A Step into the Past

Volume 3 Chapter 9

Book 3 Chap 9 – In a dangerous position

The capital of Wei, Daliang, is situated on the southern bank of the Yellow River, where the big rivers like Luoshui, Suishui, Weishui, Danshui and Honggou etc converge. The Weis also dug up 2 man-made canals Dagou and Lianggou to surround and protect Daliang. It became a natural barrier, making this great city easy to defend but difficult to invade, giving them stability. The State of Wei was situated in the middle of the central plains then, with her north backing Zhao, west siding Qin, east siding Qi and south facing Chu. It’s at the crossroad of the meeting place of the world. Daliang is situated right in the middle of the state of Wei and is an important city in any battle plans since it’s right in the middle of important roads and waterways. If one wants to invade the other 5 sates, the task will be made very difficult if he does not defeat Wei first and in order to defeat Wei, Daliang is a place they must gain control of. Therefore one can see how important this capital of Wei is.

Xiang Shaolong and his party rested at Fengqiu for 3 days and under the protection of 2000 men from the Pass, crossed the Yellow River and after traveling for another 15 days, Daliang is just in the distance. Throughout the journey, Xiang Shaolong was relaxed, as if he has joined a tour group for ancient China and traveling through ‘old places’. In his relaxed frame of mind, he imagined that on this huge and open land, there are countless cities scattered over it, each city with its strong and high city walls and the vast open land beyond the city walls. And each city is the center for battles and for expansion of the military. Everything important that happened in this era, happened around places like these, spreading with the invasion and defense of cities as centers. Whether a city could be protected or taken, shows the fortune and success of a country. Such battles which centers on attacking cities is the simplest and most straightforward and if seen from another angle, it also has an indescribable captivation. To a ruler in the warring stares period, it’s like a game of chess. Once hooked and you’re unable to pull yourself away and the only way is to have a battle of wits, to see who will become the ultimate survivor.

In these enclosed city walls, are military centers of different sizes, and are the most important military command center for the surround area and also the symbol of power. Defeating these cities will mean destroying the other party’s governmental control. The troops from the Pass escorted them until they were about 10li north of Dagou before going back to Fengqiu, leaving the task of escorting them to the military situated at the outskirts of Daliang. By this time the welcoming party sent by Prince Xinling has arrived and escorted them through the hanging bridge past Dagou. And Prince Xinling, Wei Wuji, has already set up a formation on the other end, ready to receive this wedding entourage who has went through so much difficulties.

Wei Wuji, one of the 4 Princes of the warring states period, was dressed in casual wear, sitting astride a horse. He has a square face and big ears, tall and good-looking with a stern and respectable air about him. Although he was smiling warmly, his eyes were gleaming which gives one a sense of awe. He may be Lady Pingyuan’s younger brother but he looks older than his sister, maybe because of long-term stress that aged him faster. After a round of small talk, all of them headed towards Daliang.

The city of Daliang was full of sights and sounds, the city streets wide and spacious forming an inconsistent rectangular shape, following the curves of the rivers with the southern gate as the main gate. All the city gates have a protruding watch tower which greatly improved the defenses. They have to travel another 5li north from the city gate, and the sand was blowing in front of them. All of them awaited for the King of Wei’s orders and the edict states that besides Xiang Shaolong, Zhao Qian and the other ladies, the rest of the group have to set up camp outside the city. Naturally Lady Pingyuan, her son and their family warriors are not under such restrictions. Xiang Shaolong felt extremely surprised and indignant. And a look of unhappiness appeared on Prince Xinling’s face but as it’s an imperial order, and unless he has made up his mind to rebel immediately, he can only accept this humiliating arrangement. After Xiang Shaolong gave some instructions to Cheng Xu and Wu Zhuo, he followed Prince Xinling into Daliang.

Compared to Handan, Daliang looks different. It did not have the ancient magnificence of Zhao, but has its own exquisite intricacies. It’s decorations were more colorful. The streets in the city were split into 8 large streets from north to south and 4 main streets from east to west crisscrossing one another. These 12 large streets are wide enough to accommodate more than 10 horses moving side by side, so one can imagine how huge it is. With the imperial soldiers opening the path for them, the entourage passed by the decorated streets outside the palace, went around the high walls of the palace and came to a place at the northeastern corner where the nobility and senior officials reside.

Along the way the streets were full of activities and there were twice as many people on the streets as compared to Handan. When they saw Prince Xinling’s flag, they all looked respectful and some even knelt down to pay their respects, which goes to show how esteemed Prince Xinling is in the hearts of the Weis. Prince Xinling’s residence, Wei’e Chu is situated right at the end of the street. Behind the high walls, tall trees reached into the sky, which showed off Prince Xinling’s extraordinary status. Xiang Shaolong was separated from Zhao Qian and the rest and were assigned different courtyards to reside in. Prince Xinling was very warm in his welcome and sent 4 pretty maids to personally serve him. After cleaning up, he received Xiang Shaolong immediately in the study. After all the maids retreated, Prince Xinling warmly invited Xiang Shaolong to partake the meal and after offering him a toast, Prince Xinling said, “Shaolong you are indeed extraordinary, to be able to defeat more than 10,000 horse thieves with only 800 men. No wonder you can rise to fame so swiftly in Zhao.” Xiang Shaolong knows that this is his opening speech, and hurriedly expressed his humble thanks.

Prince Xinling raised his wine cup and was silent for a moment before continuing with a slight smile, “Everyone saw that the battle of Chang Ping greatly weakened the state of Zhao from a strong state, but very few people saw that the Qins also suffered heavy losses in this battle. How else could I have defeated the Qins in Handan 6 years ago if not for that, and subsequent the combined forces of Yue Cheng and Qing He from your state, together with the states Han, Chu and Bi also greatly defeated the Qins.” Xiang Shaolong has no idea why he would bring up this matter, so he just bulldozed his way through to try and flatter him, saying “It’s all due to your intelligence and decisiveness that gave the Qins their most terrible defeat ever since Shang Yang changed the policies.” Prince Xinling smiled proudly, “The King of Qin is narrow minded, he has such a good general in Bai Qi but because of a fit of anger, forced him to his death. Fan Sui also gave up his premier post 4 years ago which greatly weakened Qin further, which gave us the opportunity to conquer Taojun. If my estimation is correct, the Qins can forget about regaining their strength within the next 20 years.”

Xiang Shaolong was secretly impressed and thought to himself that this Prince Xinling is indeed a talent of his times. Because from what he knows from the history books, it is indeed 20 odd years later that Qin manage to destroy the other 6 states. Prince Xinling personally poured the wine and after drinking a toast, said solemnly, “Now that Lu Buwei caused the death of King Xiaowen, and allowed Yiren to ascend the throne and the world was in fear because they know how formidable Lu Buwei is. But I see it from another point of view. With the Qins being so suspicious of any outsiders, how can they allow Lu Buwei to control the politics, therefore there must be internal strife which will again weaken their plans to invade east.” Xiang Shaolong complimented him sincerely, “No wonder you are so well respected by the people, you can really analyze and understand the situations well.” Of course he knew that in the end Emperor Qin exterminated Lu Buwei’s entire clan, that’s why he is especially amazed by Prince Xinling’s farsightedness. Among the 4 princes in the warring states period, he and Prince Mengchang emerged tops, and obviously he does live up to his name.

He thought of how frightened the Zhaos were once they heard that Lu Buwei is now in power and the contrast against Prince Xinling shows how bold and far-sighted he is. Prince Xinling’s eyes gleamed and he sighed meaningfully, “Shaolong! If the 3 states were to unify, now is the time.” In truth, Xiang Shaolong is very much interested in this idea because who can guarantee that history will not change. At least the Emperor of Qin now is a useless person, totally different from the smart and brave Emperor described in history books. Since he wants to deal with Zhao Mu, naturally he will need the help of Prince Xinling and once he thought of this, his heart started pounding. Prince Xinling is indeed astute, just by studying his looks and behavior, he already knows what he is thinking and nodded his head with satisfaction, “My elder sister is indeed right about you, Shaolong is indeed a bold and intelligent man.” He continued in a lowered voice, “Does Shaolong know that you are in a dangerous position where you will find it difficult to advance or retreat.” Xiang Shaolong nodded his head to indicate his understanding.

However, Prince Xinling shook his head and smiled, “You don’t really know yet. Tell me! Do you know Hui Hu is which person’s trusted aide?” Xiang Shaolong was stunned and asked, “Doesn’t Hui Hu take orders from your King?” Prince Xinling replied, “That coward would not dare to touch anything that might incite public fury. Anli’s most beloved Lord Longyang* handled all these secretive evil plans. According to secret reports, Lord Longyang hates you to the core, that’s why he forced Anli to give the orders not to allow your men to enter the city so that you’ll be alone and helpless. If not for my strong support of you, Shaolong would have perished long ago.” Xiang Shaolong felt numb but also found the situation hilarious at the same time.


It was really unexpected that he would actually meet the famous Lord Long Yang, whose name has long become synonymous with gays. Without a question, An Li and Lord Long Yang’s relationship is similar to King Xiaocheng’s relationship with Zhao Mu. Apparently the royalty in this era, due to the 2 extremes in their lifestyle of extravagance and constant fear of losing their lives, have all turned a little abnormal. Prince Xinling said, “Lord Long Yang is one of the 3 most famous swordsmen in the state of Wei. He is intelligent and cunning, and certainly not easy to deal with.” Xiang Shaolong sighed and said, “We can consider this to pose difficulty in me advancing, but why can’t I retreat then?” Prince Xinling stared at him for a moment before saying calmly, “Because if you return to Zhao, Zhao Mu will certainly try to take your life.”

Xiang Shaolong remembered that Lady Pingyuan once told him that the King of Zhao has taken a liking to him, and if that’s really the case, what Prince Xinling just told him is not just to scare him. He sighed and said, “To tell you the truth, I was ordered to come to Wei this time with another secret mission, which is to steal the ‘Lu Gong’s Secret Manual’.” He obviously knows that Prince Xinling is already aware of this, so he said it out first to gain his trust. As expected Prince Xinling chortled, reached out and patted his shoulder and exclaimed, “Great! It’s only now that I believe you really have the intention of allying yourself with us. If you can work for me well, I can guarantee you endless wealth and riches.” He continued in a quiet voice, “That fellow An Li, under Lord Long Yang’s persuasion, is not busy preparing to eliminate Zhao, so even though Hui Hu is totally unrelated to him, he will never let a talent like you return. As for Zhao Qian, not only will she not be able to become the Crown Princess, her fate will be extremely terrible as well.” Xiang Shaolong sighed helplessly and asked, “What should we do now?” Prince Xinling smiled slightly. “The one who strikes first will gain the upper hand, the one who strikes later will be at the mercy of others. Does Shaolong understand these words?”

Xiang Shaolong suddenly felt himself sweating, finally understanding that Prince Xinling said so much to him because he is still intent on the initial plan he made with lady Pingyuan and Prince Shaoyuan, which is to assassinate King An Li, so he is just a pawn now. He was so furious that he felt like giving himself 2 tight slaps. How stupid and naïve he was, to actually believe that the vicious Lady Pingyuan would really fall in love with him. Lady Pingyuan is indeed formidable, deliberately pretending to be unhappy with Prince Shaoyuan, and flattering him at the same time, saying that she wants a child with him so that he’ll be taken in. If not for the fact that he overheard the talk she had with her son that night, he won’t even know how he died. That vicious woman actually slowly made her progress, sacrificing her body to lure him in, kept on flattering him with the only aim of using his bravery, intelligence, martial arts skill and status to help them kill the King of Wei. After that they will push the blame to him and the Zhaos, so that they can retreat safely from this matter. Such a venomous ploy is indeed enough to make one’s blood run cold.

In order not to arouse the other party’s suspicions, he pretended to be full of vigor as he replied, “If there is anything I can do, please let me know. I am willing to go through fire and water.” Prince Xinling exclaimed happily, “With these words from you, why should I worry that the plan will not work.” He continued in a straight face, “I already have a plan in mind, but it’s not the time to let you know yet. You can enjoy yourselves for these few days, I have a lot of beauties in my residence and you can choose anyone to serve you.” Xiang Shaolong had an idea and deliberately tested the waters by saying, “With Lady Ya around, I am already satisfied.” A look of anger and jealousy flashed past Prince Xinling’s eyes but he immediately changed it into a warm smile, “You really know how to choose, Zhao Ya is extremely captivating, truly a fine specimen in a man’s private room. Go ahead and enjoy yourself!” He added, “You’ll have a good rest tonight, I’ll arrange some activities for you tomorrow and I can guarantee that your trip will not be in vain.”

After Xiang Shaolong left the hall, he walked towards where Zhao Ya and the rest were residing at, knowing very well that in order to gain his trust, Prince Xinling will not restrict his activities in the manor nor send anyone to spy on him. Once he stepped into the garden, he immediately thought of Mei Canniang’s quiet little mountain valley. If he can spend the rest of his life in that place where there’s no fights, then won’t all his troubles be gone? Pride and ambition is really the downfall of many. Xiang Shaolong suddenly felt dejection and an extreme weariness about the things that has been happening around him. Especially when he thought of Lady Pingyuan, he felt that pain of being cheated and hurt. After walking past a row of old, luxuriant swaying trees, the ‘Flying Clouds Chambers’ which Zhao Ya and the rest are residing in came into view. Lanterns were lighted on the pillars and the eaves of the corridors and under the illumination of the lanterns, it can be seen that the corridors have double eaves, the roof was decorated with tiles and statues of beasts, extremely colorful and majestic. The paint and carvings on the main door was exquisite, the curtains on the windows were thick, with a soft and hazy light going through it.

Xiang Shaolong suddenly felt lost. That feeling of a strange dream filled him again. Hai! If only it really is a dream. Even when he was facing the worst situation in Zhao, he has never felt so dejected. Just like what Prince Xinling said, even if he can escape from Wei, he’ll face death when he goes back as well, unless he can get his hands on ‘Lu Gong’s Secret Manual’. But by then those troops pursuing him will certainly include Prince Xinling’s men as well. This Prince Xinling is even more difficult to handle that the King of Wei, or else the Qins would not have suffered heavy losses under him time and again. If he really manages to unite the 3 states, for all you know he may really be able to take over Emperor Qin and become the world’s ruler. Can history really be changed?

Xiang Shaolong lied down on Lady Ya’s couch dejectedly. Zhao Ya sat down and reached out to caress his face, asking in alarm, “Shaolong what happened to you, why do you look so bad.” Xiang Shaolong carried her up the bed and buried his head in her chest and sighed, “If I have ‘Lu Gong’s Secret Manual’ with me now, I will steal all of you out of Daliang immediately and run far, far away.” Zhao Ya’s delicate body shook a little as she cried out, “Shaolong! Can you brace yourself? Seeing you like this pains me.” She went to his ear and whispered, “An Li has got nothing to do with the order not to allow Cheng Xu and the rest into the city.” Xiang Shaolong raised his head up in surprise and looked at her, “How did you know?” Lady Ya covered her mouth and smiled, “Don’t ever think that we are totally helpless to defend, us Zhaos have spies all over the place. I even have my own people in Prince Xinling’s residence.” The look in her eyes turned icy as she continued, “This matter must be related to Prince Xinling, to deliberately isolate you and give you the feeling that there’s danger everywhere so that he and his sister can control you.”

Xiang Shaolong perked up immediately and he sat up, his eyes gleaming, “Have you found out where ‘Lu Gong’s Secret Manual is hidden.” Lady Ya stared at him unbelievably and said, “If you obviously know that someone is coming to steal your things, will you let others find out so easily?” She then stood up and took out a scrolled painting from a cloth sack and unrolled it on the bed. It turns out to be the floor plan of Prince Xinling’s residence. Xiang Shaolong was ecstatic, “Where did you get such a good thing from?” Lady Ya smiled at him coquettishly, “Don’t forget what I’m an expert in. If I can’t even get this, how can I steal more important things?” Xiang Shaolong thought of something and asked, “If there really is a ‘Lu Gong’s Secret Manual’, why isn’t Prince Xinling starting to manufacture the equipment according to the diagrams instead, why would he be keeping it in his residence?”

Lady Ya replied, “This involves the fight between Prince Xinling and the King of Wei. As long as Prince Xinling has not gotten his hands on the imperial throne, he will not take the secret manual out, therefore the manual must be kept in a secret location in his residence.” Xiang Shaolong sighed, “I’m afraid that even before I can find the secret manual, that conniving Prince Xinling would already have killed me.” Lady Ya suddenly extended her fair arms and covered his mouth, the soft and tender feeling shooting like electricity straight into Xiang Shaolong’s heart. She pouted, “Don’t say anything inauspicious, all right?” Xiang Shaolong sniffed in her fragrance and felt a little better. He took a close look at the map on the bed, silently committing to memory the positions of the houses in the residence. He had strict training on such matters before, so naturally he has a way of memorizing things.

Lady Ya saw that he has regained his confidence and calmness so she happily explained to him the layout of the residence. Xiang Shaolong finally recovered from his depression and asked, “Do you have a way to make contact with Wu Zhuo and the rest?” Lady Ya said with pride, “Such a simple matter, just leave it to me!” Xiang Shaolong was silent for a moment before continuing, “Tell Wu Zhuo to try and dig a tunnel from the camp to another location. If something happens, it may very well save lives?” Lady Ya’s expression changed, “Is the situation that bad? We are after all representatives of the King of Zhao…” Xiang Shaolong interrupted her, “If you know that the King of Wei has the intention of attacking Zhao, you won’t be saying that. We’ve really made a wrong trip this time.” As he spoke, he went off the bed.

Lady Ya pulled him and asked, “Aren’t you accompanying me?” Xiang Shaolong replied, “Prince Xinling will force me to assassinate the King of Wei anytime, time is running short, I must find the hiding place of ‘Lu Gong’s Secret Manual’.” Lady Ya was greatly startled, “There are ferocious dogs guarding Wei Wuji’s residence, he’ll certainly find out if you enter.” Xiang Shaolong laughed, “You’re the expert thief, you’ll definitely have a way to deal with ferocious dogs.”

Lady Ya rolled her eyes at him and took out a small bottle from her bag and gave it to him, saying “Just a little of this powder on your body, the ferocious dogs will avoid you. But not only are there ferocious dogs, there are guards as well! Hai! Since I know that you’ll be risking your life, how can I sleep in peace tonight?” Xiang Shaolong took the bottle, hugged and gave her a kiss and said, “Just strip and wait for me on the bed without a worry! I guarantee that no one will be able to see me.”

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