Stunned silence ensued in the stable. Heiyue awkwardly kicked his legs, waiting for someone to break the deafening silence.
Wen Jinkai tried to argue against her words, his mouth opening and closing. Memories of her flashed in his mind, a naive little prey wandering into the battlefield of predators with a winning smile and looks of mischief.
She thought he was a mute whose role was a bodyguard and he thought she was an annoying brat who needed to be taught a lesson. Who would've thought his first love would be the biggest mistake of his life, a lesson well-learned.
His duty was to his country, to the Imperial Family who sheltered him when his parents didn't. He swallowed his pride, his emotion, his wants, all for a loyal friend to ruin the only good thing he had stumbled upon.
"Save it for another woman who looks like her."
Li Xueyue glared down at him. Was that why he was infatuated with her? Because she resembled someone he once loved but had lost? Did he think she would be exactly like that girl? Whoever she was.
"You disappoint me in more ways than one, Commander."
She softly shook her head and in a blink of an eye, Heiyue was racing out of the stable. Wen Jinkai ran towards the entrance but was too late. He was met with the dust that the thunderous horse had kicked up.
Heiyue was a whirlwind of pure stamina and stealth. He stormed out of the Capital, unafraid of trampling down the forest leading to the enormous Li Manor on the outskirts of the city. Most of the elite families lived on the outskirts of the Capital since it was a lot more secluded and quiet.
On a normal day, Li Xueyue would've been comforted by the breeze that weaved through her hair, the refreshing air that blew past her, carrying all of her worries and stress away. Today was different. Thoughts of his behavior swarmed through her mind, his demanding ways, and the manipulative nature of his actions. She was glad for Yu Zhen's presence in her life, or else she would've never found an escape from Wen Jinkai, the man who could make Wuyi bend its knee.
"I've officially lost my mind." She let out a shaky laughter, the sound swallowed by the hollowing wind racing past her.
Yu Zhen? Why was he the first suitor who came to mind? After the stunt he pulled today, she wasn't sure if she wanted to ever focus on her love life anymore. Love was a wretched thing. She was foolish to think real love was easy and easy love was real.
She shook her head, hoping to clear her thoughts, but the only thing she could think about was Yu Zhen this, Yu Zhen that. From his easy-going personality to the mysterious twinge of pain buried in his onyx eyes, there were so many things that she did not know about him but wanted to find out more about him.
So, imagine her surprise when Heiyue came to a screeching halt at the gates of the Li Manor. Sitting on top of his horse, proud and confident, blocking their path was a man that Li Xueyue didn't expect to see.
Yu Zhen sat still on his high horse, observing her widened eyes and parted lips. He was solemn and quiet, his gloved hand loosely grasping the black leather reins. The wind fluttered, blowing through his hair, lifting his white coat, revealing the golden embroidery of the roaring dragon.
He was here, but how? She was in the stable the entire time. Did he race after her when she left the stable? But that was impossible, Heiyue was one of the fastest horses in the Capital!
"How did you get here?"
"A short cut," he curtly responded.
"What are you here for?" She could feel Heiyue's uneasiness while he stepped left and right, eager to head to his personal stable.
"You left. I chased."
Li Xueyue bit her bottom lip. "Well, you were too late."
"Better late than never."
"You're saying the phrase wrong." Li Xueyue sighed, urging Heiyue to step backward. "You're blocking my path. Move."
"You wanted to learn more about me, didn't you?" Yu Zhen asked. He tugged at the reins to signal Xiao Lizi to step aside, offering them a chance to escape. He would not cage a sparrow like her. He wouldn't allow himself that cruel treatment. She was made to soar the skies, not caged down.
"I'd rather you show it than speak it." Li Xueyue was stunned to see he was actually making way for her to leave if she wanted to. So, why hasn't she?
"Don't you want to know my secrets?"
"They're secrets for a reason."
"You're afraid I'd share yours," Yu Zhen pointed out.
She responded by staring him down, an indifferent expression on her face.
"Your secrets are safe with me, just as you will be safer with me."
"You heard the conversation." Li Xueyue realized, her eyes narrowed with accusation. Exactly, how much did he see unfold? Was he there when Bai Tianai made a fool out of herself?
"And what kept you from hearing the rest?"
"I was busy organizing your belongings and ordering my men to bring it to the Li Manor in perfect condition." The corner of his lips tugged upwards when her face clouded with bewilderment. He could tell she was racking her pretty little head for answers. She didn't have a single clue about what he had been doing.
"Everything you touched in the market belongs to you now."
Li Xueyue fumbled to restrain her frustration. She didn't want to lash out at his kind gesture, neither did she want to thank him for doing the unnecessary.
In the end, she could only manage a mere, "Why?"
Yu Zhen was baffled by her question. Why not? She deserved to be showered with everything precious and rare.
Finally, he said, "Because you took interest in them."
Li Xueyue was stunned speechless by his words. "You didn't have to waste so much money on me. Now, I'll be indebted to you—"
"Sunshine, that's not how gifts work."
Li Xueyue pinched the bridge of her nose, praying for enough patience to deal with his bewildering actions. "Perhaps one gift was fine, but that many? I'll be indebted to you."
"You can return the favor by doing justice to the presents. Wear them. Put them to use," Yu Zhen responded, smiling at her silliness. What was the big deal? Money came to him easily. She didn't have to worry about such insignificant things.
"Why are you so kind to me?" She blurted out, "Is there something you want from me? Is that it?"
"I've already told you what I want from you, Sunshine."
"Yes, but why? What did I do to get on your good side? There are so many other women out there, more willing than the next to entertain you."
She bit her bottom lip. "We've barely met for more than a few weeks. We barely know each other! So..." she trailed off. "Why me?"
Yu Zhen became eerily quiet for the longest time. He would have responded with a 'Why not?' but he knew it wasn't a satisfying enough answer for her. She'd want to hear more than that.
He couldn't even fathom why it had to be her, and no one else. The reasons were resting on the tip of his tongue, but he couldn't wrestle it out of him.
Yu Zhen wanted to present her with meaningful words that'd bring a smile to her face and reassurance to her heart. He wanted to say so much, but simply couldn't.
It wasn't because he didn't like her, it was because he was afraid of making a mistake and she'd slip right through his fingers. She was a fleeting moment in his life that he wanted to make his forever.
The harder it was for him to answer that question, the more Yu Zhen realized he liked her a lot more than he originally thought he did. He could list the lovable qualities about the close friends in his life, but he couldn't pinpoint all of the qualities he liked about Xueyue. He liked her for reasons he couldn't describe or write down.
"I'm sorry, I'm not able to answer that question." Yu Zhen breathed out, shocked at his response and mentality.
What was wrong with him? It was almost as if… as if, it was more than a simple infatuation with her. As if it was a four-letter word he never thought existed within him until he met her and saw hope.
"Is it because you can't do it or you don't want to?" she asked.
Li Xueyue could do nothing but stare at him in disbelief, unsure if she should laugh or cry. Because like him, she couldn't pinpoint exactly why she chose him out of everyone else. She couldn't understand why she liked him so quickly and laughed so easily around him. It just… had to be him. No one else.
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