Chapter 162: Two Gifts
Wang Hong was still looking at her quietly.
At last, he dropped his gaze and sighed, “Ah Rong.” Sounding somewhat rueful, he looked outside as he said, “When I promised to make you my concubine, I…” His throat felt dry. “It wasn’t because you risked your life in Mo’yang with me.”
His hands slowly extended to weigh on her shoulders. At the moment he touched her, Chen Rong could feel that his hands were shaking.
“I really truly like you, Ah Rong. I really don’t want you to be someone else’s wife.”
As if he didn’t know how to continue, his eyes averted outside the window. His ever elegant face was now somewhat discomposed.
Chen Rong fluttered a glance at him and then retreated to the back.
She had scarcely moved before his hold on her shoulders tightened, so that she could only stand opposite him to look at him like this.
She couldn’t move, so she didn’t.
She obligingly rested in his arms, quiet and peaceful.
At this time, the setting sunset spread its golden light through the screens and onto their hair and robes.
Time had ceased to flow.
Wang Hong continued to hold Chen Rong’s shoulders while his eyes stared off into the distance. At long last he recovered from this state to say: “Ah Rong, no woman has ever held the Grand Chamberlain title, let alone a nun. Even if you accept His Majesty’s edict, no one will take it seriously.”
“I know,” came her reply.
Wang Hong’s hand wavered between moving up and staying put. Slowly, it gently tipped her face so that he could look at her. His throat bobbed again as he said, “The Sima family is casual in their conducts… When you are with him you must watch your words and actions. Better he scold you than making a mistake.”
He caressed her hair and added after some thought: “The Grand Chamberlain is a courtier title. If His Majesty calls for you, go and see him. If he doesn’t, you may sleep in, or have a chat with other people. If others talk about the current affairs or the war in Nan’yang and Mo’yang, you should change the subject to discuss scenery, music, or even the trends in fashion, but you must never speak imprudence.”
This was a earnest reminder.
In his arms, Chen Rong momentarily lapsed into a daydream: This aristocrat who is holding me in his arms, this Wang House of Lang’ya heir who is more admired than the emperor, the most famous nobleman of them all… might actually love me. What an absolutely wonderful illusion.
She closed her eyes, lips tugging into a smile.
But even she smiled, her expression was still one of coolness and calm.
Wang Hong bowed his head.
He held her face in both hands and looked down at her.
“You have a unique identity. Now that you are appointed Grand Chamberlain, public attention cannot be avoided. I can’t explain everything clearly in such a short time.”
He took the sachet from his belt and wore it on her.
Chen Rong looked at the sachet wondering, “You gave me one before.”
“This is different from the previous one. I’ve worn this sachet since I was twelve; my people will all recognize it. Wear it when you go to the palace from now on. If anything happens someone will come to your aid.”
Chen Rong hummed a reply.
Wang Hong slowly raised his head.
He fixedly looked at her.
He suddenly smiled wryly and said, “Perhaps I was wrong.”
Chen Rong blinked, quizzically looked at him.
Wang Hong reached out to her face, his slender fingers caressing her brows, her eyes, her nose. Slowly, he lowered his head, softly brought his lips to her forehead, and gently said, “Ah Rong, believe me… I never intended to toy with you.”
At this time, he slowly let go of her and turned to the door.
He stopped midway to look over his shoulder at Chen Rong.
In the golden sunlight, his face looked as though it had been painted, his cloudless eyes filled to the brim with tenderness.
Chen Rong couldn’t afford this gentleness, so she dropped her gaze and avoided his eyes.
At length, Wang Hong sighed and quietly stepped out the door.
The wooden door kept rattling in the evening wind.
By the time Chen Rong followed his steps to the doorway, Wang Hong had gotten onto his carriage.
As if he could sense her gaze, he lifted the curtains and turned around, but Chen Rong had closed the wooden door behind her.
Some time later, a series of footsteps sounded.
Chen Rong softly called, “Nurse.”
Her lips quivered before saying: “Return Qilang’s clothes after they’re washed.” When Ran Min injured him, Wang Hong had changed his outfit.
Nurse Ping perplexedly looked at her for a while and then nodded, “Aye.”
Seeing Chen Rong no longer speak, Nurse Ping stepped to her and whispered, “Miss, what exactly were going on with the imperial decrees?”
After waiting for some time without hearing an answer, Nurse Ping suddenly remembered something else. “That’s right miss, your brother came by shortly after you went to the palace this morning. He seemed to be in a hurry, as if there was something important.”
Chen Rong looked up and asked, “How does he look? Is he injured or is he sick?”
Nurse Ping paused to think and then shook her head.
“If he’s not injured or ill, then it isn’t serious,” Chen Rong smiled. Even if it was, she reckoned it was only to do with his fishwife and her brothers.
While they talked, another series of footsteps approached them. Soon, Yinggu’s voice spoke from the steps: “Priestess, His Majesty sent five bodyguards as a gift to you.”
Chen Rong quickly raised her head looking to Ying’gu.
Ying’gu respectfully bowed to her. “I have made arrangements for His Majesty’s people.” She added, “Additionally, they reminded you not to be late to tomorrow’s morning court session.”
Morning court session?
Chen Rong rounded her eyes.
At this time, Ying’gu bowed before Chen Rong with a wooden box raised over her. “This is a present from His Majesty. Because the messenger came and went in a hurry, he told us not to disturb you. I accepted it on your behalf.”
The emperor sent me a gift?
Chen Rong went to her, lifting the red cloth to reveal a small wooden box with exquisite engravings of rivers and hills.
She took it into her hand and, after admiring it awhile, smiled and said, “How very lovely.”
She laughed as she opened the wooden box.
A jade piece lay inside, on it the engraving: “Like His Majesty himself.”
Like His Majesty himself? Chen Rong unknowingly read it aloud.
Ying’gu gasped to hear these words. Dumbstruck, she stared at the jade piece and blurted: “T-this has ‘Like His Majesty himself’ engraved on it?!”
Chen Rong couldn’t help but frown to hear her blurt out like this.
Her dissatisfaction went unnoticed. Ying’gu rounded her eyes staring at the jade piece in shock as she murmured, “Like His Majesty himself? Like His Majesty himself!”
After reciting it several times, she raised her head and cried to Chen Rong: “Congratulations, congratulations, priestess!”
She deeply bowed to a puzzled Chen Rong and happily exclaimed, “With the protection of this jade charm, no one will dare to harm you without thinking twice about it. My congratulations, priestess.”
No one will dare to harm me?
Chen Rong deadpanned at first, and then couldn’t help but laugh.
“No one will dare to harm me?” she laughed and walked forward. When she arrived at a pine tree, she reached out to stroke the time worn trunk. “No one will dare to harm me?”
For some reason, her eyes were glistening though she was laughing.
Ying’gu approached her from behind and said, “Priestess, this jade piece is priceless, you must never lose it or break it.”
“Hmm,” Chen Rong nodded with a shudder.
Ying’gu looked at her and sighed, “His Majesty treats you so well.”
Chen Rong turned to look at the cloud strewn summit with a light smile. “Aye, it’s rare to have someone treat me so well.” I only hope that this luck will stay to the very end. With this thought, Chen Rong laughed at herself.
“I should let Qilang know about this wonderful news,” Ying’gu said to her. “Would that be all right?”
Chen Rong smiled, stroking the jade piece. “Go.”
Her footsteps went away but soon returned. Without waiting for Chen Rong to ask, Ying’gu clasped her hands to relay: “Priestess, the Chen House of Jiankang has sent someone to invite you over for a banquet tonight. How would you like to answer?”
The clansmen sent someone?
I thought we aren’t related anymore? Right, they must have heard the rumors and now they are sending someone here. If they really think highly of me, why didn’t the punctilious Chen House of Jiankang send the invitation earlier, but wait until dusk?
As these thoughts came to her, Chen Rong shook her head: “Tell them I’m tired and have gone to bed.”
Chen Rong stared after Yinggu’s retreating figure and then turned to look at the clouds below. At this time, Yinggu’s footsteps sounded again, followed by her voice: “Priestess, there is an old friend who insists on seeing you. Will you allow him in?”
An old friend?
Chen Rong turned around.
Chapter 163: Worth Crying For
Appearing before Chen Rong’s eyes was a handsome lad in a light blue outfit and a jade hairpiece. His thin waist and wide sleeves made him look as if he could be blown away by the mountain wind.
Painted features, fair skin, and bright eyes – was this not Sun Yan?
Chen Rong was wreathed in smiles to see him. She appraised Sun Yan who was wearing a sachet and wooden clogs, looking the part of an aristocrat. Looking at him and then the maids and guards behind him, Chen Rong restrained her laughter to say: “My dear pretty boy. Ah Yan, did you return to your clan?”
Sun Yan waved his hand and gave his order without turning around: “Leave us.”
After everyone retired he strode to Chen Rong.
He stopped three steps from her and looked her up and down.
The corner of his lips tugged upward as he sarcastically said, “Can’t do anything right, can you, Ah Rong? I told you to take care of yourself, but you became a nun instead?”
Chen Rong glanced askance at him to see sorrow in his eyes. She pursed her lips: “It’s gotten much better.”
Unable to contain the warmth in her chest, she carefully produced the emperor’s jade and said to him, “Look, this is a gift from His Majesty.”
Sun Yan smirked at the mention of the emperor.
He regarded Chen Rong, flapped his sleeve and said, “Let’s go for a walk.”
They walked side by side towards the back of the mountain. It was early summer, and verdant leaves provided shades everywhere they went. They walked on the tree-lined road, from time to time passing by a boulder. At the moment, each had many things to say but neither knew where to start.
“I came to Jiankang a few days ago and I’ve met my relatives,” Sun Yan began at length.
Turning his head, he said, “I only know why the Hu are so rampant once I arrived in Jiankang.” He pressed his lips together. After shaking his head, he turned to look at Chen Rong and added, “Ah Rong, I heard General Ran had wanted to marry you. He even wanted to take you away this time but you rejected him?”
Chen Rong nodded. She reached for a leaf and slowly crumpled it.
Sun Yan knew her best. With just one glance he knew she did not want to talk about it. With a sigh, he muttered, “He’s crashing at my house these days, training and drinking from morning to night… He doesn’t say it, but I know he misses you. Last night he got so drunk that he hugged the jug of wine and called your name. Then when his hatred came rushing back he trashed my entire courtyard.”
“Ah Rong, he loves you. You can still marry him.”
“I don’t like Chen Wei. Moreover, I had lost my chastity.”
Sun Yan sighed, “Aye, fate is messing with you. If you hadn’t slept with another man, this marriage could have been a happy ever after.”
Chen Rong smiled and shook her head, asking: “Is Chen Wei doing well?”
“Chen Wei?” Sun Yan thought for a moment before recalling who Chen Wei was. He shook his head. “There’s nothing good about that woman. All day long she is boring and sullen. If she isn’t crying then she is smiling. She doesn’t do anything useful. The general really loathes her.”
Ran Min loathes her?
Chen Rong laughed. “That’s not possible, your general can never hate her.”
Sun Yan looked at her.
“I know what he did wrong now,” he sighed. He thought about it and continued, “He really does loathe her. I have seen her several times, and every single time the general loses his patience with her. Right, yesterday she was even hugging his leg to say whatever you did, she will learn to do the same. She asked the general not to be tired of her. At the time he was drunk, so he kicked her off and shouted: ‘If it was her, she would know everything with a single glance, she would not be wordy like you!’ He was not a lightweight, and his kick was in front of everyone, so I don’t think Chen Wei can live with dignity now.”
Chen Rong was a little surprised to hear this, but also thought it comical. She looked at the distant mountains and couldn’t speak for a long time.
Sun Yan stopped walking and stood to face her.
As he looked at her in her Daoist robe, he suddenly stepped forward and and pulled Chen Rong into a hug.
His movement was so sudden that she hadn’t reacted by the time he hugged her.
“You stubborn girl!” he scolded her. “After everything you say, isn’t it because you lost your chastity to Wang Hong so you feel that you are his and haven’t even thought about marrying anyone else?”
“Why are you so stupid! Stupid and stubborn! If you hadn’t slept with him, I could have helped you find a good family… I had chosen well already.”
It had been a long time since anyone cared about her liked this.
For as long as she could remember, she was always fighting by herself. Besides Nurse Ping and Old Shang, no one in this world cared whether she lived or died. This loneliness had carried on for a long time until that night when Wang Hong left the city in the middle of the night to find her…
This was the second time Chen Rong felt so moved. As she tried to not cry, Sun Yan pushed her away and laughed.
His booming laughter ricocheted across the mountain.
He threw a punch at the pine tree and wryly said, “I’m the stupid one. With your personality and looks, it’s not bad for you to still be living well until now. I guess that bastard Wang Hong did something right, after all.”
Having said that, he laughed again.
It is unclear how much time had passed when his laughter finally stopped and a sudden wailing rose from the opposite forest.
The wailing abruptly came – rhythmically, powerfully, and beautifully.
Sun Yan paused, as did Chen Rong.
It soon stopped and turned into a long howl.
Sun Yan waited for it to cease before shouting: “You cry then you laugh. Would you care for a drink?”
His shout echoed across the space for a long time.
At last, a clear laughter replied from the forest: “A vagabond like you doesn’t cry for the world, but cry for a woman instead. I can’t be bothered to drink with you!”
Sun Yan laughed out loud. He raised his clasped hands, his hair blown across his handsome face. “Don’t you know who she is? She is Ah Rong of the Chen House who took the lead to join the battlefield. His Majesty ordained her as Priestess Hong Yunzi. Bah! In my opinion, men of the world should keep their heads down in embarrassment when they see her!”
Sun Yan’s voice rang far and wide.
Chen Rong whipped around, incredulously looking at Sun Yan.
She knew from listening that this boy, who had befriended her in haste, was trying to make her famous using the scholars’ favored way.
In the forest, the man was silent for a time. Then he muttered, “This woman? She is worth crying for!”
“I am Cai Li, courtesy name Cai Zixiao. Who are you? Have we met?”
Cai Li, Cai Zixiao? He was a renowned Jiankang scholar!
Chen Rong’s eyes lit up. A renowned Jiankang scholar?! Excellent.
Having lived twice, Chen Rong was familiar with the rules of this world. If she wanted to have a good reputation, then she must win these scholars’ recognition. For this reason, she had done everything she could to get close to Wang Hong after her rebirth. A casual praise from these famous scholars was all that was needed to make her famous and give the lowborn her favorable matches.
For the poor gentry, it was a thing of fortune to marry a recognized woman. A good reputation was far better than wealth.
Even though marriage wasn’t in discussion any longer, she was nevertheless very happy that she could befriend influential people of Jiankang. This happiness had nothing to do with gains, it rather stemmed from a deeply rooted worship and fascination for renowned scholars.
Sun Yan laughed. “I am Sun Yan, still too young to have a courtesy name.” He pointed at Chen Rong beside him. “Standing beside me is Ah Rong of the Chen House. Though she is a woman, she is superior to men.”
Cai Li laughed. “Pardon my mistake. If you don’t mind, come to the Liu’yue Pavilion by the Xiufeng spring tonight. I shall treat you both to a banquet. Haha.”
His laughter gradually drifted away, for Cai Li did not wait for their acceptance to his invitation but went off on his own.
As soon as Cai Li was gone, Chen Rong looked back to Sun Yan.
Looking at the beautiful boy, she softly said, “Thank you.” Thank you for your praises…
Sun Yan turned to look at her.
Half a head taller than Chen Rong, his slim figure was as steady as a mountain in the evening wind.
He looked at her, his eyes shining brightly like a wolf’s. “Ah Rong,” he began with a cryptic smile, “I’ll stay in Jiankang a while longer.”
Chen Rong happily nodded. “That’s great.”
Sun Yan laughed. He clasped his hands and unhurriedly said, “I’m staying in Jiankang for two reasons this time. Firstly to do my best to fight the Hu, and secondly because of you.”
Curious, Chen Rong laughed. “Why because of me?”
Sun Yan took one step closer to her. He reached out to hold her shoulders as he said, “You’re my meimei. If you are in a plight, I should come to your rescue no matter what, shouldn’t I?” He winked at her and made a face. “Did that bastard Wang Hong take advantage of you? I’ll let him know my sister isn’t one to bully! I want you to have the most glorious life in Jiankang.”
Is anyone watching Heavy Sweetness Ash Like Frost??? Sooo cute. I’m constantly spazzing on a daily basis. I wasn’t a fan of Miss Oblivious in the book, or Mr Arrogance for that matter. But Yang Zi is doing a bang up job playing the funny sweet grape, and Deng Lun’s indulgent smiles every time he looks at her are themselves a silent weapon!