Li Xueyue woke up the next morning in a pure daze. She tiredly rubbed her eyes, mystified by the strange dream she had last night. Yu Zhen, of all people, appeared in her dreams, comforting her. Hah, what a wild imagination she had.
"What's this?" she said when she felt something hard in her hand. Turning the item over, her entire face turned white as parchment. The pendant slipped out of her hand, thumping quietly onto her bed. Her eyes widened as she shot out of bed, staring at the item like it could talk to her or something.
"What the hell?" she muttered under her breath, her mouth agape. She poked the pendant, turning it over, her throat running dry.
Her hands shook when she picked it up, the obsidian pendant staring back at her. It was forged from volcanic rock and gold was marbled into it, creating the illusion of lightning. There was a lion roaring to the skies and in golden spelling, it spelled 'Yu Zhen.' When she flipped the pendant to the back, she saw his titles perfectly, "Second Prince of Hanjian. First-rank Commander."
"Oh my god," she breathed out. "I jumped from the hot frying pan into the fire."
"Xiao Yueee~" Li Wenmin brightly called from outside of her door. "Are you awake yet? Breakfast is ready!" He didn't wait for her response and proceeded to open the door, proudly strutting inside.
"Oh, what's that?" he asked, noticing the black object in her hand.
"They're both crazy!" Li Xueyue mumbled under her breath before heading to her vanity.
"Huh? Did you say something?" he asked her, watching as she slipped an item into her vanity drawer.
"It was nothing."
"Are you sure?" Li Wenmin curiously asked, hovering behind her. He didn't get a peek of what it was.
"I just forgot to take off one of my accessories, that's all," Li Xueyue lied.
She knew it was better to drop the subject than dwell on it. Who knows how Li Wenmin would react should he find out she had another pendant in her possession? Seriously, what was she? A pendant collector?
"Oh, are you sure?" Li Wenmin asked, "I thought you didn't have any black jewelry."
"Since when were you so interested in my accessories?" She grinned, leaning up to pinch his cheek. "Are you implying you want to play dress-up?"
"I expected that—"
"I like playing house better."
"What?" she blinked.
"What?" he repeated, innocently blinking when she shot him an incredulous look.
"For your sake, I'll pretend I didn't hear that." Li Xueyue patted him on the shoulders and began to usher him out of her room when the maidservants came in to get her ready.
Li Wenmin scratched the back of his neck, offering her a sheepish smile. "I was just saying it in case you ever want to play games."
"I thought you didn't like playing games." Li Xueyue chuckled when he pouted.
"I do, I do! I play Chenyang a lot!"
"What type of games?"
"Like Go ."
"You can play Go? I'm so proud of you, Wen-ge!" Li Xueyue snickered, clapping her hands for him whilst the maidservants began to prepare her outfit for the day—an airy light green hanfu with sashes the color of the deep forest and yellow daisy decorations.
"Actually, you should be proud of me. I always win against Chen-ge!"
"That's because I let you win," Li Chenyang explained, stepping into the room to see what was taking them so long. "Honestly, I can never trust you to be the messenger, Wenmin. You're distracting her from getting ready."
"No, I always win because I'm the strategist of the military." Li Wenmin scowled, deciding to ignore the last comment.
"Whoever told you that is a big fat liar." Li Chenyang smirked.
"You're a big fat liar." Li Wenmin rolled his eyes.
"How about you grow up?" Li Chenyang snorted, dragging his twin out of the room so that Xueyue could finally get dressed and join them for breakfast.
"You first!" Li Wenmin bit back, struggling against Li Chenyang's grasp. "You're wrinkling my clothes!"
"Father wants to see us in our study again," Li Chenyang informed him, deciding to ignore the last part just like how Li Wenmin ignored him.
Li Wenmin's playful smile died off. He curtly nodded his head. "Alright then." He cast one final look in the room, but Xueyue was nowhere to be seen. She was being ushered behind the screen while one of the maidservant came to close the door.
"I'll see you later, Xiao Yue!" Li Wenmin called out just as the maidservant bowed and bid him goodbye. Once the twins were gone, she firmly shut the door.
"What happened to the guards outside of Xueyue's room? When the morning shift came, they said all of the men were knocked out cold. None of them were seriously injured, but there were bruises," Li Wenmin spoke up.
"I have a bad suspicion that our dear father allowed a predator into the house," Li Chenyang muttered.
"A predator? You mean Wen Jinkai?" Li Wenmin's face darkened considerably. Day by day, that man was losing his respect.
"No, even worse. Someone with the greatest potential to lead Xueyue out of this house." Li Chenyang scowled.
"What do you mean?" Li Wenmin asked, confused on who it could be.
"Use that brain of yours." Li Chenyang threw a look of disbelief towards Li Wenmin who shrugged his shoulders.
"Sometimes, I'm too lazy to think. Besides, it's nine in the morning, whose brain is awake this early?"
Li Chenyang rolled his eyes. "Sometimes I wonder why you're the strategist."
"Why don't you ask my Go victories against you."
"Whatever," Li Chenyang muttered, unable to acknowledge his multiple defeats against Li Wenmin in that strategy game.
"Also, was Han Jieru's punishment finalized?" Li Wenmin asked, waiting for Li Chenyang's answers, since the Ministers in court usually dealt with these petty crimes.
"She's serving her time in the Cold Palace for three days before she's sent back home."
"Cold Palace?" Li Wenmin shuddered at the thought of that horrid place.
The Cold Palace was cloaked in dreadful darkness. A person couldn't see their own hands in there. Occasional droplets of water trickling down from god knows where created an eerie atmosphere. The temperature in there was always freezing and ladies were thrown in there with minimal clothing. Food was little and unappetising and water supply would come only once a day. Anyone would go insane just be staying in there for a day, much less three.
"That's quite harsh," Li Wenmin pointed out before cruelly smiling towards Li Chenyang. "I expected nothing less from your sadistic mind."
"Her punishment will be announced to all of the aristocrats, so wenches like Bai Tianai would think twice before insulting our Xueyue." Li Chenyang lightly chuckled under his breath.
"Wait, did something happen between them?" Li Wenmin asked, scratching the back of his head.
Li Wenmin was aware of what his parents told him in the past when Xueyue joined their household. He knew of her origins and abusive background, but did not know as much as Li Chenyang who did his own research.
"Yes, she had the audacity to insult a third-rank Princess. Someone has to serve as an example, and Han Jieru is the biggest fish for us to hang."
"They're growing gutsy. The Bai Family, I mean." Li Wenmin scowled. "Should we do something about them?"
"Xueyue already publicly humiliated them at Ning Huabing's banquet. We'll let her decide what she wants to do with them."
"Alright then." Li Wenmin nodded. "Speaking of Ning Huabing, Mother has been mentioning finding a maiden for you. What do you think about her? She's the daughter of a Marquis."
"I know," Li Chenyang vaguely answered. "I'm hesitant about her allegiance. Also, I prefer to fall in love naturally."
"Imagine falling in love with someone as cold as you? I pity my future sister-in-law." Li Wenmin snickered when Li Chenyang's face darkened.
"You're just jealous because girls like me more."
"Quality over quantity," Li Chenyang retorted to which Li Wenmin rolled his eyes.
"Yeah sure, whatever floats your boat."
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