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92 Where is Xiao Ya?

    Unbeknownst to what was happening in Lin Zhi City, Xue'er made her journey back in the direction of the border town, carrying a basket of fruit with her. These days were slow going, so the scenery was something to be admired even if everything was nothing more than bare branches that were seen clearly in the sky where there were only clouds.

    Because of this, the weather got colder. As of now, there was no one really on the road, so it was quite peaceful. As of now, she could see a couple of animals that were lying dead off the road. Upon inspection of their stiff furry bodies, one could tell that they were thoroughly frozen hard. So much so that holding one of the legs was no different from holding a clay statue.

    The environment here was becoming colder and colder, although she could not feel it, it was something that she sensed after observing the animals around.

    At this point, Xue'er was certain that all the townspeople were all huddled up near a fire, all dressed in padded clothing, so it was pointless to go into the town.

    Instead, she went to the abandoned village to tidy up the place, making her way to the well that was on the edge of town.

    It was an old well, made with old blocks of limestone at the mouth of the well. The stones were an earthy brown color, one did not know if this was the original color or a color that was accumulated by the years of the well not being properly managed, there were also some springs of moss that grew by the well, the color of dark green.

    The well was not covered well, which was the custom in most parts of the kingdom, they say that an open well trapped evil spirits in the water that brought on an epidemic. It was opened to any debris or insects that could possibly fall in. There was also no bucket that could be used to pull the water up.

    What Xue'er peered into, was a pitch-black dark hole. Even her sharp eyes could not see the bottom of it clearly, all she could see was a glimmer of something that was at the very bottom. It reflected something that resembled water. The little amount of light that reflected on the bottom perked Xue'er's interest as she directly brought herself over the mouth of the well, directly jumping down.

    The path down, there was only one, it wasn't wide, but being the size of a young girl, she was able to fit through quite comfortably. The surrounding wall of the tunnel was only made of normal rocks and dirt, it wasn't made of anything special in particular, but the different layers in the dirt allowed her to gain insight on what it would look like as a deep hole was being dug in the ground.

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    With a large splash, she landed in a small pool that was on the bottom of the well. She was completely submerged in water. Her feet moved as she tried to find stable footing, but no matter how hard she tried, there was just no bottom, allowing her to understand that the pool was very deep. A good thing that it was quite small in circumference so she was able to find the edge and nimbly climb out.

    After getting out, she could feel her body shaking, perhaps an involuntary movement. Exhaling a deep breath, that came out with a layer of white frost.

    [Was the water that cold?]

    Xue'er wondered, then wouldn't the water have already frozen over if the water over if the temperature was enough to frost a person's breath? The only other place that had water is cold as ice but not frozen was the waterfall from the underground maze in which she spent the year.

    Wringing the water from her soaked clothes and hair, she looked around the place she was in. It resembled a cavern, that had grey rock walls, and a black dirt ground. The dirt down here was quite healthy despite the cold water. It was actually better than all the earth found in the north, providing that there was something could grow in the cold environment of the cavern.

    The grey rock walls had moss that was a blood-red color growing from its creaks and crevices. It was not the first time Xue'er had seen this blood-red moss that grew near graves that were centuries old.

    But there were plants that could grow here, and this made Xue'er ecstatic, it meant that she could grow some herbs down here.

    After thinking about it for a while, this could be her own personal little herb garden, while she could reside in the abandoned village, and no one would ever know what was down here.

    Thinking till here, a shred of excitement bubbled up as she decided to prepare.

    Jumping down was easy, but going up against the irresistible pull of the abyss was slightly more difficult. Xue'er climbed from the mouth of the well and made her way back to the border town. Her speed of walking was neither quick nor slow as she walked into the town.

    There was nowhere to go, perhaps if she wanted to, she could return to the inn, but she wanted to walk around first.

    The border town was at a point where it could amuse her no longer.

    But where was Xiao Ya? It seemed that after wandering around for a while, she could not hear the sounds of the joyful girl's voice. After not seeing her for a couple of days, she suddenly found that she did find some joy when Xiao Ya gave her those snow peaches.

    She scourged through most of the abandoned houses that could be found in the border town.

    Finding mostly huddled up children, but there was not so much as the shadow of Xiao Ya's presence.

    Making up her mind, she decided to ask someone. Looking around, her eyes fell on a child who she could tell had his eyes closed but was not sleeping.

    Her shadow loomed over his small body, making the boy shiver and open his eyes. Those large round eyes stared up at her.

    Xue'er slightly crouched down and asked, "Do you know who Xiao Ya is?" She was betting on that he definitely knew who Xiao Ya was, considering how amiable the girl seemed to be, even befriending strangers such as herself.

    The boy stared up for a while before he said: "I haven't seen her since the new year."

    "Did something happen at that time?"

    "A lot of people came and took away some children, Xiao Ya might have been among them." The boy said.

    "Thank you for your time." Xue'er said to the boy as she quickly left.
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