Hu Dengxiao held back a sharp gasp when the ink grinder was slammed onto the ground. The force was so hard that the hard wooden floor cracked and dented. He gulped, thankful that it had missed him, though he doubted the Crown Prince was aiming for him.
"What are you waiting for?" Yu Zhen snarled in a low, ferocious voice.
Hu Dengxiao hesitantly raised his head. Never had his heart plummeted so fast.
The Crown Prince had reached the peak of madness that he was calm. Seeing the silent storm brewing in the Crown Prince's eyes was more terrifying than a violent outburst. At least for the latter, the chaos would be predictable.
"Send out our soldiers. I want the entire country combed," Yu Zhen seethed as he rose to his feet.
Hu Dengxiao gulped upon seeing Yu Zhen's jaw tick from being clenched.
Yu Zhen's fingers curled into a fist so tight, thick chords formed on his muscular forearm.
He would have the bandits hanged. No. He would take his sweet time torturing them before their wives and children. Only when he deemed their pleas were desperate enough, would he finish the bandits off.
No one would go unscathed. Not until his Wangfei was found well and alive. Even then, he would not spare any mercy.
- - - - -
Lu Tianbi let out a shaky breath as she slowly pushed the doors open after a prolonged period of silence. But the second she did so, she slapped a hand over her mouth in shock.
Yu Zhen's eyes… She had never seen eyes that look so ferocious and cutthroat. A dark aura loomed over the Commander's large figure. A violent death would be the most merciful act he could grant in this state. In fact, the room was so wide that she'd have to squint to see the end of it.
Yet, his presence was so overwhelming, it filled up every nook and cranny of the room. The atmosphere was thick and suffocating.
"Your Highness…" she trailed off in an awkward address.
At this point, a rage-fueled destruction would be better than his silent-rage.
What was his next move? Would he order the brutal slaughter of each and everyone that breathed the wrong way? Would he work the soldiers to their deaths to find the Princess? Would he put down the Crown in exchange of his armor to search for the missing Princess?
Or would he have the entire forest burned to ashes? It was a crazy idea, but Yu Zhen was a crazy man.
This was what was so terrifying about that the eerie tranquility.
"What is the progress?" he questioned in an eerily calm voice.
No one knew what his next move would be. No one understood how drastic or underwhelming his next course of action would be. No one could predict what went on inside of the Commander's head. And quite frankly, everyone was too terrified to know.
"We've already sent out the soldiers," Lu Tianbi reported. "As we speak, they're searching the kingdom far and wide. But the thing is…" Her eyes latched onto the closed window of the private study.
Lu Tianbi bit her bottom lip. The Crown Prince had spent his entire night and morning in this room.
A day had already passed since the carriages were discovered. But with the windows tightly closed to prevent any disturbances, the Crown Prince didn't realize the tormenting weather outside.
"Go on," Yu Zhen demanded.
Lu Tianbi wished she could do more than this. She knew how much Yu Zhen looked forward to seeing the Princess, but now, everything was ruined.
"The carriages were discovered yesterday morning. It… started to rain yesterday afternoon. The rain hasn't stopped even as we speak."
Lu Tianbi held her breath, but nothing prepared her for the loud crash of the table. She let out a yelp whilst watching in sheer horror as the work desk, which weighed more than a horse, was flipped to the ground.
"Your Highness," Lu Tianbi whispered in a quiet voice. "Such violence will not bring the Princess any—"
"A whole night," Yu Zhen calmly muttered. His eyes grew wide with sheer fury. "A whole night out in the forest? With no food? No shelter? And rain beating down on her?"
Lu Tianbi could only hang her head in shame. "D-despite that, we've still sent out soldiers to search for her, whether it was rain or shine, they're working hard. There is nothing that we can do but wait and—"
Her eyes grew wide when he stormed towards her. But she didn't flinch or cower back, for the Commander never raised his hand to women. Especially the ones he cared for.
She thought he would stop in front of her and seethe out a quiet command, but he didn't.
He did something that terrified her even more than his apparent rage.
He stormed out of the private study. His footsteps were loud and purposeful. Quiet, yet deadly, he was set on a mission.
"Your Highness!" Lu Tianbi exasperated as she ran to the door, only to see he was already far down the hallway.
"Where are you going?! There's going to be a thunderstorm soon, if you go out right now—"
It was too late. Yu Zhen had already turned the corner.
Lu Tianbi let out a frustrated scream. She angrily turned to Hu Dengxiao. "Are you just going to kneel there?!"
"Why did you tell him half the truth?" Hu Dengxiao retorted. He rose to his feet and staggered to her like a man who was half alive and half dead.
"Tiantian, have you lost your mind?!" Hu Dengxiao cried out, as he shook her shoulders in anxiety.
"You make it sound like I comforted him with a lie or something. Besides, the Commander could've turned this entire palace upside down—"
He shook his head in disagreement. "You must hurt him with the truth. Our Commander accepts no less than that."
Lu Tianbi hugged her shoulders. "What are you even talking about? Look, it was not half the truth, it was the entire truth. I didn't lie to our Commander, and I'd never do so—"
"You lied by telling him the soldiers are still searching as we speak. The rain outside is so heavy and ruthless that no one can even see beyond their outstretched hands. Even with the helmet's eye guard, it would still be difficult to navigate the forest!"
Lu Tianbi's lips parted. What? "I know the rain is horrible right now, but that doesn't mean the soldiers will give up on their task. They know my words are absolute."
"Which ones did you send out?" Hu Dengxiao asked.
"The best seekers and trackers are out—"
"From the Silent River Squadron?"
Lu Tianbi cursed under her breath. The Silent River Squadron was a hidden force of men personally trained by the Crown Prince himself. They were beyond the cream of the crop. No words would be able to describe how powerful they were. No one knew of their identities, except for the trio themselves.
But even to this day, Lu Tianbi had rarely seen them immobilized for something. At most, they protected the Crown Prince, and those he deemed valuable. But usually, the Silent River Squadron blended into the crowd like a regular soldier.
"N-not them…" Lu Tianbi trailed off.
"Then we're in deeper trouble," Hu Dengxiao deadpanned.
Lu Tianbi sullenly nodded. She knew she had made a horrible mistake when Hu Dengxiao took the role of being the responsible one.
Seeing him so serious and stoic only meant she had dug a deeper grave for everyone.
"We must call our Crown Prince back. It is a dangerous mission for him to search for her," Hu Dengxiao bit out.
Lu Tianbi was interrupted by the gush of air that went past her. She blinked and Hu Dengxiao was gone. She lifted her head to see he was making a mad dash down the hallways in hopes of catching up to their Commander
Lu Tianbi could do nothing but stood in a daze. That was until a roaring thunder rumbled the skies. She ran deeper into Yu Zhen's private study and flung the windows open.
Her face paled as the strong wind blew rain into the room. She sank to her knees in utter fear. A storm this horrendous, and her Commander was rushing out? In nothing but his indoor robes and his horse?
She let out a shaky gasp.
"No…" she whispered.
Lu Tianbi had greatly underestimated the severity of this mission.
"This can't be..." Lu Tianbi whispered whilst covering her mouth. The rain that entered the room through the window pricked her skin like thousands of needles.
Searching for the Princess in this storm wasn't just dangerous. It was a suicide mission.
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