Li Family Manor
The breakfast next morning was quiet and awkward. No one spoke during the entire meal. The only sound was occasional clinks of the chopsticks against porcelain bowls and plates.
Li Xueyue didn't have her usual appetite because of her restless night. She was utterly exhausted whilst playing with the braised egg in her bowl of rice. Lazily, she raised her head, only to witness Li Wenmin happily placing their favorite dish into Minghua's bowl.
"I don't like eggs," Li Minghua said with a slight frown. "Did you forget?"
"Oh," Li Wenmin responded. He smiled a bit. "The dish is so good, I thought you'd appreciate it."
"No, thanks," Li Minghua muttered. "Consuming too many eggs won't be good for the body. Here, you need to eat more vegetables." She pushed the plate of leafy vegetables closer to the reluctant twin.
Li Wenmin poked at it in disgust. What was he? A cow? A rabbit? He didn't like vegetables, he liked meat.
Li Chenyang rolled his eyes. "Just eat it. What are you? Five?"
"Yeah, five minutes older than you," Li Wenmin retorted before he shoved the dish towards his younger brother. "Why don't you eat it?"
"I will, thanks," Li Chenyang said.
Li Wenmin scowled as he watched his younger brother consume the dish. He averted his gaze and his eyes met Xueyue.
"Why aren't you eating?" Li Wenmin asked. "You're usually racing me to finish the second bowl of rice."
"I'm not that hungry today," Li Xueyue said with a smile. She stared at his second bowl of rice and let out a small laugh. "They don't call you piglet for nothing."
"Hmph, at least I'm a cute one." Li Wenmin snorted. He edged the dishes towards her. "Eat. You'll need some energy for training."
Li Xueyue slowly nodded. She picked up the preserved vegetables and placed a few in her bowl but didn't eat. She was too antsy and tired to have an appetite. How did Li Minghua find out about her background? She bit her bottom lip and poked the rice.
"What training?" Li Minghua spoke up.
"None of your concern," Li Chenyang sniped. "Just eat your food."
Li Minghua scowled. "You're still the same. Being unnecessarily mean like this will get you nowhere with the ladies."
Li Chenyang narrowed his eyes. "And all these years in the Palace hasn't humbled you a single bit."
"Quiet down," Duchess Wang Qixing instructed. "Both of you," she added on. She placed more side dishes into Minghua's bowl and warmly smiled.
"Eat up, my Little Flower," she gently said. "You've gotten so thin. They must've starved you in the Palace. Here, have more meat. I remember it's your favorite."
"Thank you, Mother," Li Minghua happily said. She plopped the meat into her mouth. "I like your cooking a lot more."
"Really?" Duchess Wang Qixing asked. She was ecstatic by the news, her eyes shining. It had been so long since she had last cooked for her daughter.
"I didn't think you'd remember," Duchess Wang Qixing gushed. "Will you be staying home? If so, I'll make lunch. It'll be all of your favorite foods!"
"I'd love that, Mother," Li Minghua brightly smiled as she happily swung her legs under the table.
Li Xueyue let out a quiet hiss when a foot connected with her shin. She averted her gaze and gritted her teeth, already knowing who did it. The only person sitting opposite her was Minghua whose gloating expression was ruining the meal.
"What's wrong?" Li Minghua asked as she innocently tilted her head.
Li Chenyang scrunched his eyebrows in confusion. He turned to Xueyue whose eyes were set ablaze.
"Someone kicked me," Li Xueyue deadpanned. "I wonder who."
"Oh no, dear sister, that must've been me. Maybe if your legs weren't stretched out, and you sat like a proper lady, it wouldn't have happened," Li Minghua said with a shrug of her shoulders.
Duchess Wang Qixing let out a small gasp. "Minghua, you shouldn't behave like this."
"I didn't mean to, Mother," Li Minghua responded. "She's my younger sister. Why would I purposely hurt her?"
Duchess Wang Qixing's expression softened. She had missed hearing Minghua's voice. "You're right. Next time, try to be mindful of your actions."
"I will, Mother," Li Minghua said with a shy smile.
Li Chenyang was not having any of this drama. "Apologize."
Li Minghua's smile slipped in a second. She turned to her brother and glared at him. "It wasn't intentional."
"Apologize, now." Li Chenyang glowered at her. His intent stare could've bore a hole right through her forehead. His voice was deep and angered, leaving no room for an argument.
"No," Li Minghua seethed. "You're acting as if I bullied her when she was the one who bullied me in the Palace!"
"That's because you were a sorry excuse of a servant," Li Chenyang barked out. "If you did your role, you wouldn't have been punished."
Li Minghua was taken aback by his harsh words. Tears filled her eyes. She looked as if the entire world had wronged her. Letting out a loud "hmph," she stood up from the table and ran out of the door.
Li Chenyang frustratingly stood up.
"Sit down," Duke Li Shenyang finally said. "Your sister is just emotional. Leave her be."
"She hasn't changed a single bit," Li Chenyang retorted. He sat back down and angrily stabbed the egg.
"Chenyang," Duchess Wang Qixing said with a sigh. "You need to be kinder to her. She has finally come back to us. You were like this before the incident as well."
"And what about Xueyue?" Li Chenyang questioned. "She has been sitting there quietly, doing nothing but eating, and Minghua just kicked her."
Every pair of eyes fell on Xueyue who squirmed in her seat. Their stares were uncomfortable. She suddenly didn't feel welcomed here. She knew they meant no harm, but it was a strange atmosphere—as if everyone didn't know what to do with her.
Please go to https://www.qzxyzy.com/The-Rise-of-Xueyue/
to read the latest chapters for free