That night, Wei Zheng got a fever and dazedly called out for her mother. Nurse Jin, who was looking after Wei Zheng, was flustered as she raised the alarm at Wei Kun’s door, saying that she didn’t know how serious it was. Wei Kun draped on a cloak with a dark green bamboo nodes pattern, and sent someone to invite a doctor that very night. After the doctor’s examination, he said it was a simple cold, and to cover her with several quilts to warm her up, then he wrote a prescription. Drinking a bowl of medicine, Wei Zheng would be fine on the next day.
After seeing the doctor off, Wei Kun instructed the two maidservants by Wei Zheng’s side, Yin Feng and Yin Lou to go and prepare the medicine according to the prescription. He waited for them to bring in the ready medicine, then personally fed it to Wei Zheng before leaving.
The next morning, just as the doctor had said, Wei Zheng’s fever retreated. She was also more clear-headed.
Today was the first day for the tutor to give lessons. Originally, she had to go listen to Mr. Xue’s lecture, but she actually wrapped herself in the quilt and didn’t move a muscle. Yin Lou stood by her bed and called out a few times, but didn’t get an answer all along. Yin Lou assumed she wasn’t feeling well and that she hadn’t recovered from the illness yet, so she ran to Wei Kun to ask for a day off on behalf of Wei Zheng. When he heard that, Wei Kun allowed her to attend the lectures starting tomorrow.
By the time Yin Lou returned, she was still lying motionlessly in bed.
Yin Lou thought she was sleeping, and didn’t expect that as she moved closer, she would find her secretly wiping her tears under the quilt. She had cried so broken-heartedly, a big spot of the bedding under her body had been soaked through. Alarmed, Yin Lou stepped forward to call out gently: “Fifth Miss, you…”
Wei Zheng winced, grabbed the covers and pulled them over her head, wrapping herself even more tightly within, so that no one could see her.
Yin Lou worriedly fussed about at the bedside, wondering what was wrong with her. She rushed to call Nurse Jin and Yin Feng over, to consult them how to deal with the situation. Wei Zheng also didn’t know, but her heart was in great pain and it was difficult to endure that stifling feeling. The little child didn’t know how she should vent her mood, she only had this way of crying.
Wei Zheng had gone to Ginkgo courtyard yesterday, telling Madam Du about her grievances and causing Madam Du to curse at Wei Luo, ‘that little wretch’. Earlier, she had been standing by the pond’s edge, and if Wei Luo hadn’t pushed her, she couldn’t have possibly fallen in. Madam Du wanted to find Wei Kun to demand for an explanation and to scold Wei Luo while at it, yet she couldn’t even catch a glimpse of Wei Kun’s face… At that time she (Wei Zheng) was beside her, helplessly looking on as her mother was embarrassed. That mother who had always been up above, had suddenly fallen down in the mud, continuously asking the servants to let her see father… She watched, feeling a little sad, as she didn’t want to let her mother be so submissive for her sake. She ran over to hold onto Madam Du’s leg, saying: “Don’t look for dad, mother, I don’t want to see dad… It doesn’t hurt anymore…”
What happened after?
Afterwards, Madam Du hugged her and cried for quite a long time. She could sense her mother’s despair and helplessness. Madam Du’s tears flowed down her cheeks and dripped down to her neck, so scalding it was scary. She was still young, and couldn’t really understand her mother’s feelings, but since her mother was crying, she also cried.
Why were they in this state now?
Madam Du spoke close to her ear: “It was Wei Luo, it was Wei Luo and her mother, who harmed us.”
The sound of her voice was hypnotic as it entered her ear. She gradually stopped crying, and remembered Madam Du’s words deep in her heart. Wei Luo caused their bad condition, Wei Luo made daddy not want mother… Mother said she couldn’t go on being willful, she had to study and become smart, just like Wei Luo. Then dad will like her even better, and will let mother return from Ginkgo courtyard.
Wei Zheng had confined herself in bed all day, without eating or speaking, as if she had become a different person.
Jin Lu told Wei Luo about what had happened in Wei Zheng’s room. Wei Luo had just come back from the venerable Mr. Xue’s study room, and was preparing to have lunch. Listening, she uttered an ‘Oh’, and didn’t give too big of a reaction. Pointing at the shredded chicken with mushrooms gruel on the table, she said: “Big sister Jin Lu, I also want to drink.”
From early in the morning, she and Changhong had studied for half the day, so she was already hungry. The venerable Mr. Xue taught them to write characters, being extremely earnest and giving each of them close attention. She and Changhong didn’t dare to slack off, as they followed in writing each stroke and each line. Her hand was sore after an entire morning of not putting it down. Having her meal was important, she didn’t have any spare time to waste on irrelevant people.
Could Wei Zheng straighten out at long last? Honestly, she was somewhat looking forward to it.
If Wei Zheng kept being so stupid, then even if she won, she wouldn’t have a sense of achievement.
It was better like this. Falling from a higher place made more impact, it should be several times more painful.
After several days, Wei Zheng was very peaceful, as if she had calmed down, as if reflecting on life. Thinking so much at her age was a truly difficult thing for her. She listened to the tutors’ lessons distractedly, frequently absent-minded, causing the two tutors much dissatisfaction. In comparison, Wei Luo was a lot more obedient and sensible. She attended the lectures seriously. Adding on the little knowledge from her past life, her writing was also neat. The venerable Mr. Xue often praised Wei Luo in front of Wei Kun, saying she was smart and witty, lovable and sensible, very easy to like.
As a father, Wei Kun was naturally proud to hear these words.
Whenever Wei Luo was done with the day’s lessons, he would call her over to the study and ask what she had earned today, and whether there was something she couldn’t understand. Even Changhong didn’t get this treatment, it was enough to notice how much Wei Kun cared for her. Sometimes Wei Luo would be too tired and unwilling to reply, so she would lie on his legs acting like a baby with a sweet and soft voice: “Ah Luo studies during the day, studies in the evening, too tired… Daddy look, my hand is swollen from writing today.” As she spoke, she lifted her white and tender little hand in front of Wei Kun to let him see.
Wei Kun was next to the window, which let in the sun. Looking at the fingertips, they really appeared a little red, and he suddenly felt sorry for her. He took them in his hand and massaged them, “Alright, alright, Daddy won’t ask. Since Ah Luo is the smartest, Daddy is at ease.”
After this, Wei Kun didn’t ask about Ah Luo’s lesson.
Ever since he spoke those words on that day, Wei Kun was serious about looking after Wei Luo personally. Every day he would come back from the Imperial Academy in a hurry, and the first thing he would ask was ‘How is the fourth miss today’. He found a lot of time to spend with Wei Luo, the little young lady was quite pampered. She didn’t have a mother, so Wei Kun acted as both the father, and the mother. He couldn’t bear to let her suffer any grievances again. The new dresses and skirts in Wei Luo’s room were getting more and more. After changing clothes for the new season, the other misses in the residence all had only four sets, she alone had twelve sets, all paid for with Wei Kun’s money. In addition to these, the snacks that the little young lady liked, the accessories, the toys…they weren’t few. She had even more compared to other people.
Wei Kun knew Wei Luo liked amusements. Worried that she’d be unable to calm her heart and her restless thoughts, he set up a flower trellis behind Pine courtyard. Inside he planted orchids, chrysanthemums, Chinese peonies, Moutan peonies, and other flowers. He brought Wei Luo to water them every day. Watching them grow daily, he bragged that Ah Luo looked even better than these flowers.
The father and daughter pair’s affections deepened with each passing day, so that even Changhong felt jealous: “Dad, don’t always look for Ah Luo, Ah Luo won’t have time to spend with me.”
Wei Kun laughed heartily. Rubbing his head, he laughed at him.
Wei Zheng was silently watching from the side. Compared to before, she was a lot more peaceful, seemingly having grown up overnight. Her brain was active, different from her former clumsiness. For instance now, she ran over to ask with a smile: “Daddy, I like this pot of fine jade flower. Is it alright to gift it to me?”
If it was before, she would’ve surely kicked the flower pot to turn it over.
The fine jade flower was a white narcissus, each petal clear, sparkling and translucent, the fragrance overwhelmed the senses. This pot of fine jade flower should have already withered a month ago, but because Ah Luo had raised it well, it grew strong and the flowering was extended by a month. Now that Wei Zheng wanted it, Wei Kun naturally didn’t immediately give it to her, saying instead: “This is the flower your fourth elder sister raised, you should ask her. If she agrees, the flower pot will be yours.”
Wei Zheng turned her head to face Wei Luo. Her round apple face was all smiles as she asked: “Wei Luo, can you gift this flower pot to me?”
Wei Luo didn’t want to gift it, since she had carefully tended to it for a very long time. Wei Zheng was unlikely to raise flowers. What if it got ruined? She slowly voiced an ‘Oh’, and spoke bluntly: “I can’t, I also like this potted flower. I don’t want to gift it to you. What to do?”
Wei Zheng pointed at the flower trellis behind her, “You have so many flowers… I only want a flower pot.”
Probably because of Wei Zheng’s pitiful appearance, Wei Kun’s heart softened a little and wanted to persuade Wei Luo to gift this flower pot to her younger sister. Who knew that he had barely opened his mouth to say two words: “Ah Luo…”
Wei Luo titled her head to ask: “I have so many flowers, because I raised them together with daddy. You’re saying you want me to give one now, what’s the reason?”
Though her age was small, her desire to monopolize was very strong. Her own things belonged to her only, no one else was allowed to touch them. As her father, Wei Kun was clear about it. Hearing these words, he was naturally embarrassed to urge her again.
She didn’t agree, and Wei Zheng definitely didn’t have a good reason to demand it. Furthermore, looking at Wei Kun, it appeared that he wouldn’t assist in making a decision. He stood to the side pretending to trim the flower branches, while sharpening his ears to eavesdrop.
Wei Zheng flattened her lips and mumbled: “I’m your younger sister… You can’t give me one potted flower?”
So she knew she was the younger sister now?
Ah Luo blinked her eyes unconvinced, and went over to Wei Kun’s side to pull on his sleeve, “Daddy, Wei Zheng said she was my younger sister, but how come I’ve never heard her call me elder sister?”
Wei Kun coughed and looked at Wei Zheng.
Wei Zheng’s face flushed, this could be considered as shooting herself in the foot. She faltered for a long time, but eventually called out ‘fourth elder sister’.
Wei Luo’s lips blossomed in a smile. Finally showing mercy, she gave her a pot of fringed iris. This flower species wasn’t uncommon, one could find it anywhere. Holding the flower pot, Wei Zheng was extremely annoyed at heart. Unwillingly and with no feeling, she muttered ‘Thank you, big sister’, then turned around to run into her own room.
After the weather transitioned to summer, it would quickly be time for the Dragon Boat Festival (May 5).
At present, besides gardening and fishing outside, Wei Luo liked to visit Mrs. Han’s room the most. There were many strange and fantastic things in Mrs. Han’s room. According to rumors, they were all secret recipes that she had created in the palace. Bottles and jars were spread all over the dressing table, this one for soft skin, that one to whiten the skin, and more that could turn the body fragrant… Of course, there were also many things intended for a female’s intimate parts, but seeing Ah Luo’s young age, Mrs. Han didn’t explain them all to her.
Once Wei Luo completed the etiquette lessons for the day, she would come here to fiddle with the fragrant jade dew (Gyokuro) balm, trying this thing, touching that thing. Mrs. Han found it very rare for a child to be interested in these. At first she was amused, but eventually, whenever she created something new, she would pull Wei Luo along each time to try it out. Either keeping a pomander, or using an aromatic liquid to bathe with. These things didn’t only contain flower petals, but also had a few medicinal herbs mixed in. They were beneficial for the body, and wouldn’t harm a small child using them. However, in the short span of a month, Wei Luo’s cheeks became even more tender than they originally were. Though they weren’t lacking before, now it seemed as if water would squeeze out if they were pinched, rosy white, lustrous, and moist.
She was still only six years old. Once she grew up, who knew how attractive she would be.
Saying she was a young source of trouble wouldn’t be an exaggeration.
A few days before the Dragon Boat Festival, Count Zhongyi’s family paid a visit, also bringing Song Hui and Song Ruwei along. Count Zhongyi’s successor Song Baiye and his wife Madam Xu were preparing to travel back to Luoyang. Madam Xu’s mother had fallen sick, so the married couple had decided to go back to Luoyang for a visit. Due to the long distance, they didn’t plan to take Song Hui and Song Ruwei. Furthermore, after the Dragon Boat Festival had passed, it would be time to celebrate the Empress’ birthday. Count Zhongyi was already old, and it was inconvenient for him to walk around, thus Song Hui had to represent Count Zhongyi’s family and present the birthday greetings to Empress Chen. As a result, they definitely couldn’t take Song Hui to go back with them.
Song Baiye had come over this time, in hopes that the two families would visit each other more often. During the time he and Madam Xu weren’t present in the capital, Duke Ying’s residence could give more care to Count Zhongyi’s residence.
Notes: Chaozhong has been changed to (in/within the) Imperial Court. It was an oversight, and I’m still in the process of getting used to some terms… This story is under constant editing, sigh.
Wretch: the actual translation was cheap person (literal), slut (actual), but ‘slut’ that has a different meaning than the modern one. So I used ‘wretch’ which carries a closer meaning.
Apple face: means she has adorable round cheeks.
Shooting herself in the foot: though it sounds modern, the actual translation is ‘smashing her own foot with a stone’.
More family antics this chapter. Just because Wei Kun is on Wei Luo’s side, it doesn’t mean he’s a good person. The novel did say he had a weak, soft character, and he’s obsessed with his first wife… Almost everyone in this novel has their own selfish motivation :).