The Rise of Xueyue

Chapter 19 Never Forge

The next day, a modest and rusty carriage stopped in front of the main entrance of the Li Manor.

A regal man stepped out of the carriage, accompanied by a few men dressed in black. Their faces were covered and when the Li guards searched them, they found no weapons, but the men seemed powerful enough to be well-trained soldiers.

The man was dressed like a peasant commoner. His robes were dirt brown and dirty, but the way he walked with his head held high and his hands tucked behind his back eluded a great air of elegance.

The servants stared at him in confusion. Who was this strange beggar that was able to afford a carriage?

But the Eunuchs who took direct orders from the Duke knew it was wiser to greet the man first.

"Honorable guest, you have arrived." Said one of the Eunuchs. His smile was friendly, but it never reached his eyes.

"Please, allow me to guide the way-"

"I can find Duke Li myself." The man brushed pass the eager Eunuch and the dumbfounded servants.

Why was a man dressed in dirt-colored clothes and dusty shoes being treated like a respectable guest?

To the plain eye, there wasn't anything special about him. As a matter of fact, a few of the servants thought he was a beggar upon first glance.

"Honorable guest, Duke Li has entrusted me the task of guiding you to his study-"

"Hm, it seems the Li servants are incompetent and deaf. I already said, I didn't need a guide." The man commented when the Eunuch dared to talk back.

One dangerously murderous glance from the man was enough to send the Eunuchs onto their knees begging for mercy.

"This lowly servant has wronged you-"

The man stepped past the kneeling Eunuchs, the awestruck servants, and the nonchalant guards. He walked into the Li Manor surrounded by his men whose eyes scanned every inch of their surroundings.

Everywhere he walked and turned, the servants would stop and stare. No one had bowed to him, because of his dull colored clothes and dirty face.

The servants all wondered why a man like him was wandering the Li Halls. But none of them dared to ask that question. The men in black surrounding the beggar were more than a simple warning.

They'd kill with the flicker of one finger.

Upon noticing the confused glances and disrespectful servants, the man hummed, "The Duke needs to replace his servants."

He walked down the expansive hallways, with no particular sense of direction. Maybe I should've taken that annoying Eunuch's advice...but having him as the guide was like a heavy rock pounding on his head.

"Why must that fool have such decorative hallways. It must've been my sister's idea." The man said to no one in particular.

The hallways had a very open concept where you could see the beautiful garden and ponds that wrapped around the walkway. Interlocking wooden frames lined the top of the hallways and the half-fence was low, but extremely detailed.

The structure was designed by two master craftsmen who had spend two years working on the hallways. Because it would be one of the first thing that a person sees, Duke Li ensured the hallways were in the best condition.

The man walked without a care in the world until something caught his attention. From the corner of his eyes, he saw a swift movement and when he turned, he was surprised to see a little girl no more than the age of thirteen.

Xueyue was feeding the Koi fishes in the gardens when she heard the shuffle of footsteps. She poured in the last drop of fish food, and then stood up straighter.

She was surprised to see a man dressed in plain, commoner clothing. But when Xueyue looked closer, she noticed the heavy air of elegance around him. He wasn't a simple beggar.

Although Xueyue was unsure of his status, she still kept her mannerism in mind. Cupping her fists, then moving to her lower right torso, she dipped her legs and performed a very graceful and beautiful bow.

The man smiled at her. Out of everyone here, she was the first and only person to bow without fear and hesitation.

Xueyue walked towards the man. "Sir, are you lost?" She softly asked.

When Xueyue was closer to him, his brows raised in curiosity. This tiny girl in front of him was very beautiful, but she had a heavy resemblance to a woman he knew.

As a matter of fact, the woman was someone extremely close to him...

The man knew of Duke Li's only daughter's sorrowful passing and became curious as to who this child was.

The man said, "I am indeed a little lost. Will you guide me to Duke Li's study?"

Xueyue immediately nodded her head. "Of course," She instantly said.

Walking towards the edges of the hallway, she quickly changed from her outdoor shoes for her indoor ones before stepping into the hallways.

"Duke Li's study is this way." Xueyue guided the man towards the opposite direction that he had planned on walking in.

After a few minutes of winding hallways and curious servants, Xueyue and the man finally reached Duke Li's study.

"If that is all, I will be excusing myself now." Xueyue did the same bowing gesutre.

But when she was about to leave, the man spoke up.

"Child, I never got your name." He said.

Though he had a very warm and friendly face, Xueyue couldn't help but feel cautious about him. He certainly seemed harmless, but there was a very strong air of authority around him.

Xueyue turned around and smiled. "My name is Xueyue."

"Just Xueyue...?" The man asked.

He wanted to know her surname and if she was of a suitable status for marriage.

She seemed quite young, but the man had a grandson who was two years older than her. He had never met a child who didn't judge a person by their appearance.

Throughout the entire walk, she was very attentive and respectful. Such a girl would make a very filial daughter-in-law.

A gruff voice answered for the man. "It's Li Xueyue."

The two turned around to see Duke Li standing outside of his door. He had a very nonchalant expression, but there was slight irritation in his eyes.

"Don't dwell at the door, your Majesty. Please, come in." Duke Li urged the man inside, but the man stood rooted to the ground.

"That name...It sounds awfully familiar." The man commented in amusement.

Xueyue tilted her head and stared at the man. Did she know him? Was she one of her father's friends? Her throat tightened at the latter.

"She's my distant niece." Duke Li answered, but his response dodged the man's comments.

After an electrifying stare down between the Duke and the man, he finally said, "Fine, fine. I'll leave this issue alone."

Duke Li blew out a breath he didn't know he was holding. Just as the man was about to stroll into the study, he took a fleeting glance at Xueyue's pale expression.

In a low mummer that only the Duke and Xueyue could hear, the man said, "Li Xueyue...I will not forget that name."

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