Unladylike

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"Come, little sister. As a matter of fact, that's exactly where we're going. I wanted it to be a surprise to you but since we're already speaking of the subject. I may as well reveal it."

"So, you're taking me to seduce a married man?"

Yuanji laughed softly. "That's a heartless way to put it."

"Inside his house?" I added daringly while Yuanji only grinned shamelessly. "You're despicable,  eldest brother. You truly are."

Yuanji took me through the long halls of our manor spilling out to the courtyard. A carriage waited for us, the servant already stacked our luggages for the travel that Yuanji took the liberty of packing, leaving my privacy feeling violated. Severely violated.

My irritation climbed up to my chest as I felt the need to protest, but I muster my silence. I best keep silent before we find ourselves in an argument. Especially with this very long trip on our way to Changi's estate that he decided to surprise me with.

 Especially with this very long trip on our way to Changi's estate that he decided to surprise me with

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It was the same manner, nothing had changed in the past half-decade. Everything looked the same, the same garden, the same plants, the same shade of red and gold paint that brought the palace into its prosper.

It's even the same maidservant who greeted us at the courtyard.

She treated Yuanji with the same regard, while she looked at me with astonished delight. "Goodness, is this the young lady, He Lian from the house of Yi?" Her smile was bright and her eyes shone happily. "You have grown quite rapidly."

I inclined my head in gratitude. "Thank you, It had been five years since my last visit."

"Yes, I much remember that delicate little girl, you had grown into such a woman." She continued.

My smile pressed wider, carrying a small conversation with her until we were interrupted by a loud groan. I was too distracted to notice other people joining us. The travel was long and I suffered severely from jet lag, barely able to keep track of where I am, much less hold myself steady as I stand.

I stretched my neck curiously to see who it was while the maidservant turned around in surprise. "Mistress, I was not expecting you out here."

"Yeah, well..." The mistress snorted, she wore a fancy combination of brocade wrapped around in thick elegant coat. She doesn't know me, but I recognized her face from many posters of the imperial family posted out in the city and villages. She's the youngest daughter of the emperor, a princess of the imperial palace. The one Jingam married.

I felt my chest tightened. Not the type of greeting I anticipated. There's always an unspoken animosity between women whether we like to admit it or not. I'm quite sure the princess doesn't like the idea of an unmarried noblewoman visiting her husband's estate.

"Princess, Li." I murmured humbly, inclining to a bow respectfully.

"So, you are the delicate flower from that whorehouse." Her head cocked to the side, while the corner of her lips twitched riding an upward turn. If I wasn't mistaken, that is what you call a sneer.

It took a lot of effort not show the reaction jumping out of me right now. Good thing, I had a lot of training keeping my face placid on situations like this. I couldn't thank mother enough for her guidance. She once told me all young women are bitches. Some will smile to your face while they kick you to the ground, others will smile to your face while they stab you in the back.

You need to be tough when you get older He Lian because you will find yourself playing the game you didn't know you'll be a player. The players will be cunning, and they will be well trained. You need to be prepared because they'll be the vilest people you'll ever get the chance of meeting.

Back then, it did not make sense, but I as grew into my adulthood, I began to realize the meaning behind what she said.

I smiled dismissing the princess's insult. "Please, do not be a concern, I'm quite sure you felt threatened my dear princess. But I can assure you, you need not worry about my arrival since my competition barely registers as a dog."

Her face turned the darkest shade of red, her rage flashed out of her eyes. "Did you just call me a dog?" She snapped.

"No, princess. You're quite a doll."

There was a tug, and I felt Yuanji's strong hand wrapped around my arm, yanking me behind his back. He brought his head into a deep bow. "I apologize for my sister, princess. She's tired, she had been locked inside the carriage for two days."

Princess Li snorted. "Yes, I'm sure a travel like that is enough to turn someone into a lunatic."

I jerked my arm, but Yuanji's hold only got tighter.

"Yes, indeed a princess. You are much too kind to understand my sister's state of mind."

Yuanji didn't wait to be dismissed, dragging me away with him. "What the heck are you thinking?!" He asked sharply. "How are you going to talk to Jingam's wife like that?"

"She called me a whore!" I reasoned, "I barely stepped out of the carriage and she's called me a whore!"

Yuanji slowed down, letting go of my arm while I caressed my aching skin. "You should know better than that. A woman from the house of Yi are elegant, they don't participate in such exchanges. Besides, princess Li has a bad reputation of being vulgar"

"Yeah, well. She's a princess and she has no elegance." I  snorted.

"Ignore her," Yuanji advised.

"I have a feeling that would be difficult while I'm here."

I stopped and refused to walk further. I stood stubbornly in the courtyard. When Yuanji said he wanted a match between me and Jingam, had he thought of his wife? If I were to become his second wife, had he imagined what kind of life I will suffer in the hands of the first wife? I don't think Yuanji even considered this at all. I don't think a man could ever consider what a woman goes through sharing the same man, in the same manner, no matter how big the estate is.

And I'm quite sure a princess of all people would not be thrilled of this. It was a privilege to the Changi clan to marry off to the imperial family. Not the other way around. The only reason Lord Changi was able to secure the match was that no prince wanted the princess. In other words, I could safely assume princess Li is the one who wore the pants in this marriage.

He paused and turned to me, Yuanji darted a curious gaze. "What did you stop for?"

I scowled at him. "I refused."

"You refused what?"

"I refused Jingam."

"You can't do that."

"Yes, I can! And I'm doing it right now."

He turned around and there's something about my brother that seemed so scary suddenly. It was just like when we were children when I would get in trouble and he'd come to see what's going on. Yuanji was the scariest out of all my siblings because he's the oldest and he's the biggest.

I withdrew a step back, I will risk running away in this dress if I had to.

"No, you're not." He said reprimanding. "Do you realize the effort it took to make this happen? The time I waited? The planning? Are you going to ruin all the work I put into it?"

"Oh, I doubt there's plenty of effort at all."

"Common now, He Lian. This is hardly how a lady from the House of Yi acts."

I shook my head. "No, but I don't care right now." I took another step back and bolted away from where I stood.

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