Hu Dengxiao stood impatiently outside of the door. He hadn't said anything for a while because he knew the Crown Prince was smart enough to be getting dressed. But the clock was ticking and he hadn't stepped out yet.
"Are you done yet, Zhenzhen?!" Hu Dengxiao called out in an eager voice.
The Crown Princess had just earned the Royal family's favor. It would be troublesome if she abruptly lost it.
Of course, it was normal for newlyweds to share at least a week together by themselves, but they were royalty. And one important thing had to be proven.
"Come on, Zhenzhen—" Hu Dengxiao was interrupted by the door opening. His eyes lit up only for him to instantly regret it.
"Ow!" he cried out, clutching the back of his head. It was burning with pain, and he could've sworn he saw double.
"What was that for, Your Highness?" he sobbed. By now, he was certain there would be a massive dent at the back of his round head.
"You're lucky I didn't kill you," Yu Zhen growled.
Hu Dengxiao pouted. "But you have the rest of your life to spend with the Crown Princess! Making nieces and nephews can wait, Your Highness."
"You certainly don't have to wait for your execution," Yu Zhen hissed.
Hu Dengxiao yelped at his words. He jumped a few steps backward and shifted his attention to the small woman beside the Crown Prince.
Every time Hu Dengxiao looked at Li Xueyue, he couldn't believe how frail she seemed. But the Crown Princess was in one piece wasn't she?
That, by itself, was a miracle, considering the stamina of their Commander.
"Good morning Princess!" Hu Dengxiao chirped. "Do you think we can expect little Princes and Princesses to run about these halls soon?"
Li Xueyue chuckled at his words, much to the aggravation of Yu Zhen. For some reason, Hu Dengxiao reminded her of Li Wenmin. Perhaps it was their unexpectedly wholesome antics or their pure foolishness.
"You're certainly energetic in the mornings," Li Xueyue stated.
"Well, not as energetic as our dear Crown Prince here—stop that!" Hu Dengxiao exclaimed as he narrowingly dodged another smack to the head.
"Zhenzhen, if you keep hitting me, my brain will get smaller and smaller!" Hu Dengxiao groaned.
"It's already the size of a peanut," Yu Zhen deadpanned.
Hu Dengxiao sharply gasped. He placed a dramatic hand upon his chest and scowled. "That's a lie, Your Highness. My brain is at least the size of a chestnut!"
"Said no one ever."
Hu Dengxiao wanted to cry in a corner. The Crown Prince was a bully.
"I'm not going to bicker with you anymore, Zhenzhen," Hu Dengxiao huffed and pouted. He wished he had made Lu Tianbi deliver the message instead.
"I've come to warn you that the Emperor and Empress are coming soon. By now, they should be at the entrance of the estate," he added on.
Yu Zhen scowled at the news. He had almost forgotten the horrid tradition that was practiced in the palace. You'd think with how progressive Hanjian was, the Royal family would no longer practice that ritual.
Li Xueyue blinked up at him in confusion. She hadn't gotten the chance to ask exactly why the Emperor and Empress were coming to his estate so early in the morning.
"Let's not keep them waiting, Your Highness," Hu Dengxiao stated.
Yu Zhen nodded. The sooner they greet his parents, the quicker they'd leave. He grabbed Li Xueyue's hand.
"Come," he murmured. "Let's go meet your horrid in-laws."
- - - - -
They had barely made it back when a knock sounded throughout the room. She held back a sigh and knew what was to come.
"They move too quickly for their age," Yu Zhen bit out. He waved his hand. It was a signal for the Eunuch to open the doors.
"Announcing the arrival of His Majesty, the Great Sun of Hanjian, and Her Grace, the Benevolent Moon!" the Eunuch loudly announced just as the doors were slowly opened to reveal the Imperial Family.
Li Xueyue wasn't prepared for this mental battle. Nonetheless, she cupped her hands to the side and dipped into a bow.
"You may rise," the Emperor stated with a slight cough.
Li Xueyue lifted her head to see an interesting sight. The Emperor was accompanied by a servant or two. His weight was placed upon them, and he seemed exhausted.
She was worried for his health. She had predicted he was sickly but didn't think it was to this extent.
On the other hand, the Empress seemed healthy. Without a doubt, she would outlive her husband.
"It seems we've interrupted something," the Empress pointed out with a smile. Her expression was pleasant, just like her small talk.
Li Xueyue was surprised when Yu Zhen ignored his mother. He didn't even spare her a glance, despite the gentle gaze of the Empress. Her lips parted in confusion. Did Yu Zhen dislike his mother?
Her attention wandered back to the Empress. Sure enough, she seemed disappointed… but there was a tinge of understanding on her face. It was almost as if she knew Yu Zhen would react this coldly.
"Did you sleep well, Crown Princess?" the Empress asked, deciding to turn her attention elsewhere. If her son wouldn't respond, she'd target the closest thing to his heart.
"Too well," Li Xueyue replied with a slight smile.
The Empress was caught off guard by the blunt response. In a palace of exaggerated compliments and false smiles, Li Xueyue's honesty was refreshing. A small laugh escaped her.
"It seems I will be expecting grandchildren too," she teased.
Li Xueyue was glad the Empress understood the meaning behind her words. It sounded brazen, but it was what the Royal family wanted.
Li Xueyue knew they were having doubts about her. Especially after that encounter a few days ago, where the ladies-in-waiting questioned the candidates' ability to give birth.
"I do hope for healthy babies…" the Empress trailed off, eyeing the Crown Princess's thin figure.
Li Xueyue smiled in response.
"Well, only one way to find out," the Empress said as she gestured for a maidservant to step forward.
Li Xueyue blinked in confusion. What did the Empress mean by that?
"Empress," Yu Zhen warned, taking a threatening step closer.
The Empress pressed her lips together, almost disgruntled by his expression. "It's tradition, my beloved son. You know I have no choice," she softly said.
Yu Zhen sharply glared at her. That tradition could've ended with her generation.
"Besides, Son, what is there to hide?" the Empress added on. "Your reluctance is suspicious."
Li Xueyue was puzzled by their internal conflict. What exactly happened between this mother and son? The Empress seemed like a loving mother…
"Step aside, Yu Zhen," the Emperor commanded in a stern, but wavering voice. His illness had taken a toll upon his body, but not his features. He was still the stern, cruel father.
At this, the room turned chilly. The temperature dropped as a gust blew into the room.
Li Xueyue shivered at the tension created by father and son. She noticed the Empress's worried stare. For once, there were wrinkles on the woman's face. It formed on her forehead and the corners of her mouth. The Empress was frightful of the outcome.
"Yu Zhen," Li Xueyue whispered, placing her palm upon his sleeve. But he surprised her by shaking off her gesture. She tried her best not to look disappointed. That was until he grabbed her hand and entwined their fingers.
"The practice is disgusting," Yu Zhen spat out.
"Your attitude is even worse," the Emperor retorted. His body heaved as he held back a wet cough.
"Now go," he commanded the maidservants.
The pretty servants took timid steps forward but hesitated.
When one was being glared down by a tiger, how could they move? The maidservants were worried for their pretty little heads.
Disobeying the Emperor meant a whipping, but crossing the Crown Prince meant torture. They were stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Li Xueyue was perplexed. What was happening? She saw the fear in their eyes and understood who caused it. She grasped Yu Zhen's arm, almost as if holding him back.
"It's alright," she suddenly said. "Go."
Yu Zhen's head snapped down at her. Was she serious? What if they didn't find what they wanted? What shall happen to her? His grip on her hand tightened considerably. He was protecting her. But she had voluntarily entered the lion's den.
"It's tradition," she stated, offering him an understanding smile.
Her eyes were soft and clear. She genuinely didn't mind his parents' behavior.
Yu Zhen's brows etched together. He wanted to argue with her, but couldn't. Especially when she was putting her reputation on the line. He knew he should've checked prior to picking her up.
He reluctantly nodded his head, sighing in defeat. He could easily win this argument but chose not too. Instead, he lifted their tangled hands and kissed her knuckles.
The action surprised many, including the Emperor and Empress. They were speechless. It seemed their eyes hadn't played tricks on them. The affections that Yu Zhen felt for Li Xueyue was genuine. It was the first time they've seen him compromise like this.
And everyone else must've thought the same, including the maidservants who dropped the blankets.
"Well?" the Empress demanded, after getting over the shock.
Li Xueyue was equally as confused as them. Except, it was for different reasons. Why had the maidservants pulled the sheets off of the bed? What exactly was happening?
"Is the Crown Princess a virgin or not?��� the Empress questioned.
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