Yan Xun smiled lightly. He drank a sip of his tea and said, "What you said is correct." The flower house was very warm. Since Yan Xun really loved orchids, the house had a very floral fragrance. Along with the light winds, it caused people in the house to become intoxicated by the smell.
Yan Xun raised his eyebrows slightly and softly asked, "Well then, AhChu, what do you think I should do?"
"You already have something in mind, why ask me?" Chu Qiao asked curiously in a deep voice. "If you marry Zhao Chun'er, you will ultimately be killed, and if you don't marry her, you will be going against the king's order. He would think that you are trying to rebel and kill you. You are such a clever person, how can you not know how to weigh the pros and cons of this situation?" Chu Qiao smiled and continued, "In the past seven years, you have conquered all kinds of obstacles, so why would you let one woman stop you? Oh, the emperor is only doing this to find a way out and protect himself. We are not delaying time, I'm just sorry for Zhao Chun'er's true obsession for you."
Yan Xun looked indifferent, with a hint of loneliness and suffering. He then said slowly, "Is this how you truly feel? Looks like you already planned everything out for me."
"You and I have been together for many years, through life or death situations. I naturally would understand and help you plan." Chu Qiao said seriously, "Moreover, even if I do not say anything, you will also make the same decision. Last night, you already told me."
Yan Xun was surprised as he heard what she said. With a faint smile he said, "AhChu, you really are the person who knows me most."
Chu Qiao stood up and smiled while patting his shoulder. She said, "Of course. We grew up together and have been through so many things together. This will never change."
Yan Xun looked at Chu Qiao's smiling face and smiled. He nodded and said, "Yes, it will never change."
"I'm going first as I need to go to the Dauntless Cavalry Camp. Before I go, I should go say hello to Zhao Song."
Yan Xun nodded his head and stood up while saying, "Say hello to him on my behalf."
Chu Qiao turned and walked out. Just as she walked to the door she stopped and slowly held up her fist. She released her fist three times and had yet to leave. Yan Xun seemed to know that she had something to say but he just stood there quietly.
"Yan Xun, when you are in love, you might end up being distracted. You still have a lot of wishes that are not yet fulfilled. You should put the interests of the whole above everything else."
Yan Xun was silent as he stared blankly at her back as she gradually disappeared into the layers of green.
AhChu, I only gave you a drop of water, yet you returned the whole spring. How could I ever repay you?
The afternoon sunshine was warm and comforting, but suddenly, Yan Xun thought that everything was very blinding.
On the 14th of March, the sky was clear as snow started to fall in the afternoon as usual. The topic of the entire empire's conversations were still centered around the King asking Yan Xun to marry Princess Zhao Chun'er. There were all kinds of speculations going in and out of the imperial city. However, amidst the chaotic situation, no one noticed that Lu Ying's defense soldiers had come out one hour earlier. The West gate also opened early in the morning, about one hour earlier than usual.
At the time of receiving this news, Yan Xun was drinking tea in the flower house. He was wearing a light robe and looked relaxed. The musician on the porch was playing the song 'Xi Chuan Hua Ye', spreading a melodious melody into the surroundings.
Yan Xun let out a faint smile. Ah Jing stood aside and waited quietly for Yan Xun's instructions. But Yan Xun just waved gently and ordered him to leave as he pulled out a music sheet from the music box beside him and threw it at the musician. The music suddenly stopped. He picked up the music sheet and looked at it with a surprised expression. Immediately afterwards, intense sounds of music came from his Guzheng. The rhythm was forceful and strong.
Yan Xuan laughed out loud as he clapped along to the music. He shouted, "Hold a sword while drunk and defeat eight hundred enemies. While radiating the smell of alcohol, use snow to bury the faded flowers."
Chu Qiao stood outside the door as she looked up to see snow flying in the sky. There was also a black goshawk flying above her, and her fingers were freezing cold.
How fast is the turmoil? Like the ground during autumn, after a fire was started, it spread quickly and turned very fierce.
In the afternoon, a snowstorm started despite it being a sunny day. A memorial to the throne from Ministry of Revenue was delivered to the desk of the Presbyterian. The Ministry of Revenue did not have enough money and food rations for the victims of the natural disaster in Zhong Zhou. The victims were very agitated and started stealing from the noblemen, causing many of them to be beaten to death. Someone secretly exchanged grain and rice for rotten rice, which resulted in many people dying due to food poisoning. More than ten thousand were killed. The noblemen were busy filling their own pockets, and the memorial included all the records of the corruption cases.
One stone can create thousands of layers of waves. All the chaos that happened in the capital was caused by this memorial presented to the throne.
What followed was an astonishing thorough investigation. The Presbyterian became chaotic in seconds, as the military also issued official documents. The words were written in blood and tears; every sentence had a huge meaning. This caused the noblemen to be scared. An hour later, an astonishing conclusion was presented to the stage regarding the disaster in Zhong Zhou. Sheng Jin palace was controlled by the governor of the prefecture.
Before Zhao Qi came into the office, it was managed by Muhe Xifeng. The ministry of food was in charge of the food ration for both the ministry of food and military affairs. Besides, everyone knew that Song Duan favoured Muhe's grandson, Muhe Yunting, the most. His status in the Muhe family was comparable to that of the eldest son in the family. The government was in deficit of 800,000 yuan in gold and 20 million in gold for grain.
The Presbyterian was decisive. The Muhe family's Muhe Yunye knelt overnight in front of Sheng Jin palace to request the emperor to be merciful. He complained that it was not done by his family and that it was done by the Wei family. All the lists were fake and were not to be trusted.
Sheng Jin palace unexpectedly closed all the palace doors and refused to see anyone. However, just as Muhe Yunye wanted to stop kneeling, a secret order was sent out of the Zi Jin gate. The Muhe family's corruption was serious. He was ordered to lead 30 thousand horses to check the Muhe office for any crimes. If there was anyone who went against this order, they would be punished!
Just when Zhao Qi was secretly bringing Lu Ying soldiers and horses towards the Muhe family, Shang Sifang sent the royal clothes for Yan Xun's wedding feast. Yan Xun stood in the middle of the hall and respectfully sent off the guards, not forgetting to tip them.
The clothes sent by Shang Sifang were very famous and expensive. There was a dragon sewn onto the cloth which looked very majestic. Chu Qiao squatted down and helped Yan Xun fasten his jeweled belt. The strong styrax scent from the clothes made Chu Qiao held her breath.
The room was very quiet and the people in the room had all left. Chu Qiao's figure appeared weak under the lights. Her neck was pale and her ears were white and cute. Her chest was also slightly bulging. She no longer needed to trick others by pretending to be a man.
Yan Xun gently exhaled and asked, "AhChu, when was your birth time?"
Chu Qiao stood behind him and said while arranging his straps for him, "I do not remember."
Yan Xun was stunned and thought that she did not want to share. He replied, "You are going to be sixteen years old. It's time for you to have the coming of age ceremony."
Chu Qiao shook her head and said, "What would I need that for?"
Yan Xun stopped talking instantly. He opened his mouth to say something but nothing came out.
Chu Qiao went to his opposite side and frowned as she looked at the Qing Hai map. At the corner, there was a thread hanging out of the cloth. She wondered if they did it on purpose or if they were careless. "Take it off, I'll hook it back for you."
Yan Xun was surprised and said, "You know how to do it?"
Chu Qiao raised her eyebrows slightly and looked at him as she replied, "When you were young, who mended your clothes?" She sat under the lamp. Eyebrows looked like two streams of smoke.
Yan Xun's train of thought seemed to be drifting away into something else. How could he forget those cold and snowy nights, where the house was gloomy and Chu Qiao was sitting next to the fireplace with a faint candlelight, trying to embroider the royal ladies' clothes. Because they were too lazy to do it themselves, Chu Qiao had to help them, and she was only provided with very little food and charcoal.
He still remembered her posture. She was bent over and her frame was very small. Sometimes, when she could not keep her eyes open, she would squat and put her head on her knees to take a short nap. She was very calm and never once complained that she was tired.
Over the years, he had tried very hard to refrain from thinking about his past, as he feared that his hatred would blind him and affect his decisions. That's why, he forgot about the girl in front of him, who had helped him survive. She cooked food for him, watched over him, and even gave him medicine when he was sick. She taught him how to shave an empty shelf into a martial arts weapons, and used them to help him learn fighting methods to protect himself. She helped him write out his strategy for war, and stayed with him in this huge prison. Even though she was bullied and beaten by others, she never complained.
This girl, she was so thin and weak. She had no power or authority, yet she had the strongest heart in the world. When his entire world crashed, she used her weak shoulder to support him. She shouldered his burden, and spent all of her energy and strength to exchange that little hope for them to survive.
"Okay." Chu Qiao stood up and went back to his front to say, "Try it on. There is only two more hours until the feast. There cannot be any mistakes."
A low sigh suddenly came out from Yan Xun's mouth. He opened his arms and held her. He rested his chin on her head and said, "AhChu."
Chu Qiao was surprised and her whole body went stiff. She gently pushed Yan Xun's arm and asked, "What happened? Did something happen?"
"Don't move," Yan Xun replied softly, "just let me hug you for a while."
Chu Qiao's body started to relax as she extended her hand to wrap around his waist. She lay her head against his shoulders and remained there in silence.
"AhChu, don't blame me," Yan Xun said softly with a very deep voice. "All these years, I have done a lot of things that you don't approve of. You are very cold on the surface. Whenever you kill someone you are not merciful. But I know that you are a person with good intentions. The tea merchants in Ling Nan, boat owners of Huai Shui, rice merchants of Sheng Jin, and the Yan Bei officials who did not obey my orders…I have a lot of blood on my hands. I just don't want it to be the same as the past, where I just watch the people around me get bullied and killed, unable to do anything. However, now that I'm trying so hard and doing so much more, I still get manipulated by others and fail to do what I want. And most importantly, I cannot protect you."
Chu Qiao's gaze flickered slightly and the corners of her mouth slowly curled upwards. Her heart started to warm as she felt indescribable and unclear emotions. Even though she did not understand what he said, she still shook her head and replied, "I completely understand. You don't have to be worried about me. The Dauntless Cavalry Camp soldiers will not hurt me."