Read Novel A Step into the Past Chapter 258. Please!
Book 23 Chapter 05 – Touring Cow Mountain
Li Yuan is a guest resident at Tingzhu Villa, which is located just two streets away from Tingsong Villa. From this arrangement, one can infer that Feng Fei’s status is equivalent to that of a State Chancellor Li Yuan.
Arriving at the Villa entrance, he reported his name Shen Liang to the sentry. Upon hearing his name, the guard came to attention and respectfully saluted: “Good day to you Master Shen, Chancellor has left instructions about your possible visit. However, Chancellor has just left the Villa. Would Master Shen like to leave a message?”
Xiang Shaolong initially wanted to leave a note asking Li Yuan to come and look for him but rationalize that it is inappropriate given his lowly status. He simply remarked: “I have to trouble Mister to inform Chancellor that I did came by. That’s all.”
At this juncture, the central gate swung wide open and an elaborate carriage escorted by several riders in the front and back drove out of the residence. As the carriage window curtains are not drawn up, the pa.s.senger could not been seen.
As the carriage drew further and further away, Xiang Shaolong suppressed the urge to inquire about its occupant and began trekking his way home.
The weather was excellent; it was cold but it was a comfortable kind of cool. As Xiang Shaolong strode along the congested and lively streets among other pedestrians and vehicles, his heart, on the other hand, was feeling lonely and solitary.
While he was on the run, all his energy and time is dedicated towards avoiding enemy search teams and related considerations. Although he has entered Lin Zi and is now surrounded by both old and new friends, he was feeling lonesome instead.
He glanced about his surroundings, soaking in the magnificent views of the Qi Capital, deeply experiencing the meaning of the proverb ‘Surrounded by luxury, feeling sad and lonely’.
Besides Xiao Yuetan, there is no one he could trust.
The most maddening fact is that he did not have any warriors at his personal disposal. Otherwise, he could simply send someone to keep Han Chuang under surveillance and easily determine if Han Chuang would betray him or not. For example, if Han Chuang visits Guo Kai on a regular basis, it would indicate his disloyalty.
The Three States have always been on intimate terms with one another and Guo Kai’s Lady Boss is Han Chuang’s clanswoman Han Jing. If he wants to do something against Xiang Shaolong’s interests, both men would definitely form a partnership. Under those circ.u.mstances, even Lord Longyang could not voice his objection.
Their only stumbling block is Li Yuan but whether Li Yuan would risk offending the Three States to protect him is still an unknown fact.
As his mind weighed down with these issues, his senses suddenly tingled with alarm. A single horseman is seen riding towards him from the front and as he got nearer, the rider gazed downwards at him, checking: “How do I address Brother?”
Xiang Shaolong stared at him with astonishment and after confirming that he has never seen this man before in his life, he raised his alertness and quizzed: “What is going on?”
The rider was reasonably polite and smiled: “My Mistress is Lady Qingxiu and I was commanded by her to invite Mister to meet her. As Mistress did not tell me the honourable name of Mister, I had to trouble you for it.”
Realizing that the convoy which departed earlier from Tingzhu Villa belongs to Lady Qingxiu, Xiang Shaolong secretly thought: either Li Yuan has told her about his presence in Lin Zi or his disguise is really terrible.
Thus, he gave his name as Shen Liang and accompanied the horseman to meet this beauty who has had an unhappy marriage.
Boarding Lady Qingxiu’s carriage that was waiting by the roadside, the beauty who has concealed her gorgeous face behind a few layers of veil greeted in her usual wintery voice: “How are you doing, Great General! Please sit beside Qingxiu.”
Xiang Shaolong is feeling disappointed that he did not get to see her face. Additionally, he is conscious that her invitation for him to sit down beside her is not because of intimacy but rather a more convenient way to hold a secret conversation. He hurriedly stabilized his emotions and sat down.
A whiff of womanly fragrance began invading his nose and mind as the carriage move slowly along the busy highway of the ancient capital.
All of a sudden, his loneliness has completely evaporated. As the carriage shook occasionally, causing their shoulders to knock against each other, he could not help but recall the wonderful and moving time in Daliang when Ji Yanran shared a similar episode with him.
Lady Qingxiu plainly state: “Great General’s masquerade is truly brilliant. If not for Qingxiu hearing about Great General’s arrival in Lin Zi from Chancellor Li (Yuan), I would not have recognized you.”
A relieved Xiang Shaolong bitterly smiled: “I certainly hope Chancellor Li would not tell everyone he met that I am here in the State of Qi.”
Lady Qingxiu was displeased: “Chancellor Li is not someone who does not know what he is doing. He did not hide the truth from me because after all, Qingxiu is the best friend of Grand Tutor Qin!”
Xiang Shaolong shot his mouth off: “I thought Your Ladyship is not on good terms with Chancellor Lee!”
Looking out of the window through the curtain, Lady Qingxiu kept silent for some time before softly suggesting: “It is snowing again. I wonder what scenery Cow Mountain will offer? Is Great General interested to accompany Qingxiu for a tour of Cow Mountain?”
Xiang Shaolong did not expect her to propose a tour out of the blue and even invited him to accompany her. He stammered: “Cow Mountain?” At the same time, his heart was filled with surprise and shock at her warm hospitality.
The sky began to darken as flakes of snows gently and feebly descended on earth.
Appearing to be in deep contemplation, Lady Qingxiu stared out of the window and gently articulated: “Touring Cow Mountain during the rainy Spring season is widely regarded as the top attraction among the eight top touring locations of Lin Zi. Due to recent deforestation, Cow Mountain is wastefully degenerating into a barren highland. Fortunately, after a bout of tree planting, it is overheard that it has regained its spread of bountiful forestry and seas of greenery. Of course this cannot be seen as it is still winter!”
Xiang Shaolong finally discovered the origin of the saying: As barren as Cow Mountain. He nodded: “Since Your Ladyship is feeling adventurous, I dare not reject your offer.”
After instructing the convoy to proceed towards Cow Mountain, Lady Qingxiu enthused with antic.i.p.ation: “When Qingxiu was young, I did visit Cow Mountain with my late father. It was in March during Spring. There were gushing streams formed by spring water seeping out of crevices of Cow Mountain, materializing into a descending body of water. With ma.s.s evaporation, it resembles a combination of rain and mist, giving the impression of a smoky downpour. Till today, the scene is deeply ingrained in my memory.”
Listening to her eloquent description and witnessing her graceful aura, Xiang Shaolong was immensely mesmerized. Secretly picturing her face veils to be the smoky rain of Cow Mountain, he was bedazzled at her attractive though blurry face.
Lady Qingxiu continued: “Qingxiu is always perturbed when revisiting past sites of beautiful sceneries. I am deeply fearful that it may become different from what I previously remembered.”
Xiang Shaolong was taken aback: “Then why are we revisiting this attraction?”
Lady Qingxiu shook her head slowly: “I do not understand too. Maybe it is because I am presently accompanied by the earth-shattering figure Xiang Shaolong!”
Xiang Shaolong noted: “It appears that I hold certain weightage in the heart of Your Ladyship.”
Glancing at him, Lady Qingxiu whispered: “Earlier, when I noticed Great General standing alone outside the Villa gates and comparing it to Great General being at the top of the command chain in Xianyang, I can clearly experience a world of difference between the two and the intense sensation of how things have changed with the times. Finally, I could not bear it and had to stop my carriage to see Great General. Does Great General find me ridiculous?”
Xiang Shaolong was startled: “So Your Ladyship is feeling sympathetic towards me.”
Shaking her head, Lady Qingxiu clarified: “It is not sympathy but adoration. Does Great General know that you are in grave danger?”
At this moment, the carriage drove through the city gates and headed towards the south.
Xiang Shaolong bitterly smiled: “I am sure there is a logical explanation behind Your Ladyship’s words. Shaolong is all ears.”
Lady Qingxiu simply admired: “In my entire life, it is once in a blue moon for Qingxiu to experience anything that matches Great General’s nonchalance and indifference about his safety. Even if it is not on the account of Senior Sister Qin, Qingxiu would a.s.sist you all the same.”
Suppressing his voice to a lower volume, Xiang Shaolong questioned: “Can your bodyguards be trusted?”
Lady Qingxiu a.s.sured: “Great General can put your mind at ease! These family warriors have been in my service for over ten years; in addition, they would never have guessed that you are Xiang Shaolong!” After a pause, she leaned in closer and speak with her breath landing on his ear and her veil occasionally rubbing against his face: “Chancellor Li entered the palace yesterday to look for my sister, Lady Ning and was wearing a depressed and pained expression. Only upon my interrogation did he reveal your affairs.”
Xiang Shaolong was thunderstruck: “This is bad. Did he say anything else?”
Lady Qingxiu lamented: “He would never confide the truth to me but I am certain that he truly appreciates and view Great General as his bosom buddy. However, he is the Chancellor and it is more often than not where he has to put aside his personal feelings and put the State’s interests above his own. Otherwise, he would not be so troubled.”
As if she does not want to get too close to him, Lady Qingxiu suddenly turned her face away, sighing a breath as she gazed out of the window.
Sighing along with her, Xiang Shaolong was speechless for some time. He concluded that when Li Yuan initially saw him, that was his genuine and authentic behavior but in afterthought, reality and practicability would set in. His troubled mind could also be due to Han Chuang giving pressure.
Except for Xiao Yuetan, who else can he trust now?
A word at a time, Lady Qingxiu slowly advised: “If not for the terrible weather, I would recommend Great General to simply depart now that we are outside the city. It will be a good and clean getaway.”
Recalling the days when he was critically ill and staggering along the unfamiliar roads of Daliang, Xiang Shaolong was filled with apprehension. He sighed: “I still have some unfinished business. Besides, I would certainly not be a sitting duck even if someone tries to come after me. Aye! Before Your Ladyship’s warning, I did antic.i.p.ate this development.”
Lady Qingxiu nodded: “History has long proven Xiang Shaolong to be someone who is able to overcome danger and difficulties. Until now, no one has a clear picture of what is going. Maybe I am just overly worried!” Abruptly, she joyfully pointed to a faraway hill beyond the window and exclaimed: “Look! That is the tomb of Guan Zhong, the famed Premier who a.s.sisted Henggong to acclaimed success and dominance.”
Naturally leaning forward and trailing her far gaze, Xiang Shaolong can only see the mountainous wilderness blanketed with a layer of silver snow and every tree branch laden with snowflakes. It was an absolutely spotless, breath-stopping white wonderland. The snowy landscape seems to have merged with the sky, resulting in no difference between the two.
Not far away a huge mountain stood erected as River Zi and River Nv, the two rivers meandered from east to west. Lined along the river sh.o.r.es were towering, centuries-old pine and birch trees. The backdrop was unbelievable.
Several mountains were connected to the first along the southern direction, forming a series of peaking mountain range. It was a breathtaking sight.
Lady Qingxiu lowered her head, softly remarking: “Great General, you…”
Only now did Xiang Shaolong realize his own chest is tightly pressed against the side of her shoulder. He awkwardly shifted away and after observing the environment, he perceived: “Without a ship to cross the river, we cannot ascend the mountain and enjoy the fantastic view from above!”
Lady Qingxiu simply decided: “It is time to go back! If I wanted to look for Great General in the future, what should I do?”
Noticing her tone turning chilly, Xiang Shaolong can feel his pride swelling and replied in a low voice: “Your Ladyship has better not get involved in this matter. Life and Death is predetermined. If Heaven does not bless me, Xiang Shaolong, what can I do? Man cannot go against the Will of Heaven.”
Lady Qingxiu lightly shuddered: “Man cannot go against the Will of Heaven. Great General is indeed open-minded. I shall not interfere any further.”
Back at Tingsong Villa, Xiang Shaolong’s mind is still persistently filled with images of Lady Qingxiu.
He could not understand the strong influence she exerts over him. It could be due to her indifferent and cold att.i.tude towards life or her graceful style of cool arrogance that has moved his heart.
Fortunately, he is bristling with alertness at the slightest sign of danger. Using his spare time, he a.n.a.lyzed the layout of Tingsong Villa down to the smallest details in readiness of a swift evacuation in times of peril. Only after retrieving his grappling hooks and ropes and securely fastening them around his waist did he finally steadied his frayed nerves.
Once he settled some routine troupe responsibilities and visited the bedridden but recovering Zhang Quan, he retreated to his own room for a break. Just as he was about to fall asleep, Dong Shuzen came a knocking.
Hugging his blanket, Xiang Shaolong sat up as Dong Shuzen nestled herself on the side of his bed. She was astonished: “Has Manager Shen caught a cold?”
Xiang Shaolong laughed: “I am as fit as a fiddle and can kill two tigers right now. What is the purpose behind Second Mistress’s visit?”
Calming down from her shock, Dong Shuzen patted her perky bosom, exclaiming: “You gave me a fright!” Shooting him a look, she admonished: “Must I visit you only when I have a purpose? Come! Let me give you a ma.s.sage. I guarantee you will have a good nap thereafter.”
Flipping his body and lying prostrate on his bed, Xiang Shaolong was pleased: “Let me experience the excellent ma.s.sage skills of Second Mistress.”
Dong Shuzen took off her outer coat and conveniently kicked her cotton shoes away. Sitting on his back, she reached out and grinded his shoulder muscles, revealing in a low voice: “I have discovered the culprit who switched the song sheet.”
Without thinking at all, Xiang Shaolong remarked: “It is Little Ning.” Little Ning is Zhu Xiuzhen’s personal serving maid.
Dong Shuzen was thrilled: “This time round, Manager Shen is wrong. The criminal is Zhang Quan himself. Little Ning did catch him acting sneakily near her room and found the room to be slightly untidy upon entering but did not think too much about it. She only confessed to this after Xiuzhen’s interrogation.”
Xiang Shaolong shook his head: “I do not believe a word of it. It is Little Ning framing Zhang Quan for her own wrongdoing. Ow! This spot is really comfortable. I am going to doze off!”
Dong Shuzen panicked: “Do not doze off yet. Do you have any news regarding the promise you committed to me?”
Xiang Shaolong knows she is asking about the issue of Feng Fei allowing her to sing solo for one of the routines. Distressed, he honestly admitted: “I have not had the opportunity to talk to her about it. Shall I update you tomorrow instead?”
Dong Shuzen p.r.o.ne down and embraced him in a bear hug, biting his ear as she questioned: “I heard that you and Han Chuang go way back and are old buddies. Would you a.s.sist him in harming me?”
Xiang Shaolong is not as confident about Han Chuang as before. He bitterly smiled: “We are just acquaintances! And definitely not old buddies as you mentioned. Second Mistress can put your mind at ease. As long as I am still breathing, I would do my best for Second Mistress.”
Dong Shuzen shivered once and wondered: “Shen Liang, why are you sounding so negative today? Where has your confidence and willpower disappeared to?”
Xiang Shaolong did a big body flip, pressing her below his body and greedily kissing her tender lips. It was only when she began to moan did he release her, explaining: “Life is unpredictable; no man can be confident about everything in the future. We can only strive to do our best which is why I require full trust and cooperation from both of you.”
Her pupils dilating as she stared at him, Dong Shuzen’s eyes begin to shine with searing flames of pa.s.sion as she whispered: “You are not only into men (but women as well).”
Xiang Shaolong bitterly laughed: “When did I ever admit I am into men?” At the same time, he was becoming highly aroused.
Ever since he reckoned the possibility of betrayal by Han Chuang or the others, his spirits have sunk to unfathomable depths and are at an all time low. He was desperate to indulge in some excitement to distract himself and Dong Shuzen has ‘volunteered’ to provide the excitement he needs.
Maybe it is only through her 5exy figure can he forget about all the unhappy events.
Hooking his neck with her arms, Dong Shuzen softly dared: “Words are just empty talk. I need to see some real action to prove that you are into women.”
As his wall of determination came crashing down, Xiang Shaolong lowered his head and was about to taste the lipstick on her lips when someone called out beyond his door: “Master Shen, Official Xie Ziyuan is here and is waiting for you in the main hall.”
Xiang Shaolong can feel a sense of uneasiness. There are several hours till sunset. Why is Xie Ziyuan so early?