29 Heightened Hearing
The horse ring was located outside of the capital. It was an enormous arena with lots of open land for horses to freely roam around. Not only was the horse ring there, but there were also many merchants gathered around the area, since the trading ports was just a few steps away.
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"Yueyue, is there a special breed you want?" Wenmin asked, starring at the different variety of horses present.
There were horses more suitable for long periods of running, some quiet and steady for hunting, and there was others that was a perfect balance between the two.
"I don't have any preferences." Xueyue replied.
Her eyes surveyed the horses of different color, sizes, and breed but nothing seemed to catch her attention.
Wenmin noticed the loud announcer and crowd towards the center of the horse ring. "There seems to be a crowd over there, let's check it out!" He dragged Xueyue and the reluctant Chenyang towards the noise.
"Ladies and gentlemen, today we have a very rare catch! This is one of the finest and best horse we have ever caught in the past few years!"
The announcer stepped to the side and grandly spread one arm open.
What first greeted the people was the thundering sound of mighty hooves. In the distance, a black shadow was quickly approaching. The people held their breaths in anticipation, as they awaited the entrance of the supposedly magnificent horse.
With a speed that matched the wind, the horse quickly came forward. It had a beautiful midnight coat whose color resembled the bleak, night sky. Its hooves was covered in white, as if she was forever stepping in snow.
But one thing that stood out was the horse's sickly features. The horse was so skinny and malnourished, the rib cage was evident. The horse has thin, skinny legs that wasn't suitable for any types of labor or work.
And when the horse accidentally ran into the fence holding it back, the people laughed. Their laughter died down when they realized something.
The horse had glassy, gray eyes like the clouds on a rainy day.
The horse was blind.
Was this some sort of joke? This was the magnificent horse that the announcer was bragging about?
Many people scoffed.
The announcer quickly addressed the situation, in fear of losing the big crowd. "Uh...this is the wrong horse." He awkwardly laughed.
He turned around to harshly scold the stable boy close to him. "Bring that useless horse back into the stable and give it 20 whippings!" He whispered to the stable boy, so that they were the only one who heard the conversation.
The crowd and Xueyue were completely oblivious to their exchange.
"Y-yes sir." The stable boy said, reaching over to forcefully seize the blind horse.
Xueyue's lips thinned into a fine line when she noticed how roughly the stable boy was handling the horse.
The blind horse jerked its head back at the harsh tugs of his reins. It bit at the stable boy's hands, snapping and snarling.
There was something startling about the horse and when Xueyue stepped closer for a better glance, she felt her heart drop.
There were massive whip marks and signs of abuse.
It was a neglected and unwanted horse that probably spend the rest of his life in confinement, never being able to experience the grass underneath its feet and the warm sunlight on its back.
The stable boy was having a very hard job of pulling the horse back into the stables.
But his hands were too late. The horse didn't want to go back.
After being locked away in a dark, dirty, and disgusting stable for so long, this was the first time the horse has ever experienced the luscious, soft grass underneath his hooves.
The announcer noticed the curious glance from his crowd and quickly addressed the situation.
"Don't worry, ladies and gentlemen. We have another fence to my left, where the actual champion will come out!" There was clear irritation on the announcer's face, but he tried his best to smile.
When he directed the people's attention towards the star of the show, Xueyue was the only one to not shift her gaze. Instead, she kept it focused on the black horse that was clearly struggling against the stable boy.
"Wow, Yueyue look at that horse!" Wenmin loudly exclaimed when a white horse ran into the open field. The horse was beautiful with a brilliant coat of white that resembled the first snow.
"Do you want to own that horse?" Wenmin's eyes never left the prestige white horse. He thought it would be perfect for Xueyue. A pure horse for a pure girl.
"I would love to." Xueyue whispered, but her eyes wasn't on the white horse that everyone seemed to love. Instead, her eyes were on the blinded black horse.
"Perfect! I'll tell the announcer my price!" Wenmin walked the first step towards the announcer, but Chenyang grabbed Wenmin and pulled him back.
"She wants the other horse." Chenyang quietly said.
Wenmin lifted his head in the direction that Xueyue was starring at.
That horse was blind, beaten, and useless. What could Xueyue do with such an useless horse? Was it because it was less expensive than the white one?
"Yueyue, don't worry. We have a lot of money, you don't have to settle for a discount horse." Wenmin gently said.
"I like the other horse." She firmly said.
She saw the similarity between herself and the horse. They were both beaten into submission, but neither of them lost the fire in their eyes.
"Are you sure...? That horse is blind, it won't run well." Wenmin hesitantly asked her.
He stared at Xueyue who didn't even look at him. When she finally lifted her gaze back to him, her eyes were wide with longing.
Wenmin felt his heart clench at her puppy-face. Could this girl get any cuter? Did she even have to beg for that horse?
At this moment, Wenmin knew from the bottom of his heart, he would do anything to please this girl.
"I will grow with this horse...it'll create a stronger bond of loyalty." Xueyue added on, her eyes settling back onto the black horse.
The edges of Chenyang's lips tilted upwards. She was either incredibly stupid, naive, or both. "Fool, loyalty might be important, but stealth and speed outweighs a simple relationship."
Xueyue slowly shook her head. "Without loyalty, stealth and speed will be useless. The horse can easily throw you off or never show you it's best abilities because it does not trust you enough to do so." She quietly said, her words forever ringing within Chenyang's heart.
Touched at her words, he blew out a breath and patted her head. "Alright then, little one. We shall get this horse." He nodded to the stable boy who overheard the entire conversation.
The stable boy was surprised and quickly ran to the seller to tell him the good news. Not a minute had passed, before he returned with the price of the horse.
The entire transaction went by quickly, almost too quickly. The seller was eager to get rid of the rebellious horse without any use.
When the stable boy was about to hand the horse to Xueyue, it was reluctant to move. "Come on, walk faster!" The stable boy urged, growing embarrassed at his pathetic attempts of controlling the horse.
The horse neighed, stomped the ground, bit the leather reins, and nearly kicked the stable boy.
When Xueyue saw the stable boy raise his whipping stick, she ran forward.
"Don't hurt my horse!" Xueyue reprimanded, cutting between the whip and the horse.
The stable boy was startled at her presence and quickly pulled back the whip. He was thankful for his quick reflexes, or else he might've committed an offense he couldn't afford.
"Give me the reins, I'll walk her myself." Xueyue frowned.
"R-right away ma'am." The stable boy hastily passed the reins to her.
The horse reared its head back and ferociously trampled the ground.
Despite not being able to see anything, it's hearing was perfectly fine.
Xueyue noticed the horse might have sharpened hearings from relying solely on its ears to survive.
While Xueyue was busy observing the horse, Chenyang noticed something startling. "Xueyue, let go of the reins now!" He screamed just as the horse raised its front legs.
"It's going to charge forward!" But it was too late. Xueyue didn't have the time to react before the horse jerked forward and ran with speed faster than thunder.