Li Xueyue wished she wasn't this ignorant and naive little girl pretending to be a confident woman. She wished she'd possess the ability to shake him, just as he had shaken her entire world. She wished she wasn't this feeble and powerless against him.
He'd always use her weaknesses against her. Even now, he knew she was scared of him. Even now, he knew she wanted him gone. But he'd never listen to her simple requests. If he couldn't even uphold the basic foundation of respect, what's stopping him from ruining her? What's stopping him from leaving her after he was finished with her? Who can stop him from doing as he pleased?
A man to be feared whose mercy she'd have to beg for.
"If you don't leave, I'm going to scream," Li Xueyue finally said.
"How shameless can you get?!" she cried out, her eyes pleading with him when her pride couldn't.
"This is my room—my private space! You have no right trespassing here and demanding things from me."
He was insulted by her words. It was written all over his stony face and hardened eyes. His jaw ticked, his pride and ego evidently wounded. "I'm only trying to help."
"I never asked for it."
"Why are you so stubborn?!" he finally raised his voice which instantly alerted the guards outside.
They couldn't barge into her room but they could knock on her doors. "My lady, are you alright in there?"
Li Xueyue sighed. Whether it was out of relief or irritation, she did not know. "Just leave."
"Why are you like this?" Wen Jinkai asked. "When I first met you, you were so… adoring and timid—"
"The image of me that was created in your mind is not my duty to fulfill," Li Xueyue coldly told him.
"Xueyue, stop jumping to conclusions. Hear me out!"
The guards quietly asked again, "My lady, is there a problem? Do we have permission to enter?"
Abruptly, Li Xueyue closed the distance between them, storming to him with a ferocity that was completely unexpected of her. The sheer force of her fierce presence was enough to overwhelm his. It was a startling discovery that she had the ability to master such a dangerous expression with menace tucked in the infinite hazel folds of her eyes.
"I understand everything now," she solemnly said. "You like me because of my so-called purity and straightforwardness. You want me to be appealing yet shallow—a gentle soul that sways for you, a witty and graceful little thing. Dazzling, but cruel and apathetic to everyone else except for you."
Never in a millennium would he expect her words to be so crude and precise, proper but ruthless. In life, there were things that were always better left unsaid.
"You're crossing a line," he growled, vicious and alarming.
She was courting death if she continued to provoke him with her stubbornness and unsympathetic words. If only he knew she didn't mind knocking on death's door.
"Now you know how I feel," Li Xueyue retorted, restrained and severe.
The guards were restless. They debated the idea of breaking down the door. One last protocol to follow and they'd kick the door from its hinges. "My lady—"
"I'm fine. I have it handled," Li Xueyue shouted over her shoulders, her eyes bitter with control.
Just when Xueyue thought she had lost control, she had gained it back with her words. She did not need brutish actions to prove her point. Words were her weapon.
Wen Jinkai took a deep breath, attempting to regain his composure and patience for her. She believed she was as fierce as a tiger, but in reality, she was just a timid cat who needed the right treatment to open up. He understood the pain in her eyes, the fear of letting anyone in, and the events she'd never tell.
"I don't care about the version of you that I created in my mind, I care about the one you present to me today and from now on," he told her, his fingers twitching to gently stroke her face.
He was reminded of the way her eyes slightly and unknowingly fluttered from his touch in the past. He wanted to see that expression again, the unguarded girl sitting on his bed, unafraid of voicing her wishes to him.
Li Xueyue slowly shook her head. "That won't be possible."
"Xueyue, I'm willing to learn—"
"Just as you're willing to marry another woman for this country's alliance."
Wen Jinkai's eyes narrowed. "What did the Emperor tell you? Which empty rumors filled your ears and tricked your brain?"
"The Princess from Hanjian. I was told she rushed out of your room while pulling her clothes together."
"Who told you this?" Wen Jinkai hissed, reaching out to grab her shoulder to shake some rationality into her. She backhanded his hand away with the flick of her wrist.
"Does it matter?"
"Yes. The information was given without context." Wen Jinkai touched his rejected hand, not believing she was so quick to reject him. She was not as much of an easy conquest as he had originally thought her to be, but he enjoyed a challenge.
"Oh? Let me take a guess then." Li Xueyue gave him a pointed look of disbelief. "The Imperial Family delivered her to your bedroom, hoping she'd entice you into marriage. You threatened to chop her to pieces and deliver her back to Hanjian. Then she ran away, terrified of your absurdity."
Wen Jinkai rapidly blinked, staring at her like she could predict the future—or look into the past in this case. She was sharp and deduced what actually happened with accuracy.
"Actually, yes. That's pretty much what happened."
"But you're still going to keep her in your house," she deadpanned.
"She has nowhere else to go," he retorted.
"Oh boo hoo, a Princess has nowhere to go." Li Xueyue rolled her eyes, flipping her hair over her shoulder.
She hadn't realized that droplets from her wet hair had trickled down her nightgown, revealing moistened spots that he was forcing himself to not look. Especially when it was a path down her right chest.
"You can't be this selfish. Aren't women supposed to support each other?" Wen Jinkai scoffed, resting his hands on his hips like a disapproving mother. He pressed his lips together, his eyes darting from her eyes to her hair.
"What are your plans with Hanjian's Princess?"
"What are your plans with Hanjian's Commander?"
Li Xueyue glared at him and said, "What are you? A parrot?"
"What are you? A parrot?" he mimicked in a high-pitched voice, scrunching his face to mirror her expression.
"You irritate me."
"Likewise," Wen Jinkai deadpanned before turning back to the window sill.
"Finally," Li Xueyue retorted, watching him lean half of his body over the window, calculating the likelihood of falling to his death.
"I can practically see your hands itching to push me out the window."
"Oh my god! How did you know?" Li Xueyue said in the flattest voice possible.
"If you can climb up, you should be able to climb back down."
"Do you want me to fall to my death?" Wen Jinkai rolled his eyes, deciding he won't injure himself if he leveraged his body properly and placed his foot in the exact cranny.
"Is that even a question?" she scoffed.
He shot her a dirty look and she glared back.
"Don't trip on your way down." She sassed.
"I can say the same thing when you go to Hell," Wen Jinkai teased, hopping off the window and in one swift motion, he disappeared.
Li Xueyue didn't even run to the window to check his condition. She merely stood rooted to the ground, arms crossed in defiance. A second past before he poked his head through, "The least you could've done was check if I died."
"For a Commander, you're awfully scared of dying."
"I'm only worried about a painful death." Wen Jinkai pressed his lips into a thin line when she rolled her eyes.
He nodded to the jar. "If it left a bruise, use it. Please. It'll help you, I promise."
"Don't ever make promises to me," Li Xueyue begrudgingly said. She wished she didn't reveal more about herself. She'd give him an inch and he'll take a mile.
Wen Jinkai momentarily paused, examining her sober expression filled with grim seriousness. "One day, Little Fawn, I'm going to fix you."
"I don't need fixing, I'm perfect as I am."
"Fine then. I'll make you a little bit more perfect."
"As if I'll ever allow you long enough in my life to change me," Li Xueyue said with a determined expression to keep him out for as long as possible.
"We'll never know what the future holds," Wen Jinkai responded before his head disappeared into the night.
Li Xueyue suddenly despised the moonlight. It casted an angelic hue onto the porcelain jar, basking it in a glorious shine. She left the jar on the vanity, staring at it for the longest time. Eventually, she decided it was prettier collecting dust than being used.
Wordlessly, she climbed into her bed, tossing and turning until she finally fell asleep. She didn't know that she'd need this beauty sleep more than anything, for tomorrow will not be a beautiful day.
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