Book 5 Chap 4 – No route for advance or retreat
After breakfast, Xiang Shaolong went to see Master Wu and his son but he did not see Wu Zhuo and Tao Fang.
He remembered the suspicious Chu who was in contact with Zhao Mu and knows that those two must be away because of this matter.
When he reported the situation last night when he saw Zhuji, Master Wu and his son turned somber.
Wu Yingyuan furrowed his brows and said, “This woman is extremely formidable, no man can escape her allure. But why is Guo Kai so bold, the servants there should all belong to Zhao Mu, so how can he hide his visits from Zhao Mu?”
Master Wu replied, “Zhao Mu allowd Guo Kai to handle a lot of matters for him, for all you know those people there are all placed by Guo Kai. That’s why he can steal what he’s supposed to protect without any fear at all.”
He turned towards Xiang Shaolong and said, “The 2 new family warriors you recruited are rare talents. Treat them well, wealth and women, just give it to them.”
Xiang Shaolong replied, “I understand!” but he secretly thought to himself that a relationship based on such material goods, how can it sustain?
Wu Yingyuan replied, “It seems that Shaolong can easily smuggle them out now, the question is how to leave Handan and avoid the pursuing soldiers along the way?” He paused and asked suspiciously, “Isn’t this a little too easy!”
Xiang Shaolong was only worried about the other aspect, “Our Wu family has such an extended family, easily more than a thousand, how can we escape out of Zhao?”
Wu Yingyuan smiled, “I’ve arranged for this since 2 years ago. The Wu family has business all over the world, so all along there’s always been people who were sent to other areas to take care of business and the farms. Recently, with the excuse of setting up a new farm, even Tingwei has been sent out, in case he lets slip of our plans when he’s out merrymaking.
Xiang Shaolong was suddenly enlightened, no wonder he have not seen Wu Tingwei. He asked, “Since the King of Zhao is aware of father-in-law and Lu Buwei’s being in correspondence, and now that we keep sending our family people out of Handan, how can he not be suspicious?”
Wu Yingyuan replied, “They can only suspect! They have never gathered any concrete proof. Besides, both the Guo family and us have connections with the various powerful people in other states and sometimes we even helped the King of Zhao in overseas secret missions. If not for Zhao Mu fanning the flames at the side, what’s the big deal about having relations with Lu Buwei?”
Xiang Shaolong is even more perplexed, “Why is Zhao Mu so intent on getting rid of the Wu family?”
Master Wu slapped on the table and exclaimed angrily, “It’s all because of that fellow Guo Zhong who caused all these. I don’t know how he managed to find out that one of our family ancestors is a Qin, and investigated that the family name Wu is a major family name over at the Qin side, that’s why the King of Zhao’s suspicions of us grew day by day. Zhao Mu is just following the King of Zhao’s wishes and taking the opportunity to trample us!”
Only now did Xiang Shaolong manage to find out what happened.
Wu Yingyuan returned to the earlier topic, “Since Guo Kai has secretly entangled himself with Zhuji, we have to think of a way to make use of this matter to affect the relationship between Guo Kai and Zhao Mu. Without Guo Kai around to give nasty ideas to Zhao Mu, it’ll be easier to handle Zhao Mu.”
The corners of Master Wu’s lips revealed a slight mysterious smile as he said, “We’ll talk about this later.” He turned towards Xiang Shaolong and said, “You better think of a more concrete plan so that you can strengthen Zhuji’s confidence when you see her tonight, then it’ll be easier to cooperate in future.”
At this time a servant came to report that there’s a guest looking for Xiang Shaolong.
Xiang Shaolong was feeling perplexed, who could be looking for him?
By now Xiang Shaolong’s status in the Wu family is even greater than before, and is obviously the most important person after Master Wu and Wu Yingyuan, so he received the guest in the main hall of the main mansion.
He went to the hall, and his visitors turned out to be the old family warriors of Prince Shaoyuan, Liu Cao and Pu Bu.
Xiang Shaolong came forward joyfully and helped the 2 of them up, asking with a mixture of surprise and joy, “I’ve been waiting for you to arrive everyday, and finally my wait is over.”
The 2 of them saw how Xiang Shaolong holds them in such high regard and were so grateful that hot tears welled in their eyes.
Xiang Shaolong asked about the situation in Daliang.
It turns out that ever since Xiang Shaolong escaped out of Prince Xinling’s residence, Prince Xinling has been livid. After he found out that besides the front section of the ‘Lu Gong’s Secret Manual’, the rest has been swapped and stolen, he was so upset he almost committed suicide. He even suspected his sister Lady Pingyuan had leaked the news to Xiang Shaolong and started behaving coldly towards her and her son.
Because of this Prince Shaoyuan became very bad tempered and kept on scolding and beating his family warriors. Pu Bu and the rest took the opportunity to resign.
Without the support of Prince Xinling, Prince Shaoyuan faces the difficulty of supporting 200 odd family warriors so he might as well dismiss them. Therefore Pu Bu and 40 odd other men returned to Handan.
They are familiar with the surroundings here and after finding out that Xiang Shaolong is safe, came to find him immediately.
Xiang Shaolong suddenly has an idea and after summoning someone to borrow from Wu Yingyuan a large sum of money, he stuffed the money to the 2 of them and said, “Find a place to settle down but you must remember not to reveal your relations with me. Have fun and make merry all you can, when I need your help, I will look for you.”
The 2 of them knew that he is now in a life and death fight with Xhao Mu and on hearing what he said, understood his meaning. They also saw that he is 10 times more generous than Prince Shaoyuan but his character is a 100 times better, so obviously they will want to follow him loyally.
Liu Cao said, “We’re very popular in Handan, and now that we’ve officially left the Pingyuan Residence, why don’t we pretend to throw in our lots with Zhao Mu’s devious faction so we can become your eyes and ears.”
Xiang Shaolong secretly thought that this is indeed a good idea, who would have thought that the family warriors of Pingyuan Residence who used to be his enemies would now belong to him. They discussed who they should align themselves with and decided on how to make contact before the 2 of them left happily.
Xiang Shaolong felt more relieved and went to look for Teng Yi. Seeing that he was training the warriors of the Wu family, he thought of the idea of the special task force and told him, “See if my suggestion is doable, among these 2000 warriors, choose about 100 of the best and name them ‘Superior Troops’. Bring them to the farm and train them separately, let them learn the various different skills. If every one of them has half the skills of you and Jing Jun, it won’t be an impossible task when the time comes to force our way into the hostage residence to save people.”
At first Teng Yi furrowed his brows deeply when he heard that, secretly thinking how can a hundred people accomplish anything great, until Xiang Shaolong explained the method of keeping the strong and eliminating the weak as well as the strict training he underwent while in the special task force. This extremely experienced and ferocious warrior had to admit defeat and say, “This is the first time I’ve heard of such training methods, Shaolong you’re absolutely an incomparable military genius. War in your hands has become a form of art.”
Xiang Shaolong secretly laughed, if he can change the sabers, swords and arrows into guns and cannons, just this ancient special task force will be able to conquer the 6 states and unify the world. By then would he need to fear a mere Zhao Mu.
The 2 of them discussed in detail the methods of training and equipment needed before Xiang Shaolong led Jing Jun and that 10 personal bodyguards towards Lady Ya’s residence.
While riding on the road, Xiang Shaolong thought of the missing Mei Canniang and had the urge to immediately turn his horse around and go to Mulberry Village to take a look for himself.
He then remembered Ji Yanran at faraway Daliang, and for a moment was helplessly filled with sadness.
Jing Jun who was riding alongside him was looking at his surroundings and looking at the pedestrians on the streets, he suddenly said earnestly, “Xiao Jun is very grateful towards Brother Xiang and Brother Teng. Without both of you who brought me to such an exciting and fun place, I don’t know how I am going to spend my life?”
Xiang Shaolong cast aside his troubles and said with a laugh, “But it may also cause you to lose your life!”
Jing Jun grinned and said suavely, “Then I can only accept my fate! Precisely because of this danger that I may lose my life anytime, it makes fun time with beauties all the more interesting. That feeling is just like when I was 5 years old and the first time I helped my father hunt tigers.”
Xiang Shaolong asked hoa.r.s.ely, “A 5 year old kid can’t even walk steadily, what help can you render?”
Jing Jun laughed as well, “That I forgot, I only remember when the ferocious tiger fell into the trap, the horrible roars were so frightening that I peed in my pants.”
Xiang Shaolong can’t help but chortle loudly, his sadness momentarily forgotten.
Behind them hoof beats were heard.
Everyone turned their heads back in unison on hearing it.
A horse came nearer, the rider’s cloak covering the whole head and for a moment they can’t see the face clearly. Only when it got near did they recognize the person.
Jing Jun’s eyes brightened immediately.
Xiang Shaolong was slightly surprised as he called out, “Where is Miss Zhi going?”
Zhao Zhi slowed her horse down and went to Xiang Shaolong’s other side, turned her face towards him and looked at him frostily, “Where is Commander going then?”
Jing Jun who was on the other side blinked at her and said, “Miss Zhi have yet to reply Brother Xiang’s question?”
Zhao Zhi felt angry upon seeing Jing Jun, feeling that he’s more irritating than anyone else and retorted with fury, “When adults are talking, it’s not your place to interrupt!”
Xiang Shaolong laughed, “Miss is wrong, Xiao Jun is my good brother, his words are my words.”
Jing Jun did not expect Xiang Shaolong to think so highly of him and he immediately became proud, puffing up his chest and deliberately heaved a sigh of pity as he said, “And I thought Miss Zhi is here to look for me!”
Zhao Zhi was so furious that her pretty face turned pale, “Who wants to look for you?”
Without knowing why, Jing Jun’s words and actions always irritated and anger her.
Jing Jun chuckled, “Who are you looking for then!”
Xiang Shaolong can’t help but feel that this lad is indeed quite good at making fun and flirting with women.
Zhao Zhi knows that she has fallen into Jing Jun’s questioning trap. If she answers that she’s here to look for Xiang Shaolong, it will mean that Jing Jun’s earlier insinuation that she has taken a liking for Xiang Shaolong and is therefore here to look for him. But if her answer is no, naturally she’s here to look for Jing Jun.
But the truth is Zhao Zhi doesn’t even know herself why she is here to look for Xiang Shaolong.
Last night Xiang Shaolong had an outstanding victory over Yan Ping, who is a highly respected martial arts master in Handan, shocking everyone present.
Zhao Ba who has always thought highly of himself is now feeling afraid, especially since the military is now backing Xiang Shaolong up, Zhao Ba will not dare to embroil himself in the fight between the 2 big political and military powers. After the feast he immediately warned all his disciples, especially Zhao Zhi, not to antagonize Xiang Shaolong.
But Zhao Zhi is a proud person and after she went home, the more she thought about it, the more upset she became. After she woke up, she unconsciously went up her horse and came riding to the Wu residence and on the way there actually b.u.mped into Xiang Shaolong, that’s why she caught up with them.
Right now she is dumbfounded and her pretty face blushed.
Xiang Shaolong does not know the degree of closeness she has with Lian Jin, so he said with a quiet sigh, “At that time, being in a situation that one is forced to determine life and death in a duel, it’s either Lian Jin will perish or I will die. Besides Lian Jin and Zhao Mu used underhanded tricks first while my fight with him was aboveboard, so who can blame me?”
Zhao Zhi was stunned, and lowered her pretty face.
The matter regarding Lian Jin and Zhao Mu using aphrodisiac to weaken Xiang Shaolong’s energy has spread through the powerful in the imperial court long ago. Although Zhao Zhi has heard something about this, she forced herself to ignore it. But without knowing why, the way that Xiang Shaolong just talked about it like a pa.s.sing matter, made her truly believe what has happened. Or maybe it’s because last night Xiang Shaolong’s conduct has shown that he is not one who is afraid of the powerful and that he is aboveboard in his att.i.tude!
Her love for Lian Jin may be strong, but it’s all superficial attraction to the opposite s.e.x. Lian Jin had made use of her young blossoming heart and took the opportunity to steal her heart.
Such first love may be unforgettable for her, but it has not reached the stage where it has eaten into her soul. When Lian Jin’s perfect image was destroyed, this love dissipated with the wind as well and for a moment her mind was in a blank, and she did not know what to do.
Xiang Shaolong seems to understand the change in her perfectly and asked with a smile, “Miss Zhi, will you let Jing Jun send you home?”
Zhao Zhi was startled, “I don’t need anyone’s escort!” She slapped her horse and went galloping into the side street on the left.
Xiang Shaolong gave Jing Jun an eye signal and Jing Jun was overjoyed as he slapped his own horse and went after her, ignoring the looks of others as he shouted, “Miss Zhi, wait for me!”
Xiang Shaolong was delighted.
That la.s.s Zhao Zhi is really not too bad, and extremely compatible with Jing Jun both in terns of age and appearance. Most importantly he could tell that Jing Jun has fallen for her at first sight but it seems that if he wants to woo her successfully, he’ll have to put in a lot of effort.
Suddenly Xiang Shaolong realized that he has changed a lot.
If it was in the past, women to him are the more the merrier and he will never reject any who approaches him. Maybe now he has too many beauties, or maybe the pain of having the women he love die horribly one after another has made his att.i.tude towards women a lot more cooler and he doesn’t really feel like stepping into the love arena now.
Everyone who is born will have to face the deaths of people around him, and the end will come with his own death.
For the past year, he has experienced the heart wrenching pain of such deaths.
He thought of what happened with Zhuji last night. At that time although he felt great l.u.s.t, it has nothing to do with love or feelings at all, just the rash desire of pure basic attraction to the opposite s.e.x.
But it’s so difficult to control.
He’ll have to be careful when he sees her tonight, or else if he were to have a physical relationship with her, things will become even more complicated.
He only hopes that she will not flirt with him, this woman truly understands how to lure men.
Lady Ya’s residence came into view and Xiang Shaolong sighed before riding in.
The guards hastened their horses to follow him closely and 11 steeds swept into Lady Ya’s residence like the wind.
Lady Ya has gone to the Palace and only Zhao Qian and Master Pan is in the residence.
Zhao Pan has matured in a short time, unlike in the past where he will slip out and have fun the whole day or make fun of the maids or forming up gangs to create trouble.
Zhao Qian pitied him because of the horrific experience he went through and accompanied him in his studies. As for Zhao Pan, in front of his beautiful cousin, changed his character and studied hard as well.
Xiang Shaolong’s heart ached on seeing this and he took Zhao Pan to the garden where he conscientiously taught him the Mohist swordplay and ordered his men to spar with him.
While Zhao Pan was forgetting himself in his sword practice, Xiang Shaolong started chatting with Zhao Qian who was looking from the side, “I didn’t expect this child to become so understanding.”
Zhao Qian’s eyes reddened as she replied, “The person he loves most is Aunt Ni. Now his heart is filled with hatred, not only does he hate Zhao Mu, he also hates Imperial Father. That’s why he sees you as a role model and wants to become as smart and brave so that he can avenge Aunt Ni.”
Xiang Shaolong looked at Zhao Pan, who has a face of darkened concentration and determination, which is clearly a mismatched expression for a person of his age at all and he felt iciness in his heart.
His intuition tells him that Zhao Pan will definitely not be an ordinary person in future but for now he cannot guess what great things will he accomplish.
Zhao Qian said quietly, “He accepted me partly because I belong to you, and also because like him, I hate Imperial Father and Zhao Mu greatly as well.”
Xiang Shaolong suddenly felt terrible and he asked, “Doesn’t your Imperial Father respect Lady Ni the most? Why would he just sit there and look at Zhao Mu commit murder? At least he should look into this matter thoroughly. Besides this matter has caused the military much unhappiness and this can become the greatest danger for Zhao since the battle of Changping.”
Zhao Qian sighed sadly, “No one can understand Imperial Father, he wasn’t like that in the past. But after the battle of Changping, he changed totally, becoming indecisive and kept on changing his mind about matters, to the extent that he’s even a little afraid of facing his officials, especially the generals from the military. He allowed Zhao Mu to exercise sole power and cover everything up. Like this matter regarding Lady Ni, he should have given strict orders for a thorough investigation but after Zhao Mu’s interference, he made this into a small matter very easily and thus settled it, making all in the palace disheartened with him.”
From Zhao Qian’s qords, Xiang Shaolong saw the other effect the battle of Changping has done to the state of Zhao.
The defeat of that battle is mainly because King Xiaocheng fell for the Qin’s extremely juvenile trick of sowing discord and allowed Zhao Gua to replace Lian Po. It can also be considered a clash of power between a newly crowned leader and a powerful old general.
After this greatest defeat in the history of Zhao which totally weakened them, King Xiaocheng lost his confidence and became someone who runs away from reality, to the extent that he’s even afraid of seeing the silent reproach in his ministers’ eyes.
Therefore Zhao Mu took the opportunity to come in and fulfilled his mental and physical needs.
Maybe the King of Zhao became a h.o.m.os.e.xual because he has given up on himself, and was embarking on destroying himself out of guilt. Of course it is also possible that he is born like that but what is the true reason, maybe even King Xiaocheng does not know himself.
Zhao Qian said sadly, “I still miss the time when we were escaping from Daliang, hoping to have you hugging and loving me every night. Shaolong! When will we leave this hideous place, find a deserted place and let Qian’er cook for you while you hunt for our livelihood?”
Xiang Shaolong was laughing bitterly to himself, if he had stayed on at Mei Canniang’s valley, maybe he would be able to spend the rest of his life like that. But now it’s as if he is already riding on the tiger and finds it difficult to dismount, and he can’t do it even if he wants to.
Even if he goes to Qin, what he will meet may be even more complicated fights for power. In this ancient warring states period, it seems that there is no paradise to live in. Or else Mei Canniang would not have been almost raped by bandits and Teng Yi’s wife and children would not have been killed.
He sighed and told the story about paradise to Zhao Qian. When this pretty princess is totally engrossed in the story, as if her soul has flown to that human utopia, Zhao Ya came back with a somber expression.
Xiang Shaolong and her went into a quiet room for discussion.
Zhao Ya sighed, “On the battlefield Li Mu is an unmatched and fierce warrior, but when it comes to political intrigue he is really too impetuous and also underestimated Zhao Mu’s influence over Imperial brother.”
Xiang Shaolong was secretly alarmed and asked, “What happened?”
Zhao Ya did not reply him directly but said with a troubled look, “They do not understand that after the battle of Changping, what Imperial brother fears most is others telling him he has made a mistake. Now Li Mu is obviously trying to force Imperial brother to admit that he has slipped up in the matter of Sister Ni and blaming him for covering up for the suspected murderer, so how will he be willing to accept this.”
Xiang Shaolong furrowed his brow, “What actually happened?”
Zhao Ya looked at him and said, “After the feast last night, Zhao Mu entered the Palace immediately to look for Imperial brother, but no one knows what he told him. Most likely he’s blaming the military for using this opportunity to create chaos and to shake Imperial brother’s hold on the throne; naturally he won’t have anything good to say about you either.”
Only now did Xiang Shaolong understand the term a muddleheaded ruler will bring downfall to the country. When power is concentrated in the hands of one person, this person will become the key to success or failure. Although the modern democratic system is full of cons, but it’s a hundred times better than having a muddle headed ruler controlling the life and death of everyone.
Zhao Ya continued, “This morning Imperial brother summoned me and asked me in detail about you and forced me to reveal my real relationship with you, I almost could not handle the questionings.”
Xiang Shaolong asked in shock, “How did you answer him?”
Zhao Ya started to look a little unnatural as she replied, “Of course I won’t reveal the truth, but it seems that he still believes that I am not enamored of you, or maybe because my reputation in the past was just too bad!” After she spoke she lowered her pretty face, looking troubled.
Xiang Shaolong pinched her chin and lifted up her pretty face, saying, “Now I’m involved with the military and the Wu family, 2 important factions, your Imperial brother won’t dare to do anything against me rashly!”
Zhao Ya exclaimed miserably, “I’m worried to death! You must not overestimate the power of the military and the Wu family. If Imperial brother ignores everything and execute you immediately, by then it’ll be too late and no one will really come to a face to face confrontation with Imperial brother over you.”
A fury welled up within Xiang Shaolong as he said with an icy laugh, “Want to kill me, I’m afraid King Xiaocheng will need to mobilize his army to do that, I will not let myself be caught so easily.”
Zhao ya pouted, “Sometimes you’re really like a person with all brawn and no brains. Just Imperial brother’s personal guards alone total 20,000, there are about 30,000 soldiers guarding the city and the commander Le Cheng is Zhao Mu’s man. If something happens, who can save you. If something were to happen to you, how can I continue living!” As she finished her sentence, hot tears flowed out, obviously she is extremely worried and frightened, but it seems that there’s something else as well.
Xiang Shaolong gathered her into his arms and said with a smile, “Don’t worry! Someone has once said that I am the new saint who will face many dangers, so I definitely won’t die.”
Zhao Ya was stunned, “Who said that? What is a new saint?”
She paused and continued without interest, “I am at a loss right now and feeling very troubled, Shaolong teach me quickly what I should do.”
Xiang Shaolong was silent for a moment before replying, “Now there’s not much choice left, only by escaping from Handan will we have a chance of survival. But before we leave I must tear that Zhao Mu into pieces before the hatred in my heart can be appeased.”
Zhao Ya caressed his cheeks lovingly, “You must promise to bring Ya’er with you!”
Xiang Shaolong said with surety, “That is of course, not only will I bring you, Xiao Pan and Qian’er will come with us as well.”
Zhao ya asked quietly, “Are we going to Qin. Hai! The Qins are even more frightening than the people from other states!”
Xiang Shaolong said with a laugh, “Don’t forget I am the new saint.” He stood up and continued, “I’m afraid I will only have time to accompany all of you after we reach Qin. King Xiaocheng’s reaction is totally beyond my expectations, I have to look for Li Mu immediately to discuss this and try to mollify your Imperial brother’s feelings.”
Zhao Ya accompanied him out and said, “I will be in charge of keeping an eye of the situation in the palace. Luckily Empress Jing is on your side speaking up for you and Imperial brother is still wavering, so for the time being he would not dare to use such harsh methods to deal with you yet.” As she finished her words she suddenly lowered her pretty face, a look of unfathomable confusion flashed past her pretty eyes.
Of course Xiang Shaolong did not see that, but he just felt troubled.
Zou Yan may really believe that he is some new saint, but he knows that there’s no such thing at all.
If there is a new saint, it should be Ying Zheng.
But the Ying Zheng now, how can he be the new saint who unifies the world?
Xiang Shaolong greatly misses the high tech weapons he used in the 21st century.
In this era, even the most formidable swordsman can only deal with a dozen odd people but not a hundred odd people, much less thousands of well trained soldiers.
Therefore he can only use strategies and tactics so that he will have a chance to preserve his life and escape.
Suddenly, he felt as if he can’t bear to leave Handan.
It’s finally time to leave this great ancient city.