Li Xueyue didn't know what else to do. She sat on the edge of the bed, swinging her legs out of pure boredom. This room was beautiful and perfectly furnished but it wasn't to her liking. There wasn't a single book to entertain herself with.
She let out a quiet sigh and observed the rugs that covered the floor in the room. She had never seen rugs so elegantly designed, yet so colorful. She wondered if it was Hanjian's specialty.
Her arms rested on either side of her whilst she hummed a quiet tune to herself. Perhaps it would be better to sleep? At least, the morning would quickly come.
She was startled upon hearing loud thuds outside the room. What was that? She had barely raised her head when the doors slammed open. A rush of cold air gushed inside, sending chills down her spine.
Her eyes grew wide. She didn't know how it happened, or why it happened. But she cried. The sight of him brought indescribable relief.
"Yu—" She didn't even get to finish her sentence when he quickly stormed towards her. She let out a broken laugh when he embraced her tightly.
Li Xueyue had never felt so whole—as if the other half of her soul was found. He was here with her.
Yu Zhen was actually here—in person. Alive, and well. His hug was the same, despite the months that had passed. She was flushed against his chest, her ears rested against his rapidly thumping heart. He was as ecstatic to see her as she was to see him.
"I've missed you," he murmured in a low, sullen voice. He hugged her tighter until she was pressed against him. He buried his face into the crook of her shoulders. Her scent was the strongest there.
"I can tell," Li Xueyue whispered. She had been so shocked by his unexpected hug that her arms hung limply by her side. Hesitantly, she lifted it behind him. When he squeezed her, she settled her fingertips upon his broad upper back. She felt the clench of his muscles when he shifted.
"Are you feeling alright?" Yu Zhen worriedly asked whilst pulling back a bit. He reached out and gently touched her cheeks.
Li Xueyue barely got a word out when he abruptly brought her face closer. She flushed and closed her eyes. She held her breath, waiting for something that only he could give her. But it never came. Instead, she felt his fingers touch her forehead.
Li Xueyue's eyes snapped open in surprise. He bit his bottom lip. His body trembled whilst holding back a laugh.
"Oh, shut up!" Li Xueyue grumbled when he smiled at her reddened face.
"What were you expecting, Sunshine?" Yu Zhen retorted whilst dropping his hand. It seemed her temperature was back to normal. Not too cold. And not too hot.
Li Xueyue narrowed her eyes in irritation. "Nothing similar to what's on your mind right now," she huffed out.
Yu Zhen watched in delight as she crossed her arms. She reminded him of an agitated cub. He couldn't resist wrapping his hands around her waist.
With one tug, she was yanked towards his sturdy chest, her palms rested comfortably upon it. She wanted to create distance between them, but he didn't allow her to.
Yu Zhen leaned down and pressed a chaste kiss upon her forehead. Her heart fluttered at the action. Even when he pulled back, she still felt the lingering kiss.
"I've missed you, my Little Hamster," Yu Zhen murmured. He hoped this wasn't a dream. If so, it would be the cruelest trick the Heavens played upon him.
Yu Zhen had lost count of how many times his dreams tormented him. She was always there—so close but so far away. Beside him, but untouchable. And when he'd try to grab ahold of her, she'd disappear into thin air.
"I've missed you a lot more," Li Xueyue whispered. She enjoyed how comfortably their bodies were entangled together. He held her as if he was made to do it.
Li Xueyue smiled when he kissed her again, this time, on the side of her head. "How did I get here?" she asked.
Li XUeyue melted into his arms when he hugged her tighter.
"Your horse," Yu Zhen responded.
"Where is he right now?" Li Xueyue asked. Immediately, fear rushed to her system. Had Heiyue… perished in the biting cold?
Yu Zhen noticed the panic that flashed within her eyes. He reached out and soothed the creases that had formed upon her forehead. She still loved to worry, didn't she?
"Safe and sound," he said in a mellow voice.
Li Xueyue hadn't realized how much she missed hearing him speak. His voice was deep and husky but filled her with warmth. He spoke as if nothing else mattered in this world, except the listener and him.
"For the first time in my life, I felt fear," Yu Zhen said.
Yu Zhen absentmindedly played with the strings behind her back that held her nightgown in place. Just a tug or two and it'd come undone. Even now, he could feel the curves of her body. He squeezed her waist. Her skin was soft and he desired to run his fingers upon it.
"I thought I lost you," Yu Zhen admitted. It had been difficult to come to terms with it. He was so weighed down by fear the night before that he was numb. He had tried everything to distract his mind.
Sleep was an impossible task. He couldn't sleep a wink, knowing she might never wake up. He couldn't rest without thinking of her. He couldn't think without remembering her shivering in the cave. She plagued his thoughts—day and night.
It was too late for him to back out now. She was his drug, and he was addicted.
"How could you be so foolish?" Yu Zhen demanded in a dark voice.
Li Xueyue was caught off guard by the change in tone. He was so loving with her a second ago. Now, he was in a sour mood.
"What are you talking about?" Li Xueyue asked. She was prepared to enter into an argument with him regardless of how early or late it would be. But then he took her by surprise.
"I gave you my pendant. Why didn't you find yourself a place to sleep in any of the towns?" Yu Zhen questioned.
Did he… actually voice his concerns? Li Xueyue was surprised. He used to hold it all in. Had he changed when she wasn't around?
"I-I was scared," Li Xueyue admitted.
"Of what?" Yu Zhen asked. This country was going to be hers soon. What could be so terrifying out there?
Li Xueyue opened her mouth and explained what happened. From the bandits to the creepy town she stumbled upon. Realization flooded his dark eyes before it was overtaken with raw rage.
"I'll massacre them all," Yu Zhen seethed. He grabbed her shoulders and pulled her close. "Did they hurt you?"
Li Xueyue shook her head. "No, they didn't. Don't hurt them, they're your citizens."
"They ambushed a royal carriage and murdered your soldiers. Yet, you have the compassion to forgive them?" Yu Zhen questioned in disbelief. Her duties hadn't even begun yet, and she was already offering him advice.
"I was furious with the bandits. I wanted them dead," Li Xueyue admitted. "But as I traveled and saw how ravaged the towns were, my anger was replaced with pity."
Yu Zhen glared down at her. She was too kind-hearted. It would be a weakness that could be used against her. "Sunshine—"
"They have no choice, Yu Zhen," Li Xueyue declared. "The war must've left them famished. And they're by the borders of the territory. They're the first to be attacked by Wuyi or any other neighboring country."
Yu Zhen had always known she was intelligent. She must've been if she talked her way out of being a candidate to be sent to Hanjian. But he didn't think her wits would be combined with her emotions.
Seeing the fear in her eyes, whether it was fear for the citizens of Hanjian, or fear of his rejection, he couldn't help but reach a hand out and comfort her. She blinked in surprise when he warmly caressed the back of her head.
"Don't panic so quickly," Yu Zhen said. "We have all night."
A dirty thought instantly flashed inside of her mind. All night, to do what…?
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