CM: Chapter 25

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Li Song: Prince Ruyang’s son, bullied Changhong (Wei Luo’s brother)
Zhao Liuli / Princess Tianji: Zhao Jie’s younger sister, around Wei Luo’s age
Yang Hao: Zhao Jie’s bodyguard
Zhu Geng: Zhao Jie’s bodyguard
Princess Gaoyang: Li Song’s mother; Li Xiang is Li Song’s younger sister
Gao Danyang: Zhao Jie’s maternal cousin
Gao Qingyang: Danyang’s younger sister, around Wei Luo’s age
Nurse Qiu: serves Empress Chen


Li Song came to stand a few steps away, looking provocatively at her.

Since he was three, he’d been practicing martial arts with Prince Ruyang. Five years had passed. His archery and fighting techniques were naturally quite good. Now he used that to both retaliate against Wei Luo, and to show off. Seeing that the arrow had nearly scratched her cheek, he lowered the bow and slightly raised his chin, asking in a domineering manner, “How was it, is my archery good?”

Wei Luo’s face was expressionless, but her eyes were cold and seemed to contain rage within.

When she didn’t speak, Li Song felt even more pleased with himself. He’d finally vented his anger. “Are you scared?” He smirked and boasted shamelessly, “You can rest assured that my archery is excellent. It’s absolutely impossible that I’ll injure you.”

He only wanted to frighten her and nothing else.

Wei Luo looked at him wordlessly for a moment, then turned around to hop onto the parapet in order to pull out the arrow from the red pillar. It wasn’t embedded too deeply. She held her breath in and vigorously pulled twice before the arrow came out. No one knew what she wanted to do. Even Zhao Liuli was a little uneasy. “Ah Luo, what are you doing?”

Not saying anything, she jumped down and headed in Li Song’s direction. As she stood in front of him, she extended her hand and raised her small face that was suddenly carrying a beautiful smile. “Big brother Li Song, your arrow.”

Li Song was puzzled by her smile. What was with her reaction? Shouldn’t she be angry?

Judging by the temper she had shown yesterday, she should have retaliated maliciously, wasn’t that right? Yet now she was smiling so adorably, it really surprised him. However, Li Song was well aware of a few things. Her father wasn’t there to back her up, and the whole place was full of princes and princesses. Even if she was angry, she couldn’t do anything about it. Moreover, he was still holding a bow.

Li Song considered his revenge complete. She wouldn’t be violent against him anymore. Wasn’t she currently admitting defeat to him?

He snorted and bent down to take the arrow from her hand. “Who’s your big brother…”

He wasn’t done speaking, when that small girl not only didn’t give him the arrow, but leaped up and grabbed his shoulders, suddenly pushing him to the ground.

It was so abrupt that Li Song wasn’t able to defend himself and fell straight to the ground. His eyes widened in astonishment, looking at the little girl sitting on his body. “You…”

Wei Luo raised the arrow and pointed it right at his eye. Her expression darkened as she swung her hand downwards…

Li Song was so shocked, he broke out in cold sweat and shut his eyes involuntarily. He even forgot to resist.

The young girl watched him with a face full of disgust. It wasn’t just slight annoyance, but true hatred. At that moment, Li Song really believed she would stab him. He waited for a long time, but the pain never came. Finally getting the courage to slowly open his eyes, he looked up.

He only saw the golden arrowhead pointing at his eye, a mere inch away. Wei Luo raised her delicate pink lips in a smile, her sweet and soft milky voice repeating his earlier words, “Are you scared?”

Li Song felt he had received the greatest insult. He shoved Wei Luo off his body and yelled out in shame and anger, “Get lost!”

Wei Luo wasn’t as strong as him. He lifted her with ease and was about to throw her to the ground. Luckily, she was caught from behind by a pair of big hands at the last moment. The other party supported her from the back and carried her up. A clearly cold and displeased voice sounded from behind her, “When Prince Ruyang taught the young master archery, was it to let you bully little girls?”

*

The princes and princesses who hadn’t had the time to leave yet, had been looking on with great interest. When Wei Luo had thrust the arrow at Li Song, they had even wanted to clap their hands and cheer. Now that Zhao Jie had suddenly appeared, each of them kept silent as they lost their mood to watch a play. Leading their study companions along, they all departed.

Zhao Jie was several years older than them. Cold and arrogant, with a firm conduct and ruthless methods, he was extremely difficult to get close to. They were afraid of Zhao Jie and didn’t dare to be rash in front of him. They even glanced at Li Song with sympathy as they left.

Li Song was the fifth prince, Zhao Zhang’s study partner. The two of them were the same age, eight years old. Zhao Zhang hadn’t come to the study room today. He had come alone. Since the rest of the princes had left, there was no one around to help him. He had to face the unhappy Zhao Jie by himself.

Li Song patted his clothes and stood up, glaring at Wei Luo. When he looked at Zhao Jie again, he immediately changed his attitude. Just like the others, he was also a little afraid of him, but he was spoiled by both Prince Ruyang and Princess Gaoyang. Even if he was afraid, he didn’t let it show. Stubbornly refusing to admit his wrongs, he said, “I didn’t bully her. I can control my arrow’s direction very well. As long as she doesn’t move around, it definitely won’t hit her.”

What kind of an excuse was that?

Wei Luo hung onto Zhao Jie’s shoulders as she rolled her eyes indignantly. He still dared say it was her fault? Should she have just waited quietly for him to shoot his arrow? She was not a target.

Wei Luo puffed up her cheeks. Seeing her angry expression, Zhao Jie felt like laughing. He didn’t put her down and hugged her closer to his chest, somewhat reluctant to let go. Lowering his gaze at Li Song, he said: “This Prince’s archery is not bad, either. Would you like to test it?”

Li Song’s brows tensed. “Test how?”

Zhao Jie only smiled wordlessly as he turned around to walk out.

Almost a quarter of an hour later, they arrived at the enclosure where the princes practiced their martial arts. The place was vast, with abundantly growing fragrant grass and a flat terrain. It was a very suitable area for horseback archery. A row of practice targets stood on both sides of the enclosure. From time to time, an elegant figure would sweep past on his horse, pull his bowstring and accurately hit the center of the targets.

This was precisely the place, where the princes came to practice their archery after classes every day.

Though Emperor Chong Zhen ruled the country, he never forgot the glory of the battlefield. On one hand, he required the princes to study the four books and five classics, and on the other hand, he expected them to practice martial arts for a strong and healthy body. Even if they ended up not needing it in the future, a strong and healthy body was always good to have. Thus all of Emperor Chong Zhen’s eleven sons had to be well-versed in both the pen and the sword.

Li Song looked confused at Zhao Jie: “Why did (maternal) cousin bring me here?”

Could it be to compare their archery?

Zhao Jie moved toward one of the targets and stopped within shooting range. The sapphire blue brocade robe with persimmon stem patterns fluttered in the wind. He folded one hand behind his back and pointed the other at the target, speaking indifferently, “Tie the young master on it.”

Li Song’s eyes turned round in shock.

Zhu Geng and Yang Hao obeyed his command and took hold of Li Song’s arms to drag him over. Disregarding his struggling, the two of them swiftly tied up his hands and feet and secured him onto the target.

When Li Song didn’t manage to break free, he clenched his teeth in anger: “Cousin Prince Jing!”

He finally started getting frightened. Zhao Jie’s behavior was too unpredictable. Li Song thought he intended to compare their archery skills, but didn’t expect him to completely ignore him and get him tied on a target. What did he want to do? When did he provoke him?

Standing a dozen paces away, Zhao Jie took a bull horn shaped bow from Zhu Geng’s hands. He ignored Li Song’s yell while testing the bow string’s elasticity. After a long while, he raised his eyes and glanced at him with a faint smile. “Didn’t you say earlier that you can control the arrow’s direction very well? As long as one doesn’t move around, they certainly won’t get shot?”

Li Song was speechless. He suddenly got a bad premonition.

Sure enough, Zhao Jie’s next words were: “This Prince will also shoot an arrow at you now. Don’t move around. Let’s see whether it’ll go without incident.”

Li Song’s complexion immediately turned white.

Even if Zhao Jie’s archery was good, who would actually volunteer to stand there acting as a target? Let alone he was only an eight year old child. He was scared stiff. His knees had turned soft, yet his mouth still wanted to keep up a bravado, “You don’t have to tie me up. I won’t move around. My dad said your archery was…”

He wasn’t done speaking when he saw Zhao Jie beckon with his hand at the girl in a cherry colored dress next to him, “Ah Luo, come over.”

Li Song: “……”

Their activity attracted many gazes from the people within the enclosure, who gradually stopped their practice to take a look.

Wei Luo walked over to Zhao Jie’s front. Her small steamed bun face was creased as she spoke with a childish voice, “I can’t shoot arrows.”

In the beginning, she didn’t understand Zhao Jie’s intentions, but right now it was obvious. He was helping her vent her anger. But why was he helping her? She couldn’t make sense of it, but now was not the time to ponder over it. Li Song wasn’t worth her sympathy anyway. Since someone was giving her the chance to teach him a lesson, she would be glad to take it.

Zhao Jie’s lips formed a smirk. Standing behind her, he bent down and gave her the bow, then gripped her hand to guide her personally. With his hands over hers, he placed an arrow at the bow and aimed it at Li Song, who was on the nearby target. Right next to her ear, he asked, “Do you see it clearly?”

Wei Luo looked straight ahead at Li Song, who was already speechless with fear. Both scared and indignant, he was glaring at them with a pale face and clenched jaws.

Wei Luo was just about to say something when Zhao Jie suddenly released her hand. The arrow shot out of the bow speedily.

It whizzed through the air, producing a sharp sound as it struck the bull’s eye beside Li Song’s ear.

Li Song barely caught up to what had happened, when his body lost all of its strength. His forehead broke out in cold sweat. He didn’t even have the strength to get angry. Until Zhu Geng and Yang Hao untied and brought him away from the target, his heart was still beating like a drum. The lingering fear hadn’t vanished yet.

It was almost certain that he wouldn’t think of touching the bow again for a very long time in the future.

*

Zhao Jie didn’t immediately lead Wei Luo out of the palace, but brought her to Zhaoyang hall first.

Zhao Liuli had returned ahead of them due to her poor health, and had already waited for quite a while inside. She wasn’t able to witness the earlier events, so she wanted Wei Luo to tell her all about it. But since Wei Luo was in the middle of meeting with Empress Chen, she couldn’t attend to Zhao Liuli.

Empress Chen was sitting on the ebony wood arhat bed. Seeing Wei Luo for the first time, she patted the soft seat next to her in a friendly manner. “You’re Wei Luo? Come, let Me have a good look.”

Wei Luo called out, “Empress.” Her tone was well-mannered and gentle, with the typical sweetness of a young girl. Anyone who heard it would soften up a little. Empress Chen made Nurse Qiu carry the girl up and earnestly looked her all over. She gave her sincere praises: “That old man Duke Ying is truly blessed. His granddaughter is this good-looking.”

Before meeting Wei Luo, she had believed that Princess Gaoyang’s daughter, Li Xiang, was the most exquisite. After her were Gao Danyang and Gao Qingyang. But now that she had seen Wei Luo, she felt that they couldn’t compare to her at all. The young girl’s face looked like a crafted porcelain doll. Each feature was perfect – cheeks like white jade, a cute nose and clever eyes. Who knew how stunning she would grow up to be some day.

Empress Chen inspected her closely. The more she looked, the more she felt it was fate. That pair of large eyes were brimming with intelligence, clear and bright like a fresh spring able to cleanse a person’s sins. Empress Chen stroked her head and said with a smile, “Good child, I’ve heard about you. I haven’t told you that I let you enter the palace as a study partner because I wanted you to keep Liuli company. She doesn’t have any playmates in the palace and is quite lonely. When you get closer later, you’ll be her best friend.”

While Empress Chen was sizing Wei Luo up, Wei Luo was also quietly observing her.

Wei Luo had been curious about her for a long time. She was the most honored woman in Daliang, yet she had ultimately chosen such a way to leave this world, unwilling to yield to Emperor Chong Zhen. Wei Luo slightly lowered her head. “I’ll carefully look after Liuli.”

Empress Chen was very pleased with her and held her back to have dinner together. By the time Wei Luo came out of Zhaoyang hall, the sun had set in the west as it was close to seven in the evening.

Empress Chen considered for a while. The sky was dark and it wouldn’t be safe for Wei Luo to return alone. Thus she spoke to Zhao Jie, who was sitting on the tutor chair, “Chang Sheng, didn’t you also want to go back to your residence? I remember Prince Jing’s residence and Duke Ying’s place are in the same direction. Why don’t you drop off the fourth Miss home.”


Notes: You guys better prepare yourselves. This author really likes ending chapters at random places that make you want to read what happens next. It’s her nefarious plot, no doubt about it.

Umm, also, I don’t think Ah Luo is the only yandere around here…


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