Note: I mentioned it in the previous author note, but I just wanted to remind you that the name for Duchess Li Qixing was changed to Duchess Wang Qixing so that it would be less confusing (Having the same surname makes it look like Duchess Li was Duke Li's sibling xD). The change will be effective from now on c:
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Li Xueyue didn't expect for Ning Huabing to live in the Capital, but then again, she didn't know much about the girl nor did she expect an invitation from Marquis Ning arriving at their house the next day. The opened envelope rested in between her fingertips as she contemplated her response.
Duchess Wang Qixing glanced up from the pile of invitations that she was sorting into two piles: Important and unimportant ones. As the outstanding Li Family, they had every right to not reply or show up to the majority of the events, but the Duchess was kind enough to write a rejection letter instead of simply ignoring the invitation.
"Are you going?" Duchess Wang Qixing asked, placing her brush down. "That one seems to have caught your interest."
"It's Ning Huabing's birthday in two days," Li Xueyue slowly said while placing the yellow envelope on the table.
"Oh." Duchess Wang Qixing raised a brow. "Shall we pick a gift for her from the merchants who will be arriving tomorrow?"
Li Xueyue slowly nodded, but she had another idea for a present in mind. "Yes, she'd like that."
"Is Ning Huabing a friend?" Duchess Wang Qixing curiously asked, remembering Ning Huabing was the victor of the martial arts tournament. She was fortunate enough to have selected a fine roll of white canary silk that could be turned into a lovely hanfu as her prize.
Li Xueyue hummed, "Perhaps."
"Oh…" Duchess Wang Qixing winked. "Leave the gift to me then."
"Thank you." Li Xueyue smiled. "Two days from now is Sunday, right? That means Father won't be working."
Duchess Wang Qixing was shocked. This was the first time that Xueyue had ever referred to the Duke as her father.
She tried to suppress her smile. "Yes, he won't. All of the Ministers are not supposed to work on the weekend. Well, most of them aren't."
"I see." Li Xueyue thoughtfully placed a finger on her chin. "The invitation said I can bring a friend."
"We received two invitations, actually." Duchess Wang Qixing held up another yellow envelope. "Why don't you bring a date? And I'll hand this to one of the twins."
Li Xueyue awkwardly laughed, scratching her cheek in confusion. "As if anyone would be my date."
Duchess Wang Qixing gave her a pointed look. "Darling, shall we ask one of the men who's been eager to have an audience with the Duke? How many was it today?" She turned to her head maidservant, Jinxia.
Jinxia bowed her head, "Five men have approached our manor today, but we have escorted them off to the Palace where they can speak directly to the Duke."
"Five." Duchess Wang Qixing snickered, "It's a shame our Xueyue doesn't even know of their existence."
Jinxia slightly smiled and teased, "That's because she doesn't need them, they need her."
Li Xueyue regretted what she had said. They were evidently teasing and poking fun at her ignorance.
Gloomily, she muttered, "Fine… I'll consider a date."
"Fantastic!" Duchess Wang Qixing instantly perked up, "I shall have a letter sent to the Commander."
"Which one?" Li Xueyue panicked, standing up.
Duchess Wang Qixing deftly smirked. "Which one came to mind?"
Li Xueyue groaned, "Not this conversation again."
"But you've yet to tell me your response!" Duchess Wang Qixing pout. "I don't know whose ship I should captain for!"
Duchess Wang Qixing giggled, "Yes, as in relationship's ship!"
"Oh, Mother, tell me you haven't planned out ship names already!"
"Oh but I have! I've even thought of cute baby name combinations." Duchess Wang Qixing pouted. "You can't spoil the fun by not telling me which Commander it is!"
"But what if it's neither of them?"
"Oh pish posh, of course, it's one of the Commanders." Duchess Wang Qixing rolled her eyes before horror took over her features.
"Wait!" she gasped, covering her mouth like the Drama Queen she was, "Unless… it's the Fourth Prince?"
Li Xueyue slumped in her chair, covering her face with the envelope. "Why do I feel like I'm building a reverse harem?"
"Sounds fun." Duchess Wang Qixing laughed at her daughter's pure horror.
"What sounds fun?" Li Chenyang asked, strolling into the pavilion. He picked up an envelope from the table before wrinkling his nose when he saw it was a love letter. He instantly ripped it.
Li Xueyue instantly perked up, "Chen-ge! Do you have time on the weekend?"
"Well, do you?"
He crossed his arms. "You have to tell me the reason first."
"Nuh uh! I asked you the question first."
Li Chenyang scrunched his nose. "Then I won't answer."
Duchess Wang Qixing's mind finally pieced everything together. "He does! He has all the time in the world."
"Mother, I'm busy on the weekends," Li Chenyang groaned, slumping in a chair beside Xueyue. He smacked her hand when she reached for another envelope that he instantly saw was another love letter.
"Busy with napping until the afternoon," the Duchess scoffed. "Stop sleeping like a well-fed pig."
"I'll stop as soon as Wenmin stops eating like one."
"Then I guess it'll never happen," Li Xueyue snorted, remembering what happened at the breakfast table. Li Wenmin had greedily sniped the last braised egg when she reached for it.
Duchess Wang Qixing sighed, wiping away an imaginary tear. "Who's going to marry my sons now? One eats too much and the other sleeps too much!"
"At least I'm not wasting money on unnecessary snacks," Li Chenyang snorted. "Didn't you hear the news about his squadron reprimanding him because he snuck in food during training?"
"What happened?" Li Xueyue giggled.
"He was supposed to be seriously watching over them, but nooo! He was munching away on rice cakes while telling them to run longer."
"Hey! How can you bad mouth me in my absence!" Li Wenmin huffed, tossing his helmet at Li Chenyang. Both twins had returned home from their long day of work.
"For the record, I only snacked because Xiao Yue took the braised egg from me!"
"Liar! You clearly stole it from me!" Li Xueyue gasped, pointing her finger at him.
Li Wenmin opened and closed his mouth, attempting to counter her but couldn't. Eventually, he settled with, "A grown man is supposed to eat at least four meals a day."
"Yet you eat eight." Duchess Wang Qixing wept to herself. How did she raise such a glutton? She couldn't help but regret the nights when she used to sneak her twins into the kitchen for midnight snacks.
Li Wenmin sulked to himself in another chair while Li Chenyang continued to rip the love letters.
"So, are you free this weekend?" Li Xueyue asked again, eyeing Li Chenyang weirdly. What was he doing?
Li Chenyang glowered at her. "For you?"
Li Chenyang smirked. "Then no."
Li Chenyang chuckled to himself, "Fine. I am."
"Great!" Li Xueyue clapped.
"Fantastic!" Duchess Wang Qixing squealed. It was time for her matchmaking skills to be put to the test.
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