Li Xueyue was puzzled by the sight of Xiao Lizi here. The chestnut horse was drinking water from the flowing stream. At the sound of approaching footsteps, Xiao Lizi lifted her head and curiously tilted it.
Li Xueyue climbed off of Heiyue and guided him towards the stream. Under the moonlight, the flowing water glistened. Fireflies weaved through the tall blades of grass.
Once she had set foot on the ground, Li Xueyue realized exactly how short she was. The grass reached her waist, and she struggled with each step.
"Xiao Lizi, where is your Master?" Li Xueyue asked the horse, wondering if Xiao Lizi would be able to understand.
Xiao Lizi merely tilted her head and lowered it to drink more water. Heiyue did the same, except he had been licking at the grass in confusion until Li Xueyue guided his head towards the water.
"Is he around here?" Li Xueyue pressed on. But Xiao Lizi flicked her tail and continued drinking.
Li Xueyue let out a small sigh. She tucked her hands behind her and peered around. The grass was too tall for her to see anything lurking within it.
"Danger is too attracted to me," Li Xueyue mumbled under her breath. She wondered if it would be better to hop back onto Heiyue, just to get a bit more height.
Li Xueyue gently stroked Heiyue's mane, as a way of distracting herself. If it was not for the moon, this place would've been shrouded in darkness. The trees parted near the stream, with a few feet of distance between them.
When she lifted her head and glanced into the forest, her heart trembled and her knees wobbled. She was afraid. The trees looked like figures. Her eyes loved to play tricks on her.
Almost as if sensing her fear, Heiyue lifted his head and nudged his friend. He let out a small neigh and pressed his wet nose into her palm.
"Stop that," Li Xueyue laughed. She wiped the moisture on her palm with a handkerchief and gently smiled. Heiyue snorted at her response and continued poking her with his snout.
"Alright, alright, here." Li Xueyue pulled out half a carrot from the pouch and brought it to his mouth and he took a bite. Xiao Lizi immediately came closer to her until she was standing next to Xueyue on her other side.
Li Xueyue quirked a brow. "Now, you choose to acknowledge me?" she teased the stubborn horse.
Nonetheless, Li Xueyue reached into the pouch and searched for another snack. Her fingers grazed a tiny apple. She pulled it out and revealed it to Xiao Lizi. Instantly, the horse was on high-alert.
"Nuh-uh," Li Xueyue mused. When Xiao Lizi leaned forward for a bite, Li Xueyue retracted her hand.
"You can have it if you guide me to your Master."
Xiao Lizi snorted. She impatiently trampled her front legs, and chomped the air.
"Fine, fine." Li Xueyue held out her palm, and allowed Xiao Lizi to take a bite. She let out a small sigh of amusement. Both of her hands were occupied with feeding the horses.
"It's getting late." Li Xueyue peered up at the night sky. The stars were beautiful. It winked down at her, but never shone brighter than the moon.
"I need to check up on the servants soon…" Li Xueyue pressed her lips together. She had ordered some Imperial Soldiers to capture Marquis Qin's servants and hold them captive until they would hear from her again. It had been a while now and they must be feeling so confused.
"Where did I have them brought to, again?" Li Xueyue tilted her head, wondering where she had instructed the soldiers to bring them to.
Li Xueyue wanted Marquis Qin to feel like he was losing everything. He must've thought all of his servants working on the ship had died. In reality, she had them "kidnapped" and brought elsewhere.
When Li Xueyue felt a lick on her palm, she was startled. Xiao Lizi had already finished the apple. But Heiyue was a glutton, much like his master, and continued licking at her palm, as if a snack would magically appear.
"I don't have anymore!" Li Xueyue laughed. She walked away from them and kneeled on the ground to clean her hands in the running water.
Li Xueyue understood why Xiao Lizi had religiously lapped at it. The water was clear and cool. It must've tasted refreshing, but Li Xueyue never got to find out.
From the corner of her eyes, she noticed a familiar figure. Propped up against a tree, with his eyes closed, and one knee up was none other than her husband.
"Yu Zhen?" Li Xueyue dried her hands off and instantly headed in his direction. The moonlight cast an ethereal glow upon him. His honey-tanned skin was pale. Even so, her heart was squeezed. He was too attractive for the eyes.
Li Xueyue stopped directly in front of him. Was he asleep? His eyes were closed, but she was uncertain. He liked to play tricks on her.
"Yu Zhen?" Li Xueyue called out. She lowered herself onto the grass until they were nearly eye to eye.
"Is that rice wine?" she wondered out loud.
Sitting beside him was a small, white bottle. She picked it up. The bottle was empty. But taking a whiff of the top, Li Xueyue concluded it was a type of liquor. Her nose crinkled. It was a strong liquor.
"You shouldn't be here."
Li Xueyue yelped at his voice. She was startled. "I thought you were asleep."
Yu Zhen's dark eyes snapped open. His lips were curved into a fierce scowl.
Li Xueyue softly frowned. "What's wrong?" She took a seat beside him and settled the empty bottle aside.
"The fact that you went horseback riding at night, and all alone too," he snapped.
Li Xueyue felt like there was more to his anger than he was leading on. She wasn't irked by his behavior, for she was the same. Silently, she leaned her head on his shoulder.
Despite his irritation, Yu Zhen wrapped his arms around her waist and yanked her closer. "Don't tell me that you came looking for me," he muttered.
"I did," she admitted.
"You didn't have to."
Li Xueyue scoffed at his words. She lifted her head and turned her face towards him. "Did something happen between you and the Empress?"
Li Xueyue felt his body stiffen. He squeezed her waist and brought her head back onto his shoulders.
"Do I remind you of the Emperor?"
Li Xueyue blinked at his question. The Emperor seemed like a gentle old man. Albeit stern and strict, but that was expected of someone from his position. However, she had heard stories of Yu Zhen's childhood.
"No, not at all."
Yu Zhen raised a brow. "Don't lie to me."
Li Xueyue rolled her eyes. "Do I seem to be the type to comfort you with a lie?"
Yu Zhen set his eyes forward. He watched the fireflies flicker in the far distance.
Yu Zhen did not respond.
Li Xueyue noticed he was distracted by the tiny balls of light. She suddenly wanted to capture a thousand fireflies and present it to him. Supposedly, it would grant a wish.
"Would I make a horrible father?" he suddenly asked.
Li Xueyue jumped at his question. She turned around, her eyes wide, and her lips parted. She certainly did not expect this.
"Well…" she trailed off. "I wouldn't know. You're not a father yet."
Yu Zhen smiled a bit. He was glad that she did not vehemently argue that he would be a great one. There was no evidence of that.
"Why do you think you would be a horrible father?" she quietly asked him.
Yu Zhen did not want to admit the truth. He was hurt. For the first time since his childhood, he was hurt by the Empress's words. It had bothered him to an extent that he didn't think was possible.
"I don't know how to show affection."
Li Xueyue's brows tugged together. She glanced at his hand which rested upon her waist. Then, she thought back to his gentle gestures.
"Are you sure?" she retorted.
Yu Zhen was humored by her sarcastic tone. She didn't believe his statement. Not one bit.
"I worry that I won't love my children."
Li Xueyue's heart ached for him. Oddly enough, she understood his fear. "Is it because of your childhood?" she calmly asked.
"I grew up without love. What if I project that upon the offspring?"
"Our children," she deadpanned. "Not offspring."
Yu Zhen wryly smiled down at her. She was peering up at him, with wide, curious eyes. His Wangfei was not angered by his choice of words. If anything, she was confused.
"But, you love me don't you?" Li Xueyue suddenly asked.
Yu Zhen quirked his brows at her. Was she stupid, or daft? If he did not love her, he wouldn't have married her. If he did not love her, she would've been tossed into the stream for being so close to him.
"I love you so much that it feels like an obsession."
"Then you will be able to love our children."
Yu Zhen was not a fool. He knew he was capable of love. But what if his children did not love him back? What if he was a cruel father who was irked by the smallest of things? What if the Empress was right, and his children viewed him as a murderer?
"Xiao Juzi loves you, doesn't he? So does Xiao Lizi, and all of your friends."
Yu Zhen did not respond. Was she comparing their children with animals now?
"They love you for a reason, Yu Zhen."
Li Xueyue could not predict the future. But she had a gut feeling that he would make a wonderful father. Even if he had glared at Bai Yihao and intimidated the poor boy.
"More like they love the fact I feed them."
Li Xueyue laughed at his words. She lifted her head and noticed a ghost of a smile on his lips. When their eyes met, his smile widened. He curled a finger under her chin and pulled her close.
Li Xueyue closed her eyes, thinking he was going to kiss her lips. But he didn't. Instead, he kissed her forehead, softly and gently, as if treasuring her presence. She could not wipe the tiny smile off of her face.
"I love you, my stubborn Wangfei."
"I love myself too."
Yu Zhen chuckled at her words. She leaned closer to him, and brushed her lips upon his.
"But I love you much more, Yu Zhen."
Yu Zhen's eyes flickered. He pulled her towards him and kissed her deeply. She was caught off guard, but returned the kiss. Her lips were cold, much like her fingertips. She rested a hand upon his face.
Li Xueyue was slowly lowered to the ground. The kiss was gentle, yet fiery. Passionate yet slow. She savored his lips, sweet from the rice wine.
"Y-Yu Zhen?" she shuttered out when he slipped a hand under her skirt.
Yu Zhen responded by kissing the side of her neck. She let out a small sigh of contentment. Soon, his moist lips found the spot that made her jolt.
"What are you doing?" Li Xueyue whispered. She bit on her bottom lip and suppressed a moan, just as heat pooled in her lower stomach. She felt a familiar ache for him.
Soon, his hands found her sensitive spot. His fingers caressed her inner thighs. He parted her legs and settled in between it.
"Making love to you under the stars, Sunshine. What else does it look like I'm doing?" he teased.
Li Xueyue's eyes widened. She had never done it in public before. But there was a thrill in her veins. It was exciting.
"What if someone sees us?"
"I'll kill them."
Li Xueyue's heart raced at his words. She knew it was a promise, not a threat. "Yu Zhen…" she hummed as his mouth traveled lower. His kisses were warm, and everywhere he touched, itched for more.
"Will you be gentle?" she squeaked out, despite knowing he would not.
Yu Zhen smirked. He lifted his head and kissed her again. This time, it was slow and sensual, as his tongue explored the crevice of her mouth. She moaned against his lips, her hands traveling towards his upper back. She pulled him close, and clung onto him.
"Have I ever not been gentle?"
"A-all the time," she gasped out.
"But you enjoy it."
Li Xueyue's cheeks flushed. "I…do."
A mischievous look flickered on his face. "Then I won't be gentle, Sunshine."
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