145 One Hear
In the Duke's public study, Yu Zhen took a leisure sip of his tea, his brows raising at the interesting flavor.
"You do realize it's impolite to visit unannounced? I have a job to head to in less than an hour from now," Duke Li Shenyang commented in a mellow tone as if he was conversing about the weather, and not subtly insulting Yu Zhen.
"Well, it's not like I wanted to see you," Yu Zhen pointed out, settling his teacup down.
Duke Li Shenyang chuckled. "Are you always this rude?"
Yu Zhen paused, almost as if he was going to ask, 'Did you really just say that?'
He chose to not respond.
"Well, if you must insist," the Duke sighed, "You can see her after this discussion, but I must ask you something first."
He lifted his teacup and through the rim of it, asked, "What are your intentions with Xueyue?"
Yu Zhen knew this question was going to be asked sooner or later. "What do you think it is?"
"Don't turn my questions against me," Duke Li Shenyang sniped, taking a sip of the tea and settling it back onto the table.
"My intentions towards her are pure and good. I only want the best for her. Nothing more, nothing less."
"And if you're not the best thing for her? What shall happen then?"
"Then I will change to become the most ideal lover for her."
"Do you think she'd change for you as well?" Duke Li Shenyang asked, his eyes flashed with amusement. Young love was always so entertaining.
"I don't see why she wouldn't."
Duke Li Shenyang hummed as he leaned back in his chair. "Has it ever occurred to you, Yu Zhen, that both of you are not ready for each other?"
Yu Zhen stiffened. What was this old man talking about?
"She has goals in life that can only be accomplished in Wuyi. You have a Crown to fight for in Hanjian. Do you see the problem here?"
Yu Zhen's jaw clenched. He did. He hated how evident it was. Right now, they were incompatible with each other. He was shameless enough to pretend it wasn't there, but he knew, deep down, that right now was not the time.
"Sooner or later, your father will summon you back to Hanjian, but she can't return with you."
"You want me to abandon her."
"For now, yes. You're a distraction in her life, just as she is a distraction in yours. Both of your paths are headed in separate directions. In the future, your paths will cross each other, but now is not the time."
"And does Xueyue want this?" Yu Zhen sharply asked, his blood boiling with irritation. The truth was hard to hear, and even more difficult to swallow.
"I know for a fact that this thought has crossed your mind at least once," Duke Li Shenyang simply said. "Of course, I'm not against the idea of you two being together, but you're both young and rash. As level-headed as you think you are, I know you're the foolish type to throw everything away for love."
Yu Zhen's eyes narrowed. Just exactly how much did Duke Li Shenyang know about him?
"And trust me, I was once in your shoes. In my youth, I was ready to abandon everything and kidnap the beloved Princess of Wuyi. I was willing to throw all of my fame and wealth away if it meant I could marry my current wife."
Duke Li Shenyang couldn't help but chuckle at the memory of his younger self. He wanted to marry the Duchess, but everyone was against it. Eventually, he was tangled in a mess that he hadn't anticipated in the form of another Princess who desired to risk it all to have him, even if he didn't want her.
"Do you see how foolish I sounded? But during that time, none of it mattered to me, so long as I could have the woman of my dreams."
Yu Zhen's jaw ticked. He reluctantly agreed with the Duke.
"In the end, everything worked out for us. It took time, much longer than we anticipated, but it worked. The same should apply to you and Xueyue," Duke Li Shenyang assured.
"I will continue seeing her."
Disappointment was painted all over the Duke's expression, his eyes sharpening into a fine line. "Are you that stubborn? Did you not hear what I said?"
"I heard each word perfectly," Yu Zhen calmly responded. "I will continue hovering over Xueyue like a fly—"
"You will never get my approval this way—" Duke Li Shenyang's lip tugged into a deep scowl.
"—for the duration of my stay in Wuyi," Yu Zhen finished, his eyes flashed with warning.
Duke Li Shenyang didn't think it was possible for a man as young as Yu Zhen to have such a formidable and determined presence. This crazy Commander was bent on making Xueyue his, one way or another.
"And when I leave Wuyi, I will give her time."
Duke Li Shenyang's brows raised upwards, not expecting this outcome of events.
Yu Zhen stood up, deciding this conversation was over. "Be it a year or a decade, I will wait for her."
Duke Li Shenyang nodded in approval. "I expected nothing less from a level-headed Commander—"
"And in return." Yu Zhen's eyes darkened, a wicked smile on his face. "I expect your protection."
Duke Li Shenyang's eyes narrowed. "What are you talking about?"
"Keep the other bugs away from her."
Duke Li Shenyang was rarely surprised by anything, but today, he was in for a shock of his lifetime. He had expected the time they spent apart to cause a strain on the relationship, that maybe Xueyue would decide moving to a different country was too much. And that Yu Zhen would realize that waiting that long for a girl when he had so many at his disposal was stupid.
"How do I know you will welcome her back into your life after the wait is over? After I get rid of every potential suitor from her life, who's to say you won't change your mind?"
Yu Zhen quirked a single brow. "I only have one heart and I already gave it to her."
Duke Li Shenyang was stunned by the Commander's words.
"Have a good day, Prime Minister." And with that said, Yu Zhen walked out of the door, never once looking back.
Duke Li Shenyang stared at the doors in disbelief, blinking a few times to make sure he had heard himself correctly. Did that foolish Commander just declare his love for Xueyue without realizing it?
"We really are fools for love," Duke Li Shenyang bit out, laughing to himself. Whether it was out of amusement or bewilderment, he couldn't tell.