Xiang Shaolong, Teng Yi or any of the ladies. It is Lu Daner. She may be annoyed at him but now, her reputation is tied to the outcome of this battle. If Jing Jun loses, she will lose face too. Her palms became sweaty and she almost cannot continue watching the fight.

    Out of the blue, both men began to move.

    Originally, it was Zhou Zihen who moved first. But like it has been prearranged, the moment he made his move, Jing Juns sword has left his shoulder and is now halfway through the air.

    Zhou Zihen withdrew his sword and kicked out at the same time. Jing Jun somersaulted to the back and avoided his blow effortlessly.

    Zhou Zihen was taken aback at this peculiar move. He is an experienced fighter and he knew that Jing Juns strength lies in his agility. He dared not be complacent and instantly changed his battle tactics. He quickly rolled forward to where Jing Jun is about to land. When Jing Jun is landing, he will deal a heavy blow and break his legs.

    The ever-changing fighting techniques have captivated everyone.

    On the slope, Teng Yi smiled to Xiang Shaolong: If Zhou Zihen is a few years younger, Jing Jun will be in trouble.

    Xiang Shaolong nodded his head slightly and focused hard on their fight without replying.

    Jing Jun flipped twice in the air and actually has his hand embracing his legs against his chest. At the same time, his sword swished down at Zhou Zihen below him with lightning speed.

    Zhou Zihen used his waist to prop himself up and flipped to the side. Using his backhand, he struck out with his short sword at chest area to hit Jing Juns long sword.

    Every one of their attacks was beyond comprehension and everyone was watching intently without any sounds.

    Jing Jun knew that he is trying to deal a heavy blow to his long sword and use this opening to further attack him. He let out a shrill cry and his leg kicked out towards Zhou Zihens face forcefully.

    Zhou Zihen is blown away by his agility and could not be bothered to attack his long sword anymore. He shifted his sword to attack his leg. At the same time, he took a step backwards to avoid the incoming kick.

    Amazingly, Jing Jun has enough momentum to retract his kick and Zhou Zihens sword hit empty air.

    Everyone roared out in loud cheers and praises.

    As Jing Jun landed, he rolled into a ball. Keeping the momentum, he rolled towards Zhou Zihen.

    Zhou Zihen did not panic and roared. He adopted the horse stance and his sword exploded into a flurry of stances. Under the illumination of the torches, he maintains his steely expression and is truly an expert swordsman.

    After all, he needs true talent to outshine the other eight thousand family warriors of Lu Buwei.

    As impossible as it seems, Jing Jun leapt up from the ground and struck down at Zhou Zihen with his full body weight.

    Ta! The wooden swords clashed.

    Even with his solid horse stance, Zhou Zihen cannot withstand Jing Juns heavy blow and staggered backwards.

    Everyone forgot their inhibitions and shake their fists in the air, cheering loudly for him. The loudest cheers come from Lu Daner and the female warriors followed by the soldiers from the Cavalry Army. Lu Buwei and his mens cheering were drowned by their voices.

    Jing Jun fought ferociously. The moment he landed, he flipped forward with his long sword trailing and he followed up with another blow at Zhou Zihen.

    Zhou Zihen is forced to defend himself and kept retreating. He cannot keep up with Jing Juns flexible attacks that sometimes come from the air and sometimes when he was rolling on the ground. He has finally met his nemesis.

    Under Jing Jun all out combo attacks, Zhou Zihen was panting as he tried to defend himself without the slightest chance to counter attack. Like a flower that has withered, he cannot salvage the situation.

    Ta! Ta! Ta! Jing Jun made use of the advantage of his sword length to deliver three continuous blows to Zhou Zihens short sword, causing him pain and numbness in his hands.

    Everyone is siding Jing Jun in their cheers, causing Zhou Zihen to be mad and disappointed.

    After another ten successive clashes, Zhou Zihen finally lost his grip on his sword and his sword flew out of his hands after receiving another heavy blow. As he groaned to himself, Jing Jun sidestepped to his back and delivered a back kick to his back.

    Jing Juns kick carried so much strength that Zhou Zihen can never block given his disadvantageous situation. Before he realised what happened, he has fallen flat on his face.

    Lu Daner joyfully ran from the sidelines to Jing Juns arms and they paid their respects to the boisterous crowd. No one is bothered with the defeated warrior leaving the duelling ground.

    After a short discussion, Xu Xian happily asked: Is Assistant Commander Jing ready for another challenger?

    Jing Jun respectfully answered: I only fight on behalf of my Commander. I wish to end here while I am still the winner and have no desire to be kicked out by someone else!

    Everyone burst out laughing but no one blamed him for not accepting new challengers. Xu Xian smiled: Assistant Commander Jing has done well. Have a good rest!

    Jing Jun paid his respects to the grandstand occupants and went back to the female warriors group with Lu Daner.

    On the slope, Xiang Shaolong and Teng Yi exchanged a smile. With Jing Juns success, he will win the heart of Lu Daner sooner or later.

    Teng Yi state in a deep voice: It seems like Guan Zhongxie will not fight tonight. As long as he did not defeat you or Jing Jun, he is still not the best swordsman in the eyes of the people of Qin.

    Xiang Shaolong nodded in agreement. He was interrupted by Wu Shu who came up behind them with a flustered look on his face. He anxiously reported: The people of Qi have packed their luggage and are ready to go home.

    Xiang Shaolong and Teng Yi were stunned. They looked at the grandstand and noticed that Lu Buwei and Tian Dan have indeed disappeared.

    All of a sudden, they realised that they have been tricked by Mo Ao and Tian Dan.

    Tian Dans decision to leave Xianyang City tonight is exploiting Xiang Shaolongs greatest weakness.

    Lu Buwei must have anticipated that he will chase after Tian Dan. This will ensure that the Wu Family Elite warriors leave Xianyang City together with him and when he dies of poisoning on the trip, Lu Buwei will not be implicated. After his death, he can even accuse him of neglecting his duties and take over the Wu Family assets. Lu Buwei the heartless man will stand to benefit with this course of events.

    Ji Yanran and the other ladies will have to submit to him. What a devious plot!

    Without Xiang Shaolong here to counter him, he will have lesser obstacles in pursuing his ambitions. When Guan Zhongxie is reinstated, he can promote him to be the Imperial Cavalry Commander as well. Everyone in Xianyang City will have to dance to his tune by then.

    But how can he simply watch Tian Dan escape? Ever since Tian Dan tried to assassinate him, he has been keeping a low profile. He must be secretly planning this escape route. Thus, he must have been conspiring with Lu Buwei all along.

    During his assassination, Lu Buwei swore that he did not have time to inform Tian Dan. It is all bu115hit. In fact, he was the one who told Tian Dan to assassinate him.

    This is called inflicting injury on oneself to trick the enemy. When everyone thinks that it is Lu Buweis enemy trying to kill him to get Lu Buwei into trouble, it was actually Lu Buwei who masterminded his assassination.

    He has been too careless and was tricked by Lu Buwei. He even suspected Wang Wan or Cai Ze to be in cahoots with Tian Dan, which resulted in his oversight.

    Teng Yi solemnly suggested: Let me go after him! You must stay here to deal with Lu Buwei.

    Xiang Shaolong shook his head: Lu Buwei may not be able to send his own men to escort Tian Dan but Tian Dan has an army of four thousand men which matches the strength of our own army. After taking Lord Gaolings rebellion into consideration, I can only give you two thousand warriors. This makes both situations unfavourable for us. Dont forget that Lu Buwei has eight thousand family warriors. Who knows what tricks are up their sleeves?

    Teng Yi kept quiet.

    Xiang Shaolong whispered: But there is still hope in this matter. I must persuade Prince Dan first. As long as he can try to delay Tian Dans journey, we can catch up to him. After all, An Gu has promised to make the Chu and Qi army retreat by ten miles away from the border.

    There are no more challengers going up the duelling grounds so amidst all the fanfare, Xu Xian announced the end of tonights performances.

    In the main tent of Yan, Prince Dan listened to Xiang Shaolongs explanation and hesitated: It is inappropriate for us to act alone on this matter. In anything goes wrong, Qi and Chu will come after us. With the three allied states not providing any assistance, our state of Yan will be in peril!

    Xiang Shaolong plainly state: Tian Dans existence is the real danger to the state of Yan. I am not asking your men to fight Tian Dan openly but to create opportunities to disrupt his travelling once he leaves the Qin borders. As long as you can delay him for a few days, we will catch up to him.

    Pausing, he strengthened his tone: I will send my men to liaise with your general Xu Yi Luan. At the time, the people of Wei and the Pass Commander General An Gu will also lend us a helping hand.

    Listening in on the side, military advisor You Zhi advised: This can be done. As long as we lay traps and conduct night raids, Tian Dan cannot tell whether his attackers are from Commander Xiangs forces or not. Even if Tian Dan manages to escape with his life, he will not be able to pin the blame on us.

    Great General Xu Yi Ze came in from outside and bellowed: No one is stalking Commander Xiang.

    Prince Dan was relieved and decided: Fine! We will do our best to delay the meeting between Tian Dan and the two armies of Qi and Chu. If we do not see Commander Xiang by the time they meet up, we shall have to let that traitor live for a few more years.

    Xiang Shaolong profusely gave his thanks. He secretly thought that everyone has their own secret weapons. Even with Mo Aos brilliance, he can never expect Xu Yi Luans wandering army to come into the picture. After two days, his brilliant mind with cease to exist.

    After he left Prince Dans tent, he glanced around him and saw that there are still burning torches everywhere. The young men and women of Qin are gathered in groups, singing, dancing and drinking to their hearts content. It was a joyous time and no one wanted to go back to sleep.

    On his way back to his tent, he was distracted by happy cheering of some young ladies. He looked in the direction of the sounds and saw a large purple flag about a hundred yards away from him and was reminded about Ying Yings appointment.

    Will Ying Ying be waiting for him in the tent with the purple flower? There are still two hours until daybreak and she must be having a good time with Lu Daner and her female warriors.

    After learning about Tian Dans departure, he was disillusioned and wanted to discuss with Teng Yi who they should send to liaise with Xu Yi Luan to attack Tian Dan.

    Somehow, he felt like paying a quick visit to Ying Yings tent!

    Thinking about this, he made use of the shadows of the tents and slipped towards Ying Yings tent. He hoped to speak to her privately. Otherwise, if he gets intertwined by the female warriors, he will be stuck there for hours.

    As most of the people are gathered around the assembly grounds, the tents were not well-illuminated. Without much difficulty, Xiang Shaolong managed to find his way around the tents without anyone detecting his presence

    On an open area, he saw ten odd campfires. Enjoying themselves around the campfire were Lu Daner and over a hundred female warriors. They were accompanied by over two hundred young men and they are having a good time singing, clapping, dancing and flirting. Ying Ying was surprisingly absent.

    Xiang Shaolong sighed, thinking that he may want to skip the appointment. As he stepped backwards, he saw a light coming from a tent behind him and there were some sounds coming from it.

    Xiang Shaolong took a closer look and discovered that there was a large purple flower sewn on the tent door which looked exactly like the one on the flag.

    Pleased, Xiang Shaolong walked over and was about to call her name. He changed his mind and since he wanted to win her heart, he will sneak into her tent and give her a surprise. She is an open-minded girl who is used to surprising others so she should not mind. He can then make love to her and win her affections without waiting till daybreak.

    Aroused, he stepped into the tent.

    A large figure which was prone on the floor leapt up swiftly and viciously howled: Who is it?

    As Xiang Shaolong faced this person, both of them were equally shocked. Under the illumination of the lamp, it was a naked Guan Zhongxie.

    Guan Zhongxie saw that it was him and a murderous look flashed across his eyes. He moved to one side and began to put on his clothes.

    Xiang Shaolong looked down and saw horrified Ying Ying sitting up under the cover of a blanket. Her face was deathly while and she stared at him with a lost expression. Beyond the blanket, her jade white legs can be seen.

    In his wildest dreams, Xiang Shaolong did not expect that they will be making out in the tent. He bitterly laughed: My apologies! and left the tent.

    After he took several steps, Guan Zhongxie chased up to him and apologised: Official Xiang. I am sorry. She said she is meeting you at daybreak and did not expect you to come so early.

    Xiang Shaolong is certain that he purposely seduced Ying Ying to sow discord between them and hated Ying Ying for being unable to resist him. He accepted his defeat and forced a smile: It is my fault for spoiling Official Guans happy moment and even gave you a fright.

    Guan Zhongxie was astounded: Hasnt Official Xiang seen Premier Lu? Earlier, he sent someone to look for you.

    Xiang Shaolong casually responded: I am walking everywhere aimlessly and I am afraid his men have not been able to locate me yet.

    Walking besides him, Guan Zhongxie whispered: The ladies of Qin are very open minded even before marriage. I hope Official Xiang does not take it to heart!

    Xiang Shaolong thought that with these words, Guan Zhongxie is ridiculing Xiang Shaolong should he ever have the courage to wed Ying Ying. He pretended to be unaffected and laughed: Official Guan must be joking. Pleased, Guan Zhongxie recommended: Lets visit Premier Lu together!

    Xiang Shaolong is at a loss.

    All along, he has been at the losing end because unlike his enemies, he did not resort to unscrupulous methods to achieve his goals.

    He is a man of principles and values relationships. If he carries on like this, even with Mo Ao dead, he may still die in the hands of Guan Zhongxie.

    It is time to change strategies.

  20. #160
    Senior Member kohchun's Avatar
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    Book 14 Chapter 09 Blessing In Disguise


    When Xiang Shaolong and Guan Zhongxie arrived at Lu Buweis tent, he was seated outside the tent and enjoying the singing of two stunning courtesans. With him are Mo Ao, Lu Chan and ten over escorts. Zhou Zihen and Lu Niang Rong are not around.

    Lu Buwei pretended to be happy to see him and instructed Xiang Shaolong to sit beside him. For the first time, he introduced Mo Ao and Lu Chan to him.

    As Xiang Shaolong exchanged some meaningless conversation with Mo Ao and Lu Chan, Lu Buwei dismissed the courtesans and leaned towards him, revealing: Tian Dan is leaving tonight. What does Shaolong plan to do? If you want to go after him, I will fully support you. He actually tried to harm me by trying to assassinate you. I will not protect him anymore.

    Everyone stared at Xiang Shaolong, waiting for his reaction. Xiang Shaolong felt like he is an animal being surrounded by tigers and wolves.

    They must be laughing inside that he is still ignorant about being poisoned by them.

    Thoughts raced through his mind at the speed of light. If he decides to give up his decision to pursue Tian Dan, Mo Ao may be suspicious and deduced that he has a secret plan. But it would be ridiculous for him to chase after Tian Dan now. He was in a dilemma.

    Recalling his determination to achieve his goals at all costs, he acted awkward and divulged: Actually, I wanted to kill Tian Dan because he killed a female friend that I got to know in Handan City. It turned out to be a misunderstanding as I received a letter from her yesterday. I am not really out to kill him but just wanted to scare him. This fellow has always been trying to kill me and it is lucky that he has failed in all his attempts.

    It is a complete lie to prevent Lu Buwei from forcing him to pursue Tian Dan and also give him an excuse not to pursue him himself. Fortunately, Tian Dan has left and there is no one to validate his words.

    Lu Buwei, Mo Ao, Guan Zhongxie and Lu Chan all have a strange expression on their faces after hearing his words. After they exchanged glances, Guan Zhongxie began: Why did Official Xiang think that the lady has been killed?

    From his words, Xiang Shaolong deduced that Tian Dan did not tell them the full details. He was secretly delighted and told them about the weak-looking eyes in the painting compared to Shan Rous usual energetic eyes. He bitterly laughed: I may have been too rash and concluded too early that she was killed without further thinking. When I received her letter yesterday, I realised that it was a complete misunderstanding. She did try to assassinate Tian Dan but managed to escape with her life. Naturally, I will not tell these things to Tian Dan!

    Lu Buwei shook his head and sighed: We already know it is a misunderstanding. In actual fact, Tian Dan was puzzled that you concluded that she was dead based on the painting. He saw that you were furious and did not clarify things with you.

    Mo Ao cut in: The painting is drawn by one of Tian Dans artist from his memory. It is not unusual to draw the eyes incorrectly due to the short interaction. Now, it is Xiang Shaolong who trembled strongly and he exclaimed: What?!

    As everyone is staring at him with astonishment, he tried to cover up and asked: Since Premier Lu knows about this, why didnt you tell me earlier? He tried to suppress his emotions so that his joy will not show up on his face.

    Heavens!

    So Shan Rou is really not dead. It is really a misunderstanding.

    Lu Buwei leisurely replied: I thought Tian Dan is spouting nonsense and is trying to use me to scare you so I did not bring it up. Now, we have proven that he has been lying all along.

    Xiang Shaolong acknowledged that it made sense. But under those circumstances, there is no need for Tian Dan to lie to Lu Buwei. Moreover, it is not Tian Dans style to showcase his weaknesses. Thus, there is a high probability that Shan Rou is indeed alive.

    Lu Buwei saw that he cannot persuade Xiang Shaolong to pursue Tian Dan and disappointment is written all over his face. He stood up and asked: Shaolong! Will you visit Niang Rong in her tent? You may be able to persuade her to change her mind.

    Xiang Shaolong is not in the mood to see Lu Niang Rong at all. He stood up together with Mo Ao and the rest and replied: There is an early morning hunt tomorrow. Let Third Mistress have a good rest! I will see her again when she is feeling better tomorrow.

    It may be due to his failure to cajole him that Lu Buwei is in a terrible mood. He did not hold him back and allowed him to leave.

    Xiang Shaolong returned to the Cavalry Camp near the Royal tents and saw Teng Yi, Jing Jun and Liu Chao in the middle of a secret discussion.

    He pulled Teng Yi to one side first and told him about Shan Rous likelihood of being alive.

    Teng Yi was mad with joy. He then frowned: Then are we still going after Tian Dan?

    Xiang Shaolong resolutely decided: We must kill him to avenge the injustice done to the Shan Family. Moreover, Tian Dan has tried to kill me several times and is in cahoots with Lu Buwei. It is time to eliminate this threat once and for all! This present opportunity is once in a lifetime chance to kill him. If we missed it, it will be gone for good. No matter what, we must never allow him to return to Qi alive.

    He added with a smile: Moreover, I made a vow that day to change my name to Long Shao Xiang if I did not kill him. It is such an ugly sounding name!

    Teng Yi broke out into a smile and waved Jing Jun and Liu Chao to join them. He instructed Liu Chao: Go ahead and explain your findings.

    Liu Chao reported: We have discovered Lord Gaolings men building rafts secretly at the river upstream and are collecting large quantities of firewood and dried grass. I am sure that they are preparing to burn the bridges.

    Jing Jun added: If they build shelves on the rafts and spray the entire raft with oil, it is tantamount to a live volcano speeding down the river towards us. Its destructive impact will be tremendous. Shall we attack them first to prevent this from happening?

    Xiang Shaolong explained: This time round, we need to put up a show to allow the Crown Prince to show off his godly ability in leading an army to war. We must project a favourable image of him in the hearts and minds of the people of Qin. This is called Branding. Only through this can we prolong our fight with Lu Buwei until the day he is coroneted.

    Teng Yi smiled: You use really funny terms such as Godly Ability and Branding. But it does make sense to me.

    Jing Jun excitedly said: I understand. We need to find out about the enemies schemes and plan a full counterattack strategy. The Crown Prince will issue military orders while pretending that this is a new encounter. Thus, he can convince everyone of his talent.

    Liu Chao mused: So we must not only win but win beautifully.

    Knowing the Shan Rou is still alive, Xiang Shaolong is in great spirits. Thats right! he laughed.

    He continued to praise: We must win beautifully just like how Jing Jun beat Zhou Zihen beautifully.

    Jing Jun gave his thanks and shone with pride.

    Teng Yi joked: Have you gotten Lu Daners red flower?

    Jing Jun was agonized: She is a tough one. She allowed me to hug and caress her but still refrain from letting me pass this final barrier.

    Liu Chao is experienced with women and gleefully joked: I think Master Jing is lacking in experience and may have made a few wrong moves.

    Jing Jun laughingly scolded: [email protected] you. Do you think this is my first girl? My moves are always the best. Unfortunately, there is no way we can prove this by duelling. Hng! You are mistaken.

    The other three men broke out into laughter.

    Xiang Shaolong laughed as he agreed that no man will ever say that he is bad at chasing girls.

    After knowing that Shan Rou is alive, Teng Yi is in an excellent mood. He remembered something and reminded: Yanran and the girls are in the royal tents accompanying Widow Qin. Tingfang wants you to fetch them before returning back to your tent.

    Jing Jun smiled: Third Brother had better spend more time with sisters-in-law. Leave these tasks to us!

    Xiang Shaolong smiled as he chided him. Summoning the Eighteen Guardians, he rode towards the royal tents.

    After entering the wooden gates, he ran into Xu Xian who is escorted by several men carrying torches. Together, they rode to one of the slopes to speak in secret.

    Below them, tents were pitched everywhere on the plains. Despite the loud gushing sounds of River Jing, laughter and cheering can still be heard as there are still many people who have not retired to bed.

    Xu Xian whispered: For the past two days, Lord Gaoling has been trying to persuade me and Lu Gong to work join forces with him against Lu Buwei. He swore that he has no intention to usurp the throne but only wanted to force this outsider out of the Qin court.

    Xiang Shaolong sighed: Lord Gaoling can never return from this path that he is taking. Lu Buwei has spies around him and he is still ignorant about it. Based on this point, he will only suffer in the hands of Lu Buwei.

    Xu Xian reminded: I am puzzled that Du Bi chose to leave Xianyang City during such a crucial juncture. I guessed he knew about Lord Gaolings rebellion and purposely left so that he can watch us from the sidelines. This man is extremely scheming and is much more talented than Lord Gaoling.

    He added: Is Shaolong really confident? Dont forget that Lu Buwei will create some internal chaos.

    Xiang Shaolong confidently explained: The Crown Prince will lead the fight personally and Lu Buwei will have no chance to interfere.

    Xu Xian frowned: The Crown Prince is still young and lack battle experience. I am concerned...

    Xiang Shaolong smiled: Crown Prince only needs to know how to delegate his work to the correct persons.

    Xu Xian saw through him and laughed: Lets make it a practice round for him! When that happens, Lu Gong and I will stand on his left and right, showing everyone that he has our full support. Shaolong must plan everything well.

    Xiang Shaolong nodded his head joyfully.

    Xu Xian praised: Your fifth brother is highly-skilled and clever, undermining Lu Buweis reputation. He is a rare talent whom Lu Gong and I admire very much. Right! Have you decided to give up your plan to kill Tian Dan?

    Xiang Shaolong cannot reveal his relationship with Prince Dan. He replied: I have asked the people of Wei to help me to delay his travelling speed. If they can hold him back a few days, I am sure I can catch up to him. When I am gone, Jing Jun will be in charge of the Cavalry Army. Please help me take care of him.

    Xu Xian was stunned: Why would the people of Wei help you?

    Xiang Shaolong answered: Except for Chu, the other states have some form of enmity with Tian Dan. Moreover, I was the one who freed the Crown Prince of Wei. Lord Longyang will surely lend me a helping hand in return.

    Xu Xian was satisfied with his answer and patted his shoulder to show his appreciation. They then parted.

    At the defending gates, the door attendant informed him that Xiao Pan is looking for him. He went to look for Xiao Pan first.

    Xiao Pan is in a secret discussion with Li Si and has a happy expression on his face. The moment he saw Xiang Shaolong enter his tent, he waved him over and together, they analyzed a map on the table. It was a map of the entire campsite. Lord Gaolings tents were marked in red.

    Xiang Shaolong understood his excitement and is happy for him. It is a rare chance for him to command the Qin army and show his prowess.

    Xiao Pan began: Earlier, I have summoned Subject Jing (Jun) and he has told me the location of the rebel soldiers. I am now discussing a counter strategy with Subject Li. Subject Li, why dont you explain first!

    Li Si is about to speak out when Xiang Shaolong kicked him lightly under the table. Li Si understood his meaning and reported: I only contributed a small part and the majority of the plan was crafted by Crown Prince. Why dont Crown Prince explain it instead?

    Xiao Pan was thrilled and smiled: For Lord Gaoling to succeed, he must use unconventional methods and take us by surprise. With so much information about their plans, we must annihilate them or my study of military books would be in waste!

    He pointed to River Jing and detailed: If I am Lord Gaoling, I will first make use of the natural surroundings to my advantage. For example, I can create dams and store water from the nearby rivers that connect with River Jing. When it is time to attack, I will open the dams and let the huge amounts of water flow downstream. The torrents will tear the bridges apart and with a timely attack, I can achieve victory.

    Xiang Shaolong was shocked. When Liu Chao mentioned he saw rafts being built, they can be used for building dams too. A water attack is even more powerful than a fire attack and there is no way they can prevent flooding. He could not help but turn to look at Li Si.

    Li Si clarified: I have nothing to do with this. This is really Crown Princes idea.

    Xiao Pan proudly continued: Subject Li guessed that they will use a fire attack but I felt that a water attack is more powerful. If they add a few logs on the water, all kinds of bridges will be destroyed. Then, they only need to shoot some fire arrows and our whole camp will be burnt to the ground.

    Xiang Shaolong was amazed at Xiao Pans intelligence. This is truly the first time he is fighting a war based on his own abilities.

    Xiao Pan proceeded to explain the different scenarios where Lord Gaoling can send in his attackers and how Lu Buwei can try to kill his opponents using different strategies. His explanations made sense and both Xiang Shaolong and Li Si were completely blown away by his intricate thinking and rational explanations.

    Finally, Xiao Pan bitterly smiled: My biggest flaw is that I have too many scenarios with their own strengths and weaknesses. I have no idea which is the best plan. Will my two subjects please advise me?

    Xiang Shaolong could not hold back and laughed: The most powerful attack is the attack that always changes to suit the changing battle conditions. Crown Prince can rest at ease. When we know their attacking time, we will attack first and annihilate all of them before Lu Buwei even know what is going on. Leave this to the Changping brothers and myself. Then, Crown Prince only needs to issue the orders and we will put up a good show for everyone.

    Xiao Pan slapped the table and sighed: Only Grand Tutor and Subject Li understands me. We shall do as you say!

    Li Si respectfully added: Official Xiang and I will bring you the latest battle reports so that you can make the necessary changes.

    Pleased, Xiao Pan nodded his head. Changing the subject, he asked: Grand Tutors Fifth Brother Jing Jun is a rare talent. He is skilful, loyal and honest. I admire men like him. Can Grand Tutor Xiang give any suggestions on how I may reward him?

    Xiang Shaolong shook his head: His official post is already quite high and still lacks real experience. We must let him hone his skills further before we promote him again.

    Xiao Pan smiled: Is he really interested in Lu Daner? If Lu Gong does not object, I will see to their marriage. After all, it is better for her this way than to land in the hands of Guan Zhongxie the traitor.

    Xiang Shaolong recollected the ugly expression on Guan Zhongxies face as he leapt up from a naked Ying Ying. He felt like there were needles pricking his heart. He nodded: I have to bother Crown Prince.

    Xiao Pan gladly assured: It is my pleasure. For the time being, I am not interested in marriage as there are too many important things to do.

    When he left Xiao Pans tent, he ran into Lord Changwen and was detained by him and dragged to a corner. He cheered: My sister is no longer hostile towards you. You must grasp the opportunity and win her heart. If you marry her, you will be relieving us of a big burden.

    Xiang Shaolong was very uncomfortable. Luckily, he was not deeply intertwined with Ying Ying yet or it will be a heavy blow to him. He remembered the one night stands in the 21st century and realised that what Ying Ying is not that atrocious after all. Both males and females have the right to sleep around. The question is that in this case, it is Guan Zhongxie purposely out to seduce Ying Ying from him.

    To Lord Changwen, he bitterly smiled: I have lost. Can we stop talking about this? Lord Changwen was astounded. Guan Zhongxie? he stammered.

    Xiang Shaolong nodded his head slightly and patted his shoulder apologetically before he took his leave.

    Qin Qings tent is located behind the main royal tent and is beside Zhu Jis tent. Here, there are ten odd tents which all belonged to the females of the royal family. Wooden walls are erected between these tents and the other tents and security is very tight.

    Xiang Shaolong may have the authority to go wherever his wishes but he still respects their rules and announced his arrival to a palace guard. Soon, one of Qin Qings personal maids came to report that Ji Yanran and the ladies have left and Qin Qing has retired for the night.

    Xiang Shaolong understood that Qin Qing does not want to see him given the present circumstances. He shrugged his shoulders and left.

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