"You're being unnecessarily impatient," Yu Zhen snapped the moment he stepped out of the bedroom shared with his wife.
If it wasn't for Lu Tianbi's persistence of having him awakened, then Yu Zhen could've spent his morning teasing Li Xueyue.
Instead, she would have to wake up alone and bewildered. He preferred the sight of her snuggled against him, instead of the blankets.
"Only because we have finally acquired the list you've asked for, Your Highness," Lu Tianbi explained. She raised her eyes from the floor and wryly smiled.
A dark scowl marred his perfect features. His brows were scrunched together, displeasure was written all over his face. There was a healthy glow to him. Without a doubt, someone else lacked the same energy.
"We'll discuss it in my private study," Yu Zhen said.
Lu Tianbi nodded in agreement and hastily followed after him. They walked in silence, so quietly, the rustle of branches could be heard. What a peaceful morning... The birds were chirping, and the breeze was gentle.
"How have your matchmaking sessions been going?" Yu Zhen finally asked.
Lu Tianbi's shoulder dropped. Her attention went elsewhere. Suddenly, the fluttering leaves of summer intrigued her. They were vibrant and green, filled with life, unlike her eyes.
"There are many suitors," she whispered. Her voice was meek and small, unlike her true personality.
Lu Tianbi wrung her fingers together. With each passing second, her lips began to lower.
"But you are unhappy," Yu Zhen deadpanned.
Lu Tianbi slowly nodded her head. It was a tiny action, one that almost went unnoticed. She pushed the doors of the study open, darkness greeting them. Wordlessly, she approached the windows and pushed it open. As sunlight flooded the room, she adjusted the curtains.
"Father said something startling," she confessed.
Lu Tianbi didn't know where to begin. She leaned against the wall. A soft thud echoed in the room when the Crown Prince stepped inside. It was the only sound, aside from the doors being tightly shut.
"What is it?" Yu Zhen asked.
Yu Zhen approached his desk, untouched, and disorganized. It was exactly how he left it yesterday. Not a single brush was misplaced.
"For Hu Dengxiao's years of servitude to the Lu family, Father is thinking of rewarding him with a woman of a suitable rank."
Yu Zhen lifted his head from the desk. It was surprising news, since Hu Dengxiao was his advisor—someone that belonged to Yu Zhen.
News as big as his advisor being promised a lady should have reached Yu Zhen's ears. Who gave the Prime Minister the permission to order Hu Dengxiao around?
The audacity of that man… But Yu Zhen was highly intrigued and amused. Without making a comment, Yu Zhen took a seat. Not a second later, Lu Tianbi was speaking again. It was unusual for her to rant, but he welcomed this tangent.
"Of course, Hu Dengxiao used to be a strategist, and now an advisor. He has climbed high in the ranks, but the lady would at most be the daughter of a Viscount."
Yu Zhen remained emotionless at her words. His expression didn't change. His fingers simply placed the brushes back into the holder.
"And well, I suggested to Father that with Hu Dengxiao's title and achievements, perhaps marrying a Marquis's daughter could also be considered."
Yu Zhen quirked a brow. For someone so intelligent, she sure was slow at times. It was such an obvious hint. The wise Prime Minister must've caught on in a heartbeat.
"Father was furious," she whispered. "It feels like…like he's purposely doing this."
"Your father should know by now," he said.
Lu Tianbi's head snapped up. As she met his solemn gaze, dread filled her. She knew exactly what he was talking about.
"He would never accept it, Your Highness," she sighed.
Lu Tianbi reached into her large sleeve and pulled out the concealed slip of parchment. It was rolled up, and barely larger than her hand. She approached his desk and placed the item down.
"I meant, he is aware of the mutual feelings you two share."
Lu Tianbi's head snapped up. She was frantic at his words, her hands retracting too quickly. The wooden brush holder crashed onto the table. She cringed at the noise but wasn't distracted by it.
"Who told him, Your Highness? No one knows aside from—"
Lu Tianbi gaped at him. "But—"
"Both of you were so obvious, even a child can figure it out."
Lu Tianbi rapidly blinked. She hesitatingly bent down to pick up the fallen items. "W-what do you mean 'both of us'? Besides, the feeling isn't mutual. He prefers demure girls, one who doesn't hit him every second, Your Highness."
Yu Zhen scoffed. He rolled his eyes and lifted the parchment she had placed in front of him. As always, her handwriting was neat and near perfection. It was very similar to the template that teachers would give to their scholars.
"Hmm…there are no Earls with the surname Qin?" Yu Zhen pressed his lips together. He was certain Li Xueyue mentioned the scum was an Earl.
"Indeed. However, we found there were two aristocratic families with that surname. Perhaps the Earl received a promotion in ranks?"
Yu Zhen narrowed his eyes. The parchment crumbled under his fingertips. If so, it must've been the Emperor's doing. That old man used to reward those who heavily funded the war between Wuyi and Hanjian years ago.
"I wouldn't be surprised." Yu Zhen pushed out of his chair. His mood was further ruined by the unexpected turn of events.
"Have Hu Dengxiao conduct an investigation on both families," he instructed.
Yu Zhen lit a candle standing on a small table. The flames flickered and danced, creating a wispy silhouette on the surface. The fire consumed the corners of the parchment until nothing but crisp ash remained.
"But Father has already scheduled a matchmaking session for Hu Dengxiao, Your Highness."
Yu Zhen laughed at her words. It was empty and humorless. "If the Prime Minister has a problem, he should speak to me directly."
Lu Tianbi perked at his words. A slow, energetic smile bloomed on her lips. She was satisfied at his command, rapidly nodding her head.
"Oh and," Yu Zhen mused. "Our dear advisor is quite an airhead. Go and make sure he does a decent job."
Lu Tianbi chuckled at his comment. Everyone knew that was false. Despite Hu Dengxiao's bubbly and joking nature, he was quite intelligent. Every task of his was performed to utter perfection. There was not much to complain about his work ethics.
"Alright, I will—"
A sharp knock interrupted her. Not a second later, a louder knock was heard. Urgency bounced off the walls.
Yu Zhen scowled. "What?" he demanded, loud enough for the people on the other side to hear.
Lu Tianbi stealthily approached the door. She pulled it open, a stern look on her face. It was a complete switch from her true personality.
"Lady Lu!" a maidservant exclaimed. She quickly bowed as far as her upper body allowed.
Her breathing came out in panicked pants. She did her best to control it, but her heaving chest implied otherwise.
"T-The Crown Princess… she… she…" the maidservant trailed off, her body trembling in fear.
Yu Zhen appeared directly behind Lu Tianbi. She stepped aside for him, but her eyes widened when he yanked the maidservant close.
"Speak," he demanded.
"The Crown Princess is unstable. W-we don't know what happened, but there was blood in the water. M-many of the maidservants believe it is not the cycle starting—"
The maidservant wasn't able to finish her sentence. She was shoved aside as the Crown Prince stormed out the door. She shakily adjusted her crumbled collars where he had tightly gripped.
Less than a minute had passed, and he was already down the hallways. When it came to the Crown Princess, nothing else mattered. It was too difficult to ignore the urgency in his heavy footsteps. They echoed in the corridor. It was completely unlike him to make so much noise.
"How can other ladies dream of competing for his attention when he is so smitten by her…" the maidservant whispered to herself.
She sighed at her foolish thoughts. Picking up her dress, she quickly ran after the Crown Prince. He would know what to do. He always did.
And perhaps, just perhaps, things weren't as bad as it seemed. Or so everyone had hoped.
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