Book 2 Chap 1 – Marquis Zhao Mu
Xiang Shaolong and Lady Ya who was dressed as a commoner walked towards the guesthouse, talking and laughing along the way happily.
Lady Ya replied, “I’ve heard much about the guesthouses for warriors, but everyone advised me not to go, saying that the people in those places are complicated. The Wu guesthouse and Guo guesthouse are the most superior, warriors without some status are not even qualified to stay in there,”
Xiang Shaolong’s interest was a little stirred and he said, “So the guesthouse I am staying in is so superior? I don’t even know that, I’m not even sure how many warriors are staying there and who they are.”
Lady Ya asked, “Don’t tell me you don’t even know that Lian Jin is staying there!”
Xiang Shaolong was stunned, “Really?” No wonder he brought Wu Tingwei there the other day.
He went back in a fury last night, would he do something to Shu’er? Once he thought of that, he wished that he could sprout wings and fly back to the guesthouse.
Lady Ya was about to speak when the expression on her face suddenly turned awkward.
Xiang Shaolong followed the direction of her gaze and saw that among the passers-by at the opposite street, there’s a group of 10 odd warriors surrounding aggressive looking burly man with a scarred who stood tall and straight, wearing brocade robes. He had just turned his head around and was staring at them.
Lady Ya lowered her head and told him quietly, “Go quickly!”
She walked quickly forward with Shaolong running along behind her, full of questions.
From the corner of his eyes, he saw 2 of the warriors leaving the group and dashing across the busy streets filled with traveling horse carriages. They ran after them and one of them called out loudly, “Lady please hold!”
Lady Ya stopped and sighed helplessly. Xiang Shaolong can only stop together with her.
The two went up to them and gave an unfriendly stare to Xiang Shaolong first before bowing respectfully towards Lady Ya and said, “The Marquis invites Lady Ya over for a meeting.”
Xiang Shaolong thought that Lady Ya would certainly refuse, but instead she sighed and said, “Go back first, and tell Marquis I will go and see him after leaving some instructions.”
The two of them looked at Xiang Shaolong rudely before walking back to the street opposite.
Lady Ya looked at him in fright before lowering her head and said, “Shaolong! I’m sorry! I can’t accompany you today, can I look for you a little later?”
Xiang Shaolong felt fury rising him for no reason and asked, “Who is that Marquis? Why is it that he can take you away from me with just one word?”
Lady Ya pleaded, “Please don’t ask, I’m going!” and left.
Xiang Shaolong looked as Lady Ya walked towards the scar faced burley man dressed in finery among the group. He put his arms around her tiny waist and hugged her, and Xiang Shaolong felt as if someone has given him a punch to his chest.
He’s getting more and more confused about the relationships among these people. With Lady Ya’s status, why does she seem afraid of this Marquis, and allowed him to hug and embrace her in front of him, obviously making him lose face in the process.
He stood there stunned for a moment, with difficulty breathing, feeling extremely humiliated but with nowhere to vent his frustration.
It’s really bad to get involved with a s.lut, you’d never know how many other men she has. He didn’t even want to know anything about this Marquis, and don’t even want to see Lady Ya ever again.
Sounds of hooves beat were heard.
Xiang Shaolong was jolted from his thought and looking up, saw Li Shan and a few warriors rushing towards him in a frenzy, calling, “Brother Xiang! We just went to Lady Ya’s place to look for you and were told you just left with Lady Ya.”
Xiang Shaolong had a bad feeling and asked, “What is the matter?”
Li Shan cried out sadly, “Shu’er has been raped and killed!”
These words sounds like lightning striking from heaven, and he retreated several steps in shock, knocking into a wall behind him, the blood totally gone from his face.
He flipped the blanket open, Shu’er’s naked and wounded lifeless body laid coldly on the ground, the fresh blood flowing out from her eyes already coagulated into a dark black.
The thing that killed her was the red road twined around her neck, and it had cut deep into the neck. Her lower body was in a mess.
Shu’er is dead! Murdered in the most humiliating and cruel way.
Xiang Shaolong felt his body turn icy, unable to accept this reality in front of him at all.
Su Bu’s death happened away from him, he did not see with his own eyes. Besides, coming to this era 2000 years ago, everything seemed surreal, and even death seems like a joke. He may have been sad but he was not overwrought, so when he was busy with other matters, he could easily put aside the matter of Su Nu’s suicide, or even forget about it. But Shu’er is another matter altogether!
His heart is bleeding!
The voice of Tao Fang, who was standing next to him seems to be coming from some place far away, saying, “When Chunying went into the room this morning, Shu’er is already like this. Hai! I really don’t know what to say either, the murderer must be someone in this guesthouse.”
Xiang Shaolong has no wish to ask anything at all.
The only people who would dare to touch Shu’er would be Wu Tingwei and Lian Jin. He doesn’t believe that Wu Tingwei will have the guts, so the murderer must be Lian Jin He knows that there’s nothing he can do to him, at least he dare not touch him before the duel.
So he will try to deal blows to him unscrupulously.
And no one would speak up for a gift from Yan, including Tao Fang and Wu Yingyuan.
He has never felt like killing a person so much.
Tao Fang added, “Why don’t you move in and stay with me! My wife and daughters all want to meet you very much.”
Xiang Shaolong calmly covered Shu’er totally with the blanket, shook his head and said, “No! I am going to sleep here, but from this moment on I won’t need anyone to serve me, and don’t let anyone come here. Let me help Shu’er prepare for her last rites! I want to be alone with my thoughts.”
Tao Fang said worriedly, “Shaolong! Don’t torture yourself, tomorrow night is the crucial night where you will have your duel with Lian Jin, now the whole city is waiting to find out the outcome.”
Xiang Shaolong became as calm and cold as ice and said calmly, “Don’t worry! No one places more importance to the appointment tomorrow night as much as I do.”
After going through so many cruel setbacks, he finally kept his blithe behavior aside and turned back into the killing machine that his era has trained him to be, a cold warrior who will use any methods in order to complete a mission.
Xiang Shaolong stayed in the room where Shu’er was murdered for the whole afternoon.
He did not wail, nor did he weep.
Only the weak will feel sadness.
In this warring states period, in this period that most people will do anything, even evil, if it can benefit themselves, only the strong will survive. When he took a look at Shu’er’s body again, he deeply felt the cold heartlessness of reality, felt that this is a lawless society where the strong will rule.
If he wants revenge, he’ll have to become the strongest.
When Tao Fang and the rest left the courtyard, he picked up the wooden sword and concentrated hard on practicing his swordplay, studying the intricacies of the Mozi Swordplay.
After his heart melded with his soul, he repeatedly practiced the most intricate 10 moves in the swordplay.
Mozi Swordplay places more importance in defense rather than offense, but each defensive move also hides an opportunity to attack.
If he can improve on the attacks, then the swordplay that only defends will be able to turn into something that can attack and defend at the same time. Once he thought of this, he felt an overwhelming joy. He waved the sword and for a moment the movements were unpredictable, powerful and unconstrained.
He was getting into the swordplay and he jumped out into the hall, using the wider area to practice and at the same time incorporating his knowledge of anatomy and mechanics into the swordplay.
The sword swished, one moment it’s unpredictable and formless, another moment it’s powerful and free.
Every attack is an evolution from the defensive moves in the Mozi swordplay.
He roared and struck continuously over a hundred times, none of the moves using any form of defense.
He retracted his sword, moving the wooden sword to between his brows, staring straight at the sword.
A petite person ran into the hall, crying out in alarm, “Shaolong!”
Xiang Shaolong put his wooden sword down and Wu Tingfang has already thrown herself into his arms, crying piteously, “Shaolong, Shaolong!”
On one hand Xiang Shaolong pointed the sword to the floor, and with the other hand held the beauty in his arms. Once again he thought of thought of Shu’er’s horrible death and felt as if all his innards are twisted together. He said sadly, “You know about Shu’er.”
Wu Tingfang nodded her head, sobbing uncontrollably, feeling sad for him.
He lifted her pear-shaped but tear stained face and looked at him through her tears, saying, “Master Tao came to look for Father, asking about Brother’s whereabouts. I was still upset with you then for not coming to look for me, but once I heard about Shu’er I ignored Father’s opposition and came here immediately. Shaolong! Brother has been locked up by Father since yesterday morning, he definitely is not involved in this.”
Xiang Shaolong nodded his head, “Don’t worry! I already know who the murderer is.”
Wu Tingfang lowered her head and asked quietly, “Are you suspecting Lian Jin. He… may be a proud person, but he is actually… hai! It can’t be him, right?” Xiang Shaolong sighed, “He is pursuing you, naturally he will pretend to be a gentleman in front of you. Tell me, who lured your brother to look for Shu’er?”
Wu Tingfang was at a loss for words, but she still looks as if she cannot believe Lian Jin would so something so cruel.
A dry cough sounded from outside the door and the two of them hurriedly separated.
Tao Fang walked in and made an eye at Xiang Shaolong, indicating that he has something to tell him.
Xiang Shaolong told Wu Tingfang, “Why don’t Miss go back first, I’ll come and see you immediately after I’ve settled some matters.”
Wu Tingfang said impatiently, “No! At the most I will wait for you at a side.
Tao Fang looked at her in surprise, he did not expect such a spoiled and pampered Miss would actually be so clingy and obedient towards Xiang Shaolong.
Xiang Shaolong said helplessly, “All right then! You can sit here for a while, I’ll go with Master Tao to the garden and have our talk and ask him to do something for me!”
Wu Tingfang saw that he did not allow her to listen to his conversation with Tao Fang and was initially unhappy, until she heard the last sentence, and she agreed happily.”
The two of them went to the garden and Tao Fang’s expression was somber. He was quiet for a moment before saying, “Does Shaolong know who is the person who really wields power in Handan?”
Xiang Shaolong asked in surprise, “Isn’t it his Majesty?”
Tao Fang surveyed the quiet garden, and after making there there’s no one around besides the warriors near the entrance, he put his hand on his shoulder and said quietly, “On the surface it seems that he has the greatest power, but there is one person who can influence and control him. This person is the real ruler of Zhao.”
Xiang Shaolong furrowed his brows, “Who can influence his Majesty?”
Tao Fang smiled bitterly, “It’s his man?”
Xiang Shaolong exclaimed hoarsely, “What?”
Tao Fang sighed, “It’s a known fact that our Majesty likes men. According to the news from the Palace, every time our Majesty sees this person, he will change into female clothing, do you understand my meaning!”
Xiang Shaolong asked in surprise, “Who is this person?” And secretly thought, no wonder Wu Yingyuan has no wish of marrying Wu Tingfang into the Palace, and the King of Zhao is willing to give up a great beauty like Wu Tingfang.
Tao Fang lowered his voice, “It’s the Marquis of Julu, Zhao Mu. This person is the best strategist and swordsman in the state of Zhao. He also has a lot of highly skilled exponents under him, and he often has strange and mysterious guests from all over the world. He is the most powerful person after our ruler Zhao Sheng.”
Xiang Shaolong remembered the Marquis who forcefully summoned Lady Ya, without a doubt he must be Zhao Mu. No wonder Lady Ya is so afraid of him, and asked, “Is Lady Ya his woman?”
Tao Fang was stunned and asked, “How did you know?”
Xiang Shaolong hurriedly told him what happened that morning.
Tao Fang’s expression looked even worse and after asking more questions, he said, “To the Marquis of Ju Lu, Zhao Ya is only one of his interesting toys. He possesses countless beautiful women and men, and in the past he bet on the fact that once Prince Pingyuan passes away, he will have no more worries. Now, besides my Master, Guo Zhong and a few senior generals, the rest all paid him no heed. The rest of the royalty is angry with him but dare not speak out.”
Xiang Shaolong felt this is all a headache, but at least he is now clearer on the power balance in the state of Zhao.
Tao Fang added generously, “Before the battle of Chang Ping, our state may be isolated further away, our people and land are less comparatively, but our army is unparalleled in the world. We have well versed strategists like Lin Xiangru who kept thwarting the eveil plans of the Qins, military men like Zhao She, Lian Po, Li Mu and Prince Pingyuan Zhao Sheng is both well versed in literature and martial arts. With him as the premier, there’s nothing the Qins can do to us. But after King Hui and these generation of famous officials and generals passed away, our King Xiaocheng does not even use his head. Instead he listened to the words of Zhao Gua, the son of Zhao She, and resulting in the terrible battle at Changping, making us turn into a weak country from a strong one. What a pity.”
Xiang Shaolong remembered that the person responsible for this battle of Changping, Zhao Gua, is the husband of Lady Ya, so he took the chance to ask, “Why did his Majesty use Zhao Gua to replace Lian Po?”
Tao Fang shook his head and said sadly, “It’s all because he’s eloquent. This person is born good looking, and good at analyzing, adept in the art of military studies. When he debates, even his father Zhao She, who has defeated the huge Qin army with a lot less men cannot win him. But Zhao She thinks that he’s not good enough to be a general. That’s why when his Majesty wanted to appoint him as a general, even Madam Zhao She objected. It’s just that his Majesty was persuaded by his pretty words and grand plans and insisted on his decision.”
Xiang Shaolong was baffled, “Why would Zhao She think so badly of his son?”
Tao Fang sighed, “Because Zhao She can see that his precious son thinks too highly of his own intelligence and refuses to listen to others. He only knows how to theorize and is obstinate. No one can win him in a debate, but he cannot win anyone in a fight.”
He continued with anger, “The battle of Changping, he was at a most advantageous position, and the previous commander Lian Po did the groundwork for him as well, cutting the resources of the Qin soldiers who are far from home and tiring them out. Who would have expected that once he arrived, he ordered the whole army to leave the city and rashly went into the enemy’s territory. In the end not only did the Qins counterattacked and forced them back into the city and cut off their line of supply. In slightly over a month their rations were used up and the city taken over. The Qins attacked and went on a murderous spree that is the most cruel in history. There’s no way his Majesty can defend himself on his decision, if he had not changed Lian Po with Zhao Gua, this would not have happened.” He then lowered his voice and continued, “Eldest Young Master Yingyuan is disillusioned with his Majesty because of this matter, does Shaolong understand now?”
Xiang Shaolong knows that Tao Fang has received instructions from Wu Yingyuan, and totally trusts him now. He asked, “Why did Master Tao suddenly mention the Marquis of Ju Lu, Zhao Mu?”
Tao Fang said seriously, “Because he came with Lian Jin last night to the guesthouse, and only left at dawn. And to use red ropes to kill beauties, happens to be one of his many hobbies, he has done it quite a few times.”
Xiang Shaolong was startled, “What?”
Tao Fang replied, “Don’t be agitated, and you must not act rashly, or else you will be killed. Although he usually does not bother about Zhao Ya’s affairs, but for the first time Zhao Ya kept you overnight for 2 nights, so his jealousy is certainly aroused. After the instigation and plan offered by that evil thief Lian Jin, who knows how to use others to do the killing best, this happened. That’s why Lian Jin has his support in the duel tomorrow, and will certainly try his best to kill you. But if you kill Lian Jin, he will maneuver his Majesty into punishing you. I’ve discussed this situation with Eldest Young Master, and decided to let you know the situation.”
Once again Xiang Shaolong wishes that he has a heavy machine gun in his hands, a pity that he only has a wooden sword. There are some things that even the Master Wu cannot help, much less Wu Yingyuan or Tao Fang.
Tao Fang advised him, “You better not leave the house so often for these few days. If you can defeat Lian Jin and gain the trust of his Majesty, Zhao Mu may change his attitude towards you. By then Eldest Young Master will have another grand plan, but everything can only be revealed after the duel.”
The corners of Xiang Shaolong’s mouth revealed a slightly cruel smile and said, “I know what to do.”
Tao Fang felt a shiver down his heart and reminded him, “When you see Zhao Mu, you must pretend that nothing happened. This person is narrow minded and if you offend him, he will certainly take revenge.”
Xiang Shaolong smiled bitterly in his heart, what kind of a world is this.
By the time he returned to the room, Wu Tingfang is already pouting from the wait.
Xiang Shaolong is still pained over the death of Shu’er and has no mood to be intimate with her. After having a short heart-to-heart talk with her, he asked, “If there comes a day I have to leave the state of Zhao, woulf Fang’er be willing to let go of everything else and come far away with me?”
Wu Tingfang was stunned, “But what about Father and Mother?”
Xiang Shaolong replied, “Let’s not think about them first, I’m only asking for your thoughts.”
Obviously Wu Tingfang is not used to having her own ideas, and replied after some hesitation, “Of course I will follow you, but Father and Mother must not be affected.”
Xiang Shaolong replied understandingly, “Of course, I won’t care only about myself and not care about your parents and family.”
Wu Tingfang shifted over happily and threw herself into his arms, pouted her cute little mouth and asked, “Shaolong! Will you kiss me?” It’s the first time she’s experienced this, naturally she’s not sick of it yet.
There’s no way Xiang Shaolong could reject her, and besides this is not a painful task, so he hugged and kissed her.
In a short while Wu Tingfang was writhing, her face burning, and proactively massaged his shoulder blades.
Xiang Shaolong remembered that he has to preserve his strength and was secretly startled. He left her sweet mouth, and coercing and pacifying her, managed to force her to go home.
Tao Fang and a large group of warriors are already waiting for her at the main door with horses, and when he saw Xiang Shaolong escorting her out, he heaved a sigh of relieve.
After what happened to Shu’er and Su Nu, no one dared to be lax about any woman who is close to Xiang Shaolong. Although Wu Tingfang’s status is different from the other 2 women who died terribly, but no one can guarantee that the same thing will not happen to her. And no one will be able to take responsibility for that outcome.
Before she got up the horse, Wu Tingfang held Xiang Shaolong and said, “I can only see you tomorrow night. Grandfather has promised to bring me into the Palace to see your duel, you must not lose!”
She was about to get up the horse when Lian Jin walked out from the guesthouse and called loudly, “Grand Young Miss, please hold!”
When enemies meet, they cannot see eye to eye with each other.
But Xiang Shaolong already has a plan, and did not reveal any of his inner feelings at all. He even moved to the side to look at the reaction Wu Tingfang has towards this ex-boyfriend.
Lian Jin did not even glance at Xiang Shaolong or Tao Fang, but just took large strides towards Wu Tingfang.
Wu Tingfang stole a glance at Xiang Shaolong, and replied a little helplessly, “Brother Lian! I’m in a hurry to go home.”
Lian Jin looked at her deeply, his face broke out into a smile that will charm any woman and said gently, “Then let brother here send you back!”
Wu Tingfang was surprised and after stealing another look at the expressionless Xiang Shaolong, she shook her head, “There’s no need! Master Tao will send me back.”
Lian Jin looked heavenward and laughed, sweeping an unhappy gaze and Xiang Shaolong, Tao Fang and the rest before sneering, “He can’t even protect his own woman, so how can they be good enough to protect Grand Young Miss.”
The expressions on Tao Fang and the 10 odd warriors darkened at once, but Xiang Shaolong was calm as usual, not revealing the anger burning in his heart, but only watching with cold eyes.
Tao Fang exclaimed furiously, “Lian Jin you better be careful with your words.”
Wu Tingfang was never really that polite to Tao Fang in the past, but because of Xiang Shaolong, she likes whomever he trusts, and said, “How can you say that, go back quickly, I don’t need you to escort me.”
Lian Jin looked at Xiang Shaolong from the side of his eyes and said with an icy smile towards Wu Tingfang, “Has Grand Young Miss forgot our everlasting oath to each other?”
Wu Tingfang threw a glance at Xiang Shaolong in fear and stamped her feet, “Don’t talk nonsense, who made everlasting…”
Lian Jin smiled and said, “We’ll argue after tomorrow night!” And he told Xiang Shaolong confidently, “Just wait and see! Now even Lady Ya will not be able to protect you.” And left after saying these words.
Wu Tingfang has never been thus humiliated and she cried out, “I am going to tell Grandfather.”
Lian Jin’s reply is a loud laughter, as if he can’t be bothered about Master Wu as well.
Xiang Shaolong and Tao Fang exchanged a look, both feeling that something is not right.
Will Zhao Mu really back him up, why else would he be so haughty?
Xiang Shaolong has just returned to the room when someone reported to him that Lady Ya has sent a horse carriage for him.
Xiang Shaolong remembered what happened this morning and fury rising up so he rejected her.
After dinner, he studied the Mozi swordplay again, and felt that it is really profound and marvelous to be able to push the human body beyond borders.
As he was engrossed in it, Lady Ya has arrived personally.
Xiang Shaolong continued ignoring her, until she threw herself into his arms before he asked with furrowed brows, “Why do you still come here?”
Lady Ya cried sadly, “Shaolong! I’m sorry.”
Xiang Shaolong was about to speak when he felt as if his neck has been bitten by a poisonous mosquito and he looked at her in surprise, only to see her holding a fine needle in her slender fingers. The sharp end of the needle shone with a strange green tint, he felt his senses getting hazy and lost consciousness.