Book 21 Chap 2 – Risky Moves
When Xiang Shaolong work up, he realized he’s lying on a wooden bed in a village hut. Medication was applied to the wounds on his body and he’s changed into clean clothes. Such a feeling of comfort is really indescribable.
The village lady who was waiting by his bed saw him wake up and ran out in shock to call the others.
In a short while, the village leader Jing Nian and a few village elders came. They all treated him with the respect due to a deity. After listening to him relate what happened, Jing Nian said, “We did send out our men to find information. The soldiers are still searching for Master Xiang. We heard that if Master Xiang is captured, there is a reward of a hundred pieces of gold so they are all trying their best.
Xiang Shaolong sat up, eating the food on the bed and asking at the same time, “Does the whole village know that I am here?”
Jing Nian replied, “We won’t be so careless, a person’s heart is unfathomable. Luckily the person who found Master Xiang unconscious outside our village is my son, so only the few of us know about Master Xiang.”
Another elder Jing Xiong added, “Master Xiang, just rest a.s.sured and stay here to tend to your injuries. Once the matter dies down a little, we’ll a.s.sign men to send you back to Qin.”
Xiang Shaolong shook his head, “To return to Qin from here is even more difficult than ascending heaven. Also, I can’t stay here for long or I will bring you catastrophe.”
Jing Xiong said, “In that case our whole clan might as well accompany Master Xiang back to Qin.” All the elders nodded their head vigorously in agreement.
Xiang Shaolong said, “Of course I will welcome all of you to Qin, but now is not the right time. It’ll have to wait until I return to Qin, that’s the only way to ensure nothing will happen.”
Another elder asked, “Then what should we do now?”
Xiang Shaolong thought hard for a while before answering, “I’ll have to trouble you to send out someone who is agile and totally trustworthy to go to Zhongmou and inform Teng Yi and Jing Jun that I am safe but can only go back after a period of time. Tell them to lead the army well and wait patiently.”
Jing Xiong said, “That is easy, our villagers frequently go to Zhongmou to pick herbs. Not only are they familiar with the route, they are also friendly with the people there so they definitely won’t raise any suspicion.”
Xiang Shaolong was relieved of one issue and said, “The soldiers will search their way here sooner or later. There are a lot of talents amongst the people after me. You can use my clothes and items to create an illusion that I have ran somewhere else. This will buy us another two to three days and I can take this time to recover and start my escape.”
After some discussion, Jing Xiong and the elders all left the room.
Xiang Shaolong fell into a deep sleep and by the time he woke up it was the middle of the night and all was quiet except for the howling wind outside and the barking dogs. He can’t help but feel his emotions go on a roller coaster ride.
The first time he came to this place, it was the middle of winter and with him at that time was the royal Zhao Princess, Zhao Qian. They spent a loving night in each other’s arms them but how can they predict that their destiny will end with Zhao Qian’s horrible death.
He can’t help but feel a deep hatred for Lu Buwei welling up inside him.
He screamed in his heart: No matter what! I, Xiang Shaolong must return to Xianyang alive and witness Xiao Pan’s ascension to the throne and Lu Buwei’s horrible end.
When day broke, Jing Nian came with news that will make him glad.
Turns out that although his 2,000 strong army was totally exterminated, but their sacrifice was worth it, for it allowed the main bulk of the Qin army to return to Zhongmou safely. Right now Li Mu’s army is surrounding and attacking Zhongmou but there are news that he has suffered quite a lot of casualties as well.
Xiang Shaolong was relieved. They had predicted that the Zhaos will launch a counter-attack at Zhongmou so they’ve already stocked up on grains and fortified the city walls. Besides, with Huan Qi’s army to support them, even if the enemy is Li Mu, he’ll not find it easy to reclaim Zhongmou.
With Li Mu’s intelligence, the only way for him ultimately is to retreat back to Changcheng.
Jing Nian added, “I sent someone to Zhongmou yesterday, so there won’t be any problem with this issue. Hai!”
Xiang Shaolong knows that something is on his mind and said with a smile, “You’re elderly, please speak your mind.”
Jing Nian said, “Master Xiang is right. Another troop of soldiers went to the Shang family village 50 miles from here yesterday and they were searching and s.n.a.t.c.hing things, even injuring a few of their people. The Shang family village saw that there were a lot of soldiers so they dare not make any comments although they were furious.”
Xiang Shaolong secretly sighed and asked, “How long will it take to travel from there to here?”
Jing Nian said, “At least 2 days. Master Xiang can wait until tomorrow morning before you leave.”
He paused and added, “It seems that the Han w.a.n.g’an have sent out a team of people from Nanzheng of d.u.c.h.eng who are expert in tracking in the wilderness to search for Master Xiang. Some of our people came back from Nanzheng and said that the two states of Zhao and Han already have secret meetings to discuss how to capture you.”
He took out a map from his sleeve and pa.s.sed it to Xiang Shaolong, saying, “I drew this map personally over the last two days. It may be a little rough but I daresay that it’s generally correct.”
Xiang Shaolong was overjoyed. He got dressed and came down the bed, feeling more than half of his energy coming back. If he have another day’s rest, he’ll have higher confidence that he will be able to escape.
The two of them sat down at the corner of a table and opened up the map to study it.
Jing Nian pointed at a cross in the middle of the map and said, “This is our Jing family village. On the upper right corner at the northeast, about a hundred miles away is the Capital of Han, Nanzheng. Another 200 miles northeast from there, that’s the Capital of the state of Wei, Daliang.”
Xiang Shaolong said, “I’ll burn this map immediately after I’m done seeing it. Otherwise if someone else gets a hand on this map, they’ll know that you have been protecting me.”
Jing Nian’s expression changed slightly, for this is a point that he had never considered.
After Xiang Shaolong let Jing Nian explain in detail the river and mountain terrain drawn on the map, he kept the map and said, “It’s best that even Grandpa Nian doesn’t know my escape route, then you won’t be able to accidentally reveal anything and incur other people’s suspicions.”
Jing Nian nodded his head gladly.
Xiang Shaolong made the best use of time to rest and when he woke up, he memorized the map. After much thought and deliberation, he finally decided to take the risky route and go towards the Wei border before returning to the Sate of Zhao where he is most familiar with. After that he will travel west towards Tunliu and meet up with Huan Qi and he’ll be able to accomplish his grand plan of thousand miles escape.
Once he’s sure that he has remembered all the details on the map, he burned it.
After dinner, Xiang Shaolong decided to travel while it’s dark. Jing Nian has already prepared rations, water, clothes and also collected a small amount of money for him as well.
Most interestingly, Jing Xiong gave him a rabbit in a bamboo cage and explained, “This is a simple way to deal with the hounds. As hunting dogs are very sensitive to a rabbit’s scent, their scent can cover the scent emitted from a human body. If the hunting dogs sniff out the rabbit and come after you, just release the rabbit and let it lure the hunting dogs into a wild chase.”
Jing Nian added, “We’ve discussed, after Master Xiang leaves, we’ll abandon the village and move to the middle of the mountains to avoid trouble. Regarding Xiao Jun’s move to the State of Qin, some news have more or less leaked out. Since the officials have gone to the Shang family village, maybe they’ll find out about this so even if Master Xiang has never been here, they may still vent their anger on us.”
Xiang Shaolong felt apologetic and asked, “When do you plan to leave?”
Jing Nian replied, “We will delay no further. Once Master Xiang leaves we’ll pack up immediately and move.”
After bidding one another farewells, Xiang Shaolong carried the possible scapegoat, the rabbit and once again started on his escape journey.
Xiang Shaolong rode on the healthy horse that Jing Nian gave him and travelled a distance towards Daliang in the northeast. As he did not want the horse to be over exhausted, he stopped to let the horse rest.
He can still make out the lights and lanterns in the Jing family village a distant away.
This horse is very intuitive as it just breathed quietly on the plains, not making any whinnying sounds at all.
He plans to spend 3 days with this horse.
Once they pa.s.s the flat plains, he will go into the mountainous area on foot. That would be much safer.
Honestly, he does not believe that anyone will be able to follow him in a mountainous area.
But if not for the Jing family village offering him refuge and a chance to take a break as well as getting food, horse, bows and arrows and some necessities, the Hans may very well have caught up with him by now.
After all there is a limit to one’s endurance.
He can’t help but feel positive as he thought of the scene when he’s finally reunited with Teng, Jing and the rest, until his safe return to Xianyang to be welcomed by his beloved wife, maids and son.
Suddenly he could hear hoofbeats coming from the front.
Xiang Shaolong was alarmed as he flew up his horse and galloped up to the top of a nearby hill so that he can take a good look at the situation.
About 5 miles away, what looks like a fire dragon that was made up of torches was snaking its way here, their destination must likely to be the Jing family village.
Xiang Shaolong’s limbs went cold immediately.
Jing Nian’s concern is not for nothing, the enemy has indeed gotten news from the Shang family village and knows that someone from the Jing family village has gone to Xianyang.
In this era there’s not a lot of people with the family name Jing and it’ll be easy to guess their way to Jing Jun and Jing Shan. Otherwise why would the enemy rush there in the night?
If Xiang Shaolong is a selfish person, he will run away with no hesitation at this very moment, the further he can run the better. But how can he escape by himself.
Just as he was feeling at a loss, he suddenly had an idea. He got hold of an opportunity and galloped towards a dense forest that the enemy must pa.s.s through to go to the Jing family village and took out his fire starter to start fire on several spots.
If it’s spring or summer, this plan would not have worked. But now the wind is blowing and the atmosphere is dry. The light from the stars illuminated the plains and in a short while the fire spread and thick smoke rushed up to the sky.
Not only can this fire prevent the enemy from moving forward, it can also convey a most powerful message to the people at the Jing family village and urge them to leave faster.
Xiang Shaolong was worried that they won’t run after him so he deliberately made the horse ran loudly and swiftly on the plains towards the northeast.
He’d rather lose his own life than to let anyone in the Jing family village come to any harm.
By the time it’s dawn the next day, Xiang Shaolong is still riding on the endless plains but he has already slowed down.
This time, he deliberately revealed his whereabouts to lure the enemy to ran after him so that they will have no time to deal with the people in Jing family village. If his opponent has expert trackers, this plan of his will be a very dangerous one.
From time to time he will come across rivers or streams in his way. Such pretty scenery which during normal circ.u.mstances is a feast to the eyes, have not become his obstacles instead.
Luckily right until now there’s no sight of the pursuing enemy. If such a situation continues, he will be able to safely reach the unpopulated mountainous areas at the Han and Wei border.
The Weis will never expect that instead of going west towards Qin, he’d actually travel east towards the Han border so they certainly won’t put up their guards there. By then he’ll be able to travel back to Tunliu via the Han border.
The horse is foaming at the mouth by now and Xiang Shaolong had no choice but to stop and stand guard at a high area to let the horse graze and drink at a small stream below the slope.
He has no appet.i.te for food at all but to preserve his energy, he had no choice but to force himself to swallow two mouthfuls of dried meat.
The taste is actually not too bad.
These past few years, there were very little occasions for him to be roaming in the wilderness alone and he can’t help but think about his strange time travel encounter.
In a blink of an eye, it’s been seven years.
During these years, even those closest to him like Ji Yanran, Teng Yi etc does not know his secret. He can only keep this piece of earth shattering secret that he is actually from the 21st century deep in his heart.
As for Xiao Pan’s secret, there’s still Teng Yi and Wu Tingfang who knows.
He is very clear on what Xiao Pan’s fate will be, because Xiao Pan will become Emperor Qin, the one who built and unified China.
But he is totally unclear about his own fate.
Even the question of returning to Xianyang alive is an unknown right at this moment.
Just as he was pondering, he could hear hoof beats coming from afar again.
Xiang Shaolong was shocked and looking over, his countenance changed immediately.
He saw that near the woods about two miles away, about 50 odd healthy horses were galloping at full speed but only half of the horses have riders while the others were without saddles.
From the way that the horses can run so neatly and swiftly behind the main group without being leashed, he knows that, not only are these horses quality horses but also well trained warhorses.
After so many years of experience, he has learnt how to differentiate people by their riding skills.
These 27 riders could still weave left and right effortlessly in such mountainous and unfamiliar terrain, he knew that they are all first rated riders.
The worst thing is that his riding and archery skills are still his weakest. On such flat terrain and with them having back up horses to switch to, if they manage to catch up with him, he won’t even have the chance to retaliate. The enemy can catch up with him so quickly, so they must be expert trackers. Maybe these are the ones that Jing Nian heard, the experts under specific orders by Han w.a.n.g’an to arrest him.
Xiang Shaolong surveyed his surroundings, gritted his teeth and dashed down the slope. He jumped onto the horse’s back and quietly muttered ‘Sorry, horse’, as he urged the horse to gallop around the small hill and run for his life.
His destination is the dense forest at the end of the flat plains. If he can make his way there, he’ll be able to make use of the surroundings there to have a life and death battle with the enemy. He will not sit there and be killed and sully the reputation of the best special task force warrior of the 21st century.
Xiang Shaolong removed his gear from the horse and used a cloth to tie two heavy stones which is about his weight and hung it on the horse’s saddle. After that he used a sharp knife and pierced into the horse’s b.u.t.tock.
The horse screamed and galloped into the dense forest with the stones on it.
By now the pursuing enemy is about half a mile away. If not for the fact that Xiang Shaolong stepped into the stream and travelled about half a mile along it so that the enemy will not be able to find his footsteps, they may already have caught up with him.
But since the enemy can still follow him, it means that they obviously have very outstanding trackers among them.
He dare not hesitate and hurriedly carried his luggage and ran deep into the forest.
After walking for a while, he could hear hoof beats pa.s.sing him from behind and quickly fading away.
Xiang Shaolong heaved a sigh of relief as he sped up and ran towards a tall hill in the forest.
Even if he came upon vines or roots blocking his way, he dare not use his sword to cut them away for fear of leaving traces behind.
He has gone for about a hundred odd feet when he could hear the hoof beats hurriedly returning from the way they left, straight towards his position.
Xiang Shaolong calmed down instead at this time.
As a member of the special task force, it is a requirement and an iron rule that one must keep calm in the face of impending danger.
He quietly a.n.a.lyzed the situation and thought that since the enemy could tell that it’s a trap, he is sure that they are not only relying on hoof prints to pursue him. Just as he was feeling perplexed, he heard barking coming nearer and nearer and from the sound of it, there’s only one dog.
Xiang Shaolong was suddenly enlightened and was feeling ecstatic instead of shocked. He hid himself among some thick bushes, squatted down and removed the bamboo cage with the rabbit from his back and waited patiently.
By now the sky is slowly getting darker. Xiang Shaolong took out his dagger and peeped through the leaves, totally concentrating on the movements outside.
The dog barks stopped only to hear hasty footsteps coming nearer as the enemies abandoned their horses to go on foot.
In a short while, more than ten odd black shadows that were spread out came slowly towards him from about 30 feet away, with one of them holding on to a leash with a small dog at the other end, barking madly as it strained towards his hiding place.
Xiang Shaolong quietly opened the cage.
The rabbit was already trembling in fear when it heard the barks earlier and now that it saw an escape route, it shot out like an arrow and ran off towards the left.
That dog was indeed instantly alert and turned towards that direction, barking and running madly.
The person holding the leash shouted, “Hurry! Spot is running towards that direction!”
The enemy all ran after it.
Once Xiang Shaolong has made sure that all the enemy has retreated, he jumped up and followed after them, quietly thinking to himself, ‘Don’t blame me for being ruthless but in such a situation, there’s no place for mercy at all.’