Zhao Liuli: Zhao Jie (ML)’s sister
Lin Huilian: Wei Luo’s adoptive mom in her past life
Princess Gaoyang: The current emperor’s sister, mother of Li Song and Li Xiang
Li Xiang: Li Song’s younger sister, Wei Changhong’s fiancee
Li Song: Bullied Wei Changhong, enemies with Wei Luo
Wei Changhong: Wei Luo (MC)’s twin brother
For a six year old girl, Wei Luo’s writing could be considered beautiful enough.
But Zhao Jie was a person who always strove for perfection. Anything within his hands had to be perfect. He felt that Wei Luo’s writing was too impatient and unsteady, thus he took the brush and wrote two characters beside hers. Lowering his head, he asked, “Did you see clearly how to write like this?”
Wei Luo stared at the two grand and steady-looking characters on top of the paper. Blinking, she stretched out a white and tender small finger and asked in a childish tone, “Why did big brother write my name?”
She didn’t know many characters, but she could recognize her own name. The two characters Zhao Jie had written happened to be her name. These characters had many and varied strokes, that were complex and difficult to distinguish. If she hadn’t learned them from the scholar in Longshou village in her previous life, she truly wouldn’t have been able to recognize them.
Zhao Jie’s thin lips raised in a smile. “Can you read them?”
She nodded earnestly and spoke convincingly, “Daddy taught me. Daddy said I should know my name.”
Wei Kun was a successful candidate of the Imperial civil service exam and was currently holding office in the Imperial academy. It wasn’t unusual that he would occasionally teach his daughter to write a little. Thus, Zhao Jie didn’t suspect anything. He wrote down two characters, placed the goat hair brush on top of the white coral pen-holder, pressed the paper with a yellow stone paperweight carved into the shape of a strange beast, then asked curiously, “What do these two characters say?”
Wei Luo couldn’t understand his intention. Why did he write his own name? He wouldn’t start seeking fault with her if she was able to read it, would he? Pondering over for a moment, she shook her head and said, “Ah Luo can’t read them.”
If she couldn’t read them, then why did she take so long to answer?
Zhao Jie took a moment to carefully look over her tiny face’s expression, but as he didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary, he put away his ridiculous thoughts. Straightening up, he spoke to the two little girls, “Imperial mother said that the osmanthus flowers have recently started blooming in the rear garden. Liuli and Ah Luo can go play over there, then bring back several blossoms. Mother said she wanted to personally make an osmanthus egg soup for the two of you.”
Although Empress Chen was a noble empress, she wasn’t like the other Imperial consorts who never got their hands dirty. When she followed Emperor Chong Zhen in battle in Wurong, there wasn’t much she hadn’t done. Hunting, skinning, making a fire… She wasn’t a canary raised inside a cage, she had her own way of living. Since she was young, she most liked eating her mother’s personally made osmanthus egg soup. To this day, it remained in her memories. She wanted to let Liuli also taste this flavor. Because it was made by mother, it was much more delicious than the precious dishes prepared by the palace kitchen.
Furthermore, it wasn’t suitable for Zhao Liuli’s condition to always stay inside. It was best to often go out and take a walk, soaking in the sun and appreciating the flowers. The imperial physician had said that a good mood was beneficial for a fast recovery. Therefore Empress Chen came up with such a method, making Zhao Jie lead them to the rear garden for a stroll.
Zhao Jie had time today, so he didn’t decline.
Zhao Liuli was overjoyed when she heard that. She jumped down from the small purple bench lined in gold with scenery engravings and numerous cherry blossom patterns, and spoke as she pulled Wei Luo’s hand, “Ah Luo, will you eat some osmanthus egg soup? The egg soup my Imperial mother makes is the best!”
A pampered young lady used to exotic delicacies and an extravagant lifestyle, eating a simple dish occasionally would make her feel that it was especially delicious. However, Wei Luo wasn’t really interested. In her past life, there was an osmanthus tree in her family’s backyard. Every time in August, when the osmanthus became fragrant, Lin Huilian would steam osmanthus egg soup for her. Mentioning the osmanthus now, she recalled the small backyard in Longshou village. She thought of those not too cheerful memories.
Wei Luo opened her mouth to refuse, “I don’t…”
Zhao Liuli didn’t give her the chance to decline, dragging her along to go out of Chenhua Hall. After exerting herself to catch up with Zhao Jie under the veranda, she asked anxiously, “Second elder brother, can Ah Luo also try Imperial mother’s osmanthus egg soup?”
Zhao Jie paused and turned his head to glance at Wei Luo’s awkward face, then said with a nod, “Of course she can.”
Zhao Liuli was elated, immediately leading Wei Luo to the rear garden to pick osmanthus blossoms together. Wei Luo followed blindly behind her, her pink lips slightly pursed. She felt rather helpless.
The rear garden was located at the northwest of the Great Lake, divided in an east and a west plot. The east plot was fully planted with sweet osmanthus, elms, pomegranates, and other trees, that were arranged quite casually. There was even a vegetable garden behind them, growing luffas, okra, grapes, and other tasty fruits and vegetables. Reportedly, that was all done by Empress Chen. As she had put down her armor and resided deep in the harem, she sometimes truly had nothing to do. She couldn’t once again don her armor and go into battle, so without a better option, she opened up a vegetable garden inside the palace. Coming by occasionally to fiddle around and plant things herself, could as well be regarded as a sort of way to relieve boredom.
At the time, Emperor Chong Zhen had unexpectedly complied with such an absurd request. Not only that, but he also found experts to manage the garden for her.
It was clear that their sentiments had been very good then. But who knew why they had arrived at their present condition.
Empress Chen was the youngest daughter of general Huaihua, with four older brothers above her. Each and every one of them was a general in Daliang, occupying important posts and grasping military power within their hands. Empress Chen’s oldest brother was general Dingyuan. For years on end, he never returned to the capital as he guarded the borders. Her second brother was a navy commander in Fujian, controlling Fujian’s army. He also rarely returned home. Her third and fourth brothers both held an office in the capital city Sheng’s army. They had a good reputation, each of them a force to be reckoned with. In addition, her father – general Huaihua, followed the former emperor as they opened up new territory and expanded the land. Having fought on all frontiers, he was Daliang’s outstanding hero. It was to the extent that their Chen House had already become a prominent aristocratic family in Sheng a dozen years later, their influence was overwhelming.
Was that the reason that Emperor Chong Zhen was getting more and more afraid of the Chen family? So he gradually grew cold toward Empress Chen and concentrated his favor on Noble Consort Ning?
Noble Consort Ning had a younger brother, who had passed this year’s new exam as the top scorer in the military field. Emperor Chong Zhen intended to place him in an important post in order to boost his own influence, replacing Empress Chen’s oldest brother – Chen Yantong, in defending the border pass.
In a few years, the emperor would thoroughly take away Chen House’s power.
Wei Luo pondered absent-mindedly, no wonder Empress Chen could not forgive him. Looking on helplessly as her own father and elder brothers lost their authority one by one, falling into defeat, dead or exiled. Who would feel good about it?
“Ah Luo!” Zhao Liuli suddenly called out to her, completely disrupting her train of thoughts. She pointed a big red pomegranate. “That pomegranate is so red. Let’s pick it, okay?”
Wei Luo followed her gaze, finding a full round pomegranate hanging on the tree beside them. The surrounding pomegranate trees were still blooming, while this one actually bore fruit. It was really rare.
Unfortunately, the fruit was a little too high and the two kids were unable to reach it even if they stacked up on top of each other.
Zhao Jie was reading in the eight-sided pavilion nearby. His hands were holding a book – “Fayan Interpretations”, and he was basically oblivious to their antics over here. Zhao Liuli didn’t dare ask her second elder brother for help, she could only make a palace maid climb up the tree and take down the fruit. The palace maid gingerly crawled on the tree and picked the pomegranate with great difficulty. Her hands got unsteady causing the fruit to slip from her palms and roll on the ground.
Raising the edge of her patterned skirt, Zhao Liuli was just about to go pick it up when a little girl in a satin dress with golden embroidery unexpectedly appeared in front of her, hurriedly picking up the big pomegranate. Turning around to face behind, she said with delight, “Cousin1 Linlang, look, I picked a pomegranate!”
Right behind her, a seven or eight year old girl showed up, coming out of the moon gate. Her hair was gathered in two buns, and she was wearing a coral colored dress embroidered with cloud patterns. Her looks were 40-50 percent similar to Zhao Liuli’s. With clear eyes and white teeth, she had a rosy and youthful face2. That was Noble Consort Ning’s daughter, Zhao Linlang. The one who picked up the pomegranate just now was Princess Gaoyang’s daughter, Li Xiang. The two of them were originally playing in the opposite West plot. Who knew why they suddenly came over here, even snatching the pomegranate that Zhao Liuli had spent so much effort to get.
Zhao Liuli had a timid disposition. Even if others snatched her things, she couldn’t raise her voice. Speaking in a low voice, she wanted to let them know, “That’s mine…”
Unfortunately, the two girls didn’t seem to hear her. Li Xiang turned her head, and as if she just saw her there, her delicate and charming little face showed surprise. “Cousin Liuli? How come you’re also here?”
To most, Zhao Liuli was bed-ridden all year round, with her body in poor health. So it wasn’t strange that Li Xiang would ask something like this, but the question embarrassed Zhao Liuli even further. Her face flushed as she stuttered, “I…I was playing with Ah Luo.”
Wei Luo, however, wasn’t shy like her, neither was she able to submit to injustice like her. Her things were her own, why give them to others? She pointed to the palace maid, who still hadn’t managed to climb down the tree, then pointed at the pomegranate within Li Xiang’s hands. Blinking, she said, “That’s what Liuli made someone pick for her, it’s not for you two.”
Li Xiang had seen Wei Luo in the city and she was also aware of her identity. Wei Luo was the one who had continuously bullied her big brother, causing him to fall ill. Seeing her now, she naturally didn’t have a good mood. Li Xiang was highly reluctant to hand over the pomegranate. Her almond eyes glared spitefully at her. “Why should I believe your words?”
Normally, one pomegranate really wasn’t worth arguing over. It was just a fresh fruit and nothing more. Their homes were full to the brim with treasures, they didn’t lack for anything. But today, Li Xiang was determined to clash with Wei Luo. Wei Luo had bullied her big brother, so she wanted to vent some anger in his stead.
“Oh,” Wei Luo uttered with a milky voice, deliberately stretching the sound for a while. She turned her head around to ask Zhao Liuli, “Liuli, did I say the truth just now?”
Zhao Liuli met her line of sight. If it was before, she would have already let the matter drop. But as she had Wei Luo to help her now, she had the courage to nod. “…Yes.”
Since the princess herself said so, she didn’t have a definitive argument anymore. Li Xiang pouted. Fuming, she stuffed the pomegranate in Wei Luo’s hands, pushing her on purpose.
Wei Luo staggered two steps, barely steadying herself. Holding the pomegranate to her bosom, she didn’t get angry. Her bright eyes narrowed in a smile as she said cheerfully, “Li Xiang?”
Li Xiang glanced at her and grudgingly asked, “What do you want?”
Wei Luo turned around and made her way back to Zhao Liuli’s side. As she walked, she spoke leisurely, “There’s a bug over your head.”
Li Xiang paled, subconsciously raising her head to see a wiggling bug perched on the flowers. Right at that moment, it fell directly on her nose! Girls were all afraid of such soft wiggly things; the feeling of it crawling on the skin caused goosebumps. Li Xiang was no exception. She was immediately scared to tears. The bug fell down from her nose, twisting and squirming on the ground. She found it extremely disgusting, so she promptly called a palace maid over to stomp it to death.
Wei Luo and Zhao Liuli didn’t go back, but went to the eight-sided pavilion where Zhao Jie was reading. They placed the pomegranate on the stone table and asked the palace maid to slice it open with a knife, then put it on a small white porcelain plate with golden winding lotus leaves engraving.
The bright red pomegranate seeds were full and juicy, but unfortunately, it was too early for the fruit to ripen. It wasn’t sweet, but sour and a bit astringent instead. Wei Luo only ate several seeds then stopped. Tilting her head to look at the motionless Zhao Jie, she grabbed a pomegranate seed and asked, “Big brother, do you want to eat some pomegranate?”
She spoke aimlessly to begin with, but there was also a slight intention to tease him. She wanted to let him taste the sour pomegranate flavor. She didn’t expect that without even lifting his head, he would turn his chin toward her and open his mouth. That posture obviously meant for her to feed him.
Wei Luo’s hand paused in midair, hesitant to come down. Without a better option, she brought a pomegranate seed to his mouth. Shortly after withdrawing her hand, she secretly wiped it on her clothes behind her back.
That petty action naturally didn’t escape Zhao Jie’s eyes. He ignored it and kept his focus on “Fayan Interpretations” as before. After chewing, he spat out the seed and said with a gentle voice like a running stream of water, “Give me another one.”
Wasn’t it sour to him?
Wei Luo complained on the inside, but she was forced to feed him another one.
It was as if he truly didn’t think it was sour and astringent. Whenever he was done eating, he would call her to feed him again, absolutely unmindful of anything inappropriate about it. She wasn’t his little maid. Wasn’t there a palace maid right there! Why did he insist on making her feed him? Wei Luo pursed her lips and thought resentfully, even if she didn’t find the pomegranate delicious, it didn’t mean she wanted to feed him. Her hand was getting sore, yet he still wanted to eat?
Zhao Jie finally finished the last page of “Fayan Interpretations” and raised his head just in time to witness the little girl’s bitter expression. He couldn’t help chuckling. Leaning over, he rubbed her forehead and intentionally parted her bangs to caress the small red birthmark between her brows. “The grapes in the back are ripe, do you want to eat?”
Wei Luo glared at him, but she had no time to talk as Zhao Liuli hastily spoke from the side, “I want!”
Zhao Jie got up and said with a smile, “Let’s go, I’ll lead you two to pluck some grapes.”
Not far behind the eight-sided pavilion, there really was a grape trellis with a bench built under the frame. It was suitable to enjoy the cool air and have a rest there. Bunches of big round red grapes were hanging from the trellis, plump and tempting.
Held by a palace maid, Zhao Liuli only needed to reach up to pick the grapes from above her. She didn’t take the whole bunch, but rather plucked grape by grape, until she was content.
Looking on from below, Wei Luo’s limpid eyes shone as she felt a little envious.
Zhao Jie was observing her at that moment. Seeing that she wanted to go up, he stooped down to support her small buttocks, then lifted her up from the ground and asked, “Which one do you want to pick?”
Notes: Edited by Star Wish.
I’ve already started on the next chapter, so hopefully the wait won’t be long.