Li Xueyue comfortably settled into her seat. Then, without warning, she shot out of it, her eyes wide.
"Sweetheart, what are you doing?" Duchess Wang Qixing inquired, her eyes widening out of shock.
Li Xueyue climbed out of the carriage, storming to Wen Jinkai with determined footsteps. "Where is my pendant?"
Wen Jinkai studied her for a brief second. From the flutter of her hair against the wind to the glint in her eyes, she meant business. Her lips were pursued at his lack of response.
"What is in your hand?" Wen Jinkai asked, his gaze briefly lingered upon her fist. He knew Yu Zhen must've slipped her something.
"Give me back my pendant." Li Xueyue pretended he didn't just ask her a stupid question. Whatever she had, it had nothing to do with him.
"Why do you want it back so desperately? So that you can give it to him?" Wen Jinkai threw a disgusted glance towards Yu Zhen who nearly rolled his eyes at the childish provocation.
'If it's that easy to trick me, I might as well retire my titles,' Yu Zhen thought to himself. He was too confident with himself to care about Wen Jinkai's words. He'll personally deal with this man in a private duel.
"Look," Li Xueyue coldly snapped in an authoritative voice. "I only came here to get my pendant back, not to chit chat. So it's either you hand it over, or else."
"Or else what?" Wen Jinkai repeated, his lips curling into a slight smirk. Li Xueyue thought her claws were sharp and threatening, how amusing. It would barely do any damage to him.
Li Xueyue's lips tilted downwards. "I will not hesitate to cut you out of my life."
"With that power?" Wen Jinkai murmured, "Nothing in this world can keep me away from you."
"I seriously do not understand." Li Xueyue shook her head. "Your lack of understanding for boundaries is applaudable."
"I gave you boundaries." Wen Jinkai slowly said, "I could've trespassed into your house, kidnapped you, and walked out of the front entrance unscathed, but for your sake, I didn't."
Li Xueyue quietly laughed, the sound piercing through his heart. Frigid and bleak, like her sharp eyes filled with disgust. "Perhaps these obsessive words could've worked on Minghua, but it'll never work on me."
Wen Jinkai's eyes narrowed. "How much do you know?"
"How?" He took a threatening step closer to her and demanded, "Who told you?"
"That is none of your business." Li Xueyue shook her head. "I don't have time for this conversation. Give me back my pendant."
Wen Jinkai was conflicted about what to do. The right thing was handing it back to her, after all, he stole it from her waist belt when she wasn't watching. But this pendant was the only thing linking her to him. Without it, he wouldn't have a reason to see her. He could not part with it.
"Where did I screw up?" Wen Jinkai finally asked, "What made you dislike me? What did I do wrong?!"
Yu Zhen's hand instantly flew to his sword, his eyes narrowed in a warning. This was getting out of hand. He began to approach Xueyue but she firmly held up a hand. Her message was clear—this was her battle, not his.
"I'll admit it, I was intrigued by you. Perhaps I even liked you," Li Xueyue responded, brushing strands of hair behind her ears, completely unfazed by his anger.
"But then you lost my respect." Li Xueyue articulated, "From your lack of understanding of boundaries to wanting a harem. It's clear to me, you don't view me as your equal."
"I do," he firmly said, frustration evading his darkening eyes.
"No, you don't," she deadpanned. "If you respected me, you wouldn't have publicly declared I was promised to you. If you did, you wouldn't have injured me, then have the audacity to sneak into my room and act as if you own me. Even now, you do not respect me."
Duchess Wang Qixing's brows shot upwards. Wen Jinkai had trespassed into Li Xueyue's room? When was this?!
"You should move on," she deadpanned. "Whether it's from her or me, you should do it for not only your sake but hers."
Wen Jinkai didn't respond. It felt as if a boulder was weighing him down, his heart suddenly heavy. As much as he had reprimanded himself, he could not move on. How could he ever move on from his first love? She was everything to him, and without her, he was nothing.
Her gaze softened for the briefest second. Despite his confident aura and endless achievements, he was such a pitiful man riddled with delusions from heartbreak.
"This delusion of yours will destroy everything you hold dear—"
"I have nothing I hold dear," Wen Jinkai bit out, clenching his fist so tightly, his skin was beginning to pale. By now, he could barely feel his bleeding hand, but he did not care. There were more pressing matters at hand.
"Then find something to hold dear," she calmly said.
Wen Jinkai shook his head. "Impossible."
"That's not my problem," she chuckled, though it lacked humor.
Wen Jinkai grounded his teeth. The more indifferently she behaved, the more he wanted her. He wanted to see how far he could push her before she cracked. He wanted to see more than this aloof behavior.
Wen Jinkai knew there was more to her than what meets the eyes. He didn't want to view her as a challenge to be conquered, but he couldn't help it. This was the only thing he knew how to do—take what wasn't his, whether it was foreign territories for Wuyi, or stealing the affection the Empress should be giving to her own children.
"In that case, you will never get your pendant back."
"Fine then." Li Xueyue shrugged. "In return, I'll never respect you. Not in this lifetime, not in the next."
"That's alright." Wen Jinkai revealed a frigid smile. "I do not need respect from you."
Li Xueyue was irked by his words but forced herself to remain calm. He wanted a reaction out of her, something beyond her usual dissatisfaction. She carefully watched his movements, debating whether or not it was time to retreat back to the carriage. She would not waste any more time convincing this boulder to yield for her.
"If respect will not bring you to my side, then other things will," Wen Jinkai mused, his eyes flickering to Yu Zhen. "No matter what stands in my way, I will have you."
Yu Zhen's entire face darkened with disgust. This man truly lost his damn mind. Or maybe, he didn't have it in the first place.
Duchess Wang Qixing let out a quiet sigh. "Wen Jinkai," she began. "If I knew you were this type of man, I would've never supported your friendship with Li Minghua."
"Is that what you think we were? Friends?" Wen Jinkai let out a bark of cruel laughter, his eyes wide with madness. "We were—"
"I know exactly what you were," Duchess Wang Qixing spat out in disgust. "And if you truly loved her, you wouldn't be disrespecting her like this."
"I'd never disrespect her," Wen Jinkai snarled. "She—"
"Oh, but you did disrespect her, and you're still doing it now," Duchess Wang Qixing mused.
"What are you talking about? When she was with me, the only thing she knew was adoration."
"Don't make me laugh," Duchess Wang Qixing deadpanned. Her blood boiled with how ignorant he was. Was he blinded by love? Or was he delusional enough to not see how depressed Li Minghua was in the Palace?
"Like mother, like daughter. Both of you love to jump to conclusions."
"Speaking of mothers, why don't you ask the woman who raised you?" Duchess Wang Qixing suggested in a steady and controlled voice, even when her patience was reaching its breaking point.
"Ask her what?"
"Why did Li Minghua want to kill herself?"
"What?" Wen Jinkai breathed out, his eyes wide with disbelief. Li Minghua was… suicidal? How? Why? He couldn't process it. Wasn't she happy with him? Did something happen that he was not aware of?
Duchess Wang Qixing didn't respond further. She grabbed Li Xueyue's wrist and the two began approaching the carriage.
Wen Jinkai didn't want to see Li Xueyue leave so abruptly. He couldn't let her go like this. He needed to say something to convince them to stay, to convince her to look at him once more, even if it was a disgusted glance. He didn't care. As long as she'd look at him with those eyes, he would be satisfied.
"Are you aware that you're committing treason against the Crown with your words?"
Duchess Wang Qixing paused. Abruptly, her chest shook, and out came a heartless chuckle. She turned around, a sickening sweet smile on her face. "I couldn't care less."
Wen Jinkai silently watched as the two began to board the carriage, never once looking back. He knew he had lost the respect of the entire Li Family, but that did not matter to him. If that was how they wanted to behave, then fine. He knew more than one way of convincing a woman to go with him—even if it meant he would become the villain in their life.
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