Chapter 98: Is Wang Qilang Attached Or Indifferent? (1)
How close he was leaning!
Chen Rong shrank back by reflex. When she turned her gaze, she caught numerous eyes burning with jealousy.
Although she was occupied enough, Chen Rong didn’t forget to glance at Zhang Xiang. At this time, he was looking at her and Wang Hong with a faint admiration in his eyes – the kind of admiration one might have for a well-matched couple.
Chen Rong’s heart pounded: Among the thousands of scholars in the world, this stranger named Zhang Xiang might very well be the only one who doesn’t mind my humble background and tainted reputation. Although I’ve forgotten his face the moment I looked away, although he himself might have only said it jokingly, shouldn’t I at least give it a try?
She turned her head in Wang Hong’s direction at this point in her thought.
He was smiling at her. Without her realizing it until now, his carriage had been driving alongside hers, separated by less than an arm’s length.
Glancing at him, Chen Rong bowed from her seat and politely said in a crystalline voice: “I thank you for asking, sir. I’m in good health; I even had two bowls of rice at lunch.”
Upon hearing her words, a girl was quick to laugh: “What did I say? Qilang was simply making inquiries; he’s not that close to her.”
The surrounding stares simmered down.
It was to Chen Rong’s satisfaction. She turned back at Wang Hong.
Again, she saw his faint smiling eyes that looked as gentle as it did taunting.
She dropped her gaze to avoid them, gave their owner a bow and said to Old Shang, “Let’s go.”
The carriage began rolling and easily entered the prince’s estate.
A long line filed in front of them while another waited behind.
Chen Rong stared at the quartized road to force herself from looking back.
The road was narrow, and could only accommodate two vehicles running side by side.
While her eyes were glued to the road ahead, her ears were alert to the surrounding sounds. Just as she reached for her curtain after not hearing his familiar voice, she caught another carriage running beside her – was it not Wang Hong’s? Heaven, how could he have passed all the other vehicles so quickly?
As Chen Rong stared in surprise at Wang Hong’s carriage, he laughed and came closer to her. He looked at her with a smile so gentle that it could drown her alive.
Chen Rong’s heart suddenly palpitated. But forthwith, she decidedly turned her head and dropped the curtain.
Just as she did so, she heard his charming voice speak: “You’re being very clear-cut, darling. Your eyes can’t sparkle any brighter to see the young man. Or do you wish to clarify yourself again? How soon you discard your old love.” Then he sadly added, “You can be quite cruel!”
Chen Rong’s hand froze on the curtain. Her smile stiffened. A while later, she rigidly turned to look at him. When she saw his quiet eyes, something like guilt and discomfort flickered across her face.
It was just like Wang Hong to make snide remarks so mildly. Even so, they had carried the weighty accusation that her confession to him that day had been a lie.
And yet his voice was too sweet, his eyes too quiet. Momentarily, Chen Rong was wracked with guilt.
Soon, her shame dissolved into emptiness. She stared at his intricately embroidered white robe and mumbled back: “But you can’t marry me!”
“If you have never tried, how do you know I can’t?” Wang Hong’s beguiling voice returned.
Her head snapped up. She stared at him without knowing that her eyes were, at this moment, as bright as the stars in the sky.
In just a flash, however, they darkened as Chen Rong looked down and let the cold wind blow her hair over her eyes. “What good is trying?” There was something that sounded like a broken soul, a crushed dream, and a devastated melancholy in her voice. She opened her misty eyes and, looking only at his white robe, slowly said, “Asking for too much will only result in our demise… Trying won’t be of any use.”
Wang Hong froze. His cloudless and smiling eyes all of a sudden grew stagnant. He stared at her and searched her eyes with his own.
Chen Rong did not look at him. She sniffed, retracted her head inside, and pulled the curtain down.
The carriages went on. Do not steal from ha mster 428.
This time, she did not hear Wang Hong speak again.
When her carriage stopped in the square, Chen Rong got down with Old Shang’s help and looked around only to find that Wang Hong’s carriage was nowhere to be found. It goes without saying that she was even less privy to his whereabouts.
By the time Chen Rong entered the main hall, endless streams of guests had flooded the site. All was dressed in fashion, their intoxicating scents and fluttering fabric weaving the night scene.
Due to the presence of these sophisticated guests, Chen Rong’s arrival did not catch anyone’s attention.
She kept her eyes to the ground and quietly went around the corner.
The room was awash in light and music. At a glance, Chen Rong saw her kinsmen sitting in the third row. In addition to Chen Gongrang, there were also Chen Yuan and Chen Shu; no young ladies were in attendance.
Chen Rong took two brisk steps and sat down on the last seat in the corner.
She had barely sat down by the time a servant came over and said to her, “Ah Rong, this way.”
She got up and followed him.
The servant went to Chen Gongrang’s side and made a bow.
Not waiting for him to speak, Chen Gongrang turned to Chen Rong with a kind smile. “Ah Rong? Come and sit next to me.”
“Aye.” Chen Rong slowly sat down.
The maids at once stepped forward and placed partitioning screens around her.
Just then, the crowd quieted and all at once turned to look at the doorway.
Due to the screens, what Chen Rong could see were only blurry images. Even so, she could recognize him in just one glance. The tall snowy figure was Wang Hong. He was now striding in together with Wang Yi.
While Wang Hong and Wang Yi entered the hall, clamor also rose at the inner side door. The portly Prince of Nan’yang were slowly making his way in while with his subordinates and concubines encircling him.
The crowd gave the Prince of Nan’yang a fleeting look before turning and continuing to look at Wang Hong and Wang Yi. Of course, most of the nobility in the hall didn’t even turn their heads or give the Prince of Nan’yang a glance to begin with.
Upon witnessing this, the Prince of Nan’yang laughed as he wiggled his way to Wang Hong. “Qilang is like a peony in the garden, garnering attention everywhere you go,” he croaked.
The subordinates behind him were quick to show their delight of his coarse analogy. Wang Hong’s lips twitched enough to make a smile but Wang Yi didn’t even raise his eyes; he walked past the Prince of Nan’yang and went to his seat.
Wang Hong’s and Wang Yi’s tables were right in front of the Chen House. After Wang Yi took his seat, he reached for his wine and began to drink.
Meanwhile, Chen Rong’s view was shadowed by the white figure that had sat down in front of her.
Behind the screen, she quietly looked at him before lowering her head again.
Her hands knotted together as Wang Hong’s words rang in her ears over and over again: “You’re being very clear-cut, darling. Your eyes can’t sparkle any brighter to see the young man. Or do you wish to clarify yourself again? How soon you discard your old love.”
“If you’ve never tried, how do you know I can’t marry you?”
Her ten fingers twined around each other. Eventually, Chen Rong took a deep breath and inwardly thought: Ah Rong, what are you dreaming about? Don’t forget who Lang’ya Wang Qi is! Did Chen Qi not say? Even two royal princesses are ill with heartbreak because of him. Why would you fall for him when you haven’t fully understood him? Can you afford to lose?
She calmed down having asked herself these questions. Nonetheless, looking at the white figure in front of her and smelling the fresh scent belonging to him caused her heart to thump in weak confusion.
At this time, the Prince of Nan’yang had also seated. He took a drink from his jade cup, wiped his mouth, and then bit off a chunk of meat from the hands of a beauty.
He waved his hand as he chewed and swallowed, all the while garbling to his guests: “Speaking of the snowfall, I’d like to thank the gods by presenting them beautiful dancers. To hell with it, enjoy yourselves at this feast. If you want meat and wine, I have meat and wine. If you want women, I have plenty of those too. If you see one you like, feel free to find a room and have fun.”
At this juncture, perhaps feeling that his speech was rather amusing, his greasy mouth curved into a grin before laughing out loud with his yellow teeth in full display.
With the prince’s laughter booming, the hall followed suit.
At this point, Chen Rong heard Wang Yi impatiently saying in front of her: “Disgusting.” He then turned to Wang Hong and asked, “Xiao Qi, Nan’yang isn’t a very good place to stay. I will leave come springtide. Will you go with me?”
Wang Hong will leave? Chen Rong’s head snapped up, staring at him through the screen with her ears perked and her breath in suspension.
With Wang Yi’s attention on him, Wang Hong leaned back toward Chen Rong and faintly smiled with his hands interlaced before his abdomen. “Leave Nan’yang? I suppose that’s possible.” While beads of perspiration collected on Chen Rong’s brows, his handsome face slightly turned, as if toward her yet at the same time as if toward the aisle. “But there is someone I will have to bring with me,” he gently added.
Chapter 99: Is Wang Qilang Attached Or Indifferent? (2)
Wang Hong’s voice was so soft and faint that Wang Yi only heard him vaguely; he nodded: “As long as you are willing to leave.”
On the other hand, Chen Rong had heard him clearly. Her heart thrummed wild. She couldn’t help herself from thinking: Could he be talking about me? He appeared to be talking about me, but that’s not right, he was looking at the aisle…
Does he really want to take me away?
Despite having lived twice and always feeling guarded, at this very second, she still felt flustered and lost.
From his seat, the Prince of Nan’yang swallowed a pastry off of a beauty’s hand as his gaze shifted to Chen Rong.
Almost immediately, Advisor Xu leaned into him and whispered something while staring at Chen Rong and Wang Hong.
The Prince of Nan’yang nodded. His eyes were still locked on Chen Rong’s body, but since she was concealed by the screen, he could not see her.
He thus moved his gaze away.
At this point, Wang Yi suddenly said to Chen Gongrang out in front: “I heard there’s an Ah Rong in your clan who had gone through life and death with Qilang. Has she come?”
Chen Gongrang chuckled. Stroking his beard, he looked in Chen Rong’s direction and replied, “She’s the lassie over there…”
Wang Yi raised a brow as he followed Chen Gongrang’s gaze.
He looked at the screen where Chen Rong sat and then glanced away. “Is she betrothed to anyone?” he casually asked Chen Gongrang.
Chen Rong felt cold upon hearing his words. Her head snapped up to look at him.
“Nay, that she is not,” Chen Gongrang replied with a frown.
Before he could finish, Wang Yi continued: “If that’s the case, then give her to our family’s Qilang. It would be fine to elevate her to an honored concubine, too.”
He had sounded supremely condescending.
Chen Rong didn’t expect him to suddenly bring the matter up. She felt the chills and drew a sharp breath despite herself.
When he heard her gasp, Wang Yi frowned at Chen Rong before asking a contemplative Chen Gongrang: “Is anything the matter?”
Nearby, Chen Yuan was looking ill with disappointment.
“Forgive me, sir,” Chen Rong broke the silence. “Although my station is humble, I’ve vowed to never be a concubine in this life.”
All eyes turned at her words.
Wang Hong, too, turned to look at her.
She could not see his expression through the screens. Looking at his blurry face, she unhurriedly said, “I had risked my life for him simply out of gratitude. It had nothing to do with personal attachments. Please pay no heed to it, sir.”
These words were even more resolute compared to the previous ones!
Almost as soon as she finished, Wang Hong raised his head staring at her.
Chen Rong was also looking at him.
Unfortunately, there was a screen dividing them, and neither could see the other’s expression…
Before Chen Gongrang could scold her, Wang Yi inattentively nodded and said, “If you don’t want to, then never mind. How about this: I’ll give you ten carriages of valuables; should you want to return to Jiankang, I can find an honest husband for you.”
This was his repayment to her. Do not steal from h amster 428.
It was a fairly trivial repayment for a clan as influential as the Wangs. While Chen Yuan was scowling in dissatisfaction, Chen Rong joyously replied, “I thank you…”
She hadn’t said more by the time Wang Hong’s tranquil voice interjected: “Uncle, you needn’t intervene in the young lady’s business.”
His tone was both nonchalant and curt.
Wang Yi paused. He turned his head to regard Wang Hong, nodding: “Then do as you wish.” Then he turned away and did not look at Chen Rong again.
Poor Chen Rong still had her mouth open, yet to finish what she was saying… A good while later, she closed her mouth and irritably glared at Wang Hong.
On the other side of the screens, his blurry face broke into a smile. Chen Rong gave him a brief glance before dropping her gaze. She did not know that right after she looked down, Wang Hong turned around and quietly stared at her. If he wasn’t mistaken, she had clearly been tempted and moved just now when he said he wanted to take her away from Nan’yang… It was astonishing that a girl so young could restrain her emotions and return to being cold and heartless in a matter of seconds!
Chen Rong’s imprudent interjection had obviously caused displeasure to the House of Chen. A servant went to her and flatly relayed, “Please return to the corner, miss.”
Chen Gongrang had dismissed her.
Chen Rong mumbled her answer and got up while several maids came to move the screens around her.
With the screens taken away, members of the Wang estate all turned to look. Those more senior in age lit up at the sight of her while the bookish scholars furrowed their brows disapprovingly.
Wang Yi also turned back to gaze her way when he heard the servant utter a gasp.
He gave a noticeable start, looked her up and down and said, “Her eyebrows are the tides of spring. There are only wrath and seduction in her eyes, and no nobleness. Would a woman like this go to Mo’yang to die out of gratitude? How odd, how very odd!”
People of this era loved to pay attention to appearances and demeanors. At the same time, they liked to assess an individual based on his temperament, poise, physical build and facial features. Elders who had read countless people could typically see through a man’s essence. The art of discerning people and its evaluating words were therefore very prevalent.
At this time, Wang Yi was also using the art of discerning people on Chen Rong. But for all his appraising looks and winded comments, he could only end in: “How very odd.”
When Wang Yi began staring at Chen Rong, the hall had silenced to await his assessment.
Murmur hence broke out after he had spoken. Like Wang Yi, they found her curious.
Their peering eyes were intolerably uncomfortable to Chen Rong. She lowered her head, accorded Chen Gongrang and Wang Yi ceremony, and turned to go.
Barely two steps later, she heard Wang Yi’s voice behind her: “No wonder Qilang is interested in this Ah Rong. Even my curiosity is piqued. Since he has come across something so interesting, he can have fun if he wants to.”
Chen Rong flinched before moving her rigid self to the corner.
As soon as she took her new seat, several maids came back to replace the screens around her.
Behind the screens, Chen Rong slowly sat down and curled up.
She had known since long ago that she possessed no strength of character let alone a noble poise. She was just a vulgar thing, a nobody, a mercenary monger, an uncultured fishwife.
After her rebirth, she had tried to arm herself with the illusion that she was as sophisticated and noble as the scholars.
It seemed he who had real insight could still see right through her.
But so what? Chen Rong quietly sneered.
Her hands twisted into a ball under her sleeves. Time seemed to still with her brooding.
At length, the hall grew livelier and livelier. In the brightly lit space, song and dance along with laughter filled the air.
Chen Rong saw Chen Gongrang, Wang Hong and Wang Yi gathered in the hall as they drank and bantered.
Seeing that no one was paying attention to her little corner, she quietly moved the screens and retreated to the shadows where the tradesman Chen Shu was sitting lest people deride him if he went out. “Uncle,” she began with a curtsy, “I’d like to go home.”
Chen Shu turned his head.
He looked at Chen Rong, slowly placed his cup down, nodded and said, “There are no young ladies at this banquet, I’m not surprised you would feel bored here. Go ahead if you want to. Unluckily for me, I have to stick around.”
While Chen Shu was trapped, Chen Rong again curtsied to him and followed the corner out.
She soon left the hall.
Once outside, the bright snow and another light greeted her eyes. Chen Rong looked up at the bright moon in the sky, thinking: Tomorrow will be another clear day.
After a moment of musing, whatever she may be thinking, she slowly turned her head and looked back at the hall.
Dances and songs of peace gaily rang in the night. Even through the throng of shadows, Chen Rong knew that the most crowded corner was were Wang Hong sat.
She watched the scene, laughed out loud, then turned and headed straight for the square.
She went to the carriage, lifted the curtain and climbed inside. As she was about to order Old Shang to drive off, someone fast approached her.
Spotting her from afar, the man called aloud: “Ah Rong of the Chen House?”
Chen Rong paused to focus her sight. She immediately recognized that he was the middle-aged scholar who often accompanied Wang Hong, the same one who had been with them in Mo’yang.
Chen Rong quickly accorded him a curtsy and respectfully said, “Aye, how may I help you, sir?”
The scholar strode to her carriage. Under the moonlight, he used a strange look to regard Chen Rong.
Afterward, he presented something to her and said, “This is for you.”
“For me?” Chen Rong curiously received it from his hand. She found that it was a sachet made from the finest palace silk. Soft and warm, it apparently had only been taken off of its owner not too long ago.
The scholar chuckled and said, “Or rather, it’s from Qilang.”
Thump thump thump, Chen Rong’s heart pounded faster.
She bit her lips and stared in the direction of the lights. Her heart that had just frozen up was fast melting. Slowly, she dropped her gaze and asked, “Why did he give this to me?”
“I don’t know,” the middle-aged scholar smiled, “When I asked, Qilang only said you’ll understand.”
He laughed pleasantly. Watching Chen Rong’s face, he nodded his head in satisfaction and added: “I’ve traveled far and wide and have come across many things, but this is my first time passing personal belongings to a little girl. Haha, what a novel experience.”
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