At first, Qi Yan did not have the strength to speak. When Qi Hui fed him medicine, he dipped his finger in the and in the palm of his hand wrote a crooked “Xia” character.
Qi Hui did not dare to say that Xia Xun had been locked up by Chu Anyu, so he lied to Qi Yan, saying: “Young Master Xia is suffering from a cold. He is in the next room in bed, recuperating. Your body is too weak, this subordinate worries that the young master will pass the disease to you. When you are better, this subordinate will let the young master come to see you.”
Qi Yan blinked, drank the medicine, and fell back into a drowsy sleep.
He woke up several times during that period, and each time he woke up, the first thing he did was to look for Xia Xun.
Each time, Qi Hui said that Xia Xun was sick and hadn’t recovered from the cold, so he couldn’t come over for a while.
Qi Yan did not doubt his words.
Qi Hui has been at his bedside for days, taking care of him without even having time to change his clothes. A few days later, late at night, Qi Hui was leaning back in the chair next to the bed and dozing when he suddenly heard Qi Yan calling his name.
He hurriedly opened his eyes and saw that Qi Yan had woken up and was looking at him.
Qi Hui’s eyes filled with tears. He rushed to the bed, complaining in a choked voice:
“My lord! You are finally awake! Qi Hui was scared out of his mind. If you didn’t wake up, half of Qi Hui’s life would be lost!”
Qi Hui pulled his dry lips in a smile and chuckled gently: “…Don’t be ridiculous.”
He looked around the room and asked:
“Where’s Xia Xun…? His illness, how is it…”
Qi Hui was startled for a moment and immediately said:
“The young master has not yet recovered, as you know, his body is rather weak, and he got wet in the lake that day, so he is not well yet. When the doctor says he is well, this subordinate will bring him to you.”
Qi Yan’s expression gradually stiffened. He lifted his head and stared at Qi Hui’s face:
“…Are you hiding something from me? What exactly happened to Xia Xun…?”
Qi Hui hurriedly denied:
“How dare I? I didn’t lie to you! Quickly lie down, your injuries are not yet—”
As soon as Qi Yan heard this, he knew that Qi Hui was lying.
Every time he lied, as soon as he was questioned by Qi Yan, he would keep denying it and desperately trying to emphasise that he was telling the truth.
Qi Yan could not lie down anymore and propped himself up on the bed to sit up.
“Tell me quickly… What’s wrong with Xia Xun?”
In the past, as long as he frowned at him, Qi Hui would tell the truth, but this time, he still bit the bullet and said that Xia Xun was recuperating next door.
“My lord! This subordinate doesn’t dare to lie to you! The young master is right next door! You mustn’t get up, go to sleep quickly! Otherwise the wounds will open up again!”
Qi Yan’s body shook; he suddenly stopped trying to get up.
Qi Hui immediately stepped forward to hold his shoulders.
“Yes, yes, yes! Hurry up and lie down!”
He did not notice how pale Qi Yan’s face was.
Qi Yan looked at Qi Hui intently and asked in disbelief:
“Why… do you hide it so stubbornly? Is Xia Xun already gone…?!”
Qi Hui immediately denied it.
“Of course not! Young Master Xia is still here, he—”
Qi Yan no longer believed him, struggling to sit up to get out of bed.
Qi Hui did not let him go, pressing on his shoulders harder, trying to push him back: “My lord! You must take care of yourself! Young Master Xia is not going anywhere, he hasn’t left! He’s still—?!”
Qi Yan didn’t believe a word. He, a man with two serious wounds, suddenly found enough strength to actually push Qi Hui away.
Qi Hui fell to the ground; Qi Yan pointed at him, gasping for breath, his hands trembling.
“You… don’t lie to me again! Prepare my horse immediately, I… am going to go, chase after Xia Xun—”
His wounds were so serious, and coupled with his anger and fear of losing Xia Xun, after only a few words he felt dizzy, his vision going black, his head buzzing and his stomach twisting.
Even though he was so weak, he refused to give up, and while Qi Hui was getting up from the floor, he was already holding onto the bed and standing up.
He took a step forward when his legs went soft. He leaned back violently and fell back to sit on the bed, the shock pulling the wounds, bringing a fierce pang of pain.
Qi Hui did not dare to hide it anymore and could only tell the truth.
“My lord, Young Master Xia really did not leave! He was put in jail by Chu Anyu!”
Qi Yan’s movements stalled: “In jail…? Why?”
Qi Hui said with difficulty: “…Lord Chu ascertained that Young Master Xia was the inside man for the archers, and I’m afraid that group of people… are the ones he brought!”
He thought Qi Yan would be shocked, or at least show sadness, but Qi Yan just sat on the bed for a while and then he tried to stand up again.
His lips were blue, his eyes were listless, his clothes soaked with sweat, but he said, panting:
“Qi Hui, help me up… I need to get Xia Xun out quickly, he… he doesn’t like that kind of place…! “
Chu Anyu was an honest official. In his house, apart from an old auntie in the kitchen and a housekeeper sweeping the floor, there was not even a maid.
Zhi Gui obviously could have left, but, seeing this situation, she did not go and helped Qi Hui take care of Qi Yan.
The night Qi Yan woke up, she sneaked into the dungeon.
She listened to the dungeon guards say that the cell was cold and damp and wanted to bring some warm clothes to Xia Xun. She also thought prisoners likely did not have a good meal, so she brought a lot of food.
She was very worried but after seeing Xia Xun, she was greatly relieved.
He didn’t seem to suffer any discomfort in prison and looked as usual. While eating the food brought by Zhi Gui, he asked her:
“Bring some books next time, it’s really boring to be locked up.”
Tentatively, Zhi Gui asked:
“Young Master, don’t you care about the lord’s injury?”
Xia Xun looked at her as if she had asked a silly question.
“If something had happened to Qi Yan, would you still have the time to visit me?”
Zhi Gui looked around and asked again: “What are your plans, Young Master? How long are you going to stay in this place?”
Xia Xun’s expression became even more puzzled: “I am a prisoner, and you are asking me what my plans are? When you kill a fish, do you ask it what it plans to do?”
Zhi Gui was dumbfounded by his words and it took her a long time to squeeze out a sentence:
“…this slave has not killed any fish.”
Xia Xun ate up the snacks she brought and draped the thick clothes she gave him over his body.
“All right, you hurry up and go, do not be found by the guards.”
Zhi Gui said: “The guards here are quite weak, this slave slipped in easily. As long as I can think of a way to pry open the door of the cell, I can take you out.”
She didn’t know if Xia Xun heard her or not, but he kept waving his hand, telling her to go.
Zhi Gui could do nothing, bowed to him and tiptoed away.
After she left, Xia Xun sat on the ground leaning against the wall, looking at the small window high up used for ventilation, bored and dazed.
The dungeon in Chu Anyu’s house was much more comfortable than the prison of the Judicial Review Court. At least there were no rats and no horrible black bugs.
Xia Xun emptied his mind and thought of nothing.
Where did the archers come from? Were they the people of Duke Chen? Did Fumeng Tancha betray him?
He did not bother to consider these questions.
Anyway, Qi Yan was still alive, so he would always solve them.
Thinking of him, Xia Xun could not help but raise his left hand, its skin tightly wrapped around his finger bones, each finger incomparably thin, looking very frightening.
The scars on his hand had been with him for years and he had long been accustomed to their existence.
When the sound of footsteps came from outside the cell, he thought that it was Zhi Gui and said without looking back:
“Didn’t I tell you to leave? Why are you still here?”
But the sound of footsteps did not stop.
Xia Xun listened; it seemed that more than one person was coming, at least four or five.
He thought that maybe Chu Anyu had finally come to interrogate him.
He slowly stood up, patted the dust off his clothes and turned to look outside the cell.
As soon as he turned around, he froze.
There was not only Chu Anyu outside, but also Qi Yan.
He was so badly injured that he could barely stand, putting his whole body weight on Qi Hui.
He looked at Xia Xun, his face full of anxiety; he could not really speak and was forced to pat Qi Hui’s hand.
Qi Hui said quickly:
“Lord Chu, my lord orders, please, let this gentleman out immediately.”
Chu Anyu gave a dissatisfied “tsk” and ordered the guards:
“Let him go!”
As soon as the chain on the door was removed, Qi Yan got rid of Qi Hui’s support and stepped into the cell by himself, holding onto the bars.
Years ago, he had failed to rescue Xia Xun from the prison of the Judicial Review Court.
Now, he endured the pain and walked all the way here just to confirm with his own eyes that Xia Xun was safe and to release him personally.
When he saw that Xia Xun was unharmed, the energy that was supporting him upright was drained out, his eyes closed and he passed out quietly.
He did not fall to the ground, nor did he fall into Qi Hui’s arms.
It was Xun Xia who stepped forward and caught him.
The heavy smell of medicine surrounded Xia Xun, filling his nostrils. Under Qi Yan’s clothes there were thin, sickly bones. He was so skinny it hurt Xia Xun’s arms to hold him.
His face was pressed against Xia Xun’s cheek; he sank down on Xia Xun’s shoulder, not caring at all that the man in front of him was the one who had stabbed him.
Xia Xun’s eyelashes fluttered; he turned his head sideways and let out a sigh while no one could see.
Qi Yan fell into a tired sleep again.
Sleep was the method he used to heal his injuries and he hardly woke up during the day.
The doctor instructed that Qi Yan needed to rest and no one was allowed to disturb him; even Xia Xun was kicked out of the room.
The only time Xia Xun had a chance to see him was when Zhi Gui fed him medicine every day.
Chu Anyu disliked Xia Xun but couldn’t do anything about him. Every time he met him, he gave him a disgusted look. Xia Xun seemed not to notice and rushed to find him.
“Lord Chu, there is one thing I would like to ask you.”
Chu Anyu demonstrated his dislike, snorted and said:
“Do you not need to mind your manners when talking to this official?”
Xia Xun bowed deeply and spoke again:
“Lord Chu, there is one thing I don’t know, and I hope you can enlighten me.”
Chu Anyu was impatient: “What is it?!”
Xia Xun asked, “Among the archers you captured, were there any Hu?”
Chu Anyu shook his head.
Xia Wen wanted to ask a few more questions, but Chu Anyu immediately gave an order to expel him.
“This official is busy with official business, so why don’t you leave the public hall?”
Xia Xun paused, touched his nose, turned around and went out.
In the courtyard, on the big acacia tree, there was something black.
At first, Xia fen thought it was a black cat, but after a few moments of careful examination, he realized it was a large crow.
He froze, found the bird whistle and blew tentatively.
The crow flapped its wings and flew towards him, circled three times above his head and flew away towards the wall.
Xia Xun looked around. It was late afternoon, no one was here.
He hesitated for a moment, walked along the wall, pushed open a small door in the corner and walked in the direction the crow left.