336 Interesting Gossip
"Wow, you're really mean," a young woman said from the end of the hallway.
Li Xueyue didn't think anyone was eavesdropping on them. She had left Xu Jiaqi behind her but didn't notice the presence of the woman until she stepped out of the shadows.
Her eyes widened at the woman's stark resemblance to Yu Zhen. Except, the lady was a lot more approachable and… energetic?
Li Xueyue wondered if there was something in the water. Every woman she had encountered was beautiful.
"Hmmm…" the woman trailed off, tapping her lips.
Li Xueyue watched with scrunched brows. What was it? Was this woman a friend or a foe?
"I like that!" the girl exclaimed. She bounced forward and without warning, grabbed Li Xueyue's hands.
Li Xueyue was taken off guard. She warily eyed the woman, wondering if the young lady was crazy. Why was the woman grabbing the hands of a stranger?
"Aren't you going to fake a smile and try to brush my hands off?" the woman whined. "I've seen you do it before, so why not now?"
Li Xueyue pressed her lips together. Who exactly was this woman? She turned her head the slightest bit and Yanxi stepped forward.
In a low whisper, Yanxi stated, "This is the second-youngest Princess of Hanjian, Princess Yu Lingluo. She's one year younger than you, Princess."
"You ruined the fun, Yanxi!" Princess Yu Lingluo huffed. She crossed her arms and frowned towards the ground as Yanxi bowed apologetically.
"I wanted to make you guess who I am," Princess Yu Lingluo said. "I was so curious about the Crown Princess, so I wanted her to share the same interest in my identity!"
Li Xueyue blinked. Their age difference was only one year apart, but Yu Lingluo behaved much younger than that.
Yu Lingluo gave off an innocent, almost naive vibe to her personality. Her voice was high-pitched, but not irritating to the ears. She was almost… cute?
Upon noticing the silence, Princess Yu Lingluo complained, "Aren't you going to say something? I was told by many people that the Crown Princess is wise for her age... Why are you ignoring me?"
Li Xueyue didn't even know what to say. Yu Lingluo's emotions had changed too quickly. It was difficult for Li Xueyue to determine exactly how to speak to the young lady.
She had to admit it Yu Lingluo was nothing like Yu Zhen despite the stark similarity in features. Yu Lingluo's eyes stood out the most but in an energetic manner. Her nose was sharp like Yu Zhen's but in a soft, endearing way.
Yu Lingluo wore her emotions on her sleeve… or so she wanted other people to believe.
Li Xueyue wanted to know if this bubbly behavior was an act or her actual personality.
"I came all the way from the Empress's estate which is far from here. The least you can do is say hi," Yu Lingluo said and pouted.
She played with the ends of her long sleeve, glancing from the ground to Li Xueyue.
Li Xueyue blinked in confusion. The Princess was suddenly resembling a saddened puppy.
"I was simply… surprised by you, that's all," Li Xueyue responded. She jumped in surprise when Yu Lingluo trotted forward, like an excited puppy.
"So she speaks!" Yu Lingluo giggled. "People say my Zhen-gege  treasures you. There's a lot of interesting gossip about you."
Li Xueyue blinked. Gossip…? Already? Brushing that aside, something else stood out to her. The nickname that Yu Lingluo had for Yu Zhen.
"Of course, you can rest assured. No one dares to directly bad-mouth you. Zhen-gege made sure of that!" Yu Lingluo exasperated.
Li Xueyue slowly nodded. There it was, that nickname again. She knew this young lady wasn't just a simple Princess.
"Do you want to know what people are saying about you?" Yu Lingluo whispered. She purposely lowered her voice to make this conversation more secretive.
Li Xueyue chuckled in amusement. "Sure," she said.
Yu Lingluo rapidly glanced to her left and then her right. She covered the side of her mouth and leaned in.
"Everyone is saying you're too thin, meaning my brother will probably break you in bed and—"
Yu Lingluo let out a shriek. Her heart raced at the familiar voice. Easygoing, but stern… She turned around, a soft sigh leaving her lips at the sight of him.
Hu Dengxiao was advancing down the hallway, a disapproving stare on his face. He should've known the loud noises were coming from her—the Princess with too much energy in her system.
"I hope you're not bothering the Princess. Zhenzhen will be furious if he finds out you are," Hu Dengxiao scolded Yu Lingluo once he reached them.
Upon seeing Li Xueyue, he bowed his head in greeting. "Princess," he addressed.
"How come you bow to her and not to me?" Yu Lingluo huffed, crossing her arms only to earn a pinch on her right cheek. She yelped in pain, smacking at his hand.
"Because you don't behave as a proper Princess should, you little troublemaker," Hu Dengxiao teased.
"I do behave like one!" Yu Lingluo shouted, angrily stomping on his foot, earning a groan from him.
"Brat," he grumbled, shoving her by the shoulders.
Li Xueyue watched with wide eyes as the Princess pushed him back. And to her surprise, Hu Dengxiao stumbled a bit. Whether it was on purpose or not, she couldn't help but laugh a bit.
This scene felt too familiar. It warmed her heart.
"See, the Princess is laughing at you," Hu Dengxiao snorted. "Wouldn't have happened if you weren't making a fool out of yourself."
"Or she could be smirking at the fact that a grown man like you lost your footing," Yu Lingluo said.
Li Xueyue raised a brow. She noticed Hu Dengxiao was different from how he usually behaved. If she properly recalled, he was more naive around Lu Tianbi. But maybe it was because they were friends?
From her perspective, Hu Dengxiao viewed Princess Yu Lingluo as an obnoxious younger sister. It was strange to see that… especially when Yu Lingluo glanced up at him with awestruck eyes.
But this was none of her business. She decided to not pry.
"Let's just ignore this little dumpling, Princess," Hu Dengxiao said. "I was actually supposed to bring you to the Crown Prince's private study."
Li Xueyue slowly nodded. Did something happen?
"The Round Table discussion was supposed to happen today, but since everyone was occupied, it has been pushed to next week, Princess," Hu Dengxiao explained.
Li Xueyue was grateful for the news. She hadn't properly prepared for it yet. There was a list of ideas she wanted to jot down first before meeting the people there.
"I think the Crown Prince wants to discuss the subject of that meeting with you, Princess," Hu Dengxiao said. He decided to address the Commander by his title, mainly because Li Xueyue was accompanied by servants and guards.
"I see," she responded.
"Maybe Yu Zhen wants to discuss the wedding details before it's finalized," Hu Dengxiao said.
He watched with amusement as her eyes widened. "Didn't you see it, Princess?" he mused. "Many servants have been rushing around, preparing for the big day."
Li Xueyue slowly shook her head. She didn't hear a single thing about it.
"Well, that's not a surprise, Princess," Hu Dengxiao said and shrugged. "The Crown Prince didn't want to burden you with decision making. All you have to do is sit back and enjoy the preparations."
He hummed, "But I'm sure he also wants your input."
Li Xueyue nodded but wasn't sure what he meant by 'preparations.' She brushed it off, thinking it might be the same intensive skincare as the one she went through the night before she was announced to the court as the Crown Princess.
"Or, my brother just wants to spend some time with her, you idiot," Yu Lingluo said.
"Who are you calling an idiot, you dimwit?!" Hu Dengxiao scolded, reaching out to pinch her cheek again.
Yu Lingluo dodged it.
"You misbehave too much," Hu Dengxiao stated.
Yu Lingluo stuck out her tongue and crossed her arm. "So?"
Li Xueyue tilted her head a bit. For a second there, she saw pain in Yu Lingluo's eyes. Oh dear…
Li Xueyue had an inkling of their dynamic, but hoped it wasn't true. If so, it would be quite heartbreaking. Literally.