Annie was now laying on the ground. Her ears hurt and everything was ringing but besides the ringing there was nothing else she could hear. Trying to sit up proved to be an impossible task as her body didn't seem to be able to work properly anymore. She couldn't even open her eyes. With no sight nor hearing and having a body that didn't want to work, it seemed like surviving would be difficult.
What Annie could tell is that she's still able to breathe but that it hurt to breathe deeply; likely the result of broken ribs judging by the pain. Something or someone was pulling on her and was dragging her on the ground. If the things hitting her back were stones and roots then this should be outdoors. At least she was being dragged upper-body-first so her head wasn't hitting anything.
As soon as she thought that, the person or thing dragging her let go and she whacked her head on the hard ground. Unaware if her voice could even come out, Annie still tried to call out to them. "If you're trying to kill me then make it quick." A minute or so went by before there was a response or at least Annie thought it was a minute. It's hard to tell without most of your senses working. Something squeezed her cheeks briefly before she felt something wrapping around her body. Something grabbed her upper-body again but this time something else lifted her lower-body so she didn't drag along the ground. She didn't know where she was being taken but at least for the moment she was still alive.
Thomas didn't sleep for long. It was too early in the day for any meaningful amount of sleep. The only reason he was able to get any sleep at all was because he had gone through a tough experience. The small power nap helped restore his muscles and they were no longer as sore as they once were.
With his freedom regained, Thomas had to find a way to get to the nearest city. Even if the bandits saw him later on he could just trick them into thinking that they had the wrong person or just move on to the next city. He only needed food and water from the city since his main goal is to reach the capital and enter the school there so a quick departure wouldn't be a problem.
Stepping out from the structure, Thomas was greeted by a strange view. A green-skinned woman was dragging around what appeared to be a naked dead body. The green woman was mumbling and Thomas was curious about what she was saying so he got closer to her as silently as possible.
"Why am I even bringing this woman with me? They're her friends. She'd be fine if I just left her there. Yeah. I should just leave her here. So what if she saved me? She's the enemy. But why did they attack her too if she is on their side? What if..."
The mumbling probably would have continued if she didn't bump into Thomas while not paying attention to what was behind her. "Ayaaaa! A human!? A soldier!? Here!? Don't eat me, I'm not delicious! Eat her instead! Look, she's already partially cooked! It'll be easier!".
The green woman had already dropped the person she was dragging at this point. "Calm down. I'm not a soldier and I'm not going to eat anybody that doesn't want to be eaten." Thomas looked at the person on the ground and thought that she looked familiar. The right side of her face was partially-burned and her right eye seemed to be melted shut. The burns covered most of the right side of her body and she was missing both her right hand and the majority of her right leg. There were some burns on her left foot but weren't so severe. The place that connected to where her missing limbs would be seemed to have been cauterized and there wasn't any blood leaking out.
Thomas could tell that she used to be a beauty and the remaining parts of her body were attractive but the burns ruined her good looks. Thinking back on the women he has seen since taking over this body, only one woman even came close to looking like this. "Annie?"
The green woman took another step back. "You know her? Are you one of them?". Judging by the way she looked at him in fear it was clear that she wasn't on Susan's side.
Looking towards the green woman, Thomas replied to her question. "Am I one of the bandits? No, I was captured by them. I'm a survivor of that village that they destroyed. Possibly the only survivor left." Thomas gave her a little awkward smile.
The woman stared at him for a while before giving a sigh. "I suppose I can't really tell if you're telling me the truth or not. Right now it's not like things could get any worse so I might as well ask for help. All of my allies were killed by this one's friends but she sacrificed her body to save me. I need help moving her and finding a healer. It'd be wrong of me to ignore her and run away without repaying my debt."
Looking between the woman and Annie, Thomas thought about whether he should help. "I refuse."
"You refuse? Why!?" The men around her would always follow orders without complaint. She even asked instead of demanding him to help her so shouldn't he want to help her?
"I don't know you. I know her but I don't trust her since she's part of the group that captured me. You never said anything about compensating me for my time and effort. I refuse." The woman stood there with her lips flopping but no actual words were coming out. "Why don't you tell me who you are and let me know how you'll repay me for helping you?"
Those words got her to stop moving her mouth for a while. "My name is Princess Estella of the Eastern Greenskin Alliance or at least I was. Now I've got nothing. I can't afford to pay you for your services." Estella was clearly thinking about something sad after mentioning that she was penniless.
Thomas shook his head and spoke to Estella. "You might not be able to pay me now but think about what you can do for me instead. If you become mine then I'll definitely be willing to help you. I'll even help you get revenge on those bandits if you accept. I can even allow you to live like royalty if you desire it." Thomas didn't want to take advantage of her so he gave her a decent offer; one that he intends to keep. He wasn't a good guy and he was attracted to Estella despite her green skin so he wanted to make her his.
Estella was tempted to accept his offer. He was handsome despite being a bit short and unkempt. The things he offered her were enticing and she really needs help since it's unlikely that an unattended hobgoblin would be able to enter a city with someone that was nearly dead. "I can't do that." However, she made an oath to both her people and her god that she would only have one husband. He was killed before their ceremony but she would only recognize him as her husband.
Seeing that Thomas started walking off, Estella panicked and grabbed his left arm that was covered with armor. "Wait! I might not be able to pay you but, uhhh..." Looking around, Estella's eyes fell on Annie. "...she can become yours! Yes. You're helping her more than you're helping me so she should be the one to pay you."
Thomas stopped. "I don't think you can make that decision for her but I accept. However, I have one condition. You have to be the one to tell her that you're giving her to me." Thomas figured that Annie would freak out about it and her response towards Estella would be amusing enough to make up for the trouble.
Bending down, Thomas spoke to Annie. "It looks like you and I will be getting to know each other better after all." Thinking about it, it wouldn't be good if people saw him carrying a naked woman. Thomas pulled out one of the larger robes and wrapped Annie up in it.
Although Estella wanted to know where it came from, she decided not to ask. Thomas took her place and started carrying Annie so she wanted to help him by carrying her from behind. Although it was tiring to lift her it was a lot easier than when she was alone. A small part of Estella felt bad about selling her life savior out but if he helps save her then she will definitely fall for him, right?
The two continued through the forest thinking opposite things about whether or not Annie would accept being sold out. 5 Best Chinese Romance Books of 2018 So Far