Yu Zhen finally understood what was bothering her today. She thought Xu Jiaqi walked away unscathed. He revealed a dark smile and released her from the embrace. Disappointment instantly flooded her face as he walked off.
He approached his desk, knowing she was watching his every move. He picked up a rolled-up parchment and approached her again. He tipped the scroll in her direction.
Li Xueyue stared down at the object. She was curious about what it was. She took the scroll from him and unraveled it. Immediately, the seal of the Imperial Family could be seen. She quickly skimmed the contents. It didn't take long for her head to shoot up.
"Is this a punishment for her or me?" she stated.
"For her," he chuckled.
Li Xueyue shook her head. "No, I don't want her as my maidservant."
Yu Zhen wrapped his hand around her fingers. "Consider this offer carefully," he said.
Li Xueyue knew her anger was misplaced. She was being ungrateful of his gift. She knew the benefits of having Xu Jiaqi as her handmaiden. It would put the woman in her place.
Xu Juaqi would be commanded around like a servant. Whatever Li Xueyue wanted, Xu Jiaqi would have to do.
"Do you want me to be suffocated in the morning, poisoned in the afternoon, and killed during my sleep?" she said.
Yu Zhen raised a brow. He hadn't seen this dramatic side to her before.
"Xu Jiaqi is of noble birth. Waiting upon you and getting her to tend to your every whim will tarnish her reputation beyond repair," she said.
Li Xueyue's fingers tightened on the piece of parchment. "There are more consequences than benefits in this."
"Lu Tianbi told me something amusing this morning before she left to see her suitor," he said.
"What is it?" she asked.
"Xu Jiaqi is one of the more well-known women vying for my attention."
"And yet you still keep her around," Li Xueyue gritted out, stepping to the side and escaping from him.
Li Xueyue didn't want to be near him. She knew he'd try to kiss and caress her into agreeing.
"You want me to use her as an example," she stated. "To the other women competing for you."
Li Xueyue understood where this conversation was going. Right now, all eyes were on her and Xu Jiaqi. She hadn't realized this sooner. The people of the palace would be curious to see where this relationship would go.
She ignored his smile—proud, and wide.
"You're wise beyond your years, Xueyue. You'll know what to do," Yu Zhen said.
Li Xueyue sighed through her nose. Was this her first challenge in the palace? To find the biggest fish, gut it, and hang it up as an example? If she was able to turn the crazy Xu Jiaqi into a pawn, it'll scare away other competitors. Though, she had yet to meet them.
Li Xueyue focused on Yu Zhen's reassuring smile. He was willing to give her a way out. But that meant giving up before she even started. In all honesty, Xu Jiaqi seemed like a decent woman. She was just a bit delusional and shameless— that was all.
Would that woman be crazy enough to kill the Crown Princess?
Li Xueyue would have to find out. "And Yanxi?"
"Yanxi will stay by your side. Xu Jiaqi will also follow her orders," Yu Zhen said.
Li Xueyue looked at the scroll again. A few seconds of silence passed by. "Fine, I'll allow Xu Jiaqi to serve me."
- - - - -
Li Xueyue knew Yu Zhen was looking out for her. He always was. It would explain his decision. She would be taming Xu Jiaqi whilst warning other women to stay away. It was killing two birds with one stone.
Li Xueyue wouldn't be surprised if there were people eying her current position. She was a Princess from a foreign country. Up until recently, Wuyi was regarded as an enemy kingdom. Of course, there would be many women believing it would be easy to replace her.
"Are you hungry?" Yu Zhen asked, distracting her.
Li Xueyue was prepared to deny him, but her stomach loudly rumbled. "S-seems like it."
Yu Zhen warmly smiled. "It's time for our afternoon meal then."
He approached her and took the scroll from her hand. He shook his head in amusement. The parchment was crumpled up from her tight grip. He'd have to rewrite it and hand it to Lu Tianbi later.
"Can we dine near the gardens?" Li Xueyue asked. "I think I saw a pond with a gazebo in the center."
Yu Zhen vividly recalled that place. He frequented it due to the tranquil silence it offered him.
"If that is your wish, then it shall be fulfilled," Yu Zhen said. He walked back to the desk, placed down the scroll, and went back to her.
"Is there a specific dish you'd like to eat?" he asked whilst placing a beckoning hand on her lower back, guiding her out of the door.
Once the doors were opened, the Eunuchs outside instantly bowed, alongside the guards.
"Hmmm…" she trailed off, pondering which dish stood out to her the most. But then she was distracted by something. An older man dressed in white and blue was taking long, formidable strides towards them.
Li Xueyue recognized him. He resembled Wu Xiang in every aspect. This must be the Chancellor.
"Chancellor Wu," Yu Zhen coldly addressed.
The Chancellor bowed his head in greeting. He seemed a bit out of breath from speed-walking here. He rarely rushed for anything but, the Emperor's estate was a bit far from here and time was pressing.
"Your Highness," he said, lifting his head. He turned to the quiet woman beside the Crown Prince. "Princess," he greeted.
"What is it?" Yu Zhen demanded.
Li Xueyue noticed the Chancellor was nothing like his son. Wu Xiang was all smiles and jokes, whereas Chancellor Wu was stern and unforgiving.
His forehead had worry lines and despite his age, there weren't wrinkles anywhere else on his face besides the area near his eyes. It seemed the Chancellor rarely smiled.
"I apologize for this short notice, but there is an urgent issue we must discuss, Your Highness," Chancellor Wu stated.
Yu Zhen didn't want to part from Xueyue so quickly. Especially after they had just made up. But it must've been an important issue if the Chancellor himself came here.
"That's alright," Li Xueyue said. "Go."
Yu Zhen pressed his lips together. He reluctantly dropped his hand and turned to the nearest Eunuch.
"Bring my Wangfei to the gazebo. Have her afternoon meal thoroughly prepared," he instructed.
The Eunuch instantly nodded his head. He would carry out the Crown Prince's request with great care. The Crown Prince was a man who expected no less than perfection. And if expectations weren't met, the consequences would be dire.
"Please follow me, Princess," the Eunuch stated with a lowered head.
Li Xueyue obliged and accompanied him down the hallway. The servants she left outside of the door began following her, including Yanxi.
She curiously looked back, wondering what was the pressing issue that she couldn't learn about.
Li Xueyue could only see Yu Zhen's shoulders, not his face. But the Chancellor's face was on full display. The men privately conserved amongst themselves. And judging from the Chancellor's displeased expression, it wasn't good news.
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