A Step into the Past Chapter 55

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Book 5 Chap 10 – Going along with the mistake

Xiang Shaolong met Zhao Ya at the quiet inner hall.

It was a sunny day, the sun who has not shown his face for many days shone gently on the silvery white world.

This time Xiang Shaolong did not even see Xiao Zhao and Xiao Mei, it seems that everyone in the whole residence has been changed with Zhao Mu’s men.

Zhao Ya was dressed in yellow and she seemed to be in better spirits but it still could not hide her sad and tired face. There is a kind of heartbreaking, lonesome beauty, which revealed the torture and dilemma in her heart.

But Xiang Shaolong has no pity for her at all. He only thought that she deserves it.

After they were seated and the maid who served tea left, Zhao Ya said quietly, “How are things progressing?”

Xiang Shaolong gave a small smile and replied, “Quite smoothly. Do you have any new information on your side, did Zhao Mu hear of anything at all?”

Zhao Ya shook her head, “Imperial Brother and Zhao Mu’s attention are all placed on the war with the Yans, and has no time to bother about other matters for the moment.” She paused and continued, “Instead Empress Jing is urging you to strike quickly and wants me to tell you that Imperial Brother is very unhappy because you submitted the doc.u.ment together with Li Mu and it’s quite possible that he will deal with you and the Wu family after the Farmers’ Festival.”

Xiang Shaolong secretly thought that they are trying to make him more determined to strike. Zhao Ya, you’re really hardworking.

Zhao Ya saw that he was quiet and asked, “Have you made contact with Lu Buwei and the rest? If there’s no one from Qin to help, how are we going to send Zhu Ji and her son back to Xianyang?”

Xiang Shaolong pretended to be troubled and said, “We’ve made contact long ago. They sent Tu Xian and his men over first but they still do not trust us. They only said that if we can get Zhu Ji and her son out of the city, then we are to meet them at Magu Hill west of the city.”

How is Zhao Ya supposed to know this is all nonsense so her pretty eyes brightened and she pressed on, “There’s only 2 days left, is the secret tunnel out of the city ready?”

Xiang Shaolong suddenly had a bright idea and said, “Everything is ready.” He continued with an earnest voice, “To me, you and Qian’er are more important that Zhu Ji and her son, so I’ve decided to send you, Qian’er and Xiao Pan out of the city first before I activate the attack on your Imperial Brother and the Hostage Residence. Otherwise I’d rather cancel the whole plan.”

Zhao Ya’s delicate body shook as she lowered her head and said, “Are we really that important?”

Xiang Shaolong was secretly laughing to himself as he replied, “What joy do I have left if I lose all of you. According to past experiences, your Imperial Brother’s troops will leave the city the day after at the hour of Chen (between 7am to 9am). I will wait for you at the back door a little earlier, around the hour of Mao (between 5am to 7am). If everything is appropriate, I’ll immediately send someone to send all of you to the west of the city and after I’ve kidnapped Zhu Ji and her son, I will meet up with you and leave the city together via the secret tunnel.”

Zhao Ya asked, “Who is in charge of the ambush outside the city?”

Xiang Shaolong replied, “Of course Wu Zhuo will be in charge. When the troops pa.s.s by the tall gra.s.sland, our men who are already in hiding in pre-dug ditches will shoot arrows when they are caught unprepared and they will be unable to react. This plan can be considered flawless.”

Zhao Ya’s lips quivered slightly and with a voice as soft as an insect buzzing, said, “All right! At that time I, Third Princess and Xiao Pan will slip out to meet up with you.”

Xiang Shaolong saw that he has reached his aim and went to look for Zhao Qian. Zhao Ya used the excuse that she’s returning to the Palace to report to Empress Jing and left the residence. However Xiang Shaolong of course knows that she is going to report the latest situation to the King of Zhao.

Naturally Zhao Qian is overjoyed at seeing him, but also worried that he won’t be able to win against the King of Zhao and Zhao Mu.

Xiang Shaolong hugged her, whispering sweet nothings to her and at the same time telling her about the plan to change Xiao Pan into Ying Zheng.

The expression on Zhao Qian’s pretty face changed, not knowing whether to feel scared or excited as breathed out, “No wonder Xiao Pan has been behaving strangely these few days, talking to himself. I was so worried that he has lost his senses because he missed his mother too much yet I dare not tell you for fear that you will be distracted.”

Xiang Shaolong said, “Besides you and Tingfang, no one else knows his real ident.i.ty, so under no circ.u.mstances must you reveal the truth of this matter.”

Zhao Qian replied, “I understand!”

To a.s.sure her, Xiang Shaolong told her what he said to Zhao Ya earlier and further discussed how they could help Xiao Pan disguise before he returned to the Wu family’s stockade.

The next day Xiang Shaolong went back to Zhao Ya’s residence to look for her and to test her.

As expected, Ziao Ya has no objections to this arrangement.

Standing from Zhao Mu’s viewpoint, Xiang Shaolong and the Wu family is just toying within his palms, and there’s no way they can escape from his hands. That’s why he will never let go of this opportunity that seems heaven bestowed to totally eliminate Xiang Shaolong and all of the Wu family’s power in one fell swoop.

Xiang Shaolong smiled and said, “Kids are more easily frightened, I’d like to take Xiao Pan away first, does Ya’er have any thoughts about this?”

Why on earth would Zhao Ya bother about an unimportant orphan so she nodded her head in agreement.

Xiang Shaolong stood up and was about to leave.

Zhao Ya called out softly, “Shaolong!”

Xiang Shaolong turned around and Zhao Ya threw herself into his arms, her slender hands encircling his neck as she kissed him, using all her strength to portray the pain in her heart.

Although Xiang Shaolong is not at all interested, he had to pretend to l.u.s.tily savor her tiny mouth.

As their lips parted, Zhao Ya’s tears flowed uncontrollably.

Xiang Shaolong pretended to be surprised and asked, “Do you have any problems?”

Zhao Ya leaned on his shoulder and wailed, only recollecting herself after a long while and said, “I’m just too happy, that’s why I behaved this way.”

Xiang Shaolong was secretly cursing.

Zhao Ya stepped away and wiped her tears as she said, “Go and look for Xiao Pan!”

Xiang Shaolong took Xiao Pan away openly and along the way he changed him into some torn and old clothes he prepared earlier and gave him some instructions before bringing him back to the Wu stockade.

Before that he has already told the needed people that Ying Zheng is actually another person. Those in the Wu family were very excited and the happiest is Xiao Yuetan, because this has changed the entire situation.

They have just stepped through the door when Wu Yingyuan and Xiao Yuetan rushed forward and knelt down, calling out Crown Prince.

Xiao Pan pretended to be overwhelmed and hid behind Xiang Shaolong, and kept crying out that he wants to see his real mother.

Xiang Shaolong told them, “He’s still not used to his real ident.i.ty. Let me bring him to Tingfang for her to look after and we’ll talk again after he’s seen the Empress.”

They did not suspect a thing at all and happily showed this fake prince into the inner mansion.

Time pa.s.sed, and the day of the Farmers’ Festival finally arrived.

Everyone in the stockade woke up before dawn.

All the ladies and children used the excuse that they are going to the farms to celebrate the Farmers’ Festival to leave the city. Ting Fangshi and the 4 maids were one of the batch who were sent away.

Wu Tingfang threw a tantrum, insisting on staying by Xiang Shaolong’s side. No one could do anything about her so they had to agree.

Inside the stockade, besides the 2000 elite soldiers under Wu Zhuo, there are also 700 odd loyal warriors and 200 odd male and female strong servants, in all about 3000 people. In addition to the high walls and the moat, they are a force not to be reckoned with.

This is also the reason the King of Zhao dare not make any rash moves. It’ll be easier to deal with them if they can be lured out of the strong fortress.

After their meal, Xiang Shaolong led Teng Yi, Jing Jun, Xiao Yuetan and his 30 highly skilled men as well as Wu family’s 77 elite warriors who are akin to the special task force, out of the city in the dark.

Shortly after they left the stockade, Wu Zhuo led another 50 skilled men and a horse carriage towards Lady Ya’s residence.

The sun only came out slowly an hour later, after they reached the back door of Lady Ya’s residence.

The back door opened immediately and Zhao Ya and Zhao Qian dashed out from inside.

Someone opened the carriage door and invited them in.

Zhao Ya followed Zhao Qian into the carriage and only saw Wu Zhuo and 2 other people sitting inside, and he said coldly, “Lady, h.e.l.lo!”

Zhao Ya tried to be calm as she asked, “Where is Shaolong?”

Wu Zhuo signaled the 2 men with his eyes and they immediately struck, tying Zhao Ya up st.u.r.dily and even sealed her pretty mouth.

Wu Zhuo pa.s.sed the pre-prepared clothes to Zhao Qian to let her wear over her clothes and in a short while, she has turned into a man. Unless one looks closely, no one will be able to tell the difference, especially the fake moustache above her lips is so well made.

Zhao Ya’s alarmed and pretty eyes looked at Wu Zhuo, and looked at Zhao Qian who seemed not to care about her and finally realized what is happening. She felt a mixture of shame and regret.

Wu Zhuo looked at her with distaste, “You’re such a stupid and cheap s.lut, how dare you betray our Master Xiang, you really do not know your own ability.” And he spat at her.

By now the carriage has turned into a small lane, and Wu Zhuo and Zhao Qian dismounted before the carriage continued on its way.

Zhao Ya’s tears finally flowed uncontrollably.

Outside the carriage window, snow suddenly fell.

Xiang Shaolong, Teng Yi, Xiao Yuetan etc were hiding in the dense woods opposite the Hostage Residence, concentrating on the happenings at the main door. Everything seems to look normal, there aren’t even guards at the door, as if they are not prepared at all.

Xiao Yuetan asked doubtfully, “Would Lady be able to slip out so easily?”

Xiang Shaolong looked at the falling snow and secretly thought that it is indeed written in history books that Zhu Ji and her son arrived at Xianyang safely, so this seemingly impossible matter should happen smoothly. He said with confidence, “Definitely!”

Before he could finish his words, the door to the Hostage Residence opened. First 10 Zhao soldiers on horses came out, followed by an elaborate horse carriage, and another 20 riders followed behind it as they came out to the streets pompously, turned left and rode towards the west.

Everyone was ecstatic and hurried to act.

Jing Jun who was hiding in ambush at that side received the flag signal and immediately gave orders to prepare to attack. 30 elite members swiftly used their pre-prepared ropes and climbed up the trees lining on each side of the road, their bows and arrows aimed at the fast approaching target.

Just as the carriage was about to reach the trees where the men were hiding in ambush, loud hoof beats were suddenly heard from behind and a Zhao soldier on horseback came rushing up, signaling them to stop their advancement.

The leader of the carriage team was startled and ordered his men to stop moving.

Suddenly the sounds of arrows flying were heard and 31 men, including the last Zhao soldier were all killed, with one arrow in each of them as they fell down their horses.

The elite soldiers all jumped down and landed squarely on the horses backs, controlling the alarmed and neighing war horses.

Jing Jun landed lightly on the roof of the carriage and just as he was about to lean upside down and poke his head in to claim his reward from the ‘fake Guo Kai’ who is in fact Zhu Ji, a man with a sword banged the door open and dashed out.

Everyone were stunned.

This person was dressed in finery and looked to be about 25 to 26 years of age, his height comparable to Xiang Shaolong, his looks extremely handsome and suave. His eyes were so alluring it captivates the soul and he is more than qualified to be the dream man of any woman.

He’s also very alert, on seeing the bodies of the Zhao soldiers on the ground and surrounded by enemies, he roared and wanted to dash into the woods at the side. However, his neck felt tight and he was grabbed around the neck by Jung Jun who was on top of the carriage and the sword in his hand fell to the ground.

2 elite soldiers dashed up and immediately tossed him flat on the ground and at the same time punched and kicked him. He was in such pain that he curled up on the ground.

Xiang Shaolong, Xiao Yuetan and the rest arrived and on seeing such a scene, their expressions changed.

The horse carriage was empty.

Xiang Shaolong stepped on that man’s stomach and shouted, “Who are you?”

Jing Jun grabbed his hair and pulled his face up to reveal a pretty toy boy.

That man was so frightened he turned pale as he stammered and pleaded, “Sirs spare my life, I am an envoy from the state of Qi and has no enmity with you.”

Xiang Shaolong and Jing Jun looked at each other, they did not expect this Qi Yu to be so useless, cowardly and afraid of death.

Xiao Yuetan exclaimed agitatedly, “What shall we do? Obviously Guo Kai did not go to Lady’s room last night.”

Everyone were immediately aware that this man in front of them must have tried to go and take advantage of Zhu Ji and only left now after breakfast. Even though Zhu Ji has the ability to entice all men on earth, there is no way she can use her ability because since she wasn’t able to get Guo Kai to her bed, of course she has no chance to drug him.

Xiang Shaolong pulled out Blood Wace, pointing it at Qi Yu’s eyes and roared, “You want your left eye or right eye?”

Qi Yu stammered, “Spare me! I promise to do anything you ask.”

Xiang Shaolong regained his calm and composure and said with a smile, “I only want you to go back to Hostage Residence.”

The team rode back to the Hostage Residence in spite of the heavy snow.

Xiang Shaolong and Xiao Yuetan sat in the carriage, holding the shaking Qi Yu as hostage. Looking at this Casanova, they don’t know whether to be angry or to laugh.

The door opened and someone called out, “Why has Master Qi returned?”

Under Xiang and Xiao’s threatening gestures, Qi Yu called out, “I’ve left an important doc.u.ment behind and need to take it back from Lady’s place.”

That guard said, “Master Guo has ordered that no one is allowed into Hostage Residence.”

Qi Yu followed what Xiang Shaolong whispered in his ear and said, “This doc.u.ment has something to do with your country’s King and is extremely important. I’ll be responsible for anything that happens, let me in quickly!”

That guard had no choice but to let him in because of his special status and also because he just came out of the residence earlier.

The accompanying Zhao soldiers are of course Jing Jun and his men in disguise. Firstly, it was snowing heavily and also because these soldiers sent to protect Qi Yu are from a different camp to those guarding the residence so they do not know one another and for the moment no one could detect anything wrong.

Everyone heaved a sigh of relief as the carriage hurriedly arrived at the empty s.p.a.ce next to Zhu Ji’s residence.

Jing Jun is in charge of staying outside the residence and on seeing the various defense setup in the garden and the ditches for archers, he can’t help but heave a sigh of relief, feeling glad that they need not force their way in.

Xiang Shaolong and Xiao Yuetan escorted Qi Yu on his left and right, with 4 more men following them and went into the building. The 4 Zhao soldiers standing guard at the steps recognized Qi Yu and although they saw that he looked pale, they thought it’s because he exerted too much ‘energy’ last night and so did not suspect anything amiss.

2 of the guards followed them into the building.

2 pretty maids were cleaning up the hall and they both smiled and came towards Qi Yu to welcome him once they saw him.

Xiang Shaolong gave a secret signal and the 4 elite soldiers struck at the same time, using the techniques they learnt from Xiang Shaolong to knock the 2 maids and 2 guards out. They immediately tied them up tightly with ropes, stuffed their mouths and dragged them to a corner.

Xiang Shaolong asked Qi Yu frostily, “How many others are there in the house?”

Qi Yu replied obediently, “There are another 5 maids and 2 of them are accompanying Zhu Ji.” To stay alive, he is indeed revealing everything that he knows.

Just as the 4 elite soldiers were about to go search, the main door suddenly opened and Guo Kai dashed in and asked Qi Yu unhappily, “Why have Master Envoy come back again, didn’t you have enough fun last night?” His tone was filled with jealousy.

Xiang Shaolong knows that he must have heard the news from the fake Ying Zheng and this came over hurriedly to make sarcastic remarks at Qi Yu who has taken his Zhu Ji and felt like laughing.

Qi Yu could only look at him and smile bitterly.

Only now did Guo Kai have the time to look at the people accompanying Qi Yu and when his gaze fell on the coldly sn.i.g.g.e.ring Xiang Shaolong, his expression changed immediately and before he has the chance to shout, a sword was already at his throat.

Xiang Shaolong asked with a smile, “How have Master Guo been!”

Guo Kai stammered, “You will never be able to escape!”

Xiang Shaolong replied nonchalantly, “Who is escaping?” He deliberately emphasized on the word ‘escaping’.

Xiao Yuetan ordered, “Escort them them.”

2 soldiers went off first to look for the other maids whom they have not captured while Xiang Shaolong and the rest took the 2 of them and went up the second floor to Zhu Ji’s tightly closed room.

Guo Kai was threatened and had no choice but to order the strong maids who were inside guarding Zhu Ji to open the door.

The door opened slightly and Xiang Shaolong forced his way in and knocked the 2 maids unconscious.

Zhu Ji was sitting in a daze in front of the copper mirror, looking unhappy when she suddenly saw a Zhao soldier dash in and hit the maids. Just as she was totally scared stiff, Xiao Yuetan has already dashed forward and knelt on the ground, saying quietly, “Your subordinate Xiao Yuetan was late in saving you, Lady must have suffered!” As she spoke, he was so overcome by emotions that he almost wept.

Xiang Shaolong thought that this person really does know how to act, no wonder Lu Buwei thought so highly of him. He reminded them, “Lady, disguise yourself as Guo Kai quickly.”

Only now did Zhu Ji recognize that it’s Xiang Shaolong and she jumped up with joy. She first went to Guo Kai and Qi Yu and gave each of them a slap on the cheek.

Xiang Shaolong secretly thought her formidable and at the same time ordered “Bring the 2 of them out first, remove Master Guo’s clothes and then tie him up.”

2 members of their group obeyed the orders and pushed them out of the room.

With Xiao Yuetan’s expert help, when Zhu Ji put on Guo Kai’s signature long beard and wore his official robes and hat, even Xiang Shaolong could not see the difference.

Zhu Ji remembered something and asked, “Where is Zheng’er?”, he voice obviously shaking.

Xiang Shaolong said with a smile, “Fortunately he’s still alive!”

Zhu Ji exclaimed in joy and almost wanted to rush forward to hug and kiss Xiang Shaolong. She turned to Xiao Yuetan and asked, “Does… does he look like his Majesty?”

Xiao Yuetan coughed drily and stole a look at Xiang Shaolong before replying with embarra.s.sment, “Extremely like him, but he looks as good as Lady too.”

With such a question and answer, Xiang Shaolong knows immediately that even Zhu Ji herself is not sure who this son of hers belong to. Of course she would never imagine that the son she is about to see is not her own flesh and blood at all. Such a messy affair, who knows how it can be explained.

They dare not stay any longer and walked out of the room.

Guo Kai was tied tightly and when he saw ‘himself’ walking out from the room, he was so shocked his eyes almost fell out.

Zhu Ji imitated his voice and said, “Kill him for me!”

Guo Kai and Qi Yu’s faces immediately paled.

Xiang Shaolong has no wish to kill a defenseless person, so he said laughingly, “Keeping him alive will be even more torturous than killing him.”

Zhu Ji rolled her eyes at him and said, “You are a very good man!” and walked downstairs first with a smile.

Xiang Shaolong and the rest have now turned into followers, and escorting Qi Yu, ran after her.

Zhu Ji, disguised as Guo Kai, walked out the main door first and imitating Guo Kai’s voice and tone, reprimanded Qi Yu who was following behind, “If you’re not an honored guest from the state of Qi, I would have punished you severely.”

Qi Yu lowered his head, looking as if he has made a great mistake.

As ‘Guo Kai’ continued his reprimands, he went up the horse carriage together with Qi Yu and of course Xiang Shaolong and Xiao Yuetan followed them in.

The horse carriage drove out and arriving at the main gate, the leader of the guards guarding the gate walked over and said, “Master Envoy…”

Zhu Ji interrupted, “I am going out with Master Envoy for a while, all of you guard the doors closely.”

The leader was stunned, “Sir! This place needs you here.”

Zhu Ji said with her most officious air, “I know what to do. You, Chen Gui, are in no position to tell me what to do, open the door quickly!”

The wonderful part is that she even knows the other person’s name.

That leader has no choice but to order the doors to be opened.

The team left Hostage Residence with no trouble at all.