Li Chenyang was disgusted by the suggestion. "At this point, she might as well play with all of Duke Wen Xuan's sons' hearts," he scoffed. "I recommended Wen Qihong to Xueyue as in, he should be friends with her."
Li Wenmin scowled. "I meant the same thing. What were you thinking?"
Li Chenyang rolled his eyes. "Yeah right, you were implying Xueyue should get to know Qihong on a different level than 'friends.'"
"Only your dirty mind would think that," Li Wenmin stuck out his tongue, "Stop reading so much erotica, your brain will get corrupted!"
"I don't read eroticas you rascal, but I'm sure you do."
"Well, let's search your room and mine, and then we'll find out," Li Wenmin suggested.
"How about we get back to the topic at hand," Li Xueyue replied in a monotonous voice, throwing both of her brothers a disapproving stare. She wondered if there would ever be a time they behaved like actual siblings, instead of enemies.
"Yes, we should discuss more about the decrees," Li Chenyang sighed. "Wenmin, your plan sucks."
"Well, do you have a better one?" Li Wenmin scowled, crossing his arms. "At least mine is the most efficient and time-saving."
"It's also stupid. The goal of our entire family is to keep Xueyue out of the Palace, especially away from our uncles."
"Look, no one will even know she's there. I'll have her dress in a soldier's uniform or something, with the helmet on, fully covering her face." Li Wenmin paused for a brief second, finally registering his younger brother's words.
"Wait, what do you mean uncles? I thought she only had to stay away from the Emperor. Is there another uncle I should be aware of?"
Li Chenyang's eyes grew large. He had let his tongue slip again. Seriously, what was with him today? His ability to keep secrets has been deteriorating. "Nevermind the topic of uncles, let's get back to the most important point."
"As I was saying, Xueyue can be disguised as a guard or maidservant. We are a Li, we never have to explain why the hell we're in the Palace. Some of the guards stationed at the Palace entrances are my underlings anyways. They won't dare to question the identity of my servants."
Li Chenyang slowly nodded while he pondered over the pros and cons of this plan. Finally, he deemed the benefits outweighed the problems. "For once, I realize why you're a strategist. I approve of the plan."
Li Wenmin rubbed a finger over his nose, grinning in satisfaction. "I told you I was smart."
"It was one compliment," Li Chenyang scoffed. "Get over yourself."
"You're just angry I always beat you in Go, right Xiao Yue?" Li Wenmin said, nudging his younger sister who was spacing out.
Li Xueyue absentmindedly nodded her head. "Yeah."
"And five plus seven equals thirteen, right, Xueyue?"
Li Xueyue rolled her eyes at Li Chenyang. "Just because I'm mentally elsewhere, it doesn't mean I can't hear you guys."
"Just making sure you didn't go stupid on us." Li Chenyang snickered. "Wouldn't want you to become Wenmin."
"It's a lot better if Xueyue became like me instead of you." Li Wenmin huffed, "I'm more sociable and I have a lot more friends than you."
"Quality over quantity," Li Chenyang said and shrugged.
"Hmph, keep on lying to yourself." Li Wenmin threw an arm around Xueyue. "Let's go, Xiao Yue. While this loner brother buries his face in books, we should play Go."
"But I'm a lot worse at Go than Chen-ge," Li Xueyue pointed out, quaking a brow. "You're not trying to feel good about yourself by beating me, right?"
"W-what? No, I'd never!" Li Wenmin nervously laughed, averting his gaze. He simply wanted to make a bet with Xueyue, knowing he would win it.
"It's okay, Yueyue," Li Chenyang bit out, grabbing Xueyue's wrist. "You can stay with me in the library. We'll read and educate ourselves while our stupid brother gets dumber."
"What kind of stupid nickname is Yueyue?" Li Wenmin laughed loudly just to mock Chenyang. "What are you gonna call her next? Xuexue?"
"It's a lot better than Xiao Yue."
"No, Xiao Yue is a lot more creative."
"Says who?" Li Chenyang asked.
"Everyone!" Li Wenmin exclaimed.
"Hmph, I'm glad you know."
While the two boys argue amongst themselves, Li Xueyue quietly slipped away. She'd rather go take a nap and hope for the day to pass faster. Besides, she was beyond exhausted from training the entire afternoon. Her lips tugged downwards. Thinking about the training session reminded her of what she had foolishly said.
"I've permanently lost him, haven't I?" she asked herself, despite knowing the answer to that question.
- - - - -
The next morning.
To no one's surprise, Li Wenmin's plan had worked. No one even questioned the new maidservant with him whose face, except her eyes, was covered by a thin cloth held up by silver beads.
Li Wenmin nodded to his men in acknowledgment as he speedily headed in the direction of the enormous guest palace located far from the throne room. He wanted to get Xueyue in and out of this place as fast as possible.
"Wenmin? What are you doing here?"
Li Wenmin stiffened, his body froze. He could practically hear the panic heartbeats of Xueyue.
"Don't you have training today?" Duke Li Taojun asked, curious by the presence of his nephew. Though he rarely kept in contact with his brother, Duke Li Taojun was still familiar with the accomplishments of a General.
"Uncle," Li Wenmin forced a tight-lipped smile onto his face. He turned around, and in return, his servants shuffled until they were behind him.
"You're usually not in this part of the palace grounds," Li Wenmin added on.
"Indeed, I'm not, but the Second Prince's quarters are near here. I'm supposed to train him."
"Train the Second Prince?" Li Wenmin repeated, his brows furrowing.
Li Wenmin knew his uncle was an excellent fighter and was the one who personally taught Wen Jinkai all that he knew. Everyone knew how tough of a mentor Duke Li Taojun was. Even when a soldier was at their limits, Duke Li Taojun would force them to perform another set until their bodies literally dropped to the ground, unable to move.
"Yes, as you know, exercise is good for the body. More muscles will strengthen the immune system," Duke Li Taojun explained, his eyes scanned beyond Li Wenmin. He found it interesting that there was only one maidservant with her face covered.
"I didn't know my elitist brother hired ugly maidservants. Why is that one wearing a veil?" Duke Li Taojun inquired.
Li Wenmin's blood boiled irritably. His uncle talked too much. "Why do you care about the lowly life of a peasant?"
"I am a curious man." Duke Li Taojun mused, "There was no need to be so aggressive with me."
"I'm afraid, I have places to be. Excuse me," Li Wenmin muttered.
"You're heading in the direction of the guest palace, I presume?"
Li Wenmin ignored his question and turned his back, preparing to take a step forward when his uncle spoke up again.
"If you want to see the Commander of Hanjian, I'm afraid it's a futile attempt," Duke Li Taojun said. He was mindful of the way he addressed the Commander. He didn't want a repeat of a threatening scenario. As much as he was once a soldier, he was now a simple mentor. He preferred words over fighting.
"What are you talking about?" Li Wenmin scowled, turning around. His uncle spoke like his father—in circles.
"I caught wind this morning," Duke Li Taojun began, "The Second Prince of Hanjian has departed from the Capital."
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