The woman was standing underneath a plum tree in the painting. Her calm and beautiful figure was wearing a crimson cloak with golden embroidery and a peony pattern. The white snow was boundless behind her. She was standing on her tiptoes to gently smell the plum flowers and only the side of her beautiful smiling face was shown. That face was very similar to Wei Luo’s. The nose and mouth shapes were more or less the same. The only difference was that she was gentle and refined and Wei Luo was lively and deviously intelligent.
Wei Luo realized who this woman was in a split second. And it was exactly because of this that she became angry.
He readily arranged an engagement for Chang Hong and punished Chang Hong with kneeling in the ancestral hall just because Chang Hong didn’t agree, while he was here fondly reflecting past memories and looking at Jiang Miao Lan’s portrait. What was his meaning? It couldn’t be that Chang Hong’s marriage was Jiang Miao Lan’s last wish?
Wei Kun became aware of her presence. After his moment of surprise, he didn’t forget to roll up the painting so that she couldn’t look at it. “Ah Luo, why did you come here? Why didn’t you say anything when you came inside?”
Unfortunately, she had already seen everything that she should.
Wei Luo stayed a few steps away from him. She pursed her lips and stared at him. After a while, she finally said, “I heard that daddy wanted to arrange an engagement for Chang Hong and that the other person is Prince Ru Yang’s daughter, Li Xiang?”
Wei Kun tied up the painting with red silk and settled himself before saying, “Exactly. After I have carefully deliberated that since House Li’s Miss and Chang Hong’s age are similar and our families are well matched in social status, I wanted to arrange the engagement now. It won’t be too late for them to marry in another two years.
Wei Luo didn’t say anything.
He added, “Did Chang Hong say this to you? That’s perfect. Help me persuade him to not be so persistent in his own views… “
“Daddy!” Wei Luo interrupted his words with a rarely heard harsh voice. “Did you forget that time when Li Song pushed Chang Hong into the lake? From that time onwards, Duke Ying’s family had enmity towards Prince Ru Yang’s family. Do you think that if Chang Hong marries Li Xiang, the two families will shake hands and dispel their former hostility?
Wei Kun had been choked off by her words. He wanted to refute, but he also had difficult to accept pain from being punctured in his heart.
The reason that Prince Ru Yang suggested this engagement was indeed this reason. During the past several years, Duke Ying’s family had supported and served Prince Jing. Zhao Jie had also gained a lot of prestige in the imperial court. It wouldn’t be much longer until Emperor Chong Zhen abdicated. When this happened, the country would be Zhao Jie’s. Prince Ru Yang had already seen that this wouldn’t be good for him and wanted to find an escape route for himself. He wanted to marry his daughter in Duke Ying’s family so that at least he could preserve his daughter’s life and possibly save himself.
As for why Wei Kun agreed, he owed Elder Princess Gao Yang* a debt of gratitude.
* (T/N: She’s Prince Ru Yang’s wife, Li Song and Li Xiang’s mother, and the emperor’s sister.)
Elder Princess Gao Yang had read his essays, greatly admired his literary talent, and had wanted to be friends with him. At that time, he already had feelings of love towards Jiang Miao Lan, so he had tactfully declined the princess’s patronage. Later on, when he wanted to marry Jiang Miao Lan and Duke Ying and his wife wouldn’t agree, Elder Princess Gao Yang had come forward to persuade his parents and this was why they relented.
If he had Chang Hong marrying Li Xiang now, it would be considered returning her kind favor.
He said with a straight face, “What nonsense. How could you speak to your daddy like this? Would daddy harm Chang Hong? What’s so wrong with House Li’s Miss that both of you are in a rush to reject her?”
Naturally, Wei Luo couldn’t mention the things that had happened in her previous life. She clenched her fist and slowly said, “Li Xiang’s older brother acted improperly towards me during Spring Lantern Festival. As a daughter of a family that brings up their children with that type of moral conduct, Li Xiang would naturally not be very good either.”
Wei Kun’s face changed and he immediately slapped the table. He loved his daughter dearly after all. “Is this really true?”
Wei Luo expressionlessly nodded.
To stop Chang Hong’s engagement, why wouldn’t she use Li Song as an excuse? Besides, her words weren’t completely false. Although there were many people that day, it wouldn’t have been impossible for him to avoid touching her. Instead, he didn’t move the slightest bit and closely stuck to her. It was clearly intentional. Also, she wasn’t afraid of damaging her reputation. Wei Kun loved her dearly and wouldn’t mention this to anyone else. As long as he gave up on his idea of becoming a family through marriage with House Li, it wasn’t a big deal to let him misunderstand.
As expected, Wei Kun stood up from his rosewood chair with a serious expression and seemed as if he was contemplating.
Wei Luo thought about it and then she said, “Chang Hong hasn’t even seen Li Xiang’s face. It would be too careless and hasty to arrange their engagement this way. There’ll be a hunting ceremony soon. Fifth prince had invited Chang Hong to go with him and Li Xiang will probably go there with Li Song. It wouldn’t be too late to decide after they meet each other and see if they get along with each other first.”
As she said the following words, her eyes showed sorrow, “Why is daddy in a rush over this? I’m the same age as Chang Hong. If you’re in a rush to arrange his marriage, are you also planning on marrying me out soon too? What have we done to make you dissatisfied with us?”
A daughter wasn’t the same as a son. A daughter should be pampered and spoiled. Wei Kun had always loved Wei Luo more dearly than Chang Hong. Seeing her feeling hurt, he immediately mollified his expression, “When have I ever said such a thing? Even if I arrange an engagement for Wei Chang Hong now, a few years still have to pass before they marry…” As he said this, he sighed.
He somewhat helplessly continued, “Fine, we’ll do what you said. I’ll make the final decision after the hunting ceremony. At that time, you two will have to tell me what’s wrong with Li Xiang in detail.”
Wei Luo responded in agreement. Before she left, she secretly glanced at the painting near his hand. Her eyes flashed with preoccupation of her thoughts. Soon after, she turned around and left the study.
The edges of that painting had already turned yellow and were breaking down. Did he often take it out to look at it? That woman had abandoned him a long time ago. Why did he still keep that painting?
Wei Luo went to the ancestral hall after she left the study.
She told Chang Hong what had happened. Chang Hong could only nod and agree to go to the hunting ceremony.
Wei Luo reassured him, “You only need behave like your normal self. Don’t pay attention to Li Xiang no matter what she does.”
As for Li Xiang, she had too many weak points that Wei Luo could use against her. In her previous life, it was only because she wasn’t at Duke Ying’s residence and couldn’t do anything to Li Xiang. In this lifetime, Wei Luo only needed to use a little bit of energy to expose Li Xiang’s true nature in front of everyone. At that time, she wouldn’t even need to say anything and Wei Kun would refuse this arranged marriage.
And so, she still had to go to hunting ceremony even though she didn’t want to attend.
There were still four or five more days until the hunting ceremony.
Early in the morning, Wei Luo was sitting on the couch in the southern side of the room and reading “Fan Yan Yi Shu” while absent-mindedly think about what had happened yesterday.
(T/N:”Fan Yan Yi Shu” is a very arduous philosophical book.)
A servant girl came inside and said, “Miss, someone from the place has invited you.”
Wei Luo put down her book and looked at her, “Who is it?”
The servant girl fidgeted her hands and uneasily said, “It seems that its Princess Tianji’s servant.”
She was very surprised. Was Zhao Liuli looking for her because she had an urgent matter? But, why didn’t she mention this in advance? She thought that Liuli had invited her to enter the palace, so she changed into a cherry blossom colored outfit that was embroidered with peony flower pattern and walked outside.
When she arrived at the entrance to Duke Ying’s residence, there was indeed a carriage with a domed umbrella-like roof and eight treasures design.
In front of the carriage, there were two mamas dressed in simple clothing. There usually wasn’t such a grand gesture when she went to the palace. She couldn’t avoid feeling more alert and sensitive. She stepped on the pedal to enter the carriage.
Just as she held the golden embroidered curtain open, she heard an excited voice from inside, “Ah Luo, come inside quickly.”
(T/N: In all fairness, parents decided marriage in ancient times. But, I still feel so satisfied when Ah Luo silently calls out Wei Kun’s hypocritical actions. How does he not see how hypocritical his actions are in forcing his son to marry someone he doesn’t like when the very favor he’s trying to return is that he got to marry the person he liked?)