439 Equally Crazy
Yu Zhen entered his office and took a seat. He shook his head at the ruckus caused by his dear friends this morning. This was why work and romance should not mix. Too many problems would arise from this, but then again, he blamed himself. He had known of their feelings for each other but continued to allow the indulgence.
"Xiao Ling is going to cry until next year," he muttered to himself whilst massaging his forehead. A headache was bound to kick in, especially with the complicated web of relationships.
Yu Zhen would give his younger sister a week to cry her heart out before reprimanding her for falling in love with a man out of her grasps.
Yu Lingluo was one of the luckier Princesses who found a safe haven in everyone's hearts. She was lucky enough to not be married off to a man of the Imperial family's choosing. And who did she choose? A man ranks below her.
"She shouldn't have gotten so attached in the first place," Yu Zhen bit out. He lifted his brush and peered at the ink slab, his lips twitching a bit. He recalled grinding the ink for Li Xueyue.
But then his thoughts wandered back to Yu Lingluo. She was a wild-spirit with a soft heart. Her emotions were worn on her sleeves, and she was too naive. Everyone sheltered, protected, and cherished her. She was a treasure in everyone's eyes.
"The Emperor would be furious if he learns of her feelings…" Yu Zhen trailed off, his eyes crinkling.
If there was one thing that would trigger the Emperor, it was the wellbeing of his daughters. The Emperor had gladly and readily given all of his daughters away, except for one. And there was a good reason for it.
Yu Lingluo was always by the Emperor's side, tending to him, reading his books, and fetching his tea. She was a filial daughter with a tender heart of gold. She was not meant for the harsh environment of a foreign country, a foreign man of her parents' choosing, and so on.
"He might even die earlier out of anger if he knows..." Yu Zhen curled a finger around his chin, deep in thought, weighing the costs and benefits of this event. The moment the Emperor dies, Yu Zhen would be crowned as the ultimate leader of the nation. No one would be higher than him in terms of ranks. Li Xueyue would become Empress, and then, no one would dare to cause trouble for her.
"Hmm, I don't see the harm in telling him that his favorite daughter is madly in love with Hu Dengxiao then." Yu Zhen decided this would be the plan. He wondered how Li Xueyue would react. Surely, she would be glad to become the Empress where her troubles would go away, and she'd no longer have to stress herself out whilst conversing with the current Empress.
But then something incredulous happened, something he had never seen before. A miniature little figure popped up on his shoulders, a conscience he never considered—the angel.
"Then, your children will never understand the love of a grandfather…" the small angel whispered.
Yu Zhen narrowed his eyes out of irritation. Since when did he have this soft side to him? It disgusted him to have a conscience that was actually mindful of his parents. Who brought out this strange side to him?
"My children do not need grandparents. The love of Xueyue and I is enough." Yu Zhen began to organize the parchments, getting them ready to be addressed. Oh right, there was a meeting later on.
"Well, you can't entertain the child every waking moment, but grandparents certainly can..." the angel nagged in a voice that sounded awfully similar to Li Xueyue's.
Yu Zhen ground his teeth. He slammed his hands on the table, wondering if he was developing hallucinations. The child would not need the company of his grandparents when nannies and caretakers could quench their need for attention.
"I wouldn't like that…" the angel whispered, now developing an image of Li Xueyue's face.
Yu Zhen wondered if he was losing his mind. He rubbed at his eyes, knowing his lack of sleep was finally catching up to him. He couldn't help his bad habits. He enjoyed watching Li Xueyue sleep, enjoyed going to bed late, and waking up the earliest in the entire palace.
Yu Zhen pinched the bridge of his nose before taking a seat again, deciding to just focus on the task at hand before the ministerial meeting began. The Emperor was supposed to attend, but he was always stuck in bed.
Yu Zhen always attended such meetings in his place, long before he became the Crown Prince. At a certain point, the Ministers got so used to it that they started to expect his presence instead of the Emperor's. And perhaps, this was how the Ministers slowly became more comfortable with the idea of him inheriting the throne.
When a knock sounded through the room, he let out an irritable sigh. Who was it now?
Before Yu Zhen could tell that person to scram, the doors opened, and a head popped in. Instantly, his tiredness washed away.
"Sunshine," he murmured, seeing her long hair cascade over her shoulders.
Yu Zhen waved for her to come in, knowing she was the only one who was allowed to enter like this. She approached him, revealing her simple attire. The layers on her were sheer and multicolored of white, blush pink, and sky blue, but they blended well, creating a lovely illusion.
"What's wrong, Little Hamster? You're supposed to be asleep for a little while longer. I kept you up all morning long."
Yu Zhen saw the urgency on her face and instantly stood up. He approached her, but her words alarmed him.
"Someone broke into our estate."
Like a snap of a finger, he saw red. "What?" he hissed, storming to her.
Yu Zhen firmly grabbed her shoulders whilst quickly looking over her, searching for any visible wounds on her.
"Are you hurt?" he growled, lifting her chin to examine her neck. Had someone attempted to take her life? Who was stupid enough to pull such a daring stunt?
Yu Zhen yanked her towards him, hugging her. It reassured him to have her in his arms, tightly pressed against him. It reminded him that she was alive and in front of him.
"I will find them and—"
"He looked like you," she blurted out.
Yu Zhen froze. "How so?"
"I don't know, he just resembled you and he was dressed in white and gold. I've already sent the guards out, they're searching for him as we speak." Li Xueyue could see the violent storm brewing in his eyes.
Li Xueyue decided to leave the part where she was still unclothed. But when the pieces were being placed together in Yu Zhen's head, she knew it was only a matter of time before he realized it.
"I forgot what he said, but it seemed like—"
"Were you in the same state I left you?"
And there it is. The part that she did not want him to focus on. Li Xueyue subtly nodded her head. It was a small action, barely noticeable but his hawk eyes had seen it.
"Death will be too light of a punishment," he growled.
Yu Zhen would need to heighten the security measures around her, including his estate. No one should've been able to get inside without the proper identification, much less get past the guards. How was it possible that someone trespassed, unless…
Just as he began to reach a conclusion, a sharp knock interrupted his thoughts.
"What is it?!" he loudly demanded, his voice filled with fury.
The door opened by a small crack, revealing a Eunuch who was shaking with fear. His head was attached to his body, but currently, it did not feel like it…
"Y-your Highness," the Eunuch weakly said. "The First Prince is here to see you."
The First Prince? Li Xueyue's eyebrows suddenly shot up. She had nearly forgotten about Yu Zhen's older brother. What kind of man was he? And how come it was taking so long for the First Prince to show his face around here?
Li Xueyue had never met the man before curiosity got the best of her, distracting her from this morning's ordeal.
"Let him in," she said whilst detangling herself from Yu Zhen.
Li Xueyue did not make it very far. His large hands grabbed her wrist, pulling her back to him, but not behind him. He needed to keep her close, or else his thin patience would snap.
She knew it. He knew it. Everyone knew it. What kept this man sane was an equally crazy woman.