"Well, what brings you here today, Little Hamster?" Yu Zhen curiously asked. He pulled her close, hoping she would sit on his lap. But she narrowingly escaped his grasp, fleeing to the other side of the table, as if she was a mere guest in the private study.
"I've come with an idea for the Kingdom's budget," Li Xueyue stated.
Li Xueyue didn't want to sit on his lap and convince him that way. It felt wrong… Besides, being so close to him was distracting. He'd play with the ends of her clothing, or strands of her hair, and she would lose her train of thought. It was inevitable. His fingers always worked magic upon her.
Yu Zhen raised a brow. Everyone seemed to have an idea, but not many were smart. He gestured for her to take a seat. She did so with ease, sliding into the curved wooden chair with elegance.
"What do you have in mind?"
Li Xueyue noticed he had dropped the nicknames. It was time for a serious discussion.
"Now that the war between Hanjian and Wuyi has ceased, what is going to happen to the budget allocated to fund the war?" Li Xueyue asked.
Yu Zhen hummed. He had an inkling about where this would go. He rested his chin upon a propped up hand, watching her with great interest.
"Why do you ask?"
"If I am going to become Empress, it would benefit us both if I am acquainted with the financial situation of our country."
Yu Zhen smiled at this. She had come a very long way. Now, she was including both of them in the picture, instead of solely focusing on her own things.
"The previous war budget was in fact a small reallocation of funds from other accounts, accumulated over time. Now that the war has been called off, the collected funds will naturally return to its original sources."
Li Xueyue hadn't expected that. She thought it came from the military reserves. Hmm… "In that case, were the other factions affected by the small decrease in budget?"
"I'd say not drastically, since it wasn't an enormous chunk taken out."
"In that case, I propose the funds collected for the war budget shouldn't return to its origin. Instead, it can be used for building schools and educating the commonwealth. That way, the future generation will be wiser and more efficient, for almost everyone will be literate."
"I could've sworn the idea of helping the peasants was put down during the Round Table discussion. It is quite unfair to bring it up again, in private too," Yu Zhen said and chuckled.
Li Xueyue narrowed her eyes. She had seen the mischievous glint in his eyes, dark and devious. He had ulterior motives.
"I do hope, Crown Prince, that you are not suggesting something promiscuous."
"Dear Crown Princess, I would never." Yu Zhen placed a hand upon his chest, feigning offence at her words.
Li Xueyue scoffed. "The suggestion I've made at the Round Table Discussion was to increase fundings for the orphanages and to build schools for the commoners, but I never mentioned where the funds would come from. So the aristocrats must've thought the money would come from them, by increasing their taxes."
Yu Zhen's lips twitched. So, she had realized her mistakes during her first Round Table Discussion.
"Now, a budget has already been allocated, and there are unused war funds," she concluded.
Yu Zhen hummed in response. Absolute power could be exercised, and he'd have this change done by the next sunrise. But did she realize this was going through the backdoor?
"Xueyue, this idea—"
"Will be presented during the next Round Table Discussion. I just wanted to get your feedback on it, if you have the time to do so."
Yu Zhen was stunned by her. She had certainly come prepared. So this was why she avoided his touch, for she could've easily gotten her way. He was wrapped around her little pinky, and even he knew that.
A laugh escaped from him. She was caught off guard, her eyes briefly widening in surprise and confusion. Abruptly, Yu Zhen leaned closer to her, an entertained smirk upon his flawless features.
"Duke Han will argue with you again."
"This time, I will not take up the majority of everyone's time arguing with him. After I address his concerns once or twice, I will open the floor to everyone else for their opinions and feedback. So that everyone will feel included in the conversation, unlike last time, where all of my attention was solely on him."
Yu Zhen considered her approach. She had pinpointed another crucial mistake that was made then. Then again, Representative Wu had done the same, and spent his entire time arguing with Duke Han.
However, the difference between Representative Wu and Li Xueyue was that he had more experience, he had spent more time in the discussions, and people knew him personally, whereas she was still a stranger to them.
Luckily for her, Li Xueyue had made quite the name for herself with the solidification of Nanhui's alliance, and proving her worth as a warrior. Now that Li Xueyue made a new name for herself in Hanjian, things would be alot easier.
"It is definitely a better approach than before," Yu Zhen said and nodded. "However, since you are talking about the war budget, Commander Zhang will object."
"Oh, he is the Representative for the military," Li Xueyue said. She recalled the large, burly man. He was old, but strong, with a scar running down the left side of his face, blinding his left eye.
"Yes, he will argue that the war budget should remain untouched, for in case a war breaks out in the near future."
"Do you anticipate another war?" Li Xueyue remarked. "The strongest Kingdoms of this enormous continent are already allies with us. Jiangsu, Wuyi, and Nanhui."
"Jiangsu is suspicious, especially after their previous encounter with the late Emperor of Wuyi."
"Yes, but Jiangsu is not stupid. They know an attack on Hanjian is also an attack on Nanhui. Both Hanjian and Nanhui are Warrior Kingdoms with efficient fighters and a large military."
Li Xueyue pressed her lips together. "Additionally, Wuyi will not join Jiangsu's side, so even if Jiangsu wants to be mischievous, they will have no one to support them."
Yu Zhen fondly smiled in her direction. She knew so much… People truly underestimated her, didn't they? Li Xueyue was full of surprises.
"Which means there should be no anticipation of war, at least for the current generation," Li Xueyue deadpanned.
"I'm afraid you're right."
Li Xueyue's lips twitched. It was with great difficulty that she suppressed a triumphant smile. And now that this problem was out of the way…
"We should discuss Duke Han now," she said.
Yu Zhen frowned. "Or, we should take a break, and do something much more fun."
Li Xueyue threw him a pointed look. He raised his hands in defense, smiling in amusement.
"I was merely joking, Crown Princess."
Li Xueyue snorted. As if anyone would believe him. Especially with his ploys of keeping her out of the frontlines, worrying that it would burden her.
"I know you're worried about me," she said.
"I always will."
"But keeping me as an idle woman by your side will drive me insane. Tasks like this do not burden me at all," she said.
"Yes, but you are the type to not voice your complaints. I can never be reassured you are truly fine."
Li Xueyue was touched by his sincerity. "The same can be said about you."
She interlocked her fingers and folded her hands in front of her lap. "How about this?" she suddenly suggested.
"We should, quite frankly, share our thoughts and feelings more often. For example, if we're truly burdened by something, we will work hard on voicing it. That way, it is easier for us to be more aware of what's going on with the other."
"Ah, yes, communication—something we've always emphasized, but forget," Yu Zhen remarked. "If we swear on this, will you uphold it?"
"Will you?" she shot back.
Yu Zhen let out a dark laugh. "Then, let us swear on this. There is no going back."
Li Xueyue chuckled in amusement. "You make it seem like I am swearing my life away."
"And to seal the deal…" Yu Zhen tapped his lips, a devious glimmer in his eyes, dark like ash.
Li Xueyue laughed again. Even at a time like this, he enjoyed cracking jokes. What a man she had married. Somehow, this little quirk of his made her love him even more, if that was even possible at all.
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