Li Xueyue picked up her chopsticks. She picked up a chunk of steamed fish cooked in piping hot oil, soy sauce, and sliced scallions then placed it onto the small plate beside his bowl of rice.
"You need to eat as well," Yu Zhen patiently told her whilst bringing the fish into his mouth.
"Where were you last night?"
Yu Zhen nearly choked.
Li Xueyue calmly smiled. She picked up another piece of fish and placed it on the plate.
Yu Zhen didn't think she would start off with the highlight question. But it seemed his Wangfei came prepared for battle. She wore her smile like a threat.
"If I told you, you would not be pleased," Yu Zhen said. He ate the thick chunk of fish that she gave him. It was one of the boneless parts that many enjoyed eating. He watched with amazement as she expertly deboned the fish for him.
Yu Zhen suddenly remembered the meals he had in the Li Manor. The Li Family would do this for each other. It was endearing.
"Then, tell me so I will not be pleased."
"I don't want to ruin your meal with unpleasant talk," Yu Zhen retorted.
"You're already ruining my meal by not saying anything," Li Xueyue sniped.
"I am saying things to you."
"You're saying useless things."
Yu Zhen lifted his gaze towards her. She sat there, unbothered and aloof. Her nimble shoulders slightly moved as she deboned the fish for him. If she was angry, she concealed it well.
Li Xueyue had changed.
It happened day by day, subtle and graceful, that he did not realize it until now. She was a lot more mature, but just as witty.
Yu Zhen smiled. "I merely want to enjoy a meal with my beloved Wangfei. Is that such a sin?"
Li Xueyue glared. "Only if it's to prolong this conversation, so that you have an excuse."
"You know I would never trick you with excuses," Yu Zhen said. He pushed the dishes closer to her and gestured for her to eat.
"But if you don't listen, and fulfill your end of the bargain, then I am forced to be cruel," Yu Zhen teased. He was briefly irked when he noticed her untouched bowl of rice. The steam had died now, leaving only the center bit warm.
"You've always been cruel," Li Xueyue grumbled. Nonetheless, she began to eat the meal, bit by bit, testing out each dish. She found it amazing that everyday, there seems to be a new dish.
Today was the winter melon, which she had not eaten before. She never knew the vegetable could be so soft, yet firm in the mouth. It burst with flavor from the way it was cooked.
"Only in bed," he teased.
"And outside of it as well."
"Only because your reactions are so adorable."
Yu Zhen pushed the winter melon dish closer to her since she seemed to be taking more bites of that dish compared to the others. He didn't know she enjoyed the winter melon to this extent. To him, he found the flavor to be too light, for he preferred something hot and spicy to warm his frigid heart.
"You're avoiding my question again," Li Xueyue deadpanned. She moved on to another dish that was anything but the bitter melon and eggs. Her mouth puckered up at the thought of consuming the disgusting vegetable.
Why would someone voluntarily eat something bitter?
"If I tell you, then you will create your own scenarios," he said.
"Maybe if you stopped avoiding the question, I will not."
Yu Zhen raised a brow at this. He noticed the untouched dish of bitter melon and eggs. He had requested it just for her to eat, but she neglected it the most.
"I was in Lady Ge's estate."
"Really now? And what did you do there?"
"Murdering her guards and poisoning her."
Li Xueyue continued chewing. What an interesting discussion to have over a meal.
"You're not surprised?"
Li Xueyue tilted her head.
Surprised? Certainly not. She knew he would do something unsettling. It would explain the shadow guards placed near her estate.
"I hope she's not dead…" Li Xueyue wistfully said.
Yu Zhen's face darkened at her words. The temperature lowered, like his deep scowl.
"This better not be another spur of the moment compassion."
"No, it's not," Li Xueyue mused. She nudged him to eat a bit more, since he stopped touching his food after he pushed the bitter melon dish towards her direction.
"If she died so easily, then I won't be able to take revenge for Xiao Hua and me."
Yu Zhen's mood shifted back to normal at her words. "I only fed her a poison that would make her wish she was dead."
Li Xueyue tilted her head. "Which poison is it?"
"It's called 'A Thousand Needles'. At first, your body will feel warm, only for the heat to intensify as if you're burned alive at a stake. Then, the pain will momentarily go away, providing a bit of relief, before your bones will feel like it's being grinded into dust, as needles prick your skin."
Li Xueyue's jaw dropped open. She had never heard about this type of poison before.
"The pain will continue for a maximum of three days, but it will feel like three eternities."
Li Xueyue slowly nodded her head. She was surprised that she hadn't heard any screaming from within Lady Ge Beining's estate. Maybe Lady Ge Beining was locked deep inside of her room, where no one would be able to hear her horrific wails and pleas for mercy.
Li Xueyue couldn't even fathom the type of pain Lady Ge Beining was currently feeling. But she could picture it, the image of her curled up on the floor, shrieking like a pig during slaughter.
- - - - -
"Save me…! Save me!" a banshee  screamed in the dead of the night. She clawed at the floor, her delicate nails chipping as wooden splinters dug into her fingers. Alas, even this pain could not distract herself from the pain she felt internally.
Lady Ge Beining was a mess. She was writhing on the floor, moaning and yelling in sheer agony whilst naked and afraid. Even eighteen levels of torture in Diyu  would be a lot better than this pain.
"Someone, a-anyone!" Lady Ge Beining begged as a sob rattled her shaking body. Drool dribbled down the side of her parched lips as her throat stung with pain. She had been screaming and wailing for heaven knows how long, without a gulp of water or food.
Lady Ge Beining felt like her limbs were being torn apart. It was as if her wrists and ankles were tied to four horses that ran in different directions as it yanked her arms and legs off of her body.
But then suddenly, it stopped. Everything stopped.
"F-finally…" Lady Ge Beining gasped out, as she stopped writhing and struggling on the clawed up floor. Relief coursed through her as she closed her eyes in sweet salvation.
Without warning, the pain began again. This time, it was tenfolds the torture.
"NOOOOOOO!" she wailed whilst furiously rubbing her arms. It started off with tiny pricks all over her body before the thorns became needles. The slightest movement pained her.
The worst part of it all was not the pain, but the fact that she was disfiguring her beautiful face and body. Her hair was torn out in some parts after she had gripped it so tightly. Her nails were raw from scratching the floor.
"Help me, help me!" she screeched.
"PLEASE!" Lady Ge Beining begged, but the sound came out like an animal being strangled.
Lady Ge Beining had screamed until her throat could not handle it anymore. She'd try to speak, but she'd break into a coughing fit until she tasted blood. She would try to move her body, only to wail in despair from the pain.
And as she went through the effects of the poison, a pale trail of moonlight washed over her. The moon was high in the night sky, watching over her, its body shaped like a crescent smile.
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