On the other hand, the Zhuge family was very confusing. Many people were willing to compare Zhuge with the Mus and the Helians. But Chu Qiao knew that the Zhuge family would not be so simple. Hidden under Zhuge Muqing's ordinary face, was his unfathomable, irreconcilable, and cunning calculations. The Zhuge family had been rich and powerful for 300 years. Deep down, this family did not look as gentle and powerless as it appeared, one could tell by looking at how Zhuge Yue and Zhuge Huai were raised.
In the army, Meng Tian, Le Xing and other generals, who mostly relied on powerful families and imperial power, were unable to form a powerful team. Secondly, seigniors lived in different parts. They were not strong enough to go against the imperial Xia.
20 years ago, seigniors in Jiang Nan area had once tried ganging up against imperial Xia. However, the result was that they were defeated and suppressed. King Ling of Lingxi, King Jing, and King Yan Shicheng were all survivors from that battle. The rest of the seigniors had vanished. Their family members were all killed and only 20% to 30% of them were still alive.
During the year of the massacre of the royal family, although King Yan Shicheng was not involved in this incident, he helped the other royal families plead for forgiveness, and as a result was incriminated. He was expelled from the Zhao's temple and had to change his surname to Yan. He was sent to Yan Bei and was not allowed to return to the capital.
Today, were there still people who remembered that the Yan family was also part of the royal family of Xia and grew up drinking the same breast milk as King Zhao Zhengde?
Chu Qiao smiled. Being the emperor was really not that easy. From the beginning of the construction of the great Xia dynasty, he had been losing his royal rights. Compared to the kings of Hua Xia, who all mastered military and political power, Zhao Zhengde was nowhere close in comparison.
At this time, she heard the sound of a door opening. Chu Qiao glanced at the window with her ears perked up.
"Miss, are you sleeping?" Lu Liu's voice sounded from outside the door. Chu Qiao replied, and the servant carefully walked into the room.
"Miss Chu, it is very cold tonight. Let me help you change the fire."
Chu Qiao nodded her head and said, "Has his highness come back?"
"Yes," the servant replied, "I heard Xiao Lizi say that the prince went to Jin Xiao Pavillion and invited several generals from the Dauntless Cavalry Camp for dinner. He also sent the dancers, given by Ji Wengting, to them."
Chu Qiao was stunned and looked at the fireplace without saying a word.
"Miss Chu?" The servant called out to her.
Chu Qiao raised her head and replied, "Yes?"
"If there's nothing, can I leave?"
Chu Qiao nodded and said, "Yes, you can leave."
"Rest easy," the servant replied and closed the door. The wind outside suddenly became stronger and louder as it blew through the windows. The voice in the front yard gradually became smaller and everything returned to quiet.
In five days, Chu Qiao would start coaching in the Dauntless Cavalry Camp. It was obvious why Yan Xun treated the generals a meal. They agreed to be frank with each other, not to hide anything, and to trust each other forever so that they never felt hostile with one another. However, with age, some things just couldn't be said honestly to each other. For example, it was hard for her to tell him her messy relationship with Zhuge Yue, her displeasure with the aristocratic life, and that she did not like the other face Yan Xun put on when he needed to social.
However, there were still some things that would not change. The deep understanding of each other's hearts and their common friendship allowed them to silently do the best for each other. Without the need to say it aloud, when facing the bizarre outside world, they would always be close comrades. Through life and death.
Just like the night of a big snowstorm many years ago, she was looking for medicine when she was beaten up and wounded. She was covered in scars while taking slow steps in the midst of the heavy snow and embracing the precious herbs in her arms. She was on her way back when she spotted young Yan Xun, who was very sick, looking for her in the midst of the bamboo forest. He was softly shouting her name.
That day, Yan Xun was very ill but he still carried the wounded girl. He was pale and his lips turned purple as he walked alone in the dark night with the girl on his back. Even though he faltered, his expression was still very firm. He knelt in front of her bed and held her hand. He whispered to the girl, who looked like she was going to faint at anytime, that this life would not allow her to be bullied, and to stay strong. At that time, they did not dare to speak loudly at night. But that sentence stuck deeply in her mind and she was very grateful to him.
On the second day, Wei Jing brought people once again. Young Yan Xun, who had no power, had his pinky finger cut off. If not for Zhao Song's timely arrival, he could have had his whole hand cut off. That night, it was the first and last time Chu Qiao cried after she entered Sheng Jin palace.
When she was undernourished, she did not shed tears. When she was bullied, she did not shed tears. When she was being whipped and punished, all she did was widen her eyes and firmly memorize the enemy's appearance without revealing a trace of fear. But that day, when Yan Xun's finger got cut off, and he refused to let her see his wound, she could not hold it in and cried.
She could endure hunger, pain, and be looked down on by others. She could endure such sufferings, as she knew that when she grew up, she could always run away from her situation. She could get her revenge as long as she was patient and had time. But she would not stand for the people around her getting hurt. Now that Yan Xun's finger was hurt, who could cure him?
That night, she cried for a long time. Yan Xun was at a loss and ended up hugging her in an awkward manner while patting her back. He lifted his right hand and said that only a small section was cut off, and that it would not deter him from continuing sword training. He could still eat, write, he was okay.
This was the first time Chu Qiao had cried so badly. She shed more tears as compared to that time in the Zhuge family's house. A long time later, she then realized that because she had always been alone, even when there were children around her, she did not feel a sense of belonging. However, on the day that Yan Xun lost his finger, she finally felt like she had someone who cared for her. That was why she could let go and show her emotions as a form of weakness.
Both of them were lonely in this world, they had no one else but each other.
The light from the fire shone on Chu Qiao's face as the night became darker. Chu Qiao raised her head and looked at the swaying shadows of the trees. She slowly shrank back on the couch and skipped her dinner. She was quietly waiting for someone to knock on the door.
"AhChu." At last, a soft voice came from outside, "Are you sleeping?"
Chu Qiao's lips lifted slightly and formed a smile. There was no sound coming from outside after that. After a while, she jumped off the couch and ran to the door with her bare feet.
The door creaked open but there was no one outside. A carved food box sat quietly on the ground in front of her door, with a note attached to it. She picked it up and saw a very familiar handwriting:
I know you sleep late, so if you are hungry, eat this duck. I removed the fat so don't be scared that you will get fat.
Chu Qiao raised her head and saw a black bamboo umbrella held over her head. A figure, wearing a white fox cloak, stood in the middle of the hallway. She remembered last time when they stood next to the Chi Shui lake, Yan Xun warned Chu Qiao, "If I help you one more time, my surname won't be Yan." Perhaps, only in front of her, he would occasionally reveal what he looked like that year.
He actually did not change because of her existence. Chu Qiao would always have a special place in his heart. No one else could replace her.
Chu Qiao held the food box while staring blankly into the distance. The snow drifted along the sky and disappeared into the surrounding.
Two days later, it was the Eighth Princess Zhao Chun'er's hair ceremony. The eighth princess and Zhao Che were born from the same mother, and she was the most respected princess out of the whole royal family. Hence, her ceremonies were naturally the most extravagant.
Because of the dispute on the day of hunting, Yan Xun's patience was gradually decreasing. He told Ah Jing to send a gift just to get it over and done with. When Chu Qiao was flipping through the gift list, Yan Xun was drinking his tea in the hall. There were a few congratulatory sentences on the gift list and below was the actual gift: two pairs of jade Ruyi, four gold lions, and eight rolls of brocade. They were all not expensive and not shabby, so they were perfect.
Chu Qiao shook her head and wondered what Zhao Chun'er would feel after receiving the gift. For so many years, Princess Chun's love for Prince Yan Xun had already spread within the capital. Muhe Nayun Queen tried to intervene in this matter. However, Zhao Chun'er was stubborn. Besides Yan Xun, he did not listen to anybody else. Xia Huang did not care about her, so she became even more carefree.
"AhChu, if we have the opportunity to go to the Tang empire, we need to see the Lichee Garden and taste the Zhu Shun wine."
Chu Qiao looked up. The sunshine was excellent that day and the snow had stopped. She was called to the greenhouse early in the morning by Yan Xun. Both of them did not speak a single word the whole afternoon. She was reading while he drank his tea. Suddenly, when she heard him say that sentence, she replied, "Okay, when there's an opportunity, we shall go together."
Looking at her happy face, Yan Xun also let out a smile and said, "AhChu has grown into a beautiful young lady."
Chu Qiao laughed and replied, "What did you eat today? How are your words so sweet? Or are you too used to speaking like that outside that you cannot break the habit?"
Yan Xun shook his head slightly and said, "You still don't understand. I only hang out with other girls outside for putting on the show to confuse others. AhChu, you are still the most beautiful woman in the world and no one can compare to you." His words came out extremely naturally. Chu Qiao heard it and was stunned for a while. Her cheeks were slightly red and a slight smile crept on her face.
Even though they were close, they had never disclosed their real feelings. After all these years, they were like comrades and families, but had no romantic talks at all. After hearing what Yan Xun said, Chu Qiao, who had lived two lives, could not help but got a bit nervous.
"AhChu," Yan Xun suddenly became serious, looked at her sincerely and said, "Both of us have known each other for eight years. During that time, we shared the same weal and woe. Now that all the hardships are over, and after we are done with here and go back to Yan Bei, we shall…"
Before he could finish his sentence, AhJing's voice suddenly sounded from outside, "Prince, you were summoned by his Majesty."
All the emotions suddenly vanished. Chu Qiao quickly got up as her book slammed onto the ground.