Yu Lingluo gulped as she stared down at her hand that was turning white from Yu Zhen's tight grip.
"O-ouch! It hurts!" she complained.
No less than a second later, he released her.
Yu Lingluo sighed in relief and rubbed the throbbing spot. In the midst of her distraction, Hu Dengxiao had slipped away. But she was occupied with something else now.
She had always known her brother had a short temper. But he rarely lost it in front of her. Today was different.
A thunder cloud had rolled over his face, creating a deep scowl. Lightning crackled in his eyes, vicious and stormy. He was deeply irritated. The temperature around them dropped, but his anger wasn't directed towards her.
"What's wrong?" Yu Lingluo asked in a sullen voice. She pouted, despite knowing he wasn't mad at her.
"Nothing, go." He flicked his wrist.
Yu Lingluo's shoulders dropped in disappointment. She opened her mouth to protest, but Wu Xiang came forward and shook his head.
"Come, Princess. Let's visit my wife. I'm sure my children will love to see you," Wu Xiang gently said.
Paradise hadn't even begun, but there was already trouble brewing. He took a hesitant peek at the quarreling couple whose silent glower thickened the tension.
Wu Xiang shook his head, knowing it wasn't his place to chime in.
"Don't be stubborn, Princess," he encouraged whilst opening the door to give the couple some space.
Yu Lingluo reluctantly nodded her head. She peered at her older brother and saw his attention had shifted elsewhere. She knew he didn't mean to vent his frustration out on her. But it still hurt to see him ruthlessly grab her like that.
Yu Lingluo wondered what provoked him. He was never this possessive with any other women. Usually, a woman touching a woman was fine. Right? She didn't have a chance to ask before shuffling out of the room with Wu Xiang.
Wu Xiang closed the door behind him and began to guide her down the hallways.
"Was my brother arguing with the Crown Princess?" Princess Yu Lingluo quietly asked whilst tugging at the edges of her sleeves.
It was a force of habit that she had picked up on as a child. Whenever her mother scolded her for misbehaving, she would pluck at her sleeves. Someone had told her it was a coping mechanism, but she didn't understand it.
"There is no need to worry about them, Princess," Wu Xiang stated, despite the anxious look in his eyes.
Wu Xiang was hesitant to leave them alone. He didn't want to see a battered woman. But then again, Yu Zhen would never strike a woman. It was just… everyone knew the Crown Prince's temperament wasn't the finest.
Wu Xiang worried if the Crown Prince would be too harsh to his fiancee. The possibility of that was highly likely—even if Yu Zhen was fond of her.
"Then why do you look so concerned, Xiang-gege?" Princess Yu Lingluo asked.
"I believe my wife baked green bean pastries. You'll enjoy them, she added extra molasses. You have the same sweet tooth as my children," Wu Xiang said.
Yu Lingluo was young, but she wasn't stupid. She knew he was deliberately trying to change the subject. She held back a sigh. She just wished everyone around her would stop treating her like a child. She was sixteen, not six.
"Really?" Yu Lingluo forced herself to say, hoping to sound excited.
Wu Xiang knew she was faking it. Regardless, he smiled and nodded his head.
"Yes, I'm sure everyone will be ecstatic by your arrival."
Yu Lingluo revealed a dubious smile. She wondered if everything was fine in the Crown Prince's private study…
- - - - -
"What is wrong with you?" Li Xueyue demanded, pushing his hand away. "You're riled up all of a sudden."
"We had a promise," Yu Zhen seethed. "Why are you suddenly shutting me out?"
Li Xueyue scowled.
She didn't voice her complaints because she didn't want to burden him. He should be appreciative of this. Besides, it wasn't like she could tell him anything and everything that came to mind or he'd view her as a whining child.
"Why are we arguing again?" she asked. "This is the second or third argument we've had since my arrival."
Yu Zhen ground his teeth. He glared down at her in disbelief. She was the one provoking him, not the other way around.
Li Xueyue angrily shook her head. "I'm going back."
Li Xueyue turned around and approached the door. It barely opened a crack before it was closed shut. She gasped as two arms slammed onto the door, caging her in. She could feel the warm oozing off his heated body. Her eyes landed upon his hands that tightened into fists. Chords of veins revealed itself on his tanned skin.
He was furious.
"Let me out," she demanded without facing him.
Li Xueyue knew the second she turned around, she'd regret it. If there was one thing that was intimidating, it would be his eyes. When he was enraged, his gaze was as menacing as a beast.
"No. We're going to solve this."
"I don't want to," she gritted out.
She pressed her body closer to the door when he inched closer. His presence was too difficult to ignore.
"Li Xueyue. My patience has its limits," he calmly said.
Li Xueyue frowned at his tone. She was worried about his health. He was beyond the point of rage. His tranquility scared her. When a livid man was calm, that was when people should brace for their lives.
"You're throwing a tantrum," he softly stated.
"Turn around when you talk to me," he demanded in a chilling voice.
Li Xueyue shook her head. "No, you're—" He didn't care for her excuses. He forcibly grabbed her chin, turning her around without warning.
Li Xueyue lost her voice. It was just as she had predicted. His glare was fierce. His brooding eyes could tear her apart without trying.
"Tell me, Li Xueyue, why are you upset?"
Li Xueyue threw him off guard when she reached up and touched his jaw. It was clenched and tightened.
"You'll hurt yourself," she muttered.
Yu Zhen watched her like she was crazy. One minute she was mad, the next, she was concerned about his well being. What the hell was going on inside of her head? He was willing to buy out a kingdom just to take a peek of her thoughts.
No matter how frustrated he was with her, he couldn't deny her touch. She rarely initiated it. He let her fingers gently rest upon his jaw, her thumb caressing his throat. She had no intention of teasing him, but his body hummed with heat. Whether it was from his irritation or the effect of her touch, he didn't know.
"You're right," she suddenly said.
Yu Zhen's gaze snapped to her. He certainly didn't expect to hear that from her.
"You're always the first to do everything. The first to ask me what's wrong, the first to chase when I run…" Li Xueyue muttered. "It's because I'm a coward. I'm unable to do the same because I worry about the factors holding me back."
Yu Zhen watched with hawk-like eyes when her hand trailed to the side of his neck. Her fingertips on his skin felt ticklish. He wanted more of her touch. It enthralled him.
"There are so many things I want to say, but I'm frustrated when I can't voice my concerns. You've worked hard to make sure I tell you everything, but I just can't… Some things are easier said than done," she whispered.
Yu Zhen didn't understand what she was doing to him. Her hand had traveled to his chest, her fingers grasping at his clothes. She pulled him closer without much effort.
"But won't you chase me a little bit more?" Li Xueyue whispered. "Until I'm no longer afraid of telling you the things on my mind?"
Yu Zhen pressed his lips together. When she glanced up at him, eyes filled with earnestness, how could he deny her wish? He rested his palm upon the hand that was touching his chest.
He dropped his head in defeat.
"The race has yet to end," he muttered. "Of course I'm going to continue running after you."
He frowned upon meeting her stare. Her shoulders were so frail, yet she shouldered so much burdens. What exactly was burdening her? What exactly kept her up at night? Who was plaguing her nightmares? Who was hurting her?
"Won't you tell me all of your worries?" Yu Zhen quietly asked.
"Soon…" she said. "Soon."
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