Yu Zhen entered his tent and advanced towards the bed. Softly, he placed Li Xueyue onto the bed until she was seated upon it. Kneeling before the bed, he reached out to caress her face. He had hoped to wipe away any tears that had escaped from her reddened eyes, except, he would've never expected her next course of action.
Li Xueyue slapped him in the face.
The slap rang out throughout the tent, an ominous silence followed after it.
Yu Zhen stared at her in shock. A bright red spot formed on the left side of his cheek. He was stunned and made no moves to soothe the pain on his left cheek. Soon, disbelief clouded his vision and his blood began to boil.
"What the hell was that for?!" he demanded, standing up.
"Get out." Her fingers dug into her palms, shaking to quell her frustration at what he had done to her in that tent.
Yu Zhen had never heard her sweet voice turn so vicious and bitter.
"Are you deaf?"
Yu Zhen's last ounce of sympathy shriveled up and died. He glowered at the stubborn woman in front of him. She was glaring a hole into the floor, never raising her head to acknowledge him.
"If you think I'm going to walk out of my own tent, then you can—"
She stood up and pushed past him.
Li Xueyue didn't even make it far when he grabbed her by the wrist, roughly turning her around.
"Don't touch me, you sadistic Prince!"
Yu Zhen ground his teeth. It wasn't like he knew she'd have a panic attack in the middle of the darkness. All he wanted to do was spook her a bit. He didn't think she would be rendered into tears.
"Do you realize who the hell you're speaking to?" he grabbed her chin, forcing her to look up at him. Right away, he regretted his decision.
Hatred. Angst. Irritation. So many negative emotions flashed across her eyes, wide and unforgiving. She loathed him. There was no other way to describe what she felt. How could he do that to her? Not only was he behaving like a prick, but he also mistreated her with the lantern and then that jump scare.
What gave him the right to hurt her like this? Just because she hurted him? Wasn't his unforgiving words already enough? How far was he going to take this?!
"I could be talking to the damn Emperor himself, and I wouldn't give a damn," she said, flicking his hand away.
Li Xueyue was aware that she was a mess. Her clothes were disheveled and her hair was tangled, but nothing could distract her from the sheer rage she felt towards him. How dare he?
First, he offered for her to see the tent, next, he kept the inside of the tent in utter darkness. On top of that, he had forced her to abandon the light. Not to mention the fear he had put her through.
She was terrified of the darkness, and he used it against her. She had never felt so much fear, not even in her nightmares. The fear of the unknown plagued her deeply, especially in a void of black, where nothing could be heard but the wails and groans of whoever was kept inside of that tent.
Everything he did to her was despicable. Forgiveness was off the table for now.
"You're right, Yu Zhen. Monsters are real," Li Xueyue gritted out.
Li Xueyue was in a crazed and vulnerable mindset inside of that tent, where everything she spoke felt like gibberish. She wasn't thinking rationally inside of that tent. The things he promised her felt too surreal to believe. She had heard his confession loud and clear but she could not find it in herself to believe him.
"And you're one of them," she concluded. "The worst one!"
Yu Zhen felt like he was slapped again, but this time, with her insulting words. He had rescued her when she needed him the most. He had sacrificed the time of his men to capture those who wronged her. He had comforted her when she needed him the most. He had done so much for her, but she treated him like he was a nobody.
His expression hardened, his sharp features straightened into aloofness.
Yu Zhen would not tolerate such abusive words, especially not from the woman he cared about the most.
Yu Zhen clenched and unclenched his fist, grounding his teeth. There was so much he could say to her—words that would ruin her. Swallowing his pride, he bit his tongue and stormed out of the tent.
Li Xueyue didn't bother to care about his temper tantrum. She was busy throwing one of her own.
- - - - -
"Hey, do you think I can become the Godfather to their child?" Hu Dengxiao happily asked Lu Tianbi over a meal they shared near the fireplace.
Lu Tianbi played with her food and stared at him as if he had grown three heads. "What kind of stupid question is that?"
"I mean, didn't you see the expression on our Commander? He looked so bothered. Who knows, maybe they're doing it right now, and a child could be their result."
Lu Tianbi rolled her eyes. Is that what plagued him the entire time? He looked so lost in his thought, she had believed he was formulating some sort of strategy. She was annoyed that he was wasting his intelligence by thinking about something as stupid as the unpredictable.
"Do you really think our Commander will impregnate her before he even introduces her to the Royal Family?"
"You're right…" Hu Dengxiao pouted. "He wouldn't ruin her reputation like that."
"Precisely," Lu Tianbi muttered. In the far distance, she noticed the approaching figure of her Commander.
"Oh, there he is," Lu Tianbi said, pointing at him. She settled her plate of food down when he stopped in front of them.
"Zhenzhen—" Hu Dengxiao paused, noticing a strange hue of red on the side of his Second Prince's features. "What happened?"
Lu Tianbi nudged Hu Dengxiao to stop being a blabbermouth.
Yu Zhen seemed to be in the worst of moods. Not bothering to answer Hu Dengxiao's question, he plopped himself onto the log they shared.
Hu Dengxiao sulked upon being ignored. He played with his fingers, deciding he was no longer hungry, despite finishing two plates worth of food.
Lu Tianbi figured something must've happened, but she couldn't place a finger on it. Glancing at her Commander's nearly bruised face, she could roughly guess what happened but hoped it wasn't true. If Princess Li truly smacked the Second Prince, it was a crime punishable by execution.
"Did she slap you, Zhenzhen?" Hu Dengxiao abruptly asked, breaking the awkward silence.
Yu Zhen ground his teeth. He picked up Hu Dengxiao's abandoned plate of food and shoved it into his friend's hands. "Shut up and eat."
Hu Dengxiao's pout deepened. He brooded over his food, angrily shoving it into his mouth.
Lu Tianbi let out an aggravated sigh. "Women are fickle, Commander. If she did slap you, you must've done something wrong."
"You're supposed to be on my side," Yu Zhen snapped.
"I am." Lu Tianbi nodded. "But I'm also trying to help you pinpoint the problem. You look bewildered by what she has done, so I was just trying to offer you some advice."
"I didn't ask for it."
"Don't be so stubborn, dear Commander," she sarcastically addressed. "You're my friend, I'm simply finding ways to fix your wrongdoings."
Hu Dengxiao scraped his plate clean and showed Yu Zhen the result. "There, I finished my food. All happy now?"
"Did you make sure Xueyue was fed?" Yu Zhen muttered.
Hu Dengxiao wanted to cry on the spot. He didn't like Yu Zhen's cold shoulder. It was the third time today that the Commander seemed aggravated. First, Yu Zhen ignored him on his way to the tent, next he shoved the plate into Hu Dengxiao's hands, and third, he was already accusing Hu Dengxiao of starving the Princess.
"I asked her to eat, but she said she wasn't hungry…" Hu Dengxiao trailed off.
"She's a glutton," Yu Zhen said. "It doesn't make sense she won't eat."
"That does remind me," Lu Tianbi began. "It looks like she has lost weight since the last time I've seen her with you, which was in the Palace Gardens."
Yu Zhen's mood worsened. Was she starving herself? Was that the latest trend amongst women? He glared at the open fire, his stare matched the intensity of the flickering flame.
"God damn it," he growled, standing back up. "Dengxiao, go fix her some food."
"I'll do it." Lu Tianbi sighed, deciding she would be the voice of reason.
"And if she doesn't eat…?" Hu Dengxiao asked.
Yu Zhen pressed his lips together. "Then you tell her, I'll shove the food into her mouth."
Lu Tianbi threw him a disappointed look.
Yu Zhen ignored her. She reminded him of an older sister who loved to nag and behave like the parent. "Tell me if she doesn't eat."
Lu Tianbi didn't respond. She watched as her Commander squared his shoulders and disappeared into the distance. Most likely, to vent his anger in that tent.
Letting out a sigh, she turned to Hu Dengxiao. "Go make her a plate of food. I'll bring it to her."
Hu Dengxiao reluctantly nodded. "Fine, but don't blame me if it goes to waste."
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