"You're putting me in a predicament, Jinkai," the Emperor mused as he settled the teacup onto the tray held by a servant beside him. His cunning eyes shone with mirth as he watched Li Wenmin guide the young woman back into the tent.
The Empress hid her frown behind her fan. "She's stunning, isn't she? Like the first flower of Spring." She had hoped Wen Jinkai would glance at the Second Princess, but he acted like she was air.
What was wrong with him? The Second Princess was obviously more beautiful than Xueyue in every way possible. She was skilled in everything suitable for a young woman of her position, whether it was painting, guqin , singing, or dancing, she was perfect in every way.
The Second Princess was a kind-hearted woman whose kindness never allowed her to harm others. She was a gentle soul and an ideal wife in every man's eyes, but the only person she has ever set her eyes on acted like she didn't exist.
"She's not compatible with you, my dear child," the Empress said, her eyes lingering on the Li family tent. "Her origin is unknown–"
"I don't care," Wen Jinkai snarled, the first time he raised his voice towards her. Her eyes widened in disbelief.
"You can't be unreasonable."
"I can." Wen Jinkai coldly smiled. "I only want her. No one else."
The Empress's heart dropped to the pit of her stomach. She was in too much disbelief to fathom his bluntness. Her eyes instantly snapped to the Second Princess who sunk in her chair, her eyes focusing on the petal in her tea.
"I believe the Commander has spoken." The Emperor chuckled, the sound rich and vibrant. He snuck a glance at his fourth son. "What shall be done with her?" he leaned his chin on a propped up arm, his eyes twinkling with deceitful mischief.
The Emperor decided to tease the Commander with a cheerful smile. "She has captured the attention of two suitors. A Commander and a Prince. She is a disturbance that will disrupt the peaceful life of the royal court. Such a woman is better off dead than alive," he said nonchalantly, as if talking about the good weather today.
Wen Jinkai calmly settled his gaze on the Li family tent, a nonchalant expression on his face. "Go ahead." He shrugged.
The Emperor raised a brow.
"But I must warn you, Emperor." Wen Jinkai slowly cast his murderous gaze on the Emperor. His expression was so piercing and chilly, everyone involuntarily shivered. Goosebumps rose when he revealed a cold smile. "Your dynasty will end the same day her head rolls."
"Audacious!" the Fourth Prince snarled, standing up so quickly, his chair toppled to the ground. He pointed a finger at the Commander, "You dare threaten…" He couldn't utter a single more word when Wen Jinkai snapped his venomous stare towards him.
Wang Longhe felt his life flash before his eyes as the air around him became suffocating. This man… he was serious. He… he would really kill the Emperor for a woman!
"My boy, do you realize the meaning of your words?!" the Empress cried out, her eyes snapping towards her husband. "He doesn't mean it, my lord husband, he doesn't–"
"He does." The Emperor's smile widened, his eyes flashing with unsaid emotions. Slowly, but surely, he began to clap his hands. "Good! Good!" he chuckled, shaking his head in disbelief.
"You never fail to amuse me!" the Emperor heartily replied, beckoning a Eunuch over. "Reward the Commander for his bravery."
"I already have enough gold, silk, pearls, and other gifts to last me for generations to come. I only want one thing," Wen Jinkai softly snarled.
"You can't have her," the Emperor deadpanned.
Wen Jinkai's eyes snapped to the Emperor. The fury in his eyes was enough to burn the entire world to the ground. No one can stand in his way. If the Commander wants something, he shall get it. In every means possible, even if the world had to pay for his mistakes.
"She's mine," Wang Longhe snapped, glowering at Wen Jinkai. "You think Duke Li will give her to you? A man who is not even considered an heir!"
"Sit down, Fourth Prince. You're causing a ruckus," the Empress harshly scolded, her disapproving eyes snapping to Imperial Consort Gu Feiying. The message was clear: Control your son before I do.
Wang Longhe scowled as he sat down, earning a harsh pinch from his mother. Not a second later, he stood up again and attempted to approach the Emperor. "Father, you told me–"
"I merely said Li Xueyue didn't have any fiancé," the Emperor calmly responded. "I didn't promise her to you."
"She's the daughter of an outstanding aristocrat," the Emperor leisurely said, leaning back in his chair, even though he had a fuming Commander beside him. A Commander that would watch this world burn without blinking.
Imperial Consort Gu Feiying's eyes flashed. The real question was, which aristocrat?
"Her father works for us." Wang Longhe frowned. "Surely, Duke Li Shenyang would not disobey an Imperial Decree?"
An uncomfortable silence fell over the Imperial Family. They all knew the Duke would burn that paper to the ground and slaughter the messenger – that is, if Wen Jinkai didn't brutally kill the messenger with his own hands first.
"You saw it for yourself. She does not want to be married off at a young age," the Empress finally spoke up, sighing in disappointment. "A girl like that is not destined to be a housewife."
"She would make a miserable one too," Consort Gu Feiying piqued, fanning herself while she yanked her son back to his chair. "With her lack of skills, how could she possibly entertain guests?"
"That's rich coming from you," Wen Jinkai lazily commented, watching as Imperial Consort Gu's face turned bright red. He sneered in disgust and glanced away.
"Enough." The Emperor sighed. "Someone has to put a collar on that courageous attitude of yours, Commander."
"Perhaps a wife will teach you to be soft," the Empress said, glancing at the Second Princess, Weichun. "Someone with a gentle soul and a loving heart."
"That's incest," Wen Jinkai breezily said, turning towards the Empress with a cunning smile. "You raised me as your own, so I consider whatever Princess you're referring to like my sister."
"I–" The Empress was at a loss for words as she urgently turned to her husband.
"If you truly want the girl," the Emperor began, his eyes bouncing from one son to the other. One was biological, the other was not. Unfortunately for the former, the latter mattered to him more than a whining Prince.
To him, the Fourth Prince was a white tiger roaming the ground, whereas the Commander was a golden dragon ruling over the skies. Neither could cross paths, but both were lethal in their own right.
"You're going to have to capture her yourself."
Wang Longhe scowled, "That is no easy feat."
"Gladly," Wen Jinkai coldly responded before leaving as swiftly as he came.
The Empress panicked as she turned to her husband. "You can't possibly let our Jinkai marry that girl, my lord husband."
"My beloved Empress, you understand him more than I do." The Emperor tiredly sighed. "Once his eyes are set on a conquest, he will stop at nothing to succeed."
He grimly said, "No one can ever tame him."
"Not even a royal order?"
"Especially not that." The Emperor sighed. "But a wife can."
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"What do you mean? He's not the type of man who obeys his wife's every whim."
"Perhaps not," the Emperor vaguely replied as an image flashed to his mind. There was a reason why the Commander had grabbed Xueyue in public, for everyone to witness. He was placing a possessive claim on her. Shall anyone touch her, they'll be missing a limb very soon.
The Emperor knew better than everyone here that even if Xueyue was promised to another, the Commander will forcibly take her. He would utilize every means to have her, even if it was morally questionable.
"He's infatuated with her." The Empress frowned. "Infatuations do not last." She softly sighed. The Second Princess placed a comforting hand over her mother's. The Empress was referring to her relationship with the Emperor.
"We better hope it's more than an infatuation." The Emperor hummed. "If we want to control the dragon, we have to control the thing closest to his heart."
And it was then realization dawned onto the Empress like a violent wave washing over a rock. If they wanted to control the Commander, they had to control Xueyue.
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