Book 6 Chap 7 – Love at the Qin Palace
The next morning, Tu Xian’s best advisor Xiao Yuetan came to look for Xiang Shaolong. The 2 of them sat and the small hall in the inner courtyard and Xiao Yuetan said, “It was the Premier who asked me to look for Grand Tutor, to see if there’s anything I can be of help.”
Xiang Shaolong had too much fun last night and drank a little too much as well so he replied with a heavy head, “There’s no need for Mister to be so polite, just call me Shaolong. No matter what rank I hold, we’re still friends who have been through thick and thin so we can speak as equals.” At the same time he tried to figure out the reason he has come.
Xiao Yuetan saw that he did not put on any airs at all and was secretly overjoyed. After expressing his humbleness, he told him the reason for the visit, “It’s to make it more convenient for Shaolong to work in Zhao. If you depend purely on trying to disguise yourself, not only is it troublesome but inappropriate as well. Therefore the Premier has ordered me to specially help Shaolong, Xiao Jun, Brother Teng and Brother Wu make 4 exquisite masks based on the shape of your faces. You’ll just need to add some minor details like change the hairstyle and color and I guarantee that you’ll be able to hide from Zhao Mu. Of course! Shaolong and the others will still have to work on your voices and mannerisms, otherwise you’ll still be recognized.”
Xiang Shaolong felt as if he has just woke up from a dream and asked happily, “Premier indeed thinks of everything, I wonder if you’ve brought the things here.”
Xiao Yuetan proudly took down the little package he has carrying on his back and opened it, and indeed there are 4 masks inside.
He took out one of them to let Xiang Shaolong wear it and immediately Xiang Shaolong turned into a coa.r.s.e looking man with a face full of beard.
Xiao Yuetan reached out with his fingers and started touching the area around his eyes and said with a smile, “The most unique thing about this design is that the connecting parts are mostly at where the hair is. For example the hole here which reveals your eyes, not only has it made your eyebrows thicker, but it also made the shape of your eyes rounder so even for those who knows you, they won’t be able to recognize you from the shape of your eyes. As for the rest of the connecting parts, just apply a layer of powdered oil and it’ll be seamless.”
Xiang Shaolong hurriedly took a copper mirror for a look and was extremely impressed.
Xiao Yuetan took out a chalk and made some markings on the mask before removing it for him, saying “The mask still need some refining, I’ll be able to hand it over within 3 days.”
Xiang Shaolong replied with astonishment, “Mister Xiao is indeed gifted in your art, you’re able to make such a well-fitted mask based only on your memory. What material is this?”
Naturally Xiao Yuetan was overjoyed that someone found him impressive and he replied happily, “This is made from a precious beast called ‘leopard deer’ from the northwest. It’s a little larger than hunting dogs and extremely rare. I collected them at a high price and only managed to get 4 skins and now I’ve used them all up at one go.”
Xiang Shaolong secretly thought that such a rare beast that he’s never even heard of before most likely became extinct because of Xiao Yuetan. After thanking him, he called for Teng Yi and the rest to let them try on the masks to see if any changes need to be made.
Teng Yi and the rest all expressed admiration for the masks and they became more excited about the trip to Handan.
Jing Jun’s physique is so good that it’s unbelievable. He was able to move freely in just a few days, but of course he still cannot turn somersaults.
When Xiao Yuetan removed the mask for Teng Yi, he asked in bewilderment, “Has Brother Teng encountered some joyous event, why have your whole countenance changed.”
For the first time Teng Yi blushed as he hemmed and hawed his way though. Neither does he dare to look at the others in the eyes.
After Xiao Yuetan wrapped everything up, he lowered his voice and said, “About the ambush on Shaolong yesterday on the streets, Premier has already sent someone to investigate. They should be from Weinan Martial Arts School, because 2 of their warriors pa.s.sed away coincidentally yesterday and they carried out the funeral secretly.”
Once he said that, everyone knows in their hearts that Tu Xian has bribed someone from the martial arts school, otherwise how else would he know such tightly guarded news.
Xiao Yuetan added, “But Premier would like to ask Shaolong to tolerate this for the time being, because he already has an even better plan which can get rid of Lord Yangquan and Qiu Risheng at one go, so he would not want to put them on their guard at this juncture.”
Jing Jun was furious, “They come and deal with us as and when they like, sooner or later someone will be killed by them!”
Xiang Shaolong secretly thought that Lu Buwei is getting more and more formidable, no longer is he intent on just getting a moment’s revenge. This type of ruthlessness indeed makes one’s heart run cold and after stopping Jing Jun, he said, “Mister Xiao, please tell the Premier not to worry, we know what to do.”
Obviously Xiao Yuetan is on good terms with Jing Jun and he pulled him aside to explain and guarantee that they will not let Qiu Risheng and his men off before leaving the Wu residence.
They discussed the problem of security for the Wu family and came up with a plan. Xiang Shaolong told them, “All of you get ready, once we get the masks 3 days later, we’ll depart immediately.”
He turned towards Teng Yi and said with a laugh, “Brother Teng! Better thoroughly enjoy the next few precious days!”
Teng Yi said with a wry smile, “Even you’re making fun of me!”
At this point in time an attendant came and informed that the Empress has summoned Xiang Shaolong to enter the Palace immediately.
Xiang Shaolong obeyed the order with consternation and left the residence.
Naturally this time he brought along a huge entourage of Wu family warriors, not like the last time when he traveled alone.
After Zhu Ji ordered the maids and attendants to leave, only Zhu Ji, Xiao Pan and Xiang Shaolong was left in the huge pavilion in the imperial garden. Even the guards who are nearest to them are at least 10 feet away and they can only see, but not hear them.
With Xiao Pan around, naturally Xiang Shaolong is not worried that Zhu Ji would try to ‘entice’ him.
That would have been a huge headache for him.
Zhu Ji filled up the wine cup that was on the stone table for him and after trying to get him to drink, her pretty face blushed from the wine she’s drunk, making her look even more alluring.
This beauty indeed has the charisma to fall a city and her charm makes one think of the term beauties are a source of trouble, especially when Xiang Shaolong remembers what will befall her in future.
Zhu Ji’s expression turned serious and she said earnestly, “I asked Shaolong here today with his Majesty’s approval, to allow us mother and son to express our grat.i.tude. Now I have no other wants, my only wish is to groom Zheng’er so that he can be a good ruler in future.” Her gaze moved towards Xiao Pan, revealing a look of motherly love.
She added in a low voice, “Luckily this child has not disappointed me!”
Xiao Pan’s eyes reddened slightly and moved closer to Zhu Ji.
Xiang Shaolong understood.
This is very reasonable. Even though Zhu Ji is a natural flirt, but after staying in Handan for so many years where she can be used by anyone, she is long tired of such life.
Therefore she is especially treasures the new life with her husband and son, or at least this is what she is feeling for now.
Xiang Shaolong nodded his head, “Shaolong understands what Empress Ji is thinking about.”
Zhu Ji took a deep look at him before turning to look at the pretty garden scene surrounding them. She finally gave a satisfied sigh and said, “I know you understand me the most. Seeing you, is not only like seeing a friend, but it’s like seeing family and there’s no need to hide anything from you. If you encounter any problems, don’t be afraid to tell me. Some things will be easier if I speak to his Majesty instead of asking Premier to report on your behalf.”
Xiang Shaolong has no idea how sincere her words were, but with her current status, it’s indeed out of the norm that she would say something like that.
Zhi Ji tapped Xiao Pan’s shoulder and said, “Zheng’er! Grand Tutor Qin is here, go quickly!”
Xiao Pan stood up reluctantly and followed the attendant who was standing far away. Xiang Shaolong knows that the time for fleshly conquests is here and waited quietly.
Zhu Ji rolled her eyes at him and said, “I did not put on the airs of an Empress in front of you, why won’t you try to speak even a little more?”
Xiang Shaolong saw that there’s only the two of them here and replied with a relaxed laugh, “It’s beneficial for both Empress Ji and me to conduct ourselves as befitting to a ruler and his official.”
Zhu Ji smiled, “Between us, we need not spell out a lot of things, but I’m really very grateful to you. Hai! If I had known, I should have given you my body while we were still in Handan, at least we’ll leave a beautiful memory behind. Now in order to become a good Empress and mother, all personal desires will have to be placed aside. I hope Shaolong can understand my heart.”
Xiang Shaolong did not expect that even after Zhu Ji became the Empress of Qin, she is still so direct with her choice of words. Obviously a leopard can never change its spots.
For a moment he could not think of a topic to talk about.
Zhu Ji pouted slightly, “Look at you! Became a mute again!”
Xiang Shaolong smiled wryly, “What can I say? Should I express happiness or unhappiness.”
Zhu Ji said offhandedly, “I think you’re mostly happy, because you need not fear that I will implicate you.”
Xiang Shaolong was secretly feeling hilarious. Women are so strange. She’s the one who tells you not to get involved with her, but when you really did not try to entice her, she’ll feel unhappy instead, how contradictory.
Zhu Ji is aware that she has gone a little overboard so she sighed and her expression turned icy after that, “Shaolong’s trip back to Handan this time, can you help me kill 2 people?”
Xiang Shaolong was stunned and looked at her as he replied, “Go ahead!”
Zhu Ji seemed to have turned into another person, her eyes filled with murderous intent as she uttered each word slowly, “The first one is another of Zhao Mu’s lackey Le Cheng, but don’t ask me why, I don’t even wish to think about it.”
Xiang Shaolong knows that she must have been greatly humiliated by this person, otherwise her hatred would not have been so deep so he nodded, “I’ll definitely get this done for you!”
A little of the murderous look went out as Zhu Ji’s eyes revealed a look of gentleness and her pretty lips uttered, “But forget about it if it’s too dangerous, most important thing is for you to return safely. Without you, Zhu Ji will feel that I’ve lost a good confidante. Ever since I first saw you, I’ve felt that even if you do not become my lover, you will become my good friend.”
Xiang Shaolong is starting to be confused.
Are her words truly from the bottom of her heart, or just a way to pull him over to her side?
He has seen how she can charm Zhao Mu and Guo Kai silly so he’s very guarded.
But of course on the surface he pretended to be touched.
However he could not hide it from her and Zhu Ji pouted, “Did you think I was lying to you? Heaven above be my witness, if I, Zhu Ji speaks even a word of falsehood, I will not have a good end!”
Xiang Shaolong was startled and hurriedly said, “Lower your voice, it’ll be terrible if someone else hears this!”
Zhu Ji stared at him and said with a huff, “Coward! Do you believe me now!”
Xiang Shaolong nodded his head helplessly and sighed, “Who is the other person? Guo Kai?” Then he shook his head and added, “Of course it’s not him, otherwise Empress Ji would have forced me to kill him the other day!”
Zhu Ji was still fuming as she replied icily, “At least you know how to use your brains, of course it’s not Guo Kai. Amongst those hateful people, he can be considered one of the nicest to me.”
Xiang Shaolong was curious and asked, “Stop trying to be mysterious, tell me quickly!”
Zhu Ji covered her mouth and smiled as she said playfully, “Does it mean that no matter who is the person I say, you will follow my instructions to kill?”
Xiang Shaolong was flabbergasted, “You still said that I was your confidante, why do you always want to see me embarra.s.sed and in a spot?”
Zhu Ji’s heart softened and she replied with a coquettish smile, “All right! I’ll not put you in a spot, the other person is… is…”
Xiang Shaolong furrowed his brows, “Do you want me to beg you before you’ll tell me?”
Zhu Ji lowered her head and when she raised it again, tears flowed from the corner of her eyes as she said piteously, “When his Majesty and Premier Lu escaped from Handan and Zhao Mu found out about it, he sent Le Cheng and a big group of ferocious men who dashed into our house. They killed all the men servants while the women were all gang raped. That violent and horrible scene is still fresh in my mind even now. Even if I don’t think about it in the day, the terrible scene will be reenacted in my dreams. The person who gave the orders was Le Cheng, do you think he deserves to be killed?”
Hot blood rushed through Xiang Shaolong’s veins as an icy, murderous look gleamed in his eyes.
Zhu Ji lowered her head and continued, “The next day that fake son of mine and I was taken to Zhao Mu’s place and placed under house arrest. Those few days were the most disgusting in my life and at that time I made a blood vow that if I can escape in future, I’ll definitely avenge this.”
Xiang Shaolong reminded her, “You have yet to say who the other person is!”
Zhu Ji said lightly, “It’s Zhao Ya!”
Xiang Shaolong was stunned, “What?”
Zhu Ji asked coldly, “Why? Can’t bear to strike now!”
Only now did Xiang Shaolong understand why she was trying to convince him earlier. He was feeling very uncomfortable and asked in a low voice, “What has she actually done?”
Zhi Ji actually chuckled and laughed daintly. She said as she shook with mirth, “I was lying to you, I just detest that hateful look of yours when you were unmoved towards me, that’s why I used Zhao Ya to scare you.” Her pretty face turned frosty as she added, “But other than this, the other things were all true. If the situation permits, bring me Le Cheng’s head! Just take it that I’m begging you!”
Looking at her beautiful face filled with sad tears, Xiang Shaolong only feels as if his head is getting heavier. This woman is really difficult to deal with. It seems that Heaven sent her to this world so that she can toy around with men, no wonder even Zhao Mu cannot bear to kill her.
Zhu Ji lifted her sleeves to wipe her tears and said quietly, “Be careful! If it’s anyone else, I’ll definitely say that I can guarantee him wealth and riches. But I know that you’re an extraordinary man who holds no regard for fame at all, so I can only express my grat.i.tude to you. But if you have any request, as long as you tell me, I will definitely try my very best to do it for you.”
She suddenly smiled faintly, “For example the world’s most beautiful Widow Qing, does Shaolong want me to introduce you to her? I don’t believe that she can resist your charms.”
Xiang Shaolong stared at her without humor and he stood up and said, “If Empress Ji do not have any further instructions, then please excuse me for I have to return home to prepare for the trip to Handan.”
Zhu Ji looked at him forlornly and stood up as she said, “You’re so hard handed to keep using the Handan trip to put pressure. I have no choice but to let you go.”
She added with a smile, “But that is exactly what I like about you. Hai! It won’t be easy to find a chance like this in future where I can talk with you openly.”
Xiang Shaolong was touched on hearing this.
Zhu Ji has only become an Empress for a short time so she still retained her past characteristics. Earlier, it was only at the beginning that she looked confident but she subconsciously later reverted to her flirting ways.
No matter! There is now a huge chasm between them that cannot be crossed and regardless of how much they admire each other, they can only keep it in their hearts in future.
The 2 of them faced each other quietly for a moment before Xiang Shaolong bid farewell.