He probably won’t show up here. Nie Huaisang flicked his gaze around the practice field the Weaponsmasters had granted them the use of; a dozen-odd young men and women stabbing the air over autumn-dry grass, earth torn in places where a few of them had discovered the limits of holding against a firmly pushed saber. It’s too open, too visible, inside the Palace walls… and this is a whole new city to scout. Nie Zonghui thinks he’ll want to pick at least three escape routes before he finds us again.
The first disciple had been on the battlefield with the Ghost Flute. He’d probably know. Nie Huaisang had run logistics and kept track of a dozen supply lines at once; and supplies that ended up in the middle of a battlefield were usually worse than wasted. They might feed the enemy instead. No, he’d tried to avoid the fighting as much as possible.
There was a shiver over his shoulder. A whisper of, silly dead practice steel….
Hush, Nie Huaisang willed Aituan. These are new seedlings. Very tender. They need years more training before they get true sabers.
Like the live – very live – steel on his back. Spirits, he wished he could hide behind his fan. Or maybe a convenient tapestry. Or just be elsewhere; preferably a few li elsewhere. Wearing steel in full view of Guards and Heralds and whoever else might come wandering by… he’d feel less naked stripped to his under-robe.
Nie Huaisang made himself breathe slowly, channeling the nerves before they could become panic. The locals knew he’d been trained to fight. With luck, all his fluttering would convince them he only knew how to spar.
Gods, he wished he only knew how to spar.
Nie Huaisang winced as Mina hit the ground; even if he could feel from the impact that she hadn’t landed as hard as she would have last week. Progress. Good.
Saber still extended, Nie Zonghui backed off a step, letting her catch her breath. “Sorry,” Mina got out, rolling onto her side. “Long run – up here – from the Temple.”
“Good,” Nie Zonghui nodded. “You could all use more endurance training.”
Mina wrinkled her nose at him, but got to her feet.
Stubborn, Nie Huaisang sighed, and tried not to visibly look enchanted. But she was, so wonderfully stubborn, and if she could get good enough to put him down like that….
A/N: AKA yes, Huaisang has Noticed. Poor guy, if only he didn’t have all these plots to be responsible for….