Once everything was placed away, Li Xueyue walked towards the spot where she left the diary. She was uncertain if she should continue to probe into someone else's life, but her curiosity was killing her. What if there was something she could discover from the diary? What if she could learn vital information?
Li Xueyue bit her bottom lip and decided to finally give it another reading. Taking the book out of its hidden spot, she carried it and walked towards her door, locked it, and settled on a low chair before a table.
"Here goes nothing," she murmured out loud, flipping the pages until she reached the page she last stopped at.
Her brows were scrunched together upon realizing that the date of the next entry had skipped three months ahead. What was going on? She flipped through the pages and realized it wasn't her mistake.
'You might be wondering why I haven't talked to you in so long, diary. You're my best friend and the person I share my secrets with, but I found myself a few friends! Can you believe that? Well, I wouldn't call them my friends, since one of them is already my cousin to begin with, and the other… well, we're in love.'
Li Xueyue slowly blinked. "Cousin? Is this from the Duke's side or the Duchess?" Her thoughts spiraled to the Imperial Family. Who was Li Minghua in love with? She felt like she was practically close to discovering something she'd never believe.
'I think Father is using me.'
Li Xueyue's eyes widened in disbelief at the next entry.
"The Duke…? Using his own daughter? What?" she whispered to herself, flipping the page back and forth.
Li Xueyue realized this was the only line in the entry the day after. She continued reading on to the next entry, which was dated a week later.
'That was such a paranoid confession, diary, I'm sorry. It's just… my cousin doesn't think I should be locked in my own house like this. He thinks my father is using me to gain more power, believing he can wed me off to someone beneficial, but Father would never do such a thing. Right? Well, I'm not so sure…
My cousin says he only has my best interest in mind. He cherishes me. He said I'm too precious to be used. I wish I got to know him better, he's always so kind to me, but I sometimes find it weird how intimate he is with me. For example, he likes to hold my hand when we walk around at night and only let it go when my lover shows up at the meeting spot.
He says it's to keep me safe.
Maybe I'm just paranoid.
My lover is worried that my father would have another boy in mind for marriage. He said he's not the heir in his family, thus, my father won't approve of him, but he still comes from a reputable family. He's in the military and is quickly skyrocketing in the ranks!
I think he might become a very reputable soldier, one who would go down in history as a hero! Can you imagine that diary? If I wed him, I'd become the wife of a military hero. People will know my name thousands of years from now!'
Li Xueyue felt her heart quicken at the realization that was beginning to dawn onto her. She felt like she was almost there, that the pieces of the puzzle were coming together to form a picture she would not like. She let out a shaky breath.
"T-there's no way this would happen… it's too much of a coincidence," Li Xueyue comforted herself, but she had a suspicion that it wasn't. She didn't want to read on anymore, ignorance was bliss, but her curiosity killed her. She flipped to the next entry, dated three weeks later.
'My lover showed up at my door with flowers and gifts. Wenmin was furious, but he's just a dimwit, so I didn't care. Chenyang was repulsed, thinking I was fooling around when I snuck out. Me, fooling around? As if! He thinks I'm chasing boys, but does the egg chase the sperm? I think not!
Father was calm. I knew it, he didn't care about me at all! He didn't even ask how I found a man when I was locked away for so long.
Father only talked to my suitor in his public study, and when they came out, I knew my cousin was right all along: My father is using me.
Father berated my suitor about his wealth, ranking, status, and what benefit the Li Family would have if I were to wed him. Father only wanted to use me for more power than he already had. Isn't it enough? He's already the Prime Minister!'
Li Xueyue felt her heart quicken. "Was Duke Li Shenyang really using his daughter for power? Or was Li Minghua simply too irritated by the restrictive measures placed on top of her?" she asked out loud.
"Who was this cousin she kept on talking about?" She huffed, her eyes narrowing.
Li Minghua didn't seem like she had anyone to talk to, and with only one source of information, it'd be too easy to trick her.
"Why would the Duke use her for power?" Li Xueyue mumbled, scratching her head.
This was foolish thinking.
How could Li Minghua simply insult Li Wenmin? He wasn't a dimwit at all and was actually one of the most intelligent people she knew.
Li Xueyue enjoyed poking at his reluctance to read books, but she knew he didn't need to be book smart to be wise. She let out a sigh to herself. How could she have the audacity to criticize Li Minghua?
Li Xueyue decided to read on, but she felt an unsettling knot in her stomach as if her gut was telling her to not continue—as if the truth she would uncover today would be one she could ever forget.
And like a fool, she ignored her gut feelings and continued on. The next entry was written the following week after the private meeting.
'My cousin said it's not safe for me to continue living in Hechen with my parents. They'll continue to lock me up at home and I won't ever be able to see anyone!
Both my cousin and lover said they have to head back to the Capital now, it's where they belong. They can't stay here for too long. I don't want them to leave. I want to go to the Capital with them, I know the Li main manor is there, it's enormous there.
Father is only forcing us to stay in Hechen because he's a damn coward! He doesn't want to return to his Prime Minister position because he says it's tiring. Well, this country is deteriorating, and he needs to hurry up and return to his post!
I told him I want to live in the Capital with my cousin and the Royal Family. They'd never control me. I'd control them first! I honestly hate my Royal Aunt, why would she let my Royal Uncle marry so many whores? Doesn't she feel ashamed of herself for not speaking up?'
Li Xueyue's eyebrows shot up at Li Minghua's brash wording.
"Control them first? What was she talking about?" She bit her bottom lip. Royal Aunt? Royal Uncle? Was Li Minghua referring to the Empress and Emperor?
Li Xueyue continued. The date of the next entry was precisely two years ago, on this exact same day. She shivered at the coincidence, unsettling goosebumps rising on her arms.
'Today is the first day I moved into the Imperial Palace! Father finally relented, saying I can only stay for a little while. But we'll see about that.
Also, I have exciting news, diary. Guess diary, guess! I think I'm getting engaged! We haven't told anyone yet, but he says he has plans. I know, I know, I'm too young for this, but he says he loves me regardless.
And besides… I… allowed him to deflower me. I didn't mean for it to happen, but he convinced me that it was for the best. That is, as long as I became his, no one would dare to take me away from him. It was consensual. I love him. He loves me. That's all that mattered.
I never told anyone about what happened that night. What if my parents find out? They'll think less of him. Especially Dad. But not Mom, she always supports me, even if she doesn't like him. I don't think she knows the extent of my relationship with him. She probably thinks we're just friends.
I don't care that he's not the heir. I don't care that he's intimidating and can easily overpower me. I love him. I love him, so so much.
I have another exciting news! Guess again, diary! His rank in the military was upgraded! He's no longer a simple General!
Royal Uncle was so excited to see me move in. He's the Emperor, but he's always so kind towards me. He finds it amusing that I'm so close to my cousin, his son.
I ignored that comment and joked that he should remember this day for the rest of his life. His niece might marry one of his favorite child, even though they're not blood-related, but the Empress really adores my lover.
Also, I'm finally free from my father! I'm finally ready to live the life of the wife of a Commander.'
Not the heir. Close to the Royal Family. Lives in the Imperial Palace. A Commander. Everything was beginning to make sense now, and not in the best way.
Li Xueyue's heart dropped to the pit of her stomach, her face turning pale. She abruptly stood up, tripping over her legs out of utter shock. "No way." She gasped, covering her mouth, her hands trembling.
Li Minghua was Wen Jinkai's woman. Li Minghua was the woman he couldn't forget. The woman that Li Xueyue was supposed to replace.