This luxurious chamber became nothing but a fancy prison. With guardsmen stationed every ten feet and the crown prince's wives constantly moving in and out attending to their imperial duties, I was left here on my own, waiting for prince Hoon to free himself from his schedule. I never knew what time he barges in through my door, he could be here from every hour to every half an hour, depending on how much he misses me.
"You'll wear yourself out doing this, my love." I crooned to him one afternoon after he showed up at my door a hundredth time.
"Nonsense!" He declared with a heavy breath. "I'll climb the tallest mountain every half an hour just to be with you."
I laughed at his silliness and walked into his arms for a hug.
My constant avoidance of wangfei Ru Shi became exhausting that I restricted myself to isolation, along with Bailing inside the chamber. It's better than being picked on by the most powerful woman in this entire palace. Although, I missed the garden and I missed Bailing's company at times. I allowed her to slip in and out of my side ever since she started dating that handsome captain from third prince Julong's army.
Second wangfei Ai was different, she maintained her silence and paid no mind to me. She seemed to care for the second prince enough - her younger cousin by one year - that she approached me one day and murmured of sweet greeting and a belated welcome. She apologized for the first wife's attitude and ill-treatment of me, and she also apologized for not standing up that day. She said it's not her place to speak against the first wife and such deed is punishable. She didn't want to suffer the consequences.
She also advised staying away from the first wife as much as I can if I want to make my life easier. I took her advice to heart.
On those days I would run into her in the hallway, she greeted me and often asked of my second prince's well-being.
She smiled once her eyes found mine and led the trail of her guardsmen and maidservant to my direction. "How's little cousin doing?"
I regarded her with a soft greeting, "prince Hoon is doing fine. He suffers from mild allergies, but nothing too drastic lately."
She let out a theatrical sigh of relief. "Good, please take care of prince Hoon, he is very dear to me."
I nodded. "I do my best to keep him in his best health."
Before long, second prince Hoon took notice of my moping and my constant yearning gaze at the window. He knew of my love for the garden and took me for evening walks almost every night.
"What's the matter, my love?" He cooed, his sweet voice filled with care and curiosity. "I thought you would be happier now that we're together."
"I am," I answered and reached for his fingers.
He held my hand and kissed it. "Then tell me what's been troubling you lately."
I lifted my gaze and met his. I wish I would have been better at hiding these things from him, but I'm afraid, prince Hoon was already an expert at reading my veiled emotions. "Nothing, nothing's bothering me. I just had a lot on my mind lately."
He knew right away I was lying.
His folded finger brushed my cheek, sending ripples of quiver all over me. Prince Hoon dragged a chair and set it beside mine overlooking the view out the window. "Tell me what's on your mind, I want to know what's bothering you, so I may do something about it."
My hesitation gripped me while he waited for my answer. My betrothed gave me a daunting look that made me feel guilty and forced me to confess everything. I couldn't refuse my betrothed even if I wanted to. "Oh, Hoon. First, wangfei Ru Shi had been a real tyrant."
Prince Hoon's clenched his jaws and ground his teeth, I had a feeling he's already aware of how she was and had anticipated this type of behavior happening. He leaned into me, soft lips bristled on my forehead. "I see. Don't worry, Jasmine. I was afraid this might happen. I'll talk to eldest brother about reprimanding his first wife."
"I think the crown prince is already aware. He caught her offhanded one day and chose not to do anything about it. I don't think he cares, and I don't think he would want to involve himself in such petty competition among women."
"He will." He said. "If I say something to him about it."
"Please, don't trouble yourself with it. It's nothing I couldn't handle."
He sighed. "You're so clueless, Jasmine. Don't think a powerful woman like her is ever satisfied. You might find yourself in danger just because she didn't like the way you looked at her husband."
I breathed, stunned. Bailing warned me about women like her. High born nobles and princesses. It's one thing to be bullied by concubines, but it's another to be targeted by powerful women.
He rose to get ready to leave, his schedule permitted only a few minutes of his time. I held on to his arm with such clinginess that even I annoyed myself. I can't help it. I wanted to be with him longer than this sporadic few minutes we share.
"Stay," I begged. "Stay longer than a few minutes at a time."
He smiled. "How can I have been so cruel. Get dressed, Jasmine. Let me take you out right now."