Li Xueyue woke up disgruntled and confused. She had a strange nightmare yesterday. It shifted from the Bai Family to a blurry figure of a man approaching her.
The man held a sword and had pierced it right through her family. It was such a bizarre feeling that she couldn't describe. Li Xueyue was horrified at the brutal murder that took place, yet oddly felt a sense of relief. It was hard to pinpoint her exact emotions.
Sighing to herself, Li Xueyue attempted to push the hair that stuck on her face. But there was an unusual pressure holding down her other hand.
Li Xueyue immediately sat upright, realizing she was lying down. Pale-faced, she shifted her head and saw exactly what held down her arm. Yu Zhen had fallen asleep while holding her hand. He was in a seated position with half of his body on the bed, and his legs resting on a chair.
Li Xueyue pressed her lips together.
"Why are you doing this?" she huffed. He should've just left her on the chair. Now, he would wake up with a stiff neck and she was to blame.
Li Xueyue realized how different his sleeping face appeared to be. Contrary to her expectations, it looked serene and normal.
Suddenly, his brows began to knead together, as if he was experiencing a bad dream. Unwittingly, she reached out and touched his hair, running her hand through it. His tense shoulders relaxed at her touch.
Li Xueyue attempted to slip her hand away from his tight grip. It was nearly impossible, but she managed to wriggle her way out of it. Letting out a sigh of relief, she vigorously shook that hand which had gone numb, realizing it had lacked blood circulation because of his tight and desperate grip.
"Idiot," she mumbled, slipping out of bed. "You should've slept on the bed."
Li Xueyue began to approach the entrance of the tent, but paused midway. Her conscience would not let her leave. Angrily, she headed to the bed and picked up the fur blanket, draping it over his shoulders.
Li Xueyue hated how she was adjusting it to make sure he was warm and comfortable. Li Xueyue loathed her hand that smoothed the creases between his brow. She wished her hand would stop combing through his hair until he was less tense.
Li Xueyue hated how much she still cared about him. Likewise, he felt the same.
Slipping out of the tent, Li Xueyue knew things would never be the same. Ever again.
- - - - -
When Xiao Juzi heard the sound of footsteps disappearing out of the tent, he raised his head. Lazily, he glanced around and could smell the faint scent of his Master, except he realized it wasn't him. Standing up, he began to trot after the woman.
Li Xueyue gulped upon noticing the tiger was following her. He didn't seem like a threat. Nonetheless, he was still a feral animal, and she had to keep her guards up.
"Why are you following me?" Li Xueyue hissed. She began heading into the forest and Xiao Juzi continued after her. He watched her as a predator would stare at their prey.
"Did your Master put you up to this?" she asked, disappearing deeper into the forest. She was hoping to steal a horse and ride back to Li Manor as soon as possible.
Abruptly, the tiger jumped in front of her. Baring his fangs, he growled and tucked his ears. It was almost as if he knew what she planned to do.
Li Xueyue paused. She couldn't bypass the tiger. He was blocking her path now. "Your Master definitely made you do this," she concluded and scowled. "Be a good boy and get out of my way."
Xiao Juzi let out a snarl as he lowered his front legs. He would not tolerate her attempt to escape.
Li Xueyue pressed her lips together. She could not stop her fingers from trembling. Perhaps Xiao Juzi sensed her fear, for he took a threatening step forward, urging her to go back to the campground.
"You're irritating. Like father, like son," Li Xueyue said.
Xiao Juzi began advancing towards her slowly, his large, gnarly teeth on full display.
"F-fine, I'll go back…" Li Xueyue trailed off, fearing for the safety of her life. Angrily, she began to walk in the direction of the campsite.
Xiao Juzi gloated behind her, lifting his paws a bit higher than usual. He was evidently happy that she behaved so well.
- - - - -
Yu Zhen was awoken by the sound of soldiers getting ready to make breakfast. Eyes closed, he felt around the bed, seeking for her hand. When he felt nothing but a cold mattress, his eyes shot open.
Where did she go?
Yu Zhen had never panicked so much. He ran out of his tent, disheveled and in yesterday's clothing. Xiao Juzi was nowhere to be seen, and so was she.
A dark cloud passed over his profound features. He curled his lips and stormed to his men, deciding to send out a massive search for her. Who would dare to kidnap her from his own tent? Did she leave on her own will?
Yu Zhen could not accept the latter. He refused to believe she would run from him again.
"Zhenzhen, you woke up later than usual~" Hu Dengxiao said as he happily skipped over to his grouchy Commander.
"Send out one hundred soldiers to search for Li Xueyue. Whoever took her must've not gone very far."
Hu Dengxiao sulked. First thing in the morning, his Commander was already making demands. Where were the good morning pats?
Lu Tianbi sighed at Hu Dengxiao's lost-puppy expression. She gave him a rough pat on the head. "Go get the food ready."
Yu Zhen's features became vicious. "Go send out the soldiers."
Lu Tianbi shook her head. "She must've left on her own free-will. It's better to leave her be."
Yu Zhen took a threatening step forward, lethal and unforgiving. "Go. Send. Out. The. Soldiers."
Lu Tianbi should've been offended by his command, but she was already used to his unpredictable temper. She felt silly for thinking Li Xueyue had changed him for the best.
Reluctantly, Lu Tianbi turned to Hu Dengxiao. "You heard him."
Hu Dengxiao nervously played with the pan. He was almost ready to cook. He supposed the role could be given to another unlucky soldier, but no one else made meals as good as him… what should he do?
Just then, Lu Tianbi noticed something in the far distance. Her tiny figure was unmistakable against the tall and large frame of the soldiers. "Commander, isn't that her—"
She didn't even finish her sentence when Yu Zhen immediately turned around. It was as if hope had flooded him yet again. His icy exterior melted away at the sight of her.
Lu Tianbi recognized that lovestruck expression. "Commander, please don't—"
It was too late.
Yu Zhen was already advancing in her direction, his long strides effortlessly reaching her.
"Lovers' quarrel, I guess." Hu Dengxiao huffed. He sat back down and began to prepare the ingredients for breakfast.
"They won't be good for each other. Fire and ice, one of them is bound to lose," Lu Tianbi mumbled as she watched Yu Zhen eagerly make his way to her. It was almost as if his life depended on seeing her well.
"Oh gosh, he's being rejected." Hu Dengxiao sighed as he began to grease the pan. "How sad. It reminds me of someone I know," he mumbled the last part, for it was describing him.
Lu Tianbi didn't catch on. "She knows how to keep him in check."
Lu Tianbi stared at the couple. Li Xueyue had a displeased expression on her face, most likely asking to go home. Yu Zhen was not having it. He abruptly grabbed her shoulders, bringing her closer, but she angrily pushed him away. He was furious by her actions, grabbing her chin. Yet again, she slapped his hands away, her eyes large and wide.
"She's bold, I'll give her that," Hu Dengxiao commented.
"Of course she's bold." Lu Tianbi sighed. "Or else Yu Zhen would get bored."
"Well, let's hope that fire of hers doesn't burn her," Hu Dengxiao said. "It'll hurt her more than it hurts him."
"It already hurts her," Lu Tianbi said. "I just hope they do not burn each other to ashes."
"From the looks of it, they already are."
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