"Let's go somewhere," Yu Zhen said.
"Somewhere private…?" she hesitatingly said, ready to reject him.
They were already in a private place—her bedroom, but she wouldn't even count this personal library as part of her enormous bedroom. A large waiting room furnished with tables and chairs separated the library from the area where her bed was.
People would have to get through two doors to reach the library.
Yu Zhen raised a brow. He already knew what was running through her head. She was an open-book, but perhaps only for him.
"Did you have dirty thoughts, Sunshine?"
Li Xueyue scowled. He was the one to blame. She crossed her arms and stared up.
"Only because you always speak your words as if they have a double-meaning."
"It only has double-meaning because you think it does," he said.
"No, I don't," she argued.
"Yes, you do."
"I have all day to argue!" Li Xueyue snapped back. If she was bored enough, she'd continue this argument. She was petty and he knew it.
Yu Zhen raised a brow. "Why waste the day on arguing when we can go—"
"Yu Zhen," she warned.
"—go to the Capital," he finished.
Li Xueyue hoped her face didn't warm at his words. He had done that on purpose. She was sure of it. Especially when he smiled down at her with an amused glint in his eyes. He knew what he was doing.
Nonetheless, she was excited by his words.
"When?" she instantly asked, eager to explore the new environment.
Li Xueyue wanted to finally see a change of scenery. The palace was beautiful, but the capital must've been breathtaking.
"Right now," Yu Zhen said.
Li Xueyue perked up at his words. "Really?"
"Have I lied to you before?" he retorted.
"Really, really?" she double-checked.
"I'm beginning to think you didn't read any vocabulary books during our time apart," Yu Zhen deadpanned.
Li Xueyue smacked him on the chest, completely forgetting the rule she broke.
"I'm serious," she said.
"And so am I."
"Yu Zhen!" she exasperated, growing frustrated at his teasing.
Yu Zhen grinned. His eyes danced with mirth whilst gazing down at her. "I prefer if you scream like that in—"
"I dare you."
"—in the carriage," he finished.
"That makes no sense," she retorted.
"Neither does your dirty mind," Yu Zhen deadpanned.
"I don't have one!" Li Xueyue argued.
Li Xueyue had completely forgotten the fact that she was supposed to address him with a formal title. But that never mattered to him before. And it wouldn't start now.
Li Xueyue was pretty sure Yanxi would have high blood pressure if the elderly maidservant was present in the room. But they were in the privacy of the library. No one would dare to eavesdrop inside of here.
"Sure, you don't," he sarcastically said.
"I'm being serious here," she stated.
"And so am I."
"No, you're not," she deadpanned.
"And why do you think that?" he teased.
Li Xueyue glared up at him. Her neck was craned just so she could see his eyes. Seeing him have an advantage over her irritated her further and he knew it.
Yu Zhen cupped his ear. He lowered his head, feigning ignorance. "What was that? You're so short, I couldn't hear you."
Li Xueyue forced herself not to kick him even if she desperately wanted to. This man would be the death of her.
"Hmph, if the sky falls down, you will die first."
"The air up here is so crisp," Yu Zhen retorted.
"I hope your neck hurts from looking down so much," Li Xueyue said.
"I bet yours hurt a lot more from tilting it up," Yu Zhen snickered.
Li Xueyue shut her mouth. She refused to engage in this conversation. They'd bicker until the sun comes down. She just knew it. He was that petty. And so was she.
"Do you have plans in the Capital?" Li Xueyue asked him, deciding to change the topic. She ignored the mischievous glint in his eyes. Yu Zhen knew he had won this round.
"I will have to speak to the representatives of each class whilst doing my usual tour of the Capital to ensure everything is fine," he told her.
Li Xueyue slowly nodded her head. "Are we going to wear disguises?"
"Preferably," he stated.
It would be easier for him to walk around if no one recognized him. People were more reluctant to tell the truth in front of royalty.
Besides, he had to ensure there wasn't corruption. It wouldn't be uncommon for aristocrats to wear a mask around the Imperial Family.
"That's fine with me… Your Highness," she addressed. The title was familiar to her but foreign to her brain. She wasn't used to calling him by his proper title.
She was surprised when he stared at her with a disappointed glare.
"You already know my opinion on this," he sharply said.
Li Xueyue nervously played with her fingers. "I just thought it would be more proper—"
"Did I ever complain about this?"
"No…" she trailed off.
Yu Zhen shook his head at her. He grabbed her chin and forced her to peer up at him. She was suddenly sullen from being scolded.
"Listen to me well, Li Xueyue," he said. "You may call me any name you wish, but Your Highness."
"And what if the others frown upon it—"
"Then they won't have lips to frown tomorrow," Yu Zhen said.
"Why are you so violent?" she blurted out.
"Why aren't you violent?" he mimicked.
"Because… it's just the right thing to do."
"Says who, Sunshine?" he asked.
"Moral and ethics?"
"So, you decided to adhere to some made-up concepts?" he chastised.
Li Xueyue faltered at his words. He just loved to win arguments. And here he was, calling her stubborn a few moments ago. Why did he like to bicker with her so much? She had never seen this side of him with anyone else.
Yu Zhen revealed a dark, wicked smile before her. "No one should have the guts to insult you, and if they do, they don't need their guts."
"Yu Zhen," she stated in a stern voice.
Yu Zhen's smile widened. This time, it softened, much like his hard gaze. "Things work differently in Hanjian."
Li Xueyue begged to differ. She knew it was only him who was violent like this. And without a doubt, his words weren't threats. They were promises. She knew he was cruel enough to issue any forms of punishment.
"Shall we get you ready for a quick stroll?" Yu Zhen questioned, knowing she'd want to change the subject. He played with her face, pinching her cheeks between his fingers.
Li Xueyue nodded. "Yanxi is most likely waiting outside. She will get me dressed in no time."
"Do the servants of the palace treat you well, Sunshine?" he asked.
Li Xueyue noticed there was an edge to his voice. As if he was going to hurt someone.
"They're nice but as quiet as the ones back home," she said.
Li Xueyue disagreed with that statement. She wished they spoke to her more. Maybe then, she wouldn't be so lonely.
Yu Zhen observed her features. She was smiling, but her eyes were lonely. "Shall I have a younger handmaiden to serve you alongside Yanxi? One that's your age and more bubbly?"
Li Xueyue was pretty sure she had enough servants. Aside from Yanxi, there was always a small handful of familiar-looking but silent maidservants trailing behind the middle-aged woman.
"That would be preferred," she said.
Yu Zhen was glad to hear her request. She rarely wanted something from him.
"Wouldn't that be too much of a hassle, though?" she asked.
"No wish of yours is too difficult," Yu Zhen responded less than a second later.
"You spoil me too much."
"It's the duty of a husband to spoil his wife," Yu Zhen declared.
Li Xueyue chuckled at his words. Grabbing his upper arm for support, she stood on her tippy-toes and kissed him upon the cheek, catching him by surprise.
But before Yu Zhen could demand more, she ran to the other side of the room. Small laughter accompanied her as she ran through the doors. They were sweet and airy, and filled his heart with warmth.
Yu Zhen could do nothing but touch the spot. Unbeknownst to him, a small, foolish smile rested upon his lips.
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