Zhama was stunned by her intricate archery skills and took a long time to respond. She bellowed angrily, "You! Stand there!"
"Sister," Zhalu, holding Zhama back, remarked deeply, "the banquet is starting. Let's settle this score later." In the distance, the sight of bright lights signified the long-awaited start of the first banquet of Xia Empire's Spring Hunt.
Before entering the tent, AhJing slowly crept up to the front, beside Yan Xun. He whispered, "There are unknown intruders approaching the base. Should we take action?"
Yan Xun raised his eyebrows lightly and asked, "Who are they?"
AhJing answered, "I don't know, but they don't seem like they belong to the Muhe Clan."
"Let me take a look," Chu Qiao walked forward and whispered.
Yan Xun nodded and said in a deep tone, "Be careful. Do not use martial arts if it's unnecessary. The banquet is starting soon, I'll wait for you."
"Don't worry. It might be Zhalu's people creating trouble. I'll be right back." Finishing her sentence, she headed towards the base with AhJing.
"AhChu!" Seeing Chu Qiao leaving, Zhao Song was dazed. He exclaimed loudly, preparing to he chase after her.
"Your Thirteenth Royal Highness," Yan Xun tugged at Zhao Song's arm and said with a laugh, "Chu Qiao has errands to run. She'll be back soon, let's go first." Zhao Song reluctantly let Yan Xun drag him away, continuously staring back at Chu Qiao as he walked.
The cold wind, together with the snow, blew in Chu Qiao's face. The sounds of horses' hooves echoed, and the fire torches on both sides of her burned out. In the cold darkness, few stars were visible. The dark and deep sky appeared high up and far away. Occasionally, goshawks flew past, letting out long cries.
In the blink of an eye, she had spent eight years in this unknown dynasty. Life had never bestowed upon her the chance nor the right to feel any sadness or enjoy its pleasures. The harsh environment, endless massacres, and tragic bloodshed continually forced her to fight and be on the run. Too many unknown variables confronted her. There were too many traps and schemes hiding out there which were out of her control. The endless cycles of desperation spurred her on, making her unable to stop and rest. She was not born as a slayer nor bandit. Under the premise of ensuring her survival, she simply wanted to just maintain her ability to differentiate good and evil.
The world was unkind. It treated everything like sacrificial offerings. From being esteemed and of high value before the rituals, to being chucked aside and shunned after the rituals. The difference between annihilating and saving the mortal world was separated by just a thin line.
"Giddyup!" Chu Qiao exclaimed. She rode on the horse's back and advanced forward swiftly on the snowy plains.
The sound of horses' hooves approached from afar. A solitary man, dressed in black from top to bottom, galloped along the snowy plains on his horse. Chu Qiao and her party stopped their horses. AhJing frowned and deeply remarked, "Miss, there's something wrong with this person. This person came from the direction of our camp."
One of the Yan residence's guards stepped forward and shouted at the approaching stranger, "Hey! Who are you?"
Before the guard had the time to catch his breath, a shiny dagger sliced through the cold air, flying towards him. It approached at a lightning speed in an intimidating manner, packed plenty of sharpness and gave off a murderous aura.
Clank! With a sound, AhJing's sword intercepted the dagger, giving off a visible spark in the darkness. AhJing advanced forward, shouting, "Who exactly are you? How vile!"
The stranger noticed the crowd in front, then slyly turned back and galloped towards the west. Chu Qiao saw this and frowned. She ordered, "After him!" The rest obliged and chased after the stranger in pursuit.
The mountains, along with the dense forest, appeared pitch-black in the distance. The gargantuan snowy plains were filled with countless hoof marks, as if from a savage beast. The snow scattered around wildly with a whistling sound.
Suddenly, many shadows appeared in front as if there was a large army of people and horses approaching. The war horses were silent. An indescribable chill and a murderous scent emanated from the shadows amidst their silence and synchronised movement.
"Who is that?" a loud voice boomed. As it was late at night and they were far away from the shadows, they were not able to distinguish the identities of the unknown group of strangers. The people lurking in the shadows, sensing an ambush, assumed that Chu Qiao's party were in cahoots with the man in black. The sound of swords being brandished filled the air and arrows began flying in the direction of Chu Qiao's party. The opposition packed plenty of firepower and was scarily fast in responding to threats!
"Halt!" AhJing shouted. "We are not…"
Before she could finish, a sharp arrow came flying towards her. Chu Qiao was agile; she supported herself on the horse's back with a single hand, leapt up, and delivered a kick to AhJing's lower abdomen. The man took the impact with a great deal of pain. Poof! With a twist of his body, the arrow sunk itself into AhJing's flesh. Although it avoided his heart, it had ruthlessly embedded itself into his shoulder.
Chu Qiao's eyebrows locked. The opposition, before clarifying the situation, tried to kill indiscriminately. It was utterly atrocious. The young lady, dressed in a snow-white coat, advanced forward on her horse and jumped down with a somersault. She knelt on the ground, crossbow in hand and a serious expression on her face. Her eyes, similar to that of a panther, coldly scanned the pitch-black snowy plains in front of her. Her ears moved ever so slightly, eyebrows locked. The cold wind blew on her fringe. She had a thunderous and sharp look in her eyes.
A solitary arrow flew out from Chu Qiao's crossbow. It zipped through the air and appeared incredibly intimidating. It left behind a shiny, white edge, almost as if it would ignite some sparks in mid-air. The arrow flew into the distance.
Almost instantaneously, from the darkness on the opposite side, an earth-shattering sound of a crossbow firing echoed. Another sharp arrow flew towards Chu Qiao's direction in retaliation. The arrows, like two streaks of lightning, flew along the same trajectory with a whistling sound. Their velocity was shockingly fast. With a crisp sound, the two arrows collided in mid-air and disintegrated, falling onto the grounds of the vast, snowy plains.
In a flash, Chu Qiao, with astonishing technique, continuously changed her position and body shape. She fired seven arrows, each with a different trajectory and velocity. The opposition retaliated with equally mysterious techniques. The sounds of arrows leaving a crossbow and colliding in mid-air dominated the night. The opposition was on equal footing compared to Chu Qiao!
The intense sounds dissipated for a moment. Chu Qiao, adopting a sharp look, squinted and turned to feel for the last three arrows in her arrow pot. She waited quietly for the best opportunity.
A gale suddenly brewed, scattering the white snow all about. Everyone subconsciously closed their eyes, to shield against the snowstorm. However, in the darkness only two people stood up in unison, sprinting and exerting. The three arrows flew out in succession towards the front, just like shooting stars. The glistering sight was simply breathtaking.
Four arrows collided with each other and disintegrated, making a sound. As the wind blew, the last arrow behaved like a homing missile. Under the snowy sky, the arrow approached the opposition's hideout from two directions at a blazing speed, just like a sparkling meteorite!
Chu Qiao experienced an adrenaline rush and gained an additional explosiveness in her movements, just like an awakened beast. She chucked the crossbow aside and leapt to her feet using her abdominal strength, with her right hand as a support. However, with a sound, the arrow menacingly grazed against her neck. It left a trail of blood in its wake.
"Miss!" The Yan guards were shocked and rushed to her side. Chu Qiao stood up and used her hand to stop the blood, which was oozing out of her neck. She did not say a word and stared coldly at the pitch-black darkness on the opposite side. She knew that her opponent had similarly avoided her "homing missile", but had also been wounded in the process.
Silence dominated the night. There was no trace of any sound. Amidst the darkness and the raging snow, Chu Qiao could feel her opponent staring back at her coldly and cruelly.
A goshawk's cries suddenly reverberated across the sky. In the darkness that separated the two parties, a strong and vigorous shadow suddenly appeared. The stranger dressed in black, previously in a prone position, suddenly got up and sprinted like a projectile to make an escape.
Almost at the same time, Chu Qiao and her opponent each brandished their sabres from their waists and threw them at the man. The escaping man shook and his eyes enlarged. He looked down indignantly, only to see that he had been hit by the two sabres. With a thump, he fell heavily to the snowy ground.
Time passed slowly. Both parties remained silent. One of the aides carefully took a few steps forward. Seeing that the opposition did not respond, he shouted, "Dear friend on the opposite side, we were trying to apprehend a thief. What just happened was a misunderstanding."
The other party did not respond.
Another aide, Zuo Tang, rode forward on his horse. In just a short time, sounds of horses' hooves could also be heard from the opposite side.
"Missy," Zuo Tang dashed back in an instant and got off his horse. He returned Chu Qiao's sabre and remarked deeply, "Your sword."
The young lady frowned. "Where did the other party come from?"
"I'm not sure," Zuo Tang replied truthfully. "The aides from the other side wore black gowns and looked unfamiliar. I have not see them before."
Chu Qiao, not saying a word, nodded. She started to frown as she took the sabre.
This was a rare sword. It had an ancient appearance, and a body which was thin and light. There were bloodstains on it. The blade was sharp and shiny. Under the reflection of the moonlight, a bright sharpness was visible, just like flowing mercury. The hilt of the sword was wrapped in gold silk and two ancient words, "Po Yue" were carved on it.
Chu Qiao, frowning, touched the hilt of the sword and said, "This isn't my sword." Zuo Tang was surprised, and quickly replied, "I will find them to give it back." As he finished his sentence, the sound of horses' hooves again echoed from the opposite side. With the snow being scattered for the final time, the people from the opposite side rapidly disappeared.
"You won't be able to catch them," the young lady slowly remarked, putting the sword back into its sheath. She was surprised to find out that the sword actually fit her own sheath.
"Bring that corpse back. AhJing, go back to the camp to recuperate. Everyone else, follow me to the imperial tent." The young lady remarked in a sonorous tone and lead everyone back to their destinations. When they arrived at the square in front of the imperial tent, it was as if they had entered a different world. The fragrance of meat and sounds of laughter filled the air. Chu Qiao handed her weapons over to the guards and was escorted in.
The imperial tent occupied a large area, there were a total of 36 tables that spread across both sides. When Chu Qiao entered the majority of the people had arrived. As the Emperor had not made his entrance, the tent was bustling and full of noise.
Chu Qiao was just a servant, hence she could not wander about. She scanned her surroundings and made her way towards an area with less people. As expected, she saw Yan Xun looking handsome and wearing a white robe. He had a calm expression on his face and was quietly sitting there, sipping his tea. Zhao Song stood beside him, scratching his ear, appearing frustrated and impatient.
"Your Highness." Chu Qiao walked over and before she could speak, Zhao Song remarked, making a fuss, "Ah! AhChu, what happened to you? Are you injured?"