"There's a storm outside," Li Xueyue commented as she turned to face the window, watching the heavy rainfall. The water gushed down, never-ending, as thunder rumbled the sky. It was chaotic, but nothing would match the storm inside of the Palace.
"How soothing," she mused when a bolt of lightning flashed in the sky. The storm was finally making its presence known. The rain trickled down from the rooftop, gathering upon a leaf.
Li Xueyue sat, curled up by the window seat, her book abandoned and forgotten. She vaguely recalled it was something about herbology.
"It rarely rains in the Capital. I think this is the first time I've seen such bad weather," Li Xueyue commented, tilting her head in the direction of her brother.
"If only you paid more attention to that book, instead of what's outside the window that brings you no benefit," Li Chenyang said. He didn't have to look up to know the book was settled beside her.
"It's so hard to read here," Li Xueyue sighed as she swung her feet. She was exhausted from this afternoon's archery practice. Her fingers were growing sore and she found it difficult to even turn a page on the book.
Moreover, being surrounded by this many books at once made Li Xueyue feel claustrophobic. Even with the oolong tea and rice cakes, the library was a dreary place. She was enjoying the outdoor weather when dark clouds suddenly covered the sun. The rain ruined her afternoon fun.
"The library is the best place to read. We're surrounded by knowledge," Li Chenyang responded as he flipped a page, thoroughly engrossed in his book.
Li Xueyue hopped off the window seat and picked up her book, deciding to put it back to its original place. She pulled out a chair from the table that Li Chenyang was seated at. Not once did he glance up from his book but that wasn't a surprise. If Li Chenyang could marry a book, he would.
Li Xueyue reached for a rice cake stuffed with black sesame paste. She happily munched into it. The nutty and sweet taste instantly burst in her mouth. Mixed with the chewy softness of the rice cake, she felt like she was in heaven. A sip of the bitter oolong tea immediately washed away the taste, allowing her to try out another flavor.
"Go get another book. Don't just sit there and eat." Li Chenyang chuckled. He could practically feel the joy radiating off of her. Did food make her that happy?
"Will you tell me who visited today? I thought I saw someone leave when I came back from the training fields," Li Xueyue said, remembering a figure near the front entrance. She wasn't close enough to catch a glimpse of who that man could be.
Li Chenyang stiffened. His hand was stuck on the page he was about to flip. Finally, he closed the book and glanced up.
"It's getting hot outside," Li Chenyang abruptly said. "Slowly, the weather will worsen until it's unbearable to stand in the sun for too long."
Li Xueyue was unsure of where this topic was going. "Yes, I'll try to wear a hat when I practice archery."
"Mmhm." Li Chenyang nodded in agreement. "The Emperor was supposed to make his way to the vacation home today but was obstructed by the weather."
Li Xueyue blinked, finally understanding the message. Was the… treason supposed to be committed today?
Li Chenyang caught her curious stare and firmly shook his head. "The less you know, the least suspicious you are."
Li Xueyue pressed her lips together, deciding he was right. She shouldn't get herself involved in things that did not concern her. But curiosity killed the cat. "And what shall happen to the Emperor's children? Will they not enjoy the same privilege in the vacation palace?"
Li Chenyang smiled at her vague wording. She was quick to catch on. "The Crown Prince will accompany his father in the same carriage. The rest of the Emperor's children will not have the same luxury."
"And the Empress? I'm sure the sun won't do her any good," Li Xueyue commented, turning her head in the direction of the door that was far away from where they were seated.
"Well, the Emperor brought his concubines with him. That's enough to know where the Empress will reside," Li Chenyang said. He stood up and placed the book away.
Li Xueyue hummed in response. If there was one thing that she didn't want to become, it was the Empress. It would be gut-wrenching to watch your husband marry another woman and produce a child with her. Her lips tugged downwards. Just the thought of it tore her apart.
Yu Zhen in another woman's arms, holding another woman's child. He'd smile down at her the same way he'd smile down at Xueyue.
Li Xueyue shuddered at the idea.
"I heard something political came up in Hanjian. It was why Yu Zhen rushed home," Li Xueyue said, leaning her chin on her hand. "Have you heard about it?"
Li Chenyang browsed through the books on the shelves, searching for one that might entertain his sister. "No, not yet. Usually, we catch wind of news pretty quickly. Hanjian loves to gossip."
Finally, Li Chenyang found something. A foolish romance story between a lowly servant and a Crown Prince. He snorted at the dubious idea. As if something like that could ever come true.
"Even if you're reading something useless, I still prefer for you to read it. It'll improve your reading speed and ability to grasp concepts." Li Chenyang placed the book in front of her and she picked it up.
"What shall happen to the Empress, the other concubines, and the children of the Royal family? Will they all suffer under the Capital heat?" Li Xueyue asked as she began to examine the first page of the book.
Li Chenyang glanced at her. She was nosy. He pinched her nose, smiling when she cringed backwards. "I'm sure they will experience a similar experience as the Emperor. It will all be in good time before the Palace empties."
Li Xueyue slowly nodded. She wondered how long this plan had been spanning out for. It must've taken a while, considering the fact that Duke Li Shenyang needed to convince everyone in court.
"But you shouldn't worry about their conditions. I'm sure the Capital's sun will spare them mercy," Li Chenyang said. He patted her head and gestured for her to focus less on the food and more on the book.
"It's an interesting story, though I've never read it before. But I heard it's popular amongst the commoners," he said.
Li Xueyue glanced down and read the title out loud. "A Pebble In the Jewel Palace."
Li Chenyang nodded. "The pebble refers to—"
"Don't tell me anything. I want to find out myself," Li Xueyue said as she began to read the first page.
Li Chenyang shrugged. "Suit yourself."
And eventually, silence ensued in the library. Minutes trickled by as the rain grew heavier. The only sound came from pages being flipped and the occasional claps of thunder. It was a lullaby to Li Xueyue who eventually drifted to sleep with the book on her chest.
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