142 Adorable Little Bun
Once breakfast started and for the first time ever, braised eggs weren't served, a slow conversation began.
Duke Li Shenyang quietly snickered to himself at the dejected expression of Li Wenmin who dearly missed his favorite dish. He chose to ignore the glum glares thrown by Li Wenmin. Instead, the Duke focused his attention on Li Xueyue.
"I'm sure Chenyang pinpointed the problem of your business plan?" Duke Li Shenyang spoke up.
Yesterday night, Duke Li Shenyang had briefly mentioned everything to his wife. Of course, he left out the dubious parts like bribing pirates and workers. For Li Xueyue's sake, he had summarized it in the most sugar-coated way possible. As mischievous as his wife was, she was too paranoid of things and he didn't want her to overthink about every little thing.
To the Duke, her only role in this house was to be pampered, live in luxury and have a worry-free life.
"Mhm. We briefly spoke about it on our way to here. He mentioned Duke Wen Xuan's third son, Wen Qihong?" Li Xueyue answered.
Duke Li Shenyang slowly nodded his head. "Interesting choice, but not surprising. He always wanted to impress his father. If everything goes smoothly and he's able to manage the business with your directions, perhaps it'll serve as a good example to Duke Wen."
Duke Li Shenyang took a sip of tea, a comfortable smile settling on his face. Praise the Heavens, the disgusting bitter teas had finally stopped. Did that mean his wife wasn't angry at him anymore?
"Oh, I've heard great things about Wen Qihong." Duchess Wen Qixing perked up, her eyes shining. She was practically calculating the possibility of matchmaking Li Xueyue with Wen Qihong. If Yu Zhen fails, then there's always Plan B…
"Supposedly, he's very good-tempered, nothing like his older brothers. And on top of that—"
"I do hope, darling, that you're not trying to be a matchmaker again?" Duke Li Shenyang spoke up, his smile widening when she let out a quiet "hmph," and went back to eating.
"Well, in regards to Wen Qihong, I do commend the choice, but weren't you two interested in 'foreign investors' whose identity can be kept a secret? Wen Qihong is pretty well-known," he pointed out. "And he's a bit… naive."
Li Xueyue slowly nodded her head. "I suppose not having a foreign investor is fine. Perhaps Wen Qihong's reputation might boost his trustworthiness?"
"It will also damage his reputation. The Bai Family will try to drag him down for the false papers." Duke Li Shenyang raised his brow. "Although it might be easy to draft a false decree, who's to say the Viscount won't request an audience with the Emperor to prove the credibility of it?"
Li Xueyue blinked in surprise. "Well, in that case, perhaps the plan will have to be altered."
Li Chenyang hummed, leaning his chin on a propped up arm. "In that case, we might have to really find a foreign investor. Someone who can easily go back to his kingdom once everything is settled down."
"Or you can take out the fake decree and make it a real one, but don't set a fixed royalty percentage," Duke Li Shenyang mused. "It will make things less complicated."
"Perhaps so, but do we really want to keep on supporting the Bai Family?" Li Chenyang's lips thinned.
"We don't have to specify the time span of the royalty," Li Xueyue spoke up. "We can throw them a high percentage that will convince them to sell the business, but we won't be bound to continue giving them anything for the rest of our lives."
"Yes, a high percentage off the bat is convincing, especially because they will think it's for the eternity of the business," Duke Li Shenyang thoughtfully said. "Or, you can just buy the full rights of the business."
Li Chenyang's brows shot up. "But then what about the satisfaction of seeing their frustrated expressions when they realize they've been tricked by us?"
"They've already been tricked by you guys if they allow Wen Qihong to buy the entire business for a low price. Besides, not many people will expect him to give royalties. What's the point of that, especially when the business is doing so bad?" Duke Li Shenyang rebutted.
Meanwhile, Li Wenmin ate in a daze. Everytime he heard anything remotely political, he always turned a deaf ear. He was too lazy to properly think in the morning. Yawning to himself, he quietly chewed his chicken, desperately hoping to see one of the maidservants walk out with a tray of braised eggs.
"Oh." Li Xueyue blinked.
"It's best to head back and revise that plan to adhere to whatever we discussed today," Duke Li Shenyang told Li Xueyue. Turning to Li Chenyang he said, "You can get started on the first stage of the plan."
Li Chenyang nodded, making a mental note in his head to order one of his servants later to run an errand for him.
"And also, Xueyue," Duke Li Shenyang said and turned to face her. "Have you thought about reading, 'The Art of War'? You will find it quite helpful."
"No, I haven't. Isn't it just tactics of battle?"
"Then it's time to start reading. Many of the lessons there can be applied to real life," Duke Li Shenyang advised. "I will bring the copy in my library to you."
"That's alright, I don't mind finding it myself," Li Xueyue responded, vividly remembering the large library in this house. She enjoyed reading books better in her room than in the library.
Li Xueyue found it was too claustrophobic to be surrounded by so many books at once, especially when she had to focus solely on one book at a time. Her short attention span meant that she often jumped from one thing to another. If there were too many things bombarding her at the same time, it was hard to think straight.
"If you have any difficulties, you know where to find me," Duke Li Shenyang said, taking another sip of tea. He found that it had gone cold.
After finishing his second helping of rice, Li Wenmin finally spoke up. "Oddly enough, the Emperor didn't request for Xueyue's presence today."
Li Chenyang's lips curled into a slight smirk. "That's good. I never liked to reopen old wounds, but it does remind people of the lessons they should've learned."
Li Xueyue quietly ate, confused by his words. She vaguely remembered Li Chenyang saying, "history shouldn't repeat itself." It was with that phrase that the Emperor had finally stopped teasing her for the day.
Did it have something to do with Li Minghua? Did the Emperor use to meddle in Li Minghua's life? Or was it a lack of meddling? Maybe the Empress interfered instead?
All of these questions were slowly killing her, but she had no one to ask for answers. The only thing she could do was bite her tongue. Maybe… it would be a good idea to notify one of the twins about her diary discovery.
Duchess Wen Qixing was curious about Li Chenyang's suggestive tone. "Which wound did you reopen…?"
Li Chenyang's smirk slipped. He caught a warning stare from his father. "Don't worry about it Mother."
"I always worry more when you don't tell me." She sighed. "Just answer me, I won't be mad."
"It's one of the Emperor's weaknesses. I'm sure he wouldn't want me to go around telling his little sister that. Especially when you can… uhm..." Li Chenyang struggled to properly lie to her. "Uh, when you can tease him about it?"
Duchess Wang Qixing was even more suspicious now. "I know all of the Emperor's weaknesses. It's alright, you can tell me."
Duke Li Shenyang decided it was time to intervene. "My tea went cold, darling. For some reason, I'm missing your daily blends—"
"Hush now, I'm talking to your son." She shushed him.
"Why is it my son when he does something bad?" Duke Li Shenyang grumbled.
"Because, my foolish husband, all of his bad traits come from you. He only inherited all of my perfection," she easily responded, innocently blinking her eyes when the Duke shot her an exasperated look.
"Meanwhile, you gave all of your bad traits to Li Wenmin," Duke Li Shenyang retorted only for the Duchess to roll her eyes, the conversation with Chenyang long forgotten.
"Is that what you tell yourself to sleep soundly every night?"
Li Wenmin stared at his parents in disbelief. "I just like the fact that neither one of you are denying the fact that we inherited your bad traits."
"Hush, sweetheart, the adults are talking." Duchess Wang Qixing waved her hand.
"But mooom!" Li Wenmin groaned, "We are adults!"
Li Xueyue laughed. "You don't act like it."
"Well, someone has to be the adorable little bun of the family." Li Wenmin snorted.
Li Chenyang quirked a brow. "Dear brother, there is absolutely nothing 'adorable' about you."
Li Wenmin responded by sticking out his tongue to both Li Chenyang and Li Xueyue, whereas the Duke and Duchess continued their playful banter. Li Xueyue simply laughed at the liveliness of the conversation, whereas Li Chenyang took a sip of the morning tea, feeling amused.