61 The Studen
Wang Qianghao whistled. \"Now that is a fighter.\"
The Commander didn't know he was holding in a breath until he sighed in relief. He felt as if a boulder was lifted off of his sturdy shoulders. His heart finally started beating again. Even so, he couldn't sit down. She was injured.
\"You're too rash.\" Duke Li Taojun frowned, disapproval written all over his face. He placed a hand on the Commander's shoulder and said, \"What has gotten into you? This isn't how you usually behave.\"
Wen Jinkai shrugged off his mentor's hand all the while watching Li Xueyue. She was tired, but still had two more rounds to go.
\"You need to learn respect–\"
\"Enough,\" Wen Jinkai snarled, moving past his mentor and sitting back down.
Duke Li Taojun let out an exasperated sigh. He resembled a defeated father too lazy to bother with his rebellious son. \"I should've beaten some respect into you when I had the chance. Now, I have an unyielding brat as a mentee.\"
He glanced at the frightsome sword hanging from Wen Jinkai's waist. \"Ugh, what should I do? The runt is so accomplished, I wish I can just smack–\"
\"Stop monologuing.\" Wen Jinkai frowned, returning his attention to Li Xueyue who was taking a small break. She had barely finished drinking her water when the drums sounded, signaling the start of the next round. He frowned, deciding that next year's tournaments would have longer breaks.
\"You should be training, not leisurely sipping tea and watching this fight. Why are you watching it in the first place?\" Duke Li Taojun turned his body to look at whatever captured the Commander's attention.
\"Some day, I'll teach you a lesson for your insolence.\"
\"The student has out mastered the teacher. Good luck with your lesson.\" Wen Jinkai revealed a menacing smirk.
Duke Li Taojun stiffened at his words before slyly smiling. \"We'll see about that.\" His gaze lingered on the tournament before he settled back onto his chair.
True to his words, no one would be able to prepare for the calamity that would strike the Commander. A disaster that would turn his entire world upside down.
- - - - -
\"Duke Li Shenyang raised a capable child,\" the Emperor commented when Xueyue came out victorious after the third round. She was slightly out of breath, but that could be easily adjusted. There was a short three minute break for her to retire back into her tent. Three victories back to back, she was a frightsome opponent.
Even after analyzing her moves for three rounds, Wen Jinkai couldn't pinpoint her fighting technique. She skillfully maneuvered between her kicks and her punches. Each move was executed flawlessly.
Her only problem was guarding. Sometimes she didn't know how to recover from guarding a punch or kick. Right now, she'd be fine, but it was still very dangerous. If she was willing, he wouldn't mind teaching her and hone her skills.
\"I wasn't aware my younger brother had another daughter,\" Duke Li Taojun commented with a cunning smile. Suspicion was tucked into his hazel eyes. He analyzed Li Xueyue again. She was certainly a Li. It was hard to not notice that based on her features.
His eyes briefly widened. A stunning realization dawned on him when her face became more visible to him.
Duke Li Taojun's hand shook. His heart dropped to the pit of his stomach. No…
\"None of us were aware until yesterday.\" The Emperor smiled, but it was hard to understand what he was thinking. He always masked his feelings through a jolly and friendly mask.
He didn't bother revealing the fact that he had stumbled into Li Xueyue two years ago and she was formally introduced as a distant niece. Now, she was declared their daughter. It was highly entertaining to him, thus, he decided to let the events unfold by themselves.
\"Well, she clearly looks like a Li,\" Imperial Consort Gu Feiying commented.
She tilted her pretty little head and continued, \"As a matter of fact, Duke Li Taojun, she resembles you. Don't you find that amusing?\"
When the Duke didn't answer, she continued, \"Well, she is your brother's daughter, so I'm not surprised by this similarity. The only problem is… she doesn't look like Duchess Li Qixing. Such a pity.\"
No one knew if she was intentional with her sniping words. She was evidently implying Li Xueyue could be an illegitimate daughter born out of wedlock. A disgrace to an honorable family name. If word of this spread like wildfire, Li Xueyue's reputation would be burned to ashes.
\"You should watch your tongue, Consort Gu,\" Commander Wen Jinkai seethed, his eyes set ablaze.
The pitiful woman could do nothing but shrink back in her chair. He was two times her junior, but she couldn't help but be submissive to him. There was something about his glower that promised her a merciless and slow death.
Consort Gu Feiying dug her fingers into her palm as her gaze snapped to her husband, the Emperor. He gave her the cold-shoulder and focused his attention on the Empress by offering her a pastry before lovingly caressing her hand.
\"I-I was simply giving my opinion.\"
\"No one asked for it,\" Wen Jinkai deadpanned, his lips curled in disgust.
\"Who gave you the right to speak out of turn?\" Wen Jinkai snapped.
Instantly, her mouth clamped shut. She felt her heart jump to her throat when his hand briefly touched the hilt of his sword. Her eyes widened when his fingers seemingly wrapped around it.
\"How dare you speak to my mother in that tone?\" Wang Longhe scowled, \"You've crossed a line, Jinkai. She's the Imperial Consort!\"
\"She's a second wife with no authority. Why should I lower myself for her?\" Wen Jinkai raised a brow, urging the Fourth Prince to provide a decent argument.
When Wang Longhe struggled to retort, he snarled, \"You're one to talk. You're nothing but a discarded heir who killed his mother just to be birthed into this world. You should be ashamed of yourself!\"
\"ENOUGH!\" the Empress hissed, her nostrils set ablaze. \"How audacious and insolent of you to insult the dead!\"
\"And now you dare to talk back to me?\" The Empress threw Consort Gu Feiying a disgusted stare. \"Like mother, like son. Both of you lack respect.\"
Wang Longhe's eyes widened in shock. He'd never expected or ever witnessed the Empress losing her temper. He knew she despised his mother, Consort Gu Feiying, but she had never scolded them in public like this before.
The Emperor heaved a sigh. \"Why must you argue with a child?\" he said with a frown. \"I will not tolerate this ill-mannered bickering. If neither of you can function like an actual family, then get out of my sight.\"
Wang Longhe struggled to maintain his composure. He glanced at his pale-stricken mother and scowled. She was publicly disrespected, yet the Emperor took that two-faced Empress's side. He would not tolerate this.
\"Fine,\" he snarled before standing up and storming off, to the horror of his mother.