Book 25 Chapter 08 – Surprise Attack
Early next morning, while disguised as Wu Guo, Xiang Shaolong and Jing Jun led fifty specially selected Wu Family Warriors in boarding the fishing vessels in a stealth manner. Against the current, they sailed towards Yongdu.
Because the Guardians have to escort Wu Guo, who is impersonating Xiang Shaolong and has to accompany Xiao Pan to Yongdu, they cannot partic.i.p.ate in this mission.
Ji Yanran has to escort Qin Qing and cannot come along too.
Meanwhile, Teng Yi is responsible for leading the Imperial Cavalry in securing Xianyang and exterminating the other three teams of a.s.sa.s.sins.
With thick clouds covering the skies, it was drizzling non-stop.
Wearing their raincoats, the two men Xiang Shaolong and Jing Jun are sitting at the bow of the vessel and discussing the details of their a.s.sault.
Xiang Shaolong professed: “We only have one full day and one full night to carry out our plan. If we cannot kill Guan Zhongxie within this time frame, there will not be a second chance.”
Br.i.m.m.i.n.g with conviction, Jing Jun suggested: “After sneaking into Yongdu, we will immediately place Guan Zhongxie’s hiding place under strict surveillance. When it gets dark, we shall move in and take his life.”
Xiang Shaolong frowned: “However, I cannot decide if I should approach An Guxi for a.s.sistance. It may alert Lao Ai to our plans.”
Jing Jun proposed: “Why don’t we seek Fourth Brother’s help instead!”
Xiang Shaolong shook his head: “I do not want Yingzheng to learn about this. Moreover, it will affect Fourth Brother’s career development.”
Jing Jun exclaimed: “In this case, let’s depend on ourselves. With careful planning, we can simply vanish after the deed. By then, Lao Ai would still be unaware that Guan Zhongxie is back and even perished in his territory of Yongdu.”
Xiang Shaolong shook his head: “Nonetheless, Han Jie would quickly realize that something is amiss. To make things worse, this is Han Jie’s territory. If we are planning to kill him as well, our risk will increase by several folds. That is why I am in a state of indecisiveness.”
Jing Jun belittled: “So what if he knows! Would he dare to tell Lao Ai about it? Furthermore, if he wishes to send word to Lu Buwei, it can only happen two days later. Even so, his messenger may be intercepted by Second Brother.”
According to their plans, when Xiao Pan leaves for Yongdu with his civil and military officials, Teng Yi’s Imperial Cavalry will set up blockades on the river route and travelling roads between Yongdu and Xianyang, carrying out checks on all the travellers going in and out of the city.
Xiang Shaolong agreed: “I guess that’s the best we can do.”
That same evening, Xiang Shaolong and his men discarded the two boats and climbed ash.o.r.e about two miles away from Yongdu. Slipping past the river security checks, they approached Yongdu on foot.
Using falsified identification papers, they impersonated Qin citizens from other parts of the country. In different batches, they entered the City while posing as men from varying occupations.
Once they managed to contact the Wu Family Warriors whom Tao Fang had planted in Yongdu two years ago, Xiang Shaolong and his team concealed themselves in a common household near the south of the city. From there, they started their surveillance work.
Yongdu is Qin’s first capital city in the Guan Zhong district. Situated at the merging point of River Wei and River Zhi, it is a melting pot for the cultures of Guan Zhong, Ba Shu and Si Gen.
The location of Yongdu is strategic, with roads leading to Long Nan, Han Zhong, Ba Shu and many others.
One hundred and fifty years ago, the Duke of Qin selected Yongdu as his capital precisely because of this factor. On top of fortifying the area of Guan Zhong, he can set the stage for world domination.
In the future, Yingzheng’s success in uniting the lands of Hua Xia is due to Yongdu and Guan Zhong’s strategic and critical location.
Although the capital of Qin has relocated to Xianyang, the ancestral temple of the royal family is still based in Yongdu. For all grand ceremonies, they must be held in Yongdu’s ancestral temple.
As the last line of defense for Xianyang, Yongdu plays an irreplaceable role since the founding of the State.
Yongdu is home to several majestic palaces. Among them, Dazheng Palace and Qinian Palace are the most magnificent.
Presently, Dazheng Palace has become the residence of Zhu Ji while Qinian Palace is designated to be Xiao Pan’s temporary residence for his coronation trip.
Arriving at Yongdu, Xiang Shaolong is able to have a first hand experience of Lao Ai’s grandeur.
The soldiers of Yongdu are dressed in military uniforms with a golden band around their collar, portraying an air of extravagance. Besides dressing differently from the usual simple-looking Qin soldier, the Yongdu guards are behaving in a brazen, condescending manner.
An Guxi’s garrison has obviously failed to gain control over the entire city. For the time being, only the South Gate near River Wei, the road leading to Qinian Palace and Qinian Palace itself is under his jurisdiction.
With Zhu Ji backing Lao Ai and before their open confrontation, even Xiao Pan is powerless against this ‘fake father’.
Of course the situation will be totally reversed when the indomitable and master general w.a.n.g Jian enters the City. Regardless of their self-glorifying t.i.tles, Lao Ai’s thirty thousand rebels will be like cows being sent to the abattoir.
The only viable threat is Guan Zhongxie’s secret a.s.sa.s.sination team.
And Xiang Shaolong’s current mission is to move one step ahead of them, uprooting and annihilating them before they could carry out their plot.
Furthermore, he has to complete his mission without alerting Lao Ai. Otherwise, he would be collateral damage.
It is nearly 7pm and the sky is still drizzling when a report came in: Disguised as a commoner, a lone Guan Zhongxie has just left his hiding place.
Guan Zhongxie and Xiang Shaolong share a common drawback. Irrespective of their disguise, the observant would be able to identify them from their aura.
Xiang Shaolong decisively gave the order to begin their mission.
With Jing Jun and the fifty warriors, Xiang Shaolong disembarked at a quiet and lonely alley near the selected residence before removing their outer coats that is concealing their equipment and night suits.
The fifty warriors swiftly divided themselves into ten teams of five. Borrowing the cover of the walls and nightly shower, they snuck into the residence. The activities of the residence are limited to the occasional strongman travelling along the corridor. None of the faces are familiar to Xiang Shaolong or Jing Jun.
This particular residence is divided into five parts. In the centre, there is a sky well and sheltered walkways provide the link between them.
Once everyone is in battle position, Xiang Shaolong, Jing Jun and two teams of warriors cloaked themselves among the flower bushes beside the main hall.
The illumination of lanterns and human voices are transpiring from inside.
A warrior crept to the window and stole a peep before tiptoeing back and reporting: “There are five men inside the hall and two of them are armed. They are cl.u.s.tered on a mat at the east side of the hall, sitting rather close to the window.”
Xiang Shaolong quizzed in a deep voice: “Are there any womenfolk?”
Another warrior who had peeped into the hall replied: “I noticed two female maids.”
Xiang Shaolong was greatly troubled. Originally, he had wanted to kill every living soul within this dwelling. In this kill or be killed scenario, there is no room for compa.s.sion.
But how could he bear to kill these defenseless women?
He sighed with a breath: “Kill all the men. Capture all the women. We will deal with them afterwards. Tell everybody to wait for my signal.”
Four of the warriors left to execute his command.
Within a minute, Xiang Shaolong’s instructions have been communicated to everyone. They will act once they hear Jing Jun’s pre-arranged three continuous birdcalls.
On the first wave of birdcalls, Jing Jun and the warriors rapidly dived out from the flower bushes and stationed themselves at their allocated window or door.
The birdcalls are broadcast again.
Sounds of door breaking and windows shattering reverberated throughout the residence.
For the main hall, Jing Jun was the first to break through a window. Before he even landed on the ground, he unleashed a flurry of arrows around him, heralding the start of a close combat sequence.
An arrow pierced the throat of a man near the window and he collapsed at once. As the other men scrambled to their feet in horror, they were simultaneously hit by at least three arrows, tragically dying on the spot. It is not known if Bian Dongshan is one of them.
From the rear courtyards, dreadful shrieks were heard but they are quickly replaced by silence.
Minutes later, ten warriors escorted a lady who is carrying her baby son in her arms and four female maids who are shocked out of their wits to Xiang Shaolong and Jing Jun who are standing in the centre of the hall.
Xiang Shaolong and Jing Jun exchanged a look. The lady turned out to be Lu Family’s Third Mistress Lu Niangrong.
Although there is no trace of blood on Lu Niangrong’s face, her eyes are br.i.m.m.i.n.g with determination and blazing with extreme hatred. In her arms, the child is peacefully playing with his own collar, completely oblivious to the oncoming catastrophe.
Clenching her teeth, she viciously swore: “Go ahead and kill us! Dad will definitely avenge us.”
Never in his wildest dream did Xiang Shaolong antic.i.p.ate the presence of Lu Niangrong. Momentarily, he was stunned into silence. After all, he is still feeling apologetic towards Lu Niangrong and would not extent his hatred for Lu Buwei onto his daughter.
Jing Jun icily smirked: “Revenge! Humph! Your father can barely fend for himself, how can he hope to protect you? If you are feeling unjustified, you can only blame it on yourself for being his flesh and blood.”
Lu Niangrong furiously challenged: “Shut up! Who gave you the right to speak to me like that?”
Xiang Shaolong extended his hand just in time to prevent Jing Jun from slapping Lu Niangrong. Softening his tone, he examined: “What brings Third Mistress here?”
Lu Niangrong coldly grinned: “My affairs are none of your concern.”
The Wu Family Special Forces members instantly flared up and grunted menacing. Once Xiang Shaolong gave the green light, they would hack her to pieces. Simultaneously, the eight legs of the four maids turned into jelly and with a series of ‘ku dong’ sounds, the maids collapse onto the floor and one of them was so shocked she fainted on the spot. The baby started to cry with a high pitch.
Signaling his men to hold their ground, Xiang Shaolong sighed: “Putting aside all other matters, isn’t Third Mistress worried about the infant in your arms?”
Lowering her head to pacify her treasured baby, Lu Niangrong’s face is streaming with hot tears. In a pitiful tone, she grieved: “If Zhongxie is dead, life has no more meaning for us, mother and son.”
At this juncture, someone reported: “Target is reaching the residence soon!”
Lu Niangrong resolutely raised her head and faced Xiang Shaolong, her pretty eyes radiating with a pleading expression. In fact, Xiang Shaolong’s anguish is not inferior to hers. He had promised Xiao Pan that he will present Guan Zhongxie’s head to him at the coronation ceremony. Now that he is facing Lu Niangrong mother and son, he cannot harden his heart.
Xiang Shaolong has promised Xiao Pan that he will present Guan Zhongxie’s head to him at the coronation ceremony. Now that he is facing Lu Niangrong mother and son, he cannot harden his heart.
He does not have the luxury of time to slowly contemplate the situation. Xiang Shaolong ordered: “Miss Lu, please take a seat.”
To Lu Niangrong, he added: “Should Third Mistress try to shout a warning, Brother Guan will certainly die tonight. Aye! Do you trust me, Xiang Shaolong?”
Hearing his words, Lu Niangrong was taken aback while Jing Jun frowned with disapproval. Struggling to say something, he eventually kept quiet.
Under the light drizzle and night breeze, an unprepared Guan Zhongxie stepped over the ledge into the courtyard. By the time he realizes something is amiss, Xiang Shaolong and Jing Jun had mugged him from the left and right, overpowering him in an instance.
Recognizing his prowess, the warriors disarmed him. When they are about to bind his hands, Xiang Shaolong motioned them to stop. He enquired: “Why didn’t Brother Guan inform Little Brother that you are back.”
From his voice, Guan Zhongxie realized that he is Xiang Shaolong. He demanded in a deep voice: “Where is Niangrong?”
Xiang Shaolong sighed with a breath: “Sister in law and your son are safe and sound. Let’s talk inside!”
Noting the capture of Guan Zhongxie, Lu Niangrong instantly broke down and wept incessantly.
Glancing bitterly once at the mother and son, an exasperated Guan Zhongxie sat down at a faraway corner as indicated by Xiang Shaolong. Crestfallen, he surrendered: “Although I, Guan Zhongxie, is unwilling to admit defeat, I must say that I am certainly not your, Xiang Shaolong’s, match.”
Subsequently, he lowered his head and pleaded: “Can you let them off? I only ask for an honorable death.”
Xiang Shaolong is feeling touched. For the first time, he can feel this formidable nemesis treating Lu Niangrong mother and son with true love, explaining his subservient and begging tone.
Furthermore, this is definitely not an appropriate time but still, Lu Niangrong risked her life to meet up with Guan Zhongxie, clearly demonstrating their loving relationship.
As Xiang Shaolong pondered, Jing Jun interrupted: “Third Brother! I wish to have a word with you.”
Xiang Shaolong shook his head: “Let’s talk later! I understand your concern.”
Turning to the vulnerable Guan Zhongxie, Xiang Shaolong grilled: “Brother Guan should recognize the fact that your Father in law’s days are numbered and Lao Ai cannot amount to much. Brother Guan, what are your plans?”
Guan Zhongxie shuddered once. Lifting his head to face Xiang Shaolong, his eyes glowed with utter disbelief.
Jing Jun panicked: “How are we going to answer to Crown Prince?”
Regaining his composure, Xiang Shaolong plainly decided: “I know what to do. Brother Guan, you have yet to tell me about your plans?”
Guan Zhongxie exhaled once: “Brother Xiang is not afraid that I may send word to Imperial Uncle or Lao Ai?”
Xiang Shaolong replied: “That is why I must get Brother Guan to promise me that you will not do so. Anyway, I will escort Sister in law and Brother Guan separately from Yongdu. Both of you shall sail to Chu. By then, even if Brother Guan wishes to send word, it would be too late. Without anyone working with you, Brother Guan is like a single hand that cannot clap; all your efforts will be futile.”
Looking once at his wife and son at another corner, Guan Zhongxie’s eyes started to shimmer with unbounded tenderness. Shifting his gaze back to Xiang Shaolong, he stretched out his giant hand.
Xiang Shaolong reached out and gripped his hand firmly. In a sincere tone, he wished: “Brother Guan, bon voyage.”
His two eyes turning slightly red, Guan Zhongxie lightly thanked: “Even though we have always been enemies, Brother Xiang is the man I, Guan Zhongxie, admire most. Thank you!”
That night, the residence where Guan Zhongxie is hiding erupted into a sea of inferno. After the fire has been put out, more than thirty male corpses were unearthed. To Lao Ai and his men, it is a complete mystery.
Only Han Jie knows the truth. Scared out of his wits, he deserted Lao Ai and fled Yongdu. Since then, there is no news of him.
Early next morning, accompanied by Jing Jun, Xiang Shaolong who is disguised as Wu Guo finally contacted An Guxi. Together, they await the arrival of Qin’s Crown Prince, who is currently travelling along the Yellow River and will subsequently be coronated three days later.