The Imperial Physician raised his head. It was a single word, but it weighed so heavy on his heart. "Your Highness, this woman—"
Yu Zhen's features darkened. "My Wangfei."
The Imperial Physician readily nodded and opened his mouth but then paused. What? The Crown Prince's Wangfei? As in… the Crown Princess of Hanjian?
His half-closed eyes widened a fraction. This woman was the Emperor of Wuyi's daughter?! How did she end up in such a horrific state?
When a dark aura loomed over him, the Imperial Physician quickly cleared his throat. The Crown Prince's presence was bloodthirsty. He felt like the Crown Prince could reach for his throat at any moment.
The Imperial Physician struggled to speak with the overwhelming pressure placed on him. He bowed his head.
"My apologies, Your Highness," he stated. "It is with deepest regret that I inform you that the Princess of Wuyi is hanging on by a thread."
A long pause ensued.
No one spoke. No one moved.
Finally, the shuffle of clothes could be heard. Lu Tianbi had stepped forward. This was unfortunate news, but it was better than what she had initially anticipated. So long as she wasn't dead… wasn't this still great news?
"Will she heal?" Lu Tianbi spoke up.
Her eyes wandered towards Yu Zhen whose face was turned from her. She didn't need to see his expression to know what he was feeling inside. A somber shadow was looming over his broad figure. His fingers were tightly clenched into a fist. His jaw ticked.
"With proper care, I dare say it is possible, Lady Lu," the Imperial Physician said. "Her pulse is very faint right now, but there is still a beat."
The Imperial Physician's attention shifted to the pale woman on the bed. "The first step is to get her a change of clothes and then warm her up gradually."
Lu Tianbi let out a shaky sigh of relief. She slowly approached the bed, but kept her gaze on the silent Yu Zhen. He hadn't said anything for a while now. It was expected of him to behave this way, but she thought he'd at least show some reaction.
"Do not give her a warm bath for the sudden change in temperature would shock her system. Place something warm near her stomach, underneath her arms, and even her neck to restore heat to her body slowly," he added on.
The Imperial Physician's gaze wandered to the Crown Prince. It was then that he realized the Crown Prince's eyes never left the woman and he had been watching her all these while.
His brows were furrowed together. Each time she drew in a slow, shallow breath, the Crown Prince's gaze would widen a bit. It was almost as if he was anticipating for her eyes to open anytime.
"The Princess should be regaining her consciousness within the night, or around tomorrow morning, Lady Lu," the Imperial Physician stated to Lu Tianbi. "If not, please call for me immediately. I can always be found within the palace."
"And the medicine?" Yu Zhen demanded.
"As of now, Your Highness, I will not prescribe any. It's dangerous to feed her when unconscious."
"Thank you, Doctor," Lu Tianbi replied. She jolted when Yu Zhen brushed past her, but he didn't even cast her a glance. His attention had always been on the Princess.
"That will be all," she added on. "You're excused."
The Imperial Physician nodded his head and bowed before her before turning to the Crown Prince. He dipped deeply. Then, he quietly left the room.
"Your Highness," Lu Tianbi addressed. "There was a hot bath that was drawn for the Princess. Since the doctor advised against it, perhaps you could use it instead. You're shivering."
Lu Tianbi frowned when he ignored her. The Commander reached a hand out and gently pushed the wet hair away from the Princess's forehead.
Lu Tianbi did her best to not reprimand him. The bed of the Crown Prince was held in high regard for it was blessed by the Monks of the High Temples. Whoever slept upon it was supposed to be blessed and prosperous for generations to come. It was a tradition in Hanjian that the bed of the Crown Prince was blessed.
And for the Commander to soil it with water and dirt… She had no words for the offense.
"Your Highness," she called out. Her eyes grew wide when he abruptly flung the blankets off of the Princess.
"Wait!" she gasped when he began to take off the first layer of wet clothes. She rushed forward and grabbed his wrist.
"I know the Imperial Physician advised to change her into dry clothes, but please let the maidservants handle it," Lu Tianbi murmured.
Yu Zhen finally steered his somber gaze away from Xueyue to Lu Tianbi. "I'm looking for wounds," he grunted.
"O-oh," Lu Tianbi murmured. 'How silly of me,' she thought to herself. The Crown Prince had more decency than to just strip Princess Li like that. She sighed in relief again.
"How are you feeling, Commander?" Lu Tianbi asked in a quiet voice.
"Don't whisper around me," Hu Dengxiao spoke up as he approached the two of them. He was barely near the bed when the Commander abruptly stood up.
Hu Dengxiao let out a quiet shriek, thinking the Commander was going to hit him.
Lu Tianbi bit her bottom lip in response. She knew why Yu Zhen did what he did. It was one of the rare moments she had ever seen him react so possessively. Up until now, he had never shown such an emotion over someone.
"Even if you're checking for wounds," she stated. "It's best to leave it to the maidservants. If they notice anything amiss, they'll report it to you."
Yu Zhen's attention didn't remain on Lu Tianbi for too long. He was distracted by Xueyue. Xueyue didn't have to do anything, and his gaze still would be stuck onto her. He would never bring himself to admit it, but he had never felt so much relief in one night.
Li Xueyue was alive. She was unwell, but alive, with a pulse. That was all that mattered.
He clenched his fingers to prevent it from trembling. Despite hearing hopeful news of her current state, he was still terrified. And worried. These unfamiliar emotions were so rarely felt that he didn't understand it at first.
"Will she sleep in this room?" Lu Tianbi asked him in a skeptical voice. She hoped not. Tongues would start wagging.
"I want to," Yu Zhen muttered. "But for her sake, I won't."
Lu Tianbi's lips quipped into a smile. "Very well, Your Highness," she responded with a slight chirp in her voice.
Lu Tianbi was delighted that he would maintain the Princess's reputation. It was already bad that she hadn't arrived in a carriage.
Of course, the soldiers who were sent out to search for her had all sworn to secrecy. But it would be better if the Princess wasn't rumored to have already spent the night with the Crown Prince—even if they were going to be married soon.
"Before she wakes up, Your Highness," Lu Tianbi stated. "We will need to formulate a plan to introduce her to the country and palace courts."
"I'd like more time with her alone first."
Lu Tianbi rapidly blinked. "What do you mean by that, Commander?" She bit her tongue upon realizing the slip of tongue. But Yu Zhen ignored it.
"You should know, Tiantian," Hu Dengxiao spoke up. He tried his best to not pout from their neglect. "Once the Crown Princess is introduced, she will have to work very hard, especially because she's a citizen of Wuyi, not Hanjian."
"But the Princess doesn't have any competitors," Lu Tianbi slowly said. "Of course, not officially, since the Crown Prince hasn't taken interest in any other woman."
Hu Dengxiao nodded in agreement. "Of course not, but you should already know, not many—"
"Yeah, yeah," Lu Tianbi retorted. "I'm a woman as well. I know of the gossip."
She was a bit startled upon feeling the sudden dip in temperature. Yu Zhen was far from pleased.
"Get rid of the gossipers," he instructed.
"We wish we could, Your Highness," Lu Tianbi responded. "But it would be horrible for your reign and reputation if you murdered everyone who gossipped about the Crown Princess."
"I don't care," Yu Zhen deadpanned.
"But we do, Your Highness," Lu Tianbi argued. "Your regime matters to us all. We'd never want your name to be tainted—"
"It already is."
Lu Tianbi held back the urge to glare at him. Stubborn as always. "Let's speak about this after the Crown Princess has woken up, Your Highness. But it's best to introduce her to the courts as soon as possible. If it's discovered that she didn't get acquainted with others, despite residing here for a while, it won't do her any good."
Yu Zhen ground his teeth. It was precisely why he hated this damn title. He made up his mind. Once Li Xueyue wakes up, he'd give her the option. If she doesn't want to deal with the frills of a Crown Princess, he'd gladly whisk her away.
"I know what you're thinking, Your Highness," Lu Tianbi spoke up. "But you must remember how hard your people worked to get you to this throne. Even if you do not want it, you must take it."
Her gaze softened. "The throne is right in your reach. Don't abandon it so quickly."
Yu Zhen frowned. Who said he was going to revoke his title? He would simply just not marry anyone. He'd still take the throne, just without an Empress. And for Xueyue? She could live a life of bliss outside of the Palace, where he would spend every free moment with her.
"Don't rob her of the opportunity, Your Highness," Lu Tianbi added on. "I know you very well. We grew up in this horrid palace together. I can tell… you're planning on convincing her to not burden herself with the title of a Crown Princess."
Yu Zhen���s gaze darkened in displeasure.
"Give Princess Li a chance, Your Highness," Lu Tianbi stated. "She should have the opportunity to have her name written in history."
Yu Zhen responded with a sharp turn of his back. He left the room without a word.
Lu Tianbi revealed a slight smile. "You've already made up your mind, haven't you?"
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