444 Overstepping Boundaries
Li Xueyue believed in the First Prince's words, but she was not a fool. Words were meaningless and held no weight. Anyone could always take it back, claiming it never happened.
"Alright, please wait here," Li Xueyue stated.
The First Prince scrunched his brows and scratched the side of his head in confusion. "Why?" he asked.
He opened his mouth to ask more questions, but she exited from the bamboo screen. The First Prince suddenly realized she did not address him with a proper title. It felt weird. Everyone always treated him with respect, regardless of the position he had lost. But she didn't.
"She's bold." The First Prince peered at her bowl of medicine, which was still full, but with less steam rising from the top. It was just a drink, yet it was used against him like this. He could not believe she had used this to her advantage.
"Maybe that's why Ah-Zhen likes her so much…hah, probably not. He does not tolerate disrespect, even if it's from a beautiful woman like her." The First Prince leaned his chin upon his propped up palm.
"He was friends with Lady Ge for so long, yet he would still look at her with disdain when she accidentally slipped with her address," he mumbled to himself, wondering exactly what the Crown Princess did to win Yu Zhen's heart.
What made Li Xueyue so different? Was it because she was a foreigner, therefore, an exotic fruit? Or was it because she didn't grow up in Hanjian and had a soft touch to her unlike many women here? Maybe it was because of convenience? After all, Li Xueyue did not grow up around the superstitions and horrid whispers involving Yu Zhen.
"Beauty never fazes him, neither does a tender heart." The First Prince was intrigued. It certainly couldn't have been intelligence either, since Lady Ge was often praised for her tenacity when it came to studies. However, being book smart and street smart was completely different.
Yu Shisheng massaged his head. He was getting a headache from thinking of the possibilities. Why not just ask Yu Zhen himself?
"Mother and Father seem to favor her too. Hmm…" Yu Shisheng stroked his imaginary beard, wondering how the Crown Princess managed to sneak her way into so many frigid hearts. What a skill she possessed.
"So many people are kind to her here, it lowered her guard, and that's why she went through the miscarriage," Yu Shisheng pointed out. He tapped his fingers on the table, wondering if he should warn her that not everyone would watch over her with a smile.
Yu Shisheng wondered why the Crown Princess suddenly reminded him of Yu Lingluo. She too had mastered the secret art of worming into cold, stone hearts. Both of them were naive, believing this world was kind.
"It's not my place to intervene," he finally concluded. "Especially after she tricked me like this, hmph!"
Yu Shisheng angrily crossed his arms, scowling at the table. His mother was right. He was too kind. If he was a monster like Yu Zhen, then no one would dare to take advantage of him like this!
"But I don't want people to think of me as a monster…" Yu Shisheng let out a mellow sigh. "I prefer them to think kindly of me. I'd hate it if everyone flinches and cower in fear whenever I'm near."
Yu Shisheng knew his father would heavily disapprove of this, but he did not care anymore. He was tired of fighting for a throne that once belonged to him. He was tired of ruining the relationship with his only brother. Tired of being used by his mother and the Ministers.
Just as he was lost in thought, the Crown Princess came to view. He jumped when she placed something in front of him. Where did she go for so long?!
"You sure know how to keep people waiting!" Yu Shisheng huffed whilst snatching the parchment from her hand.
"What's this?" he curiously asked.
"You're not shaking anymore. I hope that's a good sign," Li Xueyue mused. She took a seat and presented him with a thin, rectangular box.
"A…contract?" Yu Shisheng rapidly blinked his eyes and did a double take of the parchment, wondering if he had misread it. He was dumbfounded. How…? Who…? There were so many questions running through his mind. She wanted a written contract about a favor? Gosh, who hurt her?
"If you will…" Li Xueyue opened the flat box, revealing the bright red pigment.
"Crazy and bold," he dryly said.
The First Prince peered at her as understanding filled his eyes. "You know, sister-in-law, this type of behavior will get you in trouble."
Nonetheless, he took the box from her and placed his thumb firmly on the ink. "Not every man will tolerate arrogance, especially from a woman."
"Well, that is going to change soon." Li Xueyue carefully watched as he stamped his thumbprint onto the parchment.
She was still surprised that he was able to read her handwriting. The reason Li Xueyue took so long to give this to him was because she took her time to carefully, neatly write each character so that it was legible.
"You speak so strangely too... Do all women in Wuyi have the liberty to not use flowery language? I thought it was only Hanjian who dropped that tradition," the First Prince mused. After his thumbprint dried on the parchment, he slowly moved it to her.
Li Xueyue's lips twitched. Did people in Wuyi use flowery language? She did not know. Even with the etiquette instilled into her, she could not change the way she spoke. She had grown up all her life without being taught what was considered an acceptable manner of speech. Sure, she understood the rules of using titles and bowing when needed, but this was the extent of it.
"Well, you grew up in a life of luxury—your father was the previous Prime Minister. You must have been like a cherished flower in your family, so I wouldn't be surprised if many people pardoned your way of speaking."
Li Xueyue slowly nodded. It seemed no one knew of her past, even now. She preferred it this way. Bai Xueyue died in the forest during a rainstorm. What is the point of bringing up the dead?
She refused to let her past define her anymore. Refused to let it weigh her down, keep her up at night, and taunt her to no avail.
"Here, this is what you wanted isn't it?" The First Prince tapped the thumbprint on the parchment, wondering why she was spacing out.
"Yes, thank you," she firmly said.
Yu Shisheng watched her roll up the parchment and tuck it in a pocket. He wondered if she only revealed that quiet, gentle side to her when she knew it served as an advantage.
"I've known you for less than a week, and I can already tell you are a woman of many faces."
The Crown Princess laughed. "Are you even human if you do not change your mask based on the people you converse with?"
Yu Shisheng's lips parted. "I would prefer it if people showed me their true self."
The Crown Princess shook her head, almost in disappointment. "You will be hurt if you think people will show you such kindness. The world is cruel, and people would be a fool to show you their bare face."
Yu Shisheng's eyes briefly widened. She stood up and presented him with a nod of her head.
"It was great conversing with you…" She kindly smiled. "Brother-in-law."
Yu Shisheng watched as she exited from the bamboo screen. He ran out of his chair, rushing to her. Without warning, he grabbed her wrist, forcibly turning her around.
"You—" He glared down at her. "Are you tricking my brother by not showing him your true colors? If so, you shouldn't have gotten married to him—"
"Yu Zhen knew whom he married," Li Xueyue interrupted him. She glanced down at the hand holding her wrist.
"And I'd appreciate it if you know not to overstep your boundaries," she snapped.
Yu Shisheng immediately released her hand. He was caught off-guard by her sudden change in behavior. What just happened? She was kind a few seconds ago, but now, she was glaring at him.
"Who exactly are you?" he whispered.
The Crown Princess cast him a side-eye before her lips twisted into a sarcastic smile. "I am just a weak woman from Wuyi, that's all."