143 Undying Love
Once breakfast came to a conclusion and everyone settled down their chopsticks, the butler stepped forward.
He bowed and addressed the Duke and Duchess. "My lord, my lady, there is a man requesting entrance."
"This early? And so unexpectedly?" Duchess Wang Qixing asked, daintily wiping her mouth.
Duke Li Shenyang quirked a brow. "Who is it?"
"It's Commander Yu Zhen, my lord," the butler responded.
Four pairs of eyes instantly snapped to Li Xueyue who was taken aback by this. "I didn't request to see him, if that's what you're wondering," she said.
The Duchess placed an understanding hand over Xueyue. "You will have to establish your relationship with him, sweetheart."
"To the public?" Li Xueyue asked, not sure of the proper procedures.
"To us first, and then to the public," Duchess Wang Qixing answered. "That way, we can slowly ease the news to the aristocrats."
"And it'll warn away the pests—oops, I mean suitors," Li Wenmin spoke up, covering his mouth, even though everyone knew he wholeheartedly intended to say "pests."
Li Chenyang took an obnoxious loud sip of tea, shooting Li Xueyue a look. "Or you can continue torturing him with uncertainty."
"I don't even know how I feel towards him…" Li Xueyue trailed off, her brows creasing together.
"I believe it's time for me to leave. Romance was never my expertise," Duke Li Shenyang said with a laugh, standing up and turning to the butler. "Tell Yu Zhen to see me in my public study first. He's lucky that I have so much free time this morning," he instructed and turned to leave.
"Yeah, I can really tell love isn't your expertise," Duchess Wang Qixing muttered under her breath when he was almost near the door.
Duke Li Shenyang paused and turned back. He hurried to her, placed a swift kiss on her cheek, and smiled. "Where's my 'have a good day at work?' You stopped telling me these, so I stopped giving you farewell kisses."
Li Wenmin gagged.
Li Chenyang choked.
Both twins exchanged a disgusted look with each other.
"Oh god, I think my breakfast is coming up!" Li Wenmin whined, faking another gag, turning the other way.
"Mother, Father, please! Not in front of us," Li Chenyang groaned.
Duke Li Shenyang chuckled. "Then you better cover your eyes."
"Oh gross! Let's go, Xueyue!" Li Wenmin exclaimed, shooting up from his chair, only to witness the Duchess staring lovingly at her husband.
"Have a horrible day at work, darling~" She gave him an air kiss.
Li Xueyue watched with her wide eyes full of disbelief as Duke Li Shenyang caught the air kiss. She was prepared to cry like the twins until unexpectedly, Duke Li Shenyang tossed the kiss to the ground and stomped on it.
Duchess Wang Qixing gasped. "Fine, one more week of herbal tea!"
"No, no, sweetie, I didn't mean it. It was a joke, my wife—"
"Father, the guest is waiting. Please. Go," Li Chenyang exasperated, his eyes wide with horror.
If there was one thing he didn't want to see, it was his parents being lovey-dovey like this. As much as he appreciated their undying love for each other, it was very traumatizing to see.
"Fine, fine." Duke Li Shenyang huffed. "It's time to bully the poor lad."
"Oooh, in that case, let me join you!" Li Wenmin shouted, happily skipping over to his father only to be grabbed by Li Chenyang.
"Nuh-uh, we don't need you to be present for now."
"But whyyyyy?!" Li Wenmin dragged on, shaking his shoulders like a stubborn kid throwing a tantrum. Except, his only problem was, it never worked on Li Chenyang.
"Ow!" Li Wenmin cried out when he received a chop at the back of his head.
"I don't want to throw up the breakfast as well." Li Chenyang scowled, crossing his arms.
Duchess Wang Qixing laughed at her bickering sons. Where did they learn to be this rowdy?
Li Chenyang let out a heavy sigh, shaking his head. Sometimes, he forgot this big baby was one of the leading Generals of the country.
"Don't sound so disappointed in me, Chenyang! You sound and look old." Li Wenmin scowled. "Stop acting older than your age."
"Then, can you stop acting younger than your age?" Li Chenyang retorted.
Duchess Wang Qixing was tired of stopping these mindless arguments. She turned to Li Xueyue and smiled. "Would you like some more tea while we listen and watch this petty discussion unfold?"
Li Xueyue didn't even have to answer. She instantly picked up her teacup and the Duchess poured the tea.
"You can really tell they inherited both the Duke and my bad traits." Duchess Wang Qixing sighed. "Of course. They inherited more from their father."
Li Xueyue almost choked on her tea while preventing herself from laughing out loud. She feared it would disrupt this interesting and free entertainment.
"Jokes keep the romance alive." Duchess Wang Qixing winked in Xueyue's way. "Which you're obviously not lacking in your interactions with the Commander."
"Well, yes, I can't help but tease Yu Zhen." Li Xueyue chuckled.
Duchess Wang Qixing's eyes flashed with mirth. She wondered if Li Xueyue could see how wide her smile was, with a happy-go-lucky gleam in her eyes. Xueyue was awestruck by the images of Yu Zhen that flashed in her mind, but didn't even know it.
"You know what I realized?" Duchess Wang Qixing asked.
"This time, you instantly knew which Commander I was referring to." Duchess Wang Qixing took a sip of her tea, casting Xueyue a cheeky smile.
"I...well… uh...uhm…" Li Xueyue trailed off, unsure of what to say. In the end, she settled with a small laugh, awkwardly averting her gaze.
Duchess Wang Qixing giggled at her response. "Young love, how adorable!"
"Mooom, he hit me again!" Li Wenmin cried out, pointing an accusing finger at Li Chenyang.
"You're twenty years old, stop whining to Mom!" Li Chenyang hissed.
"You're just lucky I promised Mom to not use violence in the house!" Li Wenmin stuck out his tongue.
"Do it again, I'll cut that off!"
"Oh yeah, with what sword?" Li Wenmin barked back, wiggling his waist to emphasize the sword dangling off of his waist.
Duchess Wang Qixing gasped. "Li Wenmin! What did I say about weapons at the table?"
"And you, Li Chenyang, stop hitting your brother like a child. You're adults. Talk it out."
"Yeah, and he started this argument too!" Li Wenmin chortled, egging his mother to continue reprimanding Li Chenyang.
"You're the one who wanted to anger me and started this argument." Li Chenyang rolled his eyes, jutting his chin in the opposite direction.
Duchess Wang Qixing groaned. "I thought we were past this stage two years ago, when you went from boys to men."
"Oh don't worry Mom," Li Chenyang began. "I fully transitioned to that stage and—Ow! You dare to hit me?!"
Li Wenmin let out a small yelp when he saw Li Chenyang's murderous glower.
"Come back here! I should've been the one born five minutes earlier!" Li Chenyang scowled, chasing after Li Wenmin who ran to the door.
"I have better things to do! You know, like a job that manages hundreds of soldiers! Bleh!" Li Wenmin dragged down one eye bag and stuck out his tongue, running out of the door.
"That brat!" Li Chenyang hissed, placing his hands on his waist. "I can't believe he's older than me. Must've been so eager to come out, his brain cells didn't properly develop!"
The door flew open and Li Wenmin stood there, mouth agape. "I heard that! No wonder you had to stay inside for so long, you were lacking brain cells so much you needed more time to generate it!"
Duchess Wang Qixing wistfully sighed and lazily waved her hand.
"Oh well, let's ignore them, sweetheart," she said, turning to Xueyue with a bright smile. "Is there something you wanted to tell me in regards to Yu Zhen?"
Li Xueyue tilted her head, blinking in confusion. Was there?
Duchess Wang Qixing pitied the Commander. When puzzled, Li Xueyue had the same expression as a perplexed puppy. Such an endearing sight… The Duchess resisted the urge to pinch Xueyue's cheeks.
"For example…" Duchess Wang Qixing's eyes sparkled with mischief. "Professing your undying love for him?"
Li Xueyue's eyes grew wide. "I-I'm not in love with him," she awkwardly said, laughing nervously and averting her gaze. Wow, was the floor rug under the table always so interesting?
Duchess Wang Qixing observed the blush that stained Xueyue's cheeks. "Right…" she said, purposely dragging out the word.
"Maybe I should reword it then~" Duchess Wang Qixing happily clasped her hands together. "Do you have feelings for this Commander?"
"W-what?" Li Xueyue laughed again, high-pitched and anxious. "Uhm… define feelings? I mean, we're humans, so we all have feelings and emotions and uhm, uh, things that make us happy or sad. The word 'feeling' in itself is vague and hard to express—"
"Well, that nervous rambling gives a lot away," Duchess Wang Qixing mused, her lips tugging into a pleasant smile. "Let me ask you this then, does your heart beat fast when he does something simple? Does your stomach flutter when he smiles?"
Li Xueyue quietly sunk into her chair, looking at anywhere but the Duchess's pressing smile.
"Well? Do you?" Duchess Li Qixing eagerly asked, her eyes growing bright and curious. "You do, don't you?" She squealed when Xueyue's face became even redder, this time, bright as a tomato.
"M-maybe…" Xueyue shyly whispered, covering her face, dying of embarrassment whilst the Duchess was on cloud nine, already calculating how many guests should be invited to the wedding.