'Don't say anymore,' An An said and inhaled deeply. 'Li Mu just tell me if you're willing to stay for me. Yes or no? Don't let me have to marry Gu Yang.'
Li Mu hung his head, his hands were empty and there were no signs of his usual calm and collected self. It was like someone possessed him and his beautiful eyes that were identical to his mother were no longer recognisable to An An. Li Mu, he was supposed to be her prince charming. That was why she resented Liang Xing. She knew her jealously of Liang Xing made her appear ugly, but she didn't want to acknowledge that she was a nuisance in contrast to Princess Liang Xing.
'Li Mu, answer me,' she said in a harsh tone that felt like it came from a faraway place.
Li Mu sighed reluctantly, stood up straight in front of An An and looked straight at her.
'An An, you can't always have it your way forever. Having others giving into you all the time will rot you, and you'll end up taking the love others reserve for you for granted. Gu Yang is no exception. No matter how much Gu Yang loves you, there's a limit to his love. What guy can put up with a girl that enjoys messing around with their feelings for twenty years?' Li Mu said.
Li Mu stroked her face. 'Be sensible and live a happy life with Gu Yang.'
She shoved Li Mu's hand away. He was startled then immediately smile and held her face tightly between his palms.
'An An is that the real you? That was the first time you've fought back with me,' Li Mu said.
Li Mu's tone was filled with both gentleness and regret. It made her heart ache, she sat on the floor, braced her head and tears uncontrollably streaked down.
'Bao Bao!' Li Mu said and sat on the floor beside her and stroked her hair.
'I know your heart too well... from the past to present, hasn't it been tiring enough for you to pretend to be someone you're not when you're with me? You act natural when you're with Gu Yang. With me, you act elegant, never curse, never drink, lady-like, never open your mouth too wide to eat, never laugh freely... I've known all along. The truth is I like the real you when you're with Gu Yang. You're like sunshine with Gu Yang. I wanted you to be your sunny self the way you are with Gu Yang. But I have no way to make it happen... the moment you see me you change into a different person. There were times I wanted to tell you, but seeing the trouble you go through to maintain your facade I can only let you be. It's been too many years that we've known each other and both sides can see what's real. Go to Gu Yang... stop torturing yourself to exhaustion in front of me, go to Gu Yang to be happy and free,' Li Mu said.
She couldn't believe Li Mu was able to maintain a smile whilst telling her to be with Gu Yang. She couldn't see the expression on his face, but she heard the struggle and tightness in his laugh.
'There were times when I questioned why it turned out this way,' she said. 'It's obvious I like you and you clearly like me from the bottom of your heart. Then why hasn't it been easy for us to be together without forcing things? Is it not strange... how things unfolded?'
No matter how beautiful an ideal love was it couldn't compare to the real love shared throughout many years. How could two rivals like her and Gu Yang love each other? She'd realised Li Mu saw straight through her since the beginning and it was one of the reasons lately Li Mu had been travelling restlessly everywhere like a bird without a nest.
'Li Mu, you don't have to leave anymore,' she said. More tears burst out but she kept her voice steady. 'Li Mu... I'm truly sorry. I should have been straight forward with you long ago.'
'You dummy,' Li Mu said and smiled. 'I've been busy with work, not running away from you. The truth is I love hearing your voice and that's the real reason I fly home often... to see you. Bao Bao, we grew up together. We can't become husband and wife but we can be close friends. Is that possible?'
'Don't cry anymore,' Li Mu said.
She didn't care if her face was a beastly mess, she hid her face in Li Mu's chest.
'For your sake, stop crying,' Li Mu said and wiped the tears off her face. 'Bao Bao don't cry. Tell me want you want me to do for you to stop crying. If you truly don't want to marry Gu Yang... I'll help you! But you need to think carefully. Your human life span is about one hundred years. You and Gu Yang have already wasted a chunk of your lives.'
'Li Mu, you don't need to care!' she said and punched him.
Li Mu smiled and hugged her tighter and his chin rested on the top of her head. 'No matter what, Bao Bao, you're so lovable. How can that trouble maker Gu Yang not want you?'
She stopped crying and smiled. Then she heard a cold voice behind her back.
'Why wouldn't I want her?' Gu Yang asked.
Gu Yang wore a black shirt, his tie was loose and he looked impatient. 'Don't act like you're such a generous guy and willing to give her to me out of charity.'
Li Mu pulled her up to sit on the bed and he continued packing items into his suitcase. 'Is that what you think? If you don't need her, I don't mind bringing her with me.'
'Dream on!' Gu Yang said coldly.
Gu Yang steped toward her without saying anything else, pulled her into his arms and forced her to leave the room with him.
These two men... she wasn't happy to comply and struggled with Gu Yang's hold on her. 'Let me go! I can walk on my own.'
'Do you really want me to let you go?' Gu Yang said coldly as if he was ready to toss her on the floor if she gave him an answer he didn't want.
She uncurled her fisted hands that was about to punch Gu Yang, hesitantly looked at him and wrapped her arms around his neck. That way she could see Li Mu over Gu Yang's shoulder. Li Mu's back faced her but it looked like Li Mu was doing his best to concentrate on packing.
'Don't look, Li Mu can't spend all his days chasing you. Don't you think you've badgered Li Mu enough? Then you had to go find him to confess and made me lose all my dignity too,' Gu Yang said coldly.
She lost her temper. 'Li Mu said in front of him I'm not free to be myself like when I'm with you! Li Mu also said he likes me and that I'm lovable. Didn't you hear him? Or you didn't get to hear everything he said?'
She scratched Gu Yang, pinched him and punched him consecutively. Her heart resented Gu Yang, she resented him for not saying anything clearly. There was also adrenaline and happiness in her heart.
Gu Yang bent his head down and looked at her. His expression was a little different than usual and he got her to sit in his car.
'I heard,' Gu Yang said. 'But what he said was wrong.'
She glared at him. He ignored her and buckled her seat beat. Then he lifted her chin. 'Li Mu said no matter how much I love you, there's a limit to my love. What guy can put up with a girl that enjoys messing around with their feelings for twenty years... Li Mu was wrong.'
There was a stream of sunlight behind Gu Yang but it was outshone by the sunlight in his eyes.
'Chen An An, even if you mess around with my feelings for another twenty years, I'll still love you,' Gu Yang said.
End of Chapter Nine.
Gamble On Love completed.