No one spoke in the carriage on the way to the Palace. Duchess Wang Qixing accompanied Li Xueyue, but both women were displeased by the unexpected summoning.
Li Xueyue told herself to endure it. All of this would be over soon. The Royal family would no longer be able to play her like a pawn. Her eyes shifted to Duchess Wang Qixing who had been watching the passing scenery.
"Mother," Li Xueyue gently called out. "Are you sure you want to accompany me?"
Duchess Wang Qixing fondly chuckled when she detected worry in Li Xueyue's tone. "Silly girl, of course, I'm fine. What will the Emperor do to me?" She rolled her eyes, knowing he'd never lay a hand on her. Not if the Empress Dowager had a say.
Speaking of the Empress Dowager, Duchess Wang Qixing's expression dimmed. A few members of the Royal family would be spared from the massacre that would happen one after the other. The influential Empress Dowager was one of the people who would be spared.
Duchess Wang Qixing had fought vehemently to make sure her mother wouldn't be killed. The Empress Dowager hadn't caused any trouble in court. Her only crime was loving her children which didn't warrant a death sentence.
Duchess Wang Qixing knew her husband wanted the Empress Dowager dead. The person who had viciously objected to the marriage between Duke Li Shenyang and Duchess Wang Qixing was none other than the Empress Dowager.
"It's so strange for the Emperor to randomly summon me to the Palace," Li Xueyue commented. "It makes me wonder what he has in stall for me."
"Who knows?" Duchess Wang Qixing shook her head. "He has an unpredictable temper. Perhaps he was angered by the Duke, and wanted to take it out on you."
Li Xueyue bit her bottom lip. What could the Duke have done to irritate the Emperor? She wondered how cowardly the Emperor was for punishing someone else instead of the actual perpetrator.
"We're here," Duchess Wang Qixing reluctantly said when the carriage rolled through the large entrance.
The carriage came to a halt and the door opened to reveal several Eunuchs. The Li servants rushed forward with rows of umbrellas to guide their Madam and Young Miss. Duchess Wang Qixing was the first to exit, then out came Li Xueyue.
Everyone walked in ominous silence up the enormous steps leading to the Palace. The trudge was tiring and slippery with the unforgiving rain bashing down on them.
The bottom of Li Xueyue's hanfu was wet and dirty from the storm. She swallowed her complaints and continued the climb upwards.
"That irritable man," Duchess Wang Qixing huffed when they finally reached the top of the staircase.
Li Xueyue laughed at her comment. She was a bit out of breath from the climb but decided to continue onwards.
Soon, they reached the Throne Room. Umbrellas were closed when everyone had finally gotten under a shade. The Eunuch stationed outside saw them and immediately made the announcement.
"Welcoming Her Grace, Duchess Wang Qixing, and third-rank Princess, Li Xueyue!"
Emperor Fadong tilted his head as the two walked in. His lips curled in amusement upon seeing the Princess's dirtied hanfu. She walked like it didn't bother her, but deep down, he knew she was agitated. He wondered if her emotions would hinder her performance in court today.
"I hope the journey here wasn't too difficult for everyone?" Emperor Fadong mused, his eyes twinkling with amusement. He was eager to see how bold Li Xueyue would be.
"It would've been much appreciated if you had called for us during a better weather, but I suppose duties must be performed," Duchess Wang Qixing said with a sickeningly sweet smile that never reached her eyes.
She dipped into a bow at the same time as Xueyue did.
Li Xueyue noticed the Empress wasn't present. The smaller throne was unoccupied, but there were a few Princes and Concubines present—all of whom she did not care for. But there was another familiar face in the form of Wang Longhe. His eyes met hers briefly before looking away with a frown, almost as if he was upset with her.
"You've been avoiding me, Little Lady," Emperor Fadong pointed out. "Why is that? Afraid I'd gobble you up?"
"You wanted to see me succeed on my own from the sidelines," Li Xueyue explained in a neutral voice. "Thus, I did not dare to take up your precious time, Your Majesty."
Emperor Fadong smiled at her words. Ever the pleasant talker she was. He wondered what made her tick. Perhaps… "Do you want to know what my sources told me, Little Lady?"
Li Xueyue simply bowed her head.
"You had abused your powers recently and abused a servant of the Second Prince. There were bruise marks on her neck and many witnesses saw a Li guard push her to the ground."
Li Xueyue bit down on her tongue. The actions of her people reflected on her. It was inevitable.
"How do you answer such accusations?" Emperor Fadong said. He shifted his eyes, searching for the said-servant that was supposed to be summoned to court but was nowhere to be found.
Li Xueyue gritted her teeth. Servant abuse was illegal, but many people chose to ignore the law. Why was it brought up now of all times? She knew there were many servants being bullied in the Palace, but how come the Emperor didn't care about that?
"My servants acted without orders," Li Xueyue finally said. "I apologize on their behalf, but an undisciplined servant shouldn't be left unpunished. It would create a problem if her unruly behavior offended another country's diplomat."
Emperor Fadong raised a brow. "It wasn't your place to discipline servants."
"Your Majesty," she addressed and raised her head. "The servant did not kneel before someone who was a few ranks above her. Such an offense is inexcusable. The bruises on her neck were not caused by the Li servants."
Emperor Fadong narrowed his eyes. She was losing her touch. How boring. He thought she would do better than this sorry excuse of an explanation. Indeed, she was right. Showing respect to higher authorities was one of the most emphasized societal norms.
"So, you're blaming other people?" Emperor Fadong questioned. "As their Master, you're the one responsible for your servant's actions. It's despicable that you would push the blame onto the voiceless when you're supposed to be their voice."
Li Xueyue did not waver in front of his obvious taunting. The Emperor was in a sour mood. She could see it from the pucker of his lips to the crease on his forehead. Did he not have anything better to do than personally question her for this crime?
Li Xueyue had purposely given him a boring response, knowing he saw her as an entertainer. The more he grew bored of her, the less he would summon her to court. She didn't want to give him a reason to see her.
"It was a mere explanation of the situation. If it offended you in any way, Your Majesty, I deeply apologize," Li Xueyue fluidly said.
Duchess Wang Qixing felt like there were some things that were unsaid. "Our servants would never step out of line. They're disciplined better than that, unlike the Second Prince's disrespectful maid."
"You stay out of other people's problems, dear sister." Emperor Fadong chuckled. "Li Xueyue is not a child. You don't have to speak on her behalf."
Li Xueyue softly frowned. "If a trial was to begin, I'm afraid you're missing the main perpetrator."
"And who's that?"
"Wen Jinkai, the Commander of Wuyi," Li Xueyue said without hesitation. "The one who caused the most damage and unnecessarily interfered when the situation was in control."
Emperor Fadong gritted his teeth. So this girl was actually bold enough to accuse the Great Commander of Wuyi of such crimes. He hoped she was prepared for the consequence of targeting Wen Jinkai.
"In that case, I shall have him summoned," Emperor Fadong said.
The Eunuchs rushed off to fetch the Commander. In the meantime, silence engulfed the Throne Room.
Please go to https://www.qzxyzy.com/The-Rise-of-Xueyue/
to read the latest chapters for free