Gasping for air, Xueyue abruptly sat up in her bed. Running a hand through her hair and pressing a hand to her chest, she tried to calm her rapid heartbeats.
She didn't expect to dream of that nightmare, but then again, when all of your dreams were nightmares, what did you expect?
Xueyue thought the Gods above were playing a very cruel trick on her. First, she experiences the abuse and then she's forced to dream about it every night. What kind of sick and twisted joke were the Gods playing on her?
"I need fresh air." She said to no one in particular.
Climbing out of the bed, she grabbed the closet shawl she could find. It was made of the finest cotton and embroidered with actual gold threads. But to Xueyue who never understood the prices of her outfits, she saw it as a simple shawl for warmth.
Exchanging her indoor slippers for outdoor ones, Xueyue walked out of her room. She headed straight towards the garden filled with hundreds of varieties of flowers.
The sight was marvelous and always brought a sense of calmness within her. Perhaps it was because of the overwhelming lavender scent in the air, but it soothed her anxiety level.
Xueyue winced when the garden doors creaked.
With her fingertips brushing every flower she saw, Xueyue slowly walked towards the tiny bridge which lead to the pavilion ontop of the Koi pond.
Sitting on the cold, hard surface of the bench, Xueyue curled her body together. Leaning her head on one of the sturdy posts holding up the pavilion roof, she stared at the night sky.
The bright moon was hidden by a thick veil of clouds, which hid the light. The night sky was bare of any stars, which left an empty abyss of gloominess that seemed to reflect Xueyue's emotions.
Starring at the moon for so long, she began to lose herself in her own thoughts.
Her mind wandered to Viscount Bai, who she could hardly refer to as "father." She couldn't help but wonder why he was so cruel and abusive to her, but loving and gentle to Tianai.
Thinking about Tianai also lead to thoughts about Zheng Leiyu...the first man to break her heart.
She thought about how gentle and kind he was to her, in a world where everyone seemed adamant on destroying her happiness.
Leiyu adored her and showered her with love...there was even a time where he stole her first kiss.
But naive little Xueyue didn't understand the emotions within his eyes. She didn't understand the lust and desires.
When he tried to make a move on her, and she pushed him away, it was the first time he had ever lashed back at her.
Xueyue remembered the night she discovered Leiyu and Tianai together.
Wandering the dark halls, she was confused when she heard soft screams and when she decided to act upon her curiosity, she had overseen Leiyu and Tianai's passionate body entangled together.
Tianai was a very wise girl, who was good with her words, unlike the silent and clumsy Xueyue. She was good at convincing Leiyu's mother and father into liking her.
Because she had slightly suggested Leiyu had deflowered her, the Zhengs were quick to arrange a marriage between them.
Xueyue thought about the docile and kind Leiyu who was a very self-conscious man. When he had discovered her talents in archery, horseback riding, and anything he deemed "skills unsuitable for a female," he had forced her to stop practicing.
Wanting to please the older boy whose beauty was so blindingly radiant, she immediately obliged. The phoenix snipped off her wings to join the swan, and in the process, she was drowned.
Xueyue jumped at the sudden voice.
Turning her head, she was surprised to see Chenyang holding a lantern.
Dressed in his night robes, his hair was tied up by a single thread. There was a tired and disheveled expression on his face...as if he had also experienced a nightmare.
"I'm crying...?" Xueyue softly repeated in confusion.
She pressed a hand to her cheeks, and surely enough, it was stained with tears.
Dropping her head, she turned her body away from him. She didn't want him to see her in such a weak state.
"Here, use this." He muttered, thrusting a handkerchief in front of her face.
Her eyes trailed from the handkerchief to his arm and then to his face. His head was turned away from her, and he was awkwardly scratching the back of his neck.
Was he blushing?
"Thank you..." Xueyue gratefully said. She took hold of the handkerchief with both hands, in a very respectful manner.
Chenyang watched her wipe the tears away. He walked to the opposite ends of the pavilion and leaned against the table.
When he saw the broken and conflicted expression on Xueyue's face, he felt his emotions go haywire. Was it because of what I said? Was I too harsh?
Xiaotong thought about the conversation he had with his parents. They pointed out how cold and harsh he was to the poor girl.
When his mother had confronted him, Chenyang had asked if it was because Xueyue had told on him. She didn't.
Instead of uttering a word to the Duchess, Xueyue kept her usual smile. She had kept her mouth shut tight about the way Chenyang treated her.
A big part of him was grateful for her silence, but Duchess Li's keen eyes were quick to pick up on his treatment.
His mother knew he treated girls harshly, but she had hoped the same attitude wouldn't apply to Xueyue.
In a very low and quiet voice, Xiaotong hesitantly asked, "Were you crying because of me?"
Xueyue lifted her head to stare at him in confusion. Titling her head to the side, she had had a puzzled expression.
Her eyebrows drew together. "Huh?"
Chenyang felt the blush travel from his neck to his cheeks. He immediately averted his gaze and became silently grateful the darkness hid his warm face.
"Nevermind." He muttered.
"I'm sorry, can you repeat that?" Xueyue asked.
"Just forget what I said." Chenyang grumbled, crossing his arms.
Quietly thinking to herself, a thought popped into Xueyue's mind.
"If you asked why I was crying, don't worry, you had no part in the reason." She reassured.
Chenyang's head snapped to her. For once, he didn't know what to say. Silently, he watched her stare at the sky.
The moon had finally revealed itself and shone a light upon Xueyue.
She looked like a Goddess.
With her hair falling in waves, her translucent skin, and that serene expression on her face, he realized something...she wasn't eager to pay him any attention.
The twins were very popular among the nobles. For Li Wenmin, it was his carefree smile, the twinkle in his eyes, and his flirtatious nature.
For Li Chenyang, it was how silent and mysterious he was. He was always quiet and would rarely talk to people aside from his older brother and parents.
Many mothers wanted their daughters to marry into the Li family because of the immense fortune, wealth, and endlessly good reputation the Li Household possed.
It didn't help that both twins had different facial features that were both handsome in their own ways.
Wenmin rarely got angry and was often portrayed to have a cheerful, bright, and welcoming behavior.
For odd reasons, many women didn't mind Chenyang's distant behavior. As a matter of fact, they seemed more drawn to him because of how secretive he was.
When Chenyang gave him the cold shoulders and disdained eyes, the girls would flock to him more. It annoyed him when women constantly pestered him in an attempt to start a conversation.
But Xueyue was different...it was like she didn't care for him at all. She didn't talk to him unless he talked to her first, and the thought bothered him.
For him, the girls would always be the first to strike up a conversation, not the other way around...
While Chenyang silently glowered to himself, Xueyue was completely oblivious to the battle inside his head.
Xueyue's mind was too focused on the beauty of the moon and the way it would light up the garden.
Hating how she wasn't looking at him, or sparring him any of her time, Chenyang rattled his brain for something to say.
He suddenly thought about the stupid nickname that Wenmin had told Xueyue to call him. Just when he opened his mouth, he closed it.
He didn't want to force her into saying things she didn't want to.
Chenyang was startled when Xueyue suddenly stood up. He watched her pat off the dust from her nightgown.
"Where are you going?" He instantly asked when Xueyue didn't bother to look at him before walking towards the pavilion's entrance.
She turned back in confusion. "To my room...?"
"Oh." He replied, unsure of what to say.
He cleared his throat. "Good night." He bid her to which she slowly nodded her head.
"Good night, Young Master Li." She softly whispered, before walking off.
He frowned at her disappearing back. Just Young Master Li...? Not Chen-ge? Or even Chenyang?
Chenyang was confused at his sudden frustration. I didn't care about her before, why am I starting to care now?
Shaking his head at the foolish thought, he walked back to his room. Perhaps a good night sleep would wash the thoughts away...