The next morning, the servants were bustling around as they quickly prepared a new room for Xueyue. It was bigger than the one she was currently staying in, and Duchess Li Qixing had ordered many accessories, hanfus, and shoes for the girl.
When Duchess Li Qixing had received word that Xueyue had woken up, she was the first to bring her a tray of food. She had gotten up extra early this morning to personally prepare light dishes suitable for a patient that had just awoken from a long sleep.
"The servants could carry the trays," Duke Li Shenyang worriedly said to his wife.
Duchess Li Qixing rolled her eyes at her overbearing husband. She was holding a silver tray that held one teacup, a pot of freshly brewed tea, and a bowl of vegetable porridge. "It's only a tray of food, not a plate filled with gold!" she retorted.
Duchess Li Qixing loved her husband dearly, but sometimes he worried too much.
The servants following closely behind them exchanged nervous glances. It was their job to take the workload off of their masters. They were supposed to carry the teapot, the water, and the tray. As the missus of the house, Duchess Li Qixing was supposed to live a life of extreme comfort. She had servants that waited on her beck and call. But here she was, stealing the job of a servant!
"Be a dear and knock on the door for me." Duchess Li Qixing nudged her husband with her shoulder.
Duke Li Shenyang grumbled something under his breath, but proceeded to follow his wife's wishes.
Xueyue, who had been daydreaming, snapped back to reality. In a quiet and hesitant voice, she said, "Come in...?"
Although Duke Li Shenyang was the one who knocked and opened the door, Duchess Li Qixing was the first one to enter the room. She was already five steps ahead of him and didn't plan on slowing down anytime soon. With an excited smile, Duchess Li Qixing said, "Sweet child, I've brought you breakfast!" She placed the silver tray onto the dining table.
Xueyue felt overwhelmingly happy, so much that she struggled to form a proper sentence. "Thank you," she quietly said with a slight smile. It was the first time she had a meal so early. Back in the Bai Manor, the servants always served her last. The food would always consist of cold and unwanted dishes meant for servants.
"There's no need to thank me for doing the bare necessities." Duchess Li Qixing chuckled and said, "Come and enjoy your food!" She happily beckoned Xueyue forward.
She didn't expect Xueyue to be so polite. Daughters of wealthy families were usually spoiled rotten and rarely would they express any form of gratitude. There were a few smart ones that knew how to mask their bad temper with a thick mask of falsified innocence, but often, their masks were too thin and would crack easily.
Even though Xueyue was bathed by a servant earlier and had brushed her teeth, she still felt self-conscious for some reason. She climbed out of the bed with the duchess's help and then sat down in front of the table. Glancing at the piping hot and delicious scented food, she asked herself, 'Can I really eat it...?'
Duchess Li Qixing began to list the dishes she had made. "This is vegetable porridge cooked with carrots, mushrooms, and spinach! It is filled with nutrients for your malnourished body. In this teapot is ginseng tea brewed with goji berries and jujube. It can boost your immune system and energy." She excitedly clasped her hands together and smiled encouragingly. Although she wasn't showing it, the duchess was very nervous about Xueyue's reaction. Will she like the food? Will she push it away? What if the porridge is too salty?
Xueyue sat idly at the table. When she didn't make any move of touching the porridge and tea, Duchess Li Qixing felt her heart drop. Duke Li Shenyang frowned. Was there something wrong?
"U-uhm...You're not going to eat?" Xueyue quietly asked.
The couple blinked in surprise. Duke Li Shenyang pleasantly thought to himself, 'At least she was raised with manners.' In a calm voice, he said, "We've already had our morning meal. You don't have to worry about us. It's best to enjoy the food when it's warm." He nodded towards the spoon and finely-carved chopsticks.
After the reassurance, Xueyue finally sat down. She nervously picked up the spoon and took the first bite of her porridge. Her eyes immediately widened at the amazing flavors that bursted in her mouth. She had never tasted something so warm and delicious!
Duchess Li Qixing watched in awe as Xueyue finished the bowl within seconds. She scraped the entire bowl clean and finished all of her tea. There was not a single food gone to waste!
"How did it taste?" Duchess Li Qixing tried to keep her voice calm and without any excitement, but her tone sounded very eager for a good response.
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Xueyue happily grinned. "It's the best dish I've ever had! I've never tasted something so warm, rich, and delicious!"
Duchess Li Qixing was so overwhelmingly happy at the compliment, she nearly cried tears of happiness. None of her children complimented her cooking — most of them disliked it for their mellow and simple flavoring.
Duke Li Shenyang and his children always preferred saltier and heavier dishes. Though they'd always eat the dishes Duchess Li prepared, they'd add their own flavorings into it by adding more salt or soy sauce.
Duchess Li Qixing tenderly grabbed Xueyue's tiny hands. In a gentle and reassuring voice, she asked, "My dear, would you like to stay in the manor and enjoy warm meals every day?" She felt her heart race with anxiety while awaiting Xueyue's response.
"You mean I can stay here and work?" Xueyue was beyond excited at Duchess Li Qixing's words.
Taken by surprise at her words, Duchess Li Qixing awkwardly blinked a few times. She didn't expect Xueyue to immediately think about working as a servant. 'What an odd thing to say for a girl her age...' She tilted her head and thought to herself, 'This child has the blood of a viscount running through her veins. Why would she think about working?' How bad could her life had been in the Bai Household for a legitimate daughter to desire the strenuous work of a maidservant?
"You will not stay here as a servant. Your only task is to live happily and healthily," Duchess Li Qixing patiently explained.
Xueyue tilted her head in confusion. "I-I don't understand…?"
"I would like to adopt you into our family," Duchess Li Qixing gently said.
Xueyue felt her eyes grow wide with surprise. "But why me? I don't have anything I can offer."
Duchess Li Qixing placed a tender hand over Xueyue's tiny hands. "You see, sweetheart, I used to have a daughter your age. She was as bright and wonderful as you, but I-I eventually lost her to an unfortunate accident..." She strained her smile. "I'm not a selfish woman. I don't want a girl to replace her spot as my daughter, but nothing can ever replace the company of a young girl." She paused and carefully thought about what she wanted to say next.
"Please don't misunderstand...I still love my daughter very much. I have two lovely sons who are a few years older than you, but nothing can fill the void of having a chance to cook for, dress, chat, and enjoy occasional tea-times with a lovely girl..." Duchess Li Qixing tucked a few strands of hair behind her ears. "I suppose I'm rambling a bit too long."
Xueyue immediately shook her head. "No, your explanation was the perfect length!"
She realized Duchess Li Qixing seemed like the type to blame herself for doing nothing wrong. Xueyue didn't want to place a heavy burden on a woman who has shown her so much kindness.
"I suppose what I want to ask of you is if you'd like to become my adopted daughter and inherit the Li Family name?" Duchess Li Qixing softly asked Xueyue.
Xueyue felt her eyes grow wider in surprise. Her voice seemed to be stuck in her throat and the emotions washed over her like a heavy tidal wave. 'Would I finally have someone to call Mother?' she asked herself as her heart swelled with excitement.
In fear of her rejection, Duchess Li Qixing hurriedly listed the benefits, "You can restart in life! After inheriting the Li surname, you can gain a new identity. I hate to brag, but our family is wealthy enough to allow you to enjoy a life free from hardships. You will have a better future with us than out in the streets." She nudged her husband who cleared his throat and finally spoke up.
"My lovely wife states nothing but the truth. If you would allow us, we would happily accept you into our family." Duke Li Shenyang had a small smile on his face. Though the majority of his heart wanted to go against his own words, there was a small portion that was beginning to warm up to the idea of having Xueyue as their daughter...
Xueyue breathed out slowly and breathed in deeply. With tear-filled eyes and voice crackly from holding back her emotions, she said, "It would be my greatest honor to accept your offer."
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