Cheng Anya splashed water onto her face heartily. The clear water washed away the sand on her face and flowed down to her neck. As her warm skin came into contact with water, her pores seemed to open.
She finally understood the four best things in one’s life—the feeling of rain after a drought. She felt the same, and good enough to almost break into a song.
The water which entered her mouth tasted slightly salty, but it felt sweet when it reached her throat. Cheng Anya teasingly said, “Is this happiness after the suffering?”
Third Young Master Ye smiled and didn’t say a word. Looking at the face of his beloved made him feel that his effort for the past two days was all worthwhile. The large oasis, along with its clear water and life brimming around it meant that people were definitely nearby. Once they were able to locate people, contacting their folk from the Dragon Gate was child’s play. Third Young Master Ye secretly thought to himself as he alertly and carefully observed his surroundings.
This was a critical juncture and he could not afford any mistakes.
With some calculations, the virus in his dear Anya had sixteen days remaining. As it was a race against time, he had to be extremely careful.
“Ah Chen, aren’t you thirsty?” Cheng Anya curiously asked as she freshened herself up. She, however, saw Third Young Master Ye look toward the shrubbery. She stood up and beckoned him to drink some water and washed his face.
Like a young man who toiled for the better half of his life, his face was caked with sand and he looked extremely tired. With clothes that seemed tattered from escaping the plane, he was no longer the well-dressed and elegant young master.
Third Young Master Ye smiled and looked down. He washed his face and gulped down mouthfuls of water, then filled up the water bottle in his backpack, however much he could.
Cheng Anya looked at the water envyingly and said, “How could water in the desert be so clear? It’s so beautiful and I’ve yet to see such water bodies before. If the water surface were still, it would look like sapphire.”
“It is,” Third Young Master Ye said. The water was so clear one could see the bottom.
A moment later, Third Young Master Ye led Cheng Anya toward the shrubbery. Cheng Anya was lost. Shouldn’t they head to the other side? Why was he heading into the shrubbery?
“Aren’t you hungry? Let’s try to find some wild berries,” Third Young Master Ye said. He had some outdoor survival skills—whilst Cheng Anya had none—that not many would have.
She could only listen to Third Young Master Ye. As they were extremely famished, the chocolate could not stave off their hunger. Her stomach growled several times, let alone Third Young Master Ye, who had expended a huge amount of his strength in the past two days.
The low shrubbery consisted of vines and rattan that crawled across the ground. The greenery provided a cool and rejuvenating shade that seemed a tad sinister if not for the sun pouring through it.
“So many vines…” Cheng Anya said as she removed a vine that tangled around her. “How could there be trees for wild berries here?”
“There must be,” Third Young Master Ye said with certainty. While most of the shrubbery was made up of vines, her comment was not surprising. Cheng Anya suddenly leaned toward Third Young Master Ye and gulped some water. “Ah Chen, there’s a snake…”
It was a thick snake whose skin color blended with the vines. If one did not pay attention, one could not tell there was a snake there. Its triangular head, with sinister eyes, turned at them as it stuck out its tongue.
It seemed as though it was about to bite them.
It seemed extremely scary and Third Young Master Ye tapped Cheng Anya’s head. “Dear Anya, you are capable. Look at how shaky you sound. Show your courage, and isn’t it just a snake? You once instantly pawned a massive python many times its size, so what’s there to be afraid of?”
Cheng Anya gulped down some saliva a few times. Who would not shudder in fear when they saw a snake? With no snakebite serum, a bite could prove fatal. That massive python gave her insomnia for several nights.
“Stop the sarcastic talk. If we get bitten, where else can we get help?”
“Did you think that I would fail to notice a snake this close and need your reminder?” Third Young Master Ye looked at Cheng Anya with a seeming smile and said smilingly, “This snake is not venomous, and neither will it actively attack people. Ignoring it will do.”
Cheng Anya was slightly stunned. F***, why didn’t he say it earlier? She was now extremely unhappy as the snake looked pretty terrifying but was incredibly non-venomous. Snakes in the desert, even if they were not of the venomous variety, were not good at the best.
They were very lucky, as Third Young Master Ye had expected, to find wild fruits in the shrubbery—like this emerald green fruit, which looked like an apple but was slightly smaller than it. It had a waxy green surface that was extremely shiny and looked like fruit.
There were a few trees that bore wild fruits in the shrubbery. The trees, at about two meters tall, were not particularly tall. They, however, had many branches and leaves. There were only a few fruits hanging on the tree.
“Is this edible?” Cheng Anya was suspicious. While it looked like an apple, apples do not grow this way.
This particular wild fruit had a unique fragrance that Cheng Anya could not quite describe. It was an intoxicating aroma that became obvious when smelled up close.
It was a meandering fragrance.
With a silver needle, Third Young Master Ye tested the fruit and it was not poisonous. Seeing how the tree branches were plucked, there should have been plenty of wild fruits hanging off the tree to be plucked. “It’s edible,” he said.
He took a bite and Cheng Anya followed suit after some hesitation. “It’s so sweet…”
Although the flesh was a lighter shade of green than the skin, its juice was extremely sweet and had a lingering sweetness to it. Its fragrance became even more obvious, and it was clearly over the top. Cheng Anya had yet to taste a fruit this sweet.
Having drunk from the lake, they already felt much more comfortable. After eating the wild fruits, they felt like they were in paradise on earth.
They plucked all ten fruits, which were not many to begin with, and put them in Third Young Master Ye’s backpack. They then exited the shrubbery. To conserve what they had, they did not dare to overeat. Third Young Master Ye ate one, whilst greedy Cheng Anya ate another one. They kept the remaining apples.
“This is one of the best fruits I have had.”
“You have yet to try many other fruits that are as good in the world.” Third Young Master Ye smiled as the two of them walked toward the upstream of the lake. Third Young Master Ye suddenly squinted, and Cheng Anya felt that something was amiss.
As though a sandstorm loomed, sand rolled in the distance as the earth slightly shook. Looking at Third Young Master Ye from the side, he had a razor-sharp gaze and he could not help but tighten his grip around her hands. His dark gaze was calm yet dangerous.
A moment later, even Cheng Anya could tell that horses were approaching.
More than ten young men on red horses rushed toward them. The tall young men were in standardized attire that seemed like military apparel. Some of the men kept full beards that covered a good half of their faces. They seemed especially rough and uncouth.
Their eyes, however, were exceptionally sharp. They were well-equipped with pistols at their waists, and most of them carried light machine guns in a brazen and scary manner.
Third Young Master Ye tucked his lips and remained coolly silent. He quietly put down his hand which was about to draw his gun and held Cheng Anya close to him.
The ten-over horses circled around Third Young Master Ye and Cheng Anya a few times and stopped. The men dismounted from their horses and one of the tall men asked in heavily-accented English, “Who the hell are you? How did you get into here?”
Third Young Master Ye looked at their gears. They seemed like Spaniards, and the man had a very thick Spanish accent. Third Young Master Ye smiled gently and claimed that they were tourists who were lost in the desert.
The man with a thick brow frowned. He was clearly skeptical about what Third Young Master Ye told him. However, he saw Third Young Master Ye and Cheng Anya’s hideous looks and concluded they were no threat. He turned around and quickly conversed with the other two men in Spanish.
Cheng Anya completely had no idea what they said whilst Third Young Master Ye maintained his smile. Once they finished conversing, Third Young Master Ye requested for help. The man flatly said, “We don’t believe you, now move.”
A few of them leveled their light machine guns at Third Young Master Ye and Cheng Anya.
Cheng Anya said in English, “I’ve got a virus, so do not touch me. If you are infected, you only have seven days to live.”
Everybody was shocked and the two men who were about to close up to her backed off subconsciously. They turned to look at the man who had spoken earlier. He was clearly the leader of the group and the men called him ‘general’.
General Chauvet waved his sand and flatly said, “Bring them away.”
As it was unwise to resist, Third Young Master Ye cooperated. Firstly, he was outnumbered, and secondly, Anya was unable to retaliate. While he was able to take them on single-handedly, he had to consider Anya’s life.
He could not afford to take a gamble for want of luck.
General Chauvet believed Cheng Anya and allowed Third Young Master Ye to ride a horse with her. He believed her as he noticed that Third Young Master Ye was wearing gloves and a biohazard suit inside. As a cautious person, he opted to err on the side of caution.
Third Young Master Ye was able to ride a horse well, and a few men surrounded them with light machine guns pointed at them. If Third Young Master Ye tried to escape, he would be utterly shot up. The atmosphere was extremely tense.
Third Young Master Ye could understand Spanish, and he learned from their conversation that he was in a military restricted area. Their unintended trespassing alerted them and while some believed they were tourists, others did not buy the argument when they saw the two pistols at Third Young Master Ye’s waist.
The argument ended with bringing them in to allow someone more senior to determine their fate.
Third Young Master Ye’s initial guess was that he should be near Melilla, which is near the Strait of Gibraltar. With the Dragon Gate maintaining a concealed outpost there, getting out was not a problem once they established contact.
There were many small states in the desert. This troop of armed men belonged to which government? They seemed well-trained, aggressive, and not weak.
Third Young Master Ye was on extreme alert.
“General…” Third Young Master Ye told General Chauvet a story he whipped up on the fly as he protected Cheng Anya. Travel, sandstorms, getting lost—the story he came up with was so plausible there was no evident loophole.
When Third Young Master Ye lied, he was extremely calm and cool to the point he could get his target to thank him for pulling the wool over their eyes. He was as earnest as his target wanted him to be.
Cheng Anya had to admire his calmness and ability to quickly adapt.
He was over the top.
Although the soldiers were extremely calm and stoic, General Chauvet clearly did not trust Third Young Master Ye. To people who had trespassed a restricted area, he absolutely could not afford to take them lightly. Besides, Cheng Anya carried a deadly virus that no normal man could easily contract.
“Cut the crap. I’ll hand you to my prince who will determine your fate,” General Chauvet said as he looked up and beckoned Third Young Master Ye to ride faster. A coldness swept past Third Young Master Ye’s eyes.
Cheng Anya smiled and said in Mandarin, “Ah Chen, how does it feel for your glib tongue to run into a wall?”
“People are just that formidable, sigh…” Third Young Master Ye feigned a sigh. “Damn it, I was telling the truth. Why didn’t he believe me? To think he has such a pretty face.”
“How does having a pretty face relate to believing you?” Cheng Anya was extremely stifled. What kind of reasoning was that?
“Beautiful people should believe what we say. That is proof of a kind heart, get it? Gee, it’s so difficult to tell the truth these days…”
As Cheng Anya thought about helping Third Young Master Ye, she pinched him in his waist in return for his ‘honesty’. Third Young Master Ye pinched her hard in reply and Cheng Anya turned back. Third Young Master Ye smiled alluringly…
Their implicit understanding and collaboration was not something that could be cultivated overnight. They were smart and quickly realized that General Chauvet could understand Mandarin. Third Young Master Ye’s move was a masterstroke. How could he tell that?
To think that Chauvet could still remain stoic despite him being called a ‘beauty’ left Cheng Anya utterly at a loss for words.
After traveling for half an hour, Third Young Master Ye and Cheng Anya finally saw a building. It was an extremely majestic old castle that stood in the desert like a guardian angel.
There were large swaths of palm trees, and Third Young Master Ye secretly told Cheng Anya these buildings were at least a hundred years old. She could not help but be surprised that they spoke in English. General Chauvet proudly told them that these swaths of palm trees were three hundred years old.
Cheng Anya was even more amazed. There was also an oasis here that was not as lush as the other one. However, due to this huge and ancient castle, people felt as though they were in an altogether different world. Not only were there palm trees lining the outside of the castle, but there were also several maple trees and cacti that were several meters tall. It gave them a totally different feeling.
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