Jin Lu was carrying a red sandalwood food box that was carved with begonia flowers. The food box contained cherries that Jing He Villa had sent to every courtyard. These fresh and plump cherries were grown in the villa and had just been picked from the trees. There were still dewdrops on top of the cherries from last night.
As Jin Lu was walking towards the eastern courtyard, she thought about what yummy food she should make for miss. Cherries and milk with or without sugar would be good. Since miss liked to eat sweet things, it would probably be best to add more sugar…
(T/N: Here's a picture of the cherry dessert. The modern way to make this ancient dessert is by baking the milk and rice wine together, adding the cherries to baked mixture and then letting it cool down in the refrigerator for a few hours before eating. Sugar is an optional ingredient. I'm not sure how Jin Lu was able to prepare this dessert so quickly that Ah Luo was able to eat it later in this chapter.)
As she passed through the courtyard's entrance and was about to go to the kitchen, she almost hit someone's back! Fortunately, her reflexes were quick and she promptly stopped her next step. She patted her chest and then looked up to see who that person was.
The person was wearing an indigo brocade robe that was horizontally weaved with a river pattern, ink-colored boots with golden embroidery, and a jade belt. He had a peerless elegance that couldn’t be compared.
Jin Lu gulped. She thought that it was fortunate that she managed to not bump into this person, "Your Highness Prince Jing..."
However, the person in front of her didn't respond with word or movement. His eyebrows were bleak as he watched the two people below the tong tree. Jin Lu followed his line of sight and only saw that Wei Luo and Song Hui hadn't noticed that other people had come to courtyard. They were probably talking about entertaining anecdotes from their childhood. Wei Luo was softly smiling and her two dimples were revealed. Song Hui was standing next to her with his hands behind his back. His eyes showed his desire to pamper her. Standing side by side, this golden couple was truly a match made in a heaven
Jin Lu thought this sight was very harmonious and didn't think there was anything strange. Why was his highness Prince Jing emitting a heavy and gloomy aura?
While Jin Lu was worrying about this, Wei Luo had turned around and finally noticed Zhao Jie's presence. She called out with a smile, "Older brother Prince Jing!"
Zhao Jie finally unfroze. He put away his vicious aura and smiled as he walked towards Wei Luo and Song Hui.
Wei Luo looked at Jin Lu who was walking away while carrying the food box, then she looked at him. She tilted her head and asked, "When did older brother Prince Jing arrive? Why didn't you say anything? Have you been standing there for a long time?"
Zhao Jie's gaze landed on Song Hui while he lightly said. "Not long, I just arrived." As he continued speaking, without any reason, he looked at Song Hui's hand that had helped pick off the flower petals from Wei Luo. He curved his lips and said words that had a far-reaching implication, "I came here to see if you were comfortable staying here. Who would have expected that Sir Song Hui would be even more considerate than this prince by coming here earlier?"
Song Hui took a step back and bowed to salute, "Greetings your highness Prince Jing." After saying this he stood up and went back to Zhao Jie's line of sight. He could clearly feel Zhao Jie's hostility towards him.
Although Song Hui spent most of his time at home studying, he was still aware of things that happened outside his home. At this time, he couldn't help but think about certain rumors. The rumors said that Prince Jing favored and spoiled House Ying's fourth miss without limits and often gave her gifts. Outsiders all thought that this was because of Princess Tianji. Wei Luo had a very good relationship with Princess Tianji and their ages were similar, so Zhao Jie probably thought of her as a younger sister and that was why he spoiled her. Song Hui also thought this was the reason originally, but from what he saw today, this didn't seem entirely true.
Men understood other men's way of thinking the best. Perhaps, Zhao Jie's feelings toward Ah Luo weren’t as simple as what outsiders thought.
Song Hui smiled. His words were neither servile nor overbearing, "Ah Luo is delicate and this is also her first time staying overnight on a mountain. I was worried that she wouldn't be used to staying here. It's only natural that I should come here to check up on her." He paused and then continued, "Besides, Ah Luo has been close to me since she was a child. Since she won't be at uncle's side these two days, as her older cousin, I should naturally be more attentive towards her.”
Zhao Jie looked at him without saying any words. There was clearly a smile on his lips, but his eyes were cold and held a swift and violent wind.
In a short while, he nodded as if he had a sudden thought. He changed the topic by asking, "This prince heard that Sir Song will also participate in the hunting. It’s unexpected that scholarly Sir Song also knows horse riding and archery. How is your archery skill? Would you be willing to compete with this prince tomorrow?
Hunting had always been a way for men to compete with each other. There was no reason for him to refuse. Without the slightest fear, Song Hui confidently accepted Zhao Jie's challenge. "I’m honored that this prince thinks so highly of me. I’ll definitely accompany the prince to the very end, but my archery skill isn't very good. I hope that the prince will be merciful tomorrow."
Zhao Jie moved his hands behind his back and thought-provokingly smiled, "Sir Song must be joking. It wouldn’t be logical to surrender a prey that you fancy to another person in the hunting area.
Song Hui was blocked. He didn't expect that Zhao Jie would be so frank. He didn't have any words to say in response for a long time.
It went without saying whom he was referring to as prey. These two men were well aware and neither of them was willing to back down. After all, they had watched her grow from a young girl to a slender, elegant, and charming young woman. No one would be willing to give her up to another person.
However, this highly desired prey didn't see the hidden emotional turbulence between these two men. She thought they were only talking about tomorrow's hunting. As she ate the cherries covered in sweetened milk, she said, "Older brother Song Hui hasn't used a bow in a long time. Are you sure that you'll be okay?"
Hearing her being concerned about him, the melancholy in Song Hui's heart was completely swept away. He rubbed her head and said, "Ah Luo, don't worry. Older brother Song Hui won't cause you to lose face."
Wei Luo wasn't worried about being humiliated. She was only worried about whether or not he would be able to cope with tomorrow's hunting. He and Chang Hong's level of horse riding and archery skills were about the same. If he couldn't handle it, then Chang Hong probably wouldn't be able to either. In the end, she was only asking because she was worried about Chang Hong.
She sincerely said, "You have to be careful. Don't get hurt."
Song Hui enjoyed her words and smiled as he said, "Okay."
She also wanted to ask Song Hui to take care of Chang Hong, but before she could say those words, she saw that Zhao Jie was looking directly at her. The smile on his lips had become faint and his eyes were dark and gloomy for an unknown reason. Wei Luo was startled for a moment. Could she have said something wrong? Why was his expression so ugly? After she carefully thought about it, she added these too late words, "Older brother Prince Jing, don't get hurt."
Zhao Jie's expression didn't improve. She only paid attention to him after she was done being concerned about Song Hui. Was his position actually inferior to Song Hui's?
Wei Luo didn't have the slightest idea about his current thoughts. Seeing that he didn't acknowledge or appreciate her words, she pursed her lips and lowered her head to silently eat the cherries.
Song Hui asked her if she was comfortable living here. She nodded and said she was. In addition, he asked her a few questions about her food and accommodations. She replied that everything was good. After he had asked her everything that should be asked, Song Hui didn't have a reason to stay any longer, so he said his good-bye, "Since there isn't anything else, I'll go back to my own dwelling. If you need anything, tell me and I'll send someone to do it."
She nodded and expressed her thanks, "Older brother Song Hui, you’re busy with your own matters. You don't have to worry about me."
Song Hui turned around to leave. When he passed by Zhao Jie, he asked, "It's not early anymore. Is the prince not leaving?"
Zhao Jie looked at him with a fake smile, "Liuli asked this prince to pass along a message to Ah Luo. This prince will leave after speaking to her.”
Song Hui didn’t have any words to say in response. He said his good-bye and left.