Zhao Jie stood by the red sandalwood box. He blankly looked at her without moving.
Wei Luo slowly opened her pitch-black eyes. The way she looked around the room was charming. The clear reflection of her eyes was like spring water. She seemed half awake and half asleep. At the moment, she couldn’t even tell what night it was. She came back to her senses after a while and slowly sat up in the box.
She saw Zhao Jie and childishly called out, “Big brother.”
The other people in the study were also stunned. How could there be a young girl hidden inside the box? And it was such a beautiful little girl. Who gave her to Prince Jing?
Zhao Jie recovered his senses and smiled with a hint of amusement, “Ah Luo, are you giving yourself to this prince?”
She blinked her eyes as if he had said something odd.
Who wanted to give herself to him? In his dreams!
Wei Luo held up the hua tiao puppy that she had been holding in her arms to Zhao Jie, “This is your gift. He’s too little to stay inside a box by himself without fussing, so I came with him to keep him company.”
(T/N: Hua tiao is a Chinese dog breed.)
Hearing these words, everyone noticed the hua tiao that had been hidden in her arms. Because he was too small, at most he was only one month old, he didn’t catch anyone’s attention until now. After she had taken the puppy out, he quietly whimpered. At this, everyone finally showed expressions of understanding. So it was like that… As expected, which family would have been willing to part with such a beautiful child to give to their prince who had a reputation of being the most ruthless and vicious?
Zhao Jie stared at the dog for a moment. The smile on his face had slowly faded to an intrigued expression, “Why are you giving this prince this?”
Of course, Wei Luo wouldn’t tell him it was because her third older cousin’s dog recently had puppies.
Her expression didn’t change and her heart rate didn’t increase when she said, “Because hua tiaos have awe-inspiring authority like big brother Prince Jing.”
In truth, it was because she was being lazy. She couldn’t think of what to give him. Just at the right time, Wei Chang Yin’s hua tiao gave birth to a litter of puppies, so she took advantage of the situation by begging a puppy from him to give to Zhao Jie. How nice. This didn’t cost her money or energy. She was very satisfied with this gift.
Zhao Jie didn’t say anything.
She looked up to ask, “Do you like it?”
Zhao Jie looked at the so small, it was pitiful looking hua tiao puppy. The young girl had been holding him up this entire time. He thought that her arms probably felt sore, so he cooperatively took the puppy from her. He placed the puppy on the side of a black wooden table that was decorated with golden dragons.
Then, he returned to looking at Wei Luo, “What about you?”
Wei Luo had stood up inside the box and was about to leave it, “What about me?
Zhao Jie smiled, “You said that the things inside this box is this prince’s gift, you’re also inside. Isn’t this giving yourself to this prince?”
To be honest, when he saw her inside the box, he felt delighted. He didn’t like children, but she wasn’t the same. She was an interesting child and it was very fun spending time with her. And, she wasn’t as troublesome as other children that would easily cry and fuss. Because she rarely cried, when she did cry, people would feel sorry for her and want to pamper her. They wouldn’t be able to resist giving her anything she wanted.
Wei Luo was startled from his words, and then she shook her head like a rattle-drum toy, “I’m not a gift. I’m here to bring you a gift.”
Her little face looked as if she was really afraid he would force her to stay here.
Although she was lazy about selecting a gift, she had spent a lot of effort and thought into delivering this gift. She wouldn’t able to hide this from Wei Kun and she had spent several days begging Wei Kun before he agreed. Otherwise, she would have been exposed the moment she went through Duke Ying’s residence’s outer gate. Also, this box couldn’t be closed too tightly, or she and the puppy would have suffocated. And there had to be two holes added to the box for fresh air. During the journey here, the box rocked back and forth. She couldn’t resist being lulled into sleeping, so she fell asleep on the way here.
Zhao Jie had only wanted to tease her a little bit. Seeing her expression, he couldn’t resist smiling. He looked at the curled up puppy that was on the black table decorated with golden dragons.
“What’s his name?”
Wei Luo hadn’t thought of this question. Without carefully thinking, she randomly said, “Si Xi.”
It was actually a very festive name. Zhao Jie nodded to show his acceptance of the gift. He wasn’t a person that liked to play with dogs. During these days, the people in the capital were all interested in dog fighting. There had been numerous government officials who had tried giving him rare dog breeds to curry favor, but he had rejected all of them.
(T/N: The puppy’s name is referring to the four happy events that Chinese people hope their children will experience.)
It wasn’t that he was worried that the excessive attention to trivial entertainment would make him lose focus on the important things, but merely that he had no interest.
The steward and Zhu Geng thought that he wouldn’t accept the hua tiaogiven by Wei Luo. It was unexpected that not only did he accept, he also cared enough to ask for his name.
They knew that none of the three kittens given by Gao Danyang had names yet. And Zhao Jie didn’t even bother bringing those kittens back to his residence. They were being casually raised in the palace. It was the same as not having them.
If they compared Zhao Jie’s treatment of those kittens with this puppy’s, it was the difference between heaven and earth. It really confused them.
Zhao Jie took out an indigo bag embroidered with clouds from a drawer. It seemed as if he prepared this in advance.
He placed it in her hand, “This is for you.”
Wei Luo took it from him without understanding, “What is this?”
He kept giving her things recently. The previous time was the jade pendant, but this didn’t seem like it was more jewelry. She couldn’t guess what it was from feeling the outside of the bulging bag.
Just as she was prepared to open it, she heard Zhao Jie say, “It’s New Year’s money.”
The sixth day of the new year could still be counted as within the New Year celebration period and Zhao Jie was older than Wei Luo, so if they were only considering those two factors, it wasn’t unexpected for him to give her New Year’s money. What made this unexpected to the steward and Zhu Geng was that Zhao Jie had never prepared this type of thing before. He never even gave New Year’s money to Princess Zhao Liuli, much less other children.
Wasn’t his treatment of her too unusual?
Zhu Geng wanted to say something, but stopped and only looked at Zhao Jie. He stiffly returned the words that he wanted to say.
Wei Luo opened the bag and saw that the bag was full of pieces of gold in the shape of melon seeds and beans. No wonder the bag was so heavy. It was full of gold. Her eyes gleamed brightly and she raised her head to look at Zhao Jie. Her little face seemed to ask, is this all for me?
Zhao Jie smiled, “En, it’s all for you.”
She was a money-grubbing child. It was probably because she had suffered hardships in her previous life, so in this lifetime, she especially cherished hard to come by riches.
She sweetly said, “Thank you big brother.” Then, she closed the bag and hanged it on her waist.
It was almost time. They should be heading towards the receiving room. Zhao Jie stood up and went to an inner room in the study to change clothes. His new outfit was a blue robe with a flower-like design and a green overcoat that had a flying fish pattern.
He held Wei Luo’s hand as they walked to the receiving room. Snow had just started falling. The snowflakes were like floating cotton flowers that were blown off the glazed roof tiles by the wind.
There was a burst of cold wind. Zhao Jie leaned down to help Wei Luo tie up the ribbons on her bright red cloak and put on her hood.
He asked, “Are you cold?”
Wei Luo shook her head and pointed at her chest, “I’m wearing the jade pendant that big brother gave. Its very warm.”
His face showed a smiling expression. He was obviously pleased by her words.
As the two were preparing to continue walking, a young girl suddenly appeared in the verandah in front of them. She was directly heading towards them. This young and beautiful girl was wearing a charming, golden mink cloak and suede boots. Her bright and colorful clothing would attract everyone’s gaze.
Wei Luo recognized her. She was Empress Chen’s niece, Gao Danyang. The previous time they met in the palace, Zhao Jie was going to give her the kittens that Gao Danyang had given him and Gao Yang had clearly been very unhappy.
Gao Danyang had stopped a few steps from them. Originally, she had come here to look for Zhao Jie. Now that she had seen Wei Luo, her expression was complicated. From far away, she had just seen Zhao Jie leaning over to help her tie her cloak. When had Zhao Jie ever been this attentive towards another person? What kind of influence did this little girl have that would cause him to be so careful with her? Her heart had a sense of uncertainty and distrust, but this wasn’t revealed on her face.
She said with a smile, “Older cousin Jing, your guests have been waiting for you for so long, why haven’t you gone there yet?”
Because of her relationship with Empress Chen, Gao Danyang would occasionally visit Prince Jing’s residence. The servants knew that her relationship with Zhao Jie was very good, so they never stopped her from going anywhere. At this time, she could freely enter and leave the inner part of the residence.
Zhao Jie couldn’t help slightly frowning, “Something delayed me before. I’m going there now.”
She paused as if the thought had just occurred to her, “Did older cousin Jing already know Wei Luo before we met last time in the palace? From what I see now, your relationship seems better than I had imagined. Didn’t older cousin Jing return to the capital last year? How did you meet?”
Last time, after Empress Chen’s birthday, Gao Danyang had secretly ordered people to investigate Wei Luo. Unfortunately, they were only able to find out about her family and status. As for how she met Zhao Jie, they were unable to find out.
She had to admit that she was jealous of a little girl. Although this girl was much younger than her and couldn’t possibly be a threat to her, she still felt uneasy. Zhao Jie wasn’t hot or cold towards her. But, he was thoughtful and attentive towards this little girl. He couldn’t have some strange peculiarity, right?
When she thought about it, that didn’t seem right. After all, Zhao Jie was cold towards other children; only Wei Luo was treated specially. What was different about Wei Luo? She looked at her left and right. Other than being more beautiful than other little girls, there wasn’t anything particularly outstanding about her.
Zhao Jie didn’t speak further on this topic.
Without a change in his expression, he changed the topic, “Did you come here with your mother?”
Gao Danyang flatten her lips. She knew that he intentionally didn’t reply her question and couldn’t help feeling disappointed.
But she wasn’t the type of person who would continue pestering, so she tactfully said, “Father, mother, and younger sister are all at the receiving room. I saw that you were late, so I secretly came here to look for you.”
The tension in Zhao Jie’s face eased, “I was in the study.”
Wei Luo listened to their conversation and thought it was time for her to leave. She gently pulled Zhao Jie’s clothes to get his attention. He lowered his head to look at her.
Her two dimples were clear when she adorably said, “Big brother and big sister are talking. I’ll go the receiving room first.”
Zhao Jie didn’t saying. She perceptively followed the steward and left the place first in order to not bother Gao Danyang and him.
He watched them until they walked far away.
After thinking about it, he said to Gao Danyang, “In the future, without my permission, don’t casually come into this residence’s inner area.”
Gao Danyang’s face showed surprise and she asked in puzzlement, “Why? I had come here several times in the past and older cousin Jing never said anything. Why did this change now?”
He said, “You’ve grown up. If you continue, people will gossip.”
Why did it matter that she was grown up? Was she no longer his younger cousin because she grew up? Besides, everyone in the capital knew that they were childhood sweethearts, a match made in Heaven and arranged by Earth.
Even Empress Chen was interested in being their matchmaker. Why was he always lukewarm towards her? Never mind about their past. After all, they were still children then. But now they were at the age to be engaged, some things couldn’t be delayed.
Many sons of high officials had gone to Duke Zhen’s residence to ask for her hand in marriage, but Duke Zhen had rejected them all. She had wholeheartedly waited for him, but she still didn’t know his thoughts and feelings!
The author has something to say:
Zhao Jie experienced great joys and great sorrows today.
— Is Ah Luo going to give herself to me? ～(￣▽￣～)(～￣▽￣)～
— Oh, she’s giving me a puppy _(:зゝ∠)_
— Ah Luo is going with me to the receiving room. This is a good opportunity to spend time together without anyone else o(*////▽////*)q
— Oh, no. Don’t go Ah Luo! There’s nothing between her and me. 〒▽〒