315 Swear Secrecy
"Did you find him?" Lu Tianbi urgently asked when Hu Dengxiao rushed back to her. They stood outside of the Crown Prince's private study which remained locked.
Since the Commander didn't return after storming out last night, the two thought it was best to finally call it quits. They remembered to lock the private study when they left.
They had retired late into their bedrooms and woken up early as always. Usually, Yu Zhen's insomnia would keep him up for a while, and he was always the first to rise amongst them.
"No, I didn't," Hu Dengxiao breathed out. He was breathless after searching for the missing Prince in the entire palace.
Lu Tianbi let out a disapproving sigh. She had predicted the outcome would be this unfavorable. She rested her forehead on her palm.
"That only means one thing," she stated. "The Crown Prince had spent the night with the Princess."
Hu Dengxiao nodded. "This will create problems for the Princess if she's caught with him. Our Crown Prince will never be slandered, but she will be—even if they're going to get married soon."
Lu Tianbi pressed her lips together. She began to count on her fingers. "So far, you and I know where he went last night. As well as the guards stationed at her door. Lastly, Wu Xiang."
She scowled. There were at least five or six people who were aware of this issue. It wasn't a lot, but might still pose a problem. Wu Xiang was a sneaky man. He knew how to use secrets like this to his advantage. Would he dare to betray his good friends? Only time would tell.
"We'll have to make sure the guards will swear secrecy," Lu Tianbi declared.
"If they speak a word about last night," a voice said from the middle of the hallway. "I will cut off their tongue and behead their entire family."
Lu Tianbi was startled by the threatening voice from behind her. She swiveled around, knowing exactly who it was. Only one person in the palace was sinister enough to say that without flinching.
Relief flooded her at the sight of him, only for it to be replaced with frustration and fear. The wind coursed through the open hallway, picking up the loose fabrics of their clothes. His black and silver clothes swayed along with the breeze, like a grim reaper collecting promised souls.
"Did anyone see you, Your Highness?" Lu Tianbi whispered when he stopped before them. Sunlight seeped around the pillars, making his silver embroidery shine with an ethereal glow. Sometimes she forgot how much the Heavens favored this man.
"I left through the window. No one saw me," Yu Zhen responded.
"You scared us to death, Zhenzhen," Hu Dengxiao said. "When I couldn't find you, I thought you eloped with the Princess."
Yu Zhen raised a brow. "There goes my plan."
Hu Dengxiao let out a sharp, dramatic gasp. He placed a hand upon his heart. "I will pretend that I did not hear that, Zhenzhen!" he exasperated.
Lu Tianbi rolled her eyes at his antics. It was still early in the morning and he was already fooling around. She slapped him above the head and forced him to be quiet.
"We were unlucky," Lu Tianbi stated. She glanced around and frowned a bit. "Word has gotten out that Princess Li Xueyue has arrived in the Palace. Moreover, the state of her arrival is shrouded in mystery. Before the rumors become tainted with lies, we have to address it."
Yu Zhen's mood worsened. A storm cloud rolled over his features.
When were rumors ever truthful?
"I'll have the servants who bathed and dressed her beheaded," he growled.
Lu Tianbi opened her mouth to object, but closed it. They need to set an example on the servants, to never gossip. The beheading would undoubtedly happen in the servants' quarters.
Despite the Princess's arrival, the Crown Prince was still as heartless as ever.
She decided to change the topic. This one was too dreary for the early morning. "Where is the Princess as we speak? She shouldn't wander around. This territory is unfamiliar to her, Your Highness."
"Getting dressed," Yu Zhen vaguely stated.
"What?!" Lu Tianbi shrieked.
"That fast?!" Hu Dengxiao laughed. Was that why the Commander ran out yesterday? To seal the deal?
Lu Tianbi angrily kicked the Advisor. It was his duty to maintain the Crown Prince's reputation. Not taint it!
"Commander," she exasperated. "Please tell me you didn't—" She stopped herself when he quirked a brow. It was almost like he was saying, 'Are you really doubting my courtesy?'
Lu Tianbi let out a sigh of relief. She felt like a decade was shaved off of her life. Thank goodness he hadn't deflowered the Princess on the day of her arrival.
"Since she arrived earlier than planned, we'll have to adjust the wedding date," Lu Tianbi said.
"The earlier the better," Yu Zhen stated. He saw the disagreement flash in her eyes. He shot her a dark glower.
"Tiantian," Hu Dengxiao spoke up. "The Crown Prince is right. The Princess was supposed to get married to him the day after her arrival. The sooner we seal this alliance through marriage, the safer Hanjian will feel."
Lu Tianbi reluctantly nodded her head. "You're right, but the Princess's carriage was ransacked. I'm sure the ceremonial dress was stolen."
Yu Zhen pulled out a slip of paper and handed it to her. "Have the tailors prepare the dress by tomorrow morning."
Lu Tianbi glanced down at the folded parchment. Her lips went dry. The poor tailors. "Right away, Your Highness," she muttered before heading off.
Yu Zhen grabbed her sleeves when she passed by him. He noticed Hu Dengxiao's eyes darkened possessively.
Yu Zhen nearly shook his head. These two were writing a love story of their own. "Before you run errands," he said and glanced at Hu Dengxiao. "Have the two of you eaten breakfast?"
Lu Tianbi smiled at his words. He was always vague with his affection. It was through small actions like this that reminded her of his concerns for his people.
"Of course," she responded whilst jabbing her thumb over his shoulders. "You think that father of mine will let me out of the house without a meal?"
Hu Dengxiao gaped at her words. "I am not your father!"
"You nag like one," Lu Tianbi retorted.
Yu Zhen's lips twitched at their petty remarks. "Good," he stated whilst releasing her.
Hu Dengxiao yet again glanced at the Crown Prince's hand. He dropped his head and pouted. 'If only I could easily grab Tiantian like that…'
"Your Highness, what about the Princess?" Lu Tianbi asked. "Did she have her morning meal?"
At the mention of Xueyue, Yu Zhen's expression dimmed. If there was one thing he had noticed about her, it was how much weight she had lost. Her full cheeks were sunken. She weighed less than a feather. When he held her waist, he was also checking her body. She was bone-thin. Nothing like a well-fed hamster.
"The chefs are currently preparing as many nutritious dishes as possible," Yu Zhen stated in an aloof tone.
Lu Tianbi slowly nodded. She was also concerned for the Princess. She had remembered how thin Xueyue looked the night she was brought in.
"Are you going to join her for the meal, Your Highness?" Lu Tianbi asked.
Yu Zhen wordlessly nodded. He needed to make sure she was taking care of herself. Heaven knows she doesn't.
Lu Tianbi pressed her lips together. "You'll have to sneak around again, Your Highness. I know it's frustrating, but please bear with it a little longer—"
"Gather all of the Ministers and aristocrats the day after tomorrow," Yu Zhen stated in a hard voice. It was time to announce Xueyue's presence to them, whether he liked it or not.