265 To Knock Out A Bear
"You should mentally prepare yourself for today's court session," Duke Li Shenyang commanded whilst boarding the carriage.
Li Chenyang climbed into the carriage after his father. To say he wasn't nervous was an understatement. It would be more hectic than usual today. Even now, he didn't know who was alive or dead.
"We've eliminated many people who were ahead of us in the line for the throne," Duke Li Shenyang responded. "To be specific, the Royal family is dead. The biggest hurdle had been tackled, but the other Princes…"
"And the concubines?" Li Chenyang asked, even though he knew the answer to this. The Li Family didn't indulge in unnecessary deaths.
"Those who aren't a threat to us weren't targeted. Their fates were left up to them."
"Which Prince or Princess is alive?"
"To our luck, the Second and Fourth Prince," Duke Li Shenyang responded in a neutral tone. His face was impassive, as always. There was an iron wall tucked within the folds of his eyes, too strong to be invaded.
Even though Li Chenyang had grown up with his father, he had never gained the ability to see beyond that mask. Whether his father was truly calm or not, Li Chenyang didn't know.
"Mother is a Princess," Li Chenyang stated. "It doesn't give us the opportunity to seize the throne, but we'll have the Ministers on our side. With enough allies, we can seize the throne if we want."
"I suppose so," Duke Li Shenyang said. "The Fourth Prince was heavily injured in the battle. The extent of his wounds is currently unknown, but I will have a report of it today."
Li Chenyang nodded. "The Second Prince has always been sickly. There isn't a single Minister who would support his reign. Except for the greedy ones who'd like to rule through him."
"People like Baron Han wouldn't hesitate to jump onto the Second Prince's wagon," Duke Li Shenyang murmured. "Luckily, we have Marquis Ning keeping the opposite faction in check. It's the one that Baron Han belongs to."
Li Chenyang slowly nodded. "We'll get rid of all support for the Royal family when the Emperor's dirty deeds come to light."
"Yes, we've yet to use our trump card," Duke Li Shenyang said and nodded. A slow, cunning smile spread onto his face.
"I can't wait for the backstabbing and schemes to begin," Li Chenyang commented. He glanced out of the window and watched as the Capital rolled past him. People were dressed in darker colors today as they prepared to mourn for the death of the Royal family.
"I wished we had a public execution. That would be more interesting and satisfying, but people would call us cruel," Li Chenyang sighed.
His gaze lingered upon the black and white mourning flags. "Generations here have grown accustomed to the Wangs, believing it was them who performed so many good deeds. If only the civilians knew it was actually us who created such a great environment for them."
Duke Li Shenyang chuckled. "We'll have that altered in the history books. Don't worry, Son."
"History is always written by the winners," Li Chenyang muttered.
- - - - -
Li Xueyue was awoken from her nap when a knock echoed in her room. She sat up and grumbled under her breath. It had taken her forever to even fall asleep but it was disrupted so quickly.
"Come in," she said.
The door opened to reveal a Doctor and his apprentice.
Li Xueyue noticed the Duchess and Li Wenmin weren't present but chose to not comment. She knew Wenmin was on his way to the training camps, and the Duchess might've been occupied with making lunch.
"Welcome," Li Xueyue said as she slipped out of bed. The servants came forward and closed the partition curtains as they quickly prepared her to greet the guest. In less than a minute, the outer layer of her attire was changed to something more presentable.
"It is a pleasure to meet your acquaintance, Princess Li," the Doctor said.
Li Xueyue nodded with a polite smile.
"My name is Doctor Mo, and this is my apprentice. Please pay no mind to him, he's still in the training phase," Doctor Mo added on.
Li Xueyue's eyes landed on the young man standing beside the Doctor. His appearance wasn't special but she could tell he'd be popular with the common ladies. There was something about his easygoing smile that calms her nerves. This man reminded her of Yu Zhen.
"Please take a seat. I will check your pulse and the diagnosis can go from there," Doctor Mo commented.
Li Xueyue sat down on the chair near the main table on the other side of her room. She watched as Doctor Mo took out a pulse cushion lined with velvet. He gestured to her to place her wrist upon it.
"If I may," he said, nodding to her hand.
Li Xueyue rested her hand upon the object as a servant rolled up her sleeves a bit. Doctor Mo placed two aged fingers upon her pulse and quietly began to examine her.
"I was told you had trouble sleeping, Princess Li," Doctor Mo spoke up. His voice reminded her of a friendly grandfather who enjoyed watching over children in his village.
"Yes, I'd appreciate it if any herbal tonics could be prescribed for me," Li Xueyue said.
"How long has this issue persisted, Princess Li?" Doctor Mo asked.
Li Xueyue's gaze fell onto the maidservants. They instantly understood her message and left the room. The doors were closed behind them leaving only three people in the room.
Li Xueyue's attention returned to the Doctor. "For almost three years now. I have an uneasy feeling whenever I try to sleep. Sometimes I stay awake all night. It's as if my consciousness is terrified of closing my eyes."
"Do you also have nightmares?"
Li Xueyue nodded.
"I see," Doctor Mo muttered. "What are these nightmares about? Perhaps we can tackle the root of the problem."
"No need," Li Xueyue said through a tight smile.
Li Xueyue didn't want to worry the Li Family further. Without a doubt, Doctor Mo would report back to them. Additionally, she wasn't comfortable with revealing something so personal. She had never told anyone of the events that haunted her sleep. And she intended to keep it that way.
"Very well," Doctor Mo responded. His voice was filled with patient understanding. "Ah-Yi, pass me the box."
The apprentice came forward with a box polished with blue and silver designs. He opened it and began to take out various herbs packed in pouches. Doctor Mo began to shift through the small pockets wrapped in paper.
The apprentice pulled out a balancing scale. Doctor Mo started to mix the bags together.
"How strong will these tonics be?" Li Xueyue asked.
"Your issue seems quite severe, but with your age taken into account, I've concocted a medicine that's not as strong as the ones given to older folks," Doctor Mo said as he placed the finished mixture onto the paper. He gestured for his apprentice to wrap things up.
"Can you also make me a stronger medicine on top of the one you're planning to give me?" Li Xueyue questioned. "In case the milder one doesn't work as well?"
Doctor Mo was a bit hesitant about her request. "I can, but if you do start to take the stronger one, your body will grow resistant to these herbs over time and they'll become ineffective."
"That's alright, I plan on starting with the milder one first. I wouldn't take the stronger medicine unless absolutely necessary," Li Xueyue explained.
Doctor Mo raised his head to examine the young woman before averting his gaze. He knew it was disrespectful to meet the eyes of someone who clearly outranked him. Age didn't matter in such a case.
The apprentice, on the other hand, had forgotten about such a rule. He had glanced up from wrapping the package of herbs and couldn't tear his gaze from her. He had heard rumors on the streets of the new third-rank Princess, but didn't expect her to be so… beautiful. It was in a refreshing manner that outshone all of the women he was ever acquainted with.
"Alright then," Doctor Mo responded. "I will create a stronger medicine for you. One drop to fall asleep within the hour, two for less than thirty minutes. Three drops will be strong enough to knock out a bear."
Doctor Mo began to organize the herbs again. "Ah-Yi," he sternly said upon realizing his apprentice was awestruck by the Young Miss.
Ah-Yi was startled and immediately averted his eyes. She was simply too captivating but there was something about her that felt off. Why would she want such a strong medicine for? The milder one would've worked just fine.
Li Xueyue saw the suspicion on the apprentice's face. As the Doctor prepared the mixture, she stood up and approached her vanity. A second later, she returned with her fingers enclosed over something.
The Doctor placed the neatly wrapped herbs onto a polished wooden tray. He had served and seen many wealthy aristocrats in his line of work but he didn't expect the Li Family to be this wealthy. Even a simple wooden tray was encrusted with gems. He could tell this girl was a favored daughter of the household.
"The first medication is more suitable for you. Your servants should boil the harder herbs, but steep the softer ones. Drink it an hour before you sleep, Princess Li," Doctor Mo instructed.
Next, he sifted through his wooden box in search of a certain vial. "You're in luck, Princess Li. I was able to find rare herbs last week to brew this medicine, Princess."
Li Xueyue watched as he pulled out a small vial in a dark glass bottle.
"But you have to be careful with this medicine. Too much of it can kill someone."
"Is it bitter?" Li Xueyue asked. "I'm not a fan of such taste."
"Don't worry, Princess Li," Doctor Mo said with a reassuring smile. "It's practically tasteless, but it does have a color to it due to the herbs it was created from."
Li Xueyue smiled in response. Perfect. "Thank you, Doctor Mo, I appreciate your efforts," she said as she received the bottle that was presented to her with two hands.
As Li Xueyue took the bottle, her hand grazed upon his aged skin. His eyebrows raised the slightest bit upon feeling a cloth pouch. Aside from that, he showed no reaction and accepted the generous gift.
Li Xueyue enclosed her fingers over the small bottle and slipped it into her sleeves.
"Thank you for your patronage, Princess Li," Doctor Mo commented as he stood up with a smile. He reached for the wooden box and seemingly began to organize the herbs inside. In reality, he was slipping the coin pouch underneath layers of medicines and vials. He knew the meaning of this bribery. She wanted the other medicine to be kept a secret.
"Have a great day," Li Xueyue responded. Her lips curled into a smile as the Doctor left her room, followed by his apprentice.