Li Xueyue sipped her tea. She didn't bat a single eyelash to the drama.
Duchess Wang Qixing immediately came forward to comfort her crying daughter. "There, there, Mother is here," she murmured as Minghua threw her arms around her shoulders and loudly sobbed out.
Li Wenmin squeezed his eyes shut at the sound that tore his heart apart. His fingers curled into fists. He would never forgive Wen Jinkai for this. Grounding his teeth, he took a last glance towards Minghua before storming out of the door.
If Wen Jinkai would not come running back for Li Minghua, then Li Wenmin would just have to drag the Commander here—kicking and screaming.
"Stop in your tracks!" Duchess Wang Qixing loudly commanded when she saw her oldest son run for the door. She already knew where this would lead to.
Li Xueyue swung her legs without a care in the world. She continued to daydream.
"Don't you dare bring him back into this room. He has said what he said. There is no point in forcing him to reconsider his words," Duchess Wang Qixing explained.
"But, Mother!" Li Wenmin exasperated. "He made Xiao Hua cry. The least he can do is pay for it in blood and broken bones."
"This is not your battle to fight," Duchess Wang Qixing harshly scolded. "Get back to your seat and continue eating breakfast."
"Mother is right," Li Chenyang spoke up. "Wen Jinkai is a grown man. He has made his decision. Leave him be."
"How can you say that, Chenyang?!" Li Wenmin demanded. "He broke Minghua's heart once before, and he did it again! This time, he had the guts to do it right in front of us. He needs to pay for what he has done."
Li Xueyue raised a brow. It was an interesting point.
Duke Li Shenyang firmly shook his head. "He has paid with the death of his family. The same people who've used him ever since he was a mere child."
Li Wenmin was quickly shut down by his father. As much as Wenmin abhorred the Commander, he couldn't help but feel pity towards him. How did the Commander feel right now? Who had gained the most from the Royal family's massacre? The Li Family.
Li Wenmin couldn't imagine losing his family all in one day, only for the love of his life to treat him coldly. The heartbreak would be too much to handle.
"Fine," Li Wenmin said. He stomped to his chair and sat down. Out of frustration, he stabbed the egg and began eating in a rough manner.
As a heavy atmosphere fell over the table, Li Xueyue was the only one unfazed by everything. Seeing Li Minghua in tears like this didn't bother her the least. She lifted her teacup only to realize it was now empty.
Li Xueyue only cared about the Li Family, minus their Minghua.
The entire family, except Xueyue, was bothered by Minghua's unstoppable tears. Everyone was glum and agitated. She couldn't grieve with them, so she quietly poured herself another cup of tea and waited for everything to return to normal.
- - - - -
Once breakfast had ended, Li Xueyue realized she had once again skipped an important meal. Holed up in her room, she ate some pastries. Taking small nibbles here and there, she eventually pushed the plate of snacks away.
Li Xueyue wasn't in the mood to eat. She wanted to do something that would distract her for the entire day.
"I shall accompany Heiyue on a long run through the fields today," she decided.
Everyone had left her alone to do their own things. The Li Family always thought she preferred solitude, but it wasn't true. She just didn't have friends to socialize with.
Li Xueyue exited her room and headed for the stables. She was surprised to see her father and Chenyang standing there with a horse she had never seen before.
"This should cheer her up," Duke Li Shenyang muttered. "Minghua has always wanted to ride horses in the past. I never let her do so, but now, she's all grown up. She should be fine with this one right?"
"I don't know why you dragged me into this," Li Chenyang said. He crossed his arms and glared at the horse whose coat was as white as snow.
"I had Ling search for a horse. It has finally come today, at the best of timing," Duke Li Shenyang stated. He ignored his grouchy son's reply and handed the reins to him.
"Give the horse to Minghua. You're allowed to come later than usual today since the paperwork for the change of leadership is almost complete. Wuyi can't survive another day without a man on the throne. Soon, the Li family will be crowned. I'd estimate it'd take another week and a half until our coronation."
Li Chenyang stared at the reins in his hand and then the horse. It was well-built and beautiful. Any young lady with a sensible mind would love this horse. It was a shame that his younger sister was neither a lady or sensible.
"Why are we even giving Minghua a horse if she doesn't know how to ride it…" he paused, "Xueyue?" Li Chenyang finally noticed her standing in the middle of the path leading up to the stables.
It was almost as if Heiyue recognized the name of his owner. He neighed in protest from within the stables.
"For a blind horse," Duke Li Shenyang began. "That one is quite intelligent. Well, I should've known when he managed to come home on his own, despite not being able to see."
"I picked him out myself," Li Xueyue proudly said as she approached her father and brother.
Li Xueyue smiled a bit upon seeing the new horse. "This one seems obedient. It'll be perfect for a beginner like Minghua."
Li Chenyang's lips twitched at the subtle jab towards Li Minghua. Everyone in the family knew how to ride horses. Only Minghua didn't. He glanced away to hide the smile that threatened to break out.
Duke Li Shenyang patted her shoulders. "Don't think that comment slipped by me, child."
Li Xueyue sweetly smiled. She innocently blinked and tilted her head, feigning confusion. "I was only pointing out the obvious, Father."
"I'm sure you were," Duke Li Shenyang mused. He glanced down at her and smiled a bit.
Even to this day, Duke Li Shenyang was glad he took her under his wing. Despite her fake smile that needed more work, Li Xueyue had matured into a fine young woman. Even if Yu Zhen was never in their lives, Duke Li Shenyang would accept no other suitor except a Crown Prince.
Duke Li Shenyang knew she was the illegitimate daughter of Viscountess Mu Yihua, but even to this day, he didn't know who Xueyue's birth father was.
"Are you going to ride today?" Duke Li Shenyang asked, despite knowing the answer. He hated small talk, but this one would lead to his favor.
Li Xueyue felt like there was some sort of underlying plan in his words. "I was planning to give him a treat," she said. It was half the truth.
Li Xueyue revealed the sugar cubes in her pockets. She tilted her head. "I wanted to spend a little bit of time combing Heiyue's coat today before heading off to practice sword fighting. I've gotten a bit rusty."
"Such a pity," Duke Li Shenyang mused. "I was hoping you'd accompany Minghua on a ride. It would be a great bonding moment for both of you. You can teach her how to ride this horse."
"It's a shame," Li Xueyue feigned disappointment. "If only I hadn't neglected my training so much… I'd be able to teach Minghua."
Li Chenyang raised a brow at her magnificent acting. If he hadn't known better, he would've thought she enjoyed being around Minghua.
Duke Li Shenyang chuckled at her behavior. "I was only joking with you, child. Minghua has an instructor coming soon. You can take Heiyue deep into the fields to avoid them, but this time, try to not come back with a new suitor begging at our doors."
Li Xueyue flushed at his words. He had said it as payback for her white lie. Awkwardly, she scratched the side of her face and glanced to the ground.
Li Chenyang laughed at her reaction. The subtle jab was hilarious. He ruffled her hair. "You shouldn't feed so many sugar cubes to Heiyue. Carrots are much healthier."
At the call of its name, a loud thud came from the stables. Heiyue had kicked the stable doors. He was usually obedient inside, but whenever his Master was around, patience was never an option.
Duke Li Shenyang glanced into the stable where an impatient horse had his head craned out of the stable doors. His ears were perked, and he was on high alert.
"Will you be bringing this horse to Hanjian?" Duke Li Shenyang questioned.
Li Xueyue's attention followed his line of sight. She suppressed a smile upon seeing Heiyue's head sticking out of the door.
"Yes, I think the terrain in Hanjian would be great. I've studied Hanjian's geography. I was surprised by the speed of Yu Zhen's horse, but didn't know Hanjian had so many green plains for them to run," she responded.
Duke Li Shenyang nodded. He was glad she was always studying. At least she didn't waste her time alone on idle things. "Fighting soldiers of Hanjian on horses are for fools that court death."
Li Chenyang frowned a bit. If only Wuyi's land weren't filled with so much uphills and forests, it'd be easier for them to train horses too. He supposed every country had their strengths and weaknesses. Hanjian's soldiers were more likely to get tired out if they ran on foot.
"Why do you ask, Father?" Li Xueyue questioned.
Duke Li Shenyang smiled. "It's because you're departing for Hanjian in less than a week."
Li Xueyue rapidly blinked in surprise. T-that soon?!
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