Wen Jinkai raised a brow. In a blink of an eye, he grabbed her wrist, preventing her from leaving. "I only wanted to help you—"
"That's the thing, Commander. I never asked for your help."
Wen Jinkai's eyes narrowed at her temper. She loved to throw tantrums. Lucky for her, he was a patient man willing to work things out. He had learned from the unfortunate outcomes of being rough and violent with her. He would never repeat such horrible mistakes ever again. It had already caused a strain between them.
"I think you'd need my help this time, though," he commented when she turned her back to him.
Li Xueyue ignored him and approached Heiyue whilst adjusting the saddle so that he would be more comfortable. Heiyue responded by nudging his head closer to her, hoping to receive a treat for his intelligence. She slightly smiled and caressed his mane, her fingers easily running through his hair.
"Later," she whispered to him, promising a sugar cube or slices of apple.
Upon seeing her ready to saddle her horse, Wen Jinkai spoke up again. "What if word gets out you've been lying to them?" He deliberately left out mentions of the royal family. He didn't need unwanted ears to overhear this discussion. He shot a dirty look to the stable boy who instantly bowed and scurried off.
Li Xueyue's entire body tensed at his taunting words. Her gaze snapped to him, her lips curled in a snarl.
He smiled. "Of course not."
"I don't believe you."
"Well, I did say you'd need my help one day. I'm offering it to you now." Wen Jinkai stepped closer to her and she remained rooted, refusing to back down yet again.
Did she realize her stubbornness would one day ruin her? It wasn't good to be so hard-headed. What's wrong with relenting to him once in a while? He missed the curious little thing she was back in the archery tournament. She was so yielding and adorable, what happened? Had he done something to lose her favor?
"You're offering your help at a price." She scowled. "I'd hardly call that helping me. More like blackmail."
"In the end, both of us would still benefit from it. In that case, does the term even matter?" Wen Jinkai heartily asked her, his lips lifted into a satisfied smile when he saw the hesitation on her face.
She was debating her options. Obviously, joining him for dinner was the winning choice. It wasn't like he was asking something audacious of her. It was a meal and he'd never do anything to hurt her.
Li Xueyue weighed her options. If she went with him, it'd just show him that threats like this would be tolerated. Who's to say he won't demand more from her, with this lie lingering over her head?
The first thing that came to her mind was rejecting his offer, but that was too rash. She'd have a higher possibility of him reporting to the Emperor and Empress. The only thing to do was to buy herself some time and personally tell them herself, that perhaps, she had finally begun feeling better in the afternoon?
"How do I know you will keep your word?" she asked.
"Good point." Wen Jinkai nodded in satisfaction, rubbing his chin. "You won't."
Li Xueyue's lips thinned as she crossed her arms across her chest. She hated the way he towered over her, intimidating as always. He didn't seem to mind.
"But you have my word. I never break promises," Wen Jinkai uttered, coming closer to her. He reached his hand out to adjust her slipping hairpin but with a flick of her hand, she brushed his hand away, yet again.
"Keep your hands to yourself, Commander."
Wen Jinkai's features softened at her defense. It seemed her guard was up again, this time, higher than before. It would be incredibly difficult for him to ever breach those walls of hers. A single mistake and she would judge him for all of eternity. He wished it wasn't like this. That she wouldn't shut him out so willingly.
"What do you say then, Little Fawn? Will you dine with me?"
Li Xueyue knew her best option here was to delay the possibility of him reporting to the Imperial Family.
She sighed. "Not today. I had a long day, and I'm too exhausted to socialize. Besides, the sun is setting and if it's dinner, my parents will freak out thinking it's something else."
Wen Jinkai frowned. It wasn't a yes, nor was it a no. "When will you have time then?"
Li Xueyue rested her forefinger on her chin, staring up at the ceiling while she contemplated a reply. "I'll let you know soon."
"Will you really let me know?"
"Don't you trust me?" Li Xueyue vaguely responded, purposely not giving him a straightforward answer.
"Fine." Wen Jinkai narrowed his eyes and warned, "Just so you know, Little Fawn, I'm not a fan of liars." He rested his hand on his hips whilst she sighed and nodded.
"Good to know," she retorted, brushing past him whilst guiding her horse out of the stall.
When he blinked, she was already on top of her horse, the reins resting comfortably in her hands. He was not surprised to see she wasn't sitting side-saddled with both of her feet dangling on one side. It was harder to ride a horse that way and he'd much prefer her to sit center-saddled with less chances of getting injured.
Wen Jinkai stood directly between them and the stable entrance. "Will you keep your word?" he asked, raising a brow when she was silent.
"I'll think about it."
"Little Fawn," he said with a threatening tone. "Do not lie to me."
"And how will I know you won't lie to me?" She scowled. "At the end of the day, words are just words."
"Do you have that little trust in me and my morals? I am a man of my word. If I lie and cheat, would my men respect me? Have some faith in me!" he argued just as the temperature between them lowered and the tension thickened.
"I tried having faith in you, Commander. Until you showed me what type of man you are."
"You just don't like the idea that I haven't given you my word that I will not have a harem! Do you realize such a mentality is quite selfish in this country?"
Li Xueyue squeezed her eyes shut. 'If Heaven has a heart, please open it and grant me patience to deal with this brute.'
"And don't take my words to heart, because it's not definite! Whether I have a harem or not, it shouldn't determine your choices. Damn it, Xueyue!" Wen Jinkai frustratedly sighed and clenched his jaw, a muscle ticking.
"I don't know what I feel towards you, but it's nothing malicious. You're everything I could possibly ask for, but I'm only human. I make mistakes, I say the wrong things, I have my own wishes. You can't be selfish and expect me to bend to your wishes if you haven't proved to me—"
"It takes two to be in a relationship. It takes two to be married. It takes two to make a decision," Li Xueyue interjected, her eyes snapped open, revealing the fire that had broiled from within.
A storm against a volcano, ice against fire, obsidian against topaz, their eyes clashed in a violent argument that couldn't be conveyed through words.
"If you can't compromise on the basic foundation of a relationship, then do not pursue me any longer."
Wen Jinkai's fist clenched and unclenched. In a low and animalistic growl, he snarled, "No."
Her eyes widened at the sound, too inhumane for her to comprehend that it came from him. His face was marred with sheer fury, his eyes violent like the crashing waves during a hurricane. He was barely keeping his temper at bay.
"Absolutely not!" he hissed, "I will not stop pursuing you. I won't let another woman like you slip out of my fingers again."
"Another woman?" Li Xueyue repeated before blinking. Clarity came to her faster than it would ever come to him. She felt tremendous disbelief at the understanding that dawned onto her.
Li Xueyue breathed out in shock, her shaking eyes mimicking the uncertainty running through her veins. "You're trying to replace her with me."
Please go to https://www.qzxyzy.com/The-Rise-of-Xueyue/
to read the latest chapters for free