Even in the strangest of times it’s Mothers’s Day today in my country and I had a nice talk with my mother on the phone. About precious tea cups and her peonys which bloomed, and through the course of a week changed color from a deep red to fresh white.
We talked about writing and painting and taking pictures. Delightfully normal topics. We should do that much more often these days.
Happy Mother’s Day, mom! <3
… In other news, a new chapter is here!
If you are all new to my story, please consider starting with Chapter 1 🙂
Worlds Rising: Rebellion
Chapter 19 Part 1
Abbida pursed her lips. To Lian she said, “Will you please keep an eye on our prisoner for a moment? I’ve got a bone to pick with Cole.”
Lian never hesitated. In a swift move she pulled up her gun, released the safety lever and aimed at Li Xiao’s chest. Strangely enough he didn’t even flinch. Again withdrawing into himself, he almost looked distraught.
Abbida wasn’t sure why that bothered her. Even if he was the one who saved her four linears ago, there could be no doubt that if given half the chance he would have turned them in back at the village.
She waved for Cole to follow. “Let’s talk.”
In front of the others he didn’t question her, but once they were out of earshot he raised an eyebrow, “What now?”
“We’re in trouble.”
“Now, that’s new.” He snorted.
“No, listen, it’s worse than you think.”
“How can it get any worse than this? We’ll be shot on sight if we get caught.”
Abbida made a face.
“Is this about him?” Cole nodded back towards Lian and Li Xiao.
“I know him!” she blurted, and rattled out what she had gathered from her talk with Lian. She didn’t mention Inez, but Cole was smart enough to read between the lines.
His face became expressionless. A well-honed habit of his to hide his true feelings when it came to the past. “So the arrogant bastard has an honorable side as well. Interesting. You think he recognized you?”
“Probably not. To him I was only one of a whole bunch of kids.” She huffed. “But what are we going to do with him now? We can’t leave him behind in the jungle, without a weapon to defend himself. But we can’t drag him along either because of the transmitter!”
Cole tugged his earlobe. “The Guard are probably already on our heels. No way can we outrun them. We need to bargain–”
“Or…,” she interrupted him, “we could hide!”
“From the Guard?! You said it yourself–they’re tracking him down!”
“Yes, but what if we find a place where the ‘signal’ can’t go through?”
Cole looked at her wary, but she was already thinking her idea through. This might actually work!
“Remember how the creek winds its way through the jungle behind the ship? There is a rocky gorge where the stream plunges into a lower basin. I saw caves there. With a bit of luck, they will break the transmissions.”
“Luck. Right.” He snorted.
“It’s our best bet!”
She knew there were a lot of ‘ifs’ to her idea. Nevertheless, they needed to come up with something and there was no time. “Let’s ask Lian.”
Back at the clearing, they found Lian leaning against a tree, frowning at Li Xiao who sat on the ground in front of her, legs crossed and his hands clasped on top of his head. A fresh cut graced his upper lip. With a sinister air he stared off into the distance.
“What happened?” Abbida asked.
“Nothing. He did what he had to do and I stopped him. As was my duty.”
“You stopped him from taking a leak?” Cole cried, in mock horror.
From the look that Li Xiao shot him he should have dropped dead on the spot, but Cole only grinned and winked at him. The corners of Lian’s mouth twitched in amusement, and Abbida stifled a laugh. Li Xiao snorted in disgust and went back to ignoring everyone.
Still smirking, Cole took up Lian’s post and Abbida pulled her aside. In a few words she explained her idea to hide in the mountain caves.
Lian grew somber. “As a security officer, it was my duty to watch over the nobles, especially the patriarch’s relatives. I can’t leave Zhao Li Xiao behind without any means to defend himself.”
“I wouldn’t want that either,” Abbida assured her. “His transmitter is the problem. We can’t cut it out…”
Li Xiao whirled around and looked at her in alarm!
“… but do you think the mountains will shield off the signal?”
Lian clicked her tongue. “Possibly. The satellites pick up signals quite reliably, even from confined spaces. But of course no technology is infallible–it might be worth a try.”
“If all fails,” Cole called over, “he still makes a good hostage.”
Li Xiao scowled at him, but Lian nodded. “We don’t have much of a choice, anyway. I say, we risk it.”
“Good.” Abbida took up her satchel. By now her belongings were so depleted, they were hardly worth mentioning anymore.
Cole poked the still silently protesting Li Xiao with the tip of his boot and made a shooing motion with the gun. Li Xiao kept a straight face. Head held high he stomped ahead, seeming very sure that rescue wasn’t far behind.
Well, Abbida thought with a grim nod towards Cole, they would teach him otherwise.
If not for the fact that he had been kidnapped along with his fighter, and if it weren’t for the reprimand awaiting him on return–if not a demotion–Li Xiao might actually have enjoyed this trip through the jungle. It offered a whole new experience after the dry open plains he’d seen so far, and only from above. Wasn’t it simply delightful to be able to walk to one’s heart content? In the open, not on a treadmill?
Did these people even know what treasure lay beyond their feet? They didn’t even seem to notice all the fascinating plant and animal life around them, heading straight for those caves they’d been talking about.
As if they could hope to hide from the Guard there. But Li Xiao wasn’t going to complain. He’d read about limestone caves, about dazzling, natural sculptures and plays of colors. He had to admit, if only to himself, that he was a bit excited. Would he actually be able to see such a natural wonder?
His high hopes were quickly thwarted, though. The anticipated cave system turned out to be nothing but a flight of dark, narrow grottoes, the last of which ended abruptly in an underground waterfall where the creek jumbled splashing about two meters into the deep and disappeared.
“Damn,” said the man, Cole, and the village girl peered down into the pit with a sigh. They could still hear the stream swooshing in the distance, but for them the journey ended here.
Almost disappointed that this adventure was already over, Li Xiao took a deep breath and regretted it instantly. The stench of algae and mildew itched his nose and his throat felt rough. With his stick lamp he inspected their surroundings. The rock chamber offered little room for four people and there was only one access point for fresh air–the same they had come in.
From the corners of his eyes he caught movement from Huang Lian. The renegade was leaning against the wall, obviously having trouble breathing. She was in bad shape, and this climate must be toxic for her. Which shouldn’t be any of his concern, he reminded himself. Once she got arrested, her health would be the least of her problems.
At least the uniform balanced her temperature. It was cold down here. The village girl had tightened her jacket and wrapped her arms around herself.
Abbida. A strange name. Warm, energetic. It fit her.
Exposed by the glaring white light of two hand lamps, her dark skin seemed to take on an even richer green tint. What kind of mutation could have caused that? Was it natural or the effect of gene manipulation?
No, her people wouldn’t be capable of that. They lacked the science, not to mention the required technology. So, could it be a disease? She didn’t appear sickly, though. On the contrary, from the moment they had first clashed back at the village she radiated life like nobody else he had ever met.
Very different from the woman he was obligated to marry.
Li Xiao sighed.
He caught Abbida and Cole exchanging glances, and realized with a start, he had been staring. Cole said something to her in a low voice, but she interrupted him with a frown and jerked her head towards Li Xiao.
With burning cheeks, he turned away.
Ridiculous! Why would he be ashamed even if he had been eavesdropping? He was a prisoner of war! Any means to escape was acceptable! He frowned and looked up–only to catch a critical glance from Huang Lian. What now? He wasn’t accountable to her. She was the traitor, not him!
Huang Lian twitched an eyebrow and turned away.
Thank you for reading!
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