Li Xueyue couldn't move a limb. She laid upon her side, barely able to keep her eyes open. He stayed true to his words and finally did what he said he would do.
Yu Zhen had stopped shortly after their second round. But she knew it would be much different tonight. No matter how many times they did it, his stamina never depleted.
She wondered if that was even humanly possible. Where did he get all his energy from? She noticed he glowed with health whereas she was beyond exhausted.
"Sleep, Sunshine. I will handle the rest." Yu Zhen sat on the edge of the bed, gently stroking the back of her head.
"I don't like to rely too much on you…" she trailed off, her eyelids growing heavier with each passing second.
There was something so tranquil about his actions. The way his fingers touch her hair, the way his powerful body hovered over her… She felt safe and loved.
"You have me at your disposal, yet never use me." Yu Zhen shook his head. Her antics were so strange. People would do anything and everything to have him as an ally. It happened naturally for her, yet she didn't think much of it.
"That's not true." Li Xueyue was beginning to get distracted by his hands, as she always did. "I…used your pendant…"
"And your bedroom—"
"Our bedroom," he corrected.
"Our bedroom…" she lazily repeated as sleep began to take over her.
"I want you to rely on me a lot more."
"My shoulders are sturdy, Sunshine. Nothing will weigh me down. Not even your biggest problems."
Li Xueyue weakly smiled at his words. She peered at him, reaching her hands up. He responded immediately, bending down. She hugged him deeply, bringing his upper body down with her.
"How do you always know the right thing to say?" she whispered, kissing the side of his neck.
Yu Zhen was mindful not to crush her body. He leaned his head in her direction. "When I'm with you, the words just come out."
Li Xueyue laughed. "There you go again."
Yu Zhen smiled. "Sleep, Sunshine. You will need your stamina for tonight."
Li Xueyue couldn't even protest. She craved his touch too much. Who would've thought making love was so pleasurable?
"Where do you get all of that energy?" Li Xueyue mumbled. He lowered her back onto the bed and pulled the blanket to her chin.
"I was born this way."
"Life is unfair."
Li Xueyue glared at him. His smile widened, reaching his eyes. She decided to change the topic, knowing this discussion could continue all day.
"When will you return?"
"Before you know it, Sunshine." Yu Zhen pushed the hairs away from her forehead. He wondered if it was irritating her since it did for him. He hated it when his hair tickled the side of his face. It only made him crave her touch, feather-light and warm.
"I'm scared of nightmares…" Li Xueyue let out a small yawn. Her eyes grew more and more tired of staying open.
"I will chase them away."
It was her turn to smile.
"I will not reveal my secrets."
Li Xueyue turned her head in his direction. He was still sitting on the same spot, his attention fully on her.
"Husbands and wives should not have secrets."
"Tiny ones are fine," he reassured her. "Now sleep, Little Hamster."
Li Xueyue was too exhausted to even argue about that nickname. Little Hamster. What part of her resembled that small creature? She couldn't figure it out. Whilst lost in thought, her eyes slowly closed.
"Sleep well, Sunshine," Yu Zhen murmured, bending down to kiss her on the forehead. And he would remain in that position for the next few minutes.
Yu Zhen watched over her, making sure she did not toss or turn. Only after she began to quietly snore did he rest assured. There was a reason why he depleted her energy before sleeping. She would be too tired to even experience a nightmare.
"As many times as it takes," Yu Zhen mused, even though she was unable to hear him.
Yu Zhen rose to his feet. He straightened out the collar of his robes only to pause for a brief second. His attention drifted back to her, specifically the hands that peeked out of the blankets.
Yu Zhen grasped her hand and softly kissed her knuckles. "If only you knew, Sunshine… How much I love you so."
- - - - -
"You've seen her capabilities," the Emperor sternly said to his wife as everyone began to exit the venue. The party finally concluded and Nanhui's royalties were preparing to head home.
"Do you still doubt her?" the Emperor questioned, turning to the smiling woman beside him.
The Empress shook her head. "I merely wanted to see her skills in person. That is all."
The Emperor let out a "hmph," at her words. He was never the biggest supporter of both of their parenting styles. His wife favored sons. He favored daughters. What could go wrong?
"You must enjoy seeing me in such a weakened state," the Emperor said. A Eunuch came forward, offering him a cup of freshly brewed eucalyptus tea.
The Emperor could still remember her glare, filled with pure hatred. When had she shown him such a disgruntled stare? He searched through his memories. Ah yes, it was when Yu Zhen was beaten to a pulp for neglecting a day of studies.
"You are my husband and the ruler of this country. I do not have the heart to see you in pain. My heart hurts each time you wince."
"Hah." The Emperor drank the tea in one long gulp. He settled the cup down, knowing the medicine was next.
"You don't even have a heart in the first place. How do you feel pain?" the Emperor mused.
He grasped the newly poured cup of medicinal tea. The eucalyptus was meant to clear the airways and confuse his taste buds.
The Empress revealed a thin smile. She should've been aggravated by his words but she wasn't. It felt too familiar. He loved to provoke her, and she'd do the same.
"You should get rid of the decorative flowers," the Emperor suggested. In reality, it was a command. His eyes lingered upon Lady Ge Beining, the only lady-in-waiting present.
"They keep me sane."
"As if you have that trait in your cold-blooded veins," the Emperor sneered. He slammed the cup onto the wooden tray, visibly showing his displeasure.
Unlike the past, the Empress didn't even flinch. Once upon a time, she was terrified of his wrath and anger.
The Empress could still remember the days she trembled whilst protecting her sons. There was a particular moment where she hugged her first son in her arms, vowing to take the punishment in his place.
No one believed her, not even her first son who felt the intense shudder of her body.
"She reminds me a lot of my younger days," the Empress suddenly said. "She did well on proving her capabilities to everyone."
"She performed a lot better than expected." The Emperor rose to his feet. He refused to tolerate this irritable heat for another second.
The Empress didn't respond. She faintly nodded her head, not believing her own eyes sometimes. When Lady Ge Beining told her the Crown Princess possessed little to zero talent, the Empress believed it.
Nonetheless, Lady Ge Beining wouldn't intentionally lie to her. She had merely voiced her opinion.
"Hah, here comes my irritable son, ready to ruin my afternoon," the Emperor drearily said. He was forced to acknowledge the immense presence on the other side of the field.
From the distance, the Crown Prince was as tiny as an ant. But his strides were too powerful to ignore.
There was more than one reason that the Emperor chose his second son over the first. It wasn't merely because of Yu Zhen's accomplishments as a Commander, though it did help his case.
The real reason was clear as day. Everyone saw it.
The Crown Prince had the aura of a thousand men. His stare, his walk, his aura, they were intense and powerful. Everything about Yu Zhen was befitting to become an Emperor.
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