Xueyue's eyes widened at Li Wenmin's voice that was so rigid and cold, it sounded nothing like him. Was this the same puppy she knew before? Did puppies know how to bare their teeth and bite like wolves? Was Wenmin even a puppy to begin with?!
None of the spectators dared to move. With so many weapons drawn, how could they? As their eyes jumped from one side to another, everyone realized the Li guards outnumbered the imperial guards. But who was the winning side? The imperial guards were trained by a dangerous and merciless Commander Wen whose strict discipline and actions earned him many fierce titles.
"Do you know who you're pointing a sword at, Lord Li Wenmin?!" one of the imperial guards spoke up, his voice rising an octave.
Wang Longhe growled, "Have you lost your mind, you crazy bastard?!"
Li Wenmin snarled, "You're nothing but an insignificant fourth prince whose lowly title and sickly body will never allow you to seize the throne. The emperor wouldn't care if you dropped dead right now. I'm only his nephew, but my life is already more worthy than yours," Wenmin spat out the words, each of them cutting Longhe more than his sword.
Xueyue's heart was beginning to rapidly pound in fear. Even if Wang Longhe was far from the title of a first prince, he was still royalty. To offend the Crown was to offend the entire country, and that could mean a death sentence.
Xueyue, who didn't know the complicated ties that the Lis had to the royal family, didn't want their death to be so vain. She forced herself to turn her attention towards Li Chenyang whose murderous gaze never left Wang Longhe. She didn't know why the boys harbored so much hatred for the fourth prince, but she didn't want this sticky situation to get more out of hand.
When Li Chenyang took a step forward, Xueyue wrapped her arms around his muscular one. His eyes flickered with surprise at the koala on his arm.
"Chenyang, we have to go home," she whispered, her eyes shaking with each word.
Upon seeing her expression, Chenyang's gaze softened the slightest bit.
"I-it's getting dark out. Duchess Li might get worried if we don't join her for lunch," Xueyue quickly added on. Her voice was trembling, and her heart was riddled up with anxiety.
Li Chenyang paused to stare at her. He took in her expression and her hand that desperately clung onto his sleeve. She was careful to not touch him, and he knew it was because she thought he'd get angry at her for rashly touching him.
Xueyue thought Chenyang would push her away, but instead, his free hand gently patted her head as one would to a pet.
"Alright, let's go home," he quietly answered her.
Xueyue closed her eyes and breathed out a sigh in relief before unwinding her arms from him.
Li Chenyang raised his head and said, "Wenmin, we're going home. We shouldn't waste our time on pests like him."
If Wenmin heard his younger brother, he didn't show any signs of it.
Silently in his mind, Li Wenmin muttered, 'If I flick my wrist, this bastard will bleed to death… if I flick my wrist, all of the sins he has committed might finally be forgiven and maybe Minghua will forgive me—'
"Wenmin, don't make me repeat myself. We're going home. NOW," Li Chenyang demanded. He didn't like the aura around Li Wenmin. It distinctively reminded him of the night of the fire when Li Minghua's body was nowhere to be found. The unseen rage and promise of death…
'Just the flick of my wrist...just the flick of my wrist,' Wenmin chanted inside of his head. Anger and anguish washed over him, threatening to drown him to oblivion.
When Li Wenmin refused to budge in his spot, Li Chenyang felt uneasy. He took a step closer to his older brother, but Xueyue was three steps ahead of him. She didn't know the dangerous past that used to surround the bubbly Wenmin, but she knew he wasn't his normal self.
When she reached him, she firmly said, "It's sundown. We have to go home."
Li Wenmin blinked in confusion.
"Duchess Li is waiting for us at home. The duke will be occupied with court business tonight. Your mother will be lonely if we don't return for lunch." Xueyue tugged his arm. "What are we waiting for? Let's go home and have your favorite steam buns. I heard the cooks might prepare it for snacks."
"Buns?" Li Wenmin deadpanned, his eyes filled with uncertainty.
Xueyue nodded. "Your favorite steamed buns filled with warm, red bean paste. The chefs are preparing it as we speak. It's best to go home and enjoy it while it's nice and hot."
Li Wenmin's eyes flickered with recognition. He stared at her and she smiled in response. He decided she should smile less. Because he was not the only one affected by the serene and delicate expression on her face. He silently cried for his future… he'd have to fend off so many suitors!
"Okay, let's go home and enjoy some steamed buns," he quietly said as if he hadn't just eaten his way around the capital. He slipped the sword back into the sheath and placed a warm hand on her shoulder.
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Xueyue turned her back to the fourth prince as if she wasn't even aware of his presence.
Her lack of reaction towards him only provoked Wang Longhe's curiosity. He wanted to see her acknowledge him, or even spare him a glance as she approached the Li carriage. She didn't.
For the first time, there dared to be a girl that didn't care about him… interesting, very interesting.
Wang Longhe's curious eyes lingered on her disappearing form until the busy streets blurred and she was the only thing he saw. Her dainty back was frail and her shoulders were so delicate, he suddenly felt an urge to protect her. Even when she entered the carriage and was no longer visible to the eye, he continued to stare ahead.
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