"Where the hell were you?!" Li Chenyang fumed the second he saw Li Xueyue step into the library. "Do you understand how stressed Wenmin was?" he hissed, storming to her as he began to examine her for any signs of injuries.
"Wenmin was practically going to die early from the pressure he had on himself," Li Chenyang bit out. His shoulders relaxed a bit when he didn't see a single sign of injury on her, except for her mangled appearance. Li Xueyue appeared as if she was dragged through a forest with her disheveled hair and wrinkled clothes.
"Oh please," Li Wenmin said and snorted. "You were the one who was pacing so hard, there's probably a dent on the floor by now. If you were so concerned for Xiao Yue, you should just say it flat out instead of using me as an excuse."
"You irritate me," Li Chenyang retorted.
"I've felt that way for you ever since you came out a few minutes after me," Li Wenmin responded.
"I'm sure Mother felt the same way when she gave birth to you," Li Chenyang angrily said.
"Oh please, Mother loves me more than she would ever love you." Li Wenmin chortled. "I was always her favorite because I resemble her the most and—"
"Xueyue, are you feeling alright?" Li Chenyang asked as he ignored his brother. He continued to examine her for injuries as he turned her head left and right, praying he wouldn't spot a single cut on her.
"I'm fine," Li Xueyue sighed. "I had a horrible headache earlier, but it has greatly subsided."
"A headache?!" Li Chenyang repeated. "How? Why? Are you sure it went away? Did you suffer any head injuries? Oh heavens, you already have so little brain cells. You shouldn't lose anymore!"
Li Xueyue shook her head. "It's fine—" she paused, realizing he had practically called her dumb. "Hey! What's that supposed to mean?"
"My idiotic sister can't afford to get any dumber," Li Chenyang groaned as he turned her around, examining her head for any cuts or bruises. To his relief, her head was fine, except for the bird nest of a hair she had.
"That's rude," Li Xueyue huffed. "For someone who's only book smart, you sure have a lot to say about my intelligence."
"Book smart?" Li Chenyang mused. "That's rich coming from an incredibly dense girl."
"If I'm dense, then I'd hate to see what you are."
Li Wenmin felt like a neglected child as he watched them bicker back and forth. His head turned left and right, his eyes darted between the two as they argued to hell and back. Eventually, the loneliness of being excluded got to him.
"Hey hey, let me into the conversation!" Li Wenmin cried out as he butted in between them. "Don't leave me out of it."
Li Chenyang and Li Xueyue exchanged hateful stares with each other before they let out a simultaneous, "Hmph!"
"Why do I feel like a child watching their parents argue," Li Wenmin said and faked a sniffle. "No fair, how come I'm always left out of important discussions?"
Li Chenyang opened his mouth to respond but paused when he heard the footsteps echoing in the hallway. The servants were rushing to the front entrance, which only meant one thing.
"Mother and Father are home," Li Chenyang said as he opened the door to see a servant hurry past it. "Let's go—"
He didn't even get to finish his sentence before Li Xueyue and Li Wenmin raced out the door. All of a sudden, Li Chenyang felt like the abandoned one. His siblings were unnecessarily fast. Scowling at his lack of athletic abilities, he could only speed walk down the hallways and directly towards the front entrance.
By the time Li Chenyang made it outside, his mother was nearly inside the main house. Li Chenyang stood by the open hallway, watching her with an anxious expression.
"Mom, where's Dad?" he instantly asked.
Duchess Wang Qixing frowned a bit, her lips curled downwards. "There were irritating Ministers who dragged him away. I suppose they required his help since he's the Prime Minister."
Li Chenyang slowly nodded. "Yes, many of the Ministers have their full trust in Father. They view him as the leader of this political reform."
Li Wenmin raised a brow. Political reform? That was a nice way of rephrasing "rebellion" or "military overthrow."
Li Wenmin guessed the reason he wasn't at the scene of action was because he hadn't picked a side yet. "Were any servants harmed?" he asked.
Duchess Wang Qixing glanced at her son with a gentle expression. He was too kind for this world. She gave him a fond pat on the cheek and smiled. "Public civilians weren't involved."
"But what about the servants and other people?" Li Wenmin questioned. "Was any of them swept in the mess—"
"I'm tired, Son," Duchess Wang Qixing said and let out a soft sigh. "It was a chaotic day. Do you mind letting your aging mother rest before you ask so many questions?"
Li Wenmin slowly nodded. He offered her his elbow to which she gratefully took. He made eye contact with Li Chenyang just as she leaned against his arm.
Li Xueyue anxiously chewed at her bottom lip, wondering if she should inform everyone of Li Minghua's presence. She was hesitant about revealing the information. What if it was some other Minghua…? It would be such a big coincidence if the person inside of the Empress's bedroom wasn't Li Minghua.
"What is it?" Li Chenyang asked as he approached her. "You look like you have a lot to say."
"It's just…" she trailed off, watching as Duchess Wang Qixing began making her way down the hallway.
Duchess Wang Qixing glanced back upon noticing the missing presence of two more children. "Come with me kids, we will discuss everything in your father's private study."
Li Chenyang nodded. "We'll be right there," he said whilst urging Xueyue to walk.
Li Xueyue began trotting to her mother, all the while she began to overthink everything.
What if she told them about Minghua, and no one believed her? Wen Jinkai already had his suspicions. Besides, even if she told them about Minghua, what could be done? How could they possibly find a single woman in a palace filled with hundreds of people?
What if the person inside the bedroom wasn't Li Minghua?
Suddenly, a chilling thought passed through Li Xueyue. Her blood turned cold as her face paled. 'What if Li Minghua was framing me as the murderer?'
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