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    Chapter 92 [VIP] Shadow Guard Saga (6)

    When they finally ceased fighting, Ye Qiuchen watched Seventeen warily, ready to defend against any further unprovoked attacks.

    He thought the whole situation was absurd. He had come to help protect the fourth Miss, but instead of gratitude, Seventeen attacked him relentlessly, which deeply infuriated him.

    …But after his anger subsided, he gradually regained his composure.

    Ye Qiuchen studied Seventeen, noticing something unusual in his eyes. Suddenly, as if understanding something, he let out a scornful chuckle.

    "Shadow Seventeen, you've fallen for the fourth Miss, haven't you?"

    A mocking smile flickered in his eyes as he realized Seventeen had actually developed feelings for his own master. It seemed absurd to him, and he felt as though he had an upper hand, looking down on Seventeen, "Seventeen, it seems you really have forgotten your place. Remember, deceiving and lusting after the master is a capital offense for a shadow guard."

    Seventeen's lips pressed tightly together. "I haven’t!"

    He hadn't deceived the master. He had only recently realized his own forbidden thoughts towards her, but as long as he didn't confess, who could do anything about it?

    "I have not committed insubordination."

    Saying this, Seventeen raised his sword again, his eyes coldly fixed on Ye Qiuchen.

    Ye Qiuchen, obviously skeptical, smirked with a cryptic tone, "Really? Shadow Seventeen, perhaps if you could hide the murderous look in your eyes, I might believe you more. And if you truly harbor no inappropriate feelings for the fourth Miss, then why are you so angry?"

    Seventeen's gaze was locked on him, his weapon gripped even tighter, "That's because you bullied her. I am her shadow guard; it's my duty to protect her."

    Ye Qiuchen frowned, instinctively arguing, "I've told you, I came to escort the fourth Miss back. It's all a misunderstanding. You attacked me without any proof."

    Seventeen didn't listen to his explanation. He hadn't revealed his true feelings because he was also venting his anger. Just thinking of this scoundrel embracing the Miss, tearing her clothes, and touching her waist filled him with uncontrollable rage.

    "That’s because you offended her first!" Seventeen’s lips tightened, his eyes colder, "Didn’t you hear her crying? Why did you force her?"

    Ye Qiuchen was at a loss for words, staring at him. Finally, he sheathed his weapon, tired of explaining to someone so stubborn.

    How many times had he said it wasn't an offense, not an offense! Why couldn’t Seventeen understand? Was his head made of a donkey’s?

    As the standoff continued, Nanyan finally emerged from the temple, running up to Seventeen. Seeing beads of sweat on his forehead, she instinctively wiped his face with her sleeve, full of concern and worry, "Seventeen, are you alright? Are you injured? Has your wound reopened? Let me see."

    As she spoke, she reached for his collar, oblivious to the bystander nearby.

    Seventeen, who had been maintaining a cold demeanor, suddenly looked embarrassed, his ears turning slightly red. Already unstable due to his hidden feelings, Nanyan’s touch made him extremely nervous.

    Instinctively, he stepped back to avoid her intimate gesture, fearing it might provoke an unbearable and shameful reaction.

    "I... I am fine, the wound hasn't reopened."

    He turned his face away, feeling gloomy and not daring to look at her.

    His previously stern demeanor dissipated instantly.

    He resembled a fierce-looking dog that becomes utterly submissive in the presence of its owner, losing all its intimidating aura.

    Nanyan noticed his evasive action and looked visibly displeased, but she didn’t dwell on it for long, knowing he was always somewhat stoic. She took a few steps closer, not hiding her affection,

    "It's good that you're alright." Nanyan sighed with relief, then reached up to wipe the beads of sweat from his forehead, "But why are you sweating so much? Your clothes are soaked."

    She leaned in closer for a better look and noticed something amiss,

    "Huh, it doesn't seem like sweat. Seventeen, did you accidentally fall into the river? Why are even the tips of your hair dripping?"

    At the mention of this, Seventeen's expression became subtly awkward. He glanced at her from the corner of his eye, lips moving slightly, a hint of embarrassment flashing in his eyes.

    He had jumped into the river to quell the strange reactions of his body, finally suppressing the intense heat and agitation within. But somehow, as she got closer, that inexplicable urge in him began to resurface.

    Seventeen backed away several steps, stopping only when her hand could no longer reach him, then exhaled softly, his voice hoarse,

    "I am truly fine, Miss. You don't need to worry."

    He really didn't know how to explain,

    So he just kept quiet and avoided her questions.

    Nanyan's continuous evasion seemed to upset her. She stared at him with displeasure, her voice resentful, "If there's nothing wrong, then why are you avoiding me?"

    "You were holding me so tightly just now. Why are you shunning me all of a sudden? Did someone say something bad to you again?"

    As she spoke, she turned and glared in Ye Qiuchen’s direction, her expression becoming even more unhappy, her eyes filled with reproach, "Seventeen, didn’t I tell you? You are my shadow guard, and you only need to listen to me. Don’t mind what others say or do. Just care about me. Why can't you remember that?"

    At her words, Seventeen’s expression fell silent once more.

    He stood there sullenly, motionless and silent, like a wooden stake come to life, which annoyed Nanyan so much that she stomped on his foot,

    "Shadow Seventeen, speak!"

    Seventeen then raised his head to look at her, catching the mocking gaze of the man behind her. Hesitating for a moment, he had a bad feeling but still said directly, "I... am the Miss's shadow guard, naturally I only heed her words."

    He had repeated this phrase countless times.

    Whenever Nanyan pressed him, Seventeen would use these words to fend her off, knowing full well what he was doing.

    Predictably, Nanyan was infuriated by his stubbornness, her chest heaving with irritation, her breathing becoming more rapid,

    "You know that's not what I mean."

    Seventeen's eyelashes flickered slightly, and he looked down again, repeating in an emotionless tone, “I don't understand. I am just the Miss's shadow guard, I don’t think about anything else.”

    Hearing his distant voice, Nanyan was reminded of their first meeting.

    Back then, he had the same distant attitude, cold and lifeless. It had taken her great effort to bring some liveliness to him, and now, in just a short time apart, he had reverted to his original state. How long could he keep this up?

    Reacting to his words, Nanyan couldn't hold back any longer. Anger reddening her eyes, she threw the fruit in her hand at him and shouted in grievance,

    "Shadow guard, always the shadow guard! Who asked you to be my shadow guard? Leave, leave now! Do not appear before me without my order."

    Seventeen paused at the sight of her near tears.

    He wanted to step forward to console her, but seeing Ye Qiuchen's watchful eyes, he forcefully suppressed his urge.

    "I..."

    Seventeen opened his mouth as if to say something, but ultimately remained silent, staring at Nanyan for a long while. He then turned away, looking slightly aggrieved, and left with his head hung low.

    His expression was indescribably sad and lonely, like a little dog abandoned by its owner, walking away dejectedly, occasionally glancing back at her, unsure of what to do.

    It seemed like he would rush back to her at the slightest call, but Nanyan remained silent, just watching him walk away.

    Seventeen didn't go far; he hid himself in a nearby tree as before, vigilantly watching over, ready to act should Ye Qiuchen make another untoward move, or to protect her from any danger, never taking his eyes off her.

    Seeing him actually walk away, Nanyan felt a surge of frustration. "Such a blockhead, so stubborn and dense!"

    He never listens when he should, but is surprisingly obedient when he shouldn't be.

    With this thought, her anger became more apparent, her eyes reddening with irritation. At a time like this, not only did he not comfort her, but he even dared to leave. Didn’t he worry at all about someone taking her away?

    Biting her lip in anger, Nanyan kicked a small stone at her feet and turned away, no longer wanting to deal with him.

    "Let him be foolish then!"

    ……

    After Seventeen left,

    The air suddenly became much quieter.

    Ye Qiuchen, observing Nanyan’s embarrassed and anxious expression, wasn’t a fool. He could see the young mistress’s little scheme. As for Seventeen, it was clear he was smitten.

    Thinking something, Ye Qiuchen approached Nanyan and asked in a calm tone, "Miss, do you have feelings for Seventeen?"

    Hearing his voice, Nanyan realized there was still someone beside her. She turned to look at him.

    At that moment, she didn't have the energy to confront his previous rudeness. Responding to his question, she said sullenly, "Even you can see what’s in my heart so easily, why can't that wooden-headed man understand?"

    She frowned in frustration and vexation, as if talking to herself, yet also seeming to complain to him.

    A flicker of emotion crossed Ye Qiuchen's heart, and a knowing expression suddenly appeared on his face. He turned to Nan Yan and said, "Perhaps it's because the ones involved are often blinded, while outsiders see more clearly. Actually, I can tell that Number 17 cares a great deal about Miss Fourth as well."

    At this, Nan Yan became somewhat annoyed.

    "What good does his caring do? He cares about plenty of things. Besides, his concern for me now is merely out of his duty as a Shadow Guard."

    "If he were protecting someone else, wouldn't he care just as much about them? What's the point in such concern? I don't need it!"

    Nan Yan turned away, not wanting to engage in further conversation.

    Though he said he didn't care, he must still be bothered by it, right? Ye Qiu coughed and had to clarify further, "I was referring to a man's concern for a woman. Seventeen is merely unaware of his own feelings. Why does Miss have to keep frowning about it? Moreover, I have a plan that will surely make Seventeen realize his true feelings and also fulfill Miss's wishes."

    "Are you speaking the truth?"

    Upon hearing this, Nan Yan instinctively turned her head. Her watery eyes were filled with hesitation. As she lifted her gaze, the corners of her eyes still held a faint flush, as if veiled by a layer of mist, giving her an otherworldly beauty.

    Yet, Ye Qiuchen was only interested in the value that her appearance could bring. As the Fourth Miss was favored by the Lord of the manor, she naturally had more influence than they, the lowly servants.

    For an instant, Ye Qiuchen was lost in thought, but he quickly regained his composure and hastily nodded, "Of course it's true."

    "However, I have another matter that I wish to request Miss's assistance with. Previously, due to my failure in adequately protecting Young Master San, I was punished and am still considered a culprit. Within the Shadow Guards' Tower, I am restricted from coming and going freely and have lost the Lord's trust. I hope, Miss, that when the time comes, you could find me a better place to belong, one where I am not bound by the limitations of the Shadow Guards' Tower."

    Nan Yan pursed her lips and gave him a fleeting glance, as if she grasped his intention. There was a subtle hint of displeasure in her tone. "Are you asking me to do this?"

    Yue Qiuchen immediately bowed his head to admit fault, kneeling on one knee as he said, "I dare not, my lady. I only wish to request Miss's assistance in allowing me to leave the Shadow Guard Tower and re-enter Qiuxia Manor. To avoid wasting time confined within the Shadow Guard Tower, I humbly beg for your favor, Miss."

    Observing his sincere demeanor, South Yan pondered for a while and hesitated considerably before turning to face him.

    "This matter..."

    "If you really can make that blockhead come to his senses, I'm not opposed to helping you. I'll ask my father to assign you a new master, how about that?"

    At her words, a glint of hope flashed in Ye Qiuchen's eyes. He responded gravely, "That would be acceptable. I thank the Miss for her favor." He knew that only by leaving the shadow guard and reentering Qiusha Villa could he experience more of life, rather than dying unnoticed in the shadow guard building.

    "What's the plan you mentioned earlier?"

    Nanyan asked this, her face slightly uneasy. As a woman, discussing matters of love always brought a certain shyness.

    Ye Qiuchen smiled slightly, his gaze fixed on the young lady,

    "Doesn't the Miss know that even the most obtuse men possess a sense of possessiveness? If the fourth Miss truly wishes to awaken Seventeen’s feelings, just let me accompany you in staging a play."

    The play Ye Qiuchen referred to was not ordinary acting. No man can remain calm seeing the woman he likes being attentive to another man, not even someone as slow and stubborn as Seventeen.

    Nanyan agreed naturally.

    She thought that this man was indeed smarter than Seventeen. No wonder he eventually became the head of the shadow guard. His ability to read situations promised a formidable future.

    However, there was no helping that he eventually brought disaster upon the entire Qiusha Villa.

    Having formed a temporary alliance and noticing it was getting late, Ye Qiuchen found a small farmhouse nearby for them to spend the night. It was safer than traveling at night or staying in an inn, which could expose them.

    With assassins still tracking them in the city, staying at a farmhouse was the safest option.

    Nanyan finally had the chance to change her clothes. Ye Qiuchen took care of their needs, paying the farmhouse couple and arranging for their stay. The next morning, they ate a simple breakfast together, not minding the humble fare in their rural surroundings.

    Especially during the meal, Nanyan followed Ye Qiuchen's plan, showing him extra care by serving him a generous helping of vegetables, smilingly saying, "Here, Ye Qiuchen, eat more. We're lucky to have you, or we would have had to sleep outdoors again last night."

    Ye Qiuchen accepted the gesture graciously, showing no resistance on his face, respectfully saying, "I am grateful for the Miss's kindness."

    Meanwhile, Seventeen was feeling frustrated.

    He watched the abundance of vegetables in Ye Qiuchen's bowl and then looked at his own empty one. His gaze involuntarily fell on Nanyan, especially observing the back-and-forth between the two, which made him feel even more stifled. His meal suddenly seemed tasteless.

    Seventeen suddenly felt a sourness in his chest.

    Acid reflux kept rising up.

    He pursed his lips and unconsciously clenched his chopsticks, subtly pushing his bowl forward, hoping she would notice his empty dish...

    But Nanyan didn't look at him. She smiled with pursed lips, took another bunch of vegetables for Ye Qiuchen, and even winked at him, "Here, Qiuchen, eat more. I was wrong yesterday, I misunderstood you. I'm really sorry. You weren’t hurt, were you?"

    Listening to her tone,

    Ye Qiuchen felt a bit awkward too.

    Especially feeling the piercing gaze from across the table, as if it could burn through him, he was somewhat worried that Seventeen might stab him in the back.

    "I'm fine, thank you for your concern..."

    Before he could finish, Seventeen couldn't bear it anymore. He put down his bowl abruptly, causing a soft clatter that interrupted their conversation.

    Both looked up. Seventeen, without making eye contact, placed down his chopsticks and muttered, "I have had enough. I’ll go scout the road ahead."

    His voice was raspy, with a hint of nasal congestion.

    It was clear that he was upset.

    He feared if he stayed longer, he might not resist the urge to drag Ye Qiuchen out for another beating. Before Ye Qiuchen arrived, the Miss had only smiled and been kind to him. What was happening now?

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