Once Ning Huabing had left, Li Xueyue went to find Li Chenyang and caught him in the nick of time. He was getting ready to depart for the Palace with their father, but she was able to pull him aside and inform him of what happened.
Like her, he was surprised but also puzzled. Why would the Bai Family suddenly disappear? Yet, why were there guards in front of their house? It didn't make sense.
Li Chenyang promised he would investigate it.
Li Xueyue could do nothing but nod in response and retreat to her room. She then spent her entire day sitting in front of her table whilst attempting to come up with new plans. But with an unpredictable future lying ahead of her, there wasn't a single thing she could come up with.
Everything was a mess.
As the sun set, Li Xueyue was beginning to grow antsy. She could barely keep her eyes open, exhaustion took over her. She felt the uncomfortable tremble of her heart as her vision grew dizzy. Her lack of sleep was finally taking its toll on her, but she pressed on.
"Now is not the time to play sick," Li Xueyue scolded herself, despite the cold sweat that broke out on her body. She stood up and suddenly, her world spun. She grabbed the table for support but couldn't hold on.
"Please forgive this servant's insolence, but you can't enter Young Miss's room yet!"
Something crashed in the background but Li Xueyue didn't realize it was her body collapsing onto the floor, dragging the table down with her.
A loud commotion was heard from outside. The door slammed open and in her daze, she made out blurry figures rushing to her aid. One of them was a male, his shoes were too decorated and fancy for it to have been one of the Li servants.
Who was it? Was it one of the twins? She couldn't tell.
Li Xueyue didn't understand how tired she was. She didn't understand the repercussions of trying to live with only three hours of sleep every night. She couldn't even keep her eyes open.
Screams were heard in the far distance, yet the voices seemed so close. Someone was demanding for a doctor whilst scrambled footsteps bounced off the floor.
The last thing she said before slipping unconsciously was a whisper, practically no one heard it except for the man approaching her.
"Yu Zhen..." she trailed off.
And just like that, her world went black.
- - - - -
Ten years ago.
"This is the basic principle of our language structure! How can you not grasp it?!" Viscount Bai Sheng roared as he picked up the book and threw it across the room.
Bai Xueyue flinched back in fear, trembling in her seat. Her breaths came out in erratic gasps for air. She was simply too terrified to even breathe.
Viscount Bai Sheng hovered over her as he pointed to her score which was three questions away from a perfect score.
"How stupid are you to not even understand the beginner steps? Even a pig knows more than you do!" he growled.
Staring at the less than a flawless score, he picked up the test paper and crumbled it. "Why am I even wasting money to hire tutors for you? You're nothing but a livestock bred to make me money. What purpose do you have in education?!"
Bai Xueyue couldn't even utter a word. She was tongue-tied. Her eyes were shaking and she was unable to focus. She licked her cracked lips, dry from dehydration. She knew the punishment that awaited her.
"At your age, your prodigy sister was able to memorize materials twice the difficulty of yours!" Viscount Bai Sheng berated, "Why can't you be more like Tianai? Why can't you show gratitude for the kindness I'm offering you, a good for nothing brat."
Bai Xueyue didn't dare to raise her head. That was precisely why she didn't see the hand of Viscount Bai Sheng moving towards her before a harsh blow was dealt on the back of her head. She let out a painful yelp, grasping the burning spot. He had hit her with a thick book.
"I'm sorry!" She wailed, but it only infuriated him further.
"Sorry?" Viscount Bai Sheng seethed, "Will 'sorry' give you a perfect score? Will 'sorry' teach you to memorize the words? Will 'sorry' ever fix anything?!" he snarled, picking up another book and slapping her with it again, this time, directly on the side of her head.
A headache immediately formed. The pain was unbearable as it coursed through her body.
"How dare you waste my money on a tutor? How dare you waste my kindness? How dare you be born! You should've just died in the womb."
She didn't get the opportunity to respond before he backhanded her. The force was so hard, she fell out of her chair, roughly crashing onto the ground. In her clumsiness, she had dragged the ink glass and parchment with her. Everything came tumbling down, creating a bigger mess.
Viscount Bai Sheng saw red.
That night, she was beaten without remorse. Even when her eyes rolled to the back of her head and she was unconscious, he continued kicking her. It wasn't until Viscountess Mu Yihua rushed in and begged on her knees for him to stop that he momentarily did. It took servants and guards to hold back the rampaging Viscount whose mood was already soured before he entered Bai Xueyue's humble bedroom that was more like a servant's shack.
Viscount Bai Sheng was already aggravated by something that had happened before he heard of Bai Xueyue's less than appealing test scores. One of his business partners for Bai Trading Ports had bailed on him without an explanation.
Bai Xueyue's failure in her studies was the straw that broke the camel's back. He needed something to relieve his anger, even if it meant beating a child until she was unconscious. Even if it meant a weak and defenseless little girl was grabbing onto his leg, pleading for mercy before he heartlessly kicked her off.
Viscount Bai Sheng did not care for Bai Xueyue. He never will.
- - - - -
Li Xueyue shot out of bed, her eyes open wide. She didn't think she would ever relive that nightmare ever again. It was new, but the events were not. Her heart raced faster than Heiyue dashing through an open field. Her breathing was quick and erratic, desperate for air.
She squeezed her eyes shut and forced herself to calm down.
"It's not real. It's not real. It's not real," she chanted, again and again.
Li Xueyue hoped these words could calm her down. But this time, it didn't.
"It's not real… please…" she whispered, despite the cruel reality.
Li Xueyue wanted to forget her past, but how could she? She was haunted by the nightmares of her past.
"As long as I get rid of them," she muttered, clearly not in her best state of mind. "As long as I get rid of the Bai Family, I won't have to suffer like this."
"That's all I need to do," Li Xueyue said to herself. "Their downfall will be my salvation."
Li Xueyue didn't know how long it took for her to calm down. She didn't keep a record of the time.
Shifting her attention to the window, Li Xueyue realized it was already night time. Her gaze swept over the room. It was as perfect as it always had been. The flipped over table was placed back onto its original position and was most likely wiped clean.
The maidservants never touched anything on the table. They knew it was off-limits. But everything had fallen off the table when she dragged it down with her.
Li Xueyue noticed a stack of neatly organized parchment on top of the table, alongside something else. Slowly, she climbed out of bed and approached the table. She took a sniff of the air and smelled something that made her nose crinkle unpleasantly.
"It's an incense stick," she realized. It was letting out a herbal scent that was presumably a prescribed tonic that was supposed to help her sleep better.
"I've slept for more than three hours, what a miracle," she said, preparing to get back to bed until something else caught her attention.
There was a letter on her table, in perfect handwriting that belonged to neither of the twins. On top of the letter was something even more unsuspecting. There was an item wrapped in a gold handkerchief with black embroidery.
"What's this?" she asked, picking up the item. The handkerchief was soft and unmistakably made of silk. The material was definitely expensive but she couldn't care less.
Messily, she unraveled the item.
Her face paled.
It was her pendant.
The man who had rushed into the room was not one of the twins. It was Wen Jinkai.
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