Chapter 63: Wang Qilang’s “Kindness”?
Chen Rong watched the departing carriage for quite some time before she turned around and walked to the Chen estate’s entrance.
It only took her a few steps by the time a black shadow hurtled out from the roadside ditch.
Startled, Chen Rong was about to scream when this shadow raised his clasped hands and said to her, “Are you Ah Rong of the Chen house? General Sun has asked me to wait here for you.”
Sun Yan? Chen Rong recovered herself and inquired, “Where is he?”
“After slashing the two advisors sent by the prince, General Sun has moved out of the city on Wang Qilang’s advice.” He paused. “General Sun was worried about you, so he told me to stand here and wait. Now that you’ve come home, I’ll take my leave.” He again raised his clasped hands to Ah Rong and turned away. When his figure disappeared from the ditch, Chen Rong noticed other shadows joining him as they all left together.
The surroundings resumed their frightening silence when he was no longer with her, and she hastily ran toward the gate.
The iron gate creaked wide open the moment she got to the front. Two doormen gave her a bow as they said in unison, “You’ve come back, miss!”
Chen Rong nodded, knowing these people must’ve heard the noises outside and had been waiting behind the door. She hurried inside and to her own courtyard.
It was late; besides a few scattered lanterns hung for decoration, there only existed the chirping of insects at the Chen estate.
Chen Rong’s pace quickened, rushing to her courtyard. When she got to the door, she pounded on it and called: “Old Shang, Nurse Ping, I’m back, open the door for me.”
Her loud call was resounding in the silent night. She hadn’t detected any movement inside her courtyard while a candle had already lit up in Chen Wei’s courtyard.
Chen Rong quickly hushed herself and just desperately continued to knock on the door.
Footsteps sounded. go to moc.824retsmah
“Who’s there?” Nurse Ping’s voice nervously asked from the other side of the door.
The nurse’s voice went hoarse, shakily asking: “Miss?”
The door opened to the nurse and Old Shang with a lantern raised, both thrilled to see her.
Their eyes moistened when they saw her bright and refreshed face. Nurse Ping quickly walked over and touched her face, gasping, “Miss, miss, have you really come back?”
“Yes, it’s me.” Chen Rong’s voice was similarly raspy. She had been thinking of them every day during her stay at the prince’s estate. To her, the two people standing here were even closer than her father and brother.
Nurse Ping raised her hand to dab the tears on her face, then tugged Chen Rong’s sleeve and repeatedly said, “Come in, come in.”
By the time the door closed, four or five lanterns must have been lit in Chen Wei’s courtyard.
Chen Rong glanced that way, asking Nurse Ping in a low voice: “Nurse, that day you…”
The nurse struggled to find her voice as she said, “You had barely left that day when the master had sent people here to watch me. It was the same for Old Shang. We were only allowed to go about our activities in the courtyard. Old Shang tried to climb out a few times at night, but they always caught him.”
Chen Rong’s face grew dark. “Did Chen Yuan send them to watch you? And now? When did they leave?”
“I reckon it was an hour ago.” Noticing Chen Rong’s expression, Nurse Ping quickly tugged her sleeve and whispered, “Miss, the master is your elder. Filial piety stands first among all virtues. You must never speak imprudence.”
Chen Rong nodded, suppressing her loathing, and whispered back, “I know.” Having lived twice, she certainly knew how important ‘filial piety’ was. Many humble-born scholars had risen to fame due to their filial piety. Likewise, an unfilial reputation could destroy any man.
Old Shang, who had been standing in the back, looked at Chen Rong in concern. “You look so pale, miss. You must not have had any rest. It’s late. Let’s talk tomorrow, whatever it is.” He then glanced to Chen Wei’s increasingly bright courtyard next door.
Chen Rong and Nurse Ping knew what he meant; both nodded their heads and said no more.
The night passed by in Chen Rong’s tossing and turning.
Early next morning, she heard noises outside when she was yet fully awake. The chattering of girls came to her ears from time to time: “Why isn’t Ah Rong up yet?”
“Old man, why are you standing there? Go and wake your mistress up! How can she be so rude when she has guests waiting?”
Listening, Chen Rong sat up and opened her mouth to say: “Come to help me wash.”
The noises outside came to a halt. go to hamster428
Nurse Ping and another maidservant carried a water basin inside.
As she helped her comb her hair, Nurse Ping angrily said in a lowered voice: “None of them mean well.” And then she worriedly looked at Chen Rong, wanting to say something but thought better of it.
After they had finished washing and combing, Nurse Ping turned to watch Chen Rong, concernedly saying: “Miss, you must think twice about everything you say.”
Chen Rong nodded and stepped out.
As soon as she appeared, Chen Wei, Chen Qian, and the other girls all turned around, their eyes lighting up as they watched her, their faces curious and pitying.
Chen Rong smiled. She curtsied to them and then sat down on the host’s seat, saying: “You’re here so early, sisters.”
Chen Qian laughed. “It’s not that early. The sun has come out.” She leaned over looking at Chen Rong with concern as she said, “Why did you return from the prince’s estate in the middle of the night? I’m sure the past two days hadn’t been easy?” She sounded caring, but there was something like malicious insinuation in her words.
Chen Rong smiled. She took the teacup from her maid’s hands and, after a sip, dropped her gaze abashedly yet boastfully said, “Like me, Wang Qilang was also asked to guest at the Prince’s Estate. It was Wang Qilang who sent me home yesterday.”
“Don’t lie!” It was Chen Qian who cried out. She unkindly pointed out: “Wang Qilang had only returned to Nan’yang yesterday.”
“Is that so?” Chen Rong smiled, looking as though she didn’t care to argue. “Why don’t you ask Wang Qilang when you next see him?”
Chen Qian sneered. She had wanted to take a little jab at her but then it grew noisy outside.
The girls turned at the same time to look.
Three carriages were slowly entering the courtyard. Beside them were two stalwart-looking guards. They jumped down from their horses, raised their clasped hands toward the inner courtyard and called: “Is Ah Rong of the Chen house here?”
Chen Rong rose, replying: “Aye,” and quickly went out.
They raised their clasped hands to her and then pointed to the three horse-drawn carriages to say: “We brought you back so hastily last night that the clothes and merchandise especially ordered for you on the trip were all left behind. Qilang asked that I bring them over again for you.”
Not only Chen Qian and Chen Wei, but even Chen Rong was too shocked to move.
The other guard produced a jade ornament from his lapel, took one step forward and presented it to Chen Rong. He bowed respectfully, saying: “This is from Qilang. If you ever need to, you can use it to enter the Wang house of Nan’yang and the Wang house of Lang’ya.”
Chen Rong accepted the jade in a trance. go to moc.824retsmah
The guards stepped down. When they saw that the wooden chests had all been moved down from the carriages, they waved their hands and told the drivers to drive away. In just moments, their figures had vanished from Chen Rong’s yard.
But the girls were still frozen on the spot.
However long it may have been, Chen Qian suddenly whipped around to look at Chen Rong, exclaiming: “Ah Rong, are you that close to Wang Qilang? You-you haven’t decided on your own to become his, have you?”
Chen Wei and the other girls also turned their heads to simultaneously stare at Chen Rong, waiting for her answer.
And what was Chen Rong supposed to say? She could only gape her mouth. After a long while, she awkwardly produced a smile and bowed to the girls, saying: “Make yourselves at home. I’ll be just a moment away.” Having said so, she turned and rushed, nay fled back to her room.
While the girls looked at one another, Nurse Ping also chased after her mistress.
In her bedchamber, Chen Rong was pushing her hands against the bed’s wooden post. From behind, it seemed she was biting her lips, her small face both red and white.
Nurse Ping looked at her mistress in befuddlement. At long last she quietly asked, “Miss, didn’t you say you won’t become anyone’s concubine? Why are you and Wang Qilang…?”
Chen Rong abruptly flung her hand and sent the jade pillow on the divan flying to the ground. “Good for you, Wang Qilang,” she huffed. “How can you destroy my reputation like this?”
But she couldn’t go on. In retrospect, she had stayed at the prince’s estate for two days and two nights. No matter what excuse she came up with, her reputation had been ruined. For it to be ruined in the hands of Wang Qilang was far better than in the hands of the Nan’yang Prince.
Chen Rong gritted her teeth for a while before she suddenly said to Nurse Ping in disgruntlement: “Nurse, don’t take Wang Qilang for an angel. He’s a dastard!”
Nurse Ping blinked, staring at an embarrassed and indignant Chen Rong in bemusement.
Chen Rong was flushing now. She fiercely stomped on the ground and angrily said, “He told me to say I was with him if someone else asks. And I was even grateful for his caring consideration. What’s more, he could’ve just left but chose to remind me again to carefully consider my answers to others’ questions. Fright and joy must’ve addled my brain for me not to see it as an issue.”
She was continuously stomping her feet, her small face was flushed bright, and her full bosom rose and fell with each breath she took.
She had just told Chen Qian and the girls that she was an invited guest at the prince’s estate. With Wang Qilang also being there, she had hoped he’d defend her position. With his status, everybody would believe him no matter what he said. As long as he said Ah Rong of the Chen house was innocent, the world would have believed in her innocence.
It was, however, different now. Not only did he not clarify the situation for her, he instead sent those carriages over and even gave her a bloody piece of jade. Wasn’t he, then, telling everybody that there was a clandestine affair going on between the two of them?
He clearly knew he was Lang’ya Wang Qi and she was only a small concubine-born daughter of the Chen house in Ping. One was like a cloud in the sky, the other like the trampled mud on the ground. While she was not good enough to marry him, what he did had hindered her ability to marry any other man. The bastard!
All of a sudden, Chen Rong stiffened with anger. She stroked her lips while her beautiful face flushed as though it had been dyed by the sunset, growing redder and redder… until it became so red that it looked as if it could start to bleed.
Chapter 64: Profane or Not
“Miss, the master is here,” Old Shang called Chen Rong while she was stewing.
Chen Yuan? Almost as a reflex, Chen Rong’s hand reached for the whip hanging on the wall. She took a deep breath, tightened her grip on the whip before releasing it, and then turned around to go outside. “Ask him to wait a moment. I’ll be there right away.”
By the time Chen Rong got to the door, she could hear voices inside. It was clear to her that they belonged to the father and daughter pair of Chen Yuan and Chen Wei.
She paused, and then went forth with heavy stomps.
The laughter in the room ceased. Chen Yuan looked up and solemnly appraised Chen Rong when she appeared at the door. He waved his hand, gently saying: “Ah Rong, come sit here.”
Chen Rong curtsied to him, replying: “Aye.” She slowly walked over to the chair Chen Yuan had pointed to and sat down across from him.
After he saw her sit down, Chen Yuan released the wine cup and regarded her as he sternly said, “Ah Rong, I heard Wang Qilang, Wang Hong, had sent clothing and jade to you this morning.”
“Aye,” Chen Rong replied dutifully.
“Oh? What is your relationship with him, anyhow?”
He paused and, when he didn’t see Chen Rong reply, frowningly continued. “Ah Rong, you’re an unwed lady. It does your name great harm to be traipsing around so intimately with a man.”
Chen Rong kept her head lowered. Under her loose sleeve, her right hand was clenching into a fist. She had a brief impulse to throw out a punch. Luckily, she was able to refrain herself.
Chen Yuan’s expression softened seeing that she did not talk back. He sighed and then said in a somber voice as though he was lamenting: “Even though the Prince of Nan’yang had brought you into his estate, it had been for your foresight; it poses no harm to your reputation. You are, however, on too intimate terms with Wang Qilang.” He shook his head, looking quite torn. “Considering your status, it is not possible for you to become his wife; but to be his concubine would be a pity for you.”
Chen Rong secretly sneered at these words. Is it because his actions had ruined your plans? It’s wrong for me to be his concubine, but I’m sure it would be great if I became someone else’s concubine!
Seeing that it was the third time she hadn’t replied and was being as quiet as a piece of wood, Chen Yuan again shook his head. He waved his hand, saying: “Now that you have Wang Qilang’s jade ornament, you should visit the Wang estate more often. When there’s a chance, invite Wang Qilang to our home as well.” He knitted his brow, barking: “Have you been listening to what I’m saying?”
Chen Yuan harrumphed, stood up, and turned to leave. He abruptly stopped and turned back to Chen Rong. Her demure and honest appearance was still all he saw. Chen Yuan moved his gaze and hurried away.
Chen Wei hurriedly got up and also followed him out.
After Chen Yuan had left Chen Rong’s courtyard, he dismissed his carriage and took a stroll for he was still feeling a little agitated.
Having walked around for half an hour, he next came to a garden where the sound of laughter could be heard ringing out. He adopted a smile and, from the distance, called out to a middle-aged scholar who was sitting in the pavilion to fish in the cold weather: “Elder brother.”
This scholar was Chen Gongrang. go to hamster428
Upon hearing his name, Chen Gongrang raised his head, but when he saw that it was Chen Yuan, his face hardened and he averted his gaze.
Chen Yuan’s expression sank. He sheepishly glanced at the nearby maids and again offered Chen Gongrang a smile.
Still staring at the lake, Chen Gongrang suddenly asked, “Did you go to see Ah Rong again? Who are you preparing to give her to this time?”
Rattled, Chen Yuan stammered with the same smile on his face: “Elder brother, what are you saying? She is of marriageable age. Since her father isn’t here, I ought to be looking out for her.”
Chen Gongrang frowned. “There’s no need to tell me this.”
Chen Yuan quickly complied. Seeing that Chen Gongrang was looking rather displeased, he couldn’t help himself from saying: “Brother, why let our relationship be affected by a lass?” He muttered when Chen Gongrang did not bother to give him a glance: “Even that Wang Qi turns out to be nothing more than a vulgar man. He was taking five courtesans around with him even in these turbulent times. Those who told me about it were all shaking their heads. Now they are saying that Lang’ya Wang Qi is but common and profane. Giving beautiful women to the Prince of Nan’yang – his action belies his reputation.” There was disdain in his voice.
Chen Gongrang slowly looked up. He spared Chen Yuan a glance as Chen Yuan had hoped for. But it was one of distaste. “Those five women didn’t belong to Wang Qi,” Chen Gongrang unhurriedly stated.
“Oh?” Chen Yuan took no notice of the distaste, asking in surprise: “I heard those five women are so uncommonly stunning that even the Prince of Nan’yang treats them like precious treasures. If such women didn’t belong to Wang Qi, then who could they possibly belong to?”
“There were a few others from the Wang house of Lang’ya who came here, weren’t there? They had been his uncle’s, Wang Zishi.” Chen Gongrang chuckled despite himself: “I must say it was quite funny an affair. Wang Qi had hurried back to the Wang estate the moment he returned last night. Wang Zishi was out on a lake excursion with me at the time. Without so much as a word, Wang Qi took Wang Zishi’s five prized courtesans away. When Wang Zishi returned and asked about them, he was told that they had been given away to the Prince of Nan’yang. Wang Zishi was cursing up a storm, seizing Wang Qi and asking for recompense. Hahaha.”
Chen Yuan stiffened. He forced a smile on his lips and struggled to say: “So those five women weren’t Wang Qilang’s.” His voice was full of disappointment.
Chen Gongrang turned to look at him. He was also giving him a look that was full of disappointment. Chen Gongrang sighed, seemingly spent of his patience. He waved his hand, saying: “Leave, it makes me ill every time I see you.”
Chen Yuan’s smile froze on his face. He harrumphed, flapped his sleeves, and turned away.
He had only gone seven or eight strides by the time Chen Gongrang’s voice sounded behind him: “Let’s not count the daughter you’ve used to pay for the mess you’ve created, you even want to give Ah Rong away. Ah Rong is just a lass; it shouldn’t have mattered if she was given away. However, you clearly knew Wang Qilang and General Sun both hold her in high regard. Not only have you failed to steal the chicken, but you’ve also lost your feeds in the process. You’ve offended everyone yet have you succeeded in pleasing the prince?”
At this juncture, Chen Gongrang’s voice clipped low: “No one knows when the barbarians will attack Nan’yang. For all that you’ve planned and schemed, it may not amount to anything.”
These were words Chen Yuan didn’t want to hear. Luo’yang and Nan’yang were so far apart; he didn’t believe that the trivial Hu force couldn’t be stopped with the Prince of Nanyang’s military strength! Even if the Prince of Nan’yang were to be met with danger, wasn’t Jiankang still there? Advisor Xu had promised that he would help him settle in Jiankang. At this thought, Chen Yuan’s pace quickened and, in a flash, had left the incessantly nagging Chen Gongrang behind him.