Li Xueyue settled the diary onto one of the tables and requested for a servant to bring a platter of afternoon snacks, tea, and a damp towel. Once they were brought to her, she cleaned her hands and swiped off the dust from the book.
She flipped through the pages, all of which were decently filled to either half a page or the entire page. The entries were all neatly written, describing someone's day. She wasn't interested in any of the entries until she came to a page that only had a single sentence.
It read, 'I snuck out for the first time tonight.'
Li Xueyue nodded in approval. "Must be fun," she said, flipping to the next page, her brows scrunching at the next entry.
'Everyone is going to be furious if they find out, but I don't care anymore! I hate being locked in this room, it feels like I'm in a prison cell. Seriously, what is my crime? Being born? I never get to go outside and if I have to take another stupid stroll in the gardens, I'm going to cut off all of the flowers!'
Li Xueyue's eyes widened at the pure frustration reeking from this page. Whose diary was this? Whoever the writer was, the entries never specified anyone's name or title. Surely, a servant couldn't be this bold to cut off the flowers? Locked in the room? Who could this be?
Suddenly, a thought dawned upon her. Something that was once said in the past, the first time that she met the Duke and Duchess. Something about a… daughter?
"That's right!" Li Xueyue breathed out. "They had a daughter." How could she have forgotten this crucial detail? Her heart began to race at the realization that the wing that she might've wandered into was perhaps… the place that their daughter once resided in. Which meant, this book belonged to that daughter. But what was her name?
Li Xueyue nibbled her bottom lip. She wanted to ask but didn't want to pry. It wasn't her place to ask about these things. And if she asked them, they would know she trespassed into the restricted area of the manor.
"I should've just stayed put in my room." Li Xueyue groaned, facepalming herself for this stupid mistake. Nonetheless, she read on, her eyes growing wider and wider with every flip of the page.
'I snuck out again tonight. I know I shouldn't, especially when the city was filled with people who might recognize how much I look like Father. But I can't stand that stupid room. Who do they think they are? Locking their daughter away like some prisoner! What's the point of being born this rich if I can't show off?'
She flipped the page and saw it was an account of the next day.
'Oh my god, I should've stayed home last night. I'm sorry I didn't write what happened, diary. You must've been so worried that I didn't update you. I… I met a man. He's handsome! Like, really really handsome! I don't think I've ever met a man like him before. He said his name was —————'
Li Xueyue scrunched her brows upon seeing the name was crossed out. It seemed like it was written down but then diligently crossed out that she couldn't even make out the characters anymore.
'He had the most amazing voice! I didn't think I'd meet him, but I did. I stopped a child from pickpocketing him, but I think he knew what the child was doing. He told me people usually find him scary, and I could see why. There's a sword hanging off of his hips and he has large hands that look like they can kill someone.'
Li Xueyue tilted her head, finding that the description sounded familiar. She flipped to the next page, realizing they had skipped days ahead.
'I don't understand why Dad refuses to let me out! Everyone here in Hechen is so nice! I met that man again. He told me his family doesn't live around this city, but he's here as a guard, and I quote, 'A royal pain in the ass.' He usually doesn't talk much, so I brushed off his harsh choice of words. What if he offends the person he's guarding? Could it be—'
A rough knock on her door interrupted her from her reading. She lifted her head and asked, "What is it?"
The guard began, "My lady, there is a guest—"
A maidservant gasped, "Sir, you can't just trespass like this—!"
The door burst open and instantly, a man strolled into her room as if he owned the place. His laid back walk pissed her off, but then she was perplexed by the anxiety in his eyes. When he finally saw her, safe and sound on a chair, reading and snacking away, he relaxed a bit.
"What are you doing here, Yu Zhen?" Li Xueyue instantly stood up, closing the book and hiding it behind her.
"I was told you're bedridden," Yu Zhen deadpanned, handing the package of medicine to one of the servants that accompanied him. It seemed there was no need to buy out half the herbal store...
"Who told you that?" Li Xueyue asked. She was confused by the package, but didn't ask any questions.
"My lady, should we escort him out of the room for trespassing?" one of the guards spoke, eyeing the foreign man with hesitation. He clearly didn't look like he was from here as indicated by the different styles of clothing that he was wearing.
They were worried about the safety of their young lady and felt uncertain about his identity. Many of the soldiers felt like they had seen him before somewhere… In particular, the newspaper that described a merciless Commander slashing every soldier who crossed him on the battlefield.
Li Xueyue was prepared to send Yu Zhen on his merry way out of her house, but then he spoke up.
"I hope you're not kicking me out, Sunshine. I generously graced your miserable boredom with my presence. You should keep me here."
Li Xueyue looked around the room. She glanced over her shoulders and behind her.
"What are you doing?"
"Oh wait, you were talking to me before?" she feigned confusion.
Yu Zhen's lips pressed into a thin line. "Ha. Ha. That was so funny, I almost cried," he responded in the flattest monotone voice possible.
"I swear, one day you're going to be beyond grateful for my presence," Yu Zhen said, flicking her on the forehead to which she stuck her tongue out at him.
"And I can swear to you that it's never going to happen."
"Never?" Yu Zhen raised a brow.
"Ever." Li Xueyue nodded.
"We'll see about that," Yu Zhen said with a smirk, turning his back to her, almost as if he was going to leave. "Pity really, I was going to tell you something I overheard in the Palace."
Li Xueyue jutted her chin in the air, "Okay and?"
"And it was about you."
Now, she was curious. "Tell me then."
Yu Zhen placed a thoughtful finger on his chin. "Hmmm, I don't think so."
Li Xueyue pressed her lips into a thin line.
The edges of his lips curled upwards, forming a pleased smile. He knew he had tempted her. She was always an inquisitive woman, he could see that quality of hers shine through. She wanted to know more, but was too stubborn to ask.
In that case, he decided to tease her a bit more. "Well, I have to head back now." He turned his back to her and began approaching her door at a snail pace.
"Go on then." Li Xueyue shooed him out with her hand, not once pausing to welcome him back.
Yu Zhen's humored smile slipped a bit as he said, "I'm really leaving."
"Like, actually leaving."
"Look, I have one foot out the door."
Yu Zhen glowered at her. "First you don't know how to dress a man, and now you don't know how to welcome a guest."
"First you yanked me into your room and now you're barging into my room."
"Touché," he chuckled, the sound tickling her heart and warming her stomach.
Li Xueyue wished she wouldn't react this way to him. She noticed his eyes crinkled when he laughed and that he only had one dimple. The observation irked her. It meant she was examining him for too long. He had her attention for too long.
"Are you sure you don't want to know?"
"Are you going to tell me?"
"Only if you welcome me back in."
"Then I guess not." Li Xueyue shrugged.
"Fine then, I'm leaving." Yu Zhen waved.
"Good," she deadpanned.
"Great," he responded.
"Ugh, what are you? Five?" She threw her hand up, not believing he was just this childish.
"Actually..." he trailed off whilst he stepped back into her room without her welcome. He closed the door behind him, shutting out any wandering eye.
Strolling towards her, she waited for him to continue what he was about to say but he surprised her by tugging at her cheek, stretching it.
"I'm five and a half, which means I'm older than your childish antics."
"I am not childish."
"And I'm not handsome," he scoffed, tugging at her cheek again. He found it adorable that it was as soft as rice cakes.
"I'm glad we're on the same page."
He scowled, stretching her cheeks extra hard as a way of punishing her. She scrunched her nose in response, leaning up on her tippy toes to grab his face. His eyes widened at her unexpected action, and he took steps back which caused her to lean forward until she practically crashed against his chest.
She thought they would fall back from her weight, but he remained rooted. Strong and firm as always, she supported her perfectly. His hands gripped her elbow, steadying her.
Her eyes widened upon realizing how close he was to her. His scent, his heat, and his thudding heart overwhelmed her senses. He was even more handsome up close. He peered down at her, a devious smirk on his face as mischief lit up his eyes. She was dumbfounded when he became even more attractive from the simple action.
She swallowed, her eyes running over his flawless features. Smooth skin the color of honey, a scar on his eyebrows, slightly crooked nose, perfectly full lips, one would never think his features came together, but it did in the most appealing way possible.
She felt her heart rapidly drumming, slamming against her chest. Briefly, he released one elbow to gently stroke his fingers across her cheek; her eyes fluttered shut, leaning into his tender touch.
For a split second there, he thought he saw adoration in her eyes, but she had shut it too quickly for him to confirm anything. With her guard down and her trust in his hands, he knew he didn't need any further confirmation.
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