Chapter 90: Ran Min’s Reason for Liking Chen Rong
Ran Min stared at Chen Wei’s blushing face and graceful pose.
Under his stare, her eyes shimmered with the shyness and joy of a young lady about to be married away, both enough to soften any man’s heart.
She was full of hope as she looked at him.
But he did not extend his hand.
Eventually, Chen Wei’s hands couldn’t control themselves from trembling; her small blushing face was also gradually turning white.
Slowly, tears brimmed her lashes when she looked up at him. Her pallid face and eyes that were filled with longing and adoration all depicted a sort of deliberate preparation and an immaculately made-up beauty.
Ran Min merely gave her a glance before quietly lifting his head.
His gaze turned to the corner of the room as his lips curved into a smile: “Isn’t there another young lady in the Chen estate called Ah Rong?”
His words caused Chen Gongrang to widen his eyes while Chen Rong turned sideways to glare at him with a complicated look.
Chen Wei’s lips started to quiver, but her pose of ceremony remained every bit as beautiful as it had been. She bit her lips. Her face resembled a fragile pear blossom, yet a faint stubbornness was flickering in her eyes: Sure enough, this is still happening. But it might as well. With Chen Gongrang here, he will give Ran Min an explanation. Chen Rong’s also here, and she will be made to understand that she should never attempt heedless things to take what doesn’t belong to her.
While Chen Wei and Chen Rong hadn’t been acquainted for long, she felt that she knew this cousin of hers well enough. She had always felt that though Chen Rong appeared straightforward at first sight, she was rather taciturn in her conducts. After discovering that Ran Min was interested in Chen Rong, Chen Wei had constantly feared that one day, while she had her back turned, her humble yet beautiful cousin would quietly climb onto General Ran’s bed and make him agree to marrying her.
He may very well be the only great man who wouldn’t mind the world’s disapproval to marry her lowly cousin. And as such, he makes too great of a temptation.
In her mind, both General Ran and Chen Rong were smart people. For smart people like them, keeping things out in the open was always better than hiding them.
As expected, Chen Gongrang frowningly turned to Ran Min and carefully chose his words: “Ah Rong? She is in Wang Qilang’s good favor.”
Normally, such explanation should be enough.
But Ran Min apparently didn’t care. He smiled, stared into the dark at Chen Rong, waved and called, “Chen Rong, come out.”
Intimacy was heard in his voice.
Instantaneously, Chen Gongrang’s face soured while Chen Wei’s blanched to another shade of white.
Chen Rong slowly walked out.
She kept her head down, neither looking at Ran Min nor Chen Gongrang.
She came before Ran Min and dropped into a curtsy.
When she was within reach, he outstretched his hand to draw her arm.
Even Chen Gongrang, who was as good-natured as they came, could not stop from indignantly shouting: “General Ran, please watch yourself!”
His reprehension was very severe.
Ran Min’s hand paused in mid-air. He glanced askance at Chen Gongrang and lazily dropped it.
He lifted his wine, had a slow sip and said, “Don’t be alarmed, sir. I will talk to Wang Hong. Ah Rong is the only one in the Chen estate whom I find to my liking.”
Chen Wei was as white as a sheet of parchment by this point. Her lip had unwittingly bled from being bitten. Her posture of ceremony was starting to tremble: Ran Min and Chen Rong had barely met a few times. He’s also not the type to care about women and love. Why? Why is he so persistent this time?
Not only Chen Wei, but even Chen Rong was feeling her legs weakening, her heart drumming. Being so close to this man was bringing a rush of complicated emotions out from the forgotten depths of her soul. She almost blurted back at him: I don’t love you, I want revenge!
Luckily, Chen Rong had vowed to live well this time. She thus suppressed the hatred creeping up from her heart as well as the impulsive thought that could ruin the rest of her life.
Ran Min’s seriousness caused Chen Gongrang to withdraw his ire. He, too, began to carefully consider the matter.
He turned to Ran Min, asking: “Why would a man of talents such as yourself like Ah Rong?” His eyes then glanced toward Chen Rong with wary, his voice turning chilly: “Or, have you and Ah Rong also decided your future together?”
He used the word “also”.
Athough he had said it lightly enough, it had made Ran Min knit his brow.
He slowly placed his wine down.
Raising his head to look at Chen Rong, he saw that she was still bowing her head and not looking at him. He sighed in reply: “I heard from Sun Yan that this young lady had risked her life for her friends by going all the way to Mo’yang to die with them.”
Gasps were let out at his words.
Chen Wei and the servants all rounded their eyes, staring disbelievingly at Chen Rong.
Even Chen Gongrang whipped his head around, contemplating her.
This was their first time hearing of such a thing!
Chen Rong felt a pang in her heart. Even though she had expressedly reminded Sun Yan, Wang Hong and the Wang servants, she did not expect that this matter would now surface from Ran Min’s mouth!
She bowed her head, shut her eyes, and felt bitterness taking over her heart. Only two words resided in her mind right now: It’s over.
If this got out, she could only choose among Sun Yan, Wang Hong, and this man Ran Min who was trying to marry her. In the future, even if Wang Hong was magnanimous enough to clarify to the world that she was innocent, no other men would want to take her as his wife.
There was no undoing this.
No matter the reason for her journey to Mo’yang, as a young lady, her action had only one explanation others woud believe: Eloping with a lover because she’d rather die with him!
How could Ran Min know the complexity of the matter? He continued to admire her with fiery eyes that he was using for the first time to look at a woman. “As you well know, my life will undoubtedly end with a horsehide over my corpse (dying on battlefields). If I can have a sincere companion who does not mind accompanying me in life as in death, then even a death of ten thousand arrows would be worth it.”
He watched Chen Rong, lowered his voice and said with some emotion: “I’ve always envied the King of Chu; regrettably, Ah Rong does not want to be my Consort Yu.” (1)
- The King of Chu refers to the warlord Xiang Yu of Western Chu. His and Consort Yu’s love story remains one of the most famous romances in ancient China. Read more here.
At this juncture, he looked skyward and gave a sigh, then flapped his sleeves and, without giving Chen Gongrang and Chen Wei another glance, turned to leave.
By the time Ran Min had gone in the distance, the room was still filled with silence.
A long time later, Chen Gongrang’s gentle voice sounded: “Ah Rong, come here.”
Chen Rong lifted her soles and slowly walked over to him.
Chen Gongrang studied her and unhurriedly said, “Tell me about Mo’yang.”
Chen Rong accorded him ceremony, bowed her head and began: “That day, I heard Mo’yang was under seige, and General Sun and Wang Qilang were both trapped in the city with their lives hanging by a thread. The sorrow I felt then was difficult to contain. I had met General Sun on our way here; the affections we have are like that of brother and sister. As for Wang Qilang, when I was trapped in the Nan’yang Prince’s estate and ready to take my life, he had brought five courtesans to rescue me out.”
At this juncture in her story, Chen Gongrang’s expression perceivably altered. He leaned forward and slowly asked her, “You had wanted to kill yourself when you were at the prince’s estate?”
“Aye,” Chen Rong answered very simply.
She raised her head, looking at Chen Gongrang with bright and steadfast eyes, before softly continuing. “After I was saved that day, I thought to myself that I must one day repay Qilang’s grace. But what ability do I have to repay him as a woman? No matter how I thought about it, only dying with my savior and my friend would let my heart rest in peace.”
Chen Gongrang gave a sigh.
He waved his sleeve and bade, “Stand.”
After she got up, Chen Gongrang for the first time regarded her with seriousness. At length, he warmly said, “You’re only a woman but you’re willing to give up your life out of gratitude and friendship. How rare, indeed.”
He pointed to the right and kindly said, “Prepare a seat for Ah Rong.”
Chen Rong gave Chen Gongrang a curtsy, slowly retreated and took her seat.
The elderly man next turned his head to look at Chen Wei.
Chen Wei was on the verge of collapse. Of the tens and hundreds of scenarios in her mind, this was never a result she’d entertained.
Chen Gongrang watched a near-tear Chen Wei whose face was full of despair. He frowned, sternly asking: “Ah Wei, have you affection for General Ran?”
Chen Wei struggled to keep balance. Quite a while later, she sobbed out loud and replied in an astringent voice, “Aye.”
She dropped to her knees and crawled to Chen Gongrang. Holding onto his robe, she tremblingly said, “Uncle, you said you’ll convince General Ran to marry me, you can’t go back on your words. If I can’t be his wife, then I’d rather stay unwed. I don’t care if it takes ten or twenty years. There will be one day when I’ll make him turn around to look at me; he’ll make me his wife, then!”
She was determined in her speech, and was completely serious about what she was saying.
But saying such a thing at this time had sounded rather like a threat. Even Chen Gongrang who had the best temper was displeased.
He stood up, flung his long sleeves, and strode ahead. “Stop causing embarrasment to yourself. Go home.”
Only the young ladies went home, of course. Chen Gongrang could not act inappropriately just because of the girls’ triviality; he had to remain at the banquet until its conclusion.
With the guards’ escort, the girls’ carriages drove on the dark street, their rolling wheels clanking along.
Chen Rong looked at the carriage alongside hers. There, desperate and heartbroken sobs remained. One second they filled her with glee, the next they made her sympathize with the heartache she once knew.
It was fortunate that there were very few vehicles on the streets. With only commoners walking on foot, they did not draw too much attention to themselves.
“I hate you!” Chen Wei all of a sudden blurted.
She was, of course, talking to Chen Rong.
Chen Rong coldly snapped, “Chen Wei, let’s be clear that I’ve never solicited General Ran. He’s the one who says he wants to marry me.”
“It must be you,” Chen Wei screamed. “You must have flattered him whenever you have the chance, you must’ve put on that fake smile and tell him what he wanted to hear, and pretend to be bashful so that he would think that you like him. Why else would he say what he said!”
Chen Rong hadn’t expected her cousin to still understand her so well after two lifetimes.
She inwardly sneered and then unceremoniously returned, “General Ran is a heroic man. There’s no shortage of admirers who blush at the sight of him. Ah Wei, you must know that my name is now completely tied to Wang Qilang. What you need to do is change General Ran’s mind. What use is it to bear a grudge against me?”
Her words woke Chen Wei up.
Instantly, sobbing filled her carriage.
When the blubbering eventually softened, Chen Wei stopped her tears and said, “You’re right.”
How sober, Chen Rong couldn’t help scoffing upon hearing her.
Chen Wei raised her voice again, hatefully saying: “Ah Rong, I’ve never treated you poorly, but you’ve taken the man I love from me. I’ll never forget this wrong!” She spoke so emphatically that it sounded as if she were making a vow.
“The more you’re being this way, the more General Ran won’t like you,” sneered her cousin.
Chen Wei froze.
Chen Rong didn’t want to trade barbs with her. She told the driver: “Go faster.”
She didn’t really need to tell him. With two mistresses fighting in the middle of the street and giving no thought to propriety, the servants had felt ill at ease and had long sped up out of anxiety.
The carriages soon drove into the Chen estate.
Nevertheless, both Chen Wei and Chen Rong ordered their vehicles to go directly into their own courtyard before getting off.
When she saw Chen Rong come down, Nurse Ping who had been waiting quickly walked up to her. There was a rare gravity on Chen Rong’s face that was illuminated by the lantern light. “What happened, miss?” the nurse asked in apprehension.
Chen Rong flapped her sleeve and entered her home.
Shortly, the door slammed shut.
Chen Rong rushed into her bedchamber, pacing back and forth while scolding: “Stupid Sun Yan. Who told you to run your mouth?” The outburst did little to lessen her anger. She took the whip from the wall, lashed into the air and yelled: “How I want to whip you to shreds, stupid, stupid boy!”
Her voice was full of fury.
Deep down inside, Chen Rong knew perfectly well that when Sun Yan had told Ran Min these things, he hadn’t known a man like Ran Min would actually fall for her and furthermore propose in this manner.
Even she had no idea that the one Ran Min liked turned out to be this incarnation of her.
Her lashing slowed down with her train of thoughts. Soon, Chen Rong gasped for breath, slowly retreated several steps and weakly sat down.
She released her whip and dropped her head into her hands, dejectedly thinking that: Sun Yan cannot marry her, it’s impossible with Wang Hong, and only Ran Min was willing to marry her. But she would never in a million years marry him. What was she supposed to do now?
Before, she used to think that she might somehow meet a scholar who came from a humble background like hers. They’d then wed and live a peaceful and comfortable life.
But this dream had now shattered!
Oh Heaven, what was she going to do?