"Well, Xiao Yu'er, it's getting late, let's go to bed." Ye Jin said as he stood up and smoothed out the wrinkles on his black robe.
"By the way... Ye Jin, do you like that colour?" She had been meaning to ask him about the robes that he was wearing. Black, hemmed with gold thread, it was a huge departure from what he used to wear.
"I suppose it is. Why did you ask?"
"Nothing much. Then why did you change to wearing blue?"
"Heroes don't wear black. And I don't think you like the colour black."
"How...did you know?"
"Can you even guess that?" Her jaw dropped. "Wait, going back a bit. You live here, you're alive as yourself in this time. You're also alive as yourself when I first met you. So, you're really really old, like thousands of years old, right?"
"Ah, that's about there. Don't judge me, you're practically immortal too." He teased.
"Good point. Hey, can there be two White Tigers at the same time? Wouldn't having two of the same Divine Beasts around cause a catastrophe?" She asked again.
"Of course there's only one Divine Beast, Xiao Yu'er." Ye Jin explained patiently. "That leaves two possibilities. It could be that the two of you each hold half of the White Tiger's strength, and it would show its true power when you two combine your powers. Or that only one of you is the real White Tiger."
"The real White Tiger. So one of us, either I or Rain could be a fake." She thought aloud.
Ye Jin nodded.
"But both of us can transform into a Tiger Beast. That doesn't make sense."
Ye Jin raised his eyebrows. "Hm, it may not be the White Tiger's strength. Have you seen her turn into the White Tiger, like you have?"
Gu Qingyu went silent. She had seen Rain turned into a tiny tiger and a humanoid tiger beast. But she herself cannot turn into the latter form. And, from her own experience, the tiny tiger form was caused by exhaustion. How could she transform between that at will?
"So don't worry, Xiao Yu'er. Honestly, so what if you might be the fake one? I'm still here."
"Well...but I'm the reincarnation of the White Tiger. That would make me Rain's reincarnation. If one of us is a fake, then..." She was still trying to wrap her head around the mystery.
"You silly billy." Ye Jin chided as he pulled her into his arms. "Alright, we can talk more tomorrow, you need to sleep already."
"Fine." Gu Qingyu pouted slightly and did not protest any further. She was still quite worried about Qi Wan, where on earth would he be? And Brother Murong too, he should be fine, right?
Ye Jin carried her with steady steps as he strolled in the moonlit night. And she drifted off again to the reassuring sound of his heartbeat. Ye Jin walked back to the main hall, then pushed open another door without a sound. It led to a large bedroom. A large, soft bed was in the center of the room. Ye Jin gently placed her on the bed and tucked her in quietly before stepping out again.
In the main hall, a soldier spoke with a hushed voice, "Your majesty, our troops are ready. We can attack Xiqian whenever you wish."
"Good." Ye Jin stared at the darkness outside as the faint candlelight in the room danced in his eyes. "We will strike Xiqian at its heart, bypassing Yan Yang City."
The soldier raised his head in disbelief. "But, your majesty, we would lose more than half of our troops if we don't attack from Yan Yang City!"
"You dare question me?" Ye Jin glared at the soldier with narrowed eyes.
"Of course not!" The soldier lowered his head immediately. Beads of perspiration formed on his forehead despite the cool night.
Ye Jin thought for a while, then said, "Oh, find the man that was following the empress. Alert me the moment you find out where he is."
"Yes, your majesty!" The soldier answered with eyes glued to the floor.
"Okay, that's all." Ye Jin dismissed the soldier with a wave and returned to the bedroom, closing the door behind him. Once the coast was clear, the soldier breathed a sigh of relief.
Ye Jin returned to the bedroom. A smile coloured his lips when he saw that Gu Qingyu was fast asleep. He quietly slipped under the covers and settled next to her.
Xiao Yu'er, I will protect you.
The Next Morning
Gu Qingyu opened her eyes slowly and glanced outside the window. The sun had just risen.
She turned to her side, Ye Jin was next to her. His eyes were closed as his chest rose and fell in a steady rhythm. One of his arms rested over her shoulders and reached her back, as if he was shielding her in his sleep. She never knew that waking up next to the person she wanted to see the most could fill her with so much joy. What a hard-won but simple happiness. Gu Qingyu felt her eyes water, but she did not move, afraid that she might wake him up instead. She would toss and turn in her sleep, while Ye Jin was a super light sleeper. He must not have slept well.
All of a sudden, Ye Jin said with a whisper, "My dear, is your husband that good looking?"
Gu Qingyu gasped in response, she didn't think that Ye Jin would be awake. Her face turned beet red and she covered her face that instant.
Ye Jin laughed and pressed her against his chest. "Good morning, Xiao Yu'er."
"G-good morning." She replied with a slight stutter as her heart pounded against her ribs.
"You didn't really toss and turn last night." He rubbed her head. "Still sleepy?"
Gu Qingyu shook her head. "No, I'm gonna get up now."
"Okay~" Ye Jin yawned lazily, then sat up, the blanket slipped down to his hips as he did so. The neckline of his white inner robe was slightly open, revealing his chiseled muscles.
"Xiao Yu'er ," He reminded her as she stared at him in a daze. "You're drooling."
Gu Qingyu wiped her chin without thinking, there wasn't anything there. She sat up and shot a glare at him. "Hey! Gosh, all you do is tease me!"
"Pfft! Okay, okay. You're the only person I want to tease anyway." He replied.
She hopped off the bed with a huff, smoothed out the wrinkles in her dress and left the bedroom.
Ye Jin slipped into his black robe in a hurry and chased after her with a thick white robe in hand. "Wait for me! Slow down, and it's cold outside. You're gonna get sick at this rate!"
They passed by a maidservant, who watched them with a slack jaw. That was the emperor chasing after the new empress, right? Oh dear, she should not have seen that. No, she did not see anything at all.
Gu Qingyu took the thick white robe and draped it across her shoulders before glancing at Ye Jin. "Lead the way."
"Yes, my dear!" Ye Jin looked at her with smiling eyes as he walked ahead and led the way.
The palace staff dropped to their knees as Ye Jin and Gu Qingyu walked by. "Your majesty! Your highness!"
"Yes, all of you may rise." There was a cheery lift in his tone. The palace staff panicked as they noticed their monarch's strangely good mood. The new empress was making a very significant difference very quickly.
"Oh, you're quite nice to your staff. I couldn't tell." Gu Qingyu commented as she rubbed her chin.
Ye Jin smiled. "Yes, I'm very kind."
If only the empress could hear their thoughts. The emperor can be very far from kind. When he loses his temper, he would kill without batting an eye.
"Right?" Ye Jin turned to them.
They immediately agreed. "Yes, the emperor is really kind!"
"He really takes care of us!"
"Serving his majesty has been the best decision in my life!"
"Ah, the weather is really nice today!"
Ye Jin nodded with satisfaction, and then looked at Gu Qingyu. "See, the people have spoken."
She nodded. "Hm, indeed. These days, monarchs like you that even care for the servants are really few and far between!"
"All the more reason for you to cherish me, Xiao Yu'er." He grinned.
"Yeah, good point!"
The palace staff stared at her with imploring eyes. Forgive us, your highness! We cannot go against such great power! But it would not be for long for them to realise who was the actual great power.
The couple arrived in the dining room. Gu Qingyu felt her mouth water the moment she saw the breakfast spread of classic dishes and porridge. There were even her favorite pickled radishes, with thinly sliced meat.
"Dig in, I knew you would be hungry by now." He pulled open a chair for her.
Gu Qingyu sat down and picked up her cutleries. "Then I won't hold back~"
"I never asked you to. Eat." He sat down next to her.
Breakfast passed quickly. Gu Qingyu patted her food baby with a burp. "That was delicious!"
"Of course, I'm a good cook." He watched her clear the table with a smile, he himself did not eat much.
"Huh? You prepared all of that? When?"
"I finished everything about half an hour before you woke up. Just enough time to let them cool to the optimal eating temperature." He reached for the teapot and poured a cup. "Tea?"
Gu Qingyu shook her head. "Thank you, you must not have slept, right?"
It would be impossible to make her get up in the morning to make breakfast, but he never even asked her to do that for him. Instead, he has made breakfast for her. He even cooked himself, even though he could have just delegated that to the palace cooks. In these ancient times, no men would bother to cook for their wife or their family because of how it would make them look weak. There must be even more pressure on Ye Jin, no thanks to his reputation as a cold, proud emperor. But he did not care about that, at all.
"As long as you're happy." He pinched her cheeks. "We can go once you're done. There's a place I want to show you."
"A place? Where?" It has been so long since she had the time to do some sightseeing.Previous Chapter Next Chapter