Li Xueyue watched as he stormed to the far side of the cellar. He walked into the shadows, where his eyes had already adapted to the dark. She heard bottles being shifted. It seemed like he was searching for a specific bottle whilst angrily slamming each bottle back down on the shelf.
"Yu Zhen, don't," she warned. "I will get my revenge on her, but it will not be with aphrodisiac. I changed my mind. I have a punishment that is worst than being defiled."
She was met with silence.
"Yu Zhen—" her voice died off.
Yu Zhen stepped out from the shadows. His scowl did not disappear from his sharp and handsome facial features. He looked cruel and vindictive, as if he was on his way to murder someone. There was nothing she could do to stop him.
Without casting her a single glance, he sauntered past her. Li Xueyue noticed his hands were empty.
Li Xueyue stared ahead. "If you do this," she slowly said.
Her voice was light and airy, for she had reached beyond the point of anger. Even though she itched to throw something at him, even though she itched to lash out, she did not. She was not the type to throw a tantrum.
Even so, she dug her fingers into her palms, her paling hands trembling at the force. She turned her head towards him. He had paused.
"You are no better than Lady Ge."
Yu Zhen didn't even blink at her words. He simply laughed.
Li Xueyue shivered. His laughter was cold and devoid of warmth. He had long abandoned the light. The darkness was his home. He was raised in it and had made it his domain.
Heartless, immoral actions like this did not even faze him anymore. She should've known.
He stormed out of the cellar, his footsteps heavy and cold.
"Yu Zhen—" Li Xueyue turned on her heels.
Her face paled when she realized what he was doing. Yu Zhen had reached the top of the stairs. He made eye contact with her before placing a hand on the cellar door.
"Yu Zhen, wait!" Li Xueyue demanded.
Li Xueyue rushed forward, but it was far too late. She watched in pure horror as he shook his head in disappointment. Just as she set foot on the staircase, and reached a hand out to stop him, the cellar door was slammed shut.
Li Xueyue's heart plummeted to her stomach. She pounded on the wooden door, again and again, knowing it had not been locked.
"Yu Zhen, you damn bastard!" Li Xueyue screamed. She tried to force the door open, but it would only budge upward a little bit. No doubt, he was standing on top of the door. He must be. It would be the only reason why she could not push it open.
Yu Zhen could feel the ground shaking underneath his boots. He heard her aggravated cries as she repeatedly pounded on the door, but he remained in his spot.
He could hear her faint screams. "I hate you, I hate you so, so much!" she roared.
Yu Zhen slowly bent his knees and squatted. "That is a great way to convince me."
Her pounding stopped.
Yu Zhen could picture her huffing and puffing, her chest rising and falling in infuriation. She might be plotting hundreds of ways to murder him, and he'd let her. But only after taking revenge for her.
Her first fault was being too kind, her second was being too passive. He would never let anyone get away with hurting her. Even if he had to steal this so-called satisfaction that fueled her.
"Don't be so angry, Sunshine," Yu Zhen finally said. He placed a hand on the door, hoping she would understand him.
"I am doing this for your sake."
Yu Zhen heard her body slump against the door, most likely, out of frustration. She was likely seated on the steps, grumbling about what a horrible husband he was.
"I will let you out as soon as I am finished."
Yu Zhen grabbed the paperweight key and hesitated for a brief second. Finally, he understood how she must've felt. In the blink of an eye, compassion surged through him, and he questioned his own actions.
But unlike her, he knew how to reason with himself. Yu Zhen placed the paperweight back onto the door and moved it around in the same pattern as before until he heard a familiar click.
Li Xueyue was locked inside.
Yu Zhen began to rise, only to freeze at her words.
"You are the bigger fool here."
Yu Zhen raised a brow. "How so?"
Yu Zhen suppressed the roll of his eyes. She loved to throw tantrums, didn't she? And he did not mind them. He could tolerate each and every one of them, but there was a limit to his patience.
He was initially furious at her, but decided it would not be worth it. They would just spiral into a massive argument. For their sanity's sake, he did not want to indulge in another argument.
"Suit yourself." Yu Zhen rose to his full height. He slammed the paperweight back onto this desk. A loud thud echoed through the private study, followed by a small clink. One of the golden branches fell off from his force.
Yu Zhen ignored it. He stormed out of his estate and turned his head to the right. On cue, Hu Dengxiao was already waiting for him.
"Zhenzhen!" Hu Dengxiao energetically greeted him with a bright, optimistic smile. "You were already inside? I was waiting out here for you all along!"
Yu Zhen glared at his friend. "Go and fetch those rapists from the dungeons."
Hu Dengxiao's smile slipped. It seemed something serious had happened. He straightened up. "Where shall they be brought to, Your Highness?"
Yu Zhen smirked. "Lady Ge's estate."
Hu Dengxiao gulped. He glanced at the Crown Prince and noticed his robes were wrinkled. Well, a specific spot was, as if he was in a scuffle. His eyes continued wandering about, searching for a familiar bottle of drug that would immobilize Lady Ge.
There was none.
Hu Dengxiao was grateful that Lu Tianbi was still in bed. They had stayed up all night talking about their future that she couldn't wake up in time to join them this morning. He felt guilty for keeping her up so late that he couldn't bear to wake her up.
And now, he realized that was for the best. Lu Tianbi would've been the voice of reason.
"As you wish, Your Highness."
- - - - -
As Yu Zhen walked down the hallways leading to Lady Ge's estate, he began to wonder what his Wangfei had meant. She had called him a bigger fool, but why?
He was not the one trapped in the cellar. He was not the one blinded by his emotions. He merely followed his logical brain. Even so, his brain could not piece together what she meant.
"A bigger fool…" Yu Zhen trailed off, repeating the phrase to himself. He could see Lady Ge's estate in the distance.
His people remained in their position. They had stood here all morning and night, and that was the lightest of punishments he could think of. They had experienced much worse. Unfortunately for them, this was just the first of the three punishments in store for them.
Their failure to protect Li Xueyue would not go by unpunished.
Li Xueyue… That stubborn woman! He ground his teeth, his footsteps becoming heavier. He could not fathom what went through her head. She was bold, he'll give her that. Bold enough to hurt herself just to protect her enemy.
Abruptly, he halted.
Yu Zhen's face turned stormy. He finally understood her words. And he had never ran back so quickly, for her life depended on it. She was the type to rebel, the type who would hurt herself to make others suffer.
After all, she was locked in a room full of poison. What could possibly go wrong? Especially with her current mental state. She was strong, but the things she went through…they were enough to shatter a grown man.
Yu Zhen's blood chilled. He made a mad dash down the hallways, running as fast as he could. She had just lost a child not long ago. Shortly afterwards, she was nearly defiled. The odds were against her.
Being in a dark and quiet room, all alone, Li Xueyue would be forced to face her demons. The outcomes would not be favorable. Even if the chances were low, Yu Zhen was still terrified.
She was always unpredictable. Even if this idea was too far-fetched, Yu Zhen continued racing down the hallways.
"She better not even fathom those thoughts!" he cursed under his breath, as he rushed past his guards. He slammed the doors of his private study open. The walls rattled from the force, as he roughly locked it behind him.
Yu Zhen hurriedly lifted the paperweight. His heart rushed. His stomach churned. How could he have forgotten? The first and only poison he had introduced to her was one that could aid her suicide.
Eternal Sleep. One drop would put someone to sleep, two would knock them out for a day, and three would kill them.
It just so happened, there were three droplets left in the bottle. With the traumatic things that have occurred in her life, Li Xueyue would not hesitate to put the poison to good use.
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