Yu Zhen walked down the hallways in search of Li Xueyue. With the letters in hand, he was ready to give her an explanation. His Wangfei was the type to jump to conclusions, and he'd prefer if she didn't.
"Where did the Crown Princess walk off to?" Yu Zhen somberly asked a guard.
"Your Highness, the Crown Princess was seen strolling down the corridor to the right."
Yu Zhen brushed past his men. It was time to hunt a lovely rabbit.
- - - - -
Li Xueyue had made up her mind. The Empress had already decided her allegiance.
Li Xueyue refused to risk any more time to convince the Empress. First, she would ruin Lady Ge, then she would personally deal with Marquis Qin. She recognized the neat handwriting on the letters. It was definitely Marquis Qin's letters.
Li Xueyue wanted to think the best of Yu Zhen. She desperately tried to, but the letters were too incriminating. If Marquis Qin was not sending those letters to Yu Zhen, why was it open and neatly stacked on his desk? Why were they placed on top of a stack of blank parchment as if Yu Zhen would write a letter in response?
"What kind of man have I married?" Li Xueyue whispered to herself, so low, that none of the maidservants heard it.
Li Xueyue continued walking. By now, Hu Dengxiao would've already sent out an order to gather the townspeople near the long, winding staircase that climbed to the Imperial Palace. The next task was bringing Lady Ge to the foot of the staircase.
"There is no turning back now," she muttered under her breath.
Li Xueyue took a final step before she heard a familiar set of footsteps behind her. That, and her impending doom. She turned on her heels and was surprised by the sight of Yu Zhen.
Who the hell let him out?!
Li Xueyue's face paled. She hadn't gathered her thoughts yet. She was not prepared to see him face-to-face this quickly. When her eyes met his, her heart plummeted. She could not bring herself to look at him any longer. Disgust filled her chest, as hatred burned in her heart.
How could he do this to her?
After all that she had been through, he was the one behind it all? Was Lady Xu Jiaqi just a scapegoat? How long had he planned this for? When did he plan to tell her? Why was he trying to sabotage their future together?
Servants and guards alike bowed deeply at the presence of the Crown Prince. A few seconds passed, and they did not receive permission to raise their heads. They were confused by this, but kept their position.
The servants were puzzled by his command. They were standing in an open space. Where could they leave? Nonetheless, the servants and guards warily took steps back, again and again, until at least ten steps were taken and they were out of earshot.
"Get out of my sight," Li Xueyue instantly hurled out.
"Well, that's one way to greet your husband."
Li Xueyue narrowed her eyes. He always joked at the worst of times. What was humor going to do in a situation like this? It certainly did not brighten her mood. As a matter of fact, it infuriated her even further. The audacity that this man had!
"By sunrise tomorrow, you will no longer be my husband."
Yu Zhen was highly humored by her words. He took a threatening step closer, his lips curled into a sinister smile.
"That is fine with me."
She was astonished by his words, her eyes widening. Instantly, the small fire within her grew into a big one that could burn down the entire forest. If she could breathe fire, she would.
Yu Zhen stalked towards her. She stood her ground and lifted her chin defiantly. It was all too endearing. She looked like she could stab him, and he'd gladly accept the wound.
"But I must warn you, Sunshine," he softly murmured. "Husband or not, I will keep you in our estate."
"Husband or not, I will still love you."
"I do not care—"
"Oh, but you will, when I forbid you from leaving the country."
Li Xueyue looked up at him as if he had grown three heads. Was he out of his goddamn mind? "It takes a single letter for my brother to bring me out of Wuyi."
Yu Zhen let out a bark of laughter. In the blink of an eye, he was in front of her.
Li Xueyue felt like a demon was looming over her. He might as well have been one, with his freakish height and built.
"I will have his head on a stick before he even sets foot in Hanjian."
"You're crazy," she spat out.
"Then, it's a good thing you love me." Yu Zhen reached a hand out. He seemingly was going to stroke her chin, but then changed his mind. He tightly gripped her chin. She winced in response, as he yanked her towards him.
"You can divorce me all you want, Li Xueyue, but I will possess you, body and soul. Whether you like it or not, I will have you, and all of you."
Li Xueyue felt like cold water was poured over her. Who exactly had she fallen in love with?
"I will keep you chained in Hanjian, if I must. You will never leave me, not if I can help it."
Li Xueyue's heart raced with uncertainty. Suddenly, she feared the man standing in front of her. Suddenly, she wanted to flee from him. He had never shown this side of him to her before.
"Don't be so worried, Sunshine," he murmured.
Yu Zhen brought an arm around her and gently tugged her close. He was hurt by her expression. Her face was scrunched in dismay, her gaze wavering, much like her love. He did not want her to fear him, but if that must happen for her to stay, then so be it.
"I will never hurt you, Sunshine. You must know that." Yu Zhen released her jaw, and gently rubbed the sore spots.
"You already have."
Yu Zhen's chest prickled with guilt. "And do you think I am not hurt by your words?" he softly demanded, in a cold and irritated voice.
Li Xueyue shoved him away. He was doing it again—turning her own words against herself. "I don't want to fight with you, Yu Zhen. It would be best if we took the time of day to cool off."
She turned on her heels and was prepared to walk off. But before she could even take the first step, he tightly gripped her wrist.
"Yu Zhen—" Her eyes widened when he yanked her into the room directly beside them.
"What are you doing?" Li Xueyue demanded as she pulled her hand back from him. But his grip was too strong, and she was always weak against him.
Li Xueyue gasped when the doors were shut behind her. She turned around to see his hand was latched upon the knobs. If she wanted to leave, she'd have to go through him.
Even so, Li Xueyue pressed her back against the door, wishing to create distance between them.
"You never got to throw tantrums as a child, so you love throwing them now," Yu Zhen deadpanned. "You're comfortable enough to do that with me, and I do not mind. But running from the problem will never bring any benefits, and you know that."
Li Xueyue did not want to hear these unpleasant truths. His words wounded her more than any weapon could. She felt like a hypocrite, for she too, had disarmed him with the truth a few weeks ago. But he had accepted it, unlike her, who was not ready to face the music.
"We will talk about this later," Li Xueyue bit out. How many times did he plan to cross the line? How many times will he choose to ignore her boundaries?
"You're lucky I'm patient of you, Sunshine."
"And I appreciate that aspect of you, Yu Zhen."
Yu Zhen scoffed at her words. He yanked the letters out of his sleeves and roughly waved it in front of her face.
"What happened to telling each other what angered us?" Yu Zhen gritted out. "Each time we argue, it is because we kept something from each other."
Li Xueyue recoiled at his words. When Li Xueyue was irritated, she could not think properly. Promises were long forgotten, when her emotions were out of control.
"I did not tell you, because you will deny the truth. I don't want to be lied to twice," she muttered.
Yu Zhen was instantly irked at her words. She had already chosen her side in this argument. She had already made up her mind, that her husband was a monster that tried to poison his own wife. Was this how she viewed him? As a monster?
"Did you think I would deliberately try to kill our future?" Yu Zhen spat out.
"Isn't that what the letter is trying to insinuate?" Li Xueyue cried out. Her chest prickled with guilt at raising her voice at him. She wanted to be calm, but he brought out the worst parts of her.
"Why would you have these letters on your desk, Yu Zhen?" Li Xueyue rushed out. "Infertility poison? Is that what you have been putting in my food all along? Those bathing oils, did you tell Xu Jiaqi to give it to me?"
Yu Zhen stared at her with astonishment. His brows were wrung together, and his lips were parted. There was a storm brewing over him. Abruptly, his sharp features morphed. A vivacious glare was upon his face.
"Is this how you think of me? You think I would intentionally harm you like this?!"
"Then tell me!" Li Xueyue shrieked. "Tell me that these letters weren't meant for you! That you did not order Xu Jiaqi to pour poison into my bathing water and poison into my food. Tell me this wasn't your doing!"
"I won't tell you of such a thing."
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