412 Everyday Occurence
Li Xueyue was not bewildered by Yu Zhen's request. Instead, a bizarre sense of satisfaction sank into her.
She had been wanting to say something like this but believed she was in no position to override the Empress's authority. Those women would become a bigger problem eventually. It was better to get rid of the weeds before it became an infestation.
"You have lost your damn mind, my bloodthirsty son," the Empress snapped. "It was one small fish in the entire ocean. Must all of them suffer?"
"You don't want to do it?" Yu Zhen eerily asked, his voice as serene as the clear skies. His cold composure with underlying darkness terrified many people. No one could predict his next move.
"That's fine." Yu Zhen chuckled, the sound raising goosebumps.
"What are you planning?" the Empress harshly asked. To say his anger was terrifying was an understatement. To obtain his goal, everything in his wake would be destroyed.
Yu Zhen did not respond. He wrapped a protective arm around Li Xueyue. "We've stood out here all morning. Let's get you fed, my Wangfei."
Li Xueyue made eye contact with the Empress. She was surprised that the Empress didn't use her authority to control Yu Zhen.
Then again, was it truly possible to control a bloodthirsty beast? Chains and collars would never work. Xiao Juzi's multiple escapes were evidence of that.
"Hah, you must be tired from dealing with a man as stubborn as my son," the Empress sighed. She cast him a displeased side-eye.
"Remember to take good care of your health, Princess," the Empress said. She folded her hands together, tucking it in between her long sleeves.
"Likewise, Your Grace," Li Xueyue said.
The Empress nodded. Then, she walked off, without another look back. Her amiable expression disappeared, as a dark look crossed her eyes.
Li Xueyue waited for all of the Empress's people to leave until there was no one left in the large courtyard, except her maidservants, and Xu Jiaqi. She faced them, her heart prickling.
Everyone seemed so relieved to see her as if they had met their savior. They had hopes that she would know how to tame the brute next to her. All of the servants were still on their knees, but with newfound joy glistening in their eyes.
"You may rise," she said.
They slowly did so whilst glancing at their acquaintances, wondering if everyone was doing the same thing. No one wanted to be the oddball out.
"Return to your posts," she added on.
Their legs wobbled. Not because they had kneeled for so long, but because one look from the Crown Prince was enough to freeze them on the spot. He was carefully watching them with narrowed eyes, thin and sharp.
"Go on," Li Xueyue encouraged in a soft, gentle voice.
The majority of them didn't have any faults. Many did their duties well and acted accordingly, but everyone was punished— but nothing too physical.
Watching Xu Jiaqi getting tortured was enough to serve as a warning. Her screams would permanently ring their ears, reminding them to never harm even a hair upon the Crown Princess's head. An injury as small as a papercut could result in their heads rolling.
- - - - -
"I didn't mean to suspect the Empress…" Li Xueyue trailed off once they were in the comfort of their own bedroom.
She approached the bookshelf and pulled out the wrapped handkerchief. The material was stiff after the soup had dried, but the smell was still pungent.
"I didn't drink her soup yesterday because I was too paranoid. But who would've known I would be attacked by something else…" Li Xueyue brought the wrapped handkerchief to him. The ingredients were still neatly wrapped inside.
"Let me see." Yu Zhen struck a hand out and she placed the small item onto his palm. He settled it onto the table, unraveling it. A herbal smell came out, pungent and strong.
Yu Zhen lifted one of the roots, bringing it to his nose. Individually, he smelled all of the ingredients, searching for a distinctive scent. If it was poisonous, he would know, having dealt with a fair share of it in the past.
"The Empress has suffered multiple miscarriages after she was pregnant with her first son," Yu Zhen said.
Li Xueyue nodded. She had figured as much…especially after the conversation that went down between the Emperor and Empress. At that time, the tension in the air was high, and she was forced to read in between the lines.
Li Xueyue found it strange that Yu Zhen rarely addressed his family members by kinship terms such as "father," "mother," "brother," or "sister." It was always Emperor or Empress, First Prince, and so on.
Thinking back to her childhood, Li Xueyue could not blame him. Sometimes, it was better to address them in a way that didn't seem intimate.
"She would be wise enough not to poison your food.�� Yu Zhen securely wrapped the handkerchief.
All of the ingredients truly seemed beneficial. But, just to be sure, he would consult the newly appointed Imperial Physician.
This morning, Yu Zhen had fired the previous one. The old Imperial Physician was useless with age. He had experience, but was getting forgetful. Yu Zhen had no use for incompetent people.
He had been kind enough to let the Imperial Physician go without punishments. Though, his severance pay was reduced, and he would not get any bonuses for failure to act accordingly.
"If there is one thing that I am certain of," Yu Zhen said. "It is the fact that she would not voluntarily cause a miscarriage unto others."
Li Xueyue dutifully nodded. She was confused when he slipped the handkerchief and it's contents into his pockets.
"However, it is better safe than sorry. I will keep more spies around her," Yu Zhen said. "I will arrange for a tester to test your food for poison in your presence so you could have a peace of mind"
Li Xueyue had heard of servants who would test the food for poison prior to serving it to their masters. If she recalled correctly, this was a practice in the Imperial Palace, but only reserved for the Emperor and Empress.
"I should've done this sooner," he sighed.
Yu Zhen had nearly forgotten how paranoid she was. Seeing the food directly tested in front of her will result in many reassurances.
Li Xueyue placed a hand over his and stepped closer to him. His eyes widened a bit in surprise before returning to normal.
"Yes, my Wangfei?" he murmured, setting a hand upon her lower back.
Li Xueyue was hesitant about what she planned to say. It was a sensitive topic. He knew almost everything there was to learn about her, however, she didn't know much about him.
Li Xueyue rested her hand upon his chest, the other wrapping it around his waist. She peered up at him, curiosity in her tired gaze.
"Well, this isn't an everyday occurrence, Sunshine," Yu Zhen teased. He leaned down, pressing a quick kiss upon her forehead. It was tempting not to do so when she was right underneath his chin.
Li Xueyue's heart fluttered at his actions. It had happened so many times before but she still couldn't get over it.
Her eyes briefly snapped to their bed, unmade and unkept, for the maidservants weren't granted entry. He hadn't touched her yesterday night, nor this morning.
Li Xueyue didn't have to question the reason. She wasn't in the mood for it, and he was fine with that.
"Will you tell me?" she suddenly asked.