Chapter 66: Trifled With
This familiar man was too close, and he was using such a gentle, seductive, and ardent voice to tell her those words.
Chen Rong’s eyes reddened.
She swallowed her tears, pursed her lips and impetuously cried: “Of course I don’t want you to marry me!”
His warm breath gently blew over her pores and seeped into her body.
Chen Rong genuinely wanted to scream at him and rebuke his impudent teasing of a proper lady. Nonetheless, one look into his eyes was all that was needed for her tears to roll uncontrollably.
She promptly dropped her gaze, both of her hands pounding on his chest and pushing him away. Because she was putting in quite an effort, her entire face flushed red.
Ran Min slightly cocked his head, the corner of his mouth curving, as he amusedly looked at the girl who was refusing him with all her might. At last, he couldn’t help himself from laughing out loud.
He suddenly sat up.
It was too sudden that Chen Rong, who was trying her best to push him away, couldn’t have expected his action. As soon as he withdrew, she fell entirely forward into empty air and dropped off the carriage.
At that very moment, a pair of steely arms went around her, and just like that, Ran Min had picked her up and deposited her on his horse. He held her close, his face pressing against hers, as he gently admonished: “Why were you so careless? See, you would have fallen down had I not been agile. Wouldn’t it have been unsightly for a beautiful girl like you to get her face dirtied?”
His countenance was as gentle and considerate as one could ask it to be.
Unknowingly, more than two hundred soldiers had burst out laughing.
As she was held on horseback, Chen Rong got so indignant that her entire being choked for words. She trembled for a moment, found her voice, and hurried to say: “Let me go, let go me at once…”
“You really want me to let go?”
“Isn’t it obvious?!”
“Very well, I’ll do as you say.” Ran Min chuckled and let his hands go.
At the same time he let go, his right foot quietly gave the horse’s girth a kick.
The red stallion let out a long neigh and reared on its hind legs.
Chen Rong had just been freed at this time and was still struggling to jump down to the ground. She lost her balance from the horse’s sudden rearing and fell to the ground like a rolling mutt.
When Chen Rong began her journey, she was doubtlessly tidily dressed with proper garments and makeup; but now, a roll on the sandy ground had left her body as sooty as a monkey.
Caught off guard and with her face now to the ground, Chen Rong sat up and faced more than two hundred pairs of teasing eyes. Immediately, she also faced Ran Min’s mischievous gaze from his position on horseback.
Shame and anger gushed into her heart. She drew her lips into a tight line, her watery eyes fiercely glaring at him. Her eyes increasingly reddened as she stared, and finally when she couldn’t bear it any longer, she burst into tears. Following the first wail, she covered her face and hid behind her sleeves to sob.
Her suppressed grievance was rather difficult to watch.
Ran Min sighed and alighted from his horse. go to moc.824retsmah
He picked her up and pulled her into his arms. Recovering her face from her sleeves, he helped her wipe off the dirt as he sighed: “Hadn’t you even the grit to kill? Why, then, would you cry so sadly from a fall? I guess you’re a little girl, after all.”
He gave her two wipes, lifted her with his right arm and placed her onto his horse again.
Chen Rong hastened to squirm from his hold. She widened her reddened eyes, crying as she insisted: “I want to sit in my own carriage.” And then she twisted around and jumped down.
Once on the ground, Chen Rong dashed into her carriage and yanked the curtain down. Ran Min watched her rabbit-like actions with a helpless smile and shook his head. Just then, the curtain lifted again at a whoosh. Chen Rong raised her whip and placed the handle against his throat, growling fiercely: “Careful with your dishonest ways, Mister Ran, or don’t blame me when I make you an invalid!”
Her growl was both resounding as it was spirited – a rather vociferous threat.
And yet, her face still had traces of dirt and tears, and her entire body resembled a spotted kitten.
When they saw her image alongside her threatening action, and at the thought that she was pointing at none other than their invincible Heavenly Prince, all of the soldiers roared with laughter.
Chen Rong stopped to turn around. go to moc.824retsmah
When they saw her, the two hundred soldiers’ laughter boomed louder. And Chen Rong’s face, after a brief silence, was taken by boundless shame and agitation in place of the previous anger. She quickly shrank into the carriage and soon, her soft white hand stretched out to pull the curtain down again.
Ran Min, too, burst into laughter.
He leaped onto his fiery horse, waved his right hand and shouted: “Let’s go.”
The sandy smoke scattered anew. go to moc.824retsmah
Amid orderly and powerful footsteps, Ran Min rode near Chen Rong’s carriage and softly chuckled to her: “Little miss, you’ve let me hold and kiss you. Just marry me, eh?”
Chen Rong’s muffled voice came out as a low gnarl: “In your dreams.”
At her words, the soldiers laughed again.
Ran Min also laughed, saying: “Alright, I won’t tease you anymore.”
He went to the front of the queue, recovered his smile and demanded: “Any accomplices?”
The forbidding-looking Li Wei stepped out, clasped his hands and replied: “There are two, sir. They all gave the same answers when we questioned them.”
Ran Min nodded. “Kill them off.”
Li Wei hedged. “General, why don’t we tie them up and hand them to the Nan’yang nobles? That way, they’ll stop pointing their fingers at you.”
“I am a man,” Ran Min answered with a hardened expression. “Why must I care about the words of scoundrels? Besides, they’ll find excuses even if we hand them over.”
Li Wei mulled over his words, nodded, and spoke no more.
After half an hour of travel, Nan’yang was already in sight.
Chen Rong’s icy voice sounded from the carriage at this time: “General Ran, we’ve arrived in Nan’yang. Please allow me to leave ahead.”
Ran Min kept quiet. He turned and stared at the fluttering curtain and the vague silhouette behind it. At length, he smiled and said, “Even if you’re angry with me, you don’t have to speak to me in this tone.”
Replying him was Chen Rong’s emphatic harrumph.
Amused, Ran Min laughed and waved. “Go on, then.”
Chen Rong did not thanked him but instead shouted at her driver: “Drive a little faster.”
Stunned by the intimacy between his mistress and Ran Min, the poor boy only snapped awake at this time. He complied in a trance and drove the carriage forward.
Ran Min laughed out loud again as he watched Chen Rong’s carriage going away.
Chen Rong’s carriage blitzed through as it scattered smoke and dust into the air. By the time they were two miles from reaching the city gate, she told the driver to stop by a lake. They started again only after they had washed the blood stains from the carriage and horses.
Soon after they continued, smoke was seen billowing from the south. Thousands of men on horseback were galloping forth. Chen Rong saw two flying flags amid that smoke; one read “Min”, the other read “Sun”. Sun Yan had brought his troop to welcome Ran Min’s return.
Chen Rong knew that according to the rules, Sun Yan’s thousand-man team wouldn’t be following Ran Min into the city. He would only welcome him at the gate, report the situation at hand, and then bring his team back to the camp site outside of Nan’yang.
Chen Rong looked at the banner that read ‘Sun’ and bit her lips in hesitation. Ultimately, she did not tell her driver to stop… She was too embarrassed to see that dastard Ran Min again in the presence of Sun Yan.
Before long, her carriage reached the city walls. go to moc.824retsmah
Many prominent nobles were standing on both sides of the entrance at this time. They were speaking in pairs, playing the zither, or requesting songs and dances from the courtesans. The Chen house’s chief in particular, Chen Gongrang, was standing at the center of the gate, tilting his head in conversation with Sir Yu.
Chen Rong watched Chen Gongrang in his long robe, with his long beard and benevolent temperament, as she thought to herself: He won’t be stabbed to death this time, right?
Chen Gongrang had died in this incident in her previous life. After some contention, Chen Yuan had gained control of all of the Chen house’s affairs in Nan’yang. Without Chen Gongrang to restrict him, he had acted very selfishly and tyrannically. Chen Rong couldn’t imagine what would happen to her this time if Chen Yuan again took control of the entire Chen house in Nan’yang.
Chen Rong lifted the curtain and, at Chen Gongrang’s surprised eyes, entered the city.
Her carriage went straight into the Chen estate and to her courtyard.
Inside, Nurse Ping and Old Shang both came to greet her, along with Chen Qian, Chen Qi, and Chen Wei’s band. They were all shocked to see Chen Rong’s smeared face and dirty outfit. Chen Wei and the other girls rounded their eyes and started to snicker.
Chen Rong ignored them. She casually gave the crowd a curtsy and, without another word, went into her backyard and began washing up.
Chen Qian watched Chen Rong flee away before she turned to the driver and asked, “Hey, what happened to your mistress?”
The driver bowed, replying: “I’d drove badly and made the miss fall.”
“She has the worst luck,”Chen Qian snickered. “It’s fortunate that no noblemen saw her. It would’ve been a big joke otherwise.”
Not answering her, the driver brought the carriage to the backyard.
Chen Rong spent nearly an hour to wash herself. Once she came out, Chen Wei and the other girls had already left.
She sighed in relief and then walked to the hall with her head kept low.
Nonetheless, Nurse Ping and Old Shang now surrounded her.
Chen Rong raised her head as she came to face with her servants’ elated expressions. Nurse Ping came up to her, took her hands and said happily, “Miss, I heard from the young helper that General Ran has asked you to marry him?”
Standing nearby, Old Shang added with a beaming grin: “Miss, General Ran is a man of honor. You used to always praise him whenever you heard his name in Ping. How great it is that you can marry him now. What did I say? Our lady is blessed.”
Chen Rong’s expression was one of suffering.
She hadn’t replied by the time Nurse Ping suddenly put on the same pained look: “But what will we do about Wang Qilang?”
Chapter 67: A Sharpened Blade for the Wolf
Chen Rong glowered. “No one is allowed to mention this again,” she unhappily blurted.
Her servants stopped.
Glaring at the young driver, Chen Rong angrily repeated: “You’re to never speak of this matter again. Remember well: nothing had happened today!”
Still a little frightened by her, the young helper was quick to agree. Nurse Ping, however, hastily asked, “Why? General Ran is the only man who doesn’t place so much importance on social standing like other nobles. He’ll be able to marry you. If you let him go, then what will you do?”
Chen Rong’s eyes glowed red. She stubbornly pursed her lips and stood her ground. “Even if I stay unmarried for the rest of my life, I will not marry this man.”
And then she turned and walked back into her room.
“Miss,” Old Shang called after her, “the clan won’t let you stay unmarried. It’s much worse to be someone else’s concubine than to be General Ran’s wife.”
Answering Old Shang was a slamming door.
Chen Rong locked herself inside all the way till the afternoon when she heard waves of laughter coming from the streets.
After listening for a while, she couldn’t help calling from behind the door: “Nurse.”
At length, Nurse Ping answered: “I’m here, I’m here. What is it, miss?”
Chen Rong tilted her head looking beyond the silk screens. “What’s going on out there? Why is it so raucous?”
Nurse Ping had watched her grow up and knew curiosity was nibbing at her. She said helplessly, “If you want to know, why don’t you go to take a look, miss?”
Chen Rong didn’t say a word. go to hamster428
Nurse Ping had to tell her: “Well, General Ran brought two hundred soldiers to Nan’yang. Everyone is overjoyed for they think that he had really come to protect the city.”
Chen Rong gave a hum.
Seeing her again quiet, Nurse Ping walked over and cautiously asked, “Miss, you hadn’t eaten breakfast. It’s past noon now. Are you hungry? Would you like to come out?”
Chen Rong didn’t answer.
“I don’t know who you are angry with that you won’t even eat,” the nurse muttered. “Really… you’re being more childish as you get older.”
The door suddenly opened and Chen Rong swept out like the wind. Her hands were even gleaming!
Nurse Ping gave a jump. “Miss, what are you doing?” she nervously called after her.
Chen Rong went to the backyard without turning around, shouting: “Sharpening my dagger!”
Stunned, Nurse Ping watched her with a silly look and sighed in relief. She had thought that her mistress was going to kill someone. She next shook her head, increasingly uncertain of what was in her mistress’s mind these days.
Another day passed by in the blink of an eye. go to moc.824retsmah
By eventide, Chen Rong was squatting beside a well as she repeated over and over to her reflection in the water: “You can’t cry! Do you hear me? You’re not allowed to cry next time you see him!” She forced her eyes to open wide and, by the time she saw her reflection looking determined and without a single tear, she raised her head in satisfaction.
Just then, a servant’s call reached her: “Miss, General Sun is here.”
What? Sun Yan is here? go to moc.824retsmah
Chen Rong happily rushed out. After few steps, she remembered that she was still holding a dagger in her hand and promptly tossed it behind her.
By the time Chen Rong got to the door, a handsome boy in golden armor was seen striding inside under the brilliant sunset.
The pair saw each other at the same time and promptly broke into a smile.
After Sun Yan regarded her from head to toe, fury emerged on his fair face. “Sorry Ah Rong, I couldn’t help you kill that old pervert,” he ground out.
His eyes were apologetic. The entire city was talking about Chen Rong’s two-night stay at the prince’s estate. Outsiders either said she had slept with the Nan’yang Prince or they said she had slept with Wang Qilang. In short, her name was as good as ruined.
Chen Rong repeatedly shook her head and a put on a wry smile. “You’d done what you could.”
She gratefully looked at the boy who had, for her, almost directly opposed the Prince of Nan’yang. In this world, there were not many who were as good to her as he was.
Sun Yan patted the sword on his hip and strode inside. “That old fart. Fuck, if I hadn’t worried that the Hu would attack Nan’yang, I wouldn’t have spared him face.”
He went to the stone table underneath a tree, reached for the bottle of wine Chen Rong had drunk from, and threw his head back for a swig. Chen Rong was about to remind him when she saw that he had finished, so she in turn closed her mouth.
Sun Yan sat down, patted the spot next to him, and called Chen Rong: “What are you standing there for? Come here and have a talk with me.”
Chen Rong quickly went over. go to moc.824retsmah
After they sat down across from each other, Chen Rong concernedly looked at him and asked, “Didn’t you move out of the city? Why have you come back in?”
Sun Yan poured a drink, picked up a piece of pastry and threw it into his mouth. He mumbled as he chewed: “The troops are still outside, only I can come in.”
He looked up and took another gulp of wine, then casually inquired after her. “But enough about me. What about you? How are you doing? What happened that day anyway? When I saw General Wen that day, he said you had released sky lanterns. Your name and Wang Hong’s name were also written on them in Hu script. I was fearful for you when I heard that you were at the prince’s estate and immediately thought that you were in danger. If not, you wouldn’t have risked alarming others by releasing those sky lanterns and writing Hu script.”
He pounded the cup onto the table, stared at Chen Rong and indignantly said, “Why did you write Wang Hong’s name? Why didn’t you write my name? Dammit, even if I couldn’t have saved you, I could’ve looked for Wang Hong like I had!”
Chen Rong watched the young boy huffing and puffing and couldn’t help smiling despite herself.
Upon seeing her smile, Sun Yan came to realize that his words were quite irrational and he therefore glumly lowered his head.
Chen Rong had wanted to talk to him about this matter. Now that he took the lead in mentioning it, she cleared her throat and began to speak.
Sun Yan’s face darkened. He slapped the stone table and growled: “I can’t believe Chen Yuan is that kind of a person!”
He raised his head worriedly. “When will your father and brother come to Nan’yang? Or… should I find a way to bring you to Jiankang? You’ll get into trouble sooner or later under this man’s custody.”
My father and brother in Jiankang? go to hamster428
Chen Rong smiled wistfully and shook her head.
Sun Yan studied her and, when he saw that she had seemed sad, a thought came to him which made him smile wryly: “Your name is as good as destroyed by the Prince of Nan’yang and Wang Hong. Or else, I could go ahead without the approval of my family and marry you.”
Chen Rong’s head was bowed in silence. She naturally understood Sun Yan’s meaning. Although the boy was footloose, he was after all a direct descendant of the Sun house in Jiangdong. Even if his parents were no longer by his side, he couldn’t arrange himself a marriage that would bring dishonor to his family and ancestors. For him to marry someone with a ruined name like her, he’d first need to win his family’s consent.
At this thought, Chen Rong couldn’t help but to be angry with Wang Qilang.
She pursed her lips and fumed: “You’re all a bad lot!”
Sun Yan was bemused by her words. “I’m a man of honor,” he claimed. “And so is General Ran!”
Just then, a woman’s voice came: “Is Ah Rong in? Jiejie has come to see you.”
It was Chen Wei’s voice. go to moc.824retsmah
“Ah Yan, leave for now,” Chen Rong immediately said to Sun Yan. “My cousins are the most troublesome.”
Sun Yan nodded, stood up, and turned around to go.
He had just gotten to the gate by the time Chen Wei gracefully came in.
She paused at the sudden meeting with Sun Yan, then glanced at Chen Rong in jealousy before turning to give him a curtsy. “Good greetings, General Sun,” she sweetly said.
Sun Yan snorted, flapped his sleeves, and went out the door without any concern for her.
Chen Wei froze at being snubbed. She turned to watch Sun Yan’s departing back while, slowly, her face grew ugly.
But in mere seconds, Chen Wei forced a smile on her lips and turned to her cousin. “Ah Rong.”
Chen Rong curtsied and smilingly said, “Jiejie, have a seat.”
Chen Wei nodded. She walked over, asking: “Did General Sun come to see you? How kind of him.” Here, she maliciously added: “Did he know you had stayed at the prince’s estate?”
Upon hearing these words, Chen Rong’s face couldn’t help but darken.
Chen Wei felt slightly regretful the moment her words left her mouth. When she saw Chen Rong’s sullen face, she quickly offered a smile. “I apologize. I shouldn’t have said that.”
Chen Rong lowered her head in acceptance of her apology. “I know you didn’t mean anything by it. Jiejie, you’re my guest, please have a seat.”
Chen Wei took the seat Sun Yan had vacated. She reached to accept the wine cup, her thin and pale fingers stroking it, but she did not talk.
Seeing so, Chen Rong looked at her with some surprise. She deliberately did not ask when she saw her being bashful.
“Ah Rong,” Chen Wei softly said some time later.
Chen Rong’s tone sounded somewhat indifferent.
Chen Wei didn’t notice it, however. She was apparently too distracted, as she was constantly stroking her cup. At length, she finally asked, “You said last time that General Ran disliked women who aren’t frank. Did you mean it?”
Sure enough, she has come for him.
Chen Rong smirked, casually replying: “Aye.”
Chen Wei looked up.
Her face was blushing and her eyes were bright. Her entire being exuded joy and excitement, and even nervousness. She hastened to ask: “Ah Rong, did you know that General Ran has returned to Nan’yang?”
Chen Rong nodded in reply. “So I’ve heard from the servants.”
Chen Wei lit up, happily saying: “Yes, it’s true, the entire city of Nan’yang is talking about him right now. Even the servants who never leave the house know his name. This time, he only brought two hundred soldiers back. Chen Gongrang said it was evidence enough that General Ran truly wants to protect the Hans and this city.”
At this juncture, she bit her lower lip and shyly smiled. Wringing her skirt, she said, “Father says he’ll host another banquet in honor of the general. He also says he’ll bring up the wedding so that General Ran can officially marry me.”