Li Song: Prince Ruyang’s son, bullied Changhong (Wei Luo’s brother)
Lin Huilian: Wei Luo’s adoptive mother in her past life
Song Hui: Wei Luo’s fiance
Wei Kun: Wei Luo’s father
Prince Jing’s residence was situated at the end of the East main street, while Duke Ying’s residence was at the mid section. It was just enough to say it’s on the way.
Since it was the Empress’ suggestion, there was no reason to reject. Zhao Jie put down the green jade cup with a hornless dragon pattern and got up to leave. Cupping his hands in greeting to the empress, he said, “Your son is bidding goodbye. The time is late, Imperial mother should also take a rest.”
Empress Chen nodded, ordering Nurse Qiu to escort them to the gate of Qingxi palace.
Outside the palace was parked the prince’s green-roofed carriage. The exterior was low-key, but the interior was extravagantly gorgeous. Wei Luo stepped on the black lacquered redwood foothold, lifted open the hanging screen embroidered with gold, and lowered her body to go in. Right in the middle of the carriage was placed a small purple table lined with gold and carved with a scenic design. On top of it were arranged several kinds of fruit and snacks, including the plums and peaches that were in season. There were also walnuts, almonds and other nuts. Wei Luo glanced at Zhao Jie, who entered after her, and thought he really knew how to enjoy life. It was merely the inside of a carriage, yet it was decorated so exquisitely. Enough to see that he put care into his way of life.
A person with such deep thoughts, who never let his emotions show, why had he helped her today?
The carriage started moving, gradually leaving the palace behind.
No matter how she thought, Wei Luo couldn’t understand. Propping up her cheek, she stared at the walnuts in front of her. Her pink lips pursed, she had an absent-minded expression. Zhao Jie’s actions today would no doubt offend Prince Ruyang. Prince Ruyang held the military power in his hands and his military service was illustrious. He was a very advantageous chess piece. Why didn’t Zhao Jie want him? Pondering over it, her brain suddenly received an inspiration. She recalled something.
Li Song was Zhao Zhang’s study partner. Was Prince Ruyang planning to support Zhao Zhang?
Thinking this far, it seemed to make sense. She dug into her previous life’s memories. What had Prince Ruyang done to assist Zhao Zhang? Had he already made his intentions clear at this point in time? No wonder Zhao Jie wanted to start with Li Song. He had basically used the chance to provoke Prince Ruyang. Unable to grasp the chess piece, might as well destroy it. Death ended all problems.
Wei Luo finally figured it out. In the first place, he hadn’t done it to help her, but because it was a good opportunity to give Prince Ruyang a warning.
The little girl was sitting straight on the soft seat, her eyelashes hanging low and obscuring her expression. Her lips were pursed at one point, then she suddenly got enlightened at another. When she was done thinking, her pair of glittery dark eyes brightened up, making her small face appear much more lively.
Zhao Jie couldn’t help thinking back to what he had witnessed her do earlier today. She had sat on Li Song. He was standing behind her, so he couldn’t see her expression. He could only see her raising the arrow and thrusting it toward Li Song’s eyes without the slightest hesitation. Her tiny body seemed to contain tremendous power. Right then, he had believed that Li Song would undoubtedly die. He hadn’t expected her to actually stop at the last moment.
She had asked whether Li Song was scared. Her voice had been soft, with a hint of satire.
Zhao Jie found it very entertaining. The reason he had made his subordinates tie Li Song on the target was indeed to issue a warning to Prince Ruyang. But it was also in order to let her vent her anger. She was only six years old, yet she could be this outrageous and wild. If there was someone to indulge her and add fuel to the fire, who knew what kind of a huge commotion she would cause.
Zhao Jie noticed that she was staring at the walnuts on the white glazed plate with a flower design. Assuming she wanted to eat them, he took two in his hand to break them open, then peeled one piece. Seeing that Wei Luo still carried a heavily worried appearance, he couldn’t help but smile. He held the piece of walnut to her mouth. “Open up.”
What Wei Luo was actually thinking about was Prince Ruyang’s actions in her past life. Had he assisted Zhao Zhang in seizing the throne? Those were palace secrets. The rumors among the common folk weren’t many. She only remembered that Zhao Jie made Li Zhiliang’s life miserable afterward. Let alone stripping him of his military power, he sent him away to Mount Changbai to serve as an official. That place was bitterly cold, constantly covered in snow. Li Zhiliang had most likely suffered a lot there.
It seemed that it was important to side with the right people.
Wei Luo’s mind worked quickly, deciding to assess the situation another time. She was about to take a look whether they were getting close to her home, when a well peeled walnut suddenly appeared in front of her. It was a fresh walnut. After having the skin peeled, it revealed the clean white meat inside. The taste was both sweet and fragrant. She automatically opened her mouth and ate it from Zhao Jie’s hand. Raising her head toward him, she smiled sweetly, “Thank you, big brother Prince Jing.”
Zhao Jie withdrew his hand and put the remaining pieces on the small table. Crossing his legs, he propped up his chin and looked at her. “What were you thinking about just now?”
Usually, he wouldn’t find it worthwhile asking a little girl such a question. What would a small child think about? Nothing other than eating, drinking, and playing. But she was different. She was full of surprises. All sorts of strange and unusual ideas filled her mind, making him curious for the first time.
Wei Luo naturally couldn’t tell him she had been reminiscing over her past life. Thinking the fresh walnut was delicious, she picked up another one of the pile he had prepared and immersed herself into peeling it, “Big brother Prince Jing shot an arrow at Li Song. After Li Song goes back, he’ll tell his daddy. Won’t his daddy get angry?”
Zhao Jie raised an eyebrow a little surprised. He hadn’t expected her to consider that far.
As for her question, so what? His goal was to anger Prince Ruyang. If he didn’t anger him, he would be disappointed instead.
Zhao Jie chuckled and looked away, “With This Prince around, what can he do?”
The carriage slowly reached the front gate of Duke Ying’s residence. Dusk had already settled over the horizon, with only a bit of remaining light lingering in the west and illuminating the capital’s streets.
Zhao Jie hugged Wei Luo to bring her out of the carriage. He rubbed her lips, picking up walnut peels from the corner of her mouth, and teased her, “Eat less walnuts, so you won’t swallow your other incisor.”
Wei Luo knew he was joking at her expense. Puffing up her cheeks, she couldn’t help retorting, “Big brother definitely hasn’t had his front teeth fall off in childhood. Or else why would you always mock me?”
Done speaking, she turned around to walk.
Zhao Jie chuckled quietly. Could it be that the little girl got angry? He wasn’t trying to embarrass her on purpose, but seeing her tooth gap, he couldn’t stop himself from wanting to tease her. Who made her reactions so amusing, causing him to laugh.
Zhao Jie was just about to board the carriage, when he saw a youngster dressed in an indigo brocade robe standing by the gate. With a tall stature and a handsome face, he looked as gentle as the wind.
Wei Luo caught sight of Song Hui as she walked over to the entrance. She opened her mouth in astonishment. What was he doing here so late? “Big brother Song Hui?”
Though he had most likely waited at the gate for a long time, he still smiled as he carried her up in his arms. “Why is Ah Luo coming back so late?”
He had heard today that Wei Luo was to enter the palace as a study companion to Princess Tianji, so he rushed over to meet with her. He hadn’t anticipated to wait for over four hours before she returned from the palace. Right when he was prepared to go back and visit another day, he saw a carriage making its way toward him. It was actually Prince Jing personally sending her home.
Song Hui performed a greeting to Zhao Jie, then entered the residence with Wei Luo in his arms.
Wei Luo’s bones were light and she didn’t have a lot of meat on her bones. Carrying her wasn’t a difficult task. Song Hui walked easy and relaxed, holding her as he reached Pine courtyard in a breath. He put her down on a small embroidered chair with marble lion carvings inside the main room and carefully asked, “Did you have dinner in the palace?”
Wei Luo nodded with a smile on her small face, replying obediently, “Yes, the Empress made me stay for dinner. That’s why I’m back this late.”
Not long after, Wei Kun and Changhong also came, expressing gratitude to Song Hui, then lead Wei Luo away to wash up and change her clothes.
Seeing that she was fine, Song Hui didn’t stay any longer. After bidding goodbye to Wei Kun, he went back home.
From then on, Wei Luo started going to class every day. The palace classes followed a certain custom – five days were spent on studying and two days on resting, while the teacher arranged the schoolwork that they had to complete for the next day. Wei Luo didn’t only gain knowledge, she was also developing her relationship with Zhao Liuli more and more. Each time classes were over, Zhao Liuli would make her stay back to practice writing together. Once they were done practicing, they would work on the schoolwork given by the teacher before she would let her go home.
The days in the classroom were very peaceful, like the flowing water of a river.
Why were they peaceful like that?
Because ever since Zhao Jie tied him up on a target and shot an arrow at him, Li Song didn’t show up to class even once. He didn’t come, and the fifth prince Zhao Zhang didn’t come, either. Since the two of them weren’t there to cause mischief, it was naturally quiet.
The 7th of August was Jiang Miaolan’s death anniversary. Wei Luo informed Empress Chen, as well as Tutor Chang, and took a day off to go out of the city with Changhong. They were going to sweep the grave and present offerings to Jiang Miaolan in Qingshui mountain.
Wei Luo didn’t hold much of a sentiment toward Jiang Miaolan and didn’t intend to go initially, but Wei Kun wanted her to go. Moreover, he had specially requested for Song Hui to lead the two of them there.
Wei Kun himself didn’t go. For so many years, he had never gone to see Jiang Miaolan’s tombstone, evading the problem and unwilling to face it whatsoever.
Duke Ying residence’s carriage took them up the mountainside. Wei Luo had already come to this place in her childhood, so she wasn’t too impressed now. Holding Changhong’s hand, they arrived in front of the grave. Without anything good to say, she casually paid her respects and burned some paper money. Not even a single teardrop managed to squeeze out of her eyes.
On the road back, the two little guys’ mood wasn’t good. Believing they were thinking of their mother, Song Hui felt sorry for them and asked with a smile, “When we return inside the city, big brother Song Hui will buy you each a sugar figure, alright?”
Changhong wasn’t interested, not giving him any face, “I don’t want it.”
Song Hui didn’t get angry, only smiling as he asked, “Then what do you want? Candied fruit?”
Changhong ignored him and grasped Wei Luo’s hand as he spoke, “Ah Luo, I want to eat cool cake.”
Wei Luo fixed her gloomy expression and nodded with a beaming smile, “Okay, I’ll eat whatever you eat.”
The carriage quickly reached the city, passed through the moat, then went through the gates. They were met with a lively and prosperous sight. Having arrived at the center, Song Hui told the driver to park beside the street. He helped Wei Luo and Changhong down the carriage, then took them to the opposite tea shack to eat cool cakes.
Although there was nothing special about that place, its cool cakes were the most famous within the city. Sweet yet not greasy, they had a refreshing taste. There were many people who admired them and stopped by daily.
Song Hui wished to let the children cheer up, and wasn’t in a hurry to bring them back home. When they were done eating the cakes, he lead them to a nearby stall to buy dough figurines. Jin Lu and Jin Wu followed behind. In the back with them were also the guards of Count Zhongyi’s residence, insuring their safety. According to Wei Luo’s appearance, the craftsman kneaded a figurine of a little girl in a butterfly patterned dress. It looked lifelike and exactly the same as Wei Luo, including the dimples on her face when she smiled.
Taking the dough figurine, Wei Luo carefully scrutinized it, clearly very fond of it. She was right about to let Changhong have a look, when she turned her head and unexpectedly saw a familiar silhouette.
It was namely the person she’d met last time on the streets – Lin Huilian.
She was still dressed the same way, with a silver hairpin in her hair and an apricot yellow short jacket. She wasn’t carrying the wicker basket today. It seemed that she hadn’t come to sell her silk flowers… But what surprised Wei Luo wasn’t that. It was the person with her – the young woman who had helped her escape from Longshou village in her past life.
That time, she had been nearly buried alive by the Lin Huilian couple. She had fled under the cover of the night and had come across the village’s orphan girl Ah Dai on the road. Ah Dai didn’t have a family name. She lived alone outside the village, freely coming and going. Almost no one paid her any attention. If it hadn’t been for Ah Dai’s assistance, she simply wouldn’t have been able to break away from the couple’s pursuit.
Why was Ah Dai walking with Lin Huilian now? Not only that, but they seemed as close as a mother and a daughter…
Mother and daughter!
Wei Luo was startled by her own idea.
Could it be that since they weren’t able to adopt her in this life, they had adopted Ah Dai instead? Ah Dai was seven years older than her. She would be 13 now. When Ah Luo was 15, they had tried to wed her to their dead son. If they had changed their target to Ah Dai, then only two years remained…
Wei Luo couldn’t handle the thought. She wanted to step forward and take a closer look to make sure she hadn’t seen wrong.
Lin Huilian’s figure was getting further away. Wei Luo didn’t manage to take more than two steps, before someone’s body suddenly rushed in front of her, blocking her way.
She looked up. The person opposite her looked wild and unreasonable, with an arrogant expression. Who could it be if not Li Song?