Li Xueyue stumbled over a book, grabbing onto one of the shelves out of pure horror. What did he just say?
Suddenly she swiveled around, her eyes glued to the door. Unconscious guards, missing decrees. Someone had broken into the library. And only one person came to mind—the man who was present when she requested to meet Li Chenyang in the library—Yu Zhen.
Li Xueyue's gaze spontaneously shifted to the window where the sun was low and dusk was soon approaching, but there was still light out.
"The decrees can't be replaced. It was difficult as it was to have them stamped." Li Chenyang groaned, grabbing his hair out of frustration. "It will take awhile for me to slip the proposal onto the Emperor's desk again."
"How long until the sun sets?"
"How long until it's night time?"
Li Chenyang peered out the window. "I'd say we have no more than an hour."
"That's all I need." Li Xueyue didn't wait for his response before sprinting out of the room, her blood boiled at the audacity of Yu Zhen. Was he truly that petty? Was this his way of throwing a tantrum? Knocking out all of the guards and stealing the most crucial part of her plan?
Li Xueyue refused to give in to him like this. If he would be this cruel, then she would not spare him any kindness, no matter what she felt for him. This plan to ruin the Bai Family was all that she ever wanted to do.
To avenge the little girl who was locked in her room, starved and dehydrated.
To take vengeance for the young maiden who was assaulted on the night she wanted food.
For the sake of relieving herself from the past, she would bring destruction to the person who ruined it for her in the first place.
"Xueyue, where are you going?!" Li Chenyang cried out, jumping out of the door only to see her disappear down the hallways.
Li Xueyue started this mess, so she would end it. She would get the decrees back, no matter the cost. Lost in thought, she wasn't aware of where she was running until she roughly collided with someone.
"Ow!" Li Wenmin grumbled in pain, rubbing his chest. Did a bull ram against him? He looked down to see it was none other than his Xiao Yue. Of course her head would hurt his chest, she was too hard-headed!
"Why are you running, Xiao Yue? What's so urgent for you to bolt like this?" Li Wenmin looked around. In the vast distance, he heard loud footsteps quickly approaching them.
"Oh my, are you running from Chenyang? He's scary when he's mad." Li Wenmin nodded in agreement. "It's okay Xiao Yue, I'll help you run and hide from him! I know the perfect spot—"
"Stop right there!" Li Chenyang barked, turning the corner. He was slightly out of breath, for exercising was never his speciality.
"Where do you think you're going?" he asked.
"Well, uh, I was actually going to take her to a hiding place." Li Wenmin scratched the back of his head in confusion. "I-if you're mad at her, Chenyang, don't scold too harshly. Our Xiao Yue is sensitive and—"
"I wasn't asking you," Li Chenyang groaned in frustration. He pointed at Xueyue and repeated, "Where do you think you're going?"
"To the Palace."
"For what?" Li Wenmin asked while Li Chenyang yelled, "Are you stupid?!"
Li Wenmin tilted his head, completely bewildered by what's happening.
"Ugh, it's all your fault Wenmin!" Li Chenyang huffed.
"Me?!" Li Wenmin cried out, "What the hell did I do?!"
"Your stupidity is rubbing off on our Xueyue!"
"Well, how do you know she wasn't stupid from the start?!" Li Wenmin scoffed, rolling his eyes. "She always loses to us in Go which shows her strategies suck. Also, she's only book smart, so she doesn't know how to apply things to reality."
"Yeah well, if you taught her some strategies, maybe she wouldn't be this dimwitted right now."
"Uhm, you know I'm standing right here. Right?" Li Xueyue scowled, crossing her arms. She impatiently tapped her foot on the floor.
"Aw would you look at this little kid," Li Wenmin teased, pinching one side of her cheek. "Xiao Yue is so cute when she's mad like a little kitty."
Li Xueyue's fingertips twitched. She wanted to punch him.
"Don't you find it adorable, Chenyang? Hehehe I bet she thinks she looks like a tiger—OW!" He sobbed, clutching his leg, hopping in pain. "Chenyang, look at your horrible influence on her! She just kicked me."
Li Chenyang rolled his eyes and snorted. "You deserved it."
Li Wenmin let out a 'hmph,' and jerked his chin to the opposite direction of his siblings, unable to bear with them any longer. Sooner or later, these fools would appreciate his intelligence! Soon!
"Have fun insulting each other." Li Xueyue waved her hand and said, "I have a Palace to run to." She turned her back and was prepared to run. Unluckily for her, she was grabbed by the collar, halting her in place.
"Oh no you're not." Li Chenyang scowled, yanking her back to them. "Have you lost your mind? Why are you going to the Palace so late at night?"
"I know who took the decrees."
"You do?" Li Chenyang asked right as Li Wenmin said, "What decrees?"
Li Chenyang ignored his older brother. "Well, who took it?"
"It has to be Y-" she paused, her eyes darting to Li Wenmin before saying, "I think it's the...the…" she trailed off, struggling to call Yu Zhen by the horrid nickname. "The Rat."
"Oh." Li Chenyang relaxed, only for his body to instantly tense. "What?!" he hissed. "What do you mean the Rat took it? How? When?"
"It might've happened when I… you know… broke down in the hallway."
"Huh, you broke the hallway?" Li Wenmin asked, scratching the back of his head. "Which part? And how?"
"Gosh, I still can't believe you're the leading strategist of our country." Li Chenyang scowled, shaking his head. "It's like you left your brain at the training camps or something."
"Actually, I do." Li Wenmin happily nodded. "It's to preserve my intelligence, so I don't waste time thinking about stupid things."
"So you don't think about yourself?" Li Chenyang mused.
"No, it's so I don't think about you."
"Yeah right—stop right here, Li Xueyue!" Li Chenyang demanded when she nearly snuck off again. "Why do you want to go to the Palace so bad? It's crawling with all the pests we need you to stay far away from."
"I know he won't give it back unless I personally ask for it."
Li Chenyang hated how correct she was. If he was lucky, Yu Zhen might grant him an audience. But the Second Prince wasn't obligated to care about those ranked below him—even if it was the Minister of a foreign country.
"Tomorrow morning, I'll demand it back from him. I don't care if I have to trespass the guest palace, I'll get our decrees. Don't worry, Xueyue. Have some faith in me."
Li Wenmin glanced at Li Chenyang's slender body that was only toned from horseback riding and the occasional sport like archery or sword fighting. "No offense, Brother, but I don't think you will get past the cream of the crop soldiers that guards Yu Zhen's quarters."
"Thanks for the morale support, I really appreciate it." Li Chenyang scoffed, crossing his arms. "Do you have a better plan? Because if not, keep your thoughts to yourself."
"Actually I do," Li Wenmin said, "But in return, you'll have to tell me what happened."
"I'm not going to tell you everything. All you have to know is that Yu Zhen took the decrees I worked hard on acquiring. So, slightly-intelligent brother of mine, how do you propose we get our stuff back?"
Li Wenmin was confused as to why Yu Zhen would even take something like a royal decree. What was so important about it?
"Well, why don't I accompany Xueyue to the Palace tomorrow? I'll keep her hidden and I'll ward off anyone who would approach her."
Li Chenyang shook his head. "No, Xueyue can't enter the Palace. If Royal Uncle or Aunt catches wind she's in their territory, she won't leave unscathed."
"Well, you already know Yu Zhen won't willingly give it back to us, and he also won't grant you an audience, which by the way, he's ballsy for denying a Li." Li Wenmin scowled. "And Mother was so gracious to always grant him an audience to our house, but that's not the point."
"It's not," Li Chenyang agreed.
"Oh shut up, I'm trying to help." Li Wenmin scowled. "You will be busy tomorrow because of your court duties, so you can't escort Xueyue around. But I can. Tomorrow is my off-day. I'll get her in and out of the Palace in no more than an hour. With me and this trusty sword around, I'll just threaten whoever steps in our way."
Li Chenyang let out a sigh. "You know it's dangerous for her to be in the Palace."
"Yes, but you also know I would never put Xiao Yue in harm's way. Her protection is my priority," Li Wenmin said. "And if that imbecile is as stubborn as you think he is, the only plan that has the highest chance of succeeding is this one."
"And you, Xiao Yue," Li Wenmin scowled, "Why do you always pick bad men? First is a manipulator and the other is a thief." He huffed, shaking his head in disappointment. "I should introduce you to Wen Qihong."
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