Xueyue felt her throat tighten at the outstanding title of the boy in front of her. At a closer look, he was quite handsome. Though he was still young, it was evident he would grow up to be quite the looker. He had the eyes of a sheltered boy who never understood the hardships of this world, but his grim smile said otherwise.
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"You're causing quite a commotion." Wang Longhe's voice was smooth and gentle. Like her, he wasn't fond of repelling anger with anger.
Wang Longhe's eyes landed on the trampled bread that the child was desperately clutching to his thin body. "All for a single loaf of bread," he mused. "How pathetic."
Xueyue's eyebrows raised at his crude words. "That's so rude--" She stopped speaking when he lazily flicked his wrist as one would swat a fly.
Immediately, a pretty maidservant stepped forward with her head bowed. Using two hands, she handed Wang Longhe a gold, silk pouch. He picked up the pouch, turned it upside down and golden coins came raining down. Like the shimmering yellow leaves of autumn, the gold had caught the bright sunlight.
The people exchanged nervous glances and no one dared to move.
"They're yours to keep." It took four simple words for civilized behavior to turn into barbaric chaos.
"Back off, you filthy bugs! They're mine!" the baker screamed as he rushed to pick up all of the gold coins.
The people were pushing and tugging at each other as they tried to take all of the gold that they could snatch up. Bickering emerged and soon, it was a whirlwind of faded clothing and greedy hands.
From the corner of her eyes, Xueyue saw the child also reach for a coin that was lying very close to him. His fingers grazed the gold before a foot roughly stomped on his fingers.
"This is mine, you horrendous thief!" the baker screamed at the child and pushed him to the ground.
Frightened and terrified of another beating, the child flinched back from the baker.
"This is also mine!" the baker hissed, snatching away the torn and wrinkled loaf of bread.
It was originally white, but after so many people stomping over it, the bread became grey and brown. The food was already garbage, yet, he still hindered the child from taking it.
When the only noise that filled the area was the greedy shouts and voices of the people, Xueyue was the first to hear the hungry growl of the child's stomach. Walking and pushing past the people, she stepped towards the child who immediately cowered back. The baker left her alone and went back to bicker over the fallen coins.
Opening her own pouch of money, Xueyue took out the money. With a soft and gentle smile, she offered it to the child. "Here, this should be enough money to last you for a while," she said to the child who stared at the pile of money in her hands.
The child's hungry eyes moved from Xueyue's outstretched hands and then to her kind, gentle smile. Suddenly, before anyone could blink, the money was already taken from her hands.
Xueyue watched as the child scamper through the crowd, dodging hands and feet, and then disappeared into an alleyway. She squinted her eyes as the door opened to reveal a thin woman who quickly ushered the child into safety.
Blowing out a sigh of relief, Xueyue was prepared to walk back to Chenyang and Wenmin. She turned around, but without warning, someone had roughly shoved her aside. She let out a tiny yelp, as her legs got caught between the long lengths of her hanfu. She stumbled and nearly fell onto the harsh floor. Instead, her back collided with a hard, but warm and sturdy chest.
Glancing up at her savior, Xueyue was surprised to see a very hostile Li Chenyang and Li Wenmin beside him who wore a dangerously dark expression on his face.
Xueyue nervously swallowed. She thought the anger was directed towards her for running off. "I-I'm sorry, I didn't mean to run off," she quietly whispered, but neither of them heard her.
She raised her head and saw their stares were directed towards the fourth prince, Wang Longhe.
Li Chenyang was the first to speak, his cold, somber voice broke the tension. "What are you doing here, Wang Longhe?"
Xueyue felt her eyes widened at how bold Chenyang was.
Wang Longhe was royalty!
'Wouldn't they get in trouble for offending and rudely speaking to the imperial family? What if Chenyang and Wenmin were thrown into prison, or worse, beheaded?!'
Xueyue panicked and grabbed Wenmin's sleeves. He glanced down at her and saw her wide and terrified expression. His face softened the slightest bit at how fearful she looked. "Don't worry, Xiao Yue. We won't get in trouble," he whispered towards her, lightly holding the hand that was gripping his sleeves.
Xueyue nervously stood there, unsure of his words.
The Li Family might be influential and powerful, but that didn't mean they would be pardoned from an imperial decree!
Poor little Xueyue didn't know the connections that Duke and Duchess Li had to the Imperial Palace. She only feared for the life of her beloved friends.
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