16 She“s Glaring at Me
After a long day of practicing archery with Wenmin, then an awkward dinner, and one Jasmine-scented bath later, Xueyue tiredly collapsed onto her bed.
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During dinner, Duchess Li was very attentive. She would constantly place food into Xueyue's bowl of rice, but when Wenmin had joined, Chenyang had abruptly gotten up from the table. The lively chatter died down after his sudden exit.
Xueyue groaned into her pillow at the memory of Chenyang's chilly face. 'What did I do wrong?' She grumbled to herself.
Not wanting to dwell on the issue any longer, Xueyue slid into her bed. Peacefully relaxing her body and closing her eyes, she fell into a gruesome nightmare.
Two years ago...
"I didn't do it! I swear I didn't-" A rough smack ran throughout the room. The force was so strong, Xueyue's face whiplash to the side.
Roughly grabbing Xueyue by her hair and lifting her face with it, the maidservant glared down at her. "How dare you blatantly lie before the Viscountess?!"
"But I really didn't do it-" Xueyue didn't get to finish her sentence when the maidservant slapped her again.
While the beating was happening, Viscountess Bai was leisurely drinking her favorite cup of tea. Nibbling on the pastries in front of her, she seemed so nonchalant, one would think she was sitting in a rosy garden on a nice, summer evening.
Standing next to Viscountess Bai was Tianai who was feigning a terrified expression.
Tianai clung to her mother's side. "M-mother, I-I'm scared." She weakly whispered.
At the broken sound of her daughter's voice, Viscountess Bai placed down her teacup.
She turned towards her daughter with a gentle smile. Brushing away the strands of Tianai's hair, she pulled her daughter closer. "My lovely daughter, what are you scared of?"
Tianai leaned into her mother's embrace, and tightly gripped her arm. Tianai was the older sibling, but acted like she was the youngest.
Clinging onto the Viscount, playing victim, displaying a docile-sense of behavior, wearing a mask o manipulative innocence, and purposely changing the tone of her voice, Tianai fit the perfect role of a damsel-in-distress. She was good at evoking a person's protective nature, especially within a man.
"What if Xueyue will try to steal my hairpins again?" Tianai hesitantly asked.
Viscountess Bai chuckled at her daughter. She spread an arm out and gestured towards Xueyue who was getting beat and tossed like a rag doll.
"Sweetheart, look at her. This lesson will teach her to never steal from you ever again. And if she dares to, we can always chop off a finger or two."
In the chillingly dark room with tiny candles as sources of light, no one saw the dark and sinister gleam within Tianai's eyes. Cutting of a finger...Would that make her look more ugly?
"W-well, there's always what ifs..." Tianai trailed off.
Viscountess Bai smiled and gently gripped Tianai's chin. She turned Tianai's head towards Xueyue's beaten and battered body.
Xueyue's face and body was covered with bruises and tears. Her rosy lips were split open and tiny droplets of blood rolled down her chin.
Her bright eyes had long lost the light, leaving a dull-shade of hazel. There was a black-eye forming, and her eye bags were bruised and yellow.
When Xueyue raised her eyes to plea for mercy, Tianai saw it as a glare.
Forcing her body to shake, Tianai sniffed. "I-I'm so scared...Look mother, she's glaring at me!" Tianai wailed.
Viscountess Bai snared at Xueyue, her eyes glowing with dangerous hell fire. How dare she glare at my precious daughter!
"Maidservant, grab the wooden stick! The brat has not learned her lesson!" Viscountess Bai shouted at the older woman.
The maidservant slightly hesitated in her steps. A wooden stick? Did she want to destroy the girl?
It was evident Xueyue had suffered years of starvation. Her pale skin clung to her bones, and you could see the outline of her rib cages.
If she were to get beat with a wooden stick, it would no doubt, shatter her body.
"What are you hesitating for?! Hurry up and do as I say!" Viscountess Bai snarled at the incompetant maidservant.
Not wanting to anger her Missus anymore, the maidservant hastily grabbed the wooden stick.
When Xueyue saw the dreadful weapon, she tried to crawl away from it. Her legs were so badly beaten, she could barely walk. "N-n-no p-p-please!" She begged, stuttering so hard, she could barely form a sentence.
Viscountess Bai was at the brink of her patience. "How dare you talk back to me!" She screamed, slamming her hands on the table.
"Maidservant, I change my mind. Grab the whip instead." Marquesses Bai seethed.
Tianai looked the other way in order to hide the growing smirk on her face. Finally this brat was getting what she deserved...
Tianai had purposely framed Xueyue for stealing the only hairpin her mother cherished. It was given by her late father who brought the hairpin for Viscountess Bai when he was a simple village worker. Because he had worked so hard to buy the hairpin, it held a very soft spot in Viscountess Bai's heart.
Curious about the hairpin, Tianai had tried it on without her mother's permission. When the hairpin accidentally fell out of her hair, the silver stick was broken and the jewels were shattered. The hairpin was completely ruined.
She took advantage of the situation and hid the hairpin underneath Xueyue's pillow. Not only did she frame Xueyue for stealing the hairpin, but she had also blamed her for breaking it.
The maidservant stole a fleeting glance at Xueyue. "M-madam are you sure?" She hesitatingly asked.
To whip a child, especially a girl, would leave horrible scars on her back. It would not only ruin the woman's reputation, but it might leave her unmarried for life.
The maidservant's question infuriated Viscountess Bai even more. How dare a servant talk back to me?!
"You have some nerves to question my decision!" Viscountess Bai picked up the tea cup and tossed it in the direction of the maidservant. Her face was twisted in anger, and it was beginning to grow red from the high blood pressure.
The maidservant quickly fell to her knees. Banging her head on the floor, she constantly apologized for her wrong-doings.
"This lowly servant didn't mean to!" She repeated again and again.
The maidservant was scared of the Viscountess, but she was even more scared of Master Bai. She didn't care about Xueyue, but she did care about her hands being the reasons why Xueyue's back was scarred.
Although Viscount Bai didn't care for how his daughter was treated, he cared about the condition of Xueyue's mother. Blaming on marrying her off for political gains, Viscount Bai would be furious if he had found out her body was scarred.
"Forgive this servant for speaking out of turn, but I must confess!" The maidservant cried out in fear.
"Before he left to attend his duties in the royal court, Master Bai ordered all of the servants to never whip Xueyue!"
Viscountess Bai's lips curled into a nasty snarl at the ugly truth.
She stormed towards the maidservant, with eyes blazing with anger and hatred. There was a dark cloud hanging above her, and all of the maidservants quivered in fear.