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 Book 3 Chap 1 - Starting the journey

Before they left the palace, the warriors and carriages gathered in the large field. The King of Zhao personally made prayers to Heaven and ancestors in a ceremony, praying for a safe journey, but of course Xiang Shaolong knows that what he's praying for is that they can steal the 'Secret Manual of Lu Gong', and is not at all concerned about their life or death. Of course nothing has to be said about his daughter Zhao Qian's happiness.

The King of Zhao barely managed to transfer a few more men to Xiang Shaolong so that his troops now total 500. In addition to Prince Shaoyuan's 200 warriors, a total of 700 light cavalry now escort Lady Ya, Third Princess Zhao Xian, Lady Pingyuan and a group of concubines and maids who are traveling in 27 carriages, with 40 carts carrying provisions and miscellaneous items. They left with much fanfare out of Zhao's capital Handan via the southern gate, following the official roads towards their first stop Zixian.

This is still within the boundaries of Zhao, so they need not worry about safety. The great general Li Mu also sent 500 riders to escort them to the outskirts of city walls 200li away from Zixian city. Therefore Xiang Shaolong was still releaxed, if he has to worry, he'll do it after they pass the city walls and on their way to Wei's border.

What surprised him was Lady Ya's 8 maids, Xiaozhao, Xiaoyu and the rest were all dressed in armor and riding majestically on their horses, their reflexes swift and nimble.

And then he realized, in this warring states era, it's natural that all males will learn martial arts, so it's no exception for fit women as well.

He is not an expert at all in the way the troops are formed in this era, so while there's nothing to do during the journey, he started asked Cheng Xu.

Cheng Xu replied honestly, "A war is a matter of life and death, as long as there's an ounce of strength, that ounce of strength will be used to the end. In the battle of Changping, the state of Qin conscripted 15 year old boys into the army for battle. When the King of Yan attacked us the last time, his Majesty even conscripted under aged boys into the army. Luckily we could defeat Yan, if not... ai!"

Xiang Shaolong knows that Cheng Xu is Lady Ya's man, so he was a lot less guarded when talking to him. So he conveniently asked about how the army is formed.

Cheng Xu replied without hiding anything, "What the term 3 armies mean generally refers to strong men, strong women and old and weak armies. The army of strong men is the main force in battle, strong women are usually in charge of engineering, manual labor and any work that requires assistant while old and weak army are the back ups and in charge of miscellaneous work like being in charge of rations."

Xiang Shaolong was enlightened. When he watched movies in the past, all those battle scenes were magnificent and epic, filled with the romanticism of heroism. So it turns out that the truth is another matter altogether, that even women, children, the weak and old were all pushed to the battlefield to suffer and lose their lives.

Cheng Xu lowered his voice, "Although we have less men this time, but they're all elite warriors, so obviously his Majesty is very concerned with this trip, which is very rare."

Xiang Shaolong turned his head back for a look and saw Prince Shaoyuan's 10 carriages and 200 warriors at the very end of the procession. He can't help but sigh. He thought that if anything were to happen, Prince Shaoyuan will certainly not listen to his instructions. Just this 'internal troublemaker' is enough to give him a headache.

The 2 beauties Zhao Qian and Zhao Ya's carriages all had theur curtains lowered, and he can't see what's happening inside. He wondered if they're secretly looking at him?

Once he thought of that, he moved his horse next to Lady Ya's carriage.

As expected Lady Ya immediately rolled up her curtains, revealing her pretty face and aside with a coquettish smile, "Does Imperial Protector want to come up for a seat?"

Xiang Shaolong said with a bitter smile, "Your subject is on a mission, how can I be so rude?"

Xiaozhao and the rest of the maids who were behind the carriage all covered their mouths and sniggered.

The 4 highly skilled and loyal warriors Lady Ya mentioned were split into 2 groups and protecting her on both sides, and on seeing Xiang Shaolong, all acknowledged him respectfully.

Lady Ya said, "The 4 of them are all orphans, so they follow my family name and are named Zhao Da, Zhao Er, Zhao Wu and Zhao Qi, if there's anything you can just give them orders."

Xiang Shaolong saw that the oldest among them, Zhao Da, is only a few years older than him, while Zhao Qi is about 16 years old at the most. But they all look like strong and muscular youths with some skills, so he said with a smile, "My instructions to them would be to stay by Third Princess and your side at all times, that is enough." And secretly thought to himself that the state of Zhao may be the country with the most orphans and widows in this time.

Zhao Da and the rest all made their promise.

That day they traveled for more than 30li, luckily the scenery was picturesque along the way so Xiang Shaolong treated it as an outing, chatting with Lady Ya and the maids while he's free so he don't find it lonesome at all.

Zhao Qian and her 2 personal maids were hiding in their carriage and did not reveal themselves.

Although Xiang Shaolong very much wanted to see her, he must control this impulse. No matter what she is of an esteemed status now and cannot talk with men so easily. Besides he knows that she's going to marry to the state of Wei, so it's better not to be tangled with her.

At dusk, the entourage pitched tents to rest. There were more than 200 tents set up on the field next to a small stream.

In Xiang Shaolong's Commander's tent, Xiang Shaolong, Cheng Xu and the assistant commander Li Mu sent, Ding Shou, as well as 2 other military leaders Zi Ji and Ren Zhen. The 5 of them sat around a table and enjoyed dinner.

For warriors like them, the topics talked about are naturally about war and strategy. Right now the very experienced general Ding Shou was talking about the changes in war and the situation like an expert.

Ding Shou said, "The wars last time were a lot simpler, wining or losing depends only on one direct clash, and the results will be known in just a few days. Even if it's a siege testing stamina, it will last only 20 to 30 days. King Chu Zhuang's besiegement of Song lasted 9 months, and that is an extremely rare example. Not like the wars now, each can last 3 to 5 years, the suffering endured can be endlessly related."

Xiang Shaolong was curious and asked, "Why is the change so drastic?"

Cheng Xu interrupted, "Your honor has just recently joined the army, naturally you do not know the circumstances behind it. This can be explained several ways. Firstly, the population has increased thus the army has become stronger as well. The larger states in the past like Jin and Chu, the army is only about 4000 strong, they can't even find 10,000 people. But now if you include the female soldiers, the old and weak, you can have an army of hundred thousands. Secondly is the defense of a country..."

The commander Zi Ji added, "Imperial Protector Cheng is correct, in the past the defense of a country only centers around its capital, it's only later that they slowly build up the nearby stockades into cities. But the rest of the place, the enemy forces can still pass through at will, it's like stateless land."

Ren Zhen chipped in, "Now it's a different thing altogether, the different states are now erecting their own city walls and castles. If you want to conquer another state, you'll have to attack the cities one by one, and there are other problems as well. So once a war is mentioned, everyone is troubled."

Cheng Xu continued, "The aims of battles in the past were to obtain goods and force the enemy to concede. But now the main task is to occupy the land and kill the enemy. The losers will perish with the thought of hatred and the loss of a country. Therefore everyone will fight the enemy to the death. Wars are really getting more and more difficult and violent."

Ding Shou sighed, "Also the large scale skirmishes for foot soldiers and cavalry and besiegement attacks have replaced the old strategy of using carriages as the main force of attack, which was neater and looks nicer as well. The art of war is becoming more complicated, and as the saying goes, a soldier will turn to every trick available, so now there's ambushes, luring the enemies, surrounding them, attacking them in the middle, waiting games etc. In order to defeat the enemy and ensure a victory, every possible idea has been used."

Cheng Xu said with a laugh, "In those days both sides will first choose a time and location and make an appointment. On the day of battle they will both use war carriages as the main force, foot soldiers as support troops and position themselves nicely before beating the drums to signal an attack. Everything is simple and quick. But now there's no such thing. It's best if your enemy doesn't even know that you're right outside their gates so that they will be caught unawares." He continued with a big sigh, "Fighting for territory and killing people in the fields, fighting for cities and killing people in the cities."

Ding Shou sighed as well, "In the past we'd just temporarily conscripted the farmers to be soldiers, but now warfare is getting more and more professional, not only are there full time soldiers, even the training is stricter as well."

Xiang Shaolong could feel their fear and how fed up they are with wars. He thought to himself that if soldiers like them feel this way, all the more Lady Ya and Master Wu would feel as such too. Especially after the battle of Changping, the state of Zhao was in a dangerous position and everyone only looked out for themselves. It seems that there really is not much time left for Zhao, so how can he escape with all the ladies to a safe place in time so that they will not end up casualties of the impending doom.

Just as he was deep in thought, noises can be heard from outside the tent.

Xiang Shaolong and the rest were surprised and they all rushed out.

They saw Lady Ya's camp area were full of soldiers, and sounds of argument could be heard.

A soldier rushed over at this time and huffed, "Something bad happened, Prince Shaoyuan's man Xu Hai killed someone."

Xiang Shaolong and Cheng Wei exchanged a glance, and they could all tell it's a way Prince Shaoyuan is belittling them.

The one killed is Lady Ya's family warrior Zhao Er.

It turned out that while Xiang Shaolong and the rest were in the tent dining and chatting, Prince Shaoyuan took the opportunity to lead the 3 of his most formidable family warriors Xu Hai, Pu Bu and Liu Chao as well as 10 odd fighters to barge their way into Lady Ya's private tent. Obviously he's trying to resume their old relationship and at the same time cause Xiang Shaolong a loss of face.

The guards naturally dared not stop him, until they reached the restricted area of Lady Ya's private camp, separated by a curtain, and which is where Zhao Da and the rest stopped them. Before they had a chance to inform Lady Ya of the new arrivals, Prince Shaoyuan who was deliberately looking for trouble has already ordered his men to attack the 4 of them. They were caught unawares and were greatly outnumbered, the 4 of them were all injured. Zhao Er's throat was slashed by Xu Hai and died on the spot.

The guards behind the curtain felt that something was wrong and they all charged out and surrounded Prince Shaoyuan and his men, thus blocking their way.

Prince Shaoyuan's family warriors heard about the news and were rushing to give aid but the imperial soldiers under Xiang Shaolong's command stopped them. For a moment everyone was in a deadlock.

By the time Xiang Shaolong, Cheng Xu, Ding Shou and the rest rushed over, Lady Ya was surrounded by Xiaozhao and the rest of the maids, the blood stained Zhao Da, Zhao Wu and Zhao Qi. Her pretty face was pale with fury and she was staring at Prince Shaoyuan with hatred.

But Prince Shaoyuan and his men stood around with a look that said there's nothing anyone can do to them. When he saw Xiang Shaolong arriving, he ignored him and spoke to Ding Shou instead, "What is all this, what's the big deal about me killing a rude person who offended someone of a higher rank than him. Assistant Commander Ding, you'd better chase all these people away."

Ding Shou was furious but he understood the way of the political world and he did not try to undertake the problem. He said somberly, "Imperial Protector Xiang is in charge of everything here, I am only in charge of everyone's safety along the journey."

Lady Ya moved next to Xiang Shaolong and said quietly, "Kill Xu Hai for me, I'll bear all consequences." Zhao Da and the rest were close like brothers with Zhao Er, they knelt down and said, "Would Imperial Protector Xiang please decide for us."

Prince Shaoyuan sniggered coldly and crossed his arms in front of his chest, looking insolently at Xiang Shaolong, deliberately making him look bad.

By now the curtain has been pushed to the ground, the imperial soldiers surrounding them saw how disrespectful Prince Shaoyuan was towards Xiang Shaolong and they felt the same belittlement from him as well. They all roared, the situation was tense and anything could have triggered it off.

Xiang Shaolong raised his hand to signal everyone to be quiet. His heart filled with old hatred and new enmity, he really felt like killing Prince Shaoyuan right now but of course he cannot do that.

Even if he ignores the fact that he's supposed to protect Prince Shaoyuan until the state of Wei, he has to consider that the second in command in Wei is Prince Shaoyuan's uncle, so how can he ever get to Wei if he kills him. Prince Shaoyuan is certain of this point that's why he deliberately tried to belittle Xiang Shaolong on the very first day of their journey.

But if he were to let this past and swallow the insult, no one will ever respect him in future.

This is an era where only heroes and the strong are respected. Maybe even Lady Ya would change her opinion of him.

Everyone's eyes were centered on him.

Xiang Shaolong's gaze landed on Zhao Er's body, which has been moved to the side and coldly uttered, "Xu Hai!"

The tall, thin and sturdy Xu Hai who looks fierce and icy was about to respond when Prince Shaoyuan stopped him, "I gave the orders, if you want you can come after me!"

Xiang Shaolong's eyes were piercing as he looking as Prince Shaoyuan and said, "If Xu Hai can block 3 of my sword attacks without dying, then this thing shall came to an end!"

Everyone turned quiet.

Some even thought that Xiang Shaolong is just trying to do a slip shod job.

Although Xiang Shaolong's swordplay is excellent, but to kill an expert like Xu Hai within 3 strokes, is something unimaginable.

Naturally Prince Shaoyuan does not believe that 3 sword attacks would be able to kill Xu Hai and he was secretly ecstatic, thinking that if his 3 attacks came to naught, his reputation will be in tatters. However, his expression remained unperturbed and said, "If Imperial Protector is injured by Xu Hai, then you cannot blame anyone."

Xiang Shaolong looked heavenward and laughed loud and long and with a 'clang', drew the precious Rainbow Sword which Zhao Mu gave him, pointed it at Xu Hai and said, "Come!"

Men from both sides retreated to form an empty area.

Xu Hai sniggered and pulled out his sword as well.

He has seen Xiang Shaolong and Lian Jin's duel in the palace and is aware of his swordplay. He thought to himself, did he think that he couldn't even block 3 sword attacks? He made up his mind to be on the defensive and to move quickly and constantly so that there's no way Xiang Shaolong can execute his skills.

Cheng Xu, Ding Shou, Lady Ya and the rest all thought that Xiang Shaolong is using this as a chance to back down. They secretly sighed, thinking that it's the best choice out of the worst.

Xiang Shaolong took a deep breath, supported the Rainbow Sword on his shoulder and walked towards Xu Hai.

Xu Hai's arm extended, his long sword held horizontally in front of his chest, pointing from afar at Xiang Shaolong's throat, trying his best not to give Xiang Shaolong a chance to get close to him. His strategy is appropriate.

The audience on both sides all seems to foresee the outcome of the duel, where Xiang Shaolong will retreat empty-handed.

At this time Xiang Shaolong advanced to the area about 2 steps away from the tip of Xu Hai's sword. However, he seemed to step on something and slipped a little. He lost his balance and leaned to the side.

Lady Ya and the other women were all concerned about Xiang Shaolong and they screamed in alarm.

Prince Shaoyuan and his men were ecstatic, and they all cheered for Xu Hai.

Xu Hai is an expert in swordplay, so how can he let go of this one in a million chance. He roared and rushed forward, his long sword aiming towards Xiang Shaolong fast as lightning.

Who would have expected that the swordplay Xiang Shaolong is using now was what they had discussed earlier, 'a soldier will resort to all tricks'. Because under normal circumstances, he would not be able to kill a professional swordsman like Xu Hai even with 10 attacks, so the only way is to lure him to strike so that he'll have an advantage.

Just as the sword was about to reach his chest, he quickly steadied himself and at the same time using his amazing waist strength to bend over backwards, his body almost bent at a 90-degree angle like a bow.

The long sword slid over above him.

Never in his dreams would Xu Hai imagine his opponent would execute such a weird move. His sword struck air and because he used too much strength in the attack, he was still moving forward with the force. Just as he was about to wave his sword and slash downwards, Xiang Shaolong has already given a kick to his nether region.

Xu Hai screamed from the pain, the long sword flying out of his hands while his body staggered back in a fall.

Xiang Shaolong's waist straightened again, the Rainbow Sword which was perched on his shoulder morphed into a flash of light and sliced past Xu Hai's throat.

"Peng!"

By the time Xu Hai collapsed onto the ground, he has already become a lifeless corpse.

Everyone was silent in that moment followed by thunderous cheers from Xiang Shaolong's side.

The faces on the men on Prince Shaoyuan's side all turned ashen, their bravado gone.

Xiang Shaolong looked at Prince Shaoyuan icily and said nonchalantly, "Prince Shaoyuan is of an esteemed status and we dare not offend you, but if your servants comment any wrongdoing, don't blame me for being severe."

Prince Shaolong stared at him with hatred, his lips trembling but no words came out. He stamped his feet furiously, turned around and left.

Xiang Shaolong called out, "Hold on! Is Master going to leave your servant's body out in the wilderness?"

Prince Shaoyuan was embarrassed and furious and after ordering his men to carry Xu Hai up, left in a huff.

The imperial soldiers broke out in thunderous cheers, even Cheng Xu and the rest had an expression of awe and respect, thinking that Xiang Shaolong handled this matter beautifully and there's no way Prince Shaoyuan can raise his head over this.

After Prince Shaoyuan left, Xiang Shaolong felt something was amiss and after giving some instructions, he returned to his commander's tent. He ordered men to stand guard outside, to stop all visitors and laid out the metal instruments Guo Zhong made for him on the ground.

These instruments gleamed, the workmanship exquisite, which greatly impressed Xiang Shaolong. He did not expect that in this warring states period, the standard of metal works would be of such high quality.

The first thing he has to assemble is a metal hook that can be used to climb over walls. That is one of his must have treasures while he was in the special task force. They used a projectile to launch the long hook over the walls or any place that can support the weight, before attaching the rope to the hook around their waist. In that way they can climb up or slide down walls freely.

They used steel ropes in the special task force but now he can only use soft ropes as replacement.

Even though the contraption is simple and Xiang Shaolong has always been interested and familiar with such gadgets, he still had to work late into the night before he got most things done.

He was just looking at his handiwork with satisfaction when he could hear Lady Ya's unhappy voice outside the tent, "Who has the audacity to stop me!"

Xiang Shaolong wanted to keep his things but there wasn't enough time. Lady Ya has rushed in and on seeing the weird things on the floor, she asked in astonishment, "Shaolong! What are you doing?"

Xiang Shaolong smiled embarrassingly and kept the 2 separate hooks back into the chests and said with a bitter smile, "You don't have to obey me anymore?"

Lady Ya immediately softened and went into his arms, saying sadly, "I sent Xiaozhao over many times to look for you but was stopped by the guards. I thought you were unhappy with me over Prince Shaoyuan's matter and I was in a panic, so I came to look for you. How would I dare to disobey you!" She can't help but ask, "What are those things?"

Xiang Shaolong said condescendingly, "Just some toys, but sometimes they have unexpected uses."

Lady Ya's slender hands reached out and took a ring of long and thin metal pieces, some curved and some with a small fork at the other end. She thought about it and asked, "Is this used to open locks?"

Xiang Shaolong knows that he can't hide this from an expert like her and nodded his head helplessly.

Lady Ya turned her body around, a look of shock flashed past her pretty eyes. She looked at him for a while before saying, "I'm beginning to feel more and more that you are unfathomable. Just now you tricked and killed Xu Hai and avenged Zhao Er and at the same time helped me vent my anger. Ya'er is really grateful to you and am willing to do anything for you."

Xiang Shaolong saw how obliging she looks and gave her a long kiss as a reward before whispering in her ear, "Promise me! Don't tell anyone what you saw, all right?"

Lady Ya was dizzy from his kiss and nodded her head blissfully, her pretty eyes half closed and said coyly, "Xiang Lang's words are my most important orders. Since I know you do not wish me to ask about such matters, Ya'er will never ask you again in future."

Xiang Shaolong was assured by her kind understanding and took the opportunity to ask her to find someone to help him sew something to be tied around the waist so that he can keep those thousand odd flying needles. To be able to do something for her beloved, naturally Lady Ya agreed happily.

That night they enjoyed themselves amongst indescribable warmth and love.

They continued on the journey early the next morning.

Prince Shaoyuan's side has quiet down and staying right at the back to show that they're a separate group but they did not do anything new to antagonize the others.

The sense of unease Xiang Shaolong felt became even stronger.

For a spoiled brat like Prince Shaoyuan, he's definitely not one to swallow an insult. Now that he seems to be controlling his temper, it must be because there are traps to deal with him once they enter Wei.

Third Princess Zhao Qian stays in her carriage all day long with the curtains lowered. Even when she left the carriage, a veil covers her face and she'd hide immediately in her tent, not taking even a step out, which totally irked Xiang Shaolong.

Traveling in the day and resting at night, by the 4th day they finally reached the stockade nearest to Zhao's border, District Ci. The general guarding the city, Wa Che was extremely respectful to this wedding entourage and hosted a feast in the General's Manor for them. Zhao Qian and Lady Ya are royalty, so naturally they did not attend the feast while Lady Pingyuan and her son excused themselves. Luckily this Wa Che is a humorous person full of anecdotes, so the guests and the host all enjoyed themselves.

After the feast Wa Che took Xiang Shaolong to tour the border of the state of Zhao, the lolling hills surrounding the endless city walls.

Standing on the city walls, Xiang Shaolong remembered that in future Emperor Qin will join the walls of the various states and become one of the world's 10 miracles, the Great Wall of China, and allow China to be able to unify all the states for a long time. He can't help but feel a string of emotions well up inside.

These city walls were thick and high, the moat in front of the city deep and wide. It's indeed the best way to defend against an enemy in those times. In the distance a huge river surrounds them, the rushing torrents extremely breathtaking.

Wa Che pointed to an empty plains outside the city walls and said with a smile, "That would be Great Zhao's ugliest place, but it's man-made. Every once in a while, we'll have to chop down all the trees outside the city, not leaving even a stone. Anything that can be moved will be moved into the city, not allowing enemies to find anything useful to attack the city with."

Xiang Shaolong thought to himself that this is what they call fortifying the walls and clearing the wilderness. Looking at the watchtowers that was built after every hundred feet or so, he sighed with compliment, "With such defenses, who'd be afraid of the enemy attacking?"

Wa Che pointed at the huge river in the distance and said, "Our city walls which spans a few hundred li also depends on the natural defenses like the possibility of floods and the layout of the land to defend ourselves mainly against Wei and Qin."

Xiang Shaolong agreed, "It is of utmost importance that the border city is situated at a dangerous and important location. Our city walls are backed against mountains and that in itself is a location that is easy to defend but difficult to attack."

The long city walls are like the strong arms of a giant, hugging Zhao tightly and safely in his arms.

Wa Che said proudly, "In order to deal with the enemy's hundred and one weird methods of attacking a city, for example piling soil to raise the height, cloud ladders, digging tunnels, attacking with water, lining up along the walls like ants, or even using ballista, nest vehicles etc to attack the city walls and we had to make repairs to the walls on many occasions. Now I'm not trying to boast, but even with the vicious Qin army and us not having any reinforcements, we can still block them for quite a few months.

He then took him to look at the various weapons for defense like cross bows, halberds, spears, axes, long mallets, long sickles, long axes, stone ramparts etc. As well as various carriages used to ferry soil or people, which is a real eye opener for Xiang Shaolong.

There's a huge amount of water and sand on top of the walls as well as containers like water jars, wooden and tiled jars. There are even stoves and cauldrons. All these are used to defend against the enemy using fire to attack them, or used to attack enemies who are climbing up the walls.

Xiang Shaolong stored all these information in his memory, thinking to himself that there may come a day where he'll need to use such prehistoric tools to attack a city. At least he won't be at a loss then.

Lastly Wa Che said, "The key points in defending a city, besides having all the defenses up, is to have enough rations and fuel, and the most important is to have sturdy soldiers who stand their posts inside, as well as reinforcements outside. As the saying goes, if there's no army worth saving, then there's no city worth defending."

Xiang Shaolong lowered his head and listened to the lesson, but when he thought of how few men are left in Zhao, he can't help but feel anguished! He really feels like dragging the conniving Zhao Mu here and let him have a taste of facing the enemy with the possibility of perishing under the city walls so that he will never dare to hide safely Handan plotting how to get rid of loyal officials all day long.

Only at dusk did Xiang Shaolong return in high spirits.

He returned to the huge military mansion where they are staying when Xiang Shaolong suddenly had an idea. He used the excuse of paying his respects to Lady Pingyuan and went to the east wing to visit this lady whose power extends into the two states Wei and Zhao.

Coincidentally Prince Shaoyuan is not around and after the servants conveyed his presence, Lady Pingyuan received him in the main hall of the east chamber.

This is the first time Xiang Shaolong met Lady Pingyuan, and saw that she was graceful and beautiful. Because she took good care of herself, she looked a lot younger than she really is and from afar, she looks like she is in her 30s. Only on a closer look can one see the fine wrinkles below her eyes, but these did not spoil her beauty.

Her hair was combed into a high bun, slanted to the side, which seems to tremble falteringly, making her look even more womanly.

She's wearing an embroidered silk skirt, silk shoes sewn with flower patterns, the hairpieces on her head inlaid with turtle shells, with pearl earrings. She looked very captivating and attractive.

Xiang Shaolong did not expect that after having such a grown up and wicked 'kid', she can still maintain such regality. He was secretly surprised and after paying his respects, he took a seat below.

Lady Pingyuan, with 4 maids standing erect behind her, was scrutinizing Xiang Shaolong closely but her expression remained cold. There was not a trace of happiness at all, making the atmosphere extremely awkward.

Xiang Shaolong started by saying, "Lady must have had a hard journey, if there's anything that I have not done well, please do not hesitate to reprimand me."

Lady Pingyuan looked at him calmly and said, "Who'd dare to blame sir?"

Xiang Shaolong knows that because he has offended her son, she is keeping herself aloof and was about to find an excuse to leave when Lady Pingyuan dismissed her maids and said seriously, "A good man is one who understands the time and situation, and I wonder if Imperial Protector Xiang is one who understands the time and situation?"

Xiang Shaolong thought to himself that the show is about to start, and said respectfully, "Would Lady please enlighten Shaolong."

Lady Pingyuan said icily, "If you can't even comprehend the situation you are in, I do not wish to waste my time talking to you."

Xiang Shaolong secretly thought her formidable and said, "A good bird will choose a tree to nest in, but if there are rotten trees everywhere, then won't it have no nest to rest itself even if it has lofty aspirations of flying high up into the sky?"

It must be known that what the two of them are discussing is akin to betraying Zhao, so Xiang Shaolong deliberately used metaphors so that Lady Pingyuan will not be able to use this to trap him.

Firstly he doesn't really think that it's a great deal to betray Zhao, and secondly, if he can get into the good books of this woman, maybe the trip to Wei will be a lot more easier. Or else if she were to say something about him to Prince Xinling, he'll be in big trouble.

Lady Pingyuan seems very impressed with what he said and a trace of a smile could be seen from the corners of her mouth and she said nonchalantly, "The strongest now is Qin. But the Qins are barbaric and extremely discriminatory against other races. Even with Shang Yang's many meritorious reforms in Qin, his entire family was still executed, so for a good bird to choose a tree, there are many other factors to consider as well."

Xiang Shaolong was secretly surprised at her opinions, and for a moment couldn't decide if she is trying to acquire him so he tested her, "Is Lady aware of the situation between me and your son?"

Lady Pingyuan's pretty face turned frosty and said, "Useless young thing, looking for his own humiliation, Shaolong can ignore him. Since when is it his turn to make decisions?" She continued with a smile, "If not for the fact that you're excellent in both martial arts and scholarly pursuits, and you were able to lure Xu Hai to his death under such circumstances, I won't even be bothered to say all these to you."

Xiang Shaolong felt his heart run cold, the people in this era really treat a human life as nothing. Seeing that she's so astute and formidable, he knows that he cannot offend her, so he said respectfully, "Would Lady please guide me."

Lady Pingyuan's attitude warmed up and said gently, "Shaolong should be very familiar with the situation in Zhao. The King of Zhao favors Zhao Mu and this person hates you, but do you know the reason why?"

Xiang Shaolong sighed, "It seems that it's because I took his Lady Ya away from him."

Lady Pingyuan's sharp eyes shot an icy look at him and said with a cold humph, "You think too lowly of Zhao Mu, why would he give up a rare can capable talent like you over a s.lut that everyone can have."

On hearing the way she described Zhao Ya, Xiang Shaolong naturally felt very uncomfortable. But he has to admit that what she's saying is true, or at least that was what Zhao Ya was like in the past. At the same time he was curious and asked, "What could be the reason then?"

Lady Pingyuan smiled mysteriously and said, "Because his Majesty has taken a liking to you."

Xiang Shaolong immediately felt himself go numb and he exclaimed hoarsely, "What?"

On seeing his expression, Lady Pingyuan giggled, "You're really muddleheaded, if not because Xiaocheng is looking at you differently, why would he give you such a good task." She continued after staring at him intently, covered her mouth and smile, "Anyone who likes men will not let you off, Shaolong you'd better be careful,"

Xiang Shaolong saw that her eyes seems to be speaking volumes now and she looked coy. His gaze can't help but drop down to her perky chest and felt an itch in his heart. However he quickly thought of the great enmity between him and her son over Su Nu's death and had to stop himself from uttering the flirtatious words that was about to come out from his mouth. He sighed and said, "I understand, that's why Zhao Mu will use all methods to kill me, but I'm also worried that Prince Shaoyuan might be secretly plotting against me!"

Lady Pingyuan smiled mysteriously and regained her icy expression and said, "Let's not talk about this first. Shaolong, tell me honestly, in the whole wide world now, who has the capability of stopping the thieving Qins from attacking eastwards?"

Xiang Shaolong was stunned, as he's still not that familiar with the situation in the warring states period now and cannot think of such a person. But he has to reply her or Lady Pingyuan will surely be offended.

As he was thinking, Lady Pingyuan hinted gently, "Don't tell me Shaolong doesn't even know the person who helped Handan during its difficult period 6 years ago?"

Xiang Shaolong exclaimed, "It's Prince Xinling!"

258BC, the King of Qin sent his generals to attack Zhao and heavily surrounded Handan while Wei sent Jin Bi to help but the King of Qin threatened them. The King of Wei was frightened and actually ordered Jin Bi not to move his troops. Later Prince Xinling used Hou Ying's trick to obtain the military token and told his man Zhu Hai to kill Jin Bi and to usurp his troops. That year Prince Xinling defeated the Qin army greatly right under the walls of Handan and even Qin's main general Zheng Anping surrendered to the Zhaos.

This battle caused the reputation of Qin to fall greatly while Prince Xinling became a respected man by everyone. But because of this, Prince Xinling offended the Wei king and was unable to return home. After staying in Zhao for a many years, he only returned to Wei last year after the death of Prince Pingyuan.

Now it's Lady Pingyuan's turn to return to Wei, and of course it's because once again Prince Xinling has solidified his power and is inviting Lady Pingyuan back.

Lady Pingyuan gladly commented, "Now Prince Xinling is the only one who can gather the world to fight against the Qin, so unless Shaolong wants to throw in your lot with the Qins, or else the only place that you can stay on will be this choice. If I am willing to recommend, I guarantee that you will be highly regarded."

Xiang Shaolong knows that the only way is to try to delay. Luckily no matter how smart or formidable she is, she will never guess that he has Emperor Qin as one of his moves, so he got up and thanked her, "Thank you, Lady, for your recommendation!"

The 2 were about to continue their conversation when Prince Shaoyuan rushed in excitedly and shouted, "Mother!"

Lady Pingyuan said angrily, "Shut up!" She turned towards Xiang Shaolong and said, "Imperial Protector will you please go back first, I'll discuss with you in details what we've talked about at a later time."

Xiang Shaolong was secretly thinking that Prince Shaoyuan has come at the right time, so he hurriedly bid his farewell and left.

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