Chapter 181: You Lost
At this juncture, Murong Ke’s lips gave a smirk under his mask. His eyes glanced behind Wang Hong.
He knew there were many hypocrites among the Jins where infighting was fierce, which meant there could, among the Wang guards, very well be spies sent by other clans. If the spies disclosed what he said, Wang Hong would be in for a bad time no matter his abilities.
The Hu captains stood orderly behind Murong Ke, and in the woods, all the Hu soldiers had organized into groups. They stood their ground, numerous and relentless, no longer the burnt animals they had been.
Wang Hong amusedly watched Murong Ke and unhurriedly voiced, “What kind of person is Murong Ke? I trust that you won’t be a sore loser, will you?”
Murong Ke somehow couldn’t stomach these words. His expression altered as soon as Wang Hong finished.
At this time, Wang Hong leisurely continued: “Prince of Tai’yuan, you have miscalculated. The ones behind me are direct descendents of our clan. If they weren’t, then I really wouldn’t have dared to bring them on this thousand-mile journey to rescue a woman.”
He was explaining to Murong Ke in all seriousness.
Murong Ke’s expression turned more and more unsightly.
Wang Hong was apparently in high spirits. He grinned, “Prince of Tai’yuan, you came to Luo’yang in disguise six years ago to play with me for three days. The results were that you lost to me in chess, in warfare, and even that siege game where you sent fifty guards to play. Even your teacher observed that you’ll never defeat me in your life.”
His sudden mention of the past earned him a harrumph from Murong Ke.
Wang Hong was just a twelve-year-old boy at the time while Murong Ke was an arrogant prodigy whose fame spread far among his clansmen. After encountering Wang Hong in the Central Plains, however, he was handed his defeat time and time again.
He studied military books, practiced martial arts, and thought himself a genius ever since he was little. What gave him the right to easily defeat him, this boy who had an eternal smile on his face and a penchant to care for naught?
After returning home, the more he thought about it the more disgruntled he became, and the more bewildering it felt. Subconsciously, he began to see Wang Hong as his arch enemy; he could never rest as long as this man was still alive. And yet, his clansmen could neither kill all Jin people nor occupy all Jin land.
So he sent men to secretly investigate the identity of the boy and pay close attention to his words and deeds. Nevertheless, Wang Hong who had always hidden his military talent was not known to outsiders. His chance ultimately came in Mo’yang.
He laid siege to the city in order to kill this potential opponent in one fell swoop. He didn’t expect Wang Hong to escape at the last minute.
“I was just a child then,” Wang Hong’s voice continued to sound. “I thought we were simply playing, why won’t you let it go?” After a pause, he sighed, “Murong Ke, to be honest, you’re too petty.”
Even though he was accusing him, Wang Hong continued to smile personably and radiate charm. He was positively graceful and dazzling in his snow-white robe among the soldiers in this wilderness.
His bearing outshone all who were present. Even the Prince of Tai’yuan, Murong Ke, was reduced to a vulgar country brute.
Murong Ke glared at the elegant and nonchalant Wang Hong with a huff. Wang Hong’s amused voice continued: “Dear me, did I startle the Prince of Tai’yuan? I do apologize, my two captains insisted on brandishing their names.” When he said this, the banners with the words Shi and Xuan were given a shake by the soldiers, accompanied by their loud laughter.
The Hu were outraged this time. “Your Highness, we can’t spare him,” someone growled. “It’s one thing to bluff, but how dare he also make jest of us? We won’t tolerate this insult.”
“Your Highness, please let me go at him.”
“Your Highness, we cannot let him get off lightly.”
In the midst of these appeals, Wang Hong was still grinning at Murong Ke.
Murong Ke warily drew his lips into a line. The more Wang Hong made no secrets about his plans, the less he believed him.
“What do our scouts say?” yelled Murong Ke.
“… The scouts have not returned, Your Highness.”
“You are needlessly worried, my prince,” a captain said to him. “Look behind the Jins: it’s completely empty. Clearly there is no ambush.”
Murong Ke coldly glared at him and replied, “Wang Hong is cunning and he’s got Ran Min behind him. We’ll wait for our scouts to return with their reports.” Not to mention, his two thousand men may not necessarily gain victory against Wang Hong.
Murong Ke turned his head and stared at Wang Hong.
When he glanced over at Chen Rong he could perceive her bowing her head and shrinking away.
Her behavior was completely different from the fearlessness she previously flaunted in front of him.
Murong Ke stilled and blinked, his eyes slowly darkening.
Chen Rong could feel his eyes on her.
She didn’t want him to pay attention to her. In fact, she was anxious to get far away from these Hu… She was kept with Murong Ke for a long time, and even now her clothes were torn. Her reputation may have been of the promiscuous sort, but that did not mean she wanted her innocence to be questioned.
She didn’t want Wang Hong to doubt her.
Wang Hong looked down when he saw her curling into herself.
“It’s alright,” he gently told her.
Chen Rong looked up.
Facing her bewildered eyes, Wang Hong softly smiled and said, “It’s all in the past, I won’t let others criticize you.”
I won’t let others criticize you.
I won’t let others criticize you.
Chen Rong’s lips quivered as her eyes turned red. “I wasn’t…” she croaked. “I had persuaded him to let me keep my dignity.”
She felt choked up, bitter, but more than that – elated. With a downcast gaze, she murmured, “I really wasn’t, really.”
It had been a long time since she was last compelled to explain herself to him this seriously and wholeheartedly. As if he was the only one in her heart, as if his faith in her or lack thereof would determine her fate…
Wang Hong froze. He held her closer, his voice a little choked up: “I know you weren’t.” He looked skyward and murmured, “Since I’ve come to save you, then I won’t care about that.”
Chen Rong looked up upon hearing these words. What she saw was his beautiful chin.
At this time, Murong Ke’s sneering voice arrived: “How sweet of you.” For whatever reason, his lips moved but he swallowed back his next words.
Wang Hong turned around in surprise. He quietly stared at Murong Ke. At this moment, a captain stepped out from behind Murong Ke, pointed at Chen Rong and piped, “Sure enough Wang Qilang cares for this woman. It’s too bad that she…”
Before he could finish, Wang Hong made a cut in the air and interrupted him with a proud, disdainful demeanor.
“You lost,” said Wang Hong after turning his head to look at Murong Ke.
“Murong Ke, you lost again.”
After uttering these words, Wang Hong watched Murong Ke whose eyes could spew fire, gave a laugh and ordered his men to retreat.
His knights slowly departed.
The Hu troops looked on as more than a thousand riders pulled farther away in the midst of billowing dust. In reality, the overworked Hu may not successfully thwart the Wang army even if Wang Hong did not ambush them.
When the Hu troops finally awoke from their anger, more than a thousand Wang guards were disappearing before their eyes.
Gradually, their figures vanished in the woods leaving behind only desolate fields.
Murong Ke made a fist and punched behind him, making the branches shake violently. He gritted his teeth and growled, “That blustering bastard.”
How loathsome that he deliberately came here to laugh at him.
Hearing his growl, a Hu captain murmured, “If he’s this angry, why didn’t His Highness use that woman to provoke him?”
He was not very loud, and Murong Ke did not hear him.
This translation belongs to hamster428.
Chen Rong couldn’t believe what was happening. Did Wang Hong retreat upon a simple declaration?
At this time, a guard approached him and whispered, “Why did we retreat, m’lord? We haven’t implemented our plans.”
Wang Hong looked down.
In his arms, an exhausted Chen Rong was unable to lift her eyes. “Just because,” he lightly said, stroking her hair.
His men were used to hearing such an answer, however arbitrary it was. The guards glanced at one another then at Chen Rong, and stopped talking.
Chen Rong was the only one who suddenly relaxed when Wang Hong ordered the withdrawal, as if a boulder had been lifted from her shoulders.
Her relief opened the gate to fatigue and sleepiness.
But she didn’t want to sleep.
She looked at the pure, white robe in front of her and listened to him saying: “Just because.” Unknowingly, her eyes reddened again.
Smart as he was, he didn’t want her to be questioned or hurt by other people…
Chen Rong clutched his lapels.
A slender hand reached out.
It gently pried each of her fingers before enclosing them in its palm.
Chapter 182: Jealousy Leads to Passion
Warning: nsfw contents
He spoke no more, and did nothing else. His hold on her hand was gentle but firm, as though he wanted to coax the weariness out of Chen Rong.
Sure enough, she gradually relaxed.
Her tensed wrists fell as she settled in the crook of his neck, sinking down little by little.
When she awoke it was to a bumpy ride. As soon as she stirred, a hand stilled her and Wang Hong’s voice sounded: “Don’t move, your wound has just been dressed.”
Chen Rong softly hummed and opened her eyes.
She saw a white-clad man with a faint smile on his handsome face, leaning leisurely on the carriage wall. “Where are we going?” she asked in a daze.
“Back to Nan’yang.”
“Back to Nan’yang just like this?”
Wang Hong looked down and smiled at her.
His smile was particularly radiant. “Don’t worry, Murong Ke’s people have fallen to Ran Min’s trap,” he explained. “After you disappeared, I sent someone to contact Ran Min.”
“Murong Ke is a clever man. He only communicated with me,” he lazily said, rubbing his chin. “He intended to use you to lure me, then get rid of me before using you again to deal with Ran Min. Even if the two of us didn’t fall for his trap, he must have thought we’d live in regrets for the rest of our lives because you had fallen into his hands. But he had underestimated me, as well as Ran Min.”
With a faint smile, Wang Hong looked up at the carriage ceiling and muttered, “I had told that rascal long ago that I, Wang Hong, have never been a stubborn old hat. What made him think I wouldn’t look for Ran Min and join our forces against him?”
When he saw that Chen Rong was listening attentively, he continued: “I disclosed the new mayor’s route and his troop numbers to Murong Ke because I knew he wouldn’t be able to help himself from taking the bait. Ran Min agreed to take care of Murong Ke’s men while I rescue you. I’m guessing,” he paused to estimate, “that those two have met by now. Tsk tsk, we have a purpose whereas he is negligent, we take action whereas he is passive; Murong Ke will suffer quite a loss this time. I bet he’ll start to behave after this.”
“Then what about the mayor of Mo’yang?” Chen Rong asked.
Wang Hong bowed his head to look at her. He rested his hands on his lap in the same nonchalant manner.
Chen Rong, on the other hand, grew more anxious the longer she looked at him.
Wang Hong quietly regarded her. His lips upturned into a faint smile. “That’s inconsequential.”
“How can it be inconsequential?”
Chen Rong sat up, tugged his sleeves and pleaded, “Well? Tell me.” Tell me. You gave away the mayor’s itinerary. Would you be exposed? Would you be incriminated?
Wang Hong was still quietly watching Chen Rong.
His gaze was quiet and clear.
But the more he acted this way, the more uneasy Chen Rong felt. She knew this man. The bigger the trouble, the more he would try to brush it off as if nothing was the matter.
Wang Hong withdrew his gaze with a smile.
“Rest easy, nothing’s the matter.”
How could nothing be the matter? The major clans in Jiankang constantly tried to impede one another… If that wasn’t the case, then why would he hide everything when he clearly hadn’t lost to Murong Ke?
While Chen Rong was on pins and needles, Wang Hong patted her hand but offered no more words.
Chen Rong composed herself and slowly sat upright. When she looked down, she discovered that she was still wrapped in his white robe.
She turned around and removed it.
Setting it aside, she next removed the red dress tied around her waist and neck. When it fell to the ground, her inner layer, torn lapels, and alabaster skin displayed before Wang Hong’s eyes.
Chen Rong picked up the white robe to put it on. Suddenly, a hand reached out.
And placed itself on her chest.
Slender fingers gently grazed down to the visible bruises on her breasts.
Chen Rong didn’t expect Murong Ke’s manhandling to have left bruises.
Colors drained from her face.
Holding her shoulder in one hand, he slightly forced Chen Rong around so that she was facing him.
Wang Hong, who had been nonchalant until now, had stopped smiling. He stared fixedly at the fingerprints on her chest.
His hands tore at the ripped lapels.
Chen Rong made a cry, her ashen face turning beet red. She hurriedly covered her sprung breasts as she stared up at him in chagrin and distress.
Wang Hong was donning a placid expression. Because he was being too calm, he looked positively cold.
Chen Rong blinked, her eyes reddening before she realized what was happening. She sniffled and wanted to express her grievances when, suddenly, a warmth spread over her breasts.
It was Wang Hong who had bowed his head to look at her, contemplating every inch of her exposed upper body.
As he approached, her pink nipples unconsciously erected and hardened, almost touching the tip of his nose.
Chen Rong’s face altered between crimson and white. Wang Hong was leaning so close that his breaths pricked her. His fingers grazed breezily while his eyes burned like fire, causing her heart to drum.
But he was so matter-of-fact about it that he seemed almost indifferent.
Was he seducing her or examining her?
He held her in both hands, inspected her body from head to toes, then moved his eyes to her breasts.
“Did he touch you here?” he asked, causing Chen Rong to shiver under his caress.
Chen Rong’s lips quivered. She wanted to reply to him: You clearly said you won’t care about it since you’ve come to save me. So why do you care about it now?
Despite thinking so, she was embarrassed to say: “When they marched this morning, he suddenly grabbed me as we were talking.”
“He just grabbed you like that?” He touched the bruises, his voice cold and husky.
She wanted to calm down but his breathing and his hands were making her tremble.
“He had promised me my dignity, but when they marched this morning he suddenly told me to wear that red outfit a-and ripped my lapels before letting me sit on horseback. I was supposed to ride my own horse but halfway through he told me to ride with him.”
Chen Rong’s voice dropped to an almost inaudible level. “He made me sit in front of him, and started to grab me after trading a few words.”
Her eyes were filled with tears at this juncture. She shivered, not knowing if it was caused by shame or by distress and panic.
She bit her lips and thought to herself: What am I afraid of? I-I’m not marrying him. I’m a Daoist nun now, and His Majesty promises to let me keep pretty boys, so why should I be afraid?
Or so she thought. But for whatever reason she just felt ashamed. She wished she could beg him to believe in her innocence. That really, truly, she was no one else’s but his.
While Chen Rong shivered, all of a sudden, Wang Hong took one of her breasts into his mouth.
Her legs slumped and she collapsed into his arms.
She could feel the tip of his tongue swirling across those bruises.
Amid the trembling that could not be controlled, Chen Rong suppressed her gasps to murmur: “H-he didn’t do this.” Then, thinking it wasn’t quite right, she quickly added, “He didn’t do anything to me, really. He only grabbed me a little.”
Her clarification sounded rather pathetic.
And the sucking of her breast was muddling her brain.
This translation belongs to hamster428.
Her breasts throbbed in his palms and mouth. Unconsciously, Chen Rong held his head and brought herself closer to him.
Then, a bite stung her.
“I-I really didn’t,” she rasped.
She did not receive an answer. Heat was pooling in her body. In her trance, she had been laid flat on the carriage floor, with his body over hers.
His fingers kept scraping at the bruise marks, rubbing them, sucking them and biting them again and again.
His kneading was so rough, his sucking and licking so long, that he was hurting her.
But Chen Rong liked this pain. As the sensation became more and more intense, she thought that perhaps her marks and humiliation were going to disappear.
Amid her ecstasy, tears, and shame, she hadn’t realized that she had been completely disrobed.
Not until his lips landed on her small ones, not until a hard and hot object entered her body, swelling her with fullness and an abrasive pain.
Chen Rong only made a sound by the time he entered her. “You, we can’t,” she said, before he swallowed the rest of her words. We can’t. You said our child can’t bear my surname, and I said I will never be your concubine. Moreover, I just fell into the hands of the Hu and spent days in their barracks. If I were to conceive at this time, those rumors and gossip will put the child in danger.
Each throbbing contact rubbed her breasts to numbness. Chen Rong’s uncontrollable tears fell like rain. She clasped his neck and clung to him, quietly pleading: “Don’t, don’t release inside me… there can’t be a child.”
He answered her with a more intense rhythm and faint gasps.
The carriage was moving steadily. But every time it shook, a suppressed moan would escape.
Chen Rong was still weeping. She didn’t know how long it took until she suddenly bit his shoulder and cried out in pain.
It was a long, long time until she had the strength to push him away, helplessly crying: “Why didn’t you release outside?”
Wang Hong looked up. His handsome face was covered with sweat, a strand of hair sticking to his forehead. He smiled tenderly and kissed her forehead. “Don’t worry, if we have a child I will keep him.”
At these words, Chen Rong burst into tears.
She cried inconsolably. Within a moment, the grievances of being captured, her daily worries, the anxiety that she would implicate him, her fear of the future and of an unwanted pregnancy all turned into tears.
Wang Hong held her as she wept, pulling a white robe over her body.
Chen Rong buried her head and cried while turning away. “You don’t have to keep the child,” she said through her tears.
After a pause, she calmly tried to say: “If we have a child, he will come with me.”
She received no answer.
Chen Rong wiped her tears and looked back.
She saw him lying on his back, the expression on his perspiring face was somber and lonely.
Looking at him like this, an unspeakable guilt struck Chen Rong’s heart: How many days had he suffered, how much effort did he spend to save me? Most importantly, he had done too many things in the process that the Jiankang nobles will never tolerate.
He was in danger of losing his reputation because of her.
Her heart softened at this thought. She moved to his side and slowly rested her face on his chest.
Putting her hand on his beating heart, Chen Rong murmured, “Don’t be angry with me… Qilang, I am yours for the rest of this life. It’s fine if you want our child to carry your name. You can discuss it with your wife’s family that your surname is all we ask for, we won’t pose any threats to your legitimate son.”
She suddenly felt a little powerless and closed her mouth.
When she did not speak, Wang Hong also remained silent. Only their breathing mixed with the scent of sex lingered in the carriage.
In the silence, Chen Rong burrowed closer to Wang Hong. She falteringly asked, “Qilang, w-why did you come to save me?”
She lowered her eyes. “I didn’t think you would come.” She sounded both happy and wracked with guilt.
This long-awaited question was only now asked.
At length, Wang Hong’s hoarse voice sounded: “Why didn’t you think I would come?”
Chen Rong stilled. “It’s not good for you to save me,” she managed after a while. She looked up at him in a daze. Seeing that his eyes were closed, his face the same as usual, Chen Rong moved her lips and faltered, “You’ll have a hard time ahead, won’t you?”
Her voice was so soft that it was almost inaudible.
Wang Hong opened his eyes and slowly turned to look at her.
He reached out and wrapped an arm around her waist. His palm slid under her layers, caressing the exposed breasts where the fabric was torn. He placed her on top of him and softly said, “Why think so much? Let’s live for today.”
Thus said, he placed another kiss on her lips and rolled them over, his body covering hers.
Chapter 183: Meet Up with Ran Min
Chen Rong wanted to struggle free when she felt his desire growing anew. But when she heard him say ‘live for today’ she couldn’t help but think: Never mind, I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. The child may not have the chance at life even if I did get pregnant. I should go along with his wishes.
Thinking thus, she wrapped her arms around his neck and received his kiss. Gradually, the carriage was filled with spring again.
The vehicle slowly traveled through the evening. After spending two nights in the wilderness, it was again dawn.
Chen Rong lay in Wang Hong’s embrace and lazily watched the scenery outside.
Wang Hong lowered his head and caressed her bare shoulders. He was afforded a partial view of the swell and valley of her breasts from this position.
In the morning light her mouth was slightly swollen, her eyes shimmering, and her smooth skin alluringly fragrant. She was always like this – utterly bewitching as soon as she laid down her defense.
A hand extended to clasp her bruises again, now much darker than they had been.
Although his touch was light, Chen Rong still winced from the pain. She turned around and complained, “It hurts.” Seeing him looking at her, she sniffed her nose aggrievedly and added, “It really does.”
Wang Hong closed his hand over her breast and tiredly asked, “Ah Rong?”
As he was about to speak, a series of clopping horseshoes arrived outside. “My lord, General Ran is here.”
Ran Min is here?
Chen Rong shivered. She heard Wang Hong chuckling above her head. “Didn’t the battle just end? Yet he rushed here instead of resting. I can’t deny that man’s devotion.”
Chen Rong downgazed upon his last few words.
Wang Hong glanced at her and ordered, “Get ready.”
The carriage stopped. Chen Rong retrieved a set of clothes and helped Wang Hong change. She then reached for the dress that he had prepared for her.
When she touched the white outfit, a hand stilled over hers.
Chen Rong turned around in surprise.
Wang Hong glanced at the white dress and then reached for a red one with goldwork embroidery. “Wear this one,” he said, placing it on Chen Rong.
At her puzzled look, he kept his head turned to awkwardly say: “Wear it.”
Chen Rong retrieved the dress from him. The pleats gathered like crashing waves and golden strands glittered like morning light. It was altogether an exquisite dress.
She never wore red in the past.
If it wasn’t for Murong Ke’s coercion, she wouldn’t have known that she could look so striking in this color.
At present, she still had conflicting feelings about the color, but since Wang Hong insisted… Chen Rong bit her lips and removed her outer robe. Her slender, snow-white neck and beautifully curved shoulders appeared before Wang Hong’s eyes. His hands instinctively reached out towards her skin.
Caressing her, he said, “Your ice-like skin glistens like the moonlight, your jade-like skin is sumptuous and warm. There lies indeed the fabled gentle town.”
- 温柔乡 (gentle town) is a metaphor used to describe a man’s infatuation with a woman’s sensuality. It traces back to Emperor Cheng of Han who said his concubine’s, Zhao Hede, body is so perfect that she’s the gentle town he never wished to leave.
Thus recited, he leaned forward and hugged her as he buried his face into her nape.
His hot breath tickled her ear.
She bore the tickles and blushingly smiled. “Qilang, what sweet words you speak. Is this the wedded bliss people speak of, I wonder?”
Her question gave him pause. “My darling, you sound as if you have been yearning for this wedded bliss?”
Chen Rong quickly dropped her gaze.
She had yearned for it since long ago. In her previous life she had been dressed up and seated in front of the gossamer screen, looking out to the greenery and wishing for this untouchable happiness.
Now it was within touch, and so beautiful even if it may only last a few days. Why should she be plagued with worry?
At this thought, Chen Rong gently tilted her head and bit the tip of Wang Hong’s nose. She charmingly fluttered her eyes and said, “Name me a girl in this world who doesn’t want it.”
She turned and held a smile, then removed her clothes with her back to Wang Hong.
When her underclothes slipped to the ground, she heard the breathing behind her growing thicker.
Chen Rong smiled. She picked up the new set of clothes with the grace of a dancer.
She had just drawn the inner layer on when her hands were held in place.
Wang Hong locked her arms from behind and latched his lips on her shoulder.
In the blink of an eye, several tooth marks had appeared.
Chen Rong had no time to cry before he turned his head and bit the spot right below her ear.
When he moved away, she blankly stared into the bronze mirror where the teeth marks were obviously on display.
“What am I going to do?” she cried.
“How do you suppose I’m going to see other people now?” she demanded, while pinching his arm vexedly.
Wang Hong answered in a huff, “You don’t have to see anyone in the near future.”
What did he mean she didn’t have to see anyone? What about Ran Min who was still waiting?!
As soon as Chen Rong thought of Ran Min, she unavoidably looked back and chuckled. “Qilang.” She saw Wang Hong, having moved to the window, gazing at the clear sky with an aloof face, the vision of grace.
This brat was putting up a pretense again.
Chen Rong gave him the side-eye and finished putting on the inner layer and the outer robe.
The carriage progressed again after they finished.
The road ahead gradually grew louder. When the carriage pulled to a stop, Chen Rong looked in the mirror and did her hair.
This time, she wore her hair up in the style of married women. She had only managed to slide a hairpin on by the time Wang Hong’s gentle voice called to her: “Come down.”
He did not wait for her but strode forward.
Chen Rong hurried after him.
A large army appeared two hundred steps in front of her. At first glance, she only saw a sea of heads among the billowing dust trodden by hooves.
There were thousands upon thousands of men.
As they went, someone from the troops dismounted from his horse and walked towards them.
In just a short moment, Wang Hong had arrived under a large banyan tree and stood with his hands clasped together.
Chen Rong went to stand behind him. She squinted in the strong sun.
More than a dozen men strode forward in her field of vision. The one in front looked particularly tall and cruel.
His armor was covered in blood and dirt and had almost no unsoiled spot. There was also a bloodstain under his sharp, wolflike eyes.
The men behind him were all likewise covered in blood and dirt.
The man saw Wang Hong at a glance, twitching his lips into a smile.
Thereupon, he shifted his gaze behind Wang Hong and saw Chen Rong.
Surprise glinted in his eyes.
This translation belongs to hamster428.
Wang Hong strode out.
He bowed to the armored Ran Min and smilingly said, “Congratulations on your victorious return, general.”
Ran Min nodded, his eyes remaining on Chen Rong.
“You are looking ever radiant. I take it that you are doing well,” he said to her after a while.
Then he turned back to Wang Hong.
Staring at him, his thin lips moved to faintly say: “Qilang of many tricks, your playing the hero has succeeded in making the beauty change her hairstyle.”
Wang Hong paused and then looked back at Chen Rong.
His lips slowly upturned to see her married hairstyle.
After withdrawing his gaze from Chen Rong, Wang Hong was positively beaming, happiness glinting from the crinkles of his eyes.
Ran Min scoffed to see Wang Hong like this.
“So, how went the fight?” asked Wang Hong, after some silence.
At the mention of the fight, Ran Min’s expression turned somber. He frowned and throated, “Murong Ke lives up to his name. Even with our plans, I could only wipe out Murong Yu’s three thousand men. As for the two thousand men he led…”
“Those two thousand got away without a loss.”
He looked at Wang Hong, saying: “He situated two thousand men to ambush me on the way and caught me off guard. I had only gotten out when I met Murong Ke himself. By that time I was drained from two consecutive battles. Although I was not outnumbered, we both ended up retreating after some skirmishes.”
Wang Hong nodded and quietly replied, “Aye, Murong Ke is exceptionally talented and his men are brave. Fighting recklessly with him can only result in mutual casualty.” After a pause, he brought up his own situation: “He saw that I just wanted to take Ah Rong away so he didn’t want to risk it.”
Ran Min naturally knew this. He nodded. But at Wang Hong’s mention of Ah Rong, he glanced at Chen Rong again.
Withdrawing his gaze, Ran Min turned back to Wang Hong. “As you wished, I did not touch the mayor’s wealth during the escort… Hu Yancheng who was dispatched by Murong Ke was also driven away.”
Wang Hong’s surprise was apparent. He stared at Ran Min in amazement and quietly asked, “You didn’t take anything?”
Ran Min nodded.
“I had made it clear that he belongs to the House of Wang. They were your spoils to take.”
Ran Min didn’t reply, instead looking up at Chen Rong.
This time, his gaze was utmost somber.
“I couldn’t let this woman be humiliated,” he said as he stared at her. “I only wished to save her, those other things aren’t important to me.”
Without looking at Wang Hong, he unbiddenly added, “Please step back a little so I can speak to her.”
At his words, the soldiers retreated one by one. Wang Hong squeezed Chen Rong’s hand and also slowly left.
Ran Min took a step forward.
He lowered his head and stared down at Chen Rong.
Narrowing his eyes, he asked, “Did Murong Ke touch you?”
Chen Rong froze at first, then shook her head and quietly replied, “Nay. I persuaded him to let me keep my dignity.”
Ran Min did not make a reply.
Surprised, Chen Rong quietly looked up at him.
Under the sun, his razor-sharp eyes resembled flames in the dark. She saw for the first time in them solitude, desolation, and an unspeakable loneliness.
It was with these lonely eyes that he bore into her. “Over and over you have betrayed and wounded me… but I don’t blame you for any of it,” he murmured at last.
Chapter 184: His Feelings
Betrayed and wounded him?
Chen Rong wanted to laugh when she heard this. And yet, when she saw his lonely eyes and his bloodstained, grimy figure, this handsome and unfeeling man somehow felt cold and lonesome despite the warm sun above them. His was the desolation of someone who lived in an eternal wasteland, never understood nor accompanied by anyone.
Her eyes suddenly stung as she stared at him. She tilted her head to let the wind dry her eyes… Perhaps she had never known this man whose bones yearned for tenderness. She once thought he was made of iron, never to be defeated. But she was wrong. He was always alone in both lives, his soul always wandering and searching for warmth regardless of the things he had.
In their last life, she had used the wrong way to capture his attention. Despite trying her best, she couldn’t get him to look back at her.
In this life, she let go of him and of her own obsession. Yet this unintentional and subconscious rejection was what made her enter his heart.
After thinking about it, Chen Rong felt that she did really hurt him. Just like how he had hurt her in the past, she now walked right into his heart and then dismissed it, delivering his biggest wound.
Her lips twitched, but different from before, Chen Rong did not feel happy this time.
She stayed her long hair from flying in the wind. As she was about to speak, Ran Min’s deep voice continued: “Ah Rong, if…”
“If you find yourself with child and have nowhere to go, then come find me,” he abstrusely said.
Chen Rong’s head whipped up to look at him.
“Murong Ke really didn’t touch me,” she said as she met his lonely gaze. She sounded rather powerless. She, too, knew that any woman who fell into the hands of the Hu would at best sleep with their general alone or more commonly become a plaything for their captains and soldiers… It was the norm which no woman could escape. It was why both Ran Min and Wang Hong didn’t think it would be different for her.
“You’re too strong-willed,” Ran Min went on. “If you couldn’t tolerate Chen Wei, you could’ve found me and told me. Yet you slept with Wang Hong over such a trivial thing. You had forsaken me, Ah Rong.”
There was a sadness in his voice, and he had sounded even more powerless when he said she had forsaken him.
Chen Rong’s lips moved. She knew that if she had sincerely wanted to marry him, she could have looked for him when she heard about Chen Wei. He may not have listened, but she should have tried.
Ran Min stared at her. Seeing her head bowed and the muscles on her mouth twitching, he said, “I did not want to dwell on your loss of chastity, I still wanted to marry you… But you refused me. Ah Rong, your heart is made of iron and stone.”
At this juncture, he looked up to the sky, his handsome face smiling plaintively. “I was born to the Hu and took the enemy as my countrymen. Despite rescuing countless clansmen, what I receive is always disdain. But none of that had mattered… because you had given me the kind of happiness that made me think life could be complete. Then you turned around and did this to me. Ah Rong, how I hated you then, how I wanted to kill you.”
Chen Rong bit her lips, her head hanging even lower.
Ran Min’s throat undulated. He closed his eyes to hide the pain and loneliness in them. His lips moved to hoarsely say: “I, too, wanted to let go this time. But when I thought of you being held captive by the Hu like the thousands of Jin women I had seen, crying under those damned Xianbei, I could not sit still.”
Chen Rong took a step back, bowed, and accorded him ceremony. Her emotions were too complicated and she felt a lump in her throat. Besides doing this, she didn’t know what else to do.
Ran Min’s hoarse voice continued to sound in her ears: “I’m relieved to see you return safe and sound.”
Upon these words, he regarded her and added, “Woman, remember my words. If you have nowhere to go, you can come to me. As a man of honor, I will not ridicule you. Your child will also be treated as my own.”
Having said this, he stared deeply at her. He stared so earnestly and so persistently that it seemed he wanted to ingrain her in his memory, but also as if he wanted to take one last look at her before completely forgetting her.
His sigh was carried away by the wind. By the time Chen Rong looked up, she only heard the wind rustling through her sleeves.
Ran Min walked to his horse, turned and mounted. Without looking back, he yelled in a clear and ruthless voice: “Go!” His riders left with him, and the rising dust made Chen Rong squint her eyes.
Wang Hong came to stand behind her. In the sunlight, he stared after the crimson figure that was going farther and farther away. With his hands behind his back, he lightly remarked, “Why would you have nowhere to go? He’s needlessly worried.”
His dissatisfied voice flowed into Chen Rong’s ears. She quickly blinked her tears away before turning to face him.
She met Wang Hong’s silent eyes as soon as she turned around. He made a displeased huff at her watery eyes and said, “Let’s go.” Before Chen Rong could follow he had strode away.
This translation belongs to hamster428.
Chen Rong went back to the carriage.
She lowered her head and stared motionlessly at her entwined fingers. Momentarily, thoughts from both lives rushed to mind and turned at long last into a sigh.
Absently, she raised her head to watch the scenery go by. When she finally remembered Wang Hong, she turned to look at him.
He had closed his eyes like a statue.
Chen Rong moved to him, and just as she neared, his cold voice sounded: “Not thinking about your old lover anymore?”
She blanked, then suppressed her laughter and answered, “Why would I think about my old lover when my new one is here?”
Wang Hong opened his eyes.
The look in his eyes was still distant and out of reach, but Chen Rong knew him so well that when she saw his pursing lips, she laughed, raised her head, and placed a resounding kiss on them.
Even though he was teased, Wang Hong continued to look at her with the same aloof and distant eyes.
Chen Rong sighed. She quietly moved away and bowed her head. Then she took the seven-string zither from the carriage wall and, with a wave of her hand, let spill a quiet and distant longing.
With her head lowered against her red outfit, her face was as beautiful as a lake in the setting sun. A lock of hair was swept back as her hands moved, revealing a white neck that was as elegant as jade.
Unconsciously, the indifference in Wang Hong’s eyes was replaced by mesmerization.
The sound of the moving carriage, a whisper, and the sand that permeated the yellow road froze into an eternal picture in this timeworn music.
“Oh scholar with the blue collar,
How long I’ve loved and pined.
Though I haven’t visited,
Why don’t you to me write?
Oh scholar with the blue belt stone,
How long I’ve missed your sight.
Though I haven’t visited,
Why don’t you come sometime?
I keep pacing up and down,
On the tower of the city wall.
A day without seeing you,
Feels like three moons of yore…” (1)
- 子衿 from The Book of Songs
Hers was a lovesickness that couldn’t be described in words. When she missed him, the hour did not pass and night was no different from day. When she missed him, the sumptuous palace was but a large wall, keeping him far from reach. When she missed him, every sigh lingered, every piece of her broken heart was of his smiling face. When she missed him, even death did not daunt. Countless times had she sat in the moonlight wishing to fly to him in a faraway place when her soul was finally freed from its corporeal encasement.
Her longing had clearly been engraved into her bones, yet her music only betrayed tranquility without anguish.
Unconsciously, Wang Hong reached out and held Chen Rong from behind.
He softly kissed her hair. His throat moved, wanting to say something, but he eventually held back from speaking. He saw from her music her imprisonment in the Hu barracks, among filthy, lustful eyes, thinking of him as she peacefully waited to die.
He hugged her so tightly that it made her miss a note. Chen Rong rested her hands on the strings and stopped playing.
Suddenly, her earlobe felt warm.
Wang Hong was gently nibbling on it. “I knew about your conversations with Ran Min at the Xishan Monastery.”
Conversations at the Xishan Monastery?
Chen Rong blinked uncertainly.
His lips moved down to kiss the pulse on her slender neck. While she shivered, he softly said, “You asked me why I came to save you… You’re so good to me, Ah Rong, that I dare not fail you.”
I dare not fail you.
Chen Rong seemed to be intoxicated by these words. Her eyes fluttered, and she couldn’t help turning her head.
However, as soon as she made a move, her head was held in place so that she could not turn back to look at him no matter how hard she tried.
If he didn’t want her to turn around then she would not. Chen Rong smiled, let herself be lost in the intoxication and settled into his arms.
At this time, he lifted her face and softly bent down to kiss her. She raised her head to meet him, their fragrant tongues and bodies entwined into one.
The cavalcade continued at a constant pace to Nan’yang City.
The closer they got to Nan’yang, the livelier the road became. A caravan passed by from time to time, small groups of three or five could even be seen.
They were naturally Jins… The more chaos the kingdom was in, the more patriots made themselves known. Ever since the new Mo’yang and Qi’yang mayors arrived, more and more hot-blooded men followed them here. In their mind, Mo’yang, Nan’yang, and Qi’yang formed the first line of resistance against the Hu forces. And of course everyone wanted to fight in the forefront.
Wang Hong’s cavalcade was being watched by more and more people among the travelers. Although their clan emblem was not displayed, their sturdy bodies, restrained brutality, and excellent mounts showed their capable combat prowess.
While the carriage continued its usual jostling, a rider suddenly stopped in front of Wang Hong’s carriage.
Multiple-chapter update! This took longer than I thought because google docs kept un-saving my (very substantial) edits grrr, even when I checked the version history. I gave everything one last read so hopefully there’s no mistakes but do let me know if there’s any -_-
Hoping everyone is still safe and sound! It’s truly a different and frightening world from anything I ever knew but I have faith we’ll get through this the same way we’ve gotten here from previous dark moments in history. Happy distraction reading~