Chapter 37: Invitation
Back in the courtyard, Nurse Ping pressed a cold towel onto Chen Rong’s face while choking back tears. “Your father and brother’s absence is all to blame. We’d be able to move out if they were here.”
“Nurse, don’t cry.”
Nurse Ping nodded vigorously in reply: “Aye, I won’t cry, I won’t cry.”
Footsteps were heard at this time, followed by Old Shang’s hesitant voice outside the door: “Miss?”
Hearing his tone, Chen Rong immediately asked, “What is it?”
When she sensed no movement outside, she frowned and said, “Just say it, whatever it is.”
“Aye.” His voice was still a bit shaky as he relayed: “The master has just ordered each courtyard to dismiss five servants.”
“Did he say why?”
While Chen Rong was in rumination, Nurse Ping nervously asked, “Miss, what do we do now?”
Chen Rong glanced at her, naturally knowing why she and Old Shang were so apprehensive. She presently had but fifteen servants. These fifteen were all loyal individuals who had served her throughout the years and had come with her all the way to the south. There was a strong bond between them. It hadn’t been easy to get here, and now she was forced to chase them out. Without the support of a large clan, these people would be homeless and helpless once they left her door.
Chen Rong received the hand towel, dressed her face and said, “There’s no need to panic.”
Nurse Ping and Old Shang quieted down, looking at her at the same time.
“Old Shang, go tell the steward that I’ll no longer require the clan’s help with paying for my servants’ keep. I’ll assume the responsibility myself.”
“Miss, the clan has never helped us!” Nurse Ping exclaimed.
Chen Rong smirked and dismissively said, “You’re right, they have never helped us. Old Shang, if the steward insists, tell him: ‘Our mistress says we still have plenty of food to feed these few people.’”
When she saw the old man giving no reaction, Chen Rong sighed: “I gather the master has made this decision mainly due to the lack of grains and silk in the estate. I heard that at present, the exchange price is two carriages of silk for half a carriage of grains in Nan’yang.”
“Aye, aye,” Old Shang recovered to say. “I’ll go and let him know.”
Listening to his hasty footsteps running off, Nurse Ping was also delirious with joy. “Why, you must be one of the gods, miss. If you hadn’t bought so much food on the way here, we would be miserable right now.” Yes, they would be very miserable. This was just the first instance of dismissing servants at the Chen estate. The Chen house of Nan’yang would be downsizing their labor force three times before they weathered the storm. In her previous life, she had only been a parasitic orphan and had, therefore, become the primary cutting target. After six months living in Nan’yang, only Nurse Ping and Old Shang were left by her side.
Old Shang came back very quickly. Sure enough, after the steward heard what he had to say, he swiftly decided that all expenditures in Chen Rong’s courtyard would be her sole responsibility hereafter. Though she had been responsible for them all this time, the steward’s verbal acknowledgment was now tantamount to publicizing the matter.
The servants finally relaxed after Chen Rong’s decision. Especially now that they knew of the tension outside due to food, for a whole day with nothing better to do, they went to the warehouse and stared silly at the grains. Even Nurse Ping stared at the two dozen carriages in the warehouse for a long time. By the time she returned to Chen Rong’s side, there still remained a giddy smile on her face.
If the grains were used solely as food, two dozen carriages would last them up to twenty years. During a time when everyone was worried about food, holding so much wealth naturally felt very satisfying.
This translation belongs to hamster428.wordpress.com
Time flew by.
The next afternoon arrived in the blink of an eye.
Chen Rong had remained inside her own courtyard for the past two days. She knew Chen Wei must be fuming mad. With her nature, how could she stand others’ pointing at her? She must be crying and then trying to explain to them that Ran Min never said he wouldn’t marry her or that she had never bullied Chen Rong out of jealousy. Chen Rong’d only cause more trouble if she showed herself now.
In the evening, Chen Rong was idly sitting in her study to practice her zither when suddenly a loud voice reached her ears: “Is Ah Rong of the Chen house in?”
Not waiting for Nurse Ping to reply, Old Shang answered back: “My lady is in.”
“I come bearing the Wang estate’s invitation. Please come to dinner tonight at the hour of the dog (7 pm).”
Overjoyed, Old Shang profusely thanked him. “Even our lady has an invitation? How wonderful.”
The man from the Wang estate chuckled. “Why do you think so lightly of yourselves? Everybody could see your lady’s intelligence and we all admire her for it. If she were born to a slightly better status, her name would’ve been propagated by the scholars by now and she would’ve become a prominent guest among the noblewomen’s circles. Even now, if we did not invite her to the estate, I fear people would gossip. Haha, let me stop talking. Please remind your lady to come on time tonight.”
He was a humorous one. After having walked a few steps, he turned around to tease: “Qilang of the Wang house will also be there. Ah Rong will certain rejoice to see him haha.”
As soon as the man went away, Old Shang ran to the door and called in: “Miss, haha, it’s an invitation from the Wang estate.”
The door squeaked open.
This time, Chen Rong was wreathed in smiles.
Old Shang chuckled at the sight of her being so happy, but his face soured a moment later. The lady is so happy, he thought, is it because she gets to see Wang Qilang?
Because the dinner would soon be underway, Chen Rong quickly bathed with Nurse Ping’s help. As for clothes – her old outfits had all been from Ping and were now outdated in Nan’yang, and new clothes had not been bought, thus she could only put on the set of yellow and purple gown again.
The hour quickly arrived.
Chen Rong, who had groomed herself anew and donned beautiful clothes, mounted her carriage.
By the time her carriage drove out of the courtyard, Chen Wei and several girls from next door all stopped laughing as they turned to look at her.
Staring after her departing vehicle, Chen Qian bitterly kicked the ground and said in indignation, “The Wang estate is being unfair! They said people from the Wang house of Lang’ya would be coming and invitations were limited! Hmph, why did they even bother to say so much? That Chen Rong did nothing but casually say two things on the way and play a song to seduce Wang Qilang. Yet they actually disregarded a legitimate daughter like me to invite someone like her?”
At this juncture in her grousing, Chen Qian turned to see an ashen-faced Chen Wei. She laughed: “My situation’s not so bad. So I just won’t go to a banquet. Ah Wei, I heard that your dear Mr. Ran has been snatched away by that shameless woman, isn’t that so?”
Chen Wei was none too happy to hear these words. Her face reddened as she hastily exclaimed: “That’s not true! I’ve just said there’s no such thing.”
Once again, the girls listened to her clarification with a knowing smile on their faces – the loathsome kind of knowing smile. Chen Wei was purple with rage.
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