10 Bandit I
*Edited by Buzyhoneybee*
Cold. That was the main thing that came to her mind; she never felt this cold before. It was the type of cold that seeped into one's bones and with each breeze, it felt as if there was a thin layer of ice scraping the epidermis of her skin.
The rope that tied her hands behind her back felt extremely uncomfortable as the twisted cord roughly burned her skin.
When she lifted her head, she could not help but give a soft gasp. She is currently in a broken down wooden carriage. The floor was slightly edgy, indicating that it was built without care. Across the carriage, Yangmi sees nine other girls huddled together and their hands were similarly tied like hers. They looked around her age. Their outfits and expensive jewelry revealed that these girls came from prestigious families. As she was observing them, Yangmi made eye contact with a girl in an emerald dress. Yangmi tried to give a small smile only to see the girl give her a blank stare and turned her head away.
Thinking back to a couple of hours ago, Yangmi couldn't help but sigh; she regretted playing matchmaker for the Crown Prince and Qing Qing. While exploring the various stalls, she saw a little boy crouched on the floor, his head down between his knees. She looked around to see if the boy was with anyone but the crowd seems to completely disregard him.
"Hey, are you okay?" Yangmi crouched over. The kid slowly lifted his head, his eyes red from crying. Seeing him, Yangmi's heart softens, wondering who could leave such a child by himself.
"I- I can't find my mom," the boy said in between sniffles.
"Do you know where you last saw her?"
"She went that way, I think." He pointed to the direction where the decoration of lantern lights ended. Thinking back, Yangmi should've seen the red flags. After all, he pointed to the only location where the lanterns were not hung up.
Yangmi stood up and grabbed the boy's hands. "Come on, let's go find your mother. This jie jie will try her best to help you, okay?"
"Okay," the boy mumbled as he wiped the snot running from his nose with his free hand. Looking at him, Yangmi found the boy extremely adorable, mentally naming him "little dumpling."
"Over here," the boy said, pulling Yangmi's hand. "I saw her walking here but when I tried to catch up, she was gone." As he said this, tears were starting to swell up in his eyes again.
"Hey, no more crying, okay? Maybe she's waiting for you at the other end, " Yangmi said while patting the boy's head, trying to cheer him up. The buildings were built near each other and enshrouded over the party of two. When Yangmi looked up to the roofs, they were so close together that she could only make out a sliver of the night sky. The alleyway itself twisted and turned back on itself. As they walked further down the alley, the noise and laughter coming from the Lantern Festival began to die down.
"Are you sure you saw your mom go here?" Yangmi asked nervously. She always hated the dark and walking through this place made her uneasy.
"I think so," the boy said with uncertainty. Yangmi sighed, since I offered my help, I might as well go all the way.
Yangmi took a deep breath and tried to muster up all of her courage. "No, I'm sure you're right. She's probably here somewhere.," Yangmi said. It seems as if she was trying to reassure herself more so than the boy. "By the way, what's your name? Mine is Yangmi, but you can call me jie jie."
"Duibuqi? Sorry? For what-" Before she could finish her sentence, a handkerchief hastily covered Yangmi's face from behind. He pressed the handkerchief harshly against her face. Yangmi struggled to breathe as she attempted to push the stranger's hand away from her. Unfortunately, it ended futilely as his strength overpowered her's. The handkerchief that was inundated with a sleeping drug started to have its effect as Yangmi felt herself getting weaker.
Before darkness took over, Yangmi made a mental note. One: eat as much as you can before helping others and two: don't help others.
Now, she finds herself in this shabby-looking carriage with nine other girls.
Sigh. "This is not what I imagined when I wished to enter a Chinese novel." Yangmi crouched towards the corner of the carriage, hiding within the shadows of the night.
"How long have we've been on the road?" Yangmi rubbed her eyes. Being unconscious for so long, she had lost her sense of time.
"I'm not sure," the girl in the emerald dress said softly with a shake of a head.
"I want to go home!" a girl in a light blue dress yelled, tears running down her face.
The carriage abruptly stopped, causing the girls to bump into each other. The door of the carriage opened with a loud thud. At the door was a tall, middle-aged man. He looked more like a beast than a man; he had broad shoulders and his hands were so big, it seems as though he could knock anyone with one punch. His appearance itself was enough to silence everyone in the carriage.
"Listen up, if I hear any sound coming from any of you, best believe that you ladies would not be able to live through this night," the man said with a low growl. As he said this, the color drained from the girls' faces, their body visibly shaking in fear.
"Hm?" The man was satisfied with the girls' reaction but as he looked around the carriage, there was a girl who stared directly at him. She was probably the most beautiful out of all of them and her indifferent attitude made her stand out even more. He frowned, staring right back at her. Eventually, he averted his gaze and hopped off the carriage. A few minutes later, the carriage began to move again.
Despite the brave front she was putting, Yangmi was panicking. "Ah, am I going to die? I can't die, I haven't tried any food from here! Lord, Jesus, Buddha, Allah, save me!"