Li Xueyue was stunned but not surprised. Her heart was absolutely shattered by his words, but what did she expect? She had broken his. The least he could do was do the same. But why did it hurt so much? It was as if a thousand little needles were prickling at her chest, stinging her.
Her eyes burned, her throat tightening. "I-I see."
"I hate everything about you," Yu Zhen seethed, taking a step closer to her.
Li Xueyue took one step back. He took another and the cycle continued. He was menacing and devious. His eyes burned her more than any fire could ever do to her. He looked at her as if she had murdered his family.
Eventually, Li Xueyue was cornered against the bed. She didn't realize it until her calves touched the edge of the bed and buckled. He did not stop advancing towards her. He shoved her onto the bed, her back pressing into the soft material.
Li Xueyue squeezed her eyes shut when he slammed his hands down on either side of her head. He didn't touch her. She pried her eyes open, surprised to see him up close.
He was breathtakingly beautiful. Nothing in this world could ever rival his appearance. She would never forget this face—not even if she tried. It would be the face haunting her in the future—the face of the man she had to let go.
And decades from now, she would still think of him. When another man would touch her, she would think of him. When another man would hug her, she would wish it was his arms.
Yu Zhen plagued her thoughts mercilessly. His face, his appearance, his body, his touch, his hands, everything. Nothing could ever replace him. And she could not bring herself to find another man.
"How dare you," Yu Zhen breathed out. "How fucking dare you?"
Li Xueyue was puzzled. What was he talking about? When their eyes met, her heart skipped a beat. Never had she seen anything so vicious and terrifying. His eyes resembled a night without stars—dim and hopeless, there was nothing welcoming about him. His aura was overbearing and it suffocated her. If she looked closely, she could see the doors of death looming behind him.
"What gave you the right to torture me?"
Li Xueyue blinked. What was he talking about?
"Why do you plague my thoughts? Why does my heart still beat for you? Why does my entire world still revolve around you?!"
Li Xueyue's eyes widened.
"Why are you doing this to me?" he seethed.
She did not know.
"Why… do I still care about you?" His voice cracked in utter defeat.
Li Xueyue had never seen a man so angered yet broken at the same time. Anguish flashed in his eyes, blending into the dark abyss devoid of hope and light. Did she do this to him? What happened to the glimmer and brilliant hues of volcanic opal?
His sharp jaw was taut, twitching as he clenched his teeth. He did not know what to do with her. He was still drawn to her, his heart yearning for that timid smile. There was so much he wanted to say but didn't.
"I'm sorry," she whispered. It was the only thing she could say.
"Sorry?" Yu Zhen repeated, irritation replacing his pain. "What can 'sorry' do? Can it turn back time?"
"No, but it can mend a broken heart."
"My heart is not broken," he spat out. "You never had it in the first place."
"Then why are you doing this?" Li Xueyue asked, reaching up to touch his face. She wondered if he realized he had instantly leaned into her hand.
Yu Zhen told himself he should've looked away. It was better to leave this place for good. The longer he stayed in Wuyi, the more he wanted her for himself.
"You're the most selfish woman I know."
Li Xueyue tilted her head. Words did not hurt her, she had heard much worse.
Li Xueyue knew he was trying to hurt her. He could not do it physically, so he resorted to different weapons.
Was this how he coped with pain? By comforting himself with these insults? Was he trying to convince himself, or was he trying to convince her?
"Everything about you pisses me off."
"So why are you like this?" Li Xueyue gestured to their intimate position. He had pinned her down, leaving her with no room to escape.
His fingers balled the blankets, threatening to rip the fur. "Stop asking me stupid questions."
"Your actions contradict your words."
"Li Xueyue, if you do not shut your mouth—"
"I hurt you, didn't I?"
Yu Zhen tensed.
"I didn't mean to," Li Xueyue whispered. "I thought by pushing you away, you would move on. We're not good for each other."
"We're not," he agreed.
"Even so, I'm still drawn to you," Li Xueyue said.
Yu Zhen could not bear to look at her any longer. Those eyes of hers shimmered like the stars he had seen on his way back to Wuyi's capital. High in the sky, filled with hope and light, yet so afar and unattainable. It was so cliche of him to think of such ideas, but he could not help it.
"You will stop whatever you're doing to me," Yu Zhen said.
"You will walk out of my life. Never return. And our paths will never cross again."
Li Xueyue dropped her hands, pressing it to her chest, wishing it would subdue the pain. This was precisely what she wanted. But their days of separation told her otherwise. The depression she had felt, the melancholy that drowned her, she didn't want to experience the same pain ever again.
She wanted to keep her emotions bottled up. And when the jar threatened to crack, she wished it would never be in his presence. She never wanted him to see her at her lowest.
Li Xueyue should've listened to her gut feeling. The best option was to push him off and demand to go home. Everyone must've been worried about her.
"I can't," she admitted for once.
Immediately, her shoulders felt lightened, as if an unbearable pressure was lifted.
"Xueyue, you can't be this cruel."
"Come back to me," Li Xueyue whispered, lifting her hands to grab his neck. He had chased her in this entire relationship, it was time for him to know, he had succeeded.
"Don't call me Xueyue, call me by that stupid nickname. Sunshine, Little Hamster, I don't care. Call me anything but Xueyue."
Yu Zhen ground his teeth. A memory flashed before his eyes. During an encounter in the past, she had demanded him to call her by her name. But it was too formal for him to do so. Nicknames were more intimate. It meant there was a relationship between them, a link that would allow such teasing.
Yu Zhen was hurt by her once. He refused to experience it again. "No."
Her eyes widened. She was caught off guard.
Yu Zhen's features hardened. He climbed off of her and stormed out of the tent.
Li Xueyue sat there, bewildered at his words. Finally, she registered the powerful impact of a single word. And her world shattered.
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