Chapter 108: Getting Along This Time
Ran Min slapped his right hand and burst out laughing.
He laughed until tears almost came out before he would stop.
He tilted his head, not minding the stray hair falling over his face.
Ran Min smiled at Chen Rong saying: “Missy, you’ve quite the gall.” He paused before adding: “And quite the ruthless heart!”
Chen Rong did not answer him. She merely kept her head bowed and her lips pressed together as her tears trickled down.
Ran Min laughed when he saw her appearance: “Hah, you’re ruthlessly scheming against other people yet you’re putting on this grievous look. I’m seeing you in a new light, young miss.”
Chen Rong still wouldn’t raise her head although her face was growing paler and paler.
Ran Min lifted his wine and threw his head back for a swig. When he next placed the cup down, he said, “It’s a deal.”
Only now did Chen Rong look up at him. There were accusation and grievance in her eyes, as if she was miffed that he had called her ruthless.
She lowered her head again to accord Ran Min ceremony before walking back to her seat and slowly sitting down.
Ran Min laced his palms together as he shouted, “One of you come in here.”
An advisor came in.
Ran Min turned his gaze to Chen Rong and ordered: “Tell him where that route is.”
Chen Rong rose, dropped to another curtsy, and described the route in detail while the advisor laid out his paper.
Although the route was from her previous life’s memory, she had thought long and hard about it on the way here and tried to remember it as best as she could, repeating it over and over in her mind. Her description was thus very articulate and clear.
In just moments, the advisor put away the silk parchment and said to Ran Min: “I have it down.”
Ran Min nodded and then waved his hand to dismiss him.
Footsteps were heard outside at this time.
“General, it’s time,” a soldier called in.
Chen Rong at once curtsied and dismissed herself.
After she was gone, an advisor walked in and, looking at Ran Min, smilingly said, “You should have seized the opportunity to be more affectionate to the young lady, general.”
Ran Min stood up to let the soldiers help him put his armor on. His face was cold at this time, reticent before saying: “She’s very normal around me this time.” His words made those in the tent break out in laughter. Ran Min did not join them; he thoughtfully turned to look in the direction Chen Rong had gone and said, “Her temperament is just like mine.”
His advisor laughed: “Like yours, general? I find that difficult to believe.” The nobility of this era was a mild breed, and it was funny to hear a fiercesome Ran Min say a noblewoman was his parallel.
Nurse Ping was waiting for Chen Rong when she stepped out. She had been at Chen Rong’s side, but when Chen Rong and Ran Min began talking, Ran Min had waved his hand to dismiss her. Because Chen Rong didn’t want to reveal the scheme against her elders, she did not stop her from leaving.
She stepped up to greet her mistress and, after taking a careful look at her, couldn’t stop herself from asking: “Miss, how are things?” Her eyes were filled with hope.
Chen Rong smiled at her. “Very good.”
Overjoyed, Nurse Ping lowered her voice: “Then, did he mention anything about marriage?”
Chen Rong shook her head and distractedly looked at the tents ahead. Moments ago, she had thought Ran Min would be disappointed with how selfish and cruel she was, and would not be interested in her anymore – even then, she didn’t care, she must exact her revenge!
Unexpectedly, Ran Min had agreed and even laughed at her request. She had tried and tried to put her best foot forward in the past yet she had always been cast aside. Why was she receiving his appreciation now that she was showing her true self and no longer needing it?
Chen Rong couldn’t find an answer to this question, or did she want to. She strode to the front as she shook her head.
Nurse Ping followed behind. In a few steps, she again asked, “Miss, did the general say anything else? Such as your uncle’s matter? Also, did you let him know that the clan no longer objects to your marrying him?”
Chen Rong didn’t bother turning her head when she lightly said, “Do you think someone like Ran Min would care about what the clan thinks?”
The nurse was thus silenced.
Chen Rong had gotten to her tent. She bent down and went in.
This translation belongs to hamster428.wordpress.com
Four days passed in the blink of an eye.
At noon on one day, Nurse Ping hurried after Chen Rong when she saw her step out. “Miss.” She glanced at the tent and whispered, “What did General Ran say?”
Just now, Ran Min had called Chen Rong to his tent again and told her nurse to leave.
Yet again, Chen Rong shook her head and softly replied, “He did not speak to me.”
“Ah? But why not?”
Chen Rong blankly smiled. “He’s too busy.”
Nurse Ping could see this, too. “Then what did he call you for?”
Chen Rong again shook her head.
She was just sitting next to him and watching him give orders to his subordinates. From beginning to end, he hadn’t had any time to spare her.
Odd, did Ran Min call her to his tent just so she could watch him work?
In the midst of Chen Rong’s puzzlement, she was called to Ran Min’s tent again in the evening.
Docilely sitting in a corner, she watched the fluttering curtain in front of her and recalled that there had been none at noon.
She looked at it for a while until she saw the last advisor leave and only Ran Min was left. “General.”
Ran Min was flipping through his silk manuscripts and didn’t bother raising his head: “Get to the point.”
Chen Rong knew his personality well enough to quickly say: “I don’t know why you’ve called me here, and even placed a screen in front of me like this.”
Ran Min still didn’t look up. He matter-of-factly told her, “People come and go in my tent, the screen will keep them from getting distracted.”
Chen Rong bit her lips and then stammered after a good while: “Then what have you… summoned me for, general?”
He placed his brush aside, leaned back, massaged his temples and tiredly said, “I can’t call for you without a reason?”
Chen Rong’s mouth gaped as she thought in befuddlement: If you don’t have any reason to, then of course you can’t call for me. Knowing Ran Min, however, he would be irritable when he was tired, so she didn’t ask anymore.
At this time, two soldiers welcomed in a thin and feeble scholar of about 30 to 40 years old.
He was sweating profusely, his face was smeared in dust, and his lips were chapped and dry.
He sat down and then amenably placed his hands in front of him, quietly waiting for Ran Min to speak.
Ran Min raised his head.
He glanced at the wine in front of the scholar, then looked down and continued to write something onto the silk parchment.
Seeing that he was unspeaking, the intimidated scholar sweated even more profusely. He licked his chapped lips and didn’t dare to make a slightest movement.
Hunched over the desk and swiftly writing, Ran Min soon finished a paragraph. He placed the brush down and looked up, at which point his brow furrowed into a glower.
The scholar broke into cold sweat and shrank back, almost dropping to his knees.
Chen Rong’s voice sounded at this time: “My good sir, why don’t you have a drink if your mouth is dry? Why don’t you wipe your face if your are perspiring?”
The scholar halted, realizing that Ran Min was annoyed at him for this. He awkwardly lifted the wine for a drink, wiped his sweat, and lastly sat back down.
Chen Rong shook her head and again said, “If you have something to report, then do say it, sir. General Ran is a busy man; he can’t ask you everything first.”
“Aye, aye, aye.”
The scholar finally realized why the general seemed to fume every time he came.
He got up, placed his palms together, and said to Ran Min, “General, we’ve taken twenty grain carriages from the Prince of Nan’yang, along with a hundred carriages of fine silk. The records are here.” He then took a piece of parchment out from his lapel.
Ran Min didn’t take it, waving to the back: “Give it to her.”
The scholar did as told and walked over to Chen Rong.
Chen Rong was too stunned to speak. Some time later, she wryly smiled and received the paper from the scholar’s hand, reading the information on it.
Afterwards, Ran Min waved his hand to dismiss the scholar.
Before she knew it, only Ran Min and her were left in the tent.
In the midst of rustling brushwork, Ran Min suddenly asked, “Missy, now do you know why I’ve called you here?”
Chen Rong looked at him.
“Aye,” she managed after a while.
Ran Min was apparently in a very good mood. He laughed and affably said, “Out of all whom I’ve met, there has never been one who knows me as well as you do.”
Chen Rong’s heart pounded to hear this. Her hands wrung under her sleeves despite herself. Why is he saying this all of a sudden? Would he mention the marriage again? If he does, should I agree?
Her mind was in a tumult, but Ran Min did not add anything thereafter.
He was still writing away at his desk.
At length, he ordered without looking up: “If you have nothing to do then organize the silk manuscripts and military orders for me.”
“Pardon?” Chen Rong startlingly cried.
She looked around with a weak smile. They were the only ones in the tent, if he wasn’t talking to her who else was he talking to?
Never mind. Perhaps she would have to spend the rest of her life with him, better to start pleasing him now.
At this thought, Chen Rong finally got up and walked over to Ran Min. She bent down to move the silk manuscripts and the military orders to her table, then took out another set of stationery and began to scribble away as well.
It wasn’t long before an advisor walked in, took a book from his lapels and said, “General, things are going well. We’ve succeeded in preventing a food cavalcade from reaching Nan’yang.” He clucked his tongue and said in great delight: “There’s really tons of food, about 40 carriages, I would say! From our questioning, the fleet had indeed been used by Chen Yuan and the Ruan House in Nan’yang to secretly transport goods. Haha, it’s the main route they use to transport their wealth and we’ve captured the entire group. Those in Nan’yang won’t know they’ve lost their shipments for another ten days or so. Because of our arrangements, they will think it’s the work of the barbarians from Mo’yang. They also won’t know that the route had been revealed, and will keep transporting more goods through there.”
He laughed at this juncture: “General, we’ve hit a gold mine.”
Ran Min lightly smiled. He seemed to know Chen Rong was anxious, and thus waved his hand to shush and shoo away the enthusiastic advisor.
For this reason, the moon was already hanging overhead by the time Chen Rong left.
Nurse Ping walked up to her. When she saw Chen Rong massaging her own arms, looking exhausted, she couldn’t help but ask: “Miss, are you all right?”
Chen Rong glanced at her and tiredly said, “I can’t believe how much work he has. I spent an hour only to get a fraction of it done.”
Nurse Ping gaped in surprise. “What are you talking about?”
Chen Rong impatiently replied, “Nothing, I was just helping him organize his documents for an hour. Whenever his staff came to report to him, I would remind them to not dither lest they irritate Ran Min.”
Eh? Nurse Ping was completely dumbfounded.
She stood there on the spot and only awoke from her trance after a while. Seeing that Chen Rong had left, she hurried after her and asked, “Miss, did you ask him about the food supply? Your uncle is still waiting for an answer.”
At Nurse Ping’s hopeful look, Chen Rong lightly shook her head.
This time, her nurse was about to cry from panic. She quavered: “Then what are we going to do? What is still left of your reputation if we keep delaying another day?”
Chen Rong didn’t turn around and just kept striding ahead. She hadn’t had any reputation to speak of anyway. In any case, if she were to return to Nan’yang, she was worried Chen Yuan and Lady Ruan would kill her when they didn’t see the grains. Or they would unconcernedly give her to another man.
Chen Rong couldn’t see the road ahead anymore and she no longer knew how to go on. Wait just a while, just a while longer, in a few days perhaps something would happen for the better…
Early next morning, Chen Rong was awakened by a spate of noises.
She got out of bed, listened to the continuous neighing and human voices outside, as well as the sound of moving objects. All kind of sounds filled the camp ground.
“What’s with the ruckus?” Nurse Ping sleepily wondered.
Chen Rong didn’t reply. She turned and faced the people outside to ask: “What’s happening?”
At once, a soldier loudly replied, “We’re setting off.”
What? Setting off?
Chen Rong stepped onto the ground. She then remembered she hadn’t had a chance to wash her face and said to Nurse Ping, “Quickly, help me wash up.”
“Aye, aye.” Nurse Ping frantically went to her.
After a frenzied spell, Chen Rong finished washing and hastily put on her veiled hat to head to Ran Min’s tent.
When she arrived, there were about 30 to 40 captains standing outside of his tent, lined in two rows as they listened to his commands.
Given the situation, Chen Rong could only stop and wait.
Before long, the captains mounted their horses and left.
As Ran Min turned to go inside, she quickly chased after him.
This translation belongs to hamster428.wordpress.com
By the time she got to him, Ran Min was being helped into his armor. The heavy black metal pieces one by one draped over him, the metal clinking together to create a deadly chill.
Chen Rong strode to stand before Ran Min. She cast him a quick glance only to bow her head afterwards. Ran Min had been imposing to begin with. Now with his armor and helmet, his blood lust was suffocating her in a truly terrifying way.
She bit her lips, and then raised her head and angrily questioned him: “General Ran, what is the meaning of this? Why didn’t you tell me your army would be setting off?” She even took her veiled hat off to show him how angry she was.
Ran Min lifted his chin to let the soldier tie his helmet. Hearing Chen Rong’s accusations, he gave her a glance and lazily answered: “Why should I tell you?”
Chen Rong had been intimidated by his aura, but his answer had fanned that nameless fire anew. She clenched her teeth, took a deep breath, and fumed: “General, don’t forget that aside from your soldiers, you still have a young girl as your guest!”
At her words, Ran Min curved his thin lips into a ringing laugh.
He quietly regarded Chen Rong. Seeing her face growing red and anger rising in her eyes, he stopped smiling and said, “Nan’yang is now a troublesome place, you’ve also offended your clan, why would you still go back there?”
He hadn’t finished by the time Chen Rong bristled: “That’s my own business!”
Ran Min laughed again. He turned his back, spread his arms so that the soldiers could begin helping him wear the backplate and put on his cloak.
After a long time, Chen Rong still didn’t hear him speak.
She made a turn and dashed before him again. “General, you still haven’t answered me,” she growled with a glare.
Ran Min lazily glanced at her, wanting to laugh when he saw her glaring at him.
He soon finished dressing, upon which he turned and stepped outside.
He still did not speak.
Seeing the guard lead his horse to him, Ran Min strode off and left Chen Rong to chase after him while shouting: “Ran Min!” All of a sudden, he bent down to lift her elbow and gently placed her in front of him on the saddle.
After taking a stockstill Chen Rong, as fast as lightning, he stretched his left hand to take hold of her waist.
Afterwards, he said with a smile, “Haven’t you ignored the world’s censure and come all the way here to be with me? That being the case, why would you go back to Nan’yang?”
He kicked the horse’s girth to send it galloping away.
The ride caused his hard armor to scrape against her delicate skin.
Ran Min’s left arm obliviously tightened around the girl who sat in front of him. He bowed his head and breathed into her ear: “As for your reputation, you don’t need to worry. When the time comes, I will officially marry you. Haha, Zhuo Wenjun and Sima Xiangru’s elopement has become quite a legend. With their story as precedence, then have you not also eloped with me out of ‘gratitude’, Ah Rong? Just think that we are eloping right now.”
At this juncture, Ran Min laughed when he saw Chen Rong growing completely still. He gave a kick, causing the horse to rear and shoot forward. The whistling wind from both sides brought pain to her eardrums.
Ran Min’s breastplate was still scraping against her back, smarting her each time.
She kept her head down, nonetheless.
She tightly shut her eyes.
“General Ran,” she rasped at length, “my guardians may not be here, but I’m still a noblewoman. Please let me down so I can follow along by carriage.” Those last words “follow along” was rather ambiguous.
Ran Min paused.
And then quickly enough broke into a low laughter. “Missy, have you accepted my proposal?”
“Ah right,” he said to himself, “you can only marry me now. The nobles with their tedious rules won’t want to marry you.”
Chen Rong’s smile stiffened at his words. “Even in the past,” she faintly said, “none of the nobles had wanted to marry me.” As for the ethereal Wang Qilang, he would never marry her either.
She shut her eyes to blink her tears away. Biting her lips, she said in seriousness, “General Ran, please let me down. I beg you to let me sit in a carriage!”
She was insistent about it.
Listening to her unusually serious tone, Ran Min laughed out loud and slowed down. Then he let her on the ground.
After letting go of her, he maintained his stooping posture as he fixedly stared at her. “Ah Rong of the Chen House, are you really in love with that fella Wang Qilang?”
Chen Rong looked up at him.
In her large, bright eyes were struggle and hesitancy…
At long last, she faced him and solemnly replied, “Aye.”
When she spoke, her eyes did not stray from his face and the expression on it.
The smile on Ran Min’s handsome face froze at once.
He gave a holler and brought his stallion to a stop.
Then he dismounted and lowered his head to regard Chen Rong. Suddenly, he reached out to take her chin. Fury was brewing in his inky eyes.
His lips drew into a tight line, his voice was also grave and chilly. “Since when?”
Murderous intent circled over his handsome face. “Tell me, since when?!”
At first, Chen Rong had regretted her words the moment she said them. She hated herself for being so stupid – how could she have given him such an answer? She hated herself for ruining her own future – since she had made up her mind to marry him, she should’ve buried everything about Wang Hong, bury them till she was gray and old, till she lay six feet under!
And yet, she knew the hatred from her previous life was too strong, such that it was always lurking inside of her. And thus when she saw him so arrogantly thinking that he could control everything, she suddenly had an impulsive desire to shatter it all! She wanted to see the look on his face at this moment even if it meant throwing this life of hers away.
Chapter 109: Perfectly Frank
Well, she got to see it now.
She got to see his fury and she got to see his hatred!
Chen Rong lifted her head to look straight at him… both the joy and ironic pain of this moment brought tears to her eyes.
The angry Ran Min hadn’t expected Chen Rong to shed tears due to his questioning.
He loosened his grip on her chin, anger receding from his eyes, as he quizzically asked, “Why are you crying?”
Chen Rong dropped her gaze, blinked, and then hoarsely laughed. “I just didn’t expect you to be this furious.”
She glanced sideways at him. “Can you let me know why you are so angry, general?”
Her eyes were welling with tears, but when they moved, their inherent allure bewitched him so.
Caught off guard, Ran Min unconsciously moved his hand away and gently used his thumb to stroke her rosy lips. “Answer me, why are you crying?”
He spoke with a finality though his voice was gentle. It was clearly a command.
Chen Rong blinked her wet long lashes and slowly looked down.
She didn’t give him an answer.
Her subconsciousness wanted to continue riling him, but her rationality was telling her not to do so. And thus she decided to keep quiet.
Ran Min’s lips drew tighter, his brow furrowed angrily.
Just then, a loud holler called out: “General? Why aren’t you going?”
Ran Min whipped around and violently shouted, “Shut up! Go on ahead!”
He was so irritable that his soldiers all shrank away. “Aye, aye, sir,” replied the man as he trotted off.
Ran Min turned back to Chen Rong.
Coldly, he issued a low bark: “Ah Rong of the Chen House, you should know that I’m never one to be patient!”
This was his warning.
Chen Rong pursed her lips. She looked at him and said in her crystalline voice, “Yes, I am now in love with Wang Qilang. And yes, the one I used to love was you – very much so.”
After articulating each word to him, she slowly smiled a smile that was both ironic and liberating. “Even now, I’m not entirely indifferent to you, but the one I love the most is already him.”
She quietly watched Ran Min, but also past him to where the vast mountains stood as she murmured: “A human life is no different from a blade of grass. We never know when the wind will carry us to a rain puddle where we have no way to preserve our lives. You know, for some reason, it makes me happy to discover that I don’t like you as much as I had thought I did. Even now, I am happy to be saying these words.”
Even if this happiness was as ephemeral as a night-blooming cereus, even if she would have to bear all the terrible consequences only seconds from now, she was fine with it… after all, it was a joy she had waited too long for.
Ran Min unblinkingly stared at her.
“How have I offended you?” he suddenly asked her again. “When did you fall in love with me?” he added after a brief pause.
Chen Rong shook her head and withdrew her gaze, offering him a wooden smile and an obscure answer: “I can’t say.”
Ran Min hollowly laughed.
After laughing twice, he turned and strode away.
As he walked, his fiery horse automatically followed him.
Chen Rong, too, hurried after them.
“Since you are so strong willed, why do you still want to come with me?” scoffed Ran Min.
Clad in a golden armor, his tall and great stature appeared all at once unworldly, majestic and grave.
Chen Rong glanced at his side profile and softly replied, “Besides following you, I have nowhere to go.”
Ran Min seemed to have been provoked. Almost abruptly, he throated an audible growl.
After he ceased to roar, he jumped onto his horse and dashed away.
What kind of horse did he have? How extraordinary was his riding? In a flash the arrogant golden figure and his horse had pulled into the distance, leaving only dust swirling in the air.
Chen Rong hung her head.
She dragged her feet and went on. A constant stream of soldiers continuously passed her, sending smoke skyward. Their hooves were still rumbling by her ears after they had disappeared from her sight…
At length, she suddenly found that there was no one left around her.
No men, no horses, no dust, no sound.
She was the only one walking in the vast expanse.
Chen Rong slowed to a stop.
She titled her head to gaze at the sunset in the west where she saw their dense shadows. They were definitely gone, alright.
She turned around at the cleft where abandoned pots and pans were strewn all over. Not long ago, this place was still bustling with the troops and their horses.
She didn’t even know where Nurse Ping had gone in this emptiness.
Chen Rong looked around, wrapped her arms around herself, and continued to drag herself toward the sunlight in the west, which was also toward the direction the army had gone to.
Eventually, the setting sun went down.
Eventually, the last ray of light also faded from the horizon where heaven and earth met.
Eventually, stars filled the sky and out came the crescent moon.
The earth was wide and heaven was vast.
Chen Rong trekked on.
Time did not stop.
Gradually, there remained only the stars and the moon.
Neighing and voices sounded from the far distance, but they were so far away that Chen Rong didn’t know whether they were real or whether they were her hallucinations.
At this time, she felt a sharp pain under her soles. She knelt down to take her shoes off. After taking a look at her blistered feet, she put her shoes on again and faintly smiled. Unknowingly, she had walked for an entire day…
A night wind blew past and brought along a bone-deep chill though it had been sunny during the day.
Chen Rong wrapped her arms tighter around herself and shrank her neck into her collar.
She slowly looked up but did not otherwise make a move.
In her purview, at the end of the road, a tall horse was carrying a stalwart man galloping toward her.
In the watery starlight, the rider and his horse appeared as though they were coming from the far end of the earth, and from another time.
Chen Rong rubbed her eyes.
He eventually reached her.
His electrifying eyes fixed upon her under the stars. At last, he slightly bent down, offered his hand and ordered: “Up!”
Seeing Chen Rong still rubbing her eyes, her beautiful face now besmirched with dirt and tears, his voice softened despite himself: “Do I have to repeat myself? Up!”
Chen Rong finally broke from her trance. She hurriedly took his hand.
He pulled her up and deposited her onto the saddle.
He stretched his right hand around her waist, kicked the horse’s girth, and dashed forward.
In the midst of clopping hooves, the chorus made by his hard armor and her fluttering dress as well as the heavy breathing of the man behind her all occupied Chen Rong’s ears.
All of a sudden, she burst into tears.
The flood gate broke too frantically and too fast. Chen Rong wanted to wipe her tears as soon as she understood what was happening but they came out even more violently.
All she could do was hide behind her sleeves and cry.
Her sobs minglef with the clopping hooves and whistling wind, unceasingly it seemed…
“Enough!” Ran Min impatiently snapped. He suceeded in startling Chen Rong who quickly stopped.
From behind, he brusquely said to her, “If you miss Wang Qilang so much, then why don’t you ask to be his concubine and go to him?”
He thought she was crying her heart out because she was missing Wang Hong.
Chen Rong bit her lips. She did not turn around, merely crying indignantly: “I’m just a girl. You left me for an entire day, a-and didn’t come back until now… You treated me so awfully but you won’t even let me cry?”
Ran Min didn’t expect her to cry so disconsolately for such a reason. He stopped in his tracks and felt like laughing out loud.
After having blurted out her grievances, Chen Rong thought of her previous life when she had died in the flames. This man had unhesitatingly walked away at the time… Why, then, did she feel aggrieved when he left her for just half a day now? Why would she even cry over a heartless man’s heartlessness?
At this thought, Chen Rong felt a pang in her heart. It wrung her and pricked her. She hastened to hide her face behind her sleeves and sat still.
Behind her, Ran Min harrumphed to see her so. “You can be quite daft, missy. When you said what you said, you should’ve expected it to end our relationship.” Whatever he may be thinking, he gave a sigh, his arms also tightening around Chen Rong.
Under the starlight, all was quiet.
She wasn’t sure how much time had passed before Ran Min murmured, “Ah Rong of the Chen House.”
“Forget Wang Qilang.”
Chen Rong froze at his words.
He told her to forget Wang Qilang! He actually told her to forget Wang Qilang!
Did he still want her even though she plainly said she didn’t care a whit for him?