After Li Xueyue shared a meal with Yu Zhen, she was able to convince him to go back to bed. He tried to get her to sleep first, but she refused to buy any of his excuses. She went as far as staring blankly at the ceiling in defiance.
Finally, Yu Zhen gave in and closed his eyes as well. Li Xueyue laid on her side, watching him slowly, but surely drifted off into dreamland. And soon, she joined him as her eyelids shut and she, too, fell asleep.
And without realizing it, both of them slept until the next morning.
Li Xueyue sat up in bed, puzzled and bewildered by the change of day. "He's always gone before me," she mumbled, touching the empty spot beside her. It was slightly warm which meant he had just left.
"Maybe he didn't want to disturb my sleep," Li Xueyue concluded, knowing he preferred for her to rest more. But if she did that, then her plans would be delayed by another day.
Li Xueyue slipped out of bed and began her morning routine. First, she took a bath, then ate her breakfast, and now, she sat by the vanity as the maidservants prepared her for the day.
"It's already been three or four days, the dagger should be ready," Li Xueyue whispered to herself.
"Pardon, Princess?" Xiao Hua hummed as she combed Li Xueyue's hair, careful not to roughly tug at the latter's long, silky hair.
"Nothing you should worry about," Li Xueyue said with a slight smile. She peered at the vanity mirror and saw Xiao Hua's thin fingers slowly tuck away flyaways.
"All set?" Li Xueyue asked when Xiao Hua took a few steps back to admire her work.
"Almost, Princess. We just have to put in a few hairpins and you will effortlessly be the most beautiful woman in the palace," Xiao Hua calmly said with a smile, believing it was the truth.
Li Xueyue did not respond. She fondly smiled and allowed Xiao Hua to adorn little pearls into her hair.
"It'll look like snow is falling upon you, Princess," Xiao Hua explained in a low, collected voice.
Li Xueyue couldn't help but be soothed by Xiao Hua's tone. The handmaiden didn't force herself to sound energetic and bright, nor did she try so hard with the compliments. It was as if Xiao Hua truly meant all the words that came out of her mouth, which made her seem more earnest.
Regardless of the reasons, Li Xueyue preferred Xiao Hua as the closest handmaiden to her. It also helped that Xiao Hua had taken great initiative during the bathhouse incident to help her.
"There, we are all finished, Princess," Xiao Hua whispered. She stepped back and watched with awe as the Crown Princess stood up. Other maidservants came forward with layers of clothes for the Princess to slip on, to complete her look.
Li Xueyue was dressed in a hanfu, blue like the ocean, with complementary colors of white and light grey like the skies before a storm.
"Are you certain we should wander so much?" Xiao Hua worriedly asked in a tiny voice. She played with her fingers and bowed her head knowing she was overstepping her boundaries as a mere servant. But she couldn't curb her tongue, especially when she was so worried for the Crown Princess's wellbeing.
"It's fine, I will just have a small talk with the merchant and nothing more," Li Xueyue stated.
Xiao Hua firmly bobbed her head, hoping this was the case. The Crown Prince had given strict warnings that his Wangfei was to remain in their bedroom, undisturbed. But Xiao Hua didn't want to force it upon the Princess to remain in the estate, especially with how easily she gets bored of everything.
As Xiao Hua was lost in thought, she had not realized she had automatically followed the Crown Princess out. They were now outside, and leisurely walking down the hallways.
Xiao Hua wondered if the Crown Princess knew the trespasser from that morning had been caught. There was a servant who had been dragged into the jail cells, but the punishment was currently unknown. They said the servant was wearing the colors white and yellow, which was a bit peculiar, but many said it was because the servant was known to be a thief…
"I am thirsty," Li Xueyue murmured as she turned to Xiao Hua. "Prepare tea that's suitable for the weather."
Xiao Hua rapidly blinked her eyes. She was confused, until she saw the leering merchant from a few days ago out of the corner of her eyes.
"Right away, Princess," Xiao Hua mused with a slight smile. She bowed her head and scurried, already knowing the plan.
The Crown Princess was accompanied by too many people for her to sabotage the merchant on purpose. But Xiao Hua knew the Crown Princess was not that fond of the merchant. What better way to ruin that elderly man than to serve him tea that's unsuitable for his age?
- - - - -
"Ah, Crown Princess!" Marquis Qin readily greeted her. He instantly stood up from his chair whilst forcing his brows together. He placed a hand on his chest and softly frowned.
"I heard you had a fever and was bedridden for three days! I hope you have recovered, Princess," he urgently added on. Sympathy oozed from his expression, but it never reached her.
Li Xueyue stood there and nearly rolled her eyes. For someone who had lived this long, she was expecting a better performance from him.
"The new Imperial Physician was very peculiar. I have connections to acquire some highly effective medicine from Nanhui that I thought would help you but he did not want to accept my help," Marquis Qin irritably said just as the Crown Princess took her seat.
Even now, Marquis Qin ridiculed the young Imperial Physician. He wanted to prove himself to be of even more use to the Crown Princess, especially with her husband present.
"As you know," Marquis Qin said. "I supply the Emperor's much needed medicine that preserves his life at least a month longer each time he takes the pills, but it seems the new Imperial Physician is too inexperienced to know that!"
Marquis Qin quickly looked at her, wondering if she was disinterested in the topic. But her indifferent expression was enough encouragement for him to rattle on.
"Only I have access to such progressive medicine that would have woken you up in half the time! Princess, I believe it would be better to replace that useless physician with someone of my recommendation who has a better supply of medicine!"
He peered at her again, but her expression didn't change. She just sat there, as tranquil as a woman could be. He licked his bottom lip. Wuyi women…they just knew how to present themselves in the most elegant way possible!
"And because he took so long to heal you, Princess, your complexion was ruined by him. How about I recommend you a few products—"
"Where is my dagger?"
Marquis Qin's mood soured at the question. That pesky dagger! He fumbled with his next words, careful not to make a fool out of himself.
He went through great pains to acquire the damn blade. It had been a little over a week since his previous discussion with the Crown Princess, but the dagger was still not in his hands!
"You see, Crown Princess. That foreign kingdom is just too ruthless! I've sent my people there and they have all returned with their heads shipped in boxes, it was quite a gruesome sight."
Marquis Qin slowly shook his head in disappointment. So much manpower was wasted just to acquire the dagger.
There were even threats that if the kingdom spots his ship again, they would burn it to crisps. And seeing what happened to his servants, Marquis Qin knew it was not a threat but a promise.
Marquis Qin frowned a bit. She was so calm despite hearing the tragic news. How could she be so heartless? He thought she was a lot more compassionate than this!
"Yes, my pitiful people…" He let out a dramatic sigh and looked to the side.
Marquis Qin had wasted so much resources just to locate the kingdom that sold the dagger shaped like a crescent moon. He knew the kingdom was wary of strangers, but didn't know it was to this extent! He was deeply offended by them.
"Those people are barbarians, Princess! I've never seen a country so damn wary of trade. Don't they know it would improve their economy?" he huffed.
Marquis Qin was reluctant to give up, but with so much losses, he knew it was time to put a halt to this task.
"However," he said, with an energetic smile and change of his tone. "I was able to get my hands on a lovely pair of earrings."
Marquis Qin waved his hand and sure enough, his men came forward carrying a box with gloved hands. They set down the satin box, red like apples. He pushed the box towards the Crown Princess and prayed to the Heavens she would accept it.
"What do you think?" Marquis Qin eagerly asked as the Crown Princess gestured for a maidservant to pick up the box.
Marquis Qin held his breath when the maidservant slowly opened the box. He could feel his heart rise with excitement when the earrings were presented to the Crown Princess.
"Look at how beautiful the topaz is! It appears as if the moon was split in half and placed into the jewelry!" Marquis Qin excitedly boasted.
He grinned. "Lovely, isn't it?"
Marquis Qin readily watched the Crown Princess, eager to see her astonished expression. And when her gaze landed upon the item, she did something he did not expect.
The Crown Princess turned to a handmaiden who appeared behind her. A cup of tea was poured for her, and him.
Without saying a single word, or acknowledging the accessories, the Crown Princess took a sip from the teacup. And that was it. Nothing else, nothing more.
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