After the most unbearable breakfast that Li Xueyue ever had, everyone was dismissed. No one spoke throughout the entire meal, not that any of them wanted to in the first place, but Xueyue certainly did. She tried to make small talk in hopes of uplifting the dreary mood, but no one matched her enthusiasm.
After the meal, everyone began to disperse from the dining room. The Duke disappeared down the hall, presumably in the direction of the front entrance. Duke Li Shenyang was leaving for work earlier than usual which rarely happened. If he had any free time in the morning, it was always spent with the Duchess.
Gathered in the hallways close to the dining room were the twins and Li Xueyue.
"Did something happen?" Li Xueyue asked, turning to face the twins who looked reluctant to fill her in.
Li Wenmin tried to smile. "Don't worry about it, Xiao Yue." He gave her cheek a pat and adjusted his belt, where a sword was hung from it.
"The Duke and Duchess had a fight didn't they?" Li Xueyue, persisted.
Li Chenyang lightly frowned. "Yeah. They did."
"It's adult stuff," Li Wenmin responded. "We don't want you to be stressed by any of our problems."
"What are your plans for today, Xiao Yue?" Li Wenmin interjected, deliberately changing the topic.
"Did Mother read the diary? Did you, Wen-ge?" Li Xueyue asked again, this time, in a more serious tone. She figured he wouldn't take her seriously if she wasn't so direct and firm.
"As I said, Xiao Yue, it's not your place to fret over trivial matters like this," Li Wenmin told her, his brows creasing together, his lips tugging downwards.
Li Xueyue defiantly crossed her arms, refusing to accept his words.
"Just tell her the truth," Li Chenyang muttered. "She'll find out about it eventually."
Li Wenmin shot his brother a dirty look. "I thought we established she wouldn't know what happened last night."
"Well, too bad, I didn't agree to that yesterday," Li Chenyang bit out, turning to Xueyue. "Mother doesn't know about the diary, but she was close to finding out about it. Yesterday, she demanded to know what angered her father to that extent. He refused to tell her anything. She was frustrated by the mess he created, his silence, and her curiosity got the best of her."
Li Wenmin scowled. "Are you crazy?" he hissed at Chenyang, "Why would you tell Xueyue this? You're going to stress her out!"
"Uhm, I'm standing right here—"
"She has a right to know!" Li Chenyang barked, "She's not a child. If we keep her in the dark forever, she will become ignorant!"
"I want her to live an easy life free from these types of worries!" Li Wenmin's eyes narrowed. "Do you really want to burden her with this truth?!"
Li Chenyang scowled. "Does she look burdened to you?"
Both of them immediately turned towards Xueyue whose eyes were wide with surprise. "Uhm, it's fine to tell me, I won't be stressed out…"
"See!" Li Chenyang scoffed, rolling his eyes.
"But I appreciate it, Wen-ge. Thank you for thinking about my wellbeing," Li Xueyue hurriedly added on, grabbing his hands. She hoped he wouldn't be offended by any of Li Chenyang's words.
Li Wenmin scowled and stared at his twin irritably. Then he glanced down at her tiny hands clutching at his. Releasing a sigh, he pulled one hand back and patted her cheek.
"I just want you to live a carefree life."
"I know," she said in understanding, gently smiling up at him.
His gaze softened. "But yes, Mother and Father had a horrible argument. She doesn't like it when we keep secrets from her, but we had no choice. We're worried about what would happen if she finds out the contents of the diary."
Li Chenyang quietly sighed, turning to face the courtyard. He stared up at the sky, cloudy and sunless. "Anything about Minghua will trigger her. The person most affected by what happened to Minghua is our mother."
Li Wenmin nodded. "That's why we have to keep everything a secret. If we don't, Mother might become depressed again."
Li Chenyang continued to observe the sky. It was gloomy today, despite the early morning. Even the birds weren't chirping. "You'll keep this a secret from her, won't you Xueyue?"
The twins stared her down, their gaze piercing and unrelenting.
Li Xueyue was conflicted about what she should do. On one hand, she agreed with Li Wenmin in that she didn't want the Duchess to worry about things like this. But on the other hand, it didn't feel right to keep the Duchess in the dark.
"It's not fair to treat her like this," Li Xueyue finally said. "Even if it's triggering for her, she has a right to know."
Li Wenmin frowned. "We're doing what's best for her."
"And how do you know what's best for her?" she retorted, "Maybe she has healed from what happened. The second last stage of grief is depression. She seems to have passed that stage, which leaves the last stage of grief—acceptance."
Li Wenmin groaned. She has a point. "Well, regardless, we can't tell her. Not yet."
"Why not?" she pressed on, pulling her hand back and crossing her arms. She refused to acknowledge the problem of informing Mother.
"Because, Xiao Yue, Father didn't give us permission to tell her," Li Wenmin responded, nudging his brother on the shoulder. "I could use some support here," he quietly hissed but Xueyue heard him anyway.
"It's not right to keep this a secret from Mother."
"It's the best for her," Li Chenyang curtly said, refusing to budge. "Do not disclose anything to her—"
"Xiao Yue!" Li Wenmin exasperated, his eyes burning with irritation. He was not used to her disobedience. "You can't."
"You're taking Father's side. Both of you." Li Xueyue slightly frowned. "How is that fair to her?"
"We're doing what's best for her!" Li Chenyang groaned.
"I don't agree with this." Li Xueyue scowled.
"We're not asking you to lie to her or anything," Li Wenmin cried out, "Just keep it a secret for now."
"Can we compromise?" she asked.
"Fine." Li Chenyang sighed, knowing she was too stubborn to back down from this. "What do you want?"
"If she doesn't ask me, I won't tell her anything, but if she does ask me, I will tell her everything."
Li Wenmin pondered it for a bit, scratching the back of his head. After a few seconds of silence, he reluctantly said, "Alright then. It's a deal."
Li Xueyue turned to Li Chenyang who nodded. "Sounds good to me."
"Great!" She smiled, happy that they finally reached a conclusion.
Li Wenmin huffed in response, grumbling to himself. Li Chenyang kept his opinions to himself, deciding that this was better than deceiving his own mother.
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