The next day, an unexpected guest arrived at the Li Manor. Li Xueyue had woken up late and was rushing to the dining hall when she heard a slight commotion. Curious as to why the servants were rushing down the corridor, she grabbed onto one of them.
"What's wrong?" Li Xueyue asked.
The Eunuch instantly bowed at the sight of her. He dipped low and rose when she gave him permission to do so. "Young Miss, there is a guest that we must inform the Master of."
"Oh, who is it? Why is everyone in such a hurry?"
"Young Miss, the guest is Commander Wen Jinkai."
Li Xueyue rapidly blinked in surprise. Her lips fell open in shock. Did Wen Jinkai finally believe her in the end? That Li Minghua was alive? Did he come in person to check out for himself?
"I see," was her only response as she excused the Eunuch who bowed again before running off. Meanwhile, she began to head towards the dining hall.
Li Xueyue decided it was none of her business whether Wen Jinkai was at Li Manor or not. It wasn't like he was here to see her or anything. Now that he wasn't actively courting her, there was no need to be so wary of him.
Nonetheless, Li Xueyue was too inquisitive for her own good. She wanted to find out the purpose of his abrupt visit. Did the Duke or Duchess know of this beforehand? Had he made an appointment?
"Well, this should be entertaining," she said to herself.
Li Xueyue picked up her pace and scurried her way to the dining hall. She was already late, having overslept. The tonic definitely helped her to sleep, but it took longer than anticipated for it to take effect on her. Additionally, she was still having nightmares.
Li Xueyue wasn't sure if she wanted to continue taking the tonic. On one hand, she liked that it made her fall asleep, but it also kept her trapped in her nightmares longer. She sighed. What a double-edged remedy! Maybe it was best to use the second medicine that the Doctor had secretly prescribed.
Li Xueyue was uncertain of her decision. She wanted to preserve the second medicine as long as she could. It came in such a short dosage, that it would be difficult to get her hands on it again—without raising suspicions.
"Xueyue?" Li Chenyang said when he opened the door to leave the dining room and saw her standing outside. The entire family was just informed of Wen Jinkai's presence.
"Chen-ge," Li Xueyue greeted. Her attention shifted to the dining room where everyone else was seated, especially on Minghua who kept her stare trained at the table.
"Where are you going?" she asked. "I'm sorry I was so late. I didn't mean to sleep for so long."
"It's alright, don't apologize," Li Chenyang responded. "I was actually on my way to inquire Wen Jinkai regarding his visit."
"Oh, I thought he was scheduled to come here," Li Xueyue said.
"He wasn't," Duke Li Shenyang replied from the table. He waved for her to join them for breakfast. "The food is getting cold."
"Father is right. Go and eat, Xueyue," Li Chenyang said. "I'll personally speak to Wen Jinkai and try to send him away. We don't need him to cause a ruckus."
Li Xueyue slowly shook her head. She leaned in closer and lowered her voice. "Wouldn't it be better to let him in? It's best if he spoke with Minghua. I think he knows we're the ones behind the Royal family's murder."
"He does know, we implied it," Li Chenyang whispered back.
"Minghua can be the appeasement in case he lashes out against us," Li Xueyue muttered.
Li Chenyang lowered his gaze to meet hers. Since when did she enjoy using people? She had become more cunning. Or was she always like this? Did someone bring out the worst in her?
Duke Li Shenyang was the only one to have noticed the hushed conversation that took place between his children. He raised a brow when Chenyang turned back.
"Perhaps it's better if we hold an audience with him, Dad."
Duke Li Shenyang's gaze landed on Xueyue. Without a doubt, she had a hand in Chenyang's decision. "I'm glad you came to that conclusion. Why don't we invite him in for breakfast?"
"Dad!" Li Wenmin immediately called out. "Do you want a fight to ensue so early in the morning? Both Xiao Yue and Xiao Hua are present here. Surely, there will be problems if we let him in."
"He's a guest, Wenmin," Duke Li Shenyang responded. "We can't turn him away. Especially after what happened recently. Have some pity on the poor Commander who lost his family."
Li Minghua stiffened at her father's words. She gripped the chopsticks so tightly, her hand began to tremble. She shot a dirty glare in Xueyue's direction, but was blocked by Chenyang whose body covered hers.
"I don't want to see him, Father," Li Minghua mumbled. "Not now. Now when she's here. Can we—"
Duchess Wang Qixing shook her head. "It's best to see him now that both of you two are here."
"You're so formal with us, dear girl. You never used to call us Mother and Father. It was always Mom and Dad. What changed that?" Duchess Wang Qixing asked in a patient voice. She reached a hand out and lovingly caressed her daughter's face.
Li Minghua shrank back in her seat. She couldn't deny her mother's kindness. "I just…"
Duke Li Shenyang's hardened heart cracked a bit for her. Li Minghua endured too much in the Palace. "We shouldn't keep Wen Jinkai waiting any longer."
Li Chenyang nodded. He turned to the Eunuch who always stood by the door. "Go and tell the servants to escort Wen Jinkai to the dining room."
"Right away, Second Young Master," the Eunuch responded with a bow. He walked off to pass the message along.
Li Chenyang's hand shifted from the opened door to Xueyue's upper back. "Come and sit. Don't just stand here."
Li Xueyue's gaze landed on Minghua and the servants who hurried to create another seat at the large and spacious table.
Li Chenyang had a suspicion about why she was eating so little. He lowered his voice and said, "Let's switch seats. Instead of you facing Minghua, we'll have you face Wenmin."
Li Xueyue's head snapped upwards. She was caught off guard by his sudden suggestion. "Thank you, Chen-ge. I'd appreciate that."
With a smile, he patted her on the cheek. "In return, I expect you to eat more than usual," he negotiated while poking her cheek. "See this? It's sinking in because you've lost so much weight."
She swatted at his hand. "I think I look fine."
"You're perfect as always, but I want to see the return of the second piglet of our family," Li Chenyang retorted much to her dismay.
"I don't want to be a piglet."
"But they're adorable."
"Until they grow older."
Li Chenyang laughed at her remarks. She rarely sulked. It was endearing. He wanted to become even more overprotective when she showed this side of her to him.
"Xiao Yue," Li Wenmin whined. "Come and sit. We need to fight for braised eggs, or it doesn't feel like an actual breakfast."
"Is that why you're using your sharpened chopsticks again?" Li Xueyue teased as she began to approach the table with Li Chenyang right behind her.
"Of course!" Li Wenmin shouted. "Why else would I have these for? It's to stab the eggs since picking it up is simply too slippery."
"Careful Xueyue," Li Chenyang mused. "If you eat too many eggs, you'll be stupid like him."
"Careful Xueyue," Li Wenmin mocked in a high-pitched voice. "If you read too many books, you'll only be book smart like him."
Li Chenyang rolled his eyes at his childish brother. "How about you grow up and behave like the oldest?"
"How about you grow up and behave like the oldest?" Li Wenmin mimicked in the same voice.
Li Chenyang narrowed his eyes. 'Just you wait, you damn brat. I'm going to smack you on the head as soon as Mom and Dad look away!'
Li Wenmin glared right back at his brother.
When Duke Li Shenyang cleared his throat, the two finally broke it off, but not without a loud "hmph!" as they crossed their arms and glanced away.
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