Li Xueyue continued watching as the twins bickered amongst themselves. By now, the children had climbed off Wenmin, and the three of them had run off into the garden to play. Out of the corner of her eyes, she saw the guards instantly following them. There were rows of them, heavily armed, and some even hidden in the shadows.
She knew it was both her husband’s and Li Chenyang’s doing. To no one’s surprise, they were extremely protective of their children.
“Your brothers serve as great entertainment,” Yu Zhen commented. He settled a hand on her hip, gently massaging it. She was on her legs a lot today. It would be best for her to sit down somewhere, like the pavilion near them.
“I thought they would have already outgrown this, but I suppose not,” Li Xueyue said with a small laugh towards the end. She turned to look at Yu Zhen and her heart skipped. He was staring at her with an affectionate smile, his eyes soft and gentle.
“I’ve always loved your laughter, Sunshine,” Yu Zhen mused.
“I love yours more, Little Panda,” Li Xueyue retorted. “But you don’t laugh that much for some reason.”
Yu Zhen lifted a brow. “If I laugh too much, I would look like a crazy person.”
“Then what does that say about me?” Li Xueyue said. “I laugh a lot.”
Yu Zhen chuckled. “Well, you should know the answer to that, Sunshine.”
Yu Zhen pulled her closer to him. “And it’s Big Bear, not Little Panda.”
Li Xueyue peered up at him. Even though they would sleep at the same time, he was always an early riser. The dark circles under his eyes had gone away a bit, but it was still there. She wished he would sleep in more.
The only time he slept in was when the children were snuggled in their own beds.
“Maybe when you get decent sleep and stop having such dark circles under your eyes, I will refer to you as a bear,” Li Xuyue said. She reached up and cupped the side of his face, her thumb brushing near his eyes.
“I have a country to run,” he teased. “And a body to train.”
Li Xueyue huffed. “I also have a country to run,” she said. “And a horse to keep company.”
Yu Zhen grinned. “I never said you didn’t.”
Li Xueyue glared. “Yet, I still get good sleep.”
Yu Zhen opened his mouth to respond, but then closed it. Everyone was distracted. It was a good time to sneak in a kiss and make up. She was a lot more feistier lately. Sometimes, it was fun entertaining her tantrums, and he wanted to tease her so much.
Just as he was going to say something, they heard a loud scream. Instantly, he turned around, a murderous look on his face. Who hurt the children?
Yu Chenjiang had fallen.
“Oh dear,” Li Xueyue breathed out. She immediately departed from the spot beside her husband. She quickly walked towards her child but felt a firm grasp on her wrist.
“You must let him get up on his own,” Yu Zhen sternly said. His grip on her wrist tightened. “For the love of Heaven, don’t rush, you’ll get hurt, Sunshine.”
Li Xueyue scowled. “Let me baby my child while I still can!”
Yu Zhen wryly smiled and closed the distance between them. “We can’t make men out of boys if we continuously help him up.”
Li Xueyue opened her mouth to respond, but then she heard a quiet sniffle. She turned her head, noticing her son was staring at her. He said nothing, but was remaining pitifully on the ground.
“No,” Yu Zhen quickly said. He knew what she was going to do.
Yu Zhen turned to his son and gave him a warning stare. “Now, now, Chenjiang, you know what to do.”
Yu Chenjiang’s bottom lip wobbled. His eyes grew wide a bit, expecting his parents to come and help him up. He wanted his mother to blow on the wound, and make a little butterfly for the pain to fly away.
“Up you go, Chenjiang,” Yu Zhen encouraged.
At the stern voice of his father, Yu Chenjiang hesitated. When he saw his father’s pressing glare, he knew he had to get up on his own. Sullenly, Yu Chenjiang helped himself up. His little knees wobbled a bit, stinging from the tiny scraps on his knee.
By the time he was on his feet, his parents had reached him. He felt a gentle, affectionate pat on the top of his head.
Yu Chenjiang lifted his little head and was met with the proud look of his father.
“You did well, my son,” Yu Zhen said.
Yu Chenjiang blinked a bit before hiding a slight smile. His father’s hands were warm.
“Are you hurt anywhere?” Li Xueyue instantly asked. She wanted to bend down and pull him into a hug. Seeing her little boy in pain always hurt her.
“No, Mama,” Yu Chenjiang said. He stepped forward and wrapped his arms around her waist, burying his head on her hip.
“Jiang-ge fell on the flat path,” Yu Minqi spoke up. She had to hide a small laugh that would only upset her brother. But it was the undeniable truth.
The path was flat and smooth. It was physically impossible to trip and fall!
“Sounds like something that might happen to your mother too,” Yu Zhen joked and snickered. He peered at his daughter, who had the same, mischievous smile on her face. They were both humored by the situation whereas Li Xueyue was not.
“Sounds like your father wants to sleep alone tonight,” Li Xueyue bit out. She hugged her son a bit tighter and glared at her husband. He was so childish at times but she couldn’t argue too much.
“He should be sleeping alone every night,” Li Chenyang drawled out.
“And if he hasn’t been doing so, he should start now,” Li Wenmin added on.
The twins exchanged knowing glances and flashed a smirk to each other. It was one of the rare times they were actually in sync.
“Wouldn’t it be fun if we did the same thing?” Ning Huabing innocently said to her good friend, Liu Xingfei. Throughout the years, they had bonded well in the palace after making common enemies out of women vying for their position.
Harems were not that prevalent anymore, but other countries like Jiangsu were still doing it. There were still hopeful mothers who would try to convince one of the two Princes to take another wife.
Liu Xingfei chuckled. “Yes, I would prefer to finally sleep in peace without my brute of a husband always moving in his sleep.”
“I agree, I might actually have a good night’s sleep without my husband snoring the walls down,” Ning Huabing joked even though her husband didn’t snore as loud as she made it to be.
“What do you think?” Ning Huabing asked Li Xueyue with a teasing smile.
Li Xueyue blinked once before laughing, much to the men’s dismay. “The bed is only large enough to fit three people: me, my son, and my daughter. There will be no room for Yu Zhen. I’ll make sure of it.”
Yu Zhen rolled his eyes. “You’ve rarely spent a night without me. I doubt you’ll even have a restful sleep without me!”
Li Xueyue threw him a pointed look. “Lying to yourself doesn’t make it the truth.”
“Neither does your bluff,” he retorted.
Whilst their parents began to banter, the children exchanged confused looks. Eventually, they grew bored of the “adult conversation,” and ran off, the incident was completely forgotten. In the distance, they had spotted the servants who were stepping out with freshly prepared snacks. Thus, they ran over, eager to snack whilst their parents bickered.
But surprisingly, before they could even take the first bite, their parents had already caught up to them. It wasn’t fair that they had much longer legs than them!
“Don’t snack too much, children,” Li Xueyue lightly scolded. “You’ll lose your appetite for the afternoon meal.”
“Yes, Mama,” Yu Chenjiang instantly said whilst plopping one of the flower cookies into his mouth.
“Of course, Mama,” Yu Minqi responded with a cookie in each hand.
“Only one, Auntie Yueyue…” Li Yangxing whispered while finishing one cookie, then grabbing two more.
Li Yangxing heard her mother’s sigh and her father’s laughter. She turned in time to see that neither of the children’s lies had convinced their parents.
Li Yangxing naively giggled whilst taking more snacks off the tray.
“Seems like gluttony runs in the Li family,” Yu Zhen remarked, much to Li Xueyue’s amusement.
“Indeed,” Li Xueyue chuckled. Both of her children enjoyed eating as much as her. They were frequently found with a plate of pastries with them. She heard similar stories of Li Yangxing always sneaking snacks behind her mother’s back.
“Let’s just hope the little dumpling doesn’t inherit that trait,” Yu Zhen mused. He placed a hand on her belly and affectionately rubbed it whilst hugging her to the side of his body.
Li Xueyue’s smile widened. She cast a look on the empty tray and the unsurprised servants, who were used to the children’s antics.
“That is one wish that will definitely never come true,” she said.