Li Xueyue had initially wanted to nap the remainder of the day but decided against it as it would ruin her sleep schedule further. After lazily browsing through the books in her room, she decided to practice archery and take her mind off of things. When she was in the zone, nothing mattered except for the target and the arrows.
She bent low and plucked the grass. Rubbing it in between her palms, she dried off the remaining moisture on them.
Holding the grass high above her, she let it go, watching the direction that it fluttered off to determine the wind direction.
Li Xueyue prepped the arrow and bow. Seconds went by until it trickled into minutes and hours. It didn't take long for the high sun to swoop low as it cast a fiery cloak across the skies. The day went by as cerulean blue was overtaken by the blush of dawn.
"Are you done showing off?"
Li Xueyue jumped at the unexpected voice. She was too concentrated on her archery to notice someone had entered the training fields.
Wiping the sweat from her forehead, she looked up and realized the sun was already setting. The afternoon had passed too quickly.
"No one asked you to watch," Li Xueyue responded as she dropped her hands. Undoubtedly, she would be sore all over tomorrow.
A familiar 'whirl' whizzed through the air. She ducked her head to the right, narrowly missing the arrow which had sliced through a strand of her hair.
Li Xueyue turned around and raised a brow. "I should've let the arrow graze my ear, then I'd have something to blame you with."
Li Minghua narrowed her eyes irritably. How was she able to dodge the arrow unscathed? "I was aiming for the targets behind you."
Li Xueyue pressed her lips together and chose to not respond. She didn't have time for people like Minghua.
Picking up her footing, she headed in the direction of the equipment racks. She handed her bow and quiver to the servants who hung it up for her.
Li Xueyue let out a quiet sigh as she gathered her long ponytail into a bun. She was well aware that her guards were down in front of Minghua. She didn't care. If the girl wanted to attack her, go ahead. It would be used as evidence against her.
Li Xueyue tied a string around her new bun to secure it and began to head in the direction that led into the house. When she was near the steps leading up to the hallway, Li Minghua blocked her path.
"What do you want?" Li Xueyue impatiently asked.
In the far distance, her eyes handed on Jingxia who seemed far from pleased at the sight of the Young Misses together. The Head Maidservant disappeared into the hallways no less than a second later, most likely to report to the Duchess.
"I want you to get the hell out of my house. You're not welcomed here. Your time as my replacement is up and over with. Stop leeching off of my family," Li Minghua truthfully responded.
Li Minghua crossed her arms and stared her down.
"And if I don't?" Li Xueyue mused.
Li Minghua took a threatening step closer. Her hair swayed along with the unforgiving breeze that coursed through the fields. Hatred and irritation flashed within her eyes, rough and dark like tree bark.
"I'll expose your secrets. You killed someone. You're a murderer," Li Minghua seethed. Her lips curled into a satisfied smile upon seeing Xueyue's body tense.
"Funny you would say that," Li Xueyue murmured. "When you were the one who killed the Empress."
"You have no proof that I killed her—"
"Why did you have the hydrangea hairpin in your possession?" Li Xueyue fired back.
"That's none of your business—"
"So you admit to having it," Li Xueyue retorted. "Funny thing is, I remember When Jinkai had taken it from the Li family. It makes me wonder if you're both a thief and a murderer."
"You know nothing, Bai Xueyue. You better watch that mouth of yours. Who knows? Maybe one day you'll wake up with your tongue missing," Li Minghua angrily said.
Li Minghua's face morphed into a deep scowl. She loathed Bai Xueyue. What gave Bai Xueyue the right to be so bold? She was nothing but a neglected daughter of a Viscount.
Li Xueyue's lips settled into a gentle smile. Amusement flashed in her eyes. "I've barely begun my insults. Don't get so riled up."
"Contrary to your beliefs, Minghua, I don't want to replace you. There's nothing about you that I want to become," Li Xueyue answered. "You should get over yourself."
"This is my house, my family, and my life. You came trampling into it as if you had a spot here in the first place. Don't you dare forget you were nothing but a girl they picked up from the streets."
Li Xueyue softly shook her head, as if she was a mother disappointed in her stubborn child. If only Minghua knew, these types of insults didn't work on her. No one hated Li Xueyue more than herself.
"I don't like making enemies," Li Xueyue said. "Especially with you—someone that the twins and our parents cherish."
Li Minghua ground her teeth. She dug her nails into her palm. She hated how calm and collected Bai Xueyue was, as if nothing in the world fazed her. She wanted to see Bai Xueyue blow up out of rage. She wanted to see that pretty little face of hers moistened with tears as she sank onto her knees and begged.
"You took everything from me," Li Minghua argued. "You seduced the only man who loved me for who I truly was. You stole my brothers and now Chenyang hates me. He takes your side over mine. You convinced my parents to like you more than me."
Li Xueyue's lips parted. Was this how she felt? "You can have Wen Jinkai, I never wanted him in the first place. The twins don't belong to you, neither do our parents. You should learn to share."
"You have the audacity to school me? Who do you think you are?" Li Minghua hissed. "Everything that you possess was given by my family. You should treat me with respect."
Li Xueyue slowly shook her head. She couldn't wrap her head around Li Minghua's logic. What was so wrong with coexisting? She supposed this was the behavior of a spoiled brat. They think everything in this world belonged to them. No request was too big and no wish was too greedy.
Even after two years in the Palace, Li Minghua still didn't learn to humble herself.
"This behavior of yours has already ruined you once. Don't let it harm you again," Li Xueyue said.
Li Minghua was caught off guard by her words. She didn't expect such haughty advice from such a useless girl.
Li Xueyue seized this opportunity to excuse herself. She despised Li Minghua, but would never stoop to her level. She nodded in acknowledgment before side-stepping past her.
It was fine if Li Minghua didn't like her. The feeling was mutual anyway.
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