Li Xueyue tried not to think too much of Lady Ge Beining, but she felt uncomfortable. She couldn't pinpoint the exact issue. It was hard to explain. Whilst lost in thought, pondering over Lady Ge Beining's identity, Li Xueyue nearly bumped into someone.
"Be careful, Princess Li," said the concerned voice that reached out to steady her.
Li Xueyue lifted her head. She was pleasantly surprised to see Lu Tianbi. The last time she had seen Lu Tianbi was during the wedding night.
"Are you alright?" Lu Tianbi asked, wondering what could've distracted the Princess. Luckily, she had spoken up sooner, or else there would've been an unwanted collision.
"Oh yes, I was just thinking about something," Li Xueyue stated.
Lu Tianbi nodded in response. She glanced around, searching for an irritating face. To her relief, none was seen. What happened to Xu Jiaqi? Seeing the Princess's troubled appearance, Lu Tianbi didn't have to guess further.
"Well, what has been occupying your mind, Princess?" Lu Tianbi questioned in a polite voice. "Perhaps I can offer you assistance."
Li Xueyue hesitated. Although Lu Tianbi was always friendly and kind, she was still one of Yu Zhen's friends. Would he think any less of Li Xueyue if she asked about a random lady-in-waiting?
Seeing the clear reluctance on the Princess's pale face, Lu Tianbi offered a knowing smile.
"Do not worry, Princess. My lips are sealed."
Lu Tianbi wondered what type of matters must've been so pressing that it needed to be kept a secret. But then again, Princess Li seemed to be the type to overthink everything. She had witnessed it happened on more than one occasion, all of which had happened in the forest behind the Li Family's manor.
"I had an encounter with the Empress today," Li Xueyue finally said. "I met a new lady-in-waiting. Her name is Ge Beining."
Understanding filled Lu Tianbi's eyes. It was without a doubt, that the Princess was intimidated by Ge Beining. Who wouldn't be? She was one of the most beautiful women in the Capital. Denying her beauty was lying to oneself.
Many men have courted Lady Ge Beining, but none have succeeded. But instead of flatly turning them down, she offered them valid excuses. Though, Lu Tianbi was never able to learn the true reasons.
"Yes, she is the only child of the deceased Madam Jing," Lu Tianbi informed. "Because Madam Jing had been the closest friend of the Empress, it is without a doubt that Lady Ge Beining is favored by the Empress."
Li Xueyue's brows shot up. Somehow, Lady Ge Beining's background was similar to Wen Jinkai…
"And at one point—" Lu Tianbi cut herself off. No, it was best to not mention that part.
"Anyway," she said and cleared her throat. "It is best to not get on Lady Ge Beining's bad side. She has a way with her words."
Li Xueyue nodded. "I thought I was the only one who noticed…"
Lu Tianbi's smile softened with sympathy. It was hard for her not to reveal the truth, especially to someone as defenseless as the Princess.
It would be better for the Princess to become acquainted with the cruel reality of the palace. But then again, it would create too much stress for her.
"At one point," Li Xueyue stated. She decided not to beat around the bush anymore.
"Was Lady Ge Beining interested in the Crown Prince?" Li Xueyue asserted.
Lu Tianbi's smile slipped. This wasn't a question meant for her to answer. "Perhaps, it would be best to ask the Crown Prince."
Li Xueyue didn't even need to say anything else. The answer was clear. It seemed the real opponent of the palace had stepped forward. Xu Jiaqi and the other ladies-in-waiting were nothing but decoys.
"It was wrong of me to assume," Li Xueyue said with a chuckle. She waved off the air after noticing it had gotten too awkward for her liking.
"No offense taken, Princess Li, do not worry," Lu Tianbi instantly answered. She didn't want to upset the Princess in any way. Heaven knows the Crown Prince would kill that person.
"Besides, Princess Li," Lu Tianbi said. "The Crown Prince's attention is solely upon you. It doesn't matter who fancies him if he only has eyes for you."
Lu Tianbi's words went through one ear and out from the other. Li Xueyue was well aware of this but still fretted nonetheless. It wasn't that she was worried someone else would whisk Yu Zhen away.
Li Xueyue just wanted to live the rest of her life in the palace in peace. The only way to do so was by removing all of the weeds that got in the way.
"That wasn't my concern, but thank you for the advice," Li Xueyue said with a grateful smile. She turned her head to the side.
"It is getting late," she said. "I don't want to distract you from your duties."
Lu Tianbi regretted her words. She had made an assumption. Nervously, she nodded her head and bowed.
"Until next time, Princess Li."
- - - - -
After Li Xueyue's encounter with Lu Tianbi, she decided to head back to her own estate. She wanted a quiet place to gather her thoughts and finish writing down her list of ideas for the betterment of Hanjian. Eventually, she settled in her bedroom and continued jotting down her ideas.
Li Xueyue was so immersed in the task that she wasn't aware of the setting sun or the rush of maidservants that ran through the corridors.
Everyone was desperate and in a rush. They were attempting to find the Crown Princess whose face had not been seen the entire afternoon.
"And done!" Li Xueyue sighed in relief as she held up the piece of parchment.
The servants who stood by the door whilst she worked let out a small sigh of relief. They had been standing for a while now and couldn't wait to move their legs.
"It took so long…" she mumbled.
Li Xueyue rubbed her sore shoulders whilst stretching her neck side to side.
Upon seeing the Princess fatigue, the maidservants quickly came forward. They began to massage at her tired shoulders, their eyes growing wide with shock. The Princess had so many knots in her muscles!
"That feels nice," Li Xueyue complimented. Her body relaxed. She sighed again, enjoying the magic fingers of her maidservants.
All the while, people panicked down the hallway. That was until someone spotted the light coming from the Crown Princess's estate. It didn't take long for a servant to run back to report to the Crown Prince.
"Please refill the teapot," Li Xueyue instructed one of the idle handmaidens.
The handmaiden bowed in response.
"As you wish, Crown Princess," she said. Quietly, the handmaiden slipped out of the door to fulfill the Crown Princess's command.
In the meantime, Li Xueyue leaned back and closed her eyes. She gave in to the pleasing sensation of the massage. It was desperately needed. Maidservants even massaged her hands and fingers.
Although there were many servants in the Li Manor, none of them thought of massaging Li Xueyue. Of course, there wasn't any reason for them to do so. She was young and didn't really need it.
When the door opened, Li Xueyue kept her eyes closed. She debated the idea of just falling asleep right then and there. But the tea would go to waste, wouldn't it?
"Set it on the table," Li Xueyue instructed the handmaiden.
"Get out," he demanded.
Li Xueyue's eyes snapped open at the frigid voice. The massaging stopped, just like the rest of the world. Standing by the entrance of the bedroom was Yu Zhen. His lips were curled into a scowl. His eyes were set ablaze.
It didn't take a genius to figure out the obvious—the Crown Prince was furious.
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