Chapter 51: Gifting Grains
Grains were loaded into ten carriages to the sound of carefree music. Even when they finished, Old Shang and the servants were still reluctantly looking at the food and gazing longingly at Chen Rong, waiting for her to change her mind.
Chen Rong paid them little attention. She looked down and softly bade, “Old Shang, pay more attention and see if any families are moving away to Jiankang. If they are, ask them whether they are selling their land. Take nine carriages out of the ten my uncle gifted us the last time. I’ll also give you ten gold leaves. Remember, you must exchange all of them for land within this month. Ah yes, record the titles under General Sun’s name.”
Now that Luo’yang had fallen, Nan’yang would be facing the barbarians directly; and without the natural barrier of the Yangtze River, most clans would want to leave. Due to the prince’s intervention, however, few of them had the actual freedom to go as they pleased.
Purchasing land was unexpectedly not a bad idea. “Miss, did you say to record under General Sun’s name?” Nurse Ping asked tentatively.
Chen Rong nodded. “Yes. If the selling families ask, you can tell them that General Sun wants to settle here.”
“But what if something were to happen and the titles are under his name?” Old Shang tried to caution her. Nurse Ping likewise suggested: “Miss, why not have them under your own name?”
Chen Rong raised an eyebrow and dismissively said, “Because what’s mine is the clan’s.”
And like that realization dawned upon them.
It was Chen Rong’s turn to hesitate at this point. After a very long time, she at last quietly said, “Then why don’t we record it under General Ran’s name.”
“… Miss, I don’t think that’s a good idea either.”
Chen Rong smiled confidently this time. She shook her head saying: “Nothing will go wrong. He is completely trustworthy regarding this point,” smiling wryly as she did.
Seeing how adamant she was, Old Shang stood quietly for a moment before asking: “Then should we let General Sun know about it? We’re sending so much food to him today; it’s a good time to mention it to him.” It had always been the practice across the country to record one’s lands under the name of highly-ranked friends and family to evade taxation. It could be said that Chen Rong’s method wasn’t anything new. But how could she have so much trust in General Ran when she was merely his acquaintance?
Chen Rong shook her head. “That’s not necessary. Tell him only if he finds out.”
This translation belongs to hamster428.wordpress.com
The delivery team comprising of Old Shang and the servants attracted widespread attention the second it left the Chen estate.
One should know that it was overly aggressive for Sun Yan to display empty carriages on the street waiting for major clans to send food. The clans were furthermore suffering food shortages themselves. In the short given time, they looked at one another but none took the initiative to send food.
It was in this stifling atmosphere that Chen Rong’s team appeared.
Her cavalcade had belonged to the Chen estate in Ping, the carriages painted yellow and the servants also dressed differently from the local Chen estate. Both commoners and nobles couldn’t help themselves from inquiring around as they watched the spectacle.
Listening to the buzz coming from time to time around him, Old Shang laughed aloud and exclaimed in a rather proud voice: “My lady’s donating these chestnuts to the warriors from her own inventory. Have you heard of her? She is Ah Rong of the Chen House. She’s the very same generous Chen Rong in Ping who had foretold correctly three times on the way south.”
Once Old Shang’s voice rang out, the group of servants next to him loudly followed suit resulting in a dozen people chattering and spreading Chen Rong’s story from beginning to end.
“Ah Rong of the Chen house?” an old man exclaimed. “Isn’t she a concubine-born daughter? How did she acquire so much food?”
“Aye aye, this young lady is so wealthy! Her gift alone is comparable to that of an entire clan. She’s indeed very generous. How incredible she is!”
Old Shang’s voice boomed louder when he heard the passers-by asking. At once, he meticulously recounted over and over to them what Chen Rong had done.
When the team reached the middle of the street where Sun Yan was, Old Shang had to swallow back his words in the middle of his narration. Glancing at Sun Yan in his golden armor trying to suppress his laughter, he quickly jumped down and bowed to him. “I come on the order of my mistress, Ah Rong of the Chen house, to deliver ten carriages of grains to you, general.”
Sun Yan raised his clasped hands and responded: “I thank you kindly.”
“Don’t mention it, sir. My mistress says it is due to you and your men that she can enjoy peace in Nan’yang. Gifting food is only a matter of course.”
Sun Yan laughed and remarked, “Though Ah Rong of the Chen house is a woman, her generosity and gallantry have put us men to shame.”
As he said this, many passers-by quietly retreated and turned to hurry away.
Sun Yan took note of everything that went on and smiled again. This smile attracted screams and cheers from the girls standing around.
Apparently accustomed to the girls’ admiration, he stepped forward, helped Old Shang up from his deference, and softly chuckled: “Did that little girl Ah Rong tell you to spread her name?”
“Haha, she never misses any opportunity, does she?” He paused and then continued: “I was a bit reckless about today’s matter. Thank Ah Rong for me after you return. Without her help, I would’ve caused great trouble.”
Still not really clear, Old Shang only replied, “Aye.”
“Also, tell her that I had stood on the street in my armor today. So handsome and swashbuckling was I that droves of women gathered around me. Ask her why she didn’t come to join such spectacular a scene.” He was now bursting out in laughter on his own.
“Aye, I will definitely relay your words,” Old Shang replied, almost too honestly.
In a good mood, Sun Yan laughed aloud again. After some time, he withdrew his smile, took two steps back, raised his clasped hands to Old Shang and said, “I thank your lady on behalf of General Ran. Goodbye.”
“There’s no need to be so polite, general.”
Sun Yan sat back down on the seat he had placed in the middle of the street. Watching Old Shang getting on the carriage and continuing to tout Chen Rong, he couldn’t stop himself from laughing again.
Chapter 52: Undercurrent
After returning to the estate and thoroughly recounting to Chen Rong everything that had happened, Old Shang’s lips then twitched hesitantly.
Chen Rong gave him a glance, asking: “Are you worried?”
“Aye.” Old Shang had served her for so long that he was as comfortable around her as his own family. “Would our praises for you cause the literati to disapprove of you?”
Smiling, Chen Rong stood up looking to the distant sky and lightly said, “No, General Sun’s demanding for food on the street has placed the major clans in a difficult situation; they can only now hide behind their doors. There are not many scholars wandering the streets of Nan’yang at this time. There should only be commoners and women out there right now.”
Her lips revealed a smirk. “To achieve eternal fame in this world, one must either come from a good background and thereby attract the world’s attention with his every move, or his deeds must be spread through others’ mouths. The saying ‘three humans make a tiger’ merely means the more people repeat an idea, the more it becomes true.”
To Nurse Ping standing behind her, she said, “Bring me my veiled hat,” her eyes curving into crescents. “Let’s go see young General Sun.”
When Chen Rong left her courtyard, the side door opened to show Chen Wei and several other girls gathering around Chen Qian as they were also walking out.
Chen Rong slowed down when she saw them.
Even so, Chen Wei had noticed her. At once, she smiled and called, “Ah Rong?”
The girls stopped and all turned to look at Chen Rong.
Their expressions were a little strange. At length, a girl standing next to Chen Wei called and asked, “Ah Rong, are you going to General Sun’s place?”
She sounded quite grim.
“I’m just taking a walk,” Chen Rong replied with a curtsy.
“But the one Ah Rong admires is Wang Qilang,” smiled Chen Wei. “She doesn’t have anything to do with General Sun, right?”
Faced with her inquiry, Chen Rong just smiled wordlessly.
She slightly turned and called Nurse Ping from behind: “Nurse, let’s go.”
“Ah, aye aye.”
Chen Rong turned around, curtsied to the girls and said, “Sisters, I’ll go on ahead.” When she finished, she proceeded to straighten her back and head for the door.
Quite a while later, a girl shook her head saying: “Ah Rong is merely a concubine-born daughter from a subsidiary branch. I’m rather stumped where she got this arrogance from. How dare she speak so rudely to us?”
Chen Qian, too, harrumphed at this.
Among them, only Chen Wei had lived with her long enough to faintly understand that: Chen Rong simple wouldn’t get along with these girls, and it was hard to blame her. She was born with that look, so she was born only to deal with men.
This translation belongs to hamster428.wordpress.com
The hustle and bustle returned to the streets of Nan’yang at this time. Several small teams of carriages filled with grains and chestnuts could be seen making their way to the city center.
It seemed hers was quite the opening act.
“Is there a festival today?” Nurse Ping asked in surprise when she saw the flow of people surging on the street, many of them splendidly dressed girls. Just as quickly, she realized and laughed: “But of course, it’s General Sun. I don’t think I’ve told you, miss, that though General Sun was handsome on the road south, he was nothing like this. Only now do I know how dashing a man in armor can be.”
Chen Rong chuckled. “Nurse, he’ll have a field day if you say this to him.”
The nurse and her mistress laughed in good humor as they arrived at the street where Sun Yan was.
This place was overflowing with people.
In addition to the congregation of girls who gathered laughingly around Sun Yan, there were also carriages brimmed with food, being loaded under the soldiers’ direction.
Whose ever idea it was, each time a clan sent food to them, the recording officer would chant aloud: “The Wu house of Luo’yang sent five carriages.”
“The Wu House of Jiang sent seven carriages.” (1)
As she listened to these announcements, Chen Rong watched the distress on the stewards’ faces and felt like laughing: What a shrewd trick Sun Yan has devised. How can these families who place face above everything else dare to be perfunctory in their efforts now?
She cocked her head, looking at Sun Yan who was surrounded by the girls. Through the crowd, she could see his golden armor and his handsome, almost enchantingly soft and fair face. Nonetheless, that face was growing impatient.
Sun Yan turned his head at this moment and met Chen Rong’s eyes.
Almost instantly, he grinned and winked at her.
Chen Rong didn’t expect him to recognize her. Afraid this man, who feared nothing, would call her name, she quickly placed a finger on her lips and rounded her eyes to warn him.
Sun Yan burst out laughing, making the girls squeal with one hastily asking: “Young sir, what made you laugh so joyously?”
Another round-faced girl who was as lovely as a doll happily sang: “Mr. Sun is exceedingly handsome, his laughter beyond compare. Ah, please take this pine from me.”
She next held a pine branch and brought it before Sun Yan, blinking her large, sparkling eyes.
Sun Yan halted his laughter in stupefaction.
Just as he stood there immobilized, Chen Rong laughed out loud amusedly. Afraid Sun Yan would turn angry, she quickly turned and stifled her laughter.
While the young girls larked in merry frolic, two scholars passed by Chen Rong, one whispering: “Nan’yang can’t stand much longer!”
The other sighed in bitterness: “Cursed! The Prince of Nan’yang tried his best to block the news ahead of time and didn’t allow anyone to leave. Tsk, what can be done now?”
The first man glanced at Sun Yan, Chen Rong, and the other girls. He mockingly said, “What’s funny is that the entire Nan’yang is singing of peace. They think that with Ran Min’s promise, no one will dare to breach Nan’yang. They had forgotten that Ran Min is surnamed Shi! Hmph, Shi Hu had ordered him to take Nan’yang. I cannot imagine when that time comes, with an army outside and their back up in here, who’s going to be able to climb to the sky for an escape?”
Watching the two men leave, Nurse Ping worriedly asked, “Miss, do they speak the truth?”
Chen Rong didn’t answer her. She gazed down in thought for a moment and then said, “Let’s go back first.”
Because they were unnerved, they took very little time to return. Just as Chen Rong entered her courtyard, a steward of the Chen estate strode forward, complaining the moment he saw her: “Miss, where have you gone to? The prince’s estate sent people over saying there’s something important they’d like you to go over for. They have been waiting for very a long time.”
Chapter 53: Entering the Estate
When the steward finished what he had to say, he saw Chen Rong’s and Nurse Ping’s expressions both changing. “What is it?” he scowled and snapped.
Neither spoke. Nurse Ping looked worriedly at Chen Rong.
The colors on Chen Rong’s face alternated between blue and white. Up until now, many things had developed no differently from the past and had all been within her grasp.
But what was happening right in front of her was clearly deviating from the previous track.
She quelled her flustered heartbeat to inquire softly: “May I ask what’s so important?”
“How should I know?” The steward’s tone was a little impatient. He urged, “Miss, you should hurry. Don’t let the prince’s people wait for a long time.”
“After you,” he gestured toward the parking square.
Chen Rong did not move. She curtsied to the steward and said to him, “Please wait. It’s a bit of a surprise. I’ll need to prepare a few things.”
“That’s not necessary.”
The steward glowered, his voice hardening: “People from the prince’s estate said they have prepared everything for you, miss.”
He again requested: “Let’s go!”
Chen Rong bowed her head in thought and then whispered to Nurse Ping who stood beside her: “Stay here for now, let General Sun know about this and everything leading up to it.”
Chen Rong nodded then walked to the square.
There, people from the prince’s estate were growing tired of waiting. When one of the maidservants saw Chen Rong, she set her face and impatiently fussed: “You really know how to make others wait, young miss.”
Chen Rong kept her head bowed without refuting her, quietly climbing into the carriage.
And then the vehicle began to pull out from the side door.
Inside, Chen Rong was flanked by a maid on each side. They were staring at her at this time, looking her up and down with eyes that were both frank and rude.
Chen Rong remained to look docile.
Under her wide sleeves, her hands wrung together as she tried to think. Eventually, she could only decide to take one step at a time.
This translation belongs to hamster428.wordpress.com
The prince’s estate was located on the south side of the city, encompassing an immense expanse which housed rows of houses; it was quite breathtaking.
After the carriage passed the main entrance, it entered a side door from the roadway.
Past the doorway was a small garden where maids shuttled to and fro, all wearing brocades and silks, jades and sachets. They appeared to be even more extravagant compared to her – a noble lady.
Chen Rong noticed that there was no guard in the entire garden.
Seeing her looking around attentively ever since they entered the estate, a maid couldn’t help from laughing: “You haven’t seen such an opulent place, have you miss?”
Chen Rong didn’t answer her.
At this time, the older maidservant to her right gave a sigh: “People keep telling me you’re unmannered, now I see that’s the case…” Her sigh was drawn long and thick.
Chen Rong turned around to glance at her, slightly bowing her head to show gratitude.
Even so, her acknowledgment carried a slight haughtiness so unlike other young ladies who hailed from subsidiary branches that the young maid promptly scoffed in disdain.
After the carriage crossed the small garden and into a forested path, it then turned into a lakeside corridor. Coming into Chen Rong’s sight was now a square.
The two maids kept quiet. They supported Chen Rong down from the carriage on either side and led her heading south. Within a few dozen steps, a courtyard appeared to them.
Chen Rong had yet to arrive when she heard a wave of women’s frolicking laughter.
She paused and slowly asked, “Didn’t you say His Highness needed me for something important? Why have you brought me to the women’s quarters?”
This translation belongs to hamster428.wordpress.com
The two maids laughed.
The younger one covered her mouth and replied, “His Highness said that there’s an important matter, but this important matter may come tomorrow, or it may come the day after tomorrow. In other words, you’ll have to wait for His Highness’s schedule to clear before he can call for you. You don’t suppose that an insignificant damsel like you can make His Highness drop everything to greet you?”
Chen Rong turned her head.
Her eyes were now glaring sharply at the two women. How could they’ve seen such murderous intent before? Instantly alarmed, they faltered backward.
“Is that so?”
Chen Rong smirked. She flapped her long sleeves and turned to go: “It seems your master has forgotten that sincerity is the key to getting along with other people. He says there is something important he needs me for, but he calls me here and then ignores me. Is this what you call hospitality? Disregarding me is bad enough, he even has me brought to his inner quarters. I really don’t have the audacity to accept this kind of humiliation.”
When she finished, she removed a golden hairpin from her head, flipped her right hand and pointed the sharp object at her throat.
Her action was very smooth, both swift and decisive!
The two maids were surprised at first and next wanted to laugh. But when they saw Chen Rong’s deadly eyes, they could not bring themselves to laugh. They suddenly realized that this young girl was capable of doing anything.
Chen Rong pointed the golden hairpin to her throat, stared at them unblinkingly, and did not speak.
At this time, a slightly shrill voice came from the arched doorway behind Chen Rong: “Haha, there’s no need to be like this.”
A thin man in his fifties outfitted in a scholar’s robe appeared at Chen Rong’s side.
Chen Rong knew this man. He was Advisor Xu who worked for the Prince of Nan’yang. In her previous lifetime, this old man was regularly eyeing her like a predator and did everything he could to get his hands on her.
As soon as he appeared, a pair of foul rat eyes latched onto Chen Rong’s bosom and hips. While his eyes were almost glued to her, his mouth moved to say: “Just as Chen Shu says, you have quite a personality. Hehe, Ah Rong, why are you so angry? They’re just joking with you. Aren’t you condescending yourself by losing your temper with the servants like this?”
He then clapped his hands, yelling: “Where’s the carriage? His Highness is still waiting to see Chen Rong.”
Chapter 54: The Prince of Nan’yang
It was very uncomfortable to have such a pair of rat eyes glued to her body. Chen Rong reached for her veiled hat and strode to the carriage that was pulling out.
Only when she mounted the carriage did Advisor Xu’s eyes reluctantly move away. He shouted to the driver: “Let’s go.”
The prince’s estate was indeed very large. After half an hour of driving round and round, outside finally came a holler: “We’ve arrived.”
The curtain lifted and the young maid helped Chen Rong down.
She alighted the carriage, looking around. This was a small house that was completely isolated from the buildings behind it. She secretly exhaled in relief as she watched the comings and goings of the scholars in the vicinity.
Advisor Xu’s eyes were again on her. He revealed yellowish teeth with a smile as he watched her. “It seems Ah Rong of the Chen house does not trust His Highness very much.” His tone was very odd.
Chen Rong walked forward and did not look back. “If you want others to believe you, then don’t resort to deception.”
Her pertinacious tone startled Advisor Xu. He had thought Chen Rong would be afraid to offend the prince and him. He hadn’t known this young lady was fundamentally not afraid of offending anyone.
Hers was indeed a very infuriating personality.
Chen Rong hadn’t gone more than ten steps when a familiar laughter rang out in front of her. Forthwith, Chen Yuan and a few Chen scholars were seen walking out from the reception hall.
She stopped at the sight of them.
As he was laughing, Chen Yuan’s eyes turned to see Chen Rong. He stepped forward and gently inquired: “Have you come, Ah Rong?”
“Aye.” She looked up at him: “Where are you going, uncle?”
She was now pressing her lips together. Though her eyes were turning moist behind the veil, her voice was unyielding: “It can’t be that you’re planning to bring an unmarried lady like me to the prince’s estate and then readily leaves by yourself?”
Chen Yuan stiffened.
Seconds later, he scowled and snapped: “What nonsense are you speaking, Ah Rong? His Highness heard of your three predictions on the way here and is impressed by your extraordinary discernment. He calls you over to ask about the war. What a great honor this is! You’re an ill-advised girl.”
Ah Rong curtsied to him but obstinately insisted, “I only know that I am an unmarried lady. It is rather improper to expose myself in the estate in the presence of men.”
“Improper?” Chen Yuan scoffed and was about to say something but quickly closed his mouth.
He flapped his long sleeves and impatiently snapped: “That’s enough, His Highness has waited long enough. Go in.”
When he finished, he hurriedly walked away without waiting for Chen Rong to counter.
She watched his back but did not make any move.
This translation belongs to hamster428.wordpress.com
At this time, the two maids came up to her. Before they could speak, Chen Rong lowered her head and continued forward.
Advisor Xu led them east then west before they entered the hall through a side door next to a small pond.
Through a few side halls, the main hall appeared before Chen Rong’s eyes. While they were some distance away, a burst of fragrance had entered her nose; along with these scents was also an older man’s low and dull laughter.
Advisor Xu was smiling broadly by this time. His eyes had also recovered from Chen Rong’s body: “Go in, His Highness is inside.”
She slightly leaned and curtsied to Advisor Xu, saying: “If His Highness asks, please allow me to sit behind a screen.”
Advisor Xu scowled as he glared at Chen Rong. “Why are you so troublesome?” He turned to the two maids and shouted: “Take her in!”
At his order, each maid came to either side of Chen Rong and stared at her after their curtsies.
By now Chen Rong had composed herself. She unhappily said, “Do the people of the Prince’s Estate not understand etiquette?”
Advisor Xu was growing impatient. “It’s so chaotic that His Highness has thrown etiquette to the wind, else he wouldn’t be so muddled and absurd. Is that what you want to say?”
He was satisfied to see Chen Rong freeze on the spot, her small face aghast.
He chuckled and then actually reached his hand over, lightly brushing across her full bosom. “Go in, it can be bad if little girls are stubborn like this. You’ll only force men to use force on you.” When he finished, he placed his hand on Chen Rong’s back and pushed her into the hall.
Inside, four gossamer curtains were billowing in the wind, and the scent of ambergris was slowly rising from the incense burner in the corner.
Chen Rong raised her head and looked to the host seat.
Sure enough, a portly man was spreading his legs on the divan, on each of his sides was a splendidly dressed woman.
Chen Rong looked left and right and finally saw someone scribbling away in the corner on the right side.
She gave some thought and, without the maids’ urge, came forward, curtsied and said, “Good greetings, Your Royal Highness.”
“Ah Rong of the Chen house? Hehe, come here, come here.”
The Prince of Nan’yang pushed the two beauties away and hurriedly turned his head to watch Chen Rong with the pair of small eyes that was hidden behind fatty folds.
Chen Rong wrung her hands under her sleeves, pressed her lips, and took another step forward.
Just then, two figures entered the door.
They were two scholars carrying two thick stacks of documents. They both wore long robes, their faces rather somber.
Chen Rong relaxed.
They strode past her and went to sit in front of the prince’s seat. The man on the left pointed to a few of the letters and said, “Your Highness, these are the strategies the noblemen have drafted to resist the Hu.”
Another scholar opened a roll of silk manuscript, painted a few strokes onto it, and then turned toward Chen Rong: “Is this the young lady of the Chen house?”
“Aye,” Chen Rong respectfully bowed.
“Bring a seat and a screen for the young lady.”
“Miss, have a seat,” he said, indifferently glancing at Chen Rong.
Chen Rong lifted her soles, went around the screen and sat down.
Up until that moment, her heart was still secretly wondering: Could it be that the Prince of Nan’yang had really invited me to talk about the Hu?
Chapter 55: An Inexorable Chen Rong
“Did you give ten carriages of grains to General Sun?” a scholar was heard asking.
“Aye,” Chen Rong softly answered.
He nodded, asking again: “Did you meet General Sun on the way to Nan’yang? I heard that as soon as he settled here, the first thing he did was to visit you, is that true?”
Why does he mention Sun Yan the moment he opens his mouth? she thought to herself. Could it be that they actually believe Ran Min will be attacking Nan’yang?
While she was chasing her thoughts, the prince’s muddy voice rang out: “Then in your opinion, what kind of man is General Sun?”
Here comes the main subject.
Chen Rong looked up. She spoke in a crystalline yet firm voice, saying: “Despite his young age, he is a true man of honor.”
The minute she said this, a scholar laughed aloud: “Is your remark due to his beautiful face, perchance?”
Chen Rong rose and lifted her curtain, showing her delicate face as she angrily said, “General Sun is a descendant of Sun Zhongmou in Jiangdong; he is an honorable man. His family has been killed by the barbarians on their way south. There is an irreconcilable enmity between him and the barbarians. How can you ridicule such a man, sir?”
Here, she flapped her long sleeves and censured him: “Hmph, I have no desire to speak to people like you.”
And then she actually turned around and stalked away.
They didn’t expect her to be so quick tempered. The scholar swiftly rose to his feet and bowed deeply toward her, saying: “I am ashamed. I’ve misspoken. Please do not be offended, miss.”
They were very sincere words.
Chen Rong’s face remained hardened. She gave him no reply and continued to head straight out.
“Stop her!” roared the Prince of Nan’yang.
Several guards answered to his ordered and blocked the doorway.
Chen Rong stopped in her track. She looked to be very angry, her entire face flushing red. She was presently looking at the exit that was only several steps away, sighing inwardly.
Behind her, the Prince of Nan’yang stood up with the support of a beautiful woman. He glared at Chen Rong and chillingly said, “You’re nothing but an insignificant concubine-born daughter from a subsidiary branch of the Chen house, yet have you learned to act like the scholars? Or maybe it’s the rubbish aristocrats that you’ve learned from? Ah Rong of the Chen house, your backbone is misplaced. I do not like women with such a temper.”
Nothing would please me more than your not liking me, Chen Rong spat inwardly.
But outwardly she only scoffed and slowly turned her head around.
This translation belongs to hamster428.wordpress.com
Cocking her head, Chen Rong looked sideways at the Nan’yang Prince and haughtily questioned, “Then why don’t you kill this insignificant woman, Your Highness?” She threw her head back in laughter. “Luo’yang has fallen; the Hu are now preying on Nan’yang. Yet you’re suspecting the assistance of General Ran and General Sun. Aren’t you worried that you might fall for the enemy’s sabotaging plan and thereby cut off your own arm?”
Her words were very spirited and plausible. The Nan’yang Prince involuntarily turned around to the two scholars.
They whispered to each other, one of them nodding as he said: “I really couldn’t tell from your age that you are so astute.”
What were the chances that she would be ignorant when she had followed Ran Min to the front line for so many years in her previous life? Moreover, Ran Min’s being suspected had also occurred in the past.
“Miss, please take your seat,” the other scholar said to her.
She didn’t move. She remained staring at them with that same haughty and supercilious attitude.
The Prince of Nan’yang was apparently growing irritated. He heaved loudly and shouted: “Men!”
“Your Highness, you mustn’t be angry,” a scholar exclaimed. Another opened his mouth wanting to warn them that although Ah Rong of the Chen house was but an insignificant concubine-born daughter, she was famous throughout Nan’yang and could not easily be touched.
The prince suppressed his anger to order: “Escort Ah Rong of the Chen house back and make arrangements for her.”
“Aye,” the two maids who had been waiting outside answered him and went to Chen Rong.
Chen Rong scoffed, flapped her long sleeves and said, “I can go by myself.” When she finished, she strode out.
Looking at her receding figure, the Prince of Nan’yang sat back on his seat with a headache, lamenting: “How can such a ravishing girl have this temper?” He repeatedly shook his head.
Seeing him in thought, a scholar carefully leaned over and whispered an advice: “Your Highness, this girl isn’t ordinary. If nothing else, once her remarks spread, General Ran and General Sun will know.”
The prince waved his hand: “Announce my order that none is to let this leak out.”
“Aye,” they gave him their word.
The Prince of Nan’yang massaged his forehead while muttering: “Cursed, such a fetching girl actually learned to act like the scholars. Every word she speaks is cutting… and that expression! How irritating. Alas, any interest I had is now gone.”
The two scholars heaved in relief to see the prince’s lust was no more.
Supported, or rather abducted, by a maid on either side, Chen Rong departed the courtyard, mounted the carriage and rode to the west courtyard. With her eyes closed, she looked composed and indifferent, and disdainful even.
The maidservants glanced at her and exchanged looks, but they did not make any sound. Only now did they realize the girl in front of them didn’t give a fig about their prince. They dared not disrespect her anymore.
The two women did not notice that though Chen Rong’s face was as calm as water, her hands were wrenching together: What am I going to do? Sun Yan himself is also suspected. He’s likely watched by other people, how can he come to rescue me? Had I known, I would’ve told Nurse Ping to seek out Wang Hong’s help. Hmph, that brat had taken liberties with me. Whatever happens, he should come to save me this once.
Chapter 56: Sky Lanterns
The western courtyard was located between the main compound and the inner quarters. It was lined with trees, rockeries, and streams, the entire place exquisitely decorated.
When the maids helped Chen Rong down the carriage, a head would appear from the small lofts from time to time. They were beautiful young girls; when they saw Chen Rong, their eyes invariably showed a hint of sympathy.
Soon, the three of them arrived at a small loft. The two maids curtsied to her while saying: “Miss, here is your place of residence. The two of us will also be at your disposal.”
Without looking up, Chen Rong lightly said, “Go to the Chen estate and bring me my clothes and servants.”
“There’s no need for that,” the young maid smiled. “I’ve prepared everything for you.”
She turned around and took a dress from the room, smilingly saying, “Miss, you must feel dirty from the travel. Why don’t you change your clothes?”
Chen Rong lifted her eyes.
She drew her lips into a tight line at the sight of the dress in the maid’s hands. It was light yellow trimmed with purple. Be it style or color, it was very similar to the one the Chen estate had bought for her.
The younger maid laughed seeing Chen Rong’s startled expression: “There’s more over here.”
She led Chen Rong to a hall, pointing to three wooden chests filled to the brim with new clothes. What’s more, every piece, if not light yellow trimmed with purple, would be bright yellow or dark yellow trimmed with purple. All three chests contained the same general style and color.
Chen Rong’s face stiffened. “When were these made?” she asked at length.
The younger maid smiled cheerfully: “It’s been some time. You may rest assured, miss, that these new clothes have been made according to your figure. Even the colors are perfect on you.”
She then slightly lifted her chin and said in an advisory tone: “Not just here in Nan’yang, you can’t find many as rich as our prince even in Jiankang.”
Chen Rong curved her eyes in a smile.
At this time, her heart was a chaotic mess. She’d always known the Prince of Nan’yang was interested in her, but she hadn’t expected his interest to be this manic. He must’ve started having these outfits made right after he saw her that night!
Three whole chests! Is he really set on taking me?
As her mind turned, Chen Rong finally couldn’t smile anymore. Her small beautiful face was drained of its colors, her nails digging her palms under her sleeves.
This translation belongs to hamster428.wordpress.com
The two maids seemed to know of her struggle. They kept their heads bowed and did not speak nor do anything.
After some time, Chen Rong at last collected herself and quietly said, “Put them away.”
The two maids closed the chests. “Put away this one too,” Chen Rong ordered, pointing to the outfit in the younger maid’s hand.
The maid smiled and respectfully asked, “Then what do you want to wear?”
Chen Rong hardened her face: “Go back to the Chen estate and bring my clothes here.”
The younger maid couldn’t help herself from laughing aloud. She watched Chen Rong and said mildly: “Have you forgotten, miss? I’ve just said that there are clothes here if you want them. I am also here if you need help. As for returning to the Chen estate, please don’t mention such thing again in the future.”
“In the future?”
Chen Rong likewise icily smiled and lifted her chin, slowly saying: “Does you master intend to keep me here indefinitely?”
Her eyes were sharp and, almost instantly, the air around her shifted with a terrible ruthlessness.
Startled, the young maid faltered backward and lowered her head as she stammered: “Why are you getting angry with us servants, miss? As long as His Highness agrees, you can leave at any time.”
Chen Rong withdrew her gaze.
She had known it was going to be like this from the time she stepped into the estate. When she saw the Nan’yang Prince just now, the two scholars there had evidently bent to him and no longer possessed the slightest bit of pride and character belonging to the literati. It’d still be useless if they knew; thus, she did not say anything about wanting to leave.
She stepped into the room after taking a deep breath and telling herself to calm down: I’ll be safe tonight at the very least. No, I should say that I’ll be safe for two more days.
The two maids watched Chen Rong’s back and, after a moment, the younger one spat and said irately, “I haven’t met anyone like her! Does she think that she is a legitimate daughter from a noble family? Does she think she can afford to care about honor like the men?”
The older maidservant shook her head but did not speak.
Chen Rong suppressed her anger, bathed as quickly as she could, put on the light yellow dress trimmed with purple that the Prince of Nan’yang had provided and sat in the courtyard.
It was now sunset and the lanterns had begun to rise. There was a zither in front of her with exquisite workmanship. Chen Rong knew with one glance that it was very valuable. It seemed the Prince of Nan’yang had expended much effort on her.
She bowed her head, staring at the zither for a length of time and then suddenly called: “Bring me some bamboo, paper, and candles. I want to make sky lanterns to while the hours away.”
“Aye,” the older maid replied.
After she had gone a few steps, the younger one called after her: “Bring her extra so that she’ll feel less lonely at night.” There was sarcasm in her voice.
Chen Rong didn’t bother to raise her head.
Before long, everything was laid out in front of her.
Chen Rong knelt down and, with the help of the lantern’s light, began to tie up the bamboo strips.
She went at it very slowly and with great focus.
At first, the two maids stared at her for a while, but when they saw her fumbling for half an hour without being able to finish a proper lantern, they left to do their own work.
The moment they left, Chen Rong’s action noticeably quickened.
Within a short while, she was able to make three lanterns. Her lanterns were very strange-looking, however. There was a face, simply drawn with a few brush strokes, on each silk surface.
It was a man’s face. The young maid walked to stand behind her, angled her head to take a look, and suddenly asked, “Who is he?”
Chen Rong ignored her.
She painted this face on two sides. On the other two sides, using the nomadic script that Ran Min’s house of Shi often used, she drew spiraling symbols resembling a flower to say: “Wang Hong, Ah Rong.”
After she had finished, she lit the small candles inside the lanterns and lightly let them go. The simple and makeshift lanterns began to rise and, in the blink of an eye, flew over the building.
The young maid mirrored Chen Rong as she looked up at the three lanterns flying to the sky. Seeing that Chen Rong was beginning to make more, she couldn’t help her curiosity by asking: “Is he your sweetheart? Are you making a promise with him?” Her voice dipped by the end of her remark, revealing a sympathetic undertone.