Chapter 659: Camel Bells on the Qixi Road!
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
Deep within the Xu Clan Residence, a fair-skinned and black-haired woman of peerless beauty sat in the center of a room in front of an exquisite dresser made from sandalwood. She faced a bronze mirror, her head slightly tilted as she combed her long hair.
Spiraling columns of smoke rose from the incense burners, filling this serene and elegant boudoir. The woman's gaze was focused on the bronze mirror, but her heart was elsewhere.
"I wonder how he's doing…"
Xu Qiqin suddenly gave a long sigh, her eyes losing focus.
It had been nearly two months since she had been locked in her room by her clan. At the start, she could still get some news on the outside world from her maid, but when her big uncle learned of this, he even had her maid moved away.
Xu Qiqin was clueless as to the current state of the outside world.
Xu Henian had not only placed her under house arrest, but also stationed four elite guards from the clan to stand guard at the corners of the room to prevent any escape.
After several tries, Xu Qiqin finally put aside the idea.
"Qin-er, don't hold it against your big uncle. Your big uncle is also doing this for the sake of the Xu Clan. Just think about it: this is King Qi! His status in the court is like the noon sun. Our Xu Clan can't possibly make him an enemy."
Xu Qiqin's father Xu Zhongnian was standing in a place nearby behind Xu Qiqin, a bitter smile on his face.
Xu Qiqin's face was ice-cold, her only response to continue combing her long black hair that reached down to her waist. It was like her father had never even spoken those words.
During her house arrest, Xu Zhongnian had visited his daughter every day and given her a long lecture. In the past, Xu Qiqin would take in some of these words, but this time, she refused to listen.
"Qin-er, don't be stubborn!"
Seeing that Xu Qiqin wasn't listening, Xu Zhongnian grew even more concerned.
"Just think about it. What's so good about that Wang Chong that you would butt heads with your big uncle and drag in the entire Xu Clan? Are such big risks worth it? In addition, you've been locked up in the residence for so long, but has that Wang Chong or the Wang Clan done anything for you?"
Xu Qiqin finally interrupted her father. "There's no need for Father to say any more. Your daughter knows what should be done, and I also believe that he will come to find me."
"Qin-er, you're too foolish. Although your father might be useless, if you stay around long enough in the capital, you see everything. That Wang Chong is only using you. And your father has also investigated the matter. He has many lady friends, and you are only one of them. Perhaps he's already forgotten you and won't come to get you at all."
Xu Qiqin's face chilled as the comb in her hand suddenly dropped. It thudded against the sandalwood dresser, ushering in a long silence.
Xu Zhongnian took several steps back in fright. Although they were father and daughter, Xu Zhongnian had always had a timid personality with no thoughts or ideas of his own, no position on which he could stand firm.
It was only under the pressure of his older brother Xu Henian that he came to Xu Qiqin's room every day to constantly persuade her from day to night.
While Xu Qiqin's rage was growing, there was a knock on the door.
"Who is it! Didn't I say that no one was to disturb me for anything!!" Xu Qiqin angrily said.
"Young Lady, it's Young Master Wang…"
Before the maid could finish speaking, the door to Xu Qiqin's room banged open. Air rushed in as a tall and handsome figure robed in red walked through the door.
"Xu Qiqin, I've come!"
As Wang Chong stepped over the threshold, he faintly smiled at Xu Qiqin.
The room fell silent. Xu Qiqin turned her head at that spirited figure standing at the door, both strange and familiar. Her expression was blank, her mind completely empty.
"Wang, Wang… Chong!" Xu Qiqin stammered, staring in disbelief at Wang Chong. For a moment, she felt like it was all a dream.
Suddenly, Xu Qiqin lunged forward, embracing Wang Chong before he could react, tears streaming down her face.
"It's you, it really is you…"
Wang Chong was astonished, clearly not expecting this. But then he heard that familiar voice weeping at his ear.
"Bastard, you bastard, I thought you were dead."
"Haha, didn't I already say that I would definitely come back? How could I die there?"
Hearing Xu Qiqin's words, Wang Chong froze for a moment before chuckling and quietly beginning to soothe her. His hands also closed in a light embrace around Xu Qiqin.
Xu Qiqin said nothing, only hugged Wang Chong and cried.
For the southwestern war, Wang Chong had only brought several thousand hired experts with him and rushed off to the battlefield. Everyone had believed that his death was certain, because no one believed that he could defeat the massive Mengshe–Ü-Tsang army, not even Xu Qiqin…
Although she had never said anything, she had been keenly aware that Wang Chong's death in the southwest was nearly certain. Many times, when the information flow from the southwest was cut off, Xu Qiqin believed that Wang Chong had already died.
But she could not say anything about it, only do her utmost to help Wang Chong by sending a constant stream of provisions and weapons to the southwest.
Xu Qiqin would have never believed that she would be so worried about a single person. When the entire empire was beset by storms, when everyone else was engulfed by panic and fear, he alone was persistent and resolved, charging into the battlefield without looking back.
This was the first time Xu Qiqin truly felt like she knew Wang Chong, felt the fervent, brave heart, filled with boundless energy and duty, that lay beneath that young, seventeen-year-old body.
After the southwestern war, although her maid had told her that Wang Chong was still alive, Xu Qiqin had remained under constant house arrest with no access to news from the outside world. Without seeing it for herself, how could she believe her maid's words?
But now, the authentic Wang Chong had appeared before her. Feeling the warmth from his body, Xu Qiqin finally believed that Wang Chong was still alive.
He truly had managed to survive the southwestern battlefield.
In that serene and elegant room, the only sound was that of Xu Qiqin's sobbing and Wang Chong lightly patting her on her back to comfort her, a warm smile on his face.
Xu Zhongnian was stunned by this sight. At this moment, he chose to quietly stand to the side.
At times, silence proved superior to words.
While all of the Great Tang was immersed in celebration, the wheels of history continued to move. In the distant Western Regions, close to the Qixi Protectorate headquarters, the clinging of bells rang out through the air.
In the desolate desert of Qixi, a white camel was slowly walking forward. Two bells of silver and gold hung from its neck, the source of the clinging that echoed through the desert air.
"A-Man, how far are we from the Great Tang?"
The voice of a woman, more pleasing to the ear than the song of an oriole, suddenly rose from the camel's back.
"Princess, we should arrive in a little more than half a month."
The maid called A-Man leading the camel looked toward the white-veiled woman, lithe and charming, seated on the camel. She spoke in a soft voice, hoping to soothe the clearly displeased young woman.
Other than the sound of the camel's bells, the only sounds on this journey to the east were the conversation between master and servant. But neither the white-veiled young woman nor the maid leading the camel spoke in the language of the Central Plains.
In truth, if one carefully examined this pair, they would realize that they exuded a thick foreign air, whether it was in their deep and enchanting brown eyes, their naturally curling hair, the lines on their faces, or their demeanor. In all these aspects, they were completely different from the people of the Great Tang.
"…Princess, don't be sad. Although the Great Tang of the Central Plains is far from our homeland, there are many of our people living here. In addition, I hear that the Great Tang is an extremely prosperous and cultured land. With this, at least, we won't encounter any problems living here. Once we accomplish our mission, the Caliph will allow us to return," A-Man soothed.
The white-veiled woman continued to look resentfully forward, with each step the camel took only adding to her grief.
"A-Man, tell me: is that Tang boy called Wang Chong truly this important?" Alia faintly said.
"Princess, you know the importance the Caliph places on the Wootz Steel weapons. We made our names through our skill in forging, but even though we've had the Hyderabad ore for so long and His Majesty has gathered so many formidable craftsmen, none of them were able to produce that miraculous Wootz Steel. Much of the Hyderabad ore has been wasted, and not even the weapons produced by Master Usama can match the Wootz Steel produced by that Great Tang youth. Moreover, they're black and ugly, lacking any of the beauty of those weapons.
"Our Abbasid Caliphate has always been known for the quality of the weapons it forges, but none of these masters can produce a single ingot of Wootz Steel. This is completely unacceptable to His Majesty, so Princess can imagine His Majesty's fury," A-Man persuasively argued.
Alia gave a long sigh and said no more.
She was a princess of the Abbasid Caliphate. Logically speaking, she should have been living a life of luxury, attended upon by countless servants and spending her days in a sumptuous palace. She should not have been traveling vast distances to hang around in a foreign country.
But Alia was deeply aware that the princesses of the Abbasid Caliphate were different from the princesses of other empires.
Although her father was the esteemed Caliph of the Abbasid Caliphate, essentially the Emperor of Arabia, he had more than one hundred princesses, Alia being only one of them. With so many sisters, one could easily imagine how little regard Alia received.
Her fate was already decided.
"I wonder what sort of person that Tang youth called Wang Chong is?"
The Abbasid princess called Alia continued to look forward, falling into a stupor. Now that everything was decided and unalterable, she suddenly began to wonder just what that foreign boy who had altered her fate was actually like.
The camel's bells continued to ring as the white camel slowly proceeded forward. Master and servant proceeded along the official road, a unit of Arabian cavalry following behind them.