Book 25 Chapter 12 – At The Brink Of Death
By the time the fortress gates are breached, half of Xiang Shaolong’s followers have yet to enter the tunnel. Exasperated, Xiang Shaolong ordered them to squeeze themselves into the newly constructed mausoleum as a form of concealment. At the same time, he sealed the extra-thick steel double doors of the mausoleum, hoping to buy as much time as possible.
It would be ideal if Xiao Pan was misled into thinking that they had left and gave up the search.
But at the back of their minds, everyone knew that this is just their wistful thinking.
When the occupants of a huge fortress have suddenly vanished, there must be a secret pa.s.sageway that will lead them out of the fortress.
If Wei Liao fails to uncover the pa.s.sageway, he would not be able to account himself to the newly coronated King of Qin.
Within the mausoleum, everyone is eyeing one another with anxiety. Watching the warriors enter the secret tunnel one by one, they could faintly pick up chaotic noises of war cries and hoof beats. Despite feeling restless and agitated, as if their hearts are on fire, they could only put their trust in the Will of Heaven.
Sounds of ‘LONG! LONG!’ resounded continuously. Apparently, the invaders are breaking down doors and conducting a search.
Right before their eyes, the steel door is finally being hammered. The evil clutches of the enemy has ultimately found its way to this place.
After a round of pointless bashing, silence enveloped the mausoleum.
The hearts of Xiang Shaolong’s followers are now stuck at their throats and they are having difficulty breathing.
They could easily predict the next move of the enemy. By tying a large log to a cart, the enemies can fashion a battering ram and use it to break the door down.
The next fifteen minutes felt like a century.
Putting themselves at the back of the queue, Xiang Shaolong, Ji Yanran, Teng Yi, Jing Jun, Tu Xian and ten odd Wu Family Special Forces members are armed with their crossbows, ready to defend the mausoleum with their lives. By holding back the enemies, more of their compatriots can make it to safety.
No one is in the mood to talk.
At this juncture, besides them, there are about thirty followers who had yet to enter the secret pa.s.sageway.
Fortunately, during the early days of construction, special attention was being paid to the tunnel ventilation. Otherwise, with so many people crammed in the tunnel, they would suffocate to death before reaching the exit.
Xiang Shaolong unconsciously glanced upwards at the center of the tall worshiping altar. Gazing at the ancestral tablet of Xiao Pan’s birth mother Lady Ni, he resentfully smiled to himself. He thought: Ni’er, did this ever cross your mind; that one day, I, Xiang Shaolong, will be personally killed in cold blood by your beloved son.
The entire mausoleum shook once but the steel doors remained intact.
The three steel door fasteners that are securing the steel doors started to bend inwards and there is now a gap between the double doors. Through the gap, the light from fire torches can be seen and the battle cries are even more realistic than before. Like waves. .h.i.tting the sh.o.r.e, the enemy soldiers are shouting incessantly into the mausoleum.
Luckily, by this time, Xiang Shaolong and his companions are the only ones who are left in the mausoleum. The rest of them have entered the tunnels.
Xiang Shaolong bellowed: “Get in! Quick!”
Of course n.o.body dare to be sluggish. Like bees returning to their nests, everybody scrambled for the tunnels.
Before they could replace the steel cover for the secret tunnel, a giant HONG! sound rang out. Both the enormous steel doors collapsed onto the ground, taking with them part of the brick walls. Momentarily, the mausoleum is shrouded with dust.
The four individuals Xiang Shaolong, Teng Yi, Jing Jun and Ji Yanran stood guard by the tunnel entrance, ready to kill whoever that trespa.s.ses.
They had to do this.
Presently, the tunnel is filled with people. If the enemies begin to pursue them from the back, everyone would be slaughtered.
The more they can delay the enemy and prevent them from understanding the tunnel layout, the greater chances of survival the others would have.
The light from a fire torch is shining down the tunnel.
Xiang Shaolong and the others stepped backwards, avoiding the illumination of the torch.
A man excitedly shouted: “The entrance is here! They did not even have enough time to put the steel cover back.”
Xiang Shaolong and the others groaned to themselves. Out of the blue, beyond the pa.s.sageway, the entire mausoleum became completely silent.
Next, sounds of kneeling and paying of respects is heard.
Although Xiang Shaolong and his companions are itching with curiosity, they are equally terrified. However, there is nothing they can do.
This man must be Wei Liao.
Yingzheng is amazingly quiet.
That was the sound of someone kneeling down.
From the edge of the tunnel entrance, Li Si’s quivering voice sounded: “Great King, please have mercy!”
Wei Liao was astonished: “Chief Officer?”
What followed was another round of mysterious silence.
Wei Liao’s voice sounded again: “Great King, please give the order at once. Otherwise, if we miss this opportunity, it will be lost forever.”
He then dryly coughed once and wondered: “Why is Great King staring at the worshiping altar and the ancestral tablets?”
In the hearts of Xiang Shaolong and the other three, an indescribable feeling is beginning to emerge. Xiao Pan must be quietly gazing at the tablet of his beloved mother Lady Ni.
Except for the four of them, the others should have crossed the halfway point of the tunnel. In another thirty minutes, the evacuation would be complete.
Nonetheless, if Xiao Pan takes up Wei Liao’s suggestion, everybody will still end up dead.
The familiar voice of Xiao Pan finally sounded: “Official Wei and the others, Guaren hereby command that you retreat from this room at once. Only Official Li shall remain.”
Wei Liao was stunned: “Great King…”
Xiao Pan roared: “Get out!”
The sound of footsteps was heard.
Once his soldiers are out of earshot, Xiao Pan questioned in a deep voice: “How can we prevent the world from talking about this incident?”
Li Si answered: “After Great King has conquered the six States and united the lands, Great King can issue a nationwide decree, prohibiting anyone from mentioning the three words: Xiang Shaolong. Violators will be beheaded at once. This would certainly make everyone stop talking about him and the problem will be resolved accordingly.”
Xiao Pan coldly hissed: “If they did not talk about him but recorded him in historical doc.u.ments, what should we do?”
Li Si replied: “Great King can burn their books and bury the authors alive.”
Below them, Xiang Shaolong is absolutely flabbergasted, never expecting himself to be the reason for Qin Shihuang to burn books and bury scholars alive. Concurrently, he realizes that the burning of the Book of Wu Pu is to deny the public of valuable knowledge.
Xiao Pan grilled: “Nevertheless, how should we explain the killing of Lu Buwei by Xiang Shaolong?”
His voice becoming louder, Li Si proclaimed: “It is really simple. The explanation is: To escape punishment, Lu Buwei fled back to his territory of Shiyi where he eventually committed suicide by drinking poisonous wine.”
Footsteps sounded again and someone came to the edge of the tunnel entrance.
After a short spell of silence, Xiao Pan’s voice lightly expressed: “Master! May you have a safe journey!”
Following that, Xiao Pan decisively thundered: “Retreat at once!”
The footsteps trailed off.
Unable to hold back any longer, the hot tears of Xiang Shaolong overflowed his eye sockets.
In his heart, he could feel the immense agitation of creating a crucial episode of history.
The minute Xiao Pan steps out of his mother’s mausoleum, he would no longer be the Zhao Xiao Pan from Handan.
Because he would have completely severed his past and become a true blue Yingzheng. In the future, all his energies will be expended on the grand scheme of conquering the world.
The instance he crosses the fallen steel doors, the six States are destined to be eliminated one after another.
Their opponent is the unshakable super conqueror – the founder of China, the bearer of the t.i.tle: One in a millennium Emperor, Qin Shihuang Yingzheng.
Recomposing their emotions, Xiang Shaolong and his companions caught up to the main body by going through and exiting the tunnel. To their astonishment, they spotted Wu Guo and the Guardians among them.
It turned out that they were forced to take the roads after Lord Changwen barricaded the river route. As a result, they ended up arriving several hours after Yingzheng. Coincidently, they ran into the others near the tunnel exit.
At the same time, Wu Guo brought updates from w.a.n.g Jian. Lao Ai was sentenced to death by having his body torn apart by five carriages and the two sons of Zhu Ji and Lao Ai were burnt alive.
Zhu Ji herself was escorted back to Xianyang.
Of course everyone knows that the real Zhu Ji is dead. The Zhu Ji that is returning to Xianyang and subsequently placed under house arrest is merely an imposter conjured by Yingzheng.
After the withdrawal of Yingzheng’s ma.s.sive army, everyone returned to the farms and mounted their horses before leaving again.
Xiang Shaolong did not forget to bring along the ancestral tablets of Zhao Qian, Lady Ni and the other ladies.
Three months later, they finally arrived safely at the borderlands, fulfilling their long awaited dream.