Chapter 205: Give Her What She Wants
Chen Rong listened in a daze, only to feel a buzzing in her ears. Her head was spinning, and her heart was stricken.
Biting her lips, she whispered, “Let’s go back.”
The two guards glanced at her, nodded, and carried Chen Rong back to her room.
After Chen Rong left, the voices in the room gradually ceased. Led by Wei Guanbo, the scholars slowly exited one by one.
Among them was a middle-aged man with a beardless face and long, narrow eyes. He retreated to the door where he saw Wang Hong staring blankly at the roofline. His handsome face was full of loneliness at the moment. His home was decked in riches and he donned expensive clothes, but his jet black eyes coupled with his pale face felt so bleak.
He had never seen such a Wang Hong.
The man stayed behind and approached Wang Hong.
He walked to Wang Hong’s side and looked down at him, sighing: “Why must you be like this, Qilang?” He smilingly continued, “Where has the ethereal and unworldly Qilang gone? Men are indeed led astray by women.”
Wang Hong lowered his head.
His dark eyes quietly regarded the pale man. Looking at him, his lips twitched as he said, “What should I do?”
His voice was terribly hoarse: “Lan Zhi, what should I do?”
The man called Lan Zhi narrowed his eyes and jokingly said, “What should you do? Haven’t you just made your decision?”
Wang Hong wasn’t in the mood to mind his joke or to even get upset. He raised his head again and quietly looked at the beams. At length, his voice came bleakly, “This is the only ruse I know. Besides doing this, I don’t know how else to keep her.”
“I really don’t know what to do to keep her.”
Having said so, Wang Hong continued in a low voice: “Lan Zhi, you have so many admirers. According to you, what should I do?”
Lan Zhi smiled wryly, “Your woman is different. If my means are useful, then why would your illustrious family name be squandered to this day?”
Wang Hong also smiled wryly upon hearing his reply.
He closed his eyes and whispered, “I don’t want to let go… I will not let go.”
His voice was decisive.
Lan Zhi tapped on his forehead, thought for a while, then suddenly clapped and smiled: “Ah, I know!”
Wang Hong looked at him expectantly.
Lan Zhi smiled: “Well, when it comes to human hearts, be it a woman, a soldier or a servant, there is no better way to win someone over than to give them what they want.”
“Give them what they want?” Wang Hong repeated these words, “Give them what they want?”
What did his Ah Rong want?
This translation belongs to h a m s t e r 4 2 8.
In a daze, Chen Rong’s sweet smile appeared before his eyes. When she asked him to stab her from behind that day, she once said, “I know myself. My greed is insatiable and I’ll always want more. Once I got to be your concubine, I’d do everything I could to be an honored concubine. Who knows, I might even scheme to kill your wife. If I couldn’t kill her the first time, I’d try a second time, if I couldn’t kill her the second time, I’d try a third time. As long as I wasn’t dead, I’d harm them all, your wife, your concubines. I’ll harm as many as you bring into your household. However many there would be is however many that would die.”
“So if you’re going to start anything, you should think about marrying and loving only me. Otherwise, your life and mine will never be at peace.”
“After I become your concubine, I won’t be the only one to share your bed. When I die I would have to ask your family and wife for permission to be buried in the same grave… My lord, I’m not one who can compromise. I won’t bow to another woman in this life.”
The other day when he asked what she wanted, she had said the same thing.
Seeing the smile on Wang Hong’s mouth, Lan Zhi curiously asked, “Have you figured it out? What does your woman want?”
Wang Hong straightened up slowly, he leaned back and smiled, “What does she want? Isn’t it to be my wife, but also for me to promise that I won’t take in a concubine?”
Lan Zhi raised his brows and laughed, “It seems that she has a big appetite.”
He stared at Wang Hong and curiously asked, “You’re not going to say yes, are you?”
As soon as Wang Hong sat up, he impacted his wound and had to lie down again. He smiled and said, “Mm, I have long agreed in my heart.” He had agreed when he asked her what she wanted a few days ago in Nan’yang.
Lan Zhi cried in astonishment: “You’re the heir of the Wang House of Lang’ya!”
“So what?” Wang Hong smiled contemptuously and said, “The most illustrious background is nothing but a pile of bones once we are killed. This world is remarkably boring, and the women in it are remarkably vapid. If it’s what my Ah Rong wants, then I’ll give it to her.”
His words were said with ease, the corner of his mouth raised, and he muttered to himself like a child, “I only want her to stop being mad at me.”
Lan Zhi stared at Wang Hong, who had solved his problem, in disbelief. He said with a frown, “Wang Hong, you’re a famed scholar. A thousand gold cannot buy back your promises. Even if you have long decided to go into seclusion and wait for the opportunity to return, marriage is an utmost important matter and you must not make a hasty decision. Even if you don’t care how many children you’ll have or what other people think, you must think for yourself. If one day you become bored, tired and come to regret this, what will you do then?”
What he said was entirely reasonable. Wang Hong tilted his head, squinted his eyes and tapped his fingers. “Bored, tired, regret? The world we live in has no guarantee. Neither our lives nor our wealth is a sure thing. Don’t tell me even my heart has to be unsure.” He chuckled and casually said, “Even if I become bored and tired of her, and come to regret it, there is no one else in this world for me. Lanzhi, you and I are no strangers to love affairs. Tell me, you are a bridegroom every night, but have you felt empty and lost in the morning? How many women have made you know woe, anguish, pity, and fear? When has the thought of losing her sent you into a frenzy of panic?”
Lan Zhi was stunned. He was confounded for a while before he shook his head and replied, “None.”
“That’s right, none. There are millions of people in the world, how many of them can have such an experience? Are you going to tell me that I’ll be able to meet another woman and fall in love like this again?”
Lan Zhi laughed, he shook his head and said, “You heartless man, I reckon you have exhausted all your feelings on this woman. It’s impossible for you to meet another one.”
Lan Zhi completely understood this time. He smiled brightly, reached out to pat Wang Hong’s shoulder and said, “Fair enough, where will you meet such a beautiful woman again? It’s only right to hold onto her now that you have found her. Haha, I’ve laughed at you countless times in the past, but I will not laugh at you again in the future.”
“You are luckier than us,” he sighed. They were all self-indulgent people who walked in this troubled, maddening world. Their hearts were always void of hope, and only wine and women could give their souls a moment of peace.
It was because of this desperation that they indulged themselves with wild abandon.
Whether they were self-indulgent or crazy, they were always lonely and had no one to confide in but themselves. No companions, no tomorrow, and nothing to look forward to.
And now, Wang Hong had his woman and his soul had a place to go. He fervently wanted to please her and to remember everything about her. She, too, wanted to remember everything about him.
To meet someone you love, who happens to love you back – how many people can have such happiness?
Even with all the glitz and glamor in the world, life and death come suddenly, so as long as there is one person who can share weal and woe through life and death with you, it is enough. More than enough.
Lan Zhi turned and strode away. His wide robe fluttered in the wind, his high-pitched singing voice traveled from the distance: “Mankind seldom makes it to old age, what is strange about a melancholy life? Heartbreak is inevitable if you love a beautiful woman.”
Wang Hong tilted his head with a smile as he listened to Lan Zhi’s singing voice.
“Anyone there?” he quietly called.
A figure appeared from around a corner.
“When will she recover? Can she walk and travel?”
“Half a month is enough,” the man replied. The maid clearly told Chen Rong that it was twenty days, but this man said half a month.
Wang Hong nodded and said, “Half a month? Very good. Take my name card. Yes, invite all my friends. Tell them that the day of Jiawu in the afternoon will be a joyous time. May the gentlemen come to be my witnesses.”
“Aye,” the man replied and quietly disappeared.
As soon as he left, Wang Hong heard a quiet footfall outside.
Shortly, the maid who served Chen Rong appeared at the door. She walked in and gave Wang Hong a curtsy as she said, “M’lord, she is low spirited after hearing your words from outside the door. When I served her meal she only ate two spoonfuls. She sometimes misspoke when she talked to us. Since she returned to the room, she’s been leaning on the bed, dazed and still.”
Wang Hong tilted his head and listened to the maid’s words with interest.
The maid stopped at this juncture. She carefully raised her head to look at Wang Hong. At this moment, Wang Hong said, “Go on.”
The maid’s face was miserable as she mumbled, “T-that’s all.”
“Does she cry?”
“No, my lord.”
No? Wang Hong was obviously a little disappointed, he frowned and pursed his mouth.
“Are her eyes red?”
“No, my lord.”
Not even reddened eyes? Wang Hong was disappointed. He frowned, waved his sleeves, and ordered, “Watch her, report back as soon as possible if something is amiss.” After thinking about it, he again ordered, “Don’t tell her anything about me. Don’t let her know half a word of what I said to you.”
The maid was startled, but she recovered to reply: “She is very upset.” Why should she hide it?
Wang Hong frowned and faintly said, “Upset? Very good.” The maid was taken aback for a while. When she saw that Wang Hong stopped talking, she curtsied and retired from the room.
Watching the maid leave, Wang Hong pursed his mouth and muttered childishly, “Her eyes aren’t red and she isn’t crying, even though she scared me with that look of farewell and wanted to quietly leave me… I won’t say anything, then, and make it hard for her.”
“Here, my lord.”
“If Ah Rong of the Chen House comes to see me, refuse her.” Wasn’t she preparing to leave him? Hmph, he would make it so that she couldn’t see him. Let her experience the bitterness of lovesickness!
Chapter 206: Everything’s Fine Now
As Wang Hong’s injury did not damage his internal organs and bones, it largely healed after just five days of using the most expensive and effective medicinal ingredients. Only, it began to itch when new skin formed over the wound and not being able to scratch it was especially trying.
Wang Hong sat on the divan, his delicate brows slightly knitted and his lips drawn into a line… He had been like this for some time, and the maids and servants came and went lightly, lest they irritate him.
After a while, Wang Hong’s voice sounded: “Call Xiu Gu here.”
A moment later, the oldest among the maids who served Chen Rong walked in.
Wang Hong looked at her and asked, “What is she doing?” He sounded aloof, but his furrowed brow betrayed his displeasure.
Xiu Gu maintained her obeisance as she replied, “The young lady takes her medicine regularly. She occasionally reads, and often looks out the window.”
“Stop calling her ‘Young Lady’. She’s no longer a young lady.”
This order came out of nowhere, startling Xiu Gu. She readily complied but, inwardly, she muttered: you had approved the address ‘Young Lady’ yourself.
“And she didn’t want to come to see me?” Wang Hong continued asking.
Xiu Gu was wordless for a moment before she replied, “Your servant does not know.”
“You may go,” Wang Hong said with a wave of his sleeve, his voice returning mild.
For some reason, Xiu Gu felt even more panicked to hear his gentle voice. She bowed and then retreated.
Two more days passed in the blink of an eye.
By this time, Wang Hong’s injury had mostly healed. New skin had formed around the wound and he could start to walk. He may be able to stop taking medicine in a day or two.
He was leaning on the divan with one elbow supporting his chin when he slowly opened his eyes and again called for Xiu Gu.
A few minutes later, Xiu Gu reappeared in front of him.
Wang Hong turned his head to the side, and as he moved, his inky hair hung like a curtain over his handsome face, blocking those clear and distant eyes.
When he did not speak, the crouching Xiu Gu quietly began, “She is now able to take a couple of steps with some help, and her wound is starting to itch.” She quietly glanced up at Wang Hong. Seeing that he still showed no reaction, she continued, “She wakes up early these days, and would sometimes vomit. Every day she would have questions about things such as pregnancy and childbirth. She also asked us to inform her of all the changes in the outside world.”
Xiu Gu stopped talking.
A moment later, Wang Hong’s clear and gentle voice came, “She didn’t mention me?”
“Nay, my lord,” Xiu Gu’s voice was pitifully low.
Wang Hong slowly stood up. As he rose to his full height, the white robe that clung to his lean body fluttered in the wind.
“Let’s go.” There was laughter in the young master’s voice, but Xiu Gu felt a coldness and annoyance at the depth of it. Nonetheless this feeling disappeared in the blink of an eye, and when she heard it again, his voice had become a little softer and gentler: “We’ll go to see her.”
With the help of the maids, Wang Hong soon arrived in Chen Rong’s courtyard.
He paused at the silent bedchamber, then his footsteps suddenly accelerated.
In the blink of an eye, he strode through the door and walked in.
At this moment, Chen Rong, with her back to him, was leaning against the screened window to look at the scenery outside. She was wearing a fiery red dress, which dazzled in the morning light.
Her inky hair danced in the air, the dress shone a red halo against her jade skin… With her face as white as snow, hair as dark as ink, and dress as fiery as the flames, Chen Rong was simply stunning.
Wang Hong had been upset, but his vexation somehow dissolved after seeing her. The only thing that remained was the incomparable softness in his heart.
He approached her.
Slowly walking behind her, Wang Hong wrapped his arms around her slender waist and buried his head in her neck as Chen Rong trembled involuntarily.
Breathing in the fragrance that belonged to her alone and feeling her presence, Wang Hong’s murmuring voice was gloomy with lovesickness: “Why didn’t you come to see me?”
Chen Rong lifted her hand from the window but then weakly dropped it.
With eyes downcast, she quietly said, “I was outside the door that day and I heard about your arrangement… Why should I see you if I’m going away? It will only make me miss you.”
Hearing these words, Wang Hong tightened his arms around her. “If you miss me, then don’t go,” he said with some gnashing of teeth.
Chen Rong was surprised by his temper. She slowly turned around.
When he met her face, Wang Hong was dazzled for a moment. At the moment, Chen Rong’s face was snow-white, but her eyes were shiny and moist. Her penetrating gaze, at the same time, had a pitiful vulnerability.
She blinked her long lashes, and the hand on the window pane finally lifted to caress his face. “Qilang.” Her voice was very soft and gentle, containing a choked sob.
Wang Hong’s knitted brow relaxed upon seeing the tears in Chen Rong’s eyes. At this moment, hearing the nasal voice in her words, he even smiled and happily responded, “Mmm.”
Chen Rong said in a numbed voice, “I… I don’t know what to do.”
She raised her tearful eyes, looking at him with a crushing love, and whispered, “I’ve been in love with you for so long, but I never thought that I could one day be with you.”
Her lips quivered, tears streaming down her cheeks. “Qilang, it may be hard to give you up, but it’s something I can still do today…” If one day she got used to the happiness and carefree life with the two of them and their children, only for him to push her away again, she would not be able to bear it.
This translation belongs to h a m s t e r 4 2 8.
She had been so happy with him in Nan’yang this time. Even when she was taken away by Murong Ke, he had put down everything to rescue her. It gave her vain thoughts and a desire that shouldn’t exist… that is, until the dagger happened. The dagger made her terrified.
Come to think of it, she wouldn’t have been so opposed to such treatment from him in the past.
Hearing her say this, Wang Hong’s lips drew into a line.
At this moment, Chen Rong suddenly reached around his neck.
Her arms clung onto him very suddenly and tightly.
She didn’t move, just holding onto him.
Surprised, Wang Hong slowly reached around and hugged her back.
He hugged her tight.
Holding Chen Rong filmly in his arms, Wang Hong lowered his head.
His lips moved, wanting to say, “If you can’t give me up, then don’t.”
He also wanted to say, “Life is too short, why do you have to overthink everything like this?”
He also wanted to say, “You won’t be able to leave, I won’t let go.”
He thought of countless sentences, but all words were swallowed back whenever they reached the tip of his tongue.
At length, Wang Hong softly said, “I…” After a pause, he murmured, “Ah Rong, what do you want me to do? Tell me and I will do it.” His voice made an unprecedented plea: “Don’t go, as long as you don’t go.”
Chen Rong couldn’t believe these words were coming from Wang Hong’s lips.
She was too familiar with this tone. She used to speak to him like this, an unconscious, self-deprecating plea.
Chen Rong raised her head with a whoosh and looked at Wang Hong with wide, disbelieving eyes.
Wang Hong turned his head sideways, avoiding her gaze.
Chen Rong blinked and blinked again.
After a while, she softly agreed, “Alright.”
With a smile in her mouth, she easily added, “Alright, I won’t go.”
A smile appeared on Wang Hong’s face as soon as these four words were uttered. His smile was so undisguised and unbridled that it made Chen Rong’s heart soar.
She reached up and wrapped her arms around his neck, kissed him on the lips, and softly smiled, “Tanlang, Tanlang.” Tanlang was the term of endearment the girls used for their sweethearts. Chen Rong called out twice, then feeling that she could not adequately express her joy, said with a beaming smile, “Qilang, to have this moment, to have your words, even if I was abandoned by you one day, even if I have to set myself on fire, I will have no regrets. None at all.” Humans have to take a gamble, don’t they? Since their hearts were one and the same, why then should she give up?
Wang Hong was dumbfounded to see her smiling through her tears. He had done so much, thought of so many ways, and paced around for so long. He didn’t expect all of his effort to be defeated by this one sentence.
Turning his head to the side, he frowned and curiously asked, “Ah Rong, why are you so happy?”
He really didn’t understand, so he asked with utmost seriousness.
Chen Rong smiled, leaning into his embrace.
She didn’t tell him that this was the first time she undoubtedly felt that he loved her. That he loved her as much as she loved him.
It was the first time that her wandering heart settled down. For the first time, she told herself that he would never hurt her again. Even if she grew old one day, and he met a young and beautiful woman, he would handle it appropriately and would let her have a graceful exit.
Her Tanlang, who used to be so high and mighty that his love had felt like charity. Even when he had just saved her from the Hu, he could turn around and put her in danger in one of his plots. He had never made her feel at ease, except at this moment.
Her joy came pouring in like a tidal wave, Chen Rong was so happy that she couldn’t control her laughter.
Wang Hong asked two more times, but had to stop when he saw that he couldn’t get an answer from her. Gradually, he was infected by her joy and smiled, too.
They embraced each other like this, their joy felt boundless.
Ten days quickly passed, and Chen Rong’s injuries had greatly recovered by now.
On this day, the sun that emerged in the east was already shining down brightly despite the early hour.
Sitting in the carriage, Chen Rong looked at the approaching city gate and quietly asked, “Qilang, no one will recognize me, right?”
Before Wang Hong could answer, she asked again, “Qilang, are we leaving the city?”
Wang Hong leaned against the divan, smiled lightly and said, “Don’t worry, no one will recognize you.”
At this time, his carriage followed the other carriages and slowly drove out of the city gate.
Chen Rong remained nervous even with Wang Hong’s assurance. Only until the carriage left the city gates did she ask in surprise, “Why didn’t they check us?”
There were many imperial guards standing on both sides of the gates. Why, then, didn’t they come forward to investigate?
Wang Hong didn’t give an answer, but only looked at her with a twinkle in his eyes.
Chapter 207: Matrimony’s Witnesses
The carriage headed west as soon as it exited the city.
After almost an hour, a river winding in and out among the hills appeared in front of Chen Rong. There was a small boat moored on the riverbank, and a handsome, young servant was waiting at its bow. When he saw the carriage coming, he accorded ceremony from afar, with a rather elegant posture.
The carriage drove to the riverbank where Wang Hong hopped down and led Chen Rong onto the boat. “Let’s go.”
The leaf of a boat shot away like an arrow and sailed into the mountains amidst white waves.
The waterway suddenly widened past the mountain range. Tucked away within the mountains, the sky and water melded into a single entity, seemingly a world of its own. When she turned to look back, the road taking them here was gone, as if all traces of the mortal world had completely vanished from this place.
Chen Rong raised her head and looked around at the tall green hills. “I didn’t know that there was such a place in Jiankang,” she said in wonderment. In fact, although she had lived in Jiankang for a while, most of the time she was afraid for her life, so she had never found an opportunity to go sightseeing.
She turned to look at Wang Hong when her exclamation didn’t draw a reaction from him.
At this time, Wang Hong was dressed in white as he stood at the bow with his hands behind his back, calling to mind the image of an ethereal god amid the whistling wind on the lake. Chen Rong looked at her beloved and couldn’t help but fall into a daze.
At this very moment, she heard Wang Hong’s laughing voice: “You fellas aren’t making a single sound, do you mean to spook me?”
As soon as he finished speaking, a zither music rose from behind a mountain peak on the left side, accompanied by Yu Zhi’s curious lament: “Oh how I think of that guy Wang Qilang, who in broad daylight carried the dying Daoist nun Hong Yunzi and disappeared in Jiankang City… No one can find them anywhere.”
At this juncture, another voice took over: “Someone was swimming in Minghu Lake a few days later and came across this man and his wife. Were they gods or ghosts, we all wonder?”
The two of them performed the duet with such sincerity that Chen Rong couldn’t help herself from laughing out loud.
Wang Hong also broke into laughter. He imitated their tone to say: “Who is Wang Qi? He is known among men as a fallen god. What time is it? It is mid-afternoon. Hence there is no doubt he’s a godly man.”
As soon as he finished speaking, laughter rose to the appearance of a dozen boats.
Out came fourteen scholar-officials, all of them Wang Hong’s good friends and most of them Chen Rong had met.
The term ‘good friends’ wasn’t spoken frivolously. Scholar-officials were people who loathed filth. The friends in their hearts, besides having the same ambition and values, naturally could be trusted to keep a secret.
The woman who offended the imperial Sima family and who was dead in everyone’s eyes suddenly made an appearance yet these fourteen people were not surprised.
Amid the loud laughter, everyone’s eyes turned to Chen Rong.
They looked at her carefully for a moment, and one of them, a middle-aged man with a white face and long beard, let out a long sigh and said, “Qilang has escaped the sea of suffering, but as for us, we’ll still have to play in the dirt for a while longer.”
The thin Huan Jiulang sneered in response: “What do you mean by ‘escaped from the sea of suffering’? This guy Qilang is very calculating. When he leaves to be a hermit, he can firstly avoid the public eye, secondly make himself look good, and thirdly, this brat isn’t even an adult yet, even if he was given a post he cannot be a high ranking official. Why not go have fun with his wife for a few years, then when the time comes, the country will ask him to make an appearance again. This is called waiting for the right price to sell.”
In this era, being a recluse was really an act of draping gold onto oneself. People at the time believed that recluses were noble and true, while those who had never gone into seclusion must have been vulgars who were busy chasing after fame and fortune. Moreover, Wang Hong had twice defeated Murong Ke and had established his reputation as a brilliant strategist in people’s minds. What’s more, he was the heir trained by the Wang House. Someone like him was precisely capable of saving the world. One day when asked to come out of retirement, he would undoubtedly win over the public and bring changes to the government.
Huan Jiulang’s words cut to the heart of the matter, and Wang Hong couldn’t help but wryly smile. Yu Zhi called out from the side: “Jiulang, Jiulang, must you say everything so bluntly? How can Wang Qi still maintain his fallen god aura?”
When Yu Zhi laughed, everyone joined in with him, and the fair and flamboyant Lan Zhi exclaimed, “The aura of a fallen god? Everyone knows that Wang Qilang is a rare suitor. What god is so consumed by love? He has come down to earth long ago.”
Their laughter grew louder.
These men made fun of Wang Hong as soon as they arrived and he couldn’t do anything but wryly smile.
When the laughter subsided, a middle-aged man dressed as a Daoist priest cleared his throat to say: “The auspicious time has come.”
The auspicious time has come.
Hearing these words, the crowd’s roar of laughter immediately quieted down.
While Chen Rong’s eyes rounded, they stepped back and in the blink of an eye, a zither player, a flutist, and a reed pipe player appeared.
A leisurely music began.
Wang Hong also stepped back.
He retreated to Chen Rong’s side, reached out and held her hand, then knelt down in the direction of the sunrise in the east.
Chen Rong confusedly followed him and knelt down.
She was dressed in red while he was dressed in white. They knelt at the bow, their robes fluttering in the wind.
Chen Rong questioningly looked at Wang Hong.
Wang Hong’s expression was unusually sober. He looked to the east and raised his clear, smooth voice to say: “I, Wang Hong of Lang’ya, would like to be united in matrimony with the woman next to me, Ah Rong of the Chen House. I ask that the heavens, our ancestors, and our esteemed guests be our witnesses.”
Having said this, he respectfully kowtowed three times.
Dumbfounded, Chen Rong followed with three kowtows of her own.
The dapper and fashionable Lan Zhi stepped out from the crowd.
He came before the two of them then took a cup of wine from the servant.
Slowly pouring the liquor into the river, Lan Zhi’s magnetic voice issued loudly, “Although this woman is not suitable for marriage, she has more than once protected Mister Wang with her life. Such admirable goodness is worthy of love.”
Setting down the first cup, he raised a second cup and carefully paid his respect to the east, then strewn the liquid across the sky, and as the wine rained down, Lan Zhi’s voice came again, “In this troubled world where people are oft unfeeling, Mister Wang is very lucky to have found a good woman. I will now pronounce to heaven and earth, ghosts and gods, that in his life, Mister Wang will towards his wife, cherish and love, revere and tend, never to forsake, never to regret, and never to resent.” Hearing these words, tears streamed down Chen Rong’s face as she covered her mouth with her sleeve. Lan Zhi lifted the third cup of wine and turned to the scholars.
He raised the wine cup with both hands and said aloud towards the scholars who also raised their cups: “Mister Wang has said the more beauty he comes upon the emptier he feels; the longer he travels the more tired he grows.”
With all eyes on him, his voice boomed: “Now that he has her, his heart is full and his love is reciprocated. On this auspicious occasion and in the presence of our guests, I would like to convey his vow, that for as long as he lives he shall not take a second wife.”
He shall not take a second wife.
He actually said that he won’t take a second wife.
At this moment, not only Chen Rong, but several scholars widened their eyes and let out a gasp.
While they were in shock, Lan Zhi raised his cup of wine, threw his head back and emptied it. Those who already knew also drank their wine.
The remaining scholars raised their cups in a stupor, emptying their drinks one by one.
Lan Zhi laughed and smashed the cup in his hand into the river, symbolizing the completion of the vow.
This translation belongs to h a m s t e r 4 2 8.
Lan Zhi’s laughter was still echoing in the air when Chen Rong and the others came back to their senses.
Chen Rong covered her mouth with her sleeve, tears streaming down her face, as she looked at Wang Hong in disbelief.
Through the tears in her eyes, she saw her Tanlang smiling at her. The corners of his mouth were slightly raised and the light in his eyes dancing about, vaguely looking pleased.
Chen Rong stared at him incredulously for a while before asking, “Won’t have a second wife? Are you really promising me that you won’t have a second wife?”
It was already very difficult for Qilang to marry her as his wife. Yet he even promised her that he’d never take a concubine?
He said that he would never leave her for the rest of his life, that he would never regret or complain in the future, that he would never want anyone other than her.
How can this be?
How can this be?
Chen Rong was in tears when Huan Jiulang hopped onto Lan Zhi’s boat. He warmly looked at Wang Hong and Chen Rong and sighed, “I knew Qilang is ruthlessly determined. But I didn’t expect him to be so resolute about his own marriage like this. How bold he is to say such words as ‘never to forsake, never to regret, never to resent, and never to take a second wife.’”
Another person jumped on Lan Zhi’s boat and sighed, “Aye, there’s really nothing in the world that Wang Qilang wouldn’t dare to say or do.”
The most difficult thing to control in life is one’s own heart. Romantic feelings are the easiest thing in the world to change, yet Wang Qilang had made such a vow. Was he truly not afraid that he would come to regret this one day? If he were to meet the most beautiful woman in the future, was he going to treat her as a lifeless skeleton?
Tsk, what an outrageous and unconceivable vow.
Yu Zhi also jumped onto the boat, laughingly saying: “This guy Wang Qilang didn’t bother to leave himself an escape route.” He side eyed Chen Rong and added, “I’ve spent enough time around this woman to know that she’s a bit more fiery compared to other women. But how did she seduce Qilang to abandon everything?”
Whether they could fathom it or not, they had come at Wang Hong’s request to witness his marriage, and thus, after a round of debate, they laid aside their opinions and began to render music.
Chen Rong, who was still busy crying, was wrapped in Wang Hong’s embrace.
He sat at the bow with his arms around her, softly asking: “Has Ah Rong ever dreamed of marrying me?”
Chen Rong first shook her head before she suddenly remembered that dream. In her dream, he had gone through all the proper channels to marry her as they received the praise of the world and the blessings of their relatives. She had also cried in her dream at the time.
She had been sad then because, even in her dream, she knew it was just that — a dream. It was but a dream of hers, a dream that would never come true.
But now, that dream has become a reality… No, it was better than reality. What of a sanctioned matrimony? In the eyes of the liberal scholars, this was a sanctioned matrimony. Not only did he formally wed her, he unequivocally made a vow to heaven and earth, to everyone present, that for the rest of his life she would be the only one he wanted.
She was the only one he wanted.
Chapter 208: Ending
Chen Rong nodded at Wang Hong’s gentle eyes and replied, “I’ve dreamt it, yes.”
“And were you happy in your dream?”
“Aye, how could I not be?”
Wang Hong was so happy that he broke into laughter. He lowered his head and gave a peck on Chen Rong’s forehead, unable to hide the smugness on his face.
Yu Zhi stared at the two of them, clucking and sighing as he did: “Look at him, to please this woman, he doesn’t even know where he is… I think this kid deliberately said he won’t have a second wife just for this moment of relish.”
He shook his head in lamentation: “Long ago King You of Zhou did not hesitate to fool his vassals by lighting the warning beacons just so he could win a beauty’s smile. Now Wang Qilang is saying he won’t have a second wife in order to win a beauty’s tears. You are both absurd. Absolutely absurd.”
Huan Jiulang followed along and shook his head repeatedly. “No wonder people say that young men are easily muddled by women into doing all sorts of ridiculous things. Only today did I know that our forefathers did not lie to me.”
Lan Zhi laughed when he heard these words. “Jiulang, are you saying you’re no longer a young man?”
Huan Jiulang was stumped for words before he also laughed out loud.
The sunlight was dwindling and the zither notes were fading.
After hopping off the boat, Chen Rong and Wang Hong got on their carriage and left this stretch of paradise.
Chen Rong was nestled in Wang Hong’s arms. For some reason, she hadn’t been able to hold back her tears… The surprise he gave her, which she couldn’t even dream of, had completely struck and touched her. At this moment, Chen Rong felt that the heavens were much too kind to her. It was a stolen life, but she was able to meet someone who loved her, and more importantly, he was also the one she loved.
Was there a greater happiness than this in the world?
Wang Hong enveloped her, smiling down a smile full of gratification and happiness.
After the carriage entered the main road, a surge of noise began to enter their ears. Chen Rong didn’t pay attention at first, but after inadvertently giving a glance, asked in surprise, “Where are we going?” This direction was clearly not heading to Jiankang.
Wang Hong smiled in reply: “Our convoy is waiting ahead. I’ve quit society.”
Chen Rong knew this. She just didn’t know that they were also leaving Jiankang.
She looked back in the direction of Jiankang and murmured, “What about the imperial family?”
Wang Hong lowered his eyes and lightly said, “The Empress Dowager’s clan has quite a few skeletons hidden in their closet, even the dowager herself is guilty of misconduct. I used that information in exchange for her to leave us alone.” He looked at Chen Rong with a smile, “Even if Ah Rong is taken to the palace right now, someone will quietly send you back to me.”
No wonder. Then did that mean the guardsmen at the city gates were purely for decoration? That’s right, this deal had to have been settled in secret, and the aristocrats weren’t let in on it. Hence they still had to put on a show of pursuit.
“Won’t you offend them like this?” she asked anxiously.
Wang Hong laughed when he saw Chen Rong’s worried face. He caressed her brow and said, “Silly child, so what if I offend them? From the Sima House’s perspective, it’s a good thing that I have formed a feud with the Empress Dowager’s clan.”
For some reason, he didn’t want to see her look so worried right now, so he explained to her: “Don’t worry Ah Rong, I won’t do anything stupid. Even if I used the mobilization token to take down the underground organization, it was also for self-preservation. I was in charge of my family’s army and secret forces all these years, so others viewed me as a threat. Now that I have used the token, it is enough to show that I’m indeed discouraged and I wholeheartedly want to go into seclusion.” Even the Prince of Jiankang’s untimely death was orchestrated by him. Now that he was leaving, how could he allow the man who shamed his wife to remain free in the world? The funny thing was that despite using this incident to condemn him, not many actually believed he was the one who did it.
After all, the Prince of Jiankang had made too many enemies over the years.
Wang Hong cupped Chen Rong’s face, gave a peck between her brows and softly said, “Don’t mind what Huan Jiulang said, I don’t have such grand ambitions… I just do as my heart desires. I don’t mind offering my service when the time comes to serve. However, I would also be happy if I can only be a recluse for the rest of my life.”
He looked at her and sincerely said, “I am only nineteen years old but I have weathered many storms and my heart is weary. To be able to travel the lands with you, that is the greatest joy on earth.”
Chen Rong was more than satisfied that he felt inclined to give her an explanation. She nodded, looked at him with adoration and joy, and even tears in her eyes.
Wang Hong looked amused and was about to say something when a familiar voice was heard crying outside: “Do forgive me, I heard you were going to Nan’yang, so I want to go with you to find my husband Shi Min. I’m sorry, please do a good deed.” She sounded very distressed.
Chen Rong promptly turned her head to look outside.
She saw someone dressed in the style of married women with her hands clinging to the yoke of a carriage, refusing to let herself be pushed off by those sitting inside. Her face was clean and her weeping was delicate, but her dress was stained and tattered and she looked to be in quite a wretched state.
She was, incredibly, Chen Wei.
Sitting in the carriage were a plump middle-aged merchant, his wife, and two children.
Chen Wei’s tears did not move the merchant. “I don’t care who you’re looking for. Get off, you are vexing me,” he yelled at her in annoyance and with a scowl.
He yanked Chen Wei’s hand, trying to push her off the carriage, but failed to do so after several tries. He then raised his foot and gave her a kick to the ground, where she rolled two turns and landed on the roadside grass.
Chen Wei struggled to get up and sobbed as she did, carefully wiping the mud from her face even as she was shedding tears.
Seeing that she was still maintaining her appearance at this time, the woman in the carriage sighed sympathetically, “Maybe she comes from a good family, my lord, why don’t…?”
Before she could finish, the merchant laughed, “A good family you say? She has been here every day for the past ten days, coming over whenever she sees a convoy heading north. Sometimes she says she’s going to Mo’yang, sometimes she says she’s going to Nan’yang, and now she dares to say that Shi Min is her husband. Bah! A woman who stays out in this wilderness is definitely a whore. Shi Min may work for the Hu, but he’s still a man of dignity. How can he keep this harlot around? No matter how disgraceful Shi Min’s origin is, his deeds are nevertheless admirable and he’d never let a harlot sully his reputation.”
The woman nodded at his words and withdrew her sympathetic gaze.
Staring after the departing cavalcade, Chen Rong looked back at Chen Wei who was still crying. “How did she become this way?” she numbly wondered.
She turned to Wang Hong, feeling a little lost and melancholy. “Her father and brother are still alive, the clan is also here, what drove her to this state?”
Wang Hong replied in an indifferent voice: “She had used my name to harm you.”
Just one sentence from him was enough to make Chen Rong understand that Wang Hong had a hand in this matter. She looked up at him in astonishment.
Seeing Chen Rong’s expression of surprise and loss, Wang Hong shook his head and sighed, “Darling, you are too softhearted.”
He glanced at Chen Wei. “This woman is patient, vicious, and good at feigning, she must not be underestimated. If you can’t bear to be cruel, then you can grant her a quick death.”
Chen Rong thought about it and finally shook her head.
Wang Hong did not care either way, he only smiled. He looked sideways at Chen Wei and suddenly said, “I heard that you were about to marry Ran Min when he happened to take in this woman, so you gave up the idea?”
Chen Rong did not expect him to suddenly ask this. She nodded: “Aye.”
Wang Hong snickered as he unhurriedly said, “If Ran Min knew the true nature of this woman, he would be overwhelmed with regret.”
Chen Rong nodded. She had so many questions. “I’ve always thought that she was enamored with General Ran, but now I really don’t understand her.”
“What’s so hard to understand? Young girls idolize a hero. When they are young and naive, they think they can commit to each other in life and death. But this idolization is the easiest to wake up from.” After a pause, he scoffed, “Furthermore, this isn’t a virtuous woman we’re looking at. After she wakes up from her dream, she only chooses what benefits her. In order to achieve her goal, she can even kill the husband she once loved. Ah Rong, do you think that all the women in this world are as foolish as you are?”
Chen Rong paid no attention to his teasing, she just looked at Chen Wei in a stupor and thought: Is that how it is? In my previous life, had I been defeated by such a Chen Wei?
The past felt like a dream now, but she was still at a loss thinking about it.
Chen Rong didn’t know that only one year after her death in the previous life, Ran Min, who was out on a campaign, was caught in a siege and disappeared for five months. Everyone thought he had died in battle. Chen Wei, who was already Ran Min’s wife by then, had his concubines horrifically killed. The one surnamed Lu was especially tortured for seven days before being fed to the dogs. By the third month, Chen Wei, thinking she had gained complete control of the inner chambers, began an affair with a guardsman.
After a narrowly won victory, the weary Ran Min returned home to learn of everything and immediately put an end to Chen Wei with his sword. Shortly after, he wedded another wife.
Just as Wang Hong already knew, there were very, very few women in this world who loved as foolishly as Chen Rong. In Ran Min’s life, Chen Rong was the only one who truly loved him. The rest of them only approached him for their own purposes.
In their ostentatious world, there were few who unfalteringly loved with all of their hearts.
This translation belongs to h a m s t e r 4 2 8.
After a month’s long journey, Chen Rong and Wang Hong reached their destination of seclusion: Nanshan. Upon their arrival, Wang Hong’s friend had already set up a banquet and welcomed them with great joy.
As soon as they entered the mansion, Chen Rong was startled by those who stood in the courtyard to greet them.
“It’s my brother and everyone!” she exclaimed. Wasn’t that her family in the crowd, who were also tearfully crying like her?
Chen Rong turned her head to look at Wang Hong. The corners of her mouth upturned as she said, “Qilang, thank you.”
Wang Hong softly smiled in return. “Darling, there’s no need to say words of thanks. Now that we are going into seclusion, we should take care of all external matters. Go and talk to them.”
Chen Rong happily ran over.
The eldest son of the Chen House and the others also hurried to meet her. After seeing Chen Rong, her brother turned around and bowed deeply in Wang Hong’s direction. Then, he turned to look at Chen Rong, wiping his tears as he said, “Ah Rong, I killed that shrew by my own hands a few days ago.”
Nurse Ping interjected: “We were fortunate to have Qilang. He was the one who captured the shrew. Do you know what the woman had said? She cursed your brother and said that she had been intimate with her cousin before your brother was even in the picture. If it wasn’t for her cousin’s sudden disappearance, she wouldn’t have married your brother. She also said, had she known, she would have listened to her cousin and poisoned your brother with arsenic. Speaking of which, when we were in Jiankang, Qilang had asked Physician Yuan to diagnose your brother’s ailment. The physician said your brother didn’t suffer from an illness, that a good rest will allow him to live a few dozen years without any problem. Also…”
While Nurse Ping tattled on and on, Chen Rong’s face was red with anger. She gritted her teeth and interrupted her with a quiet growl: “What is her cousin’s name?”
In her previous life, news of her brother’s death would arrive in several more days. Now it turned out that her brother hadn’t died of sickness, but had been poisoned to death. Either way she must exact revenge.
Seeing Chen Rong so angry, Nurse Ping and the others were taken aback, then were quick to laugh. “Miss, don’t be upset, Qilang has known this for a long time. He already killed the adulterous man and the shrew’s brothers. You have no idea how she lost her mind when she saw their heads.”
Despite her smiling face, when Nurse Ping talked about the heads, she still seemed reluctant about the cruelty.
Chen Rong, in contrast, looked delighted as she watched Qilang’s back in fascination, who was jovially talking to the scholar. “He’s always so thorough,” she quietly said. Her voice was full of pride and adoration.
Wang Hong, who was in the midst of conversation, turned his head at this time. The two of them smiled in unison, their beaming faces were like a spring garden in collective bloom.
This translation belongs to hamster428.
At this moment, Ran Min, who was far away in Luo’yang, was retreating from Shi Hu’s sick bed. As soon as he came out, Shi Hu’s sons and grandsons gathered around him, according courtesy to the subordinate who held power, prestige and the devotion of his soldiers.
After exchanging pleasantries with them, Ran Min quickly strode away to his fiery steed. Just as he was about to mount it, something came to mind and he couldn’t but stare toward the south in a trance.
In that direction was a woman whose face robbed Ran Min of his breath almost as soon as she appeared. Clenching his teeth, he turned to mount his ride and, amid the cloppings of the horse hooves, grudgingly thought: the Hu are yet annihilated, my campaign is yet triumphant. As a man, how can I have this weak mentality? Ran Min, a man should be resolute. If you cannot kill that heartless woman, then forget her from now on. You cannot think about her anymore!
At this thought, his legs clamped around the horse with a “Jyah!” The horse hooves flew away, carrying him to chase after the sun. It was the hour of sundown. With the red sky casting over him and his steed, Ran Min looked rather like a king as he sat on horseback — a majestic presence, with a crown of light atop his head.
And that’s it! Thanks everyone for reading this translation til the very end. It has been a very, very long journey that at times I wondered if I would ever reach the finish line. Thank you for all your lovely comments. Whether you loved this book as much as I did (or not at all), I appreciate your thoughts and discussion that liven up this blog til now.
I’ll share a bit of my thoughts on this novel now that we’ve reached the end. This story has a special place in my heart and what I like best about it is that reads as real as guilty pleasure fiction can read, and its characters are very much a product of their time. They all operate within the framework of the period’s morals and values, so when they say certain words or do certain things, they aren’t anachronistic. Take the FL Chen Rong for example. She’s insistent on being the only wife to a man. In any other story this would have been an anachronistic idea, but it makes perfect sense here because the only reason why she wants it is because she had lived through a polygamous relationship and ended up dead because of it. In her mind, it’s as crazy as it sounds to everyone else and she doesn’t even dare to hope for it. Wang Hong, who did eventually give her what she wants, still took an entire novel to reach that conclusion, and only did so because he loved her enough to concede, not because he found the concept logical or instinctive. And Ran Min, who liked her well enough, could not overcome the odd idea or his personal ambitions.
I also like it that the author had written Chen Rong without the Mary Sue halo. She came back to life with a few key knowledge of past events, but they aren’t a fast pass to success by any measures. She conducts herself with a little more finesse, but she is still stuck in the same terrible society without any real familial support, and a lone wolf’s finesse only goes so far. Her continual struggles, while frustrating, felt real. At the same time, her relentless fight and will to live are incredibly admirable. I can only hope to have the same grit and determination when life chucks at me the monkey wrench.
Anyway, before this becomes another novel for the novel, I just want to say thanks again to everyone who drops by to read this work (or any other on the blog). You guys have been great guests and I’ll miss you all!