Standing outside the private study, waiting for the Eunuch to finish speaking to the Crown Prince was the First Prince.
The First Prince's palms felt clammy, as a droplet of cold sweat trickled down his forehead. He nervously licked his bottom lip whilst wiping his hands on his sides. What was he supposed to say to his younger brother?
"Oh hey, I knocked out your guards, crept through your window to scare you, but walked in on your naked wife in bed, even though she was covered up to her shoulders, but still?"
He nearly facepalmed himself. Such words would earn him an instant execution, that not even his mother and father could prevent. When Yu Zhen was out for blood, he would not stop until it was spilled.
When the First Prince heard a quiet "Come in," he began to pray to the Gods internally. He pleaded with every God that he knew, regardless if they were worshipped in this country or not.
"First Prince, His Highness has granted you entrance," the Eunuch informed with a bow of his head. He was curious as to why the First Prince's skin was so pale, as if the life was sucked out of him. His pupils were shaking and he was ready to pass out any minute now.
"R-right," the First Prince said.
The First Prince was well aware of his younger brother's horrid temper that was without a doubt, inherited from both parents. Many maidservants—some dead— had gossipped that the Crown Prince inherited the worst of traits from his parents.
The First Prince would like to think differently if it weren't for the dead bodies piled up. Even the King of Diyu  would personally welcome Yu Zhen with open arms for committing so many sins, he would go down there as a legend.
"Deep breaths, deep breaths," the First Prince whispered to himself.
He wiped his sweaty palms together and strolled inside the private study. The doors were closed behind him.
"My dear, beloved, fantastic, benevolent, kind, younger brother,�� the First Prince nervously babbled. "I—"
The First Prince's gaze snapped to the source of the loud, horrid scream that sounded oddly familiar. When his gaze landed on the woman, he nearly fainted on the ground. So the person that just entered the private study was not his younger brother, but the Crown Princess.
"M-my, if it isn't my beautiful Sister-in-Law who's rumored to have a heart of gold!" the First Prince loudly declared with open arms, stepping forward with pleading eyes.
"You are even more stunning in person!" he added on, whilst pleading for his dear life.
Li Xueyue narrowed her eyes at the First Prince. She could not believe the pervert was Yu Zhen's brother. Of course, how could she not have known? The only people that resembled Yu Zhen were his immediate family members. She felt like a fool for not realizing it much sooner.
But when Li Xueyue saw the desperate look on the First Prince's face, she had a plan in mind.
"Who allowed you back into the country, Shisheng?" Yu Zhen snapped. He was hoping for Yu Shisheng to fall in love with a woman in Nanhui and stay there for the rest of his life.
"Oh Ah-Zhen , we haven't seen each other in weeks and this is the loving greeting you give your older brother?" the First Prince said with a hand upon his chest.
"This is as loving as I can get with you," Yu Zhen hissed.
Yu Shisheng snorted at this whilst placing his shaky hands on his hips. He wasn't offended in the least by the pure arrogance and hatred displayed by his younger brother.
Yu Shisheng was well aware of their horrible childhood that made the man that Yu Zhen was today. It was just Yu Shisheng's luck that his mother's kindness gave him empathy and kindness.
Yu Zhen on the other hand… He received little to no love. He wouldn't understand that emotion, not even if it was defined or demonstrated to him.
"I've come back to Hanjian, bearing bountiful chests of gifts for you and your wife, but you still treat me like a stranger, Ah-Zhen!" Yu Shisheng complained, crossing his arms.
Yu Zhen narrowed his eyes at his brother's clothing. White. Gold. It was needless to say his suspicions were right. He pointed to his older brother and glanced down at his wife.
"Does this ugly bastard look familiar to you?" Yu Zhen asked Li Xueyue. She jolted at his attention, lifting her head.
Li Xueyue warily glanced at the First Prince, then back at Yu Zhen. But the entire time, Yu Zhen was focused on her.
Yet again, she looked back to the First Prince, but this time his expression had changed. He cupped his hands together, widening his eyes, and pleading with her yet again. He mouthed, "Please please please, spare me sister-in-law, please!"
Li Xueyue tore her eyes back to Yu Zhen. She didn't want to lie to him, but also didn't want to cause problems between the siblings…
"You yelled out 'you' when my brother stepped in here," Yu Zhen added on in a low, composed voice.
When she turned to look at the First Prince again, Yu Zhen turned her around, blocking her line of sight.
What was so interesting about his older brother anyway? If you asked Yu Zhen, he would just say his older brother was one of the ugliest men in this entire country, and that everyone should pity him.
"Don't be afraid to tell me the truth, Sunshine. In this kingdom, no one will dare to hurt you." Yu Zhen lovingly touched the side of her face.
His heart swelled when she leaned into his touch, savoring it. Then, her arms came around him, slowly, softly, her fingers rested on his lower back.
Yu Zhen was puzzled when she came forward and hugged him deeply, her arms tight as a restraint. What was going on?
"I can practically see the gears spinning in your head…" Yu Zhen muttered whilst resting his other hand on her waist. She rarely hugged him unless she wanted something.
Li Xueyue bowed her head and fiddled with the edge of his belt. Her fingers ran over the silk, embroidered with intricate details, the depiction of a tiger wandering through a forest.
"Do you recognize him?" he repeated the question, not understanding why it was taking so long for her to respond.
"Uhm…" Li Xueyue licked her bottom lip whilst continuing to anxiously play with his belt. He shifted his hand, grabbing her chin and forcing her to look up. This was unlike her.
"Well?" he urged in a soft voice.
Li Xueyue knew she had a choice to make. To lie or not to lie. To break his trust or not to break it.
If she lied, then some innocent soul would be captured and punished. Then again, who in the entire palace could afford gold clothing and embroidery threads except for other aristocrats? She didn't want an innocent life to be taken.
Li Xueyue's heart raced with uncertainty. At times like this, she wished she wasn't so indecisive. Maybe then, she wouldn't have stressed herself out to the extent of having double visions. Her eyes began to shake and her breathing grew shallow.
"U-uhm…" Li Xueyue swallow. "You see…" she trailed off, her eyes jumping from Yu Zhen's warm gaze to the First Prince who stood by the side still begging her to keep quiet about this matter.
"I just…" Li Xueyue suddenly felt suffocated. She didn't realize her head was hurting until it began to throb. Her throat dried, and suddenly, her vision was blurry.
"I-I," she whispered, her heart racing with stress.
Yu Zhen watched in sheer horror as she slowly blinked, and just like that, her body went limp. Her knees gave out from under her, and she nearly collapsed backward, if it was not for his fast reflexes.
"Sunshine?" he whispered whilst slowly lowering himself onto his knees with her body.
When her eyes remained close, Yu Zhen panicked. He shook her body, but she did not respond. He could feel his hands tremble to brush the hair away from her face. She was pale. Very, very pale. How had he not realized it sooner?
"Xueyue?!" he demanded, but her eyes remained shut. Motionless and still.
Yu Zhen hasn't felt this amount of fear and dread in a while. His heart had never fallen so fast. It was happening again—strange emotions that gripped him. It was similar to how he felt on the night he discovered her in the cave, where she was unconscious and on the brink of death.
"What the hell are you waiting for?!" Yu Zhen roared at his older brother. "Go get the Imperial Physician and send him to my estate!"
The First Prince gaped at his younger brother, and then at the unconscious woman in his arms. He had been rooted to the ground when he witnessed the most unbelievable thing—the heartless Yu Zhen caring for a woman.
The rumors did not lie. Yu Zhen had truly fallen in love.
The First Prince didn't need to be told twice. This scene alone was enough for him to know the severity of this issue.
"R-right away, Ah-Zhen!" The First Prince ran out of the room as if it was on fire.
Yu Shisheng could not believe his luck. Whether or not it was intentional, he had narrowingly escaped with his life! And because of that, the First Prince ran faster than ever to fetch the Imperial Physician. It was a job reserved for a servant, but for the benevolence of the Crown Princess, he ran like his life depended on it. In some sort of way, it truly depended on it.