Li Xueyue abruptly halted. She averted her eyes and walked the other direction, pretending not to see Xiao Juzi. Maybe if she ignored the tiger, it'd leave her alone. Besides, there was no way he'd recognize her. Right?
A small growl could be heard. Xiao Juzi warned her not to take another step away from him.
Li Xueyue groaned inside of her head. His instincts were sharp, much like his Master. She turned her chin and glanced back.
His large, golden eyes watched her, curiosity written all over his intimidating face. His tail swished back and forth, indicating the good mood he was in.
"Shoo, shoo," she muttered, fluttering her hand at him.
Xiao Juzi came forward, thinking it was a beckoning call. He recognized the scent. This human smelled like his Master. Without a doubt, she'd know where he was.
"No, go away," Li Xueyue huffed, irritated that he was approaching her. "I won't taste good."
Xiao Juzi scoffed. As if he'd eat low quality meat.
Li Xueyue pulled her dress back when Xiao Juzi sniffed at it. He stopped directly in front of her. She took a step back, wondering if outrunning a tiger was possible. It obviously wasn't. He bared his teeth and growled. Xiao Juzi was frustrated.
She cursed his name. It sounded so adorable. Little tangerine.
How ironic for Yu Zhen to name Xiao Juzi that. The tiger was anything but little. He was larger than his average peer.
"How did you even break your chain?" Li Xueyue asked, despite the quickening of her heartbeat. He didn't seem pleased by her, but he wouldn't eat her, right? Surely, she wasn't attacking him.
Li Xueyue was pretty sure that predators like Xiao Juzi only attacked herbivores… Hopefully.
"Stay put!" Li Xueyue groaned when Xiao Juzi walked towards her. He was so close that her dress swayed a little when he breathed out.
"P-Princess…" her maidservants weakily said. "S-shall we call for the Crown Prince?"
Just then, Xiao Juzi's face became more vicious. He let out a roar and leaped forward, scaring the living daylights out of everyone.
Li Xueyue gasped as she shielded herself with her arms in fear. But he didn't attack her. Instead, he lunged at the soldiers behind her. They had raised their swords.
"No, no, don't eat my guards!" Li Xueyue cried out in horror as a man tumbled onto the floor. He came face to face with Xiao Juzi who had him pinned to the ground.
"Who even keeps a tiger as a pet?!" Li Xueyue loudly complained, not sure what to do. She could only stand there and watch as Xiao Juzi suddenly lifted his head. He sniffed the air, a familiar scent reaching him.
"G-good…tiger?" she stuttered out, wondering if her words did anything.
Xiao Juzi continued to visibly sniff around, his nose high in the air. He detected something.
Li Xueyue glanced around her, realizing exactly why Xiao Juzi had attacked the guards. They had unsheathed their swords and came prepared to kill.
"Lower your weapons," she instructed them, despite her shaky voice. "The tiger won't hurt us if we don't hurt him."
The guards were hesitant. They glanced at each other, worried about the safety of their Princess. Nonetheless, the swords were placed back into its sheath. Many of the maidservants were severely impressed by the Crown Princess, especially the onlookers who gawked at her.
No one could make this beast behave. Except the Crown Prince himself. Many people believed his intimidating aura was the cause of the tiger's obedience.
But the Crown Princess had a soft, gentle aura. It was awespring and confusing at the same time. How exactly did she manage to tame this beast?!
"See, we're harmless," Li Xueyue informed Xiao Juzi.
His large frame was still pinning the fallen guard to the ground. By now, the poor soldier had already passed out from shock.
However, Xiao Juzi's attention was no longer on keeping her safe. He had spotted a familiar figure in the near distance. He attentively stared as the shadow approached. Tall, powerful, and intimidating, his Master had presented himself.
"This is the third time you've done this."
Li Xueyue heard the shuffle of clothes as servants quickly lowered themselves in greeting. They bowed before the Crown Prince who stood behind the Princess. He brushed past her and stopped before the tiger.
She was horrified to see Yu Zhen sternly reach a hand out and touched the broken chain.
"How did you even break the metal?" he murmured, curious about the strength of the tiger.
"It's flimsy," Li Xueyue responded, peering over his arm. She hid behind him, one hand upon his bicep to steady herself.
Yu Zhen's lips twitched in amusement. He wondered what she'd do if he took a step to the side. Almost as if she knew what he was thinking, Li Xueyue's fingers dug into his clothes. She clung onto him.
"Maybe if you don't keep him locked up and put him in a secured place to roam freely, he wouldn't feel trapped."
Yu Zhen raised a brow. She was criticizing his behavior as a Master whilst hiding behind him? What a classic move.
"Xiao Juzi has an enormous yard to roam around in. The chain is long enough for him to do as he pleases without exiting the fences."
"The chain might be too uncomfortable," Li Xueyue mumbled.
"Why don't you say it to my face?"
Li Xueyue glared at his large shoulders whilst tightly clutching his clothes. This brute loved to tease her, didn't he?
"You know why," she retorted.
"Xiao Juzi will not bite you."
"You never know."
"I do, I own him."
Li Xueyue's heart jumped when he grasped her fingers. His thumb gently brushed her knuckles.
The action was so sweet that the onlooking servants couldn't help but swoon. It was so rare to see the Crown Prince so kind. His usual scowl was replaced by a tender smile. They had never seen his gaze filled with as much warmth as now.
"You're shaking." Yu Zhen looked down to see the fear in her eyes. Suddenly, he brought her hand towards Xiao Juzi.
Li Xueyue screamed in protest, pulling her hand back, but he firmly grasped it. No matter how much she tried to run, he wouldn't let her.
"No, don't!" she hissed, her eyes widening with fear. She needed her fingers, even if they wrote messy words!
Yu Zhen ignored her protest and forcibly placed her fingers in front of Xiao Juzi. She pushed at his shoulders, struggling to break free.
Xiao Juzi sniffed her hand and grimaced. She didn't smell savory at all. Like the spoiled pet that he was, Xiao Juzi jutted his chin to the side, refusing to take a bite. He'd rather not have an upset stomach.
"See, he's harmless."
"I'll hurt you," she threatened, smacking him on the arm.
"You already torture me everyday," Yu Zhen mused. He brought her hand up to his lips and kissed her knuckles.
Li Xueyue gaped at him, wondering if he had lost his mind. What did he even mean by that?
"I don't get it."
Yu Zhen gave her a wry smile. All she had to do was breathe around him and he would be enticed to hear more. Just seeing her excited him.
He pulled her close and brushed strands of hair away from her face. He didn't like the styles that hid the corners of her forehead.
Yu Zhen leaned down, his lips brushing against her ears. She shivered in response. By instinct, she moved closer to him.
"Believe me, Sunshine. It's best for you not to know." His voice was throaty and deep as if restraining something.
Li Xueyue could only blink at his words. She knew, very well, what he meant. But it was simply too fun teasing him…especially the consequences.