Book 6 Chapter 8 – Audacity
The attendant led Xiang Shaolong away from the Imperial Garden, walking along the corridors, pa.s.sing through buildings and gardens towards the Outer Palace.
Along the way guards were posted everywhere, obviously security has been tightened since his last visit.
Xiang Shaolong was secretly alarmed, was the Qin Palace being prepared for some changes?
He thought of how Lord Yangquan first wounded Jing Jun, then found people to openly ambush him in the streets. His actions can be considered uncontrolled so it’s not strange if he were to rebel. The only question is how many in the Qin military stands on his side!
Of course he’s not worried.
History books have already stated that before Emperor Qin rejected Lu Buwei, he has always remained undefeated, and that will only happen 10 years later.
Just as he was lost in thoughts, Xiao Pan’s voice was heard coming from his left, “Grand Tutor Xiang!”
Xiang Shaolong turned towards the direction of the voice in surprise to see Xiao Pan running out from single log cabin with bamboos planted outside, past the gra.s.s field, towards the corridor.
The attendants and guards hurriedly fell to their knees in fright.
Xiang Shaolong was still deciding if he’s supposed to kneel since he is the Crown Prince’s Grand Tutor when Xiao Pan cried out, “Grand Tutor, dispense with ceremony!” and at the same time made an eye at him.
Xiang Shaolong was sharp enough and walked to a corner with him and asked with his brows furrowed, “Aren’t you supposed to be having lessons?”
Xiao Pan panted as he replied, “I know that Grand Tutor will pa.s.s by this area, so I’ve been keeping an eye out.”
Xiang Shaolong asked, “Is there anything you want to say?”
Xiao Pan was about to speak when a sweet but furious sounding lady’s voice rose up from behind them, “Crown Prince!”
The 2 of them were feeling guilty and they were both startled as they turned to look at where the voice came from.
They saw an extremely beautiful and slender lady with her hair adorned with a sparrow pin, hair swaying as she walked and wearing a long white robe, seemingly glittering under the rays of sunlight. Her steps light, she seems to be floating on the lush green gra.s.s as she walked towards them, her movements elegant, as if she’s a beautiful G.o.ddess who has come down to earth. Especially when the wide sleeves at her side was fluttering as she walked, which emphasized even more strongly her gracefulness.
Even more startling was her facial features, which has a rare purity seldom seen in this era, like a carved statue. Her eyes were clear and bright, her cheekbones were a little too high but when coupled with her straight nose, it gives one the feeling of uncommon grace, an elegance that makes one’s heart shudder, making others feel that she is a woman with her own mind, a determined beauty.
Her dainty brows were long and curved towards her temples, showing how dark and shiny her pupils were.
Her phoenix eyes and dainty brows has an air of cla.s.sical beauty and this is the first time Xiang Shaolong has seen such allure and uniqueness.
Even with Xiang Shaolong’s immovable att.i.tude towards women now, he still can’t help but feel his heart lurch.
Her pert bosom, slender waist, long legs, all gave her an air of dignity that is beyond any of the other women in this era. When compared to Ji Yanran they both have their winning ways and it’s difficult to compare who is the better.
But at this point in time her pretty face was tight, cold as frost, her expression stern as she stared at Xiao Pan, “Ask if ignorant, learn if unable to perform, listen to scholars if unable to learn, this has been the way since time memorial. Crown Prince, you are so easily distracted and has no heart in your studies, how will you rule the country and the people in future?”
Xiao Pan is after all still a child so naturally he hid behind Xiang Shaolong in fright, and it became a situation where it seems the 2 Grand Tutors were having a confrontation.
The attendants who were leading the way were so frightened they retreated to one side, afraid of being implicated.
The guards around them averted their eyes, pretending that they did not see anything at all.
Although Qin Qing was furious, her expression is a chilly calm, her breathing even, her hands behind her back. She lifted her head to look Xiang Shaolong who was half a head taller than her and asked gently, “This is the Grand Tutor Xiang that Crown Prince Zheng has been talking about all the time?”
Xiang Shaolong looked at her pure and regal expression and cleared his mind of his imagination before replying with a straight face, “It is indeed I, and I would appreciate Grand Tutor Qin kind advices.”
Qin Qing smiled slightly, “Grand Tutor Xiang is being too polite! Crown Prince! Aren’t you going to walk out, a man must dare to admit to his actions, and take responsibility.”
Xiang Shaolong was stunned, “It’s not that serious, right?”
Qin Qing’s expression turned icy as she replied, “There is a big problem with Grand Tutor Xiang’s words. It is just a small matter to slip away from studies, but to cower on seeing someone, when he becomes the ruler in future and still has such a disposition, how can he handle the country’s affairs? If Grand Tutor Xiang only knows how to protect and abide with the Crown Prince, how can you answer to his Majesty who has bestowed such an important task of teaching the Crown Prince?”
Xiang Shaolong answered with a wry smile, “Don’t make it sound so serious, all right? Take it that I’m at fault, I’ll wave the white flag and surrender, all right?” He reached out and patted Xiao Pan who was still behind him and said, “Crown Prince Zheng! Come! Show Grand Tutor Qin how heroic and manly you are by daring to admit to your actions and impress her!”
Qin Qing was dumbfounded on hearing that. How can a senior official talk like that, as if playing a fool.
Xiao Pan walked out on hearing that and stood next to Xiang Shaolong, puffing his chest out and sucking his stomach in, posing like a great man but his tiny face was trying to contain his laughter and he looked totally hilarious.
Qin Qing’s eyes settled on Xiao Pan’s face and seeing how his little face was puffed red from trying to control his laughter, can’t help but chuckled although she knows she must not laugh. She turned her head aside and covered her face with her sleeve.
On seeing that, how can Xiao Pan control himself any longer and started clutching his stomach and chortled.
Xiang Shaolong can’t help but laugh as well.
Laughter is the most contagious, especially in such a solemn environment, and the attendants and guards around them all were secretly smiling as well.
Qin Qing lowered her sleeve, revealing her face that was wiped of any trace of a smile and arched her delicate brows as she softly reprimanded, “Laughed enough?”
Xiao Pan and Xiang Shaolong were so stunned that they immediately looked serious and stood straight.
But once a can of laughter has been opened, it’s difficult to control. Right now not only Xiang Shaolong and Xiao Pan’s expressions looked strange, this pretty widow is not much better as she tried to look serious and chided, “No one since time memorial can become wise without studying. But not concentrating on one’s studies is akin to not learning anything at all. Crown Prince Zheng should reflect on your behavior today. If you think that you cannot concentrate on your studies, Qin Qing can only resign from her post as Grand Tutor.”
Xiao Pan hurriedly replied, “Grand Tutor Qin, Xiao Zheng will not dare to do so anymore, I guarantee there won’t be a next time. Hai! What do I have to memorize again this time?”
Qin Qing is obviously a person who looks stern on the outside but softhearted on the inside. She sighed and said, “This time I only want you to earnestly reflect. All right! That’s all for today.”
She turned towards Xiang Shaolong and before she has a chance to speak, Xiang Shaolong has already bowed towards her suavely with respect, his movements especially splendid.
Qin Qing was dazed on seeing this and she lowered her head, avoiding his heated gaze and bowed slightly before turning around and left gracefully.
Xiang Shaolong was secretly glad.
At least he fulfilled a wish and saw this rare beauty who has not disappointed him. To him, this is enough.
The Xiang Shaolong now no longer has the mood to hunt for beauties, unlike when he ‘just arrived’.
Xiang Shaolong returned to the Wu residence and his father-in-law Wu Yingyuan has just sent off a group of powerful men from the Qin court and was in high spirits.
These few days Wu Yingyuan has been active with his socializing strategy, continuously giving away song courtesans and fine horses to those Qins who hold influential positions in order to set a foundation for their intended long stay in Qin. Otherwise, even if they have the support of the King of Qin and Lu Buwei and won’t face any huge problems, but if people keep giving them small problems, it’s still enough of a headache.
Wu Yingyuan is a businessman and is well aware that regardless of nationality or status, everyone is chasing after wealth and fame. Therefore he emphasized on this point and in addition to his subtle methods, slowly made his way through the various obstacles.
Xiang Shaolong had an idea and followed Wu Yingxiong back to the great hall in the main building and after sitting down, told him about Xiao Yuetan’s exquisite masks and added, “Initially I only planned to disguise myself as a merchant to sneak back to Handan and capture Zhao Mu in a surprise attack and be done with this matter. But these makes have greatly increased my confidence and I decided to go all out and do something great.”
Wu Yingyuan is intelligent and he said with a laugh, “Money is no problem. Heh! When it comes to comparing wealth, I’m afraid Premier Lu is still not our match.” He lowered his voice and added, “Do you want me to get you a batch of courtesans for you to present as gifts.” He then chuckled, “I’m so silly, they might reveal your background.”
Xiang Shaolong thought to himself that no matter how shameless he is, he will not treat women as merchandise and give them away. He laughed, “I only need a herd of warhorses of the finest quality who will not reveal our backgrounds.”
Wu Yingyuan was slightly taken aback, “You really intend to go all out?”
Xiang Shaolong was impressed that Wu Yingyuan can understand his intention from just this little bit of information and replied, “Father-in-law can really make inferences, I really intend to go all out and deal with King Xiaocheng and Zhao Mu in order to give vent to the anger that has been stuck in my chest.”
Wu Yingyuan breathed out a gush of cold air and said, “My good son-in-law, you are the bravest person I’ve ever known, but this time you’ve certainly placed your bet on the right thing. When the Wu family left Zhao we poisoned all the animals in our farms so that the Zhaos will face a shortage in the supply of warhorses. If you bring warhorses to trade with them, I guarantee that they will come to welcome you instead.”
Xiang Shaolong replied, “Not only am I going to do business with them, I even want them to allow me to set up a farm in place of the Wu family. Father-in-law is most familiar with this trade, what sort of background must we use so that the Zhaos will find most believable?”
Wu Yingyuan furrowed his brow and thought for a moment before he banged the table and cried out, “I’ve thought of something. At Xiashui in the state of Chu there is a person famous for breeding horses, called ‘Horse Fanatic’ Dong Zhuang. The reason I’ve thought of this person is because he was originally a Zhao but because his father Dong Ping offended some powerful person and the whole family escaped to the state of Chu. Dong Ping had actually become a minor official who rears horses but maybe because of his character, the Chus treated him marginally and after he lost his official post, he went to live quietly in the wilderness and concentrated on keeping horses. If Shaolong masquerades as his descendent, firstly there won’t be much problem with your accent, secondly no one has ever seen Dong Kuang and you can use your ident.i.ty as a Chu to trick Zhao Mu into believing that you’re a Chu spy sent to help him. I really cannot think of a more suitable person other than him to masquerade as.”
Xiang Shaolong cried out happily, “This is really ideal. Can Father-in-law transfer 10 odd warhorses without any brandings so that I can pretend to be a generous herdsman?”
Wu Yingyuan grabbed his shoulder and chortled, “10 odd horses is not enough to claim generosity, you’ll need at least a few hundred to a thousand, and they must be branded. Of course not with the character ‘Wu’ but with the character ‘Dong’, just let me take care of this matter.”
Xiang Shaolong furrowed his brow, “This matter can only be made known to Lu Buwei, otherwise if the Qins find out about it, they may secretly give warning and that will be terrible.”
Wu Yingyuan shook his head, “It’s best that we keep this from Lu Buwei as well, then there won’t be any accidents at all. Don’t worry! We don’t have to be so open and herd a few hundred warhorses out of Qin’s borders, I’ll just need a few days to settle everything. However we’ll need to work on the route so that the Zhaos will really think that you are going to Handan from Chu.”
Xiang Shaolong thought that all these are very exciting and interesting and after discussing the details, went back to his residence.
When he pa.s.sed by Teng Yi’s place, he suddenly heard the sounds of swords and was startled so he went in. After the maids pointed the way to him, he found Teng Yi at the small back garden and it turns out that this person and Shanlan were engaged in a lover’s swordplay.
Teng Yi saw Xiang Shaolong and a sincere expression came onto his face. After instructing Shanlan to practice with his subordinate, he pulled Xiang Shaolong aside and said happily, “Last night was really splendid. All the misery and pain these past few months have been resolved. Now I only hope that Shanlan will be able to give me a son so that I can keep my Teng family line going so that I don’t become the sinner responsible for destroying our Teng family line.”
Xiang Shaolong can’t help but laughed loudly and happily.
Teng Yi blushed and pretended to be furious, “If you laugh at me again, I’m going to get into a big fight with you.”
Xiang Shaolong laughed even harder.
Teng Yi only shook his head.
The next day Xiang Shaolong led his pretty wives and maids, together with the almost recovered Jing Jun and Teng Yi, Wu Zhuo and the team of Wu family’s most elite warriors and went back to that peaceful farm at the outskirts.
Wu Yingyuan and Tao Fang were handling all the other arrangements for the trip to Zhao.
Xiang Shaolong concentrated on spending time with his wives and concubines and when there’s free time he’ll intensify the training of the Wu family’s ‘Special Task Force’ together with Teng Yi and the rest. Of course he did not forget to tell them all the background information they need to know about their fake ident.i.ties so that they will not slip up.
15 days later Tao Fang came to the farm and told them that everything is ready.
In the large hall of the farm’s main residence, everyone gathered together to listen to the latest news about Handan.
Tao Fang said, “Handan is suddenly getting very lively. For some unknown reason, Lord Longyang from Wei and Han’s most influential official, the Marquis of Pingshan, Han Chuang have all gone to Handan. There must be something going on and it seems that the special envoy from Qi will be going there shortly as well. The situation is extremely interesting.”
Xiang Shaolong and Teng Yi turned to look at each other, both thought of a very serious problem.
Tao Fang’s experience came with age and he has already thought of what the problem is and said with a sigh, “If Chu sent an envoy to Handan over this secret which we still know nothing about, although it may not blow the cover off your fake ident.i.ties, you won’t be able to pretend to Zhao Mu that you are the Chus he engaged to steal ‘Lu Gong’s Secret Manual’.”
Teng Yi gave a cold laugh and using his finger in place of a sword, made an action of killing. It must be known that Chu is the furthest away from the state of Zhao and if they are fast enough, it’s very possible that they can intercept the Chu envoy before he reaches Zhao.
Wu Zhuo said with a smile, “Leave this to me. In any case we need to send some people out to scout around first and to get into contact with Zhao Mu so that he can help smoothen our way to King Zhuangxiang and let the Zhaos open the city gates to welcome us.”
He turned towards Tao Fang and added, “Is Zhao Mu back on good terms with that muddleheaded king already?”
Tao Fang sighed, “King Xiaocheng is honestly a muddleheaded ruler. News leaked out from the palace that that shameless Zhao Mu knelt outside the palace gates for only half a night and he allowed him to see him and in no time at all they were stuck together like glue again.”
He turned towards Xiang Shaolong and said, “Zhao Ya is a born s.lut, now she is back to her true colors and is wildly engaged with many handsome men and has gone back to her previous wild lifestyle.”
Xiang Shaolong remained silent. Tao Fang deliberately talked about this to make him give up. Hai! This s.lut really needs to be taught a good lesson before his hatred can be appeased. Once he thought of that, he secretly wondered if he still has feelings for her, otherwise why would he feel such hatred on hearing this news?
Tao Fang furrowed his brows in deep thought, “What are they planning?”
Jing Jun replied, “Of course they’re going to deal with us Qins.”
Teng Yi was momentarily stunned, “Xiao Jun you are addressing yourself as a Qin so soon.”
Jing Jun asked with embarra.s.sment, “Is it inappropriate?”
Tao Fang laughed, “How can it be inappropriate, your Brother Teng was just not used to it.”
Teng Yi shook his head with a wry smile and did not speak further.
Xiang Shaolong thought to himself that people of this era does not regard the country as strongly as their clan. Their thinking is a little like those who work in a big company in the 21st century. If they feel that there are no prospects and that they are capable, it’s very normal for them to change to another company to work.
He asked Tao Fang, “Has Lu Buwei’s power in Qin improved greatly?”
Tao Fang nodded his head in the affirmative and said calmly, “What Premier Lu lacks now is military contribution, but he dare not act rashly as he’s afraid that he will be at a losing end if the Qins refuse to cooperate, then whatever little advantages that he has gained through you would have gone down the drain.”
Xiang Shaolong was secretly laughing sardonically. He’s afraid it would be difficult for him to help in this aspect. Although during this warring states period, others will attack you even if you don’t attack them but to ask him to lead an army to attack and take over cities, kill and set fire, he can never have the heart to do such things.
They discussed the mission again and decided that Wu Zhuo will set off immediately the next day to stop the Chu envoy from reaching Zhao before they returned to their residences.
Before he could step through the door, he heard Zhao Qian’s voice in the hall lamenting, “Hai! My monthly cycle is here again!”
Xiang Shaolong was shocked still outside the door.
Wu Tingfang’s voice replied, “It’s getting on my nerves. I’m been taking tonics constantly but I’m still not pregnant.”
Xiang Shaolong started to feel uneasy. Could something radioactive caused harm to his ability in this area when he came on the time machine? To the ladies, especially in this era where carrying on the family line is important, this will complete their happy family life but to him he does not think that it’s really important at all.
The hall remained silent.
Xiang Shaolong shook his head and sighed, and walked in.
20 days later, after Jing Jun has fully recovered, all of them set off secretly immediately and left the Qin border and after traveling one huge round, entered Zhao through the state of Qi.
Xiang Shaolong’s planning is even more detailed than the past. He first sent out an envoy to hand over the formal doc.u.ment requesting to call on the King of Zhao over to the border guards. In a short while the bell on the watch tower of the Zhao army rang and the drawbridge was lowered and a few hundred Zhao soldiers rode out uniformly to welcome them.
Teng Yi gave an order and the 300 Wu family’s ‘elite troops’, who are now disguised as teams of herdsmen, stood outside the army camp to await the arrival of the Zhaos.
The leader of the Zhao soldiers who led the troops is Zhai Bian, about 30 years old, short and stout with an intelligent face and warm personality. He chortled with laughter once he saw them, “Mister Dong’s name is astounding indeed and now that I’ve seen you, you’re even better than what your reputation expounds you to be.”
After going through civilities, Xiang Shaolong, with the accompaniment of Teng Yi and Jing Jun, led him to view the 1000 handsome horses they brought with them.
As a warrior, Zhai Bian naturally knows his stuff and as he was viewing the horses, he exclaimed in surprise, “The quality of this batch of warhorses is even better than the horses the Wu family used to rear.”
Xiang Shaolong was secretly finding this hilarious and after expressing their modesty, he asked his man to take out an especially tall and handsome horse to give to Zhai Bian.
Naturally Zhai Bian’s att.i.tude became even warmer and he hurriedly opened the city gates wide and invited the team in grandly, saying as they moved along, “His Majesty is extremely happy to learn that Mister Dong is coming afar from Chu, especially now that our country is in dire need of warhorses, Mister has really come at the right time.”
Xiang Shaolong and Teng, Jing exchanged looks, knowing that Wu Zhuo has accomplished his mission and has made vital contact with Zhao Mu.
That night Zhai Bian set up a feast to welcome them and during the feast asked them about the situation in Chu. They answered him with the stories that they have earlier agreed upon and both the host and guests enjoyed themselves.
The next morning Zhai Bian sent a commander to lead them towards Handan. They traveled during the day and rested at night and 20 days later, Xiang Shaolong finally returned to this great city that once brought him great sadness.