Book 3 Chap 3 – Turbulence in the camp
That night Xiang Shaolong did not sleep a wink after he returned to his room, and spent the night thinking. Under Ding Shou and Wa Che’s escort, the convoy passed the Zhang river and entered the wilderness that belongs to the state of Wei. Lady Ya knows that he is still angry so she stayed inside the carriage and did not bother him. Xiaozhao and the other maids looked unhappy and sad, because Lady Ya has given strict orders and they dared not speak to him. Prince Shaoyuan deliberately showed his uncooperativeness by lagging behind and slowing down the group. Xiang Shaolong was confident and was not bothered at all. By dusk, they’ve only managed to travel about 20 odd li.
By now Xiang Shaolong’s attention was solely on the enemy who will appear any time now. He chose a highland with a mountain backing it to set up camp. Xiang Shaolong placed his own commander’s tent as well as Lady Ya and Zhao Qian’s tents in the middle next to the mountain, the remaining 500 warriors split into 3 groups to set up their tents to the extreme right. Prince Shaoyuan’s tents were set up at the extreme left, which shows an obvious divide in the camps. Naturally Xiang Shaolong knows what he is up to, because tonight the highly skilled martial artist sent by Prince Xinling will infiltrate into Zhao Qian’s camp from his side before setting off drug inducing smoke so that he can sneak into Zhao Qian’s tent and despoil her. And the person who volunteered to do this is Prince Shaoyuan. If not for the fact that Xiang Shaolong is aware of their plot, it’s very possible that they have a high chance of success. Who would think that they’d have to be on the alert against an inside thief?
Xiang Shaolong stood straight at the highest point of the mountain, looking at the rolling hills below him and secretly thought to himself that no wonder Prince Xinling’s men would choose this place to strike. That’s because even when one is near the area, they will be difficult to spot and Prince Shaoyuan knows this secret, that’s why he deliberately delayed the journey. By now Cheng Xu has come up to him and commented, “I did not know that Imperial Protector is so well versed in setting camp. Even Zha Yuanyu who thinks of himself as an expert was complimenting your layout for being convenient and flexible and he’s extremely impressed.” Xiang Shaolong thought to himself that he’s had 2000 more years of experience since their time, naturally he’s good at it but when he replied, he was very humble instead. Cheng Xu lowered his voice, “I’ve sent my trusted aide to make contact with your man Wu Zhuo and told him not to come to the camp for the time being. Hei! I think Sir feels that something is happening.” Xiang Shaolong thought to himself that this is not a feeling, but a ‘fact’. He is dealing with Prince Shaoyuan tonight so he does not want Wu Zhuo’s men to be embroiled in all this so that things will not be even more complicated. Right at this time Zha Yuanyu who is in charge of setting up camp came to them to report that his task is accomplished.
Although Xiang Shaolong knows that no matter if it’s Hu Hui who has an old enmity with him, or Xiao Weimou and his team of assassins from Qi, they will only strike when he’s deep into the state of Wei so that he won’t be able to run back to Zhao. Therefore he instructed Zha Yuanyu to remove the 40 carts from the mules and line them along the circumference of the camp so that they can be the first line of barriers against enemy attacks. This move made Zha Yuanyu even more confident about him and he went gladly on his way to work. Cheng Xu saw that he is so insightful and was even more in awe of him. Xiang Shaolong was silent for a moment before he said in a lowered voice, “I have something really important for you to do, but you must not ask the reason why. Find me a group of soldiers with good arm strength and prepare tools for digging ditches and await my orders. But you must hide it from others, especially Prince Shaoyuan, understand!” Cheng Xu thought that he was going lay traps around the camp and left to follow his orders. Xiang Shaolong prepared himself for quite some time, sighed deeply and forced himself to look for Lady Ya. In order to deal with Prince Shaoyuan, he can only make peace with her.
The soldiers were setting the fire to prepare dinner and when they saw Xiang Shaolong, they greeted this commander respectfully from the bottom of their hearts. Xiang Shaolong was secretly happy and knows that the incident where he killed Xu Hai has been imprinted in their minds. When he give them commands in future, it’ll be a lot easier. The cloth that separated the camp from the tents came slowly into view. Zhao Da and the other two were chatting with a few of Zhao Qian’s personal guards and they stood at attention when they saw Xiang Shaolong. After Xiang Shaolong smiled and greeted them, he went into the restricted area of the camp. There are 4 tents in there, Lady Ya and Zhao Qian stays in the bigger tents. Xiao Zhao and the other maids were preparing dinner at the empty space and was ecstatic when they saw Xiang Shaolong. Xiao Zhao and Xiao Mei even lowered their head and cried. Xiang Shaolong replied them with a smile and went into Lady Ya’s private tent. Zhao Ya was sitting numbly at a corner, her eyes swollen, obviously she has been crying. Xiang Shaolong secretly sighed again, and began to understand that he is growing to love her more and more, that’s why he could not tolerate her outrageous past or her being close with other men from now one. Zhao Ya saw him coming in and she stood up in alarm and joy, unable to believe her eyes and cried out, “Shaolong!” Xiang Shaolong smiled, “You’re not allowed to cry, I’ll leave if you cry.” Zhao Ya forced her tears back and shouted, throwing herself into his arms, her shoulders shaking but she dared not cry out loud. Naturally Xiang Shaolong’s shoulder was soon wet. Xiang Shaolong caressed her back and said gently, “Do you still dare to be disobedient in future?” Zhao Ya shook her head furiously, meek as a lamb. Xiang Shaolong hugged her and sat down, wiped away her teas and said with a smile, “Now let me test how obedient you are. Now go and look for Zhao Qian and tell her that tonight, I want all the women in here to hide in my tent. This must be kept a secret.” Zhao Ya looked at him in shock, but as afraid that she’ll offend him again so she kept nodding her head, looking so obedient yet pitiful. How enchanting. Xiang Shaolong can’t bear to see her like that so he whispered in her ear, “I’m afraid that someone will sneak in tonight and do something bad to her!” Zhao Ya heard his gentle tone and she became bolder and kissed him cautiously, saying, “You really will forgive me?” Xiang Shaolong smiled and nodded. Zhao Ya stole a peek at him and asked, “You really won’t put it to heart at all?” Xiang Shaolong sighed, “What can I do? Who told me to love you so much that I can’t stay away!” Zhao Ya gave a shout of cheer and kissed him.
After a long while, Zhao Ya said with much sufferance, “You almost scared me to death, if you do that to me again, I can only die.” Her pretty eyes reddened again. Xiang Shaolong felt bad for her and after consoling her, slapped her hard on her buttocks and commanded, “Aren’t you setting off to work for me?” Zhao Ya stood up and holding his hand, asked, “If Zhao Qian were to ask me, how did Xiang Shaolong know that someone is going to attack her camp, how should I answer her?” Xiang Shaolong knows that she has been assured and his alertness has returned. He knows that she’s using Zhao Qian as an excuse to ask him, so he laughed and said, “Don’t worry! She will trust me absolutely, just do as I say.” Zhao Ya was frightened and exclaimed, “Shaolong! It’s not that I don’t trust you! I’m just curious. And you still want to treat me like that.” Xiang Shaolong saw how expressive she looked and felt his desire rising but he knows that tonight is not the time to have such fun so he kept his urge down and pushed her out of the tent. He then went to look for Cheng Xu, “I want you to dig a few holes that can hide some people around Third Princess’s main tent, and at the same time find 20 expert archers to hide with us in the holes and enjoy the grand event that’s about to happen.” Cheng Xu was dumbfounded on hearing that. After giving instructions about the details, Xiang Shaolong chortled and returned to his tent for his meal.
The cold wind swept through the land. The crescent moon hung high up on the sky, illuminating the camp that was in total darkness. Besides the soldiers patrolling the circumference of the camp, everyone else was sound asleep after a tiring day of travel. Xiang Shaolong, Cheng Xu, Zhao Da, Zhao Wu, Zhao Qi and the 20 archers were the exception. They were hidden separately in the hidden holes at the 4 corners surrounding Zhao Qian’s tent, waiting for the grand event that Xiang Shaolong said will happen. They have fought to stay alert for many hours, and that is certainly not a comfortable stay. In another 4 hours the dawn will break.
Just as Xiang Shaolong’s own confidence was a little shaken as well, there was a sound that came from Prince Shaoyuan’s side of the camp. Everyone was immediately refreshed and using the moonlight and their eyes which has long been accustomed to the darkness, they turned towards the direction of the sound and stared.
A skinny and short shadow that looks like the size of a child snuck in quietly. He moved nimbly to the nearest tent and in his hand he was holding a pipe looking thing. A faint light was seen. Everyone could clearly see that the intruder is a wretched looking man who is as skinny as a monkey, his hand holding something that looks like a tiny stove with a round pipe attached to it, and the fire was lighted in the stove. That person waited until the firelight in the stove was steady before he pushed the tube that was emitting smoke under the tent. Xiang Shaolong dared not even exhale loudly, looking that this person working slowly as he put the drugged smoke into the 4 tents. That person let out a bird cry, obviously the signal to summon his gang and truly, 10 odd people came over and spread out at the various important positions, surrounding the 4 tents. Another 5 or 6 people came later, one of them is naturally Prince Shaoyuan. Everyone worked quietly, not daring to make any noise. The atmosphere was tense and heavy.
Prince Shaoyuan went to the door of Zhao Qian’s camp while the others moved to the tents of the maids, leaving only Lady Ya’s tent, which no one touched. Xiang Shaolong was fuming as he saw this, these beasts won’t even let innocent maids off. If not for the face that Lady Ya is also Prince Shaoyuan’s target, and there is no way he can split himself, she would not have escaped tonight as well. Once the stove that sent the drugging smoke was extinguished, the short man made a hand signal and Prince Shaoyuan and his men moved unanimously into the tents. Xiang Shaolong knows that it’s time and he gave the secret signal. A ‘chook chook’ sound was heard.
The light arrows shot out from the heavy bows in the holes, eliminating the 10 odd men who were keeping a look out around the camp. Prince Shaoyuan and the rest realized the tents were empty and they cried out in alarm, but by then the 10 odd men outside already fell to the ground with a cry. Torches were lit. Another group of soldiers led by Zha Yuanyu surrounded the ladies camp. Those who snuck into the tents rushed out of it. By now Xiang Shaolong and his men threw away their bows and jumped out of the holes with their swords drawn, starting a merciless attack on them. For a moment the sounds of weapons clashing and battle cries thundered in the air.
The person Xiang Shaolong targeted was Prince Shaoyuan so he took out a flying needle first and threw it at his thigh just as he was scrambling out of the tent. Prince Shaoyuan screamed and fell to the floor, dropping the sword in his hand. Xiang Shaolong dashed forward and kicked him hard on the groin. Prince Shaoyuan screamed like a pig being slaughtered, his cries echoing in the night sky and he collapsed onto the ground, the heart wrenching pain making him squirm violently on the floor. He does not even have the strength to strike now. Xiang Shaolong moved diagonally across, his sword shone, and decapitated an enemy who was about to retaliate. Thus the battle ended, with the enemies either killed instantly or seriously injured and captured, none escaped. The whole camp was a flurry of activity. The soldiers all ran towards them. Lady Pingyuan who was waiting for good news at the other side rushed over with her family warriors as well.
The cloth surrounding the tents were pulled down, the torches illuminating everything as if it was daylight. Zha Yuanyu’s men stopped Lady Pingyuan’s men from charging over. Xiang Shaolong chortled and walked over to Prince Shaoyuan who was still writhing in pain on the ground and gave him a hard kick on his waist so that he turned over in pain. He then stepped on his chest, his long sword pointing at his throat and smiled at Prince Shaoyuan whose muscles twitched so much that his face was contorted and said, “Hey! So it’s Prince Shaoyuan, I’m sorry if I’ve offended you.” Lady Pingyuan’s angry and frightened voice rose up, “Xiang Shaolong!” Xiang Shaolong was still staring at Prince Shaoyuan as he shouted, “Yuanyu how can you be so rude towards Lady, quickly invite Lady over.” By now Lady Ya and Zhao Qian emerged from the commander’s tent and looking at the person next to Xiang Shaolong and the surroundings, they all knew clearly what had happened.
Although a few hundred people surrounded them, no one said a word, and only the crackling sound of the burning torches were heard. Lady Pingyuan walked over furiously and exclaimed, “Aren’t you going to release my son quickly.” Prince Shaoyuan was about to say something when Xiang Shaolong’s long sword moved forward, the tip of the sword in his mouth. He was so frightened he dared not move, and even his moans stopped. Xiang Shaolong looked at Lady Pingyuan icily and said somberly, “I, Xiang Shaolong, has been given an important task to escort Princess to Daliang. Now Prince Shaoyuan is in cahoots with outsiders and released drugged smoke in an attempt to outrage Princess’s modesty. How is Lady going to explain all these.” Lady Pingyuan saw her son’s bloodied leg and she was at a total loss and anxiously cried out, “Let him go first before we talk.” Xiang Shaolong’s eyes was stern as he said determinedly, “No! I am going to execute him on the spot, and bear all responsibilities. At the most we will return to Zhao immediately and I will let his Majesty decide my fate.” Lady Pingyuan turned pale and her lips trembled as she uttered, “How dare you!”
Zhao Qian’s sweet voice said frostily, “Such a man is worst than a beast, Imperial Protecter Xiang, kill him for me!” Although Lady Ya felt that it’s inappropriate, she dared not interrupt for fear that Xiang Shaolong will misunderstand that she is trying to protect Prince Shaoyuan. Xiang Shaolong deliberately revealed a cold and cruel smile and looked at Lady Pingyuan challengingly. Lady Pingyuan looked as if she has suddenly aged, and she cried out, “Fine! What do you want before you’ll let my son go.” Xiang Shaolong turned his head and looked at Zhao Qian, asking with a straight face, “Will Third Princess allow your subordinate to handle this matter totally.” Zhao Qian’s pretty face blushed and dared not look at him but she lowered her head and nodded slightly. Xiang Shaolong saw how gentle this beauty is and other ideas rose in his head, but he remembered that she is going to marry a Wei and thought it such a pity. He turned his head back towards Lady Pingyuan and said, “I can stop pursuing this matter, but Lady must write a letter of guarantee that Prince Shaoyuan must never again harbor such beastly thoughts towards Princess. What does Lady think?”
Lady Pingyuan gritted her teeth so hard that her silver tooth casing almost cracked. This move of Xiang Shaolong is really formidable, such that she is forced into never bringing this up in from of the King of Zhao to complain against him. Xiang Shaolong is extremely confident, because he knows that she still need to make use of him to assassinate the King of Wei so he’s not worried that she will not concede. Lady Pingyuan was silent for a moment before she finally admitted defeat, “Fine! You’re good.” Xiang Shaolong smiled and said, “The one who is good is Lady, I am just a little lucky.”