The passing night wind was chilly and lifted up the edges of his clothes, but he didn’t feel anything. His dark eyes were enigmatic. It was impossible to tell whether he was feeling happy or angry.
He took out turquoise and silver waist accessory from his sleeve and whirled it around in his hands. Who knew what he was thinking? The waist accessory had a little squirrel carved from turquoise. There were two silver nuts hanging below the squirrel. The shape and look was unique and unusual. He had thought of Wei Luo as soon as he saw this waist accessory while he was in Binzhou.
When Wei Luo was a child, she liked to eat chestnuts, walnuts, pine nuts, peanuts, and so on in his carriage. When she was eating them, her cheeks would be bulging and she sounded like a rustling little animal. Her two dark whirling eyes showed her cunning and quick-wittedness. No one knew what strange ideas she held in her mind. She was smarter and cuter than a squirrel, but this squirrel on the waist accessory really resembled her. The look that a squirrel had when it was eating had been carved realistically.
At the time, he had bought this waist accessory without the slightest hesitation. He had decided to wait and give this to her when he returned to the capital. But, he didn’t expected that he would have to wait for two years. Now that he had finally returned from Binzhou, did she still remember him?
She had grown up and would go out with other men to look at colorful, flower lanterns. Would she still sweetly and stickily call him big brother?
Zhao Jie restrained the emotions in his eyes. He held the little squirrel in his palm and gradually closed his hand to firmly hold the accessory.
Yang Hao saw his action. He couldn’t resist sweating a bit for the fourth miss and hesitantly asked, “Your highness, do you still want to send over this accessory tonight?”
Zhao Jie pondered for a moment before turning around to walk inside, “No, this Prince will personally give it to her tomorrow.”
The dark sky showed how late it was. If he went there tonight at such a late time, it would undoubtedly scare her. He wasn’t anxious. He had already waited for so long. He had the patience to wait another night.
Early next morning, Wei Luo received a written invitation sent from the palace. Princess Tianji had invited her to the palace.
Wei Luo sat at a round table. As she ate her breakfast, she listened to Jin Lu speak. She didn’t have any suspicions. Although she was no longer Zhao Liuli’s study companion, she would still go to the palace every now and then. She and Zhao Jiuli had a close and very good relationship in private. They were best friends. When Zhao Liuli had slightly embarrassing problems, she liked to talk it over with Ah Luo. So much so that when Liuli invited her today, she thought that there must be something troubling her.
Zhao Liuli was only one year older than her. Because their relationship was good, she didn’t have any qualms with telling her everything. Recently, Liuli had her first period and she had enthusiastically told Wei Luo about popular tips for dealing with periods. Unfortunately, Wei Luo had already experienced this in her previous life. She wasn’t the slightest bit curious and couldn’t echo her enthusiasm.
Today’s weather was relatively warmer. After Wei Luo had finished breakfast, she changed into her pine flower decorated golden short-sleeved jacket that had been newly made at New Years. Below that, she wore an embroidered cherry blossom pink full skirt. She sat on her bed to wait for Bai Lan. Bai Lan selected a pair of blue silk shoes lined with sheepskin inside.
(T/N: Look at the 2nd cover for “ChongFei Manual" for Ah Luo’s outfit described above. If you look really closely, you can see that she’s wearing the little squirrel waist accessory)
As Bai Lan helped her put on her shoes, she said, “It looks like miss’s feet haven’t grown in the last two years…”
They were so small and only a little bigger than her hand.
But, this was fine. Men like women with small feet. A woman’s feet would be loved dearly if it was like lotus white jade and could be held in a person’s hands. Her miss’s feet were especially delicate and exquisite and her toes were slightly pink. Bai Lan didn’t think feet were particularly nice-looking before, but now that she had seen Wei Luo’s feet, she could only sigh. There were certain people that were born beautiful everywhere. You couldn’t resist envying them.
Wei Luo looked left and right. She had never paid attention to this issue. Seeing that it wasn’t early anymore, she stood up and said, “Let’s go. It’ll be noon soon.”
There was a green carriage waiting at the entrance. It was only now that Wei Luo thought that something seemed off.
In the past, when Zhao Liuli invited her to the palace, she would ride Duke Ying’s residence’s carriage there. Why was a carriage expressively sent here to bring her there? Could there be a serious matter? Wei Luo entered and sat down in the carriage.
Then, she lifted the carriage’s curtain to ask the mama, “Who sent you here to pick me up?”
The mama reverently and respectfully said, “To respond to fourth miss, it was Princess Tianji’s order.”
It seemed that this wasn’t a mistake. She sat back down. There clearly wasn’t anything wrong over there, but she still felt as if something was different from the usual visits.
The carriage stopped at the harem’s entrance. Wei Luo followed the mamato Empress Chen’s palace. Zhao Liuli had already been waiting a long time inside the palace. As soon as she heard that Wei Luo had arrive, she ran out from her warm room.
She smiled as she greeted her, “Ah Luo.”
Due to Zhao Liuli’s longtime frail health and sickness, her skin was paler than the average person’s. Her skin was so abnormally pale that it was almost transparent. Her skeleton framework was delicate and her small face was only the size of a palm. But when she optimistically and cheerfully smiled, her two dimples would be revealed. She didn’t seem like a sickly person that had a lingering illness at all.
During the past few years, Empress Chen had scoured the world for rare and valuable medicinal herbs to improve Liuli’s health. She had finally raised her to be healthier than when she was a child. However, Liuli still wasn’t the same as other people. Her emotions couldn’t fluctuate too much. She couldn’t cry or laugh too much. She couldn’t be allowed to get sick. When she became sick, it was much more serious than other people.
Empress Chen watched over her very closely. She wouldn’t allow her to go anywhere other than Qingxi Palace. When she was bored, she could only invite Ah Luo to the palace to relieve her boredom by talking. She would listen to Ah Luo talk about things that happened outside the palace as a way to console her self.
She took Ah Luo to her warm room and they sat down on the rosewood couch. She curiously asked, “Yesterday was the Spring Lantern Festival. Did you go out?”
Ah Luo nodded, “I went to look at the colorful lanterns. I also saw magical illusion shows and puppet shows…” She thought for a moment, “I also ate fried sweet rice dumplings.”
Zhao Liuli’s had an expression of envy on her face. She had never eaten fried sweet rice dumplings and she didn’t know what a puppet show was. Ah Luo lived so freely. Unlike her who could only live inside Qingxi Palace, Ah Luo could go anywhere that she wanted.
Even when it was only going to the gardens, she still had to inform her imperial mother first. She supported her cheek with her hand and exceedingly enviously said, “What does fried sweet rice dumplings taste like? Is it tasty? Is it any different from other sweet rice dumplings?
Ah Luo saw her gluttonous face and couldn’t resist smiling. She intentionally said, “It was sweet and filled with red bean paste. It was hot and tasty.”
Liuli revealed her yearning in her expression. She quickly stopped herself before her imagination took flight. She sighed and said, “Never mind, I probably won’t have a chance to eat it.”
Ah Luo saw her pitiful look and almost couldn’t bear it. She stopped making fun of her and had Jin Lu bring over the thing that she had prepared. “I couldn’t bring you fried sweet rice dumplings. But, I brought something else instead. Do you want to see?”
Zhao Liuli brightened up and repeatedly nodded. Her previous gloomy mood was swept away.
Jin Lu walked forward with a red sandalwood box that had a decorative pattern. The box was opened. There were snacks from street corners and some small toys inside the box. One of the snacks was a bag of sugary white balls wrapped inside oilpaper. It was hawthorns with sugar added. Liuli picked one up to eat. The sweet and sour flavor was excellent. She immediately became happier and asked with pleasant surprise, “What’s this?”
Wei Luo thought that it was pitiful that Liuli hadn’t had sugared hawthorn by this age and easily told her the name. She placed the entire bag in front of Liuli, “Eat more. You don’t have to worry about overeating this. Eating this will have health benefits.”
In addition to the sugared hawthorn, there were also folded up colored lanterns, puppets, and dolls inside the box. Wei Luo took out a tiger puppet and wore it on her hand. She curled up her fingers to a threatening gesture, “Look, this can be worn on your hand and played with like this…” The tiger puppet on her hand opened its mouth and went over to bite Liuli’s hand.
Zhao Liuli burst out in laughter. Then, she also put on a puppet doll on her hand and acted out the role of bride begging for mercy, “Hero, please spare my life…”
The two young girls had a flash of inspiration and interest. They acted out “Bride Meets Tiger” with great enjoyment and untiring happiness.