152 Accused of Murder
"How did you get rid of the women who wanted the Duke for themselves?" Li Xueyue curiously asked, wondering who the Duchess's competitors were.
Li Xueyue couldn't help but think back to what she read in Li Minghua's diary. There was a mention of a nasty rumor… Perhaps it had something to do with the women vying for Duke Li Shenyang's attention?
"I hate to admit it, but the Empress Dowager pulled strings. Who would dare to steal the man of a Princess?" Duchess Wang Qixing mused.
Li Xueyue wondered why the Duchess had such a disgruntled frown. Did something happen?
"Of course, there was someone who was shameless enough to try and steal him from me, even though she already had the most powerful man of this country as her suitor."
Li Xueyue's brows shot up. The most powerful man in this country? Was the Duchess referring to the Emperor? Her eyes grew large. In that case, was this "shameless woman" the Empress…? Her breath hitched at the idea of this. If it was the Empress, then the rumor that Li Minghua mentioned could stir troubles.
Li Xueyue felt like something was missing. What was it? What was she forgetting? There was a piece in the puzzle that she felt was left out, but she didn't know what it was.
"That woman fell in love with the Duke. Hopelessly and utterly in love with a man who wasn't hers. By the time it happened, she was already engaged to another, but that didn't stop her from wanting the Duke." Duchess Wang Qixing shuddered in disgust.
"I will never forgive her." Duchess Wang Qixing's frown deepened.
"She tried to separate the Duke and I. She did everything in her power to ruin us, whether it was spreading false rumors about me or creating fake scenarios to slander me. She was a crazy woman."
"But if she was already engaged to such a powerful man, why would she try to go for the Duke?"
"Because she would be marrying him out of power, not out of love." Duchess Wang Qixing shook her head. She was a grown woman at that time, she shouldn't be gossiping. The past is in the past, it should stay that way. Or so, she thought...
"Did she… ever love her husband?"
"At a certain point, I'd like to believe she did love him. What she loved more was the titles acquired from him, the servants, the attention, the pampering. That is, until her husband took another wife, then one more, and soon, their house was filled with flowers of all shapes, types, and species."
Li Xueyue glanced around them. They weren't accompanied by any servants or guards. It was just the two of them in the gardens.
"Is the woman you're talking about, the Empress of Wuyi?"
Duchess Wang Qixing's head snapped in the direction of Xueyue. She pressed a hand to her mouth. 'I talked too much,' she thought to herself.
"It doesn't matter who it is, sweetheart."
Li Xueyue slowly nodded. She wondered if the Duchess knew how horrified she looked and how pale her skin was. Xueyue knew she had hit the nail on the head, that it was indeed, the Empress.
She couldn't believe this twist of events. If the Empress was once madly in love with the Duke, enough to be the villain in the Duchess' romance story, it would explain the Empress's hatred towards Li Minghua who perfectly resembled both of her parents, especially the Duchess.
"Anyway, you do realize what I'm saying, don't you?"
"A little bit," Li Xueyue said, biting her bottom lip.
Duchess Wang Qixing gently grabbed Xueyue's hand and squeezed it reassuringly. "You must remember real love isn't easy and easy love isn't real. No matter what comes your way, you must brace it and fight back. As beautiful as women are, we are all vicious."
Li Xueyue nodded. "I understand."
"So long as you hold yourself with dignity, you will never lose him."
'I already did,' Li Xueyue thought to herself, her eyes burning at the memory of Yu Zhen's disappearing figure. He hadn't even looked at her. When she fell, he didn't even realize it. Was her hesitation that horrible for him to storm out like this?
Wen Jinkai instantly came to her mind. His hesitation towards her infuriated her until she lost her patience for him. Yu Zhen must've felt the same frustration she did.
"Give him time. If he does not come back, then it's his loss. Not yours."
"I beg to differ," Li Xueyue whispered.
"Xueyue," Duchess Wang Qixing sternly said. "You will not chase him. You will not seek his audience."
Li Xueyue stared at the ground. "Even if it was my fault?"
"What happened in the drawing room?"
Li Xueyue hesitated, but in the end, she began to explain the events that took place. From their first argument about her status as an illegitimate child to her hesitation.
"He asked you to go to Hanjian?" Duchess Wang Qixing's eyes widened in disbelief.
Duchess Wang Qixing let out a sigh. "I'll be honest with you, sweetie, I don't think you should advance with this little business plan of yours."
Li Xueyue glanced to the side, shifting the weight of her body to her uninjured leg.
"Why must you risk yourself to get back at them?"
Li Xueyue tried to smile but it came out as a wince. "I was wrongfully accused of murder," she whispered. "I was tormented by them all of my life, I-I have to get back at them somehow."
"I know, sweetie, I know." Duchess Wang Qixing squeezed Xueyue's hands again. "This plan of yours is fantastic, it will be a great way to slap them back in your face, but it will strain your relationship with Yu Zhen. Are you ready for that?"
"I thought you supported the idea of our departure to Hechen?" Li Xueyue pointed out, confused by which side the Duchess was taking.
"I am supportive of whatever you want," Duchess Wang Qixing said. "Your wellbeing is always my priority."
"Perhaps this test of time will show if our love is genuine or just an infatuation."
"Perhaps," the Duchess agreed in a quiet voice. "Are you sure you have to remain in Wuyi to carry out this plan?"
"Yes, I couldn't possibly force the workload onto Chenyang when it's my idea to target them."
"Well, he benefits from this business as well, don't forget that." Duchess Wang Qixing chuckled. "I know you're going to make him the co-signer."
"It's the least I could do for his help."
"I know." Duchess Wang Qixing warmly smiled for once. "I just want to warn you."
"You shouldn't destroy yourself to destroy someone else."
"Everyone has been telling me that." Li Xueyue chuckled, glancing around them. The flowers were beautiful today, but she couldn't admire it. Not now. "First it was Wen-ge, then Yu Zhen—"
"And now it's me," Duchess Wang Qixing finished for Li Xueyue. "We're just worried about you, my dear girl."
Li Xueyue nodded in understanding. "I know. I don't hold it against any of you."
"Even Yu Zhen won't?"
Li Xueyue sighed. Before she could respond, a servant came rushing to the entrance of the garden.
"Madam, my lady," the servant addressed, bowing her head. "The doctor has finally arrived."
Duchess Wang nodded. "Well, let's get you properly treated."