Chapter 93: Promise to Self
Chen Rong did not look up during this entire time.
Her hands clasped together under her wide sleeves while her heart was sent on a tumbling ride.
She didn’t know what else to do.
Was this the kind of ending she were to receive after two lifetimes of struggle and strife?
But because she had lived twice, Chen Rong knew that if her father and brother had been reliable, she wouldn’t have ended up that way in her previous life.
Whether in her last life or this life, whether she had come to a dead end or been pushed to a corner, she had never once thought of leaving her clan. Firstly, she was no different from everyone else in that the notion of kinship had been deeply rooted in her. Secondly, without a clan’s protection in these troubled times, she would be robbed destitute or sold into slavery in a matter of seconds no matter how much wealth she possessed.
On her trip south with the Wang family, innumerable nobles had been killed or sent to ruination. Even imperial consorts had been abducted by human traffickers, their safety unknown till this day.
Thinking awhile, Chen Rong bitterly smiled: Never mind, Chen Rong, stop fighting it!
Chen Yuan chuckled to see Chen Rong in silence. He stroked his beard and said, “Don’t be too happy. Lang’ya Wang Qi is a prized man even amongst the princesses. Even if you became his honored concubine, you would still sit below his wife. You’re too young to know that family is one’s sole support in this world.”
When he got to “sole,” there was an extra emphasis in his voice.
Chen Rong’s head remained bowed.
Chen Yuan laughed, thinking that she was feeling abashed. He then nicely said, “Ah Rong, it had been the Nan’yang Prince’s aggression that forced me to send you to him. Have you held a grudge against me because of that?”
Here, he leaned forward and attentively watched her.
Chen Rong kept her head down. A good while later, she weakly uttered between her teeth: “I dare not.”
Chen Yuan did not detect anything unusual and thus kept on smiling. On the other hand, Lady Li mistrustfully looked back to appraise the silent and dutiful Chen Rong.
Chen Yuan raised his head and looked out at the sun. He then waved at Chen Rong and said, “You may leave. You’ll have preparations to make.”
Chen Rong slowly stood up at his words.
She had barely gotten to her feet when footsteps sounded outside.
Before long, an unsteady and wheezing voice called in, “Master, we’re back.”
Hearing this voice, Chen Yuan rose and went out to meet them. “Why have you returned so soon? Did you not see Wang Yi?”
Chen Rong paused upon hearing Wang Yi’s name after she had given Lady Ruan and Lady Li curtsies and was ready to leave.
She wasn’t the only one; even Lady Ruan and Lady Li anxiously stood up. They rushed from their seats to the steps.
Down the steps were a dozen strapping servants. Standing in front was one about thirty years old, with pale skin and delicate features. One could tell he was an articulate speaker.
Nevertheless, he had his head bowed at this time while looking rather hesitant.
Anxious, Chen Yuan angrily yelled, “What happened? Tell me.”
The servant dithered before softly saying: “I’m afraid to.”
Chen Yuan’s heart sank. He stared at the servant and warily asked, “Did Wang Yi say something foul?”
Seeing the servant shaking his head, he sighed in relief and impatiently said, “So what happened, anyway? Just tell me the truth.”
The servant gave him a ceremony and began to haltingly speak: “We followed your instructions and brought gifts to the Wang estate. We went in from the main entrance and presented our card, asking to see Sir Wang Yi.”
At this juncture, he looked up at Chen Yuan before quietly continuing: “No sooner had the gatekeeper taken our card than Wang Qilang’s carriage arrived. When he saw us, he approached and made inquiry.”
The servant’s voice softened to a stammer. “After we informed him, Wang Hong wanted us to go back, with a message he said to tell you.”
At this time, Chen Yuan’s heart had completely sunk.
He turned to glance at Chen Rong and inwardly thought: Perhaps Wang Hong has never liked this lass Ah Rong? What a useless piece of trash. What is the point of those seductive looks when she cannot even snare a man!
The servant stopped speaking when he saw Chen Yuan looking back.
After Chen Yuan had callously glared at the dutiful-looking Chen Rong, he turned around and yelled, “And what did he say? What are you freezing there for? Why aren’t you telling me?”
The servant shrank away at his rage and repeatedly said “aye.”
Once he had waited for Chen Yuan’s barking to stop, he stammered: “T-this is what Wang Hong said: Are you giving a daughter’s hand in marriage? Or are you selling your daughter for an office? How can we allow this virtuous woman to suffer thus an insult, when she had lived and died for her friends?”
Silence all around. Read at h@mster 428.
Chen Yuan was also at a loss for words.
He stared at the servant, momentarily unable to believe his ears. His face was beginning to blanch. “W-what did you say?”
Seeing him thus, the servant stopped speaking and dropped to his knees.
In just seconds, Chen Yuan’s face turned even whiter.
He was still staring at the servant, mumbling in disbelief: “Impossible! Everyone says Wang Hong is gentle and refined. He’d never injure others with harsh words like this…”
His voice failed to sound at this point.
Chen Rong was also made speechless.
However, she was relaxed and full of glee though she was wordless. When she saw Chen Yuan’s pretentious face growing increasingly paler with even shades of blue, she picked up her pace and swiftly disappeared from the courtyard.
As soon as she left the gate, Chen Rong couldn’t help herself from burtsing into laugher. Quickly enough, she covered her mouth and, with her head lowered, hurried back home.
Soon, Chen Rong entered her courtyard. Stolen from 824 retsmah
Nurse Ping hastily went up to her when she saw her come in. She suddenly stopped.
All she saw was Chen Rong flinging her sleeves in laughter.
Her laugh was so loud, clear, free and pleasant!
The nurse hadn’t heard such laughter in a long time.
She was surprised at first, then quickly followed suit in the merry action.
Chen Rong covered her mouth, madly laughing for a while. She eventually clutched her stomach and gave a cry. Nurse Ping quickly stepped over to caress her.
Chen Rong leaned into her nurse while she continued to double over with laughter.
It took quite some time before her laughter finally ceased. Nurse Ping laughed, “What’s going on? Why are you in such a good mood today?”
Chen Rong crinkled her eyes in delight and gazed toward Lady Ruan’s courtyard. She moved closer toward her servants, whispering: “Chen Yuan had just gotten rebuked by Wang Qilang!”
“A very stern rebuke,” she solemnly informed them. “Haha, I’m not sure if he can withstand Wang Qilang’s rebuke or not!”
Seeing the bewilderment on her servants’ faces, she did not want to say more. She pushed Nurse Ping away and bounced back to her room.
Skipping and singing all the while.
Last time, Chen Sanlang had gotten himself humiliated by one of the scholars when he was in a rush to come with her to the gathering. As a result, he had been holed up at home till now, too afraid to even go out with his scroundrel friends.
It was so bad that Chen Yuan had started to prepare farmland and stores for him in Jiankang. He was to quit the literati circle and buy a small title or live as a tradesman.
There wasn’t any other way. They were disparaging words that could destroy a person’s life!
It was now Chen Yuan’s turn.
What kind of consequences would come of Wang Qilang’s disparaging words? Chen Rong raised her head in anticipation.
She got her answer the next day. In the evening, Chen Gongrang confined Chen Yuan to the ancestral temple and officially revoked his inheritance. If Chen Gongrang were to pass away at this very moment, the successor of the Chen House in Nan’yang would be the tradesman-born Chen Shu.
Unfortunately, such was the extent of Chen Yuan’s loss. Having been engrossed in obtaining an office title, he had long had the reputation of an ill-educated and vulgar man among the literati.
Thus, Wang Hong’s rebuke now caused him to receive even more pointing and supercilious look.
Several days passed by in the blink of an eye; it was presently well into winter.
In the morning on this day, Chen Rong tilted her head to look outside as she asked in surprise: “Why is it so bright?”
Nurse Ping carried a basin of steaming water in. She twisted the towel as she laughingly answered, “It’s snowing, miss!”
“There’s snow?” exclaimed Chen Rong.
Nurse Ping crinkled her eyes into a kind smile. “Aye, that’s right, it’s snowing quite heavily, too. What great news.”
Her voice quivered with emotion.
Chen Rong was no different. Stolen from 824 retsmah
They couldn’t help it. The city had been waiting for this snowfall for far too long.
The snow’s descent meant that the Hu would not be progressing south! One only wished this snow could continue to fall, forever and ever.
Chen Rong tilted her face so that her nurse could wipe it more easily. She listened to the waves of cheers outside and murmured: “It’s snowing. It’s really snowing.”
She knew perfectly well that it would be snowing at this time, but the tense atmosphere in the city was infectious enough to unnerve her. Only until the snow fell did she heave in relief.
Nurse Ping was apparently thrilled. While preparing blue salt for Chen Rong’s washing, she looked toward Chen Wei’s courtyard and whispered, “Miss, I heard sobbing last night. Ah Wei was crying for nearly an hour.”
Chen Rong smiled, a hint of delight flashed in her eyes.
After she rinsed her mouth, her nurse again handed her a hot towel and lamented, “It would be great if Chen Gongrang ordered to remove master Chen Yuan’s guardianship of you. Goodness, you’ve offended the entire family this time. I even heard Chen Wei say how she wished she could kill you.”
Chen Rong slowly withdrew her smile.
She dropped her gaze and sneered, “It can’t be helped.”
Nurse Ping did not answer.
After she finished washing, Chen Rong went to the door and gave it a push.
As the door opened, a wave of biting cold rushed into the room. At the same time, white snow upon white snow came into view.
Watching the world that had been dyed pristine, Chen Rong laughingly remarked, “How much it’s snowing.”
Nurse Ping laughed along hearing her pleasantly talk about the snow.
Chen Rong raised her small face to feel the piercing air blowing at her. It was so cold that she thought her nostrils might freeze with each breath she took.
She looked at a brown mound peeking under the whiteness in front of her, along with a tree trunk that had accumulated a thick layer of snow, and thought to herself: Yes, I’ve offended their entire family, but I reckon Chen Gongrang will protect me. He is the type to look at the big picture and, knowing that both Ran Min and Wang Hong are interested in me, he will never allow anybody to hurt me.
The heavy snowfall sent Nan’yang into a tizzy.
All of a sudden, cheers and reed music filled the streets. Young men and women at this time ran loose like wild horses, indulging themselves all across the city.
Unlike Chen Wei who did not leave her home, Chen Rong’s courtyard was filled every day with servants from various estates who came to seek her audience and invite her to attend their banquets.
Nonetheless, Chen Rong declined them all no matter who came to ask. She knew she didn’t have much interpersonal skill. Going to these dinners would not gain her fame, but would instead make a fool out of herself.
What Chen Rong obtained in her two lives was the understanding of herself. She knew she wasn’t smart; and that she was full of faults. Each day, what she could think of was how to find in-laws that would not shun her, a family that had no complicated internal strife so that she could be left to her prosperous life.
But even something so simple was getting farther and farther from her reach…
At this point in her train of thoughts, Chen Rong blew warm breath at the snow-covered screen and called without turning around, “Nurse.”
A burst of rapid footsteps was followed shortly by Nurse Ping’s appearance. “What is it?” she laughed.
Chen Rong stared at the gradually melting snowflakes. Through the sparkling crystallites, she coud almost see the lofty handsome face as well as the wounded expression as he left that day.
Unconsciously, she pressed a hand on her chest.
She bit her lips while softly saying: “Can you prepare a card for me? I want to go see him.”
“Him?” Nurse Ping asked in surprise. “Whom, miss?”
Chen Rong stammered, “Wang Qilang. Last time he told Chen Yuan that I’m a ‘virtuous woman who lives and dies for my friends.’ I ought to make a visit and express my gratitude.”
Nurse Ping did not speak for a while. Then, she mumbled: “I’d rather he takes you as an honored concubine.” She looked at Chen Rong, saying sadly: “Miss, not everyone can be Wang Qilang’s honored concubine even if she wishes for it! He’s vexed at the moment, yet you want to go thank him?”
Chen Rong lowered her eyes. “Even if I were to become a courtier or a savant one day, I’d always be a concubine,” she coldly said. “Nurse, I’ve made a promise to myself that I would live like a human this time! As a woman, my fate is solely dependant on my marriage. Come what may, I want to be married to a worthy man and have a dignified life. I won’t lose again, nurse!”
After some silence, the nurse sighed and quizzically asked, “Why do you say you won’t lose again?”
Chen Rong stiffened. At long last, she whispered back, “You misheard me.” For her tone was somber, the nurse did not continue to ask.