Lu Tianbi was approaching her sleeping tent when she noticed a figure walking out of the forest. Picking up her pace, she quickly approached herCommander.
"Yu Zhen," she called out.
Yu Zhen paused and turned to look at her.
"You have to take her home," she said. "Her parents have most likely sent out people to search for her. It won't be long before the Li guards would find this place."
Yu Zhen did not reply.
Lu Tianbi froze when she saw Xiao Juzi was beside her Commander's leg. Xiao Juzi opened his mouth and let out a loud yawn. Yu Zhen gently patted his tiger.
"Please tell me you didn't plan on kidnapping her back to Hanjian. It will only make things worse. Her parents will never give you their blessings. And those brothers of hers, I know they will cause a ruckus to have her back."
"I won't force her to do something she doesn't want to," Yu Zhen said in a dark voice.
Lu Tianbi held back a sigh at her stubborn Commander. "How long do you plan on keeping her here? I heard you showed her the tent today, but I'm guessing you didn't show her the people inside. She still doesn't know anything."
"It's getting late. You should sleep. Or keep Hu Dengxiao company."
Lu Tianbi's face warmed at the mention of Hu Dengxiao. The male soldiers slept on the other side of the campgrounds. "Stop teasing me."
"Fine, I will sleep." Lu Tianbi frowned. "I hate to say this, but as your advisor, I think it's best to send the Princess home first thing in the morning."
"Then she won't be there to open my present."
Lu Tianbi cringed. "She's innocent and inexperienced in brutality. Do you really want to corrupt those eyes of hers?"
Lu Tianbi touched her elbows to shield herself from the cold. "Once you show her what you did to them, there is no going back. Your bloodthirsty nature will be revealed to her. Things will be different."
"Just think about it before you do it." Lu Tianbi nagged on, "I know I sound like an annoying sister, but as your friend, I'd hate to see you lose her. The Princess makes you happy. You genuinely smile when you're with her."
"It's better for her to know," he finally said.
Lu Tianbi sighed. He was right. It was. Sooner or later, Li Xueyue will find out the patient man she had fallen in love with was not who he pretended to be. Yu Zhen was ruthless and his methods were crude.
"But why do you look so reluctant, Commander?" Lu Tianbi whispered. "I know you want to keep her hidden in the dark forever. You don't want to corrupt her, do you?"
Yu Zhen kept quiet. He merely glanced up at the night sky, admiring the stars that reminded him of her hope-filled eyes. He had never witnessed something more adoring than her.
Yu Zhen wanted to keep Li Xueyue safe and sound, free from worries. He wanted her to live a blissful life surrounded by luxury and comfort. He never wanted her to witness the horrible things in life.
"Your silence is my answer," Lu Tianbi mused. "Just think about it, okay? Especially the part of returning her home tomorrow morning. We don't want any bad blood with the Prime Minister of Wuyi."
"Have a good night," Yu Zhen said. He turned his back and walked off with Xiao Juzi.
Lu Tianbi watched as Yu Zhen guided Xiao Juzi to a sleeping spot near his tent. She let out a sigh. "What a scary pet to have. I'm surprised he was able to keep him hidden in the guest palace for so long."
She scowled. "Not even I knew where he hid it. How mean of him. I wonder if the palace servants questioned why he was requesting raw meat."
Lu Tianbi crossed her arms. "I'm just grateful no one in Wuyi found out about this pet. It would've been horrible if they did."
Letting out a long-held back sigh, she decided to retreat to her tent. The pet wasn't her business, and she knew Yu Zhen brought it with him because no one else in Hanjian would be capable of taking care of the tiger.
- - - - -
Yu Zhen gave Xiao Juzi a final pat, watching as the tiger stretched before comfortably lying onto the ground. He placed one paw on top of the other and rested his head, swishing his tail.
"Sleep well," Yu Zhen muttered.
Xiao Juzi ignored him.
Yu Zhen walked into the tent, half-expecting to see her awake. She wasn't. His eyes narrowed at the empty bed. Immediately, he surveyed his tent, seeking for where she could've been sleeping.
Yu Zhen deeply frowned upon seeing her curled up in a chair. She must've been uncomfortable. He was surprised she hadn't tilted over by now.
"Fine then, suit yourself," Yu Zhen coldly said.
Yu Zhen should've slipped underneath the blanket of his bed, but he decided to stay up a bit longer. The knives wouldn't clean themselves. He approached the table and dipped the handkerchief in the bowl of water beside him.
"I should've used the tools on the table, not these daggers," Yu Zhen said to himself.
One of the daggers was missing.
Yu Zhen already knew who took it. Guess that made them even. They were both thieves now. Except, he stole the decrees for her benefit, not his.
Yu Zhen couldn't help himself. He approached Li Xueyue who was still asleep. Her brows were crinkled, her face in a grimace. Was she experiencing a nightmare?
Dread filled him. He didn't like that. He didn't want to see her in pain.
Yu Zhen squatted to her height. He reached out to soothe the creases which formed on her forehead. It was then he noticed a lone tear had slipped down her face.
Yu Zhen blinked. What did she say?
She didn't do what?
Yu Zhen leaned closer to listen, but that was all she said. Nothing else.
Yu Zhen let out an aggravated sigh. He should've left her on the chair, really. He should have.
"I still hate you," Yu Zhen growled when he effortlessly picked her up. "You irritate me and I'm always frustrated around you."
Yu Zhen placed her onto the bed. He took off her shoes and placed it at the foot of the bed.
"I should've just tossed you to sleep outside," he bit out. "So why the hell am I doing this?" he harshly asked, despite his contradicting actions.
Yu Zhen draped the comforter up to her chin and then placed the fur blanket on top of her. He softly adjusted her head on the pillow, making sure she wouldn't wake up with a sore neck.
Yu Zhen scowled upon seeing her expression had worsened. She was grimacing. Another tear had slipped from her eyes.
"What's wrong?" he reluctantly asked, sitting by the edge of the bed. Gently, he wiped away the tears from her eyes.
"Don't cry," he mumbled. "It hurts me."
Yu Zhen fondly grabbed her hand, squeezing it, hoping it would bring her reassurance.
"You didn't what?" he whispered, leaning down to hear her properly.
Yu Zhen stiffened. What did she just say?
"Please!" she cried out.
Yu Zhen nearly jumped. He didn't expect her to raise her voice as such. Abruptly, she kicked off the blankets, struggling to tug her hand back.
Yu Zhen instantly released her, his expression stormy. It was time to pay the people in the tent another visit. He stood up, prepared to leave, but then he felt it. A tiny weight upon his sleeve.
Yu Zhen glanced at her fingers. It took only two to hold him back. "You can't keep doing this to me," he painfully whispered. "It's unfair."
"Don't come back to me. My heart will find a reason to forgive you," Yu Zhen muttered. He slowly pried off her fingers and tucked her arms under the blanket.
"Sleep well, Sunshine," he gently whispered, giving her a final pat on the forehead.
Yu Zhen headed for the tent curtains. He didn't even have to button it if he didn't want to. Xiao Juzi was right outside, and his hearing was sharp. Anyone who approached the tent would be bitten.
Yu Zhen decided if he wasn't able to sleep, then the prisoners also didn't need to sleep. He had a foot outside of the door when he heard it—a whisper so sweet and heart-shattering that he squeezed his eyes shut.
He paused. Slowly, he turned around. She was still fast asleep.
Yu Zhen knew he would regret letting her back into his heart. He knew she would hurt him again.
There were so many things he should not do.
For the sake of his heart and future, Yu Zhen should've walked out of this tent. He should've left for Hanjian, not Hechen. He shouldn't have stolen the royal decrees. But he had to. He needed her.
It was as Lu Tianbi had said. She made him happy, the happiest he has ever been in a long time.
Yu Zhen cursed himself to hell and back, for he found himself walking back towards her.
"I'm here, Sunshine," Yu Zhen muttered, grasping her hand. Her features relaxed. Just like that, he found himself falling for her, faster than ever.
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