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    Chapter 90 [VIP] Shadow Guard Saga (4)

    Seeing that he was genuinely upset, even turning away like a child, Nanyan couldn't help but find it amusing and leaned in to nudge his arm, "Are you really angry?"

    Shadow Seventeen didn’t even spare her a glance, turning his back to her, silently brooding.

    Nanyan couldn't help but laugh softly at his behavior. She moved closer, mixing a slap with a sweet jujube, coaxing him softly, "Okay, it's my fault. I shouldn't have slapped your face. But who told you to speak nonsense without knowing anything?"

    "Besides, it couldn't have hurt that much, right?"

    "If you're really upset, how about I let you slap me back?"

    As she spoke, she grabbed his hand and pressed it against her cheek. Seventeen felt the warm touch in his palm, his fingers involuntarily curling twice, brushing against the soft, delicate skin of her neck. His fingers quickly retracted as if scorched, then after a moment of silence, two conspicuous red clouds floated across his pale face.

    "I'm not angry."

    Seventeen muttered, looking down.

    He was just slightly upset about his own strong reaction. After all, she had the same features as any other woman - a nose and two eyes. Why did she seem different from other women to him?

    Nanyan immediately smiled, moving closer to his face. She tenderly rubbed the side of his face that had been slapped, her tone noticeably soothing,

    "Really not angry anymore? Okay, it's my fault. Did I hurt you? Let me rub it for you; now you can stop being mad at me, right?"

    How could Shadow Seventeen stay angry after hearing this? The small flame of annoyance in his heart was completely extinguished by her gentle coaxing and comforting.

    His mind still felt somewhat foggy, the places on his face where she had touched tingling pleasantly. This sensation even spread to his chest, itching and urging him to draw closer, yet he held back due to the strict discipline he'd been taught since childhood. It was truly bizarre.

    What was key, the person beside him smiled at him again, a gentle, warm smile, then leaned in closer, whispering, "Seventeen, counting yesterday, you've now saved my life twice. Twice, you've granted me the grace of salvation. Tell me, how should I repay you? What if I offer myself in return, would that be acceptable?"

    A flash of confusion crossed Seventeen's eyes.

    Though he hadn't read many books, he knew what 'offering oneself in return' meant. In the stories, scholars and beauties often ended up together this way.

    But he couldn't! He was just a shadow guard, bound by duty and mission. The seniors from the Shadow Guard Tower had always warned against being emotionally swayed and never to covet their masters. So, hearing her words, a warning bell sounded in Seventeen's heart. A shadow guard must not fall for their master!

    Instinctively, he took a step back, breaking the delicate atmosphere that had just begun to brew. Seventeen then looked down and said quietly, "My life belongs to the Shadow Guard Tower. Saving Miss is my duty, not a favor that needs repayment, nor does it require any form of compensation from you."

    Nanyan first looked startled, then her eyebrows raised slightly, a look of dissatisfaction in her gaze, "Is that really what you think?"

    Shadow Seventeen, feeling a heaviness in his chest, nodded firmly and replied, "Yes, I dare not indulge in wild thoughts. My life is yours, Miss. I will do whatever you ask of me."

    Hearing this, Nanyan's smile gradually faded, and she looked displeased. Glaring at him, she challenged, "Really, anything? Fine! What if I ask you to marry me? Would you be willing then?"

    These words immediately set off an alarm in Seventeen's mind.

    He looked up at her, dazed, and upon seeing the seriousness in her eyes, quickly came back to his senses, shaking his head in refusal,

    "I dare not offend!"

    "I am of low status and unworthy of your noble position, Miss. Please, do not speak of such things again. I would face punishment."

    His straightforward refusal held no hesitation, as if afraid of being implicated, completely indifferent.

    Nanyan's lips tightened, feeling instantly displeased.

    "Hmph, status, always status! Is that all you think about from beginning to end? Don't you even listen to what I say? And you still dare claim you would do anything I ask?"

    Seventeen, genuinely perplexed by her anger, fell silent for a moment before speaking softly, "I... I dare not, Miss. I am at fault. Please punish me as you see fit."

    "Hmph, what wrong have you done? The fault is clearly mine!"

    Hearing her tone, Seventeen's aura involuntarily weakened. Although he wasn't quite sure what his mistake was, admitting fault seemed the right thing to do at the moment. So, he humbly bowed his head and added, "It's my fault."

    Nanyan scoffed at his response and glared at him. He was like a block of wood, utterly clueless about romance. She was visibly upset, yet he just stood there, dumbfounded, taking up space and mechanically admitting fault, probably still not understanding what he did wrong. It seemed it would take a long time for him to fully grasp her feelings.

    For the remainder of the journey, Nanyan was less inclined to interact with him, likely upset by the rejection. Her glances were filled with disdain, and she stumbled over tree roots several times. When Seventeen tried to help her, she refused without hesitation.

    The two continued their journey downstream and after what seemed like a long trek, finally left the dense forest and approached a bustling, lively town. The noise of the marketplace grew louder as they drew nearer.

    The streets were lined with local delicacies; the air filled with the aroma of crispy pastries, buns, and fried dough sticks, mixed with the scent of women's rouge and face powder. The smells were so enticing they made one's nose itch.

    Upon entering the town, they unconsciously slowed their pace. It was inevitable, given they hadn't eaten in two days and had been running for their lives in the desolate jungle. They looked no different from beggars among the crowd.

    Nanyan, attracted by the aroma of buns from a stall, instinctively nudged the shadow guard beside her, surveying him from head to toe. No longer disdainful, she hurriedly reached into his pocket,

    "Seventeen, do you have any money on you? Your master is hungry. Lend me some silver for now. I'll pay you back double when we return to Qixia Villa, okay?"

    Seventeen, feeling embarrassed and uncomfortable as she rummaged through his pockets, tried to step back but was firmly held by the waistband, blushing to the tips of his ears, "I truly don’t have any money."

    He wished he had money, but the fact was, he was utterly penniless, not even a single copper coin to his name.

    At his admission, Nanyan shot him a look of reproach.

    She thought to herself, this doesn't fit the profile of a powerful male lead at all. As an all-capable hero, how could he not have even a single copper coin?

    Nanyan searched him thoroughly, taking advantage of the situation but found not a single coin, only the half jade pendant he treasured, hidden close to his chest.

    Now they were in trouble, for she too was without money.

    Focused on escaping, she hadn’t thought to bring any money. She had a few pieces of jewelry, but they had been swept away in the river during their escape.

    Now they were truly destitute, without a penny to their names, not even enough to buy a bun, let alone think about staying at an inn.

    With this realization, both their faces showed difficulty, especially as the aroma of scallion pancakes from a nearby stall made their stomachs growl even louder.

    Nanyan's gaze shifted, landing on a group of beggars in a corner. She tapped Seventeen on the shoulder and whispered, "Wait here. I'm going to borrow some money from some friends. If anyone tries to bully me, you must protect me. Don’t let anyone lay a hand on me, okay?"

    Seventeen nodded obediently.

    "Rest assured, Miss. I will protect you."

    "That's all I need to hear. With your promise, your master can go borrow money with peace of mind."

    He thought she was genuinely going to borrow money, but to his surprise, she dashed into the crowd of beggars, snatched a broken bowl from the ground, and ran, shouting his name, "Seventeen, come save me, someone is bullying your master..."

    Seventeen: "..."

    Was this really her plan?

    He never expected her to resort to such tactics.

    — To steal from beggars!

    For a moment, Seventeen wished he could just bury himself in a hole. He was an assassin, not a thug. Fighting with arms was one thing, but stealing a broken bowl from defenseless beggars? Wasn't this beneath the dignity of the Shadow Guard Tower's top assassin?

    Seventeen couldn’t bear to watch.

    Yet he couldn’t ignore his master in danger.

    In the end, Seventeen had no choice but to scoop up Nanyan as she lunged at him, leaping over a small alley, and shaking off the persistent beggars.

    Once there was no more commotion behind them, he looked down at Nanyan, then released her, asking with a slightly odd tone, "Miss, is it really okay for us to steal from beggars?"

    "Who's stealing? I said I borrowed it!"

    Nanyan, panting from the run, glared at him briefly, "Why do you have to be so literal?"

    "Once I get back to Qixia Villa, I’ll definitely return it to them. I'll even treat them to a feast. We're in trouble now, what’s wrong with asking for a little help? Is that so difficult to understand?"

    At her words, Seventeen pursed his lips, unable to resist softly countering, "But you're the master. It's easy for you to get hurt in such scuffles. There’s even a red mark on your forehead."

    He touched her forehead with his finger, then instinctively withdrew his hand, his eyes fixed on the faintly red spot. He felt an unspoken frustration. That mark was from a stone thrown by a young beggar. If he hadn’t reacted quickly, she might have been seriously injured. He had never seen such an outrageous master!

    Nanyan buried her head into his chest and rubbed gently, her tone as casual as ever, "You're here, aren't you? I dared to do it because I knew you were with me. Please, don't be angry, okay?"

    Seventeen huffed and decided to stay silent. He could never win an argument with her anyway. Besides, as a shadow guard, his duty was just to obey orders; the rest was not his concern.

    It took a while for Nanyan to catch her breath. She looked up to see him still sulking, playfully hooked a finger in his palm, and produced three coins from the bowl, cheerfully presenting them, "Look, we have money now, right? Three coins can buy two buns."

    How remarkable!

    Was it the two buns he cared about?

    Seventeen glanced at the coins in her hand but remained silent. She had no idea why he was upset.

    It wasn't about losing face or fighting with beggars. He had even fought stray dogs for food. What bothered him was her blatant disregard for her own safety.

    And after watching her for so long, she still didn't realize this. Thinking he was upset about feeling humiliated only made him feel worse and even less inclined to engage with her.

    Nanyan was at a loss; he was someone who responded to softness, not force. She guessed he was embarrassed by the recent events, so she needed to coax him. Gently shaking his arm, she coaxed in a soft voice,

    "Alright, Seventeen. I promise I won't do it again, okay?"

    "Really, I promise. Is that okay now?"

    "Your master is so hungry, I hardly have any strength left. Please, Seventeen, can we go buy some food now?"

    Seventeen realized he simply couldn't stay mad at her. Every time she spoke softly to him, his mind turned to mush.

    In the end, relenting, Nanyan led him to the nearest bun shop, buying two steaming buns for three coins – one for each of them, just perfect.

    Then, cheerfully holding her shadow guard's hand, they walked on, only to be abruptly bumped into at the mouth of the alley. Someone rushed out, accidentally hitting her shoulder.

    The impact made Nanyan stagger back a few steps, and one of the buns slipped from her grasp, falling to the ground with a "plop."

    Before she could even react, a stray dog darted in and snatched the bun, so quickly she couldn't even blink before it was gone.

    Stunned, Nanyan finally came to her senses, her face almost in tears. She turned and instinctively buried herself in her shadow guard's embrace for comfort, rubbing her head against his chest, her voice filled with grievance.

    "Seventeen, my bun was eaten by a dog..."

    "Seventeen, can you beat it up for me..."

    "Seventeen, I'm so pitiful!"

    Nanyan kept on lamenting against his chest, truly feeling aggrieved, tears welling up in her eyes.

    Seventeen couldn't help but curl his lips into a smile.

    He really hadn't expected things to turn out this way, especially seeing his master crying so heartbreakingly over a bun. It was unexpectedly amusing.

    Nanyan looked up at him with tearful eyes, "Seventeen, are you laughing at me? I saw it, no hiding now. Your smile is showing, even you are laughing at me!"

    Seventeen turned his head and coughed, then placed a hand on her restlessly moving head, gently pushing her back a bit to create some distance, before feigning composure,

    "I wasn’t laughing at you, Miss. I just choked."

    Realizing he said he choked, Nanyan's gaze instinctively fell on the bun in his hand, eyeing it eagerly,

    "Seventeen, how does your bun taste? Is it good? I didn’t even get to taste mine."

    As a shadow guard from the Shadow Guard Tower, Seventeen had a natural instinct to protect his food. During training and missions, no one dared touch his food, and anyone who tried would face his wrath!

    However, seeing his master looking so eagerly at the bun, Seventeen found it amusing. He teasingly moved his hand, and her gaze followed precisely, not missing a beat.

    It reminded him of a rabbit he had raised as a child, eating whatever he fed it, eyes following his every move, fluffy and endearing.

    Though the rabbit eventually made a tasty stew, a master, unlike a rabbit, couldn't be eaten.

    Seventeen's lips curved into a smile, but he quickly suppressed it, keeping his expression unchanged, innocent and unassuming, "The taste is decent, still warm. It should be quite fragrant."

    Hearing this, Nanyan's grip on his waistband tightened instantly. She moved closer, their distance shrinking, nearly half her body leaning into his embrace.

    Her voice was low and weak, "I can tell, it smells really good. Seventeen, I'm so hungry, my waist has slimmed down a whole size. Don’t believe me? Feel for yourself."

    Saying this, she grabbed his hand and placed it on her stomach, leaning her entire body against him. Seventeen was caught off guard, suddenly finding her in his arms.

    This left him somewhat at a loss.

    He didn't even have time to move away.

    Even he, slow to react, felt something unusual, especially the physical difference between a man and a woman. The plumpness of her chest pressed snugly against his, rubbing against him.

    Seventeen's face flushed instantly.

    He was nervous, his hand unconsciously tightening, and his throat involuntarily swallowing twice.

    He wanted to push her away, but she seemed boneless, unable to stand steadily. Instinctively, he supported her slender waist to prevent her from slipping.

    This only made his heart feel like it was leaping to his throat, but the person in his arms remained oblivious, looking up at him with eyes full of grievance,

    "Seventeen, I’m so hungry."

    Seventeen's eyelashes fluttered, feeling an unfamiliar and strange reaction in his body. Without hesitation, he handed her the bun he held, “Eat this… I haven't touched it yet!”

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