"These are your new clothes." Jane looked quite proud of herself while saying that. "We've got no other clothes that will fit you. After all, we're all well-fed and you're as thin as a pole. The only clothes that would fit you belonged to Sheila." Thomas watched as Jane's gaze went to the chest behind her. Curious at what she was looking at, Thomas approached the chest.
"A doll?" Inside the chest was a doll the size of a little girl. Her body seemed to have been expertly-crafted and--due to all of the joints all over her body--it seemed like she could be posed in any position that you liked. Surrounding the doll was a beautiful red silk bedding which matched the doll's hair and helped to contrast its pale white skin. The eye color couldn't be seen as the doll's eyes were closed--much like one of those dolls that would seem to wake up when stood up in his past life. "Her name is Sheila? Did one of you give her that name?"
"Could it be that you can't read? Her name is stitched onto the clothes we gave you. See? It's right here." Shelley lifted up the sleeve of the dress that they had given to Thomas to show him the inside and pointed to red embroidery.
Thomas could read it but he just hadn't seen it when looking at the clothes. However, this was a good opportunity to hide his actual abilities. If they thought that he couldn't read then maybe he'd be able to use that to his advantage and get information when they're not paying attention to him. Thomas felt that any information he could get might help him in escaping so he nodded and made a sad face to make his lie more convincing. "My mother couldn't afford to let me go to the city to learn." The little boy had learned how to read from an elderly person that lived in the village behind his mother's back and she couldn't afford to send him to a school so it was technically true.
Shelley returned the sleeve to the top of the bunched up dress and looked towards Jane. "I'll go get him something to eat. There should be some leftover soup and bread from our lunch. Try to get him to wear his clothes before I get back." Shelley looked back at Thomas before giving a slight glare. "And you. If you're not wearing your clothes by the time I get back then you're not getting any food. Disobedient kids don't get anything." Shelley made sure to give a 'humph' before walking off but it wasn't intimidating in the least to Thomas.
Jane approached Thomas and gave him a soft smile. "Why don't we get to know each other while my sister goes to get you food? My name is Janine but everyone calls me Jane." Jane switched to a pose with an extended pudgy hand. "What's your name?"
Grabbing her hand and shaking, Thomas could feel that it was warm and sweaty. It wasn't a pleasant feeling but he had to remain polite so he returned a lovely smile to Jane which made her heart start beating a little bit faster. "My name is Gren. It's nice to meet you, Jane." Gren was the boy's legal name--the one given to him by his mother and recorded in the village's family ledger--so it was safer to give them that name just in case the bandits had already found out his identity. The boy's attractive face, his lovely smile, his soft voice, and the degree of politeness were too much for this inexperienced young girl so she couldn't help but look away.
"I-it's nice to meet you too, Gren. My name is Janine or Jane for short." Distracted, Jane ended up stuttering a bit and repeating her words while speaking a bit too fast. "Ah, I already said that. Please forget about that. Let's get you into your new clothes." Jane still spoke fast and, perhaps due to being flustered, Jane was a bit rough when helping Thomas get dressed. Due to the clothes being tough they weren't torn but being starved and shaken up made Thomas feel even more dizzy. It didn't take long before Thomas started looking more like a Thomasina, especially with the red and black bow added to his head.
"Ah, you actually got him dressed! Those clothes fit him perfectly--are we sure he's actually a boy? Perhaps we should have checked when we stripped him earlier." Shelley had returned with an ornate silver platter that carried a covered clay bowl and what looked to be a half-eaten chunk of bread. "Since you've already gotten changed then you can eat but wait for a bit while I find something to cover your clothes. It'd be a shame if such nice clothes got dirty." Shelley set the platter down on one of the crates before rummaging in one of the other crates nearby--making a mess while pulling out all sorts of different clothes. "Got it! I found an old blanket you can use. It's clean but it's already stained so it doesn't matter if you ruin it."
Thomas accepted the blanket and looked around to find a spot to sit down. There was a small footstool near his cage that was next to the crate with the food on it so he sat down, wrapping the blanket around his neck and draping it out in front of him to cover the dress. Thomas didn't really want to wear the clothes but if they really didn't have any more clothes that would fit him then he'd be stuck in his underwear or perhaps wearing a blanket with holes in it until he could get to a town.
The smell of the soup after it was uncovered wasn't bad but the bread was a bit hard to the touch--likely left in the air for too many hours. Still, Thomas didn't have any alternatives and he was really hungry so he wouldn't complain about the food now. At least with soup he'd be able to dunk the bread and eat it somehow; especially since there was a good amount of the soup left. With a bit of sploshing sounds from dunking the bread, slurping sounds from drinking the soup, and maybe a burp or two it wasn't long before the bowl was empty and the bread was all gone. The taste of the food wasn't comparable to that of his old world but at the very least it was better than anything the body's previous owner, Gren, had eaten up to that point. The daughters of this bandit leader were spoiled to the extreme and even had much better food than what the villagers ate. Thinking back on Gren's memories and what he saw and heard after waking up in Gren's body, Thomas felt that there were some strange things about this bandit group.
They destroyed an entire village and it has been at least a day already yet no soldiers have appeared. There are communication devices yet the group of soldiers carrying them had left less than a day before the bandit leader attacked. The bandits even decided to clean up the corpses by burning them and talked about killing or kidnapping all witnesses. Then there was the bandit leader; not only was the bandit leader wearing better gear than the rest but he also didn't seem to behave like a bandit besides the whole killing and assaulting women that he was participating in.
Such a large group of bandits acting as brazenly would surely be subjugated already. Was there something preventing the soldiers from acting against them? Could it be that the soldiers were in the same league or that the bandits were just too powerful? Thomas couldn't figure it out but for now it would probably be best to not trust the authorities even if he could escape. Thomas could remember that on his original planet there were places where the authorities turned a blind eye to someone's wrongdoings for profit or even for political reasons. The common person of this world couldn't use magic and only the rich could afford magic tools so corruption would likely be more widespread than back on Earth. Thomas swore that he'd be very cautious around soldiers and guards if he encountered them in the future before he could gain enough strength to defend himself. 5 Best Chinese Romance Books of 2018 So Far