Li Xueyue hesitantly followed Wen Jinkai. They walked in pure silence, to which she was grateful for, but it left her to her thoughts. She couldn't help but think back to what she had discovered. Firstly, Li Minghua was alive, secondly, the Empress was the one who tried to kill her.
Li Xueyue gulped. If she had seen it correctly… the Empress was now dead. Li Xueyue knew the Royal family would be assassinated, but she didn't think it would be in such a direct manner. On top of that, who was the one that knocked her out? Who murdered the Empress? Why did she wake up in the Empress's bedroom? Was someone trying to frame her for the death of the Empress?
There were so many unanswered questions, Li Xueyue felt like her head would explode. The longer she walked, the more anxious she grew. Was someone out to get her? Was that why they tried to frame her for the Empress's murder?
'Did I have enemies?' Li Xueyue thought to herself, but in a daze, she had actually whispered it.
"I don't know," Wen Jinkai responded. He glanced down at her before his gaze shifted to the Shadow Guards behind him. They were taught to mind their business. It was a pitiful thing. These guards were thoroughly numbed to every little emotion that all they knew were obedience and violence.
Wen Jinkai turned his attention elsewhere. Li Xueyue was intently staring at the floor, her thoughts elsewhere. He, too, had questions of his own. What the hell was she doing near the Empress's corridors?
"Where are your parents? Why are you alone?" Wen Jinkai asked her.
Li Xueyue glanced up, uncertain if she could trust him. Despite the fact that he was behaving like a decent human being, there was something off about him. His eye circles had darkened since the last time she saw him. And when his gaze met hers, it was hauntingly eerie. His smiles lacked warmth. It was as if… he had given up on life.
"When was the last time you slept?" Li Xueyue abruptly asked. "Your eyebags make you look like a panda."
"Not everyone has the time to put hundreds of layers of powders underneath their eyes," Wen Jinkai retorted, noticing how quickly she averted the topic.
Li Xueyue didn't bother to respond. She merely kept her eyes glued forward as the group quietly made their way down the hallways.
"The Emperor is dead."
Li Xueyue immediately came to a halt. Her eyes widened, surprised at the news. She glanced upwards and was met with the lifeless stare of Wen Jinkai.
Wen Jinkai was gauging her reaction, wondering if she had any part in it. Her shocked expression seemed genuine, but then again, she was a great actress. All of her moves seemed calculated. He knew she wasn't stupid enough to walk around like an airhead. Was she truly puzzled by the information? Or did she already predict the outcome?
"W-why are you here then?" Li Xueyue whispered. "Shouldn't you be looking for the Emperor's murderers?"
"Funny questions you have there," Wen Jinkai coldly responded.
As they walked past a brightly lit lantern, Li Xueyue finally saw Wen Jinkai clearly. There was blood everywhere. His robes were soaked red, so much that you'd think it was the original color. There was blood splattered over his face and hands as well.
How did she not smell it? Li Xueyue guessed it was because she was too distracted by her jumbled thoughts. Did the blood not bother him at all? When she peered at him again, and was met with his nonchalant features, she learned it did not faze him.
"What is the empire going to do now?" Li Xueyue asked.
"Following traditions, we will mourn for the Emperor's death for at least weeks on end. Once it's over, the Crown Prince will resume the position—" Wen Jinkai paused. Without warning, he let out a cruel laughter.
Li Xueyue shivered at the menacing sound. It was colder than the wind that nipped her during winter. She hugged her shoulders, feeling goosebumps rise. 'What was so funny?' she thought.
"Oh right, the Crown Prince is dead," he deadpanned. "The rebels tonight knew the layout of the Palace very well. Almost everyone from the Royal family was massacred."
Li Xueyue stilled. She couldn't even breathe at the information she had heard. Was it true then…? If everyone was actually killed and every person in line before the Li Family had dropped dead, then it could only mean one thing: the Wang Dynasty had fallen. It was the start of a new era in history.
It was then Li Xueyue understood Wen Jinkai's melancholic stare. His eyes were dead because he had lost everyone he had cared about—he had lost his family. Her lips wobbled. She pitied him. His mother, his father, his closest friends, they were all gone in the span of one night. He'd never get to see them again.
Li Xueyue despised Wen Jinkai. But at the end of the day, she was human. Her heart was kinder than she liked it to be. She became emotional, but would not spill any tears for him.
"I'm sorry," was the only thing she said.
Wen Jinkai chuckled at her reaction. Her mournful expression almost convinced him otherwise, that the true monsters in court weren't the Li Family, but it was. Power was what they wanted, and they obtained it all in one swoop ambush.
Of course, he also played a part in it. He should've ran to the Emperor and stayed by that man's side to protect him. But he didn't. Because he was not the only one who had seen a blur in the distance. He wasn't the only one who thought they saw Li Minghua.
Amidst the chaos, he had seen her face one last time. It was outside of the Throne Room and the moment was fleeting, but he chased it. He chased the shadow that walked faster than he could run. When he stumbled into a dead end, he knew it was just a figment of his imagination.
"Why are you sorry?" Wen Jinkai let out a dark laughter. "It wasn't like your family was killed tonight. Your parents will be perfectly safe and unscathed. Your brothers will wait for you at home. When the dawn rises, it will be the start of the Li Dynasty."
Li Xueyue slowly shook her head. "I said I was sorry because I pitied you."
A haunting shadow passed over Wen Jinkai's features. He swiftly turned around and nearly grabbed her but she dodged his hand.
"I've said what I want to say," Li Xueyue mused. "Whether or not it offended you, I don't care. You wanted to know the reason, so I was truthful."
Wen Jinkai ground his teeth. He was frustrated by her words and that blank face. He had hoped she'd smile for him one last time. He could no longer recall a memory where she wasn't upset with him. No matter what he did or said, she would never be happy with it.
Li Xueyue tilted her head upon seeing the pain flash in his eyes. Her pity for him intensified but she couldn't sympathize with him. It wasn't her place to do so. After all, her family was the reason that his was gone. But she could tell him a fact that would uplift his dreary mood.
She slowly smiled. "Li Minghua is alive."
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