WEI LI LIAN
MILITARY GROUNDS CAMP
When Broken Nose finally stood in front of Le-anne, she glared back at him, eye to eye. The smirk he had cast for the other girl was long gone leaving a cold visage. The man slant his head in her direction to intimidate her but Le-anne remained statued. He frowned, then moved on but before she could let out a breath of relief he stopped and turned around.
"You!" he growled his eyes raving with recognition.
"Who?" Le-anne raised her eyebrows, eyes widening. "Last night you tried to seduce me and now you have come to stalk me here?"
"Huh?... Are you mad?" The man stuttered having been caught off guard.
"If I was mad I would have accepted your unacceptable advances."
"You wench!" Broken Nose fumed.
Le-anne smirked with pleasure. She knew that there was some truth to her false accusations and thus the man was struggling to defend himself. He probably had been courting the girl that was standing beside her, doing the forbidden.
"Ah? Older Brother, is that why you were not there for dinner last night?" The other military serviceman interjected, his face galvanized at finding out the nitty-gritty concerning his friend.
"Shut up!" Broken Nose gritted. He awkwardly looked at his ashen girl, who stood anxiously next to Le-anne. The current circumstances were mentally eviscerated for him as he nervously fidgeted from one feet to another. Blood trickled down from his nose yet he was sweating in his pants to notice it.
The court lady caught up with them.
"What is going on?" she snapped, flouncing herself next to Le-anne.
"My lady," Le-anne's demeanor changed to one of respect, "this man here has been harassing me and I cannot stand it."
"Shén me?" (what?)The court lady started to writhe, stirring up the emotions of disdain that she already felt towards the men.
"My lady, my lady! Grand General is now headed for his afternoon bath!" A girl scrambled to the scene.
The court lady softened a little yet what seemed to be a long term grudge stopped her from taking light of the matter.
"Girls, go on and present the herbs and flowers to Eunuch Nam and I will deal with this situation."
Le-anne clamped along with the girls and followed them to wherever they were to go. As she picked a bowl of herbs on the table she sneaked a sharp small knife that lay on its vicinity into her sleeve. Who knew when she would need it?
Like in the palace the girls trooped in the ordained order of two column lengths, seniors lead in front and thus Le-anne found herself on the last row. They passed by a formal garden interspersed with grass green verges and discolored florets. And just after crossing the gardens, they came to a stop by a strawed four squared wooden edifice.
"Delivery of herbs and flowers by the ablution maids." The senior maid stated and the walls of the building opened up, revealing hidden sliding doors that had once merged and disguised as a wall.
They were greeted by the celestial of organic flowers. Lilies, tuberoses, frangipanis and ylang ylang were the few dewy scents that Le-anne could pinpoint. This reminded her of the exciting times she and Nameless ventured around for wild flowers in the forest.
She swallowed a lump that was forming on her throat and refused to be emotional.
Besides the delight of the extraterrestrial perfumes, she noticed the warm ambiance that was set to make one to be at ease in the large room. Beautiful chiffon fabric with soft shades of green, yellow and white hung all over, from one pole to another. On the mounted shelves were antique bowls, mugs, vessels and ceramic containers that were more so for stocking items just as they were there for decoration.
Le-anne was quite surprised by the elegance of the retinue that waltzed up and down the room. There was every sort of sophistication with the pose they used in doing everything. Some concentrated on making perfumes, others measured herbs, few mixed solutions and so on. They possessed such skill and prowess that you could be engrossed in watching them all day. And in all this, the room still conveyed quietude. Nobody had the temerity to talk but strictly carry out their duties.
"The ablution maids are here?" An eunuch walked towards them. He had two eunuch assistants kowtowing behind him.
"Yeh my Lord, Court Lady Nam sent us with―"
Court Lady Nam?
The court lady she had seen earlier was the emperor's court lady, the person she was supposed to hand over the letter to. No wonder her voice had been familiar; Le-anne had recognized the resemblance as she was the same woman who chastised the Senior Lady of Art in front of the emperor. Le-anne felt gutted at her mistake. She could have saved herself all the trouble of being in the camp for such a long time.
"Hǎo hǎo, Grand General has started washing," the eunuch hurriedly spoke, and looked at the small herb buckets with disapproval. What struck to Le-anne about his face was the mole that sat next to his nose.
"Have those buckets changed," he instructed his assistants and quickly they grabbed the buckets and disappeared into the background. Two more assistants rushed over as replacements of the mandated ones.
"I need only four of you," the eunuch scrutinized the ablution maids, "one, two, three, four." He counted the girls in front. Dao was one of them.
Le-anne felt a sense of relief that after this she could go back and find Court Lady Nam.
"Spruce up your hair and straighten your clothes," the eunuch ordered the four selected girls. He was specific about the details like they were about to serve a god. What was so special about the General that he had the whole room up to their necks for him?
"What happened to your hand?" the eunuch frowned towards Dao.
"My Lord, this servant was preparing a meal when she accidentally cut herself," she spoke sorely compared to earlier.
The eunuch shook his head in distress, "This won't do. If a scarred noble woman cannot be empress, how can a scarred slave serve him?" He looked at her with contempt and Le-anne couldn't help feeling a little protective over her.
"No, get out." The eunuch pushed Dao off and accidentally she lost her balance and tumbled to the floor.
"Awwe..." Dao winced in pain and it took Le-anne all her strength not to lift her hand towards the eunuch.
"Nǐ méishì ba?" Le-anne knelt beside the jade white girl and helped her up. She seemed to be a little stunned yet she managed to nod.
"Look at this." The eunuch grinned from ear to ear as he ogled Le-anne.
'Leave me alone, fool.' Le-anne silently threatened, the hairs on the back of her neck standing in objection.
"So graceful and dignified," he churred, "surely this cannot go to waste."
nǐ méishì ba? - Are you ok?
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