A Step into the Past Chapter 42

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Book 4 Chap 8 – Revenge on the Snowy grounds

Xiang Shaolong and Teng Yi sat on the 2 sides of the window inside the house, waiting quietly for the cruel enemy to arrive. Teng Yi’s emotions have calmed down, revealing the collected and stable composure of a highly skilled fighter but the pain and sadness in his eyes was intensified. Xiang Shaolong wanted to keep his mind away and asked, “Has Brother Teng been hunting here for a living since young?”

Teng Yi was silent for a moment before saying quietly, “To tell you the truth, I once had the dream of doing a little something for Han so I was in the military before and even raised to the position of commander. Later I saw that the people on top were too much, they only know how to belittle talents and pander to outsiders so disheartened, I brought my family with me to live in seclusion here. But who’d expect…”

Sounds of hoof beats were heard. The 2 of them were immediately energized and stood up to look outside the window. Amongst the falling snowflakes, in the silvery white world outside, a group of men and horses rode towards them slowly. Xiang Shaolong was stunned on seeing the scene and exclaimed hoa.r.s.ely, “There’s at least 60 to 70 people!” Teng Yi replied coldly, “It’s 90 to 100.”

Xiang Shaolong took a closer look and looked back at him in surprise, saying with a nod, “Your observation is very accurate.” Teng Yi said, “Brother Xiang, you better leave! Just with the 2 of us, even with the traps we won’t be able to handle so many people.” Xiang Shaolong was originally feeling numb and was toying with the idea of retreating but now that he knows that Teng Yi has his mind made up to fight to the death, his valor was stirred instead and he said seriously, “Brother Teng do not be pessimistic so quickly. As long as we can persevere a little longer, once the sky turns dark, it’ll be beneficial to our movement. Humph! I, Xiang Shaolong, is not one to retreat at the last moment.”

Teng Yi looked at him in grat.i.tude before focusing all his attention on the slowly approaching enemy. By now the sky is slowly darkening and Xiang Shaolong looked hard before he exclaimed in shock, “It’s Xiao Weimou!” And he felt a strong surge of apology.

Teng Yi had already heard his story and was stunned, “It’s Xiao Weimou from the state of Qi!” He sighed and continued, “Brother Xiang need not blame yourself, this has got nothing to do with you. You’re a victim as well!” Xiang Shaolong saw how understanding he was and felt a little better and at the same time gained more admiration for this highly skilled swordsman who is willing to lead a peaceful and boring life.

By now the large group came to the empty s.p.a.ce in front of the houses and dismounted. The house that Xiang Shaolong and Teng Yi were hiding in was where the tragedy happened so logically, Xiao Weimou’s men won’t step in here. Xiao Weimou looked gloomy and Zhen Lei stood next to him, his expression not any better either.

Looking at his men move the saddles and luggage from the horses back and moving them into the other houses, Xiao Weimou cursed and fumed, “I’m definitely not wrong. Xiang Shaolong pretended to escape to Chu but that is just a trick. If he wants to return to Zhao, there’s only 3 ways. I bet he will not dare to travel through our Great Qi and the state of Wei, so the only route left is this path in Han, but why is it that we still cannot find him?” Zhen Lei commented, “We came here by ships and traveled on the official paths, so it’s not strange that we’ll be about 10 days faster than him. Now we will stop and set a trap here and once he pa.s.ses by this place, he’ll certainly not be able to escape unnoticed from the 10 odd sentry posts we set up.”

Xiao Weimou replied, “Remember not to hurt Zhao Qian!” After he spoke he walked towards the house Xiang and Teng were hiding in. The both of them were overjoyed and moved separately to the 2 huge windows next to the door and raised their bows, getting ready to shoot as soon as he steps within shooting distance. Zhen Lei called out, “Head! That house…”

Xiao Weimou grinned fiendishly, “Such an exciting sight, it’s good to see it one more time. I love to see women who has been raped and killed by me.” And then he walked forward with large strides. Xiang and Teng were ecstatic, as they got ready.

Suddenly someone cried out from afar, “Head! Something’s wrong! There are fresh graves here.” Xiang and Teng instantly regretted their actions. They did not expect Xiao Weimou to be so cautious as to send his men to take a look around. They know that the chance is not to be missed and the sound of the bows rang as 2 arrows shot out the window towards Xiao Weimou. At that point in time that fiend was about 300 steps away from them and on hearing the swishing of the air he was startled and immediately dodged aside.

He could have avoided both the arrows but because Xiang Shaolong knows that he’s very nimble, he deliberately shot a little to the side so although he avoided Teng Yi’s arrow, he could not avoid Xiang Shaolong’s arrow, which shot through his shoulder. He cried out in pain as he fell backwards. A pity that it did not strike any of his vital points but it’s enough to make him suffer.

At this point in time almost half of the 100 men were already in the 6 houses while the rest of the 40 odd men outside all cried out in alarm and dashed towards the house they were hiding in. Xiang Shaolong and Teng Yi hurriedly retreated towards the back door and once they reached the back of the house, they lighted the fire arrows and shot them towards the other houses.

These roofs and pine wood walls have all been tampered by them and a layer of inflammable pine oil has been poured on it so once it made contact with fire the flames spread immediately through the whole house and even the windows and doors were smeared with them. With the northern wind blowing, those who went into the houses seems to be in a s.p.a.ce where they are cut off from the outside world and after traveling for the whole day, they all lied down to rest, not knowing that something has happened outside. By the time they realized something was wrong, the whole house was engulfed in flames. For a moment screams were heard everywhere, as if it’s h.e.l.l on earth.

The 10 odd men who were running towards the house saw that they were about to reach the steps to the house when they suddenly felt the ground give way and they fell into the trap that Xiang and Teng made earlier, into a deep hole more than 10 feet deep and filled with pointed spikes so there’s no way they can stay alive even with luck. In that instant, more than half of the almost 100 enemies were either killed or injured and even the leader Xiao Weimou was injured.

With fire seemingly shooting out from his eyes, Teng Yi roared as he dashed out, killing everyone on sight. Xiang Shaolong dashed out from the other side, 2 flying needles flew out and killed 2 bewildered thieves before he drew out his wooden sword and killed his way towards the direction of Xiao Weimou.

Xiang Weimou was being helped up by Zhen Lei and another man and he felt the intense pain on his shoulder where the arrow injured him as he moved. He knows that he cannot fight and although he saw he greatest enemy Xiang Shaolong, there’s nothing he can do except grind his teeth in hatred and now that there’s only 20 odd men left, he cried out angrily, “Let’s leave!” Zhen Lei and his man hurriedly helped him towards the nearest warhorse as they left in a hurry.

Xiang Shaolong looked around and shouted, “Xiao Weimou is leaving!” The remaining thieves saw that it is indeed true and realized that the 2 of them were extremely highly skilled and although they have more people on their side, they could not take any advantage of them at all. In an instant their enemy killed another 5 of them and they all ran away in fear. Xiang Shaolong and Teng Yi saw that it’s a chance not to be missed and they went after Xiao Weimou.

A few men who were loyal to Xiao Weimou turned back to stop them but they were soon gotten rid of by these 2 ferocious and highly skilled fighters. After Xiang Shaolong kicked a man flying away, he soon caught up with Xiao Weimou. Zhen Lei saw that they still have another 10 odd steps before reaching the horse so he pulled out his sword and turned back to block Xiang Shaolong.

Xiang Shaolong shouted, “Teng Yi! Give chase!” as he slashed towards Zhen Lei. Zhen Lei is indeed a highly skilled fighter and blocked the blow with his own sword. He dashed forward without fear for himself and for a moment the sounds of swords slashing in the air was heard and the fight was intense. The worse thing is that Zhen Lei is fighting with the thought of perishing together with the enemy and for the time being there’s nothing much Xiang Shaolong can do but to wait for the moment his attacks turn a little weaker. By now Xiao Weimou has jumped onto the horse. Teng Yi arrived just in time and slashed with his sword. One of the men was about to turn around to fight but was caught in the slash and he was thrown 7 steps back away by the impact, his blood spurting. This shows how strong is the hatred in his heart.

Xiao Weimou tolerated the intense pain as he clasped his legs around the horse’s belly and rode out. Teng Yi roared and he leapt forward, his great hand extending out and he actually managed to grab the horse’s back leg. The horse lost its balance as with a terrified neigh, fell down on the snow and Xiao Weimou was thrown off its back. Zhen Lei turned around for a look and was immediately terrified.

Xiang Shaolong was not one to miss the opportunity and he slashed thrice successively and on the 3rd slash, Zhen Lei’s long sword was thrown off and a huge opening was revealed. When Teng Yi leapt over and was tumbling around with Xiao Weimou, Xiang Shaolong’s wooden sword pierced forward like lightning and Zhen Lei gave out a horrifying cry before he was thrown back by the impact and died on the spot. At this time Xiao Weimou was struggling, his hand pinching Teng Yi’s throat and just as he was about to gather his strength to shatter the throat, Teng Yi pressed down hard on the arrow wound on his shoulder and the pain thoroughly numbed him for the moment and he loosened his grip as well.

Teng Yi sat on him and using his left hand, pulled out the arrow together with a piece of flesh as blood spurted out from the wound. Even as Xiao Weimou was reeling from the pain, his right fist was plummeting on his chest like a hammer more than 10 times and the sounds og bones breaking can be heard. Blood flowed out from the orifices of Xiao Weimou’s face and he died horribly on the spot. Teng Yi then fell off his body and crouched on the snow, crying bitterly.

Unexpectedly, Xiang Shaolong found his lost Flying Rainbow on Xiao Weimou’s body and a wave of feelings rushed upon him. When Xiang Shaolong carried Zhao Qian up from the hidden hold underground, Zhao Qian was pale from worry and her delicate body was trembling.

The heavy snow stopped, stars filled the sky, pretty and alluring. Xiang Shaolong kissed her fragrant lips lovingly and carried her up by her waist and walked towards the graves. Teng Yi cut off Xiao Weimou’s head and put it in front of the graves with incense as an offering.

Xiang Shaolong put Zhao Qian down and asked, “What does Brother Teng intend to do from now on?” Teng Yi said calmly, “I have nothing left, except for my life and my sword, and I have no other concerns. If Brother Xiang doesn’t mind, I will follow you in future. I am not afraid of any hardship or danger, or even death, as it will end this pitiful fate of mine!” Xiang Shaolong was overjoyed as he replied, “I’d really love it, but Brother Teng need not wallow in sadness. You should get back your fighting spirit and start a new life!” Teng Yi shook his head, “Brother Xiang will not understand the feelings I have for my wife, children and family. They are everything to me, now that I have nothing left, besides the grat.i.tude I feel for Brother Xiang, I will no longer have any feelings for anyone else. That is too painful.”

Zhao Qian felt her nose sniffling, and started weeping. Teng Yi sighed, “Ai! Weepy little princess!” Xiang Shaolong hugged Zhao Qian as he said offhandedly, “Xiao Weimou’s head will be worth a lot, does Brother Teng have any way of preserving it!” Teng Yi replied, “That’s easy, just leave it to me!”

With Teng Yi with them who is familiar with the environment, their journey became a lot smoother. Not only is he an outstanding hunter, he’s also an expert in barbeque and knows how to season the food with wild herbs and plants, gaining much compliments from Xiang and Zhao on the food. Teng Yi treated nature as if it is a religion, believing that there are various types of deities in nature so whenever they came to a new place, he’ll kiss the soil and pray for luck.

5 days later, they reached a large village near the border of Wei. There were a few hundred houses and a few animal enclosures scattered on the wide snowy plains and the scene looked beautiful and peaceful. It’s really a paradise that one can hide away from in this chaotic warring period.

Not only is Teng Yi very familiar with the people here, he’s also well respected. A few young shepherd saw him arriving and immediately flew back to the village to report and some even came to welcome him with their gongs. Zhao Qian found all of these interesting and revealed a sweet smile, making Xiang Shaolong feel like carrying her into the room immediately and spend the night together.

Along the way there’re always men, women, old and young who walked over to greet Teng Yi, the men can’t help but stare at Zhao Qian while the women were stealing glances at Xiang Shaolong. 10 odd dogs came out from all over the place and ran after their horses, shaking their heads and tails at Teng Yi, showing their welcome.

“Brother Teng!” The sound came from the top. Both Xiang and Zhao were startled and lifted their head to look only to see a skinny youth about 16 or 17 years old with long limbs. He’s not considered handsome, but he has a suave, happy-go-lucky air about him with a happy and honest smile, his 2 legs swinging as he sat on the branch of a huge tree filled with snow about 3 feet off the ground, making one worry that if he were to lose his balance and fall, that’d be terrible.

Zhao Qian exclaimed in alarm, “Be careful! Stop shaking!” That youth went ‘Ah!’, as if he only realized the danger now and fumbled, all the more causing him to lose his balance as he fell. Zhao Qian was so frightened she closed her pretty eyes but did not hear the sound of anything heavy falling. When she opened her eyes, she saw the youth with his legs hanging off the tree, his arms around his chest and grinning at her as he blinked. Zhao Qian stared at him angrily, upset with him for putting on such an act to scare her. Xiang Shaolong was extremely impressed and complimented sincerely, “Friend, what great moves.” Teng Yi shouted, “Jing Jun aren’t you going to come down!”

Jing Jun chortled and made 2 somersaults as if he’s making a performance before landing lightly and nimbly on the snowy ground before asking Zhao Qian, “This regal and pretty looking miss, may I ask if you already have a husband!” Zhao Qian stared at him with annoyance and thought that she is leaning so closely in Xiang Lang’s arms and yet he had to ask this question.

Teng Yi said unhappily, “Control your slick mouth! This is the royal 3rd Princess from the state of Zhao, how can you be so rude?” Jing Jun was stunned as he looked at Xiang Shaolong and shouted, “This must be Xiang Shaolong who defeated Hui Wu and Ren Lang!” Teng Yi and Xiang Shaolong exchanged looks of puzzlement before the former asked, “How did you know?”

Jing Jun replied, “I heard the Wei soldiers at the border talking about it. They instructed us to help them keep a look out for Master Xiang and the Princess and if I find out anything, they’ll give me a hundred taels of silver.”

Zhao Qian was frightened, “You wouldn’t do that right?” Jing Jun jumped up without any effort and did a back somersault before kneeling on the ground, his hand clasped around his fist as he said, “Of course I won’t. I have made a decision to follow Master Xiang and roam the outside world. Master Xiang please accept my request.” Xiang Shaolong felt a liking for this person and looked at Teng Yi, meaning that he will respect his thoughts on this.

Teng Yi nodded his head, “Jing Jun is the most outstanding hunter here and an expert in sneaky acts. I came especially to this village this time because I would like Brother Xiang to meet this lad who dreams of roaming the outside world all the time.” Xiang Shaolong chortled, “Get up! Follow me in future then!”

Jing Jun was so happy he jumped up and made 3 continuous somersaults as he cried out, “Let me go and scout the roads first, I’ll certainly come back tomorrow morning with a report!” and he was far away in an instant. Xiang Shaolong saw how obedient he is and was secretly happy.

That night they stayed in the village head’s house and received the warmest welcome. During the feast, all the elders in the village came and it was extremely lively. Before bedtime, Teng Yi told the 2 of them. “If you hear any weird sounds tonight, do not come out, because someone will be here to kidnap the village head’s daughter.” Xiang and Zhao were perplexed and could not understand why would there be thieves stealing women away. Teng Yi explained, “This is a local custom, the night before the wedding there will be a ceremony to steal the bride away. Everyone will pretend nothing is happening and after the groom steals the girl home, they will consummate the marriage immediately. The next morning they will return to the girl’s home to hold the wedding ceremony. You can take part in the wedding feast as well.”

The sounds of drums shocked the lovers awake from their dreams. At this time the sky is not yet bright and Xiang and Zhao climed out from under their warm blankets bleary eyed and hurriedly washed up and changed. By the time they walked to the hall, it’s already filled with people here to take part in the wedding ceremony. They were arranged, together with Teng Yi, to sit behind the family to view the ceremony.

The village head and his 4 wives were seated at the front row and the newly weds were dressed in red robes and crowns, each kneeling on one side and holding a basket of fresh fruits. The guests all clapped and sang to express their congratulations.

Zhao Qian was smiling from ear to ear and she went closer to Xiang Shaolong’s ear and whispered, “Xiang Lang! Qian’er wants to wear a wedding outfit like that as well and marry you.” He felt a sweetness in his heart and replied, “One day when we escape from Handan, we’ll hold a wedding ceremony like theirs immediately, all right?” Zhao Qian nodded her head furiously.

At this time, someone tied strings made with 7 colors around the wrists of the newly weds and everyone gave their blessings like wishing them togetherness til old age and hearts joined forever. The ceremony is simple yet significant. After that they had a feast of more than 10 tables at the great ancestral hall in the middle of the village where the whole village attended. The little kids wearing new clothes were even more happy, using their laughter and noisy play to add to this joyous atmosphere.

As the wine warmed them up to their ears, Jing Jun returned and went behind Teng and Xiang, saying with a lowered voice, “The defences between Wei and Zhao are tighter than normal, everyone is keen on capturing Master Xiang and the Princess to get the reward. Luckily I know of a secret route via the water so if we take advantage of the snow and the cover of the night, we’ll definitely be able to sneak back into Zhao.” Xiang Shaolong said happily, “If only it’d start snowing soon!” Teng Yi looked up the sky and commented, “Don’t worry! There will certainly be a heavy snowfall tonight.”

Teng Yi’s prediction truly did not disappoint as b.a.l.l.s of snowflakes started falling since dusk. By now the 4 of them have already pa.s.sed the border between Han and Wei and made their wooden rafts, to be controlled by Teng and Jing. With the water and wind going in the right direction, they safely returned within Zhao’s border the next morning.