Li Xueyue suddenly sneezed. She rubbed her nose in confusion, wondering what could've caused her to sneeze. The windows were tightly shut and the room was well-heated. Was someone talking about her?
"Princess, is it cold? Should we change into something warmer?" Xiao Hua instantly asked from behind the Princess. She was gingerly combing through the Crown Princess's hair, careful not to tug at it.
Li Xueyue softly shook her head. "No need. My nose was a bit itchy, that's all."
Xiao Hua worriedly nodded her head. Her brows were furrowed and she seemed lost at the thought about what to do.
"Let's braid the hair and twirl it into a bun today," Li Xueyue said. She wanted to distract Xiao Hua, who had just come back from a leave of absence.
This morning, Li Xueyue was surprised to see Xiao Hua walking into the room with the other handmaidens hot on her trail. She was concerned about Xiao Hua's condition. However, Xiao Hua consistently reassured that she had recovered and was ready to work.
"As you wish, Princess," Xiao Hua amicably replied. There was a cheery undertone to her voice.
Li Xueyue nodded her head. She sat in front of the vanity mirror, but her attention was elsewhere. Through the hazy reflection, her gaze shifted to Yu Zhen, who was near the entrance of their bedroom.
His brows were furrowed and he held something in his hands. She squinted and wondered if it was the letter that Lu Tianbi was trying to hide yesterday.
Was there something she should be concerned about? Did something happen? Why was everyone so secretive with her?
Li Xueyue's attention instantly snapped back to Xiao Hua. "Hmm?"
"Regarding yesterday's incident with Lady Ge, there were a few servants who doubted your actions, Princess," Xiao Hua hesitatingly whispered out.
Xiao Hua was unsure if it was the proper time to tell the Crown Princess this. Nonetheless, Xiao Hua still felt the need to voice this problem.
"And Yanxi…who wore a veil, managed to convince them not to badmouth you. W-we believe it would be best to inform you of this issue, even if it was peacefully resolved, Princess," Xiao Hua concluded.
Li Xueyue slowly nodded her head. She understood why Yanxi wore a veil.
Yanxi was the head maidservant, who was in charge of many servants, all of whom served different Masters. If Yanxi's bias towards the maidservants was revealed, it would be problematic for all of the maidservants—even if Yanxi had once served the Crown Princess, since, there could've been a possibility of Yanxi swaying the other maidservants' opinion.
"Is that so?" Li Xueyue muttered.
"Shall the servants be punished?" Xiao Hua whispered.
Li Xueyue weighed her options. If she punished the gossiping servants, it would set an example for everyone. But it would also solidify their negative opinion of her. With a small sigh, she shook her head.
"There is no need. Yesterday, emotions were running high and everyone was easily swayed by the opinion of the majority," Li Xueyue said.
Xiao Hua bowed her head in agreement. A comfortable silence settled between them. She braided the Crown Princess's hair whilst quietly admiring the fine strands of silky locks.
Li Xueyue was distracted by Yu Zhen's expression. His scowl became deeper with each passing second. He was intimidating to look at—especially with the sneer on his face, and his glowering eyes. He resembled a bloodthirsty beast on his way to commit murder.
She jolted when he abruptly crumbled the letter in his hands and let out a string of curses. Even Xiao Hua was surprised, as she turned around in bewilderment. Not a second later, she quickly trained her eyes back to the Crown Princess.
"Is something wrong?" Li Xueyue finally spoke up.
When she was met with silence, she persisted. "Yu Zhen?"
Yu Zhen's head snapped up. His long fingers had roughly squashed the parchment in his palms. His thunderous expression was finally revealed to her.
Xiao Hua cowered back in fear, even though his wrath was not directed at her. She couldn't help it. Everyone was terrified of the vicious Crown Prince. He was always calm and collected, even in the midst of anger. Only when his true emotions were revealed, should people run for the hills.
"Get dressed and meet me in my private study," Yu Zhen gruffly said. His fist had tightened considerably until his honey tan skin was an eerie shade of white.
Xiao Hua could not help but notice the Crown Prince's gaze had softened when he was talking to his Wangfei. His expression had become slightly gentle as if worried he might've disturbed his Wangfei.
"Alright, I will be done soon," Li Xueyue said. She wondered what could've provoked such a big reaction from him.
Yu Zhen gave a slight nod. Then, he slammed the doors open, the walls rattling in its wake. He took a step out the door, only to abruptly pause.
Li Xueyue blinked in confusion. Did he forget something? She sat with her hands on her lap, her fingers subconsciously playing with a silk ribbon.
Without warning, he turned on his heels and took powerful strides in her direction. In the blink of an eye, he was beside her. Gently, he kissed the side of her head.
Yu Zhen was gone as quickly as he came.
"That was a surprise," Li Xueyue timidly murmured to Xiao Hua.
She touched the spot he had chastisely kissed. Even in his absence, she still felt his presence lingering by her side.
Xiao Hua's lips trembled to suppress a massive smile. To her immense relief, the Crown Prince's behavior did not change towards his Wangfei—even after the incident that cast doubt on her chastity.
"In this entire palace, you are the most beloved, Princess!" Xiao Hua eagerly said, as her eyes widened in excitement. She was in awe of the Crown Princess.
Li Xueyue let out a small laugh. She knew that was not true. There were many people who wished she was dead. But Xiao Hua was still a bit naive in this aspect. Not everyone shared the same affection she had towards Xueyue.
"There, Princess, all set!" Xiao Hua exclaimed.
Xiao Hua clasped her hands in front of her and lowered her head to show subservience. She realized that there were many times her adoration got the best of her. She was not supposed to speak unless spoken to, but she could not help it in front of the crown Princess.
"Wonderful as always," Li Xueyue complimented. She turned her head and admired Xiao Hua's handiwork. It was the least that she could do. The braid was elegantly wrapped into a bun, with hairpins tactically placed to accentuate the neck.
In the wind, the beaded hairpins would softly jingle and sway, like willow branches.
Without another word, Li Xueyue rose to her feet. Like a pampering mother, Xiao Hua hurried forward and swiped her hand across the dress.
"Are you certain you're fine?" Li Xueyue murmured to Xiao Hua.
It was quicker for Xueyue to recover, for she had developed her own coping mechanism from experiencing so many traumatic experiences in her lifetime.
Xiao Hua, on the other hand, was an innocent maidservant who grew up a normal life. Everyone thought she grew up in the Imperial Palace, who at least fed and clothed her. Or so, everyone thought.
"Yes, Princess. Please do not fret or worry…"
Li Xueyue pressed her lips together. She heard the sincerity in Xiao Hua's words, but worried too much, as always. With a quiet nod, Li Xueyue set off in the direction of the bedroom doors.
Together, they departed for the Crown Prince's private study, with groups of heavily armed guards trailing after them. With her big entourage, one would think she was this nation's treasure.
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