Li Wenmin thought of all sorts of ways to spook his brother, but he had forgotten the most crucial detail—Li Chenyang was the heaviest sleeper in the family.
"I told you pulling his blanket away won't work!" Li Xueyue groaned, facepalming when Li Chenyang continued to remain asleep.
Li Wenmin proceeded to slap his brother on the face but Li Chenyang didn't even move.
"Is he dead?" Li Wenmin asked.
"I don't think so."
"You think?" Li Wenmin snickered, taking a glance at her. His eyes widened in horror. He had finally noticed what she was wearing.
Grabbing her by the shoulders, he quickly scanned the room. He sighed in relief when he realized that no other men were present. "Gosh, Xiao Yue, who dressed you this morning?! They need a beating!"
"What do you mean?" Li Xueyue asked, shrugging her shoulders. "I dressed myself." She yelped when he tossed a cloak over her.
"Did anyone see you like this?" Li Wenmin hissed, tightening the strings of the cloak so that he could preserve her dignity.
"Well, no one except the guards. What is it? Did I color-match incorrectly? I thought yellow would go nicely with green…"
"Your clothes are worn inside out!" Li Wenmin groaned. "Your top layer is the one to be worn before your undergarment! How could you not know that?!"
"W-well this layer has strings and my handmaidens always tie something when they finish dressing me… I thought this was the final layer," Li Xueyue nervously said as she looked down. It was too confusing for her.
The top layer she was currently wearing was a pretty sheer linen that went well with the rest of her clothing. How was she supposed to know it was the one to be worn before the undergarment?! She was always spacing out when her handmaidens dressed her, so she hadn't paid attention to how she was usually dressed.
"Ugh, at least you didn't wear your undergarment at the top." He shivered at the thought. "Or else we might have to dunk every guard in water until they forget seeing you."
"You're so dramatic," Li Xueyue huffed, pulling the cloak closer to her. "I'll just change my outfit."
"Yes, you should do that. Hurry off now." Li Wenmin shooed her away. "In the meantime, I'll try to wake this sleeping bear."
"Try poking it with a stick." Li Xueyue giggled. "Maybe that will work?"
Li Wenmin rolled his eyes and pushed her in the direction of the door. She huffed and had only taken one step out of Li Chenyang's room when Li Wenmin spoke up behind her.
"Oh by the way, Xiao Yue?"
"The yellow you're wearing doesn't match the green."
"Oh whatever!" Li Xueyue said, slamming the door shut and stomping her way back to her bedroom. So much for trying!
Li Wenmin snickered at her tantrum. He was glad she was beginning to express herself a lot more now. He always pitied her silence when she arrived two years ago.
Turning around to face his slumbering brother, a wicked idea came to Li Wenmin's mind. "Yes, why not poke the bear?" He let out an evil cackle.
Li Wenmin wandered around the room until he found a sword enclosed in its metal casing. Approaching his brother, he smirked.
"Wakey, wakey, little brother!" He jabbed the sword directly into Li Chenyang's stomach.
"Huh?" Li Wenmin was befuddled when he met something hard. "No way!" he wailed, approaching his brother who was deep asleep without a blanket.
"Why do you have abs when you don't even work out! This is so unfair," Li Wenmin cried out when he lifted his brother's tunic and saw the rigid lines.
"Tch, whatever. I give up!" he exclaimed, dropping the sword and storming out of the room.
- - - - -
Li Xueyue felt like she was doing the walk of shame.
The servants were awake now, and each one she passed would bow for her. Confusion was written on their faces when they noticed she was wrapped under a cloak.
Li Xueyue was embarrassed at the idea of being caught in her current attire. She picked up her pace and dashed to her room, surprising the handmaidens waiting outside.
"Good morning, Young Miss," her usual group of handmaidens said in unison whilst bowing low.
"Good morning," Li Xueyue said as the handmaidens pushed the doors open. "Not a word about this," she instructed when they closed the doors behind them.
The handmaidens were befuddled until their Young Miss dropped the cloak and their eyes widened by a large fraction. They covered their mouths in shock whereas Li Xueyue awkwardly laughed.
"Please dress me properly."
"R-right away, Young Miss!"
- - - - -
"You're in horseback riding attire today," Li Wenmin pointed out when Xueyue entered the breakfast room.
Li Chenyang loudly yawned as he slumped onto the table, resting his head. "What's so surprising about that?"
Duke Li Shenyang let out a sigh upon seeing his exhausted son. "Is no one going to discuss yesterday's incident?"
Li Wenmin scratched the back of his head. "What incident?"
Yesterday, everyone except Duchess Wang Qixing had left early in the morning. They came back later than expected. No one had told the twins about the incident. The only reason the Duke knew was because the servants had reported to him about the incident, since he was the Patriarch of the Manor.
"The doctors were called," Duchess Wang Qixing said. "I was so surprised."
"Why were the doctors called?" both twins asked in unison. They exchanged a disgusted look with each other upon being in sync.
Duchess Wang Qixing turned to Li Xueyue with eyes of concern. "Xueyue fainted yesterday. Are you feeling all better now?"
Li Xueyue nodded and apologized, "I'm sorry for worrying you."
"You didn't have to apologize, sweetheart," Duchess Wang Qixing sighed, grabbing her daughter's hand. "Why didn't you tell me about your insomnia?"
"I didn't think it was that serious."
Li Chenyang snorted at her words. "It's serious. She wouldn't listen to me when I told her that she should let a doctor prescribe some herbal tonics for her."
Duke Li Shenyang shook his head in disapproval. "Too much herbal tonics at a young age will lead to immunity in the future. We don't want that to happen to our Xueyue."
"Still, Dad," Li Chenyang argued, "She needs it. Didn't you notice the dark circles under her eyes?"
"No, actually I didn't," Duke Li Shenyang said. "The handmaidens concealed it nicely with powder. I never noticed them before."
"Neither did I." Li Wenmin frowned. "Why am I always kept in the dark?"
"Also, there's something else," Duchess Wang Qixing said and frowned. "Wen Jinkai trespassed into Xueyue's room just as she fainted. The timing was perfect, but it doesn't excuse his actions."
"It doesn't," Li Chenyang snapped. "Who the hell let him into our house in the first place?"
"He requested an audience."
"And you let him in?!" Li Wenmin hollered. "Mother, please tell me you didn't."
"I didn't." Duchess Wang Qixing rubbed her forehead. "I was in the gardens when he stormed his way in. By the time the servants rushed to me, he had already forced his way into Xueyue's room."
Duke Li Shenyang scowled at the matter. "I've already informed the Emperor of this issue. Wen Jinkai has been placed under house lockdown."
"As if a damn lockdown can restrain him!" Li Wenmin said exasperatedly. "He needs a serious punishment. What the hell was he doing in our house in the first place?!"
"He returned my pendant," Li Xueyue said.
"Really?" Duchess Wang Qixing asked. She was shocked that Wen Jinkai finally found the audacity to do so.
Li Xueyue nodded. "I have already instructed the maidservants to thoroughly clean my pendant."
"Good," Li Chenyang muttered. "It has his germs all over it."
Duke Li Shenyang frowned. "We will place more guards at the entrance. For him to barge his way into the house is simply unforgivable."
"Once we increase our security, I'll thoroughly retrain every single Li guard. Everyone will have more sets to do," Li Wenmin sternly said. "Xiao Yue's safety is our priority."
"He also gave me a letter," Li Xueyue muttered.
"Where is it?" Li Chenyang asked, holding out his hand.
"Here," Li Xueyue said. She reached into her pockets and pulled it out, then handed it to him.
The family read the contents out loud.
Afterwards, no one spoke.
"We will not reply," Duke Li Shenyang finally said. "He doesn't deserve one."
"I agree," Li Chenyang said and nodded.
"Me too," Li Wenmin muttered.
"What a disappointing apology," Duchess Wang Qixing scowled.
"In the meantime," Duke Li Shenyang said, "You will not step outside of these doors, Xueyue. Not unless you're horseback riding."
Duchess Wang Qixing stiffened at his words. Her gaze snapped to her husband. "No, you will not confine Xueyue in this house."
"I'm not confining her, I'm doing it for her safety," Duke Li Shenyang explained. "There are two very dangerous men lurking beyond our walls, like a predator after their prey. The first chance they get with Xueyue, they'll seize it."
Duchess Wang Qixing had no choice but to oblige. "We can't let her avoid them forever."
"We can't," Duke Li Shenyang agreed. "However, we will make it clear to these men that they will never be her suitors. Especially this Wen Jinkai who has no understanding of respect."
"And how will we do that?" Li Chenyang huffed. "We should've put these measures in a lot sooner."
"I've already rejected Yu Zhen," Li Xueyue said. "I've caught word he has left the Capital as well. To where, I don't know nor care."
"In regard to Wen Jinkai," Duke Li Shenyang added on, "I will have a discussion with him. He will be thoroughly reminded of what he did to Minghua. If he truly loved her, he will stay away from you, Xueyue."
"And if he doesn't stay away?" Li Chenyang asked.
Duke Li Shenyang's expression darkened. "Let us hope he stays away. Or else, violence will have to be used."
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