Duchess Wang Qixing laughed at Xueyue's expression. She cupped one ear and asked, "What was that? I didn't hear you."
Li Xueyue's face burned, her eyes darting all over the place. She didn't want to admit her feelings, it was already embarrassing to have said it once.
Duchess Wang Qixing's smile widened. "Fine, fine, I will stop teasing you about him, but if you plan to see him frequently, the high society will need to know of his intentions towards you. If not, it will stain both of your reputations."
Finally, the twins stopped bickering back and forth. They simultaneously turned to the Duchess.
Li Chenyang cast a worried glance towards Xueyue. "Is it true then? You like him?"
Li Wenmin scratched the back of his neck. "What's there to like about him anyway?"
Duchess Wang Qixing waved her hand and ignored her sons. "There's one thing that you have to keep in mind, Xueyue, and it's the fact that Yu Zhen comes from Hanjian. I'm sure you know what this means?"
Li Xueyue slowly nodded. "Yes, I do. If I marry him, I must depart for Hanjian."
"Precisely," Duchess Wang Qixing said. "In that case, how will you fulfill your plans? If you marry him before your plan for revenge is completed, there will be a lot of communication problems between you and Chenyang."
Li Xueyue understood the Duchess's meaning. Right now, she shouldn't be focused on love, rather, she should focus on herself. Romance is something that could come afterwards. If Yu Zhen and Xueyue truly liked each other, they should be willing to wait for each other.
"I love the idea of you and Yu Zhen, but you must focus on yourself first. You're young and you've yet to experience the world. Perhaps you should discuss this with him," said Duchess Wang Qixing.
Li Xueyue fumbled with her fingers. She knew Mother was right. She always was.
"Do you know how long he will continue to stay in Wuyi for? He's the Second Prince of Hanjian and their leading Commander. I assume his schedule is very packed and his time in Wuyi is limited," asked Duchess Wang Qixing.
Duchess Wang Qixing had a worried, yet understanding smile on her face. She understood Xueyue's viewpoint.
Love was a fickle thing, showing up when someone least expected it. Many women were getting married around Xueyue's age, but their life was much simpler than hers. None of them had a life mission to fulfill, revenge to pursue, and so forth.
"He's uncertain of how long he can stay in Wuyi," Li Xueyue answered.
Duchess Wang Qixing clasped her hands over Xueyue's smaller ones. "You must have a discussion with him about this."
Li Chenyang nodded in agreement, strolling over to them. "If not, there will be too many loose ends. Make it known that you have your own agenda and he has his. Question his ambitions, his wants, and his needs. His position in Hanjian is not something to joke about. He's made for great things and I know he wants to achieve them."
Li Chenyang glanced at Xueyue's troubled expression. "You have things to finish in Wuyi, just as he has things to settle in Hanjian. Perhaps the best thing for both of you right now is to separate."
Li Xueyue tensed at his final sentence. Separate? She rapidly blinked. She didn't think this moment would come so soon. Their relationship had barely started. Were they in a relationship in the first place?
"I'll speak to him about this," she finally said, her eyes wide with uncertainty. Was she ready to depart from him?
"This chapter of your life doesn't need love," Li Chenyang murmured. "It needs growth and self-development."
Li Wenmin quietly analyzed Li Xueyue from afar. Was this considered peer-pressure? Or were these opinions said with the best intentions at heart, but delivered with the worst approach?
Li Wenmin approached the table and placed a warm hand upon Xueyue's shoulder. "Xiao Yue, we've been saying what's the best for you, but we haven't asked the most crucial question of all."
She glanced up at Li Wenmin, her face as open as a book. She was afraid of losing Yu Zhen but reluctant to let go of her ambitions.
"What do you want?" Li Wenmin asked.
"For now, forget about Chenyang's opinions and mother's advice. What do you want to do? It's all up to you. The best thing we can do is offer suggestions, but we'll never force you to do something that you don't want to."
A quiet pause shifted through them. It was a comfortable silence while Li Xueyue contemplated her options at hand. There was so much she had yet to experience, so many things she had yet to do. A part of her was terrified of losing Yu Zhen, but another part of her wanted to focus on her aspirations first.
She squeezed her eyes shut. Her heart and her brain were at war with each other. The illogical child and the rational parent. Her heart wanted love, her brain wanted revenge.
Could love wait? Could he wait for her? Would he wait? Not in Wuyi, but in Hanjian?
Li Xueyue already knew her response to this. She was willing to wait for him. Be it a year or a decade, she would welcome him into her life any time in the future, but right now, it was not the time.
Finally, her eyes snapped open, clear, and bright. She had made her decision.
"Love can wait. This plan will resume."
Li Chenyang let out a breath he didn't realize he was holding in. Was it a sigh of relief? Or disbelief?
Li Wenmin slowly nodded, agreeing with her decision. Just like everyone else in this room, he wanted her to focus on herself.
Duchess Wang Qixing squeezed Xueyue's hand reassuringly. This wasn't an easy decision to make. Love was never easy.
"Are you ready to tell him that?" Duchess Wang Qixing asked.
Li Xueyue bit her bottom lip. "I've thought of this topic before. I knew he would be a fleeting moment in my life. His duty is to his country, but I…" she trailed off, her voice cracking.
"I wanted to live in this moment and forget my worries."
"Love makes us do foolish things," Duchess Wang Qixing mused. "It's the beauty of it."
She released Xueyue's hands and gently smiled. "You know, the Duke and I never had a smooth sailing courtship either. There were so many opposing sides, so many obstacles and bumps along the way, but here we are."
She gestured to the twins. "A happy marriage with obnoxious children."
"I think you meant 'obnoxious child,' not children," Li Chenyang retorted, crossing his arms. "It must've been a struggle to raise this intellectually incompetent twin of mine."
Li Wenmin's jaw dropped open. He shoved his brother aside and placed an understanding hand over his chest. "And I understand, Mother, it must be hard to deal with this emotionally invalid brother. I weep for you every night, I do. Oh, how pitiful it is that he's only book smart!"
Li Chenyang wished he had brought a book to smack his brother with. "Go find your own insults, stop stealing mine!"
Li Wenmin scrunched up his face into an ugly expression. He waved his hands around like a chicken, "Go find your own insults, stop stealing mine!" he mimicked in a high-pitched noise.
When Li Chenyang shuffled his foot, ready to beat his brother down, Li Wenmin made a run for the dining-room door. Soon enough, they burst out of the room, on a mad chase.
Duchess Wang Qixing heaved a tired sigh. "They were both a handful to raise," she said to Xueyue who smiled in return.
"I can tell."
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