Chapter 159: Mistress; Ran Min
Chen Rong was completely still.
Her cries had stopped at this time.
“I know,” she replied at last.
Now she knew.
Wang Hong had been gazing down at her. Upon hearing her answer, he tipped her chin to make her look at him.
Her teary eyes were puffy, but there was no longer uncertainty when she smiled.
Wang Hong pressed his face to hers and softly asked, “Darling, you won’t cry anymore?”
“Aye, I won’t cry.” Chen Rong still sounded hoarse.
Wang Hong softly bit her nose and asked again, “And you won’t hate me anymore?”
“I don’t hate you anymore.” Her smile was radiant.
She pushed him away and slowly sat up. Lifting the curtain to glance outside, she smiled and thought: If there’s no escape then I should stop running.
Wang Hong was still quietly looking at her from behind.
She turned around when she perceived his gaze. The newly dried tears on her face made him think of a delicate pear blossom in the rain. His mouth moved to say something just as she leaned forward and softly placed a kiss onto his lips.
This was the first time she kissed him in a completely sober state.
Wang Hong momentarily froze.
Her rosy lips was mesmerizingly fragrant, her bewitching eyes beheld his. “My husband lord.”
Wang Hong trembled to hear the appellation.
As though she didn’t know what she had said, Chen Rong tenderly kissed him again. With their lips touching and their breaths entwined, she coyly said, “Even when you don’t love me anymore, you must always protect me.”
This was her request.
She was very quiet – taking the initiative to kiss him for the first time, calling him her husband for the first time, only to ask for his protection.
Wang Hong’s throat undulated. He lifted Chen Rong’s face away to quietly contemplate her.
She did not avoid his fixed stare but leaned forward to rest in his arms.
Toying with the sachet on his belt, she sweetly said, “I can’t come to your house. I can remain at the temple or you can provide a different house for me. Or it can also be somewhere away from Jiankang. From now on I will be your mistress (1). If you want to come, then come. If not, stop when you wish.”
(1) 外室 – this term lit. means “outside the home”. Unlike a concubine, a mistress is not a part of the man’s household and is thus not subjected to its rules or hierarchy, but any children she conceives will also be illegitimate.
At her words, Wang Hong who had been in a trance made a slight movement.
His lips slowly curved into a feeble smile. He kissed her hair and stiffly repeated, “Come when I want to, stop when I don’t? That is to say you’re prepared to be void of jealousy, hatred, resentment… and even love?”
Chen Rong chuckled. “You’re very smart, Qilang.”
She was admitting it to him.
Wang Hong withdrew his arms to quietly look down at her. Eventually he unfurled his frown and smiled: “All right.”
He bit her nose again, only harder this time so that he left an imprint. “We’ll do whatever you want.”
Chen Rong closed her eyes, but the corner of her mouth was tugging upward in a faint and peaceful yet ironic smile.
Similarly, Wang Hong who was looking down at her also smiled.
At this moment, the carriage jolted and came to a halt.
Chen Rong raised her head to look outside. They had just left the main road and turned into a small lane that was largely occupied by commoners.
“Who are you?!” the driver was heard demanding outside.
Curious, Chen Rong left Wang Hong’s arms to lift the curtain. Her discovery prompted her to hide Wang Hong behind her, but she stopped midway. At the man’s fixed stare, she indifferently smiled and called, “So it’s you, General Ran.”
Sure enough, the man who was grabbing onto the driver’s reins and staring at their carriage was Ran Min.
His eyes coldly swept over Chen Rong to Wang Hong behind her. His thin lips moved to say: “Ah Rong of the Chen House, you aren’t going to protect him this time?”
Hearing these words, Wang Hong who had been leaning back with a faint smile also turned his eyes to Chen Rong.
Chen Rong dropped her gaze and quietly replied, “He doesn’t need me to protect him.” She looked up at Ran Min and added, “You are both men of distinction who are admired by all. Why would a lowly woman like me need to offer my protection?” She wryly smiled and murmured to herself, “Why did I even overestimate myself?”
She then retreated to a corner inside the carriage, turned her head to stare out the window and did not give another glance to what was happening in front of her.
Ran Min broke into laughter.
He wordlessly glared at Chen Rong and Wang Hong, took a step forward and waved his right arm. Forthwith, a cold and sharp blade shot from his sleeve and thrust at Wang Hong’s throat.
This translation belongs to hamster428.
He was so fast and so sudden that the guards couldn’t react before his sword was already on Wang Hong’s neck.
The sunlight danced on the metal blade, reflecting everchanging beams as a ray of blood was drawn.
Wang Hong raised his head, though he smiled at Ran Min. “I wouldn’t have expected you to use weaponry in Jiankang just for Ah Rong. Are your imperial ambitions not great enough to overcome a beauty’s smile?”
Ran Min scoffed. The sword in his hand bore down to draw more blood from Wang Hong’s neck. “Wang Qi, you think too highly of yourself. If I have the gall to come then I can easily leave whenever I want.”
Several swords simultaneously pointed at him: “Let go of His Lordship!”
“How dare you, withdraw your sword!”
“Withdraw your sword!“
Ran Min did not heed the five men’s warning. He let them point at him and, when their threats became more urgent, exerted more strength on his sword.
It cut into Wang Hong’s neck from whence blood started coursing.
The five men behind him at once withdrew their swords.
Sensing that they had put their weapons away, Ran Min sneered and relaxed his blade.
He cared little about the men and only stared at Wang Hong who was resting comfortably on his seat, looking at him in apparent amusement.
“Wang Hong,” Ran Min spat. He glanced at Chen Rong who was still gazing at the scenery and icily said, “I’ll never forget your offense of stealing my wife.” His assertion thick with murderous intent.
Chen Rong finally turned her head. She couldn’t but glance at Wang Hong’s bleeding neck, quietly intervening: “General Ran.”
Her voice drew the crowd’s attention.
She looked up at Ran Min, softly saying: “This morning I saw a young Huan descendant shot to death outside the palace gate.” She closely watched Ran Min. “He was killed in front of everyone only for singing this verse: She waves her sleeves, the red chamber beauty; food aplenty to waste in houses of wealthy. Surely you know, general, that noblemen cannot be executed publicly in Jiankang.”
Not only Ran Min but also Wang Hong turned to look at her in surprise… How did this woman have such a keen observation on current affairs?
Chen Rong ignored them. “They killed a nobleman just because of a poem. You can’t think that this is a common and trivial matter?” She dropped her gaze from Ran Min and unhurriedly added, “I heard you want to unite the Jin in the fight against the Hu… many passionate men in Jiankang have been moved.” She smiled, “You assume that no one notices your arrival in Jiankang, but don’t you remember that your emperor had once placed an informant by your side in Nan’yang? It’s anybody’s guess whether another scoundrel is with you this time.” Chen Rong sighed, “I fear that the arrow had been meant for you.”
Her logical and clear analysis showed that she was indeed perceptive of Jiankang’s politics.
These men were talents of their era, but listening to Chen Rong, they felt that perhaps her wits were not inferior to theirs.
For a moment, both men were stunned.
Wang Hong quietly watched Chen Rong. He was reminded that it was her intelligence on the journey south that had attracted his attention… He almost forgot.
With their eyes on her, Chen Rong quietly looked at Ran Min. This man had always killed decisively, but the sword placed on Wang Hong’s neck was meaningless to him. She smiled and lightly said, “Didn’t General Yang warn you, general? Jiankang is a troublesome place, don’t get yourself into unnecessary predicament.”
Ran Min drew his lips into a line. He unblinkingly stared at her.
After a long while, he hoarsely laughed and muttered, “You’re really trying hard for him.”
Chen Rong shook her head. “You’re wrong. Aye I’m doing this for him, but also because there aren’t many men in this world whose aspiration it is to defeat the barbarians. Your internal strife will only benefit Shi Hu and Murong Ke.”
Ran Min scoffed to hear Chen Rong’s words.
He turned to Wang Hong.
Wang Hong was still reposing and looking at Chen Rong with a gentle smile. “Ah Rong is indeed very smart.”
At the same time Wang Hong spoke, a female voice anxiously called, “My husband lord.”
The caller was Chen Wei, standing not far from them and dressed in a man’s outfit. She was very thin, her face hidden under a wide brim hat. Chen Rong looked up after she heard her voice and then did not pay attention to her anymore.
Chen Wei bit her lips and sounded as if she was about to cry. “My Lord, let it go, I beg you to let it go.”
“Be quiet!” Ran Min barked as he shot a glare at her.
Chen Wei’s unspoken words at once lodged in her throat.
Ran Min turned to looked at Chen Rong and back at Wang Hong again. He slowly smirked, again forcing the sword into Wang Hong’s neck.
A slight exertion was all it took to draw more blood from Wang Hong.
He stared at Wang Hong with a sneer. “I do not intend to take your life this time.”
Wang Hong merely nodded.
Ran Min angrily glared at Wang Hong, gritted his teeth and icily said, “Of course, I shall never forget that you stole my wife!”
This time Wang Hong glanced up once, before carelessly lowering his gaze again.
After Ran Min spoke his piece, he harrumphed and withdrew his sword.
He looked at Chen Rong.
The look in his eyes were complicated. He shouldn’t have come to see her. Even just now, he did not intend to become more entangled in this meaningless love. But for whatever reason, when he inadvertently saw the embracing adulterers in the carriage, he couldn’t restrain himself from stopping the vehicle and pointing his sword at Wang Hong.
She is just a woman! She is just a woman…
Only until Chen Rong averted her eyes did Ran Min stop staring at her and flap his sleeves to go.
Chen Wei and the two hatted men at once chased after him.
As he watched him leave, Wang Hong produced a handkerchief from his robe and placed it on his wound. “Take care that nobody knows I’ve met him.”
“Aye, my lord.”
He thought for a moment and then added, “Tell our men not to give General Ran any difficulty. Hmm, help him if we can.”
His words made Chen Rong look up in surprise. As if he could feel her gaze, Wang Hong smiled. “If my darling can prioritize the country’s welfare, how can I fall behind?”
He turned back and quietly regarded her.
Chapter 160: Wang Hong Defies the Imperial Edict
Chen Rong hurried to avoid his gaze.
Seeing her dutifully scoot into the corner, Wang Hong tossed a handkerchief around his wound, reached over and pulled her back into his arms.
She unavoidably fell against his chest, her elbow turning sideways and unwittingly hitting his wound.
Blood promptly soaked through the handkerchief, down his clothes and Chen Rong’s robe.
Seeing the startlingly red patch, Chen Rong produced a handkerchief from her sleeve and gently pressed it onto the wound.
Without looking at Wang Hong, she quietly growled at the guards outside, “Where’s the medicine?”
The five guards glanced at Wang Hong and deferentially stepped forward.
With their help, his wound was soon bandaged; his outfit was also changed.
The curtain was let down again.
Chen Rong soothed Wang Hong’s neck and gently asked, “My dear husband, does it hurt?”
Her voice was filled with love and concern.
By the time Wang Hong lifted her chin, Chen Rong had raised her eyes to meet his gaze.
The look in her eyes was filled with an overwhelming affection. She gave him a tender look before bowing her head to place a kiss on his wound through the robe, asking: “It must be painful?”
Wang Hong did not answer her.
Chen Rong’s delicate fingers ran across his chin along the wound. She sighed and softly rubbed her face against his. Following his example, she bit the tip of his nose and murmured, “If this ever happens again, I will take the sword for you.”
Her words were gentleness.
Her gaze was tender affection.
Her expression was solicitous concern.
It was everything Wang Hong had hoped to see… Yet as he was quietly watching her, he felt strangely restless.
At this time, drum beats sounded outside.
After hurrying to take a look, Chen Rong withdrew her gaze and smoothed her robe and hair.
She turned to Wang Hong and charmingly asked, “Do I look presentable?”
Wang Hong had been watching her silently. When he heard her question, he gave her an appraising look, then outstretched his hand and as light as the wind hooked her hair behind her ears, saying: “Now you do.”
“Thank you, my husband.”
She pushed the curtain aside to alight the carriage.
“Where are you going, Ah Rong?” Wang Hong asked, holding her back.
Chen Rong turned around and smiled: “It may not be obvious to you, but I am from a humble background. I have been walking on eggshells around other people ever since we moved south, never once have I dared to relax. I’ve come to Jiankang for some time but due to my looks I have not dared to indulge myself. Now it’s all right. I have you to miss me while I’m alive, and I have you to collect my body when I die. I can finally breathe easy.”
She pulled away from his hand and hopped down.
In front of the swaying curtain, she suddenly turned back and curtsied to him: “My lord, I’m going for a walk.”
She waved her sleeves and went towards the sound of the drums.
Scarce had she taken a few steps when Wang Hong’s voice called from behind, “Come back.” he was soft spoken but it was an order.
A gentle hand pressed her shoulder. “Another time,” sighed Wang Hong. He stepped off the carriage to take her hand, leading her back to the vehicle.
Chen Rong did not protest, obediently following him.
“Aye, my lord.”
“To the temple.”
As he gave his orders, Wang Hong pulled Chen Rong onto his lap. Because of his movement, the wound on his neck began to bleed again.
When Chen Rong saw this, she pressed on the wound to stop the flow.
“Didn’t you know, Ah Rong? I won’t let you die,” Wang Hong said, looking down at her.
His smile was graceful if faint, his fingers combing through her hair. “Come, look at that person.” He was pointing to a bedraggled woman about a hundred paces from the carriage. “She was sent by the Ninth Princess. That one, that one, and that one, too.”
He gently kissed Chen Rong’s hair. “Those people would jump for joy to see you travel alone.”
Chen Rong smiled and feebly replied, “Alright, I know.”
She leaned back into his arms and muttered, “You’re a bad person, you won’t let me do what I want. Life isn’t easy, death isn’t allowed. Oy, my husband is really not a good person.”
Wang Hong laughed to hear her words.
Until this moment his smile had been faint and light and he seldom laughed out loud like this.
He stretched his left hand and tapped on the carriage wall. Amid the rhythmic beats, he placed a finger on his lips to shush a warning: “Ah Rong, these words can’t be said so heedlessly… If you badmouth me in Jiankang, people will give you grief for it.”
Amid Wang Hong’s laughter, the carriage continued its route forward.
They soon arrived at the foothill of Xishan Temple where they began to decelerate.
Leaning back, Wang Hong reached out to stroke Chen Rong’s back and her satiny hair, and admired her bewitching profile. It was almost strange now that he thought about it – after she slept with him, her entire being now glowed in a blinding and seductive aura. This kind of sensual charm couldn’t be covered up even if she wanted to. It was as if she’d completely shed off her former lowliness and replaced it with poise and triumph.
It seemed as if she was no longer in a rush, as if she no longer cared about life and death… Aye, she had changed after all.
As he looked at her, his slender hand gently stroked her nape and he softly said, “You keep getting prettier every day, Ah Rong. What good does this do?”
His voice had dipped into a whisper.
Chen Rong turned around.
He looked into her bright eyes, his finger brushing across her long lashes. “You make it harder and harder for me to let go. This can’t be good.”
Chen Rong withdrew her gaze and smiled: “Why do you say so, my lord? Haven’t you locked me to your side? If you have too much of something, you’ll soon tire of it, even if that something is the rarest of delicacy. When you are tired of it, you won’t keep it around for long.”
She didn’t wait to hear his reply. As she turned around, a series of drum beats suddenly appeared.
It was the same one they had heard in town, but it was now trailing right behind her below the temple.
Chen Rong sat up and reached out to lift the curtain looking outside.
The drum music was drawing closer and closer, looming at every bend of the winding road. She glanced to discover that there were hundreds of spectators behind the band.
And they were only about a hundred paces from her.
The carriage stopped. Chen Rong had yet to turn back by the time Wang Hong sighed, “Is it the emperor’s people?”
The emperor’s people?
Chen Rong shivered as she looked sideways.
This translation belongs to hamster428.
Gradually, the spectators dispersed and the band appeared before her.
They were the Royal Guards and a troupe of drummers, led in front by a eunuch holding an imperial edict.
Chen Rong thought for a moment and hopped down.
“Ah Rong, come back to the carriage,” Wang Hong called.
A rare coldness was heard in his voice.
Surprised, Chen Rong glanced at him to see that he was staring at the band. She went back to him and climbed onto the carriage.
As soon as she was inside, Wang Hong held her and quietly said, “Go.”
He was talking to the driver.
The driver gave a reply and hurriedly drove on.
Wang Hong’s carriage had not gone far when a eunuch’s sharp voice called to them: “Is Priestess Hong Yunzi here?”
He followed Wang Hong’s carriage, but spoke to the one belonging to Chen Rong.
Silence all around.
All eyes were on Chen Rong’s empty carriage.
At this time Wang Hong quietly said, “Go forward.”
The driver drove two paces forward and came to the empty carriage.
Slowly, Wang Hong lifted to curtain and let his and Chen Rong’s face appear before the crowd.
This time everyone stilled before breaking into murmurs.
What kind of name was Lang’ya Wang Qi? Of course they all knew Wang Hong was here without needing him to appear. The shocker was that he was holding a nun for all the world to see!
It was impossible for people to play dumb.
The eunuch took one look at Wang Hong before withdrawing his gaze.
His manners were so nonchalant that it was clear he had long known, Chen Rong’s heart sank in realization.
The eunuch ignored Wang Hong and only intently stared at Chen Rong. “Are you Priestess Hong Yunzi?” he asked.
Chen Rong couldn’t return full courtesy to him, for her waist was held by Wang Hong. She only made a slight bow and replied, “Aye.”
The eunuch stared at her and slowly uttered, “There is an imperial edict.”
Chen Rong shivered and clambered to stand up. She stepped down from the carriage, now according ceremony to the eunuch, and said, “Hong Yunzi is present for acceptance.”
This time, snide remarks rose around them: “Good for an amorous nun. She had just left a man’s bed and now she accepts the emperor’s edict.”
These words weren’t low in volume.
Chen Rong ignored them. One of the guards behind the eunuch turned around with a glare. His threatening eyes silenced everyone.
The eunuch stared at Chen Rong, slowly nodded, and then opened the edict and shrilled, “Why did Hong Yunzi ask to be made a Daoist nun when she still pines for the secular world? A nun who keeps men in her company is a humiliation to the emperor.”
As this juncture, the eunuch made a wink to those behind him.
As a result, three palace maids holding wooden trays slowly stepped forward.
The crowd stirred as soon as he finished. And while the palace maids went forth, the murmurs had turned into cries and clamoring.
Even Wang Hong who had been leaning on his seat to watch the scene unfold was now sitting up.
The three palace maids were holding three items in their hands.
An exquisite porcelain bowl, a white sash, and a dagger…
Everyone knew what these objects signify.
In order to maintain the royal family’s eminence, it seemed His Majesty was granting death to the amorous nun.
As the maids walked forward, voices and cries rose louder.
All eyes were on Chen Rong and Wang Hong.
Chen Rong froze.
She was truly shocked.
His Majesty was ordering her death?
How could this be?
At this time, the eunuch’s sharp voice rang in her ears: “Hong Yunzi, do you dare to refuse?”
His voice was shrill and menacing.
Chen Rong slowly raised her head.
She faced the eunuch and then turned her gaze to the maids before sweeping it across the crowd.
She slowly turned to look back at Wang Hong.
When he felt her gaze, Wang Hong who had been coldly staring at the crowd looked up to meet her eyes.
She smiled to see him look at her.
It was a very peculiar smile – plaintive and relieved, causing it to be even more gorgeous.
Quietly staring at Wang Hong, she said, “Qilang.” Her voice was soft and sentimental, as if she was reluctantly giving up. “Qilang, you lost.”
“You lost,” she sadly murmured.
Foolishly looking at him, Chen Rong smiled and turned around.
She walked to the three palace maids.
Almost without hesitation, she reached for the dagger and in the middle of a sudden silence, gazed at everyone with a smile. “It should have been sooner… I thank His Majesty for giving me the resolve I need.”
As her small hand reached for the dagger, Wang Hong’s low yet sweet voice spoke: “Wait.”
Everyone quieted down to look at him.
With their attention, Wang Hong unconcernedly beckoned the eunuch. “Let me see the edict.”
“Preposterous!” the eunuch shrieked. He took a step back to glare at Wang Hong, harping: “Is the emperor’s edict for an idler like you to see?”
Wang Hong shot a glance, at which time the rest of the eunuch’s words lodged in his throat… it was just a glance, and a very quiet one, but the eunuch felt chills.
The chills were brief, nonetheless, and the eunuch thought of his duty. He gritted his teeth and shouted at Chen Rong, “Priestess, do you dare to defy His Majesty’s edict?”
At this time Chen Rong’s hand was placed on the dagger’s handle. After hearing Wang Hong speak, she had turned around to tenderly and quietly watch him.
She slowly turned back to the eunuch and lazily asked, “Why are you so anxious?”
She looked up at Wang Hong with a smile that hid a hope she did not dare to admit: “It’s very hard for me to find someone who protects me like this. Why are you in a hurry, sir?”
The eunuch’s face darkened. He didn’t have the audacity to look at Wang Hong, but it wasn’t a problem to glare at Chen Rong. He stepped forward and yelled at her: “Preposterous! Men, bring the wine to this nun.”
Two men stepped forward at his order.
At this moment, Wang Hong’s lazy voice was heard: “Bring the decree to me.”
The eunuch stopped.
While he was still puzzled, Wang Hong’s guard had strode forward. It took only a few steps for him to reach the eunuch. He reached out and snatched the decree from the eunuch’s hand.
The eunuch was furious. He frantically screamed, “How dare you! Men, capture him!”
His sharp cries echoed across the mountains. But no one felt brave enough to come forward even after the guard had returned to Wang Hong’s side.
The eunuch furiously turned around to see the fearful crowd backing away with their eyes glued to the ground.
The eunuch turned livid. His limbs gave out to think that he had lost the imperial edict in his hands.
The guard handed the decree to Wang Hong.
In the sunlight, Wang Hong took a few glances at it before he slowly rolled it up and then gracefully stepped down from the carriage.
He walked over to Chen Rong, cast her a glance, and put his hand out to her.
Chen Rong blinked.
Tilting her head, she absently stared at him for a moment and, when she understood his meaning, picked the dagger up and put it into his hand.
Wang Hong smiled. He waved his sleeves and strode to the eunuch.
Even though the dagger in his hand was flashing a dense coldness, the eunuch didn’t know what else to do. He stared at Wang Hong, put up a front and yelled, “Wang Qilang, what are you doing? Are you defying His Majesty’s edict?”
“Defy His Majesty’s edict?”
Wang Hong’s lips upturned to lightly say: “So you do know I’m Wang Qilang.” Upon his words, his right hand thrust forward.
In a flash, he was standing in front of the eunuch with the dagger in his hand.
Along with a swing of his sleeve and his soft spoken words, the crowd heard a stabbing sound.
Everyone screamed and backed away in horror.
Blood spewed forth.
Wang Hong indifferently stepped back to avoid the spattering blood. He knitted his brow and shook his sleeves. “You know who I am, yet you dare to deceive my woman with a fake edict?”
He made a turn without a care, shook his sleeves and walked to the carriage.
At this time blood was still gushing from the eunuch’s throat. He pointed at Wang Hong but was unable to utter anything.
At this time, the spectators had been so shocked by the turn of events that they could only gasp.
At this time, Chen Rong was looking up at Wang Hong.
As he was walking to her side and offering his hand, another sharp voice sounded from the mountainside: “Where is Priestess Hong Yunzi? There is an imperial edict –”
Chapter 161: Imperial Edict; Admittance
The announcement of another imperial edict surprised the crowd. Looking at Wang Hong, they could not help but think: Wang Hong indeed cannot be fooled. He easily recognized the falsified decree at a glance.
Soon they thought: Did the fairy-like Wang Hong actually kill someone in public?!
On the hillside, footsteps and drum beats were drawing nearer.
Wang Hong glanced at Chen Rong and then walked forth.
Chen Rong quickly followed him. She soon overtook him – even if he was able to avoid in time, his white robe still got stained with some blood, and it was better to hide it.
By their fiftieth paces or so, a band like the previous one had arrived.
Leading it was a eunuch in his forties. He narrowed his eyes when he saw Chen Rong.
Sure enough, behind her was the celestial Lang’ya Wang Qi.
After a brief glance, he returned his attention to Chen Rong who was maintaining a bowing position. “I gather you are Priestess Hong Yunzi?” he asked in a high-pitched voice.
“Aye,” replied Chen Rong.
The eunuch nodded and then told her, “Hong Yunzi, prepare to receive His Majesty’s edict.”
Chen Rong quickly bowed.
The eunuch took another look at her, unrolled the edict and said to Chen Rong, “In His Majesty’s opinion, you possess exemplary intelligence and talents although you are a woman. In the matter of resisting the Hu, you have performed meritorious service deserving of recognition from all Jin citizens.”
Chen Rong stared up at him upon hearing these words.
Not only was this edict effusively laudatory and contrary to the previous one, more importantly, was she even that exemplary to begin with?
In fact, not only her but the hushed people in the back all looked at one another: This isn’t the kind of praise one typically bestows on a woman. And alright, it’s fine to praise one’s bravery, but it sounds rather odd on a woman who has joined the monastic orders.
“By order of His Majesty, the emperor,” the eunuch continued to squeak, “Hong Yunzi is hereby conferred the title of the Dignified and Virtuous Priestess. She shall lead five thousand warriors and meet the northern hero in His Majesty’s stead.” At this juncture, amid murmurs, he leaned into Chen Rong and whispered, “The northern hero is an acquaintance of yours. I’m sure you’ll be happy to see him.”
Why the hell would I?!
Anger momentarily ignited in Chen Rong’s chest.
She bit her lips and indignantly thought: All dedicated men in the world are worthy of respect. The court adds a ridiculous Dignified and Virtuous title in front of my Daoist name and actually tells me to go be an ambassador. Are they trying to humiliate the men’s fervor? How infuriating! If the northern hero is indeed Ran Min, he won’t put up with this shame. How can the court reverse right and wrong like this?
While Chen Rong was red with anger, she suddenly saw a beam of sarcasm from the eunuch and the people behind him.
Their taunt was the splash of cold water that woke her up. Chen Rong suddenly became clear headed: No, I can’t be angry. We cannot discuss politics and warfare in Jiankang. Look at the young man of the Huan family, he scarcely said anything yet he was met with deadly consequences, and nobody will stand up for me in this kind of thing.
That’s because the rule to not discuss politics and warfare was a consensus reached between all the clans and the royal family.
Though clear headed, Chen Rong’s face was still flushed with anger.
The middle aged eunuch yelled at the fuming Chen Rong, “Why are you angry, priestess? You don’t want to?”
His voice was provocative, as if he wanted to incite her anger.
Chen Rong dropped her gaze.
She retreated and shook her head, saying: “I became a nun because I am frightened by blood, my heart could not be at peace.”
She dutifully raised her hands and earnestly said, “I don’t dare to bear the words Dignified and Virtuous. I beg His Majesty to withdraw his decree.”
She bowed her head and retreated.
The eunuch was angered. “Are you refusing His Majesty’s edict?” he screamed.
His voice was threatening.
Chen Rong did not look up. She simply replied, “Since I do not belong to the secular world, I am not subject to this edict.”
“Do you dare to refuse an imperial edict?”
“I do not belong to the secular world, I am not subject to it.”
The eunuch laughed: “Is that so.”
He flapped his sleeve, screaming: “Go.”
The troupe made a turn at his order.
Just then, another drum music was heard playing from the foothill of the mountain.
Few in attendance were stupid. After hearing this music, the buzz that had just picked up quieted down again.
Chen Rong also raised her head. She looked to the foothill that was blocked by dense foliage and could not help but exclaim, “There’s… another messenger?”
She instinctively looked back at Wang Hong. After facing a quietly smiling Wang Hong, she withdrew her gaze: He looks thoughtful, it seems he is also suspicious.
So she returned her gaze to the middle aged eunuch.
At this moment he was leading the palace maids and guards away, his face full of anger and resentment. “What a ruckus, what an absolute ruckus.” He irately flapped his sleeve screaming: “Let’s go!”
He ran right into the other band.
The two bands stilled, but immediately resumed as usual, and the drum music continued to parade up the mountains.
Before long, a familiar voice shrilled, “Is it you, Priestess Hong Yunzi?”
This high-pitched voice indeed belonged to the young eunuch who brought Chen Rong to the palace this morning.
Upon seeing his familiar face, Chen Rong breathed a sigh of relief as she thought to herself: It has to be His Majesty this time.
She hurriedly raised her clasped hands in reply: “Aye.”
The young eunuch nodded. He came to stand before Chen Rong, announcing: “Hong Yunzi, prepare to receive His Majesty’s edict.”
Chen Rong knelt down, her heart thumping. Under her wide sleeves, she wrung her hands and thought: It won’t be another ridiculous decree that tries to harm me, will it?
The young eunuch unrolled the imperial edict and read: “Priestess Hong Yunzi, formerly known as Chen Rong.”
How does this sound anything like a formal decree? But this sentence might really be coming from His Majesty.
The eunuch continued to read: “When Mo’yang was besieged by the Hu, she braved danger by herself for the sake of friendship. Later when Nan’yang was surrounded, out of a city full of men, only this woman had the courage to lead our men in spilling the barbarians’ blood. I deeply respect everything she does. Women had led armed forces since days of yore, Zhaojun of the Han Dynasty is extolled for her virtues. Today we are blessed with this woman before us.”
The eunuch’s voice escalated: “I hereby appoint this woman to be my Grand Chamberlain. She shall hold the title of Special Counselor on Hu matters. Signed, the emperor.”
The young eunuch slowly rolled the edict up, kindly smiling at a frozen Chen Rong. “Why aren’t you accepting the edict?”
This translation belongs to hamster428.
Chen Rong looked up and thought: Once I accept this edict, I should be able to have a few peaceful days. There shouldn’t be any more to follow.
“Your loyal subject accepts,” she replied with a deep bow, before stepping forward to receive the edict.
The young eunuch smiled to see her accept the edict. He leaned in, winked at her and whispered: “His Majesty likes you. This title will make it much more convenient.”
He next waved his arm and led the mighty band away.
Chen Rong stood in the sunset watching them leave.
The imperial edict she had just received wasn’t any less bizarre.
Not only was appointing a nun to be Grand Chamberlain unheard of, even reading the edict halfway down the road was in itself nonsensical. And yet all three consecutive edicts had been issued this way. Apparently this was the kind of prank the emperor liked to pull.
By the time the troupe completely disappeared from view, the spectators still did not move.
Chen Rong slowly turned and looked behind her.
She did not see Wang Hong.
She walked to the carriage. Behind her people started to point fingers:
“My my, three edicts in a row!”
“I’ll give it another minute, more might be coming.”
“Madness, what utter madness.”
“Did you see? In order to protect her Lang’ya Wang Qi even killed a man in public. He didn’t betray any emotions when blood splattered… quite frightening.”
“In my opinion the emperor made her Grand Chamberlain to keep her close. Tsk tsk, good for the promiscuous nun. She made both His Majesty and Wang Qi fight over her with no regard for decency.”
Chen Rong quickened her pace to leave behind these increasingly ugly comments.
She soon reached the carriages.
She cast a glance at Wang Hong’s vehicle and then strode to her own.
Before she went any farther, Wang Hong’s voice sounded: “Come here.”
Chen Rong stopped.
She turned her head and briefly hesitated, then walked to his carriage, lifted the curtain and climbed in.
Wang Hong was leaning on his seat. He did not look at her, absently gazing outside instead.
Chen Rong neared him. As the carriage shook, she asked, “What’s going on?”
Wang Hong didn’t turn around. After some time he smiled to say: “Someone has acted.”
When he finally turned to look sideways at Chen Rong, he broke into a laughter. It started as a laughter but it soon turned into a long howl.
It spread far in the night wind, echoing in the mountains.
In the meanwhile, people in the temple had come out to meet them. They had been here since the first decree arrived, but did not dare to come near until now.
The carriage passed the crowd to enter the temple. It only stopped when it reached the room where Chen Rong had woken up after coming back from the Prince of Jiankang estate.
Wang Hong stopped his howl and alighted the carriage, lightly walking inside.
Chen Rong followed right behind him.
The wooden house was clean and quiet, with few objects besides some furniture.
Wang Hong walked to the middle of the room before he stopped and slowly turned around to look at Chen Rong.
A red halo from the long howl was still on his face, like a streak of blood on jade.
The sun was setting to the west; its light filtered through the window gossamer and sprinkled over his body and face.
At this moment, loneliness and desolation shadowed his startlingly handsome countenance.
In the sparkling light, his clear and lofty eyes looked to be both near yet far, bright yet dark.
He quietly watched Chen Rong as though he was deeply in love, as though he was in rumination, but mostly as though he was lonely.
Chen Rong unhurriedly went to him.
Looking up at him, she softly asked, “Qilang, what really happened?”
It was the second time she asked this question.
Wang Hong smiled and looked outside the screened window. “His Majesty is often drunk. In such times he likes to write random nonsense and stamp his seal on it.”
He paused before adding: “After he sobers up, His Majesty usually forgets what he has done.”
Chen Rong grasped the situation at this point.
So it turned out His Majesty had such a bad habit. Then that was to say those around him often gave orders in his name whenever he was drunk. A decree was mostly verified by looking at the seal – if there is a seal then it is real; it doesn’t matter whether the words were written by the emperor or not.
Seeing that she understood, Wang Hong smiled and again looked out the window.
Chen Rong watched him and inwardly thought: The first decree bluntly alleges that my keeping company with men is undermining His Majesty’s eminence. I wonder whose idea it was? The Ninth Princess? Or was it the Wang House of Lang’ya?
The second decree said something about conferring me the title of the Dignified and Virtuous Hong Yunzi. It also mentioned Ran Min. Whose idea was that one, then? She knew that such a decree couldn’t have been written by a woman, such as the Ninth Princess. Those people didn’t have that ability; they couldn’t have known that Ran Min had come to Jiankang.
As for the third decree, perhaps the emperor realized his blunder after he sobered up, so he followed them with another one, firstly to save me and secondly to continue his absurd legacy.
Chen Rong suddenly laughed and murmured, “Grand Chamberlain? Qilang Qilang, it has only been a day yet I have been appointed by His Majesty to be the Grand Chamberlain.”
The more she thought about it the more she wanted to laugh.
Chen Rong’s laughter roused Wang Hong.
He slowly turned to look at her.
Unlike her, he did not look happy. His eyes were quiet as he watched her laugh. His flush had long gone, replaced by a coldness on his terribly pale face.
Eventually, he curved into a smile. “Now that you’re the Grand Chamberlain, you won’t call me your husband anymore, and I’m back to being Qilang?”
Chen Rong’s smile slowly faded. She tilted her head away. “Why ask when you already know, Qilang?”
She turned back to look at him and offered another smile. “It isn’t my wish to call you my husband.”
Wang Hong’s smile stiffened.
“It hadn’t been long since you called me your husband. You took the initiative to ask me, and said you were willing to be my mistress. But now you say it’s not what you want. You’re quite cruel, Ah Rong.”
His smile was faint, his language soft, and his eyes gentle. But his words betrayed a chilliness. Though faint and light, each word pierced deeply.
Chen Rong looked up at him.
At length she dropped her gazed and smiled to say: “You clearly know, Qilang.” She sounded to be joking yet also serious when she next told him: “To be with you is for me far scarier than death.”
Wang Hong drew his lips into a line.
Chen Rong did not pay attention to his coldness. She reached out to gently stroke his lapels.
As her fingers smoothed over the folds on his clothes, Chen Rong looked up to smile at him: “Don’t you know Qilang? I’m too stubborn to wake up once I get caught in an obsession.”
She pressed her hand on her chest. “I’m so afraid to breathe every time I’m near you that my chest suffocates…”
Her smile was stunning in the golden sunset, the affection in her eyes was boundless.
Wang Hong had been quietly hiding his coldness underneath his gentleness while he watched her smile and her eyes, and while he listened to her words. His disgruntled heart suddenly rattled.
He instinctively reached for her hand.
Chen Rong, however, gracefully turned away and walked to the sunset.
In the twinkling of an eye, her figure had been shrouded under the golden evening light, brilliantly, dazzlingly, and beyond reach.
She slowly went to the window.
Looking at the mountains in the far distance and the gradually setting sun, Chen Rong’s laughter was calm and indifferent. “I’m sure there is no shortage of uncommonly beautiful girls at the Wang House of Lang’ya. Now that I think about it, as soon as you developed awareness of the opposite sex, your family must have let your heart’s desire stay by your side. And when you fell in love, they must have cruelly destroyed everything to make you realize such a woman was unworthy of your love… I bet no woman in this world can ever be worthy of your love?”
She suddenly returned and smiled like a flower. “That day when I woke up in your bed, I had asked you if you would marry me. Your reply was that I could still be your honored concubine.”
She approached him, her figure swaying in the golden light. She smiled at him and placed her hand on his chest, softly saying: “Although I had expected that answer, only when I really heard your reply did I thoroughly understand that Ah Rong of the Chen House will never be more than the concubine title you promise me. You merely wanted to repay me for risking my life with you in Mo’yang.”
She walked up to him, encircled his neck and continued to smilingly say: “For me, this heartache is nothing. Sitting alone night after night until dawn comes is also nothing.”
Wang Hong’s lips quivered.
Chen Rong bloomed into a smile, uttering each word like stone and iron: “Now you know. Even if I love you again, I’ll never become your plaything.”
She took his hand and placed it on her chest. Waves rippled in her eyes like an autumn pond – a goddess’s seduction. “Qilang, even when I am conferred the title of Grand Chamberlain I will still be your mistress. But I’ll call you what I want, whether it’s Qilang, my lord, or my husband. So whether we live together or apart, whether you abandon me or protect me, you can do as you wish.”
Sorry for the late update, these chapters are getting longer and longer -_-