Read Novel A Step into the Past Chapter 206, Please!
Book 18 Chapter 12 – The a.s.sa.s.sin In The Starry Night
Xiang Shaolong, Ji Yanran, and the other women rode to a place a few streets just outside the Wu family manor, meeting Teng Yi and several dozen crack troopers who were waiting for them there.
They all dismounted.
Teng Yi walked next to Xiang Shaolong. In a low voice, he said, “Our people have seized the advantage by taking strategic hiding spots prior to the arrival of the a.s.sa.s.sination squad which Tian Dan sent. We know exactly where our enemies are emplaced. Shaolong, do you wish to exterminate them all? Or shall we do our best to take as many alive as possible. Xiang Shaolong stared hard at the deep, dark alleyways. One of them had ancient, towering trees on both sides, making it look especially gloomy and hidden. This was the best place for the opponent to ambush them.
Xiang Shaolong said in a deep voice, “Second Brother, what are your thoughts?” Teng Yi said, “To capture them alive would require only that we exert a bit more effort. We have many times their number of people, and so we can wait for them to flee when they realize that they have been discovered before springing our trap on them. Jing Jun has already deployed a squad of five hundred hors.e.m.e.n nearby, ready to a.s.sist us. I can guarantee that no one will escape.”
Xiang Shaolong nodded. “We’ll do it as Second Brother suggests. Tian Dan, that sly fox, really is formidable. Right after returning to Qi, he immediately sent this a.s.sa.s.sination squad to Xianyang. And, due to Lu Buwei’s protection, we’ve only discovered their existence just now. From this, we can tell that there are critical, glaring gaps in our intelligence. After we deal with the situation, we must come up with a way to close the gaps.”
Teng Yi nodded in response. “Let’s go!” Xiang Shaolong, Ji Yanran, and the Eighteen Guardians followed Teng Yi and his men, swiftly traversing the dimly lit alleyway. Quite soon, they arrived at the section where the a.s.sa.s.sins lay in ambush.
Aside from the entrance to the street, which was lit by two large lanterns, the only light throughout the street was the silvery light of the moon, giving it an aura of desolate beauty.
Xiang Shaolong pressed himself against Ji Yanran’s and whispered into her ear, “Today, the Learned Lady has really displayed her awe-inspiring majesty!” Ji Yanran pressed her fragrant, jade-like face against his lips, happily cooing, “Can it compare to milord husband? But the Hundred Battles Sabre is a bit too powerful, as Guan Zhongxie would have died if it hadn’t snapped his sword. As the saying goes, ‘Going too far is as bad as not going far enough.'” Teng Yi also thought it was funny. “How can there be such a thing as being ‘too powerful’? It simply wasn’t Guan Zhongxie’s time to die yet. But his talent really is astonishing. He was actually able to dodge the Hundred Battles Sabre at the exact moment that his sword shattered.”
At this point in time, the Eighteen Guardians and the fifty-odd crack troopers dispersed themselves, taking strategic positions on the field, even clambering up onto trees to a.s.sume the highest strategic position. They sealed off every avenue of escape for the street.
Xiang Shaolong said in a low voice, “Only now do I realize that Guan Zhongxie intentionally allowed me to strike at an already-damaged section of his sword. He lost his sword, but preserved his life. His foresight really is astonishing.” Ji Yanran and Teng Yi were simultaneously shocked. In a situation like that, on the verge of death, Guan Zhongxie still maintained his calm and presence of mind, using such a shocking method to preserve his life. He really was formidable.
Another person came with a report. Everything was in place, and they could make their move at any time.
Everyone waited for Xiang Shaolong’s order.
Xiang Shaolong smiled. “The enemies must be anxious right now. Let’s wait another hour, til the point there are absolutely bewildered and frightened. That will be the best time to strike.”
Teng Yi and Ji Yanran both exclaimed their approval. The former said, “If that’s the case, let me order some people to go and procure some nets and ropes, so that we might capture them more easily.”
As Teng Yi went to do this, Xiang Shaolong pulled Ji Yanran over to sit beneath a nearby tree. Laughing, he said, “Tonight really is a night filled with excitement and danger. Based on Lu Buwei’s temperament, after having lost so much face, his desire to revolt must have grown only stronger. Fortunately, we have the ultimate backup plan of the Black Dragon. Otherwise, this really would cause a headache.”
Ji Yanran stared up at the starry skies, a look of contentment flashing across her eyes. Leaning against him, she said in a shy voice, “With milord husband here, what can Lu Buwei possibly pull off? And when it comes to marshalling troops and fighting battles, w.a.n.g Ci is even more formidable than Xu Xian and Lu Gong. As long as we can prevent him from being murdered by Lu Buwei, Lu Buwei and Meng Ao will find it very hard to openly rebel. In addition, the people of Qin’s devotion to crown and country is famous throughout the world. How could Lu Buwei possibly rebel so easily? I’m actually more concerned about Du Bi and Pu Hu. In their hands, they hold Cheng Qiao, the Lord of Chang’an, as a card to be played against the Crown Prince. They might be able to use the Qin people’s dislike towards Lu Buwei. Combine that with his local influence, and the instability of the three eastern provinces, and their collusion with the people of Zhao…let’s hope they don’t act. If they do, they will cause disaster. My dear, you must be wary of them.”
Xiang Shaolong had always held the advice of this beloved wife in the highest of esteem. Nodding, he said, “Thank you, Learned Lady, for your reminder. Tomorrow, when I enter the palace, I will discuss this with the Crown Prince, Li Si, and Lord Changping. This way, if something happens, we won’t be caught flatfooted.”
Ji Yanran leisurely sighed. Resting her head against his broad shoulders, she said, “That which I thank the Heaven the most for is Heaven allowing me to marry you, milord, after my country and home collapsed. In the past, each time I thought about those events, I would always contemplate ending this meaningless life of mine. Fortunately, I did not. If I had, I wouldn’t have been able to experience this deadly yet beautiful night.”
Xiang Shaolong reached out and embraced her fragrant shoulder. Moved, he said, “Learned Lady, you favor me with your love. I should be the one moved to tears.”
Ji Yanran straightened her lovely body, as joy sparkled across her face. “This is precisely the unique characteristic of milord husband, never treating women as servants or slaves. Sister Qing must be with Tingfang, Zhao Zhi, Xiao Zhen, and Xiao Feng at this moment, spending the night talking about you. No one’s heart is ever away from your own.
Just as Xiang Shaolong thought to reply, a striking sound was heard as a brilliant flower of light exploded above the dark street, illuminating it.
Beneath the glare of this ‘flash-bang grenade’, several dozen people could be seen charging down the street.
The two rose to their feet and gave the order.
The battle began.
Instantly, the sounds of battle and killing filled their ears.
In the blink of an eye, the battle changed into a rout, with them pursuing after the fleeing targets.
In the face of Xiang Shaolong’s ambush, all of the enemies were either killed, injured, or captured.
The commoners nearby were startled awake. Naturally, no one would dare to go out and look.
The sound of hooves and men had shattered this neighborhood’s tranquility.
By the time Xiang Shaolong returned to the entrance, all of the captured Qi a.s.sa.s.sins had been bound in a group and held within the Wu manor.
Jing Jun reported, “We killed twenty five and captured sixty seven. Heh, looks like the midget and the prettiest ‘soft-boned’ performer didn’t partic.i.p.ate in this event. As a matter of fact, there isn’t a single person from Qi who we’ve met before that is here.”
Xiang Shaolong rode into the Wu family manor. He saw that although the prisoners looked dispirited, all of them had unyielding looks on their faces. His heart sank.
How should he deal with them? Just as he was hesitating, the sound of hoof-steps from afar could be heard as Guan Zhongxie led a squad of men rushing towards them. Bowing, he said, “Sir, I came a moment too late. Please forgive my tardiness.”
Xiang Shaolong and the others knew that they came with no good intentions in mind. The air immediately became tense.
Xiang Shaolong leapt off his horse and calmly said, “Nothing major. Just a group of petty thugs who had some unscrupulous designs. Master Guan, feel free to take them away. You can report your disposition of them afterwards. I hope that this will not happen again.”
Aside from Guan Zhongxie, even Teng Yi, Jing Jun, and Ji Yanran were shocked.
Everyone knew that Xiang Shaolong wasn’t so easily handled. They just didn’t know what he was plotting.
Guan Zhongxie was stunned for a long period of time. Just as he intended to speak, Xiang Shaolong impatiently waved his hand. “Take them away. Give me a report tomorrow so that I might know if there’s anyone behind their actions, and find out their histories.”
Although Guan Zhongxie was still suspicious, what more could he say? He immediately ordered his men to take the a.s.sa.s.sins away, not leaving so much as a corpse behind.
When Xiang Shaolong and Teng Yi strode into the main hall, Jing Jun asked curiously, “Third Brother, why did you so easily give up this opportunity to pull down Lu Buwei?” Xiang Shaolong smiled. “None of these people had appeared tonight at the dance display. From this, we can tell that that scoundrel Lu made preparations in advance. Even though we captured them, none of them would have revealed any connection to that traitor Lu.”
Ji Yanran nodded. “Lu Buwei would be an idiot to do otherwise. Cleaning up after the disastrous early battle at our farm had already caused him a lot of headaches. Naturally, he would have learned to do better this time.”
Jing Jun frowned. “But there was still no need for Third Brother to hand these people to Guan Zhongxie. If we questioned them severely, we would at least be able to discover how these people entered Xianyang, and from there find clues to follow. It would be worth it if we could cause Lu Buwei a few more headaches.”
The four sat down in the hall, as a serving girl brought them tea. The bodyguards patrolled all around them.
Xiang Shaolong smiled. “The purpose of allowing Guan Zhongxie to take these murderers away is to catch him, the biggest fish of them all. We know that in tomorrow’s report, Lu Buwei will have many excuses for these people. This is their long-planned out reserve strategy. That way, after dealing with me, they can still keep these people to deal with others.”
Ji Yanran suddenly cried out, “Then it must be Du Bi!” Teng Yi slapped the table and called out, “I get it now. For Guan Zhongxie to allow so many people to sneak into the city is a gross breach of his duties. I want to see how he can possibly keep his position by tomorrow.”
Xiang Shaolong calmly said, “If we didn’t have two marvelous chess-pieces in the form of Meng Wu and Meng Tian, I’m afraid that we still wouldn’t be able to budge Guan Zhongxie from his position. But with one of them being the next Imperial Infantry Commander, why would Lu Buwei continue to fight against it? Starting from tomorrow, both of the major military commands of the city will be in my hands. It will be even more difficult for Lu Buwei to rebel.”
Ji Yanran sighed in admiration. “Milord husband’s calculations are never wrong. But we must be prepared to deal with Lao Ai fighting for that position. With the Empress supporting him, he still has a chance.”
Teng Yi laughed. “Then let us allow Lu Buwei to fight against him and batter each other into pieces.”
At this moment, the sound of hoofsteps could distantly be heard coming from far away. Ji Yanran happily rose to her feet. “It must be Ting Fang and the others returning!” After speaking, she stepped outside.
Jing Jun’s expression became extremely excited. In a low voice, he said, “Third Brother, didn’t you say that you were going to find Qiu Risheng and cause misfortune for him? It’s such a fine night tonight that tomorrow must be a wonderful day as well. We can’t let such a great opportunity go to waste!” Xiang Shaolong and Teng Yi simultaneously burst into laughter.
Grabbing Jing Jun by the shoulder, Teng Yi said, “Kid, don’t forget that tomorrow, General Xiang is going to take you to Lu Gong’s family residence to formally propose marriage. All you can think about is fighting and killing.”
A look of joy appeared on Jing Jun’s face. He slapped himself once, blushing in acknowledgment.
At this moment, a female servant came by Xiang Shaolong’s side. In a low voice, she said, “Lord, please have some tea.”
Xiang Shaolong didn’t think too much as he casually accepted her teacup.
Suddenly, a knife flashed.
With a flip of her left wrist and a twist of her slim waist, the serving girl pulled out a dagger which flashed with cold light, piercing it towards Xiang Shaolong’s throat like a bolt of lightning.
This was totally unexpected. Xiang Shaolong fell over backwards, barely escaping this lethal blow as the teacup flew backwards as well.
With loud roars, Teng Yi and Jing Jun simultaneously jumped up. Jing Shan and the others were shocked stiff.
With another twist of her hip, the serving girl shot out another dagger as she simultaneously dodged towards the left. Her movements were fast and nimble, causing others to exclaim in admiration.
Just as Xiang Shaolong leapt to his feet, the dagger plunged into his chest. With a miserable cry, he fell back down.
Teng Yi and Jing Jun were frightened out of their wits as they threw themselves towards Xiang Shaolong.
By this time, the Guardians had already detained the a.s.sa.s.sin and began battling with her.
Supporting Xiang Shaolong, Teng Yi and Jing Jun tore open his gown at the point of the dagger’s entrance, only to find that he was wearing the armored vest which Qin Qing had personally woven for him. The dagger had only been able to penetrate the outer garments. Only then did the two let out a breath.
Xiang Shaolong let out a sigh. Still badly shaken, he said, “Do not kill her!” Teng Yi roared, “Master Xiang is fine! Take her alive!” With a shriek, the serving girl was thrown by Wu Guang to the floor.
Xiang Shaolong pulled out the dagger. Its tip was only slightly wet with blood, having barely cut through the doublet to lightly slice his skin.
The Guardians dragged the serving girl before them.
Xiang Shaolong glanced at her. Amazingly, it was the main performing girl from last night, the most beautiful soft-boned beauty.