Li Xueyue woke up in the afternoon feeling more alert and energetic. To her disappointment, Yu Zhen was nowhere to be found. She was irked but knew she had no reason to blame him for leaving her side. It was late in the afternoon, and he must've had things to do.
At the least, he had left a note by the nightstand. She clenched the parchment, glaring at how neat and perfect his handwriting was. It looked like the ones printed in books and shown to children as reference.
"You can yell at me for leaving you alone later, there was urgent business calling for me," Li Xueyue read out loud. "But I ordered the servants to prepare you a nutritious meal, more nutritious than usual. You'd need the energy, especially for later tonight."
Her cheeks stung red with the last line. They had just finished making love all morning! And he wanted more? Just where exactly does he get all of this energy from?!
Nonetheless, she looked forward to it. Li Xueyue slipped her legs out of the bed, and for once, it didn't feel weak.
"Xiao Hua?" Li Xueyue called towards the door, wondering if the maidservants were just outside of the bedroom, or further out, where the guards were stationed. Knowing Yu Zhen's paranoia, it would be the latter.
When she was met with silence, Li Xueyue had her answer. She left the bed and slipped on the slippers. Wordlessly, she approached the closet but blinked in surprise. There was an extra closet.
"Am I seeing double?" she mumbled, rubbing at her eyes.
Li Xueyue blinked in surprise to see there were indeed two, large wardrobes. She wondered what was inside, thus, opened both of them. And to her surprise, a world of color greeted her. Both of these closets were hers.
"Oh, these are winter clothes," she said. The closet on the left held spring and summer wear, whereas the other one held autumn and winter wear. But then, where did his clothes go?
Li Xueyue reached a hand out and touched the silk that was cool and smooth. "There it is," she pointed out upon turning her head and noticing the other closet to the other side of the room.
"It wouldn't be strange if we have an entirely new room just for storing clothes," she said and laughed to herself.
Li Xueyue stepped back to admire the autumn and winter wear. Fancy accessories and dresses never interested her, but her lips parted. Her heart clenched at the gesture. She was surprised he had thought this far in advance and had this many hanfu made for her size.
"When did he even prepare this for me?" Li Xueyue asked.
Nonetheless, she pulled out a random layer of clothes and slipped it on, loosely tying the strings near her waist. Then, she walked towards the main door and opened it by the smallest crack.
"You may come in now." Li Xueyue stepped away from the door. Heads bent and eyes lowered, the maidservants walked in. Leading them was Xiao Hua who was dressed in a different color and a dress of higher quality than the rest of her peers.
"There you are," Li Xueyue said with a slight smile.
"Good afternoon, Crown Princess," Xiao Hua greeted with a deep bow, as the maidservants followed in line.
"Since you're awake, we will start preparing your meal whilst we help you into your attire, Princess," Xiao Hua quietly said, her voice light and gentle.
Li Xueyue's shoulders felt at ease around Xiao Hua. She did not know if it was naivety, but she trusted this demure maidservant.
"Alright then," Li Xueyue said as a few maidservants slipped out of the room, most likely to fulfill the given tasks.
When Xiao Hua stepped forward with a small basin of water, Li Xueyue knew the same routine was going to start again.
- - - - -
"An invitation from Lady Ge Beining?" Li Xueyue echoed Xiao Hua's words. She had just finished taking a bath, gotten dressed, and eaten her morning meal. Now, she was seated on the vanity chair, as Xiao Hua slowly braided her hair.
"Yes, Princess," Xiao Hua said.
"So soon?" Li Xueyue wondered out loud, with a curious look on her face. She thought the last encounter with Lady Ge Beining had ward her away.
Li Xueyue wasn't even sure how many days had even passed since their last encounter. Lady Ge Beining was just that insignificant in her life.
"Mmhm, it seems Lady Ge Beining wants to invite you to a tea appreciation viewing, Princess," Xiao Hua explained. "At least, that's what she had personally told me."
Li Xueyue nodded her head. She noticed Xiao Hua had just finished the two braids that were wrapped at the back of her head before the ends were twisted into a tiny flower whilst the rest of her hair was let down.
"You're as lovely as a calla lily, Princess," Xiao Hua breathed out, in awe at her mistress's beauty.
Li Xueyue glanced down at her dress, realizing today's theme was the rolling clouds of the morning sky, soft and flowy. She loved the subtle shade of grey undertones, mixed in with bright white. But that was not what caught her eye, it was the familiar gemstone sitting on her finger. The topaz that Yu Zhen had given her was turned into a ring.
Li Xueyue was unsure when it happened. She had woken up one day, and miraculously found the ring in her jewelry box. Coincidentally, the gem he had given her was gone as well.
"This is lovely," Li Xueyue said whilst touching her hair. "You've outdone yourself again, Xiao Hua."
Xiao Hua shyly smiled and bowed her head in response. "P-please, Princess, any more sweet words, and I will blush."
Li Xueyue laughed at her modesty. She stood up and turned around, giving Xiao Hua a soft pat on her shoulders.
"Let's go and see what the troublemaker has planned out for us," Li Xueyue mused.
Together, they stepped outside of her bedroom, where the other maidservants were already waiting.
Li Xueyue retraced the path to Lady Ge Beining's residence by memory. If she remembered correctly, it was near the Empress's estate which was all the way on the other side of the enormous palace grounds.
"The sun seems to be setting soon," Li Xueyue pointed out when she glanced upwards. A gloomy blanket of grey clouds covered its glow. The sun had already reached its highest peak and was beginning to set in the east.
"Yes, it seems so, Princess," Xiao Hua agreed as she also looked up. Her lips curved into a slight frown.
The weather was so lovely in the morning, but now it looked like the sky was going to cry at any moment now. She just hoped it would not cry into the night time, where the beauty of the moon would be concealed by a dreary gloominess.
"Well, we should hurry back then," Li Xueyue said. "My husband would want to share at least one meal together."
Xiao Hua bowed her head in response, knowing it was a signal for her to keep track of the time.
Li Xueyue wondered if she would even be able to eat dinner. The lunch that Yu Zhen had the servants prepare for her was simply too much.
There was a wide variety of dishes, ranging from soup to porridge to heavily seasoned vegetables. It was as if he was worried she'd starve or something. But with how much he fed her, those days would never come.
Li Xueyue touched her stomach, revealing her wrist. She noticed it was not as thin and frail as it used to be.
Unfortunately, no matter how strong Li Xueyue had gotten, she would never be fully prepared for the battles that would come her way.
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