Xia Xun was stunned: “What?”
They set off in the afternoon and it had only been an hour since they left Qi Mansion.
The sky that was originally clear got covered by dark clouds at some point.
Xia Xun looked up and couldn’t even find where the sun was.
Qi Yan did not seem to worry and continued to walk deeper through the lush towering trees.
Xia Xun stopped:
“Since you can’t find the direction, how can we go back? You insist on going forward, where are you going?”
Qi Yan’s tone was steady and calm:
“Don’t worry, when Qi Hui sees we haven’t come to Wuyuan, he will naturally look for us.”
He looked back at Xia Xun and smiled:
“Why are you so anxious? Today is a rare free day. Wouldn’t it be more interesting to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the mountains and fields than to see Wuyuan that had been burned by fire?”
With his smug expression, Xia Xun couldn’t help suspecting that he had deliberately led him off the road.
Qi Yan continued:
“I vaguely remember that there is a stream ahead flowing from Wuyuan. If we get to the water and follow it upstream, we should be able to find the way.”
With him saying that, Xia Xun followed him.
Along the way, neither of them talked.
Xia Xun was not in the mood to appreciate the mountain flowers and plants. Qi Yan, who proposed to see the flowers, just walked intently, without any sign of admiring the vegetation.
They just walked like this until the dim sky surrounded them from all sides.
The stream that Qi Yan mentioned finally appeared in front of them.
Xia Xun couldn’t walk anymore, so he sat down on the big rock by the stream, leaning against a tree trunk.
Qi Yan took out a fire flint from his sleeve:
“Qi Hui must already know that we are lost. He should have sent someone to find us. We’ll make a fire. With the light of the fire, it will be easier for them to find us.”
He flicked lightly, and the fire flint sent some sparks.
He found a few branches at random and threw them together to burn.
After smoldering for a long time, the branches did not catch fire.
Xia Xun had planned to watch from the sidelines, but in the late summer wind his body quickly became cold and he urgently felt the need to warm up.
He stood up, looked around in the dim light, found a few branches on the trees far from the ground, broke them off and tossed them to Qi Yan.
Qi Yan took them and asked:
“What is the difference between these and those I used?”
While he said that, a few sparks from the fire flint caught Xia Xun’s newly found branches and they instantly ignited.
Qi Yan looked at Xia Xun in surprise.
Xia Xun took the burning branches from his hands, put them on the ground and pulled out a few clumps of dry moss from the surface of the stone.
There had been no rain for several days and the moss was perfectly dry.
He scattered the moss on the fire, and the flames rose up, burning more and more vigorously.
He then put the branches that Qi Yan had found on top of the flames, forming something similar to a tower.
The flame licked the branches, gradually turning into a large fire.
Qi Yan became more and more surprised: “You——”
Xia Xun said coldly:
“The wood you found is too wet, making it difficult to start a fire. Wait for the fire to burn before adding it, otherwise there will be some black smoke and nothing else.”
Qi Yan was sitting by the fire, the shadow cast by the flame rippling on his face.
After pondering for a moment, he asked, “…how do you know this?”
Xia Xun did not answer and stepped aside.
In the remaining light he caught a glimpse; there seemed to be something there.
He kicked away a piece of wood, and sure enough, saw an unexpected scene.
——A rabbit lay motionless on the ground, with a large area of blood on its neck.
Its blood attracted blood-sucking insects and black bugs crawled in its brown fur.
Qi Yan walked up to him, looked down and frowned suddenly:
“Filth! Don’t look!”
He wanted to pull Xia Xun away, but Xia Xun shook off his hand, bent over, grabbed the rabbit’s ears and lifted the corpse.
“Xia Xun!” Qi Yan raised his voice: “Drop it quickly, don’t touch it! Be careful——!”
The bugs rushed over the corpses in alarm. Xia Xun calmly patted them off, let them fall at his feet and flee in a hurry.
Qi Yan grabbed his hand:
“What are you going to do?! Are you not afraid of being bitten??”
Xia Xun asked rhetorically: “What else can I do? Take it home to enjoy? Of course I’m going to eat it.”
Qi Yan’s eyes widened:
“How can you eat this?!”
Xia Xun lifted the rabbit up and pressed its abdomen.
“How can I not eat it? The rabbit was killed by a weasel and the corpse is still warm, it hasn’t been dead for more than half an hour. Those insects just crawled on it and I shook them off before they could suck its blood. Its meat is very clean and can be eaten when cooked.”
Qi Yan scolded:
“Ridiculous! You and I are not beasts in the mountains, how can we eat such filth? If you are really hungry, it won’t take long for Qi Hui to find us, and then ——”
Xia Xun’s gaze met his:
“If Lord Zhongshu dislikes it, just watch me eat.”
He threw off Qi Yan’s hand, carried the rabbit to the stream and carefully cleaned its fur, washing off both blood and dirt.
He didn’t know when Qi Yan came behind him:
“…When you were in Lingnan, did you often… eat this kind of thing?”
Douzhou, a place of exile, was full of poisonous miasma and infested with insects and snakes.
Only in the vicinity of the county town, due to the large number of trees cut down, the poison of the miasma swamp was much reduced, making the place suitable for survival.
When Xia Xun and his eldest brother had just escaped, they were afraid of being recognized and did not dare to approach crowded places, so they could only hide in the woods.
The local hunter took them in, let them live in his woodshed and taught them how to hunt.
Xia Xun learned his survival skills at that time.
Facing Qi Yan’s question, Xia Xun confirmed by not speaking.
He groped on the shore and found a stone with sharp edges.
There was a wound on the rabbit’s body. If you started from there using a stone, you could peel off its skin.
The corpse hadn’t completely cooled down and Xia Xun pulled the skin from the wound.
The undrained blood continued to flow down his hands.
Qi Yan seemed to be shocked, snatched the rabbit suddenly, threw it aside and pushed Xia Xun’s hands into the stream water.
He rubbed Xia Xun’s hands vigorously to wash blood from his skin.
His touches were so violent that the skin on the backs of Xia Xun’s hands was quickly rubbed red by him.
Xia Xun pushed him away fiercely. Qi Yan fell to the ground awkwardly, the hem of his clothes sliding into the stream and quickly soaked in the water.
Xia Xun asked angrily: “What are you doing??”
Qi Yan sat on the ground in a daze for a long time before getting up to his feet, staggering.
Xia Xun ignored him, picked up the rabbit, put it in the stream and washed it again.
Qi Yan slowly crouched beside him, and once again, took the rabbit from his hands.
Along with it, he also took away the stone.
He whispered: “…I’ll do it.”
His voice was very hoarse.
Xia Xun really couldn’t understand what he was going to do.
“You do it? Let’s not talk about skinning, have you ever been in a kitchen in your life?”
Qi Yan insisted.
“Let me do it, I don’t want to see you stained with blood, even if it’s not your own blood, I don’t want to…”
After a pause, he muttered to himself:
“…One night I dreamed of you, that was the only time, you stood in front of me, covered in blood…”
He couldn’t talk anymore, stopped to take a breath, and then continued:
“I can’t see that scene again, not once… not once.”
He picked up the stone and cut the rabbit’s fur awkwardly.
Qi Yan had never done any kind of work.
Even when Xia Xun met him, at his lowest point, there was Qi Hui by his side, serving him.
After the Xia family’s incident, Xia Xun deceived himself, trying to avoid reality, unwilling to understand the grievances between Qi Yan and his father.
He had only heard some bits and pieces from his eldest brother.
Qi Yan’s parents were noble, far from comparable to the Xia family.
Their deaths were indeed caused by Xia Hongxi.
Now that Qi Yan was appointed Zhongshu Shilang, he wanted to skin a rabbit for the son of his enemy in the wilderness.
No matter how Xia Xun looked at it, he felt that the picture in front of him was very funny.
He stood with his arms crossed, watching coldly, without saying a word.
In the near darkness, Qi Yan endured the smell of blood and cut off the rabbit meat little by little.
His movements were quite jerky, and there was still a lot of meat attached to the fur that was not cut off by him and just discarded.
Blood flowed all over his hands; he didn’t have time to wash it off and his sleeves gradually turned dark red.
He handed the washed rabbit meat to Xia Xun, who inserted it on several branches and put it on the fire to roast.
Not long after, there was a smell of roasted meat and the rabbit was cooked.
Xia Xun picked it up, blew on it and was about to bite.
Qi Yan stopped his hand:
“I’ll try it first, if it’s okay after I eat it, then you can eat it too.”
Xia Xun was extremely annoyed:
“I have eaten a lot of meat that is worse than this, and there are many kinds you haven’t seen before, much more disgusting. But aren’t I still alive?”
He avoided Qi Yan’s touch:
“This smell will soon attract other animals, so if you want to eat it, eat it quickly!”
Qi Yan withdrew his hand and picked up a skewer with a complicated expression.
They had no spices and the roasted meat was bland and tasteless, definitely not delicious.
Qi Yan put the meat under his nose and smelled it, then reluctantly sent it into the mouth. He chewed it for a long time before swallowing it with difficulty.
After eating a few pieces of rabbit meat, Xia Xun finally didn’t feel so cold. He held his hands over the fire, warming up
Qi Yan looked at the fire, thinking about something unknown.
After a while, he suddenly said:
“The first time I saw you, you were hiding in the weeds with Yuzhu in your arms. I watched the grass sway and thought it was a rabbit coming from somewhere.”
Xia Xun waved his hand: “Don’t mention the past anymore!”
Qi Yan didn’t seem to hear him, shook his head and said with a sigh:
“The Xia family didn’t treat you well, especially your second brother Xia Xing, he always bullied you. I felt very distressed and couldn’t help.”
He was submerged in memories, his thoughts chaotic:
“…At that time, I said to myself, I will compensate you for everything you didn’t get in the Xia house and I will make Xia Xing taste all the things he has done to you.”
When it came to Xia Xing, Qi Yan’s eyes showed a trace of fierceness.
Xia Xun noticed it:
“Don’t say anything unnecessary, Xia Xing is dead.”
After a pause, he asked Qi Yan softly:
“…Did you kill him?”
His words interrupted Qi Yan’s memories, and his original dazed expression gradually became sober.
Qi Yan didn’t answer for a long time, until a drizzle started falling from the sky.
He stood up and picked up the thickest piece of wood in the fire as a torch.
“I just looked around. There is a cave not far ahead. It’s raining, let’s go to the cave and hide.”
Qi Yan was avoiding his question.
Xia Xun did not ask again.
The answer was already clear; even if Qi Yan didn’t say it, didn’t he know?
Insisting on asking was simply looking for trouble.
He wiped the rain from his eyelashes and walked into the cave after Qi Yan.