Chapter 15: Near the Yellow River
Chen Rong fell silent.
Sun Yan turned his head and solemnly watched her, suddenly asking, “How old are you?”
“Not yet fifteen,” she replied after a moment of stupefaction.
“You’re younger than me.” Then he looked at her and said matter-of-factly: “Call me gege (older brother), then.”
Chen Rong looked up at him in surprise.
Under the moonlight, her stunned expression apparently pleased Sun Yan. He smiled a smile that swept away the desolation on his face.
Chen Rong glared at him and retorted: “Hmph, it’s not for sure you’re older than I.”
Sun Yan smiled again. It was apparent he had often smiled in the past. When he smiled, his whole face came aglow.
He gave Chen Rong a once over, nodded and said, “Yes, but if you didn’t say, nobody could’ve guessed you’re only fifteen. Tsk, you’re clearly just a little girl, but you already have the comportment of a woman.”
Chen Rong’s small face at once flushed. She drew a deep breath to suppress her anger, but since she had a quick temper, she needed several more before she could move her lips to respond: “That’s still better than your quacking voice!”
Sun Yan burst out laughing.
He laughed and laughed. When his mirth finally subsided, he tilted his head and continued to look at the silver water running in front of them, murmuring: “Your eyes are like those of wolves… I like them.”
Chen Rong snapped her head up. She wanted to refute but couldn’t get her words out.
Turning her head, she followed his lead in watching the rippling waves, quietly thinking to herself: I keep telling myself to forget the past, but it seems I’m not doing enough. It’s not acceptable to be like this. I have to make myself truly at peace, so that even if I see that person again, I will not let it affect me.
The two stood side by side, both wordless.
But perhaps because they were in the same boat and felt to be kindred spirits, they did not need to speak in order to enjoy each other’s company.
With campfire aglow, sounds of laughter unceasingly rang in the distance. Contrastingly, the two shadows by the river bank seemed to dissolve among heaven and earth, as if they had been standing there since time immemorial and would continue for eternity more.
This translation belongs to hamster428.
Time flew by. In the blink of an eye, three days had passed.
Wang Hong and Yu Zhi had been swarmed by the young ladies in these three days. When they occasionally met, all they could do was smile at each other, having no opportunity to speak.
Sun Yan stuck to Chen Rong’s side since that night. He used the Chen estate’s driver, ate the Chen estate’s food, and naturally formed a small group with Chen Rong.
By this time, the cavalcade was getting closer to the Yellow River.
Major noble clans all around the state were turning up from time to time. In the far distance, one could see the large road covered with flying dust and a clamorous din.
“Miss, we’ll soon reach the Yellow River! After the Yellow River would be Luo’yang. Miss, we’re almost there!” After the Yellow River would be Luo’yang. If nothing unexpected happened, they would be settling down in Luo’yang.
Nurse Ping went up beside the carriage and called out in joy. Her small eyes stretched into lines when she smiled. Nearby, everyone else also beamed.
Chen Rong showed no joy on her face.
She looked up and stared out ahead. At the end of the blue sky were puffs of white clouds. Blocked by the mountain range, she could not see the city’s many ornate houses.
Thinking that the Yellow River was less than forty miles away, the exuberant group did not want to take a rest. One after another, the carriages hastened forward.
After dashing for twenty miles, they found the road packed with other groups. And it wasn’t just the road; even barren fields on either side were full of guards on horseback.
Chen Rong turned to look. All around her were people and carriages. Even if two people leaned in close, they’d have to shout to be heard.
“Miss, there are so many people.” Nurse Ping looked left and right while gasping.
Chen Rong didn’t answer. There was a faraway look in her eyes, her lips drawn into a tight line.
Twilight soon descended.
They were now only about ten miles away from the Yellow River.
After they finished dinner, Chen Rong, who had been in a daze up until now, suddenly walked ahead. Sun Yan had just placed his utensils down by the time he saw her unusual behavior. “Ah Rong, the Wang house is still dining,” he spoke in his raspy voice, frowning at the same time.
In accordance with aristocratic etiquette, meals were not times to talk, much less times to visit.
Chen Rong paused and turned to look at Sun Yan. She watched him with her vacant eyes for a while before murmuring: “Only now have I thought it through. Even if my life is already destined to turn out that way, I still have to try my luck.”
Her words had no rhyme or reason, so how could Sun Yan know what she was talking about? He blinked and looked at her quizzically.
Chen Rong withdrew her gaze, walked on, and again said, “The house of Wang takes an hour each time they dine. I cannot wait that long.”
Sun Yan frowningly stared after her for a while, then sprang to his feet and followed her out.
On the wild plains, the Wang house had laid damask mats into two lines and placed tables on top of them. Fragrant meat and wine filled these tables.
The nobles kept quiet when they dined. From her position, she could see Wang Hong and Yu Zhi to the left of Wang Zhuo.
When Chen Rong arrived, people would look up at her from time to time. The Wangs couldn’t help themselves from staring when they saw her walking straight to Wang Zhuo.
She curtsied to him from the distance.
Wang Zhuo, Wang Hong, and Yu Zhi all looked up, appraising the beautiful girl who stood under the sunset glow.
Before Wang Hong could speak, Chen Rong had said in her crystalline voice: “Sir Wang, Luo’yang has always been a battleground since the time of yore. At present, the five Hu tribes are invading the Central Plains. I don’t think they will let go of Luo’yang.” (1)
The five Hu tribes are Xiongnu, Jie, Xianbei, Di, and Qiang, but the term actually includes all nomadic non-Han tribes in northern China and was often used with a negative connotation to mean barbarians.
She was commenting on the state’s affairs. Including Wang Hong, everybody stared at her in surprise.
The contemporary literati did not like to discuss politics.
Ever since scholars were killed one by one for talking about politics, philosophy and merriment became the only two subjects they discussed. They had not talked of politics in a long time.
For that reason, even Yu Zhi was frowning this time to hear Chen Rong, a female, talk about “battlegrounds” and similar such.
As though she didn’t see anything, Chen Rong directed her attention solely on Wang Zhuo and solemnly added: “In my humble opinion, the city of Luo’yang is no longer safe for settlement. If we went there, I fear we would fall into the traps the tribesmen had laid.”
“Traps?” Wang Zhuo finally placed his chopsticks down and asked, “You’re saying those barbarians have captured Luo’yang?” Chen Rong had twice displayed her prowess. He had begun to take this girl’s words seriously.
Chen Rong shook her head. “The city of Luo’yang is too strong to be attacked that easily. I only meant I am afraid they have planted their soldiers in the vicinity of Luo’yang and the Yellow River banks, just waiting for us to walk into their trap.”
Wang Zhuo ruminated before turning his head to look at Wang Hong. “Qilang, what do you think?”
Wang Hong was regarding Chen Rong with eyes that called to mind the reflection of an autumn sky. He had heard that the girl before him had twice prophesied like a god – she was a young lady entirely different from other girls.
He quietly watched Chen Rong for a moment before asking: “Then in Ah Rong’s opinion, which Hu tribes will be there?”
“I do not know,” Chen Rong shook her head with a wry smile. “I’ve come to ask Sir Wang to allow me to separate.”
Everyone simultaneously looked up at Chen Rong in shock.
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