Book 20 Chapter 9 – Delicate Trap
After Meng Ao’s funeral, Jing Jun was officially promoted to become the Commander of the Cavalry. As he had married into the Lu family, all the important officials in the military gave their utmost support on Lord Lu’s account.
Wu Guo, Zhao Da and Zhou Liang became his deputies so now the cavalry is now a unit totally under the Crown Prince’s control, unlike the city troops who are under the control of the two factions headed by Lu Buwei and Lao Ai, fighting against each other.
Of course, if Lu and Lao works together, it’ll be another matter altogether.
Because of Xiao Pan’s acknowledgement of their abilities, the 18 Warriors became the leaders of his personal guards so their status are greatly raised too.
Huan Qi is still in charge of training the reinforcement troops while Meng Wu and Meng Tian will immediately lead troops to attack Wei once they have settled their father’s funeral arrangements to take revenge against the Weis for joining the coalition army.
Basically, Qin is still using the same strategy of attacking the nearby states while maintaining good relations with the states further away, which is to pacify Chu, Qi and Yan and only lead troops against the other 3 states.
Xiang Shaolong took the opportunity to take a break and went back to the farm with Teng Yi’s family as well. He practices his swordplay, archery and riding skills daily, and will tour around the scenic places when idle, living a carefree life playing with his son.
Spring left and summer came. On this day he returned to the courtyard and received a letter that Qin Qing sent a messenger to deliver.
It turns out that this pretty lady have decided on a return date, and will come back to Xianyang early autumn. Although she did not mention a word about her feelings in the letter, but her fiery love can be felt without the use of words and from this it shows how refined this beauty is, which makes a boor like Xiang Shaolong love and respect her even more.
Tao Fang regularly brings news to the farm as well.
Lu Buwei returned to Xianyang, and after that went to Bashu again, something which no one can seem to understand.
Lao Ai and the Dowager Zhu Ji has returned to Xianyang. Lao Ai’s att.i.tude is even more conceited now, not even taking into regard Lord Changping, w.a.n.g Ling and the rest of the senior officials. He’ll bring up Zhu Ji’s name in every matter and Xiao Pan had no choice but to tolerate him bitterly.
Guan Zhongxie won a few battles in Han and was promoted to Great General, slowly taking over Meng Ao’s position.
But of course his reputation and power is still far beneath.
Meng Wu and his brother had a few swift battles in Wei, taking down Zhaoge and their reputation increased, becoming the new stars of the next generation of generals.
The thing that Xiang Shaolong was most worried about is that w.a.n.g He has indeed fallen into a trap. He took the opportunity when Li Mu moved his troops to attack Qi to sent his men to attack the Zhaos. Xiang Shaolong can only hope that the messenger Xiao Pan sent out can give the warning to w.a.n.g He in time, otherwise he’ll be sandwiched by enemies and his situation will be extremely dangerous.
Just as he was worrying about all these, bad news came at the end of May. w.a.n.g He was bitterly defeated by Li Mu and died in battle. w.a.n.g Bi and Yang Rui led the remaining defeated troops back to Shangchuan.
The thing that Xiang Shaolong most wanted to avoid has finally happened.
Lu Buwei’s nefarious plot has once again succeeded.
And Xiang Shaolong’s happy and carefree life will soon come to an end.
By the time Xiang Shaolong returned to the palace in Xianyang on swift horses, he could feel a cloud of gloom over the place.
Ever since Lord Xinling led the coalition army outside Handan 16 years ago and greatly defeated the Qin army, the Qins have never experienced a situation whereby a great general with the status of w.a.n.g He would actually die in battle. The enormity of the setback this time really cannot be calculated.
By the time Xiang Shaolong arrived at the library, w.a.n.g Ling, Li Si, Lord Changping, Lao Ai, w.a.n.g Guan, Cai Ze and the other senior officials were already outside the door waiting for Xiao Pan to summon them.
w.a.n.g Ling’s eyes were red and he looked as if he has aged in years. For the first time Xiang Shaolong could clearly feel that he is getting on in age, something that he has never felt before in the past and this made him very uncomfortable.
He came towards Xiang Shaolong and said quietly, “His Highness refused to see us, he only said to wait until you come. I think you’d better go in and see him first before summoning us in!”
Lao Ai was obviously eavesdropping at the side and said in pique, “This is the time where everyone should have a good discussion. How can his Highness lock himself up, let me go in together with Shaolong.”
A look of ire was seen on everyone’s face.
Xiang Shaolong patted Lao Ai and said somberly, “Let me go in first and find out what’s happening on everyone’s behalf! His Highness is feeling exactly what we are feeling right now, so everyone should sympathize.”
No matter how imperious Lao Ai is, he will not dare to offend Xiang Shaolong for now so he gave up the idea and said, “We will wait here then! But the Dowager should be here soon as well.”
Xiang Shaolong was disgusted to hear him bringing out Zhu Ji’s name in less than a few sentences and went into the library.
Xiao Pan was looking out the window with his back to the door, not moving at all.
Before Xiang Shaolong could speak, Xiao Pan said calmly, “Our men got there a step too late, and the fiend’s nefarious plan succeeded.”
Xiang Shaolong did not expect that not only is Xiao Pan not showing any sign of sadness at all, he is even calmer than normal and was struck speechless at that moment.
Xiao Pan turned around and said with a slight smile, “I’ve just given orders for Cheng Qiao and Du Bi to lead an army and attack immediately. You can tell them later when you go out that I am suddenly taken ill because of my distraught over w.a.n.g Chi’s death. That Lao Ai will certainly send Mao Jiao here on pretense of treating my illness to check if it’s true. We can then make use of Mao Jiao’s mouth to trick Lao Ai.”
Xiang Shaolong asked in shock, “Is Lu Buwei and Lao Ai really collaborating?”
This is something that has never been mentioned in history books!
Xiao Pan said with a frosty smile, “The Dowager wants me to appoint Lao Ai as the Marquis of Changxin, to be on the same status as Lu Buwei and Lu Buwei did not raise objections at all. So what do you think has happened?”
He paused and added, “Time and again I’ve wanted to summon w.a.n.g Jian back but Lu Buwei and Lao Ai joined forces to stop me. Without the Dowager’s permission, there’s nothing that I, as the ruler, is allowed to do. Now our troops are all tied up fighting in the other 3 states. Other than the three main armies in Xianyang, we’re only left with the reinforcement troops and the total manpower is only about 120,000 men, totally powerless to mount a military expedition against Cheng Qiao and Du Bi. So I can only feign illness to lure them here to attack and let Teacher take care of them. Other than this, there’s really no other way.”
Xiang Shaolong sighed, “Your Highness have indeed grown up.”
Xiao Pan looked heavenward and sighed, “Ever since Mother was killed, circ.u.mstances forced me to do all these. There will be no mercy or reason to speak of.”
Xiang Shaolong sighed together with him and left the library. When everyone started surrounding him, Xiang Shaolong exclaimed, “His Highness has taken ill!”
Xiao Pan’s ‘illness’ lasted three whole months and the morning court sessions was handled by Zhu Ji.
Xiang Shaolong and Huan Qi stepped up on the conscription efforts and increased the numbers of the reinforcement troops to 50,000 men and spent their days training the soldiers outside the city. They also imagined the route that Cheng Qiao would take and strengthened the defenses and communication along the route.
By the time the snow melted, news have arrived that once Cheng Qiao heard that his ‘elder brother’ was taken seriously ill, not only did he disobey orders to attack Shangtang but tried to strike a deal with the Zhaos, asking Du Bi to gather 150,000 men to quietly avoid the cities along the way and go straight at Xianyang.
Cheng Qiao’s rebel troops took the boats and arrived at the north of Xianyang first before sneaking their way to Xianyang.
Xiang Shaolong has been keeping a close watch on their activities and transferred 20,000 cavalry in the night, together with 50,000 reinforcement troops and set up a trap at an ideal, prearranged location for Cheng Qiao’s army.
On top of that he let out fake information that Xianyang’s troops have gone to Zuicheng for military practice.
Therefore when news of Cheng Qiao’s army approaching emerged, the whole of Xianyang was alarmed.
At this time Xiao Pan really needs to lie down in bed and only a few trusted aides like Lord Changping, Li Si etc knows what is truly happening.
Lao Ai and Zhu Ji were obviously at a loss. This obviously means that they are not aware that Cheng Qiao and Du Bi will raise an army and rebel openly.
Lu Buwei is still hiding at Bashu, so that others will not know what he is up to but no matter what, it won’t be anything good.
The chaos in Xianyang will naturally by relayed to Cheng Qiao and Du Bi by spies so that it will make them belittle their opponents and grow careless.
It’s difficult to blame them, who would have guessed that the future Emperor Qin would know 4 months ago that they will rebel?
Dealing with a veteran general like Du Bi, it’s impossible to set up an ambush anywhere. Because he’ll certainly have vanguards to ensure that the roads ahead are safe before the main military force will follow behind.
But Xiang Shaolong also has his own brilliant strategy.
He split his army into half, with Huan Qi and Jing Jun leading 20,000 men and hiding at a secret location outside Xianyang city.
He and Teng Yi will lead the remaining 50,000 elite troops and hide somewhere far away in a dense forest, away from the route that Cheng Qiao’s army will take and quietly wait for their prey to arrive.
The weather is good this day. Cheng Qiao’s vanguards arrived about 100 miles north of Xianyang city and because they heard news that the defending troops won’t be leaving the gates to meet the enemy but will only try to defend the city to their deaths, Cheng Qiao and Du Bi did not especially fortify their defenses.
At this point in time Xiang Shaolong and Teng Yi were amongst some bushes about 5 miles away at the top of the hill, looking at the enemy troops snaking through the valleys magnificently.
Teng Yi said with a laugh, “If Lu Buwei knows that Cheng Qiao is now rallying his forces to attack under the excuse of ‘Eliminating Lu and Lao to save his Imperial Brother’, he’ll definitely be so incensed that he’ll vomit blood and die.”
Xiang Shaolong took a careful look at the magnificent and tidy forces with the brightly polished armor and banners fluttering in the wind. He shook his head and said, “I think Lu Buwei has already guessed that Cheng Qiao is immature. That’s why he is deliberately making use of Cheng Qiao’s hands to eliminate his Highness and us, and to get rid of Lao Ai and the Dowager. Then he can summon the two big armies led by Guan Zhongxie and the Meng brothers and get rid of Cheng Qiao and Du Bi. By then he can take the throne for himself.”
Teng Yi guffawed, “Third Brother really knows this conniving thief well but when it comes to trickery, other than Third Brother, no one else is his match.”
Xiang Shaolong replied with a smile, “But this time it’s more accurate to say that Lu Buwei is not his Highness’s match.”
Teng Yi sighed, “He’s finally grown up.”
At this time Zhou Liang came with Eagle King to report that the enemy’s backup force is finally pa.s.sing by.
Xiang Shaolong knows that the time has come and on his command, all the riders moved out and making use of the cover of the dense forest, flowed closely on the tail of the enemy troops.
Their plan is very precise. When the enemy is resting and starting to build the fire to cook, this will be the time for them to surround them.
Cheng Qiao’s main force indeed was not worried about the enemy attacking and actually set up camp at a hill where the official road to Xianyang goes past. On both sides, there were tall and dense trees and the tents of 50,000 men filled up the entire hill.
Before they have a chance to place a scout at the tallest point, Xiang Shaolong and Teng Yi’s 50,000 elite troops have already arrived silently through the forest.
Xiang Shaolong is after all someone who has undergone strict military training and knows that in such a situation, there is no place for mercy at all. He hardened his heart and gave orders to eliminate all enemies and while there’s still a little light from the setting sun, thoroughly surrounded the enemy’s 50,000 men and waited for the chance to attack.
As the eastern sky started to turn bright, the enemy soldiers started to wake up and move around. They were talking and joking loudly as they prepared to cook breakfast.
Xiang Shaolong gave the command and the drums started beating as 50,000 elite cavalry charged out of the dense forest and launched a full force attack.
This has turned into a ma.s.sacre where the enemy had no chance to retaliate at all.
The enemy soldiers threw down their rice bowls and did not even have time to get their horses before trying to escape on their own.
After a few charges, the backup enemy force has totally disintegrated as all of them are running around on barefoot trying to save their own lives.
The defeat of the backup troops immediately impacted on the nearly 90,000 main force. They were about to turn back and give support when Huan Qi and Jing Jun, each leading 10,000 elite cavalry sandwiched them from the left and right. Cheng Qiao’s army was being attacked from the front and back and they were totally flabbergasted.
Xiang Shaolong and Teng Yi came upon them forcefully from the back and with just a single charge, Cheng Qiao’s army was immediately thrown into a crazy and chaotic situation.
Cheng Qiao and Du Bi have now become public enemy, as thousands of soldiers surrounded them.
Xiang Shaolong, holding his Hundred Battles Blade, led the way as he charged into the enemy’s formation and personally killed Du Bi. At the same time he followed Xiao Pan’s orders and dealt with Cheng Qiao on the spot, getting rid of this source of trouble.
In this battle, only about 10,000 odd of Xiang Shaolong’s men were injured or dead and can be considered an extremely outstanding battle outcome.
About 40,000 of Cheng Qiao’s rebel soldiers were killed while the remaining 80,000 who did not manage to escape all surrendered.
Xiang Shaolong waited until the next morning before ordering his men to send the report to Xiao Pan.
Xiao Pan was ecstatic as he personally led his men to come and commend the army.
That night he stayed in Xiang Shaolong’s Commander’s tent.
After dinner, Xiao Pan was in a good mood and climbed up with everyone to the high point to admire the magnificent and mysterious scenery of the wilderness under the moonlight.
This future Emperor Qin was especially elated and asked with a laugh, “Who will help me exterminate Pu Hu’s faction?”
As soon as Xiang Shaolong heard the word ‘exterminate’, he thought of Shan Rou who is far away in Qi, his heart shuddered and he dared not reply at all.
Jing Jun, Teng Yi and Huan Qi regarded Xiang Shaolong as their leader and since he did not say anything, they maintained their silence as well.
w.a.n.g Ling took a step forward and answered with a cold snort, “Leave this matter to me then!”
Everyone, including Xiao Pan, was taken aback.
Because of his grief over w.a.n.g He’s death, w.a.n.g Ling’s health has been extremely bad and just the torturous journey of following the army may prove too strenuous for him.
Besides, Pu Hu’s remaining power is still very considerable and he will never sit still and be captured. On top of that, he is very close to the Zhaos, so this matter may look very easy on the surface but in fact it’s very difficult.
w.a.n.g Ling have not led an army for many years and now he is asking for permission to go is prove of his determination to avenge w.a.n.g He.
Xiao Pan greatly regretted his words but now that w.a.n.g Ling has made the request, if he rejects it will mean that he finds him too old for such a task and that, to a Qin, is the greatest humiliation.
Xiao Pan had no choice but pretend to be elated and said, “Then I will appoint Great General w.a.n.g as the Commander with General Huan Qi as the Deputy Commander. Both of you will leave as soon as possible.”
w.a.n.g Ling and Huan Qi hurriedly knelt down to receive the imperial edict.
Xiao Pan said solemnly, “The success or failure of this battle will depend on speed, and catch Pu Hu totally unaware. Otherwise if we allow him to stay safely behind Dunliu City, and with the Zhaos backing him up, this matter will prove extremely difficult.”
Everyone nodded their heads in agreement.
More and more, Xiang Shaolong is beginning to feel this future Emperor Qin’s superior talent and stratagem. And he is better than him in the way that he cares only about the outcome and will never be concerned about feelings or loyalty. Only a hard-hearted person like this will be able to become the world’s most fearsome leader in this warring states era.
They returned to the tent and Xiao Pan looked for Xiang Shaolong for a private discussion.
Xiao Pan said with a wry smile, “I’m very worried about w.a.n.g Ling, afraid that he won’t be able to survive the hardship of a military campaign.”
Xiang Shaolong knows that he feeling a little peeved that he had not volunteered first and replied with a sigh, “What do you want me to do?”
Xiao Pan sighed, “I can blame anyone, but I will never dare to blame Teacher. Before I rode here, I did think of the idea of eliminating Lu and Lao’s factions totally once I return to the capital. When Lu Buwei comes back, he will be executed immediately right outside the city gates and get it over and done with. Does Teacher think this plan is workable?”
Xiang Shaolong replied, “This is a dangerous move. Firstly we have no excuse to do this, and Lu and Lao’s factions are too big and strong. Just their family warriors added up makes up almost 20,000 men and there’s absolutely a lot of people to get rid of. Besides Guan Zhongxie is still outside with his army and the city troops are under their command. On top of that we have that problematic Pu Hu. Our military power in Xianyang will be even more stretched out. Your Highness, you must reconsider.”
Xiao Pan was vexed, “I know as well that this is not the best time, but do I have to wait until after the coronation before I can strike? Now I find that waiting another two more days is already too long a wait, not to mention another two years.”
Xiang Shaolong said, “Those who wants to achieve big things must learn tolerance. If Lu Buwei hears any rumors on this, with his influence and tricks, maybe he will be able to encourage Bashu to rebel and that is certainly not a good thing for Great Qin. Besides, he should already be well prepared by now, so that he can fight for the throne with Cheng Qiao once Cheng Qiao’s uprising is successful. If we choose this time to strike, Qin will be thrown into chaos.”
Xiao Pan nodded his head in agreement and said after a moment’s silence, “How can we summon w.a.n.g Jian back?”
Xiang Shaolong replied, “It’ll be just before your Highness’s coronation ceremony! By then your Highness will soon have absolute power and no one will dare question your orders. By then, you can just give a secret imperial edict and this matter will be accomplished.”
An icy cold light flashed past Xiao Pan’s eyes as he said, “We’ll do just that. I want those conniving thieves to be caught unaware when w.a.n.g Jian returns and by then I’ll make sure they get their comeuppance.”
Xiang Shaolong was silent for a moment before he suddenly said in a low voice, “Xiao Pan! I want you to promise Xiang Shaolong one thing.”
Xiao Pan’s body trembled. Ever since they came to Qin, this is the first time that Xiang Shaolong called him Xiao Pan, and addressed himself as Xiang Shaolong.
His eyes filled with deep feelings, Xiao Pan nodded his head, “Teacher, please speak, Xiao Pan is listening.”
Xiang Shaolong said solemnly, “No matter what happens in future, you must treat the Dowager kindly.”
Xiao Pan was stunned for a moment. He lowered his head and pondered over this for a while before replying emphatically, “Xiao Pan will never dare disobey Teacher’s orders. But this will only be limited to Imperial Mother, all others will not be included.”
Xiang Shaolong knows that he is determined to kill the two children that Zhu Ji had borne for Lao Ai. He also knows that it’s very difficult for him to interfere in such matters so he can only answer with a wry smile, “All right, your Highness!”
Xiao Pan came closer, his hands clasped Xiang Shaolong’s shoulders and pulled him in for an embrace, and cried out frantically, “Teacher! Please do not leave Xiao Pan! Don’t you want to witness for yourself how Xiao Pan will unify the world and establish the best dynasty that has never been seen in centuries past?”
Xiang Shaolong turned his arms and held him tightly, saying sadly, “Teacher will have to leave and you have to destroy all written mention about me as well so that I will not leave a trace in history. This is fate. Even if I don’t tell you to do all these, you will ultimately do so anyway.”
Xiao Pan was taken aback and moved back a little, looking at him morosely, “How can this happen, I will never do that, no one should forget about Teacher’s great and meritorious contributions.”
Xiang Shaolong calmed down and grabbing his broad shoulders, he exclaimed, “Ever since I first saw you at the Zhao Palace, I’ve always regarded you as my son. Seeing you grow up and becoming an adult, even turning into the most powerful leader in the word, the contentment I feel in my heart is really indescribable. But precisely because of this relation, I will have to leave you. On one hand it’s because I have fulfilled my promise to your mother, to groom her son into a talent. On the other hand I want to pursue my own life and dreams. Only after I leave will you be able to totally cut off all the relationships in your past and go freely to pursue your own dreams, do you understand? We must never have this discussion again in future.”
For a moment, Xiao Pan’s eyes reddened, like a child totally in awe with his father as he laid his head on his broad chest and spoke no further.