Chapter 5 - A Step into the Past

Book 1 Chapter 5 – Display of invincibility

As far as they can see all around them, the land was a large lush plain of green, peppered with wild forests and winding rivers and streams. Nature is so breathtakingly beautiful.

Tao Fang suddenly sighed and said, “I’m in conflict when it comes to the Weis as well. The southwest of Great Jin has a corner separated by the Yellow River, followed by treacherous mountains. It effectively sandwiched the Qin’s only entrance in the east. After the separation of the 3 states, this section was taken by the Weis, and as long as they remain strong, the Qins will be trapped in the west and cannot conquer towards the east. Hai! So do we wish for the state of Wei to be strong or weak?”

Xiang Shaolong asked, “Why does Master Tai hate the Weis so much?”

Tao Fang’s expression turned somber and he said, “Ever since Marquis Wen of Wei reformed Wei, he kept invading others, not only weakening us, but made the Qins stronger and become a danger to us. The chaotic situation now is all the result of the Wei’s actions. Secondary are the aberrant Qis who goes back on their words. When we joined forced with Chu and Han to attack Qin, they came to attack us and gave Qin the opportunity to eliminate the 2 states of Ba and Shu, thus expanding their land. All of them are short sighted people.”

Another warrior interrupted, “But the most idiotic would be King Chu. The Qins used only 600 miles of land to entice him to break off friendly ties with Qi. In the end they were left isolated and without reinforcements. The Qins defeated them badly at Danyang and they lost 80,000 men, Hanzhong, northwest of Chengdu and Pingxiao which resulted in a huge setback for their state. Later he was lured by the Qins to go to Wu Pass and was captured by them. In the end he died of an illness in a foreign land. One does not know whether to pity him or laugh at him.”

Xiang Shaolong got excited upon hearing all these. In the 21st century there’s no turmoil like this where the outcome can be determined by war. Only here can he show off his capabilities like a fish to water. By now he is thinking less and less about returning.

After the few of them discussed about their strategies at Shantou, they split up to follow up on their respective tasks.

Xiang Shaolong led 30 odd men and set traps and dug holes on the surrounding slopes to prevent the enemy from attacking them in the cover of the night. He also confirmed the emergency back up plans with Tao Fang, who nodded with consent as he listened.

During these few days, Xiang Shaolong would practice on his swordplay and archery whenever he is free. He had learnt all these in the past, but of course such skills were not as important as practicing their marksmanship at that time, so now he has to work harder in these areas.

To a full time army personnel like him, he is more adept at using weapons then anyone else. However he humbly sought advice from other warriors and improved on their swordplay, creating for himself a powerful yet unconstrained style of swordplay that is most lethal. Although he felt that it’s still not good enough, but he can’t find a good teacher in such a short time, so he’ll have to make do with it.

He only returned to the camp to rest late at night.

The beautiful and coquettish Ting Fangshi, who has been nourished by love, had just woken up and was about to change his attire for him when Xiang Shaolong stopped her and said, “I’ll sleep in this tonight! I have a feeling the thieves will come tonight.”

Ting Fangshi was so startled her face turned pale and she stammered, “What should we do then. If I end up in the hands of those horse thieves, I will surely be defiled, and face a fate worse than death.”

Xiang Shaolong hugged and assured her, “Don’t be afraid, with Xiang Shaolong around, I will guarantee your safety, I may stay behind to fight off the enemy, you’ll go with Master Tao to Handan first and I’ll meet up with you later.”

Ting Fangshi’s expression turned stricken and she sobbed, “I ask that Heaven have pity on me and protect Master Xiang. In the past I felt that it doesn’t matter which man I follow. But now I know that if I don’t have Master Xiang, I would not want to live a single day longer.

Xiang Shaolong knows that this enticing beauty has developed feelings for him and suddenly felt desire again. He licked the tears off her face, his other hand reaching into her top and working its way around her bosom. For a moment he remembered Mei Canniang, and secretly thought that it was a good idea not to let her come along, or else she might have been frightened to death now.

Ting Fangshi’s petite body shivered, her face red and burning, fire coming out of her eyes. Her little mouth gaped open, sighing and moaning, the expression of desire on her face thoroughly enticing.

Xiang Shaolong suddenly stopped, and said “I have to conserve my energy tonight to deal with any situation that might arise. Can you wait for a night?”

Ting Fangshi gasped and moaned, she has no choice but to nod her head in agreement. But once he saw her rapidly heaving bosom, he knows that she is now in a heat of desire that cannot be extinguished.

For the first time, Xiang Shaolong thought that how idyllic life will be if there’s no war.

Ting Fangshi blew out the oil lamp and fell into this man’s arms, making him out of control.

Xiang Shaolong hugged a ball of fire and snuggled into the blankets. He asked gently, “I forgot to ask you, have you ever had an affair with another man behind your husband’s back?”

Ting Fangshi curled up and nibbling his ear, said softly, “He was very strict with me, but I frequently have to accompany the men he singled out. When he’s happy, he’ll let his relatives and friends have fun with me. Luckily it’s a lot better serving other men than serving him.”

Xiang Shaolong secretly sighed to himself, women in this era has no standing at all, but just the slaves of men. From what she said, a married woman is not that much different from a prostitute. When he thought of the Emperor Qin in the movie, his mother was the favorite concubine of Lu Buwei, who offered her to his father, and no longer felt that such a situation is strange.

Under extreme exhaustion, he slept.

He suddenly woke up, and heard urgent footsteps coming nearer and nearer. Ting Fangshi was frightened awake.

Xiang Shaolong ordered her to stay in the tent and quietly took his sword and left the tent. He met a nervous looking Li Shan and knew that something’s wrong so he hurriedly followed him to the top of the eastern hill.

Tao Fang and all his warriors are all awake, crouching at the top of the hill looking at their surroundings.

Under the majestic starts, in the seemingly quiet plains, birds were startled into flight, and there were roars from ferocious tigers.

Tao Fang turned pale and exclaimed, “They’re coming!”

Xiang Shaolong is adept at observing his enemy’s movements, and guessed that their enemy is still far away and have not grouped up in force. He suggested, “Why don’t’ Master Tao escape with the women first, but leave the horses here. I will lead 50 men to engage the enemy and we will meet in Handan at a later date.”

Tao Fang knows that the horse thieves outnumber them and they’re all vicious and fearless, and felt a chill in his heart. He reached out and grabbing his shoulders, said with gratitude, “I’ll leave everything to you. You must keep your life and come to Handan to look for me. I will take good care of Ting Fangshi for you.” And he left in a hurry after speaking these words.

After a moment, Tao Fang and the women went up the horse carriage and under the protection of the other 60 odd warriors, left by the other passage that has not been laid with traps.

Xiang Shaolong and the rest immediately busied themselves, improving their defenses, increasing the depth of the trap holes, putting more ropes to trip the horses and such.

3 hours later, the horse thieves finally came. The horses on the hills neighed as the thieves surrounded the small hill. Murderous horse thieves were all around them, causing a chill down the various warriors’ heart, because they are really greatly outnumbered.

Xiang Shaolong felt himself getting numb and kept reminding himself to calm down.

Suddenly footsteps were heard, 2 teams of 100 odd horse thieves ran up the hill from the east and west.

Xiang Shaolong knows that the other party is just testing them, so he instructed everyone to stand by their positions and not make any rash moves.

The 2 teams of horse thieves started making their way up, whooping shrilly, and causing anyone who heard them feel a cold shiver.

Halfway up the hill, the horse thieves split up and charged quickly forward.

The horse thieves at the forefront fell over, either falling into the pike holes or their horses tripped over the ropes, causing the men and horses to roll down the hill and knock into the charging horse thieves behind. Under this chain reaction, more than half of the 2 teams of almost 200 men were either dead or injured.

The warriors cheered, their confidence greatly boosted. 

Xiang Shaolong secretly thanked the good luck, knowing that the enemy lost because they were careless and over confident, that’s why they fell into the trap. He hurriedly ordered everyone to move to the bottom of the slope and hide in the holes without the pikes and prepare their arrows to launch a third attack to the enemy.

A few hundred torches lighted up the surrounding area, throwing the whole hill into fiery brightness.

A burly man with huge graying beard walked out from among their enemy, sitting proudly on a horse. He pointed and shouted, “Those damned Zhao devils. If I, Hu Hui, allow anyone of you to die with an intact body, then I will retire immediately.”

Xiang Shaolong was secretly berating the other party for being stupid. Once he said that, won’t he be forcing his opponents to fight with all their might?

Xiang Shaolong felt that his arm is stronger than others, and shot an arrow towards Hui Hu. The light weighted arrow lost its momentum before it even reached its target and dropped about 10 meters away from Hui Hu. However, this is enough to cause apprehension among the horse thieves. Who has such incredible arm strength?

The warriors were secretly cheering, but none dared to make any noise, afraid that the enemy will find out their location.

The horn blew and the horse thieves all came down their horses and split into two groups to attack from all sides.

Horse thieves with shields and spears, who under the light of the torch, made their way carefully up the slope, led the first wave of attack, spoiling the trap that Xiang Shaolong had laid.

Behind them were archers, who kept shooting arrows towards the hill, covering the ascent of the men with spears. However they did not know that Xiang Shaolong is already hiding in the middle of the hill in a hole designed to avoid arrows.

By now all the warriors were impressed with Xiang Shaolong’s prediction of the enemy’s moves and their confidence soared.

By Xiang Shaolong’s estimation, the enemy still has about 700 men who can fight. Even if they can get rid of the 400 odd men who are making their way up now, their enemy still outnumbers them greatly. Besides, there’s no way they can kill all the troops who are advancing now without causing casualties to their own people. He had an idea, and instructed Li Shan, who was by his side, “When the fight starts later, bring 10 men to the horse enclosure immediately. When you hear the signal of 3 long and 3 short horns, break the enclosure immediately and let the horses out. Let them charge down from the east, then we’ll escape from the west.”

Li Shan immediately agreed and went to look for his partners.

By now the first batch of horse thieves have reached the midsection of the hill, slowly coming closer. The atmosphere was tense.

Hui Hu and the remaining of his 300 men sat on their horses at the east side arranging their formation. They rubbed their fists and palms, getting ready to charge up and kill.

This is the first time Xiang Shaolong is in such a situation, and his heart beat wildly for a moment. He ordered, “Release the rocks!”

The barrier of 10 odd piles of tree trunks and rocks, which were hidden behind the bushes and grass, was removed and they rolled down like waves, breaking the enemy’s shields and causing them to fall. 

Xiang Shaolong shouted, “Release the arrows.” All the warriors who were hidden in the burrows immediately showed themselves and their arrows fell like rain. The enemy was in chaos and could not retaliate at all. They were struck by arrows and rolled down the hill, suffering another 200 odd casualties.

The morale of the warriors were greatly boosted and they cheered.

Hui Hu was jumping mad and after retreating the injured men, he immediately regrouped his men for the third attack.

Xiang Shaolong observed how the other party was moving and knew that they’re putting their main force on the slope at the east. That area is not as steep and secretly thanking heaven for helping him, he ordered all the warriors to retreat up the hill.

There are advantages to having less men, the enemy will not be able to detect their movements so easily.

When they have all retreated up the hill, Xiang Shaolong told them to lead their horses and told them his plan. When the warriors heard that they can escape, their morale were boosted and they were all united, with no one making any objection. Until now, none of their men has been injured so naturally they think of Xiang Shaolong like a deity now.

The horn sounded, the horse thieves charged up again from all areas but most of the remaining 500 off horse thieves were coming up from the east.

Xiang Shaolong waited until the horse thieves were halfway up the hill before he ordered his man to sound the signal. Horses neighed and hooves drummed, a hundred odd wild horses were chased out of the enclosure and the warriors all hurriedly helped to steer the horses so that they ran madly down the eastern slope. They even used their long spears to poke the horses buttocks so that they will become even wilder. Amidst the flying sand, the wild horses galloped down the slope, directly into the horse thieves who were on their way up.

Xiang Shaolong has no time to observe the outcome and leading his 50 warriors, ran towards the western slope, running all the way down the safe path.

Only a hundred odd horse thieves met them, and because they were unprepared, they were quickly defeated.

Xiang Shaolong knows that his plan must be beyond the expectations of the enemy. Hui Hu does not know that all the women have been sent away, so he couldn’t have imagined that only 51 riders were left to charge out of the siege.

The eastern slope may be in chaos, but the horse thieves from the other 2 sides all came to help and for a moment, the sounds of killing filled the air.

Although Xiang Shaolong had learnt to ride in the army, but he’s naturally not as adept as the warriors and horse thieves who grew up on horseback. When they reached the foot of the hill, he’s already lagging behind the other warriors, who thought that he is so brave as to risk his own life to cover their retreat.

By now only about 30 out of the 50 warriors remained, and they hurriedly escaped.

With his amazing arm strength, Xiang Shaolong killed a few horse thieves who were pursuing him with his spear. He was about to catch up with his team when he felt a sharp pain on his shoulder, shot by an arrow.

Xiang Shaolong roared and urged his horse to run faster. In his haste he did not see where he is going at all, but onl knows he must move forward quickly. In a short moment, he was all alone, riding forward is the vast plains.

The horse suddenly lost its footing and threw him off. He stumbled into the bushes and even the end of the arrow was snapped. The horse finally collapsed and died of exhaustion.

Xiang Shaolong felt his body getting weak and his head giddy, with a fiery pain behind his shoulder. His body was stained with fresh blood from the wound. He gritted his teeth and stood up. Taking the dagger Tao Fang gave him, he endured the extreme pain and cut out the flesh surrounding the arrowhead, and after that haphazardly bandaged the wound with his shirt. 

He was parched, and knew that this is an indication of losing too much blood so he climbed up with much pain.

A ray of light shone from the eastern side of the plains. They have ran the whole night, no wonder the horse could not take it any more. He looked at the horse in apology and continued on his way.

He walked for 20 odd days in the deserted wilderness. Xiang Shaolong experienced the most difficult journey in his whole life.

The first few days he depended on wild fruits to stave his hunger. Later when his wound gradually healed after he applied mashed herbs on it to prevent infection and inflammation, his strength returned and he hunted wild rabbits for food. He was disheveled and dirty with tattered clothes.

Following Tao Fang’s instructions, looking at the sun during the day and checking out the stars at night, he walked towards the direction of Handan. One day he came to the bottom of a huge mountain and looking at the tall and dangerous looking cliff, he had no choice but to walk around it. But he walked for more than 10 days and yet he was still walking around the winding mountain area. By the time he left the mountainous area, he was totally exhausted. Even his sword was broken and just as he was despairing, he found an official road outside the forest. He was overjoyed and bounded towards the road. By this time even his boots were torn.

On the way he met two groups of traders with a dozen men but when they saw his bedraggled look, they hurriedly moved away, totally ignoring him.

Xiang Shaolong sighed about the heartlessness of men. After walking for three more days, he reached another large city in the state of Zhao, Wu An, which is west of Handan.

By this time, the weather will turn cold at night, so cold that he’ll be shivering. He wanted to go into the city but was chased out by the Zhao soldiers. He realized that all who enters the city must pay taxes and have their identities checked. The way he looked, like a beggar now, not to mention that he is penniless, there’s no way he can enter the city.

Never did Xiang Shaolong imagine that he would become a pest that no one wants. Luckily he has been through rigorous military training and was especially resilient. He did not give up but waited for a chance outside the city gates.

He decided that after gaining into the city, he have to get clothes, food and a horse even if he has to steal or swindle. And after he finds out the route to Handan, he’ll go there immediately to look for Tao Fang so that he can end this painful existence. 

That night he ate wild fruits to appease his hunger, huddled up in the forest next to the road, tolerating the bitingly cold night.

When the sun shone on him as the day broke, he finally fell asleep.

Without knowing how long he slept, he was suddenly jarred awake by the sound of carriage wheels.

He opened his eyes for a look, and it turned out to be a group who was carting sheep. He was ecstatic and when no one was noticing, he hid himself in the last sheep cart amongst the sheep and stole into the city.

This city of the State of Zhao during the Warring States Period has a lot of elderly with tall and large buildings. The place was crowded, but it seems that there are more females to makes. Xiang Shaolong thought to himself that this must be the after effect of Changping where the Qin generals killed 400,000 Zhao soldiers. 

He was wondering if they have gigolos here, if there is, with his ability, he’ll be able to make the ladies happy. He can then earn enough for traveling expenses, a good horse and fresh clothes to Handan.

Once he thought about this, he himself felt that it’s hilarious, and jumped off the cart.

Once the people on the street saw him, they all gave him despising looks.

Xiang Shaolong touched the beard on his face and almost wanted to cry. Before he came into the city, he had a purpose, which is to figure out how to come into the city. But now that he’s really in the city, he is at a loss instead.

He felt ashamed of himself and turned into a deserted lane, but was discovered by a group of children who were playing in the courtyard. They ran after him and made fun of him as if he’s a monster, and were so mischievous they even threw stones at him.

When he turned around to scare them, the dozen or so children immediately scattered. One little girl could not run away in time and fell down.

When Xiang Shaolong wanted to help her up, the little girl was so panicked that she wailed loudly.

Immediately a few adults holding knives, spears, rods etc ran towards him with cries of murder.