Duchess Li Qixing had just bid the Imperial Consort goodbye when she heard the servants greet Xueyue at the door behind the manor.
The Duchess was relieved that Xueyue was distracted long enough for the Imperial Consort to leave. That is, until Xueyue dashed into the living room and was frantically calling forth a doctor and ordering a group of male servants to the field behind the house.
Li Chenyang entered a minute after Xueyue and explained the situation to a surprised Duchess. Afterwards, Wen Jinkai was brought into their mansion and a doctor examined his condition.
Xueyue was surprised to learn he was only eighteen years old, two years older than her. He was so well-built, with broad and muscular shoulders, she had mistaken him for a man.
After the doctor had tended to the Commander's wounds and prescribed him medicine, the Li Family was quick to notify the Wen Family.
Through snippets and whispers, Xueyue was able to understand the situation at hand. Wen Jinkai was suddenly ambushed by an enemy army of 10,000 men when he was already weakened and injured from a previous attack. He only had one hundred men with him.
At the last minute, Wen Jinkai had sacrificed himself to allow his men to run back to the base to call for enforcement. When he knew his men were far from the enemy soldiers, Wen Jinkai abruptly slashed an enemy Captain down and seized the distraction as an opportunity to escape.
It had been a week since this incident. When his body wasn't found, people panicked and thought he had died.
One day, after news had traveled that the legendary warrior had survived, the Wen Family immediately came to fetch their son.
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"Li Shenyang, I don't know what I would do without your son and niece's keen eyes," Duke Wen Xuan said.
Both men were exchanging pleasantries over a cup of tea in Duke Li Shenyang's study. Luckily for Duke Wen Xuan, it wasn't one of Duchess Li Qixing's "uniquely blended" teas.
Duke Li Shenyang left out the part where his son wanted to abandon Wen Jinkai at first, thinking he was a simple soldier.
"No need to thank me, old friend," he murmured, sipping the tea.
Duke Li Shenyang instantly realized how fine and dandy Duke Wen Xuan appeared to be. Instead of having eyebags worrying over the disappearance of his eldest son, Duke Wen Xuan was glowing with health.
"Where is that niece of yours? I heard she was the first to propose the idea of saving my son when Chenyang thought he was a simple soldier that should've been left for dead."
Duke Li Shenyang chuckled. "Why do I feel like the older you are, the better your ears have become," he mused, gesturing to the servants to bring Xueyue forward.
Li Chenyang was already in the study room, quietly leaning against the bookshelf as he pretended to read a book. He had already greeted Duke Wen Xuan, what else did they want him to do?
Duke Wen Xuan already knew of Chenyang's quiet nature, so he didn't press the young man any further.
"I learned the antics from my second wife, who loves to hear the latest gossip." Duke Wen Xuan wasn't offended about Chenyang's previous belief because he knew it was his usual habits.
Duke Li Shenyang raised a brow, "I should learn a thing or two from Duchess Wen then."
At the mention of the second wife, he always found it bewildering how quickly the first wife was forgotten after her death, but never indulged in the thought. It was best to not probe.
Just then, a servant knocked on the door of the public study where Duke Li always entertained his guests. He had a separate study for himself that was off-limits to almost everyone in the house, except his wife.
"Come in," Duke Li Shenyang said while enjoying another sip of the tea. For some reasons, he missed his wife's weird-tasting concoctions.
Xueyue stepped into the room, and when she saw the guest, she politely curtsied.
Duke Li Shenyang gestured for Xueyue to sit down on the vacant couch near him. When Xueyue sat down, Li Chenyang also sat down.
Li Chenyang pretended to be tired from standing so long and never let his eyes stray from the book in his hand.
'What were these old geezers thinking by requesting Xueyue's presence?' he asked himself, not once realizing he hadn't turned a page within the fifteen minutes he was reading the book.
"Duke Wen here wanted to see the face of the girl who rescued his son." Duke Li Shenyang nodded to Duke Wen Xuan who gave Xueyue a polite smile.
"When I heard of a girl, I didn't expect her to be this young," Duke Wen mused, leaning his face on his propped up arm. He turned to her, "How old are you, child?"
"I'm sixteen this year, Duke Wen," Xueyue neutrally responded.
He pleasantly replied, "Sixteen this year? My third son is your age. My second son, my future heir, is also close to your age, he's seventeen."
Duke Wen scratched his chin with a face that was deep in thought. "Would you like to meet my sons? They're quite handsome, a bit too energetic, but most young men are like that."
Duke Wen Xuan wanted to have something that could strengthen the bond between the Lis and the Wens. A marriage would be ideal, especially when he planned to make his second son the heir. It was something his second wife wanted, despite his concubine's protests. His one and only concubine wanted her only son to be the heir, but that was an impossible dream considering he was Duke Wen's third son.
Li Chenyang's fingers tightened around his book. He didn't miss the fact that though his best friend, Wen Jinkai, was the eldest son of Duke Wen Xuan, yet he wasn't even considered the heir.
"What did I say about this marriage nonsense, you senile fool." Duke Li Shenyang feigned reluctance, but his eyes flashed with interest at the opportunity.
"Well, Ancient Fox, there's nothing wrong in early marriage talks. Saves both parties the trouble of having their heart broken," Duke Wen Xuan retorted, rolling his eyes.
Xueyue raised her brows in surprise.
They were talking so eloquently and formally just a moment ago, she didn't expect the sudden shift of behavior and the exchange of insults. One glance at the amusement in their eyes, she knew this was a common occurrence.
'It seems they're friends…' she realized.
"Besides, my sons are not that bad, especially my youngest. My third son is quite the softy and enjoys the presence of capable women like Xueyue." Duke Wen Xuan smiled.
Duke Li Shenyang distastefully pointed out, "He's incredibly gullible and naive, despite his age. A boy like that won't do Xueyue any good. If you want a match, I want the heir."
When he saw Duke Wen Xuan's raised brow, he added on, "Besides, my wife is quite attached to her. She'll want the best for her niece."
"All of my sons are the best of the bunch. Also, our house is very close to the Capital. I think Duchess Li Qixing can always visit whenever she wants if she's that attached," Duke Wen Xuan coyly said.
"I think not," Duke Li Shenyang deadpanned before taking a sip of the tea.
His eyes trailed to Xueyue who was sharing the book with Chenyang. He knew his son was secretly eavesdropping and wasn't even aware that Xueyue was holding the other half of his book.
Chuckling to himself, he found it amusing that the twins were so protective of her… Oddly enough, Li Chenyang was never like this with Li Minghua… And the thought intrigued him more than it bothered him. Why exactly was Li Chenyang so closed off to Li Minghua?
'Is there something that I don't know about?' Duke Li Shenyang asked himself, his eyes narrowing in suspicion. He decided that after this talk, he'll have Ling investigate the situation.
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