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A Step into the Past Chapter 218

Volume 19 Chapter 10

Book 19 Chap 10 – The Dragon Rises From River Wei

Spring Festival.

Before the sun rose, most of the citizens of Xianyang city have already changed into new clothes, as if it’s a market day and headed towards the upstream of River Wei to take part in the grand Spring festivities.

Although the roads were crowded, everything was in an orderly fashion.

Under the orders of Teng Yi, Jing Jun and Guo Yu, 200,000 cavalry were out in full force maintaining order along the way.

All the high posts along the way which can be used for ambush are guarded and security is tight.

If there are assassins, they can only make use of the woods on the sides of the roads as cover in order to execute their assassination attempts.

Zhu Ji, Lu Buwei and a group of higher ranked officials went to the Palace to meet up with Xiao Pan before the sun rose. They first paid their respects to the late King at the ancestral shrine before leaving in carriages.

Under the protection of Lord Changwen and a group of elite imperial guards, Xiao Pan went according to plan and did not travel in the grand imperial carriage. Instead he is dressed as one of the imperial guard and set off undercover with the main team.

Inside the imperial carriage was Jing Shan who was pretending to be Xiao Pan. This person’s dexterity is comparable to Jing Jun and is really the best person who can deal with sudden changes.

Xiang Shaolong was still worried that something will happen to him and specially reinforced the walls of the horse carriage with steel plates, just like the bullet-proof vehicles of the 21st century.

The huge entourage left the palace gates and traveled along River Wei once they left the city.

The commoners were cheering along both sides of the road as a show of their support and love towards the ruler.

Each of the two teams has about a hundred odd imperial soldiers with ferocious dogs doing a sweep of the heavily forested areas along both sides of the road to prevent the enemy from hiding in the woods to shoot at them.

The Wu family warriors were disguised as common folk and mixed around in the crowd, almost like plain-clothes spies of the 21st century, keeping a look out for suspicious characters in the crowd.

Xiang Shaolong was riding behind the imperial carriage, constantly giving orders to the imperial guards, putting to total use everything he has learnt in the 21st century.

With the imperial guards opening the way, the imperial carriage moved right ahead. Everywhere they went the crowd hurriedly gave way, kneeling in respect.

On both sides of the team of carriages were two rows of imperial guards. The ones on the outer row held long shields while the ones on the inner row were armed with bows and arrows. In terms of defense, it is indeed extremely watertight.

Xiang Shaolong slowed down to more than 10 horse lengths behind and rode together with Xiao Pan, Li Si, Lord Wenchang etc.

Xiao Pan looked appreciatively at the horsemen on top of the hills on the left of them who were waving the flags signifying safety and said, “Grand Tutor’s plans are indeed an eye opener for me.”

Li Si added with a smile, “Even if the assassin is formidable with 3 heads or 6 arms, in my opinion there is no way he can find a window of opportunity to strike and can only retreat in face of such difficulty.”

Xiang Shaolong looked up. Gazing at the heavy morning fog, he said with a smile, “The enemy must have made careful plans and will surly have ways to deal with sudden changes. If my guess is right, the main attack will come from further ahead. If they can get to the top of the trees, they’ll be able to attack with weapons such as arrows and stones if we are not prepared. And with the support of the assassins who are working undercover among the crowd and with a clear target, they may be able to succeed after all.”

Xiao Pan, Li Si and Lord Wenchang looked at the top of the trees that is covered in fog and can’t help but feel a cold shiver in their hearts.

Xiang Shaolong continued, “Right in front there is a forest and it is the most ideal place for both attacking and escaping. If they want to strike, it would be that place.”

Xiao Pan was thinking all these exciting as his eyes blazed hotly whereas Li Si and Lord Wenchang started feeling nervous, no longer in the mood to joke.

Xiang Shaolong secretly thought that Emperor Qin is Emperor Qin indeed, for his is braver than most men.

He nudged his horse and went after Wang Yu.

The leading troops led the way on the official road to the forest where the rites will be held.

The fog became thicker and anything more than ten steps away cannot be seen clearly.

The entourage has yet to arrive but the common folk can already hear the music as they hurriedly went down on their knees on both sides of the road and waited for the carriages to drive past.

Amidst the cheers and music, Wang Yu drove into the woods.

The imperial guards have received their instructions earlier and all are on the alert to deal with any sudden events.

Xiang Shaolong was calm instead. His eyes searched out Wu Guo who was in the crowd and exchanged a look with him. He was not surprised if Wu Guo did not find out anything out of the ordinary.

If the enemy doesn’t even have a way to disguise themselves, they won’t even come.

When a group of experts have made a death wish and decided to assassinate a target, they will become a terrible force to reckon with.

Xiang Shaolong gave out orders to the soldiers surrounding them. Wu Yan and his men spread out a little more, behind Wang Yu. All were on high alert.

The half mile long forest road feels as long as a century.

Much to everyone’s surprise, even when they were nearing the edge of the forest and the trees are beginning to thin, there’s still no sign of any assassins.

The sound of the River Wei gushing ahead could be heard from up ahead.

Suddenly the road in front opened up and they saw the river gushing. The fog is now just like a thin blanket covering the earth.

Xiang Shaolong was just breathing a sigh of relief when there was a strange and sudden change.

Strange calls were heard from the sides of the road and just as Xiang Shaolong was still wondering what’s happening, the imperial guards surrounding the imperial carriage all fell from their horses, followed by the horrible sound of a heavy object crashing towards the carriage at a shocking speed. The driver of the carriage had his head totally severed by some strange, horrible weapon and fell off the carriage. The eight horses which were pulling the carriage all fell in a pool of blood.

The outside walls of the carriage shattered and splintered, the sound shocking.

There was immediate chaos amongst the crowd as everyone tried to escape in all directions. Cries and screams filled the air and it was difficult to differentiate who is the enemy.

Xiang Shaolong roared as he pulled out his precious sword and charged forward.

A few people jumped out from the sides of the road.

With a ‘whoosh’, one of them used a heavy metal bar to smash the door open. By now the nearest imperial guard to the imperial carriage who’s not yet dead or injured is at least ten steps away.

“Argh!” one of the men who tried to dash up the carriage was struck in front with an arrow and fell to the floor.

All the warriors fired their arrows. The attackers were all shot dead but two of them managed to somersault backwards and slipped into the woods, avoiding the arrows.

Xiang Shaolong and his men went to surround the area.

More than a dozen shadows escaped from two sides, running towards River Wei.

Amidst the sounds of hooves and cries, the guards ran after them.

Xiang Shaolong ran up to the side of the smashed carriage door and shouted, “Calm the masses!” Xiang Shaolong took a look inside the carriage.

Only to see Jing Shan extend his deathly pale face as he stuttered, “Luckily there were the steel slabs. Otherwise I’ll be dead.”

Xiang Shaolong took a better look, and saw more than a dozen round metal wheels scattered on the ground, their edges thin and sharp as they shone but by now all of them have a broken edge.

He took another look at the 30 odd imperial guards lying in pools of blood around the carriage, all of whom died instantly. The scene was frightening with broken pieces of armor scattered around the road.

Such circular wheels that were thrown with the hands are even more fatal than bows and arrows, such that even armors are of no protection.

Another look at the walls of the carriage. The wood was splintered, revealing the steel plates that had become warped. He can’t help but suck in an icy breath.

Two of the circular wheels managed to fly into the carriage and sliced open Jing Shan’s armor when they rebounded. Luckily it was only a minor wound.

The entourage stopped.

The frightened masses were gathered to a corner, far away from the crime scene. Wu Guo was in charge over there to check if there are any assassins hiding amongst the masses.

Xiao Pan and the rest came up to Xiang Shaolong and after seeing the horrible aftermath, they were all fearfully astounded.

By now Lord Changwen’s men came to report that the assassins jumped into the river and swam across to the opposite bank. They only managed to kill three of them.

Xiang Shaolong jumped off his horse to check on the assassins who were killed. All of them were struck by at least three arrows and died on the spot. There’re no further clues that are worth pursuing.

Wan Chi, Wang Lin, Lao Ai, Lu Buwei and the other officials hurriedly rushed forward and on seeing Jing Shan walking out from within the carriage, were all dumbfounded.

Xiao Pan removed his helmet and revealed himself. His expression was icy as he ordered Guan Zhongxie, “Search the city immediately. If there are still assassins inside the city, you can say goodbye to your position as Commander of the City Guards.”

His gaze fell upon the corpse filled ground and said sadly, “Give them a grand burial and compensation!” He could not bear to witness any more of this and nudged his horse towards the grounds for the Spring rites.

Although a great assassination tragedy has happened, most of the people are not aware of what happened and the atmosphere is still lively.

When Xiao Pan, Zhu Ji, Lu Buwei and the rest of the officials ascended the platform for the rites, the sound of drums were heard and the tens of thousands of common folk gathered on the bank of the river all knelt down and chorused, “Long live your Majesty.”

Teng Yi and Jing Jun gave orders to the Calvary as they were left in charge of maintaining order.

Ever since the reforms of Shangyang, amongst the seven states of the warring kingdoms, the people of Qin are the most law-abiding and obedient. Even in such a situation, everything is done in an orderly fashion.

Because of what happened earlier, Xiang Shaolong and the rest were worried that there are still assassins hiding among the crowd so they erected a human barrier, segregating everyone a safe distance away.

The fog thickened again, seemingly frozen on the river and refusing to disperse, which lets one feel that nature can be such a mystery.

Xiang Shaolong who was standing below the platform kept an eye on the expressions of Du Bi and Pu Hu, who were standing on the platform. Although they looked normal, they occasionally let slip small movements which betrayed their uneasiness. He knows that they are feeling lost now that the assassination attempt has failed.

Xiao Pan took over the torch and lighted the kindling in the giant cauldron. The fiery flame shot heavenward as the smoke filled the air, into the fog.

The whole place was solemnly silent.

Xiao Pan opened the ritual script and started reading aloud.

He stood erect, with a solemn air and indeed has the regal bearing of a ruler of the world.

At this point in time Teng Yi came up to Xiang Shaolong and said quietly, “I heard that even Xiaoshan almost lost his life. I didn’t expect the assassins to be so formidable.

Xiang Shaolong was still shaken as he replied, “If the target is me, even I would not be able to survive. Who would have expected that they would have such frightening weapons.”

Teng Yi stared at River Wei, which was covered with a layer of smoke and fog, the opposite bank is now totally indiscernible by now. Teng Yi gave him a nudge and said, “Coming!”

Xiang Shaolong could not see anything at all initially but after his warning, his eyes sought out the surroundings and indeed realized that something seems to be stirring up the river as it bubbled with ferocity.

Those standing near the bank began to realize something strange is happening and they all started pointing in astonishment.

Lu Buwei and the rest, who were on the platform, were all dumbfounded, looking quizzically at the river.

The crowd standing further back all stepped forward to have a closer look.

The voice of Xiao Pan’s reading the rites was slowly covered by the shouts of the crowd.

A black, curved dragon’s tail emerged about five feet from the water amongst the fog before it smashed back into the water ferociously and water droplets flew up into the air, seemingly clearing the heavy fog.

Xiang and Teng did not expect Ji Yanran to come up with this move. This moving animal, when compared to the ‘dead dragon’ used during the rehearsal, is as different as heaven and earth. Everyone was shocked.

The crowd on the banks and the leaders and officials on the platform were all shell-shocked. Cries of wonderment rose up.

There are even some who were so frightened that their legs have turned to jelly and they collapsed to the ground.

The imperial guards were still shaken by what happened earlier and they hurriedly surrounded Xiao Pan, some of them even pulling out their weapons.

Xiao Pan stopped them with a shout, “A mystical creature have emerged from the waters, do not act rashly. Anyone who disobeys will be beheaded.”

Of course Lord Changwen and the rest immediately stopped the guards to avoid another ‘tragedy’ from happening. The river is now calm again.

Tens of thousands of people all held their breath as they stared at the river.

Suddenly there were cries of alarm as deep in the fog, a black dragon head revealed its mystical presence again, creating waves as it bobbed on the water. It took some time before sinking back into the water again.

Xiang Shaolong and the rest shouted in chorus, “The birth of the Black Dragon, Heaven has bestowed a mythical creature upon Great Qin and we have the support of the River God.”

Lord Changping took the lead and knelt down first. The rest of the people followed him and knelt as well. Even Lu Buwei, Guan Zhongxie and the rest were influenced by the air of excitement and knelt down as well.

For about 5 miles along the riverbank, it was filled with people offering their prayers towards the river.

In the end only Xiao Pan remained standing on the platform alone, lifting his hands up in the air as he faced the river, his stance certainly standing out from the crowd.

As the thousands held their breath, the Black Dragon appeared again.

The gigantic dragon head emerged just a few feet away, directly in front of Xiao Pan before sinking down again. This happened three times. The whole dragon rose out of the water, more than a hundred feet long, it’s tail constantly slapping on the water. Everyone who saw it was terrified.

The black dragon suddenly let rip an earth shattering roar. Although Xiang Shaolong and the rest knows very well that this is the effect of many men shouting at the same time, they can’t help but be impressed with the realistic effect.

Fire suddenly shot out of the black dragon’s eyes as its head bobbed three times towards Xiao Pan, as if it is bowing to him before going back into the water.

Wang Chi took the opportunity to shout, “A magical creature has blessed our sovereign, long live our Majesty.”

The crowd regained their senses as they cried out in unison, “Long live the Black Dragon, long live our Majesty!” The cheers waved and ebbed like the water on the river, echoing across the valley as thousands of people became excited and the atmosphere became extremely lively.

The black dragon did not appear again. Lu Buwei, Guan Zhongxie, Du Bi, Pu Hu, Lao Ai all looked at one another in astonishment, not knowing how they should consider this strange and frightening event that just happened right in front of their eyes.

Striking while the iron is hot, everyone was celebrating the fact that the black dragon has blessed their king. On Xiao Pan’s way back to the palace, Ji Yanran disguised herself as a messenger and blocked Xiao Pan’s path to offer him Zou Yan’s ‘Complete Book of Five Virtues’.

This dramatic scene of blocking the path to offer a book caused another stir and by now the emotions of the officials and the common people is uncontrollable.

Groups of court officials and generals went to the palace on their own accord to visit Xiao Pan as they pledged their loyalty. Firecrackers can be heard everywhere in Xianyang City.

The people were dancing and singing on the streets as they made their way to the palace to pay their respects.

Taking Xiang Shaolong’s suggestion, Xiao Pan opened up the training grounds in the palace to the public and even came out three times to receive the people’s adulation. Naturally security was extremely tight as well.

Lu Buwei and Lao Ai were caught off guard and although they harbored some suspicions, there was nothing they can do.

The appearance of black dragon is ten times more formidable than ten copies of “Spring and Autumn Annals of Lu”. Xiao Pan’s reputation suddenly soared to the highest point that was previously unheard of.

That afternoon, Wang Wan, Lord Changping, Li Si, Wang Chi, Wang Lin entered the palace to see Xiao Pan to suggest that the Qin imperial family formally use Zou Yan’s ‘Complete Book of Five Virtues’ as the national book and to formally appoint Ji Yanran as the respected ‘Female Tutor’, to be in charge of drafting the change in policies in line with the mystical creature’s ‘new government’.

Even Xiang Shaolong, the engineer of this plan, did not expect that black dragon’s influence will be so formidable that quite a number of officials who were originally on Lu Buwei’s side have now changed their loyalty towards Xiao Pan.

Xiao Pan immediately called for a court session and Ji Yanran read out the new policies in court.

During the court session, all the officials looked excited but Lu Buwei and Zhu Ji were in shock.

But under such superstitious and mystical atmosphere, no one dares to openly oppose Xiao Pan who has received spiritual blessings.

The beautiful Learned Lady Ji wore a grand, long black robe embroidered with dark gold thread with a tall headgear. With a stately expression, she first announced that River Wei will henceforth be known as ‘Holy River’. As River Wei is one of the rivers connecting to the Yellow River, in other words, the whole of the Yellow River has now become the Holy River.

Because less water is available during the winter season, the tenth month where winter begins will now become the first month of the year. Followed by the ‘Black as Color’*, where colors correspond to the Five Elements and water corresponds to the color black.

*From Elements of Color, in traditional Chinese art and culture, black, red, blue-green, white and yellow are viewed as standard colors. These colors correspond to the five elements of water, fire, wood, metal and earth.

Therefore black is now the main color in dressing, ornaments, pennants etc.

Followed by ‘Six as Lead’, whereby in the Five Elements, the number six correspond with Water so henceforth the various utensils will use the number six as a benchmark.

For example, official hats should be 6 inches long, carriages should be 6 foot wide and 6 foot equals to one pace.

On seeing this grand event which he single handedly planned unfolding, Xiang Shaolong’s whole head was numb with excitement.

No one will be able to understand this event’s far and wide influence on the Qin dynasty other than him, and it has left an indestructible mark on the history of China.

After Qin unified China, the empire was divided into 36 commanderies, because 36 is the self multiplication of 6.

Another example is the classification of the numbers of wealthy merchants in the world in Xianyang as ‘120,000 households’ because 120,000 is 6 times 20,000.

The last key political change is to make use of Ji Yanran to announce the execution of the ‘Three Lords and Nine Ministers’ system which Li Si meticulously planned in order to strengthen Xiao Pan’s central power.

It is create disorder in the previous official system Lu Buwei established in the past by abusing his power and to twist the situation where they were previously bound by around.

On the surface it looks as if most of the people can still maintain their own authority and Lao Ai seems to be holding even greater power but in secret, it has become a situation where Lao Ai will keep Lu Buwei in check while Xiao Pan will once again gain tight control of the military and finances.

Lu Buwei is still the Premier, while Lord Changping is now the Grand Commandant instead of the Left Premier and Feng Qie is now the Imperial Secretary. Together they are known as the Three Lords.

The duties of the Three Lords are clearly defined.

The Premier is the head of the administrative officials and reports directly to the ruler and will be given a gold seal and purple ribbon to assist the Qin ruler in political matters of the country.

This is akin to denying Lu Buwei’s identity as his ‘Uncle’ to feign his position as Regent. A premier is not the equivalent of the Ruler, but will have to seek the Ruler’s opinion in every matter, thus strengthening the power of the imperial rule.

Lord Changping’s role as Grand Commandant is to assist Xiao Pan in taking charge of the whole country’s military affairs so that the Qin army will have a unified commander, imperceptibly cutting off the independent rule that men like Meng Ao, Du Bi had been enjoying with the armies under them.

This reform is similar to merging the old positions of Left Premier and Grand Marshal, and also akin to integrating the powers of Xu Xian and Lu Gong into one post. Through Lord Changping, Xiao Pan can directly control the Qin military, the strongest army in the world.

This position is also assigned the gold token and purple ribbon.

The last of the Three Lords, the position of the Imperial Secretary is the brain juice of the super intelligent Li Si who came up with this brilliant plan to reduce Lu Buwei’s power.

On the surface, the Imperial Secretary is similar to Li Si’s previous position of Chief Clerk, helping Xiao Pan handle all memorials and edicts, just that there’s now the added responsibility of keeping an eye on the duties and authority of the officials.

But when Ji Yanran described the detailed responsibilities, she pointed out that whatever affairs that the Premier is handling, the Imperial Secretary has the authority to question but the authority to oversee the Imperial Secretary is something that Lu Buwei as the Premier will not possess.

So it became that the Imperial Secretary will keep the Premier in check, ostensibly and obviously reducing quite a lot of Lu Buwei’s influence.

Feng Qie used to be in charge of the judicial system and is a very upright person so no one dares to raise any objection about him taking on this position.

From this one can see how capable Xiao Pan is in using the people under him.

Whereas Lao Ai had a promotion from his position as Interior Minister to the Minister of Ceremony, responsible for state protocols and rituals and the head of the Nine Ministers. Under him were the six assistants: Grand Musician, Leader of Prayers, Judge of Policies, Grand Astrologer, Overseer of Temple and Leader of Rites.

This is a highly ranked position but with no real power, most suitable for someone with Lao Ai’s identity as a ‘fake eunuch’ and this offer gives Zhu Ji due respect so that she will not be offended.

Lao Ai’s original position as Interior Minister will be given to his brother Lao Ji.

From Xiang Shaolong, Xiao Pan understands that this person is a good for nothing, a lecherous bummer so he’s not worried about him at all.

Besides, the Interior Minister is all along only in charge of the documents and correspondences between the three major armies in the capital and the Palace. Even if he wants to plan some dirty tricks there is nothing he can base it on.

Lord Changwen became the second in command among the Nine Ministers, the Minister of Household, to be in charge of the defense of the whole city. In other words, the Imperial Guards, City Guards and Cavalry are all now under him.

Among the other 7 ministers: Minister of Guards, Minister of Coachman, Minister of Justice, Minister of Guests, Minister of Imperial Clan, Minister of Finance, Minister Steward, the three most important positions are those of the Minister of Justice, Minister of Finance and Minister Steward. They are taken up by Li Si, Wang Wan and Cai Ze respectively.

Li Si and his men gained a promotion of several ranks, in charge of the whole country’s judicial punishment, becoming the country’s highest ranked judge. Under him were the Main, Left and Right Supervisors. Lao Ai’s keqing* Ling Qi and Mao Jiao became the Left and Right Supervisor respectively.

* keqing – a person from one feudal state serving in the court of another

Minister of Finance is in charge of the whole country’s taxes and expenditure.

The Minster Steward takes care of the businesses and economy of the country and is another important post and an important official like Cai Ze is someone that Xiao Pan will have to appease.

As for the wars against others, Wang Chi, Meng Ao, Wang Ling and Wang Jian were appointed as the Four Great Supreme General whereas Xiang Shaolong, An Guxi and Du Bi were appointed as Great Generals and only the seven of them have the authority to lead the army into battles.

This can be considered a conciliated political reform with Xiao Pan gaining the most advantage, followed by Lao Ai. As for Lu Buwei, he can only wallow in self pity.

But because Zhu Ji, Wang Guan and most of the senior officials are now supporting Xiao Pan, Lu Buwei have no choice but to accept it quietly.

The mystical help of Black Dragon which came at an opportune time, together with the act of ‘blocking the path to offer a book’, has at least knocked Lu Buwei off a few rungs from the extreme power he held. No longer will he be able to do whatever pleases him like in the past.

After Xiao Pan announced the end of the court session, the officials all chorused, ‘Long live your Majesty’ and then hurriedly rush home so that they can shower and change in time to take part in tonight’s feast that will be held in the Palace. And the Winter Commencement day is now considered the New Year for Qin.

A Step into the Past

A Step into the Past

尋秦記, 寻秦记
Score 8.5
Status: Completed Type: Author: Native Language: Chinese
A lecherous army special task force soldier from 21st-century Hong Kong is selected to travel back in time, choosing to go to the Chinese Warring States Period. Unfortunately, the time machine runs into an error during the experiment. With no foreseeable way to return to the present, he must use his combat skills and knowledge of history to thrive in his new life in the year 251 BC.


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