Book 10 Chapter 10 – Detailed Arrangements
Back at the Command Centre, Teng Yi was nowhere to be found. Instead, Lord Longyang was waiting for him. Both of them are on good terms already so there was no need for the usual courtesies. After dispensing his men, Lord Longyang commented: “I am relieved that my King has sent an army of five thousand soldiers, led by my good friend General Wei Bai Nian. They will arrive at Fan Wu tonight at meet up with us tomorrow. We will no longer be afraid of Tian Dan or Li Yuan’s mischief.”
Xiang Shaolong began: “I have a favour to ask of Lord.”
Lord Longyang happily agreed: “Brother Dong please speak your mind. I will do my best to help you.”
Xiang Shaolong requested: “Please take good care of Lady Ya and make sure she can return safely.”
Lord Longyang was taken aback and cried: “Brother Dong, you are really in love with her!”
Xiang Shaolong plainly replied: “I am not sure too but after a night of pa.s.sion, she promised to be loyal to me. Thus, I do not want her to come to any harm.”
Lord Longyang was incensed as he shot an eye at him before faintly sighing with helplessness: “Rest a.s.sured Brother Dong! Because you asked, I will guarantee her safety and well-being.”
He continues to sigh: “How is Brother Dong going to handle Tian Dan, Li Yuan and Zhao Mu?”
Xiang Shaolong smiled: “Men can plan but Heaven can interfere. I will do my best.”
Lord Longyang frowned deeply and unhappily said: “I know I cannot persuade General to abandon Handan City. However, do not forget my invitation. If you can succeed, please escape to Wei. I will inform the border guards to receive you.”
Xiang Shaolong is moved and gave his thanks.
This beautiful man changed topic: “Does Brother Dong wants to score a big merit? From my calculations, Talented Lady Ji is pretending to return to Wei. In reality, she is rendezvousing with Xiang Shaolong. I cannot even protect myself and have to escort Lady Ya back to Daliang. So I simply cannot afford any energy or time to keep my eye on her.”
Xiang Shaolong had a brainwave and checked: “Does Lord know this man called Yan Ping?”
Lord Longyang exclaimed: “You must be talking about Mohist Juzi Yan Ping! Not only do I know him, we are well-acquainted. This man is good at military warfare and is a rare talent. Too bad he is too arrogant and difficult to get along with.”
From his words, Xiang Shaolong can sense that Lord Longyang has sought to recruit Yan Ping as well. This shows that Wei do harbour ambitions against Zhao. He smiled: “Why don’t you tell Yan Ping about Xiang Shaolong and Ji Yanran. This man hates Xiang Shaolong deeply and will pursue him at all costs. I can also focus on my original work.”
Lord Longyang smiled: “Not only can you can focus on your work, this will lower Zhao Mu’s prowess at the same time!”
Exposed by him, Xiang Shaolong awkwardly laughed: “It is really hard to hide anything from you!”
Lord Longyang cheerfully said: “I’ll see to it and even exaggerated my words to lend you this helping hand. Ai! After this separation, I wonder if I’ll ever see you again.”
Xiang Shaolong gracefully mentioned: “n.o.body will know what will happen tomorrow. Life is only a few decades long. As long as we have shared a life and death experience together, who cares about what the future holds.”
Delighted, Lord Longyang stood up grinning: “Brother Dong is one in a million and so is your thinking.”
Xiang Shaolong personally sent him to the door. As he is turning back, Zhao Ba had come to see him.
After a few words of courtesy, Zhao Ba revealed: “The King has ordered me to see you and do whatever I can to help.”
Xiang Shaolong is glad that Xiaocheng is doing his best to cooperate with him and execute his plan. After some talks, he praised Zhao Ba to the skies. While Zhao Ba is feeling high and mighty, he warned: “Our conversation must remain top secret! Headmaster must not let a third party know, especially Guo Zhong. Headmaster should understand his connection to Li Yuan!”
Zhao Be vehemently cursed: “Old Guo is getting muddle-headed, desiring to be the father-in-law of that cold blooded thief Li Yuan. I am so pi55ed that I haven’t seen him for a while. General can put your mind at ease.”
Xiang Shaolong start off: “Today, we require Headmaster’s help as Zhao Mu has secretly conspired with Tian Dan and Li Yuan against our King.”
Zhao Ba’s face changed colour as he uttered: “What! Tian Dan and Li Yuan are so daring!?”
Xiang Shaolong explained: “The King has forbid me to give you all the details. Can I enquire as to how many top fighters do you have at the Martial School and whose loyalty is beyond question?”
Zhao Ba puffed his chest: “At least five or six hundred elite fighters. Are we attacking the Marquis Residence?”
Xiang Shaolong suggested: “It depends. Can headmaster find an excuse like an (army field) exercise? Using this cover, secretly a.s.semble your men at Lady Ya’s residence. Once you enter, prevent anyone from leaving so that your location will not be leaked out.”
Zhao Ba is a man who loves fighting and action. He happily consented and left after further discussion.
It is almost midnight. Just as Xiang Shaolong was deciding to go home and sleep or not, Teng Yi came back. In a relaxed mood, he updated: “Lucky we had that name list or we will be in peril. Major Gan Zhu and Major Li Ming who are guarding the South gate are Zhao Mu’s spies as well. Zhao Ming Xiong has deployed them there with ulterior motives.”
Xiang Shaolong remembered these two names but had no idea they were in charge of the South gate. Thinking what a close shave they had, he a.n.a.lyzed: “Zhao Mu is a top schemer. First, he let Tian Dan’s army come in from the tunnel and create chaos. Then, he will open up both the North and South gates for the entire army to enter Handan City. Their attack is focused and well-planned. Even with the entire Zhao population attacking them, it is of little use. This is truly a top battle strategy.”
Teng Yi laughed: “A pity he is not your match. Otherwise, the loyalty letters will not have appeared.” Patting his shoulder, he added: “Third Brother should return first. Leave this to me. Little Jun and his men are actively spying on the Qi army. You can relax and keep your wives company.”
Xiang Shaolong questioned: “This upcoming battle, we will use our elite brothers exclusively for Zhao Mu. Does Second Brother have any method of a.s.sembling a force of elite City guards and plant them in strategic locations inside the city. I want them to limit the power of the Qi forces.”
Teng Yi replied: “All thanks to your Army Seal. Earlier, I was discussing the deployment with Zhao Ming Xiong. He tried to trick me with various recommendations. I allowed myself to be tricked and accept all his suggestions. Now that he has deployed all those loyal to him at the north and south gate, I am free to choose my elite city guards from the remaining forces. In fact, I have a.s.sembled an elite force of two thousand city guards. The rest of the old, weak or handicapped soldiers will be sent to spy on the Qi army as Zhao Mu requested. Better to let them leave than to hamper our progress in Handan City.”
Catching each other’s eyes, they held their bellies and filled the room with laughter.
At home, Ji Yanran had led the Tian sisters away while Zhao Ya and Zhao Zhi had gone back to her residence. Barely awake, Shan Rou is still waiting for his return. She roared: “Why are you back so late! I have something to say to you!”
Due to her lack of sleep, Shan Rou is slightly not in full control of herself.
Xiang Shaolong carried her with both hands into his bedroom.
Before he could step over the door ledge, Shan Rou displayed her prowess and bit him on the shoulder.
Xiang Shaolong bore with the pain and threw her onto his bed.
Shan Rou proudly giggled and flipped to one side. She comfortably lay down and closed both her eyes. She seems to be offering herself for his pleasure.
Xiang Shaolong is in need of a beauty to soothe his tense nerves. Removing his shoes, he climbed onto Shan Rou.
She is strangely cooperative and pa.s.sionate, letting Xiang Shaolong enjoy her tenderness.
After the stormy affair, they hug each other to sleep.
Shan Rou whispered: “This is our last night together. In the future, you need not tolerate my tantrums.”
An exhausted Xiang Shaolong was almost asleep but was fully awaken after hearing these words. He sighed: “So you are not joking and is leaving me for good.”
Shan Rou sighed: “I am in a dilemma too. From what I see, Tian Dan will survive this episode…”
Xiang Shaolong b.u.t.t in: “If you risk your life to a.s.sa.s.sinate him again, I will be worried.”
Shan Rou intimately cooed: “I will be extra cautious and will not die in vain. If I fail, I will commit suicide. Who is afraid of death?”
Xiang Shaolong knew that her mind is made up. He gently advised: “Do not pressure yourself too much. If you know you cannot succeed, look for me in Xianyang. Don’t you wish to see Shan Lan?”
Shan Rou kissed him: “Got it, you long-winded man! Aren’t you going to make love with me one more time?”
Xiang Shaolong bitterly smiled: “The Queen has ordered. No matter how difficult it is, your servant will oblige.”
Before the sun is up, Xiang Shaolong was roused by Shan Rou. “Get up quickly! As the City Commander, how can you be so lazy?” she scolded.
Today is her ‘D-Day’ so she is highly excited. Under her teasing, he forced himself to get out of bed.
Shan Rou disguised as his escort and seriously state: “Today, I will break all traditions and listen to your every command obediently. However, I must be at your side all the time.”
Xiang Shaolong recalled getting Lord Longyang to deceive Yan Ping. He dared not be complacent and hurriedly washed up and got dressed. In between bites, he led Wu Guo and his entourage back to the Command Centre.
It was daybreak when he arrived at the Command Centre. Teng Yi is busy like a bee but he is still as energetic and fresh. Xiang Shaolong is amazed at this Ironman.
Teng Yi noticed how serious Shan Rou looked and teased her. He then proceeds to report to Xiang Shaolong about last night’s deployment: “I have a.s.sembled three thousand men internally and externally. They will be the main force against the enemy. I have a.n.a.lyzed the attacking and retreating routes of the enemy and I guarantee that the ambush will be successful and we will make a killing. Zhao Ba’s men are an added advantage as the enemy will never think that we will have this bonus.”
Xiang Shaolong added: “At that time, Xiaocheng will transfer another five thousand elite palace guards under our command. With this, we will have over ten thousand elite troops which can mop up the rebels. Divide the remaining City guards into two groups. Group A will be responsible for guarding the city and patrolling the streets. Group B will switch from monitoring the Qi army to guarding Handan City’s borders. Let Tian Dan know that we are ready and not make any reckless attacks.”
Shan Rou could not help but ask: “How are we going to escape?”
Xiang Shaolong teased her: “Aren’t you a simple and obedient soldier? Your general is talking and who are you to interrupt?”
Shan Rou was annoyed and pouted, staring hardly at Wu Guo who is trying to hold his laughter at the side. ‘I’ll get even with you later!’ her body language displayed.
As relax as possible, Teng Yi held his laughter and replied: “It couldn’t be easier. During the attack on Zhao Mu’s residence, all of us died in the fight. Wouldn’t that be a good closure?”
Shan Rou and Wu Guo were bowled over and did not know what to say.
Xiang Shaolong a.s.sessed: “Today’s first task is to contact Pu Bu. Without his intelligence reports, there are many things we cannot do.”
Teng Yi agreed and Xiang Shaolong continued to speak about Yan Ping.
Teng Yi joked: “He did not learn his lesson the first time round. We will annihilate him and take revenge for Mister Yuan Zong.”
After a detailed discussion, Xiang Shaolong led Shan Rou to the palace to send of Lord Longyang and Zhao Ya.
Palace security is extremely tight. Ji Guang noticed them and welcomed: “The King, Empress Jing, Lord Longyang, Princess Ya, Miss Zhi and Master Guo are having breakfast. The King asked me to send you to see him immediately if you should show up.”
Xiang Shaolong winked at Shan Rou and Wu Guo, asking them to wait for him outside the palace. With Ji Guang’s company, he entered the palace.
In a low voice, Ji Guang warned; “General Cheng Xu knows that there is something between the King and you. He appears to be very upset. You have to be careful when you see him.”
Xiang Shaolong realised that it is erroneous to neglect him and it may cause some trouble.
Although this kid is sn.o.bbish, he is not evil. As he thought about it, Cheng Xu appeared at the end of a long corridor under the escort of some palace guards.
Ji Guang gave a dry cough and stop speaking.
Xiang Shaolong waved to Cheng Xu from afar and Cheng Xu reluctantly returned the gesture. When they are nearly facing each other, Xiang Shaolong winked at Ji Guang before approaching the uncertain Cheng Xu: “General Cheng, can I have a private word with you?”
Cheng Xu anxiously nodded in consent and they left the corridor and entered the garden.
Xiang Shaolong asked in a low voice: “The traitors are rebelling. What plans does General Cheng have?”
Cheng Xu coldly retorted: “General Dong is handling this well. What do I have to worry about?”
Xiang Shaolong laughed: “General Cheng is too serious. I have a suggestion. If we work together and resolve this danger, it will only be beneficial to both of us either personally or officially. What does General Cheng think?”
Cheng Xu appears to be tempted but after a reality check, he bitterly laughed: “Although I am the leader of the palace guards, I have no real authority. Everything has to be agreed by the King. I think General Dong had better speak directly to the King instead.”
Xiang Shaolong reasoned: “The King cannot wear his armour and fight the war personally. In the end, General Cheng is still required to manage the palace guards. Let me speak to the King first and discuss with you again.”
He added after a sigh: “I, Dong Horse Fanatic, is not used to an official position. After this episode, I will quit my post as City Commander and focus on horse-breeding. If General Cheng can score some merit later, you will be the new City Commander.”
He stretched his hand towards a disbelieving Cheng Xu: “If I do not honour my words, may I die a horrible death and bring shame to my ancestors.”
Recalling the days when they went through thick and thin, his eyes became shining with sincerity.
(Note: Cheng Xu is with Xiang Shaolong on his trip to Daliang to steal the Lu Gong Secret Manual)
Cheng Xu was moved and reached out with a great force, grabbing Xiang Shaolong’s hand tightly. He embarra.s.sedly confessed: “General Dong is more generous than I can imagine, I…”
Xiang Shaolong held his hand for a while before letting go. Patting his shoulder, he returned to Ji Guang and waved with confidence.
Cheng Xu continued to daze in the sun, amazed that there are such people who love animals more than power. No wonder he is called Horse Fanatic.
Reaching the inner palace, breakfast is over. Xiaocheng and Empress Jing are accompanying Lord Longyang towards a large group of men on horseback.
Xiang Shaolong caught up to them. Zhao Ya, Zhao Zhi and Empress Jing stared at him with different expressions.
Empress Jing is full of love and warmth while the two other ladies are full of sadness at the thought of separation.
Xiang Shaolong knew that it is not a good time to talk in confidence. He appeared in front of Xiaocheng and Longyang, bowing deeply and bade farewell to Lord Longyang.
The sadness in Lord Longyang’s is not lesser than the two girls. Standing beside Xiaocheng, Guo Kai sn.i.g.g.e.red: “If General Dong visits Daliang, he will be Lord’s most esteemed guest.”
Xiaocheng appears to be ignorant about their relationship and look over to Xiang Shaolong when he heard this.
Although he knows that he will not see Xiaocheng after tonight, Xiang Shaolong still feels uneasy under his stares.
After some fanfare, everyone board their carriages. His old friend, Zha Yuan, has been promoted to a captain of the palace guards. Leading five hundred palace guards, he is tasked to protect the convoy. When they leave the city, Xiang Shaolong will a.s.sign another group of city guards to protect them till they arrive in Wei. Halfway, they will meet up with the Wei army. As a result, safety shouldn’t be an issue. Tian Dan and company will not stir up trouble and attack Lord Longyang at such a critical juncture.
While boarding, Lord Longyang chance upon a short moment of privacy and informed Xiang Shaolong: “Yan Ping has been tricked. When I told him that Talented Lady Ji refused to travel together, he left at once.”
Xiang Shaolong dare not reply and bade his farewell to the two ladies. When he was about to leave, Xiaocheng summoned him into the library and Guo Kai was left out in the cold.
After the attendants have left, Xiaocheng revealed; “Prince Wu Chen is really rebelling. I brought in Lady Li for questioning and she confessed that Prince Wu Chen came to Handan secretly a month ago. After a few days, he left. He must have been liaising with his spies.”
Xiang Shaolong has no idea who is Lady Li and guessed that she must be from the royal family. Because of her close ties with Prince Wu Chen, she was embroiled in the scandal.
Xiang Shaolong is glad that Xiaocheng has personally verified this matter. He remembered his promise to Cheng Xu and added: “Presently, spies will be watching every move you make. If there are any slips, they will be alerted at once. Due to these circ.u.mstances, General Cheng Xu becomes valuable as he is not under observation. If you can secretly bestow some military authority to him and get him to work closely with me, we can destroy the enemies’ plot together.”
Xiaocheng was surprised: “Are you sure he will not mess things up?”
Xiang Shaolong rea.s.sured: “At least he is not connected to Zhao Mu or else Zhao Mu will not get me to harm him. Zhao Mu wants Cheng Xu out of the way so that Zhao Ling can take over his position. Put your mind at ease, my King! General Cheng is a talented man. His last mistake is not made on the battlefield. Who knows, it may even be Zhao Mu who leaked the secret of the palace tunnels to Prince Xinling’s men so that you will remove Cheng Xu from his post.”
Xiaocheng pondered and agreed that it makes perfect sense. Summoning Cheng Xu, he gave him fresh instructions and ordered him to work closely with Xiang Shaolong. If they succeed, huge rewards await them.
Cheng Xu was moved to tears. The three of them had a detailed meeting regarding tonight’s counterattack after which Xiang Shaolong galloped non-stop to Liu Residence where Ji Yanran is staying.