Chapter 96: Who’s Bullying Whom?
Chen Wei sat on the steps while letting the wind burn her face. She was looking straight at Chen Rong with a queue of maids and servants behind her.
After several days of not seeing Chen Wei, Chen Rong noted that her chin was now more pointed and her face was sallow and haggard.
As they looked at each other, she found that Chen Wei’s eyes were in an empty daze. If she looked like this, then perhaps she had not come to condemn her?
Chen Rong dismounted her carriage while contemplating the situation.
She kept her head lowered and walked ahead.
Her hair was disheveled, there was also dried blood on the corner of her mouth. When she got to Chen Wei, she curtsied and softly said, “Please wait, jiejie. I’ll see you after I take a bath.”
When she finished, she walked past Chen Wei and went straight toward her room.
Chen Wei’s shout was both hoarse and strengthless.
Chen Rong stopped but did not look back. She merely said, “I accidentally fell so I’m looking unpresentable right now. Please allow me to take a bath and change my clothes first.”
Her explanation was delivered after careful deliberation.
But Chen Wei wasn’t in the mood to listen to her. She stared at her cousin and obstinately insisted: “That’s not necessary, I don’t want to wait.”
She rose and walked over to Chen Rong.
Seeing that she was standing behind her without doing or saying anything, and just staring at her, Chen Rong couldn’t help but feel the chills. She turned around with a smile and called, “Cousin?”
“Let’s speak inside,” Chen Wei said. “Why are you just standing there?” she aded when she didn’t see Chen Rong move.
Chen Rong glanced at the servants who were looking at her with concern, gave some thought, then turned and walked toward the room.
Chen Wei was right behind her. Once she entered the room, she flung her sleeves and shut the door.
Hearing the slamming door and sensing Chen Wei’s anxious breathing, Chen Rong worriedly thought: What happened can’t possibly have reached her ears, can it?
While Chen Rong pondered to herself, a loud thud all of a sudden sounded behind her.
She turned around. Do not steal from h amster 428.
She instantaneously froze and stared in shock at Chen Wei who had dropped to her knees and was now pleadingly looking at her even though the lips on her pallid face was still stubbornly pressed into a line. Chen Rong didn’t know what to do.
Chen Wei kept her back straight as she stared up at Chen Rong. She bit her lip when she faced her cousin’s beautiful face.
She was biting herself quite hard. In a flash, her mouth was already bleeding.
After staring at Chen Rong for a while, she suddenly knocked her head on the floor and said, “Ah Rong, have mercy on me.”
Upon hearing these words, all of Chen Rong’s surprise and shock went away. She coldly smiled and replied, “Ah Wei, I’ve never provoked you!”
She might have sought her own happiness previously, but she hadn’t initiated anything this time! Nothing at all!
Chen Wei wasn’t convinced. She gave Chen Rong another kowtow. “Ah Rong, I love General Ran. From the first time I saw him, nay, from the first time I heard his name and saw his portrait, I have loved him. Every night when I dream, I would dream of him. Every day when I eat, I would think of him. Ah Rong, all I want is to spend my life with him. Why do you have to appear? Why do you have his attention? Why?!”
She was practically screaming by the end of her speech.
Quiet murmuring rose outside.
Chen Rong looked toward the door and then turned to Chen Wei. She drew her lips into a line and quietly said, “Ah Wei, it’s useless to tell me these things. If you love General Ran, go and tell him!”
Still, nothing Chen Rong said went into Chen Wei’s ears. “Ah Rong, you have Wang Qilang,” she insisted in her hoarse voice. “I beg you to let General Ran go. Tell him that you don’t like him, that you’ve had intimite relations with Wang Qilang and have lost your virginity to him. If you tell him that, he wouldn’t like you anymore.”
Her tone of voice increased toward the end. Only now did Chen Rong realize she had said so much just for that last line!
Chen Wei had kowtowed as she spoke, her forehead soon bruising.
After going on and on, Chen Wei at last looked up at Chen Rong.
She saw Chen Rong pouring herself some wine and drinking it from her seat.
Here she was, prostrating and kowtowing to her, but she was going to act this way?!
All of a sudden, a nameless ire rose inside of her.
While Chen Wei was shaking with anger, Chen Rong glanced at her and coldly said, “Ah Wei, what makes you think that I would sacrifice my own reputation for your happiness? Do you think all you have to do is kneel down and give me two kowtows, and I would destroy my future, my happiness and my life just to fulfill your wish?”
Chen Rong’s face was livid. She was also looking at Chen Wei in outrage and contempt. She placed her cup down, sprang to her feet, and pointed outside while howling: “Get out! Do you hear me? Leave!”
Chen Wei didn’t expect Chen Rong to be the angrier one. She completely froze.
While she was still in a befuddled state, Chen Rong went to her and started to drag her up by the arm.
Forthwith, she pushed Chen Wei out.
Chen Rong took Chen Wei by surprise by completing these actions swiftly and determinedly. Additionally, she had learned some martial arts and her strength was great. In just a flash, Chen Wei had been pushed to the doorway.
Chen Rong threw the door open and shoved her cousin outside.
Chen Wei staggered out the door, which then slammed shut amid the maids’ exclamations. Chen Rong’s outraged scream went roaring: “Ah Wei of the Chen House, you’re making a fuss over nothing. Don’t think you can walk all over me like this! Get out –”
Hearing the scream inside and seeing Chen Wei’s bruising forehead, both girls’ servants could only look at one another. They were making them awfully confused. Who was bullying whom, exactly?
At the servants’ scrutiny, Chen Wei recovered from her trance. She wordlessly looked at Chen Rong’s closed door, pressed her lips, then turned and walked away.
As soon as they left, Nurse Ping took two steps forward, leaned into the door and whispered, “Miss, Ah Wei has left.”
After a good long while, Chen Rong’s tired voice replied behind the door: “Good riddance.”
Seeing that she was willing to answer, the nurse continued to ask: “Miss, what had happened? Why did we hear the sound of head knocking on the ground?”
Chen Rong did not answer.
Nurse Ping waited for a while, but when she didn’t hear anything, she shook her head and walked off.
The day flew by. Do not steal from ha mster 428.
The next day, the sky cleared up and snow began to melt.
It was the coldest then. Chen Rong stayed in her room and kept several coal trays in front of her bed. With two layers of quilt, she still felt cold.
She had felt cold since last night.
From her previous life, she had known Ran Min to be an ardent sort of person. But now that she was on the receiving end of his ardency, she couldn’t keep calm.
In her dream last night, Wang Hong’s beguiling eyes and gentle voice appeared in one moment and Ran Min’s laughing and letting her bite him appeared in the next.
She sat there for a long time and at length dropped her gaze. She lightly sneered, “Why are you thinking so much? You shouldn’t think about either of these men. Chen Rong, time waits for no one, you have to quickly find a suitable man.”
She hadn’t felt this urgency before, but this time for some reason, she suddenly worried for her innocence when she recalled Ran Min’s attitude… She truly feared there would be one day when one of these two men would be incited to tease her and then cause outsiders to see her disheveled appearance, giving her no way back.
At this thought, Chen Rong blushingly shook her head and then hopped down from bed, calling: “Nurse, help me with my morning wash.”
“Coming!” Hearing the clarity and lightness finally restored to Chen Rong’s voice, Nurse Ping’s answer was likewise crisp and clear.
While Nurse Ping combed her hair, Old Shang called in: “Miss, do you still want to go to the Wang estate today and ask to see Wang Qilang?”
Chen Rong knitted her brow.
She pursed her lips, thinking: If this keeps up, things will only get more tangled. If you know you’re not good enough for him, don’t indulge yourself. Don’t keep drowning, or you’ll sink into boundless misery like before.
At this thought, she decisively said, “That’s not necessary anymore.” Before her eyes appeared his handsome face and wounded expression.
Chen Rong vigorously shook her head and stood up.
Having washed and put on a fox fur coat with Nurse Ping’s help, she now stepped outside.
Even though the sun was shining, the deep snow remained in the yard and made sloshing sound when she walked.
Step by step, Chen Rong slowly left her courtyard.
She had unknowingly embarked on the same familiar road. But this time, the trees on either of its sides were leafless and buried under snow, its surface also covered in messy footprints.
Along the way, the servants and maids who encountered her would curiously peered at her.
Nonetheless, after a turn off of the tree-lined road and onto a smaller path in the garden, she was left to more peace and quiet.
The wind brought with it biting chill and Chen Rong who had walked for half an hour could no longer stand the cold. After some reluctance, she turned around to go back.
At this moment, a clear and tranquil voice came to her from the woods: “I think you’re overstating the situation, Zirun. Although I have not met your younger cousin, a helpless woman who dared to enter a city that had been laid under siege by the barbarians is a very admirable woman. And perhaps it’s as she says; it might be for gratitude and not love.”
After a pause, he sighed and added, “Whether for gratitude or love, it isn’t easy to find a young lady like that. If she would have me, I’d marry her in a heartbeat!”
Chen Rong stiffened when she heard this. Unconsciously, her steps softened as she went to hide behind a tall banyan tree.
Chapter 97: Seeing Qilang Again
The people in the woods stopped talking.
Suddenly, Chen Sanlang’s laughter sounded: “Zhang Xiang, you’re a brave one for wanting to marry such a woman. Aren’t you worried that she would wash her face every day with her tears after she is married to you because she misses her old lover?” He laughed again, disdainfully saying: “But honestly speaking, your situation makes a good match with hers.”
Chen Rong whipped around upon hearing these word. She widened her eyes wanting to see the man behind the dense foliage. But how could she?
“I have faith that she wouldn’t agree to marry me if she was in love with another man,” replied Zhang Xiang’s steady and placid voice. “But once she agreed to marry me, then she would’ve thoroughly thought through her choices.”
Chen Sanlang laughed out loud. “You’re very generous.”
She heard more sloshing on the snow; the men were nearing her.
Eventually, Chen Sanlang’s voice sounded from a place only fifteen paces away from her: “All right, let’s not talk about women anymore. Zhang Xiang, ever since I was humiliated, I haven’t seen a single shadow of my old friends and acquaintances. Only you still come to see me. The ancients say true friends are the ones who stay with us through adversities. We weren’t that close, but you are unexpectedly the only reliable one when something went wrong.”
Zhang Xiang smiled.
They had walked to a lakeside path fifteen paces from where Chen Rong stood. The snow was calf-deep in this area, and the two men had to tread very slowly.
Chen Rong quietly took a peek. Read at h@mster 428.
On the left was Chen Sanlang. Accompanying him was a young man of eighteen or nineteen, with a rectangular face, even features, a dark complexion, and a pair of large dynamic eyes. He was also very tall. Although he was neither fair-skinned nor handsome, his straight posture and healthy glow overshadowed Chen Sanlang’s pallor that had resulted from excessive wine and women.
Chen Rong’s eyes moved to his clothes. He was also wearing a fox fur coat on this cold day. If one paid closer attention, however, one could see that there were signs of wear on his cuffs and collar.
He must be Zhang Xiang. His looks, his family background, as well as his temperament, all made him exactly the humble scholar she had been looking for!
Chen Rong’s eyes opened wide, looking at him and Chen Sanlang walking away. Only until they disappeared did she begin to go home herself.
The sky hadn’t cleared for half a day when snow began to fall again in the evening.
To the people of Nan’yang, the snow had been protection sent by the gods. For the time being, the apprehensive residents laughed once more. There was widespread music even in the Chen estate. Since early in the day, Chen Gongrang and his friends had taken courtesans on a snow rendezvous.
These things didn’t concern Chen Rong.
She spent the day thinking without success on how to find an opportunity to meet the scholar named Zhang Xiang. There was nothing she could do. Without her parents, as a young lady, she didn’t have any chance to meet people of the opposite sex.
After sighing for a while, Chen Rong decided to look for something to pass the time. She summoned Old Shang to take her to her stores.
As she lifted the curtain and stepped onto the vehicle, footsteps approached the yard. Suddenly, a maid called in, “Is Ah Rong home?”
“Aye,” replied Chen Rong, a little perplexed.
Four maids came in, leading them was the one who served Lady Ruan.
Not expecting Lady Ruan to be the one who would look for her, Chen Rong at once put her guard up while hopping down and asking: “What is it that my aunt wishes from me?”
The leading maid scornfully watched her careless action. She gave a cursory bow and then said, “There is a banquet at the Nan’yang Prince’s estate tonight. You are now famous in the city, Madam wants me to ask you to get ready so that you can attend on time.” Once she finished, she turned to go.
Chen Rong contemplated as she watched them leave.
Nurse Ping went up behind her and warily asked, “But miss, the Prince of Nan’yang…?”
Chen Rong shook her head, quietly saying: “They didn’t even try to pretend. There’s likely no deception.”
It was already late in the day. Seeing that there was now a banquet to attend, she would have to hurry in getting dressed.
It got dark two hours later but the night seemed brighter thanks to the snow.
From inside out, lanterns hung high, torches swayed in the wind.
Chen Rong’s carriage slowly began to exit the estate. She should have followed behind Chen Yuan, but after waiting to no avail, Chen Rong had to get into her carriage and set off on her own.
In the sky, thick snowflakes continued to float down. The lights ahead flickered through them.
Old Shang hollered a command at the horses, then asked Chen Rong: “Miss, we don’t have an invitation. It would be embarrassing to be denied at the door.”
Chen Rong lifted her curtain. While surveying the scene and road traffic, she replied, “If we were to be denied at the door, then Chen Yuan would also be embarrassed. Don’t worry.”
She looked around for a while and found that there were many carriages on the road. It appeared that the rich and famous were all in a hurry to get to the prince’s estate. It made Chen Rong greatly relieved.
She released the curtain and rested against the carriage wall.
At this time, the vehicle jolted and came to a stop.
She opened her eyes, sat up and asked, “What is it?”
“There’s a group of young ladies blocking the road ahead,” Old Shang replied.
Not waiting for Chen Rong to inquire again, women’s cheers and screams erupted.
Amid the deafening din, a girl cried in mesmerization: “Qilang, Qilang, if you have gone out then why don’t you reveal your face to us? Don’t intoxicate me with the wait.”
She had used ‘intoxicate’ rather ingeniously. A dozen women abruptly laughed. “Aye aye, please reveal your face and intoxicate us all.”
“Qilang, we never get to see you. If I can’t see your face today even with this encounter, then wouldn’t that be too cruel?”
“Qilang, let me see you.”
Amid the waves of laughter, Old Shang smilingly said, “Miss, Wang Qilang is here. His carriage is stopped by the young ladies.”
Chen Rong gave a hum in reply. She slowly raised the curtain and looked ahead.
At the same time, Wang Hong’s curtain also lifted. In the screaming, his handsome face and pure white appearance appeared in front of Chen Rong.
Snow continued to fall from the sky – the earth a vast expanse of white. Dressed in the same color, he smiled at the female congregation, and just like that, Chen Rong felt as though the most dazzling star from above had descended among them.
This was how he would always be. Regardless where and when, his appearance would always blind others into feeling that the world was as beautiful as a dream.
Chen Rong looked at him awhile and then lowered her gaze to wryly say: “How can I harbor feelings for a man made of jade and moonlight like him?”
She decisively pulled her curtain down and said to Old Shang: “Take another road.”
“Aye.” He drove the carriage into another path.
After half an hour, Chen Rong’s ride arrived outside of the prince’s estate.
The mansion was built in a very extravagant style. The walls were so high that the large marble exuded a majestic and impregnable aura against the snowy background.
Chen Rong glanced at the armed guards standing on both sides of the gate as she said to Old Shang: “Don’t dither, go on.”
They queued behind a dozen other carriages. By the time it was her turn, a quarter of an hour had passed.
A guard respectfully asked, “Which clan does the young lady belong to? Please present your name card.”
Old Shang pleasantly said, “My mistress has come with her uncle, but we’ve fallen behind…”
Not waiting for him to finish, the guard loudly shouted, “Name card!”
While Old Shang faltered, Chen Rong’s voice rose from inside, “Let us go home.”
Old Shang hedged. With everyone’s eyes looking at them, he chuckled again, turned and said to the guard, “We’re leaving, then.”
At this point, a young scholar walked up behind the guard and raised his voice to ask: “I see that this is one of the young ladies from the Chen estate. Is she Ah Rong of the Chen House?”
All around them was silent. Read at h@mster 428.
Chen Rong was surprised as well. Recognizing the familiarity in his voice, she quickly looked through the curtain slit and found that he was Chen Sanlang’s friend, Zhang Xiang. But how could he be in the prince’s estate?
Amid Chen Rong’s silence, Old Shang replied: “Aye, my mistress is Ah Rong of the Chen House.”
The guard stepped back and loudly said, “Ah Rong of the Chen House? Of coure she may come in. This way.”
Chen Rong lifted her curtain when Old Shang hollered at the horses. Wearing a blue and purple dress, the exquisitely beautiful girl appeared before everyone’s eyes.
Just as they looked at her in appraisal, Chen Rong’s eyes turned to Zhang Xiang. She smiled at him and was about to speak when she saw him turning his attention to something behind her.
The others did the same.
Chen Rong turned around in curiosity. She hadn’t seen the newcomer by the time a carriage drove up next to her. At the same time, a soothing voice like spring water said, “Ah Rong, you’re also here? Let’s go in together.” This was Wang Hong’s voice!
Chen Rong slowly looked up at him.
What she saw was his smiling handsome face.
At this moment, Zhang Xiang was standing sideways behind Wang Hong, both their faces simultaneously appearing in her view.
Zhang Xiang raised his head as he cast an admiring glance at Wang Hong. Chen Rong couldn’t help lamenting to herself: Next to this man, I fear all men will become as common as fowls and canines! At this thought, she withdrew her gaze.
No sooner had she turned her gaze back to Wang Hong than his charming voice teasingly rang by her ears: “Who were you looking at, Ah Rong? Your eyes twinkle like a thief’s!”