Zhuge Yue's voice was overflowing with murderous intent, and Boss Mu was completely shocked by the coldness of his tone. The man continued, "That person will only have one master in this life, and that master is me. You dared to sell her to other people? Indeed, you deserve to die."
"Yue Qi, I'll leave this issue for you to settle. I do not want to see him blocking my view the next time I come to this city."
Yue Qi stepped up, and acknowledged coldly, "Yes." Ignoring the desperate pleas by Boss Mu, Zhuge Yue rode away on his horse, disappearing into the sea of people.
Along with the galloping of the horses, the bustling street was suddenly pierced by a blood curdling shriek. In this era, civilians' lives were as worthless as the weed found on the roadside, and even more so when it came to people like Boss Mu who had commited all kinds of evil as a slave dealer. No one would give him any sympathy, as the city quickly returned to their daily lives.
"Zhu Cheng, head to Water Transport Yamen, and inform them that we will be going by land instead."
Zhu Cheng was mentally prepared, but still could not help but be surprised. Thus he advised, "Master, the old master told us we should reach the Tang Capital—Tang Jing—as soon as possible. Going by land would waste time, plus most noble families are arriving via waterway. If we choose to stand out by taking the land route, I am afraid there may be rumors."
Zhuge Yue did not reply, and only stared squarely at Zhu Cheng's face coldly. His intention was clear as day.
Zhu Cheng felt chills down his spine. How could he not know Zhuge Yue's intentions? This was an event of celebration for the Tang Empire, and the waterways were sealed with the exceptions of the great noble families who were specially invited. Commoners could only enter Tang Jing via land routes. Considering the fact that the family who bought Chu Qiao had to buy slaves, they must not belong to those great families. Young master insisted on walking by land, therefore his intention could not be any more obvious. But even if he found her, given their current relationship, what meaning was there? At the end of the day, he was no longer the teenager from nine years ago, and she was no longer the lowly slave who had nothing.
Young Master, even if you found her, what could you do? She is a tiger. Even if she is wounded and trapped, she is not someone who can be controlled. Zhu Cheng shook his head, and sighed. Turning around, he headed toward the Water Transport Yamen, leaving Zhuge Yue behind. The afternoon sun shone on Zhuge Yue's deep blue blouse, reflecting an incandescent glow, donning him in an otherworldly aura.
In the distance, a thick and tall elm tree is visible amidst the blooming greenery. A rough estimate places the age of the tree at around 30 to 40 years old, and it was coiled with red clothes and colorful paper cutouts. Those resulted from the superstition of the civilians. They believed that within elm trees lived deities, and the thicker the elm tree, the more powerful the deity. As a result, many people who had encountered difficulties in their lives would start coming to the tree to pray for peace and prosperity.
The wind started blowing again, and Zhuge Yue's clothing ruffled in the breeze. Reaching out for his jade accessory, he threw it at the tree. With a crisp sound of impact, the invaluable accessory was hung atop the tree branches. Shaking from the impact, the jade gave off a iridescent glow as sunlight shone through its body.
"Giddyup!" Zhuge Yue turned around, and with a whip of his horse, he stormed away with the rest of his subordinates. The cicadas screamed in the sweltering summer heat, as the warm blasts of air from the wind continued to shake the branches of the tree holding that jade piece. From a distance, it was like a star twinkling. Who knew what wish that jade carried?
Waking up, it was already dusk. The river surface was dotted with golden reflections of the setting sun. Liang Shaoqing grinned from ear to ear as he saw that Chu Qiao had finally awoken. Quickly picking up the medicine from the side, he carefully fed her. The medicine was extremely bitter, and it was essentially a torture in disguise to be fed so slowly, spoon by spoon. Chu Qiao frowned, and snatched the bowl before gulping it down. Following that, she quickly swallowed a mouthful of concentrated tea to suppress the bitterness in her mouth.
Having changed into clean clothes and her old wound dressings changed out, her sickness was almost cured. Chu Qiao sat up and observed her surroundings, and inquired, "Where is this? Where are we going?"
"We have been bought by someone." Liang Shaoqing pretended to be mysterious, but he continued to restate what Chu Qiao already knew. "We are on board a ship." Looking at him, Chu Qiao felt an urge to punch him. But being well mannered, Chu Qiao suppressed her urge to beat him up. Calmly, she asked, "Nerd, can you tell me something that I don't already know?"
"Oh, alright." Liang Shaoqing begin iterating his pathetic amount of information. Their new master was the Zhan Family from Shui Xiu province, located along the XiTang borders. They were heading toward Tang Jing. The master was merely 27, and was the man they saw at the slave market. His name was Zhan Ziyu. In addition, this family had five young ladies who were all Zhan Ziyu's sisters. Among which, the three eldest sisters were already married, and their husbands were onboard as well. There were a total of three big ships, and there were hundreds of servants. That Uncle Qing from before could be considered as the head of those servants.
They brought so many people on a simple trip. From that fact alone, it seemed like they were a big family. But no matter how Chu Qiao cycled her memories, she could not recall which big family in the Xia Empire had the surname of Zhan.
Since this group was headed to Tang Jing, the urgency for her to escape actually vanished. With this, she could recuperate from her injuries, and hide from the search that the Xia Empire had initiated. This essentially killed two birds with one stone.
She lifted her head and asked, "You said they were heading to Tang Jing, but do you know what they are heading there for?"
"The Tang Prince is getting married. The entire Tang Empire, Xia Empire, and the Song Empire will be sending people to the Tang Capital to take part in his wedding ceremony."
"Wedding?" Chu Qiao was taken aback. Loudly she asked, "Who would marry him?"
Liang Shaoqing was just about to answer, but the large boat suddenly shuddered, and the sounds of helmsman shouting echoed in the air. Gradually, the large boat finally started to move.
"We are finally moving. Apparently a Xia noble refused to board for all this time, and Mister Zhan was unwilling to move first, and waited the whole day. Seems like that person still has unfinished business here, and our ship left without him," Liang Shaoqing replied.
"You said the Tang Prince is marrying. Who is he marrying? A Xia princess?"
"Yes, the Ninth Princess."
Chu Qiao lowered her head, and remained quiet for a very long time. Liang Shaoqing was alarmed, and called out, "Xiaoqiao? Xiaoqiao? What happened? Are you still feeling unwell?"
"It is nothing," Chu Qiao replied, while slowly lying down on the bed. "I am tired. I want to rest for a while."
"Alright, then you rest, while I head out to take a look." The door to the cabin was opened, as Liang Shaoqing stepped out.
Lying against the bed, Chu Qiao frowned, and mumbled to herself, "Ultimately, the Xia Empire still chose to forge an alliance by marriage the Tang Empire. Yan Xun, what should we do?"
The sky was a crystal clear deep blue. Standing aboard the ship's deck, Liang Shaoqing noted that the ship was humongous, with a width of over ten meters and four masts. There were four layers—two above the deck, and two below the deck. By right, given their slave status, Chu Qiao and Liang Shaoqing should have been living right at the lowest deck. But as Uncle Qing saw that Chu Qiao was deeply wounded, he actually left a room on the highest floor for them to rest in.
At this moment, from the bow of the ship, a loud and clear horn sound resounded, followed by loud shouts from the shipmen. Smoothly, they opened up the sails. As the sails caught wind, the giant ship swiftly started to accelerate. Watching the sceneries from the two side of the ship pass by, with birds flying circles around the dock, Liang Shaoqing heaved a sigh of relief as he smiled, as though all the stress from before had been taken off him. Finally, he was heading to Tang Jing!
Meanwhile, at the dock, a group of people quietly watched the disappearing ships. Zhu Cheng stepped forward, and reported, "Master, everything is in order. The ships that the Tang Empire sent have left, and we have completed the procedures for land crossings. We can enter the Tang Empire from the Bai Zhi Pass."
"Okay." Zhuge Yue nodded while his gaze was still fixed on the river surface. Unhurriedly, he replied, "There is no rush, we will wait here at this Xian Yang City for a few more days."
Zhu Cheng heaved a soundless sigh. The master was worried it had been a local who bought that girl. Zhu Cheng nodded, and replied, "Will do."
The river breeze was comfortable and cooling, and blended well with the greenery that donned the two riverbanks. Zhuge Yue stood along the riverbank, and watched the ships fade into the distance, before turning around and riding back in the direction of Xian Yang City.
Destiny had really arranged many coincidences along the way. Zhuge Yue had not known that the person he had been so desperately trying to find was on the very ship that was prepared for him originally. Just as he had logically predicted, to have enough influence to be invited to the wedding of Tang Prince Li Ce, those families should not have been impoverished to the point that they needed to purchase slaves. Yet, that was what happened. Such was the tyranny of destiny and fate. Just as he left on his horse, the young woman lifted up the window of her cabin, only to notice the trail of dust along the docks.
That was the ninth of June. News of the Tang Prince Li Ce's wedding had already spread across the entire West Meng continent in the past seven days. Every faction was quietly contemplating what kind of pros and cons would result from this alliance of marriage.
Apart from Yan Bei which had completely broken all ties with the Xia Empire, every power in the whole continent was rushing toward Tang Jing. Every big noble family, aristocrat, and tribe all sent out people of great influence. This not only represented their intentions to improve their relationship with the Tang Empire, but it was also an opportunity to find out what attitude this powerful Tang Empire had towards the currently devastated Xia Empire. As a result, the banquet that had been unhappily dismissed in Zhen Huang was once again staged in the Tang Capital. Within this ancient and mysterious Tang Empire, people crowded around, and the city was bustling with activity.
Incidentally, on the same day, Yan Bei finally received the news of how many factions within Xia Empire had been trying to capture Chu Qiao. The new rule, Prince Yan Xun was enraged, and ordered an invasion of the Xia Empire. With his capable subordinates Wei Jing, Xirui, Biancang, Lü Fang, Du Ci, and others, along with the leadership of adviser Wu Daoya, they staged an invasion of the northwestern Batuha tribe. The Old Batu was completely unable to hold back the invasion, as he had lost a third of his territory within three days. Even then, the remaining two thirds of his territory was hanging by a thread amidst civil unrest and riots. Numerous requests for reinforcement, tainted with blood of the Bahatu soldiers, were sent towards Zhen Huang City and Yun City.
At that moment, the entire Xia Empire was filled with fear and restlessness. Every faction feared that they would become the first sacrifice to the enraged Yan Bei army. The Lion of Yan Bei—Yan Xun—then spread a message, saying that whoever's territory on which Chu Qiao was hurt, he would have their entire family sent to hell. These factions prayed that Chu Qiao would not be hurt even the slightest, or else. If the news of her getting hurt spread to Yan Xun's ears, they would face the entire merciless Yan Bei Army!