A Step into the Past Chapter 129

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Book 12 Chapter 08 – Jing Luo Ca.n.a.l

Xiang Shaolong, Teng Yi and Jing Jun have finally worked out the intricacies of Imperial Cavalry. Taking charge, they begin to improve the training and operations.

The Imperial Cavalry consists of ten thousand soldiers and are divided into five armies of two thousand men each. They are elite soldiers handpicked from the Qin army to protect the palace guards. The majority of the soldiers are descendants of the royal family and previous officials. With clean records and an attractive salary, everyone wishes to be part of them.

On normal days, The Imperial Cavalry will be based in Xianyang City’s four strategic fortresses and are responsible for patrolling the city’s external perimeter.

Issues within the city are the responsibilities of the Imperial Infantry. The two roles are very clearly defined.

If anything happens, the Imperial Infantry Commander is subjected to the Imperial Cavalry Commander’s instructions. Between the two, the Cavalry Commander is the main Commander and the Infantry Commander is the a.s.sistant Commander. Every three months, they must practise their drills together to ensure that everyone knows their job well.

The Infantry Commander will report to the Cavalry Commander once a month and the Cavalry Commander will report to the King of Qin.

The Imperial Cavalry Commander is almost as good as the City Commander, receiving instructions directly from the King and must be a trusted and reliable person.

In the eyes of Zhu Ji and Xiao Pan, there is no one more suitable than Xiang Shaolong. Moreover, it was proposed by Lu Gong. Even with Lu Buwei’s influence, he cannot prevent this from taking place. All he can do is to counter back by promoting Guan Zhongxie as the Infantry Commander.

The palace guards, imperial cavalry and imperial infantry formed the backbone of Xianyang City’s defence.

Early in the morning, a promotion ceremony was being held at the palace courtyard.

An Gu was promoted to the rank of Great General and was commissioned to defend Hangu Pa.s.s, Hu Lao Pa.s.s and Yao Sai Pa.s.s. An Gu was delighted that his new post and rank were both higher than before.

His position is succeeded by Lord Changping Yinghou and Lord Changwen Yingyue, relatives of the royal family. One of them manages the palace cavalry and is made the Palace Cavalry Commander while the other manages the palace guards and chariots and is made the Palace Infantry Commander.

Using members of the royal family as leaders of the palace guards is a Qin tradition and even Lu Buwei cannot break this custom.

Guan Zhongxie was promoted to be the Imperial Infantry Commander and Lu Xiong is a.s.signed to be his a.s.sistant General.

The Infantry army may be secondary to the Cavalry army but they are in charge of city defences and enforcing law and order, similar to our modern police and civilian soldiers. The people of Qin are naturally violent and it is not easy to be a good Infantry Commander.

This is the first time Xiang Shaolong met Guan Zhongxie.

As Tu Xian has described, this man is even taller than Xiang Shaolong but looks much uglier than his martial brother Lian Jin. However, he has a coa.r.s.e face, wide shoulders, a thick neck, a thin waist and long legs. Guan Zhongxie is br.i.m.m.i.n.g with masculine prowess and makes people feel like he is a wild beast. He is around the age of thirty.

With thick eye brows, a high nose and deep eyes that sparkle like electricity, he strode in long strides up the platform to receive his military seal. Those officials that objected to his appointment were blown away by his aggressive aura. It is no mystery why he can stand out among all the talented men in the Premier Residence and become Lu Buwei’s favourite.

Jing Jun got Xiang Shaolong and Teng Yi to focus on Lu Buwei’s guests, informing: “The fellow in yellow is the scheming Mo Ao and the two warriors behind him are Lu Chan and Zhou Zihen.”

Both men quickly a.s.sessed them.

Mo Ao is a tall man with a long face like a horse. His skin is an unhealthy shade of green and is around the age of thirty five. He has a thick beard like a goat and looks like an educated man. His eyes are half-closed but looks energetic and unpredictable.

Xiang Shaolong inched towards Teng Yi’s ear and whispered: “If we do not kill him, we will die under his scheming sooner or later.”

Teng Yi nodded his head in full agreement.

Lu Chan and Zhou Zihen have a big difference in their heights but both men looked very calm and athletic. From their appearance, Xiang Shaolong can tell that they are very fearsome swordsmen.

Tian Dan and the other states representatives are not present as this is Qin’s internal affair. Moreover, it concerns the safety of the city and outsiders are not permitted to partic.i.p.ate.

Xiao Pan is from the royal family of Zhao and spent most of his time in the palace. For the two years he spent in Qin, he was tutored everyday in the ways of the royalty. Moreover, his actual age is two years older than the genuine Yingzheng. At the promotion ceremony, an important event witnessed by tens of thousands of soldiers and officials, he behaved appropriately and naturally, earning the praise of officials and men alike.

Lu Buwei was proud of his ‘son’ and felt that his effort had not gone to waste.

After the ceremony is over, the crowds begin to disperse. An Gu, Changping, Changwen, Guan Zhongxie and Xiang Shaolong stayed behind to have lunch with Empress and Crown Prince.

Right Premier Lu Buwei, Left Premier Xu Xian, Generals Lu Gong, w.a.n.g Ling, Du Bi, Meng Ao, Official Cai Ze, Left Marquis w.a.n.g Wan, Right Marquis Jia Gongcheng were all invited to join them.

This is something like a welcome feast for those who are promoted.

Lunch was held in the inner hall.

While waiting for the Empress and Crown Prince to change their clothes, everyone gathered around and begin to chat among themselves.

An Gu introduced brothers Lord Changping and Lord Changwen to Xiang Shaolong.

The two brother look quite similar with square faces and big ears. Tall and intelligent looking, they are around twenty years old.

It may be due to An Gu’s influence that both men are very friendly towards Xiang Shaolong.

After some courtesy talk, Lord Changping Yinghou suggested: “Official Xiang’s martial arts have reach the pinnacle and even w.a.n.g Jian lost to you. After the duel, he praised you to the skies. When you are free, you must come over to my place and teach my stubborn sister a lesson. That day, she bet that you would lose to w.a.n.g Jian even before she sees you.”

Lord Changwen laughed: “Bring Talented Lady Ji along and let us widen our horizons too. But you must keep it a secret or all the men in Xianyang City will come to our residence and barricade the roads.”

An Gu interrupted: “Official Xiang must be careful when you fight with Lady Ying Ying. You must not underestimate her sword skills. She trashed me the last time we fought. Hei! This girl is almost eighteen and still does not want to get married. All the handsome lads in Xianyang City are getting impatient!”

He lowered his voice and added: “Beside Qin Qing, she is the prettiest lady in Xianyang City.”

Xiang Shaolong was alarmed to hear this. Since this is the case, he will not visit them and avoid getting tangled in another relationship.

Presently, he is treading on dangerous grounds with heavy responsibilities. The thought of skirt chasing is the lowest priority on his list!

When he was about to excuse himself, Lu Buwei came over with Guan Zhongxie, laughing: “Zhongxie! Let me introduce you to your colleagues!”

A flash of disdain shot pa.s.sed the eyes of the four men before they greeted him.

As Lu Buwei introduced him, Guan Zhongxie was cordial and smiling. But when he faced Xiang Shaolong, a murderous look flashed past his eyes.

Xiang Shaolong was annoyed at his stare and was feeling absurd.

They have crossed swords before but have to hypocritically face each other with a smile on their faces.

Lu Buwei treated Xiang Shaolong as per normal and invited: “We must find one day and bring everyone to my place to chat and drink wine. Recently, the state of Yan gave me some top grade courtesans who are still virgins. If you like, you can bring two of them home. It is a joy to hear them sing and dance for you.”

Who can resist the lure of beauty? The two brothers were tempted and gave their thanks.

An Gu maintained his stand and rejected: “I appreciate Premier Lu’s goodwill but I am unavailable. In fact, I have to leave for the eastern border two days later.”

Guan Zhongxie interrupted: “Why don’t we hold it tonight while General An is still in Xianyang City? We can even hold it as a farewell feast for you.”

Hearing him interrupt under such circ.u.mstances, Xiang Shaolong could guess his importance to Lu Buwei.

An Gu could not reject any longer and agreed.

Lu Buwei glanced at Xiang Shaolong and insisted: “Shaolong must come. Let it be your punishment for leaving without a word that day.”

Xiang Shaolong helplessly agreed.

While Guan Zhongxie and the Lords are chatting, Lu Buwei pulled Xiang Shaolong aside and questioned in a low voice: “There have been rumours that we are on bad terms. Have you heard about such news?”

Xiang Shaolong cursed secretly but acted surprise: “Is it so? I have never heard of it.”

Lu Buwei frowned: “Shaolong need not deceive me. After the last mission, I can feel your att.i.tude changing. After thinking about it, I interviewed the Meng brothers in detail and realised that you have mistaken Lu Xiong’s conspiring with Lord Yangquan, causing the death of Princess Qian. It is a misunderstanding. The person who betrays us is a.s.sistant general Qu Dou Qi, which is why he is on the run and dare not return to Xianyang City.”

Xiang Shaolong was elated. At first, he did not antic.i.p.ate Wu Tingwei to pa.s.s Ji Yanran’s fake information to Lu Buwei so quickly. Unexpectedly, this kid is eager to produce results and spoke to Lu Buwei already.

He knew that if he believed him so easily, Lu Buwei will be suspicious. He wore a heavy expression and his face and asked: “Please forgive me for being frank. On the night the late king died, somebody bribed my family warrior to lead me out of the city to be ambushed. Fortunately, I discover his ruse and narrowly escape. Does Premier Lu know about this?”

Lu Buwei’s expression turned serious: “Did you capture the traitor?”

Wu Tingwei’s death is a Wu family secret. The public was only informed that he was sent out of Qin for business. Thus, Xiang Shaolong lied: “He said he was bribed by someone from Premier Residence and we killed him on the spot. After much difficulty, we managed to slip back to the farms.”

Lu Buwei ‘sincerely’ suggested: “No wonder Shaolong has doubts about me. You are my confidante and I will not harm my own men. I will investigate this matter thoroughly. I am sure it is related to Du Bi. He whole-heartedly supports Cheng Chongqiao and is using this opportunity to sow discord between Empress, Crown Prince, you and me.”

Xiang Shaolong is certain that his next target is Du Bi and Cheng Chongqiao. Therefore, he should be safe for the time being. However, things are unpredictable and he feigned surprise: “I did not think so far ahead.”

The gong sounded at this instant, signalling the start of the banquet.

Lu Buwei hurriedly added: “The storm is over and so is the misunderstanding. Shaolong must cooperate with Guan Zhongxie and defend our city well. I have high expectations for you.”

Xiang Shaolong agreed on the surface but was cursing Lu Buwei’s ancestors secretly.

Everybody lunched in harmony.

Guan Zhongxie is very articulate and knows his boundaries. Most impressively, he is able to praise people indirectly without looking too obvious. He is the kind of person you can curse when his back is turned but when chatting; you will never be bored by his words.

Lu Gong and the others have a good opinion of him but disliked him for ganging up with Lu Buwei.

Zhu Ji displayed her talent and expressed her appreciation to everyone, making those present delighted with her praises. Lu Buwei, Cai Ze and herself lead the interaction, adding plenty of excitement to the banquet.

Xiang Shaolong subtlety noticed Left Marquis w.a.n.g Wan and Right Marquis Jia Gongcheng were supporting Lu Buwei, becoming his conspirators as well.

Of course they are with him, now that Lu Buwei is in power. If Lu Buwei is toppled, it will be a different story altogether.

Meng Ao may be defeated but he had conquered the three provinces of Sanchuan, Taiyuan and Shangdang, allowing the territory of Qin to expand greatly towards the east. An eastern base was built, scoring him a big merit. Thus, Lu Buwei is even more reliable with Meng Ao’s accomplishments.

The ultimate defeat under Prince Xinling’s combined army is forgivable. Anyone else in his position will be defeated too.

Among the three Tiger Generals of Qin, w.a.n.g Ling has been slowly won over by Lu Buwei and is on good terms with him. Now, he is not as friendly to Xiang Shaolong compared to Lu Gong and Xu Xian.

Only Du Bi is constantly bickering with Lu Buwei and state their differences clearly, not even giving face to Empress Ji and Crown Prince Zheng. As he is still a crucial military leader, Lu Buwei cannot do anything to him.

Cai Ze detailed: “Ever since Premier Lu enter politics, Qin has gained three provinces. Originally, we have ten provinces of Ba, Shu, Hanzhong, Shang, Beidi, Hedong, Longxi, Nan, Qianzhong and Nanyang. With Sanchuan, Taiyuan and Shangdang, we now thirteen provinces. It is a milestone for Qin’s prosperity. We have twelve million inhabitants, hundreds of thousands of soldiers, thousands of chariots, tens of thousands of horses. The six states may be strong or weak but none of them is as good as us.”

These words are to flatter Lu Buwei.

Lu Buwei was overjoyed to hear this but pretended to be humble and gave the credit to the late king and Xiao pan.

Everyone was lost for words as this is genuine truth.

Great General Du Bi frowned and faced Prince Zheng, asking: “Our country is improving by leaps and bounds. What future plans does Crown Prince have?”

Everyone frowned upon hearing his words.

He is only a thirteen year old.

If he was born as the Crown Prince, there will be tutors who will teach him how to govern a country from young. The problem is Xiao Pan ‘grew up as a commoner’ and has only been in Xianyang City for two years. As the present King but with limited experience, he will not give a satisfactory answer.

Du Bi obviously despise him and purposely put him on the spot.

Unexpectedly, Xiao Pan smiled and replied in his child-like voice: “In terms of prestige, there is no one better than one of our Qin’s founding King, King Mu Gong. But even he cannot unite the world as Zhou De is still alive and feudal lords ruled the lands. After the reign of Xiao Gong, the states begin to fight among themselves, giving us an opportunity to take a break and build our country. As the days go by, our enemies become weaker as we grow stronger. Presently, there is once in a millennium opportunity to unite the world as long as the six states do not work together. Otherwise, even if the Yellow Emperor is reborn, he cannot unite the six states.”

Everyone was flabbergasted as they did not expect this kid to have such extraordinary views.

Only Xiang Shaolong knew that it is Li Si’s views. He was impressed that Xiao Pan can improve on it and say it out fluently.

Du Bi was dumbfounded and stared blankly at Xiao Pan.

Xiao Pan’s words have secured a foothold in the hearts of the officials.

Lu Buwei laughed: “The Crown Prince has great insight and my Spring and Autumn Annals of Lu have not been written in vain. Even when we have won, we must continue to work hard and govern the country with love. You must never forget this.”

Not only did he grab the credit for himself, he acted like a father lecturing a son, making all those present frown deeply.

Zhu Ji smiled: “Zheng’er is still young and we must still depend on Premier Lu and everybody’s support.”

No one dare to rebut Lu Buwei after hearing her words.

Lu Buwei added: “Recently, I met a man from Han who knows how to dig ca.n.a.ls. He recommended that we can open up a water channel between River Jing and River Luo. That will irrigate hundreds of thousands of hectares of fertile land. This suggestion will benefit our state tremendously. Will Empress and Crown Prince permit me to start work?”

The moment he heard this, Xiang Shaolong knew that Lu Buwei is trying to grab more power.

To dig a ca.n.a.l that stretches for hundreds of miles will take ten over years. It will also use up plenty of men and resources from Qin.

If this ca.n.a.l is to be dug, a significant amount of men and resources will be a.s.signed to Lu Buwei since he is in charge. This will boost his authority accordingly.

Such an ma.s.sive project should be brought up during morning court and have the various ministers a.n.a.lyzing its worthiness. Instead, he chose to bring it up now. Cai Ze, w.a.n.g Wan and Jia Gongcheng are here to support him, proving that it has all been planned earlier.

Zhu Ji was pleased: “Since Premier Lu feels that this is beneficial to us, it must be so. Does anyone else have anything to add?”

Cai Ze and the two marquises voiced their support.

Before Xu Xian has a chance to say anything, Zhu Ji announced: “Premier Lu shall see to this. Once you have the plans, submit them to the Crown Prince to have a look. If there is no problem, you can start work immediately.”

With a few sentences, Lu Buwei’s authority has increased considerably.

Xiang Shaolong could only think of Mo Ao. Such a indirect power grabbing plan can only come from his wicked but ingenious brain.

Without killing him, it is hard to defeat Lu Buwei.

With Zhu Ji and Lu Buwei supporting each other mutually, not to mention the other officials, even Xiao Pan’s opinion was not consulted.

The only way to destroy this treacherous partnership is through Lao Ai.