280 I Never Want To See You Again
Li Xueyue should've known Li Chenyang's seat gave her a perfect view of the door. When Wen Jinkai stepped in and the first person he laid eyes on was her, she took a visible sip of tea. The drama unfolding was going to either be mind-boggling, messy, or both.
"Pardon my intrusion," Wen Jinkai said with attention still set on her. There was someone else sitting by the table, her back turned to him.
"I had to confirm something that Xueyue once told me in the Palace on the night that the mayhem took place," Wen Jinkai explained. He continued to advance towards the table, not caring that the Li Family hadn't extended their invite for him to join them at the table for a meal.
Wen Jinkai reached out to grab the unmoving woman, but Li Wenmin stood up and blocked her.
"Move," Wen Jinkai demanded.
"First," Duke Li Shenyang mused. "Whose side are you on, Commander?"
"I came here alone without any of my men. I left my weapons at the front entrance. I haven't accused you of your sinful crimes. Whose side do you think I'm on?" Wen Jinkai spat out.
Li Xueyue continued to sip her tea, the taste lingered on her tongue. It was a calming blend of chamomile and wild forest honey. Both of the men she told this secret to hadn't trusted her until now. It was all too amusing. It just showed how little they trusted her.
Her attention shifted to Li Wenmin who hadn't budged from his position.
Li Wenmin refused to let Wen Jinkai anywhere near Li Minghua. Especially after the diary revealed the Commander's wrongdoings towards his younger sister. There was too much blood on the Commander's hands. Blood that could taint Li Minghua's white sleeves. Blood that could never be washed off.
"Do you have a death wish?" Wen Jinkai asked. "General Li, do you understand the crime you're currently committing?"
Li Wenmin narrowed his eyes. He didn't care about Wen Jinkai's clenched jaw that ticked with each passing second. He couldn't care less about his Commander's thin patience. His family mattered more than respecting military titles. He'd put his honor on the line to save Minghua.
Li Minghua had finally come back to the family. Li Wenmin would never risk losing her again.
"What purpose do you have with her?" Li Wenmin demanded. "Haven't you done enough damage to her? Why are you even here? To confirm whether the woman you abandoned in the Palace is alive or not?"
"Little General, I will have no problem squashing you like a bug. Don't make me use violence in front of her," Wen Jinkai seethed.
Li Minghua stiffened at his words. He was threatening her brother. As much as the twins annoyed her, she still cherished Wenmin who stood by her side when no one else did.
Li Minghua wished she could do something about this. She couldn't even speak up for her own brother. Even after all that she went through, she was still a coward.
"I've sacrificed my family like a lamb for what they've done to Minghua. The least you can do is show me the results of my pain!" Wen Jinkai snarled. Without warning, he shoved Li Wenmin to the side.
Li Wenmin stumbled in surprise, and it was all too late. Wen Jinkai had grabbed Minghua and turned her around.
"Commander Wen!" Duchess Wang Qixing exasperated with disappointment heavily lacing her distressed voice. She couldn't prevent the brute force of a powerful Commander.
And for the first time in their lives, they had seen the impossible. Wen Jinkai dropped to his knees. Emotions coursed through Wen Jinkai faster than the crashing tides on a stormy night. First it was surprise, next came confusion, and then came disbelief. His eyes grew wide as he reached a shaky hand out to her. It was as if he had seen a ghost.
"Little one?" Wen Jinkai muttered amidst his astonishment. He couldn't come to terms with the woman in front of him. She was Minghua, but she also wasn't. The light in her eyes was replaced with shadows. The hope and glimmer had died down. She had been thrown into the cruel reality that her family had sheltered her from.
Li Minghua was no longer the naive little girl from two years ago. Everything had changed. She had changed.
Wen Jinkai didn't want to believe it. This wasn't her. This wasn't the Minghua who smiled without qualms. A soul as bleak as hers wouldn't be capable of bell-like laughter. She wasn't his Minghua.
"Why are you so surprised?" Li Minghua asked. "You look terrified by the truth. I'm not that stupid maiden anymore."
Wen Jinkai got to his feet. She moved like her, sounded like her, but she wasn't her. "You're not my Minghua."
"The Minghua you knew had died in the Palace, long ago. Your neglect had killed her off," Li Minghua responded. There was so much she wanted to say, but wouldn't. She preferred to keep her dignity.
Even after all these years, her heart still ached for him. Li Minghua had seen the side profile of Wen Jinkai many times when he visited the Second Prince. Never once had he lingered long enough for her to catch a full glimpse of him. The first time she did so in two years was when he had violently grabbed her by the throat before Li Xueyue.
"I wanted to treat you better," Wen Jinkai began. He approached her but came to an instant halt when she cringed back. "I truly didn't mean to—"
"You didn't mean to believe the Empress's lies? Or you didn't mean to believe the Fourth Prince's words over mine? Oh no, perhaps you didn't mean to find a replacement for me. What exactly didn't you intend to do, Commander?"
Wen Jinkai's lips parted in shock. She had never spoken to him like this. Her tone was never this coarse and her words so brash. The woman he had fallen in love with would never treat him as such. What happened to the timid smiles and shy glances to the ground?
"I never want to see you again, Commander Wen," Li Minghua stated without hesitation. She didn't mean it. She never could. Even now, pain spread throughout her chest. She felt like someone had stabbed her right through the heart.
Li Minghua couldn't meet his stare. She was too fearful of falling in love with him all over again.
Regret weighed his shoulders down as grief filled his eyes. They were both remorseful of the past, but neither could admit to it. She wished she hadn't fallen in love with him, and he wished he had loved her better.
Li Minghua's head snapped up at the unexpected apology. It was two simple words, yet the impact on her was so strong. It was the last thing he had said before exiting the dining room. Never once did he look back. Never once did he fight for her. History was repeating itself all over again. She had pushed him away, hoping he'd chase her. But he didn't.
Wen Jinkai had left without caring about her reply.
Li Minghua tried to blink back the tears of her heartbreak, she truly did. She gnawed on the inside of her cheek, hoping, praying for any distraction. In the end, she could do nothing but break down in a fit of tears.