Yu Zhen was caught off guard. He blinked in disbelief. When did this happen? The hollow look in her eyes heightened his worry.
"With whose blood?" he asked in a low, composed voice.
"My birth father."
It was almost as if lightning had struck him. He was beyond the idea of shock. Li Xueyue was not only capable of murder, but towards a loved one at that. She said it with so little emotion that he had to pause and reconsider her personality.
Yu Zhen recalled her origins. Her birth father had supposedly raped Viscountess Bai Yihua. It was a crime worthy of death, especially when it was the reason for Li Xueyue's misfortunes.
"And how did that make you feel?" Yu Zhen said.
"I felt guilty, but relieved. After ruining my life before it even began, he tried to ruin my future as well. What a coward he was, attempting to use me as leverage against his own brother."
Understanding dawned on him. He recognized the reasons behind her actions. She was scared. And her natural instinct was to kill… What a woman he had married.
"I fought for my survival all my life," she slowly said. "That was why…fighting to secure my future did not faze me."
Yu Zhen did not believe her words. He could see the guilt that threatened to consume her.
"Then, why do you look so hurt?"
Li Xueyue's lips parted. Was she hurt? Li Xueyue rubbed her aching heart.
Li Xueyue didn't have to search long and far for her answer. It was always at the tip of her tongue, but she never voiced it. There was no one that would listen to her with unjudging ears.
But Yu Zhen was different. He had walked a life similar to hers, with varying levels of cruelty. He won't turn her words against her.
Not because he couldn't, but because he wouldn't. She had that much faith in him, but at times, forgot this crucial detail. At times, she was too lost in her fears. He could always reassure her, but only time could heal her wounds.
Li Xueyue licked her lips. Finally, something else had distracted her more than her anger did.
"It hurts because…he didn't hesitate to drag me to the depths of hell with him. As my birth father, shouldn't he feel some remorse, sympathy, or pain? I even pitied him over the greed he showed that night. Anything would have been better than nothing at all."
Li Xueyue was startled when Yu Zhen suddenly patted the back of her head again. Almost as if he was praising her for voicing her thoughts.
"It must've been difficult to share," Yu Zhen fondly said. "But I am glad you told me."
Li Xueyue stared at his chest with widened eyes. This…was not the reaction she had in mind. A part of her had expected for him to be repulsed. She had a lot of baggage , but he never batted an eye. Why was that?
Why exactly did he love her? Sometimes, this question would nag in the back of her mind. What did she offer him, for him to love her so much?
"Everything will be fine, Sunshine." Yu Zhen brought her close. He embraced her tightly, hoping to squeeze the pain out of her.
The pain slowly left from her eyes. Her eyelids fluttered shut as she relished in his comfort. A part of her was still angered by Xu Jiaqi, but it will be dealt with later.
"Why do you love me?" The words left her mouth without a second thought.
"And why do you love me?" he countered, placing emphasis on 'you'.
"I have so much to say, but they're all cliche and cringeworthy. You'd probably bully and tease me afterwards," Li Xueyue mumbled.
Li Xueyue hugged him tighter. A moment ago, she wanted to be all alone. She wanted to lie down on the bed, and cry her sorrows away. She wanted to bury herself under the blankets and never come out for a while.
But now, Li Xueyue craved something else. She yearned for his comfort, his warmth, and his attention. It distracted her from the pain, until eventually, the ache went away. However, it would come back. It always would. How could it not?
What could've become a part of their lives was gone.
"You know me so well, Sunshine."
Li Xueyue laughed. It was faint and small, but nonetheless, a laugh. His arms tightened around her.
"But do you truly want to know, Sunshine?" he whispered.
Li Xueyue shook her head. "I don't need to know because you've already proven it countless times."
Yu Zhen ran a hand through her hair. It was no longer dripping with water, but damp to the touch. He embraced her dearly, in fear she would catch a cold.
"It's so strange how much turmoil I could be in, yet you remain so peaceful… How do you do it?"
"Someone has to be the voice of reason around here, Sunshine."
Li Xueyue didn't know whether she should laugh or cry. "I am reasonable."
"To a certain extent."
"The same can be said about you."
Yu Zhen did not respond. He simply smiled, for it was the truth. Their relationship was intriguing. He was calm when she was angry. And she was tranquil when he was raging. At least, they complemented each other, in their own, crazy way.
He continued fondling with the ends of her hair, hoping this would distract them from their pain. They might have lost something precious today, but they haven't lost each other. And this kept them going.
- - - - -
Xu Jiaqi ran for her life. She didn't think her heart would ever be relieved to be ignored by him. But just this time, she did. When he didn't even acknowledge her, and stormed into his bedroom, more time was created for her getaway.
"She said to turn towards the left, then the right, and the left corner again," Xu Jiaqi breathed out as she hurried down the corridors. The path was getting dimmer with each second as she dashed towards a dark part of the palace.
Just then, she felt it. A presence directly behind her.
Xu Jiaqi swiveled around, horrified at the thought of being caught. But there was no one there. It was just her shadow, long and narrow, slithering upon the floor. She shakingly touched her chest, attempting to catch her breath.
Xu Jiaqi shrieked. She turned again, this time, catching sight of who was chasing her.
"Did you truly think you could outrun the Crown Prince?"
"Who are you?!" Xu Jiaqi demanded as her hand reached for the dagger. Her eyes widened in surprise. There was only one person standing in front of her.
Xu Jiaqi almost laughed out loud. The Crown Prince cared so little for his wife, that he only sent out one guard? Perhaps all of those rumors about his affections were truly just rumors. Nothing more. Nothing less.
"If you're going to capture me, there is no use," Xu Jiaqi boldly said. "I did nothing wrong. I have people who can attest to that. It is for your best interest to turn around and pretend you didn't see me."
Xu Jiaqi jutted her chin in the air. "If so much as a strand of hair goes amiss, my benefactor will have you, your family, and even your children hanged."
The man did not respond. He merely tilted his head. He didn't move, even after seeing the obvious knife hidden behind her waist belt.
Suddenly, he revealed a cold, cunning smile, like that of his Master.
Xu Jiaqi narrowed her eyes. What was with that creepy expression? Was he hoping to scare her? It was never going to work, especially after she had been dragged through hell and back.
"What a foolish little girl…" he murmured.
And before Xu Jiaqi could respond, something grabbed her wrists. Abruptly, a cloth was tightly wrapped over her eyes, just as a pungent thing was shoved into her mouth. She was bound and dragged to a place that would send her to hell again.
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