324 Maybe Later
Li Xueyue stepped outside of her room in freshly changed clothes that were easier to move around in.
Originally, Yanxi had planned to dress her in a simple-looking hanfu of lighter colors that wouldn't make her stand out. But Xueyue specifically requested for horseback riding clothes that'd allow her to maneuver around easily whilst riding a horse.
It was a startling request, but what surprised Yanxi even more was the fact that there were already training robes inside the closet.
Oddly enough, all of the clothes inside the wardrobe fitted the Princess perfectly. It was as if the Crown Prince had gotten these clothes custom-made in advance prior to the Crown Princess's arrival.
Li Xueyue swiveled around. She was surprised to see Yu Zhen so soon. He had also changed clothes. As always, he was dressed in darker colors. To be specific, black, and nothing more.
"Here, wear this," he instructed her.
Yu Zhen made it seem like a command, but he was the one who slid the cloak over her. She watched his long fingers work quickly to close the buttons near her neck. It provided her an extra layer of warmth, but she knew it was to help them not get recognized.
"Is the public familiar with your face?" Li Xueyue asked him.
Li Xueyue finally realized he was also wearing a cloak, but his was black whereas hers was white. It matched her white and blue clothing.
"Not really," Yu Zhen informed her.
Li Xueyue knew it was because not many had the privilege to seek an audience with the Crown Prince. She wondered who'd deal with the issues faced by the less-fortunate civilians if they couldn't present it to court.
"Do you also have People's Representatives who would present the current problems faced in their community?" Li Xueyue asked him.
"Yes, one for the upper-middle-class aristocrats," Yu Zhen told her.
He lifted the hood of the cloak so that her face was hidden from all sides, except the front.
Li Xueyue adjusted it to stay in place. Soon, they began walking down the halls.
As they strode in comfortable silence, Li Xueyue couldn't help but think of another idea for the betterment of this country.
She wondered if being too ambitious would lead to a problem. There was so much she wanted to contribute, but was Hanjian ready to accept a woman's opinion?
Li Xueyue knew Wuyi would be hesitant too. But Hanjian had female soldiers. Perhaps the politics here would also be different. Or at least, she hoped so.
- - - - -
Li Xueyue let out a small gasp upon seeing the creature in front of her. The sunlight gleamed upon his midnight black coat. He was as healthy as she had last remembered him to be. A stallion of stealth.
"Heiyue!" she exclaimed, running up to her horse.
Heiyue was being guided out by Lu Tianbi who had another horse in her other hand.
His head jerked at the familiar voice.
A large grin grew on her face.
Heiyue was glancing all over the place, trying to find her through the darkness of his glassy eyes. He was an amusing sight—walking in circles just to seek her voice again.
"Here, boy," she stated.
Heiyue didn't need any more confirmation. He shook his head free from the hand grasping at his reins.
"A little bit closer," she patiently urged, wanting him to grow more familiar with their surroundings.
"Good boy," she complimented when he was able to reach her without much trouble.
Li Xueyue reached up and patted the side of his face. Her other hand stroked at his tangle-free mane.
Li Xueyue was glad to see him healthy as always. She had thought the worst happened to him. But now that he was in front of her, well-fed and alive, all of her worries melted away. He was as energetic as ever, snorting when she stopped caressing him.
"I hope you didn't cause any trouble,�� she remarked.
"Oh trust me, Princess, he did," Lu Tianbi chuckled.
"Yeah," Hu Dengxiao added on. "I heard he wouldn't stop biting the stable boy. It took his younger sister to control the horse, Princess."
Li Xueyue's lips twitched.
"He's just biased, that's all," she stated, knowing his childhood had something to do with it.
Li Xueyue didn't want to dwell on the thought of his neglected past. It was painful to even think about hers, much less, Heiyue's abuse.
"Hmm, reminds me of my own horse," Yu Zhen muttered under his breath. He grabbed the reins of Xiao Lizi from Hu Dengxiao.
Xiao Lizi swayed her tail at his words. When he tried to pat her, she flicked her head away.
Li Xueyue bit back a taunting laugh. She hadn't forgotten how kind Xiao Lizi was. The horse had allowed her to ride it without troubles. If it was Heiyue, he'd thrash around and try to throw strangers off of him.
"I don't have a snack, stop looking," Li Xueyue chuckled when Heiyue pressed his wet nose into her palm, expecting something.
"Maybe later," she fondly said. She gave him a final pat before sliding onto the saddle with ease.
Unbeknownst to her, she had garnered the attention of Hu Dengxiao and Lu Tianbi. They didn't think such a fragile girl could glide onto a horse so quickly.
It was difficult to believe this was the same woman in the forest. The Princess's confidence on top of the horse was equivalent to that of a female General.
"Princess," Lu Tianbi gently said. "I've never seen you smile like this."
Li Xueyue blinked. She didn't even realize she was smiling. She let out a small laugh.
"Heiyue has a special place in my heart," she fondly said.
"I bet our Crown Prince doesn't have as good a spot," Hu Dengxiao snickered.
A second later, he cried out in pain.
"My head, my head!" he howled after being struck by the back.
"Shut up and get on your horse," Yu Zhen growled. He hopped onto Xiao Lizi without any qualms.
"H-how can you bully—no wait!" Hu Dengxiao shrieked in fear when Yu Zhen nearly jabbed him with an encased sword.
"You're so violent, Your Highness!" Hu Dengxiao wailed. "I'm going to cry to Tiantian about your abuse," he sobbed.
Lu Tianbi rolled her eyes. "And Tiantian isn't going to care," she remarked.
Hu Dengxiao pouted at her words. "How can you just stand by and watch your companion get abused like this?"
"Hmm, abuse, where?" Lu Tianbi placed a hand above her eyes. She scanned their surroundings.
"I don't see it," she declared.
"You big meanie!" Hu Dengxiao huffed. He angrily crossed his arms and stomped the ground, like a big child.
A few seconds later, honey-sweet laughter could be heard. It was soft and timid before growing a bit louder with amusement. Everyone was instantly in awe by the sound. It was refreshing, like a cold breeze during a hot, summer day.
It was the first time Lu Tianbi and Hu Dengxiao had heard the Crown Princess laugh. It was an unfamiliar sound, but one that captured their hearts. Her clear eyes were curled and her lips were pulled into a grin.
"You two remind me of my twin brothers," Li Xueyue stated.
"Yes, I remember them," Lu Tianbi stated in a daze.
Li Xueyue's smile widened. She was glad to see the twins had left an impact, even upon people in Hanjian. It had been a couple of days since she had last seen them. She dearly missed the twins but knew they had their own dreams to pursue and accomplish.
Perhaps, the next time they crossed paths, she would have nieces and nephews, whilst she would have some of her own with Yu Zhen.