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The Rise of Xueyue
Author :liuxin
© Wuxiaworld

57 Tea

"Are you sure you don't want to forfeit from the tournaments? It doesn't matter if people gossip about it," Li Wenmin solemnly said while sticking to her side as they approached their family's tent. It was cleaned and a few pieces of furniture were added due to the colder weather. There were small gifts from prospective suitors, all neatly wrapped, stacked on the chairs.

"If they gossip, they'll be missing a tongue," a frigid voice snarled from behind them.

Xueyue's entire body stiffened at the familiarity of the man's voice. Her fingers nervously reached for her pendant, fiddling with the small white tassel hanging from it.

She didn't realize it was a force of habit and that this man always made her feel unnerved.

"Oh my, Commander Wen." Duchess Li Qixing hid her smile behind her long sleeves. She snuck a peek at Xueyue who hadn't turned around to meet his fierce eyes.

"What a pleasant surprise so early in the morning." Duchess Li Qixing's smile grew wider when Xueyue kept her head forward, as if this country's leading Commander wasn't fixated by her. The entire time, he never tore his intense stare away from her. He was mesmerized by her and everyone could tell.

"More like he ruined my morning," Li Chenyang grumbled under his breath and looked away when Commander Wen Jinkai threw him a scathing glower.

Wen Jinkai didn't know what brought him here. One minute he was handing his horse to the stable boy and the next, he spotted a "little fawn" that beckoned his attention.

He had blinked and oddly enough, found himself behind Xueyue. What did he plan to do now that he was here? She wouldn't even look at him. Their conversation from the previous day swarmed his thoughts the entire night that he tossed and turned as sleep eluded him.

"Commander, would you like to join us for morning tea? I made a special blend of tea today," Duchess Li Qixing warmly offered, placing a hand on his shoulder when he hadn't looked away from Xueyue this whole time. Couldn't he get any more obvious?

"What do you think about that, Xueyue?" Duchess Li Qixing chuckled when Xueyue jumped at the mention of her name. The latter slowly turned around, her eyes a bit wider than usual.

Xueyue forced herself to not look at the Commander, but it was an incredibly arduous task. He had the type of face that'd always force others to steal another glance. From his sharp jaw to his frightsome eyes, there was so much to marvel about him. She feared she'd never look away if she snuck a single glimpse.

"I…" Xueyue trailed off when her eyes automatically traveled to him and instantly, she was lost in the depths of his eyes. They were the color of starless skies, lost hope, and never-ending darkness. It was astoundingly beautiful, in the most chaotic manner. His chilly eyes thawed instantly for her, softening when she swallowed.

"If that is what you wish, Mother, then I do not mind," Xueyue concluded, her lips drawing into a barely noticeable smile.

Wen Jinkai slightly smiled, his fingers twitched to adjust the strands of hair that framed her eyes. Like the falling leaves of autumn, there was a sense of tranquility he felt from staring at it.

His gaze traveled from her eyes to her face and then her hands that hadn't stopped fiddling with her pendant. His eyes narrowed at it. Light blue and emerald green, it was beautiful, but above all, it had her name on it. Not his.

Xueyue's hand immediately covered the pendant and she cleared her throat, forcing him to look up. She didn't back down from his seething glower. She knew he wanted her to wear his pendant. She jutted her chin in the air, challenging him and his authority.

"Well, are we going to stand here forever or are we going to enter the tent?" Duke Li Shenyang chuckled, guiding his wife inside the tent, the twins following behind him.

Xueyue didn't register her father's words until one of the twins grabbed her by the elbow and pulled her inside, all the while her eyes were locked on the Commander. He was standing close behind her and when he reached his fingers towards her chin, she turned her head away and began to move along.

Her eyes widened when she felt a caress upon her waist. It disappeared as quickly as it came that she thought it was just her imagination. Then, it happened again: A gentle squeeze on her hips and then a tug. She registered his actions this time, but couldn't question it, because immediately, the Duchess had spoken.

"Oh my, that's so strange. What happened to my special tea blend." Duchess Li Qixing frowned as she searched for a particular hand-painted tint box. When she couldn't find it, she glanced questioningly at the servants. One of them was supposed to have brought it with them.

"I figured we'd have enough tea served. There's no need to brew yours, darling." Duke Li Shenyang grinned when his wife scowled. He noticed the small gifts from prospective suitors and waved his hand for a servant to throw them away. Hmph, if they'd like to court Xueyue, at least have the guts to show themselves.

"Do you dislike my specially blended teas?"
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'I hate it. They taste like death and old-age,' he thought to himself before denying with a laugh, "What? No... of course not!"

"Great," Duchess Li Qixing said with a smile and clapped her hands. "Then I hope you will finish the entire pot." She waved her head maidservant Jinxia over and the middle-aged woman procured a smaller box.

"I figured you'd tell the servants to not bring it, so I had my head maidservant to do so." Duchess Li Qixing beckoned the servants to begin the setup.

Duke Li Shenyang's smile slipped as he cried on the inside. She was going to torture him with her worst concoction today.

Duchess Li Qixing shrugged, "It's such a bad idea that you informed them to not bring the first one. It was one of the special blends that you actually like."

Duchess Li Qixing pretended to sigh. "Oh well, guess it's time for you to try out one of my healthier tea." She faced him with a wicked grin. "The bitter and sour one."

Duke Li Shenyang strained his face to smile just for her, "Let's drink it together—"

"Oh, no, no. This one was specially made for you, to improve your health. You'll be finishing the pot yourself."

Just then, the Commander's body tensed. He was observing the tent from the outside, standing on guard—even though he didn't have to. It was a force of habit that he couldn't break.

Someone was watching him, from far away, and it wasn't a friendly face.

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