Wei Luo was wearing a blue-green top embroidered with small golden flowers and a white silk skirt. On top of this, she had a snow white fox fur cloak. Flower buds had been combed into her hair. From far away, she looked like an exquisite, sparkling, and translucent little snowball.
She had come to the reception pavilion from Pine Courtyard. The reception pavilion was already full of women. Most importantly, first madam and fourth madam were here to receive the guests.
Old madam had been in bad health for the past few years, so she had given some of Duke Ying’s residence’s accounts and business to the dignified first madam to manage. First madam had done her work clearly and orderly. Her punishments and rewards were fair and the residence’s servants followed her orders faithfully. Old madam was very satisfied with her. Recently, old madam had made the decision to hand over the entire management of the residence to the first madam to manage.
At present, there were many young girls in the reception pavilion. One by one, first madam arranged for a place for them to sit, ordered the servant girls to serve tea and snacks, and handled everything else.
Behind a wooden folding screen that was inlayed with numerous treasures designed to look like birds and flowers, fourth madam Qin-shi was holding sixth young master Wei Chang Mi to meet everyone. After one month under her care, Wei Chang Mi had become much rounder and rosier compared to when he was just born.
(T/N: Here’s a picture of a similar screen.)
His facial features had opened up to reveal a cute face. His eyes were like Du-shi’s. His nose and mouth were like Wei Kun’s. He could be considered quite nice-looking. His face wasn’t like a scrunched up little monkey’s face anymore and his personality was relatively lively and bold. He didn’t cry or fuss when meeting strangers. Instead, he would only curiously stare at them.
However, there was an exception. As soon as Wei Zheng was near him, he would start to cry loudly. It was probably because of that time when Wei Zheng uncomfortably held him after he was recently born. Even now, he still remembered. So much so that whenever he saw Wei Zheng, he would be scared.
In contrast, he really liked being near Wei Luo. They didn’t know what was wrong with him. Wei Chang Mi would always beam with delight as soon as he saw Wei Luo. He would stretch his hands towards her and start babbling at her. He also liked to grab her fingers towards his mouth to lick.
Wei Luo truly disliked this behavior. After he nibbled on her fingers, she would wash her hand many times. If she didn’t let him nibble, he would cry. Were all children so troublesome? Or was it because he was Du-shi’s son, so he was extremely annoying?
Wei Chang Mi didn’t know her train of thought. From Qin-shi’s arms, he wiggled out his head. As soon as he saw her, his eyes brightened, his mouth babbled, and his hands was stretched out towards her.
Ah Luo subconsciously took a step back and hid both of her hands behind her back.
Qin-shi saw this and smiled. She beckoned with her hand at Ah Luo to come closer.
“Ah Luo hasn’t seen Chang Mi for several days, right? Come here to look at your younger brother…”
Wei Luo shook her head like a drum-shaped rattle toy.
“I don’t want to see him. He’ll eat my hand.”
Qin-shi explained with a smile, “That’s because he likes you.”
But, why would he like her? She never expressed any goodwill or kindness towards him. Wei Luo pursed her lips. She couldn’t figure it out. Instead of walking forward, she looked at Wei Chang Mi from a distance.
Since today was Wei Chang Mi’s one month birthday, the womenfolk’s attention was focused on him. Everyone knew that a new young master had been recently born in Duke Ying’s residence. It was fifth branch’s child, but why was this child with fourth madam? Why didn’t they see fifth madam?
Qin-shi had explained to everyone, “Fifth younger brother’s wife’s was unhealthy after giving birth. So far, she can’t leave her bed and has been in her courtyard recuperating. I’m afraid she won’t be able to meet everyone today.
After everyone heard this, they said they could understand. The madams in attendance had all given birth before. Some of them even offered their favorite postnatal remedies.
Qin-shi faintly smiled as she listened. She didn’t say any extra words.
Liang Yurong pulled Wei Luo behind a yellow rosewood tree, and then she mysteriously asked Wei Luo, “Is that your stepmother’s son?”
Liang Yurong had come here with her mother, Lady Marquis Pingyuan. Lady Marquis Pingyuan Zhen Lan was Jiang Miao Lan’s sworn sister. Their friendship had been very deep. If she didn’t have to attend Duke Ying’s sixty-birthday banquet, she most likely wouldn’t have come here today. Since Zhen Lan’s relationship with Jiang Miao Lan had been very good, then naturally, it goes without saying, she didn’t want to see Du-shi‘s child.
At this moment, she was sitting far away on a rosewood chair. She had the cool eyes of a bystander without any happy expression.
“En.” Wei Luo nodded.
Liang Yurong turned to look at the child held by Qin-shi.
After a short while, she turned back to say her evaluation, “He looks ugly.”
Liang Yurong didn’t know about Du-shi’s previous actions, but in the eyes of children, all stepmothers were bad people with malicious hearts and evil schemes. Although Liang Yurong was the person who said these words, it was heavily based on someone else’s prejudice.
Wei Luo didn’t refute her words. It could be considered as an acceptance.
One after another, each of the madams held Wei Chang Mi. The person holding Wei Chang Mi would say a few auspicious words before handing him over to the next person. They also presented their previously prepared gifts afterwards. Since the child was being taken care of by Qin-shi, she would also handle these gifts. She ordered the servant girls to receive them and took Wei Chang Mi back into her arms.
Smiling, Qin-shi said, “I’ll thank the madams on behalf of Chang Mi.”
As long as you gave something that showed kindly intentions, the gifts for a child didn’t need to be too expensive. These gifts were mostly jade ornaments to bless the child with good fortune or to bless the parents with more sons for more happiness, or various silver longevity charms for children. These gifts were dazzling, but also stereotyped and repetitive.
(T/N: The literal translation of that charm is Qilin (Chinese unicorn) sending child, silver longevity lock. Below is an image of one.)
Lady Marquis Pingyuan didn’t hold Wei Chang Mi or prepared a present. She only uttered a polite “congratulation” when it was her turn.
Qin-shi looked at her without any blame, but with understanding instead.
Fortunately, there were many people and not many people cared about this brief interlude. Not long after, someone came by to say that Duke Ying was about to start his banquet, please go to the receiving room.
Everyone stood up and followed old madam and first madam to the receiving room.
Qin-shi didn’t follow them. Lady Marquis Pingyuan also didn’t go.
Zhen Lan calmly sat on the rosewood chair for a long time. Her conduct was very dignified. She seemed as if there was something she wanted to say to Qin-shi. But, Qin-shi didn’t have time to entertain her. Just as she was thinking about ways to persuade her to go, outside the entrance, a person was impatiently following a servant girl here.
This was first time she saw her child. Someone else was holding him. It felt like a knife was being twisted in her heart. It felt like someone was continuously gouging out pieces of her flesh. It hurt so much that she couldn’t breathe.
So, this was what her child looked like. His eyebrows were slightly sparse. His eyes were big. His mouth was small…
She didn’t know how she was able to wait this past month. She spent every day painfully. But, amidst the pain, there was hope. She kept telling herself that soon she would be able to see Chang Mi and be able to hold her child. It was these thoughts that supported her until now.
Now that she saw him. She thought that waiting a month was worth it.
Without any warning, Du-shi ran to Qin-shi. She ignored Qin-shi’s attempt at stopping her and forcibly took the child from her! Du-shi held Chang Mi. She unwrapped his swaddling clothes to look at his eyebrows, eyes, and nose… She looked and looked at him. Tears came falling out of her eyes.
Her body trembled and she called out, “Chang Mi, I’m your mom. Look at me…”
Wei Chang Mi had never seen her before. Originally, he was somewhat curious and looked at her with gleaming black eyes. As Du-shi gradually held him tighter, he felt increasingly pained. Adding on Du-shi unending tears that fell on his tender little face and her crazy appearance that scared him, his little mouth opened to cry loudly.
The more he cried, the more Du-shi panicked. She held him and coaxed, “Don’t cry. Chang Mi, don’t cry… Mom’s heart will break…”
But, this was useless. Wei Chang cried harder. He stretched his hands towards Qin-shi. He wanted to escape from Du-shi’s arms.
At this moment, Qin-shi didn’t have time to care that Lady Marquis Pingyuan was also there.
She walked forward to persuade, “Fifth younger brother’s wife, Chang Mi is a bit unfamiliar with you, give him to me to hold for now.”
It was probably because these words provoked Du-shi, she suddenly retreated a step back and held the infant tighter as she said, “I’m his biological mother. How could he be unfamiliar with me?”
Then she changed the topic and resolutely said, “I won’t give him to you. Don’t even think about it!” As she said this, she retreated towards the door as if she was prepared to escape with Wei Chang Mi at any moment.
She was originally only allowed to see him this one time. But now that she saw him, greedy thoughts were born. She couldn’t be satisfied with one glance. She regretted agreeing and wanted to bring Chang Mi back to her own courtyard. She didn’t want him to be given to someone else again.
Wei Chang Mi had cried his throat hoarse. His hands reached out to search for Qin-shi. Du-shi‘s saw this and felt heartache.
She callously pressed his hands back and said without stopping, “Chang Mi, look clearly. I’m the one that’s your mother… I was the one who gave birth to you. Your birth took an entire day. Why are you looking for her?”
But, how could a one-month-old child understand this? He only knew what was and wasn’t comfortable and what scared him. As for who gave birth to him, it wasn’t important to him at all.
Qin-shi used her eyes to signal to the older female servants at the doorway. Just as Du-shi turned around, the four older female servants blocked her way and stopped her from leaving!
Wei Kun had expected that Du-shi wouldn’t keep her promise. He had already prepared in advance. The four older female servants were there to prevent her.
These four older female servants practiced martial arts. They were very strong. Two of them restrained Du-shi‘s hands and the other two snatched Wei Chang Mi from her.
Du-shi couldn’t move a single step. She could only watch as they returned Chang Mi to Qin-shi. Tears streamed down from her eyes.
Sorrowfully and inconsolably, she said “Give him to me. Give him back to me…”
Qin-shi hardened her heart and pretended she didn’t hear anything.
She ordered the four servants, “Bring fifth madam back to Gingko Courtyard using the small paths. Don’t let other people see.”
Qin-shi paused, and then said to Du-shi, “If fifth sister-in-law didn’t cause trouble, you would have been able to spend more time with him. Never mind. At any rate, you’ve seen him. Be at ease. Fifth brother-in-law has entrusted Chang Mi with me. I’ll carefully nurture and educate him. Although I already have sons, I won’t treat him unfairly. You don’t need worry about this point.”
After she said these words, the older female servants took Du-shi away.
While Du-shi was led away, her gaze was glued on Wei Chang Mi. How could one glance be enough? He was her son. Even if she looked at him a hundred times, it wouldn’t be enough. They only let her see him once!
But, because of this one time, she was even more desperate than before.
After Wei Chang Mi was given to Qin-shi, he quickly stopped crying. His body was even lying against her chest and rubbing against it. His posture and attitude was intimate as if Qin-shi was the mother that had given birth to him.
What made Du-shi even sadder was that Wei Chang Mi had tightly grabbed onto one of Wei Luo’s fingers with a serene expression and without any of the fear that he had when she was holding him.
Wei Luo stood next to Qin-shi and smiled at Du-shi. Her smile had ridicule and also pity, but there wasn’t any mercy.
Du-shi was so sad that she wanted to die. Bitterness rose up in her throat.
To have to be separated after meeting, it would have been better if she had never saw him. This feeling was worse than dying.
Fourth aunt and Lady Marquis Pingyuan were talking inside the reception pavilion. Wei Luo and Liang Yurong walked outside. They walked side by side towards the dooryard’s veranda.
They both had just witnessed that scene. Liang Yurong was somewhat curious. Why couldn’t fifth madam raise her own son? Why was her son given to fourth madam to raise? And even with a glance, she could tell that fifth madam was broken down. In her previous impressions, fifth madam was a woman strong on the outside, but weak inside. She didn’t expect that in a short time period, she would become like this. But this was Wei Luo’s family matter, so she resisted asking. From her sleeve, she took something out to give to Wei Luo.
“Ah Luo, look. My older brother had bought this sachet on the street. He bought two of them, this one is for you.”
It was sachet made with golden thread. Inside the sachet, there were dried flower petals and spices. The simple and unobtrusive sweet scent smelled very good. As she spoke, she tied it to Ah Luo’s waist.
She walked back two steps to look, and then said in satisfaction, “Looks very nice.”
Wei Luo smiled, fiddled with it, and thanked her.
Liang Yurong said it was nothing and walked forward to hold Ah Luo’s hand and said, “We should hurry. The banquet will be over if we get there later.”
Ah Luo nodded and followed her.
Outside the veranda, one by one, there were snowflakes gently fluttering downwards. The amount of snow falling wasn’t much. It melted before touching the ground.
They didn’t walk far before seeing a figure underneath a pine tree ahead of them. This person seemed purer than snow. He looked refined and free from vulgarity, but his figure also looked lonely.
Liang Yurong suddenly stopped to look in that direction, “Ah Luo, is that your older cousin?”
Wei Luo followed her gaze. It was older cousin Wei Chang Yin. He was sitting by himself underneath the tree and attentively looking forward. She didn’t know what he was thinking about. The snowflakes hovered around him. Some fell on his head and shoulders. He didn’t rush in brushing them off. His head was slightly bowed. The slanted view of his fragile face was very nice looking. His face was sketched in light shades like a landscape painting. It wasn’t very deep, but it warmed the heart and delighted the eyes.
Wei Luo said yes. Before Wei Luo had time to stop Liang Yurong, she had run over there. When she arrived in front of Wei Chang Yin, she loudly called out big brother and broke the tranquil scene.
Wei Chang Yin returned to his senses and looked at her from one side.
His eyebrows smoothed out and he revealed a good-natured smile, “Is something wrong?”
Ling Yurong blushed and pointed at his hair, “It’s snowing. Why are you sitting here? Your head is covered in snow. If you stay like this, you’re going to get sick.” After she said this, she noticed his wheelchair and her face showed that she had realized something.
She felt somewhat ashamed and said, “Is it because there’s no one to push you? I’ll help you. Are you going to the receiving room too? Ah Luo and I are also going there.” As she said this, she went behind Wei Chang Yin. Her small hands did their best to push the back of the chair, but it didn’t move. The wheelchair was very heavy. With only her small strength, she couldn’t move it at all.
Wei Chang Yin involuntarily laughed. He thanked her and asked her to come back to his front.
“I’m waiting for someone. Thank you for your good intentions. What’s your name?” He reached out to brush off the snow from her head.
Liang Yurong looked at him and muddling said, “I’m called Liang Yurong. My daddy is Marquis Pingyuan.”
He nodded, and then looked at Wei Luo who wasn’t far away and asked, “Are you Ah Luo’s good friend?
Liang Yurong affirmatively agreed, but after she thought about it, she corrected, “We’re like sisters.”
Wei Chang Yin slightly smiled and didn’t say anything else.
Underneath the verandah, Wei Luo watched their movements and had conflicting emotions. Because she knew their future, she didn’t want them to be close. As she was considering whether or not to go forward to stop them, she suddenly saw a person falling down from the sky and flipping over. He had appeared in front of her without any warning!
He was wearing deep black clothing and his face looked unfamiliar. Although he was dressed like a guard, he wasn’t one of the guards from Duke Ying’s residence.
Wei Luo took a step back without thinking. The man walked forward and without saying a word, he picked her up. He covered her mouth and jumped over a wall to go another courtyard. Before leaving, the guard looked directly at Wei Chang Yin and nodded. These two clearly knew each other.
Liang Yurong was stunned watching this scene, “Ah Luo…”
Wei Chang Yin stroked her head and conformed her, “Don’t worry. He won’t hurt Ah Luo.”
The guard went over another wall to reach one of Duke Ying’s residence’s smaller courtyards with a bamboo forest. The paths here were secluded and usually, very few people came here. Ah Luo also rarely came here and she felt uneasy.
She prepared to scream for help when the guard put her down, but when she looked up, she saw a familiar person sitting in front of her.
Zhao Jie was wearing black clothing embroidered with golden serpents. He was calmly and composedly sitting on a stone bench. His hand was supporting his head and he was leisurely looking at her. His eyes were smiling. Clearly, he was the one who prompted the guard to bring her here.
Wei Luo’s petal-like mouth was slightly gaping. Her face showed her astonishment.
Did he kidnap her in her own home? Was there no justice or laws? Was he so arrogant that nothing mattered to him? She didn’t care why he was looking for her. She mustered up her courage and turned her head to leave.
The author has something to say:
That evening, at a far away place, Zhao Jie anonymously sent this message requesting advice.
How do you coax and improve a girl’s mood when she’s angry with you? Would sweet and honeyed words work?
P.s. She’s a six-year-old young girl.
(T/N: I think the author does a really good at making Du-shi so pitiful that I still couldn’t help feeling a little bit bad for her despite knowing what a horrible person she is.
I wondered what kind of relationship Qin-shi had with Jiang-shi and Du-shi.She’s the only person that treats Chang Mi well without any bias because of his mom, but we never to get to read her thoughts. So we don’t really know what she thinks about this situation.
What could Zhen Lan have wanted to say to Qin-shi alone? Be mean to this child as a way to take revenge for Jiang-shi?)