It was late in the morning, yet they were still lying in bed, watching the sun reach its peak in the sky. Li Xueyue was exhausted, her body covered in sweat. Their bodies were still joined as one, as she laid on her side. He rested an arm over her stomach, their fingers entwined together.
Her heart swelled when he shifted and kissed her on her head. The kiss lingered, warm and loving.
"Shall I draw a bath for you, Sunshine?" Yu Zhen murmured into her hair. He breathed in her scent, sweet and musky, mixing with his.
Li Xueyue wondered what had triggered him a few hours prior to this. But he seemed fine now… She glanced at their entwined fingers. Her other hand brushed on his knuckles that had tiny scars that had faded over time. She could not help but kiss the tiny scars, knowing he must've gotten them during his childhood—a little boy who was constantly pushed to his limits.
"Don't do that," Yu Zhen muttered, as he hugged her tighter.
"Why not?" she asked in a tiny voice, turning her head to look at him. Her heart leaped. They had just finished, but he was suddenly hungry for more.
"Because I will want more than just a kiss."
"O-oh…" she stuttered out, knowing what he meant. Then, in a smaller voice, she whispered, "I'd like a bath then…"
Y Zhen smiled against her hair, dark as a raven. She was beginning to smell like him. "Hmmm, I think I'd like something else."
"Yu Zhen!" she protested.
"Yes, love?" he teased.
Yu Zhen enjoyed ruffling her feathers. Her reactions were just too adorable. If she didn't fall into his traps so quickly all the time, perhaps he wouldn't tease her so much. But who was he kidding? He loved making her heart race.
"Don't be mean," she mumbled, turning in his arms to face him.
Yu Zhen simply widened his smile. Did she think he was mean? Even though she had provoked him first? He leaned closer and kissed the tip of her nose. She crinkled it before scooting closer to him.
"Yu Zhen?" she suddenly whispered, as her eyes darted from the left to right, like a shy little maiden.
Yu Zhen quirked a brow, wondering what could've been the cause of her sudden mischief.
She brought her lips close to his ear, as if whispering a forbidden secret. "I love you."
Yu Zhen could've sworn his heart soared higher than the heavens. Then, she let out a breathless giggle, burying her face in the crook of his neck. He squeezed his eyes shut, praying to the heavens for his sanity. This woman would be the end of him.
Yu Zhen did not know what to do with her. She was resting on his chest now, and he could do nothing but hug her tightly, closely. He had never felt so much warmth in his chest that burst forth and bloomed from the inside.
"Sunshine, when you say things like this, I want to marry you all over again."
Li Xueyue laughed at his words, as she wrapped her arms around his neck. She squeezed him, as his hands slithered around her body. He embraced her tightly.
"I'm never going to let you go, Li Xueyue."
"Good, because you will never be able get rid of me," she said.
Yu Zhen loudly laughed, his chest rumbling from the sound. He turned his chin and pressed a firm kiss on the side of her head. The poor thing, she must've said it as a joke, but he was the kind to take it to heart.
- - - - -
Yu Zhen quietly left the bedroom, where she was still deep asleep, and he decided to leave her there, unbothered. This time, he will keep quiet and watch her from the shadows as she deployed her revenge upon Marquis Qin. Only when he deemed it was necessary you step in, he would.
Yu Zhen set foot into the hallway, where his servants hurriedly followed after him.
"Instruct Hu Dengxiao to return," Yu Zhen informed one of his men.
Yu Zhen was on his way to another ministerial meeting to inform them there was a change of plans and the finalization of the kingdom's budget would be postponed until the next Round Table Discussion. It would be a reasonable explanation given the importance of this matter.
His servant, dressed in full black from head to toe nodded in response. Silently and stealthily, he disappeared from view.
Yu Zhen was certain that he had dispatched many of these well hidden servants around Li Xueyue. In public, she would be seen with two or three guards, but in the background, concealed away from plain sight, there were many more guarding her.
'Perhaps they could serve as more than just his eyes and hands but also his ears…' Yu Zhen thought to himself. Her servants were surprisingly loyal, refusing to open their mouths about the Crown Princess's encounters and such—not that he often asked.
Yu Zhen decided against the idea. It would violate her privacy and she would be upset. Having protection around her was enough. She had sworn to tell him of any conflicts that should arise and he'd hold her to that vow.
The only exception was Marquis Qin. Li Xueyue had unknowingly distracted Yu Zhen from this crucial bit.
Yu Zhen's usual scowl deepened. He knew the reason that Marquis Qin's presence was kept a secret. She wanted to get her own revenge, to taint her hands in blood one last time.
'Why does she want to be so independent when there are resources at her disposal for her to exploit?' he angrily thought.
"Is Lady Lu present today?" Yu Zhen demanded from a Eunuch. He wondered about the outcomes of her conversation with the Prime Minister.
"Y-Your Highness…" the middle-aged Eunuch dressed in green could not meet the Crown Prince's ferocious glare.
"There were multiple reports that the Prime Minister's office is a mess."
Yu Zhen stopped walking. Was Lu Tianbi alright? He knew the Prime Minister was a stern man who raised his voice more than his hands. As a matter of fact, the Prime Minister had never striked his daughter and any man who would hurt even a hair on her head would be brutally punished.
Even so, Lu Tianbi had quite a mouth on her. Now that she was an outstanding warrior with a name for herself, it is certain that she would not back down from her father's thunderous voice.
"Then, where is Lady Lu?" Yu Zhen snarled.
Yu Zhen's gaze snapped to the Eunuch who let out a small shriek before quickly bowing his head.
"You're telling me," he growled, "My right-hand woman is in prison and no one has informed me of this until now?"
The Eunuch couldn't even swallow his saliva. He shakily nodded his head, his eyes shaking so much he was beginning to see double.
Not knowing what else to do after displeasing the Crown Prince, the Eunuch lowered himself to the ground and kneeled.
"Your Highness, I was wrong! I deserve a slap and—"
"Kneel here until sunrise." Yu Zhen did not have the time to stand here and roast the man with his words.
Lu Tianbi was in a jail cell, rotting away all night long for heaven's sake!
Yu Zhen wasted no time getting there. The prison was located near the outskirts of the palace. Its walls were lined with guards, but even so, the actual location was underground.
No one dared to stop him when Yu Zhen strolled through the large metal doors. He rushed downstairs, his nose unbothered by the horrid scent of this place. Prison life in the first few cells was a lot better than in the cells deep, deep in the prison where unspeakable crimes took place.
"... are you crazy?!" she yelled.
Yu Zhen had to do a double take. He could not believe his eyes, and there were not a lot of things that surprised him.
Kneeling before Lu Tianbi's cell was Hu Dengxiao with a ring in between his fingers.
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