After dinner, Li Xueyue bathed and changed into her nightgown.
She made up her mind to return Wen Jinkai's pendant to him as soon as possible. She unlocked the vanity drawer where two pendants were found. Her eyes lingered on Yu Zhen's pendant, picking it up to observe the obsidian. Sighing to herself, she slipped it back into her drawer, picked up Wen Jinkai's pendant, and wrapped it in a handkerchief.
She didn't plan to lead Wen Jinkai on, but it happened without her realizing it.
Instead of giving Wen Jinkai's pendant back to him personally, Li Xueyue would rather have someone deliver it but she feared he'd kill the messenger. Asking the twins to deliver it was impossible—the twins despised him to the core, and she couldn't blame them.
"Chen-ge would kill Wen Jinkai if he could." Li Xueyue sighed to herself, running a hand through her combed hair. "He'll only despise him more…" she grumbled.
The contents of the diary were not something that should be treated lightly. Especially the part where Wen Jinkai took Li Minghua's virginity. From the diary, Li Xueyue could tell it was consensual, but it didn't change what happened in the Palace.
What exactly happened?
From what Li Xueyue could gather, the Empress must've done something to Li Minghua. Surely, loneliness couldn't be that daunting?
She swallowed, remembering her mother's words. The Imperial Palace was a place where flowers were meant to die.
"Is it true?" a quiet voice said outside of her door, but before she could react, thuds of footsteps rushed down the hallways. There seemed to be a commotion somewhere in the house, but Xueyue didn't want to disturb anyone.
She opened her door and was instantly blocked by her usual guards.
"Is there a problem?" she asked, her head turning in the direction that the servants seemed to have rushed off to.
The guards exchanged glances with each other wordlessly. Finally, one of them spoke up.
"There is no need to worry, my lady."
Li Xueyue blinked in confusion, jumping when she heard the faint sound of things crashing. It sounded like things were being smashed. "What was that?"
"One of the servants must've dropped something on their way to the kitchen," one of the guards fluidly answered her.
Li Xueyue was instantly suspicious of his words. The servants here rarely made mistakes. "Step aside."
"I'm afraid we were placed under strict orders to not let you wander off at night. If there is anything you'd like, please let us know and we will instantly have it fetched, my lady."
Li Xueyue let out an irritated sigh. "Fine then," she muttered, closing the door behind her.
- - - - -
The next morning, Li Xueyue woke up fatigued. She had spent all night tossing and turning, haunted by the nightmares of the past that refused to leave her. Sweat coated her forehead, the circles under her eyes were darker than ever. At this point, she was morphing into a panda.
When Li Xueyue caught sight of her pale and ghastly skin in the mirror, she groaned. After her morning bath, she was properly dressed and pampered. Her hair was completely woven upwards into an intricate bun that resembled a blooming flower behind her.
 The top of her hanfu was a pale white, lily petals scattered upon the sleeves, her collars lined with a blend of lilac and blue. A navy belt was wrapped around her waist, secured by white ribbons. The dress part of her clothing started off a mellow blend of lavender and violet that matched her collar. The ombre slowly died off, leaving the bottom part of the dress an airy white.
Li Xueyue was impressed by her handmaiden's craftwork as usual but was too exhausted to offer her compliments.
"My lady, shall we apply blush today?"
"Yes, please," Li Xueyue responded, deciding it was much needed or else she would look like a ghost. There was no color on her face today. She bit her bottom lip.
Being the observant one in the family, Li Chenyang would surely notice her fatigue appearance and suggest that she drink some medicinal herbal tea to help with her sleep. There was nothing she could do to stop him.
"If we may recommend…��� one of the handmaidens trailed off nervously, exchanging glances amongst one another.
"What is it?" Li Xueyue patiently asked.
"Please do not bite your lips, my lady. They're lovely and the teeth could damage it."
"Oh." Li Xueyue released her bottom lip, wryly smiling. "It's a force of habit," she said, even though she didn't need to explain herself.
Her handmaidens silently nodded as they began to paint her lips a natural shade of red.
After she was properly dressed, Li Xueyue headed to the dining room for breakfast. Today, she was earlier than usual. The doors were opened for her and to her surprise, only the Duke and the twins were inside.
They were harshly conversing amongst themselves, neither of them happy with each other. The tension was high in the room and Li Xueyue felt like she was intruding on something.
At the sound of the door opening, their gazes snapped towards her.
"Xueyue, are you sure you found this in Minghua's room?" Duke Li Shenyang held the book up and instantly asked, his voice heavy. He was reluctant to accept the truth and the contents found in the diary.
Li Xueyue's lips parted in shock. Her eyes lingered on Li Chenyang. Wasn't she supposed to explain her side of the story first?!
"I'm sorry, Xueyue. Father found me reading this." Li Chenyang sighed, waving for her to come closer to them.
Li Xueyue turned to Duke Li Shenyang and slowly nodded. "It's true, I found it when I wandered off. I didn't mean to trespass into Minghua's quarters. I didn't know it was restricted. Granted, there was a guard there, but there were guards in every part of the house, so I thought it was normal."
"I spoke to the guard, he didn't recall seeing you." Duke Li Shenyang pressed his lips together, his eyes unknowingly accused her.
Li Xueyue wrung her fingers together, nervously squeezing it. "That's because he…" she trailed off, not wanting the guard to be in trouble.
Li Wenmin shook his head in annoyance. "It doesn't matter if the guard saw her or not, Father. We should be focusing on the contents of this diary. If everything written in it is true, then—" he paused when Duke Li Shenyang shot him a threatening glance.
"Nevermind," Li Wenmin concluded.
Li Xueyue's gaze narrowed. There was an edge to his voice, hunting for a forbidden secret. What happens if the contents in the diary were true?
Duke Li Shenyang approached Xueyue who was now standing near the edge of her seat at the table. Gently, he grabbed her shoulder.
"Xueyue," he addressed in a stern tone, "You must never tell anyone about what happened in that diary. Is that clear?"
"Of course," she immediately responded, her eyes wandered to his hands. One of them was covered in bandages. What happened?
Li Chenyang noticed her curiosity but didn't comment on anything. Truth be told, yesterday night was a mess.
Li Chenyang was reading the diary in his room late into the night when he was discovered by Duke Li Shenyang. The Duke had insisted to know what was occupying him for so long.
Eventually, Li Chenyang was forced to admit the truth and when both men read the diary, things got out of hand. Teacups were smashed out of fury, and the Duke almost wreaked havoc. It had woken up Li Wenmin who demanded to know what was happening. Surprisingly, he was more calm than his raging father.
When the commotion was heard by the Duchess, she stormed into her son's room, appalled by the mess that welcomed her.
"Where's… Mother?" Li Xueyue finally asked, her eyes lingered on the empty spot near the circular table. Usually, the Duchess was always the first to wake up and arrive at the dining hall.
The twins exchanged an awkward glance with each other. Li Wenmin was the first to speak up. "She's uhm… resting."
"Did Mother have a rough night?" Li Xueyue questioned, confused.
Duke Li Shenyang forced a smile upon his face. "Sure, we can put it that way."
Li Xueyue blinked in confusion. "Should we wake her up for breakfast?"
"No," Duke Li Shenyang answered in a heartbeat. He knew it was better for his wife to quietly simmer her anger off. "Leave her be."
The twins looked at each other again, neither of them pleased with their father's response. But what could they do? The Duchess had locked herself in her room after a nasty dispute with the Duke.
"Did Mother read the contents of the diary?" she asked, blinking in confusion. Why was the atmosphere so strange here? Did something happen? She was puzzled.
"Enough of the questions. It's time for breakfast," Duke Li Shenyang coldly responded, guiding her to her seat.
Li Xueyue awkwardly sat down as breakfast was served. She wanted to ask more, but didn't want to anger the Duke. Holding back a sigh, she began to eat her breakfast in silence, but lacked the appetite and ate less than usual. The same went for Li Wenmin.
Please go to https://www.qzxyzy.com/The-Rise-of-Xueyue/
to read the latest chapters for free