278 He“s Been Tortured
Li Xueyue knew this was the best time to hurry up and knock on the door. If one of them opened the door to reveal her standing just outside, it'd be obvious she had eavesdropped.
Curling her fingers into a fist, she loudly knocked on the door to catch their attention. The private study fell into silence. Without warning, the door swung open to reveal an emotional Li Minghua.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Li Minghua gritted out as she wiped her face. Her cheeks were flushed red from her pent up anger. She had desperately wished to come home, but now, it doesn't feel like she even belonged here.
"None of your concern," Li Xueyue coldly said as she pushed past Li Minghua and entered the room.
"Did you eavesdrop, you sneaky little rat?" Li Minghua demanded as she grabbed onto Xueyue's elbow.
"Minghua!" Duke Li Shenyang furiously bellowed. "Enough of these childish antics. Head back to your room right this instant."
Duke Li Shenyang could no longer tolerate the feud between the two sisters. It had to stop at some point even if it meant one side would get hurt. He never wanted his house to be divided like this. Sides were being taken, and he'd rather prevent it before it was too late.
"So you plan to take her side?" Li Minghua scoffed. "Why am I not surprised? Xueyue brings you much more benefit, doesn't she? Rumor has it she seduced not only Wen Jinkai but also the Commander of a foreign kingdom. This wanton behavior is exactly like her birth mother."
"Don't you have better insults for me?" Li Xueyue retorted. "I've heard worse. Grow up. You're older than me and you're still acting like a kid."
Li Minghua's blood boiled at Xueyue's response. What gave her replacement this much confidence? "Who do you think you are? A puny little thing like you, I can squash you with my pinky."
The corner of Li Xueyue's lips curled upwards into an entertained smile. "I'd like to see you try. Good luck laying a hand on me. You'll have an entire army after your head."
"Enough, both of you," Duke Li Shenyang demanded in a stern voice. He pointed to the door. "It's getting late, Xiao Hua. Head to bed. We will continue our business tomorrow."
"If I will even be here tomorrow," Li Minghua muttered under her breath as she angrily left the room, slamming the door behind her.
Li Xueyue jumped at the loud bang. Even after all these years, she still hadn't gotten used to noises like this. Her heart raced a bit as she tried to calm herself down. There was no need to flinch like this. She was safe.
Duke Li Shenyang let out an exhausted sigh. This was the exact outcome that he didn't want to happen. "Is it so hard to get along?" he asked as he sat down.
"I tried to on the first day, but she chose to scratch my face with a hairpin, Father," Li Xueyue responded. She was tired of playing nice with Minghua. The next time the brat bared her claws, she would do the same thing.
"She what?" Duke Li Shenyang hissed. "Come here, let me get a good look at you. Did she succeed? You shouldn't have scars on you."
"I'm fine, Father. I was able to stop her in time."
"Why didn't you tell me this sooner? Xiao Hua is a mischievous girl who never listens. I blame it on my lack of discipline towards her."
"Every daughter is a Princess in their father's eyes," Li Xueyue gently said.
"I treasured her too much," Duke Li Shenyang muttered. "I've never felt more guilty than when I locked her in the manor."
"I know, but if we continue to look backward, we can never go forward," Li Xueyue responded. She approached her father's desk.
"Such wise words you use," Duke Li Shenyang mused with a slight smile. He could always rely on her to appease him. He nodded to her arms. "Are those letters?"
Li Xueyue glanced down in her hand. "Yes, these are my responses to Yu Zhen's letters. I'm sorry to disturb you so late at night to request a favor."
"None of my children are ever disturbances in my life. I assume you'd like the Royal Messenger to deliver these letters for you.."
"Yes, please, if possible," Li Xueyue requested. She handed the letters to her father with both hands.
Duke Li Shenyang's smile widened at her politeness. Even after all these years, she remained the same well-mannered girl.
"Of course, I have documents that needed to be delivered to Hanjian as well," Duke Li Shenyang said as he grabbed the letters from her.
Duke Li Shenyang raised a brow. A knowing expression rested upon his face. "There are three?"
Li Xueyue brushed strands of hair behind her ears and glanced away as her ears reddened. "He sent out three letters, so I thought it was best to respond to all of them."
"Hmm, I'll keep this a secret from your mother. She would advise you to send a short one that would keep the Second Prince on his toes."
Li Xueyue let out a small laugh. "Yes, Mother always prefers if I play a push and pull game with Yu Zhen. I think he's been tortured enough. Each subsequent letter of his was more desperate for a reply than the previous one."
"Good," Duke Li Shenyang said. "The more he misses you, the more he'll anticipate your presence."
Li Xueyue nodded.
"I assume Chenyang has informed you of the political marriage to the Crown Prince of Hanjian?"
Li Xueyue rapidly blinked at his question. Nonetheless, she nodded again. "He briefly mentioned it by asking if I'd like to go to Hanjian for a change of scenery. Supposedly, I would thrive there more than I would here."
"You're already a third-rank Princess in Wuyi," Duke Li Shenyang responded. "It is the highest achievement attainable for a lady in this country who wasn't born into royalty. The requirements to attain the title of a first-rank Princess are simply too tiring to perform."
Li Xueyue never aimed for the title of a first-rank Princess. There weren't many benefits attached to it except a slightly bigger recognition from the aristocrats.
"The title of a Crown Princess is the dream of every little girl. Your future in Hanjian will be brighter than it would ever be in Wuyi," Duke Li Shenyang added on. He was proud of everything she had done so far.
Not trembling under Emperor Fadong's gaze and not yielding to the Royal Family was something that many couldn't achieve. Not only that, but she had talked her way out of the impossible during the Spring Tournament. Granted, it required a trump card, but she had succeeded nonetheless.
"Would you like to go to Hanjian?" Duke Li Shenyang asked. "The preparations will take a week. Once the final copy of the treaty papers is passed over, you will be able to see Yu Zhen again."
Li Xueyue knew this was the most daunting question of all. Her future in Hanjian seemed unpredictable compared to what she'd have in Wuyi. She had denied Yu Zhen because she thought she wasn't good enough for him. She had pushed him away, for she wanted to stand on the same level as him before they became official.
Now, with this newfound opportunity before her, there was nothing she could do but accept it. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. How could she deny it?
"If it's possible, I would love to go to Hanjian. I will make the Li family proud, Father," Li Xueyue said with determination weighing heavily upon her voice.
Duke Li Shenyang's expression softened at her words. "Foolish child, you've already made us proud in more ways than one."