Book 1 Chapter 3 – Showing off for the first time
The two of them walked down the hill in the darkness preceding dawn, towards the marketplace beyond the endless hills.
Xiang Shaolong has never felt so much love and infatuation towards any women before. He carried her and ran down. To a warrior like him who has gone through special training, this is as easy as breathing.
However Mei Canniang was extremely surprised, but once she thought that he is a gift from Heaven, she no longer felt bewildered.
Xiang Shaolong asked her effortlessly, “How did you end up marrying that two brothers? Where is your own family?”
Mei Canniang screamed in shock just as he jumped. She patted her chest and her pretty face was blushing from the excitement. She replied, “I live in a place that is 3 day’s journey towards the sun. One day, the two brothers came with 10 tiger skins, 1 bear skin, 50 marten skins, 5 cows and 100 goats and gave to my father in exchange for me. Our tribe has never seen such extravagant gifts, so I married them.”
Xiang Shaolong carried her up by her waist and waded though a 3 meter wide river, thinking to himself that if he has the latest AK47, then he can hunt for tiger skins in exchange for women. He asked her, “How old were you then?”
Mei Canniang held on to his neck tightly and whispered in his ear, “14!”
Xiang Shaolong exclaimed in surprise, “What? That’s below the legal age for intercourse!”
When they reached the main road outside the mountainous area, the sun revealed it’s first ray of light.
This couple who should have been separated by over 2000 years walked closely side by side, chatting happily.
Mei Canniang finally found someone, and after spending the most exciting and romantic night in her life, she was ecstatic. She was pulling Xiang Shaolong like a little girl, kicking her little straw sandals, walking cheerfully. The painful journey in the past has now become an endless joy, and she said with a laugh, “In the past I had to walk at least 20 hours to the market, but ever since someone built this road for military transport, it takes only 8 hours to reach the market. A lot of time has been saved.”
Xiang Shaolong thought to himself, so war can actually promote the development of transportation, and indirectly boost the economy and increase efficiency. So it seems that, in this era, there are advantages to wars.
Hai! A pity he can’t bring anything here. If he has a machinegun, or even a gun, he may become the highest paid soldier in this warring states period.
He can’t help but laugh once he thought of this.
Then he thought of the queen of bars Zhou Xiangmei and Zhang Cuizhi who caused him to end up in this state. And his parents, they always said that he’s unfilial, his 2 older brothers and 3 older sisters are all better than him. Now that he’s gone, he reckons that they won’t be too sad. But he still felt that this is not the case. A pity that he can’t give them a call right now to tell them that he’s safe.
The sound of wheels grating along the ground sounded behind. It turned out to be a mule cart going towards the market, with a dozen or so white sheep on it. On the cart there were an old and a young man dressed as farmers and when they gave a friendly greeting, they were surprised and scrutinized the tall and well-built Xiang Shaolong. In contrast, they weren’t too surprised about Mei Canniang’s beauty.
After the mule cart was far gone, a few horses ran swiftly past and the men riding them were dressed like ancient warriors, on their horses there were bows, swords, axes etc, but they were not from the army.
The two of them avoided them and stood aside.
Mei Canniang spoke in his ear, “These warriors are all for hire. They help merchants transport money, and it’s the most profitable business.”
Xiang Shaolong laughed, “Ha! Finally there’s a job suitable for me!”
Mei Canniang shrieked, “No! I cannot lose a husband like you again.”
Xiang Shaolong was startled and after rea.s.suring her, they continued on their way.
The nearer they got to the market, the more crowded the roads became. Most of them were pushing wooden carts with a single wheel, carrying various goods like corn, millet, sorghum, rice, wheat, garlic, cows, goats etc and all of them were hurrying towards the same destination.
Only now did Xiang Shaolong realize how huge he is. The tallest among the people is still shorter than him by half a head and he looked around complacently, feeling like a crane among chickens.
After another hour, they finally arrived at the market.
40 odd kinds of mud houses, straw houses and stone houses were lined up untidily on two sides, forming a wide street. Various kinds of harvests and animals, buyers and sellers filled the mud road that was about half a mile long, a feeling of festivity filled the air.
They had just stepped into the market when Mei Canniang cried out quietly in fear, “Look! The group of men on the left is the bandit Jiao Du’s brothers. They’re staring at us, what should we do?”
Xiang Shaolong gathered his wits and walked alertly forward.
A group of 10 odd powerful looking men who are obviously the town bullies were standing or sitting in front of a mud house but their eyes were fixed onto them in astonishment.
Mei Canniang continued, “They surely know about Jiao Du looking for me, and thought that I’ve become his woman. So when they saw it’s you instead, they were astonished. Oh dear, we better leave immediately!”
Xiang Shaolong scrutinized the crude metal swords they carried with his professional judgment and gave them a suave smile. He said to Mei Canniang, “My wife, do not panic. Your husband is here, no one will be able to hurt a single hair of yours.” He realized that the words he used is getting more and more similar to what these ancient people uses that he can’t help but laugh out loud.
Mei Canniang was so frightened her face turned pale, and pulled him towards the other end of what you can hardly call a ‘street’.
The two of them melted into the crowd. While others were sizing him up, Xiang Shaolong was taking note of his surroundings without any concern.
All these people from the warring states, just from the way they dressed, he can tell that they came from different places. Regardless of men or women, most of them have a flat face, short, rough skin, very few of them has the same alluring body and pretty face like Mei Canniang. But they all looked simple and honorable, giving others a good impression.
The only exception was the men and women wearing unique red headpieces. Their hats were not like the hats that he’s used to, which covers the top of a person’s head. Instead it covers only the hair, which was tied into a bun, two red ropes hanging down from the side and tied into a knot under the chin.
The men and women of this tribe were not only tall and good looking, the women were fair and wore extremely s.e.xy short tops and skirts which bared the chest and arms. It really was an eye-opener for him and quite unbelievable as well, changing his perception that all ancient people must be conservative.
A few of those young women were exceptionally outstanding, almost as pretty as Mei Canniang, and almost all of them trade in horses.
When Xiang Shaolong made eye contact with the prettiest girl among them, those beauties all made eyes at this fine specimen of a man from another dimension, not at all bothered that his eyes was fixated on their half naked chest and slender legs.
Mei Canniang felt much safer once they’re among the crowd and when she saw his lecherous look, she’s not offended at all. She said quietly, “They’re all from the Baiyi tribe, expert in rearing horses. All the men and women are very good hunters, no one dares to bully them.”
Xiang Shaolong felt his heart itching, but he was pulled into a mud house by Mei Canniang who took over the silk he was carrying and proceeded to do business with the man inside.
Xiang Shaolong took the opportunity to slip out of the house.
“Dang! Dang! Dang!”
Copper bells sounded in the biggest stone house opposite, and someone shouted, “Quality horse for 30 coppers! Quality horse for 30 coppers!”
Xiang Shaolong was curious and walked forward. On the stairs of the large house stood ten over huge men wearing similar clothes as those riders they met on the way here. One of them wore a tall headpiece, his clothes were comparatively more splendid, a difference of heaven and earth with the coa.r.s.e clothes worn by the farmers.
He may have good eyesight, but from a distance of over ten meters, he can only see that person has a square face and large ears, with a solemn look, and carried with him an air of affluence.
There was an immediate commotion in the market as the horse traders all squeezed forward with their horses and the situation was chaotic.
Right at this time, he heard a cold snort next to him.
By the time Xiang Shaolong was aware, those brothers of Jiao Du have already surrounded him heavily.
He unhurriedly took 2 steps back, and pushed Mei Canniang back into the house just as she was walking out. He asked quietly, “Does one have to go to jail for murder here?”
Mei Canniang asked in surprise, “What is jail?”
Xiang Shaolong rephrased his question, “Does anyone care if someone gets killed?”
Mei Canniang understood a little and replied, “Besides their own tribesmen, no one else will bother.” She then added, “You’re not going to fight with so many of them right? They have swords! I can give them the money I’ve just bartered for.”
Xiang Shaolong was a.s.sured and thought, in this time period, nothing is more useful than strength and martial arts. All the tough training he had in the past will not go to waste at all.
One of Jiao Du’s brother shouted, “Mei Canniang! Where is Big Brother Jiao? And who is this stinking man?”
By now those people on the street are starting to realize that something is happening here and all came forward to watch the show. Even that well dressed man who is here to buy horses and his men all stopped their trade and walked towards them.
Xiang Shaolong, who is used to creating trouble and fighting was a.s.sured and he laughed loudly, “Your Big Brother Jiao has been killed, come over if you want revenge.”
Mei Canniang was so frightened that she shivered and hugged him tightly from behind.
The expression on their faces changed at the same time and with a ‘swish’ they all pulled out their swords.
Xiang Shaolong slowly pushed Mei Canniang away and pulled out the hatchet from his waist. Immediately there were sighs and pitying noises coming from the crowd, saying that he does not know his own capability, actually using a hatchet to block swords.
2 burly men rushed towards him with their swords raised, slashing towards him from the left and right.
The crowd screamed, and one of the Baiyi beauties who were making eyes with Xiang Shaolong covered her eyes, not daring to look further.
Xiang Shaolong roared and his hatchet swung forward fast as lightning.
In his nearly 10 years of strict training, there is a saying that anything can be used as a weapon. These two men in front may be brave and ruthless, but he does not take them into account at all. He can even easily defeat them empty handed, much less with a hatchet in his hands now.
“Clang clang”, the long swords were swept away. Xiang Shaolong ran forward like an arrow, his left fist punching a man’s face, his leg giving a flying kick towards the other man’s groin.
The two of them immediately cried and fell down, their long swords dropping from their hands.
Xiang Shaolong then retreated to where Mei Canniang was, his hatchet held in front of him, with a combat ready pose, shouting at the shocked crowd, “Come!”
The rest hesitated, not one of them dared to lead the fight. They have never imagined that there are such swift and vicious attacks.
Xiang Shaolong gave a long laugh and leapt out like a ferocious tiger, his hatchet slashing down and was embroiled in a battle with those 20 odd people.
He moved swiftly so that the enemy has no chance to group together and in no time they all fell to the ground, either felled by his punches or his kicks.
The crowd kept cheering for him, obviously they’ve had enough of those bullies.
When Xiang Shaolong became the ultimate winner, he picked up the best sword smong the pile and tied it to his waist.
The crowd cried out, and a few people rushed forward followed by the rest of the crowd. They picked up sticks or hoes or similar weapons and starting hitting those bullies on the ground. It seems that in the face of public fury, none of them will be able to survive.
Mei Canniang ran over and hugged him tightly, exclaiming, “Heavens! You’re really brave! I will never have to fear bullies again.”
Xiang Shaolong hugged her and walked towards the other end of the street and asked nonchalantly, “Have you found out how to get to Handan?”
Mei Canniang replied, “There’s some who have heard of this place, but do not know how to get there.”
Footsteps can be heard behind them and someone called out, “Brave man, please hold your steps!”
Xiang Shaolong turned around while still hugging Mei Canniang and saw that man dressed in fine robes who was buying horses walking towards them.
Xiang Shaolong, Mei Canniang, and that well dressed man sat down on the floor in a big room.
Xiang Shaolong studied the man, and guessed that he’s about 40 years old, his features gives an impression of intelligence and his skin smooth. Obviously he has never done any manual labor in his life and compared to the farmers at the market, it’s like the difference between a city man and a poor country man.
That man introduced himself, “I am Tao Fang, one of the 12 servants of Master Wu. Brave hero, your accent sounds strange, I wonder where you’re from?”
Xiang Shaolong said, “My wife and I are both from Mulberry Village. I wonder if Master Tao has invited me here for some deals?”
Tao Fang looked perplexed, obviously not understanding his choice of words, so he could only guess part of the meaning. Luckily he’s used to trading with various tribes, so he nodded and said, “Is brave hero interested in earning a large sum of money.”
Xiang Shaolong looked at Mei Canniang.
She gave a sweet smile and nodded, indicating that she has no objections to any decisions he makes. To her, a man’s words are orders.
Xiang Shaolong felt released from the binds of military rules, and feeling carefree, nodded, “Would Master Tao please enlighten me!”
Tao Fang leaned forward and said excitedly, “With brave hero’s marvelous skills, you can block 100 men with ease. If you agree to become my bodyguard, I can pay you 50 coppers every month, what do you think?”
Mei Canniang exclaimed “Ah!”, grabbed his arm and uttered, “That’s enough to sustain us for one year.”
Xiang Shaolong took a whiff at her face and replied, “The offer is very attractive, but we’re planning to go to Handan!”
A hint of a smile appeared at the corner of Tao Fang’s lips and he said calmly, “Hero must not have heard of the great name of out Master Wu. He is the finest ‘King of Livestock’ in Handan. After collecting enough horses all over the place, we will send them to Handan. If hero will become my bodyguard, won’t it be killing two birds with one stone.”
Xiang Shaolong replied joyously, “But I’m going to bring her along!”
Tao Fang looked at Mei Canniang and laughed, “Don’t worry! Besides buying fine horses, we also purchase beauties from various places, so there’s no problem at all if hero wants to bring your beauty along.” He furrowed his brows as he looked at his clothes and continued, “I’ll order someone to clean up a place for you and your wife to rest as well as get you some new clothes. We’ll return to Handan at the break of dawn tomorrow. What weapons do you use, if it’s swords, I’ll immediately give you a good sword made by an old blacksmith in Handan. You can throw away the one you picked up earlier.”
Xiang Shaolong burst out laughing, and asked “How long will it take to get to Handan?”
Tao Fang has obviously taken a liking to him and replied without irritation, “On a fast horse, about 10 days. But the way we are going to travel, and having to purchase horses and beauties on the way, we’ll take at least a month.”
Xiang Shaolong was in a good mood, and once he thought that he’ll be able to find Emperor Qin in Handan, he immediately said there’s no problem.
So this matter was thus settled.
Tao Fang ordered someone to bring him to a camp near the market. The person who led the way is Li Shan, also a bodyguard. He was very impressed with his skills, so naturally he was extremely respectful.
The camp was heavily guarded, with a guard in front of the 30 odd tents, either to prevent the beauties from escaping, or to prevent thieves.
Next to the camp there was a temporary erected horse enclosure, with more than a hundred horses kept in there.
Li Shan introduced Xiang Shaolong to the head of the bodyguards Dou Liang. The fierce looking warrior sized him up coldly and said disdainfully, “Since Brother Xiang is so capable, I must exchange pointers with you when I have the chance.” After he spoke, he eyed Mei Canniang lecherously, obviously disregarding Xiang Shaolong’s presence.
Li Shan was a little embarra.s.sed and led the two of them to a tent at the edge of the camp and left after a few words.
The two went into the tent.
Mei Canniang lowered her head and did not speak, but it was obvious she was troubled.
Xiang Shaolong hugged her and said gently, “There’s no need to be afraid of that Dou Liang. Sooner or later I’ll find a chance to teach him a lesson. I, Xiang Shaolong is not afraid of any bullies at all.” And he can’t help but think of Black Faced Deity.
Mei Canniang said quietly, “City folks are all deceitful, I’m afraid I won’t be used to that kind of life.”
Xiang Shaolong thought to himself that modern folks are a hundred times worse than you ancient people, but he a.s.sured her, “With me to protect you, what is there to fear?”
Mei Canniang’s eyes reddened, collapsed into his arms and cried piteously, “Everyone who lives in Mulberry Forest Village are good people, our lives fulfilling, getting better year by year. And now that the bullies Jiao Du and his men are dead, it’ll be even more peaceful. Husband! Why don’t we return there to stay, happily until we grow old and die, and I’ll have children with you, isn’t that better?”
Xiang Shaolong sighed secretly, he’s so used to indulgences in life, how will he ever get used to such a life. He said gently, “Why don’t we do this! I’ll borrow 100 coppers from Tao Fang, that’ll be enough for your living expenses for 2 years, and I’ll forge a path in Handan. Once I am successful, I’ll come back for you, won’t that benefit both of us?”
Mei Canniang stammered, “Won’t it mean that I’ll have to part from you?”
Xiang Shaolong replied, “At the earliest it’ll take a few months, the latest one to two years, I will definitely return. Don’t forget that I am sent by Heaven, so I’ll definitely not die.”
Mei Canniang wailed, and just when Xiang Shaolong was at a loss, she came to a decision and tearfully agreed to Xiang Shaolong’s suggestion.
Once they thought of the impending parting, the two of them engaged in joyous acts in the tent until dinnertime, when they left the tent to join Tao Fang for dinner. He brought up the topic of paying his salary in advance and without a second word, Tao Fang gave him 200 coppers straightaway. Xiang Shaolong can’t help but feel impressed.
But that head of bodyguards Dou Liang was extremely jealous.
Tao Fang asked in pa.s.sing again Xiang Shaolong’s origins, but Xiang Shaolong still insisted that he’s from Mulberry Forest Village, so Tao Fang did not press the issue.
Early that night they returned to the tent and continued in their engagements until the next morning. After an unwilling parting, Mai Canniang returned to Mulberry Forest Village alone while Xiang Shaolong followed Tao Fang towards the unknown Capital of Zhao, starting on his journey to look got Emperor Qin.