The man had jumped down from such a tall tree unscathed, it caused the surrounding people to gawk.
Nurse Ye saw him coming straight for Wei Luo, and subconsciously held her even closer: "Who are you?"
Wei Luo hadn't told her about buying a mask earlier. Naturally, Nurse Ye didn't know about the matter of Wei Luo biting Zhao Jie's hand.
But Zhu Geng knew of it. He'd followed their carriage all the way to Huguo Temple, meaning to find an opportunity to teach that little girl a lesson. He didn't care whether he seemed narrow-minded, or like someone who bullied the weak. In any case, he couldn't let this little devil off. Not to mention His Highness' body was such an expensive thing, how could he get bullied in vain? He really didn't expect to witness such an astonishing scene when he followed along.
He had heard Madam Du and the couple's conversation behind the cabin. Originally, this little girl didn't look all that special, but there was a cruel stepmother doing her best to sell her to the slave traders.
A married woman's heart was the most malicious. This saying was certainly not false.
He had felt sorry for the little girl but hadn't planned to lend a hand. He was just going to watch from the sidelines. However, this small girl really managed to shock people.
She had swung the sharp hairpin without even batting an eye.
Zhu Geng had been squatting on the tree, looking on with interest for some time. In the end, he couldn't take it anymore and have jumped down.
Nurse Ye thought he was one of Madam Du's people, vigilantly taking a few steps back: "I'm telling you, as long as I'm still breathing, I won't let you hurt a hair on the fourth Miss' head!"
Wei Luo was moved by her words. Buried in Nurse Ye's nape, she cried softly 'Nurse', and turned a blind eye to Zhu Geng, ignoring him, as if she didn't know him.
Truthfully, she did provoke Zhao Jie intentionally, with the purpose of tricking them into following, since their presence would come in handy in the crucial moment. However, it wasn't required anymore. Even if Zhu Geng hadn't shown up, she would have been able to deal with Madam Du.
That person had come out of nowhere. Moreover, it looked like his martial arts were excellent. Madam Du noticed his familiar tone with Wei Luo and thought he was a bodyguard sent by Wei Kun. The Duke's residence was raising their own personal guards, with each branch of the family having a dozen people assigned to protect them. The idea seemed plausible to Madam Du, so she asked sharply: "Who are you?"
Zhu Geng wasn't refined and didn't know how to talk to her politely. He spoke with a grin, "I'm an unrelated person, just want to borrow your family's Miss for a little trip."
Madam Du was alarmed: "To go where?"
She had to keep up her act for him; if he was really sent by Wei Kun, he'd bring Wei Luo safely back to the residence. As long as Wei Luo accused her in front of Wei Kun, Madam Du would have lost the lead, and wouldn't be able to explain herself clearly. She absolutely couldn't allow him to carry Wei Luo off! With that in mind, her eyes cooled down, "Since Ah Luo came with me, I should naturally bring her back in person. Who are you to interfere?" Done speaking, she turned her head to look at Ah Luo, instantly putting on a kind face, "Ah Luo, were you scared just now? Don't misunderstand, that man wasn't going to hurt you. Seeing how pretty you are, he wanted to take a closer look…"
As long as Wei Luo stayed behind, she would certainly be able to find another opportunity to get rid of her.
Wuzhou's wife also jumped in: "Yes, it was a misunderstanding, a huge misunderstanding! Us, husband and wife, are hunters living on this mountain. By chance, our lives were rescued by your family's Madam, wanted to repay our debt of gratitude today. When we saw this lovely young Miss, we couldn't resist picking her up to take a look. Who would've thought the girl would disfigure my husband's face like this… Such a deep wound, what is he going to do in the future…" Then she threw herself on Wuzhou's body to weep bitterly.
Those words were full of flaws, everyone with half a brain could discern the fallacy.
In the first place, Madam Du was from a rich household, it was impossible to get involved with a hunters' family. This kind of identity Wang had invented was so unbelievable, it made people scoff. Just looking at Wuzhou's thin physique, where did he look like a hunter? Nevermind him being able to catch animals, he'd better take care not to become their prey first.
Jin Lu had heard them conspiring with her own ears but was currently witnessing them playing along with each other, not immediately admitting their wrongs. They were really think-skinned! She said: "Madam, didn't you just say you wanted to sell the fourth Miss to these two, in addition, to using that medicine to make us faint… You're doing all that, then you're not afraid of the Master learning about it?"
Madam Du secretly clenched her fists, her nails digging into her flesh. Full of hate for Jin Lu, she feigned anger: "Nonsense! When have I said such disgraceful words?"
Jin Lu stood up with red eyes: "I heard it…"
They were heavily engaged in their dispute, with no one willing to give in. Zhu Geng secretly pondered, that madam was really able to speak nonsense. It wasn't only the maidservant, he'd clearly heard everything as well. That sedative was also in Wuzhou and Wang's hands. Unfortunately, he didn't enjoy meddling in women's quarrels, his only goal was to grab Wei Luo. While Nurse Ye was distracted, he flashed by her side, quickly reaching her. His hand hooked around the little girl and swiftly pulled her away from the Nurses's arms. He then leaped onto the camphor tree, and in several jumps, disappeared from sight.
Nurse Ye called out in alarm: "Miss!"
Zhu Geng brought Wei Luo to the main road at the foot of the mountain, before he halted in his steps.
He put Ah Luo on the ground and hissed out in pain, holding onto his neck "This little girl, really violent…" There was a newly added scratch on his skin. Just now, Wei Luo had managed to find a chance and had thrust the hairpin toward his neck. Luckily, he noticed and dodged in time, so that only his skin got grazed. If he really got stabbed, he'd have parted with his life today!
He wondered what had happened to this little child. A normal family's six years old would act like a spoiled brat in their mother's arms, but she was different. Just like a little wolf, drawing blood everywhere.
If his objective wasn't to drag her back to Zhao Jie, so he could sort her out, he would've much rather dropped her right here and left.
Wei Luo, squeezing the hairpin firmly, raised her head to look at him: "My Nurse and my maidservant are still back there. Where are you taking me?"
Near the edge of the woods, a brown horse was waiting, tied to a tree. Zhu Geng didn't answer her. He untied the rope and placed her in front of him on the horse. "Where? Of course, it's to meet our Master. The teeth you used to bite him with, we'll have to pull out."
He was scaring Wei Luo on purpose, but that didn't mean he wouldn't actually do it. He just needed to see His Highness nod in agreement.
Hearing that, Wei Luo immediately covered her mouth and regarded him timidly.
Zhu Geng grinned with ridicule. So she knew what fear was, but still behaved like that earlier. Biting so hard, didn't she consider it would hurt their prince?
Zhu Geng frightened her deliberately, so he didn't bother comforting her. He took hold of the reins and urged the horse to speed up.
Huguo Temple wasn't far from the capital, only needing a quarter hour to reach it on horseback. Zhu Geng planned to bring her directly to the Jing palace (Zhao Jie's home), to let the prince teach her a lesson. See if she dared to casually bite people in the future. But the further they went, the more he felt something was odd. The people along the road were watching him, pointing, shaking their heads, and sighing. At first, he was very puzzled. Completely mystified, he pressed on to their destination, before he heard a very light whimper. Looking down, he found the small girl's face covered in tears, crying all of a sudden.
Zhu Geng quickly dismounted, and couldn't help but curse. This little girl had kept quiet all the way, so he thought she was behaving. Instead, she was crying secretly. Her eyes were already pretty. Her crying resembled clear water washing over black pearls, beautiful, and made her look that much more sorrowful.
No wonder the passers-by stared at him with that kind of look. Did they think he was a slave trader?
Zhu Geng was taken aback by her change in attitude: "Why are you crying now?"
Wei Luo wiped her tears away and peeked at him anxiously: "I didn't mean to bite… My stepmother wanted to sell me, but I didn't want to go… If I had asked you to save me, my stepmother would have discovered, and definitely wouldn't have let me off. So I came up with that method…"
Did she mean it was difficult for her, too?
Zhu Geng choked and stared at her speechlessly.
Wei Luo cried even more sadly, her small face worried and covered in tears. The way she was crying was different from other children. Where other children would have tears and snot running down their faces, she was actually crying very composedly, the teardrops falling down in a line, making people feel sad. "I'm sorry… Don't be angry, I won't ever bite again… Can you please let me go home?"
Since they were staying still, they attracted many people's gazes. The spectators took a look at Zhu Geng, then at the pitifully crying Wei Luo, and couldn't stop shaking their heads one after another.
Their eyes were as if looking at some heinous villain.
Zhu Geng was ticked off, raising his arms to firmly grasp her face, "Don't cry!"
Wei Luo stiffened at his bellowing. Watching him timidly, she really ceased her crying.
He paced a few steps back and forth. About to open his mouth to speak, he noticed a man with black garments standing in the opposite building. Leaning on the railings, the man slowly shook his head at him twice. That person was called Yang Hao. Together with Zhu Geng, they were the personal bodyguards of the Jing prince Zhao Jie (Zhao Jie is titled Jing). As a personal bodyguard, he was supposed to stick closely to their master. Then Yang Hao showing up at that moment could only be by Zhao Jie's instructions.
Zhu Geng understood. After a pause, he turned around, and pretending to be impatient, asked Wei Luo: "Where is your home?"
Wei Luo sniffed: "It's Duke Ying's residence."
She was a miss from Duke Ying's residence? Zhu Geng was a little surprised but didn't inquire further. He mounted the horse again and headed for the Duke's residence.
He was staring straight ahead, so he couldn't witness Ah Luo's tears dry out in an instant. She blinked, revealing a victorious smile, replacing the earlier aggrieved appearance.
After Zhu Geng returned her to the Duke's residence, he watched Wei Luo enter inside, then rode away.
He had thought that Wei Luo was at most a rich family's daughter, but she was actually the Duke Ying's granddaughter. The Duke's house held considerable prestige in the Imperial court, his conduct was strict and upright, the older generation was among the noblest and charismatic. He managed his official duties with thorough analysis, but looking at today's events, he didn't appear to be capable of managing his family's affairs… The granddaughter was schemed against by the stepmother and almost got sold to slave traders, all right under his nose.
Zhu Geng returned to the Jing palace, heard from Yang Hao that the prince was looking for him, then headed directly for the rear court study.
Zhao Jie, having changed into a white robe with dark persimmon stems pattern, was sitting behind the table with his head lowered, but wasn't reading. He was fiddling instead with a pot of golden-thread orchid, that the imperial physician Cheng Yong had delivered earlier today. That orchid was precious, from a very rare variety. Cheng Yong had spent a large sum to acquire it from the South. Taking care of this type of orchid was quite demanding, but he had the interest, so he didn't find it troublesome.
Everyone in the Imperial court knew prince Jing was fond of orchids. As a matter of fact, as soon as they found out he was back in the capital, various officials eagerly sent some over to gain his favor.
His wrist was bandaged after the imperial physician had examined the wound. He had said that the bite was deep, and even after it healed, a row of teeth marks would be left behind.
Zhe Geng bowed and started his report on the earlier events. When he reached the part where Wei Luo had stabbed Wuzhou, his tone revealed some admiration: "That little girl is really powerful, the man's face was covered in blood…" He paused. Recalling that his prince had suffered a similar treatment, he immediately shut his mouth.
Zhao Jie, however, was rather composed. He asked: "Did you take her back?"
Zhu Geng nodded, "Your subordinate made sure she went inside." Thinking about it, he really couldn't understand: "Your Highness, why did you let her go so easily?"
Zhao Jie stroked the table with a slender finger, smiling playfully, "Didn't you say she was crying?"
It was difficult to imagine that menacing little girl's crying expression. Zhao Jie found it a little regrettable to have missed seeing it.
Zhu Geng's face displayed some embarrassment, "Yes… A moment ago, she was still fine. Who'd have guessed she would start weeping after a bit of scolding."
Zhao Jie raised his lips. Zhu Geng was unaware of what had happened, but he could probably guess most of it. Maybe she had put on an act of crying so pitifully, so Zhu Geng would be forced to release her. If that was really the case, then that little girl was simply too crafty.
Zhao Jie turned his gaze back to the golden-thread orchid, looking pensive.
He didn't let Zhu Geng release Wei Luo because of a tender heart, but because he was informed that she was the Duke residence's little Miss. Duke Ying Wei Zhangchun had left some impression on him. The old man handled work matters in a rigid manner so that each time he was summoned in the palace, the emperor would always be breaking things in anger. Probably because he was extremely serious and didn't know how to be accommodating, he frequently left the emperor at a loss for words. However, regardless of how angry the emperor got, he was unable to remove that official, whose prestige was so prominent. Therefore, if Zhao Jie was able to forge a relationship with Duke Ying and win him over to his side, the bite on his wrist wouldn't have been in vain.
Zhao Jie, thinking about Zhu Geng's recount of Wei Luo's actions, lifted his lips full of interest: "Which Miss did you say she was?"
Zhu Geng said: "The fourth Miss, your subordinate heard the gatekeeper call her like that with my own ears."
Duke residence's fourth Miss, Wei Luo.
The only one he couldn't easily figure out was her.
A six-year-old girl took a hairpin to scratch a man's face without even batting an eye. Not just anyone could display this kind of courage and brutality.
He traced the no longer painful wound. That little girl had given him such a gift upon their first meeting, it really let him sit up and take notice.
Duke Ying's residence.
Wei Luo, who had gone out together with Madam Du, had returned with an unknown man. The gatekeeper had a scare, opening the door and rushing her inside. After he looked her over to make sure she wasn't harmed, he asked: "Miss, why did you come back by yourself? What about the fifth Madam (Du)? Why is it just you?"
Wei Luo, with an aggrieved appearance and reddened eyes, asked in a saccharine voice: "Where's Daddy?"
The gatekeeper could discern at a glance that something important had occurred, and called one of the maidservants, who were working within the courtyard, to escort her to the reception pavilion: "The fifth Master has just come back from the Imperial Academy, and is currently in the reception pavilion. Let this maidservant lead you there."
Wei Luo mumbled an 'okay' with a soft, tearful voice.
The maidservant led the way. Although she was curious, she didn't dare ask anything. As they approached the building, they could hear the sound of people speaking coming from the front, attracting their attention. Two small children stood on the veranda outside. One female, one male. The girl was delicate, around five years old, wearing a light yellow short jacket and a bright red pleated skirt. Her hair was arranged in two small braids, interlaced with red string. Little bells decorated the strings, jingling whenever she moved. The boy looked similar to Wei Luo, with red lips and white teeth, his face was handsome and exuded honesty. He was wearing sapphire blue silk garments. With pursed lips, he was walking far ahead of the girl. It appeared their relationship wasn't good.
The little girl yelled at him displeased: "Wei Changhong, didn't you hear me speak? Why are you ignoring me?"
As it turned out, those two children were from the fifth family branch — the sixth young master Wei Changhong and the fifth miss Wei Zheng.
Changhong disregarded Wei Zheng's words, and took a few more steps before he happened to notice Wei Luo in the courtyard. His cold eyes brightened and his expression turned gentle. He quickly arrived at Wei Luo's side, "You're back."
Wei Luo paused, looking at him.
This was the first time she had seen Changhong since her rebirth.
They had been separated early in her past life, with Wei Luo not seeing him for ten years. Once she had turned 15 and had returned to the capital to look for her relatives, she had caught a glimpse of him from afar. At that time, he had no longer been the Changhong she knew. Madam Du and Wei Zheng had schemed against the 15-year-old boy, ruining his future and turning him into a human waste, who spent his life in a daze. As Wei Luo recalled that scene, she couldn't bear the grief and wanted to embrace him tightly.
That was the brother she had grown up with since birth. They were closer than anyone.
He was still young right now — six years old, same as her. She wouldn't lose him this time, they were definitely going to live well. If Madam Du and Wei Zheng wished to separate them, she would destroy them.
Ah Luo restrained her mood, and asked with a friendly smile: "Is Daddy inside?"
Changhong didn't answer and studied Ah Luo instead.
He saw that Wei Luo was upset and her eyes were red. Coupled with the traces of tears on her cheeks, it appeared as if she had recently cried. Changhong's joyful expression changed. He used his hands to wipe her face, and pursed his lips to ask unhappily: "Did you cry?"
Madam Du had kept Changhong away from Wei Luo, saying that she was sick and might infect him, that he should wait until she got better, before he went to see her. He hadn't seen her for three or four days already.
During the time Changhong had spent waiting, he felt like the days were too long, seemingly endless. The two of them never had a mother, only a father, who was busy taking exams every day, and barely had time to accompany them. Thus, Ah Luo and he had grown especially close. In addition, the two were twins, their affections couldn't be compared to other siblings.
Changhong didn't like speaking much, so the elders at home found him somewhat eccentric. But he could still attract a young miss' love, annoying him. Who told him to be born with a good face, so naturally popular.
His behavior only changed around Wei Luo, completely different from the cold shoulder he gave Wei Zheng earlier. Now, for example, he was anxious because of Wei Luo's tears. His delicate brows frowned as he asked: "Who bullied you?"
Wei Luo lowered her head to rub her eyes, her intonation woeful: "Changhong…"
She hadn't seen him for so long, so she missed him a lot. But Changhong thought she was really bullied, his small face grew taut with anger.
Wei Kun heard the commotion from inside the reception pavilion and went out. He had just returned from the Imperial Academy and hadn't even had time to change his clothes. Seeing the three children under the entrance, he couldn't help laughing: "What's going on? Why are you all standing here?"
Wei Luo looked up with wet eyes, teardrops still clinging to her lashes. Seeing Wei Kun, she recalled her original plan. Her lips trembled, she jumped into Wei Kun's arms keening and wailing, and complained sadly — "Daddy, madam doesn't want Ah Luo, madam wants to sell Ah Luo…"
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