Li Xueyue let out a quiet sigh as she stretched her upper body. "I've finally finished!" she happily said whilst ignoring the crumbled parchments beside her. There were enough balls of parchment to create a mountain to sit upon.
At last, she finished the three response letters she would send to Yu Zhen. It had taken her all night, but she vowed to get it done.
Li Xueyue wanted it to be delivered as soon as possible. She opened the door to reveal her patient handmaidens who were waiting for her outside. They were diligent and always on standby for her.
Li Xueyue preferred it that way. She preferred to be alone in her bedroom. That way, there was no one watching her every move.
With the letters in hand, Li Xueyue turned to face the servants. Initially, she wanted them to deliver the letters to the Li family messenger. At the last minute, she changed her mind. A simple messenger would never be able to deliver these on time.
"Maybe, Father can help…" she mumbled to herself. If her father utilized the Royal Messenger, then it would speed the process up.
Li Xueyue headed down the hallways and towards the direction of her father's private study. It didn't take too long for her to reach there. When she was about to open the door, she heard bickering inside.
Li Xueyue paused. It would be bad to eavesdrop, especially in front of the guards. She raised her head, ready to knock, but paused upon hearing the shrill of Li Minghua's voice.
"I would never lie to you, Father, and you know that!" Li Minghua cried out as she stood up, indignant at his accusation. What was wrong with her father? He had never treated her like this.
Her father always took her words as they were. In his eyes, his daughter could do no wrong—even when she had attempted to elope with Wen Jinkai.
"How could you do this to me, Father? You've changed. Is it because Xueyue is here? You care so much more about her now that you see her worth?"
Duke Li Shenyang's expression didn't change even in the face of his screaming daughter. His features were always stoic and unrelenting. He kept his composure when others couldn't. It was in his nature to do so. Showing emotions were for the weak.
"I hear you let her do as she pleases. Horseback riding, sword fighting, martial arts, and so much more. You gave Xueyue so much, but when I was living with you, you never let me do anything! And now you're taking her side."
Li Minghua pointed a finger at him in spite. "You believe her over me. Is that what it is?! So what if I killed the Empress?! I did the dirty work, shouldn't I be praised? Why are you restricting me from leaving the house? What did I do?"
Duke Li Shenyang let out a sigh through his nose. His patience was running thin. "After all these years, you're still throwing a temper tantrum."
Li Minghua felt like he stabbed her with his words. Tears of frustration brimmed her eyes. She angrily wiped it away, refusing to let him see the satisfaction that he was right.
"I'm not throwing a fit, I'm only—"
"You're screaming and pointing a finger at me. Your emotions are on full display for everyone to see and hear. Have I taught you nothing?"
"Why do you think I kept you locked up all these years? Of course, it was to protect you. People thought it was from suitors, but no," Duke Li Shenyang said and stood up. "It was because you never knew how to hide your feelings. It's your biggest flaw and everyone can take advantage of you for that."
Li Minghua's lips clamped shut. She knew it was the truth. It was one of the reasons why the Empress had targeted her in the past. Li Minghua never held back her tongue and would always lash out in front of the Empress.
"In High Society, words are our weapons. The sharper our tongue, the more people we hurt. You fought with weapons like an animal."
Li Minghua was offended by her father's words. He had never complimented her, not even once. All he had was criticism for her. Whoever said tough love was acceptable must've never experienced love.
She swallowed the knot in her throat. "Xueyue fights with weapons. I bet she's only good in masculine sports and not feminine ones, yet you've never objected to any of her hobbies."
"I'm not here to compare my daughters," Duke Li Shenyang sternly said. "And you shouldn't do it either. You will rob yourself of happiness if you do."
"How can I not compare? She's my replacement, a subpar one if you asked me, but still, she took my position in this house and—"
"My dear girl, you are delusional. Go to your room. I will have a doctor called forth tomorrow. He will access your mental state. It has deteriorated."
Li Minghua blinked back tears. Was this how he wanted to behave? She had risked her happiness for two years just to keep the family secret safe. And now, he was giving her the same cold shoulders. All she wanted to hear in life was a praise from him. Was that so hard to obtain?
"If I am delusional, then I must also be blind. How did I not see it sooner?"
Duke Li Shenyang raised a brow at her dramatic antics. What was she going to say now?
"You don't love me, Father."
"You fool, if I don't love my own daughter, my flesh and blood, who can I love?"
"You love useful things that will bring you benefit. Isn't that why you adore the twins so much? You love Chenyang's political influence and Wenmin's power in the military. You love Mother's title and prestige. But what can you love about me? Absolutely nothing."
Duke Li Shenyang was immediately alarmed by her words. Was that how she saw herself? He stood up without a second thought.
"My dear girl, have I not showered you with love and affection? Have I not given you everything you wanted in life? When you resided in this house, have I ever denied you a gift? Any priceless item you wanted, I've given you."
"The love you gave me was materialistic, because the love you felt for me was that way," Li Minghua declared. She had enough of this heart-wrenching conversation. She turned her back to him and decided to leave the room.
Li Minghua ignored him and headed towards the door.
"Stop right there, Li Minghua!" Duke Li Shenyang demanded as he slammed a hand upon his desk.
Li Minghua jumped at the loud sound. Never in her life had he ever raised his voice like this. He was always aloof when it came to her. His cold shoulders had made her wonder if he even cared about her at all. His lack of reaction to her frequent tantrums only solidified her assumptions. Her father didn't love her. If he did, wouldn't he have disciplined her?
"Haven't you done enough damage, Father?" Li Minghua asked with tear-filled eyes.
Duke Li Shenyang paused at the sight of her reddening eyes. His daughter, ever so precious, was on the verge of crying. Was he the cause of it? Guilt threatened to consume him alive.
Duke Li Shenyang didn't want to be the villain in his daughter's life. But it seemed as if this was how she viewed him. Was he nothing more than the antagonist that held her back from success?
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