350 Shut Up
Li Xueyue was stunned to pure silence. She didn't even know what to say or do aside from continuing to hold the little boy in her arms. She lifted her head only to be met with Yu Zhen's infuriated gaze. She rapidly blinked and nervously licked her lips.
"He said…" she trailed off, pulling back from the hug. She gently grasped both of his shoulders.
"Little One," she muttered, "You said Yu Zhen was the name of your father."
The child slowly nodded his head. "He takes care of me."
Li Xueyue's brows shot up as realization kicked in. He must've thought a father was simply a man who helped care for him.
"No, a father is—" she paused. Wait a minute. Wasn't he separated from Viscount Bai at the age of two? Shouldn't he have the slightest recollection of his parents?
"Memory loss," Yu Zhen said upon noticing her visible confusion.
"What do you mean?" Li Xueyue asked, unable to wrap her head around the startling fact.
"It's possible," he said. "Enough trauma during childhood can cause memory loss."
Li Xueyue sucked in a shaky breath. She glanced down at the boy. It would explain why his eyes lacked luster and joy.
He stared up at her with a blank look to his youthful face. He was well-taken care of. That much was evident in his healthy weight and decent clothing.
"I…" she trailed off, unsure of what to say to him. It was partially her fault that his parents were gone.
Li Xueyue didn't even know the name of her younger brother. He was the last descendant of the Bai Family, but the boy didn't even know it. Or perhaps he did, and it was better not to think too much of his different surname.
"What is your name, Little One?" she gently asked.
Li Xueyue struggled to adjust her composure.
It was difficult not to break down in tears knowing that she had robbed this innocent kid of his childhood. He could've lived a life of bliss with loving parents in a grand house filled with servants and wealth. But that dream was crushed by her.
"Bai Yihao," he reluctantly told her. "But uhm…" he fiddled with his fingers. "Father calls me Haohao."
"I'm not your father," Yu Zhen hissed. He placed a hand upon the child's head, forcibly turning it so the child would look at him while he explained.
"Don't get the wrong idea," he scolded. "I'm your benefactor. Nothing else."
Bai Yihao didn't even seem taken aback by Yu Zhen's behavior. He numbly peered at the stern big brother in front of him.
Despite the pain due to this man's fingers pressing on his head, he didn't flinch and continued to observe.
Why? Because he felt safe, despite his previous fear. Initially, he was frightened to see Yu Zhen angered. Though Yu Zhen had never lifted a hand against him, it was strange…
Bai Yihao didn't like loud noises or angry faces looking at him. It was scary.
"You're hurting him," Li Xueyue argued. She shoved Yu Zhen's fingers away, but he abruptly grabbed her wrist.
"Where did you find him? He's supposed to be under someone's care when Yanxi is tending to you."
"Well, I got lost when I ran off—" she paused. His words had sunken into her. "Yanxi is his caretaker?"
Yu Zhen pulled her to her feet. "Don't kneel in front of this child."
"You didn't answer my question," Li Xueyue said. She kept a restful hand upon Bai Yihao's shoulder so that he wouldn't feel left out.
Yu Zhen was reluctant to speak more—especially with the kid between them. Bai Yihao seemed to have unknowingly sought comfort in his last remaining relative. His tiny arms were securely wrapped around her leg, almost in fear.
He let out a sigh. "Yes, Yanxi is usually in charge of raising this child. But her duties have changed now that she is with you."
Li Xueyue's lips parted in horror. Not only had she taken Bai Yihao's parents away, but now, she had separated him from his sole caretaker.
Guilt flooded her veins. What else had she stolen from this child? He clung onto her legs without knowing the crimes she had committed against him.
"Can you assign Yanxi so that she only takes care of Bai Yihao and no one else?" Her voice trembled, much like her eyes.
Yu Zhen's heart softened at her words. Why was she compassionate to a younger brother that she had just met? Had she forgotten what the Bai Family did to her?
He shook his head at how silly she was. Li Xueyue's kindness was always misplaced.
"What should I do with you?" he muttered, stepping closer to her.
Li Xueyue sullenly stared towards the ground when he caressed the side of her face. The back of his fingers were rough but she didn't mind.
His thumb brushed the corner of her mouth. Without warning, his fingers seized her chin and forced her to look up.
"Look at me when you talk to me," he said. His lips curled into a smile. "Especially if you want something."
Li Xueyue scrunched her nose and bit his fingers, but he pulled it back before she could do anything. Her heart flipped when he let out a deep laugh. Even Bai Yihao was startled. His head shot up in awe, his eyes widening.
"I already have a biting pet, I don't need another one," he mused.
Li Xueyue snorted at his words. She felt a tug upon her dress and looked down.
"Will I see Xixi soon?" Bai Yihao whispered.
Li Xueyue realized he was bunching the materials of her dress. Nonetheless, she flashed a fond smile and nodded her head. She gently stroked the back of his head.
"Yes, you'll see her more frequently now," she whispered.
Yu Zhen raised a brow. When did he say yes?
"Really?" Bai Yihao breathed out, as joy filled his dull eyes.
Li Xueyue's heart was squeezed by his tender expression. It was the first time she had seen him smile.
It had been less than a day since she met him but she was willing to give him anything. Not because she felt guilty, but he was her younger brother—even if he was the son of dreadful parents. A child shouldn't pay for their parents' sins.
"Yes," Li Xueyue reassured him.
His lips pulled into a gigantic grin. Without warning, he buried his face into her legs, rubbing it out of happiness.
Yu Zhen's gaze softened when she chuckled. It was a beautiful sound that he wished to treasure for the rest of his life. It tickled his soul and found a safe spot in his heart.
The sight of her with a child made Yu Zhen realize how desperately he wanted one with Xueyue. But he didn't have to wait for too long, for the wedding was tomorrow and he'd have all the time in the world to make one.
"I'll have to find another mature servant for you," Yu Zhen said.
Li Xueyue lifted her gaze and presented him with a warm smile. "What happened to the cheerful maidservant you promised me?"
Yu Zhen quirked a brow. He brought her hand to his lips and teasingly kissed the tip of her fingers.
"Is that a wish?"
"Then it is my command," Yu Zhen said against her hand.
Li Xueyue nervously smiled. He spoiled her too much. Yet again, Bai Yihao tugged at her hanfu to grab her attention.
"Will I see you again?" he asked in a quiet voice.
Yu Zhen's brows shot up. "No—"
"Yes," she said in a heartbeat, ignoring the dumbfounded expression of Yu Zhen.
"Sunshine," he warned. "This child is—"
"I know who he is," she deadpanned.
"If your guilt is speaking for you, then you better tell that thing to shut up."
Li Xueyue ignored his words. She bent down again until she was at Bai Yihao's eye-level.
"Little One, do you know who I am?" she asked.
Li Xueyue patiently waited for Bai Yihao to ponder his next words. She could practically see the gears churning in his head. She realized the tip of his tongue stuck out when he was lost in thought.
"Uhm…" he finally said, "I-I don't know."
Li Xueyue warmly smiled. She grasped his little hands. "I'm your older sister."
Bai Yihao's eyebrows scrunched together. He observed her features, from her gentle smile to her hands that held onto his. He was unsure of what to say. He felt like… he had an older sister before.
"My name is Li Xueyue," she whispered. "But once upon a time, it was—"
"Don't," Yu Zhen growled. "It'll bring up traumatic memories."
Li Xueyue was hesitant, but then she saw the look on Bai Yihao's face. His eyes were filled with dread, as if he was trying to remember something, but to no avail. She could see the struggle he had with his identity.
"I'm sorry," she whispered to the child.
Bai Yihao gawked at her, unsure of what to say. Why was she sorry? He was even more perplexed when she gently touched his face.
Not knowing what else to do, he leaned into the touch, cherishing how warm and kind it was. His little hand grasped onto her wrist, not wanting her to stop.
Li Xueyue's heart prickled with guilt. He seemed starved of love.
"You won't be alone once Xixi returns," she said to him, hoping Yanxi would take proper care of him. She had faith in Yanxi.
She was startled when a hand rested upon the top of her head. She wasn't sure if he was caressing her like a pet or not.
"I want children," he told her, catching her off-guard.
"What?" she whispered. Had her ears played tricks on her?
"Lots of them," he added on. "Little Princesses and Princes who resemble you in every aspect."
Li Xueyue was at a loss for words. She could only stare at him like he was crazy. What resulted in such a thinking?
Li Xueyue didn't even bring up the idea of daughters or sons. But she shook her head. It would be impossible to predict the wild thoughts that ran through his mind.