While Yu Zhen was distracted and mingling with the guests, Li Xueyue was taken away.
"Careful," Lu Tianbi whispered as Li Xueyue nearly tripped over her long dress. She patiently walked beside the Princess with a guiding hand upon her elbow.
Several maidservants accompanied them, all of whom were suppressing smiles and whispers. There was an air of excitement amongst the women, except for Li Xueyue who was puzzled.
"Where are we going?" Li Xueyue asked as they turned a corner. She could be kidnapped for all she knew. But she doubted Lu Tianbi would do such a thing to Yu Zhen.
"You'll find out soon enough, Princess," Lu Tianbi stated as they slowly walked onward. It was custom in Hanjian for the bride to be led away as the groom stayed behind to entertain the guests.
Li Xueyue couldn't quite see anything ahead of her. Due to the red veil over her head and the dangling beads of gold, everything was blurry. She had to rely on the patient guidance of Lu Tianbi to continue walking forward without colliding into something.
"There's a step here, Princess," Lu Tianbi informed her. She crossed over the small ledge first and then helped the Princess into the room.
"It smells nice in here," Li Xueyue murmured.
"It's the scent of the dragon and phoenix candles that is currently burning," Lu Tianbi agreed. She grasped the Princess's hand and together, they walked towards the far end of the room.
Li Xueyue heard the doors close behind her, but she still couldn't register their current location. But she had a vague idea.
"If you may," Lu Tianbi said, as she helped the Princess to a seat.
Li Xueyue slowly sat down as her fingers brushed against something soft and plush. She hoped it wasn't Xiao Juzi. She lifted a hand to adjust the veil, but Lu Tianbi grabbed her hand.
"Please don't remove it yet, Princess," Lu Tianbi mused. She didn't think Li Xueyue could be so impatient.
Lu Tianbi glanced around the room. She probed the nooks and crannies and turned over the curtains to make sure there wasn't anyone hiding in here.
"Where are you going?" Li Xueyue softly asked when she heard Lu Tianbi's footsteps growing faint.
Lu Tianbi was surprised that the Princess had heard her. Not many people could detect her silent walk.
"Please wait, I will return in less than a minute," Lu Tianbi said. She noticed the Princess's head was tilted towards her direction.
Lu Tianbi turned to the servants who stood guard at the door. She lowered her voice and instructed, "Don't let her take off her veil."
The handmaidens obediently bowed their heads in response.
Lu Tianbi hid her smile and quietly slipped out of the room. It seemed the Crown Princess was too innocent. Hadn't the Princess's mother prepped her about the wedding night?
"Oh well—" Lu Tianbi's voice died in her throat.
She was startled to see the Crown Prince storming down the hallway, a purposeful look on his face. His bright red clothing was a contrast to his dark, brooding eyes.
Lu Tianbi closed the distance between them, stopping a few feet away from the door.
"Your Highness, you're breaking tradition," Lu Tianbi said and chuckled. "You were supposed to wait until all of the guests leave before coming here."
Lu Tianbi was certain the celebration was still ongoing. As a matter of fact, it was barely time for the party to come to an end.
The Crown Prince ignored her and continued walking forward. His stride was powerful and filled with intent. After tonight, Li Xueyue would become his forever.
Lu Tianbi held back a complaint. She wondered what the Emperor and Empress would think of this. The Crown Prince wasn't supposed to be here for a while longer. But then again, nothing could hold him back. If he wanted something, he'd get it.
She just didn't think he would be so impatient. Or perhaps, it was a lack of care for the endless traditions. Regardless, he must've been the only shameless groom in the entire country to do such a thing.
"You need to be gentle with her, Your Highness," Lu Tianbi reminded him.
He paused for a brief second before continuing onwards.
Lu Tianbi gaped at being given the cold shoulder. She swiveled around and frowned. "Your Highness—"
"She's a lot more promiscuous than you think," Yu Zhen said with a turn of his head.
Lu Tianbi blinked at his words. What was he talking about?
From what she recalled, the Princess seemed nervous and hesitant. It was as if the young lady didn't even know what would happen tonight.
- - - - -
Li Xueyue anxiously nibbled at her bottom lip. She knew her lip stain might be ruined from this action, but she couldn't help it. Her fingers trembled and she was forced to interlace it together. Nothing could be heard over the sound of her thundering heart.
She squirmed in her chair, wondering exactly what was going on. It had only been a minute or so since Lu Tianbi left, but it felt like an eternity. With nothing to occupy her, she could only come up with dubious scenarios.
Just then, the door creaked open. It was a sound so quiet, she nearly missed it.
"Lady Lu, is that you?" she hesitantly asked, but was met with silence.
Li Xueyue glanced downwards. Maybe Lu Tianbi didn't hear her?
Li Xueyue's heart skipped. Her lips parted. She knew that voice.
"Yu Zhen…?" she murmured.
Li Xueyue was startled when a large hand grasped her fingers. His thumb gently caressed her knuckles. She was hesitant as he brought her hand to his lips.
Yu Zhen noticed she was trembling. His gaze softened at this.
"What dirty thoughts are running through your mind this time?" Yu Zhen mused as he slowly kneeled before her.
"For the last time, my mind is as pure as snow!" she exasperated, jumping when a hand touched her knees.
She was puzzled but realized he was slipping her shoes off. It was a duty meant for maidservants, but he had excused all of them.
"Are you sure it's not as pure as ash?" Yu Zhen teased. He settled both of her pointed shoes beside her.
Li Xueyue tried to concentrate on his words but every spot he touched was beginning to warm up, just like her cheeks. She sucked in a shaky breath when his hand slipped under her gown. He teasingly touched her leg, his palms gently caressing her smooth skin.
"Of course not," she told him.
Li Xueyue's heart was racing so fast, she was certain he could hear it. Despite all the times she had teased him, she was overwhelmed with anticipation and fear. She tried to pay it no mind. It wasn't a difficult task, especially with his distracting hands.
Li Xueyue didn't realize she was standing now. He had already taken off her heavy cape and the first layer of her dress.
"Hmm, somehow I don't believe you," Yu Zhen whispered.
Li Xueyue turned her head. His voice was suddenly very close to her as if his lips were directly beside her ear. She was surprised when another layer of clothes slipped off of her shoulders.
Yu Zhen's fingers were very fast.
"How can I prove it to you?" Li Xueyue muttered, despite the lie written all over her face. She was grateful that he couldn't see her stained cheeks—or not. He had finally lifted her veil.
"Prove what?" he murmured, his voice silky smooth.
Li Xueyue's blush deepened when their eyes met. His gaze warmed her body. Desire. Adoration. Lust. So many emotions coursed through his eyes. Wild thoughts ran through her mind when he tossed the red fabric aside.
"T-that I only have pure thoughts."
Yu Zhen grasped her chin and pulled her close. His lips curled into a mischievous smirk.
His other hand began to slip the hairpins out of her hair.
"After tonight, you will no longer have pure thoughts."
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