Li Xueyue didn't want to give him a proper answer now. She was fearful of losing him if she asked him to wait, but if she gave in so easily, everything would happen too fast. Staying firm to her decision was the best plan. There were things she had to deal with in Wuyi first.
Li Xueyue searched for assurance in his eyes that were filled with sincere devotions. "I'll need more time to think this over."
Li Xueyue held her breath while anticipating his reply. How would he react? Was he as impatient as her? Would he make unfair demands from her? Would he find it more beneficial to return to Hanjian and find another beautiful woman who wouldn't take too much time to think things over?
Yu Zhen examined her features—the frightful knit of her brows, her pressed lips, and her anxiety-riddled eyes.
His smile became even more welcoming. "I expected a rejection."
She blinked. "What?"
"I'll let you weigh in your options, Sunshine. But I must warn you, I'm an impatient man." He dropped his hand just to play with the little flower accessory resting on the ribbon belt of her lower back, his fingers twirling and weaving as he pleased.
"How long can you stay in Wuyi?"
"How long do you want me to?" Yu Zhen could hear the uncertainty in her voice.
What was she hesitant of? Did she think he'd leave her in Wuyi to suffer her fate alone? Now that he had reassurance she was considering the possibility of becoming his woman, he was bent on making sure she does. He would not let go of her now.
"That's up to you."
"I'm not sure," Yu Zhen truthfully answered. "I never gave a proper reply to my father. He never bothered to ask in the first place."
"Do you behave differently in Hanjian than when you're in Wuyi?" she suddenly asked, wanting to know more about him.
"I have more duties in Hanjian. A reputation to uphold," he vaguely told her before nodding in the direction of his horse. "Let's not keep the merchants waiting. Shall we?"
Li Xueyue bit her bottom lip, his eyes snapping towards it. "Xueyue—" he warned her but she didn't understand him, tilting her head.
He thought she would bolt away with his horse, leaving him stranded here. He knew she was that much of a trickster.
She was confused by his tone. "I was thinking of using my own horse."
Yu Zhen cleared his throat, tugging at the tightened collar of his robe, only to realize he had already pulled at it enough times today.
"I was wondering where you learned to get on top of a horse that quickly."
"He?" Yu Zhen repeated, the warmth in his eyes instantly disappeared.
"Who?" Yu Zhen's voice deepened, a dangerous smile on his face.
"You'll meet him today."
"I'd like some time alone with him," he proposed.
"What for?" she asked, puzzled by the abrupt change in his behavior.
His smile widened, never once reaching his eyes. He'd definitely kill with a smile. Why did he look like someone who relished in giving false hope to enemies?
"Just to talk."
"He doesn't like talking to strangers," she replied.
"You certainly know him well."
"Of course I do. It's been two years." She wondered what caused this reaction from him. She could feel the drop in the temperature, the dark aura that emitted from his soul.
"Well, let's not keep him waiting then."
"You'll have to let me go then."
"Why?" He scowled. "He should see us in this position."
"He'll get jealous."
Yu Zhen's eyes sharpened at her words. What type of friend would get jealous? Of course, whichever man she was referring to was probably in love with her and she was simply too foolish to see it.
"Besides, we can't walk like this," she said and gestured to their position where one of his hands rested upon her face and the other grasped her waist.
"I'm sure we can make it work."
"Be serious!" she exasperated.
Li Xueyue rolled her eyes. Ugh, men. "Then act like it."
He responded by yanking her closer to him, their chests pressed against each other. He smiled provocatively and teased, "Like this?"
"You're getting on my nerves."
"Aw, Sunshine, you'll hurt my feelings."
"Do you have any in the first place?" she retorted, unknowingly poking him in a spot where she shouldn't have.
Yu Zhen's face turned blank. "For you, yes."
"Nevermind. Let's head to the markets now," he curtly said.
"I was suggesting that the entire time. The sun will set by the time we finish talking here," she retorted, rolling her eyes when he smirked in satisfaction.
"Talking? Sounds like flirting to me."
"In your dreams."
"I'll pray for that." He winked before finally separating them whilst loosely hooking his arm around her, one hand squeezing her hips.
There was no one here to see his possessive claim on her, so he took his chance on keeping his hand on her hips. It felt oddly comforting… as if no one in this world could steal her from him. Who'd dare to take what was his? No one would leave this Empire alive if they took her from him. Not even Wen Jinkai.
"Wait, stand right here. I'll be back!" She didn't give him a chance to respond before running back to her house. He stood there, dumbfounded that she just left him.
A few minutes trickled by and he thought she had abandoned him. Was he stood up? He scratched the back of his neck while debating the idea of heading back into the house. Did she run off?
His suspicions were put at bay when he felt the ground hum. It was barely there, but he heard it perfectly clear. His hand flew to his sword, his body shifting into a stance preparing for battle. The rippling sound of something powerful quickly approaching him heightened his senses.
Any minute now… His eyes widened in disbelief when he saw a whirlwind of black and green.
He simply blinked and there she was. Proud and beautiful on top of a well-built horse the color of midnight. All she needed was an armor and a large sword to complete the image of a respectable female soldier—they were not that well-received in Wuyi, but the people in Hanjian were less prejudiced.
"Well then," he breathed out, unable to get over this picture-perfect image.
With her hair fluttering in the wind, catching flight, and the sunlight basking upon her shoulders, she was everything that he did not expect.
"After you," he said and gestured for her to take the lead, a mesmerized expression on his face.
He had never seen this side of her. From this moment forth, he knew, he was determined to unravel everything about her.
Li Xueyue merely smiled down at him, revealing a grin.
"Would you like an autograph?" she teased just as Heiyue snorted in response. If he could roll his eyes, he would. It was as if he was saying, 'Give the poor lad some love won't you?'
Yu Zhen blinked back to reality, searching himself.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"Looking for parchment and quill."
"You're so dramatic," she huffed, attempting to wipe the grin off of her face but she couldn't.
"I'm glad you know."
Heiyue impatiently stomped the ground, striding forward and back, growing tired of their flirting.
Li Xueyue chuckled at his reaction, bending down to pat the side of his head. At the first contact of her hand, he roughly nudged into it, wanting more than a small caress. "Meet Heiyue. He's my favorite."
"He?" Yu Zhen repeated, his eyes widening in disbelief. This… this entire time he was jealous, no, irritated over a horse?!
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