Chapter 125: Metamorphosis
Ran Min hurried back.
When he arrived at the main road, he subconsciously turned his head and glanced toward the bloody figure.
However, all he could see was a slowly moving cavalcade.
Several carriages in the front were marked with the Chen House’s emblem; they were heading in Chen Rong’s direction.
In fact, everyone’s attention on the main road was presently attracted by the cavalcade, each turning to look.
Chen Rong was staring at the ground. One day and night only amounted to a dozen short hours, but for her, she had gone several times to hell and back.
At this moment, she turned around looking for her mount. She had taken it from Wang Hong’s residence, and the whip she had used to kill the enemies was just an ordinary whip she wasn’t used to handling.
She kept her head down as she quietly walked to the horse. At length, she felt something unusual.
Chen Rong’s foggy mind slowly returned. She turned around to look.
It was then that she came to face with a cavalcade composed of a dozen carriages.
The foremost carriage was marked with the Chen emblem. The Chen estate?
She slightly tilted her head.
Someone noticed her and at once whistled for the carriages to stop.
Chen Yuan was the first to jump down. When she saw him, Chen Rong’s mouth curved into a smile while her grip tightened around the whip.
At this point, another man had also jumped down from a carriage in front of Chen Yuan. He was Chen Gongrang.
Next came Yu Zhi and Huan Jiulang.
It finally dawned on Chen Rong why so many people were staring. It turned out these carriages were filled with scholars.
Chen Yuan appeared to rejoice at the sight of Chen Rong. But as he made for her, Chen Gongrang made a disapproving sound from behind which made him stop and step to the side.
Chen Gongrang walked past him to Chen Rong.
As he approached her, he gave note to her blood-dyed state. He took two more steps before stopping to look at her and say: “How frightened you must be, child.”
His voice was kind.
Chen Rong blankly looked up at Chen Gongrang.
Seeing such a Chen Rong, his eyes unknowingly reddened as he said to her, “Ah Rong, come, return with me.”
Chen Rong remained bewildered. She tilted her head to look at him.
Watching her, Chen Gongrang gently brushed the blood on her shoulder and said, “You forget, child. You are a Chen. Come, let’s go home with your uncle.”
“Go home?” Chen Rong blinked and murmured, “I have a home?”
Chen Gongrang sighed. He turned and softly said, “Silly child, let’s go.”
Chen Rong did not move.
Chen Gongrang had no choice but to turn around again.
At this time, Yu Zhi had dismounted his carriage and was striding towards Chen Rong while loudly speaking: “There are no real men in the entire city! It is the lass Ah Rong who makes me feel inferior.”
Walking next to him was the thin and delicate Huan Jiulang. He looked at Chen Rong and eloquently spoke, “Little lady, go home with your uncle. Last time, you had fearlessly went to Mo’yang even while knowing it was surrounded by the barbarians. This time, all the men in the city have been outshone by you. Return with your uncle. When we arrive in Jiankang, we will ask the court to grant you a title.”
Huan Jiulang came forth from the crowd.
He unhurriedly walked to Chen Rong.
Seeing him approach, Yu Zhi and Chen Gongrang stepped aside and began conversing with each other.
Huan Jiulang leaned closer to Chen Rong and softly said, “Ah Rong, I don’t know why you suddenly appeared on the battlefield, nor do I know why you are wandering outside even after we have won. We’ve come to bring you home.”
The eyes with which he was looking at Chen Rong contained both pity and admiration in them. “In two days we will be going to Jiankang,” he gently told her. “You’ve helped raise morale in Nan’yang. Although a girl, you have much more courage than the men. Your action is something both the Chen House and the royal court will appreciate. Let’s go, this is your chance.”
His young, clear eyes were perspicacious. This thin and frail Huan Jiulang had always been sharp.
Chen Rong looked at him.
Her dry cracked lips twitched to hoarsely ask: “This is my chance?”
“Aye.” Huan Jiulang looked at her with a warning: “Once we’re in Jiankang, you can seek an audience with His Majesty and make your request… but no matter who asks you, you must only answer you had wanted to bolster our army’s morale.”
Light slowly entered Chen Rong’s eyes. “This is my chance,” she murmured.
“This is my chance.”
After repeating these words a few more times, luster was restored to her eyes. She quietly watched Huan Jiulang and then dropped into a curtsy. Then she went to Chen Gongrang.
Seeing her walk to him, Chen Gongrang quickly stepped forth and kindly said, “Child, you have suffered.”
Chen Rong lowered her head with a curtsy. “I’m sorry to have worried you, uncle.”
Chen Gongrang shook his head. “Nay nay, it was my mistake. Don’t be afraid. You’ll be my ward from this day forth. Chen Yuan’s family will no longer have ties with you. When we reach Jiankang, you can stay with me if you don’t want to stay with your father and brother.”
“Thank you, uncle.”
“All right all right, get in the carriage.”
Chen Rong turned around and slowly walked to the carriage.
After only one step, however, her legs gave out and her body threatened to slump down. As she was about to fall, she quickly braced her whip on the ground.
She had apparently supported herself, but she looked to be paralyzed. She tried several times, but could not stand up no matter what.
Chen Gongrang hurriedly called, “Quick, help your mistress.”
Two servant girls jumped down from the carriage and rushed to Chen Rong. They held her on either side and helped her over.
Once Chen Rong mounted the vehicle, the scholars had also gotten back inside their own rides. Amid shouts and hollers, the cavalcade made its way back to Nan’yang.
Ran Min gave them another glance and then rushed towards the city.
In no time at all, he had stormed into the north gate. Once inside, he pointed his halberd and savagely shouted, “Where is Wang Hong?!”
The north gate’s garrison had never seen such a Ran Min. They paled and looked at one another. One came forward and raised his clasped hands to Ran Min. “My master has left the city from the west gate. He is going back to Jiankang.”
“The west gate?”
Ran min sneered, turned his horse around, and yet again madly rode away. In the twinkling of an eye, only a speck of dust was left.
Looking at him riding to the west, a Wang guard nervously asked, “Could General Ran want to harm our master?”
The guard who had replied Ran Min murmured, “Seeing how murderous he looks, I’m certain he means harm to the master. Quick, go and tell them to urge His Lordship on the road as soon as possible. Remember, you can’t leave from the west gate.”
The other hurried away.
This translation belongs to hamster428
The carriage steadily took Chen Rong back to the Chen estate.
It didn’t go into her old courtyard, but toward another magnificently decorated residence on the east side.
Almost as soon as Chen Rong stepped down, her servants went up to surround her. Old Shang rushed to her and burst out in tears.
Chen Rong looked at the wailing man and tiredly asked, “Where’s Nurse Ping?”
While Old Shang was still crying, another servant quickly replied, “Did you forget miss? She went away with you.”
Nurse Ping had not come back, but if she was still with Ran Min then there was no cause for concern… even if she was in danger, death was the worst one could expect.
And honestly speaking, death was perhaps even more relaxing than life. What had she to worry about?
Chen Rong stepped inside.
She wasn’t in the mood to look at this gorgeous new courtyard. The servants led her to her room where a hot bath had been prepared.
She struggled off of her bloodied clothes with their help. It stuck to her skin where blood had been, so it wasn’t easy to remove.
Afterwards, she sank her face into the warm water.
After a long time, she glanced sideways and softly called, “Change my clothes to white.”
The maids paused.
Without lifting her head, Chen Rong again ordered, “Change them all to white… I’ll only wear white from now on.”
The two maids soon reacted and answered, “Aye.”
After her bath, Chen Rong lay down in bed.
She wasn’t sure how much time had passed when the sound of sobbing made its way into her muddled mind.
She opened her eyes.
Nurse Ping had come back. She was lying by Chen Rong’s bedside, sobbing unceasingly.
Chen Rong tilted her head looking at her nurse. She simply smiled and said, “Don’t cry, nurse.”
Nurse Ping quickly looked up when she heard her speak. Her glowing face and pretty smile did not have any trace of the sadness the older woman had imagined there to be. Clearly, she had never been more beautiful and assured.
The nurse wiped her tears and chokingly asked, “Miss, have you been well?”
“Me?” Chen Rong breezily smiled. She slipped her feet into her wooden clogs and looked at her reflection in the bronze mirror. “Aye, I’m very well. I couldn’t be better.”
She opened her arms.
Nurse Ping quickly retrieved Chen Rong’s outfit and helped her into it. She next picked up the comb and groomed Chen Rong’s hair, looking all the while at her white-robed reflection in the mirror. “Miss, you’ve changed.”
She looked at her radiantly cold face and alluring smile, unable to stop herself from remarking: “You’ve become so beautiful.”
Indeed, she had become a completely different person within the few days that they were apart. At this moment, she was like a rose free from all worldly dust.
At this moment, she did not look anything like a humble concubine’s daughter. There was an indifference about her, as though she had seen all of life’s vicissitudes.
At this moment, Chen Rong was blindingly luminous.
Chapter 126: Sharing a Carriage
At this juncture, Nurse Ping took another look at Chen Rong’s radiance from the mirror and added: “There’s something similar about you and the famous scholars.”
Well, of course. They were all wretched people who were hopelessly obsessed.
Chen Rong stood up after she finished dressing. She glanced at herself in the mirror and then turned to ask Nurse Ping, “When did you come home?”
“Early this morning, one of General Ran’s advisors suddenly found me and said you have come back to the city. He took me to the city gate and then left.”
Nurse Ping cautiously looked at Chen Rong and stammered, “Has something happened, miss?”
Her voice was hesitant with concern.
Chen Rong smiled in reply. “We’ll soon go back to Jiankang.” She looked at her nurse with a flash in her eyes. “If I can have an audience with His Majesty, I will ask him to let me stay unmarried for the rest of my life.”
Nurse Ping was so anxious that perspiration formed on her forehead. “Miss, miss, t-that’s…”
Chen Rong turned and unconcernedly went outside. “Nurse, I’ll acquire more land and properties then, and I’ll take care of you and Old Shang in your old age.”
Hearing her say that she’d take care of them, Nurse Ping shook her head saying, “No, no.” She followed Chen Rong and went on and on: “Miss, how can a young lady stay unmarried her entire life? T-this doesn’t make any sense.”
Nurse Ping talked and talked until she saw the servants looking at her and Chen Rong, at which time she quickly closed her mouth.
It was now late. Lanterns were lit across Nan’yang, and noises and horse whinny were constantly heard.
It seemed all the households were busy moving away from Nan’yang.
Chen Rong listened to these sounds and said to Old Shang, “Go get our things ready so that we can leave at any time.”
“Aye.” He followed Chen Rong and hesitated to say: “Miss, I don’t want to leave while the fields are here.”
Chen Rong looked down.
A while later, she softly said, “If Wang Qilang has left Nan’yang, I reckon Nan’yang will be safe.” After a pause, she turned to look at Old Shang and said, “Go make arrangements for the properties. But I still want you to be in Jiankang with me.”
Old Shang left with her order.
This translation belongs to h@mster428.
It was certain to be a sleepless night.
Chen Rong stood under a tree looking at the lights in the city. She was motionless through a very long time.
Only until the courtyard grew quiet, when the lights outside turned dim and the reed music ceased in the air, did Chen Rong turn to go.
She had no sooner turned around than she stopped in her tracks.
She wasn’t sure since when two tables had been placed in her yard. And wasn’t the handsome white-robed man slowly pouring wine, Wang Hong?
There were vague shadows in the dark corner behind him. And yet her yard was very quiet. She wondered if her servants had gone to sleep or were they simply not home.
Why did he appear so suddenly at this late an hour in her courtyard?
Chen Rong looked at him and slowly formed a serene smile.
She took small steps to him and sat down opposite his table.
Under the stars, she smiled and warmly looked at this man. Neither her eyes nor expression contained any surprise or alienation. It was as if he had always been her friend, as if they had already agreed to meet.
Smiling at him, Chen Rong filled his cup and her own. She then brought her cup to her lips and took a sip. He did not speak, and neither did she.
A long time later, Wang Hong called her name. His voice was as clear and pleasant to the ears as it had always been. He looked up and watched her chilling radiance, all wrapped up in white, as his throat undulated. He slightly paused and called, “Ah Rong.” After a sigh, he told her directly: “Your luggage has been loaded onto the carriage. Everything else has also been arranged. We can leave now.”
Chen Rong smiled and lightly said, “I’ll be going with Chen Gongrang.”
Wang Hong took a sip of wine. He stood up.
When his wide sleeve flapped, Chen Rong thought he would leave. But all she heard was Wang Hong quietly saying: “Knock her out.”
Stunned, Chen Rong whipped her head looking up.
But just as she raised her head, a jolt of pain hit her neck, then she blacked out and fell into a fragrant embrace.
This translation belongs to hamster428.
Chen Rong woke up in the midst of rough jolts.
She made a turn and unconsciously felt about.
When she came into contact with something warm, she foggily pressed her hand down, at which time another hand suddenly reached out to hold her hand.
Chen Rong slowly opened her eyes.
She saw Wang Hong reading a silk manuscript. He was comfortably leaning back, and her hand was firmly held in his.
He let go of her when he sensed that she was sitting up. But from beginning to end, his eyes were glued to the book.
Chen Rong glanced at him and then moved to the side. She raised the curtain and curiously looked outside.
Billowing smoke and a long cavalcade took up her entire field of vision – in front as well as behind.
A second look told her it was a combined team that included all the major clans.
Chen Rong poked her head out to look again.
After a glimpse, she recognized the carriages right behind them to be hers, and she could see Old Shang driving.
She retracted her head.
When her eyes landed on a zither in the carriage, she immediately moved over to set it in front of her, then gave it a pluck which gave rise to a leisurely sound.
Wang Hong raised his head at the sound of music – which was ornate yet also freeing.
He quietly looked at her.
The curtain moved to let a ray of light shine on her face and eyes.
There was a smile on her beautiful face, and her eyes were as bright as the stars.
This woman was somehow not scared or anxious to have found herself in a bumpy carriage upon waking up from being knocked out.
Wang Hong slowly put the silk book down and again leaned back. His slender fingers stroked his chin in thoughtful contemplation of her.
She was stunning under the sun, but the bruises at her chin instantaneously brought the scene where she met Ran Min yesterday before his eyes…
Like a stream, the sound of zither flowed across the high mountains, through the lush foliage, over the fields, and finally joined the river.
It passed through the seasons to join the large river where it was no longer itself…
A carriage approached them, giving sound to Yu Zhi’s loud voice: “Qilang, when did your music become so ornate yet world-weary?”
He glanced at the playing Chen Rong and dropped his jaw.
Although Chen Rong had practiced her zither playing for over ten years, and although she could be considered to be talented, she had only ever had techniques but no emotions. Her fingering was complicated and refined, her transition was thorough, but without emotion, she couldn’t reach the heights of elegance no matter how great her skills were.
Now her music had a soul in addition to techniques.
Yu Zhi watched Chen Rong in surprise. He looked her up and down, then turned to Wang Hong and laughed. “Qilang, your woman is quite the accomplished player.”
The music slowed to a stop.
Chen Rong looked up at Yu Zhi with bright eyes and smilingly said, “You misspoke, sir. My surname is Chen, my name is Rong. When you call me, you should call me Ah Rong of the Chen House.”
She was criticizing him for incorrectly using the phrase “your woman”.
Having received her glare, Yu Zhi glanced at Wang Hong and made a face. “Wang Qilang, you’re quite bad at this.”
He tutted and added, “Back then, the one at home only took me one month.”
Wang Hong faintly smiled at his sneer. He turned to quietly look at Chen Rong. Seeing her bowed head and her satiny hair flowing in the wind, his eyes helplessly became stagnant.
At length, he softly said, “Everyone’s different after all.”
Yu Zhi burst into laughter. He placed his hands on his hips and threw a supercilious look at the sky to show his disdain for Wang Hong.
Wang Hong smiled, his eyes once again returned to Chen Rong.
Chen Rong was still playing the zither. While the other two were conversing, the sumptuous yet melancholic music once again wafted in the air.
As the music drifted, noises and talking gradually ceased. They were all experts, and like Yu Zhi, they had found its merit the moment Chen Rong began playing.
While the crowd was still listening, the music suddenly stopped.
Chen Rong suddenly felt bored in the middle of her song so she put the instrument away and resumed her original seat to look outside.
Meanwhile behind her, Wang Hong and Yu Zhi’s conversation continued. Some of it she could hear, some of it she could not. Yu Zhi glanced at Chen Rong, then leaned into Wang Hong and whispered, “What did you do? How is it that she doesn’t even want to live anymore?”
Wang Hong’s mouth slowly tugged into a wry smile.
Then he glanced back at Yu Zhi.
Yu Zhi laughed and lowered his voice, “Never mind, pretend I haven’t asked.” But in the end, he still curiously looked at Chen Rong’s white dress and back at Wang Qilang. “You are even dressed alike…” he muttered. “I bet once we get to Jiankang, all the girls will follow suit and wear the same color.”
At this moment, Chen Rong poked her head out and called to the back, “Nurse!”
Nurse Ping heard her mistress’s call despite the hustle and bustle around them. She at once poked out and smiled in reply. “Miss.” Joy filled her face. Yesterday she was scared by Chen Rong’s declaration and could not sleep all night. Now she could finally calm down.
Hearing her reply, Chen Rong reached out and touched the door. Just as she moved, her arm was pulled back.
Next, Wang Hong’s gentle voice sounded behind her, his warm breath blowing across her ear: “Darling, the horses are running. You’ll get hurt if you jump down from here.”
Chen Rong unhurriedly turned back and smiled at him. “Don’t you worry, my lord.” She didn’t have a death wish anymore.
Chapter 127: Confrontation
At this time, a fit of laughter sounded next to him. Yu Zhi loudly cried out: “Qilang, Qilang, what makes you so nervous?”
Amid his laughter, Wang Hong turned to shoot a glance at him. Yu Zhi at once stopped, but from time to time a strange sound escaped his throat like a laughter that could not be suppressed.
“Miss?” Nurse Ping was heard calling outside.
Hearing her, Chen Rong turned around to curtsy to Wang Hong. “My nurse is calling for me. I’ll be getting off.”
She was smiling in a bowing position, but even after a while she did not hear Wang Hong answer.
When she looked up, she saw him holding a cup of wine and smiling comfortably at her. Did he not hear her request?
Surprised, Chen Rong glanced over at Yu Zhi to see him contorting his face to contain his laughter. She smiled and then quietly sat back at her seat, no longer mentioning the matter of departure.
And like that, Wang Hong quietly drank his wine, Chen Rong looked out to the scenery through the curtain, and Yu Zhi looked back and forth, his throat constantly making suppressed noises.
Outside, Nurse Ping called twice and when she did not receive Chen Rong’s answer, retracted her head.
The travelers continued to move forward.
A long time later, when Yu Zhi had already left, a blast of dust rolled near.
This was a Wang scout. He came to the carriage and relayed in a whisper: “My lord, General Ran is heading this way.”
Chen Rong looked up.
Wang Hong slowly placed his wine down, murmuring: “I suppose stealing a man’s bride isn’t a kind thing to do, even if there had been no betrothal.” Thus mumbled to himself, he called out, “Remove our emblem from the carriage. Pick another route for me to go.”
The riders left with their order.
At this time Wang Hong turned his gaze to Chen Rong.
He was obviously in the wrong, but his eyes were bright and he couldn’t look more nonchalant. She couldn’t see the slightest sense of shame from him.
Chen Rong cast him a glance and then withdrew her gaze.
Wang Hong’s order was passed down, but they had not seen a fork through the day’s journey. By the time the sun sank to the west, they hadn’t found an opportunity to leave.
This translation belongs to h@mster428.
It was supper time.
The guards jumped off the carriages and began to set camp for dinner. Wang Hong had also left.
Chen Rong got off the carriage and turned to find Nurse Ping and the others.
Nurse Ping was also looking for her. When he saw Chen Rong looking around, Old Shang drove the carriage near and cried: “Miss, miss.”
Chen Rong turned around and beamed to see them.
She strode to the carriage, lifted the curtain and went in.
Seeing her tired appearance, Nurse Ping hurriedly asked, “The water’s ready, would you like to take a bath?”
Chen Rong glanced down at her white robe and nodded.
She sank her face underwater and only surfaced when she ran out of breath. Nurse Ping was washing her long hair. She was pleased to see Chen Rong’s creamy skin in the water foams, and her smile that had an invisible chill. “The more I look at you these days, the prettier you look,” she happily remarked.
Chen Rong simply smiled to see Nurse Ping so happy.
She glanced across the clothes on the table and suddenly said, “Don’t prepare white clothes for me anymore.”
“Why?” Chen Rong thought of Yu Zhi’s words when she slowly smiled and said, “Because all insistence are obsessions.”
The nurse didn’t understand these words. She grinned and laughed, “It’s fine if you don’t like white clothes. We left in such a hurry that I hadn’t had time to get white robes made for you.”
Chen Rong interrupted her at this time: “When did you get on the carriage?”
“For some reason we fell asleep in the middle of chattering last night. When we woke up, Qilang’s people had come over and said you had started off and wanted us to hurry along. Hah, luckily we had made preparations and could go at first notice. Else we would’ve made the Wang House unhappy.”
After babbling for a while, Nurse Ping said, “All done, miss.”
Chen Rong put her clothes on with her help, wore wooden clogs and stepped down from the carriage.
As soon as she got off, a dozen pairs of eyes were watching her. Gradually, more and more people looked her way… Even Wang Hong’s playing hand halted on his zither as he tilted his head to look at her.
Chen Rong at this time had changed into a set of light yellow outfit with purple patterns and flying birds.
Her skin was more radiant in this outfit, her damp air was shiny, and her white feet slowly clopped on wooden clogs.
The light yellow robe drifted in the wind. Its wide sleeves and belted waist highlighted her wasp waistline.
Yu Zhi stared at her, slapped his thigh and sighed, “She’s indeed quite the stunner. Lucky you, Qilang.”
Here, he quickly clutched his mouth and vaguely muttered, “I forgot, that’s not settled yet is it? She isn’t yours yet haha.” He couldn’t help himself from laughing out loud.
Amid his ruckus, Wang Hong raised his wine for a sip, eyes still staring at Chen Rong.
At this time, a series of hoof beats closed in on them.
It rumbled with flying dust that did not dissipate for a long time.
In the twinkling of an eye, it arrived on the road behind Chen Rong.
When the hoof beats halted, they were replaced by heavy and chilling footsteps.
As she was walking, Chen Rong instinctively felt something amiss so she turned back to look.
She came to face a pair of cold eyes that belonged to a murderous man who was striding towards her.
No wonder surrounding people weren’t alarmed. Ran Min only brought ten guards with him and a blade tied at his waist. He did not bring his personal weapon.
He calmly strode to Chen Rong.
He stopped to stare at her. His brow slowly knitted while he looked her up and down. “Come with me!” He grabbed Chen Rong’s arm and pulled her to Wang Hong.
She had no choice but to keep pace with him.
Before long, they had come before Wang Hong.
When Ran Min got closer, footsteps sounded around them. They were from the Wang guards who were quietly surrounding this place.
Wang Hong slowly pushed himself to stand up.
He looked at Ran Min, bowed deeply to him, and softly said, “I do feel ashamed.” His clear, lofty eyes quietly watched Ran Min when he continued. “However, you and Ah Rong are not betrothed…”
He was telling Ran Min that his and Chen Rong’s promise were only made between themselves. There had been no matchmaker, no formality, and certainly no blessing from the elders. Thus even if he had stolen Chen Rong, it couldn’t be said that he had stolen Ran Min’s bride.
Ran Min harrumphed.
He went to stand in front of Wang Hong.
Almost suddenly, just as he stepped forward, he drew his long blade and brandished it on Wang Hong’s neck.
Even though the Wang guards were only five paces from Wang Hong, Ran Min had moved so suddenly that they couldn’t react in time.
The cold blade on Wang Hong’s neck reflected the sunset and shone a frighteningly deadly light.
The guards’ voices were gone. They watched Ran Min and his blade, many starting to perspire on their foreheads and backs.
Ran Min stared at Wang Hong while his blade slowly moved.
With this movement, low shouts broke out around them.
Wang Hong smiled. He quietly looked at Ran Min and said, “General, this doesn’t look too good.”
Ran Min throated a gruff and murderous chuckle.
He stared at Wang Hong to icily say: “I can’t believe there would be a day when I am thus insulted by a useless scholar like you!”
Wang Hong smiled hearing this. He also ignored the blade at his neck to lower his head and take a slow sip of wine… When he did so, Ran Min’s blade naturally did not back away. For that reason, the sharp tip drew a faint trace of blood from his white skin. The wound was shallow, but blood nevertheless gushed forth. The flow was so heavy that his white robe was dyed red before one could blink.
Watching the blood flow out, Chen Rong dropped her gaze and softly called, “General Ran.”
She stood behind Ran Min, looking at his once very familiar but now gradually alien tall and stalwart figure. “General Ran, did you come here to take me back?” She provocatively smiled and said, “Are you saying that you don’t find my defilement abhorrent, that you still want to marry me? But even then, I wouldn’t want to. Of course if you kill Chen Wei, I might reconsider.”
Not only was her voice provocative, there was also an indifference in her ridicule. This was an indifference that thoroughly disregarded him.
Immediately, Ran Min turned around.
Chapter 128: Chen Rong Severed Ties
Ran Min icily stared at Chen Rong.
“What did you say?”
Gradually, his narrowing eyes sparked a violent flame. He repeated in a low bark, “What did you say?”
His voice was somber and low, making the guards ready their hands on their scabbards.
Chen Rong smiled.
As she was quietly looking at him, the corner of her mouth slightly tugged to speak in a soft yet unusually indifferent tone: “General Ran, I neither like you nor do I want to marry you anymore.”
Her lips were upturned and her chin was slightly raised when she swung her waist to leave.
At this moment, an iron arm took hold of her wrist.
He dragged her back so that she staggered a few steps and knelt at his feet.
Ran Min looked down at her from above.
Slowly, he withdrew the blade from Wang Hong’s neck and pointed it at Chen Rong.
The blade’s coldness shot straight to her bones.
She slowly raised her head.
Not bothering to glance at the glaring blade, she looked straight at Ran Min with eyes that slowly squinted into laughter: “Are you angry, general? That won’t do. If a hero like you lost your temper because of a vulgar woman like me, you’d be a laughingstock.”
Her laughter was still charming and supple. She looked at him with a gaze that could lure his soul.
Ran Min’s blade slowly inched ahead.
Chen Rong had no choice but to raise her head, higher and higher…
But even so, her smile remained ever alluring.
As he watched such a Chen Rong, Wang Hong sighed for some reason.
He took a step forward.
Ran Min suddenly felt a chill at his vest while he was still staring at Chen Rong.
A sword was pointing straight at him.
Then a clear and gentle voice spoke: “General, let go.”
It turned out Wang Hong was the one pointing the sword at him.
Wang Hong’s action was apparently outside of Ran Min’s expectations.
He slowly turned around.
He narrowed his eyes observing Wang Hong who was still smiling nonchalantly despite the blood flowing down his neck. Ran Min scowled. “Good for you, a pair of tramps!”
He sheathed his blade in one quick stroke.
At the same time, Wang Hong also tossed his sword aside where a guard quickly caught it.
Ran Min’s eyes again turned from Wang Hong to Chen Rong.
As he watched her slowly stand up, with her hair hanging across her face, he suddenly asked, “Did you go in front of the armies because you wanted to seek death?”
Chen Rong didn’t think he would ask such a question. She slowly raised her head.
She looked at Ran Min, her long lashes blinking without an answer.
Ran Min waved his hand and shouted at the Wang guards around them, “Back away.”
They looked to Wang Hong.
Wang Hong waved his sleeve.
At once, they made a bow and stepped back. After retreating 10 paces, the Wang guards stopped and continued to surround the three of them, accurately blocking others’ sight from this side.
After the guards retreated, a maid came to Wang Hong with a wooden box that seemed to contain cloth and medicine. She likely wanted to help him bandage his wound.
When she approached, Wang Hong was looking toward Chen Rong. He saw that she was looking from time to time at his bleeding neck.
He withdrew his gaze to cast a glance at the maidservant. She immediately bowed and retreated.
Ran Min spoked again, his voice slightly hoarse, “Did you want to die because he had touched you?”
Chen Rong didn’t answer him.
Ran Min frowningly asked again, “He touched you so you wanted to die… If you are this faithful to me, then why are you trying to protect him at all costs?”
This time, Chen Rong laughed aloud.
She looked up at the man she had loved for years as she smilingly said, “General, I will never in this life be faithful to you!” After angering Ran Min with these words, she brushed her stray hair from her eyes and lazily continued, “I sought death because he would only give me a concubine’s status. Even you… had you not agreed to marry me, I wouldn’t have bothered to look at you.”
After using a lazy and arrogant tone to this juncture, Chen Rong glanced at Ran Min out of the corner of her eye and quietly asked the man who was simmering in anger, “Do you want to kill me or not, general? If not, then I’ll take my leave.”
Ran Min had not seen this Chen Rong before.
His handsome face was static, his right hand remained over the scabbard.
Chen Rong took another step toward him. She reached out and softly pressed onto the sheath. With a curious but also bored gesture, she stroked the decorative patterns on it, then she grabbed the hilt and slowly drew the blade.
The cold metal flashed. Chen Rong softly laughed. She lifted her seductive eyes and affectionately glanced at Ran Min. Then she slowly leaned into him and brought her red lips to his face.
Looking at him, she exhaled a fragrant breath and prettily asked, “Did you fall for me, General Ran?” She stepped back, lifted her wide sleeve over her smile as her eyes formed crescents. “But didn’t you know? From the very first time I met you, I had deliberately sought your attention to replace Ah Wei as your wife.”
She glanced at him with so trivial a look and so bewitching a smile that all of a sudden Ran Min was caused to feel humiliated.
He believed everything she said with nary another thought. They had been perfect strangers to each other. And yet when they first met, this woman had shown strong resentment and hatred toward him, and would even say strange things and cry. He was indeed attracted to her because of these things.
Yes, she must have resorted to these tricks to seduce him. Besides seducing him, what other choices did an orphaned concubine’s daughter like her have?
Ran Min’s handsome face violently contorted. As he was staring at Chen Rong, his right hand suddenly reached out to strangle her tender neck. Her face quickly turned green, but she kept mockingly smiling at him.
“You tramp!” Ran Min gritted his teeth.
Amid her gasps and as Wang Hong was about to act, Ran Min gave Chen Rong a push, making her stagger backward.
He stared and hoarsely laughed as Chen Rong coughed and stroked her neck. “A tramp like you isn’t worth it!” He waved his sleeve and walked away.
The guards swiftly gave way to let him leave.
Before long, the hoof beats had gone into the far distance.
A series of gentle footfall approached, bringing a snow white figure into Chen Rong’s vision.
A warm hand gently caressed her bruised neck while he softly asked, “Does it hurt?”
Chen Rong pushed his hand away and turned to leave.
At this time, there was a tug on her sleeve, and then she was pulled into a warm embrace. He hugged her and rested his chin on her hair, murmuring, “Ah Rong, don’t say that about yourself… It pains me to hear.” His voice was like a stream of water that filled up her heart.
Once again, Chen Rong pushed his hand away.
With her silky hair covering her eyes, her voice floated to him, raspy from her throat injury: “Qilang.”
Hearing her take the initiative to call him, Wang Hong’s own voice turned tender: “Hmm.”
Chen Rong smiled and lightly said, “Qilang, I don’t want you to die…” She quietly looked up at him with cold and indifferent eyes. “Just now, Ran Min wanted me to kneel, so I did. He wanted to hit me, so I let him. But saving your life is worth whatever pain there is.”
Both she and Wang Hong knew Ran Min’s personality. Once he became violent, he was capable of reckless things. He had really wanted to kill Wang Hong just now.
Wang Hong froze as he worriedly looked at Chen Rong.
She was still wearing a cold and distant smile. “You had saved my life at the prince’s estate. That life was repaid to you in Mo’yang. Afterwards you had extended your helping hand to me many more times and I had also paid you back with my chastity.”
Her mouth slightly curved into an icy smile: “Qilang, I want to trade my saving you this time for a promise.”
She stared at him as she uttered each word: “I want you to promise me that we shall have nothing to do with each other from now on.”
Her eyes cold, her voice low and quiet.
Such a beautiful and exquisite face, such a beguiling woman, who not long ago was still making love in bed with him and tearfully calling him Qilang. It had been a call of longing from her core, from her dreams.
And yet her virginal blood had not dried up by the time she stood in front of him to tell him, in this distant and cold manner, that she hoped they would be severing their ties.
Wang Hong had always been the golden child ever since he was born. As a young man, even the royal princesses were besotted with him… but he and his servants were disdainful of these princesses. The heir of the Wang House in Lang’ya did not need them to embellish his existence.
It was the first time in his life that he met such a woman and heard such cold and heartless words.
Wang Hong grew still.
Hi, how’s everyone still doing? Sorry this update took longer than usual. I was away on several trips last month so I’m still playing catch up. I know the story can seem as if it’s not moving much, and my slowness isn’t helping, but the thing I really like about this book is precisely that chapters at a time are devoted to the various characters’ reactions and thoughts – whether on mundane everyday happenings or, in the case of the latest development, a larger event. It’s greatly satisfying to see what goes through their mind – the things they say or don’t say that reveal the motivations behind their behaviors and actions, and of course the angst that builds and builds. Haha, sorry if this was not what you signed up for but it is what we’ll continue to have.
Very soon, we will be in Jiankang. If I can simplistically divide this novel into two parts, then it’ll be the Nan’yang arc vs. the Jiankang arc. In Jiankang there will be new characters and new conflicts, but there is no other male lead. I say this so that we don’t go into the 2nd half with false hope. It is what it is. The male leads as presented are very flawed, but very realistic for the time period. I can’t say they’re good people but they’re fascinating characters in the safe confines of fictional writing. There’s not a lot of fluff if you haven’t figured that out by now, but I don’t do dark either, and I think this book injects the happy enough that we don’t all die from endless suffering.
Until next time!