180 No One Told You To Arrive This Early
When Yu Zhen entered the dining room accompanied by none other than Li Xueyue and Li Chenyang, silence ensued. A vein popped on Li Wenmin's forehead, whereas the Duchess was too stunned to say anything, and the Duke continued sipping his tea as if he was waiting for the drama to unfold.
"Well, this is a very… pleasant surprise," Duchess Wang Qixing spoke up, pausing in the middle of her sentence to find the proper words to describe this unexpected encounter.
Yu Zhen had sent a letter requesting an audience with Xueyue yesterday afternoon, a few hours after the family returned home. Duchess Wang Qixing had accepted the audience but didn't think he would come as soon as the sun rose.
He was adhering to her rules which she appreciated. However, there was something that Duchess Wang Qixing saw which she certainly did not like: Her daughter's bright red lips that's not the result of using a tinted sheet meant to add color to the lips. As someone who had her fair share of rough kisses in the past, she knew exactly what occurred—whereas the dense men in the room did not notice this peculiar detail aside from Yu Zhen himself.
"I didn't mean to intrude," Yu Zhen curtly said.
Duchess Wang Qixing quirked a brow. "You didn't mean to intrude yet you came at the crack of dawn?"
"Yes, I'm an early riser."
"You could've waited until the afternoon," Li Wenmin bit out, settling his chopsticks down. He was midway into stealing an egg, but suddenly, his attention drifted to Yu Zhen. "No one told you to arrive this early."
Yu Zhen's jaw ticked, his eyes narrowed irritably. He reminded himself to remain patient with the Li Family, they were the people who raised Xueyue. But he could only tolerate so much insolence. In Hanjian, no one dared to disrespect the Commander, much less, the Second Prince known for his short temper.
Li Xueyue nervously squeezed their entwined hands, hoping to provide him comfort, but he did not seem to realize the small action.
"Let's begin breakfast," Li Xueyue spoke up, tugging Yu Zhen's hand. He did not move an inch and instead, scanned the environment. There were only five chairs in total. He would have nowhere to sit.
Duke Li Shenyang chuckled at the tension in the dining room. His family sure loved drama, didn't they? He waved his hand to a servant who bowed in response.
"Fetch a chair for the guest."
"Yes, my lord," the servant replied. He left the room and in no less than a minute, came back with a chair whereas another servant walked in with an additional bowl and a pair of chopsticks.
"Have a seat," Duke Li Shenyang spoke up, patting the spot beside him. Unluckily for Yu Zhen, he would be sandwiched between the parents, with zero access to his Little Hamster.
Yu Zhen forced a tight smile onto his lips. "I appreciate that, Prime Minister."
Li Wenmin rolled his eyes in response, leaning back in his chair. Li Chenyang said nothing. He attempted to reach for Xueyue's wrist, hoping to bring her to her seat, but it would be to no avail. Their entwined hands were visible for everyone to see, but no one realized how tight his grip was. He refused to let her go unless it was on her own accord.
Li Xueyue pretended to not notice his lack of patience today. She tugged him in the direction of his seat, but he guided her to a random chair and pulled it out, helping her settle down.
Everyone watched in surprise as he helped to push the chair back in, nodding in satisfaction when she looked as comfortable as she could be. Only then did he finally sit down in his own seat, but not before nodding towards the Duke and Duchess in acknowledgment.
Duke Li Shenyang smiled in satisfaction, his eyes twinkling with amusement.
Li Chenyang held back the sigh he was holding in. How was he going to enjoy his meal when the tension in the room was so high? He chose to not voice his concerns, and instead, sat in his usual chair.
"I'm surprised," Duchess Wang Qixing mused, "My Little Piglets aren't fighting today."
"Piglets?" Yu Zhen repeated, quirking a brow.
Duchess Wang Qixing let out a tiny laugh, a fond smile rested on her lips. "You'll see."
Li Wenmin felt his irritation slightly wash away out of embarrassment. He did not like receiving guests during his meals. As proud of his appetite as he was, he wasn't fond of showing it off to higher-ups in the military.
With the presence of Yu Zhen, how else could Li Wenmin pig out today? His attention shifted to Xueyue and to his surprise, she had no qualms eating as she usually did. Her chopsticks always moved faster than a blink of an eye, just as usual. And judging from Yu Zhen's adoring smile, Li Wenmin knew the former had witnessed her appetite before. Obviously, Yu Zhen was unfazed by it. In fact, the Commander of Hanjian seemed to be pleased that she was not self-conscious around him.
"Dig in, Wenmin." Duchess Wang Qixing chuckled. "Or else Xueyue will steal all of your favorites."
Li Wenmin instantly picked up his chopsticks. So what if there's a guest? He had a reputation to maintain!
Duke Li Shenyang chuckled upon seeing his son was back to his usual antics.
Yu Zhen had a normal appetite, but his attention was not on the food. It was on Li Xueyue. He was making sure she was properly eating, and upon seeing she was, he could not help but smile a bit more.
Wistfully, Yu Zhen watched her instead of focusing on his food. He enjoyed her reactions the most. Her eyes would enlarge when she ate something delicious and pure joy would fill her face. It was absolutely adorable.
The entire family, except for the love birds themselves, noticed Yu Zhen's mesmerized expression. He was watching her, whereas the family was watching him.
Oddly enough, everything fell into place. The atmosphere wasn't as awkward as anticipated. In fact, there was rarely a silence due to the light clinks of the utensils. Breakfast ended without much conversation, except for the occasional bickering between the siblings, but what else was new? Anyone in the Li Family would know the siblings liked to tease and provoke each other to no avail.
Yu Zhen knew this was where she learned to have a fiery tongue. Arguing between two older brothers was no easy feat, especially when they loved to tease her until she was red with embarrassment. He laughed at the right moment and smiled when needed to. It was moments like these that made him wonder if this was how a proper family should function.