But before Yu Zhen could do anything, frantic footsteps could be heard. Following after it were hurried knocks and the voice of Hu Dengxiao permeated into the room.
"Y-Your Highness! Crown Princess!" he cried out, demanding their attention with urgency.
Yu Zhen's handsome features instantly twisted into a scowl. The mood was just right until his damn friend ruined it. His eyes narrowed. Fine, he'd do everything in his power to interrupt Hu Dengxiao's time with Lu Tianbi. Yu Zhen was petty enough to interrupt them for an entire week.
"That seems urgent," Li Xueyue murmured.
She pushed his arms away and stepped towards the door. Thankfully, the first few inner layers of her clothes were done.
All she had to do was slip on the decorative one for the outside, which was jade green with elaborate silver embroideries. The fine details oozed status and wealth. Only high aristocrats like Dukes and Princes could afford such a garment.
Li Xueyue hurriedly slipped on the decorative layer and tightly wrapped the ribbon belt so that she was presentable.
"I'll get it," Yu Zhen gently said. He closed the doors to their bedroom and headed outside.
When he would see Hu Dengxiao, he would certainly give the advisor a smack on the head. What happened to enjoying the day off with Lu Tianbi? Was she occupied with something?
"What is it?" Yu Zhen bit out the second he flung the doors open.
Hu Dengxiao opened his mouth only to shrink back a bit. Like a puppy who was kicked by his master, his lips drew into a slight pout. He ran here at the fastest speed he could muster, but the Crown Prince was in a grouchy mood. Had he interrupted something important? Well, the Imperial Family had interrupted him first!
Nonetheless, he instantly blurted out, "The Emperor is really on his deathbed. The Imperial Physician examined him today after he was barely able to even open his eyes. The doctor predicted today might be the Emperor's last day."
Hu Dengxiao always knew his dear friend had a rocky relationship with the Emperor. He personally witnessed Yu Zhen, as a little boy, more battered than an orphan boy who lived on the streets.
Even the baker that Hu Dengxiao used to steal from didn't beat him to the extent that the Emperor had done. Flogging and spanking were just the beginning of punishments.
Hu Dengxiao couldn't fathom what kind of crimes the Crown Prince had committed at such a young age to receive such horrific punishments. Come to find out, it was for stupid mistakes.
The Emperor was a horrible father. It was exactly why Hu Dengxiao expected Yu Zhen's face to darken. His mood soured before the advisor's eyes.
"So?" the Crown Prince seethed.
Hu Dengxiao sullenly glanced towards the ground. So much for bringing an unfilial son to see his dying father. It was the Emperor's last day in this world. Yet, neither of his sons seemed to care.
He heard the Empress had a tight grip on the First Prince as they walked into the Emperor's room shortly after hearing the news from the Imperial Physician. One could infer the Empress had practically dragged him there, per the rules of etiquette.
"So, everyone is expecting you to see him one last time. Or else, the servants will spread rumors, Your Highness. It is something that both Lu Tianbi and I know you would not like to do, but for the sake of your reputation, please reconsider your decision."
Yu Zhen let out a deep sigh. Why were so many people trying to convince him to go and see the Emperor? "Did the servants not recall the Emperor harshly beating his own sons?"
"Well uhm…" Hu Dengxiao licked his bottom lip. "It's still expected, Zhenzhen. I would've given everything in the world to see my parents, even though they had abandoned me on the street to fend for myself. Parents gave us life…"
Yu Zhen pinched the patch of skin between his brows. First, it was Li Xueyue's worrying, and now it was Hu Dengxiao's sob story.
He was never a sympathetic person. There was a reason why sympathetic had the word "pathetic" in it—or so the Emperor claimed.
Irritably, Yu Zhen roughly yanked Hu Dengxiao into the room and slammed the door shut. This was not a conversation meant for the ears of guards and servants.
"Ouch, Zhenzhen!" Hu Dengxiao yelped. "Don't abuse your advisor like this!"
Yu Zhen rolled his eyes at his dramatic friend.
"I hope you're not this forceful with the Crown Princess, you'll scare her away!" Hu Dengxiao added on in an exasperated voice. He hoped to scare the Crown Prince into being nicer.
But the Crown Prince merely smirked. "She has never complained." For all he knew, she enjoyed it. Especially rough-housing in bed.
"Ugh, I'll never understand both of you guys," Hu Dengxiao groaned.
Now that they were alone, he had dropped the titles. There was no need for them. Especially when the presence of the watchful eyes and gossiping mouths were gone. Not that the servants had the guts to gossip about the Crown Prince.
"But why did you have to pull me inside, Zhenzhen? We should be heading out to see the Emperor…" he trailed off.
A storm cloud rolled over Yu Zhen's fine features. His glower was vicious, like a man out for vengeance.
"If I set foot in that room, I will curse him to the depths of hell. Is that what you want?" he seethed.
Hu Dengxiao's shoulders dropped in disappointment. Even so, the advisor trait within him began to rule over. "Well, it would certainly make the servants think you're a filial son if they see you enter the room to see him. They would be oblivious to the conversation that would take place behind closed doors anyway."
But just then, Hu Dengxiao reasoned, "But would that truly do your conscience any good?" As the Crown Prince's good friend, he had to reason with him.
Yu Zhen wondered how many times he must reiterate the exact same thing. He did not care about the Emperor. Dead or alive, Yu Zhen would live on just fine. Diyu would gain another member and Yu Zhen's life would continue to function as per normal. Nothing would change. Not a single bit.
But when the doors to his bedroom opened and out walked Xueyue with a worried face, he knew he could not let down two people at once.
They wanted to see him have a conversation with the Emperor? He'd do so. But it wouldn't be a pleasant one.
Yu Zhen would be certain of it.
"Come with me," he informed his Wangfei, knowing many people would be watching. It would be best if in the eyes of the public, he was still a good son—or so everyone believed.
"To the Emperor's estate?" Li Xueyue asked. She had been eavesdropping ever since Yu Zhen began talking to Hu Dengxiao outside.
Li Xueyue had left her hair as it was. The maidservants had twisted it into a low braided bun. But they had been dismissed too quickly before they could adorn her hair with hairpins. Thus, she only stuck in a single white jade hairpin to hold everything in place.
Li Xueyue didn't want to appear too extravagant, especially when talking to the Emperor. His taste seemed similar to Yu Zhen's. They both preferred simple yet beautiful things.
"Yes, where else?" he angrily bit out.
Li Xueyue's lips twisted into an understanding smile. She did not mind his frustration. He had been cornered. She would've been equally unhappy. But this was for his own good.
Or so everyone hoped.
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