If only looks could kill – was what Yue had running constantly through her mind. She had her arms crossed in front of her in a tight lock as her eyes glared daggers at the smug-looking male seated before her. Even his laughter sounded offensive to her ears; crude, boisterous and arrogant. Huffing angrily to herself, Yue shifted her glare away to a spot in the nearby pole as a hand reached up to rub at her bruised shoulder.
Yue had been rugby-tackled by Lei just meters from the finishing line – not only was Yue sore from being shoved, her ego and pride was hurt as well; knowing her “victory” had been snatched by the one guy she detested the most in the camp.
“You alright?” Zhao asked as he squeezed Yue’s unbruised shoulder lightly.
Unable to stop herself, Yue pouted slightly to the older male. Having been an orphan in a overcrowded orphanage, Yue never had the opportunity to enjoy the comforts of having an elder sibling; she didn’t have a particularly close friend in the orphanage as the kids in there were all moving in and out very quickly – there were a handful of rare individuals like herself, who never caught the eyes of potential fosters or adoptive parents.
“I hate that guy.” Yue mumbled as she returned the focus of her glare back to the object of her annoyance.
Zhao gave a slight laugh before resuming back to his strict demeanour. He nodded towards Yue before walking over to Lang - the two of them standing together exchanging quiet words. Laughter rang out loud from her side – one exceptionally loud which irked Yue utterly. Biting back curses, Yue promptly walked away from the group and settled herself as part of the circle of caught thieves. The group was made up of roughly eight depressed individuals; each and every one of them was covered in wounds and dirt. Only seven out of the fifteen made it to the camp relatively unscathed; they would have won if Yue had been able to make it into the camp.
Yue could feel a couple of death glares trained onto her from within the group but she brushed them all aside – because, if they were any better, they would have been the ones who would have been able to get into the camp without getting caught. Alas, they were still seated in the same defeated group as her.
“How’s the shoulder?” Yushan – another rookie recruit – asked.
“I’ve had worse. How’s your eye?”
Yushan had a cloth pressed over the top of his right eye; he removed to reveal a deep gash running from the corner of his right eye, across his eyelid and through his eyebrow ending up near the edge of his hairline.
“God damned.” Yue muttered cringing slightly at the still bleeding wound.
Yue liked Yushan. He was a new recruit and was on par with Yue in terms of athletic prowess. During the morning runs or hikes, it was usually the two of them on the verge of dying together. Due to the intensity of the trainings, Yue neither had the time nor energy to notice anyone else in her section other than Zhao and Lei. The first time she took note of Yushan was during their second day of training – Yue had collapsed in the training square after an entire day’s worth of training and she noticed the other recruit next to her, spread eagle, gasping for air like a fish out of water. Yue had thrown him her water sack and they became steadfast friends very quickly afterwards.
“Excuse you?!” Yue turned, retorting angrily.
Two other recruits – Deshu and Jian – returned her glare with similar ones of their own. They were both in pretty bad shapes; Deshu looked as though his nose was fractured whilst Jian was nursing a badly bruised jaw.
“Only little girls whine and cry over such pathetic wounds.” Jian snapped.
“Who the hell is whining?” Yue demanded.
“The damned kid who couldn’t throw Lei off perhaps!” Deshu said as he spat out a mouth full of blood at Yue.
“You are fucking kidding me!” Yue yelled standing up, furiously rubbing the specks of blood from her face with the back of her arm.
The two before her stood up as well; all three of them pissed and ready for a fight. Yue balled her fists up so tightly that her knuckles became white; blood rushed to her head and she was seeing red. Without warning, Yue swung her right arm around and slammed her fist against the side of Deshu’s face.
“He fucking tackled me! At least I got to camp – where the hell were you?” Yue roared as her knee came up to meet Deshu’s nose.
If his nose wasn’t fractured before, it sure was now as a dull crack resonated loudly upon contact. Deshu fell to the ground crying in pain, his hand clamped over the broken bone. Blood flowed freely from his nostrils as did tears from his eyes.
“Who is the one crying now asshole?” Yue laughed.
Movement from her peripheral vision caught her attention; Jian managed to land a few punches onto Yushan’s torso before the latter managed to get a well-aimed half turned kick at Jian’s jawbone. Swiftly, Yushan managed to incapacitate Jian; throwing him to the ground near Deshu. Yushan stepped up to Yue’s side with a smug smile etched on his lips as he swept his fringe away from his face.
“I see. Since the four of you are still that energetic, you can get rid of all that excess energy by running.”
Groaning inwardly at the familiar voice, Yue looked at Lang who had arrived some time during their fight. Although they were supposedly childhood playmates, it was hard for Yue to get close to Lang. Lang was someone who doesn’t open up to people well, and he isn’t someone who would treat another better just because they were friends or because the other is female. Lang is someone who is able to strictly separate personal issues from business.
This being the army, it was all strictly business.
Unconsciously, Yue had moved to position Yushan between Lang and her; perhaps the more distance between them would make it less awkward. Lang picked up the slight movement without fail and turned his gaze towards the female; his gaze held little emotion that made it hard for Yue to read. Unable to return his stare, Yue’s eyes decided that it was the correct time to look away and at anything but Lang.
“Jian, accompany Deshu to the first aid tent.” Lang ordered.
The two men hurried away without a word – everyone was wary of Lang. In their platoon, because Lang was the assistant commander for them, no one was in a hurry to get on his bad side.
“The guards who managed to grab the sash of their opponents will get to start tomorrow’s training late by two hours. Everyone else will be required to assemble by the front gates an hour before sunrise; any late comers will personally report to me. Dismissed.”
As soon as Lang dismissed the remaining recruits, those who were feeling victorious allowed themselves a quick cheer before hurrying off to the dining tent – it was two hours after sunset and if they wanted to have ample rest before the next training, they had to hurry with their dinner and their washing up. They knew there was no time for extravagant celebrations - at least not now.
“What are you two waiting for?” Lang asked quietly.
“Nothing. We’ll be off now, sir.” Yushan saluted before dragging Yue along quickly towards the gates.
“God damn it! As if we weren’t exhausted enough...” Yue groaned deeply as soon as they were out of hearing range.
“At least he didn’t state how many rounds we had to run. Let’s just run for an hour to make it seem like at least we tried.”
“An hour?!” Yue gasped in horror. “Please say you’re kidding me!”
“Oh come on! We’ve done more than an hour’s worth of running before.”
Even though Yushan said they would run for an hour, by the time the two of them returned back to their respective tents, Yue was positively sure Yushan had made them run close to two hours. He kept saying he hadn’t sweat enough and sure, he sounded as though he could have continued running even after their run, Yue felt as though she had lost her legs in the process. Yushan had dropped her off at her tent before heading to his own tent. As soon as Yue entered her tent, she collapsed heavily at the entrance as she didn’t want to soil her mattress. Closing her eyes, Yue took time to regulate back her breathing; allowing herself to sink deeper into the verge of sleep.
“Damn, you stink.”
Groaning at the voice, Yue opened her eyes to Lei squatting next to her holding on to the sash he had stolen from her earlier.
“Go away and you won’t smell it.” Yue snapped.
“The stink is permeating into my tent.” Lei said.
“Wow, big words coming from you today. I am positively sure; whatever you smelled in your tent came from you since you don’t smell all that fine yourself.”
“I know that.” Lei replied to Yue’s groan as he settled himself on the ground. “And I know we started off on the wrong foot, so I am proposing to start again with introductions.”
“As fellow recruits, let’s get to know each other better whilst we bathe, how that sound?”
“Er, bad?” Yue uttered as she jolted awake from her stupor. “Stark naked men, bathing together does not sound good at all!”
“I am quite certain all men bathe stark naked – why? Do you bathe with your clothes on?” Lei asked doubtfully.
“Dude, that’s not the problem! I mean men do not bathe together. That’s just weird an-and besides, can’t we just reintroduce ourselves here on dry land?” Yue asked nervously.
“Why are you getting all nervous for?” Lei challenged. “Unless there’s something you’re hiding under your clothes.”
“There isn’t. It’s ju-just that I injured my ribs a few days back, the doc applied some medicine and placed a bandage on. So I’m not supposed to let it get wet.” Yue explained quickly. “You can even feel the bandage through the top – see?”
Yue praised her quick-thinking silently as she pulled her top apart slightly to show just the top of the rows of bandages that adorned her chest. She waited with bated breath as Lei absorbed whatever she had just said.
“Damn son! You should have said something! And I tackled you so hard just now.” Lei exclaimed suddenly.
“It’s no biggie. Doesn’t hurt as much as before.” Yue gave a nervous laugh.
“Since it’s like this, can’t help it then. Anyways, I wanted to return this to you.” Lei said as he handed Yue her sash.
Yue was just about to retrieve her sash from Lei when he pulled back suddenly. Sighing in exasperation, Yue gave him a perplexed look – as if asking him a silent What?
“After your injury heals, let’s have that man to man talk again.” Lei replied with a strange look on his face as he returned the sash back to its rightful owner.
“I would very much like to get to know you better.”