Book 19 Chap 11 – Returning Good For Evil
Xiang Shaolong had wanted to slip away but he was dragged by the recently promoted and over enthusiastic Li Si to see Xiao Pan. Ji Yanran was not as happy as them and went home on her own.
Although this time it cannot be considered a complete victory, but it’s a huge change for the better. Want Chi, w.a.n.g Ling, Lords Changping and Changwen were all in high spirits as they surrounded Xiang Shaolong, this great mastermind into the inner court to see Xiao Pan.
On seeing everyone arriving, Xiao Pan walked down from his dragon throne, so touched that his eyes turned red from the emotions.
Xiang Shaolong was a bit confounded as he looked at Xiao Pan striding towards him in an imposing manner.
Suddenly he felt as if Xiao Pan is a total stranger, yet at the same time so close that he’s like his own son.
The kind of two extreme reactions clashing together gave him an exceptionally strange feeling.
In another few years, Xiao Pan will be crowned as Emperor.
And his relationship with this future Emperor Qin, will have to come to an end.
He has to leave.
Because he does not wish to be drenched in the blood of the soldiers and civilians of the Six States. He is totally weary towards wars.
Xiao Pan’s actual age is 19 years old, and he absolutely has the air and commanding presence of a ruler of the times who feels that he is way above all other living things.
He may be half a head shorter than Xiang Shaolong but his shoulders are broad and his limbs muscular with a squarish face and big ears. The most striking is his eyes, when he glanced over at Xiang Shaolong, even he felt a chill in his heart.
In the past, when Xu Xian and Lord Lu found out that he is not Lu Buwei’s illegitimate son, they immediately pledged loyalty to him. And now w.a.n.g Ling and w.a.n.g Chi are devoted to him without any reason at all. Xiao Pan is just that kind of natural born political leader who has the charisma to make others submit to him.
One can imagine that when the time comes for him to be officially crowned as Emperor, he will become even more remarkable.
Xiao Pan came to Xiang Shaolong and grabbed his hands tightly as he exclaimed with joy, “Grand Tutor, we’ve succeeded.”
Li Si and the rest surrounded the two of them and shouted out their congratulations. All of them were beginning to sound a little nonsensical.
All along, in the power struggle between a ruler and his power-holding official, the fight is never completed without some form of bloodshed.
But with this Black Dragon, a stroke of genius, they immediately sliced off more than half of Lu Buwei’s power which he had painstakingly built up over many years and at the same time, possibly crushed the plans that he had been secretly making. To be able to achieve such an outcome without a single soldier or bloodshed, how can one not feel strangely touching.
With the current situation, it is absolutely impossible for anyone to raise a coup. Even the civilians of Xianyang will rise up to support Xiao Pan, not to mention the military which has always been loyal to the royal family.
Xiang Shaolong replied with a smile, “I should take a rest too, will your Majesty please grant me the permission.”
Xiao Pan sighed, “Much as I am extremely unwilling to do so, I can only accede to your request. But once anything happens, Grand Tutor must come back to help me.”
Xiang Shaolong felt as if a weight has been lifted off him as he said, “In politics there’s Lord Changping and Li Tingwei and in military there’s the two Supreme Generals. Your Majesty, just do as you deem fit!”
Everyone roared with laughter.
Because Xiang Shaolong is as good as saying, don’t come disturbing me if there’s nothing wrong.
Li Si chided laughingly, “Lord Xiang please do not make fun of me. With Xiang Shaolong, I will always be the same Li Si you met outside the city initially when you came back from Zhao.”
Xiao Pan said, “When does Grand Tutor plan to return to the farm for your temporary leave?” On hearing his emphasis on the two words ‘temporary leave’, all of them revealed a knowing smile.
Instead Xiang Shaolong grabbed Xiao Pan’s hands tightly, so tight that he could feel their flesh and blood merged together as he answered, “After we eliminate Qiu Risheng’s Warrior School and after Xiao Jun’s wedding, I’ll return to the farm and take my temporary leave as you wish. I should still be in Xianyang for another ten odd days. Heh, I want to go home for a shower and change in order to get ready for the feast tonight.”
Xiao Pan let go of Xiang Shaolong’s hands unwillingly as he uttered emotionally, “That I, Ying Zheng, will have this day, is all thanks to Grand Tutor.”
That he, as a ruler of the country, is willing to say such a statement, us enough to move everyone.
Only Xiang Shaolong truly understands the hidden meaning he is conveying.
Who would have expected that the mischievous imp of the past who only knows how to hara.s.s palace maids will ultimately become the famous Emperor Qin who will unify the world?
Outside the palace doors, it was filled with people trying to take a look at the ruler and when they saw Xiang Shaolong coming out, cheers erupted immediately.
The sounds of hooves were heard. Guoxing, leading a troop rushed out from the side and saluted him from a distance.
On seeing Guoxing wearing his military uniform, like a changed man with his suave demeanor, Xiang Shaolong remembered the way Jing Jun looked when he wore his official uniform for the first time. He can’t help but feel a deeper sense of closeness towards Guoxing.
Guoxing came up to him and accompanied him as he rode towards the Wu residence. He said with a quiet laugh, “I’ve been waiting outside for quite some time. Earlier when Lao Ai and Lu Buwei came out separately, the crowds all jeered at them and they were so livid their faces were contorted. But when Great General Xiang emerged, you received the loudest cheers.”
Seeing little children in their brand new clothes setting off firecrackers and playing catch at the side, Xiang Shaolong has never felt so relaxed before.
Xiao Pan has finally stabilized his throne and in future, he’s the only person who will settle scores with others. People like Lu Buwei and Lao Ai will only be fit to become his sparring practice targets.
Guoxing said, “Master Xiang, please trust me. In future I will follow you with absolute loyalty.”
On hearing the change in his behavior, Xiang Shaolong showed his magnanimity by saying, “I will be leaving in about 10 odd days and Xiao Jun will take over my position for the time being. Just follow Xiao Jun and work well with him, this is also the best opportunity for you to mend relations with him.”
After Guoxing nodded his head in agreement, he lowered his voice and said, “After 5 of those a.s.sa.s.sins escaped, they all ran to Du Bi’s General Residence to hide from the search. From what I understand from Qiu Risheng, they will masquerade themselves as warriors from our Warrior School and attend the feast tonight.
Xiang Shaolong asked in puzzlement, “Did they think they still have a chance at a.s.sa.s.sination tonight, or do they not know that all who enter the Palace to attend feasts are not allowed to bring weapons?”
Guoxing replied, “Qiu Risheng is not that careless, he just hopes to make use of those people to regain some prestige of his school.”
Xiang Shaolong said nonchalantly, “Fine, then let me see what this Qiu Risheng looks like tonight. If not because of Lao Ai, I would have torn his school down today.”
On hearing this, Guoxing was petrified and secretly relieved that he has ‘changed his loyalty to the wise ruler’, otherwise he would be one of those who would face utter humiliation.
Guoxing added, “I heard that this morning Dan Meimei attempted suicide by hanging herself but luckily she was saved.”
By now Xiang Shaolong only feels pity and no hate towards Dan Meimei. But it’s really not convenient for him to interfere in this matter so he could only secretly lament that much as he would like to help, his hands are tied.
He can’t stop himself from asking, “Is Dan Meimei’s heart with Lao Ai?”
Guoxing gave a mysterious reply, “I’m afraid she’s the only one who knows. But there has been talk amongst the servants going around Drunken Wind Loft, saying that the person Dan Meimei is really interested in is you, Master Xiang.”
Xiang Shaolong was startled as he exclaimed hoa.r.s.ely, “That must be a mistake, otherwise why would I not feel anything at all.”
Guoxing b.u.mped his shoulder as he replied, “A woman’s heart is most unfathomable. Or maybe it’s a wrong rumor!” By then they have reached the Wu residence and Guoxing left after saluting.
As soon as Xiang Shaolong thought of his own wonderful and warmhearted family, all thoughts of Dan Meimei were cast to the back of his mind immediately.
As soon as he stepped into the house, his men told him that the famous courtesan Yang Yu from Drunken Wind Loft is here to look for him and currently waiting at the East Hall.
Xiang Shaolong was taken aback and he could roughly guess that this visit must be related to the unsuccessful suicide attempt by Dan Meimei and can only secretly heave a sigh.
He is almost of the mind to instruct his men to send Yang Yu away but ultimately he could not harden his heart to do it. After a brief internal struggle, he went to the East Hall.
This beauty was devoid of her makeup and wearing a plain outfit, and looks even more pleasing to the eye then when she was all decked up and heavily made up. Although she’s still incomparable to the previous night’s Shi Sufang, but her delicate beauty can still be considered rare.
Up until now he still cannot decipher the inner workings of this lady of the night’s heart.
Is she forced to harm him because she had to submit to Lu Buwei’s power? Or is she really in love with either Guan Zhongxie or Xu Shang, that’s why she’s willing to aid them in evil.
In an environment full of schemes and nefarious plots, he has learnt not to trust anyone easily.
At the same time he learnt how to use various methods to deal with his enemies, for example Wu Fu and Guoxing.
Yang Yu saw him arrive and left her seat in joy to receive him.
Xiang Shaolong was really worried that she will throw herself into his arms and if the servants see that, they will report to Wu Tingfang and the other ladies. By then there’s no way he will be able to defend himself.
That’s the thing with the human psychology. If he goes and have fun at Drunken Wind Loft, Learned Lady Ji and the rest can pretend ignorance as long as they don’t witness anything but if he were to bring the playthings home, that’s another matter altogether.
Xiang Shaolong hurriedly bowed and said politely, “Miss Yu, please take a seat.”
Yang Yu is an expert in the psychology of men. She smiled sweetly and after giving him an extremely meaningful look, retreated back to her seat. She waited for Xiang Shaolong to sit down next to her before she raised her brows and said quietly, “Meimei wanted to hang herself this morning. Luckily we have been on the alert to prevent her from committing silly acts so we were able to save her in time. But now there’s a horrible looking scar on her neck, she won’t be able to receive guests for quite some time.”
Xiang Shaolong furrowed his brows, “Miss Yu has come to see me, is it because you think I can be of a.s.sistance to her?”
Yang Yu sighed and said, “I know very well that by coming to see Great General Xiang like this, you are already being very kind to me by not chasing me out of your residence. It’s just that Meimei and I are closer than real sisters, the others are afraid of Lu Buwei’s authority and are keeping silent. In the whole of Xianyang City now, Great General is the only one who holds no regard for Lu Buwei at all. Meimei and I are really at our wits end so we can only shamelessly come and seek Lord Xiang’s help.”
Xiang Shaolong asked worriedly, “Wasn’t Meimei always on good terms with Lord Lao? Now that his power has increased greatly, if he is willing to marry Meimei and she doesn’t mind, it should be very difficult for Lu Buwei to raise objections.”
Yang Yu revealed a look of disdain as she said with a snort, “What is Lao Ai, at the very most he is just a toy boy of the Dowager. He can come out and flirt around but a month ago, someone gave him two song courtesans and in the end they were beaten to death by the Dowager’s people. Great General, please tell me who else would have the guts to marry into his residence.”
Xiang Shaolong was shocked speechless. He remembered during Lu Buwei’s birthday feast, Zhu Ji’s defensive looking eyes were full of vicious hatred, her whole demeanor was icy. Zhu Ji has really changed too much.
Ever since Lu Buwei caused the death of King Zhuangxiao, something went wrong in her psychology.
But still, he did not expect her to turn into such a terrible woman.
Yang Yu continued, “Besides Meimei was just putting on a show with him. Initially she was indeed charmed by his suave and handsome exterior but ever since she heard from Bai Lei the atrocious acts he has done in the past, she only developed feelings of detest and none of joy.”
Xiang Shaolong thought to himself that Bai lei must have heard about Lao Ai’s atrocities from Han Xie and knowing Han Xie, he’ll definitely spare no mercy with his tongue and pepper the stories.
But then again, Lao Ai does deserve it.
Yang Yu’s expression suddenly softened as she looked at him with great affection, “Only Master Xiang has the best reputation. Even your enemies can’t come out with anything bad you’ve done. At first we did not understand, but after we’ve seen how understanding Master Xiang was when we kept offending you, knowing that we were forced into it and even treating us with courtesy, we were secretly very grateful.”
Xiang Shaolong said with a wry smile, “It’s most difficult trying to be a good person. Honestly, regarding Lu Buwei’s intention to marry Meimei as his concubine, it’s very difficult for me to interfere and besides, there is no reason for me to interfere.”
Yang Yu replied confidently, “But at least there are two ways Master Xiang can help Meimei. The simplest way is of course for Master Xiang to make Meimei your own concubine but I know very well that this request is overboard and it will also result in enmity between Master Xiang and Lord Lao.”
Xiang Shaolong sighed, “What about the other solution?”
Yang Yu chewed on her lower lip as she said, “Help her escape from Qin.”
Xiang Shaolong asked quizzically, “Helping her leave the country is an easy task for me. I just need to give my instructions and it will be done but the problem is, she is such a beauty that no matter where she goes, there will be people who hanker after her beauty. So isn’t it out of the frying pan and into the fire? If she b.u.mps into bandits or hooligans, her outcome will be worse than anyone can imagine.”
Yang Yu said elatedly, “As long as Master Xiang is agreeable than everything’s fine. Meimei has a royalty from Wei who admires here and has on many occasions sent his men here to beg Meimei to go to Daliang. If Master Xiang were to send men to inform him and ask him to send his people to receive her at the border, then Meimei’s safety will not be a problem.”
Xiang Shaolong asked, “Who is this royalty?”
Yang Yu whispered, “It was Crown Prince of Wei, who used to be held hostage in Xianyang but later escaped back to Daliang.”
Xiang Shaolong was secretly enlightened.
It seems that Dan Meimei is not really in love with him, but if she becomes the Crown Princess, it’s much better than to become Lu Buwei’s s.e.x object.
Xiang Shaolong knows himself very well, he is not one to harden his heart and refuse to help so he replied with a wry smile, “All right, you’ll tell Meimei to feign illness, even Wu Fu is not allowed to see her. When everyone is attending the feast tonight, I’ll send men to send her away and travel through the night. On top of that I will send fast horses to inform the Crown prince and Lord Longyang. The only problematic thing is that we have to make it look as if Meimei ran away on her own so that it will not implicate Miss Yu and the others.”
Yang Yu threw herself into his arms in joy, her eyes red.
Xiang Shaolong was shaken as he exclaimed, “If you want to thank me, sit down properly quick.”
Yang Yu couldn’t care less and gave him a big kiss on the lips before she moved a small distance away, her eyes watery as she choked in tears, “Even if Meimei and I try to repay you till our deaths, it is till not enough to repay Master Xiang’s magnanimity in forgiving us for out past misdeeds.”
Only then is Xiang Shaolong sure that this is not a trap for if it is, Yang Yu must be an award winning actress. Besides, there’s no need for him to be personally involved in this matter so it’ll be impossible if they want to harm him.
After discussing the details for contact with Yang Yu, he asked in pa.s.sing, “Why aren’t you leaving together with Meimei?”
Yang Yu glanced at him awkwardly, wanting to speak out but stopped herself. Finally she lowered her head, her pretty face blushing. Her behavior was extremely alluring.
Xiang Shaolong was enlightened as he exclaimed, “So Miss Yu is in love with Guan Zhongxie.”
Yang Yu shook her head, “How could it be him? That is a cold blooded and heartless person. Every time after he’s had his fun with me, he’d chase me away immediately, saying that he’s not used to sleeping with others. A man like that, only Third Missy Lu would take a liking to him.”
Xiang Shaolong replied, “Of course he wouldn’t treat Lu Niangrong the same way. I know, it must be that fellow Xu Shang, he is indeed very handsome.”
Yang Yu chewed on her lips without saying anything but her expression was filled with worry and helplessness. Only after a long pause did she say, “It’s the same everywhere I go. If Lu Buwei forces me to become his concubine, I can only submit to my fate. But Meimei is a lot stronger than me. Hai, I’m afraid Master Xiang will not believe me even if I say it but I have no wish to lie to Master Xiang in any matter. Meimei’s suicide attempt is just a farce Meimei and I thought of to delay Lu Buwei.”
Xiang Shaolong was surprised, “I’m already very careful but I was still duped by both of you.”
Yang Yu promised, “Now there’s nothing we’re hiding from you. Initially I dare not come and look for Master Xiang at all but Meimei said you’re the only person who can help her and will certainly help her. Because she knows that Master Xiang is a natural born, true and chivalric hero.”
Xiang Shaolong added wryly again, “She’s really accurate in her a.s.sessment of this great fool here.”
Yang Yu wiped away her tears and revealed a charming smile, “Meimei said, if Master Xiang doesn’t want her, then just send her away. Hai, which girl in Xianyang city now does not wish to marry into Master Xiang’s family?”
Xiang Shaolong secretly thought her formidable. If a woman wants to get into the good books of a man, a ‘professional’ like Yang Yu will certainly be very outstanding, so much so that even if one knows that it’s just false flattery, he’ll still feel good hearing it.
At least there are still Guiyan, Lu Niangrong and even Yingying have no wish to marry him, Xiang Shaolong.
Xiang Shaolong saw that there’s not much time left since now he has to arrange for Dan Meimei to escape Xianyang, prepare to attend the feast at the palace tonight and also worried that Ji Yanran and the rest will have some misunderstanding so he hurriedly send Yang Yu off on her way.
After Yang Yu left, the first thing Xiang Shaolong did was to look for Zhao Da because he had once stayed with Zhao Ya in Daliang for a long period of time so he is most familiar with the local situation. He is the most appropriate person to be in charge of this matter.
Dan Meimei is gone just like that. The most unlucky person will be Wu Fu and this can possibly force him to take one step further to ally himself with him and become a useful p.a.w.n in Lu Buwei’s organization.
Zhao Da thought it would be some dangerous mission and on hearing that it’s only to send Dan Meimei to the Wei border, he agreed happily.
When Xiang Shaolong returned to the inner residence, he thought that Ji Yanran and the rest would have been garbed in finery and waiting to attend the feast. Instead, his wives and maids were having fun with the kids, still dressed in their day to day wear and doesn’t look like they’re planning to attend the feast at all.
Xiang Shaolong was puzzled, “Aren’t you going to join in the festivities?”
Ji Yanran lay languidly on the cushions and she replied tiredly, “My lord husband seems to have forgotten who had to lift up that dragon tail to slap the river the whole morning, and who was made to stand for hours in court to read the edicts like a punishment. I had thought of going but after my bath I seem to have suddenly lost all my energy. I just want to do nothing at all, and have no energy to think of why my lord husband was chatting half the night away with a lady from Drunken Wind Loft.”
Xiang Shaolong was initially filled with pity, then he was almost filled with fury as he knelt down and kissed her cheek and at the same time asked Wu Tingfang, “What about the rest of you?”
Zhao Zhi pouted her lips, “Since Sister Yanran is not going, would we have the mood to go?” Xiang Shaolong is finally gaining some understanding as he raised his arms in surrender, “G.o.d be my witness, I, Xiang Shaolong and Yang Yu had never had any past entanglements, and it’s the same for today. The reason she…”
Ji Yanran suddenly covered his mouth with her hand as she said with a laugh, “Don’t be overly suspicious, we were just making fun of you!”
Wu Tingfang chuckled charmingly, “But it’s true we won’t be attending the feast. The sight of Lu Buwei makes me think of… hai, don’t talk about it.”
Looking at her darkened expression, Xiang Shaolong immediately thought of his lovely Zhao Qian and Chunying, and understood her meaning.
Tian Zhen and Tian Feng came over and helped him up to a.s.sist him in his bath.
After he was appropriately dressed, he went to the hall where Teng Yi and Jing Jun were chatting idly with Tao Fang as they waited for him.
Xiang Shaolong asked, “Have Zhao Da informed you about Dan Meimei’s matter?”
Teng Yi nodded his head, “It’s just a small matter. But if it can anger Lu Buwei and cause trouble for Wu Fu, it’s a happy task.”
Jing Jun sighed, “Dan Meimei is precisely clear about this point, so she’s not worried that you will not agree. This woman is indeed very beautiful.”
Xiang Shaolong was enlightened by his words and immediately his impression of Yang Yu dropped. He is really too ready to look at on the bright side of things.
Tao Li said, “I saw Tu Xian earlier and he asked me if the Black Dragon is Shaolong’s idea. I dare not lie to him and Tu Xian wants me to tell you that he is really impressed with you. This marvelous plan is even better than stabbing Lu Buwei with your sword. Lu Buwei was livid with anger when he went home and guessed that it was us who came up with all this balderdash but there’s nothing he could do at all. Tu Xian said with Lu Buwei’s character, he may choose to take a risk and told us to be even more careful.”
Xiang Shaolong was secretly startled as he bowed his head in humble acknowledgement. Indeed victory has gone up to his head and he is on cloud nine, and this is very dangerous.
Teng Yi smiled, “Guan Zhongxie arrested a group of people but from what I see they are innocents. He’s thinking of using these people as scapegoats but they were taken away by our Minister of Justice so he can’t torture a confession out of them. This time even Guan Zhongxie has lost his authority.”
Jing Jun complained, “The sight of Guoxing irks me yet Third Brother wants me to teach him the ropes. Ai!”
Xiang Shaolong grabbed his arms and pulled him closer, saying with a serious expression, “A fault confessed is half redressed. Xiao Jun, just be kindhearted this one time and give him a chance!”
Teng Yi stood up and announced, “It’s almost time, let us leave for the Palace!”
Xiang Shaolong reminded him, “Remember to bring your Mozi sword. Tonight will be filled with great performances.”
Tao Fang was surprised, “How can such things happen? This is the royal feast of Great Qin, without the approval of the ruler, who dares to create trouble?”
Xiang Shaolong tapped the Hundred Battles Sword hanging from his waist and laughed, “We are the ones the ruler gave approval to, to save us the trouble of finding the Warrior School again in future.”
Only then did Teng and Jing understand.
Xiang Shaolong led the way and walked towards the main door as he chortled, “Birth of the Black Dragon. It’s a sign from heaven and also a joyous occasion. We’ll just wish Qiu Risheng an early happy new year.”
Teng, Jing and Tao laughed as they ran after him and stepped out together.
The 18 elite guards and the personal guards of Teng, Jing and Tao were already waiting outside with the horses.
After the four of them mounted their horses, they swept out of the main gates towards the direction of the Palace.
The whole of Xianyang City was covered with night fog and it looked eerily like a ghost city.
Once Xiang Shaolong thought of his impending return to the relaxing farm, he was in a happier mood.
Ever since Zhao Qian and the rest unfortunately lost their lives in another land, he has not felt so carefree like what he is feeling now, no longer having the feeling that he is being crushed by an invisible burden so heavy that he cannot breath.