102 Didn“t Want To See Him
Li Xueyue jumped when the sky rumbled. She proceeded to the window, sticking her head out to see the somber skies. There would be a storm tonight.
"Hopefully, it won't be too loud," she said to herself.
Li Xueyue walked back to her bed and retrieved the diary she hid underneath her pillow. She wandered back to her table where empty teacups and plates covered the surface. The teapot was empty, and the snacks were all eaten up while only crumbs remained.
She called in the maidservants who instantly cleared the table and prepared more tea and snacks for her. Once everything was settled onto the table and a fresh pot of tea was brewed, she excused the maidservants and began reading the next entries of the diary from where she stopped reading the last time.
'I saw Uncle in town today. I didn't know what he was doing here. I haven't seen him in a while, not since he stormed out of my house. One time, I heard this really horrible rumor about him and my dad, but I'd like to think otherwise. Dad is mean, but he'd never backstab his own brother, right? Then again… Dad said he doesn't even view Uncle as his family. Uncle is rarely around.'
Li Xueyue tilted her head. "Uncle? Who could it be?" she asked no one in particular. Was it Duke Li Taojun? She turned to the next page.
'That's so weird, Uncle is acquainted with the quiet bodyguard I met the other day! I saw them chatting in the town center, but this time, there was another man. He was dressed in a servant's attire but behaved like royalty. It was strange. I didn't want to disturb them, so I pretended to not see them.'
"Dressed like a servant but behaved like royalty?" Li Xueyue blinked. Was it... no… the possibility of the royal family being in Hechen was slim. She scratched her head, glancing down at the date. Two years ago… Maybe they were there for Bai Tianai's extravagant birthday party?
"Let's read on…" Li Xueyue murmured.
'But then Uncle left the group after noticing a woman. He looked really surprised to see her. It was so strange! And well, diary, being the nosy girl I am, I followed him. I didn't know why, but I just did. He was arguing with a beautiful woman dressed in clothes too modest for her to be from the red lantern district. The jewelry she was wearing looked expensive too. She might be the wife of one of the aristocrats in the area.
The woman seemed really frightened by him, claiming she didn't know what he was talking about. They were bickering about some girl. I couldn't catch on to her name, but based on the context, it might be a child. He demanded to see her. He was furious when she denied his request, claiming the girl didn't want to see him. Who could the girl be?'
"Girl? Woman?" Li Xueyue scratched her head. Did Duke Li Taojun know someone in Hechen? This diary was getting stranger by the page…
'Uncle caught me. I didn't mean to be so obvious with my snooping, but some kid tried to rob me! He was dirt poor, so I gave him a coin but he wanted more when he saw my money bag. How dare he! Not only did he expose me, he also ran off with my money.
Uncle was pissed when he saw me. He said I can't tell anything about what I witnessed to anyone, or else! I wanted to roll my eyes so bad. What can he do to me? I'm his niece and Dad would kill him if he did something to me.'
"Xiao Yue?" Li Wenmin called out. He opened the door when she was unresponsive.
Li Xueyue shot out of her seat, closing the diary behind her. "Wen-ge! I didn't hear you."
"What could be so interesting that you couldn't even hear me?" Li Wenmin laughed, walking to her.
"A book. Ever read one?" she teased, sliding it behind her back.
Li Wenmin suspected her abrupt and secretive actions. "Of course, I've read one!"
She snorted. "Are you sure?"
He glared. "Yes! I'd like to let you know, I am a diligent scholar!"
"Is that what our tutor said when he hit you with a book last time?" She snickered, fondly remembering what happened a year ago. She was a fast-learner and eventually was able to join the twins in their private lessons. No one minded, and she learned a lot from it.
"H-he was practicing a new technique!" Li Wenmin argued.
"Oh? What technique?"
"Uhh…." Li Wenmin trailed off. He scratched the back of his head. "Hitting the book's information into the brain?"
"What?" Li Xueyue laughed, the sound echoing in her room. He revealed a lopsided grin at his ability to make her grin and giggle like this.
"That's such a dumb technique! Just admit it, you were a bad student." She snorted.
"It's not like I wanted to be the brains of the family anyways! That job is for the bookworm, Chenyang." Li Wenmin scrunched his nose in disgust. "Did you know he reads books for fun?!"
"I do that as well."
"Well, I mean, he reads educational books and scrolls! Like 'The Meaning of Life' and so many more!'
"I read that for fun too…" Li Xueyue trailed off, tilting her head to the bookshelves beside her window. She liked to read before she went to bed. On very lucky nights, it kept the nightmares at bay and she'd dream about her last thought before bed. Unfortunately for her, the nightmares would come back to haunt her, ruining her in ways one could never imagine. Horrific nightmares of cruel abuse and obscene words.
Li Wenmin blinked. "I-I mean, uh… Well anyways!" He grinned, "Dinner is ready. Let's go eat!"
"Pft, okay." Li Xueyue giggled at his embarrassed expression. "Let's eat," she said, picking up the diary and slipping it into the bookshelf.
Li Xueyue didn't want to seem suspicious and hide it under her blanket. Suddenly, she felt guilty for taking something that wasn't hers, and reading through it—violating someone's privacy. Should she bring the diary back…?
"Oh by the way, Xiao Yue," Li Wenmin spoke. "I never mentioned this to you, but there's a part of the house you can't ever walk into. Okay?"
Li Xueyue swallowed.
"W-where?" she asked, keeping her back turned to him while she wedged the book into an inconspicuous spot.
"It's far from your room and on the other side of your estate. There's a guard in front of that place, so you'll know when you see it," Li Wenmin told her.
Li Xueyue felt her heart drop to the pit of her stomach at the mention of the place. It sounded exactly like where she had trespassed.
"Why can't we enter?"
Li Wenmin blinked. He didn't expect this question. He wished he had anticipated her reaction in advance so he'd know how to respond to it. He had forgotten how curious she was about everything.
"It's uhm, under construction and dangerous for you to walk there," he lied.
Li Xueyue knew he was lying. Everything there was in good condition. Though the place was a bit dusty, that was probably because the Duke and Duchess wanted to preserve the place.
"Okay," she agreed.
"Great." He smiled, "Now let's go eat dinner!"
He walked over to her and loosely grabbed her wrist, guiding her out of the room. He glanced back, his eyes briefly lingered on the spot she slipped the book into. Why was she so secretive about the book? Could it be her private diary? He resisted the urge to smile. It would be interesting if she kept one. He always wondered what goes on in her mind. Perhaps he'd give it a read when she wasn't home.