During the month of March, it was raining incessantly in the capital city Sheng. The continuous drizzle had kept up for two weeks.
The maidservant Jin Lu awoke from an afternoon nap and looked all around the room, only to discover that the fourth miss had disappeared. Her drowsiness immediately vanished.
Just now, the fourth miss had still been sleeping on the southern window arhat bed. How could a person disappear like that? She stood up in a hurry, took an oil-paper umbrella to go outside, and prepared to call Jin Ci and Jin Ge to search together. After taking one step through the threshold, she saw a five or six year old girl sitting under the glazed tiles.
The little girl was wearing a lush green short jacket embroidered with gold and a flowery skirt below. This tiny person had a delicate profile, with thick long eyelashes. Her pink lips were pursed. She resembled a porcelain doll. Her hair was gathered in a bun, wrapped by a red silk ribbon with two hollow gold bells below it. As she heard voices, her head turned and the tinkling of bells sounded along with her movement.
Her eyes were beautiful, like a ray of sunlight breaking through the clouds to fall on a clear lake, glittering and bright.
Jin Lu sighed with relief when she saw the little girl was alright. Even her tone was relaxed, “Miss, why did you come out? It’s raining, you may catch a cold if you’re not careful!”
Wei Luo didn’t speak, but looked at her in silence, then quietly turned her head.
She kept staring at the rain outside. Regardless of what Jin Lu said, there was no response.
This made Jin Lu a little worried. Since the fourth miss had gotten a fever yesterday morning, she hadn’t been herself. Before that, she was a lively little miss who loved to laugh, her glib mouth worked non-stop. How was it that for these two days she had fallen silent so suddenly?
Did her brain burn up?
The thought just flashed through, when Jin Lu darkly spat out. What nonsense! The fourth miss had always been the most clever.
But what was it today?
She could not figure it out, but didn’t try to persuade her further. She took out a cloak with cherry-colored brocade from the house, and put it on Wei Luo, while muttering casually: “It’s been raining for more than ten days, who knows how long it will last.”
Every March, the capital would be under endless rain, also making the rooms very damp and uncomfortable. Jin Lu only spoke casually and didn’t expect Wei Luo to answer. After all, she was a six year old child, what would she know? She probably thought the rain was fun, therefore wanted to run outside.
But Wei Luo was actually listening. She showed a faint smile, revealing her snow white teeth, and finally said: “Tomorrow, the rain will stop.”
She smiled, and two shallow dimples showed up on her cheeks. Coupled with a pair of bright black eyes, her appearance was sweet and naïve, making people unable to look away.
But today that smile looked somewhat wrong. In what way, Jin Lu was unable to say. In short, it was different from before. Before, when the fourth miss smiled, it would be more eye-catching than the wild rose in the courtyard. The old master liked her smiling face the most, because it could infect people and improve their mood. But not today. Although she was smiling, it seemed filled with resentment, a ruthless glint in the eyes, the whole body shrouded in a gloomy aura.
Could a small child know what hatered was?
“How does Miss know?” Jin Lu was startled. She was just about to take a closer look, but the girl stopped smiling, turning her head to continue staring at the rain outside.
Resting her chin on her hands, she said carelessly: “I guessed.”
Jin Lu was about to press further, but gave up.
Must have seen wrong, Jin Lu thought. The fourth miss had been living in the residence from an early age, and had never forged enmity with people. How would she learn to hate people? Besides, she was so small. Smiling, Jin Lu changed the subject: “The kitchen just made almond jelly. Miss, do you want to eat it with osmanthus syrup, or brown sugar syrup?”
She finally showed an interest, as thought for a while and said with a smile: “Osmanthus syrup!”
Sure enough, she had a child’s disposition. Mention anything delicious, she’d forget everything else. Jin Lu let her wait there for a moment, and went over to the kitchen.
After Jin Lu left, Wei Luo put on the cloak to sit under the porch for a quarter hour.
As she was leisurely shaking her feet, the red satin shoes with a peony pattern got damp. She bent down, taking a cloth to dry the shoes, but it couldn’t dry them well. Finally, she decided to simply discard the cloth. It couldn’t dry the water, might as well get drenched.
In an instant, she remembered her past life.
Jin Lu had guessed well, she truly was not the same Wei Luo.
In the first place, she thought her life had come to an end. It was unexpected that she would close her eyes and return to her six year old self. Her life had been very unhappy, full of grief. When she died, her heart had been filled with hatred. A do-over was probably the gods’ gift to her.
Ah Luo was born in the Duke of Ying’s residence as the fourth miss. Her father, Wei Kun, was Duke Ying Wei Zhangchun’s fifth son. Ah Luo had a twin, a younger brother named Wei Changhong. There was a big sensation when they were born. The old master was so delighted, he ordered the streets sprinkled with sweets, and the banquet he threw lasted for three days and three nights. Ah Luo and Changhong did not have a mother, so their father married a second wife early on. The second madam, Du Yueying, was the maternal niece of Count Zhongyi’s wife. She had just married into the Duke’s family, when she soon gave birth to a daughter – Wei Zheng, only a year younger than them.
Madam Du treated Wei Luo very well, loved her as her own daughter, always thinking of her…
Of course, that was for appearances’ sake.
Ah Luo thought herself very silly before. Obviously, she was not her biological mother, how could she love her the same?
Madam Du was nice to her on the outside, letting her eat and dress well, but secretly planning how to harm her and her younger brother. At that young age, during the Shangsi Festival (March 3), Madam Du took her to a remote forest outside of the capital. The slave traders were already there, waiting for her, while she was still stupidly asking Madam Du where to go play.
After she discovered the danger, it was too late. She was a tiny six year old girl. Facing these many adults, there was nowhere to run. Madam Du caught up with her near a brook and let two old servants surround her from either side. Afraid that she might run away and tattle, in order to stamp out the source of trouble, she strangled her neck and threw her in the river.
The scene of Madam Du tightly gripping her neck, she couldn’t forget until now.
So strange, so hideous.
Thankfully, Ah Luo had good luck. She didn’t drown, but floated down the river to a village, where she was found by a farm couple, who later adopted her.
She, the fourth miss of the Duke of Ying’s residence, had turned into a peasant’s daughter all of a sudden. In that way, she lived until she turned 15. 15 years old was the marriageable age, but she didn’t want to casually find someone to marry. Thinking of her status, she wanted to return to the Duke’s residence to get acknowledged by her relatives.
Also, she didn’t understand how Madam Du had explained things to her father, that so many years had passed by without anyone looking for her. She thought if her father saw her, he’d recognize her and take her home.
Unfortunately, she didn’t get to see Wei Kun. Her face was disfigured by the mother and daughter pair, and she became a person living on the streets. She got sick on the next day, then woke up in this situation.
Those poverty-stricken, desperate days, really let her feel cold down to the bones.
It was good that she came back, she had the opportunity to change her life. She would clearly know people’s true intentions, and would not take the same road as before.
When Jin Lu came back with the almond jelly, she saw the embroidered shoes had gotten soaked. Taken aback, she passed the tray to the nearby Jin Ci and Jin Ge. “Miss, are you looking at the rain? Is it soothing?”
Jin Ge mumbled: “Hope it soothes her to be good and listen well…”
Jin Lu glared at her, and she quickly shut up.
Jin Lu was the oldest maidservant by Wei Luo’s side. She was 13, a few years older than the others. She was also calm and dignified. Whatever she said, the other maidservants had to listen. She was fully dedicated to Wei Luo. Seeing that the rain had gotten heavy, she immediately held her up from the porch: “Miss, let’s go inside. If you sit here, sooner or later you’ll fall ill…”
Wei Luo lowered her head as the deep-seated hatred in her eyes receded, then looked back up, only a cute smile remaining on her face: “Elder sister Jin Lu, where is Changhong?”
Changhong was younger than her only by an hour. They grew up very much alike, both with a lively character. They were also much closer than ordinary siblings. Usually, Changhong would’ve already come to visit her, but today he was slow. Ah Luo obviously knew the reason, but couldn’t help asking.
Sure enough, Jin Lu explained: “Madam was worried that your sickness may affect the sixth young master, therefore hasn’t allowed the sixth young master to come. Miss, if you want to see him, then quickly get better. Then you can play together with sixth young master.”
That was Madam Du’s plan, often driving a wedge between brother and sister, so Changhong would feel alienated from her. Then even when she went missing in her previous life, Changhong would absolutely not suspect Madam Du. Ah Luo, leaning on her cheek, muffled out: “Alright…”
She didn’t display any unusual behavior, so Jin Lu didn’t suspect anything.
Ah Luo stretched out her arms to hug: “Elder sister Jin Lu, will you change my shoes? Ah Luo’s shoes are wet.”
Facing this kind of cute girl’s request, how could Jin Lu reject? Even if Wei Luo hadn’t said so, she would’ve still changed them.
“Very well, enter the room along with me, I’ll help Miss change the shoes.” Jin Lu held her hand to go back inside, brought her to sit on the southern window couch, and took off the wet shoes and socks. She used a towel to wipe the white jade-like little feet, and exchanged for another pair of shoes with an interlocking gold embroidery, but still didn’t feel assured. She urged: “Don’t go out looking at the heavy rain next time. If Master knew, he’d be distressed…”
Wei Luo’s hands dropped, as she cocked her head, “Which master?”
These words gave Jin Lu a scare: “Naturally, it’s fifth, fifth Master! Miss, why are you asking?”
Fifth Master was her father, who loved her the most… Did Miss forget?
Wei Luo blinked, “Father loves me dearly, then why hasn’t he come to see me?”
Jin Lu ordered the almond jelly to be served, and scooped a spoonful to feed her, “Master was here this morning, but the Miss was asleep at that time, so you don’t know. He also said, tomorrow he’ll let the Madam take you to Huguo Temple to burn incense to pray…”
She was going to Huguo Temple tomorrow.
Today was March 2nd, then tomorrow would be March 3rd.
Madam Du planned to sell her to the slave traders on that day.
Wei Luo’s eyes grew cold, her small fists shook in the sleeves, her emotions surged, but on the surface she still presented a naïve child’s appearance. She obediently finished eating the entire bowl of almond jelly. As Jin Lu took a silk cloth to wipe her mouth, she raised her head to ask: “Elder sister Jin Lu, I don’t feel very well, can I not go tomorrow?”
Jin Lu actually thought that she had caught a chill just now, and quickly asked people to boil water for a hot bath to drive away the cold. She had recently gotten sick, so she could not afford to fall ill again. “This matter has been settled three days ago, the master also agreed. The madam is doing it for your sake… Miss, how can you say you won’t go?”
Wei Luo did not speak again.
Soon, the hot water was delivered. Jin Lu and the two other maidservants went behind the four mahogany screens to exchange the water, when they suddenly heard the sound of the porcelain bowl breaking. Jin Lu hurriedly ran out from behind the screens, finding Wei Luo standing behind a piece of broken porcelain. The broken pieces had scratched up her small hands, cutting the skin open.
The wound wasn’t deep, only a little bit of blood flowing out. Jin Lu made a fuss, pulling a silk cloth to cover the wound, but Wei Luo actually lowered her head to lick, then looked up and said: “Elder sister Jin Lu, I accidentally broke the bowl.”
How much did a bowl cost? More than her body?
Jin Lu bent down to pick her up and away from the various broken fragments, leaving the other two maidservants to sweep the floor.
Jin Lu asked anxiously:”Did Miss get injured? Where does it hurt?”
She shook her head and hugged Jin Lu’s neck, unwilling to let go.
Jin Lu didn’t see her slowly raise a smile, long lashes down, eyes covered in shade, both beautiful and strange.
Since she couldn’t avoid it, she’d go.
Madam Du wanted to get rid of her, then why not give her a chance?
She was not the same ignorant little girl as before. Between the two of them, there was a huge account to be settled.