149 Part Ways
Afterwards, silence ensued. It wasn't comfortable, nor was it awkward. It was just quiet. Neither of them spoke a word, and neither of them knew what to say. They sat opposite each other, quietly observing the other whilst looking away each time they were caught looking at the other. Seconds ticked by, trickling into minutes.
Li Xueyue took a sip of her tea, leaned back in her chair while Yu Zhen sat cross-legged in a relaxed posture.
After a few minutes of watching her eyes dart from the tea to the floor and then to him, he finally asked, "Is there something you want to tell me?"
Li Xueyue pressed her lips together. There was so much she wanted to tell him. "How long will you be staying in Wuyi?" she asked again.
"I received an interesting letter on the day I saw you in the Palace," Yu Zhen suddenly said, leaning back in his chair, mirroring her leisure posture.
"Oh. From who?" she curiously asked.
"The Emperor of Hanjian."
Li Xueyue's lips parted. She already knew where this conversation was going. She forced a smile onto her face, widening her eyes and hoped to come off as optimistic.
"Good news, I hope?"
Yu Zhen's eyes narrowed at the wince on her face. She was great at smiling, but not faking it. "It can be seen as good news to others, but not to us."
Li Xueyue blinked in confusion, waiting for him to continue.
"My father has changed his mind on who might become the Crown Prince."
It was great news from an outsider's perspective. The Second Prince was outshining the First Prince—something that rarely happened. So why was it that he seemed so depressed?
Li Xueyue took another sip of her tea, debating her next response. She didn't want to present him with false happiness. It wasn't in her nature to do so. She wanted to be honest with him.
"You seem far from happy," Yu Zhen commented, his lips tugging into a slight smile. "Why?"
"I should be asking you that," she deadpanned.
"What's there to not be happy about? I'm going to become the Crown Prince, the center of everyone's attention. I will have more servants to command, more chatter about my name. An eternal life of luxury without needing to live in my older brother's shadows."
"But that's not what you care about."
Yu Zhen's eyes snapped to her, wide and caught off guard. What did she just say?
"And how do you know that?"
Li Xueyue slowly smiled. "A man who doesn't abide by tradition doesn't care about gossip. If you preferred luxury, you would've arrived in Wuyi in the loudest manner possible, whether it's a large parade or troops of servants accompanying you."
"Well, I brought my guards—"
"Every Prince needs a guard."
Yu Zhen softly chuckled. "You speak as if you know me."
Li Xueyue should've been offended by his accusing words, but she wasn't. "Well, I want to learn more about you."
Yu Zhen smiled and shook his head. "You asked about my childhood. It's my turn to ask the questions now."
"Okay then, take your pick."
"If I asked you to drop everything and come to Hanjian, will you?"
Li Xueyue tightly gripped her teacup, raising her head to stare him down. "You said you'd give me time."
"I did." Yu Zhen nodded in agreement. "But I was given interesting advice today."
"Funny, so did I."
"Oh?" Yu Zhen quirked a brow. "Let me guess, it's about our departure from each other?"
Li Xueyue's gaze narrowed out of frustration, disbelief written all over her face. They wouldn't be able to see each other for a while, isn't that news worthy of displeasure?
"Are you serious?"
"Why wouldn't I be?" he asked in a calm and collected voice.
Li Xueyue loathed his aloof nature. One minute he was warm, the next he was cold. "We'll have to part ways."
"Not for a long time."
"It might be."
"Not if you planned it that way." Yu Zhen stood up, his eyes filled with accusations as if he had already reached a conclusion. "Unless, you plan to test my patience."
"Why would I test your patience?" Li Xueyue frowned, abandoning her teacup onto the table.
"Your father advised me to stay away from you. To give you space. Why?"
"I thought it was my turn to ask personal questions since you already asked yours," Li Xueyue gritted through her teeth, shooting out of her chair. What was he doing right now?
"Just answer me. Why can't you come with me to Hanjian?"
"I have to avenge someone."
Yu Zhen blinked in disbelief. "Don't tell me it has to do with your previous parents?"
"I'm sorry to disappoint you," she sarcastically said, crossing her arms over her chest. "But yes, it has to do with them."
"Li Xueyue," he coldly addressed, closing the distance between them. In a low and anguished voice, he whispered, "This revenge will ruin you."
She refused to listen, shaking her head in disagreement, even if similar words from Li Wenmin echoed in her mind. "No it won't. This revenge will bring me satisfaction."
"Why do you have to throw away this comfortable life of yours to pursue petty revenge?"
"That's none of your business."
"Xueyue," he tried again, "Why do you have to linger in the past?"
"Nothing you say will change my mind, I—"
"You're starting a new life with your current parents now, aren't you?"
"That doesn't change the past!" she cried out, taking steps back to create some distance between them.
Yu Zhen shook his head in disappointment, his heart torn by her. "Neither can vengeance change it."
"That's enough, Yu Zhen. I don't wish to see you any longer today," Li Xueyue harshly said, hugging her elbows, keeping her arms close to her chest. She didn't like the truth spewed out of his mouth.
"Don't let your past destroy your present."
"It's already sabotaging my future!" she yelled out, her eyes wide and vicious. "You have no idea how much they've tormented me. You have no right to tell me what to do."
"How could they possibly torment you when you're sheltered by the Li Family?" Yu Zhen cooly asked, keeping his calm when she couldn't. Someone had to be rational in this argument, and he decided it would be him.
Li Xueyue blinked, licking her lips at the realization that struck her. "What they did to me in the past, it can't be erased. It haunts me every night and I can't sleep from it."
Yu Zhen's gaze softened. He approached her and reached out to gently hold her, but she slapped his hands away. He was taken back by her violent approach. She stared at him as if he was a monster, as if he was the enemy. And it was all because he disagreed with her.
Li Xueyue was horrified at her own response. She didn't mean to hit him like that.
Her heart raced with panic, her eyes growing wide, but she did her best to hide it all.
Li Xueyue would rather come off as a bitch than someone weak. If she was weak, everyone could hurt her. She didn't want to be weak. She wanted to be strong. Strong enough to withstand the lethal gaze of Viscount Bai, powerful enough to trample them.
Li Xueyue squeezed her eyes shut. He said he was patient, but no one can ever be patient for long. Soon, they'll snap and get tired of it. He was no exception.