– Li Xun –
He swore his heart almost dropped.
It didn’t make sense.
This wasn’t the first time he felt that Long’Er was strange. The last time, the boy had behaved rather peculiarly towards Li Xun in the bathroom, almost as if he was a fair maiden witnessing a naked man in the bathroom. But Li Xun had dismissed his behaviour then, thinking that he was simply a boy who had spent far too much time in the mountains and away from people.
And now, this happened.
Unlike what the boy told him, there were no burn marks marring his skin.
Li Xun moved towards the sleeping boy, wondering how he should get Long’Er to rest on his other cheek so that he could check the left side of his face. He wanted to quell that burning curiosity, to know whether he was being lied to by the very person whom he thought was his friend.
Unless Long’Er had a good reason for doing so.
His eyes landed on the knot that held the black mask to the boy’s face. He leaned closer, his fingers reaching out to attempt to loosen it–
–until a sudden movement startled him.
He leaped backwards, watching as Long’Er roused from his sleep. Stretching his hands and limbs. Through bleary eyes, he glanced around, finally noticing Li Xun standing behind him.
His irises expanded marginally. His hands flew up to adjust his mask quickly and, which Li Xun noted, rather nervously.
“Your Highness? What are you doing?”
He straightened his back and cleared his throat, but he couldn’t tear his attention away from the mask. Knowing that he had lost his opportunity to rip it off without alerting Long’Er. “You’ve yet to return, and so I decided to come to check on you,” he answered. “Did you find what you were looking for?”
Long’Er shook his head. “Not yet.”
“You don’t need my help?”
“Thank you for asking, but no. This is something which I have to deal with on my own.”
He got to his feet and hurriedly cleared away the books by returning them to their rightful place. Instead of watching, Li Xun provided his assistance. He shoved a book back into a shelf, sneaking glances at his bodyguard every few seconds. Several questions ran through his mind but he couldn’t bring himself to ask any of them.
He realised that till this day, he still didn’t know Long’Er that well.
Everything about him still remained a mystery.
Li Xun’s stare didn’t go unnoticed. Long’Er froze, turning his head slightly. The glow from the burning, red candles reflected the anxiety in his gaze.
“Your Highness, what’s the matter?”
Li Xun shook his head at him. “It’s nothing. I was just wondering if you’re hungry. You missed dinner.”
“It’s fine. I’ll grab something from the kitchen later.”
He nodded. They exited the Office of Administration and Long’Er escorted him back to his bedchamber. They barely exchanged any words, not when Li Xun’s mind was preoccupied with troubling thoughts.
He desperately wanted to see what was beneath that mask.
A peek was all he needed.
The next time he saw his bodyguard, he was certain he had been overthinking the entire situation.
In the training grounds, he was practising his swordsmanship on straw dolls, cutting them neatly in halves. Eventually, he called out Ling Yao to be his opponent, who agreed easily. They were childhood friends, which meant that this wasn’t their first time sparring with each other.