"Can I call you Qiaoqiao instead? It sounds relatively cordial."
Chu Qiao's expression turned cold, her patience started to run out as the time ticked by. She frowned and said, "If this is due to the fact that I offended Your Highness the other day, I would rather be punished. Please report this to His Majesty."
Li Ce turned a deaf ear to what she said and continued gleefully, "Do you have any family members? Are your parents still around?"
"Your Highness, can you please tell me your true intentions. Chu Qiao is a mere commoner, I do not deserve such care and concern from Your Highness."
"When is your birthday? How old are you? My birthday is in July and I'm 21 this year."
"Your Highness, what do you want? Can we talk normally?"
"Where did you come from? You are small and talented, and you don't look like you're from the north. In fact, you look like you come from the south. Did your father tell you that?"
"Your Royal Highness!"
"You look pretty even when you're mad, I have such great taste!"
After half an hour, Chu Qiao tried to communicate with Li Ce. She composed herself and said sincerely, "Your Highness, what do you see in me?"
Li Ce smiled gently. "I like everything about you."
Chu Qiao was speechless and she shook her head. "In other words, what do you want from me? There are many ways to get away from marrying a Princess of the Xia Empire if you are not willing to. You do not have to use me as a shield. I am just a mere commoner without much use."
"Qiaoqiao," Li Ce frowned and said with a puzzled expression, "I fell in love with you at first sight. Please do not misunderstand my intentions. It will make me very sad."
It would be a joke if you would be sad about it! Chu Qiao thought. She had suddenly realized it was a joy to converse with a normal person. Even if it were with her enemy, it would not be as confusing as this. She was clueless about his intentions. She exhaled slowly and gave up on trying to gather more information from Li Ce. She sat quietly in the corner of the carriage and closed her eyes, not even bothering to open them.
"Qiaoqiao." Li Ce grinned as he inched towards her, his hoarse and frivolous tone had a tinge of charm in it. He continued, "My hands are cold."
After a moment of silence, there was a huge bang. Prince Li Ce was tossed out of the carriage like a ball. He flew over the heads of the envoys and guards, crashing head first onto the ground.
"Ah! Your Highness!"
"There are assassins! Protect the Prince!"
Chaotic screams filled the air as Zhao Qi raised his brows and unsheathed his sword from his waist. Due to Wei Jing's disappearance, his nerves were incredibly tense. Now, he had become even more tense. He ordered his guards to surround the carriage that was ridiculously huge.
"It was a misunderstanding, a misunderstanding!" Li Ce moaned as he staggered onto his feet, limping as he ran towards the carriage. He stopped in front of the carriage and said in a flustered tone, "It was me. I wasn't careful and did not sit properly. It's all good."
Everyone frowned and was at a loss for words. Looking at the motionless carriage, they did not know what to say. He hadn't sat tight? The carriage was moving so slowly, how could one fly out from it?
"It's okay. Everyone, don't be nervous." Li Ce dusted himself off and climbed into the carriage. He smiled and waved them away.
Zhao Qi was on the verge of a breakdown. He was incredibly exhausted from taking care of this unpredictable prince. He still hadn't gotten a reply from the messenger that he sent. They were about to reach the city gates; did it mean that the next Tang Emperor would marry a lowly Yan Bei slave?
As soon as the curtains were closed, Li Ce gritted his teeth as he rubbed his elbows. He groaned as he looked at Chu Qiao, who sat motionlessly in one corner. He said, "Qiaoqiao, you are too ruthless. How can you treat your future husband like this? There will be retributions."
Chu Qiao squinted and looked at him coldly. "There are differences between men and women. Your Highness, please have some self respect."
"Qiaoqiao, help me rub some medicine on my wounds." Li Ce held a white porcelain case as he spoke pitifully, revealing his hand which was oozing with blood.
Chu Qiao scratched her brow and stayed where she was.
"I'm doing this for your own good." Li Ce said, "If anyone sees these injuries, you will be in trouble again."
Chu Qiao sighed and took the vase. She pulled his arm over roughly and started to cover it with medicine.
Li Ce suddenly started to scream in pain. When Zhao Qi and the rest heard his cries of pain, their brows furrowed with a steeled expression.
The sky was clear blue with white clouds peppered all over. The air was fresh and the afternoon sun was warm and cozy. Birds soared gracefully through the sky. On either side of the road, commoners that were unable to hide in time got on their knees, bowing as the entourage passed by. However, as they heard the moans from in the carriage, they could not help but take a peek.
The vast grasslands were incredibly green; it was incredibly stunning. Li Ce had changed into his bright red robes that were embroidered with large peonies. Although it looked crude, on him, it exuded a peculiar elegance. He rode on a handsome white horse with a purple rose tied to its neck, looking as if he was a newlywed groom. With the reins in one hand and his sword in another, he looked at Zhao Qi, who looked as if he was close to tears, and said, "You can go back. Please thank the Xia Emperor on my behalf for his hospitality. I'll take my leave. We'll see each other again if fate permits."
Zhao Qi was speechless as he choked. He did not dare move an inch. This mad prince had tried to chop his head off on one of the nights. If it wasn't for the quick reaction and alertness of the guards, deflecting his sword at the last minute, Li Ce's head wouldn't be attached to his body. No words could describe the anguish that Zhao Qi was experiencing. He watched with sorrow as Li Ce's figure started to inch further away from him. He felt that the heavens were too unjust.
Chu Qiao felt the same way as Zhao Qi—incredibly unjust. Towards this unpredictable and unreasonable prince, she felt that the only appropriate way to deal with him was to snap his neck, so that he would shut his chatty mouth.
"Qiaoqiao, are you happy? We are out of the city." Li Ce smiled at her, his gaze had a slight charm. "Let's go. In the future, you will be able to enjoy boundless riches, and wear all the Ling Luo silk that you please. Anything that Yan Xun can provide, I will be able to do the same. Things that he cannot provide, I will be able to provide. You will no longer need to bow down to anyone, isn't that good?"
"You should know that you can never escape."
Li Ce smiled and said, "How do you know that I cannot escape?"
Chu Qiao did not wish to comment. She merely laughed coldly and said, "If you had left just like that, you would not have to make this trip." Her gaze suddenly turned sharp as she glared coldly at Li Ce's handsome face. "What is your plan?"
Li Ce shifted closer to her, his nose almost touching her face. "My plan is to bring you back, incurring the wrath of the Seventh and Thirteenth Zhao Prince, as well as Yan Xun."
All of a sudden, Chu Qiao felt all her energy drain from her. As she looked at Li Ce. She felt that it was a waste of energy to speak to him. She shook her head and said, "Li Ce, if all of this was a lie and you have other plans, you are really terrible."
Li Ce smiled gleefully as he said, "It is indeed my ulterior motive to cause trouble within Zhen Huang. But my initial motive is true. In any case, I will be unruly and unconventional wherever I go."
Chu Qiao let out a helpless sigh. At this moment, her heart filled with uneasiness. In a blink of an eye, the girl leapt within the carriage, throwing herself onto Li Ce, knocking him over!
"Qiaoqiao! Why are you so rough with your embrace? You…"
"Shut up! Untie my rope!"
"Nope, you'll run away."
The woman roared. At this moment, a dense shower of arrows rained down on them. In a distant, there were countless enemies with their bows at the ready at the bottom of the slope. The sounds of shooting arrows filled the sky. More than ten guards fell of their steeds; the horses neighed in pain. Chu Qiao pulled Li Ce to one side, narrowly dodging the massive body of the white steed. Countless arrows shot into the horse's corpse. The arrowheads glinted with a blue shimmer; they were all dipped in poison.
"Are you playing tricks?" Chu Qiao snapped at Li Ce, who was still puzzled about what was happening.
"Why would I get my men to ambush myself?" he asked.
At the same time, cries of war erupted from all sides! On the high grasslands, countless enemies sprang into action. All of them had sabers in their hands and were dressed in civilian clothes. They roared as they charged into battle.
"Protect the Prince!" the commander of Li Ce's guards ordered as he rushed forward with a few of his men. Chu Qiao nimbly twisted free from the ropes, wielding a sword to deflect a few arrows. Li Ce was hiding behind her with a helpless look. She roared in rage, "You don't know martial arts?"
Li Ce nodded furiously and whimpered, "Qiaoqiao, you must protect me."
"Idiot!" The girl was enraged as she kicked Li Ce's knee. He groaned as he fell to the ground, coincidentally dodging an arrow.
"Don't panic! Those at the front, engage the enemy! Those in the middle, cover them by shooting arrows! Those in the back, round up the horses, break away from the siege once there is an opportunity!" Chu Qiao grabbed a bow as she ran, shooting arrows at the enemy. The arrows she shot seemed to know where they were going, hitting every single target.
There were cries of war everywhere with the sky filled with arrows. Deafening wails shattered the sky. The enemy charged at them relentlessly, as if there was a never-ending flow. There were more than thousands of them. As for Li Ce's guards, there were no more than 100 men left, all of them wounded and unfit for battle. Chu Qiao pulled Li Ce as they staggered along. When she saw a dense forest in the distance, she smiled in relief as she shouted, "Retreat to the woods!"
A sharp blade flew towards them. Li Ce screamed in panic. Chu Qiao rushed to his aid and kicked the enemy forcefully. A scream was heard instantly. Before he could scream further, Chu Qiao wielded her sword and chopped his head off! Blood splattered onto Li Ce in an instant. He was shocked. Pulling out his handkerchief, he started to wipe his clothes vigorously.
"Idiot! What are you doing?" Chu Qiao pulled Li Ce by his hand as they dashed into the woods, the dense vegetation shielding them from the barrage of arrows. Those that managed to penetrate through the forest were much slower than before.