Chapter 92: Honored Concubine
“Darling,” Wang Hong unhurriedly said, “you can hardly hold back your tears as soon as you see me, if others see you being this way…”
Chen Rong’s hand froze on the door before he could finish what he was saying.
She, too, had considered this point, but had completely forgotten thanks to the anger caused by Wang Hong’s provocation.
She withdrew her hand, turned around and glared at him.
Facing his frustrating smile, Chen Rong took a step forward and again thrusted the whip handle to his throat.
This time, her forcefulness made him lift his head.
She stared at him, lowered her voice and ordered: “Wang Hong, I want you to find an excuse so that we can have a clean break.”
The smile on his face continued to be as frustrating as it had been. Chen Rong pushed the whip handle up. Immediately, the rough golden thread had drawn a small cut on his throat.
At the sight of the scarlet drop, Chen Rong softened and moved the whip in her hand away.
Wang Hong just looked at her quietly.
There was something strange about his eyes that made her inexplicably fraught with guilt. She lowered her gaze to avoid his eyes, muttering as she did: “You can’t marry me anyway.”
Wang Hong let out a long sigh.
He waved his wide sleeves and then slowly walked out.
In a flash, his hand had grabbed the door.
He stopped to look back at Chen Rong who was dazedly watching him. They stood face to face, sadness lurking in his clear and lofty eyes.
This sadness was very light and transient, but for some reason, she felt extremely guilty when she saw such eyes. She opened her rosy lips, instinctively wanting to comfort him. But when the words reached her mouth, she thought there would be no return if she kept dragging things on, so she whirled her back to him.
A sigh slowly sounded.
In the bedchamber, a very gentle, very soft, and very sad voice spoke to her: “I guess Ah Rong doesn’t love me after all…”
He sounded forlorn and grievous, as though the fact that Chen Rong did not love him had given him inconsolable grief.
Chen Rong knew perfectly well that the man behind her was smart enough to have known her intentions. And yet she still whispered back, “No, I do feel something for you… but having feelings for you will drive me beyond salvation!”
Squeak. The door opened, shortly after which his tall snowy figure went farther and farther from her.
For some reason, as she listened to the footsteps that were drifting farther away, Chen Rong whirled around to helplessly stare after him, her lips pressing into a line.
The moment Wang Hong left the room, the entire courtyard all turned around to stare at him.
He resembled a tree in the wind when he was dressed in white this way. His smile was so distant and faint.
He kept the smile on his face, flapped his wide sleeves and sauntered away.
Before she knew it, he had gotten into his carriage, took his servants and left her courtyard.
As Chen Rong looked at the crowd that was watching his departure, she had a niggling feeling that something wasn’t quite right.
By the time Nurse Ping hastened to her side, she suddenly heard Chen Rong gasping a curse: “Damnit! He didn’t say a thing! I wanted him to end our relationship!”
Befuddled, Nurse Ping swiftly closed the door and rushed to her when saw the tear stains on her face.
She paid attention to Chen Rong’s hands and carefully asked, “Miss, is something wrong?”
Chen Rong numbly turned to see Nurse Ping. Her mouth drew even flatter, and suddenly she broke into sobbing tears.
She threw herself into Nurse Ping’s arms, helplessly clutched her sleeves and blubbered, “Nurse, I don’t want to like him. I don’t want to like this man!”
Seeing her gasping for breath with tears, Nurse Ping worriedly patted her back and asked, “Are you talking about Wang Qi?”
Chen Rong nodded, sobbing: “Yes, him. I don’t understand this man one bit. And he has such a noble background. Nurse, I really don’t want to like him.”
At this point, Chen Rong’s crying softened. She slowly left the nurse’s arms, lowered her head to wipe her tears and murmured, “When I heard him say with a sigh that I didn’t love him, my chest hurt so much.”
She pressed her hand on her chest, stared ahead and whispered, “Sun Yan was right. People like me can’t love but can’t lose either… I had lost once and I refuse to plunge to the depths again!”
Her voice was very low, her words were vague. “What did you say miss? I didn’t catch you,” asked her nurse.
Of course Chen Rong wouldn’t explain. She took a few steps outside, hung the whip back on the wall, and sat on the divan quietly for some time.
At length, knocks rapped on the door followed by a group of people rushing in.
They began to twitter when they saw Chen Rong sitting there absently.
“Ah Rong, why did Wang Qilang come to see you?”
“Ah Rong, did you go to Mo’yang for him?”
“Ah Rong, I also admire Qilang but I’m not as good as you. I’d never want to die for him.”
The onslaught of noisy questions almost overturned the roof.
Chen Rong looked up at these girls, then slowly clutched her forehead. She closed her eyes and thought with a headache: Not only did he not end our relationship, I’ve… also let all the truths out… what am I going to do?
Receiving the girls’ curiously questioning eyes, Chen Rong stood up.
She looked at them, shook her head, and hoarsely said, “No, it was not for love, it was out of gratitude.”
Chen Qian bursted into laughter. “Oh please, there are still tears on your face. You are distracted by joy as soon as Wang Qilang came. How can you say it wasn’t for love?”
Another Chen lady, who had a gentle disposition, softly interjected, “I’m afraid even the Wang House in Lang’ya will be alarmed by Ah Rong’s action. Perhaps they will think it over and use the bridal ceremony to welcome her into their family as an honored concubine.” (1)
- 贵妾 An honored concubine is a step above regular concubines. 娶妻之礼 Bridal ceremony is typically the formal ceremony performed to wed a wife, not a concubine.
Considering Chen Rong’s status, this was the greatest honor she could possibly enjoy!
And thus, the girls stood still at her remarks.
“Welcome her into the family with a bridal ceremony?” murmured Chen Qian at length. She looked at Chen Rong; for the first time envy showed in her eyes.
Even though she was a legitimate daughter of the Chen House in Nan’yang, she could only be Wang Qilang’s honored concubine, at most.
Chen Rong faced the girls’ envious eyes.
She forced a smile onto her face and insisted, “As I said, I didn’t do it for him, I did it out of gratitude.”
Of course not one person listened to her. Read at 824 retsmah.
Chen Rong sighed and added: “What kind of family is the Wang House in Lang’ya? I shall never reach them.”
At this juncture, she waved her sleeves and said, “Please leave, sisters. I’m actually tired and want to rest.”
Without waiting for their reaction, she lay down with her clothes and shoes still on and turned her back against them.
The girls ignored her request and went on to twitter. They only began to go half an hour later.
They had scarcely left when a steady stream of carriages arrived outside. This time, the young ladies of various clans were sending their invitations to Chen Rong’s door, inviting her to their winter banquet, poetry meet, zither competition and similar such.
The next morning, she had just finished grooming when a servant called in: “Is Ah Rong home? The master is asking for her.”
Chen Yuan wanted to see her?
Chen Rong shot to her feet and, involuntarily pressing her hand on her chest, quietly replied, “Give me a moment.”
She turned and rushed to her bedchamber, then picked up the whip.
Nonetheless, she gave a sigh when she touched the handle and slowly withdrew her hand. She took a gold hairpin from the drawer instead and went out the door.
Seeing this, a maid who had come with her from Ping walked up with a curtsy, “Miss?”
She sent her a look that meant to ask whether she needed to come along or not. Nurse Ping had gone with Old Shang to the shops since early morning, and so this maid was the only one by Chen Rong’s side at present.
Chen Rong shook her head. Pressing her lips into a line, she followed the other out.
It was winter, and even the sun in the sky seemed sodden and cold. Chen Rong looked at the surrounding bare trees and quietly thought: It will be spring in another two months.
While she was looking around, the servant raised his voice to tell her: “Please go in, miss. The master is inside.”
Chen Rong recovered to see that she had arrived at Lady Ruan’s courtyard.
She slowly walked in. Read at 824 retsmah.
Lady Li was standing outside. When she saw Chen Rong coming in, she gave her a long stare before relaying to the people inside.
Shortly, Chen Rong got to the steps. She bent her knees, lowered her head and softly said, “My good greetings, uncle, aunt.”
Lady Li’s voice answered: “Ah Rong? Come in.”
Chen Rong raised her head, took a deep breath, and stepped onto the stairs.
Inside, Chen Yuan was sitting on the host seat while Lady Ruan sat next to him.
Chen Rong glanced to see that in addition to the servants standing around, Chen Wei was not present.
She withdrew her gaze, accorded Chen Yuan and Lady Ruan ceremony, and bowed her head as she asked after their health.
Chen Yuan gave her an appraising look from his seat. Seeing that she had given ceremony, he nodded and pointed to the seat on the right, mildly saying: “Have a seat, Ah Rong.”
“Thank you, uncle.”
Chen Rong docilely curtsied and stepped to her seat.
Chen Yuan withdrew his appraising gaze and cleared his throat to ask: “Ah Rong, did you go to Mo’yang?”
“Tell me everything that had happened.”
Chen Rong lowered her head and repeated what she had told Chen Gongrang.
Chen Yuan sneered as soon as she finished.
He did not yet speak by the time Lady Li howled with laughter. “That’s funny. You are a young lady; for what kind of gratitude must you give up your life? Don’t take us all for fools!”
She stared at Chen Rong, raised her shrill voice and demanded: “There must be untold reasons. Tell me at once!”
Chen Rong left her seat, dropped to her knees, bowed her head and firmly said, “Nay, there is none.”
Lady Li chortled. Long live h@mster.
While she laughed, Lady Ruan shook her head, quietly saying: “Ah Rong, we are all women. Why are you hiding things from your elders?
Chen Rong stilled. She looked up at Lady Ruan and asked in surprise, “Hide? What would I want to hide?”
Lady Ruan smiled. Before she could speak, Lady Li laughingly said from the side: “What else? You must’ve carried a man’s child. With nowhere to go, you had run to him so you coud die together.”
Her voice turned sharp again when she snapped, “Well, isn’t that right?”
Chen Rong was baffled before she broke out laughing.
She didn’t look at Lady Li, but turned her eyes to Lady Ruan and lightly said, “It’s quite easy to find out whether I’m still a maiden or not. If you don’t believe me, aunt, please perform a check.”
The young lady was actually asking others to examine her body.
While Lady Ruan was having an attack of palpitation, Lady Li shrilled: “Shameless!”
Chen Rong almost laughed out loud upon hearing her: They can freely wrong me, but when I want to use facts to prove myself, they call me shameless.
What a strange concept. Long live h@mster.
Chen Rong ignored her to look at Lady Ruan with the same clarity and conviction.
Lady Ruan turned to Chen Yuan.
At this time, Chen Yuan cleared his throat and lamented, “Ah Rong, you are a young lady yet you have the courage to die for love. It’s quite incredible, indeed. However…” He somberly continued: “You had not only hidden this matter from your elders, but you had also used lies to deceive us. If the truth hadn’t come out, then I would’ve been none the wiser. You are now quite the expert at lying, I’d reckon.”
Chen Rong dropped her gaze. She waited for him to finish and then replied, “I am ashamed.”
She said she was ashamed, but where did it show on her face? Chen Yuan shook his head in disappointment.
He sighed again; then leaning forward and staring at Chen Rong, he slowly said, “Ah Rong, you love Wang Qilang enough to be willing to die for him. Such love is strong enough to move Heaven and Earth.”
He stroked his beard, smiling affectionately. “I’ve asked you over to tell you that I have sent a marriage proposal to the Wang estate.”
Chen Rong whipped her head up.
Chen Yuan smiled beatifically upon receiving her attention. “Luckily Wang Yi of the Lang’ya branch is also here in Nan’yang. I’ve asked my people to let him know about your story, so that the Wang clan can use the bridal ceremony to bring you into their family as an honored concubine.”
At this juncture, he proudly looked at Chen Rong as if he were a benefactor who had bestowed a favor upon her. “Ah Rong, considering your background, it is a blessing of several lifetimes to be able to reach the heights of the Wang House in Lang’ya. After you join Wang Hong’s household, I’m sure you’ll return to Jiankang with them. By then, you’ll need to abide by the virtues of a married woman and conduct yourself with propriety; you must not offend people in the Wang estate. But you can rest assured that your third brother and I will both help you. No matter what happens, know that we are on your side!”
He suddenly sighed and murmured: “Wang Hong currently does not have any wife or concubines. Wouldn’t it be great if you can conceive his child? He would be Lang’ya Wang Qi’s first-born!”
Wistfulness filled his eyes. It was as if Chen Rong’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy, her condemnation by the world, or her inability to thereafter live with dignity in the Wang estate had each been of little significance to him; as if so long as she had the child, there was more he could gain and more he could demand from the Wang House of Lang’ya.