A piercing glare followed by the sharp glint from the sword – it was raised and ready to be swung down with barely a hint of hesitation. Without a doubt, a blow from this man was enough to knock the head clean off a neck as though he were merely playing a game.
A chill ran down the length of her spine causing a burst of gooseflesh to appear across the surface of her skin. Trembling slightly, Yue moved herself closer to the fire in an attempt to shake off the terror of a man unseen. The crackle of the firewood nor the warmth that was seeping across to her skin from the teacup was enough to chase the gloom away. From her peripherals, she could see Zhao getting scolded by the physician for stuffing soil into his wound.
It was barely half an hour since the attack from the masked man, but it seemed the entire camp was awake and every single men out there was chasing after the unseen. Yue could hear a chorus of “Check the woods!” “Are we under attack?” “Where are the officers?” “What’s going on?”
“Those half-baked idiots are going to get themselves killed.”
At the intrusion of a familiar voice, Yue’s head snapped in the direction of the physician’s tent entrance. The flap of the doorway had been pushed aside, and the bloodied Kang entered followed by Lang and a few other officers Yue recognised but had no name to put to.
“Sir!” the physician cried out in exasperation after taking in the commander’s appearance.
“Zhao, how are you?” Kang asked as he waved the attending physician away from him.
“Sir. This is but a minor wound. You really should allow Dengyu to check your wound out.” Zhao said as Kang forced him back onto the chair he was on.
“I am not going to die from something like this.” Kang said wearily as he settled into another chair situated close to the fireplace.
“The assassin?” Zhao inquired looking at Lang for answers.
“He got away.” Lang replied, his voice full of raw anger. “For the moment, I’ve assigned Lei to organise patrols around the camp to maintain the order of the men. However, I am not too sure how long it would be before the men start asking questions.”
“Each of you are to settle your own sectors. Ensure every single men is accounted for. Take over the patrolling duties from Lei and I want the entire mountain searched. I want that bastard to be caught; it matters not to me if he comes in breathing or not, but I would like to interrogate him personally if given the chance.” Kang ordered, his fists balling up; knuckles taut.
“Fei Yu.” Kang called out.
The one called Fei Yu stopped abruptly at the door before turning around to face Kang. With a body any bodybuilder would have been jealous of and a handsome face that had been marred by a long jagged scar from beneath his hairline cutting just beneath his right eye, ending on his right cheekbone. Dark eyes returned Kang’s gaze as Fei Yu walked closer into the light from the fireplace.
“I apologise for not being able to protect your brother.” Kang began as he stood up to stand before Fei Yu.
Having been in an environment that was usually full of testosterone-fuelled men; Yue could feel herself staring opening at the scene before her. Kang was bent at the hip as he bowed as a form of repentance to Fei Yu.
“You allowed him to be placed in my care and I’ve failed not only him but you as well.” Kang said with his head bowed. “I’m sorry.”
Fei Yu looked on at Kang stoically before his arm shot out from his side and socked Kang hard across his jaw. Before Yue could even acknowledge what had happened, Kang slammed hard atop of her as both bodies crumbled onto the ground before the fire. Uttering a groan, Yue opened her eyes to see the back of Kang’s head and the teacup she had been cradling before in pieces some feet away.
“We have been together since we were kids. Fei Zheng knew the risks of being your aid and the both of us pledged to follow you no matter what paths it may lead us to.” Fei Yu said as he knelt down before Kang. “So do not ever apologise for whatever has happened. You are the only one who cannot bow to the circumstances.”
Silently, Kang sat himself up. Placing his palm onto the shoulder of Fei Yu; although no further words were exchanged, that was all that was required for the other. Fei Yu returned to his feet and exited the tent without any further ado – he had a duty to organise his own men.
“Kang, if you do not let me see to your wounds right this instant, I am going have to be forced to sedate you and have my way with you!” the physician Dengyu said with a chuckle as though he were talking to any other soldier.
The tension left behind by the departure of Fei Yu was instantly broken by the hint of playfulness in Dengyu’s voice. Kang looked up from where he was seated and the frown that had been etched on his face softened slightly by the words of the well-meaning physician. Standing up, Kang turned and reached out to the person he had fell on after getting punched by his childhood playmate. Stunned, Yue stared at him wide-eyed like what others would have classified as a deer-caught-in-headlights look. Ignoring the look, Kang reached down and grabbed Yue’s upper arm, pulling her easily onto her feet.
“You looked at him yet?” Kang asked Dengyu.
“Yes yes I have. He’s fine. Just scrapes and bruises; nothing like let’s say a slash wound that has been bleeding all over the floor of my tent.” Dengyu replied with a pointed glare at Kang.
Letting out a slight chuckle, Kang released his hold on Yue and relinquished his body to the medical expertise of Dengyu. Hearing his laughter, it finally dawned onto Yue that Kang was a young man.
He is a young man!
He looked about the same age as Zhao and Lang - that meant he was even younger than her back in the present. He was barely thirty and he had the command of more than a hundred soldiers; he had to be responsible for all those lives under his command.
It’s no wonder he acts like his balls are so far up his ass...
Slapping herself mentally for thinking that, the worse mental image ever! – Yue watched in awe as Kang allowed Denyu to pour alcohol onto his open wound without flinching even once. Kang’s back muscles were very well-defined, evident of all the hard training he placed his body under. Biting down onto her lower lip, Yue chose to turn away from the scene in front of her when she felt her blood pooling at her cheeks.
Not good! Not good at all!
The slight smile that formed on her lips quickly died when she spotted Lang staring at her with semi-raised eyebrows. Mouthing the words shut up, Yue promptly settled down into a squat as she picked up the puzzle pieces her teacup had ended up becoming. Inside, Yue started berating herself for acting like some teenage girl who’d go crazy for the class favourite just because he had a nice smile and a really nice body—NO! Yue, stop it!
Quickly gathering up all the broken pieces of the teacup, Yue proceeded to throw them into the trash bucket that was so conveniently situated at the side of Kang’s chair. Biting her lip to prevent a stupid smile from forming, Yue cursed herself inwardly for not being able to control the flapping of the metaphorical butterflies in her stomach.
“Digest them butterflies. Digest them butterflies!” Yue was chanting to herself when Lang grabbed her arm and pulled her out of the tent.
“No. I am not even going to comment on that.” Lang started with a hand up to Yue’s face even before she opened her mouth.
“Because the assassin managed to get away, we do not know when he’ll return to finish the job.”
“Fi-finish the job?!” Yue cried out. “You mean, me?? Finish me?”
“Sure, there are other men in this camp who are more suitable candidates,” Lang said but stopped short when Yue’s face changed from fear to annoyance. “But he came back tonight to get you.”
“I do not want you to be alone anytime, you understand me?”
Yue nodded silently.
“Stay close to either Zhao or I during trainings.”
“Sit with everyone during meal times.”
“When you retire back to your tent, call Lei if you need help. You can trust him.”
“And when you want to clean yourself, tell either Zhao or I; we’ll accompany you.”
“Fine. Eh? Wait! What?! No way in hell!” Yue whispered fiercely, afraid the men around them might hear.
“Yue. If there is one time where you are most vulnerable, it will be during then since you cannot bring a weapon with you nor can you bathe with the other men considering your circumstances.” Lang explained with a tinge of annoyance.
“Besides, we’ve seen everything before.” Lang continued with an unnatural stoicism.
Not wanting to draw any attention to them, Yue could only then send a torrent of smacks towards the head of the inwardly laughing man.
“Shut up!” Yue growled as the stoicism slowly chipped away from Lang.
A tinge of a smile was appearing faintly on his lips as he dodged the rain of attacks. From behind, a pair of arms grabbed Yue’s flailing arms and locked them to her side. Cursing loudly at the newly arrived Zhao, Yue tried to aim a back kick at Zhao. A large palm settled in place atop of her head; a gesture so calming that Yue felt herself relax immediately. Staring up at Lang, Yue was taken aback by the soft smile that was directed to her. Zhao released the arms he had been holding and swung and arm across Yue’s shoulders, his own face mirroring a similar smile.
“Don’t you worry kiddo. We’ll protect you!” Zhao whispered gently so Yue was the only one who could hear it.
Hearing that, Yue quickly covered her face with her hands to block out the hot tears that started to leak from her tightly shut eyelids.