After breakfast, Li Xueyue decided Li Wenmin was right. She had been neglecting her beloved horse. Thus, she decided to take Heiyue for a long run in the never-ending fields behind the Li Manor.
Li Xueyue started when the sun was high in the sky, but now, it was beginning to set. She took a break in the forest where Heiyue was happily drinking water from the river.
"How beautiful," Li Xueyue breathed out as she watched the smallest of waterfalls trickle down to the next river stream. The clear water appeared to be cool and inviting, so much so, that she hopped off of Heiyue to run her hand through it.
"You must be hungry," Li Xueyue mumbled, reaching into the small pouch attached to her waist. She pulled out an apple and a carrot. "This is probably too much sugar for you," she commented, but nonetheless, fed it to him, deciding she needed to give him healthier treats.
When Heiyue finished the apple, he instantly bit the air, thinking there was more. Li Xueyue chuckled and placed her hand on his head, directing his mouth to the carrot. Heiyue finished it quickly, and as he was down to the last bite, his head abruptly shot upwards.
Heiyue stomped the ground, his head turned in the direction behind her. Li Xueyue glanced backward, but noticed nothing was there.
"There's nothing there, Heiyue," Li Xueyue said, but nonetheless, she reached for the dagger strapped on her leg. "What is it?"
Heiyue let out a quiet neigh, nudging her.
Just then, Li Xueyue heard it. In the far distance, there was the slightest chatter. Who could it be? Perhaps farmers who wandered too far? That was impossible. This section of the forest was specifically closed off to outsiders. It was heavily marked to be the Li Family's territory.
"Let's go," Li Xueyue said whilst hopping onto Heiyue. "I think we're at the border of our territory."
Heiyue tilted his head, whether it was in approval or not, she didn't know.
"There shouldn't be activities in this forest in the first place," Li Xueyue said, "Come on, Heiyue. Let's head home."
She urged her horse forward and began to head down the trail they took. That is, until Heiyue let out a loud neigh, raising his front legs.
"Heiyue!" Li Xueyue gasped, grabbing onto the reins tightly. She had almost fallen off her own horse! "What has gotten into you?" she breathed out in shock.
Heiyue let out a neigh of protest. He jutted his head in the direction he had heard the distinctive whiz of something flying his way.
Li Xueyue turned her head and to her horror, there was an arrow stuck to a tree. It was fresh and brand new, which meant it was shot just now. She uncapped her dagger, wishing she had brought a sword with her as well.
And then she heard it. The familiar ping of an arrow being shot. In the blink of an eye, she flicked her wrist and sliced the arrow before it landed somewhere near them.
"Who's there?" Li Xueyue said in a loud and stern voice. "Come out right now!"
She immediately regretted saying that when they came out.
To her horror and surprise, the people who showed themselves were soldiers in armor and they were fully equipped. On top of that, they were dressed in clothes that were oddly familiar but obviously did not belong to Wuyi's military.
Their swords were raised and in the near distance, she could see the gleam of their bows loaded with arrows aimed at her and Heiyue.
"Which country do you work for?" Li Xueyue demanded. "This ground is the property of the Prime Minister of Wuyi. You have no right trespassing here."
"Silence!" the man leading the group snarled. He flicked two fingers in her direction and abruptly, the soldiers surrounded her.
"We ask the questions here," the man seethed. "How did you find us?"
"What are you talking about?" Li Xueyue hissed, "This is my father's land. I didn't find you, you found me."
"Now that you've seen us, we can't let you go." The man nodded to his subordinates and immediately the soldiers took a step forward.
Li Xueyue's expression darkened. "Touch me or my horse, and I can guarantee you will lose that hand."
"And what made you say that?"
"I am the Prime Minister of Wuyi's daughter. You will not get away with this."
The man in charge paused. The Prime Minister's daughter? Why did he feel like the title sounded familiar?
"Who do you work for?" Li Xueyue demanded. She would never yield to these men. Pretending to be timid and weak was stupid.
"That is none of your concern."
Li Xueyue narrowed her eyes. None of these men was wearing the emblem of their country. "What are you doing on my father's land?"
"Enough of your questions. Prime Minister's daughter or not, you're coming with us." The man nodded to his soldiers.
"Get away from me—Heiyue!" Li Xueyue gasped when one of the soldiers threw a rope around her horse.
Heiyue instantly protested, tossing his head in the other direction before the noose grazed his neck.
"Wait, what's that?" Li Xueyue suddenly said, her face frozen in horror. She pointed to something behind the man in charge.
"As if that could work on me—"
An animal loudly roared.
"Lieutenant!" the soldiers warned.
The man turned around in confusion and sure enough, he was met face to face with a proud and daring tiger.
"Let's go, Heiyue!"
Heiyue didn't need to be told twice. He raised his front legs, surprising the soldiers in front of him who backed off without knowing.
"Stop! Do you have a death wish?!" the man demanded. "If you run now, the tiger will chase you."
Reluctantly, Li Xueyue admitted the Lieutenant was right, for the tiger's attention was now on her.
"Anyway, this tiger is on our side," the man said, nodding to his soldier. "Grab her first. This one likes to run."
"You—!" she didn't get to finish her sentence when a noose was looped around her neck without warning.
Li Xueyue gasped but couldn't react fast enough. Like an animal collared by the neck, she was yanked off of her own horse. Roughly, she slammed onto the ground, pain coursing her body.
She struggled against the rope that tightened around her throat.
Li Xueyue couldn't breathe. Black dots tainted her vision and the more she fought, the more she was getting light-headed.
"Fighting against it is futile. This is a special knot known to our country. The more you struggle, the tighter it'll get."
Only when she was bound on her wrists and legs did the rope around her neck finally loosen. She heaved, gasping for air, her vision returning to normal.
"Be a doll and shut up," the Lieutenant said. Before she could reply, he shoved a cloth ball into her mouth.
Her eyes went wide.
How the hell was this happening? Did all the years of training teach her nothing?
"Up close, you're quite beautiful aren't you?" the Lieutenant commented. He gently touched her face. "Do not worry, in our country, we do not violate women unless you're a war conquest."
Li Xueyue glowered at him, wishing he could drop dead right then and there.
"Quite a lovely sight you are," the Lieutenant said and smiled. "But you're irritating. You see, we are honorable men, but we won't hesitate to slit your throat if you continue to annoy us—" he paused.
"Sir!" his soldier called out, but it was all too late.
Heiyue had charged forward, rope and all. He did not care about the noose tightening around his neck, or the man he was dragging behind him.
"You fool!" the Lieutenant roared when his soldier let go of the rope.
Heiyue had ran off.
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