225 She Didn“t Exis
Li Xueyue wanted to run away from here. But she could not. Yu Zhen had done all of this for her. The least she could do was stand here and watch. Watch as the Bai Family's legacy ended tonight.
She watched until tears filled her eyes and her ears were numb to the screaming. A painless death was never Yu Zhen's forte. He preferred everything to be as agonizing as possible—the more, the better.
Scum like them deserved the worst end of the stick.
Finally, after a while, the screams felt too much like music to his ears. Yu Zhen stood up, amused at how much of a bloodied mess these people were. "I suppose this is enough for now," he said.
Viscount Bai Sheng was motionless. Whether or not he was dead, Yu Zhen did not know. But he did care. He couldn't have the Viscount die on him yet. "Call in the doctor, make sure that one stays alive to watch the torture of his wife and daughter."
The soldiers bowed in acknowledgment. One ran off to fetch the camp doctor.
Yu Zhen turned to Li Xueyue who stood like a tree. Her eyes were trembling, and she finally looked away. When he wrapped an arm around her waist, she nearly flung herself away from him.
Li Xueyue's wide eyes met his. Yu Zhen gently caressed her face, his tanned and clean hand a large contrast to the Bai Family's bloodied skin.
"Perhaps this was too much for you," he gently murmured.
Li Xueyue did not respond. She could not come to terms that a tiny amount of fear had sprouted in her heart.
"Let's take you home shall we?"
Her head snapped up to him.
Yu Zhen smiled at her bewildered features. He brushed away strands of her hair, tucking it behind her ears. "You didn't think I would make you watch forever did you?"
Li Xueyue nervously licked her bottom lip. "I thought you would be cruel enough to do that."
"I'm a horrible man, but never to you."
She doubted that statement. He knew it.
Yu Zhen chuckled. "An eye for an eye."
"Until the world goes blind," she finished with a scowl.
Yu Zhen shook his head in amusement. "Let's get you fed. I'll personally take you back home." He grabbed her hand and tugged her out of the tent, Xiao Juzi pressed against his leg.
"T-this tiger, how come I've never seen it? It's so random and out of the blue."
"I brought him with me to Wuyi. No one else except my people knew about him. When I left the Palace for Hechen, I knew I had to bring him."
"Did he help with…?"
"Xiao Juzi does not eat human meat, or else he will crave it," Yu Zhen said. "But he's a fine tool for intimidation. Don't you think so?"
Li Xueyue peered at the tiger.
Xiao Juzi ignored her and licked his paws, pretending that she didn't exist.
"Don't look at him, he's shy," Yu Zhen teased.
"You said he bites people," Li Xueyue deadpanned.
"Only those whom I want him to."
Li Xueyue pressed her lips together. The more she learned about Yu Zhen, the more of a monster she realized he was. Would he ever retaliate against her?
Li Xueyue feared the day she would be the one sitting in the torture chair. Would he do that to her? Would he lay a hand on her?
Li Xueyue glanced up at him. Her gaze wandered over his flawless features. She envied everything about him, from his perfect hair to his perfectly long eyelashes. Couldn't he have a flaw? Even a tiny one would be fine.
Catching her stare, Yu Zhen turned to look at her. Once they were out of the tent, he abruptly released her hand.
"I haven't forgiven you," he softly muttered. With a final pat on her head, he walked off, leaving her standing there.
Li Xueyue realized all of that lovey-dovey behavior in the tent was just an act. It was better for the enemy to believe they were a blissful couple.
Yu Zhen didn't want to give the Bai Family the satisfaction of knowing there was trouble in paradise.
A tiny part of Li Xueyue wished it wasn't an act.
- - - - -
True to his words, he brought her home right after she finished her breakfast. They rode in silence on Xiao Lizi, his powerful and incredibly swift horse. Li Xueyue wished her heart didn't skip a beat at least once on their journey back. She hadn't objected to his strong arms that rested on either side of her. It kept her steady and upright.
Once they reached Li Manor's main entrance, Li Xueyue knew she would be in for an earful. And that was exactly what happened.
The enormous door in the front opened, and no less than a second later, Duchess Wang Qixing stormed out.
"Xueyue?" she gasped, pressing a hand to her mouth. She rushed forward and warmly engulfed her daughter in a hug.
"Oh sweetheart, are you alright?" Duchess Wang Qixing asked, holding Li Xueyue back at arms' length to examine her.
"Mom, I'm fine—"
"Good, because you'll be in the perfect condition for a lengthy lecture!" Duchess Wang Qixing exclaimed just as the twins came bursting out of the mansion.
"You shameless bastard!" Li Wenmin roared, charging forward with his sword ready.
"Calling you a rat would be the nicest nickname I've ever given you," Li Chenyang snarled.
"Wait, Wen-ge, no!" Li Xueyue called out, but it was too late. Her brother had already made his move.
Yu Zhen effortlessly blocked Li Wenmin's sword with his own. He rotated his wrist and swung his sword. In the blink of an eye, Li Wenmin's sword flew out of his hand. But Li Wenmin expected that. He came prepared with a small knife, ready to murder the Commander of Hanjian and start a war.
Yu Zhen had no time for games. He hopped off of his horse and grabbed Li Wenmin's knife. Lucky for the Commander, he was wearing his usual gloves. They were meant for horse riding, but it was still ample protection.
"Give it a rest, I didn't kidnap her," Yu Zhen hissed.
"Is that right?" Duchess Wang Qixing snapped. "So, you're telling me you found her in the middle of the forest and graciously brought her back to us the next day?!"
Yu Zhen nodded. "Actually, that's exactly what happened."
Duchess Wang Qixing's face turned red with anger. "How dare you lie to me?"
Li Xueyue's eyes grew wide. "Mother, he's not--"
"Hush," Duchess Wang Qixing muttered.
"Xueyue was caught by my soldiers at the borders of your territory," Yu Zhen explained. "My men didn't know she was your daughter. They knocked her out, and by the time she woke up, it was nightfall."
Duchess Wang Qixing paused. The story seemed plausible, but what the hell was the Commander of Hanjian doing at the borders of their territory?
"I had planned to return her to you, but it was already too dark out. Riding through the forest would be dangerous, and had we lost our way, it would've delayed the process. That is why I kept her until this morning when it's safer to travel."
Li Chenyang narrowed his gaze. "Why should we believe you?"
"You don't have to if you don't want to." Yu Zhen mused, "But I don't want to start off on the wrong foot with my future in-laws by lying."
"F-future in-laws?!" Li Wenmin sputtered. "Over my dead body!"
"That can be arranged." Yu Zhen chuckled. "But Xueyue actually values your life. So for her sake, I won't harm you."
Li Wenmin narrowed his gaze. "First you abandon my younger sister, and now you're implying she's yours? What gives you such liberty, you shameless bastard?"
"What's wrong with being shameless?" Yu Zhen asked. "I allowed you to raise a sword on me, a crime worthy of a declaration of war."
Li Wenmin was speechless. He roughly nudged Li Chenyang to take over for him.
"That doesn't excuse what you did to my sister," Li Chenyang snapped. "You broke her heart and now you're claiming you're going to marry her. Do you really think we'd give her to you?"
"No, I don't." Yu Zhen shook his head. "But I do hope that you will. My feelings for her are genuine. They've always been."
Li Chenyang ground his teeth. He could not deny that. God damn it, he abhorred how eloquent this man was. "You broke her heart."
"She broke mine."
"She wanted time!"
Yu Zhen shook his head. "No, she wanted me to find another woman. That's different."
Li Xueyue accepted her actions. She had said it for his own benefit, not hers. She wanted him to move on.
"That's because she wanted you to move on from her," Li Chenyang said.
"How would you feel?" Yu Zhen began, "If the only woman you've laid eyes on tells you to find someone else to love?"
"You love her?" Li Chenyang asked. "That's absurd. Men like you never love a woman. You're infatuated by her until someone else catches your interest."
Yu Zhen tilted his head. Who hurt this poor boy? "You have my word that I will never marry anyone after Li Xueyue."
Li Chenyang narrowed his eyes. "I want that written and signed by a royal decree with the Imperial Family's stamp."
Li Chenyang glowered. It wasn't supposed to be this easy. "You should know that doesn't mean I'll ever give my blessings."
Li Xueyue grabbed her brother's sleeves, tugging at it, hoping he'd lessen his torment over Yu Zhen.
Li Chenyang pretended he didn't feel the pressure on his sleeve.
"Will blessings keep me fed?" Yu Zhen mused, "Will it provide me with infinite power and wealth?"
Li Chenyang glared at the Commander. He was going to go lighter on him, but Yu Zhen had provoked him.
"Blessings are nothing but useless traditions," Yu Zhen calmly said. "But for Xueyue's sake, I'll value that meaningless exchange."
Duchess Wang Qixing frowned. What an obnoxious but intelligent son-in-law this crude man would make. "You will never see my Xueyue after this."
Li Xueyue's eyes grew wide. Horrified at her mother's words, she turned to face the Duchess.
Yu Zhen's gaze darkened. "I didn't kidnap her."
"You kept her overnight. Do you know what that means?" Duchess Wang Qixing snapped. "When my husband sent out that search party, rumors spread. We were able to contain it, but word still got out."
Yu Zhen ground his teeth. "Isn't that more reason for me to marry her? To uphold her reputation?"
"That might be how it works in Hanjian, but it's not how it works in Wuyi. Even if you declare to the entire world that you didn't touch her, only a handful will believe you."
Yu Zhen scowled. "That's because you Wuyi folks always have your head in the gutter. I did not touch Li Xueyue. I didn't even share the same bed as her, nor did I make any inappropriate moves."
Duchess Wang Qixing raised a brow. "And how can I believe you?"
"What do you want me to do? Show you the bleeding sheets on our wedding night?"
Duchess Wang Qixing gasped at his insolence. She angrily took off her shoe and tossed it at his head.
Li Xueyue's eyes widened. It all happened so quickly, she didn't have time to restrain the Duchess.
Yu Zhen blinked in shock. Did… this woman just—the shoe whacked his head and bounced off, rolling onto the ground.