After the training, Xing Tanxing calmed her heart and offered Rui some refreshments. She asked the servants to prepare some snacks and tea. "Young master Rui, thank you for giving some of your time to train our manor's guards. Let me at least offer you some refreshments."
Rui didn't reject her offer and followed her in a nearest pavilion. But throughout the entire journey and even until the servants finished preparing the table, Rui didn't divert his eyes and continued looking at her intently.
Xing Tanxing didn't miss his piercing stares but she chose not to mind it. From time to time she would also look at him in return and would offer a polite but stiff smile. The awkward exchange continued until finally Xing Taxing could no longer endure. "Uhmmm… young master Rui. What is it? Did I do or said something wrong?"
"Is it true?" Rui started. Xing Tanxing knitted her eyebrows in confusion as to what Rui meant. Seeing her reaction, Rui chose to elaborate. "I heard you prefer women over men."
Xing Tanxing almost choked on her tea and coughed violently. Startled, Rui immediately went to her side and patted her back to soothe her breath. Her body went stiff from the sudden contact then she shot up from her seat to evade his touch. "*cough*I-I'm fine young master Rui. Your question just startled me." She said while giving him an awkward smile.
Rui returned to his seat and still continued watching her. Xing Tanxing knew that he would not stop until he gets his answer. She also returned to her seat and checked the distance of the servants and guards. After making sure of the perimeter, she leaned a little bit closer to Rui and answered in a very low voice. "That's what everybody knows. But I only said it to avoid political marriage."
Rui visibly relaxed after hearing her answer. Xing Tanxing's heart skipped a beat seeing his reaction and couldn't help herself from having some stupid illusions. 'Stop! Stop! Stop! He is in love with someone else. Stop dreaming!' "Why are you so curious young master Rui?"
"I heard them saying that you and Lian'er are having intimate relationship. I know it wasn't true but it could be possible in the long run if you really like women." Rui said then calmly sipped his tea.
'See! His concern is still about Lian. Stop your illusions Tanxing.' "Haha… You're being paranoid young master Rui." She replied awkwardly.
The two of them descended into silence but of two different reasons. Rui, relieved that the misunderstanding about Xing Tanxing's sexual preference have been cleared, continued thinking about Lin Xulian's request to travel alone. Xing Tanxing on the other hand is observing the silent Rui opposite her.
After a few moments, Xing Tanxing couldn't contain her curiosity anymore. "Young master Rui, is something troubling you?"
With a heavy sigh, Rui decided to share his burden to Xing Tanxing. "Lian'er wanted to continue the journey alone. She talked about this Gu clan that could completely cure her. She said it's necessary but wouldn't tell me exactly why she should do it alone."
After looking around one more time, Xing Tanxing leaned again and said in a low voice. "I don't know if this could help you but there is record only known to every imperial family. It is about the Gu clan that existed centuries ago. Then suddenly, they disappeared and the art of Gu poisons disappeared along with them. I don't know how Xing Baihe acquired it in the first place but eldest brother surely does. And there is a possibility that he told Lian. He kept it a secret to everyone, even to me. So it is reasonable if Lian refuse to tell you."
"And you are fine with that? It's basically means they don't trust us." Rui refuted.
"But I trust my brother." Xing Tanxing said in finality.
Rui remembered Lin Xulian's words because of what Xing Tanxing said. 'All I ask is for you to trust me brother.' He only sighed in defeat and confessed his real worry. "But if I let her leave alone, I'll miss my chance to develop our relationship. I need time to do it. To make her forget about that man."
Xing Tanxing felt a pang in her heart. 'So that's what he's worried about all along.' She thought while hiding the sadness in her eyes. So she steeled her heart and repeat her mantra. 'You have to forget about your feelings Tanxing! Snap out of it!'
"I don't think time is what you need young master Rui. You grew up together. I'm sure she knows how great you are. You already had more than enough time. The thing you need to change your relationship is to let her know about your real feelings. And I can tell that Lian is really dense. You have to tell her directly to let her know." Xing Tanxing advised seriously.
Rui admits that what Xing Tanxing said make sense. But it is easier said than done. If he chooses to take her advice, he needs time to build up his courage. "You surely knows a lot for an unmarried woman. But you are right. We already had eighteen years together. If I want to stop being just her brother, I have to let her know. Thank you for your advice." Rui said then smiled with full of gratitude that left her speechless.
Even after Rui left the pavilion and the tea and snacks are already gone, Xing Tanxing still stayed. She would sigh from time to time making the servants around her worried. 'You did the right thing Tanxing. Lian deserves to be happy after all the pain of rejection she felt from her husband. And Rui can give that happiness to her. It's your fault for falling for someone whose heart is already owned by someone else.' She thought to make herself feel better.