Chu Qiao could not help but be stunned as she said, "Ji Wenting spent quite a lot this time."
Yan Xun turned and walked towards his desk without replying.
"Well, then I am heading out."
"Hold on." As if he suddenly remembered something, Yan Xun passed her a package and said, "I almost forgot, Zhao Song sent his men to bring this package over."
Chu Qiao took the package as she weighed it in her hands, knowing instantly what was inside. As she was about to leave, Yan Xun asked, "Aren't you going to open it to see what's inside?"
"It's a fur coat from the Si Se Ee people. He told me that he'd give one to me the day before. I didn't expect it to be sent here."
"Oh." Yan Xun nodded and said, "My father had deep and friendly relations with the Si Se Ee people in the past. However, when there were several counties that were experiencing a period of unrest, we were in a special situation. Although it is just a coat, it might arouse suspicion."
"I understand." Chu Qiao nodded and said, "I thought of it long ago. I was unwilling to turn down the thirteenth Highness. You know that he is a very kind-hearted person."
"You have always done things with caution. I never had to worry about you. It's late, rest well."
"Ok, rest early too." Chu Qiao agreed and walked out.
After a while, AhJing rushed into the room anxiously and said to Yan Xun, "Your highness, why did Miss take away those clothes? Mr. Wu had brought those rare clothes all the way from Bei Ming Yuan. Didn't the Prince intend to give those to the Lady Shang of Dong Yue for her birthday?"
Yan Xun continued to be fixated on his book as he said lightly, "Just find another one. If you can't, then there'll be no gifts for her." AhJing was shocked. Even before he could react, Yan Xun had left the table, heading into the inner tent to sleep.
Snow billowed outside the tent. That night, other than Yan Xun's camp, no one could sleep well. Although the main pillar of strength within the Muhe clan had collapsed, the hunt organized by the Xia Empire's imperial family continued as planned.
The Zhen Huang lands were situated within the Hong Chuan Plains, with the Chi Chui River running through it. It was vast and boundless, stretching beyond what the eye could see. The plain was indeed a great place for hunting as well as horse riding. Under the star-studded night sky, various campfires were seen throughout the vast snowy plains, brightening the campsite that spanned miles. The weather was kind as the night was windless and snowless. The temperature was on the rise as tens of thousands of the Empire's elite scattered around the hunting grounds, barbecuing and riding horses, competing in shooting and sword fighting, drinking and dancing. It was incredibly lively. All that was heard were the sounds of poetry and grass harps. The air was filled with the aroma of cooking of game meat.
Chu Qiao was dressed in the snowy white fur coat and white boots as she sat on her horse, her hair tied back simply with a ferret hat on her head, only revealing her petite and delicate face. Her dazzling eyes gleamed like stars in the night sky.
Yan Xun turned to face her as he looked at her from head to toe. He laughed and said, "AhChu has also grown up."
The teenage girl picked at her brows as she looked at Yan Xun. "How much older are you? Stop acting like you're an old man in front of me."
Yan Xun laughed. As he was about to say something, he suddenly heard the sound of hooves galloping quickly towards him. Zhao Song, with his pine-green cloak billowing behind him, shouted as he rode quickly towards them, "AhChu, AhChu!"
Yan Xun frowned. With an annoyed tone, he said, "Why does he call you that?"
Chu Qiao snorted softly, "He learned it from you."
With 20 of his men, Zhao Song galloped over like a gust of wind, smiling as he greeted them, "You guys are here too."
"Everyone is here at the bonfire banquet." Yan Xun's voice was still warm and gentle, but his tone seemed like it was blocking them out from thousands of miles away.
Chu Qiao turned towards him, giving him a puzzled look as she frowned slightly. Luckily, Zhao Song did not notice the hostility in Yan Xun's voice as he looked at Chu Qiao from head to toe. He said, "AhChu, why didn't you wear the fur coat that I gave you? It's not warm enough?"
Chu Qiao nodded and smiled warmly. "It is indeed warm. However, it is not that cold tonight, that's why I didn't wear it."
"Oh," Zhao Song suddenly realized and nodded. He praised her, "But you look good in this coat as well."
"I heard from AhJing, that the horse-riding and shooting competition is currently happening. Your Thirteenth Highness, aren't you going to have a look?" Yan Xun suddenly said from the side.
Zhao Song was stunned, and he started to blush. How could he say that he had given up his competition to run all the way up here just because he saw Chu Qiao? He started to mutter, "It's not much fun. Anyway, I'm bored of it already. It's better to be admiring the miles of frozen scenery from up here. It's a much better place to take a break."
"Is it?" Yan Xun suddenly smiled and said, "That's coincidental. We wanted to head down to take a look. Since the Thirteenth Highness is here, we wanted to ask you to join us as well. But it seems that we don't have the chance to do so."
"Ah?" Zhao Song's eyes widened as he froze in shock. He was tongue-tied as he barely managed to say, "You guys are going down?"
Chu Qiao felt awkward, and she secretly tugged at Yan Xun's sleeves. Who would have predicted that the man would use this opportunity to grab her hand tightly? With his other hand, he pulled the reins and said, "We will not disturb your rest, Your Highness." After which, he galloped away with Chu Qiao.
"Hey! Hey!" shouted Zhao Song. But all he could do was see them disappear with a trail of dust.
"What are you doing?"
Yan Xun remained silent, looking at Chu Qiao with his lips tightly shut. He seemed to be pleased with himself. As Chu Qiao looked at him, the feelings of pity she had had for Zhao Song disappeared with time.
Oh well, it had been long since Yan Xun was this childish and happy. With a sigh, she had no choice but follow closely behind him.
At that moment, the crisp sounds of hooves sounded once again. Both Chu Qiao and Yan Xun froze. When they turned their heads, all they saw was Zhao Song leading a group of men, galloping after them. He pretended to be surprised as he said, "Oh, you guys are here too? The wind is too strong up there, and I wanted to come down to set a fire. Since you are here, let's walk."
Even with his good manners, Yan Xun could not hide his darkened expression. Chu Qiao squelched and let out a laugh. Zhao Song knew that his reason was too far-fetched. He laughed and ran forward, acting like a tourist guide for both Yan Xun and Chu Qiao.
The enormous camp was filled with laughter. Bonfires were everywhere, and the fragrant smell of cooked meat filled the air. The three of them walked into the crowd with an entourage behind them, but it did not seem too conspicuous.
The royal tent occupied a large area and was covered in northwestern deer fur. The golden powder that was collected from the black sea was painted onto it with shark pearls as ornaments. A dragon was embroidered onto the tent, with pearls as its eyes. It was vermillion with sharp claws. Two enormous vats of oil were placed right in front of the tent. The fires that raged from it were bright and flashy. Above it, tall flags flew proud and high. The Imperial Guard surrounded the tent and was dressed in bright armor. From afar, the bright yellow tent looked like the eastern dragon that was lying in ambush in the darkness, exuding a strong aura. Its majesty was unparalleled. The Imperial élan surged from it, blocking the unbridled joy happening within the area.
Suddenly, there was a racket in the distance. Walking closer, there were more than 20 burly, topless men that were wrestling in the snow. As they wrestled, they roared. A girl on a horse was dressed in flaming red riding attire and had a red coat over her shoulder. She appeared graceful and elegant, shooting three arrows instantly, all of them hitting the bull's eye that stood 100 meters away.
The crowd burst into cheers in an instant. The young girl put down her bow as she looked at the crowd proudly. Suddenly, she leaped from her horse and onto the shoulders of a burly man. Releasing the end of her whip, she lashed the other men as she laughed heartily. "I'm with him, all of you, attack!"
"Zhama?" Chu Qiao's knitted her brow tightly together as she turned to look at Yan Xun. Both of them understood each other too well. Yan Xun knew what she was worried about immediately. With a nod, both of them turned and tried to leave.
"Stop there!" a shout suddenly filled the air! The red whip snapped in front of them in a flash. Chu Qiao reacted swiftly, grabbing the whip tightly in her palm, then winding it around her wrist with a few twists. When both of them tugged at the whip, the slender whip became taut in an instant!
"Wanting to leave when you just arrived? Prince Yan, are you a tortoise?" The girl leaped onto the ground. The crowd parted, leaving a clear path. The brothers from other clans secretly took pleasure from their misfortune, laughing in glee as they watched on.
The Batuha family from the northwestern regions had always been enemies of the Yan clan in Yan Bei. This girl was the daughter that Old Batu doted on most. Her status in the northwestern regions was higher than that of Prince Zhalu. She had always been overbearing. Now that she was face to face with the Crown Prince of Yan Bei, whose family had been destroyed, who knew what would happen.
"Princess Zhama." Yan Xun turned with a pale expression. He said, "It's been a long time."
"Indeed," Zhama laughed in glee and said, "Ever since the Yan Bei bloodline was eradicated, I have not seen you. I heard that you were a tortoise when you were in the Sheng Jin palace in the capital. I thought I would never get the chance to see the Crown Prince of Yan ever again. The Gods have been kind to give me the pleasure of meeting the descendant of the Yan clan, who were the former rulers of the north."
"Zhama! Mind your words!" Zhao Song stepped forward suddenly and said in a deep tone, "We are in public. How can a girl say such harsh words? Did Old Ba Tu not teach you anything?"
"You are in no position to educate me on how my father should teach me! Don't you dare raise your voice to me just because Wei Fa is behind you!"
"Sister, did anyone bully you?" a sturdy voice sounded from behind them as Zhalu stepped forward. His build was massive; it was hard to believe that both were born from the same mother.
"Nope." Zhama said loudly, "They can't bully me."
"Your Thirteenth Highness, the banquet is about to start, let's go." Yan Xun put his arms around Zhao Song, who was burning with rage. His gaze was quiet and he had a calm expression as he ushered them to leave.
"You're leaving?" Zhama laughed coldly and roared, "You have got to ask for permission from my arrows!" Zhama drew an arrow from her waist and pulled her bow, the arrows aiming straight for Yan Xun's back.
At that moment, the girl by Yan Xun's side turned towards Zhama like a whirlwind, her large white coat billowing behind her. She reached out her hand as quick as a shadow, and her fingers were like nets, catching the arrow by its tail. With a backhand flick, she threw the arrow away. Her actions were ferocious but graceful. A crisp crack was heard as the sharp arrow embedded itself into Zhama's bow. The longbow that was made of wood and metal cracked in half, failing to the ground with a crash. Everyone was frozen in shock. No one said a word. It was dead silent.
Chu Qiao was dressed in a long fur coat, and her complexion was fair. Her calm gaze fell onto Princess Zhama's pale expression as she said lightly, "Swords and daggers have no eyes. Princess, you have to be careful." After saying that, she walked towards Yan Xun.