"Chen-ge, wait!" Li Xueyue called out, rushing out of her room only to see he had speed-walked down the hallway. She groaned in annoyance, deciding to chase him down.
"We have to finish discussing this!"
"No, we don't," Li Chenyang called back, picking up his pace, occasionally glancing behind him to make sure she wasn't catching up. His eyes widened in shock when she was quickly approaching him.
Eventually, they broke out in a run, and Li Chenyang was whizzing down the hallway.
"Why can't we talk about it?!" she called out, breaking out a sweat.
"Because it's going to end up in an argument!"
"Why are we running?" she cried, rushing to catch up to his long legs.
Li Chenyang let out a breathless laugh. She was right, why were they running? It originally started as an attempt for him to get away from her, but now it felt too weird.
He slowed down into a leisure walk, allowing her to catch up to him.
"Can't we talk this out, please?" Li Xueyue exasperated, widening her eyes and jutting out her bottom lip into a pleading pout.
Li Chenyang rolled his eyes. "Your idea of 'talking it out' is trying to convince me to agree with you and persisting until I do."
"We can compromise!" she exclaimed, clasping her hands together. "Please, Chen-ge?"
Li Chenyang groaned in response. "No means no, Xueyue. Why do you have to care about the wellbeing of others so desperately? The only person you should care about is yourself."
"How about we uhm… consult Father—"
"Father's morals are worse than mine. He would've told the pirates to not save a single man since they'll serve as witnesses." Li Chenyang threw her a pointed look. He was amused by her bewilderment.
Li Xueyue rapidly blinked. "But… I thought Father has great ethics…"
"He pretends to." Li Chenyang laughed, shaking his head when she tilted her head in confusion like a lost bunny. "Just trust me, it's better to leave them be than care about them. What benefit could they possibly bring us? The satisfaction of being a savior? I'm not interested in those things."
Li Xueyue's shoulders dropped in disappointment, her pout turned into a frown. "Every life is important," she sullenly whispered.
"Maybe in another lifetime it is, but the lives of these men will put us in jeopardy. Who's to say they won't run back to their masters and snitch that the Li Family were the ones who hijacked the ships?"
"How about this?" Li Chenyang interjected. "We'll let these men go, but we won't offer them a helping hand to return back to Hechen. Their fate is up to them. That way our identities wouldn't be compromised, and they don't suffer at the hands of the pirates."
Her eyes lit up at his suggestion. She let out a happy squeal, pouncing onto him into a tight hug. "That's a fantastic plan!"
Li Chenyang rolled his eyes. On a normal occasion, he would've hugged her back, but he was still mad at her so he kept his arms by his side, even when she happily smiled up at him.
"You're the best!"
"I know." Li Chenyang snorted, placing a finger on her forehead. She blinked in confusion and yelped when he exerted a little force, pushing her backward with his finger.
"You should try harder to appease me."
"I wasn't appeasing you, I just wanted to hug you."
"Yeah right." Li Chenyang chuckled, flicking her on the forehead.
"Ow! That hurts!" she cried out, clutching the spot on her head. If he continued flicking the same spot, there would be a permanent dent on it!
"Whatever," Li Chenyang mused.
"By the way, why are you home so early?"
"I finished up my court duties earlier than usual. There wasn't a lot of work to do."
"I see, in that case, let's play Go—"
"Oh, Xueyue," a voice called out from behind Li Chenyang.
Both of them turned around to see their mother who bore a slight frown on her face. She didn't seem happy with something, and the opened letter in her hand gave it away.
"What's wrong?" Li Xueyue asked, sidestepping Li Chenyang and approaching her mother. "You seem glum."
"I received a letter from Wen Jinkai. It doesn't bear good news." Duchess Wang Qixing sighed, walking towards her children. She handed the letter to Xueyue but it was snatched by Chenyang.
Li Chenyang unfolded the letter, his eyes quickly skimmed through its contents. In the blink of an eye, his lips curled into a snarl. "That desperate son of a—"
"Don't you dare finish that sentence!" Duchess Wang Qixing scolded, placing her hands on her waist.
Li Chenyang responded by crumbling up the parchment into a ball, throwing it onto the ground. "Who does he think he is?! How dare he go against your authority, Mother. Does he really think the position of a Commander outweighs that of a Princess?" he hissed.
Li Xueyue was perplexed by what just happened. She bent down and picked up the parchment he threw only for him to lightly smack her hand.
"Don't touch that dirty parchment, it has his disgusting bacteria all over it," Li Chenyang muttered, taking out a handkerchief and wiping her fingers.
Duchess Wang Qixing sighed at her overprotective son. "You shouldn't have thrown it onto the ground in the first place."
"Sorry…" Li Chenyang sheepishly responded though he seemed far from apologetic.
"I still want to read it," Li Xueyue piqued, picking up the parchment again. She uncrumpled it much to his irritation. Her brows raised upwards. Yet again, she was surprised by his neat handwriting.
'Dear Duchess Wang,
I have received your letter in regards to the pendants, however, I regret to inform you that to get it back, I would like to personally receive it from the woman I gave it to.
Since meeting at the Li Manor is too risky for our Xueyue, may I suggest the Royal Palace? Or perhaps, one of the restaurants fancied by other aristocrats? She did owe me a meal, but it seems your mischievous daughter found the loophole in our agreement.
Li Xueyue blinked. "Okay, maybe you're right Chen-ge, this letter is dirty." She scowled, crumpling it up again, tossing it onto the ground.
"I told you," Li Chenyang deadpanned. He crossed his arms. "And what did he mean when he said you owe him a meal?"
"It's a long story."
"We have time," he answered in a heartbeat.
"Well, we can't stand here all day, let's discuss this in Xueyue's room," Duchess Wang Qixing said, turning to her servant, Jinxia. "Prepare the afternoon tea with pastries. I recommend rice cakes for Xueyue and chewy cookies for Chenyang."
Jinxia instantly bowed. "Right away, madam," she said before excusing herself.
Once they reached Xueyue's room, she began explaining what happened at the horse stable in the Capital. As the story progressed from the shameless and irritable Bai Tianai, the faces of Duchess Wang Qixing and Li Chenyang were growing dimmer by the minute. And when she concluded the story about the practical blackmail of Wen Jinkai, neither of them seemed happy.
Duchess Wang Qixing scowled. "This Bai Tianai has guts. When I attend the monthly private soirees held by Duke Wen Xuan's wife tomorrow, I will purposely drag the Bai Family down. She has to pay for her shamelessness."
Li Chenyang was more furious by Wen Jinkai. "Great idea Mother, but Wen Jinkai is equally despicable. He threatened to snitch to the Emperor. This man is more shameless than we initially thought."
"Shameless snitch…" Li Xueyue grumbled under her breath.
Duchess Wang Qixing couldn't help but nod in agreement. "Well, I'm glad you were able to find the loophole in the situation, but I didn't think he was this immoral to hold it against you like this. He must have his reasons."
Li Chenyang stared at his mother as if she had gone insane. Did she truly have to see the good in every person? "Mother, you can't be serious."
"Oh but I am…" Duchess Wang Qixing frowned. "He made our Minghua very happy."
Li Chenyang inwardly cursed. So maybe it wasn't the best idea to side with his father and keep his mother in the dark… If only his mother knew how Wen Jinkai treated Minghua in the Palace...
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