Lu Tianbi entered the tent with a plate of food and a large jug of clean water balanced on a dark, wooden tray. She glanced around the tent, looking for a table to settle everything on. She cringed upon seeing a foldable table filled with bloodied daggers and stained handkerchiefs.
"You have to eat, Princess Li." Lu Tianbi settled the tray on the bed. She let out a sigh of relief upon seeing the wooden tray was sturdy enough to not tip things over.
"Thank you," Li Xueyue said. She picked up the jug first and poured herself a cup of water.
"You're bold, you know," Lu Tianbi said, crossing her arm. "No one has ever laid their hands on the Commander."
Li Xueyue glanced away and placed the cup down.
"I'm surprised he didn't retaliate against you for that slap."
"Was it that obvious?"
"It was. There was a red mark on his face, but it'll probably go away." Lu Tianbi shrugged. "Well, you better hope it goes away. If his other soldiers see it, they'll think horribly of you."
Li Xueyue didn't respond. She glanced around the tent, wondering how long Yu Zhen was here for. The tent was large and well-heated, with everything that someone could possibly need to feel comfortable. She ran a hand over the fur blanket that was most likely made from a bear.
"He's usually not this kind to women," Lu Tianbi added on. "I don't know what he did to evoke your wrath, but next time, you should hit him where people can't see."
Li Xueyue's head snapped to Lu Tianbi in shock. She thought the female soldier would ask her to never lay a hand on Yu Zhen, but who would've thought Lu Tianbi would be giving such advice.
Lu Tianbi thoughtfully smiled. "I don't know who's wrong in this argument, but I hope you can resolve it soon."
Li Xueyue did not respond. "He should let me go home."
"He should," Lu Tianbi agreed. "It's already nightfall. By now, your family must've been alerted of your absence."
Li Xueyue nodded. The twins must've freaked out by now, and their mother must've been worried sick. Perhaps their father had notified the guards and they're combing through the fields as they speak.
"He'll have to let me go in the morning."
"I'll speak to him about it," Lu Tianbi said. "I don't understand why he's keeping you here. It's unfair to both sides."
"He wanted to show me something."
"Oh, what is it?" Lu Tianbi asked, though she already had her own suspicions.
"There's a really long tent not far from the campgrounds. There's no proper lighting in there, but I heard groans and muffled whimpers."
"Yes, they're our prisoners."
"Prisoners?" Li Xueyue said.
Every country always took prisoners of war after winning a battle. But Hanjian didn't have any other conflict, except with Wuyi due to the trading routes. Everything didn't make sense. Why would Yu Zhen be keeping someone hostage? Did it have something to do with her?
"You'll understand when you see them," Lu Tianbi vaguely said. She pushed the wooden tray closer to Xueyue, motioning for her to eat.
Li Xueyue reluctantly picked up the chopsticks and ate the food. For something that was made by the campfire, it was surprisingly delicious. The cuisine had ingredients that were commonly used in many of Wuyi's dishes, but it was prepared and seasoned differently. She enjoyed the food and didn't bother to hide her delighted expression.
"You eat well," Lu Tianbi observed and chuckled. "I suppose the rumors of your great appetite weren't lies."
Li Xueyue nodded as she took a sip of the water. The meal was finished very quickly, mainly because she wanted to ask more questions.
"I will prepare you some tea before bedtime. You will like it. Hanjian has a different brewing method," Lu Tianbi said.
"Will you tell me more about the prisoners?" Li Xueyue asked.
"No, I can't. You will have to see for yourself," Lu Tianbi responded.
Li Xueyue fiddled with her fingers irritably.
"In the meantime, would you like to take a bath in the river? It's well-irrigated because of the mellow tides and the small waterfall," Lu Tianbi asked.
"I will," Li Xueyue gratefully responded, standing up.
"I'll bring the wooden tray back and come with my clothes. They might not fit you that well since I'm a bit taller, but it's better than nothing."
Li Xueyue smiled a bit. "Thank you."
"You're very welcome, Princess." Lu Tianbi picked up the wooden tray and left the tent. She was surprised by how well-mannered Li Xueyue was. There wasn't a sense of masked kindness.
Lu Tianbi wondered if such a warm heart would get Li Xueyue very far in life. She hoped there was more than what met the eyes.
- - - - -
True to her words, Lu Tianbi came back with clothes. She guided Li Xueyue to a heavily secluded area behind some boulders. Lu Tianbi stood guard while Xueyue quickly bathed. Shortly after, Li Xueyue dried herself off and slipped into Lu Tianbi's clothing.
The clothes were indeed larger and looser. It wasn't a hanfu, but more of a robe meant for battle. Lu Tianbi explained that she didn't wear a lot of feminine clothing since it was harder to do heavy chores like training.
Once all was set, Li Xueyue was guided back into the tent. She checked the curtains and realized there were actually buttons rimming the edges. Most likely, it was meant for holding the heavy curtains in place so that people did not try to enter without warning.
Li Xueyue wondered how sturdy it would be, thus, buttoned the curtains and tried to roughly yank on it. The buttons would not budge, and the knotting of it seemed really strange. Perhaps it was Hanjian's own techniques. She had never seen them before.
"How unique," she said whilst unbuttoning the tent.
Poking her head outside, she noticed many of the soldiers were retreating into their own individual tents. There were a few patrolling the forest, and another handful staying awake to guard into the night. Most likely, there would be different groups of soldiers taking shifts.
Li Xueyue pressed her lips together. "Where am I going to sleep?" she thought out loud, turning back to the tent. Sure enough, there was only one bed.
Li Xueyue scowled. Was this all planned by him? She refused to sleep in the same bed as him. And if he made any stupid suggestion like keeping their hands to themselves with a pillow in between them, she would roll her eyes to the next century. Did he think she was born yesterday?
Li Xueyue grumbled under her breath. "He's a pervert, I shouldn't trust him."
A tiny voice in the back of her mind said, 'But you gave him permission and teased him. Aren't you also a pervert?'
Li Xueyue hated the Angel on her shoulders. She flicked it off and approached the table lined with weapons.
Li Xueyue grabbed a cloth from the table and wiped a dagger clean. She glanced over her shoulders before slipping it into her pocket. Better safe than sorry.
"Oh, there's a chair," Li Xueyue said. She grabbed the fur blanket off the bed and made her way to the spot.
"Better than the floor," Li Xueyue mumbled whilst sitting down. Draping the blanket over herself, she decided to sleep. It was better than waiting for morning to approach. Besides, the earlier she slept, the earlier she'd wake up.
Li Xueyue made up her mind to sneak off as early in the morning as possible. It would be difficult to make it past the soldiers guarding this place, but it wasn't impossible. There was bound to be a loophole in the defense.
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