Chapter 31: Courtship?
Chen Rong’s courtyard.
Nurse Ping busily greeted the crowd as she beamed happily. She had been worried about the shortage of food just moments ago, but everything had been replenished moments later. There were so much silk and fabric that not only could they be used to pay for new furnishings and clothes, they were enough to buy an ordinary house.
Looking at the money and goods, then looking back at Chen Rong, who was still in contemplation, Nurse Ping felt that her mistress was undoubtedly profound and unpredictable. It had been nerve-wracking starting from the moment Chen Rong headed out with her dagger. She never imagined that not only did she come back safe and sound, she even got her uncle to hold her in high regard.
Time flew by in a flash.
Soon, the sun sank to the west and lanterns were lit.
Having been instructed by Chen Rong, not only did the maids stay inside, but the servants were also ordered to make no sound and light no lanterns. The entire courtyard fell into a hushed silence.
With the faint crescent moon hung in the sky, sounds of reeds, flutes, and pipes mingled with one other as they diffused across the land and into the air, sprinkling a ray or two of melancholic autumn.
Standing in the courtyard, one could hear laughter from the direction of the main compound.
Tonight’s gathering was in fact very important to every clansman of Chen. Though this banquet, the nobles from the north would be telling the nobles in Nan’yang that they had returned.
The youngsters, in particular, depended on this banquet to let others know that there are still this young lad and that young lady in the house of Chen waiting to be married.
Chen Rong would never reject this banquet had she not remembered the past. She not only wouldn’t refuse, but she would also even try her best to showcase herself. As best as she could, she’d make all of Nan’yang elites remember her.
Chen Rong lowered her eyes. She stepped onto the dry leaves on the path and walked to the woods behind her courtyard.
On the sky was the moon, on the ground was a lone figure. ‘Twas the eternal scene of loneliness.
She knew not how much time had passed by the time she heard footfalls approaching behind her.
Following bright lantern light, several servants stepped into her courtyard. Without waiting for Old Shang to ask, a clear voice arrived: “Is Ah Rong of the Chen house in?”
Looking for me?
Ah Rong shivered.
While Old Shang hesitated to answer, Nurse Ping quickly replied, “My lady is ill and bedridden.”
The servants briefly looked at one other, one saying: “Qilang of the Wang house did not see Miss Chen at the dinner and thus asked after her. Lord Chen sent me to invite Miss Chen over.”
Pausing, the man standing in front shouted: “Even the Prince of Nan’yang dares not to offend the godly Wang Qilang. Nurse, please ask your lady. If she can make it, then she should get dressed and see Qilang. This is a very rare opportunity.”
His words were very sincere.
Nurse Ping knew if this man dared to say so, then it must be the truth. As he said, this opportunity was a very rare one.
Unconsciously, she looked to where Chen Rong stood in the dark.
She continued to watch for some time, but she did not hear any sound coming from that dark place.
Sighing to herself, Nurse Ping pretended to walk to the bedchamber’s door. After raising her voice to call a few times, she turned to the servants and said, “My apology, it seems my lady is asleep.”
“What a pity.” The two servants in the front bowed and turned to go. Only until they turned did Nurse Ping discover that they were wearing uniforms belonging to the Wang house of Lang’ya! They were really people who served Wang Qilang, no wonder their speech was gentle, their manners courteous. No wonder!
All of a sudden, Nurse Ping felt rather upset. She looked to where Chen Rong was standing in the dark with a flash of complaint in her eyes.
As soon as the lights retreated, Chen Rong came out from the shadows. She ignored Nurse Ping’s complaining eyes as she stared straight to the hustle and bustle in the main hall and said, “It’s indeed a rare opportunity.”
In the dark, Chen Rong’s eyes shone stunningly bright.
“Nurse, what if a young lady courts Wang Qilang in front of everybody in this case?” she suddenly asked at length.
Nurse Ping blinked her small eyes in confusion.
Chen Rong did not look at her. She frowned, continuing to stare at the main hall. After a long while, she murmured: “As long as he does not reject me too badly, as long as he leaves me a little face…”
At this time, Nurse Ping finally understood what she meant. “Miss, you must not. How can you match Qilang of the Wang house? You’ll only become a laughing stock to the people of Nan’yang!”
Chen Rong dropped her gaze. After pondering for a while, she suddenly turned and walked toward her bedchamber.
Nurse Ping was most familiar with her character. One look and she knew her mistress had already made up her mind. She anxiously picked up her pace to catch up to her, caught her sleeves and hastily pleaded, “Miss, miss, don’t! You must not! Don’t you still have your uncle Chen Shu? He holds you in high regard. If you need anything, he’d be willing to help.”
Chen Rong did not look back, merely saying: “He will not. He gave me ten carriages of silk and fabric in addition to gold leaves; he no longer owes me anything. With his personality, he certainly will not.” His meaning was clear. He meant just to help her this once. If the Prince of Nan’yang were to demand her tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, or if other elders insisted, she would be forced to a dead end.
Here and now, Qilang of the Wang house actually mentioned her in front of the others. The importance he placed on her was enough to attract the Prince of Nanyang’s attention. At the prince’s single word, she could very well be carried into his estate tonight, and hereupon, there’d no longer be an Ah Rong of the Chen house in this world!
No, she must control all developments in the palm of her hand! Even if she only had half the certainty!
‘Creak,’ Chen Rong gave the bedroom door a hard push, then flapped her sleeves and subtly threw Nurse Ping’s hand off.
She went inside for two hours.
Two hours later, Chen Rong walked out. She was still herself, but she had put on the set of yellow and purple gown she had worn during the day.
Her hair was still loose, her feet fitted with wooden clogs.
The only difference was that there now hung a jeweled dagger at her waist. When she walked, the studded scabbard collided with the jade ornament on her sash and made a nice jingle sound.
Nurse Ping couldn’t believe her lady went inside for two full hours only to do nothing. She couldn’t help widening her eyes at Chen Rong.
Chen Rong smiled at Nurse Ping’s expression and then bent down to pick up her zither.
She walked past her nurse, her wooden clogs clopping on the ground, as she unhurriedly headed out front. Her inky hair draped her shoulders and swung with each of her steps. Watching her back, Nurse Ping secretly admired: My lady has such a lovely figure. Not only among the Chen ladies, but there are also few gentlewomen in the whole of Nan’yang who have her grace and charm.
She stood frozen for a moment and then quickly chased after Chen Rong at the time she realized that she had disappeared. The nurse then thought that Chen Rong, being so stubborn, would not listen to her words. She’d better call Old Shang over. And so she hastily turned and ran toward the inner courtyard.
In the meanwhile, Chen Rong had walked out of her home to the clopping of her clogs.
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