Chapter 45: She Is a Double-sided Blade
It was noon that a round of horse hooves tore along the streets of Nan’yang.
Before long, a guard hurried in the direction of the Chen estate. He ran in haste, stumbling along, and did not stop to wipe the dripping sweat on his forehead.
He arrived at the main courtyard within a short time. Presently, Chen Yuan and Chen Shu were sitting on either side of Chen Gongrang to talk over books and wine.
The guard hurtled to the door as he cried urgently: “Masters! The barbarians had taken over Luo’yang.”
“Thump.” “Thump.” Chen Yuan and another noble fell to the ground.
Chen Gongrang sprang to his feet and asked, “When was this?”
“The news had just arrived, sir.”
“Wu Xian,” he murmured with a blanched face, staggering backward, “Wu Xian and his men are still in Luo’yang…”
He shut his eyes, and then opened them again. “Was anyone able to escape?”
The guard shook his head and sobbed: “No, none. Apart from the soldiers, no one escaped. I heard that several thousand nobles including men and women, young and old, had dressed properly and moments before the barbarians broke into the city had jumped into the Luo River.”
Chen Gongrang dropped to his seat, paralyzed.
Chen Shu and Chen Yuan themselves are as white as sheets, both taken by dread.
At long last, Chen Gongrang waved his hand and feebly bade, “I got it, go.”
A suppressed sob was heard the moment the guard took the steps. Listening to the cries, he himself was choked up and could not help stretching his sleeve to wipe his tears. Then he briskly walked out with his head down. A scholar who was walking to them paused when he saw this scene.
After some deliberation, he continued forth and called out softly from the steps: “Shihua?”
Shihua was Chen Yuan’s courtesy name.
This translation belongs to hamster428.wordpress.com
Soon, a red-eyed Chen Yuan appeared on the stairs. He looked to the scholar, frowning: “What is it?” The scholar took a few steps to Chen Yuan’s side, raised his clasped hands and softly replied, “Have you forgotten, Shihua? You asked me to go to the prince’s estate and ask Xu Zhiming for an explanation.”
Chen Yuan nodded and impatiently said, “Speak.”
“Aye, Xu Zhiming said the Prince of Nan’yang is dissatisfied with your daughter. He also said that unless you send Ah Rong of the Chen house over, dialogue will be difficult.”
Chen Yuan’s face turned blue. “If Ah Rong could be sent over, why would I need to waste a daughter?” he growled. “Bah! That Xu fellow is a debaucher himself. It must be he who whispered troubles in the Nan’yang Prince’s ears!”
At this point in his rumble, Chen Yuan took a deep breath and suggested, “Let’s do this, is there not a lantern festival three days from now? Go do some preparation work. Remember, there must not be any errors this time.”
The scholar turned when he suddenly heard Chen Shu’s voice raised from inside: “Wait a minute.”
He strode to Chen Yuan, frowned and said, “Shihua, I forgot to tell you that Wang Hong sent people yesterday looking for our older brother. He asked why the Chen house of Nan’yang, being such a great family, does not treat a concubine-born daughter well?”
“What?!” Chen Yuan was infuriated. “Wang Qilang belongs to the Wang house of Lang’ya. What can they do? They have the nerve to interfere with our family’s affairs?”
“Why should he interfere?” Chen Shu coldly replied. “He merely said there are rumors circulating outside that are detrimental to our family’s name.”
Instantly, Chen Yuan suppressed his anger to reply in diffidence: “Ah Shu, it’s not as if you don’t know that the Prince of Nan’yang has been making things difficult for me ever since I offended him. I wasted a daughter but he still wouldn’t bend. What else can I do?”
Chen Shu flapped his sleeves and unsympathetically replied, “It’s your own doing in any case. I think that Ah Rong, although young, is very sophisticated in her purposes. Didn’t you send someone to inquire on the matter of the Wang estate’s banquet? Not only Wang Hong, but I heard Ran Min also talked and laughed with her. Think about the status quo. Are you going to offend both Wang Hong and Ran Min for this tiny thing? Hmph, Ah Rong is a double-sided knife. You’ll easily cut your hand. You better be careful!”
Apparently not wanting to say more to Chen Yuan, he flapped his sleeves and strode back into the room.
Chen Yuan stood ashen-faced for a moment before turning around to bark at the scholar: “Go!”
“What about the lantern festival?”
“What festival can we have now?!” Unable to release his anger, he labored for his breath for a while and then growled: “Good for Chen Rong. She’s not even fifteen yet she already has the skill to seduce men. Isn’t that just extraordinary, hmph!”
“What are you standing frozen here for? Go!”
Just as the scholar turned to go, Chen Gongrang’s displeased voice rang from the room: “Shihua, how can you be so vulgar even till now! Go! Refrain from coming to my place in the near future!”
Stunned, Chen Yuan quickly turned around in a deep bow as he pleaded: “Brother, I…” He had not finished when Chen Gongrang thundered from the room: “Men, take Chen Shihua back to his courtyard.”
Two servants at once came forward. Before they could speak, Chen Yuan flapped his sleeves and yelled: “I can walk myself!”
When he finished, he harrumphed and stalked away.
On this day, not only the house of Chen found out about Luoyang’s fall, but so did everyone else.
Like thunder striking in broad daylight, this news struck brutally on the Nan’yang residents who were singing of peace not long ago. Only now did they realize they may not be as safe as they thought. Awaiting them ahead were swarms of barbaric iron heels!
Chapter 46: The Teenage General
Luo’yang was under siege!
Not long ago, it was still the Jin’s capital – a bustling place where every great clan wanted to dwell, where all migrant Hans would turn to kneel in homage at the time of their death.
But it had actually fallen!
All of a sudden, Nan’yang was overcome with grief.
Accompanying the cries was a sense of insecurity and, suddenly, Ran Min shot to celebrity status. Almost every major clan would invite him to guest its banquet.
It just so happened, however, that he went missing right at this time.
Dismayed, they all sent people to ask the Prince of Nan’yang. Even the Chen house who was to be his in-laws became the object of everyone’s inquiries.
And yet, no one had an answer to give.
Panic reached its tipping point with each passing day. Some families packed up to move again, this time fleeing to Jiankang.
In the midst of this scene, a cavalry broke the calm and barged in each estate with its arrival. “Sir – there are two thousand soldiers outside the city, sent by General Ran to protect the Nan’yang Prince.”
“General Ran? And where is he?”
“I do not know, the young general said one of General Ran’s soldiers is capable of handling ten barbarians. With them here, Nan’yang will be unharmed.”
“Did he really say that?”
“I dare not lie.”
“Good, good good.”
Cheers soon spread to the streets of Nan’yang, gradually booming into ecstasy.
Listening to the waves of roars heightening like a tide outside, Chen Rong said to Nurse Ping: “Let’s us also go and see.”
Because they did not intend to go far, she did not ride in a carriage and ran out of the courtyard just like that. When she got to the front door, she found Chen Wei, Chen Qian, and the other girls also there. However, they were wearing veiled hats, perfumed sachets and decorative jades, neatly dressed as though they were leaving for an outing.
A sea of people was currently pouring out onto the streets, everyone looking toward the north gate.
“What are they looking at?” Chen Rong asked curiously.
“The soldiers General Ran had sent,” a servant respectfully answered her. “They had originally wanted to camp outside the city, but the masters were worried so they asked them to come in.”
Another middle-aged man smiled and added, “I heard that General Ran’s soldiers are the bravest among the braves. They always encounter the strongest opponents in every expedition. He is always surrounded by more people, but he only needs a few thousand men to return victorious. It’s not every day we get to see two thousand of his soldiers in Nan’yang; everyone is curious to see them today.”
With his voice came a series of orderly and powerful footsteps, so powerful and orderly that every step taken shook the ground.
Without knowing, the crowd solemnly looked up.
But none of this concerned Chen Rong. She had seen much more of Ran Min’s soldiers in her past life.
Just as an uninterested Chen Rong turned her head and was about to return to her home, from far away, a somewhat familiar voice came to their ears: “Remember, we cannot let the Hu succeed!”
“Aye!” Two thousand voices answered in unison, thundering in people’s ears.
Chen Rong paused and inwardly thought: Odd, how come this voice sounds so familiar and yet so strange?
“Miss, do you want to go take a look?” Nurse Ping asked her.
Chen Rong shook her head, saying: “No need,” and then took large strides back to her courtyard.
This translation belongs to hamster428.wordpress.com
The entire city of Nan’yang was in a fervor today. By the time the roars gradually subsided, it had come to the evening hours.
The sun had just set, and Chen Rong was resting in her room when she heard a young man’s voice: “Is Ah Rong of the Chen house in?”
Chen Rong paused. After trading glances with Nurse Ping, she stood up and replied, “I am.”
“Come out, the young general is looking for you.”
The young general?
Increasingly surprised, she smoothed her hair and stepped out. Nurse Ping quickly caught up, asking: “Miss, should you freshen up first?”
Chen Rong shook her head. “Men of the army like to be straightforward; they do not have the patience to wait.”
When she finished, she pushed open the courtyard door.
Outside, Chen Wei, her sister, and a dozen servants were all present. Chen Rong swept her eyes past them, searching around.
She saw a young lad standing under the willow tree. He was clad in golden armor and robed in a white cloak. He stood with his hands clasped behind his back, under the sun, his small face was so handsome that it was almost bewitching!
Chen Rong was instantly wreathed in smiles.
He watched her astonished expression as he gave a toothy grin, waved and shouted: “You’re all dismissed!” His voice was very sharp and clear.
“Aye,” the dozens of soldiers standing at his side answered and retreated.
He turned his head and laid his sharp eyes on Chen Wei and the other girls. Though he was young, his countenance was already carrying a kind of bloody and deadly air. Aghast, they quickly lowered their heads and rushed off.
Within seconds, only Chen Rong remained in the large area.
The young man turned and stared at Chen Rong before lifting his heels to come to her.
When he was within three steps from her, he stopped. Tilting his head, he eyed her from head to toe and then harrumphed, “It hadn’t even been that long yet I heard you’re already struggling to make it? Are you already driven to the point of flattering Wang Qilang with a tune of ‘The Phoenix’s Love Song’?” His tone was heated, his eyes burning in fury.
Chen Rong glared at him before slightly lifting her mouth to sneer: “It’s only been a couple of months yet you’ve already turned from a child actor to a young general. Don’t tell me Ran Min took pity on you so he gave you this position?”
“Humbug! I’m the direct descendant of Sun Zhongmou in Jiangdong (1). I have warfare blood coursing inside of me!”
better known as Sun Quan, Emperor of Wu in the Three Kingdoms period.
He was apparently beyond indignation, his fair, pretty face flushing red.
Seeing him huffing so angrily, Chen Rong laughed despite herself. She reached out to hold his hand, her eyes gleaming as she yielded: “All right, all right, I know you’re very valiant. I was only teasing but you actually got angry, hah!”
His anger vanished at her beatific smile. He outstretched his right hand to grab her wrist and led her across the courtyard.
After a few steps, he glanced over and said, “Ah Rong of the Chen house, why can’t you stay out of trouble? If I hear anything about you right now then it’s guaranteed to be a bunch of crap!”
His spoken words were harsh but his grip on her hand was gentle and firm. It felt as though his fiery breath was driving away the cold that shrouded her.
Chen Rong tilted her head to look at the boy. It was twilight presently, the amber sunlight glittering on his golden armor. The cold metal coupled with his fair skin made for a unique beauty, one that was extremely strong yet extremely soft.
He did not turn away from her perusal, but chose to grin smugly instead. “So? Don’t I look dashing? Like a heavenly god?” He paused and then added: “My voice has changed, can you tell? Doesn’t it sound nice now?”
Looking at his triumphant face, Chen Rong finally could not stop herself from laughing out loud.
Chapter 47: Custom
The young man nodded his head proudly when he heard her laughter. “Actually, I don’t need you to tell me. All the besotted damsels in the city of Nan’yang were ogling me on the way here. I only have to open my mouth for some of them to scream and squeal.”
As Chen Rong went on laughing, he abruptly turned to her peevishly. “What, is that not so?”
She stopped and immediately retrieved her smile. She nodded vigorously, saying: “Of course, of course, the dashing General Sun has the aura of dragons, the courage of Lu Bu (1), and the brilliance of Zhuge (2).”
Lu Bu – a famous general in the Three Kingdoms period
Zhuge – Zhuge Liang, a famous strategist in the Three Kingdoms period
He was listening to her in rapt attention when her last few words stoked his temper. He swiftly cuffed her hands behind her back and demanded, “You little minx, did you just tease me?”
Unable to move, Chen Rong was quick to exclaim: “Let me go!”
“No, you’re my captive, you have to plead to me.”
Chen Rong couldn’t help herself from giggling as she said, “General Sun, please spare me.”
“Say that again, louder.”
“Won’t you be merciful and spare my little life, general?”
The young man was pleased with Chen Rong’s words. He laughed and let go of her hand. “I see you’re a sensible girl.”
While the two of them played around, Chen Wei next-door had been perking her ears to listen in. She stomped on the ground and griped bitterly: “I really don’t get it. She’s only a tawdry girl who knows no shame. How can those men be so beguiled by her?”
To be considered beautiful in this era, one must firstly have fair skin, she must secondly carry an impression of purity, and she must thirdly possess frailty and femineity. Chen Rong’s looks were too striking, her figure too voluptuous. It couldn’t be helped that she would be branded ‘tawdry’ by virtue of her sensuous beauty.
This translation belongs to hamster428.wordpress.com
Nurse Ping arranged a table filled with meat and wine in the courtyard.
Holding Chen Rong’s hand, the young man carelessly sat down and reached for a cup of wine. After a sip, he handed it to Chen Rong and said, “Let’s get drunk tonight.”
Chen Rong only smiled wordlessly. Nurse Ping softly laughed from the side: “That won’t do. My mistress isn’t yet betrothed.”
Sun Yan stared at Chen Rong and demanded, “Then if she’s betrothed, I’d be able to get drunk with her?”
Nurse Ping faltered and, not knowing how to answer, turned to look at Chen Rong.
Chen Rong inwardly thought with a wry smile: I really want to get drunk with you, but Chen Yuan would be the first to relish in my mistake. He’d bring me straight to the prince’s inner quarters and tell the world I’m a contemptible girl. The advantage I created last time by playing ‘The Phoenix’s Love Song’ for Wang Qilang would come to naught.
At this juncture, she couldn’t help herself from looking up at Sun Yan.
What she saw were his clear orbs under the sunlight.
Chen Rong’s lips moved as she stared into such eyes, wanting to tell him everything.
Just then, a loud voice came from the courtyard gate: “Is General Sun here? My master is very glad to learn of your visit. He has prepared a humble meal in your honor and especially sent me to invite you.”
Sun Yan scowled and muttered: “I hate these customs the most.”
He was about to refuse when a warmth lay over his hand. It was Chen Rong who gently pressed him down.
She was looking at him, her eyes dark yet steady. “My young sir, you mustn’t refuse them.” Upon seeing Sun Yan’s quizzical expression, she smiled and playfully said, “General Ran didn’t give you orders to take advantage of the nobles’ panic and pressure them for some military provisions, seeing as how they are filled with grains and money?”
Sun Yan laughed. He covered his mouth and whispered: “I’d have forgotten if not for your reminder.”
Upon his last word, he rose to his feet.
At the moment he agreed, Chen Rong picked up the veiled hat on the side and wore in over her head, then she took a few steps backward and demurely stood behind him.
The door squeaked open.
Into the door were Chen Yuan and two other scholars. As soon as he entered, his eyes glanced to Chen Rong and then back to Sun Yan.
After appraising them, he pleasantly raised his clasped hands: “General Sun, it’s an honor.”
Sun Yan also returned him an acknowledgment per gentry standards. “My pleasure,” he smiled.
Chen Yuan laughed jovially. “Are you surnamed Sun, general? Then who are your ancestors, if I may ask?”
“I am a direct descendant of Sun Zhongmou of Jiangdong,” Sun Yan lightly replied.
This one sentence made Chen Yuan widen his eyes and put away his nonchalant face. “The Sun clan from Jiangdong?” he exclaimed. “That being your identity, why are you involved in these gory battles? If your elders in Jiangdong know, they will be very terrified.”
Sun Yan scowled and impatiently said, “If the barbarians come at me, I will come at them. As a man, I pay blood with blood. What is there to be afraid of?”
Chen Yuan laughed, again clasped his hands together and exclaimed: “Young general, you truly are a man of honor with valiant blood coursing inside. After you.”
Sun Yan nodded this time.
After having gone two steps, he turned his head to look at Chen Rong.
Seeing Chen Rong especially reserved behind her veiled hat, he secretly gave her a wink, turned his head in a careful bow to her and raised his voice: “Ah Rong, you’d given me food and clothes on the road south. I shall eternally engrave your life-saving grace in my heart.”
Chen Rong stared blankly before she quickly realized his meaning. Leaning sideway to avoid his ceremony, she curtsied and said, “You’re too kind, general.” And then she blushed and stammered: “It’s only right for me to have done so.”
Seeing her put on this appearance, Sun Yan had to squint his eyes and cleared his throat before he could barely hide his smile to say, “No matter what happens, I shall never forget your kindness. I’ll pay you another visit in two days.”
He flapped his long sleeves, turned and strode out. Following behind him, Chen Yuan, at the moment they left the gate, shot a look back at Chen Rong a few more times.
Only until they were gone in the distance did Chen Rong recover.
At this time, Nurse Ping ran to her side and remarked in joy: “Miss, miss, how wonderful that General Sun has also come to Nan’yang. With him here, your coming days should be looking up.”
Thinking awhile, Nurse Ping proceeded to mutter: “Unfortunately the young general insists on going off to kill the barbarians. Otherwise, while he has not returned to his clan, he can quickly marry you. How good would that be?”
While the nurse muttered from the side, Chen Rong slowly removed her veiled hat and thought to herself: No matter what Sun Yan did, it’s impossible to become second-in-command to Ran Min in a short span of two months. That’s right, Ran Min must’ve learned of his identity. To protect him, he is sending him to Nan’yang where it’s safe.