"Another threat?!" Hu Dengxiao cried out. His voice raised an octave, as his eyes grew wide. His glare swam with an emotion unfamiliar with his nature.
"Wuyi is overstepping their boundaries with this threat, Your Highness!" Hu Dengxiao exasperated. He pointed an accusational finger towards the letter. His entire body trembled with rage.
Lu Tianbi pressed her lips together. She rarely saw Hu Dengxiao infuriated. He would only lose his cool when she was hurt, or when the Commander was placed in harm's way. Hu Dengxiao only loses his smile for his friends.
Peering over, Lu Tianbi quietly read the letter to herself.
"This is the final warning. There will not be a letter the next time. The next thing that comes is Wuyi's army. If Xueyue is ever placed in harm's way again, you can be sure that this marriage will be annulled. Alliance or not, Xueyue will return home. Wuyi will protect her, more than her own husband can."
Lu Tianbi tilted her head. It was indeed a threat, but not a major one. Until, she dragged her eyes downward, and noticed a brown writing. There was a familiar scent in the air, tart and sour, like a lemon. She vaguely remembered the method of placing a letter over a fire to reveal the hidden writings from a brush dipped in lemon juice.
"And if you stand in the army's way, we will not hesitate to use force until there is nothing left of the Grim Reaper of War."
Lu Tianbi's gaze darkened. A sudden surge of irrationality clouded her judgment but her thoughts were quickly interrupted by a swift knock on the door. She turned her head in time to see a familiar figure saunter into the room.
The Crown Princess entered with her hands tucked into her long sleeves. She seemed well-rested, with a healthy glow to her cheeks, and warmth in her eyes.
"Oh, I didn't realize Lady Lu and Advisor Hu were inside," Li Xueyue began.
Li Xueyue was bewildered by the high tension in the room. Did something happen? Hu Dengxiao was scowling, and Lu Tianbi was frowning. Yu Zhen seemed unfazed and aloof, with a blank expression on his face.
"Is everything alright?" Li Xueyue slowly asked.
Lu Tianbi was standing to the right side of Yu Zhen, whereas Hu Dengxiao remained on the left. They were gathered around the desk, which was not unusual. Except, they did not behave as they usually did.
Li Xueyue felt like she was interrupting something. She wanted to leave. Just then, the doors were softly closed behind her.
Li Xueyue was hesitant to take another step forward. It was as if she had interrupted a war meeting or something. Hu Dengxiao and Lu Tianbi didn't seem to welcome her. The air was thick and ominous.
"Come here," Yu Zhen beckoned.
Li Xueyue approached his desk in light steps. Her brows were knitted with uncertainty.
She peered at Yu Zhen one more time. His lips were gently curled and there was a faint smile. But his hardened gaze did not soften. He was upset. But she didn't know why.
Hu Dengxiao instantly spoke up. "Princess—"
Hu Dengxiao gaped at his friend. Surely, the Crown Prince was not thinking of protecting his wife given the current situation?! Hu Dengxiao could not understand why the Crown Prince didn't want to utilize the trump card beside him.
Li Xueyue was the favored Princess of Wuyi. A single letter from her would be enough to dispel her parents' concerns. It was a simple solution to solve this massive problem!
Hu Dengxiao sulked. Was it because the Crown Prince did not want to seem weak by asking his wife for help? But it wasn't weak, especially when he had done so much for her. The least she could do was give something in return.
"Have you eaten?"
Hu Dengxiao blanched at the question. He trained his eyes to the ground, knowing he would've glared at the Crown Prince for asking that. They were dealing with something serious and he inquired about her wellbeing?
"Not yet…" Li Xueyue trailed off. "Have you?"
Yu Zhen shook his head. He wore a brooding stare. Her heart thudded even though it was not directed at her but at Hu Dengxiao.
"I have not," Yu Zhen informed her. He could see the anxiety on her features since she was standing right in front of him. Her fingers were tightly clenched and her brows were knitted together.
His Wangfei was worried about being a burden again.
"Oh, what's this?" Li Xueyue suddenly asked the second she looked down. Initially, the parchment did not catch her attention. Except, the handwriting looked familiar, and she instantly recognized it as Li Chenyang's handwriting.
"Princess, it is a threat sent by your beloved family," Hu Dengxiao bit out.
Yu Zhen's gaze darkened. His head snapped in Hu Dengxiao's direction. His blood boiled. The way Hu Dengxiao said it would've hurt Xueyue's feelings. He would not tolerate it—not even one bit.
Yu Zhen opened his mouth to speak, but Li Xueyue interrupted him.
"Chen-ge is at it again," Li Xueyue softly sighed. "You'd think with the physical distance between you guys, he would not find a way to threaten you."
Li Xueyue's fingers clenched the corners of the letter. "I'm sorry, Yu Zhen. I should've known he would write something like this."
Hu Dengxiao's fingers twitched. She was aware of her brother's disrespect? Yet, did nothing to stop it?
Hu Dengxiao narrowed his eyes. He acknowledged that it would be difficult for the Crown Princess to reprimand her older brother. But couldn't she have attempted to stop her brother from being so unruly?
"It was a justified threat," Yu Zhen coldly said. "You were put in harm's way too many times."
Li Xueyue pressed her lips together. "It does not matter. Chen-ge shouldn't have been so mean as to threaten your life."
Li Xueyue placed the letter back onto the table. She feared it would be crumpled in her hands. "After the incident happened, I knew news of it would reach Mother and Father's ears, so I quickly sent letters out to them. It should've reached them by now."
Yu Zhen's brows shot up. He was not aware of her letters. How did she send them out? Was it through the dove? He vaguely remembered the white bird. It was small, but fast. However, it would not be suitable to use the dove to send longer messages.
Li Xueyue knew Chenyang had said these things out of anger. She had placed herself into his shoes and thought about the situation.
If he was sent off to a foreign country and harmed, she would feel the same frustration for not being able to do anything to prevent it. It was difficult to stand on the sidelines and watch your loved ones get hurt.
"On the bright side," Li Xueyue warily commented. "This is the first time you've agreed with my brother."
"And the last time," Yu Zhen deadpanned. He did not like to admit that he had agreed with the threat by the slightest bit.
Yu Zhen was irked that he was always too late when it came to saving her. He swore to keep her safe, but she was harmed. Her naivety had gotten herself in trouble too many times. He could only wish that she would become more perceptive and astute with time.
At the least, she was slowly changing, bit by bit. He heard she refused to eat or drink unless a poison tester was nearby. Now, she practically went nowhere without her guards.
Li Xueyue also did not oppose the heightened security around her. There were visibly more guards around her and many others who were protecting her from the shadows—steps ahead of her.
"Hopefully, when the letters reach them, everything will be well," Li Xueyue firmly said. She placed a finger on the letter, directly on the word "alliance."
"Though it's not the best example, this letter will show the Empress, in the unlikely event that she tries to harm me, Wuyi will come for her."
Li Xueyue did not want Yu Zhen to despise his mother. He did not say it, but she knew it. He abhorred her with every fiber within him. It was understandable, given his childhood. However, she felt like their relationship had been more strained since she arrived in Hanjian.
"I will be more careful from now on," Li Xueyue stated. She straightened up and glanced at Lu Tianbi and Hu Dengxiao. "I'll try harder than before to not be a burden to anyone."
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