Yu Zhen's heart felt like it was being shredded to pieces. His eyes burned as he pushed her head underwater whilst the other hand held her shoulders down. She thrashed and screamed underwater, as he counted to ten before he yanked her out of the icy cold pool, where she choked and coughed for her life.
And when ten seconds passed, he submerged her underwater again. His teeth clenched so tight, it could've shattered. Water splashed on the stone pavement of the bathhouse. He was wet from head to toe, much like her.
"It's okay, Sunshine," he repeated after pulling her out again. She was seated on the floor, sobbing and choking.
"It hurts, please, make it stop!" she tried out, reaching for anything to hold onto.
"I know, Sunshine, I know," Yu Zhen said. He gently patted the back of her head, and brought it close to his shoulders, forgetting about the count of ten. She grabbed onto him. Her tears, hot and infinite, practically burned his shoulders.
His soul was shredded to pieces by her wail. She begged for mercy. He was willing to give her the world, the kingdom, but not mercy this time. No, never mercy—no matter how much he wanted to.
Yu Zhen was left with no choice. He pushed her back into the water.
"Yu Zhen!" Li Xueyue screamed for him, but did not know he was directly in front of her.
No one else was in the bathhouse to witness one of the worst moments of her life.
"Yu Zhen, save me!" she cried out, fighting against his arm, her sharp claws digging into his skin.
Yu Zhen would rather go through a decade of war than to hear her desperate pleas. It shredded him to pieces. His chest burned with an unfamiliar pain. It ached for her, ached to pull her into his arms and reassure her the world.
Ice floated on the surface of the water. Even underwater, Li Xueyue was crying. He could see her eyes squeezed shut, and the bubbles that left her mouth.
Ten seconds later, he pulled her out again. Li Xueyue spat out the water and tried attacking him. Her arms, tiny and feeble shoved him away, but he held her close and whispered reassuring words into her ears.
For the brief ten count, he comforted her, like no other. She did not hear him.
"Chen-ge, Wen-ge, anyone, please!" Li Xueyue cried out, shrieking when he tried to push her head under the water again.
"Hush, it's alright," Yu Zhen whispered.
Li Xueyue slapped his hand away, catching him by surprise. She finally had the strength to cause damage. Did that mean the aphrodisiac wore off?
"Sunshine?" Yu Zhen murmured, bending down to gently cup her face.
Her eyes were still glazed over. Her wet hair stuck to her forehead, and droplets of water trickled down her face. Despite the life that flashed before her eyes, her eyes still burned with lust and she yearned for one last night of passion.
"Yu Zhen… where are you?" she wept.
His Wangfei cried out for him. Yu Zhen was standing in front of her, but she did not seem to know that. It tore his heart to pieces.
At the moment Li Xueyue needed his help the most, he could do nothing but hurt her.
"No more… please…" she begged whilst clutching onto his hands.
Yu Zhen felt something warm trickle down his fingertips. Her tears had never dried up.
"Please," Li Xueyue whispered whilst sobbing over him.
Suddenly, she jolted. Almost as if horrified her that she was seeking salvation from a stranger, she pushed him away.
"Who are you?" she whispered, her eyes trembling.
Seizing her chance to escape when he was momentarily stunned, Li Xueyue waddled to the center of the pool, where his hands could no longer push her underwater.
"It's hot," she shakily said whilst peeling off a layer of her clothes. "It's so hot…"
Yu Zhen's softened gaze hardened. The aphrodisiac hadn't worn off. And instead of convincing her to return to the edges of the pool, he kicked off his shoes and entered the icy cold water to join her.
The water was so cold, it felt like thousands of bees stinging him. But he continued walking, even when his legs were beginning to feel numb.
"Come here, Sunshine," Yu Zhen muttered. "I'll cool you down."
But she refused. His Wangfei let out a horrified shriek and tried to waddle backward.
"D-don't come near me! Where is my husband?!"
Without warning, her legs gave out from underneath her, and she slipped on her long dress.
Yu Zhen caught her just in time.
"Just once more, Sunshine," he reassured her.
When she blinked up at him, dazzled and confused, Yu Zhen grounded his teeth and held her head under the water. His legs were numb, but he did not blink. His limbs could fall off from the cold for all he cared. As long as she was going to be cured, then he would not mind.
Suddenly, she stopped fighting. She stopped struggling. The water stilled, like his heart.
"Sunshine?" Yu Zhen whispered as he grabbed her armpits and yanked her up. She was limp. His face paled. In an instant, he hooked one arm under her knees, and another on her back. He lifted her out of the water and trudged towards the small staircase in the pool.
Each step hurt him. He could feel the frostbite developing, but didn't even blink.
"It's going to be alright, Sunshine," he whispered to her whilst stepping out of the icy pool. "Everything is going to be alright."
- - - - -
Yu Zhen settled her onto a mahogany chair, gently tilting her body so that she would be more comfortable. He approached the closet and brought out a set of dry clothes for her. With great diligence, he dried her off, changed her clothes, and helped her onto the bed.
Her hair was soaking wet but wrapped in a towel. Thick strands stuck to her forehead, to which he gently pushed it away.
"Yu Zhen… Where are you?
Yu Zhen was stabbed, for the second time tonight. Even in her sleep, she was crying, and for him, nonetheless. He touched her fingers that tightly clenched the blanket, as her head tossed and turned.
The pillow was wet from her hair, but it was soaked with her tears. Yu Zhen slipped his hand underneath her fingers, and she tightly gripped onto him.
"Save me," she pleaded with disorientated eyes. She did not know where she was, who she was, and who he was. But her heart was familiar with the comfort of the first person that came into me.
"Save me, Yu Zhen" she repeated, "Like you swore to."
Yu Zhen's eyes flashed with determination. "I will, Sunshine. Even if it costs me this throne."
And despite his vow, she continued to weep in her sleep, weep for a virtue that she thought was robbed from her. She wept for a dignity she maintained, but did not believe she had. She wept, for she thought this would be her last day in the palace—the last day with him.
"Shhh..." he softly comforted her whilst his other hand patted her chest, hoping to lull her into a deeper sleep.
Her cries tore his soul to pieces, and her tears stabbed him.
Even so, Yu Zhen remained by her side. From midnight to dusk, he watched over her with an unwavering gaze. He continued watching over her, even when the moon disappeared and the sun slowly rose from the west.
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