120 Future Husband
Li Wenmin was left speechless by her announcement. He didn't know what to say to her statement that could ease the awkward atmosphere in the room.
He was careful to not make assumptions about the situation, but it was difficult not to. "Do you know who your father is?"
"No," Li Xueyue truthfully admitted. "You see I'm…" she trailed off, unable to finish the sentence.
"I-I'm…" her voice cracked, her eyes watering at the unbearable truth. Her throat tightened, her face warming from the embarrassment.
Li Xueyue couldn't admit the fact that she was a mistake, a product of something that shouldn't have happened but did. The stain that ruined the picture-perfect family. She wasn't supposed to be born. She was an unwanted child whose presence horrified both sides of the Bai Family.
Li Wenmin knew how to put the pieces together. It was either Viscountess Mu Yihua had an affair… or something unpleasant was forced upon her.
When her shoulders genuinely shook from held back tears, he shot out of his chair and embraced her. "It's okay. You don't have to explain yourself." He comforted her, hugging her tightly.
Li Xueyue struggled to breathe as each gasp of air came out like a strangled wheeze. She refused to cry. She wasn't a child anymore. What could tears do for her? Absolutely nothing.
"No one will ever doubt you, Xiao Yue," Li Wenmin quietly whispered to her ear. "As long as you're a third-rank Princess, only fools would question your legitimacy.
"Don't let it weigh you down. Don't blame yourself for the crimes of your parents. It wasn't your fault. It's never your fault."
Li Xueyue slowly nodded her head. His words went through one ear and came out the other. She wished she could believe him, but a change of heart doesn't come easy. The only thing that could heal her was time and she had all of it in the world.
When he pulled back to clean her face, he was surprised to see her cheeks were dry. She had held back her tears. She didn't cry.
Li Wenmin let out a sigh of relief, his lips curling into a tiny smile. "You're a fighter, Xiao Yue, I expect to see you victorious."
"In what fight?"
In his most serious face, he declared, "For justice."
Li Xueyue let out a broken laugh at his attempt to liven up the mood. "You're so cheesy, Wen-ge."
His smile widened into a grin upon the sound of her laughter. It warmed him from head-to-toe. He patted her on the head. "It won't be an easy battle."
"It's going to be dangerous."
Li Wenmin rolled his eyes, flicking her on the forehead. She responded by flicking him back and wriggling out of his bear hug.
"And just so you know, we will always stand behind you."
���We?" she repeated, staring up at him.
"I'll let you figure that out yourself." He laughed when she puffed out her cheeks, dissatisfied by his response.
"You look like a hungry hamster." He snorted, poking both cheeks at once, popping it. "Luckily for you, dinner is ready."
"I always find it interesting that you're the one telling me it's ready."
"That's because I'm the most eager to eat." Li Wenmin snickered. "And you're second."
Li Xueyue easily laughed at his words. "I was negatively influenced by you."
"More like I brought out the glutton in you," he scoffed, as both of them walked down the hallway leading to the main dining room.
- - - - -
After Yu Zhen handed his horse off to safe hands, he tiredly made his way back to the guest palace. He despised everything there. Of course, his men were the ones guarding him, but the gold and boring decorations were getting on his last nerves. The least that Wuyi could've done was stop being so unnecessarily gaudy with their designs.
Yu Zhen leisurely walked the quiet hallways leading to the guest palace. At a large archway entrance, he paused and sighed. "You're horrible at stalking."
Wen Jinkai stepped out of the shadows. Even when he stepped on the crunchy grass and stubbly pebble path, there was not a single sound. "What gave it away?"
"You're able to hold a proper conversation. I'm astonished!" Yu Zhen snickered, turning around to face the man.
Nothing illuminated their paths except for the lantern lamps conveniently placed throughout the area. Guards lined the path, but their allegiance was questionable. Were they Hanjian's men? Or were they Wuyi's soldiers?
An eerie gust of wind blew past them, Yu Zhen's robes fluttered in the wind, the same time as Wen Jinkai's sleeves did so.
Wen Jinkai skimmed his surroundings, his scrutinizing gaze lingered on the soldiers.
"Did Hanjian teach you to fight with words and not swords?" Wen Jinkai questioned, his hands resting behind his back. He leisurely strolled towards Yu Zhen whose hand comfortably rested on the sword, the typical posture of a warrior.
"Hanjian teaches etiquette." Yu Zhen's lips curled upwards, "Something Wuyi soldiers desperately lack."
Wen Jinkai's placid expression remained. He would not be provoked by words. They were only a breath of air and not a weapon of destruction. What was there to get frustrated about?
"Is that the best you can do? Insult the country feeding you and offering you a roof over your head?" Wen Jinkai calmly asked.
Yu Zhen covered his mouth and yawned at Wen Jinkai's comment. "What a boring comeback."
He nearly rolled his eyes. It wasn't like he had nowhere to go. There was an abundance of manors he could buy as he pleased but he didn't see the need of building a shelter on enemy land.
Wen Jinkai's jaw ticked at the disrespect. "I'd rather prefer a conversation done through swords."
"We're on civilized grounds," Yu Zhen deadpanned, throwing an incredulous glance to the soldiers lining the paths. He had finally concluded they were a mixture of Hanjian and Wuyi soldiers, most likely to prevent any snooping.
"If you wanted to fight, you should've left a note." Yu Zhen was growing bored with this argument that seemed to go nowhere. He decided to straighten up and head back to his room. He had better things to do than waste time on Wen Jinkai.
"I have places to be, duties to fulfill. Let's not drag this conversation longer than it has to," Wen Jinkai spoke up. "You were in the Capital the same time your little Princess was there."
Yu Zhen paused. Finally, they were reaching the topic of discussion. "So?"
"Where is the candidate?"
Yu Zhen shot in a look of disbelief. "Do I look like her warden to you?"
"No, but you're the only friend she has. Her sister is far away in Hechen, serving another General," Wen Jinkai commented, crossing his arms. "The one in Hechen has fled."
Yu Zhen's nonchalant expression shifted. The Princess fled? He grinded his teeth, god damn it. His father was going to be furious by this.
Of course, one of the Princesses was smart enough to know the fastest and closest route to Hanjian was through Hechen. Usually, it would take at least two weeks by horse to reach Hanjian from the Capital, but it would take less than a week to travel from Hechen to Hanjian.
Yu Zhen shrugged his shoulders. "And that concerns me because…?"
"Did you know the General actually preferred another Princess. He doesn't care about the one that fled his home. He's willing to not cause a problem if he gets the one he wanted all along."
Yu Zhen's aloof smile threatened to crack. He knew where this was going. That damn Yu Xiyan. Was this what she was trying to tell him when they met at the Capital? That she was willing to trade her future husband? Of course, any man would've been better than the Demon Lord of the Battlefield—Wen Jinkai.
"And it just so happens," Wen Jinkai paused mid-sentence, his lips twisted into a sinister smirk, "I sold your sister to him like livestock."
Yu Zhen's eyes narrowed. "Do you lack money so much that you had to sell your leftovers?"
Wen Jinkai didn't give in. He threw his head back and let out a howling laughter that sent chills down the spine of every man present, except Yu Zhen. "Money is the least of my worries."
"Doesn't seem like it," Yu Zhen sneered in disgust, the temperature dropping around them. Electrifying thunder crackled in the background. Even though spring was approaching summer, the air here was below freezing point.
"I'll make this plain and simple for you, Yu Zhen, since you obviously lack the common sense to understand a simple fact that Li Xueyue is mine, will always be mine, no matter the consequences," Wen Jinkai explained.
He smiled. "Without your irritating sister weighing me down, I'm free to marry Li Xueyue as I please."
"I understand now." Yu Zhen firmly nodded, tapping his palm with his fist. Revelation came to his face.
Wen Jinkai's eyes narrowed in suspicion. He didn't believe Yu Zhen would yield so easily.
"I was wondering which coward asked Duke Li for Xueyue. It turned out, it was you all along!" Yu Zhen let out a peal of booming laughter, chilly and frigid, goosebumps rose on the soldiers' forearms. He clapped his hands, his laughter mocking Wen Jinkai, for it was true.
On the morning of Ning Huabing's birthday, he came to see Li Chenyang with the purpose of asking for Li Xueyue's hand in marriage. He wanted to warn his friend first before he approached the Duke, but one thing escalated to another, and a massive feud ensued. In the end, the Duke denied Wen Jinkai's request, declaring it was not right for him to pass Li Xueyue along as if she was a desirable livestock.