Chapter 103: Who Sent the Gold Coffin?
The carriage slowly made its way outside.
Chen Rong felt, for some reason, that Wang Hong was driving very slowly. Did he perhaps know what she was thinking, and thus wanted to make this moment last a little longer?
At this thought, she wryly smiled and pulled the curtain down.
Quickly regretting her decision, however, she lifted one corner to maintain her view of his back.
Eventually, the carriage pulled onto the main road.
Yellow dust soared skyward along the road. Some time later, Chen Rong noticed that Wang Hong had only driven on it for about half an hour before turning onto a mountain trail.
Rippling streams and occasional bamboo groves lined their way. It being winter, dried weeds as tall as a man’s waist intertwined with vines and wrapped around the trees.
Mountainsides flanked the seemingly untraveled path where human dwellings could not be found.
Chen Rong poked her head out and asked in surprise: “Qilang, where are we?”
Wang Hong, who was lazily sitting on the driver’s seat, didn’t turn around. Even though the rolling carriage had dyed his robe yellow, he still looked as if he was dressed in finery at a Wang banquet.
With a smile, he carelessly flung the whip, saying: “It’s a small trail. There are few travelers who come through this area, and no pastures to speak of. The refugees don’t like it here.”
Chen Rong understood that he was telling her this road was safe.
“I’m familiar with all the small trails around here,” Wang Hong said just as she was about to ask him another question. He seemed to have known what she would ask, and went ahead with telling her.
Chen Rong found it hard to believe. She gave a start and then stared at his back.
Nevertheless, she didn’t question him. She knew both Ran Min and Wang Hong, being men of high standing, did not like their words to be questioned; neither did they like to explain themselves. Their words were final, as far as they were concerned.
Morrow wind leisurely came, rustling Wang Hong’s hair and stirring the curtain.
After half an hour, Wang Hong’s free hand began tapping on the wood panel as he sang: “My heart grows somber when I look to Luo’yang. For I recall the sunset over the western hills and my king who is no longer there. In his place is an abandoned grave amid the cawing of crows.”
His voice went paralyzed.
All of a sudden, he looked skyward and howled, his ringing voice traveling to the far distance.
As Chen Rong quizzically watched this unfamiliar Wang Hong, his long howl gradually turned into sobs…
Amid his sobs and Chen Rong’s bewilderment, a high singing voice rose from the distant mountainside. Hoarse and old, it sang bleakly: “He had once been a hero, now reduced to a mound; once dressed in finery, now a graveless heap of bones.”
He stopped singing at this juncture and also began to howl. This translation belongs to hamster428.wordpress.com
Chen Rong looked back to see a bearded woodcutter in his forties, with hands akimbo and head howling skyward. He stood three hundred paces away by the mountainside full of dead trees.
His bleak and stark howl rang long and far.
As she looked at the man, Chen Rong suddenly realized that he must be a recluse scholar.
As she reflected upon this thought, the woodcutter bent over to pick up his ax to cut the small tree in front of him while gruffly yelling: “Who is singing at the foothill? Everything was fine until you sang. Now I am full of grief!” The woodcutter was obviously conversant with music. His rather rhythmic cutting and shouts were perfectly coordinated.
Wang Hong went on flinging the whip and did not look up when he called out his answer: “Lang’ya Wang Qi.”
“Hahaha. Lang’ya Wang Qi? That’s an illustrious name you’ve got there.”
At this time, the carriage had pulled to within two hundred paces of him.
The woodcutter looked down and cried in surprise: “Alas, who sits inside that Wang Hong of Lang’ya has to bother himself to drive?”
Wang Hong smiled, telling Chen Rong: “Lift your curtain and let the elder see you.”
Chen Rong complied and lifted her curtain.
Due to embarrassment, her head remained bowed nevertheless.
The woodcutter paused and then suddenly laughed out loud. Apparently in a good mood, he threw his ax to the side, placed his hands on his hips and burst into delighted laughter.
After causing a string of echoes, he said, “Capital, capital. Good for you, son of the Wang House in Lang’ya who is willing to drive a woman around.”
After a while, he turned to Wang Hong and asked, “Your song just now was of varying lengths. Is it a new rhyme scheme?”
Wang Hong smiled and replied, “Nay. I had heard this lady of mine recite it last time and thought that the varying lengths are light and breezy, and have a good flow.”
The woodcutter continued to laugh.
He picked up his ax, turned and went into the deep mountain. Eventually, his laughter turned into sad chokes, their melancholy sounded like Heaven’s mourning in the rustling wind.
The carriage moved on and continued to drive forward.
Not only was the road Wang Hong picked remote, but it was also a short cut. In less than two hours, the city walls of Nan’yang appeared before Chen Rong’s eyes.
She looked at the tall wall and the distant silhouettes where people had amassed outside the city. Had the refugees gathered to make trouble?
At this thought, Chen Rong looked to the front at Wang Hong.
He was still leisurely flinging the whip. His dusty robe was fluttering in the wind and his dark hair also flying. Even so, he was astonishingly beautiful from her vantage point in the back.
Before long, their carriage had arrived outside the city.
A sea of people had amassed here. In the center of the throng were quarreling noblemen who were encircled by armed soldiers.
These soldiers were clad in gleaming brass armor; in their hands were long polearms. At least 5000 of them were surrounding the nobles.
They were the prince’s guards. This translation belongs to hamster428.wordpress.com
“What’s happening?!” Chen Rong couldn’t help herself from exclaiming.
But the crowd was too occupied with the clamor and none could answer her.
At this point, a young scholar among the nobles raised his voice: “What does the Prince of Nan’yang mean by doing this? Last time, he had prevented us from leaving the city. This time, he is even blocking the Wang House in Lang’ya. Does he really think that nobody in this world can subdue a prefectural prince like him?”
His voice had turned sour and he was practically thundering by the end of his speech.
Someone from the Wang House in Lang’ya wanted to go out?
Chen Rong whipped around to look at Wang Hong.
What she saw was still his nonchalant back.
Once the young scholar stopped, a general took his turn to sneer: “It’s true that the Wang House in Lang’ya is an exalted family. But now that Lang’ya Wang Qi has provoked Murong Ke, don’t think that you can soundlessly push all the troubles onto Nan’yang and leave by yourselves!”
At this juncture, he took a step back, waved his right hand and shouted, “Stop them, not a soul may pass!”
The young scholar laughed in indignation before shouting back: “Open your dog eyes and see for yourself whether Lang’ya Wang Qi is even here!”
Needless to say, the general had known that Wang Hong wasn’t in the crowd. But he didn’t care; he held his head high, raised the badge in his hand and ordered: “I have His Highness’s decree! I don’t care whether Wang Qi is here or not, none of the carriages belonging to the Wang House in Lang’ya may leave!”
Wang Hong was understandably puzzled to hear this. He waved his hand and beckoned a young servant boy over.
The boy had been standing among a dozen refugees, his clothes looking the neatest. He was watching the commotion with great enjoyment when he turned his head and saw a waving Wang Hong. He did not immediately recognize who it was. Dumbfounded by his radiance, he unblinkingly stared at Wang Hong in curiosity and admiration before sprinting over.
Wang Hong pointed to the crowd three hundred paces from them and smilingly asked, “Young lad, do you know what is going on?”
“Aye aye, of course I do,” he said loud and clear. “Last night, two hundred barbarians suddenly appeared outside the city with a gold coffin. They shouted in, saying that their general admires Lang’ya Wang Qi’s talents and has been wanting to befriend him. He was very sad when Wang Lang left Mo’yang without saying goodbye. Now learning that he’s in Nan’yang, he specially presents a gold coffin and wishes to see Wang Lang once more.”
The boy was articulate, with a clear voice and a good memory. His recount had been said in one breath up to this point, when he had to gasp for breath before continuing. “The barbarians also said that General Murong had prepared burial clothes for Wang Lang. They are luxurious and took great efforts to make. They hope Wang Lang will not reject their gifts. After saying this, the barbarians laid the gold coffin down and promptly left.”
This time, both Chen Rong and Wang Hong understood what had happened.
Wang Hong smiled.
His beautiful smile blinded the boy such that he could only stare in a stupor.
Wang Hong chuckled and lightly said, “So this morning, the Prince of Nan’yang woke up to find that there were people from the Wang House in Lang’ya who wanted to leave?”
“Precisely so, precisely so.” Disappointment showed on the boy’s juvenile face. But in an instant, his eyes lit up, full of confidence: “Everybody says the Wang House in Lang’ya would never run away from a fight like this. The ones who left only did so to seek reinforcement from Jiankang. As for Wang Qilang, more than half of the Wang family’s forces will stay behind in Nan’yang. Someone else says that since Murong Ke wants Qilang, if Qilang leaves Nan’yang, Murong Ke will no longer be interested in the city. The Prince of Nan’yang is therefore short-sighted for not letting them leave.”
Wang Hong smiled and said his thanks. After letting the boy go, he raised his head and unhurriedly looked at the crowd.
Then, he leaned back toward Chen Rong and called, “Ah Rong.”
“If you want to leave Nan’yang, then you best go within the next two days. I’ll have everything arranged.”
Chen Rong didn’t expect that, after learning the news, his first thought was to get her safely out of Nan’yang.
She watched him, her cheeks aglow, gratefulness and adoration evident in her eyes.