Chapter 172: Precisely a Rogue
Wang Hong quietly smiled at Chen Rong.
He stood with his arms crossed in the moonlight, faintly smiling and looking all too unconcerned.
And yet, Chen Rong had known him long enough to know that whenever he silently looked at her this way, it was that he wanted to read her mind.
She gave him a noncommittal smile and, staring at the darkness ahead, said as if nothing was the matter, “His Majesty is allowing me to have my own children.”
She wanted to tell Wang Hong that the emperor gave her young men as a way to let her have descendants… A woman who has a child has everything. From now on she wouldn’t be lonely or helpless. Of course, she could also do without the companionship of men.
Chen Rong’s even voice sounded grateful, offering seemingly no other meaning.
Wang Hong’s smile subtly stiffened.
He turned away, wordlessly staring at the horizon where heaven meets the earth.
It was only after a while that he said, “His Majesty sure treats you well.” He wanted to calm his voice, but when he spoke, he sounded more or less irate.
Chen Rong in contrast was gratified to recognize the displeasure in his voice. She very much wanted to laugh but thought better of it. She pressed her lips together to say: “Aye.” With this answer, she happily told Wang Hong, “His Majesty has given me a thousand acres of land and a stunning house. I have finally found peace this time in Jiankang.”
In the moonlit night, Wang Hong’s lips curved in an apparent smile.
Chen Rong swept aside her fluttering hair as she eagerly looked to the front and said, “I now have land and property, and even a child in the future… Ah Rong of the Chen House at last got everything she ever wanted.”
“Everything you ever wanted?”
Wang Hong’s voice was low and somber. He narrowed his eyes and dangerously regarded Chen Rong.
Chen Rong was not looking look at him so she did not know that his expression had taken an ominous turn. She nodded, briskly saying: “Aye. I finally got what I wanted in this life.” She tilted her head with a crisp laughter: “I used to think that I could be content with marrying an ordinary scholar, helping him build up some wealth and giving birth to our smart children. I don’t think I’ve told you: whenever I had free time on my hand, I would even think about what to do in order to retain my husband’s heart so that he would not bring concubines home.”
She chuckled to hear herself.
She looked down and used the bamboo pole to stir the water. After having made a circle of faint ripples, her smile lit up: “There was a time when I doubted if I’d ever have what I want. Little did I expect His Majesty to treat me so well. Even though I don’t yet know the joy of having a family, it’s still great to have land and a house, and even possible children.”
She turned to Wang Hong and again faced his entirely too quiet and too cold of a gaze. Nonetheless, Chen Rong was in a good mood and did not care. She winked at him, playfully calling: “Qilang.”
She averted her gaze to the floor, her hands twisting together. “Qilang, will you promise me one thing?”
“I will not.”
Chen Rong looked at him in surprise: “I haven’t said anything.”
Wang Hong’s lips upturned into an unsmiling smile: “Don’t you want me to promise you that if you were to become pregnant with my child, then he will go with you and have nothing to do with me?”
At Chen Rong’s impressed and frustrated expression, he quietly said, “To think that he would be the first unwanted heir of the Wang House in Lang’ya even before he was born.”
His voice was soft and light as it had been, but also unmistakably icy. Chen Rong thought wiser than to speak. She quickly closed her mouth and turned her back to him.
And yet she was wreathed in smiles. At this moment, she was still excited at the thought of her favorable future.
“Ah Rong of the Chen House, lay to rest any hope that might exist in your heart,” said Wang Hong.
Surprised, Chen Rong looked back to hear him continue: “For I will kill any man who comes near you.”
He suddenly turned around to regard Chen Rong, gently brushing the dust that didn’t exist on her sleeve. “So in your life, there will never be any children to inherit your wealth and legacy.”
He did not wait for Chen Rong to get angry before anger swelled in his own heart. He went up to the bow and ordered without turning his head: “Row faster.”
Chen Rong almost uttered: I’ve never thought to let anyone other than you to come near me.
But she ultimately did not say it, and was silently seething over his overbearing and callous ways.
She pursed her lips and pounded the bamboo pole into the water.
The light boat shot ahead, soon leaving the riverside far behind them.
Wang Hong did not speak, and Chen Rong – in a fit – also kept mum. At the moment, only the sound of flowing water and of the stirring bamboo pole melded with the calling of insects and wild animals.
Wang Hong was highly peeved. After he had stood at the bow for a while, he suddenly punched the air and cursed, “Damn it,” making Chen Rong turn to look at him.
His handsome face was livid in the moonlight. He ground his teeth: “It’s all because of that stupid emperor.”
Chen Rong suppressed the urge to counter.
At this time, Wang Hong passed her to get to the table at the stern and unfastened a tightly tied wine jug. He lifted it and took a swig.
When she heard his drinking gulps, Chen Rong couldn’t help but say: “Stop drinking.” She grabbed the wine jug from him and cried, “We’re in the middle of the river, do you want to drown?!”
This translation belongs to hamster428.
Wang Hong let her snatch his wine, turning his back to sulk.
“Is your cold better?” Chen Rong was heard asking at this time. “It’s windy here, don’t get yourself sick.” She paused before trying to convince him: “Let’s go back.”
The man paid her no heed.
Seeing that he didn’t even turn his head and was still sulking like a child, she couldn’t help from muttering: “Your cold’s not even better yet… You really don’t know how to love yourself.”
The man whose back was turned to her didn’t budge.
Chen Rong kept staring at him only to hear him sneeze.
While she was still at a lost as to what to do, he sneezed twice more.
She hurried over and pulled his sleeves down, softly saying: “It’s cold, isn’t it? Let’s go back.”
He still wouldn’t turn around, but as he pulled away from her touch, Chen Rong could feel hesitation in his movement. She was exasperated but, at the same time, amused. She wrapped her arms around him so that he could warm up. “Qilang, the river is too windy, it’s easy to catch a cold.”
Wang Hong ignored her.
Chen Rong had no other way but to drag him back. This time it was easy to drag him. She pulled Wang Hong to the table that had been chained to the boat and, after looking around to find no spare garments, could only continue to warm him from behind.
The man in her arms sneezed and sneezed again.
She worriedly sat down with him and held his head. “Why didn’t you bring any servants with you?” she chided.
He did not speak, quietly staying in her arms. In the moonlight, his softly closed eyes seemed fragile and helpless.
Chen Rong looked down and gently placed a kiss between his eyebrows. Then she thought of everything he had done wrong and couldn’t stop herself from scolding him. “You’re clearly spoiled and overbearing, and you like to overestimate yourself. You got yourself sick now you act like a child.”
He squirmed in her arms and retorted: “I don’t even have a courtesy name. I’m not an adult yet.”
For some reason, Chen Rong laughed out loud to hear him say this. She couldn’t contain her laughter and it grew more and more mirthful.
She suddenly stopped and quickly raised her head to the sound of paddling water.
She squinted in the direction where the sound came from. Gradually, several boats appeared at the far end of her field of vision.
“Someone is coming,” she warily whispered to Wang Hong.
These boats were coming directly towards them and yet Wang Hong made no reply.
Chen Rong sat up straight, unblinkingly staring at these people. In a flash the boats had arrived. Before she could speak, a resonant voice had sounded: “Is it you, my lord?”
It was a familiar voice.
“Come over,” said the man in her arms.
Several men happily shouted: “It’s his lordship!”
Wang Hong had stood up by the time they reached Chen Rong’s boat. Several servant boys gathered around to drape another coat on Wang Hong and help him to the other ship.
Wang Hong did not move. He turned his head and tossed his coat to her, softly saying: “Layer up.” Only until Chen Rong put it on did he reach for her hand and go to the larger ship.
After they came over, the men lit torches at the bow and stern of the boats. In a short time, only blazing flames sounded in the night.
Wang Hong’s smile was faint and his eyes were bright. His manners displayed a certain experience and intelligence. More importantly, he did not sneeze another sneeze… Chen Rong suspiciously stared at him before letting it go, deciding that he was too proud to resort to such a cheap trick.
The strong men propelled the ship ahead. Water foams formed a white line that extended to the horizon.
While admiring the scenery, Chen Rong suddenly cried, “We’re going in the wrong direction!”
“We’re going in the wrong direction,” she cried to the men.
Jiankang was in the southeast and could be seen by finding the Big Dipper, but the boat was sailing towards the northwest.
They turned a deaf ear to her cry.
Chen Rong turned to look at Wang Hong and cried, “We’re really going in the wrong direction.” She pointed to the sky: “Look, the Big Dipper is over there, we should be going the other way for us to return to Jiankang.”
In her previous life, she had followed Ran Min everywhere on his expeditions. As a general, Ran Min was required to be proficient in astronavigation. Because Chen Rong wanted to share a common language with him, she also learned some basic knowledge. If could be said that she was more knowledgeable than most of the nobles in Jiankang.
Perhaps her eyes were too sincere and her tone was too confident, Wang Hong slowly turned his head.
His eyes – those resembling snow-capped peaks – quietly regarded her.
He smiled at Chen Rong in a graceful manner that could only come from a nobleman: “We’re not taking the wrong way.”
At Chen Rong’s rounded eyes, he added, “We don’t need to go back to Jiankang.”
And then, he turned away.
“Pardon?” Chen Rong demanded in surprise. Biting her lips, she asked again, “W-what did you say?”
Wang Hong reached for a cup of wine from the table and brought it to Chen Rong. “Don’t panic, we aren’t going back to Jiankang tonight.”
“Then where are we going?!” pressed Chen Rong, suppressing her anger.
She hadn’t realized that she no longer cared to maintain her elegance. She finally stopped feeling lowly, stopped bowing her head because of how people look at her, and stopped keeping quiet because of what people might say.
She did not notice any of it but Wang Hong did.
He quietly looked at an angry Chen Rong and curved his mouth to say: “Nan’yang.” After a brief pause, he softly added, “The route we’re taking will lead to Nan’yang. When we land, there will be carriages waiting ashore.”
“What did you say?” Chen Rong ground her teeth. “We’re going to Nan’yang? Who wants to go to Nan’yang with you?!” Her voice was shaking with anger by the time she asked: “Wang Qilang, tell me, when have I agreed to go to Nan’yang?”
At her rounded eyes, Wang Hong took a sip of his drink. Receiving no answer from him, Chen Rong angrily snatched his wine.
Wang Hong did not mind that his wine got taken away. He leaned back and quietly watched the moon in the sky, replying: “I know His Majesty best.”
She didn’t expect to hear him mention the emperor. Chen Rong involuntarily suppressed her anger to listen.
“He’s somewhat impulsive when he does things,” began Wang Hong. “When one’s impulsive, he can’t wait to get things done right away. He doesn’t have any long-term plan, so anyone or anything would be tossed to a corner after a month or two.”
He turned to Chen Rong, his eyes curving in the moonlight. “Don’t you see, Ah Rong? He is minding your business too much. I want to take you to Nan’yang to stay low for a while, then we’ll come back in a month or two.”
Wang Hong watched Chen Rong clench her teeth in anger. She finally couldn’t stand his smiling face anymore and pounced at his neck.
Strangely, even though she was strangling him, not only did the guards ignore her, they all turned their heads away.
When Chen Rong’s fingers closed around his neck, Wang Hong couldn’t stop sneezing.
“Stop pretending, I won’t fall for it.”
Answering her were still sneezes.
Chen Rong unconsciously loosened her grip around his neck and looked down at him.
Unexpectedly, the man underneath her laughed loudly. He laughed so hard that he was having a coughing fit.
Even when he spoke he sounded mirthful: “Ah Rong, you really do love me.”
Chen Rong bowed her head to bite him.
“Hey, don’t bite my ears,” she heard him laugh. “I had to explain for a whole day about the wound you left on my shoulder last time. If you bite my ears this time, I won’t have anything to tell them.”
Chen Rong was furious. She labored for breath and couldn’t help but scream, “I’m not playing around with you.” She pushed him away and turned her back to him. Her eyes were red with anger.
At this time, a warmth enveloped her back. He hugged her, his chin resting on her hair, as he gently persuaded: “Ah Rong, don’t be angry.” He weakly smiled. “You’re so stubborn. You obviously love me yet you get upset. You clearly know you can’t run from me but you still want to struggle.”
He hugged her from the back, muttering: “I really don’t like that useless emperor. He can poke his nose in the gods’ business for all I care, but why is he always minding your business? If he keeps giving you pretty boys, one day I might lose my temper and kill the nosy bastard.”
Only now did Chen Rong know he was bothered by this the entire day long. She wanted to laugh but she was also vexed.
Soon enough, however, she thought: It’s not a bad thing if His Majesty doesn’t think of me anymore. At least he won’t take back my rewards on a whim… She was still afraid of the emperor’s moodiness. He gave her a few cold sweats when she was with him today.
Besides, what’s done is done. There was no use being upset.
She pulled Wang Hong’s hand from her waist and asked, “Are you really going to Nan’yang?”
“Of course.” He clasped her more tightly, saying in a lazy voice: “A wily hare has three burrows. I had bought some land and stores there.”
For some reason, Chen Rong suddenly felt chills to hear him say this.
Wang Hong smiled and stared at her straightened back, continuing: “Now that the barbarians have shifted their target, Nan’yang has become a safe place, so I want to go and take a look.”
He neared Chen Rong, chuckling in her ear: “Do you agree, darling?”
Chen Rong ignored him.
At this time, the man behind her sighed, “Some jewelry was buried in Jiankang, this is the second burrow. Then where should the third burrow be?”
He turned to Chen Rong with a smile. “Where should we plan the third burrow, my darling?”
“I don’t know,” she flatly replied.
He stroked her waist and openly pondered, “What can we do? The land in Nan’yang can be recorded under someone’s name. The hamlet in Jiankang can be under another friend’s name, then whose name should we use for the third burrow to be safe?”
Having said this, he turned to Chen Rong and asked, “Whose name would be good, do you think?”
“I don’t know.”
Wang Hong laughed: “You’re not very smart, my darling, you don’t know anything.”
Chen Rong suddenly laughed.
She turned back at him – her dimpled smile was that of a siren, her voice carrying a natural suppleness: “Really Qilang, you’re a world famous scholar yet you pay attention to the smell of coin. Aren’t you worried about tainting your reputation?”
Wang Hong’s white teeth displayed behind a smile. He drew water from the river and said, “Ah Rong, true men do not think of winning and losing. Only by keeping everything in our palms and seeing them clearly can we advance or retreat at our will in difficult situations, unafraid of anyone or anything. This is a scholar’s bearing.”
He let go of Chen Rong and looked up at the bright moon in the sky, lightly smiling: “We have both a bright moon and a beauty tonight! Ah Rong, won’t you play a song for me?”
Hardly had he spoken when a guard brought a zither box to Chen Rong.
Chen Rong was angry with Wang Hong so she stubbornly replied, “I don’t feel like it. I don’t want to.”
Wang Hong wasn’t affronted. He casually smiled and said, “You don’t feel like it, my darling, but your husband does.”
He sat up and took the instrument from the guard’s hands. Zither notes soon began under his slender fingers.
Just as he confessed, his music was filled with leisure, gaiety, and triumph.
Chen Rong couldn’t stop from tossing him a look.
Wang Hong did not see her.
His gaze was kept downward. His handsome countenance was both noble and ethereal. His clear eyes were seemingly void of impurity and foulness.
As though they had been bewitched by his radiance, several fireflies drifted closer and danced around his hands.
“Oh? Why is there a boat at this late hour?” a guard whispered at this time.
Chen Rong looked back. Sure enough, there was a light from another section of the river. If one looked carefully it was indeed another boat.
Suddenly, a righteous voice rang from the other boat: “Who might the zither master be? Why does your music float so playfully on a breezy moonlit night? Pardon me for saying: your technique is unparalleled, but don’t you think your gaiety sounds rather frivolous?”
His voice resonated in the quiet night.
Wang Hong’s brow didn’t even lift. He gracefully withdrew his hands and the zither came to a stop.
In a careless manner, he looked up and smilingly answered, “You’re being unfair, my lord. My love is here with me and she is everything I ever want, so of course my music is joyous and light.”
His answer caused the other man to pause before bursting in laughter.