Out of the blue, Li Xueyue spoke up again, "Can I head to the Palace?" she asked, knowing she couldn't leave the house without any of them knowing.
The twins instantly responded at the same time.
"No," Li Wenmin deadpanned.
"Absolutely not," Li Chenyang declared.
Li Xueyue didn't even have to ask why not. She let out a sigh, "But I have something to give—"
"The pendant right?" Li Wenmin spoke up, raising both of his brows. "I told you, you should've returned it to him when you had the chance."
"You kept it?" Li Chenyang asked. "I forgot about that."
Li Xueyue nodded. "I wanted to return it to him, but uhm, I didn't want to ask any of you to do it because I know how much you dislike him."
"Xiao Yue." Li Wenmin chuckled. "We don't dislike him."
"Oh, I thought you did—"
"We hate him," Li Wenmin concluded, patting her cheek when she blinked in confusion. "Now give us the pendant, we'll break it—no, I mean we'll return it to him."
"You can't just destroy the pendant!" Li Xueyue exasperated. "No way am I going to give it to you then."
"It was a joke." Li Wenmin awkwardly laughed, shooting Li Chenyang a glare. 'This dang brother of mine, how come he never offers me any support?!'
Li Chenyang quirked a brow. "Why should you care if we ruined his pendant. Did you forget, Xueyue? He held that against you at the tournament and nearly ruined your reputation with it."
Li Xueyue shook her head. "The decent thing to do is return it in one piece. He gave it to me to keep me safe—"
"And did it keep you safe at all?" Li Chenyang bit out, folding his arms, his tone dark and angry. He didn't like how nice she was suddenly being. Wen Jinkai deserved none of their kindness.
"No, but I'm sure—"
"Xiao Yue, I hope you know you're taking his side right now." Li Wenmin scowled, sharing a similar stance to his brother. "Now, where is the pendant?"
Li Xueyue nervously glanced from one twin to the next, her eyes wary of what they would do. She fiddled her fingers and shuffled her foot. "I don't know about this…"
"Xiao Yue, he's usually not in the Palace. He's mainly on the fields, training his men," Li Wenmin pointed out. "I can return the pendant to him."
"In pieces?" she hesitantly asked, her voice timid and tiny. As much as she disliked Wen Jinkai, she didn't want to ruin the pendant. It seemed expensive and held a lot of authority.
Li Xueyue didn't even understand where this stubborn side of her came from. She abhorred what he did to her and Li Minghua, but had the decency to keep the pendant safe.
Li Chenyang scowled, his face scrunching up like his father. "Xueyue," he warned. "What are you doing?"
"What is going on here?" a voice asked from behind him.
The siblings turned around and sure enough, Duchess Wang Qixing was standing by behind them, arms folded. She seemed disgruntled by something but obviously would not tell her children about it.
Li Xueyue's face instantly lit up. "Mother, you're awake."
Duchess Wang Qixing's lips twitched. "Yes, sweetheart, I am. Did you enjoy breakfast?"
"Not as much as I would with you present."
Finally, the Duchess smiled. "Ever the sweet talker, aren't you?" she mused, stepping closer to them. "What are you discussing so early in the morning?"
"Xiao Yue is being stubborn." Li Wenmin pouted, instantly approaching his mother. "She thinks we should return Wen Jinkai's pendant to him in one piece, meanwhile I want to deliver it back shattered to dust."
Duchess Wang Qixing gasped at his behavior. "You can't break a gift and then on top of it, return it in shambles. It is disrespectful."
Li Chenyang scowled. "So what if it's disrespectful? Why should we care about his feelings?"
"Chenyang," Duchess Wang Qixing addressed in a strict voice. "The pendant is presented to the child at birth. It is a gift from their parents and something they've held onto for a long time. You can't just break it out of spite. Think of how it will affect his parents?"
Li Wenmin frowned. "It's not like his parents care about him in the first place! Also, he still has Xiao Yue's pendant!"
Duchess Wang Qixing firmly shook her head. "His parents might not care for him, but I suspect the Empress is the one who gave him the pendant in the first place. We can't offend her like this."
Li Chenyang opened his mouth, ready to argue back, but paused. Damn it! He almost leaked the contents of the diary right then and there—about the Empress's bullying.
In the end, he finally settled with, "Well, what are we going to do then?"
"We're going to politely seek an audience with him," Duchess Wang Qixing reasoned. "We will exchange the pendants back. He can have his and Xueyue will get hers back."
Li Wenmin scowled. He had little to no faith in the Commander. "How do we know he will bring it with him?"
"If he has any honor, he will."
Li Wenmin scoffed. "Then I guess we won't ever see Xiao Yue's pendant."
"You talk back too much." Duchess Wang Qixing tutted, shaking her head. "Have some faith in your Commander."
Li Chenyang's scowl deepened. He was infuriated by his initial silence yesterday. He should've just shown his mother the diary. If she read it, she wouldn't be as kind as she is right now, but he promised his father he wouldn't utter a single word about it.
"In regards to the attendance, we must have the upper hand in this. He will have to visit the manor," Duchess Wang Qixing instructed.
"I agree." Li Wenmin nodded, "We shouldn't meet him in the Palace."
Li Chenyang shook his head. "But it'd be suspicious if Wen Jinkai is frequently seen around Xueyue. Rumors will start flying if he visits our manor out of the blue."
Duchess Wang Qixing hummed in response. He has a point. First it was Yu Zhen visiting Xueyue, and now it was Wen Jinkai? The gossiping women of upper society will be ruthless.
Her lips curled in disgust. These women had too much time on their hands. It was one of the main reasons why she refused to associate with them unless necessary, which was at public outings.
After a few seconds, she finally spoke up again. "Perhaps we don't have to meet him at all. I will write a letter to him and request him to send the pendant back."
Li Wenmin raised a brow, staring at his mother in disbelief. "Do you really think he will return it? He knows what it means to request for the pendant back and I can assure you, Wen Jinkai is shameless enough to hold onto it."
"He will demand to see her," Li Chenyang added on, letting out a frustrated sigh.
"Well," Li Xueyue spoke up, "Who's to say he will bring the pendant to the meeting as well?"
Li Wenmin groaned. "True."
Duchess Wang Qixing slightly frowned. "Wen Jinkai is a Commander for Wuyi. Surely, he would have enough integrity and honor to not—" she paused, already knowing the answer to this.
Duchess Wang Qixing shook her head. "We shouldn't stand around doubting. Let's proceed with the meeting invitation first. Xueyue doesn't have to be present, but I will leave out that part. The meeting will take place in the Palace, where I still have jurisdiction if something happens, though I doubt it would."
The twins pondered over her words before nodding in agreement.
"Sounds like a solid plan to me." Li Wenmin shrugged.
"I agree," Li Chenyang added on.
"Very well then, I'll begin drafting the letter. You boys should be heading off now, it's getting quite late," Duchess Wang Qixing pointed out.
"Wait," Li Xueyue said and turned to the Duchess. "Shouldn't you have breakfast first? The letter can wait."
Duchess Wang Qixing paused, her eyes widened a bit. Finally, her lips quirked upwards in a warm smile. "I should." She chuckled. "Come and join me, I will have the chef prepare some snacks."
Li Wenmin instantly perked up, his eyes lighting up. "Oh oh, I want some snacks too!"
Li Chenyang scowled. "You have soldiers to train."
"They can wait!" Li Wenmin cried out, turning to his mother. He enlarged his eyes and jutted out his bottom lips, looking pitiful. "You'll feed me, right, Mother? You won't starve me, right?"
Duchess Wang Qixing chuckled, shaking her head in amusement. "You speak as if I starve you as punishment, my little glutton."
"Well, I did eat less this morning." Li Wenmin faked a sniffle, like a pitiful child.
"Oh please," Li Chenyang scoffed, rolling his eyes. "You only ate one less bowl of rice."
"Yeah, you heard that Mom, I ate less, so now I'm hungry...Boo hoo…" he trailed off, wiping away a fake tear.
Duchess Wang Qixing couldn't help but smile at her foolish son. "What shall we do with you?" She sighed, grabbing his hand and Xueyue's. "Let's get both of my little piglets fed."
Li Chenyang laughed at the nickname. "I told you they were piglets."
Li Wenmin chose to ignore his brother and when they walked past him, Li Xueyue purposely stomped on Chenyang's foot.
"That didn't hurt at all." Li Chenyang scoffed, wincing as he took a step.
Li Wenmin exchanged a knowing look with Xueyue who smirked at his response.
"Sure, it didn't hurt." She snickered.
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