Li Xueyue's throat went dry with his words. She didn't think he was observing her to such an extent. He knew of her childhood, yet, he continued to ask sensitive questions that forced her fears to the forefront of her mind.
Everything she wanted to bury away had resurfaced—her inability to trust people, to open up, and to tell people anything.
Li Xueyue didn't realize a drop of tear had escaped, not until he stepped forward and stroked the other one that fell. It didn't take long for the rain to become a storm. And droplets of tear fell, one after the other.
"What should I do with you?" he softly whispered, embracing her without hesitation.
His arms came around her yet again, one on the back of her head, and the other upon her shoulder.
"You bottle every emotion until the glass shatters and you're left a crying mess," Yu Zhen muttered. "I knew it would be like this."
Li Xueyue's fingers dug into his robes, balling the silk in her hands. She hated how accurate he was. She hated how he affected her in ways that no one else could.
Li Xueyue knew she was a crybaby, but never wanted to admit it. Everything was always held in: her frustrations, fears, and pains—all of it. Not because she wanted to, but because she couldn't help it.
It was too difficult to voice everything.
"You said it yourself," Yu Zhen said. "Communication matters in a relationship. Yet, you give me none of it whilst expecting all of mine in return."
Despite his harsh words, his voice was soft—gentle even, as if he was comforting her instead of scolding her.
Li Xueyue didn't understand how he could have so much patience.
Was that argument all a ploy by him? Did he purposely bicker so she would break down like this? So that all of her pent-up emotions would flow out, and she'd have a new bottle to shove everything into?
"I'm sorry," she suddenly confessed.
Li Xueyue felt the quiver of his body when he let out a humorless laugh—cold and unforgiving. It was a stark contrast to his warm actions.
He doted on her but there was a limit to his kindness.
Li Xueyue never wanted to see that limit. She was frightened of the day when he would stop caring about her.
What if he grew tired of all their fights and decided to find someone easier to live with?
Li Xueyue wrapped her arms around him, hugging him tightly. She felt the hand patting the back of her head pause.
His body stilled as if he was beginning to question everything. As if the tables had turned, and he was the one who's hesitant to love.
"I'm afraid," she whispered.
"Of revealing my thoughts. I'm scared that they'd judge, scared they'll leave, and that they don't care. I didn't want to burden others with my feelings, especially when everyone has their own troubles to worry about," she said.
"If everyone bottles up their emotions, we'd go insane."
Li Xueyue blinked. What did he mean?
"It's human nature to rant and vent our frustrations. Our pent-up anger leaves through our mouths. We don't have the space to hold everything in. There is a reason why we make friends—to share our problems and to share the good times of life."
Li Xueyue's shoulders dropped. "But I don't have friends…"
"And what am I? A potato?" he snorted.
Li Xueyue's head shot up. She was startled by his joke, a small laugh eased out of her. He peered down at her with a wry smile and quirked brow.
"I'll listen to your problems, Yu Zhen," she stated. "If you listen to mine."
Yu Zhen gave her a pointed stare. "That was all I wanted from this argument."
Li Xueyue's sullenly nodded. "I didn't mean to bicker with you."
"Neither did I want to be so petty, Sunshine."
Li Xueyue bit her bottom lip. "Then… are we even?"
Yu Zhen let out a small laugh. When she stared up at him, with those large, shimmering eyes of hers, how could he say no? She looked too hopeful for him to deny her—not that he could.
"Of course we're even."
- - - - -
When Li Xueyue stepped outside of Yu Zhen's private study, she felt like a tremendous amount of weight was lifted off of her shoulders. She didn't think the outcome of their conversation would turn out like this.
"Next time, don't come rushing here in such thin clothing. What if you catch a cold?" he nagged from beside her.
Li Xueyue was surprised he was actually keeping his hands to himself—for once. She turned her head to observe him. She wondered if his favorite color was black since he always wore dark clothing that also accentuated his features.
It made him more intimidating. Combined with his usual stares—brooding and displeased, it wasn't a surprise that many people avoided him. Everyone was too afraid of offending him.
"Looked long enough?" Yu Zhen asked. He glanced down at her.
"Unfortunately, there's nothing to look at," Li Xueyue snubbed.
"Look at that, Sunshine," Yu Zhen said whilst tapping her nose.
"Your nose is growing long from your lies."
Yu Zhen smirked at her disgruntled glare. She scrunched her nose and turned her chin away from him.
"Is that why you have a big nose?" she asked.
"I don't have a big nose," Yu Zhen deadpanned.
Li Xueyue snorted. "I bet you dug your nose as a kid. It'd explain your abnormally large nostrils."
She peered at him and snickered at his irritated expression. He glared at her, daring her to continue laughing.
Li Xueyue had to admit it. She was lying. His nose was a decent shape, prominent and pleasant to look at. It suited his sharp features perfectly.
His face was angular as if carved from a slab of marble. A man whose statue would bring many admirers from looks alone.
"The hole can probably fit a brush," she added on.
"I know another hole that can be filled," Yu Zhen muttered.
Li Xueyue's mouth gaped up at him. "Why do you always have to make such crude comments?"
"I meant the hole in your dimwit brain," Yu Zhen mused.
Li Xueyue wished she could wipe that arrogant smirk off of his face. He sure had a lot of fun teasing her.
"What were you thinking about, Sunshine?" he teased. "Something dirty again? I wouldn't be surprised."
"Maybe if you stopped saying double meaning phrases, then I'll stop," Li Xueyue deadpanned.
"So you admit it."
Li Xueyue glared at the floor. 'Great, just great. Now he'll tease you about it for the rest of your life!'
She was grateful when they suddenly stopped walking. They had finally reached the front doors of the room that led to her bedroom.
Li Xueyue was surprised when he suddenly grabbed her chin, forcing her to look at him. Her voice was caught in her throat. His face was close to hers, his lips just a whisper away.
Did he not care about the audience watching him? The servants who shyly stared at the floor, and the guards who pretended to be deaf and blind?
Yu Zhen brought her face forward as his lips brushed against her ears. "Don't worry, Sunshine. Soon, your dirty fantasies will all come true. And when they do, it'll be worth the wait."
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