Chapter 6 A debt of blood must be paid in blood
The night was gradually getting darker, the cold wind cut like knives.
Even if her whole body was aching and wanted to break, Chu Qiao forced herself to stand up. She moved around the room, back and forth scoping out her surroundings. Occasionally, she had to stop and rub her hands together to prevent herself from freezing in this tattered firewood room.
When midnight struck, a loud drum sound could be heard. The sudden booming sound startled the child causing her to stop to look vigilantly at where the sound came from.
A small head slowly appeared and looked in through the high window. A pair of bright and curious eyes discreetly looked around the firewood room and found Chu Qiao standing on the ground. Joy flashed in his eyes as he raised his finger making a gesture signaling her to stay quiet. Using his arms and legs, he quickly leapt into the shed.
While his body still carried the cold from outside, he quickly approached her. He stretched out his arm and brought Chu Qiao in his bosom. He let out a sob but still tried to comfort her, “Jing Yue, don’t be afraid anymore, 5th brother is here.”
The boy was very thin and looked very young, maybe 8 or 9 years old. The simple grey clothes he was wearing was larger than his size. It made him appear even more small and thin. Although his body was not that big, he was still a half a head taller than Chu Qiao. His face revealed inexplicable toughness. He was constantly patting Chu Qiao’s back while hugging her tightly. His words kept repeating over and over again,”Don’t be afraid, 5th brother came.”
She didn’t know why, but her eyes suddenly became wet. It seemed to be this body’s spontaneous response. Large drops of tears would not stop falling down, wetting the boy’s clothes.
The bright moonlight shone through the tiny window illuminating the two little children. Between the heaven and earth, it was cold. The only trace of warmth was between the two’s tiny chest. The boys little body was like a tough mountain in this cold night. Even though his body trembled gently in fear, he still firmly held on to his sister, strongly tightening his arms.
“Yue, you’re hungry, right?”
The boy released his hold and stretch out his dirty fingers to gently wipe Chu Qiao’s tears. He put out a bright smile and said, “ Look what 5th brother brought you.”
He pulled out a small cloth from behind his back and unwrapped it quickly. A nice-smelling fragrance immediately assaulted her nose. He looked up to see Chu Qiao still standing, which confused him.
What appeared was a heavy ceramic blue and white bowl. You could tell that its color was beginning to fade from grinding and had a few small cracks. The bowl was filled with round grained cooked rice topped with some green vegetables. There wasn’t much oil or seasoning but the smell was still fragrant. The boy handed her a pair of chopsticks.
Chu Qiao lowered head to quickly put a mouthful of rice in her mouth. It was very salty because of her tears and her throat being blocked. She chewed like a machine as she gently sobbed. The boy was eagerly looking at her, opening his mouth along with her as if he’s teaching her how to eat at the same time. Watching her swallow her food made him so happy that his eye’s squint.
With the chopsticks in the bowl, she suddenly picked something out. It was a smoking hot piece of pork.
A piece of meat the size of a thumb was somewhat burnt, half fat half lean. But in this particular dark, cold night, the meat was unexpectedly tempting.
Suddenly a loud growling sound resounded. Chu Qiao looked up to see the boy rub his belly awkwardly embarrassed. “I just finished eating, I’m not hungry” he said with a deliberate indifference.
Chu Qiao quickly passed him her chopsticks, “You eat.”
The boy shook his head vigorously, “We ate very well tonight. The four young masters gave us extra dishes. We had stewed carp, sweet and sour pork, pork tenderloin with vinegar, white duck. I had so much food that I want to puke. I don’t want to eat anything now.”
Chu Qiao stubbornly held her chopsticks towards him, “ I don’t like to eat fat.”
He was slightly stunned for a moment as he looked at her. Looking at the red-roasted pork, he swallowed his own saliva unconsciously. It took him a while to finally take the chopsticks from Chu Qiao’s hand. Carefully, he opened his mouth to nip off the fat. Afterwards, he handed the remaining lean meat back to her, smiling revealing his teeth, “Yue, you can eat now.”
Her nose turned sour, as she quickly lowered her head fighting back her tears.
It took her a while to bring herself back under control. She looked at the boy and smiled as she opened her mouth to eat the meat. She chewed it while she grinned.
“Yue, is it delicious?”
Chu Qiao nodded her head energetically. “5th Brother it’s delicious. Even if it was overcooked, it was the most delicious thing I have ever eaten.”
“Stupid.” The boy reached out and touched her head, looking slightly sad, “You only know this much? It’s still too early to say that in your life. Don’t say such words in the future. We are young, who knows what delicacies we will eat in the future. But you can be sure, in the future 5th brother will get you all kinds of good things to eat and dresses to wear. In this world, there are all kinds of good things to eat, not just pork. There are ginseng, abalone, bird’s nest, and shark’s fin to choose from. Everything you could desire. At that time, nobody will want to bother us. Yue, do you believe 5th brother?”
Chu Qiao nodded, still trying to swallow all of the rice in her mouth. Even though the taste was bitter, it was so warm.
“Yue, don’t be afraid.” The boy took off his coat and threw it over Chu Qiao’s shoulders. With a tender but firm voice he spoke to her after the meal, “5th Brother will protect you. I’ll stay with you. Don’t be afraid.”
The moonlight was cold. The light and shadows moving through the exposed gaps in the firewood shed. Under this big bright moon, two small children’s bodies tightly embraced one another. They were so small, but like that they were warm.
In the distance, there were shiny lights. Music was being played, melodious tasting wine was being drunk, and the smell of meat wafting through the air. In Zhen Huang city, the banquet finally reached it’s climax. Under the bright lights, no one remembered the girl who had narrowly escaped death in the hunting ground from earlier that day. With the cold wind whistling, the banner of the Great Xia was fluttering.
The next day when Chu Qiao woke up, the boy was already gone. On the ground was written in small attractive letters : ‘5th Brother will be back tonight, under the firewood is a steamed bun.’
Chu Qiao removed a log from the corner and saw a bag with two yellow buns inside. She held them with a calm mind, her eyes gradually warming.
Three days had passed by, but no one bothered with the girl who was locked in the shed. Every night the boy would bring her something to eat and accompany her, then depart the next day quietly. On the third day however, the front door was slammed open. Zhun Shun arrogantly walked in with an imposing manner. Looking around the shed, he was surprised that she was still alive after three days. This made him wrinkle his brow more tightly. Finally, he assigned a servant to let her out.
Stepping out of the shed at that moment, Chu Qiao stood at the entrance looking at the worn-out house. Finally, the corners of her mouth rose, then she decidedly turned her head.
Zhu Shun, Zhuge, Jing, Mu, Che, Yan……..
She slowly closed her eyes, then raised her head towards the sun. The sun shone on her head, leaving a beautiful aperture. The golden light shined, like it was giving life to a phoenix about to soar.
As they moved further away from the shed, the more it looked insignificant. Along a winding path, if you look carefully, you could see children hiding everywhere secretly looking at her. After arriving at a courtyard, the servant promptly left. Suddenly, a large group of children surrounded her, holding her tightly.
“Little 6th sister, you came back!”
“6th sister, we also thought that you would never come back.”
“Big sister Yue……..”
Sobbing, the children all started talking at once bursting into tears. Chu Qiao was shocked, she could only stand there as children huddled around her, bearing the tears and the snot of these crowd of little kids.
“Alright, behave, don’t cry.”
A male voice suddenly said. The children turned their heads, and immediately joyfully shouted, “5th Brother!”
The boy came in from outside holding a cloth bag. Just after two steps in, he suddenly crashed into something and a pocketful of melon seeds sprinkled on the ground. The children cheered, letting Chu Qiao go, and ran up towards him.
“Don’t fight, there’s enough for everyone.” The boy said while trying to look like an adult, “ Yue, has just survived death and was seriously injured. Everyone do not bother her for several days. Everyone must help her with her work!”
The children nodded their heads again and again. A girl with pigtails raised her white tender face smiling, “5th Brother, don’t worry. We will help 6th sister.”
“Xiao Qi sister, has your injury healed? How did you get out of bed?”
“5th Brother, I’m all right.” The child looked up with a smile and then rolled up her sleeves. Above the purple lashes on her arms, he saw that it was green and in some places weren’t fully healed yet. Xiao Qi still smiled “You brought really good medicine that was very effective. The bruises do not hurt anymore. Xiao Ba, was kicked in the waist yesterday by the horse she was feeding. I had to help her.”
“Lin Xi, come in. I have something to tell you.” A little girl suddenly came up, pulling the boy’s hand.
Before going, the boy looked at Chu Qiao, “Yue, it’s cold outside, you come in too.”
In the shabby little house there was a large bed, neatly stacked with 10sets of bedding. The boy named Lin Xi said, “ Big Sister Zhi Xiang, what’s the matter?”
Zhi Xiang was not old, a little over 10 in appearance. She squatted down to open a dark hole and pulled out a small box. “There are five days left until the anniversary of the Jing family extermination. Here are the incense, candles, and paper money that you wanted me to prepare secretly, we are ready.”
Lin Xi nodded, “Be careful, do not let the steward find out.”
“Well, don’t worry, no one will come to our side. It is you, at the four masters side that needs to act carefully. The day before yesterday, I was listening on the conversation in the laundry room. Si Tao said that the four masters killed two of their study companions. The master is not at home, so the cherished young master is running a little wild. They didn’t have any qualms. Just last month the old master killed more the 20 maidservants. With the way we were all brought here together, I fear one day it will be our turn.”
Just then, a sudden sharp exclamation could be heard from outside. “Oh, these cheap slaves dare to steal something? You think I won’t kill you?”
Lin Xi frowned. But before he could go out, Zhi Xiang held him and whisper in a low voice, “Leave from the back quickly. They should not see you here. The four young masters will kill you.”
Unexpectedly, there was such a crude back door Lin Xi could use. Zhi Xiang held Chu Qiao’s arm, “Whatever happens, do not come out!” She said lowly, then ran outside in a hurry.
Sounds of screams and whips suddenly rang out. A fat woman was swinging her arm yelling ferociously, “This is not something Princess Jing of the past would do. Being reduced to this situation today. Your elder sisters now work in those flowery places as whores and you here are young thieves. This is really a despicable nest of lowly spawns!”
“Aunt Song, we know we were wrong, we do not dare.” Zhi Xiang stood in front, blocking her from the other kids. Her face covered already covered in several whips, and blood already stained her body. She still kneeled while holding the woman’s skirt begging for mercy, “We do not dare!”
“You know your mistakes!? I see you do not have a long memory!”
The whip was ruthlessly hitting the children’s body. Pigtailed Xiao Qi was already injured, and after several whips, fell down. Her eyes rolled back, she completely fainted. The children circled around her, crying out loud, but this just caused the fat woman to hit them with more tenacity. Wanting them to cry more, she raised her whip high.
Shua~, but no severe screams came after. Aunt Song looked down to see a little girl standing in front. Ragged, tall, and thin, but her eyes were very cold. Her dirty hands were tightly clutching onto the whip. Looking coldly with a low voice, “That’s enough”
Aunt Song was furious, “The dead girl? Are you courting death!?”
“Yue!? Yue, quickly let go!” Zhi Xiang climbed up from her knees desperately clutching Chu Qiao’s shirt, crying and shouting “Apologize to Aunt Song!”
Chu Qiao looked unmoved and was still coldly looking at the fat woman. “Just try and hit them again.”
Aunt Song eyes were focused on her “I won’t hit them, I’ll hit you instead!” She then brandished the whip and maliciously tried to pull it out of Chu Qiao’s hand. Chu Qiao waited for the right moment before she let go, and placed her foot under the woman’s body while pushing her at the waist. The woman’s gigantic obese body fell to the ground with a loud BANG!
She squealed like a pig. Chu Qiao walked in front of the woman slowly then sneered “ Going to complain?”
Aunt Song jumped up and yelled “Just you wait for me!” Then she spun around and stormed out of the yard.
Zhi Xiang worriedly ran forward, with anxious tears flowing. “Yue’er, you are in for a big disaster! Why’d you do it?”
“Look after them.” Chu Qiao said before turning around to follow that fat woman.
She memorized the route when they walked down the path. After turning around two paths, she saw the fat woman on a stone bridge, rapidly running or what seems like it. Her fat body was only able to run so far before she began breathing heavily. Chu Qiao hid in a thick patch of grass, looking about. After securing herself, she picked up a stone, half squinting, then threw it at the woman’s ankle.
Crack! The heavy stone hit Aunt Song’s ankle. She cried out in alarm as her foot slid from under her. She immediately fell down from the bridge.
In the dead of winter, the lake was frozen solid and the ice was thick. After falling down, it didn’t actually break. She was just lying there, sprawled out on the ice, crying her eyes out.
Chu Qiao stood up from the brush, slowly making her way to the stone bridge. She looked down and shouted “Hey! Do you need my help to call people?”
The woman turned her head and was very genial “Good child, go get me help. Oh….the pain is killing me.”
Chu Qiao smiled brightly. She bent down to pick up a huge rock, and with effort held the huge stone over her head. The woman saw this and was suddenly frightened “You…What are you doing?”
Not giving her time to shout, Chu Qiao let the stone go. Bang Bang. The rock smashed against the ice causing it to suddenly break. The woman called out in alarm, but was quickly silenced as the whole lake enveloped her. Only a few bubbles could be seen, as she sank down.
Chu Qiao stood there on the bridge, looking very calm. You wouldn’t see any trace of a change in expression.
This was a world that eats people. If you want to go on living, then you could only eat the wild animals before another person could eat it.
Without the slightest bit of hesitation, Chu Qiao turned around and walked back. As she stepped into the courtyard, the children ran up all together. All of them were injured and crying. Chu Qiao held her hand in front of Xiao Qi, who just woke up. Taking a deep breath, Chu Qiao whispered, “Don’t be afraid, it’s alright.”
At Zhuge’s residence, the lowest slaves were like a group of pigs and dogs, and the lowest female slaves could no longer hold in their tears of pain.