The people whispered among themselves when Xueyue appeared.
Dressed in an expensive outfit of the finest materials with beautiful hairpins adorning her hair, and a face so graceful, she was like a porcelain doll imported from the West. She was a stark contrast to the child she was protecting. Thus, people began to question her presence: What could she gain from helping someone as worthless as a thief? Their eyes flickered to her beautiful face. If the foolish baker struck her face, it'd surely leave a nasty bruise.
The burly man turned around in the direction of the authoritative voice that dared to tell him to stop. His eyes narrowed in irritation at the audacity of the young woman in front of him. She looked as harmless as a bunny. His eyes lingered on her intricate hairpins and elegant hanfu. Warning bells went off inside his head, but he acted like he was deaf to it.
His anger and pride overpowered his fear of offending a wealthy family. His lips curled in disgust when he snarled, "Screw off, brat!"
When she raised her head, revealing a terrifying pair of dark brown eyes, so sharp and dangerous, a shiver coursed through him.
The little bunny had the eyes of a predator.
He hesitated and averted his eyes to look at the murmuring spectators. Boosted by their presence with a delusion that they would side with him, he spewed, "Are you deaf, little girl?! I said screw off!" When she refused to move an inch, he felt his blood boil with anger.
Xueyue glanced at the child behind her. She saw that the light and hope had long fled his eyes, leaving behind a brooding abyss. Her throat tightened at how hauntingly hazy the child's eyes were. It was clear to see he was forced to grow up and his innocence was snatched too early.
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Xueyue firmly cleared her throat. "How much was the bread? I'll pay for it."
Before leaving for the capital, Duchess Li had given Xueyue a hefty pouch filled with gold coins. She tried to deny the generous gift, but the duchess left no room for arguments. And it wasn't long before Xueyue's pocket was weighed down by the small bag.
"Disrespectful brat! How dare you interrupt us—"
"I'll buy all of the bread you have to offer," Xueyue's chilling voice interjected. Her deadpanning words halted his rambling. When her razor-cold eyes pierced him, the man couldn't help but take a step backward, as if uncertain of her.
Were young women capable of such emotions?
He carefully analyzed everything she wore, especially the accessories that decorated her. That was when he finally realized the jewels leisurely worn by her was enough to buy him, his house, ancestral home, his store, and even his family!
Xueyue, who had never worn anything expensive in her life, didn't know the value of her clothes, thus, she behaved as if they were nothing. She walked the streets without a care in the world. Not once has she twirled her long hair or tilted her head just to make the dangling diamonds of her hairpins sway. She acted as if she was wearing simple cotton hanfus instead of the brightly colored and delicately decorated silk.
Perhaps that's why the people stopped and stared at her. There was something about her nonchalance and genuine smile that captured the people's attention, in particular, a man who had been watching her ever since she stepped out of the Li carriage.
"Disrespectful brat! How dare you interrupt me?! I'm thirty years your senior, show some respect!" he snarled at her. His words didn't faze her.
The people pitied the man because he had offended a young miss. It was so evident that it painful to watch. If the man was truly unlucky, he might've offended a princess, since the emperor had so many children. But then again, why would a princess walk around alone? Where were her guards and maidservants?
Xueyue knew better than to fight a storm with a storm. There was no need to shout and throw a tantrum during an argument. Doing such a thing would ruin all credibility. She kept her voice calm and respectful when she said, "Unhand the child."
Her eyes abruptly widened when he suddenly charged at her, reaching out to grab her.
"Brat, I warned you!" His hands wove into her hair as he yanked her to the ground. No doubt, it was from the drunken experiences of laying a hand on his wife and children.
The expensive hairpins clattered onto the floor and the people gasped. He was bold enough to raise a hand towards a noble's daughter?!
Xueyue winced at how hard the man was grabbing her by the hair. She struggled to reach for the small knife tucked inside the fabric wrapped around her waist. She had stolen that from the kitchen maids as a way of protecting herself. In Viscount Bai's mansion, she used to do the same thing, even though nothing could protect her from the beatings.
But the man moved faster than her. He swiftly raised his hand, ready to deliver an immense blow to her. She squeezed her eyes, bracing herself for the rough smack.
But it never came.
"Who dares to—" the man's voice died down.
Xueyue opened her eyes slowly and saw a boy, older than her, grab the man's wrist. With one hand, he was able to stop the hand of a man twice his size.
The boy was dressed in fancy dark green robes with gold and silver embroidery. Every part of him screamed untouchable wealth, from the ruby-embezzled stick in his hair to the pointed shoes that curled upwards.
The man released Xueyue and dropped to his knees. His forehead touched the ground in a deep bow. At the presence of the boy, the other onlookers immediately bowed.
"Greetings to the Fourth Prince, Wang Longhe!"
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