Chapter 91: Wang Qilang Adding Fuel to the Fire
Chen Rong tossed and turned that night, and was unable to fall asleep. In this slumber, she first dreamed of being brought into an extravagant mansion by a horse-drawn carriage. In his bridegroom attire, Wang Hong was looking at her with tender affections. She didn’t know why, but when she saw his eyes, the hall full of guests, and the formality with which the ceremony was held, her tears could not stop from falling onto her pillow. By the time she awoke from the dream, her tears were still flowing and soon soaking through her quilt.
After more tossing and turning, Chen Rong again drifted off to sleep.
She saw Ran Min this time. She saw herself standing in the fire, and Ran Min in his bridegroom attire was madly running to her before carrying her out of the flames. At the time he looked down at her, she who was fast slipping away, he actually burst into tears; these tears fell onto her gradually closing eyes.
Both of these dreams, no matter which, kept her awake long after she roused from them.
It was yet dawn when Chen Rong sat up from bed. She slowly went to the window screen and absently gazed at the morning star in the eastern sky.
At this moment, the sky was so fresh and clear, as if it did not matter how troubled the world or how wretched the people.
She wasn’t sure how much time had passed when Nurse Ping’s voice sounded outside: “Are you up, miss?”
Chen Rong hummed a reply.
The door opened with a creak and in came Nurse Ping with the washing items. She worriedly looked at Chen Rong, asking: “You woke up several times last night, yelling and screaming each time. Did you have nightmares, miss?”
Last time, when Chen Rong had gone through a series of nightmares, she remembered both her behaviors and personality had completely changed. For this reason, the worry in her voice was ill-concealed.
Chen Rong shook her head and, watching the sun rise over the rooftop, mumbled back: “It’s nothing.”
Nurse Ping went to her and untied her long hair to comb it. Admiring the dark, silky tresses that came all the way to her waist, she suddenly sighed and muttered: “If your looks hadn’t been so ravishing, your marriage would have certainly been easier.”
She looked up only to see the sunlight illuminating Chen Rong’s exquisite face. Her porcelain skin had flushed red, her large indignant eyes were shimmering like an autumn lake, and her rosy lips looking as if they were made to be kissed. She could not help sighing and inwardly thinking: Her looks are exactly the kind that older men of influence like.
Whenever she dressed Chen Rong, she always tried her best to hide this natural allure of hers so that the girl could look more elegant.
While Nurse Ping was busy helping Chen Rong, voices gave sound outside.
Listening to these voices, Chen Rong suddenly said, “Nurse, just tell everyone who comes to see me today that I’m sick.”
“Aye.” Don’t take from h@master.
Nurse Ping could now also hear the many guests in their courtyard. She quickly placed the comb down and stepped outside.
Soon, Chen Qian’s high voice sounded: “No, I must see your mistress. Hmph, that news is too outrageous, I must ask her about it.”
Then came Chen Sanlang’s gentle but emphatic voice: “Tell your mistress that it’s useless to play sick. Since her older brother has come in person, how can she not come to greet me?”
Listening to the sounds of aggressive questioning, Chen Rong walked to the door and whispererd to Nurse Ping who was about to report back to her: “Nurse, invite them in. I’ll answer them from behind the screen.”
“Aye.” Sharing is caring. Stealing is killing.
The older woman hurriedly brought a two meters tall screen to place in front of Chen Rong’s bed.
Amid the footsteps, Chen Qian’s laughing voice was heard. “Oh no, or is she really ill?”
“Calm down, jiejie,” a gentler voice spoke. “Ah Rong had just had a narrow escape from death. Even those with the best fortitude cannot bear such distress.”
Hers were rational words, and they stopped questioning whether Chen Rong was malingering or not.
After everyone took his seat, Chen Sanlang’s voice was the first to speak. “Ah Rong, your aunt told me to come and ask if you had really gone to Mo’yang.”
Chen Rong remained quiet for a moment and then answered, “Aye.”
“Then that’s to say you didn’t go with your servant to find her relatives?”
Chen Rong bit her lip, again quietly replying: “Aye.”
Chen Sanlang lasped into silence. After some time, he sighingly said, “I’ll relay these truths to your aunt.”
After he left, Chen Qian pleasantly asked, “Ah Rong, did you really go to Mo’yang?”
“Aye,” Chen Rong tiredly replied.
“Really? You aren’t lying to me? I still can’t believe it!”
Chen Rong could only smile wryly.
Not receiving an answer, Chen Qian suddenly remarked, “Ah Rong, you’re really not afraid of death, are you? I have to admit I’m inferior to you in this regard.”
Answering her was still silence. Long live h@mster.
“Ah Rong, I heard General Ran didn’t want Ah Wei, but you instead,” Chen Qi took over.
Chen Rong contemplated her answer and tiredly replied, “Marriage is arranged by the elders. I prefer not to say anything about this.”
Chen Qian laughed out loud, jovially saying: “Oh please, everyone knows how to use this excuse. Good for you, Ah Rong. The celestial Wang Qilang, the handsome General Ran, they all somehow have ties with you. I’m quite envious, to be honest.”
The girls had a good laugh at her words.
While the bedchamber was filled with boisterous laughter, a high voice announced: “Ah Zi of the Yu House is here to call upon Miss Chen Rong.”
Chen Qian exclaimed, “Oh, doesn’t this girl Yu Zi always have her nose in the air because she thinks she’s an accomplished lady? Why has she come to see Ah Rong?”
She had barely spoken when another voice announced: “Ah Ru of the Liu House is here to call upon Miss Chen Rong.”
And yet another: “Ah Su of the Wu House is here to call upon Miss Chen Rong.”
“Ah Qin of the Yang House is here to call upon Miss Chen Rong.”
Continuous announcements resonated in the courtyard while successfully bringing the conversation in the room to a halt.
Amid the excitement, Nurse Ping hurried outside, bowed to the visitors and respectfully answered, “Thank you for holding my lady in high esteem and coming yourselves to visit her, but it just so happens that she came down with a cold last night. She cannot leave bed to welcome you, regrettably.”
Following a momentary pause, a gracious voice replied, “Since Ah Rong isn’t well she should take her time to rest. Please let her know, nurse, that I will come back to pay her a visit another day.”
Forthwith, wheels started rolling to the successive departure of the young ladies.
The courtyard soon returned to its quiet state.
Chen Qian, Chen Qi and the rest of the girls together looked back at Chen Rong who sat behind the screen.
A brief contemplation was followed by Chen Qian’s jealous voice: “Ah Rong, your reputation sure is great.”
“I am ashamed,” Chen Rong wearily replied.
Chen Qi stood up. She had a delicate beauty that comprised a fair skintone and a pair of lucent eyes. Hers was the kind of looks the nobles loved.
She watched Chen Rong on the other side of the screen and used a rare gentleness that she typically only used with men to say: “You had the bravado to seek death in Mo’yang. Regardless of reason, Ah Rong, your fearless reputation has reverberated in Nan’yang. All men of wisdom and courage will appreciate your strength of character.”
Strength of character. Long live h@mster.
Behind the screen, Chen Rong’s hands twisted into a knot. A smile appeared on her beautiful face, although one couldn’t be sure whether it was joy or irony.
After her second chance at life, she had always wanted to win for herself a praise of character, but no matter what she did, because of her background, because of her looks, everybody turned a blind eye to her merits.
This was, of course, to be expected. Just like Ran Min, no matter how many Jin lives he saved, no matter how many storms he weathered for the residents of Nan’yang, people would always look down on his surname behind his back.
She at last received the evaluation she wanted, even if it came from an unknown young lady like Chen Qi. Alas, such evaluation did not come without a dilemma.
The girls chatted for an hour and then began to take their leave.
Listening to their distancing footsteps, Chen Rong lay back down and sprawled motionlessly for a long while before suddenly yelling out: “Nurse Ping!”
The nurse hastily ran in while repeatedly asking, “Miss, what’s the matter?”
Answering her was Chen Rong’s suddenly feeble voice: “Nothing, nothing. You may go.”
Subsequently, Chen Rong’s courtyard became completely swamped with even more girls who came to visit.
After consistently pleading illness to turn her guests away, Chen Rong suddenly found in the late afternoon that her courtyard had fallen to a strange silence.
Though it was usually quiet, the servants’ whispers and distant sound of laughter were always heard. At present, however, all voices had vanished from the world.
Chen Rong paid the silence little attention at first. Slowly, when she felt something was amiss, she sat up in bed to call for Nurse Ping.
She had scarcely sat up when she heard Nurse Ping’s voice trembling with joy: “H-have you personally come to visit my young lady? Please, come in, come in.”
Chen Rong quickly closed her mouth and stifled her voice.
At this time, a familiar voice rang soft and pleasant like springwater. “All, please rise.”
Just three words. Three single words.
And yet the dead silent yard erupted into cheers and chatter.
Amid the excitement, leisure footsteps steadily fell on the ground.
Listening to the footfall that was advancing toward her bedchamber, Chen Rong jumped down from bed and reached for the whip on the wall.
She had only touched the handle by the time a low laughter sounded at the door.
His laughter was gentle and soft, and had a teasing note that stiffened Chen Rong‘s movement.
Chen Rong only paused for a second before she removed the whip, narrowed her eyes, and then turned around to look at the man.
Leaning against the door frame and faintly smiling at her in his snow white attire, while illuminating the entire room with his beauty, was that not Wang Hong?
Chen Rong glanced behind him and quietly barked, “Close the door!”
It was an order. Long live h@mster.
Wang Hong couldn’t help upturning the corner of his mouth when he heard her. He waved his wide sleeves and closed the door as told.
As soon as the door was closed, Chen Rong dashed in front of him.
She outstretched her hand and held the whip against his throat.
“Who told you to come?”
After growling thus, Chen Rong really wanted to cry. She blinked a few times and, not able to stop her tears from falling, proceeded to rub her face red with her sleeve. She then stared at him and seethed, “I’m being watched by the entire city right now. Wang Hong, what do you mean by coming here at this time? You don’t want to see me get married, is that it?!”
Wang Hong sighed. Don’t take from h@master.
He held out his hand with the kind of elegance and grace that stilled Chen Rong in awe.
He gently wiped her face with an index finger. By the time her tears had been wiped away, she was still standing there motionlessly.
After he had wiped her tears, he sighingly said, “If you knew that, then why did you tell me to close the door when I came in?”
He looked at her so very tenderly, his bright and lofty eyes appearing utterly regrettable. “A man and a woman left alone inside a room, and the door is also closed… now what are we going to do about this?”
Chen Rong’s face immediately turned purple.
Her whip-holding hand shook terribly.
A good while later, she pressed the whip harder against his throat and fumed: “Then why didn’t you remind me?” She burst into tears as she furiously wiped them away. Suppressing her fury, she quietly growled: “You even went along and closed it.”
“But you wanted me to close it, Ah Rong!” he blamelessly replied.
His voice was as sincere as one could ask for.
Chen Rong was livid enough to sputter blood. Her hands shook for some time. Finally when she could no longer stand it, she took a step back, slumped on the ground, held her face and wailed, “You jerk, you jerk!”
She was incredibly angry, incoherently scolding him over and over using only these words.
Warmth enveloped her when a pair of gentle arms drew her into a hug.
He held her in his arms and softly stroked her hair. Even his voice was intoxicatingly gentle. “Darling, the door is closed, but you are crying and yelling at me… When people talk, they will surely say that I was the man for whom you sought death.”
He paused, lowered his head, and then said to a frozen Chen Rong who still hadn’t moved: “Look, I reminded you this time.”
He had sounded so proud of himself that he might as well have asked for her praise.
Stiff as a board, Chen Rong still did not move.
At length, she sprang up and, intentionally or otherwise, bumped her head into Wang Hong.
This bump was quite hard, and it knocked Wang Hong backward against the door.
At the loud bang, the whispers outside came to a hush.
In the meanwhile, Chen Rong had shot to the door and, as she haphazardly rubbed the tears on her face, reached for the knob to open it.