"Instructor Chu!" From afar, a warhorse galloped hurriedly towards her and the young soldier on it was dressed in khaki colored armor. While panting, he said, "Someone is here for you."
"For me?" Chu Qiao was stunned as she put down her bow and leapt off the shooting platform. She asked, "Who?"
"Instructor Chu!" A burly man with a hearty smile shouted while waving his bow, "Do you still want to compete?"
"You have already lost your robes to me, yet you do not know when to stop. Sooner or later, you'll have no clothes to wear!" the girl turned and shouted in a crisp tone. The other troops around him roared in laughter as they mocked that man who wanted to compete with her.
The messenger laughed with the crowd, showing his white teeth as he smiled. He said, "I'm not sure. It seems to be from the ceremonial department. There are a lot of people."
Chu Qiao frowned. Who would come looking for her? Didn't Yan Xun inform her that the issue of her beating up the Tang Prince had already been settled? Why would there be so many people looking for a mere archery instructor like her?
"Let's go and take a look." Chu Qiao leapt onto another horse and followed behind the messenger, galloping in the direction of the camp's main tent.
Looking from afar, the cavalry camp seemed extraordinarily busy today, with golden dragon flags fluttering in the wind, ceremonial officers walking around, gorgeous women carrying enormous golden platters in their arms. The supervisors of the ceremonial departments were dressed in their best attire, following respectfully behind the entourage. Rows of glittering boxes were placed in front of the tent; no one knew what treasures were inside.
Zhao Qi furrowed his brow and frowned as he muttered to Vice-General Cheng, "Where is the Seventh Royal Highness? Why is here not here yet?"
Vice-General Cheng was drenched in sweat as he was also unsure about what was happening. In a low voice, he answered, "He's going to be here, I have already sent a messenger to him."
"Well, it all looks okay. It seems that there are lots of things to see within these barracks." A lazy voice rang from the side.
As soon as Zhao Qi heard it, his head started to ache as he turned and said, "My Prince, may I ask why you wanted to come all they way to my Seventh brother's camp?"
"You will know soon enough." Li Ce was dressed in a bright red robe with phoenixes and dragons embroidered at the bottom of the robe. It was glittering and was incredibly fragrant. A fur coat made from a red fox was draped over him, his eyes glinting flirtingly. It was a cold day, but he insisted that someone must fan him. Everyone looked at him with gritted teeth.
Zhao Qi swore that he could not take it any longer. For two whole days, he had followed this man everywhere he went. First, he complained that it was too stuffy to sleep within Sheng Jin Palace. After a busy night, the palace was finally ventilated. But then, he complained that it was too cold. First thing in the morning, he complained that the palace maids were too ugly and was unwilling to have breakfast. After finding a beauty to serve him his breakfast, he complained once again that she did not know how to recite poetry. Every time he had a meal, he would be extremely picky, complaining that the tea leaves were not freshly plucked, and that the troops' boots were not cushioned, waking him from his sleep when they were walking around in the city. In short, he was able to come up with all sorts of variety of things to complaining about, the list seemed endless.
He was torturing Zhao Qi. Zhao Qi felt that the squabbles between the brothers seemed to be easier to cope with as compared to the Tang Prince. He was still clueless as to why the Prince had brought them all the way to this camp. Before this, he had even suspected that the Prince was a scheming and sly person just pretend to be dumb. But now, he was a hundred percent sure that he was merely perverted and unreasonable.
"Aiya! They are here!" Li Ce's eyes brightened. Before Zhao Qi could even look clearly, Li Ce pulled him aside as he nervously asked, "How do I look today? How do I smell? Do I look crude? Look at my boots, they were given to me by King Mo Han from the Northwest. Are they good enough?"
Zhao Qi sighed helplessly as he nodded. "Yes, they are great."
Once she stepped into the tent, Chu Qiao saw the troops from Zhao Qi's Green Army. She furrowed her brow as she made a mental note to remain cautious. What had happened? Why did Zhao Qi have to find her himself? Did Yan Xun reveal something?
At the moment, she was closing in on the crowd, looking on as the officials from the ceremonial department frowned at her; they seemed confused about what was happening as well. Her heart had become relieved. If Yan Xun's plan had failed, Zhao Qi would have just brought his Green Army along. Why would he bring the ceremonial department? Things were not as severe as she thought.
"General Chu Qiao greets your Third…"
"Haha! Let's see where can you run off this time!" A bright red figure jumped towards her from behind, pulling her tightly into his arms. Everyone was shocked at what they saw. Before they could react, the young girl reacted as if a predator was attacking her. She leapt into the air at lightning speed, breaking free from his grip with a sweeping movie. A crisp crack was heard as she twisted his arm into a lock, pinning the attacker to the ground within seconds!
"Who is this?" Chu Qiao said in a chilly tone.
The beloved son of the Tang Emperor struggled as he raised his head, still smiling with a lustful gaze. He said happily, "How rough. It's me, don't you remember?"
The officials of the Xia Empire were stunned as they looked at the Tang Prince being pinned to the floor. They then turned to look at Zhao Qi, the third Prince. After which, they turned their gaze towards the confused lassie, Chu Qiao. Everyone was dumbstruck; no one knew what to say. The envoy of ambassadors from the Tang Empire had pained expressions, as though they had predicted that this would happen.
Zhao Qi was first to calm his nerves as he took a step forward, snapping at Chu Qiao, "How dare you! How can you be this rude to the Prince of Tang! This is a crime!"
Chu Qiao was stunned and let go at once. As she wanted to beg for forgiveness, Li Ce suddenly crawled up as he shouted sternly at Zhao Qi, "You are the outrageous one! I would like to marry her. I even brought a the dowry for the wedding. Come, bring them up!" Hundreds of giant boxes were brought over. Upon reveal, they were filled with gold and silver treasures, shining and glittering within the boxes. Everyone exclaimed in shock.
Chu Qiao stood frozen in her spot as she looked at everything in shock. She frowned as she was at a loss for emotion. Who could tell her what was actually going on?
The cold winter had passed. Spring had returned. When the windows were opened, it was clear that the snow had mostly melted and the ice was gone, the lake was finally open. The southern sparrows had returned to the north, chirping with delight. It was music to the ears.
Yan Xun was particularly happy today. He had just eliminated one of his enemies; a huge burden was lifted from his chest. He was dressed in lake green robes with a belt of the same color. His complexion was fair and his gaze was icy and respectable, exuding an aura of a gentleman. At this moment, he was sitting in a pavilion within the lake, sipping on a cup of tea as incense was burned, its fragrance filling the air. The smoke rose into the sky, as the air was still and windless. Faint plucking of a zither could be heard from the distant Dong Hua Garden. As one looked across the lake with the mountains in the background, it all seemed like a part of a picture, without a trace or sign that this was actually Earth.
It was long since he could properly relax.
It was noon. A horse galloped into Sheng Jin palace, disrupting the rare peace and tranquility. "My Prince," AhJing brought a few burly servants from Ying Ge court as they ran to the pavilion. He shouted as Yan Xun went to leave the pavilion, "Something bad had happened."
A breeze blew past as Yan Xun's robes fluttered in the wind. He turned and glanced at AhJing. It seemed like he was unhappy with AhJing barging in recklessly. "What made you so panicky?" Yan Xun's tone remained calm and unchanged, his expression neutral. AhJing could never understand his temperament. He panted and said, "The Prince of Tang went to the Cavalry Camp and said that he was going to marry the archery instructor!"
"How does the Tang Prince's marriage affect me?" Yan Xun raised his eyebrows as he said in a leisurely tone. After which, he turned and continued walking.
AhJing was stunned as he glanced at his companions, his heart filled with glee and utmost respect. Did the Prince finally learn to look at the big picture, to distance him from his personal romantic feelings? Miss Chu and the Prince had grown up together, and their relationship was unique. Did the Prince possess extreme discipline and self control to allow him to be so calm and composed even when hearing such news? Did he unknowingly give up certain things in pursuit of the ideals of the Tong Empire?
However, before he could grin, he was hit by a sudden realization. The man who was initially calm and composed suddenly tightened his muscles and grabbed AhJing by the shoulders. He said sternly, "What did you say? Which archery instructor? Who did he want to marry?"
With a pained expression, AhJing grieved. "There is only one female archery instructor in the cavalry camp."
"Damn it!" A long gust of wind blew past Zhen Huang city. At this moment, an enraged voice rang through the air. Zhao Song rushed out of his house and leaped onto his house, rushing towards the cavalry camp on the eastern side of the city.
"Li Ce, the Prince of Tang?" Within the plum garden of the Zhuge Household, a man dressed in purple robes scrunched his brows as he said in a deep tone, "Is he stirring the pot again?"
Zhu Cheng smiled as he bowed and said, "Young master, I don't think he is stirring anything. The Prince of Tang had already brought Xing'er out of the City. He was afraid that the Xia Emperor would not agree to their marriage, hence they rushed back to the Tang Empire. The third royal prince could not dissuade nor prevent this from happening. He had already sent his men to report back to the palace."
Zhuge Yue knitted his eyebrows and stood up suddenly. He draped a coat over his shoulders as he walked out.
"Master, where are you going?"
"Going to take a look."
From afar, a faint sound could be heard. He walked out before Zhu Cheng could complete his sentence. Within the blink of an eye, the clacking of hooves disrupted the peace and serenity of the plum garden.
When Yan Xun and his men rushed towards the cavalry camp, the Prince of Tang and his entourage had already left the camp, heading straight for the city gates.
Li Ce's gaze was as sly as a fox. He had been beaten up not long ago and the corners of his eyes were still bruised, causing him to lose much of his good looks. Chu Qiao was tied up in the corner of his carriage and the Prince was creepily staring at her. Her expression darkened. Despite the hatred she had for him, she couldn't help but say, "My royal Prince, Chu Qiao did not know the true identity of Your Highness. If I offended you in any way, I am begging for your forgiveness."
Li Ce raised his brows and smiled lazily. He said, "Your name is Chu Qiao? Can I call you Xiaoqiao? How about Qiao'er?"
Chu Qiao froze as she felt goosebumps appear on her skin. She said, "Chu Qiao is just a lowly servant. Her name should not be remembered by your royal highness."