That night, Madam Du had all her things removed from Pine courtyard as she got settled at Ginkgo courtyard.
Duke Ying and the old madam knew of this, but hadn’t said anything. It seemed that they had tacitly agreed. After all, everyone was well aware that although Nurse Dou had taken on someone else’s sins, without Madam Du’s approval, as her personal servant, she wouldn’t dare act of her own initiative. If there wasn’t the house of Count Zhongyi behind her, the Duke’s family wouldn’t have held back on the punishment. Moving her to Ginkgo courtyard was already considered fairly light.
So regarding this matter, everyone maintained their silence, making every effort to keep it secret. Wei Zheng was the only one making noise, loudly crying.
When Madam Du moved out, she grabbed onto her clothes, asking her not to leave, that it was all Ah Luo’s fault. She placed all the blame on Ah Luo. If it wasn’t for Wei Luo complaining to father, he wouldn’t have gotten mad at mother, and mother wouldn’t have had to move to a broken down courtyard.
She grew more and more angry. Glaring at Wei Luo with reddened eyes, her hands were feeling for something to grab and hurl towards Ah Luo: “It’s all your fault!”
Tossing items aside, Wei Zheng blindly grasped onto something. As soon as she threw it, it turned out to be a pair of copper scissors.
Standing behind Wei Kun, Ah Luo didn’t have to dodge. Wei Kun quickly picked her up, taking her out of harm’s way.
Wei Kun was outraged. At this young age, Wei Zheng knew to get the scissors to wound others. After growing up, how would she turn out? He was disgusted with Madam Du. Thinking those were all things she had taught, he became increasingly colder to her, his tone of voice somewhat fed-up: “Is this how you teach Wei Zheng? To have no regard for her elders! Ah Luo is her older sister, continuing like this, whatever’s next?”
Madam Du’s complexion was not good in the first place, having been reprimanded by him, she blanched even more. Clenching her teeth, she suffered through his reproach with making a sound.
Wei Kun also said: “If Zheng is still like this in the future, I’ll see to it that you won’t get to bring her up. When she learns decorum, then I’ll let her see you again.” Pausing for a bit, he added: “And Wei Zheng, you were too much to your older sister. You’ll be punished with no dinner, and kneeling at the ancestral shrine for half an hour.”
Madam Du felt her vision darken. She wanted to call his name, but he didn’t give her the opportunity to dispute. Holding Wei Luo, he turned around.
While he was walking, he was consoling Wei Luo: “Ah Luo, don’t be afraid. Daddy’s here, I’ll protect you.”
Wei Luo leaned on Wei Kun’s shoulder, and blinked her glittering pitch-black eyes, watching Madam Du mockingly.
And Wei Zheng, hearing about a punishment, was already alert. She was waiting for Madam Du to speak up for her, but Madam Du couldn’t save herself, how would she save her?
Wei Zheng cried despondently at her feet, looking in the direction Wei Kun and Wei Luo had departed, seemingly choking on something in her throat, almost spitting out blood in anger.
In the evening, Wei Zheng came back from the shrine, and cried all night.
Ah Luo’s room happened to be next door to Wei Zheng’s. The weeping noise and the sobs passed through the walls, keeping Ah Luo up the whole night. Waking up the next morning, her complexion looked very bad.
At daybreak, Wei Zheng was finally quiet, probably crying herself to sleep. Ah Luo lingered on her bed, unwilling to get up. In her mind, she grumbled about Wei Zheng a bit. Dallying for a long time, she reluctantly raised her thick, long eyelashes. Under the lashes, a pair of limpid, watery eyes like deep pools, gently rippled, sharp and charming.
She appeared annoyed, but who knew what she recalled, a smile suddenly bloomed on her face.
Why had Wei Zheng cried? Of course, it was because Madam Du had moved out.
Although she hadn’t yet toppled Madam Du entirely, she wasn’t anxious. She had a nice start. She hadn’t gotten sold by Madam Du, and on top of that, she had managed to deal her a serious blow. Madam Du had lost father’s trust, and also exposed her true nature. If she wanted to bring her down later, it would be much easier.
Ah Luo’s fresh and tender small face had a smiling expression, appearing sweet on the outside, while concealing the innermost devious thoughts.
When Jin Lu came in, she happened to see her curled lips, and couldn’t help smiling as she asked: “Miss, what are you thinking about? Such a happy look.”
She sat up in bed. A pale white undergarment robe covered her tiny body, her soft and glossy black hair was draped over her shoulders, and after a night of tossing around, the even bangs were messily parted to two sides, revealing a tiny cinnabar birthmark between her eyebrows. Between Ah Luo’s eyebrows there was a dark red beauty mark, but the bangs usually covered it, so it wasn’t normally in view. Only during the moments that she was just waking up, it could occasionally be seen.
Jin Lu thought this birthmark was extremely pretty, right between the brows, enhancing Wei Luo’s fine facial features. She resembled the young children by the lotus flower Bodhisattva*. Her age was still small, but when she grew up, who knew how stunning she would turn out to be.
Wei Luo stood in front of her, waiting obediently with both arms spread, so she could change her clothes. She said with a sweet smile: “I was thinking of what to eat for breakfast. Elder sister Jin Lu, Ah Luo wants to eat sweet red bean paste rolls.”
Jin Lu laughed as she gently helped her dress, “Fifth master knows that Miss likes to eat that, he already had the kitchen prepare it a while ago. Once Miss is properly dressed, I’ll bring you to eat.”
Wei Luo was startled, also thinking she had misunderstood.
Before, Wei Kun was always busy, he rarely had his meals together with Changhong and her. Even if they ate together, he’d be in a hurry to finish and run to the Imperial Academy. There had never been a case like today, where he would especially wait for her to have breakfast.
Did he feel too guilty because of Madam Du, that he wanted to make it up to her?
Wei Luo didn’t know she had only guessed half of it. Wei Kun not only wanted to make it up to her, he planned to take care of her personally in the future. He had thought it out well. The books from the Imperial Academy, he could take home to read. It would be good enough to only go there for his exams. That way he could free up a lot of time to look after Wei Luo and personally bring her up.
Curious, Wei Luo dutifully put on a cherry colored short coat with passion flower patterns, and a light yellow skirt, and then headed for the main house. Her hair was tied with red silk ribbons in a bow-knot, the loose ends hanging by her ears. As long as the wind blew, the red ribbons would brush against her face, only to reveal eyes curved like the crescent moon*, quick-witted and cute.
When she reached the entrance to the main house, she heard Wei Zheng’s voice coming from inside: “I’m not eating! If Daddy doesn’t let Mother return, I won’t eat!”
Taking a look, she saw three people sitting at the round red sandalwood table with black and gold lacquer. Wei Kun was sitting in the middle impassively, on his left side was Changhong, on his right — Wei Zheng. Wei Zheng didn’t want the maidservants to wait on her, threw the chopsticks down, and looked at Wei Kun with a pout.
Wei Kun ignored her. Looking up, he noticed Wei Luo coming in, his expression brightening: “Ah Luo, come sit down. After the meal, Daddy has something to tell you.”
Wei Luo sat next to Changhong, to the opposite of Wei Zheng.
Wei Zheng was still mad at Wei Kun for yesterday’s punishment, naturally her anger spread to Ah Luo as she stared indignantly at her. Ah Luo paid her no attention, she was only hurting herself by refusing to eat.
Ah Luo was very hungry. Since she couldn’t neglect her own stomach, she deliberately leaned over to pick an emerald shark fin dumpling between her chopsticks: “What does Daddy want to tell me? Aw, Daddy, Ah Luo can’t reach this…”
That dish was what Wei Zheng liked to eat the most, so the maidservants had gotten used to placing it in front of her. A moment ago, Wei Zheng had spitefully declared she wasn’t going to eat, and Wei Kun had a mind to educate her by letting her suffer some setbacks, or else she would become too wilful with everything. Right away, he said to a maidservant: “Place this dish in front of the fourth Miss.”
Wei Zheng had said she wouldn’t eat in anger. She had cried a whole night, and crying also consumed energy, so now she was also absolutely hungry. She had meant for Wei Kun to coax her and let her mother join them. She hadn’t expected that not only would he not coax her, but would also give her favorite dish to Wei Luo! Feeling wronged, she wanted to cry, however, she thought of the words that Madam Du had spoken to her yesterday, to restrain herself and to tolerate, and to hold her tears back. She could not cry, mother had said there was no use crying. She had to think of a method to rescue mother and reunite with her.
Wei Zheng looked anxiously at the emerald shark fin dumplings that were put in front of Wei Luo. One plate of steamed stuffed buns and one of seasoned bracken salad were the only dishes that remained in front of her, dishes that she didn’t like.
Wei Luo pretended not to see Wei Zheng’s line of sight, and clamped an emerald shark fin dumpling between her chopsticks to give to Changhong: “Changhong, eat more. Fourth Aunt said that if you eat a lot, you’ll grow tall faster.”
Hearing the last sentence, Changhong raised his eyes to look at her: “Can it also let me grow taller than you?”
At this age, girls grew quicker than boys. Even though they were born on the same day, Ah Luo was taller than Changhong by half a finger.
Ah Luo nodded with a smile: “Sure it can!”
She was chatting with Changhong harmoniously, talking and laughing, with Wei Kun occasionally inserting a sentence or two. No one took the initiative to talk to Wei Zheng, making her look like an outsider.
There used to be Madam Du before, who completely doted on her, and even personally fed her, though she was already five. Now that Madam Du wasn’t there, she actually couldn’t even feed herself.
Ah Luo and Changhong were done eating, while she was still sluggishly picking up the food. Wei Kun knitted his brows, saying to the children: “I’ve invited a gentleman for you, he’ll teach you how to read and write. The gentleman will come over tomorrow, you should go and meet him first. Remember to greet him properly.” Having said that, he turned to Wei Luo and Wei Zheng: “For the two of you, I’ve also invited a female tutor, she’ll teach you manners and etiquette. Ah Zheng’s behavior today of throwing the chopsticks cannot happen again.”
Wei Zheng was quiet, not that interested about the tutor. Wei Luo, on the other hand, was looking forward to it very much.
In her previous life, she had grown up in a farmer’s family. There had been one scholar in that village, who had been the only literate person. Though she had studied a little, it had been insufficient. In particular, when she had returned to the capital at 15, she had increasingly felt the gap between herself and the other noble ladies. Other people’s manners had been elevated and splendid, even if they were standing still, they would attract attention. Her own face had been pretty, but she hadn’t possessed the type of bearing they’d had, so she had fallen short in comparison.
She had still been young then, and hadn’t known anything. Having grown up in those circumstances, the gap had only become more apparent.
Therefore, she had to take advantage of the fact, that she was on even grounds with the other noble ladies at this point in time. She was very eager to study poetry and etiquette. What her past self hadn’t learned, she wanted to make up for it all, and become a genuine well-bred young lady of a prominent family.
Wei Luo blinked her eyes, asking: “What is the gentleman going to teach us? I’ve heard that third and fourth elder brothers were studying the Book of Songs (a collection of poetry), I also want to learn.”
Wei Kun laughed, patting her head, “It’s too early for you to study the Book of Songs. Let the gentleman teach you all the Three Character Classic first, and how to write letters.” Thinking about it, he was feeling guilty towards Ah Luo, so he was more considerate of her, “Every day after your lectures, Ah Luo can come to my study, and I’ll check your progress personally.”
Wei Luo nodded and said ‘yes’, her answer crisp and sweet.
In contrast, Wei Zheng, who had been spoiled by Madam Du, wasn’t able to read the mood, and was still throwing a tantrum: “I don’t want this gentleman, I want mother! Daddy, let mother come back!”
When she had said that before, Wei Kun had deliberately not responded. As she kept mentioning it, Wei Kun also started to lose his temper, saying with a cold face: “In the future, you’re not allowed to speak of this again. If you want her, go live with her in Ginkgo courtyard right away!”
Wei Zheng’s eyes reddened from his chiding. Tears threatened to spill out, but she resolutely suppressed them in the end, causing her eye rims to turn red through and through.
Ah Luo didn’t look at her. She placed her chopsticks down, saying: “I’m full. Daddy, I’ll go look for fourth Aunt.”
The Wei Zheng from her previous life liked to cry, cried when she was angry, cried when she felt wronged, also cried when she was scared. Ah Luo disliked this type of unreasonable behavior the most. She didn’t know whether in this life, without Madam Du around, Wei Zheng would be able to grow up a little.
Changhong, seeing Ah Luo jumping down from the chair, quickly put down his chopsticks: “I’m also full!”
Only Wei Kun and Wei Zheng remained in the room. Wei Zheng ate one bite after another dejectedly, evidently scared by Wei Kun’s solemn expression, she didn’t dare to cry.
The third and fourth elder brothers Ah Luo had just mentioned, were precisely her fourth aunt’s children. Third young master, Wei Changxian, was eleven years old this year, and the fourth young master, Wei Changchi was ten. Due to Ah Luo frequently visiting fourth aunt’s house, she was quite close to those two cousins of hers.
When Ah Luo reached the Plum courtyard, she found it bustling with noise and excitement. From afar, she could hear barks and people’s voices mixing together. She went to the backyard to take a look, and it turned out there was a Shandong hound (province, not an actual breed) inside. With a ferocious appearance, it looked like it wasn’t a good idea to provoke it.
The courtyard maidservants were all terrified, continuously hiding to one side or another. Wei Changxian, that reckless young demon king, was pulling the dog along, laughing rampantly, and asking people: “This is the dog my maternal uncle got through great effort, how is it? Handsome?”
The maternal uncle he meant, was the youngest son of Marquis An Ling, Qin Ce. Qin Ce was 16 this year, still young, but his position in the family was rather high. Since they could play together, Wei Changxian would follow him around all day, getting to see many novelties in the process.
This dog was among those.
Wei Luo was standing at the entrance. Seeing the dog’s fierce expression on its face, she hadn’t moved.
Wei Changxian noticed her when he turned around. Thinking she was scared, he hurriedly passed the dog to a servant, and called out to her with a smile: “Little sister Ah Luo has come? Don’t be afraid, that dog listens to me. It won’t dare to bite you, if I don’t let it.”
Finished talking, he saw Ah Luo was still motionless. He was five years older than Ah Luo, and was delegated as a big brother. With a considerable mien of an older brother, he stepped forward to hold her soft small hand, and led her to enter the courtyard, “I’m going to use it in a contest against Song Hui, hopefully it can beat his skinny Shaanxi dog.”
Hearing him mention Song Hui, Wei Luo stiffened slightly.
Song Hui and her had been set up as childhood sweethearts by their parents since an early age. During the time Jiang Miaolan had been pregnant with her, their engagement had been decided. Song Hui was six years older than her and took care of her like an older brother. Her past self had believed she would marry him one day, and become his little wife. But to her disappointment, she had gone missing for a decade, ten years later returning to Duke Ying’s residence, only to discover that Song Hui had been engaged to Wei Zheng.
Originally, Song Hui wasn’t hers. Even if they switched the fiancee, he was still able to marry her all the same.
Since her rebirth, Wei Luo hadn’t seen Song Hui.
Wei Changxian was speaking enthusiastically, warmly inviting her: “I want to bring it to Count Zhongyi’s residence tomorrow, and let it fight Song Hui’s hound. Little sister Ah Luo, do you want to go together?”
Extra from the author’s notes:
Zhao Jie: …This male lead who can only live in the writer’s words, can you even call me a male lead?
Author: Eh? What do you have in mind then?
Zhao Jie: Screen time, I want screen time! I want Ah Luo!
Author: Ah Luo said that she’s busy, and to go play by yourself. Come again when she’s 15 and finished with her education.
Zhao Jie: excuse me？？？sure？？？ (*originally in English)
Notes: Lotus flower Bodhisattva children is something from Buddhism, so I have no idea. Here’s an image from google instead:
Crescent moon eyes is basically this happily smiling expression ^_^