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TIS Chapter: 4

Boating

 

Green willows swirled on both sides of the river, and a light boat sailed on the Chunhua River, heading towards the south.

On the deck, Chi Can sat opposite the man in blue, playing chess, while the third man leaned against the railing of the boat, staring at the surging river as it threw water back and forth.

 

They didn’t know how much time had passed, but, they were all brought out of their respective trance when a young boy in green clothes came up from the cabin, holding a tray with four cups of tea on it.

 

He placed two of the cups by the side of the two who were playing chess and walked to the boat rail with another cup, and handed it to the man in Tsing Yi.

 

The man in Tsing Yi took a sip of the tea and said with a smile; “The journey is better with you, Li-san. With the two of them, the game of chess is often endless, and when I accompany them, it’s mostly on a hungry stomach.”

 

It turned out that the boy was Qiao Zhao.

 

She had begged, to the point that it could be interpreted as her being a stalker, but finally Chi Can agreed and brought her on, on the condition that she would disguise herself as a boy so that she could travel with them.

 

At this point, the ship had been traveling for two days.

 

“Brother Yang, how long will it take to arrive in Jiafeng?”

 

After travelling together for two days, Qiao Zhao already knew that the man in blue was called Zhu Wu, and this man was called Yang Er. The three were obviously unwilling to tell her their true identities and she didn’t really care.

 

“We’ll be there after noon. But we won’t enter the city. We’ll just change horses and go to a small village nearby to visit the master.” Yang Er said.

 

Qiao Zhao’s heart skipped a beat.

 

Three years ago, Chi Can had gone to Zhuangzi, where his grandfather lived in seclusion, and asked his grandfather to teach him his painting skills.

 

His grandfather declined.

 

Chi Can didn’t give up and stayed there for three days. In desperation, his grandfather gave him a pair of paintings from his early years, which were considered as dismissal.

 

That was the Chi Can she knew at that time. Of course, the two of them only had two face-to-face encounters.

 

‘Chi Can and the others are going to visit the master at a village near Jiafeng. Could it be…?’

 

Thinking of this, Qiao Zhao’s breathing became a little short.

 

‘Could it be that Chi Can is going to her house?’

 

Is there such a coincidence in this world? Or is it because she had become Li Zhao and it was destined to be like this?

 

Qiao Zhao lowered her head and stared at her hands.

 

The little girl’s hands were soft and slender, like spring onions, which were different from her original beautiful hands with thin calluses on their fingertips.

 

Until now, despite the memories of the little girl Li Zhao, she still couldn’t think of herself as another person.

 

But staring at those hands at that moment, Qiao Zhao felt a little dazed.

 

‘How can she stay in her own home as Li Zhao?’

 

Qiao Zhao turned back and sat down, holding the tea cup and thinking silently.

 

She thought about this back and forth in her mind, only to feel like it was an unsolvable problem, and then finally, she came back to reality when she heard the three men quarreling.

 

“Xi Xi, Zizhe, when are we going down for dinner?”

 

Qiao Zhao looked up, only to find out that the cook on the boat had already brought their food, and the aroma penetrated into the person’s stomach.

 

Zhu Wu pinched his nose with a helpless expression; “It’s not that I don’t want to end it, Xi Xi has been thinking about the same move for a quarter of an hour and his defeat has been a long time coming.”

 

Yang Er glanced at the chessboard, shook his head, and said; “Xi Xi, you are already in a dead end, hurry up and admit defeat. Don’t waste everyone’s time.”

 

Chi Can held a crystal white stone between his slender fingers, and said with a displeased expression; “How can I admit defeat? I haven’t lost in chess before!”

 

Yang Er sneered and exposed it in front of Qiao Zhao rather rudely; “Of course you haven’t lost. You make a single move that is enough for others to play a game of chess with you, and by the end they will be so anxious about your next move, they will eventually stop playing with you.”

 

Chi Can snorted coldly; “What do you know? I’m thinking about it!”

 

Yang Er angrily did not go any further with it.

 

Today, the cook had cooked fish stewed in an iron pot and the aroma was so heart-wrenching that Zhu Wu finally couldn’t stand it and raised his hand; “Is it okay to admit defeat, let’s eat.”

 

Chi Can held him down; “Don’t say such a thing, we always speak on the basis of strength.”

 

Zhu Wu and Yang Er held their foreheads simultaneously.

 

Yang Er whispered; “I really wish those big girls and wives in the capital who are obsessed with you could see your true face.”

 

“Cough! Cough!” Chi Can coughed heavily and glanced at Qiao Zhao.

 

It was really inappropriate to say these things in front of a little girl. Yang Er knew that he had made a blunder and smiled embarrassingly.

 

“Watch the game without saying a word! Zizhe, let’s continue playing. There must be a way out for the white piece; I just can’t remember it for the time being.”

 

“It seems that we won’t be able to eat for a while.” Yang Er said to Qiao Zhao.

 

Qiao Zhao pressed her abdomen.

 

The little girl, Li Zhao, was frail and after just a little while, her stomach was already aching.

 

She had tasted the pain of a sharp arrow piercing her heart on the city wall of Yancheng in the north, but now, as long as conditions allowed, she didn’t want to suffer any more.

 

In her new life, she will try her best to treat herself better.

 

“The game is over. Could we eat?”

 

“Of course…” Before Yang Er could finish speaking, he saw Qiao Zhao pick up a white stone from the chess jar and land it on the chessboard.

 

He hurried to stop her but was too late. This was bad. Chi Can had a good temper normally, but, he had a few taboos. One of them was that he hated others interfering with his chess game.

 

Chi Can’s face went cold; “Li San, chess pieces are not for playing.”

 

Zhu Wu, who had been looking at the chessboard, changed his tone; “Xi Xi, look at…”

 

Chi Can ignored Zhu Wu’s words, squinted his eyes at Qiao Zhao, and smiled; “Li San, you messed up our chess game, what will I do now?”

 

“Xi Xi…”

 

Chi Can interrupted Zhu Wu’s words; “I know you both want to say good things about this girl, but in my opinion, this little girl is too smart for her age, and it won’t be a problem to hire a carriage to take her back to Beijing alone.”

 

 

“Xi Xi, I mean… I already won.” Zhu Wu himself felt very strange when he spat out these words.

 

He obviously had the upper hand, and the victory was in his hands, but Li San randomly dropped a piece and she turned the tide of the game, pushing him into a desperate situation, and there was no chance for him to turn it over again.

 

Chi Can was startled and hurriedly looked at the chessboard.

 

Yang Er leaned over and looked at Qiao Zhao in disbelief.

 

“How did you do it?” Chi Can was stunned.

 

The girl pursed her lips and whispered softly; “It was a random thing.”

 

The little girl’s words were almost deceiving.

 

“Oh, that’s probably because my level is a little higher.”

 

Chi Can and Zhu Wu looked at each other and suddenly stretched out their hands to shake the chessboard at the same time and said in unison; “Come on, let’s play a game.”

 

“I’m hungry.” Qiao Zhao was very sincere.

 

After dinner, Zhu Wu stared at the chessboard for a long time, threw the pieces into the chess jar, and sighed: “My skill is not as good as yours, I lost.”

 

He got up and moved away and joined Chi Can where he sat.

 

The sun had gradually moved westward and Jiafeng pier was already faintly visible and Chi Can was still thinking hard with his chess pieces in his hands.

 

The girl on the opposite side lowered her eyes and said nothing, waiting quietly.

 

“To be able to hold back and not urge Xi Xi, just look at his energy-raising effort, this little girl is not easy.” Zhu Wu whispered to Yang Er.

 

Yang Er admired the girl who was able to outsmart Zhu Wu and endure Chi Can. He gave Qiao Zhao a deep look and said in a strange tone; “Why does it seem like she’s asleep?”

 


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