"What's that?" Li Wenmin asked, taking a step closer for a better look. He was perplexed by the inconspicuous item wrapped in a handkerchief. Why was she so secretive about this?
The twins were bewildered by what's in front of them.
That is, until Li Xueyue lifted the item that dangled off of her fingertips.
"No. Way," Li Wenmin breathed out in shock, his eyes grew as large as the sun. He could not believe what he was seeing.
"Wow. He really gave you that." Li Chenyang shook his head in disbelief.
Li Chenyang hoped love wouldn't make him do something as stupid as this. Yu Zhen had barely known Xueyue for more than a month. Yet, he had already given her a valuable thing that was too meaningful to ignore.
Li Xueyue nodded. She wrapped her fingers around the volcanic rock. It was smooth to the touch, but appearance-wise, the stone was rugged and sharp, threatening even. The marbled gold that forged an illusion of lightning flashing behind a roaring lion on a cliff was enough for Li Wenmin to realize something.
"Wait a minute, a lion? Don't you have a hairpin with a lion on it?" Li Wenmin's eyes grew wide with disbelief.
"U-uhm, that's not important right now—"
"Like hell, it's not! When were you going to tell me I unintentionally put his hairpin into your hair that day you went to meet Wen Jinkai?!" Li Wenmin irritably groaned.
"I literally supported him and you didn't tell me!" Li Wenmin huffed.
"Stop trying to deviate from the important topic at hand, you dimwit!" Li Chenyang barked.
"Who are you calling a dimwit, you bookworm?!"
Li Chenyang snorted. "Bookworm? Really? That's the best you got? It's such a horrible insult."
"At least I have the honor to not disrespect my own brother. Which, for the record, you don't have that honor," Li Wenmin resorted.
"You only have honor because you're in the military. Without your job, you would be the most honorless man I know."
"Honor-less isn't even a word!" Li Wenmin shouted.
"IT IS." Li Cheyang raised his voice.
"IT'S NOT!" Li Wenmin shouted back.
"I said it is, so it is."
"I said it's not, so it's not."
"Can you stop copying me? Gosh, you're so stupid that you can't even find your own things to say—"
"Chen-ge!" Li Xueyue snapped. "You were supposed to be the voice of reason."
"Sorry," Li Chenyang sheepishly said. He was usually composed in court, but at home, he always lowered his guard. He couldn't help it. With a sibling as aggravating as Wenmin, the only thing he could do was give in to his anger.
"And you, Wen-ge, stop trying to argue at every given chance."
"Well, you should stop disappearing on us," Li Wenmin said with a pout.
Li Xueyue sighed. She didn't want to reply to him. It would start another bickering feast, this time, with three people.
"Can we get back to the topic?" she asked.
"You're resembling Mom right now…" Li Wenmin grumbled.
"Yes. Now sit back down like a civilized person." Li Xueyue nodded towards their chairs. "Both of you."
"Aye, Sir!" Li Wenmin joked whilst saluting her.
Li Chenyang scoffed at his brother's sense of humor. Nonetheless, both he and Xueyue wore a small smile on their faces.
"As I was saying before both of your egos took over," she said and gestured to the pendant. "I can use this and make those men talk."
"If they see you possess this pendant, they'll know exactly who you are," Li Chenyang said.
Li Wenmin nodded. "This pendant shows you're Yu Zhen's woman."
"Are you sure you want to use this pendant?" Li Chenyang asked. "There's no turning back from this, you know."
Li Wenmin sighed. "As much as I hate it, Chenyang is right. Once you show this pendant, the message will be clear: You accept the fact that you belong to him now."
"I wouldn't call it belonging to him…" Li Xueyue mumbled, recalling the argument that broke out in the training field.
Suddenly, Li Xueyue felt dirty for using this pendant when she and Yu Zhen were no longer a thing.
"Nonetheless, it'll show his men exactly who you are," Li Wenmin firmly said. "You're going to be Yu Zhen's Wangfei ."
"Think about this carefully," Li Chenyang warned. "Although Hanjian doesn't have the tradition of pendant exchange in marital relationships, pendants have other important uses there. Men do not walk around giving their pendants away. Especially not a Prince."
Li Wenmin scratched the back of his neck. Huh, so maybe all those readings were actually beneficial. "Wow, you actually said something useful for once."
Li Chenyang smacked his brother upside the head.
Li Wenmin did the same, but he smacked harder.
"I feel so bad that Mom had to raise both of you," Li Xueyue massaged her forehead. "You two must've been a handful."
Li Wenmin rubbed his sore spots while grinning. "Mom used to hire caretakers in hopes of alleviating the stress."
"We hated all of them, no matter how nice they were," Li Chenyang added on.
Li Wenmin nodded. "As a result, we did everything we could to get rid of them just so Mom can give us all of her attention."
Li Xueyue glanced at them in bewilderment. They were proud of getting rid of nannies and burdening the Duchess? She shuddered at the thought of the twins bickering and engaging in fights all day every day. They must've been the nightmare children of every parent. But at least, they turned out well…?
"You know," she said, "You guys were finishing each other's sentences."
Li Chenyang's lips dug downwards. She shouldn't have said that. He glanced at his brother and scoffed. "As if this boy with a brain the size of a peanut could have the same thought process as me."
"If my brain is the size of a peanut, then so is your—"
"Anyway," Li Xueyue interrupted before she learned unwanted information. "I'll mull over if it's a good idea to show the pendant or not. Since, uhm…" she trailed off, suddenly unable to finish the sentence.
Li Xueyue's smile abruptly slipped from her face. Pain pricked her chest. Her heart suddenly felt heavy despite being empty. After all, she had given it to the man she pushed away.
"I never got to ask you, Xueyue," Li Chenyang began. "What happened in the training field?"
"Oh, he's right. Did you learn anything new? Can you tell me his techniques—Ow!" Li Wenmin groaned, rubbing his ribcage.
Li Chenyang harshly elbowed his brother.
"What was that for?!" Li Wenmin cried out.
Li Chenyang angrily scowled, jutting his chin in Xueyue's direction.
Li Wenmin shifted his attention to her and realized exactly why his brother interrupted him. The remorse, regret, and guilt on her face were too hard to ignore. Despair and heartbreak flashed in her eyes. She was a dreary cloud of sadness, her tears, the rain. This was only the beginning of the storm. She had yet to cry, but when she did, it would surely form a river.
Words didn't have to be exchanged to understand what went down.
There was no more Yu Zhen.
No more Hanjian.
This was what the twins wanted all along, yet they weren't satisfied. Their end game was to see her happy, not depressed.
Sometimes the people we love the most aren't beside us but in our hearts. Forever a memory.
And that was exactly what Yu Zhen would become.
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