"Lieutenant Guan Ju, lead me to those Qin rats"
"Yes Captain Mao"
The captain and her lieutenant briskly walked through a hallway to a hidden door guarded by two sentries. With a wave of her hand, the guards nodded, and moved aside.
The lieutenant lifted up a tile off the ground, and the two descended down a small and darkened hallway lit only by a number of candles. They stopped at a small cell and faced their haggard prisoners.
Zhou Liang, stripped of his armor and his face oily, merely glanced at the two until he flinched as Sung Ang rubbed an ointment on one of his wounds. Pan Zi, just as haggard as his companions, was lying on his side, glumly sucking on a stick of wheat.
The lieutenant faced them cold. As her eyebrows furrowed, she narrowed her eyes at Pan Zi.
She chewed on her spit, then spat it out at Pan Zi's face.
Pan Zi suddenly opened his mouth in a wide grin and caught the spit with his tongue.
"...you filthy Qin bastard."
She then spat to the side to show her disgust.
"My kingdom...my platoon...and my family. They're all gone, consumed by the flames of Qin. You took everything from me, except my life."
She withdrew her sword and pointed it straight at Zhou Liang. Zhou Liang stared adamantly back.
"I, Captain Mao Xiao Wun of the Chu kingdom, will make sure that blood is repaid by blood"
Zhou Liang, still matching Mao's intense eyes, stood up and walked slowly towards her until his heart was only an inch away from her blade.
"I am Zhou Liang. My noble ancestor was an officer who served under the Duke of Zhou to defeat the Shang. I am a xia, and I fight for the same reasons my ancestors have fought for. I fight for peace, justice, and truth. I am your ally against the Qin."
The captain's blade stayed firm.
"Liar. That man there...he is a Qin official. He is the horse that guides the Qin carriage."
Zhou Liang glanced back at Pan Zi, who was still chewing the stick and staring at the ceiling.
"That is true, but we have no intention of helping the Qin. The Qin executes all men who don't obey his orders. He is an enemy of Heaven, and if you still believe that I serve the Qin...then kill me. I would rather die a thousand deaths than be associated with Qin Shi Huang"
Suddenly, she flashed her sword. Zhou Liang shut his eyes and flinched momentarily, but Mao had withdrawn her sword into her scabbard.
Her eyes were still locked onto his, but then she smiled and coyingly looked down. She hastily unlocked the cage door and swung it open.
"If I did that, then I'd be losing an ally against the Qin. Zhao Liang...I have a good feeling about you. I think you'd make a good soldier in my army."
Her eyes locked into his, and she moved a tuft of hair from Zhao Liang's eyes.
"And maybe a good something else too."
She winked at Zhao Liang, who could hardly speak, but only blushed.
Sung Ang pouted and turned her head in disgust.
"Ewww, disgusting! Don't do that little brother!"
"But this is funny! Here big sister, catch!"
The little girl ran wildly as her younger brother picked up a handful of deer droppings and tossed it at her head. As the poop hit her in the head, she became furious and chased after her smaller brother.
The boy, in abject fear, ran as fast as he could towards the road, laughing his head off. However, his laughter stopped suddenly as he ran straight into a hard object. He fell back, and glanced up.
His lip trembled.
The Imperial cavalryman was dressed completely in black. He rode on top of a brown, armored horse. As the soldier glanced down towards the boy, he lifted his halberd.
The boy was still wide eyed with fear.
Suddenly, the horseman bolted forward.
Behind him, several scores of heavily armored cavalryman followed. The forest was alive with the sound of galloping thunder as the company of mounted troops sprinted towards the top of a hill that looked down upon a valley.
Two of them waded to the front.
The Imperial Major, Han Liao, glanced at his commanding officer.
"Master Taishi Ci, we have reached the top of the hill. Jia Mu's troops must have already descended down to the forest valley."
Taishi Ci said nothing, but slowly lifted his left hand, and made a straight ward motion with it.
Two hundred imperial cavalrymen started dashing across the valley in a straight line, then stopped until they they created a line 400 meters long.
Taishi Ci and Han Liao made their way to the middle of the line.
"Major Han Liao, what do you suppose Jia Mu's incompetent officers are doing down that valley, without informing the Magistrate of Qianzhong?"
The major gruffly replied, "My troops were not able to ascertain that their objective."
Taishi Ci moved his fingers through his beard.
"But he did not inform me. To move troops in an area outside his jurisdiction, for whatever reason without authority, is illegal. Emperor Huang Di as decreed it so. What good is an imperial officer who does not obey rules? Han Feizi would state that Jai Mu is overstepping his bounds. Rules put in place must be followed to the letter. Those who break the rules have no regard for the rules, and thus no regard for the emperor's authority. They have no place in an ordered society. Major Han Liao, if you please."
The major yelled out an order, "Prepare the fire arrows!"
In an instant, the cavalrymen dismounted, and started applying pitch to their arrows.
Taishi Ci smiled.
"Major, do you remember what strategy I used on that Chu army during the summer?"
"Yes my lord. You took advantage of the dry season, and used fire to root out the Chu army"
"That is correct. Though it is Spring, this valley receives little moisture. Fire, as you know, rises up where it lusts for fodder and air. Jia Mu's troops have nowhere to go but uphill."
Taishi Ci lifted up his hand and held it.
A single soldier ran through the line, igniting the pitch on the arrows. The troops aimed their bows high, and drew their arrows back and awaited their orders.
Taishi Ci swung his hand down.
The major exclaimed, "Fire!!"
The valley became shadowed as the hundreds of flame arrows flew straight into the sky, arched, and descended down on the opposite end of the valley.
The troops ignited their arrows again, and awaited instructions
Once again, the sky became black as a second volley of arrows descended onto the valley.
Soon, the entire valley was engulfed in flames. Screams and mangled orders could be heard.
A rustle was heard heading up the valley.
Taishi Ci dismounted and walked forward slowly.
"Major, your crossbow"
Han Liao withdrew his crossbow and handed it to the judge.
The judge holstered it on his shoulder and took aim.
A man, covered in dirt and soot, appeared from the valley.
"Wait! Wait! I am an officer from Changsha! I serve Imperial Magistrate Jia Mu!"
Taishi Ci pulled the trigger.