Lady Ge Beining didn't know what else to say. She took a hesitant step backward, suddenly feeling the desire to be someplace else. She no longer felt welcomed, especially because of the uncooperative Princess.
Lady Ge Beining was also raised in the Imperial Palace. She had every reason to be spoiled, but wasn't.
Instead, she prided herself on elegance and grace, everything that the Crown Princess was rumored to possess. For some reason, Lady Ge Beining couldn't see it.
In her eyes, the Crown Princess was too confident of herself.
"Well done, Princess," Lady Ge Beining finally managed to say.
"Beginner's luck," Li Xueyue laughed off. She realized too much showing off wasn't any good. For a split second, her pride had gotten the best of her.
Li Xueyue lifted another arrow and set it into place. She adjusted her elbow to the same angle that Lady Ge Beining had criticized earlier. Except, she aimed significantly to one side, though it wouldn't seem that way to the naked eye.
Li Xueyue pulled the arrow back until the string reached its limit. She yanked harder and tilted her body, purposely making beginner mistakes. Her body went tense, as her knuckles turned white from the tight grip.
Finally, Li Xueyue let the arrow fly. It started off strong, but landed weakly to the ground, directly under the center dot.
"Oh dear…" Lady Ge Beining murmured. She placed a pitiful hand upon her chest and offered the Princess a smile.
"Perhaps the wind isn't to your favor," Lady Ge Beining pointed out. Her tone was sympathetic.
Li Xueyue let out a soft, pitiful sigh. "Seems so… Let me try again."
Lady Ge Beining nodded her head. Maybe this would be the Crown Princess's redeeming shot. She patiently stood by the sidelines and watched as the Princess loaded another arrow. This time, the arrow flew above the target before hitting the ground.
"Well, this is no fun," Li Xueyue complained.
Lady Ge Beining struggled to conceal her widening smile. She pulled her brows together and came forward.
"Shall I pray for the same luck to happen, Princess?" she asked.
Lady Ge Beining was suspicious of the Crown Princess. Her posture was exactly the same as when she managed to hit the bullseye earlier, but why was she making so many mistakes now? Was it truly beginner's luck?
The Crown Princess sullenly placed the bow onto the table, a bit too hard that there was a thud. Irritation flashed in her eyes as she turned to face Lady Ge Beining.
"It is time for my afternoon meal with the Crown Prince."
Lady Ge Beining's smile nearly slipped. She forced herself to nod her head, holding back a stutter.
"I hope you enjoy the meal, Princess. If you ever need someone to practice with, please allow me to volunteer for such an opportunity," she said.
The Crown Princess nodded her head. Disappointment was written all over her face. "I'll consider your thoughtful offer."
Lady Ge Beining lifted the side of her dress and lowered her legs into another curtsy. She bid the Princess goodbye, watching as her small silhouette disappeared into the distance.
Finally, she let out a sigh of relief. Without the watchful eyes of a higher up, Lady Ge Beining could finally practice in peace.
"How tiresome," was the only thing she said before lifting her bow.
Unfortunately, with the Crown Princess's interruption, Lady Ge Beining was no longer in the mood to practice. She warily glanced at the arrow that pierced through hers. The corner of her lips curved down.
"Beginner's luck…" she trailed off, pondering over the Crown Princess's words.
"Why do I doubt that?" Lady Ge Beining asked herself. She vaguely recalled the Princess's words.
"I didn't know you were also skilled in archery," were the Crown Princess's exact words.
Lady Ge Beining touched her bottom lip, lost in thought. Was the Crown Princess pretending to be weak? What for?
She couldn't wrap her mind around such stupidity. It was better to come off as a strong woman, especially if one was meant to rule this nation.
'This is a warning sign that should be brought to the Empress's awareness… It will be pitiful if the Crown Princess can't even master such a useful skill.'
Lady Ge Beining nodded in satisfaction. The Empress was always curious about rumors surrounding the Princess. Any new pieces of information were greatly welcomed.
- - - - -
Li Xueyue slipped behind a pillar and hid there. It didn't give her a decent view of the entrance of the training grounds, but it was close enough for her to keep a lookout. She waited for a few minutes. Just then, a familiar tremor shook the ground..
Someone had exited the training grounds.
Li Xueyue didn't need to look. She already knew who it was. A small smile formed. Everything should go according to the plan.
Without another word, she disappeared down the hallways. It was time to take a small tour of Yu Zhen's estate. Well, it also belonged to her, but it felt weird saying that.
"I heard the Crown Prince's estate is quite large," Li Xueyue remarked to one of the maidservants.
"Are you familiar with his estate's layout?" she asked.
The maidservant became anxious. She bowed her head to the ground, her shoulders shaking. "T-this servant apologizes, Princess, but she does not know. There was never an opportunity to serve him."
Li Xueyue hummed in response. That was fine. It would make the exploration even more fun. After walking for a bit, she finally reached his estate. As usual, it was quiet and peaceful here.
It seemed Yu Zhen wasn't fond of flowers. In its place were white pebbles neatly arranged on the ground. Small, wooden structures like miniature houses and lanterns were strategically placed. Bamboo stalks were neatly trimmed and grew in favorable places.
'It's relaxing here,' she thought to herself whilst touching the leaf of a bamboo.
Li Xueyue noticed a bridge leading to a spot she had never seen before. Curiosity got the best of her, as she set foot on the wooden path.
She peered over the edges, noticing a long stream of water. It was a man-made river, going from one end of the estate to the other. Fishes of different breeds could be seen, swimming about. It was a beautiful sight of white, red, orange, and black.
"The view here is a lot better than most," Li Xueyue said to herself. She was appreciative of the estate's beauty, a contrast to the rest of the Imperial Palace.
Li Xueyue was bored with the flowery gardens. They came in all shapes and sizes, but eventually, everything looked the same.
Despite the grandeur of the Crown Prince's estate, there were soft touches of nature in the form of wooden structures and bamboo. She was appreciative of the greenery found within this part of the palace.
Yu Zhen's estate was much more tranquil. The air here felt different. To her, the air was crisp and cool. But to others, it was chilly and dreary. Of course, it would be, considering the man who resided here.
"I wonder where this leads to," Li Xueyue said to her maidservant who nodded in agreement. She crossed the bridge and heard a slight commotion.
What was going on?
'I sure love to get into sticky situations,' Li Xueyue thought to herself. Without hesitation, she directly headed in the direction of the noise. Sure enough, she understood the cause of it.
A tiger was roaming about. His strut was filled with pride. His coat of fur glistened under the sun, a healthy sheen upon him. One thing that stood out the most was the broken chain he was dragging along on the floor.
Xiao Juzi had escaped from his cage.
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