Duke Ying wasn’t in the residence, thus only Wei Kun went to the reception pavilion to receive Count Zhongyi’s successor and his wife.
Song Baiye and Madam Xu weren’t aware of Madam Du’s matter yet. Arriving at the reception pavilion, they saw only Wei Kun, but not Madam Du, leading them ask curiously: “How come we didn’t see the fifth madam?”
Wei Kun wasn’t willing to mention the issue. Furthermore, he didn’t want people from Count Zhongyi’s residence to meddle in his family’s affairs, so he spoke concisely: “She’s made a mistake, she’s currently reflecting on herself in seclusion.”
Hearing that, the two people were considerably startled. Madam Du had made a mistake, this mistake could be big or small, in the end, what kind of mistake was it? No one had told them of this matter, so they naturally weren’t clear about the inside story. They had a mind to ask for the details, but seeing Wei Kun’s closed off expression, they kept quiet a bit embarrassed. They had come with a request this time, so it wouldn’t do to make a disturbance because of Madam Du. Not to mention Madam Du was merely the distantly related second wife. A married daughter was like spilt water, they didn’t have a reason to care too much.
Madam Xu considered for a bit, and said a few fords of praise for Madam Du as a show of support, “Before Yueying got married, she had the utmost understanding of etiquette…”
Done speaking, she saw that Wei Kun wasn’t in the mood to listen, and tactfully changed the topic, bringing up next month’s feast in honor of the Empress’ birthday. Empress Chen was 35 this year, the legitimate daughter of Huaihua’s great general. Coming from a general’s family, her moral conduct was righteous. During the time they were recapturing Wurong, she had fought alongside with the then Crown Prince, Emperor Chong Zhen. Battling the enemies, they were able to defend Daliang’s landscape. Empress Chen and Emperor Chong Zhen’s mutual affections had developed as they followed each other in life and death on the battlefield, it was deeply moving. It had already turned into a beautiful story in the capital through word of mouth. Empress Chen had given birth to two sons and one daughter. The oldest prince hadn’t reached ten before dying an early death. The second prince, Zhao Jie, was 15 this year. There was also the precious princess, who was only seven years old.
Empress Chen had been born in a rich and powerful noble family. What treasures hadn’t her pair of eyes seen before? Preparing a gift for her was, therefore, a truly difficult task.
While the adults were speaking, the several children naturally couldn’t sit still. Song Hui could still be regarded as sitting properly, but the other kids weren’t behaving. Song Ruwei was glancing left and right, Changhong’s head was bowed as he played with his coiled nephrite waist ornament, Wei Zheng was absent-mindedly peeling peanuts, as for Wei Luo…Wei Luo?
Song Hui raised his eyes, and saw a small head pop out from behind the ironwood chair that Wei Kun was sitting on. The small head shifted slightly and revealed a pair of round sparkling eyes. With an adorable smiling face, Wei Luo quietly extended a tiny finger and pointed at the door, meaning that she wanted Song Hui to lead her outside.
Song Hui quickly understood, smiled gently, and stood up. After paying respects to Wei Kun and Song Baiye, he said: “Father, fifth Uncle, I want to take Ah Luo and the little sisters along for a turn in the backyard.”
Wei Kun was quite satisfied with Song Hui, this future son-in-law, thinking that he was not only intelligent, but also considerably tolerant, and had a sense of propriety. Over time, he would surely turn into a fine young man worth entrusting one’s lifetime to. Having heard what he’d said, he nodded and pulled Wei Luo to come out from behind his back with a smile: “Don’t hide, Daddy already saw you.”
Wei Luo wasn’t feeling the least bit guilty. Sweetly responding with ‘Thank you, Daddy’, she broke away from him and walked over to Song Hui. Just as she reached him, Song Hui automatically held her little hand, leading her out of the reception pavilion. He tapped her small nose and said with a smile: “You little smartaleck.”
Following closely behind, Changhong walked over to them with a wooden expression, and split up Song Hui and Wei Luo’s clasped hands. He raised his head to viciously glare at Song Hui, protecting Wei Luo behind his body like a hen protecting her young ones.
He had a very deep prejudice towards Song Hui. If he was asked why, he himself was also not too clear about it. It seemed as if he had formed the habit from childhood. Whenever Song Hui showed up, he would have a sense of crisis, believing that this person had come to snatch Wei Luo away. Growing up, he had probably often heard Wei Kun saying ‘Ah Luo is Song Hui’s little wife, some day she’s going to marry into Count Zhongyi’s family’, so gradually, he had started to reject Song Hui more and more.
The weather today was good, with clean air and clear skies, a smooth breeze, it was very suitable for a walk around the backyard.
They had barely walked out of the front courtyard, when they met the eldest young master Wei Changyin, who had incidentally also come out.
Wei Changyin was the eldest madam’s son, 16 this year. Originally, he was supposed to be a fine young man of style, however, when he was eight years old, he was thrown off a horse because of Prince* Rui’s son, Zhao Jue. The horse’s hoofs stamped on his legs and injured his muscles and bones. Since then, he was unable to stand up and walk again, and could only rely on the wheelchair to move around. Nobody knew how many tears the eldest madam had secretly wiped away that year, as she invited famous doctor after famous doctor to no avail. Fortunately, Wei Changyin was an optimistic and open-minded person, and was thus able to recover his spirits. He had spent these years calmly and with dignity, completely aloof and relaxed, as if the outside world didn’t concern him. They obviously lived in the same Duke’s residence, yet Wei Luo rarely saw his face. She wasn’t that familiar with this eldest brother, either.
Meeting each other now, she politely called out ‘big brother’, then stood there without talking too much.
Wei Changyin was strikingly handsome, his features greatly resembled the eldest master Wei Min. He was withdrawn and solemn, with straightforward and honest bearings. He had polished his character over the years, becoming more temperate. Although he couldn’t walk, his imposing manner as he sat in the wheelchair didn’t lose to others, giving people a ‘can only watch from a distance, cannot trifle with’ impression.
He nodded his head in response and looked at Song Hui, who was next to Wei Luo, the edges of his lips bending in a smile, “Muxi has come.” (muxi – osmanthus fragrans tree)
Muxi was Song Hui’s childhood name. When Song Hui was born, the courtyard had been full of the sweet scent of osmanthus flowers. In addition, his mother, Madam Xu, was very fond of the sweet osmanthus, so they had chosen that pet name for him. The name was pleasing to the ear, being called like that in his childhood, he also found it pleasant to hear, but now that he had grown up, it seemed a little childish. After Song Hui had turned twelve, it was rare for people to call him by his pet name. Being called this way by Wei Changyin now, he actually wasn’t particularly opposed to it, finding it instead somewhat amiable, “Big brother Wei.”
Supporting himself on the wheelchair, Wei Changyin was, in any case, in no hurry to go, and didn’t mind exchanging a few words with him: “Have your mother and your father also come? I haven’t seen them for a long time.”
Song Hui replied, “Yes, my mother and father are in the front courtyard.”
Wei Changyin looked pensive, he ought to go over to take a look, but it was inconvenient without the use of his legs. Year after year he led a solitary existence, even if he met them, there was nothing to discuss. Thinking about it, it was better to let it be. Laughing, he said: “Say hello to your parents for me.” Having said that, he didn’t continue the small talk. He beckoned for the young child pushing the wheelchair behind him to depart, “I still have some things to do, so I’ll take my leave first.”
Song Hui moved back, saying politely: “Big brother Wei, take care.”
The sound of the wheelchair grating on the patio was particularly clear. As it rolled away, Wei Luo was looking at Wei Changyin’s back, lost in thought. In the previous life, her close friend, Liang Yurong, had liked big brother Wei Changyin from childhood. No one took it to heart in the beginning, believing it to be a mere child’s fancy, that once she grew up, she would become more sensible and would gradually drift apart. But no one could have imagined that after she grew up, this kind of vague goodwill not only didn’t vanish, but developed into love between a man and a woman instead, and it only deepened over time. Liang Yurong’s parents were fully against this kind of marriage. Not speaking of the large age difference of whole ten years between Wei Changyin and her, those two legs of his were reason enough that they were absolutely unable to entrust her to him.
Too bad that Liang Yurong liked big brother so much, she ignored all the obstacles. Regardless of how much her family opposed, she never listened.
Though she resisted her family for a very long time, she ultimately couldn’t fight against her parents’ matchmaking. Marquis Pingyuan chose a good marriage partner for her, only waiting for her to come of age (15), but this kind of marriage never came to be. Because a few days before getting married, she had hung herself at home. By the time people found out, her body was already cold.
This matter was no secret. So long as the past Wei Luo had a mind to ask around, she could find out everything.
She had also heard that Wei Changyin had henceforth shut himself in, and no one ever saw his face again.
His heart must have been in a lot of pain.
Wei Luo was staring at his back in a daze. By the time the person had disappeared out of sight, she was still unable to compose herself. Song Hui gently flicked her forehead and asked with a smile: “What is Ah Luo thinking about? Being so fascinated.”
Wei Luo looked at him a she covered her forehead, her dewy eyes appearing confused. Quite a while later, she bent her eyes in a smile, “I was wondering where big brother was going. Eldest aunt said that his legs were no good, and cannot go to places too far away.”
Song Hui was also not too clear about this issue. Thinking it over, he said: “He’s probably busy.” Pausing, he asked Wei Luo, “The Dragon Boat Festival is tomorrow, does Ah Luo want to go out? There will be many interesting things on the main street, big brother Song Hui can take you along to play for the whole day.”
Wei Luo responded with a nod, “I want to!”
She had only seen the main street on the second day of her rebirth, but it had basically not been for a stroll. The streets in the capital city Sheng were the most prosperous, there was an endless stream of customers trading with the merchants. Her personality was very lively, and since there was someone willing to take her out, she was naturally glad.
While Count Zhongyi’s family members were taking their leave, Song Hui seized the opportunity to bring up this matter to Wei Kun. Wei Kun hesitated a little, but nevertheless agreed. But since Song Hui’s capability was limited, he could only take along Wei Luo alone. Any more and it would be easy to have an accident. As a result, Wei Zheng and Changhong both had to remain home, they weren’t allowed to go out tomorrow.
Everything was set. Apart from Changhong, who had made some noise in the evening in disagreement, things proceeded smoothly. However, while eating breakfast the next morning, Wei Luo wasn’t careful and swallowed a whole front tooth inside her belly.
In the first place, this front tooth had been loose for several days, so she didn’t dare to touch it, and also ate very cautiously. Who would’ve known, this morning the kitchen would prepare delicious steamed stuffed buns with a very generous filling. She merely felt the incisor was a little loose, swallowing automatically, the tooth slipped down her throat and into her belly.
She froze. When she managed to respond, she ran up to the gate and opened her mouth gagging for a long time, but nothing came out. Jin Lu was perplexed, thinking that the steamed bun was probably not tasty. She prepared a cup of tea to let her rinse her mouth. Wei Luo raised her small face, furrowing her brows. There was a gap in her teeth, and the air passed through when she spoke: “Big sister Jin Lu, I swallowed a tooth…”
The tooth had to pass through the throat to enter the stomach, it would be disastrous if it blocked the windpipe.
Jin Lu hurriedly put down the teacup and ran to ask for a doctor. Luckily, after taking a look, the doctor said it was alright, in several days it would safely pass through the intestines.
Wei Luo still thought she had lost face. Eating the tooth along with the steamed bun, when she wasn’t even a true six year old child. Her mind couldn’t accept it. Since this early morning, she had closed her mouth, refusing to speak.
At around 8am, Song Hui personally came to get her and found out her behavior was a little different from the usual.
How come the little kid wasn’t speaking nor laughing today?
Song Hui wasn’t riding a horse today. In order to show consideration for Wei Luo, he had taken the carriage instead. As he carried her into the carriage, he asked curiously: “Is Ah Luo unhappy today?”
Wei Luo shook her head, not uttering a word.
He also asked: “Then why aren’t you speaking?”
Wei Luo lifted up her glistening black eyes to look into his, covered her mouth and said despondently: “My tooth fell.”
After listening, Song Hui not only didn’t laugh, but also moved her hand away, looking at her in concern. His younger sister, Song Ruwei, had also recently replaced her teeth. All little children had to go through this, there was nothing to laugh about. If you laughed, she would get angrier, her self-esteem might get hurt, and could even start ignoring you.
Sure enough, with his frank attitude Wei Luo also felt much better. No longer keeping her silence, she was willing to say a few words to him once in a while.
They finally reached the bustling main street, the noisy sounds of the market could be heard from afar. This street was the widest, it could easily fit eight carriages side by side. The carriage of Count Zhongyi’s residence kept going until they arrived at the gate of a restaurant. The board in front of the door had ‘Zhen Cui Zhai’ inscribed in three big characters. Zhen Cui Zhai was a famous restaurant in the capital, exquisitely decorated, with fine dishes. The shark fin soup and the osmanthus fish bones had reached perfection, making people keep coming back for the taste.
Back in the day, when Emperor Chong Zhen had gone on an inspection tour, he had passed through this place and praised the tasty food. From then on, the restaurant had become well-known, the business had gotten better and better. And today, the majority of their clients were the rich and powerful noble families. If the ordinary families wanted to eat those dishes, they would have to reserve a spot ten days in advance.
Today Song Hui had brought Wei Luo here precisely to let her try the osmanthus fish bones.
He led Wei Luo to go in. Someone from Count Zhongyi’s residence had already reserved good seats. After reporting the names to the attendants, a young male servant showed them the way to the private rooms upstairs.
As Song Hui pulled Wei Luo along to go upstairs, he inclined his head to ask her: “Where does Ah Luo want to go and play?”
Wei Luo earnestly considered, “I want to buy a longevity thread bracelet…”
The longevity bracelet guaranteed good health and prevented contagious diseases. She wanted to put the longevity bracelet on Changhong, hoping that his life could be safe and peaceful this time. She never believed in supernatural forces before, but now that she got to live this life, she couldn’t help but believe.
She hadn’t finished speaking, when she saw a sapphire blue robe lined with sweet flag patterns blocking the front. The opposite party stood on top of the stairway, probably planning to climb down.
She wanted to step aside and give way, but as soon as she raised her head, she surprisingly met Zhao Jie’s pair of eyes, that were as deep as the sea.
Zhao Jie smiled faintly as he looked at her. Her small mouth was hanging open unconsciously, and there wasn’t enough time to close it, so she ended up exposing the front tooth gap.
The longevity bracelet might be the same as today’s friendship bracelet ^^.
Notes: Married daughter is like spilt water – the sad, sad fate of women from the past to marry into a different family, and only to see their parents’ faces during a few holidays a year at most… Spilt water can’t get back in the jug.
Prince Rui: the word Prince here is a bit different than the one used for Zhao Jie. It indicates that Prince Rui is from the same generation as the Emperor (his brother probably). If you have any ideas for a better term, so that it could be differentiated, I’m open to suggestions.
Losing face: Do any of you mind if I leave it like this? The meaning is close to ‘disgraced’, it’s just a term that is so often used in Chinese novels, might as well leave it alone. Lose face, gain face, save face, drag face through the mud… I might’ve gotten used to seeing it this way, hehe.
Zhen Cui Zhai: 珍萃斋 I’m very bad at translating titles and things like these. Not enough context. It could loosely mean a gathering place for treasures (in the sense of culinary delicacies). Since its essentially a name, I left it as is.
I’ve updated the Characters page, including the Wei family tree image, you can see it in better resolution now ^^. I’ll make a relationship chart later, when the rest of the main players show up. I think four more people or so…