235 A Betrayal
The geography book slipped out of Li Chenyang's hand, landing on the floor with a loud thud. He couldn't speak, his hands shook at the realization of this betrayal. Not only was Jiangsu an enemy country, but it was also Hanjian's prime target for battles.
For decades, Hanjian had a feud with Jiangsu, and neither country was willing to make peace until a treaty was formed. Recently, there was talk of one, thus, war had been called off.
If Wuyi was funding Jiangsu, it only meant one thing—Wuyi planned on taking down Hanjian. With the forces of two countries combined, Hanjian would suffer.
If Hanjian found out about this, there would surely be another gruesome war between Hanjian and Wuyi.
"What's wrong?" Duchess Wang Qixing said, approaching the book that had landed on the floor. She picked it up and saw it was just a plain geography book.
"It's not like you to drop books. You said they're more valuable than gold." Duchess Wang Qixing chuckled, slipping the book back onto the shelf.
Li Chenyang attempted to regain his composure. So much was spiraling out of control.
The Emperor had to be disposed of as soon as possible.
Another war with Hanjian would be deadly and costly; especially with Li Xueyue's inevitable decision to stay with Yu Zhen. What if she arrived in Hanjian only to be scrutinized for she was a Princess of Wuyi? What if Li Wenmin was sent off to battle?
Li Chenyang's expression paled at the horrid idea. Both of his siblings would suffer whilst he remained safe and sound in Wuyi.
A war must not break out.
"Mother, when are we going to mobilize our people?" Li Chenyang asked, swiveling around to face his mother.
"As soon as we finish discussing everything with Wen Jinkai."
"We need to kill the Emperor first," Li Chenyang harshly whispered. "Whoever deals with his private income must be disposed of prior to his death!"
Duchess Wang Qixing was taken aback by her son. It was unlike him to rush about things like this. "Why are you so impatient?"
"Mother, the Emperor is sending funds to Jiangsu! He's most likely sending funds to Jiangsu's military. It will complicate things with Hanjian."
Duchess Wang Qixing's expression darkened. "Why would he support Jiangsu? To take down Hanjian together?"
Li Chenyang nodded.
Duchess Wang Qixing scowled. "We still have Hanjian's candidate with us, and Hanjian has our Princesses. What shall happen to them?"
"It seems the candidates were nothing but a mere distraction to make Hanjian think everything is fine between us," Li Chenyang gritted out.
Duchess Wang Qixing frowned. "We need to prevent all of this at all costs. A betrayal mustn't happen, or else—"
"What if we inform Hanjian?" Li Chenyang suddenly proposed.
"Are you crazy?! Why would you do that?" Duchess Wang Qixing asked.
"The other countries will frown upon our leadership if we conduct a military coup. However, if we have Hanjian's support for the Li family, then the other countries will follow."
Duchess Wang Qixing's lips parted. So it was inevitable now. Her beloved brother's death was finalized.
There was no turning back now.
Once upon a time, Duchess Wang Qixing loved no one but her brother. And now, that love had come to bite her. The Emperor had all of the opportunities to keep his niece safe but didn't.
"We'll have to discuss this with your father first," Duchess Wang Qixing finally said. "Afterwards, we'll come to a conclusion on our next course of action."
"Let's inform him as soon as he returns home. We mustn't waste any time now," Li Chenyang said.
Duchess Wang Qixing nodded. "I agree."
- - - - -
Li Chenyang didn't remain in the private study any further. It was a mess to others, but he figured that it was an organized one to Duke Li Shenyang who probably knew where everything was.
As the mother and son began to exit the private study, a Eunuch rushed down the corridor. Out of breath, the Eunuch stopped before them and bowed deeply.
"Madam, Young Master, there is a soldier from Hanjian requesting an urgent audience."
Li Chenyang straightened. 'Was it Yu Zhen? It was about damn time! That stupid rascal. How dare he make Xueyue wait? Hmph, if he has come to beg me for my blessings, I'll only give it to him when he's on his hands and knees!' he thought.
"Oh my, but our Xueyue went out to see him already." Duchess Wang Qixing frowned. Perhaps they didn't meet in the forest? She sighed. What a bad timing both of them had.
Duchess Wang Qixing approved of Yu Zhen as a supporter, but she was still upset by the "kidnapping" that took place. The least he would've done was take her home earlier or sent out a soldier to inform the Li family of what had happened.
Duchess Wang Qixing didn't enjoy the idea of Xueyue chasing after a man, but she knew it was inevitable. There are times where women must reciprocate, or else men will get tired of chasing for so long.
Duchess Wang Qixing only hoped Xueyue would be wise of her decisions from here on out.
Li Chenyang saw his mother was spaced out. He decided to respond to the Eunuch himself.
"We'll see him in the main drawing room. Prepare the tea," Li Chenyang said. "Oh, and I heard Hanjian soldiers hate savory pastries. Get us plenty of those."
Duchess Wang Qixing threw her son a pointed look that screamed, 'Really? Must you be so petty?'
Li Chenyang returned a sickeningly sweet smile that translated to, 'Why, of course I must!'
Duchess Wang Qixing rolled her eyes as the Eunuch excused himself for the task. He motioned for two servants to prepare the tea and snack whilst he prepared to direct the guest to the drawing room.
"Wasn't Xueyue heading to see him?" Li Chenyang huffed, "Why is he coming to us alone? He should've just stayed put in that forest."
"Maybe it's urgent," Duchess Wang Qixing sighed, brushing strands of hair behind her ears. She saw her son's messy collars and decided to fix it. Reaching forward, she adjusted it gently and gave his chest a reassuring pat.
"Mother…" Li Chenyang mumbled, obviously embarrassed that she was still babying him when he was fully grown now.
"Whether you're twenty or two, you will forever be a child in my eyes." Duchess Wang Qixing smiled up at him with amusement. His cheeks were slightly stained red and she couldn't help but pinch one side.
"Mother!" he exasperated, pushing at her hands and she laughed at his sullen pout.
"Fine, fine, I will stop bothering you for now." Duchess Wang Qixing chuckled, keeping her hands to herself. "I do hope you will find me a daughter-in-law to entertain this aging mother of yours. I do wish to see my grandchildren whilst I can still play with them!"
Li Chenyang groaned at her nagging words. He covered his face with one hand and looked away. "Why don't you ask Wenmin to provide you with kids first? I have a career to accomplish."
"There is nothing wrong with finding a woman along the way. Who knows? Maybe she will help you advance in life."
"Our family is already ranked above the majority of families. There is no one who will bring us benefit."
"No one, except for Marquis Ning's daughter. He's an important member in the courts and the other faction's main leader. If you're able to garner his support, it will make things easier in the future should the other faction oppose us."
Li Chenyang did not respond. Yet again this week, Ning Huabing came to mind. Her flustered expression, her shaking hands when she attempted to give him a good luck tassel during the Spring Tournament. A meek and shy woman like her was not to his interest. And little did he know, she was the complete opposite of his expectations.
"She deserves someone better," Li Chenyang muttered. "Someone who will give her the time of day. Not me. I have things to do."
Duchess Wang Qixing wondered if he was hearing himself correctly. Why must the men in this household be so dense? It was so clear that Ning Huabing was still in love with this emotionally stupid son of hers!
"Hmph, just you wait," Duchess Wang Qixing bit out.