Chapter 101: Fallen in Love
Chen Rong huddled inside the cleft and like Old Shang, did not make a movement. Though they knew nothing of battlefields, they could sense a difference in the air, particularly the hoofbeats that were causing the insects to cease chirping and the beasts to cease howling. It was making them feel a dreadful chill.
Afraid to speak, afraid to move, each second arduously trickled by.
Chen Rong forced her eyes to stay open as she motionlessly stared out into the darkness.
They had stuffed the horse’s mouth with a piece of cloth. Only that way could they keep their hiding place from being discovered.
All of a sudden, a series of footsteps sounded, eerily approaching them in the dark.
Chen Rong turned pale. Have the bandits found us? It was unlikely, but her heart was in such a knot that she had no way to think.
The footsteps were getting closer and closer.
They were indeed coming to the cleft.
Beads of sweat condensed on Chen Rong’s forehead. Old Shang leaned back toward her, shakily saying: “M-miss, they’re heading our way.”
His voice was filled with distress.
Chen Rong wanted to contradict him, but she was also hearing the same footsteps walking faster toward the cleft.
We must have really been found!
Chen Rong blanched as white as a sheet.
At this point, Old Shang hoarsely said to her, “Miss, let me see if I can distract them.” In his mind, he was nothing but an old man who would die sooner or later. His mistress was different, however. She was still too young, and more importantly, she was a beautiful maiden. No matter whose hands she fell into, she would either die or live a living death.
With this thought, he gained courage and, in a short time, felt he had become much taller and bigger.
Without waiting for Chen Rong’s answer, he jumped off the carriage and dashed outside.
In a flash, he had gotten to the cleft’s entrance.
Poking his head out to look, he saw a tall, strapping figure, blurry though it was, about a hundred paces away. The flickering torch behind him made him look terrifyingly massive.
The man was moving toward the cleft’s entrance. Some distance from him was the indistinct darkness where it appeared as if numerous troops were waiting to ambush them.
He was blocking the exit. If they drove out, they would be falling straight into their trap.
Old Shang clenched his teeth, turned and whispered to Chen Rong: “Take care, miss!” Then he strode out.
His footsteps pounded on the ground as he ran away from the cleft.
He frequently looked back during his flight. Sure enough, the tall man was startled by his running. He snapped his head up to bark: “Who’s there?” He spoke with a humorless tone and a vigilance only men of the military would have.
Old Shang deliberately ran up the hill, causing rolling rocks to rumble in the night.
As expected, the man stopped what he was doing and quickly gave chase.
He is chasing, and there are no cohorts behind him! The lady is safe for now.
At this thought, Old Shang’s heart lightened as he began to frantically run ahead. Behind him, the man’s height caused him to move clumsily. It had only been a few dozens steps but he was getting away from him.
Chen Rong had a sinking feeling once Old Shang left.
With her right hand holding the whip and her left hand holding her hairpin, she kept her eyes wide open and unblinkingly stared into the dark.
It was very quiet. The only thing she heard was the sprinting steps going farther and farther from her.
Has Old Shang succeeded in leading them away?
Chen Rong held her breath, slowly climbed down the carriage, and tentatively walked out.
Starlight sparsely dotted overhead so that Heaven and Earth were not submerged in total darkness.
Step by step, she moved to the cleft’s entrance.
She stepped on something and almost fell down. Luckily, she caught herself by propping the whip’s handle on the ground.
She slowly pull herself up, and then froze.
In the bleak night, a white figure appeared at the cleft’s entrance.
The man dressed in white shouldn’t be a ghost right?
She almost screamed.
At a time when she couldn’t be more frightened, the white figure spoke. His voice was sweet and light, and most importantly, it was very familiar: “Ah Rong?”
Wang Hong! Translated by the ham ster master.
Heaven, it’s really Wang Hong!
So this was what a man in despair would feel when he saw a ray of hope, when he found joy within his grief.
Her legs gave out as she slid to the ground, shakily asking: “Wang Hong?”
“It is I.” Translated by the ham ster master.
Wang Hong’s voice remained elegant and light. She didn’t need to look at him to know that he must be coming to her in his serene way, smiling as always.
Chen Rong’s eyes instantaneously turned red. She chokingly ran to him.
She ran desperately. In the blink of an eye, she had gotten before him. She was so astonished and overcome with emotions that she didn’t think of anything else. She just flew into his arms and clung onto him.
Hugging him tight, Chen Rong began to cry. “Why did it take you so long?” she tremulously said. Pausing to sob, she lightly beat his chest with her small fists before hoarsely crying again: “Why did it take you so long, why did it take you so long?”
All of her happiness, relief, and emotions had, at this moment, turned into streaming tears and one single line: “Why did it take you so long?”
Chen Rong hadn’t known that she was looking forward to his rescue this much…
At this time, Wang Hong stretched his arms and gently hugged her back.
His hug was as warm as it was strong. The arms that didn’t seem to be so wide turned out to be large and steady. They were the stronghold she had longed for, had missed, had gazed at from her confines, but had never dared to wish for herself.
Like someone who was clutching onto her lifeline, Chen Rong hugged him as though she was holding onto the warmth she had sought for far too long. She burried her face in the crook of his neck and, as she felt his warmth, burst into tears. “Wang Hong, Wang Hong, Wang Hong…” again and again, she sobbed.
Under the stars, Wang Hong seemed to be startled by her passionate calls. Some time later, his arms tightened around her.
Chen Rong dabbed her tears on his collar, her soft and fragrant lips occasional grazing his pulses as she sobbed. “Wang Hong, Wang Hong, Wang Hong……” Gradually, her sobbing reduced into stillness.
At this time, Wang Hong reached out to carry her.
He hadn’t appeared to be that strong, but he was holding her quite effortlessly.
He carried her forward two steps and gently deposited her in the carriage.
Chen Rong clutched his sleeve, murmuring: “Don’t go, don’t go… I beg you.”
“I won’t go,” he gently assured her. In the dark, his eyes gleamed as bright as the stars in the sky. Smiling down at her, he held out his hand to wipe her tears.
When his slender hand moved downward, intentionally or otherwise, its fingertips brushed across her lips. After making her shudder, he smilingly said, “You are here, where would I go?”
Chen Rong calmed down. She slowly let go of her grasp on his clothes.
Wang Hong also mounted the carriage.
She again clung onto him, ducking her face in his chest. Her arms wound around him, clearly still afraid he would leave her.
Wang Hong lifted her up and gently placed her on his lap. Then, he languidly leaned back against the seat.
Now hugging Chen Rong in a more comfortable position, Wang Hong’s fingers brushed across her cheek to wipe her tears. “There’s nothing to be afraid of anymore,” he murmured.
“Uhm,” Chen Rong hummed. She buried her face in his arms. “Now that you’re here, I’m not afraid.”
With her arms wrapped around his waist, she lay still in his embrace and felt the warmth emanating from his body. “I had thought I was done for.”
Wang Hong hummed. Translated by the ham ster master.
Like a chatterbox that had been opened, Chen Rong went on to talk: “There were nine of them. They had blocked my carriage. My carriage was stuck in the mud and wouldn’t budge no matter what. I had thought I was done for.” She sounded terrified.
Wang Hong stroked her hair, comforting: “Everything’s all right now.”
Both his action and words were simple, but they did enough to take away the panic from Chen Rong’s voice and she calmed down on the whole.
She hid in his arms, murmuring: “I even killed one of them! Wang Hong, I killed him with my own hands. I cracked the whip and broke his neck. He had bled so much that his blood was spraying onto me.”
Hoarsely, she described her killing in detail.
Wang Hong gently combed his fingers through her hair, lowered his head and very softly said, “Stop thinking about it. They deserved to die.”
Again, his simple words took the edge off of her.
“I’m glad you’re here,” she murmured as she was hugging him. “Qilang, I used to think there was no one who cared about me, loved me, or cherished me in this world… Qilang, I’m glad you’re here.”
Her voice drew long, and so did her affection.
Wang Hong gazed down. His extraordinarily starry eyes quietly watched the exhausted Chen Rong finally closing her eyes in ease.
Some time had passed when Chen Rong suddenly screamed and then hysterically yelled, “Old Shang. Qilang, you have to go save Old Shang!”
Wang Hong stroked her hair, softly shushing her: “Sleep, he’ll be fine.”
His tone and voice had a strange calming affect on Chen Rong.
She closed her eyes; light sonorous breathing slowly followed.
She had slipped into a slumber.
Under the stars, whistling cold wind blew through the curtain, insects chirped around them, and beasts roared from the top of the hills.
But none of it had anything to do with them.
It was as if spring had blossomed inside the carriage. He held her as she lay in his arms, their breaths mingling…
When the stars in the sky had become brighter, Chen Rong suddenly gave a start and widened her eyes screaming: “I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die… Old Shang! Old Shang!”
She looked around.
She saw Wang Hong quietly looking at her.
In the dark, his lucent eyes calmed Chen Rong down. She hid her face in his embrace, closed her eyes again, and went back to sleep.
Wang Hong reached out to stroke her long hair.
Combing his fingers through her tresses, he removed the pins and ornaments from her head.
Her long hair came spilling down, but she was still fast asleep.
He looked down at her lying on his chest, gingerly reaching out to touch her long eyelashes.
His fingers moved like a breeze, his eyes undulated like the waves.
Chen Rong roused to the sound of chirping.
Dreamily, she slowly opened her eyes.
A second, two seconds.
She blinked to clear her view.
Gradually, she sensed something strange underneath her body. She slowly tilted her head and looked up to see a remarkably handsome face only inches from her, his breathing grazing her face.
She instantaneously flushed.
She hurriedly propped herself up, wanting to sit.
Unfortunately, she felt prickling in her limbs as soon as she moved. It turned out she hadn’t changed position the entire night.
Chen Rong clenched her teeth, relaxed her limbs, and just moved her face away.
She again studied the handsome man she was lying on top of.
His eyes were closed and his breathing was faint. The dawn light revealed a few beads on frost on his silky, dark hair. On his shapely thin lips were also small beads of frost, sparkling on his stubble.
He was so radiant even in his sleep. It was as if pearls and moonlight were washing over his features, so that anyone who might give him a glance would be stunned and blinded, and be without time to enjoy the contour of his face.
Such was his handsomeness and matchless elegance.
Qilang of the Wang House in Lang’ya. Unparalleled among the most famous of them all.
And yet he had come in the middle of the night only to save her…
Chen Rong closed her eyes and crawled into his arms again.
Unconsciously, she was wreathed in smiles.
Only now did Chen Rong realize she had long been in love with him, admiringly so and deeply so… That was why when she saw him come for her, she had forgotten to ask about Old Shang. She didn’t even wonder whether he had come alone, or how he knew she was hiding in this place. Who had informed him? And what about that invitation.
When she saw him, she hadn’t the least bit of sensibility and sobriety left. She was just surprised and joyous that he had come to her rescue; she was just relieved, touched, happy, and filled with emotions…
As she thought of this, the overwhelming joy and happiness made Chen Rong, who had never experienced what it felt like to have her love returned, felt for the first time that the world could be so beautiful… How she wished time could stop – so happy was she, that she could die right there and then!
After daydreaming for a while, Chen Rong suddenly remembered that her hands and feet had fallen asleep, then what of Wang Hong who got slept on all night long?
Feeling bad, she quickly stretched her hand and endured the horrible prickling sensation to slowly move away.
Her strengthless hand caused her entire body to plop over on the side. Her shoulders crashed onto the shaft with a loud thud.
She endured the pain to rise halfway and looked toward Wang Hong. When she saw that his eyes were still closed, soundly asleep, she thought with relief: Fortunately I’ve not woken him.
She gritted her teeth, propped herself on the shaft using her other arm, and then slowly dismounted the carriage. Due to the excruciating pain, her soft white neck and forehead broke out in cold sweat.
Step by step, she struggled to walk to the front.
Chen Rong’s figure had just left the cleft when the sleeping Wang Hong opened his eyes. He slightly tilted his head and stared after her slowly moving figure before turning to her injured right shoulder.
When Chen Rong came back, she noticed his snow-white figure sitting inside the open carriage.
Upon hearing Chen Rong’s footsteps, he looked up and softly smiled.
And just like that, daylight dawned upon them, and the flowers cast their sweet perfume!
Unconsciously, Chen Rong also broke into a beatific smile. After she had bashfully stared at him, almost as a reflex, she hid her left hand that was holding a handful of wild fruits behind her.
After she had exchanged them behind her, she struggled to raise the fruits with her injured right hand and laughingly said, “Look, I’ve picked a bunch of wild fruits. These are edible; they smell heavenly, too. Do you want to try some?”
These fruits had apparently just been washed, drops of water still sparkling on their skin.
Wang Hong looked at Chen Rong and then slowly outstretched his right hand.
He was unhurried and elegant, but Chen Rong, whose mind was entirely on him, found that his movement appeared slightly stiff.
She walked up to him and hastily asked, “Is your arm numb?” She had slept on top of him and even her hands and feet were numb for a long time. What must he feel, then, having slept underneath her?
She stretched her uninjured left hand to him, but thought better of it and quickly switched for her right one.
Wang Hong was still smiling by the time he caressed her cheeks.
His touch swept across her face like a spring breeze.
Then, he quietly searched for her left hand and took it in his.
He looked down at the creamy hand in his palm. It was pretty and soft, and had small circular rings.
He turned to look at her index finger.
There, an inch-long cut was found. The bleeding had stopped though it was an open wound.
He slowly lowered his head.
He lowered his thin lips and gently pressed them onto her injured finger, causing her to tremble at his touch.
Wang Hong looked up.
He held her finger in his mouth, and, in the morning light, his lucent eyes were so absorbing that it made Chen Rong flustered.
The frost on his hair playfully fell onto his tall nose, another one even rolled down and sank into his lips…
Chen Rong’s face reddened.
She lowered her head and only lifted her eyes enough to timidly look at him, quietly saying: “D-don’t.”
Her voice was weak and so were her legs.
Wang Hong obediently moved his lips away.
A silvery ray drew from his departed lips to her fingertip, reflecting a myriad of colors.
Chen Rong’s legs went soft. She fell into his arms, murmuring, “Don’t, don’t…”
She didn’t know what she was trying to say.
All she knew was that Wang Hong was especially bewitching at this moment. He was especially flustering her and stirring her. His effect on her was so strong that a strange urge coursed in her loins.
Chen Rong had lived as a maiden in both lifetimes. All she really knew was that she was not herself right now. She seemed to want him to do something. She wished he would meld her into him, she wished… She didn’t dare to think more.
Wang Hong reached out to support her.
Tenderly, he looked down and concernedly asked, “Do you feel unwell, Ah Rong? Why is your face so red? Your body is feverish too.”
His eyes were too kind and caring! Translated by the ham ster master.
Though she had been a lady of boudoir confines, and had never been told of anything by anybody, she knew well enough what was causing her abnormal reaction.
Instantly, her face flushed from her ears to her neck.
She hastily turned and scooted away. Mortified with herself, she turned her back to him, lowered her head and said, “Aye, I’m feeling unwell. I might have caught a cold.”
She heard the sound of pouring liquid.
She turned her head in surprise.
She saw Wang Hong smiling – beads of frost adhering on his skin. With his head bowed, he was now filling two cups with wine.
His movements were graceful and his smile was elegant. They were the grace of the privileged and the elegance of one who did not know of life’s turmoils.
Chen Rong lifted her head and dazedly looked at him, startlingly finding that she was slowly falling deeper… If there was ever a love that could humble a woman to a speck of dust, then it was because she loved this man, she thought.
If loving Ran Min had made her feel hopeless, then loving this man was making her feel small.
Slowly, Chen Rong dropped her gaze and placed her hand on her chest.