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Published at 13th of June 2018 09:24:43 PM

Chapter 31

The night was mesmerising . The heavy clouds had dissipated and the moonlight was clear . Zhuge Yue put down his crossbow slowly, stood there for a long time watching the carriage from Sheng Jin Palace move farther and farther away .

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This long night was finally about to end .

The sun had rose . The sunlight entered the room from the window located high up, revealing specks of dust floating about in mid-air . Soft screeching sounds could be heard in the background . One that did not pay attention would have thought that the sounds came from a rat wandering through the grass .

Chu Qiao leaned on a wall and closed her eyes, falling into slumber . However, behind her back, her hand moved ever so slightly, using a small stone to grind against the wall .

The sun rose and set quickly . The noise outside slowly subsided . The prosperous city was enveloped with darkness . The prison wardens patrolled the grounds twice and went to sleep, yawning . It was late into the night and the moon had risen high above the sky . With a thud, a big adobe landed in the grass .

"Yan Xun…" A weak voice sounded out slowly, appearing crisp in the dead silent prison cell .

Chu Qiao turned around and looked at the neighboring cell, spotting a young man dressed in white, leaning on the opposite wall . His legs were outstretched and he sat on the dirty, wilted grass, his eyes shut and seemingly in slumber .

"Yan Xun," Chu Qiao whispered cautiously .

The young man's eyelashes moved slightly . He opened his eyes and scanned the surroundings . He saw the child's clear eyes in front of him . Overwhelmed with joy, he crawled over to the hole, remarking, "Lass, you're so smart . "

"Idiot!" Chu Qiao hissed, "Keep your voice down lest anyone hear you . "

"Oh," Yan Xun mimicked her and scanned the surroundings . He turned around and laughed in a silly manner, revealing his sparkling white teeth . "Lass, don't be afraid . My father will send people to rescue us . These people will not dare to do anything to us . "

"Mmm . " Chu Qiao nodded bleakly, not answering him .

Yan Xun frowned . "Hey, don't you believe me?"

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"I wouldn't dare . " Chu Qiao stuck out her tongue, pouting . "Your father will rescue you . I don't have such capable relatives . "

Yan Xun laughed . His eyes sparkled like the stars in the sky . "Don't worry . I won't abandon you . You can follow me in the future, I'll protect you . "

A feeling of warmth enveloped her entire body . The eight-year-old child laughed and smiled brightly, nodding . "You've got to treat me to something good when we're out . I'm starving . "

"No problem," Yan Xun promised . "You can eat anything you want . I'll grant any request that you make . "

Unknowingly, heavy snow had started to fall outside . The snowflakes drifted into the cell from the window above, along with the cold wind . As Chu Qiao was about to open her mouth, she trembled and felt a shiver up her body . Yan Xun, seeing this, pressed his face against the hole . He started to get nervous when he saw that the child was dressed in thin layers of clothes, her face was pale and her lips had started to turn purple from the cold .

"Are you cold?"

"I'm fine . "

"You're wearing so little . You must be freezing to death . " Yan Xun suddenly got to his feet and removed the cloak that he was wearing . He squatted down and attempted to shove it through the hole . However, the cloak was too thick; even its sleeve could not pass through the hole . Chu Qiao pushed his cloak back towards him, saying, "Stop it . It would be terrible if they find out . "

"So what if they find out?" Yan Xun sneered . He continued, "Wait 'till I'm out . I will let not anyone of them off the hook . "

"Save those words for when we get out alive," Chu Qiao replied sarcastically, looking up in disdain .

Yan Xun scoffed indignantly . "Just wait and see . "

The prison cell become colder by the minute . Yan Xun leaned by the hole . He suddenly said, "Lass, reach out your hand . "

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"Oh?" Chu Qiao was dazed . "What?"

"Your hand," Yan Xun said, while gesturing . "Reach out your hand . "

Chu Qiao frowned . "What do you want to do?"

"Don't ask anymore," Yan Xun said impatiently . "Just do what I tell you to . "

Chu Qiao muttered softly to herself and reached out her thin arm, which was pale due to the cold . She placed it in the small hole, grasping at thin air . Gently, she questioned, "What are you trying to do?" She felt another person grabbing her icy-cold hand . The young man's hand was slightly bigger . He held her hand while exhaling warm air on to her palms . His eyes sparkled . He asked while exhaling, "Do you feel better? Do you feel warmer?"

The night was mesmerising; the pale moonlight was cold, just like the snow . The snowfall outside became increasingly heavier; the snowflakes drifted into the cell through the window, littering the floor . The child leaning by the wall was momentarily stunned; tears welled up in her eyes . She nodded forcefully, but realized that the person opposite would not be able to see what she did . She responded with a tone that sounded nasal, "Mmm . "

"Haha," Yan Xun laughed . He asked, "Lass, what's your name? I heard that the fourth young master of the Zhuge family addressed you as Xing'er . Is that your real name?"

"No," the child replied in a low voice . A feeling of warmth swept over her hand, causing her blood to circulate better . She leaned against the wall, gently adding, "My name is Chu Qiao . "

"Chu?" Yan Xun was perplexed . He subconsciously stopped what he was doing . "Aren't you the child of Official Jing Yidian? Why is your surname Chu?"

"Don't ask," The child's voice was low, but carried an ounce of solemnity . "Yan Xun, no one knows of my name . I have only told you so far . Just remember it, but don't tell anyone . "

Yan Xun froze, but it suddenly dawned on him that this could be due to some undesirable hidden secrets within her family . He suddenly felt a feeling of happiness and satisfaction . In telling him her darkest secrets, wouldn't it have meant that she already saw him as a confidante? He patted his chest and promised, "Mmm, don't worry . I won't reveal it even if I die .

"How do I address you then?" The young man frowned . "Can I call you Xiaoqiao?"

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"No," Chu Qiao, suddenly thinking of the beauty of Eastern Wu during the period of the Three Kingdoms, whose was also Xiaoqiao . She objected, "Don't call me that . "

"Why?" Yan Xun questioned suspiciously, "Can I call you AhChu then?"

"Um…" Chu Qiao thought for a while and nodded, "Sure . You can call me that . "

Yan Xun exclaimed in joy, "AhChu!"

"Mmm . "


"I heard you . "

"AhChu! AhChu!"

"Are you done yet?"

"AhChu, AhChu, AhChu!"

"AhChu, your other hand . "

Chu Qiao obliged, retracting her hand which was already warm . She reached out her other hand . Yan Xun held her arm and exhaled two breaths of warm air before realizing that his own hands had turned cold . He unbuttoned the top of his clothes, revealing his chest, before putting her hand in his robe .

"Aiya!" Chu Qiao exclaimed, attempting to retract her hand .

"Haha," Yan Xun laughed, not releasing his grip . "You got a good deal . I bet you're smiling inside . "

"Morals!" Chu Qiao sneered . Her small hand rested on the young man's chest . In the silent night, she could feel Yan Xun's heart beat forcefully . The young man was skinny, but his body was muscular from the frequent horse-riding and martial arts training . His chest muscles were defined .

Yan Xun held Chu Qiao's hand tightly, leaning onto the wall and sitting down . He continued in a gentle tone, "AhChu, after this issue is settled, go back to Yan Bei with me . I'll find someone to settle anything that's still on your mind . This world is chaotic . Where could you go as a small child? You might get bullied by the bad guys . Even though you may appear fierce, you haven't met a real villain . In the event you meet that villain, without me by your side, you will definitely lose . "

Chu Qiao leaned on the wall . The dried, wilted grass lay beneath her feet . The snow drifted in front of her . She looked far into the distance, but her gaze could only be fixated on what was in front of her . Where was she thinking of going? Perhaps, even she did not know the answer herself .

Yan Xun rambled on, not hearing Chu Qiao's reply . "I don't know why, but I have this urge to help you . When I first saw you at the hunting range, I thought this kid is a pretty interesting person; so small but so fierce . I could not bring myself to kill you . I've been in the capital for so many years and this is the first time that I've lost to Zhao Che . It irks me just thinking about it . "

The sound of a drum being struck drifted towards the prison, signalling that the time was an hour to midnight . The young man's voice sounded bleak and distant . "AhChu, Yan Bei is a pretty place . Conflicts are far and few there . Come summer, there is green grass everywhere . My father, elder brother, third brother and I used to hunt for wild horses on Huo Lei Plains . I was young then, about seven or eight years old . I couldn't ride on a big horse, so my elder brother would let me ride on the offspring of the hunted horses . I was often angry at him as I felt that he looked down on me . However, I came to understand that he was just afraid I would get injured . My third brother had the worst temper and always picked fights with me . When he got angry, he would lift me high up in the air and threaten to slam me to death . My second sister would rush forward and use a whip to hit him . Then, they would come to blows . Although my third brother was strong, he was no match for my second sister . I looked down on him then . Now that I think about it, he was probably just unwilling to fight with my second sister .

"When winter arrives, Yan Bei experiences a month of heavy snowfall . We go up to Shuo Bei Highlands . There are vast and steep mountain ranges there, with plenty of hot springs . My mother was from the Tang Empire . She could not stand the cold in the north . Coupled with her poor health, she would spend half the year at the palace beside the hot springs . We often sneaked out of the school hall behind our father's back to visit her . Who knew that after we reached the palace, our father would already be waiting for us there?"

Underneath the clear moonlight, the young man's face exhibited a feeling of gentleness that Chu Qiao had not seen before .

"AhChu, Yan Bei is not like the capital where families turn against each other; scheming and plotting non-stop in their own self-interest . In the capital, you can see derogatory dancing and starving civilians everywhere . In Yan Bei, chaos is hardly existent and there are no refugees . Everyone has enough food to eat and slaves can decide their own fate . AhChu, follow me back to Yan Bei! You can live a better life there . With me by your side, no one will bully you again . No one will point an arrow at you again . I'll bring you to Huo Lei Plains to hunt wild horses, to the mountain ranges to visit my mother . She is a really gentle person . You will definitely like her . "

The air was silent, only filled with the sound of the young man talking . The thinly-dressed child suddenly felt warm on the inside . She looked up and seemingly saw the Yan Bei that Yan Xun had so vividly described . She saw the green pastures, the snow-white crystallized mountain ranges, the herd of galloping wild horses and the hearty, carefree laughter of the young men .