Duke Li Shenyang stepped forward with his hands tucked behind his back. He stared at her bandaged head and arm. In a solemn and rigid voice, he asked, "You're Viscount Bai's youngest daughter, Bai Xueyue. Am I correct?" His keen eyes watched for the girl's reaction. He was surprised when he didn't see any fear in her eyes.
"Yes, that is correct," she said with a slight edge in her tone. Her voice was cold, and her soft eyes became as rigid as stone.
Although Duke Li Shenyang admired Xueyue's truthfulness, a tiny part of him wished she denied the information. There was a conflicted expression on his face as he thought about Xueyue's complicated background.
Duke Li Shenyang's eyes wandered from the determined Xueyue to Duchess Li Qixing who seemed oblivious to the weight of Xueyue's surname.
Duchess Li Qixing was heavily involved in the women's social circle, but she rarely batted an eye to government and political affairs.
Duke Li Shenyang, however, was different. He held a very high title in court which forced him to memorize and learn about the affairs of the imperial courts.
As he pondered the Bai surname, a sudden realization occurred. Duke Li Shenyang remembered Viscount Bai requesting an imperial decree that would sentence a young girl to her death. Because the girl was only sixteen, there was a rift between Viscount Bai's wishes and the laws of Hechen.
It's unknown how Viscount Bai did it, but he eventually got the decree. However, there wasn't the name of the child on the scroll, therefore, the imperial decree, technically, wasn't sentencing Xueyue. it could've sentenced any child and Viscount Bai would get away with it.
'Interesting...Very interesting,' Duke Li Shenyang thought to himself. He wondered what crimes the tiny girl in front of him could have committed. She seemed relatively harmless due to her tiny and starved frame. Her eyes, so naive and ignorant, didn't seem to be the type to commit crimes. He was curious about her, but didn't want to interrogate the girl with the duchess present.
Duke Li Shenyang stared at his wife for a brief moment. He saw her attachment towards Xueyue and the subtle way she cared for her. This was going to get messy...
Although Xueyue doesn't resemble Minghua when she's conscious, Duchess Li Qixing was beginning to grow attached to Xueyue. Perhaps it was because she was a child with the same height and frame as Minghua, or perhaps it was because Duchess Li Qixing had personally taken care of the child, but she felt a sense of comfort within Xueyue. Whether this was a healthy feeling or not, none of the people in the room were willing to address it.
"If you're comfortable with sharing it, would you like to tell us what happened?" Duchess Li Qixing inquired. Her eyes were adoring and understanding. She was evidently fine with accepting a "no" as her answer.
Because Duke Li Shenyang was standing up, he didn't see the broken expression on Xueyue's face. But Duchess Li Qixing, who was sitting very close to Xueyue, clearly saw the pained expression. She felt her heart tightly squeezed at the sight of the girl. Xueyue seemed so young, barely above the age of sixteen, but it looked as if she had experienced an entire life of hardships.
If only the duchess knew Xueyue had indeed suffered a life filled with nothing but painful events and memories.
Xueyue slowly breathed in and out. She wanted to calm her mind and her heart before she spoke. Her illogical thinking and rash behavior had nearly got herself killed once. She was determined to not make the same foolish mistakes again. Stupidly speaking out of turn, naively blurting out the first thought that came to her mind and unwise outbursts, she realized how dumb she was back then.
Xueyue finally realized why Bai Tianai was loved and doted on by everyone she came across. Sweet words, loving smiles, and always knowing the right words to speak, she was a very coy girl.
When Xueyue raised her head, there was a glint of determination within her strong, hazel eyes.
Duke Li Shenyang raised his brows in surprise when he suddenly thought of a man he was acquainted with. Their features were oddly similar and the thing they had most in common was their piercing eyes.
"I was in my previous condition because I was sentenced to death by beating by Viscount Bai." Xueyue's statement horrified Duchess Li Qixing whose hand flew to cover her mouth. Her eyes painfully pricked with sympathy and began watering.
Duke Li Shenyang was amused by her fearless confidence. He valued the trait of truthfulness more than anything in the world, and hearing Xueyue's honest statement made him approve of her a little bit more.
"As of now, he probably thinks I'm dead," Xueyue slowly said.
Duchess Li Qixing sniffed into her handkerchief. She thought about the horrible life that this poor girl might've experienced.
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Duke Li Shenyang's expression and reaction was very different from his wife. There was only a twinge of sadness within his eyes. He was very curious about Viscount Bai because he had heard interesting and dark rumors about how Xueyue was conceived.
"Please don't cry, Duchess Li." Xueyue gently rubbed Duchess Li Qixing's shaking shoulders.
"There must've been someone that dearly misses your presence—"
"No one will mourn for me… No one will miss me even when I'm dead," Xueyue whispered, but everyone in the room had heard the pitiful statement.
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