531 I Don“t Feel Anything
Li Xueyue woke up the next day feeling happy, but exhausted. She tiredly rubbed her eyes and realized she was still naked from last night's session.
Holding back a small sigh, she adjusted her position, but found herself weighed down by something.
Glancing down, Li Xueyue noticed it was a long, tanned arm wrapped tightly around her waist. Her eyes softened upon seeing his fingers sprawled on her stomach, as if guarding it.
She was lying on her side, with her back pressed against his chest. The warmth was comforting, and it nearly lulled her back to sleep. But she heard the birds chirping, saw the sun high in the sky, and the tree branches rustling.
It was morning, and he had a schedule to follow.
"Yu Zhen," she whispered, shaking his arm in hopes of waking him up. He mumbled and grumbled, pulling her even closer to him until their naked bodies were flushed against each other.
"It's morning, and you've already skipped yesterday's duties," she added on.
He groaned in protest and buried his face into her hair. She let out a small laugh at his childish antics. She seldom saw this side of him and she didn't know what to do.
"I've cleared a week's worth of documents. I can sleep in," he groggily told her in a low, husky voice that sent sparks down her spine. Her stomach clenched and she was forced to hold back a shameless comment.
"So, you're free all morning?" she inquired.
Yu Zhen breathed in and nearly smiled. Her hair was a soft, feminine scent that was a mixture of jasmine and roses. He disliked flowers, but these two had suddenly become his favorites.
"In that case…"
Li Xueyue turned around in their embrace. She leaned back to get a proper look at him.
"Will you spend it with me and someone else?"
At her bizarre question, Yu Zhen pried his eyes open. Perhaps his thoughts were muddled with sleep and he misheard her. But that was impossible. He had been wide awake for a while now, his brain sharp and cunning as ever.
"Who else?" he asked in a curious but a doubtful voice.
Yu Zhen peered into her eyes, clear and gentle. A slight smile graced her face, but her brows were slightly knitted. She knew the words that'd soon leave her mouth would be painful. His gaze narrowed.
"The Emperor is going to die soon," she murmured. "It's a forbidden topic, one that not many people discussed—"
"Even if he dies in front of me, reaching a hand out for my help, I will just ignore him."
Li Xueyue sucked in a sharp breath. Her head shot up, her eyes widening in disbelief. But he was not lying. There was not a hint of emotion in his lifeless eyes. Dead and bleak, it was where hopes and dreams died. His eyes were a cruel abyss, she knew that much. But sometimes, she'd see a shimmer of light that only showed up for her.
"Before the death of your abusers, did I force you to see them?"
Li Xueyue glanced down. She focused on the intricate patterns of their pillows. It was difficult to face him. The question was too daunting for her poor heart.
"I just don't want you to live a life of regrets," she confessed. "What if, somewhere down the road, you regret not having a final word with your father?"
"My resentment towards him has festered into bitter nothingness. I will be fine without having a last word."
Li Xueyue pressed her lips together. She could not argue with him anymore. She felt the same towards Viscount Bai and Duke Li Taojun. She would've been fine without a final moment with them.
"Did the Emperor put you up to this?" he demanded.
Li Xueyue slowly shook her head. A second later, she nodded. "Yes and no. I was summoned to his estate yesterday, where he shared stories—"
"Let me guess, he regrets everything he has done towards his sons. Terrified of rejection from the Imperial Court and my grandfather, the Emperor abused and beat his own sons," he spat out.
Yu Zhen grabbed her shoulders and lightly shook it. He forced her attention back to him. "Now that he's old and on his deathbed, he wants to atone for his sins."
Li Xueyue's heart trembled. Seeing old and helpless people always evoked sympathy within her. She sympathized with the elderly who would grow old all by themselves without the presence of their grandchildren and loved ones. But she continuously forgot that the old and weak were once young and versatile—they could've been evil.
"The only reason the Emperor wants to see me is out of guilt. It does nothing for me, but everything for him. He wants to die without regrets. Even until the bitter end, he takes advantage of his own sons."
Li Xueyue bowed her head. She could no longer face him like this. Had she fallen into the Emperor's ploy? "H-he was kind to me so I—"
"I know, Xueyue. I know." Yu Zhen quietly sighed. He patted the back of her head and brought her closer to him.
"You're kind only to those who are kind towards you. The Emperor has treated you well. It's his only redeeming trait."
Li Xueyue hugged him deeply. She buried her face into his chest. She hoped all would be well when the country would be in mourning, and there would be nothing but grey skies, black outfits, and lit prayer halls.
"But he has never been kind to me. You must realize that," he said.
Yu Zhen caressed her hair. He heard her quiet sniffles as she tightly grasped onto his sleeves. His heart ached at the sound, but only for her. She cried in his place, for a man he did not care for. How did he ever fall in love with someone as tender-hearted as her?
Would she be his tears from now on? Would she cry in his place, just as he worried in her place?
What a strange relationship.
"I will not see him. Even if he comes to apologize."
Her grip tightened. Her nails dug into his shoulder blades but he knew it was unintentional.
"Is it because you will never forgive him?" she quietly whispered.
Yu Zhen continued patting the back of her head. His fingers ran through her silky, long hair. The strands were tangled from their passionate time in bed. He placed a chaste kiss on the top of her head.
She sniffled for a final time. Pulling back from him, she peered up at him like a lost child. Her nose was pink, her eyes were red, and she had a tiny pout on her face. She was usually not like this. She rarely cried. What was happening?
"Then why?" she curiously asked. "Wait no, you don't have to tell me if you don't feel comfortable—"
"Why forgive someone I never care for? I don't feel anything for him, not even resentment or anger."
She could not tell if it was a lie or not. His stony features revealed nothing, much like his guarded eyes. Somehow, she felt like it was half the truth.
Yu Zhen's voice was soft and understanding whenever he spoke to her. Yet, when the Emperor was brought up, his tone would harden and he'd seem disgusted.
"So, Sunshine, do not cry in my stead. I will not regret not seeing the Emperor, even in his last moments. Instead, I will smile at his funeral and mourn over the freedom I've sacrificed to become the new Emperor of Hanjian."