Li Chenyang walked into the manor by going through the hidden back entrance that none of the servants knew about. It was meant to be an escape passage if there was ever an ambush on the manor.
Right now, when a war might brew between Wuyi and Hanjian, it was essential.
Li Chenyang made a mental note to inform Li Wenmin and Xueyue of this secret passage.
He picked up his pace and walked straight towards Xueyue's room. Without warning or announcement from the guards outside, he abruptly stormed into the room.
Startled by the intrusion, Xueyue turned from the vanity that she was seated in. One of her handmaidens was fixing her hair and placing silver hairpins into it.
The servants bowed at his entrance. "Greetings to Second Young Master."
He ignored them as his determined steps guided him towards Xueyue.
"What's wrong?" Xueyue asked upon noticing his stormy expression.
"We're going horseback riding," he coldly told her as he began to take out the fancy hairpins in her hair.
Xueyue tilted her head in confusion. Horseback riding?
"But why?" she softly asked, watching him pull out the last hairpin. They had just returned from a run. Wasn't it lunchtime?
When he pulled out the last hairpin, he was momentarily surprised by the silky locks of black hair that cascaded down her back like a smooth waterfall. Messily, he held her hair up into a ponytail and cleared his throat. "Better to wear your hair up." He nodded to himself before cursing at himself. What the hell was he doing?
Li Chenyang beckoned a maidservant forward. "Prepare her outfit for horseback riding."
When he saw Xueyue begin to open her mouth, he pinched her cheeks.
"Ow!" she grumbled, rubbing it.
"Don't ask any questions, just follow my lead," Li Chenyang scowled.
Xueyue saw the irritation in Li Chenyang's eyes and slowly nodded her head. She didn't want to push her boundaries.
She knew it was an emergency if Li Chenyang himself came to escort her out of the manor. So, she sat still and allowed her maidservant to pull her hair into a high ponytail. It didn't take long for her to get dressed into a well-fitted robe suitable for horseback riding.
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"Did you fasten your saddles? What about the reins? Make sure the peddle is situated perfectly so that you can climb on with ease. Did you wear gloves? The leather is not good for your hands." Li Chenyang nagged on and on when Xueyue climbed onto Heiyue.
"Here, let me see if you did everything correctly," Li Chenyang worriedly said, as he guided his horse closer to her.
A bubble of laughter came from Xueyue when she realized what an overthinker Li Chenyang was.
She never expected the cold and stony man to be such a worry-worm.
At the sound of laughter, he raised his head. "It's not funny," he scowled.
The corner of Xueyue's lips curved upwards, and the smile reached her eyes. "Thank you, Chen-ge," she softly said.
Li Chenyang's head snapped up at the title. When he saw the beautiful smile, he felt an unfamiliar warmth spread through his chest. Was this how it felt to have a beloved little sister?
"Chen-ge?" he quietly repeated, unsure if he heard correctly.
Xueyue nodded. "It's my nickname for you. Do you like it?" Because her tone was soft, and her words so innocent, Li Chenyang realized it was a genuine question.
He glanced at her hopeful expression, like a puppy waiting for her master's approval.
The corner of his lips tilted up in the smallest smile. He ruffled her hair. "It's alright," he commented and kicked off his horse, leaving Xueyue with her mouth agape.
It's alright? IT'S ALRIGHT? Did she mishear? Did the cold and harsh Young Master finally approve of something she said and did?
"Hey! Wait up!" Xueyue called after him, a bright smile on her face. She urged Heiyue forward.
Heiyue was more than happy to finally gallop on the grass again. Giddily following the direction of Xueyue's gentle guidance, Heiyue sprinted into the field.
Although the horse couldn't see, his heightened hearing was able to pick up the sound of Li Chenyang's horse.
Li Chenyang was surprised when he heard the sound of approaching hooves. He looked back and saw the steady shadow of a horse catching up to him with incredible speed.
Not wanting to lose the race, Li Chenyang guided his horse to run faster.
Xueyue chased after him as excited laughter left her mouth.
Enjoying the refreshing wind that pulled at her hair, the warm sunlight on her skin, and the smell of nature, her bright eyes took in everything before her. This happy feeling and senses were all that she wanted.
Having been locked away in the Bai Manor in the past, with nothing but the cold darkness as her surroundings, Xueyue never experienced the sun on her face.
Befriending the rats and counting the dust particles, Xueyue had forgotten what it was like to feel the wind in her hair and the warmth on her skin.
Lifting both hands into the air, Xueyue momentarily free-rode the horse. She took in everything nature had to offer with closed eyes and a serene expression. For once, she felt satisfied and happy. For once, she was freely allowed to eagerly anticipate the new life in front of her. She didn't care that her path would be littered with obstacles and moments so sweet, it brought tears to her eyes. Her happiness waited ahead of her, but first, she had to undergo trials that would either break or make her.
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