Wei Luo: main character ,6
Zhao Jie: prince Jing, interested in Wei Luo, 15
Gao Danyang: Zhao Jie’s maternal cousin, 14
Liang Yurong: Wei Luo’s friend, 6
Zhao Jie took a few steps towards Wei Luo, then leaned over to grasp her soft little hand. Rubbing the back of her hand with his big thumb, he asked: “Let this prince take a look, were you scratched?”
The back of the little girl’s hand was smooth, without even a trace of a scar, only two shiny wet spots.
It seemed like the kitten had liked her very much and wanted to get close to her. Unfortunately, it was too enthusiastic, scared the little girl, and got tragically snubbed. Zhao Jie recalled the scene he’d witnessed a moment ago and couldn’t help but burst out in laughter. She had stiffened her body, not daring to move, while trying to get the cat off her arm. Her small face tensed up, as if she was facing her greatest enemy. He had thought she wasn’t afraid of anything under the sky, yet it turned out she had a fear of cats?
Wei Luo drew back her hand. Pursing her lips, she shook her head.
Zhao Jie smiled as he brought up a finger to touch Wei Luo’s reddened eyes, then asked in a pleasant voice: “Why are you crying?”
Wei Luo wasn’t crying. Her eyes would easily redden if she was anxious, but that was still far from crying. She didn’t know why Zhao Jie would appear here, nor was she interested to know. Getting toyed with by that cat, she wasn’t in the best of moods, and only wanted to go back to Wild Goose house, “I haven’t cried.”
She had barely finished speaking, when she noticed Zhao Jie was keeping silent, his eyes mischievously observing her front teeth.
Her face immediately changed and she covered her mouth, looking at him vigilantly. Thinking of that time in Zhen Cui Lou (*restaurant), she was afraid he would pinch her nose again to force her to open her mouth.
Zhao Jie’s lips twitched. She was short a tooth there, so her speech was affected by the bare gums. The pronunciation also sounded a bit funny. That word ‘crying’ sounded especially amusing when she said it. Too bad her pretty little head was particularly serious. It seemed like so long as he laughed about it, she would turn hostile at once. His eyes were laughing, but he put on a decent expression, as he asked her solemnly: “Ah Luo, right? Are you afraid of cats?”
Wei Luo glared at him without speaking.
He wanted to ask her again, when the maiden beside him curiously walked over. “Cousin Jing, who is she?”
Zhao Jie didn’t like children, he had no patience for any kid under ten years old. Anyone who knew him was aware of that. Yet today, he was unexpectedly willing to get close to a little girl, and even personally wiped her tears. This was really too rare. The maiden couldn’t help sizing up Wei Luo, finding her appearance adorable and much prettier than the average little girl. Could that be the reason?
The maiden was called Gao Danyang, precisely that older daughter of Duke Zhen’s wife. She was a year younger than Zhao Jie. They were of similar age and were cousins from the mother’s line. Having grown up together from childhood, their relationship was closer than usual. Just now, Zhao Jie had gone to pay respects to Empress Chen in the Zhaoyang palace hall, and had happened to meet Gao Danyang there. Empress Chen had then made the two of them leave together. It wasn’t good for Zhao Jie to refute the Empress’ intentions, so he complied. After walking for a while, he had chanced on the scene of Wei Luo and the kitten getting tangled together.
Zhao Jie withdrew his hand and spoke as he got up: “She’s the fourth miss of Duke Ying’s house, Wei Luo.” Pausing his words, he looked at Wei Luo. “Did this prince say it right?”
Wei Luo didn’t answer. Pulling on Liang Yurong’s hand, she cordially said: “Yurong and I didn’t know the cats belonged to big brother Prince Jing. We only wanted to give them something to eat. If we made big brother Prince Jing and big sister unhappy, let us go back and leave it at that.”
Done speaking, she turned around to walk away.
Zhao Jie called out for her to stop. Holding in his laughter, he said: “It’s only a cat. If you like it, just take it away directly.”
From the side, the dignified Gao Danyang couldn’t hide her frown.
Wei Luo shook her head and raised a pair of large watery eyes with a slight smile: “Thank you big brother Prince Jing, but since big sister gave the cats to you, Ah Luo couldn’t want them.”
After the little girl left, Zhao Jie withdrew his gaze and the happy expression in his eyes also receded. He said to Gao Danyang: “This place is not far from Wild Goose house, you don’t need me to send you off. Go by yourself, alright?”
Gao Danyang, holding the kitten to her bosom, hadn’t moved a step. When she saw him prepare to walk away, she hurriedly called out “Cousin Jing”. A little offended, she arrived to his front and said: “Does cousin Jing not like cats? If you don’t, say something. I’ll take them home right away, or give them to Liuli. She’s wanted these cats for a while now.”
The person she’d just mentioned was Princess Tianji, Zhao Liuli, Zhao Jie’s younger sister from the same mother. Zhao Liuli was seven this year, precisely at the age where she liked kittens and puppies. Who knew how long she’d coveted those three cats. Each time she saw them, she was unable to put them down. Unfortunately, Gao Danyang had already given the cats to Zhao Jie. Zhao Liuli didn’t dare ask for them from Zhao Jie, and could only come every day after morning classes to take a look and to pet them.
These were Persian cats with blue eyes and white fur, a small build, only three months old. They were delicate and nimble, absolutely adorable, easily invoking the young ladies’ favor.
Because of this, Zhao Jie could afford to be careless. He was busy. Sometimes he couldn’t attend to his own needs, where would he get the time to look after cats? He was raising them inside the palace, so he basically had no worries. The palace maids all knew those were his cats and didn’t dare to neglect them. Whenever he was away from the palace, they took turns feeding the little things. So in the past few months, these three cats had been living quite well.
Zhao Jie was puzzled. “Why would you say that?”
Gao Danyang paused and stroked the kitten’s ears, her mood dejected: “A moment ago, you readily wanted to give it to that little girl…”
Zhao Jie smiled wordlessly and did not refute. He really wanted to give it to Wei Luo, because he felt like the cat resembled her very much. Tiny, pure white, somewhat delicate, yet somewhat haughty. He didn’t dislike that, on the contrary, he found it fascinating. What a pity, the little girl was unwilling to accept. Even when he wanted to gift it, he was unable to.
Zhao Jie thought it over and said: “If you want, you can give them to Liuli. I can see she’s fond of them. Besides, I don’t have the time to take care of them.” Done speaking, he departed, taking large strides towards Riverside house.
Gao Danyang was staring at his back dejectedly, her lips pursed. Having dropped her composure, she finally revealed the pampered attitude of a young miss.
Seeing this, the maidservant in a pale rose short jacket and skirt standing behind her, couldn’t help opening her mouth to say: “His Highness Prince Jing really can’t read the mood. How could he give away the cat Miss gave him to another person…”
Gao Danyang approved of her words on the inside, but pretended to be displeased on the outside, as she eyed her with a tilted head. “How can you carelessly comment on cousin Jing? Slap your mouth.”
The maidservant laughed, knowing she wasn’t really angry, and put on an act of touching her own face. “This servant spoke out of turn, pardon me, Miss… But how can this servant not feel wronged on your behalf? You’ve been fond of His Highness Prince Jing for all these years, yet His Highness seems not to notice.”
Gao Danyang was silent as her complexion changed.
She hadn’t considered it before, but it suddenly crossed her mind now. Perhaps it wasn’t that he didn’t notice, but that he pretended not to notice.
Zhao Jie’s natural disposition was indifferent, and didn’t treat anyone too warmly. She used to think that it was a part of his nature, something he couldn’t change. Yet she actually saw a foreign side to him today. It turned out he could also tenderly wipe someone’s tears. Unfortunately, the target wasn’t her. Gao Danyang pursed her pink lips, getting more curious about Wei Luo. She spoke as she walked: “Go and make some inquiries, what connection does the fourth Miss of Duke Ying’s house have with cousin Jing? You can’t let others know I’m the one who’s asking.”
The maidservant naturally knew how to handle this. Nodding in response, she drew back from her side without a trace.
The birthday feast for Empress Chen this time had an additional purpose besides celebrating. It was to look for a study companion for the sixth princess Tianji. Princess Tianji was born with a weak body, so Empress Chen cherished and protected her firmly under her wing. For so many years, she’d never let her meet with others. After she turned five, her health had improved to some extent, and Empress Chen had started to loosen her hold, slowly letting her come in contact with outsiders. However, that was only limited to the palace people and no one else, so besides the palace people, the other noble daughters hadn’t seen Zhao Liuli’s face before. Even Gao Danyang and Gao Qingyang only saw her occasionally, during the times they came paying respects to Empress Chen in the palace.
Inside Zhaoyang hall in the Qingxi palace, Empress Chen was reclining on the rosewood arhat bed, wearing a red muslin robe woven with gold peonies, below it a long plated skirt with dragon clouds pattern. Her expression was relaxed, as she leisurely swung the sandalwood fan in her hand. “Where’s Liuli?”
Below her stood an old nurse in a honey-colored dress with her hands folded together, who respectfully said: “Answering the Empress, Her Highness ran out just now, saying she wanted to prepare a birthday gift for you.”
“This kid…” Empress Chen’s tone was helpless, but her eyes were smiling. Suddenly recalling something, she lowered her head to ask the old nurse, “Did she drink her medicine?”
The old nurse’s expression was stiff as she shook her head: “Her Highness wasn’t willing to drink the medicine… It barely entered her mouth, and she spat it out.”
Empress Chen’s smile faded, as her face turned serious. This daughter was her treasure, with her poor health from childhood, and constantly relying on medicine, she was unable say one harsh word to her, afraid of being too controlling. Her first son had died at ten years old, weighing heavy on her mind for so many years. She didn’t want to lose her young daughter the same way, never living past ten. At present, Liuli was already seven. The empress lived in fear day after day, earnestly wishing that her health would take a turn for the better.
Empress Chen sighed. After thinking for a long time, she made a decision and called out to the old nurse nearby: “Assign more people to look after Liuli, make sure she’s safe… If she meets some minister’s daughter, don’t block them, watch over them from the side. If any of them can make Liuli obediently drink her medicine, then let that person enter the palace to be Liuli’s study partner.” She paused as she went over her own thoughts. “Liuli is seven years old after all, she shouldn’t be away from people. Try to find her a suitable playmate. If she’s having fun, her body may also get better quickly.”
The old nurse repeatedly said, “The Empress thinks of Her Highness so much, Her Highness will surely get healthier, will grow up safely.”
Empress Chen smiled bitterly, “I hope so.”
Somewhere else, Princess Tianji heard the bustling and excitement at the shore of the great lake, so she asked the palace maids to lead her over there. She was very curious, never having seen so many people, and wanted to take a look at the distant activity. Empress Chen had been overprotective of her. Though she was seven, her mentality was even purer than other children her age, and she was ignorant of many things.
She took a cobblestone lane, with dazzling dark red scarlet banana flowers on the sides. Not too far ahead was precisely Wild Goose house, where people’s silhouettes could be seen moving inside. Everything was new to her, and she couldn’t help quickening her steps. Turning around a corner, she passed by a statue, then suddenly came to a stop.
In front of her were standing two young girls, almost as big as her. Having collided with each other, both sides were a little surprised.
Liang Yurong exclaimed, pointing at the statue behind Zhao Liuli, “Why are we back here? Ah Luo, we’re lost.”
Notes: English just can’t accommodate that many descriptive words in one sentence!!! I wish everyone in this story would wear plain clothes already. *grumbles*