Li Xueyue stirred, groaning at how sore she felt. Everything was hurting, from her arms to her legs. If only she had stretched before and after the tournament. The tournament? Her eyes widened and abruptly, she sat up, her heart racing.
'Where am I?' she panicked.
Her eyes scanned the expansive room that was tastefully decorated in the most depressing colors possible.
She blinked at the black, white, silver, and grey decorations. From the coiling dragons on pillars to the polished ashwood table, she didn't recognize this place. And that terrified her.
The last thing she remembered was the light blue skies with puffs of clouds hovering above her. Memories of the tournament came flooding back. She vaguely remembered passing out and then that was it. What happened after that?
Warily, she peered down, her shoulders sagging with relief upon seeing her clothes remained the same. The tightness of her waist belt felt the same as well, which meant her clothes weren't forcibly changed. Her ears twitched when she heard the sound of approaching footsteps.
Too worried about the outcome of the tournament and uncertain about her current situation, she instantly laid back down and pretended to be asleep. Her heart loudly thudded when she felt a dark presence enter the room. Her stomach uncomfortably churned at the sound of approaching footsteps—it was powerful and self-assured.
Xueyue was waiting for the right moment to strike the approaching person and run. She hoped her body wouldn't fidget involuntarily before she could sneak an attack. Her heart skipped when a familiar scent washed over her. Who was it?
She almost screamed bloody murder when a ghost of a touch landed on her cheek. She was glad she had shoved her hand under the blanket, or else the person would've seen her twitching fingers.
\"I know you're awake.\"
Her eyes snapped open in horror and disbelief. Peering down at her with a rough expression was Wen Jinkai. When their eyes met, his face softened.
\"Did you know you snore in your sleep?\" he mused, sitting on the edge of the bed. She warily stared at him, her eyes filled with accusation.
Xueyue had a million things that she wanted to say. Majority of it were questions, but a small half were curse words. Her entire body tensed when he pressed his thumb on the skin between her brows. Gently, he soothed the lines that she didn't know had formed.
\"Relax,\" he softly told her. \"You're safe with me.\"
Li Xueyue roughly grabbed his hand, snarling, \"Take me back to my family. You had no right bringing me here.\"
She expected his mood to dampen at her crude words and harsh actions. It didn't. He glanced at their touching hands and chuckled. \"This is the first time you voluntarily touched me.\"
Instantly, she drew her hand back as if the touch burned her. In reality, a tingling sensation had shot down her spine. She forced herself to not shiver. She didn't like it. She didn't like her reaction to him. He didn't love her. He didn't care for her. He only wanted to display her like a trophy from a proud conquest. She reminded herself of that thought over and over again, until it completely consumed her mind.
Wen Jinkai watched as the walls surfaced on all sides of her heart. The uncertainty in her eyes disappeared and they became guarded. \"If you build walls around yourself, you'll block out light and hope.\"
\"Hope will not keep me alive.\"
\"Who told a lie and shattered you?\" he softly asked. \"Who broke you beyond repair?\"
\"That's none of your concern.\" Li Xueyue sat up in bed, slapping his hand away when he attempted to brush the loose strands of her hair away from her eyes.
\"Tell me, Little Fawn, what can I do to restore faith back to you? What can I do and say to make you smile?\" he slowly asked.
Li Xueyue thought he was joking until she saw the sincerity on his rigid face. She wished she didn't look at him. Did he understand how dangerously dashing he was? He could easily obtain any woman he wanted—someone who wouldn't put up as much of a fight as she did. Someone who could navigate his temper that changed at alarming speeds.
She felt her breath quicken. The Commander reminded her of Zheng Leiyu and that terrified her.
\"What?\" Wen Jinkai asked in disbelief. Was she serious?
\"Why are you like this? Why do you come and go as you please? Why did you take me here?\" Li Xueyue demanded, her eyes flashed with warning. She wanted to go home. She didn't want to be here. The more he stared at her like that, the more she wanted to flee.
\"Stop it, stop looking at me like that!\"
Wen Jinkai blinked in surprise. \"Like what?\"
\"Like you actually care about me. It's scaring me and—\"
\"Why does it scare you?\" he carefully asked, his eyes narrowed when her face paled. Just when he thought he had taken one brick off of her wall of defense, she built another layer to defend her heart.
\"Have I ever hurt you?\" he suddenly asked.
She was forced to shake her head. \"That doesn't excuse your behavior.\"
\"No, it doesn't.\"
Li Xueyue blinked in surprise. She was bewildered by his willingness to admit his mistakes. She wondered if he did that often.
Wen Jinkai searched her face for the slightest hint of approval at his words. Slowly, he uttered, \"Truthfully, you confuse me. Why is that?\"
\"Because you have psychological issues?\"
He surprised himself when he laughed. As in, he genuinely laughed.
Li Xueyue wished she hadn't heard his laughter. His laugh sounded reassuringly warm. It was incredibly deep, yet rich and smooth. Her heart shook. When he laughed, he was the most carefree man she had ever seen.
She stiffened when he flickered her on the forehead, \"No, silly girl. That's not it.\" A reassuring smile dangled from his lips, his eyes crinkling. He was devastatingly handsome in a way that no one could ever replicate.
It was such a precious moment that she wanted to pocket it and treasure it for the rest of her life because she knew she would never witness it again. He was someone whom she should've stayed thousands of miles away from. Yet, she always found herself searching for him.
Why was she so naive? Why was she so infatuated by him? He would not make her happy. She would be in a lonely and loveless marriage with him. He'd never be able to properly cherish her, so why was she so damn naive?
Li Xueyue wanted to smack herself for being foolish. She was foolish to dream of a future with him. He couldn't even respect her basic boundaries, yet here she was, falling a little bit more in love with a man that could never love her. A man that didn't know how to love.
She couldn't trust him. She could never place her fragile heart in his hands and expect him to cherish it. He wouldn't know how to. Her untrusting heart would slip right through his fingers and he'd let it shatter into a thousand pieces.
And nothing broke her more than the realization that she was broken beyond repair. That, regardless of which man came into her life and declared love for her, she'd never believe it.
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