"I don't want to reside in the Palace," Li Minghua seethed. The dinner banquet had just begun, and she had changed into another dress. It was lighter than the previous one but it was still heavy.
Li Xueyue tuned out Li Minghua. Everyone was watching them.
All the Ministers and important aristocrats were present at this enormous banquet.
There were musicians, festivity, and scrumptious food being served for the celebration. Everyone eagerly presented themselves before the Li Family with gifts and greetings, showing their overwhelming support.
"And what is this tea?" Li Minghua complained. "I like the ones that Mother brews."
Li Xueyue found nothing wrong with the tea. It was well brewed and had a strong flavor without it being too overpowering. She lifted the teacup to her lips and drank it.
No one seemed to pay Li Minghua any mind. Their father was listening intently to something Chenyang was telling him, whereas their mother was quietly scolding Wenmin for eating so much in front of watchful eyes.
Li Xueyue wanted to escape into the night. It was suffocating in this enormous banquet venue.
Curtains draped from the tall ceilings as lights seemed to float above their heads. It was a picturesque celebration held in the large fields behind the Palace.
Crickets chirped in the distance, followed by the occasional plop of fishes in the pond. If one were to look into the distance, they could see the fireflies dancing amongst themselves.
Everything about the scenery screamed perfection. Too bad that it was ruined by fake smiles and forced laughter. Everyone was too eager to please the new Royal family.
"It's overbearing," Li Xueyue finally said. She shifted her gaze to Minghua who sat directly beside her.
Li Minghua let out a scoff before pushing the plate of food away from her. "Of course, it is. Everyone is watching us. There are so many prying eyes filled with questions."
Li Xueyue bit her bottom lip. She could see the curiosity brimming behind their sickening sweet smiles.
"The Li family's eldest daughter hasn't shown her face in public for two and a half years. What happened to her? Since when did the Li family have another daughter? Where did she come from?" Li Minghua voiced out what the guests might be questioning in their minds.
"I bet there are more sinister thoughts running through their minds," Li Minghua added on. She shrugged. "So many questions, but so few answers."
"If they're wise, they'll keep their mouths shut," Li Xueyue responded with a slight curl to her lips.
From a distance, one would think the two were having an amicable conversation about what color they would wear tomorrow. In reality, they were fed up with everything here.
"It must be nice that you're leaving for Hanjian whilst the real problems will ensue soon," Li Minghua said, swirling the teacup gently in her hand. She was mindful to not let the wind pick up on her sleeves, or else her burns would be revealed.
"I'll probably face a lot more conflicts in Hanjian than Wuyi," Li Xueyue stated.
There were platters of snacks in front of her, but she didn't have the appetite for them.
It was difficult to eat under the watchful eyes of so many people who were observing them like they were art pieces in a gallery.
Li Minghua abruptly leaned closer to Xueyue. "Don't you want to confront your real father?"
Li Xueyue stiffened. Her head snapped to Li Minghua. How did this brat know so much? "Who supplied you with this information?"
"You seemed startled, but not surprised… It seems you already have predictions on who your birth father is," Li Minghua mused. She had lowered her voice so that no one else would overhear their conversation.
Li Minghua didn't want to bring unnecessary attention to them, what with every eligible man already eyeing them, she'd rather not have more people staring at them.
"You seem to know so much about me," Li Xueyue pointed out. "Who told you these things?"
"An eye for an eye. I'll respond if you tell me how to seduce men."
Li Xueyue's eyebrows drew together. She had never once thought of doing such questionable deeds. "I never—"
"How did you do it, Xueyue? How did you manage to snatch a Commander and a Crown Prince? What is your technique? What is your weapon? Is it your tears or perhaps.... the flower in between your legs."
Li Xueyue's lips parted in disgust. "Have some decency."
Li Minghua pulled back with a tiny smirk on her face. "I'm just being crude. Why beat around the bush? It's not like people can hear us in the first place."
"You already know how to snag a Commander, why are you asking me that?" Li Xueyue retorted.
"I wasn't able to keep him," Li Minghua muttered. She let out a wistful sigh and continued to play with the edge of her teacup.
"Doesn't seem like it to me," Li Xueyue said. She raised the teacup to her lips. Peering through her lashes, she saw him even amongst the crowd. One would think his attention was on her, but it wasn't. He was staring intently at the woman beside her.
"He's watching you," Li Minghua gritted out. Her blood boiled. "Don't mess with me—"
"Touch your mouth," Li Xueyue instructed.
"Just do it."
Li Minghua was puzzled but still did so. Her fingers momentarily grazed her lips before it curled underneath her chin, almost as if she was lost in thought.
"And just like that," Li Xueyue mused. "His stare can bore a hole through your face."
Li Minghua refused to respond. She shifted her gaze towards the table and picked up a pastry.
Li Xueyue relaxed in her chair. Finally, Minghua had quieted down. She wondered how little self-esteem Minghua has. Why did she doubt herself so much? For someone so arrogant and bratty, Li Minghua sure hated herself.
Li Xueyue didn't care enough to interfere in her enemy's life.
"The Second Prince."
Li Xueyue tilted her head. She momentarily peered at Minghua before shifting her attention elsewhere. "What are you talking about?"
"The Second Prince was the one who told me about you."
Li Xueyue's spine went stiff. She sat up straighter as her head snapped to Minghua. "How does he know so much about me?"
"If there's anyone who should've been killed in the entire ordeal, it's him, the Mastermind of Wuyi."
Li Xueyue's heart plummeted to her stomach. Of course, it would be him. The Second Prince was the gatekeeper of secrets. If he wanted to, he could use it against each and every person he had deemed an enemy.
"And you chose now out of all times to tell me?" Li Xueyue said. "Does Mother and Father know of his capabilities?"
"Obviously they do," Li Minghua said. "Why else would there be so many soldiers here tonight? Wen Jinkai is a Commander, but his name alone would have granted him a seating closest to the Emperor. Instead, he's forced to stand guard."
"All of them… just to capture the Second Prince?" Li Xueyue questioned. "I thought he was residing in the Palace?"
"He is," Li Minghua said. "We plan to murder him in secret. The Second Prince knows too much."
"I thought you were scared of him? Wasn't that why you put up such an elaborate act a couple days ago when we were embroidering?" Li Xueyue questioned.
"I'm terrified of him and his capabilities, but right now, I"m safe aren't I? No one will dare to attack me here. Not with—" Li Minghua cut herself off. She harshly bit her tongue for being so foolish to even have thoughts like that.
"You're right," Li Xueyue jabbed. "No one has the guts to hurt Wen Jinkai's woman."
"I don't care," Li Xueyue deadpanned. "Keep your doubts to yourself."
Li Minghua clamped her mouth shut, partly because she was tired of Xueyue's accuracy. She should've known the most quiet person observed the most. Why else would they remain silent for so long?
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