197 Grieve in Peace
Hours passed like days, and days felt like an eternity. Time was excruciatingly slow and painful. Days trickled by slower than the droplets of water trickling down a lotus leaf.
Li Xueyue didn't realize how much Yu Zhen had affected her life until he was gone. She was unable to look in the drawer where his hairpin was kept. It was not until recently that she realized the impact of his gifts on her. She was prideful enough to swallow her remorse and attempt to move on but failed miserably.
A week had passed and there were still no signs of him.
However, it wasn't a surprise. Li Xueyue knew that much, yet she couldn't accept it. She had stayed up endless nights wondering and picturing the different possible outcomes of the future if she wasn't so foolish that day. If she didn't push him away. If she didn't let her revenge consume her thoughts.
"This revenge will ruin you."
She would never forget these words. It was slowly becoming reality.
- - - - -
"Xiao Yue, it's not good to be cooped up in your bedroom all day. How about we take our horses out for a ride?" Li Wenmin said for the tenth time that week.
Sitting by the window seat was none other than Li Xueyue spacing out. A book rested on her lap but her attention was outside. She could see the gardens perfectly from there, and smell the aromas of the blooming flowers. Yet, nothing tickled her senses. The pain of a silent heartbreak had numbed her too much.
Li Wenmin stepped into her room, placing his hands on his hips. "You haven't ridden Heiyue in a week now. I heard he's causing a ruckus in the stable, biting at the groomers and stomping at the door."
"Heiyue…?" Li Xueyue mumbled, her thoughts flashed to her wild-spirited horse. "Are you sure he didn't get the door mixed up for the wall? He's blind, he might've mistaken it."
"As if stomping on the wall is any better." Li Wenmin scoffed.
"The stable boy lets him roam the fields every day."
"Yes, but nothing beats a run that only you can control," Li Wenmin argued. He stopped beside her and glanced down at the book on her lap, his eyes softening at the title. 'Traditions of Hanjian,' it read.
There were more books sprawled all over the room, all of them having to deal with topics about the foreign country. By now, she had practically known about Hanjian like the back of her hand.
Li Wenmin sighed. "You've yet to tell me and Chenyang what happened. We don't know how to comfort you if you don't tell us what's been occupying your mind for so long."
Li Xueyue didn't want to tell the twins the truth. She knew they would blame themselves. The twins were the ones who advised her to separate from Yu Zhen and she did. But look at her now—depressed and quiet.
"Your dark eye circles are worsening," Li Wenmin pointed out, his lips tugged downwards. "I heard Chenyang ordered the servants to prepare you herbal tea that should help with insomnia."
"Did you drink them?"
"And it's not working?"
"Can you give me more than one-word responses?" Li Wenmin scowled.
"Xiao Yue," Li Wenmin heaved a dejected sigh. "What has gotten into you?"
"Nothing much. Just feeling a bit glum, that's all."
Li Wenmin's brows drew together. He grabbed her shoulders and forced her to look at him. His heart dropped. He had never seen her with such a blank and dazed expression.
"When was the last time you had gotten proper sleep?"
Li Xueyue tilted her head. "I've never had a decent sleep."
"And why haven't you told any of us?" Li Wenmin frowned. "Do you like to worry us like this, Xiao Yue?"
"It never crossed my mind how important my sleep is. I didn't mean to worry you, I'm sorry."
"What does an apology do?" Li Wenmin huffed. "It's not like it can make up for your lack of sleep."
"I'm sorry," she repeated, glancing away from him.
She looked so haggard and exhausted that it broke his heart.
"I'm going to have the doctor prescribe the herbal tonics and medicine. You need to sleep." Li Wenmin harshly said, "And don't you dare object."
She mutely nodded.
"Xiao Yue." Li Wenmin frowned. "Talk to me. Don't be like this. If there's something on your mind, please tell me. I'll fix it. I promise."
Li Xueyue reached out and patted him on the cheek. She forced a smile onto her lips. "I'm fine—"
"No, you're not!" Li Wenmin exasperated, gesturing to the books and untouched afternoon snack. "Look, you're not even eating properly! You usually finish two plates of rice cakes and pastries, but you didn't touch anything today. You've been eating less during every meal."
Li Wenmin scowled. "Look at how hollow your cheeks are. You've lost too much weight, Xiao Yue. All for what?"
He didn't give her the chance to speak.
"Is this your way of rebelling?"
"No, of course not—"
"Then what is it?!" Li Wenmin cried out, staring desperately at her. "Mom and Dad are worried about you, so is Chenyang. What exactly happened? Why are you like this?"
Li Xueyue realized how unfair she was behaving. She was placing unnecessary pressure on her family. But couldn't she silently grieve in peace?
"I'm just… heartbroken, that's all."
Li Wenmin raised a brow. "This has to do with Yu Zhen?"
She didn't respond.
"What happened? You have to tell me, Xiao Yue. Ranting will help your frustration."
Li Xueyue reluctantly focused her attention elsewhere. He might've grabbed her shoulder, but he didn't grab her chin. She studied the garden. The colorful flowers glistening from the rain used to fascinate her so much. It smelled the best after a storm, but nothing mattered. The world was black and white. She didn't know why.
"He wanted to ask for Mom and Dad's blessings."
Li Wenmin's eyes widened. "He planned on marrying you."
Li Xueyue nodded.
"You said no." Li Wenmin swallowed, predicting the end results.
She nodded again.
"Oh my heavens," Li Wenmin let out a deep sigh. "Well, now I know."
Li Wenmin didn't know what to do in this situation. He had consistently advised Xueyue to not fall in love. But it was too late. She had fallen in love. And she fell hard.
Li Xueyue followed his advice and was logical enough to realize her life wasn't destined for Hanjian—at least, not now. This decision was supposed to propel her into a greater future, one that would allow her to accomplish great things. Except, neither of them knew how to get there.
What was the future she dreamed of? What was the life she wanted?
Neither of them knew the answer to that. Quite frankly, the only time Xueyue thought far into the future was when she was around Yu Zhen. But that future was so bleak now—unattainable and only a daydream.