Noble Daughter | Chapter 7: Father’s Return

Wei Heng could have pretended not to understand, but she disliked how Gu Shi treated her like a fool and tried to provoke her. She smiled and said, “Exactly, Second Sister-in-law. However, a smaller one suits me better. If I put such a big gem on my head, I’m afraid I won’t be able to lift my neck.”

“Indeed, our Zhu Zhu is sensible,” the old lady called Wei Heng to sit beside her.

Everyone present understood the hidden meaning in the old lady’s words. Gu Shi blushed slightly and remained silent. Meanwhile, Jiang Shi and others also presented birthday gifts to Ge Shi, and Wei Heng and a few others made their contributions.

Inside Shu Yu Hall, two tables were set—one for the masters and another for the prominent maids. It was lively and festive. They took turns to come forward and toast Ge Shi. The female musicians played cheerful tunes, creating a warm and joyful atmosphere. Despite the cold wind outside, the room was filled with warmth and fragrance, continuing until the second watch before everyone returned to their rooms.

After the lively atmosphere, there was always an especially desolate feeling, especially when every day involved practicing calligraphy and memorizing books. With a sigh, Wei Heng looked at the autumn leaves falling. Even when not doing homework, she was confined by He shi in the courtyard to learn needlework. There was never a moment of relaxation; this was another hardship for Wei Heng.

“What’s third sister-in-law sighing about?” Ge shi walked into Wei Heng’s room and asked.

“Third sister-in-law,” Wei Heng put down her brush and looked at her writing, following Ge shi’s gaze. “No matter how I practice, there’s no improvement, and it seems futile.”

“Let me see.” Ge shi approached the table, picked up Wei Heng’s writing, carefully examined it, and then said, “Your wrist strength is not enough, making the strokes inconsistent. But in fact, you’ve already grasped the essence of the characters in terms of style and form.”

“Is that so?” Wei Heng quickly leaned over to take a look. While most people can recognize good or bad handwriting, it’s challenging to pinpoint the specific strengths and weaknesses. Only those with a keen eye can instantly identify the crucial points. As Wei Heng heard Ge shi’s remarks, she also discovered her own weaknesses.

“You can try strengthening your wrist first. Hang a bag of rice on your wrist like a sachet while practicing writing. When your wrist strength increases, your handwriting will undoubtedly improve,” Ge shi suggested.

As someone educated in women’s studies, Wei Heng naturally trusted Ge shi’s judgment. “I’ll give it a try.”

Since Ge shi’s birthday, the relationship between the two sisters-in-law seemed to have become much closer. Ge shi no longer hesitated, and Wei Heng, having matured significantly in her outlook, no longer looked down on her sister-in-law.

Mu Yuer went to prepare a bag of rice for Wei Heng’s handwriting practice, but she quickly returned. “Miss, Master’s attendant Longquan has returned. He said that Master went to the palace gate to submit a petition, and he will be home in a while.”

Upon hearing this, Wei Heng quickly stood up, forgetting about her handwriting practice. “Sister-in-law, I’ll go to Mother’s room first.”

Ge shi also got up and followed.

Master Wei Jun returned home close to dinner time. When Wei Heng saw him, she felt like crying. Her memory of her father was of a white-haired man, but now he appeared much younger. Wei Heng was overwhelmed with emotions. Her relationship with her father had always been good, and she attributed much of her previous comfortable life to his care.

“Daddy!” Wei Heng, with her short legs, ran towards Wei Jun as soon as she saw him.

As the Left Censor-in-Chief and Imperial Commissioner of the Board of Censors, Wei Jun usually maintained a stern expression outside. However, in the presence of Wei Heng, his face couldn’t help but light up with a smile. He lifted the approaching Wei Heng, holding her up high. “Zhuzhu, let Daddy see if you’ve grown taller.”

Throughout his journey to investigate disaster relief cases in Jiangnan, Wei Jun’s thoughts were filled with his daughter, Wei Heng, whose health had only recently stabilized. His letters were filled with her name. Now, seeing Wei Heng lively and well, how could he not be overjoyed?

Carrying Wei Heng from Chuihua Gate to Lanyi Courtyard, He shi playfully teased, “Zhuzhu, why don’t you come down? You’re such a big girl now, and you still want your dad to carry you.”

Wei Heng, wrapped around Wei Jun’s neck, paid no attention to He shi’s complaint.

Wei Jun defended Wei Heng, saying, “Even if Zhuzhu grows up, she will always be my little princess.”

“Okay, just pamper her. She’ll be spoiled to the point of no end. It’ll be up to you what you do in the future.” He shi said angrily.

Wei Jun defendedWei Heng, saying, “Our Zhuzhu is so obedient and sensible; how could she lose her sense of propriety?”

Wei Heng nodded hurriedly, “That’s right.”

Returning to Lanyi Courtyard, He shi assisted Wei Jun in changing clothes before he went to pay respects to the old lady at Ruiyun Courtyard. The matter of the shop was not brought up.

After Wei Jun returned, having completed his assignment, and the Emperor acknowledging his hard work with a month of leave, he decided to take his family to a country estate on the outskirts of the capital for a few days of relaxation.

This delighted Wei Heng, and she immediately began pleading with her father, “Daddy, teach me how to ride a horse.”

Before Wei Jun could respond, He shi interjected with annoyance, “No. You’re still so young. Be careful not to fall off.”

Wei Jun hadn’t spoken yet, but she continued, “She’s too young. Be careful not to fall off the horse.”

Wei Heng “hmphed” and said, “A few days ago, Mom said I was already ‘quite grown-up,’ and today you’re saying I’m ‘still so young.’ You seem to have something to say about everything.”

He shi’s was taken aback by Wei Heng’s reaction. She was about to speak, but Wei Heng continued, “Mom, according to female education, one needs to master the six arts: ritual, music, archery, charioteering, calligraphy, and mathematics. I’ll have to learn ‘charioteering’ sooner or later.”

“But you’re not at the age to learn that yet. Your legs are so short; you can’t even reach the stirrups,” He shi’s countered.

Indeed, Wei Heng’s legs were still short. She hadn’t experienced the sudden growth spurt that often occurs in girls around the age of ten, transforming them from little girls into adolescents. Wei Heng, on the other hand, still looked like a child.

However,Wei Heng had a valid point to make, “The children of the Northern Hu people start learning to ride horses from birth. This shows that horseback riding doesn’t depend on age.”

He shi’s rolled her eyes at Wei Heng and retorted, “So, are you a Hu person then?”

Feeling that He shi’s was being unreasonable, Wei Heng argued, “Though I’m not a Hu person, we should learn from the strengths of others. In the past, King Wu Ling of Zhao adopted Hu clothing and horseback riding, revitalizing the state of Zhao. Wasn’t that adopting practices from the Hu people?”

Knowing that reasoning with He shi’s was futile, Wei Heng, who was used to her mother’s desire to save face, couldn’t afford to lose. She continued to pester He shi’s, twisting like a pretzel, “Mom, just let me learn. Dad won’t be free for who knows how long.”

“Let her learn. Zhu Zhu has been agile since childhood, and besides, I’m here. Nothing will happen,” Wei Jun added, trying to persuade. Though he was a civil official, the Wei family’s position was earned through military achievements, so Wei Jun was well-versed in both civil and military affairs.

Father and daughter together persuaded, and where could He shi resist these two most important people in her life?

In reality, Wei Heng was naturally skilled in horseback riding. In her previous life, she loved riding horses, feeling an extraordinary sense of freedom on horseback. However, that was after her marriage. Although female education emphasized the revival of the Six Arts, contemporary society still valued qualities like ritual, music, and literature in women.

There was a prevailing trend that considered women skilled in archery and horsemanship to be somewhat crude, while refined elegance and virtue were deemed the epitome of a woman. Therefore, in her previous life as a daughter, Wei Heng didn’t put much effort into archery and horsemanship.

However, in this life, Wei Heng’s life goal was to live freely. Wei Jun first took Wei Heng to the stable, roughly teaching her to recognize horses and how to get close to them. Wei Heng listened with great interest and, in the end, was lifted onto the horse by Wei Jun.

In just two rounds, Wei Heng could already handle the little horse on her own. This impressed Wei Jun, who remarked to He shi, “Zhuzhu has a real talent for horseback riding.”

He shi sighed and said, “What use is this talent?”

“Dad, watch me.” With both feet firmly in the shortened stirrups provided by the stableman, Wei Heng lightly squeezed the horse’s belly, and the little horse started to run, gradually picking up speed, startling He shi to the point where her heart almost stopped.

“Don’t worry. Zhuzhu’s posture is excellent; nothing will happen. She truly lives up to being a daughter of our Marquis’s family, carrying the blood of her ancestors.” Wei Jun sighed.

After an afternoon of riding, Wei Heng could already leap over small obstacles on horseback.

“I’ve never seen anyone learn horseback riding so quickly,” Wei Jun praised.

“Dad, find me an archery master, please.” Wei Heng seized the opportunity to make her request.

Wei Jun hesitated for a moment. It was acceptable for a girl to learn a bit of archery, but someone as explicit as Wei Heng in seeking an archery master was rare. Moreover, considering Wei Heng’s talent, he suspected that an ordinary instructor might find themselves unable to teach her anything substantial within a couple of days.

“Dad, please, I really want to learn.” Wei Heng tugged at Wei Jun’s sleeve, then turned to implore He shi, “Mom, entry exams for the girls’ school also involve assessments. Every student has strengths and weaknesses. By then, if your daughter excels in one or two areas, those teachers at the girls’ school might…”

“You even know you have shortcomings?” He shi teased Wei Heng. However, after witnessing Wei Heng’s talent in horseback riding, she did entertain the idea. “Let’s find an archery master for Zhuzhu. She’s still young, and even if it’s a male instructor, there won’t be much gossip outside.”

Wei Jun nodded. He was more open-minded than He shi. Riding skills were also a valuable talent, and although it was important for a girl to uphold modesty, Wei Jun was not a rigid person. For him, what mattered most was the radiant smile on Wei Heng’s face while horseback riding. Besides, he felt that her mother was a bit too strict with Wei Heng, and a bit of horseback riding could be a good relaxation.

Wei Heng was extremely satisfied with her father’s efficiency. In less than ten days, he had found an instructor for her—a seasoned veteran from the battlefield. His right eye was blurry, and his left leg was slightly lame, but his archery skills were outstanding. In today’s difficult circumstances, someone like him found it hard to make a living, so coming to teach Wei Heng was a chance to revive his spirits, and he put forth his utmost effort.

The Marquis Mansion didn’t have a riding ground for Wei Heng to practice, but since she loved it so much and wasn’t attending school at the moment, she persuaded He shi to let her stay at the estate. Under the guidance of Gé shi, she practiced archery and didn’t neglect her studies.

At the estate, Wei Heng was truly in her element. Anything that didn’t require too much thinking, she learned quickly. It’s not Wei Heng boasting, but she indeed had a natural talent for archery, and even her instructor, Li Yong, praised her.

Though Li Yong was grateful for the job Wei Jun provided, teaching a young girl made him feel a sense of melancholy in his twilight years. To fall to the point of teaching a young miss was a bittersweet reality. When Li Yong began teaching Wei Heng in earnest, he realized that Wei Jun had indeed recognized his abilities and invited him to instruct his daughter.

2 thoughts on “Noble Daughter | Chapter 7: Father’s Return”

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