Commander Yu Zhen silently leaned against a pillar in the hallway. He had crossed his arms and closed his eyes whilst listening to his peers converse amongst themselves.
\"Why are we here again?\" his close friend, Hu Dengxiao, lazily asked while twirling a small blade in his hand. He turned to his Commander who remained quiet and aloof—as if he had fallen asleep.
\"Idiot, did you really forget why?\" a woman sighed, resting her shoulders upon Hu Dengxiao's arm. \"I can't believe you're our country's leading strategist when you have such a bad memory.\"
Hu Dengxiao rolled his eyes and said, \"You're just jealous that you lost to me in the fight last time.\"
\"Only because I pitied you,\" the woman, Lu Tianbi, retorted.
\"If it helps, I was purposely trying to lose as well, so you can win, but who would've guessed I still won?\" Hu Dengxiao grinned down at her when she roughly jammed her elbow into his side.
\"You piss me off,\" she scoffed.
\"Likewise.\" Hu Dengxiao snorted. He directed his gaze to his Commander again and sighed. This man was purposely ignoring them.
Of course, he was. They bickered like little children instead of behaving like the formidable people they were.
\"So, who are we waiting for?\" he asked.
\"Why would we wait for someone here?\" Lu Tianbi frowned while examining the extravagant hallways. To her, Hanjian's Palace was superior to everything here, but that was because she was too loyal to her country.
\"True.\" Hu Dengxiao slowly nodded. \"But why else would Yu Zhen pose like he's getting ready for a painting?\"
He scrunched his nose. \"It gets me so irked that all he has to do is lean here and the sun will shine on him, even though I'm standing in the same position as him.\"
Lu Tianbi scoffed, \"Let our pampered Prince be.\"
\"Hey, what if he's actually asleep?\" Hu Dengxiao chortled, a mischievous smile appeared on his face. He stuck out a finger, slowly inching it closer to his Commander who possessed the ability to instantly detect when something was coming his way.
When Yu Zhen didn't react, Hu Dengxiao's smile deepened. He jabbed his finger into his Commander's shoulder, and watched as the man slowly leaned downwards, almost as if he was deep asleep.
At the last minute, Yu Zhen swiftly smacked his second-in-command upside the head, startling Hu Dengxiao who immediately cried out, \"Abuse!\"
\"How can you do this to me, Zhenzhen?\" Hu Dengxiao wailed, faking a sob.
Commander Yu Zhen sneered in disgust at the intimate and unbearably sweet nickname. \"Who the hell is Zhenzhen?\"
\"You, silly!\" Hu Dengxiao placed his hands together, batting his lashes like one of Yu Zhen's admirers would do. \"Do you like it—ow!\" He groaned when his Commander delivered another hit on the head.
\"If you keep on hitting me, I might lose brain cells!\"
\"As if you had any in the first place,\" Lu Tianbi scoffed, rolling her eyes. She straightened when she saw someone approached from a distance. A woman to be exact.
\"Oh ho~\" Lu Tianbi smirked. \"Let me guess, we were waiting for her? The candidate that talked her way out of Hanjian.\"
Commander Yu Zhen's aggravated expression instantly lessened when he saw her. A slow smirk formed on his face when he saw her bold steps. She walked like she owned this place. It was humorous to witness someone as confident as her could be easily baffled by suggestive words.
\"Oooh~\" Hu Dengxiao placed a hand over his eyes to examine the woman.
\"Isn't she the reason we're here in the first place? To catch a glimpse of this courageous lady who offended our dear Commander.\" He snickered to himself when Yu Zhen's face darkened.
\"She did not offend me.\"
\"Yes, she did. Your ego and pride were mortally wounded.\" Hu Dengxiao mockingly laughed. \"I heard the Emperor mentioned to the candidates there was a possibility that they'd marry the most 'outstanding Commander of Hanjian,' whoever he is.\" He feigned stupidity, shrugging at the last part.
\"And she still rejected the candidate position. Amusing isn't it?\" Hu Dengxiao nudged Yu Zhen who strongly shoved him.
\"You talk too much. Someone should sew your mouth shut in your sleep,\" Commander Yu Zhen lightly said.
\"Is that a threat? Tiantian, our Commander is threatening us! We should report that to the higher-ups,\" Hu Dengxiao whined, shaking his shoulders when Lu Tianbi rolled her eyes.
\"I'll carry out that threat for him if you don't stop shaking your shoulders like a brat.\"
Instantly, he stopped and pouted. \"Grunch.\"
\"What?\" she hissed as he batted his lashes at her.
\"I said you're gorgeous.\"
She scoffed at his words and turned her face away from him, hiding the light blush that spread on her face. He was one of the rare men in this world who'd compliment her. Few men liked a woman who could overpower them in every \"masculine\" sport.
Li Xueyue's lips parted in surprise when she saw Commander Yu Zhen surrounded by his peers. She didn't expect to run into him here, but then again, he was supposed to meet the Emperor in his throne room. Did their audience with each other finish already?
\"Good day, Princess.\" Commander Yu Zhen didn't bother straightening up. He continued to lean against the pillar, one leg crossed over the other. Lazily, he observed her features, their eyes clashed.
She pressed her lips together as their first encounter evidently flashed in her mind.
He knew she was probably recalling their encounter earlier. He could see it in the way her cheeks turned the lightest shade of pink to the point where it was barely noticeable. Her skin was as pale as jade harvested from the peak of a snow mountain.
\"Have we met before?\" she feigned ignorance, tilting her pretty little head.
Commander Yu Zhen's teasing smirk deepened. He gave her a pointed stare, as if asking her, 'Do you want me to specify where our first impression took place?'
She narrowed her eyes, almost saying, 'You wouldn't dare.'
'Oh but I would,' he winked.
When she attempted to brush past him, he spoke up, \"I'm sure we have, Princess. Remember? In—\"
\"Oh right, I remember now,\" Li Xueyue interrupted him with an aggravated scowl. \"In the garden.\"
\"Garden?\" Hu Dengxiao confusedly repeated, turning to his Commander. \"You were in a garden?\"
Commander Yu Zhen tilted his head, \"Hmm, was I?\"
Li Xueyue shot him a dirty look and insisted, \"Yes, you were. Remember?\"
The Commander slightly smiled at her threatening tone. No one had ever used that kind of voice on him for a while now. He was the uncontrollable sword of Hanjian. A flick of his wrist and a head easily rolled. Who'd dare to threaten him?
\"Hmmm, do I remember?\" Yu Zhen placed a contemplating finger on his chin. \"I could've sworn, I had mistaken you…\"
\"Mistaken me for a simple lady.\" Li Xueyue nervously laughed when his peers glanced at them in confusion.
\"Yes, I remember now.\" Commander Yu Zhen revealed a friendly smile, his eyes curving into crescent moons. \"We met in my—\"
She pounced on him and covered his mouth with her hands. Both of their eyes widened in disbelief. She thought they would've toppled over, but his tense body held them in place. Specifically, his large hands had grabbed her waist and properly held her so they wouldn't fall backward.
His eyes glistened with mischief while hers widened.
She seethed, \"We. Met. In. The. Garden. Remember?\"
Yu Zhen realized how lovely her eyes were. Under the fierce sunlight, the fire in her eyes burned brighter and stronger. It was also the lovely color of fertile Earth, rich and deep, but filled with life.
Her eyes seemed to grow larger with more panic that settled within her. She hadn't realized their intimate position yet. Nor did she realize how compromising it looked for her. She was leaning on him, her lower body pressed against his for support.
Li Xueyue felt his smile deepen while he slowly nodded. She didn't trust he would keep his mouth shut about their encounter, but what could she do?
She jumped when she felt something soft peck her hand. He had kissed her. On the hand. Nonetheless, he had kissed her. She drew her hands back, but he grabbed her wrist, his long finger gently stroking the top of her hand.
\"Are all the women in Wuyi this bold?\" he teased her and took her by absolute surprise when he gently kissed the tip of her pointing finger. He had completely baffled her.
\"Are all the men in Hanjian this shameless?\" she retorted, narrowing her eyes.
Slowly, a mesmerizing grin made its way to his face, revealing his pearly white teeth. \"Only when a woman equally shameless comes along.\" He glanced down and it was then she realized how jeopardizing their position was.
But before either of them could react, an astoundingly rigid voice snarled, \"What is going on?\"
Commander Wen Jinkai had witnessed everything.
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