The next morning, Li Xueyue woke up with a plan in mind. If Yu Zhen would not reach out to her, she would make the first initiative. He had already made clear what he wanted from her.
Shortly after a lively breakfast was concluded, Li Xueyue approached Duchess Wang Qixing who was tending to her gardens as usual. The air was refreshing and filled with a sweet floral scent. Li Xueyue took a deep breath, filling her lungs with a sense of tranquility.
It was almost the time of year where the hydrangeas bloomed the prettiest, creating a palette of blush pink, lavender, and sky blue.
Li Xueyue couldn't help but admire the beauty of the clustered flowers. It was no wonder the Duchess was so fond of them. The breed was eye-catching even from afar.
In order for Hydrangeas to bloom to their full potential and achieve a nice shade, special care was required. Each and every flower here was properly tended to by the Duchess.
"Mother," Li Xueyue approached the Duchess who was hand-pollinating a flower.
"Sweetheart, is there a problem?" Duchess Wang Qixing asked, raising her head to see Li Xueyue standing beside her.
"It's about Yu Zhen."
"Well, he's always a problem, isn't he? Most men are." Duchess Wang Qixing laughed, remembering the fond days of her irritating husband when they were younger. He was the biggest issue in her life and almost every conflict seemed to involve him.
"He hasn't reached out," Li Xueyue confessed to which Duchess Wang Qixing's smile slipped.
"What a troublesome man, especially after declaring his intentions towards you. Well, I suppose I was at fault for being too harsh on him." Duchess Wang Qixing softly frowned. "I was disappointed at his actions towards you."
Li Xueyue nodded. "I would like to see him. I think he's still in the forest. Riding with Heiyue there will be no problem."
Duchess Wang Qixing was puzzled by her daughter's words. "Have you made up your mind then? Is this your final decision?"
"My final decision…?"
Duchess Wang Qixing stopped tending to the hydrangeas and let the beautiful flower be. "You once told me your plan was to stay in Wuyi and prosper. If you go with him now, sweet girl, your fate will no longer be entwined here. A new life will begin in Hanjian. Are you prepared for that?"
Li Xueyue blinked. Was she destined for a life in Hanjian? With Yu Zhen? His charismatic smile flashed in her mind, his teasing, and the amusement written all over his face when she did something silly. There was not a moment that went by when she did not miss him.
It was time to take charge of her future and destiny. No one else would decide for hers. "A change of scenery will be nice," was her only response.
Duchess Wang Qixing gently smiled. "I knew one day my little birdies would fly away from the nest, but I didn't think the first would be my youngest."
Li Xueyue felt a sense of relief at her mother's warm response. It seemed the Duchess was not disappointed by her decision.
"I've always been waiting, my dear girl," Duchess Wang Qixing began. "For the day you would decide things on your own without worrying about burdening us. Which, by the way, will never be."
Li Xueyue blinked at her mother's words. 'Was mother aware of my biggest fear?' she asked herself.
Duchess Wang Qixing's smile widened at Li Xueyue's confused expression. "You are destined for greater things in life, but they would not be achieved in Wuyi."
"Everything happened so easily. I feel like I cheated on my own future," Li Xueyue confessed. "My plans for bringing the Bai Family's downfall; I wanted to achieve it on my own, with my blood, sweat, and tears."
"Things never go as planned," Duchess Wang Qixing reassured.
"It's not your fault that Yu Zhen stole the satisfaction from you. It's not your fault that he mobilized his people and got rid of your worries. It's his decision, no one else's. Perhaps you influenced him, but the one making the final decision was made by him."
Li Xueyue intertwined her fingers together. The decrees, she had read over it. The Bai Family had signed both: the transfer of business ownership, as well as the payment of royalties. Only the former would be enforced. The latter will be disposed of since there was no need for such a thing.
Even now, Li Xueyue didn't know what happened to the Bai Family. They were brutally tortured but were they dead? Were their bodies properly disposed of? She had a feeling that the sadistic Yu Zhen would never let them die so easily.
"I only want you to answer me one thing," Duchess Wang Qixing said. "Do you love him?"
Li Xueyue already knew the answer to that question the fateful day they crossed paths in his bedroom after he pretended to mistaken her for a servant.
When Yu Zhen had protected her integrity and reputation, their fate was already set in stone. A teasing grin, mischief-filled eyes, and a face like no other, he had already engraved himself in her heart.
"I like him a lot," Li Xueyue professed.
"Then what are you waiting for, my sweet girl?" Duchess Wang Qixing let out a laughter so gentle, it was like the chimes of a bell.
Duchess Wang Qixing made a shooing motion with her hand. "Go get your husband. It's time he asks us for his blessings, don't you think so?"
Li Xueyue's expression lit up at the Duchess's words.
Duchess Wang Qixing chuckled when Li Xueyue threw her arms around her and engulfed her in a tight hug. A gigantic smile broke out on Li Xueyue's face.
"Thank you, Mother!" Li Xueyue exclaimed in a cheery tone, the happiest that Duchess Wang Qixing had seen her in awhile.
"Silly girl, there is no need to thank your family. Now go and fetch your future husband. I expect him to kneel and beg me for the blessing I would've given him even if he asked normally."
Li Xueyue didn't have to be told twice. She bolted out of the gardens, racing to the stables. Except, whilst she was hurrying to Heiyue, a soldier was on his way to the Li family manor.
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