Li Xueyue had never dressed so quickly. She grabbed three pieces of clothing from the closet, placing it on without hesitation. With shaky hands, she frantically tied the ribbons of her hanfu closed, so that everything was covered before finally opening the door.
The guards did not dare to rush in, but they did look around with urgency, searching, and seeking for the thing that caused such a loud scream. Everyone was relieved to see there wasn't anyone inside, but then, what could've caused such a loud scream? The guards could've sworn they had heard a male voice…
"Someone intruded through the window," Li Xueyue harshly said. "How could so many of you fail at following the safety protocols?"
They flinched at her cold words, not expecting the compassionate Crown Princess to ever raise her voice at them. Well, she hadn't screamed or yelled, but the ruthlessness of her words was more than enough.
"We are so sorry, Crown Princess, this will not happen again!" the guards hurriedly said.
Li Xueyue did not present them with a glimmer of approval. She curled her lips and glared. "The perpetrator was dressed in white and gold, he escaped through the window. Go find him," she commanded.
The guards looked at each other before rapidly nodding their heads. They had never seen her so disgruntled and upset. It was a strange feeling that worried them to no avail. The wrath of a gentle woman…it was quite terrifying.
Not wanting to face the brunt of her full wrath, they wasted no time in running off in the direction she pointed at.
Li Xueyue watched with narrow, displeased eyes as they ran off. The few that lingered behind shuffled in their feet, bowing their heads in apology.
"What are you guys waiting for? Go!"
The guards were affected by her icy tone. It was too unfamiliar and made them strive harder to hear the same patient, and empathetic voice she always used.
"We are so sorry, Crown Princess, I will have my men find the perpetrator—"
"Go and find him with your men," Li Xueyue growled. The captain looked at her in shock. When she raised a threatening brow, he hurriedly dipped his head lower.
"A-as you wish, Crown Princess!" The captain bowed again, as his people did the same. Not a second later, they rushed out of the door, on a mad dash to find who had the guts to sneak into the Crown Prince's estate.
Everyone had been on high-alert, and the soldiers were exceptionally trained. Whoever got past them must've excelled at martial arts.
Once everyone was gone, Li Xueyue grabbed a sturdy ribbon and exited the estate. She walked quickly whilst tying her hair loosely beside her, letting it sit upon her shoulders, so that she looked slightly presentable.
Li Xueyue planned to inform Yu Zhen of this mess. And he would be far from happy.
- - - - -
The First Prince anxiously paced around. He chewed at his nails, wondering what his next plan should be. When he heard thundering footsteps, his eyes widened.
Had the Crown Princess dispatched the soldiers so quickly? But how? Yu Zhen's men only followed his orders! Did that mean the rumors were true? The Crown Prince had given his Wangfei liberties far beyond what was expected?
"Oh dear, oh dear, this is bad news," he breathed out, knowing the rest of the gossip must've been true as well.
The First Prince wasted no time in running off to Yu Zhen's private study, knowing it was the one place that his younger brother was always found in. It was that or the training grounds, where men were carefully surveyed.
"I have to get there first!" he anxiously whispered under his breath. He quickened his footsteps and ran down the hallways, but bumped into the guards.
"First Prince!" they greeted, bowing their heads in urgency. "By chance, did you see a man dressed in white and gold…"
Their eyes centered upon his clothing. Pristine white robes, spotless, and clean. Golden clouds rolled upon his sleeves, a few climbing up the edges of his collar. White. Gold. Accusations filled their eyes, but they were also uncertain and a little apprehensive.
Had the First Prince broken into the Crown Prince's estate? It would not be a surprise if a man of his skills were able to do so. Especially since he was trained by one of the best fighters of this country, alongside the Crown Prince.
"Who sent you?" the First Prince asked whilst hiding his hands behind him. The guards had keen eyes, and if they saw his bitten nails, it would indicate his anxiety.
"The Crown Princess—"
"Well, go back to her."
"We can't, First Prince, it was an order. Have you seen that man?"
The First Prince scowled. So his younger brother's wife truly had such powers of commanding the Imperial Soldiers. It was a power that not many had.
"Guide me back to your Princess," the First Prince sniped. "Causing so much ruckus in the morning, she will get in trouble."
The guards were severely puzzled. Get in trouble? With who? The Crown Prince who adored her to no avail? The Empress who couldn't even hurt a hair on her head? The Emperor who favored her? Who could dare to punish her?
"I might have seen the perpetrator's face with my very own eyes and recognize him, I can offer her assistance," the First Prince added on. "Do not look at me like that. Hurry and take me to her."
The guards were extremely reluctant to follow his orders. They had never suffered from the Crown Princess's full wrath before… but today, they were close. If all of them went back empty-handed, she would be furious and things would escalate. No one wanted that.
The captain jutted his chin to the side, notifying a few men to continue the search.
"First Prince," the captain slowly said. "If I may, please allow me to guide you to her."
The First Prince was too late to protest. The other guards had run off, searching for a man who would never be found. He held back a sigh. If only these idiots had listened to him.
"Just take me to her. The longer we stand here, the more time we waste," he said.
The captain bowed his head. He was heavily suspicious of the First Prince, but could not voice it yet, not unless the Crown Princess was present. She was powerful and wise. She would know what to do.
Thus, they started the trek to the Crown Prince's estate. But when they reached there, they were met with locked doors and absolute silence.
"First Prince, it seems the Crown Princess is not here."
The First Prince rolled his eyes. Really? He couldn't tell!
"Do you have any inkling as to where she might be?" the First Prince asked with urgency in his voice. He clenched his fingers together to prevent it from quivering out of nervousness.
"As to where she could've gone, there is one place in mind. It is the only place since His Highness will always know what to do. It can be concluded that the Crown Princess is on her way to His Highness's private study."
Well, there goes the First Prince's life. He wept on the inside, knowing his time in this world was ticking and limited. It would not be long before word travels to his younger brother, and havoc is wrecked in the palace.
"Very well. Stay here, Captain. I will go find her myself."
The Captain opened his mouth in protest, but the First Prince was already dashing down the hallways. He was not surprised by the First Prince's stealth and speed, for the man was nimble and thin.
"What sort of mess have I gotten myself into? And I've only returned from Nanhui just this morning!" the First Prince complained to himself as he quickly ran down the hallways.
The Crown Princess planned to complain to the Crown Prince? 'Not if I can help it!' he thought to himself whilst picking up his pace.
The First Prince ran as fast as his legs could carry him. Even when he shoved past servants who were startled to see him, even when he ran past Yu Lingluo who had paused to greet him. Nothing else mattered than getting there first.
"My life depends on it!" he cried out, whilst struggling to catch his breath.
The First Prince was suddenly forced to stop. His lungs were threatening to give out. A cough choked through him, just as he was prepared to turn a corner.
The First Prince leaned against the wall, grabbing it tightly whilst heaving over, entering a violent coughing fit. His eyes watered from the intensity of the coughs rattling his body, as his chest stung.
"If only…" he groaned, "if only I did not inherit this illness from Father's bloodline…"
The First Prince anxiously patted at his chest, forcing air into his tightened lungs. He breathed in deeply, knowing it was a mistake to have sprinted this quickly, given the state of his feeble body.
"I can't waste any more resting time!" he declared. "I have to get there soon!"
The First Prince surveyed his surroundings, making sure it was the right place. Seeing the serene layout of stones organized in circular patterns, neatly trimmed bamboo stalks, and peaceful ponds, he knew the Second Prince's private study was here.
"It's now or never…" he muttered to himself.
The First Prince turned the corner and ran down the hallways, only to notice the doors opening and closing. No one had exited. Which meant two things—either the Crown Princess got here first, or the Second Prince just entered his private study.
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