254 I Won“t Get Angry
Li Xueyue swallowed. In her jumbled brain, she abruptly recalled something that the Second Prince once said. Near the guest palace, he had asked Wenmin if the Li Family was replacing Li Minghua.
At that time, the question was peculiar and out of the blue. But now that Li Xueyue pondered it further, she felt like she was missing a crucial detail. Why would the Second Prince talk about Li Minghua as if he was close to her? The Second Prince was never mentioned in Li Minghua's diary… What were his ties to her?
"Chenyang," she called and grabbed his sleeves.
Li Chenyang wondered if she knew she didn't even have to tug his sleeve to catch his attention. He kept the thought to himself. "What's wrong?" he asked, obviously concerned.
Li Xueyue glanced upwards and saw his brows were creased together, forming lines on his forehead. He would age too quickly if he continues to worry so much.
Li Xueyue looked around their surroundings. The Duchess was far down the hallway. She lowered her voice and asked, "Was the Second Prince close with Minghua?"
"What do you mean?" Li Chenyang asked in an equally quiet voice.
"As in, were they great friends? What was their relationship like? They're cousins right?"
"Yes, they're cousins," Li Chenyang began. "But now that you ask, it's quite strange. I don't remember them being particularly close as they grew older. Of course, the Second Prince favored her because she was kind to him as a child."
Li Xueyue slowly nodded. "Do you think she reached out to him during her stay in the Palace? Since you said they're good friends during childhood, do you think they were still close in the Palace?"
Li Chenyang shook his head. "Your guess is as good as mine, but I would say they weren't as close as they used to be. If we recall the diary correctly, not once did Minghua mention the Second Prince."
"Then, don't you think it's strange?" Li Xueyue asked. "The Second Prince brought up Minghua when Wenmin and I visited the guest palace. He asked if we were replacing her."
Li Chenyang blinked in surprise. "He also said something similar to that when you and I went to have a private discussion with him."
"If he asked it twice, then it means the question is extremely important," Li Xueyue pointed out. "It's almost like…"
"Like he knows something we don't," Li Chenyang finished for her. His lips dipped into a frown. Why was the Second Prince so intrigued by Minghua? It wasn't like they were particularly close in the Palace when she was secretly betrothed to Wen Jinkai?
"I feel like we're missing a crucial hint here," Li Xueyue said whilst anxiously nibbling on her bottom lip. She touched her chin and tilted her head, wondering what it could be.
"Why are you suddenly bringing that up?" Li Chenyang asked.
"You see��" she trailed and peered around, making sure there wasn't anyone in the vicinity. Leaning onto his sleeves, she got on her tippy-toes and whispered, "I think Minghua is alive."
Li Chenyang's eyes had never grown so wide. He was floored by her words and grabbed her upper arms when she tried to pull back. He stared down at her in disbelief as his lips parted to form a response. His mind went blank. He didn't even know what to say.
"How…? What? You—Huh?" he stuttered out. He scratched the back of his neck as he attempted to form full sentences.
"Remember I told you I woke up in the Empress's bedroom?" Li Xueyue said. "I accidentally eavesdropped on her conversation with someone in her bedroom, and I specifically recall the Empress addressing someone as 'Minghua.' She even brought up the incident about a fire."
Li Chenyang was rooted to the floor. His lips opened and closed like a fish out of water. What was he supposed to say to such a thing? For the past two years and a half, he had believed his younger sister was dead. There was not a single doubt in him that she had incinerated in the fire.
"And before I could peek inside to see the woman's face, someone had placed a handkerchief over my face that knocked me unconscious. Then, the next thing I knew, I was awoken by Mother in front of the Empress's dead body. It was as if—"
"As if someone was intentionally framing you for murder. Why else would you be left inside of the bedroom?" Li Chenyang said. He couldn't believe it. Who would be out to get Xueyue? It wasn't like she wronged anyone!
The only enemies he could think of was Han Jieru and maybe the rest of Bai Tianai's friends. Xueyue rarely left the house. She didn't have any friends to even turn into enemies.
"This is such an atrocious thought and it's very far-stretched, but uhm…" Li Xueyue trailed off, hesitant if she could utter such a confession. She was nervous. What if the Li Family shunned her for having such speculations?
Li Xueyue knew how much the Li Family loved their late daughter, Minghua. To speak ill of her was to instantly become enemies of the Li Family.
Li Xueyue was terrified of losing her only family members. Just the thought of it was enough for her to get teary-eyed. She sniffed and glanced at the ground, worried about their reaction. She had to get it off her chest, or else it would forever weigh her down.
"What is it?" Li Chenyang asked. "Just tell me. It's okay, I would never judge you for anything you say. You're my younger sister now, and I will protect you to the best of my abilities."
Li Xueyue softly nodded, but couldn't bring it in herself to lift her chin. Chenyang out of everyone had done so much for her. She wanted to repay them back in any way possible. Accusing Li Minghua of such a heinous thing was the opposite of Xueyue's intentions.
"You're such a silly girl," Li Chenyang said as she pushed her chin up with a single finger under it. "Don't drop your chin like that. Tell me as it is. Don't worry, I won't get angry."
Li Xueyue could not escape his pressing stare. His eyes were gentle and understanding as if nothing she did or say would ever be wrong in his eyes.
"What if the person that made me unconscious was one of Minghua's allies? As in… what if Li Minghua tried to frame me for the Empress's murder? And… and her helper was the Second Prince?"
Li Chenyang felt like he was stabbed in the heart. It felt like he was forced to choose between his sisters. He couldn't help the irritation that ran through his veins. His blood boiled at the accusation towards his sister, Minghua.
Li Chenyang didn't know how to react. On one hand, he was disappointed with himself for getting angry at Xueyue. On the other hand, he was supposed to be loyal to Minghua. Staring down at her, he was torn in a crossroad of trust.
In the end, he couldn't respond.
Li Xueyue understood his silence. He had made up his mind. His loyalty did not lie with her whom he had known for only two years. His heart was with Minghua who grew up with him for the majority of his life.
Li Xueyue knew the inevitable had happened. She would slowly, but surely, lose the Li Family's trust. The thought would forever haunt her and silence her mouth for the rest of her life. There was nothing she could do or say to take back her confession.