Chapter 39: Banquet
Chen Rong paused to receive the veiled hat Nurse Ping had prepared for her and then entered the hall from a side door.
The hall was scented by its guests’ garments; lights from crimson lanterns and candles intertwined. As the smoke wafted, the finely dressed youngsters all seemed as though they had come out of a painting. There were quite a few ladies within Chen Rong’s peripheral view who were as beautiful as she, and therefore her arrival did not stir as much excitement as did Ran Min’s.
She took several steps and passed her gaze over others’ shoulders toward the host seat.
There, she saw Wang Qilang standing out like a crane among fowls. Ran Min was sitting at the same table. They were in rapt conversation, clapping and laughing from time to time.
Next to Wang Qilang were two dignified-looking men and a handsome young boy. Surrounding them were other people. They seemed to be members of the Lang’ya house of Wang.
Chen Rong was still looking around when Wang Wulang glanced over at her in the midst of chatting to other lads.
Chen Rong halted and looked up.
Wang Wulang’s handsome face seemed a little gloomy. “Come with me, your seat is over there.”
Sensing the displeasure in his voice, Chen Rong followed behind after catching a brief glimpse of him.
Her seat was in the second row on the right side, close to the wall.
After Wang Wulang asked her to sit down at her table, several maids immediately stepped forward and blocked her area with a screen.
Not only her, but all ladies present would be enclosed behind screens as soon as they sat down. The screens were only a man’s height, their surface made of a layer of gossamer silk. Due to the candlelight on the tables, the ladies behind these silk screens seemed to be brighter than the others, but of course, they also seemed somewhat hazier.
Wang Wulang turned to go after Chen Rong took her seat. But after just two steps, he paused to look back at her, saying in a low voice: “Your mind can be quite profound even though you are so young. Do you think someone like Qilang would fancy you?”
He stood in front of her screen with his head bowed. Contemptuously, he stared at Chen Rong with a slight ire. “With your status, it is already difficult to find an able man who will marry you. But you have no self-respect and did this unto yourself. In my opinion, your life might as well be over.”
His voice was very low and the few nearby tables were empty. Except for Chen Rong, no others heard his remark.
Listening to these harsh words, Chen Rong’s heart was lit with indignation. She whipped her head up to look at him.
She opened her mouth to counter, but when she saw his resentful and grudging eyes, she felt bad and bowed her head to softly say: “What does it matter whether my life is over or not? My uncle already intends to give me to the Prince of Nan’yang as his concubine.”
Her voice was low, stifling back a choke while carrying a subtle hidden meaning. She seemed to be asking for his help while at the same time wishing to explain herself.
Wang Wulang was astounded.
This translation belongs to hamster428.wordpress.com
Pressing his lips together, he watched Chen Rong’s vaguely fragile face under the candlelight and unknowingly softened his voice: “Give you to that old Nan’yang Prince who refuses to die? That fellow Chen Yuan must be mad! Does he not know the prince likes to collect pretty women but has no kindness for them? Your life would be ruined once you entered his inner quarters!”
Chen Rong was near tears at his words. She muffled her sobbing to say: “But he is my uncle. I, Wulang, you’re the only one I can say this to…” She quietly raised her misty eyes at him in a quick glance before lowering them down again.
It was only a glance, but the picture of a languishing pear blossom in the rain and dew drops weeping from a white lotus completely bewildered Wang Wulang in just a moment’s time.
He stared agape at Chen Rong and did not look away.
At this time, a man not far from there called to him: “Wulang, Wulang, come over here for a moment.”
Wang Wulang sobered at the call. He dithered for a while and then lowered his voice to say: “Don’t panic. I’ll, I’ll think about it.” His voice was actually very gentle.
He had barely stepped away when someone’s voice urged him on. After a few steps, he turned to look at her despite himself. From his vantage point, the only thing he could see was Chen Rong’s brightly lit yet hazy figure. She seems even more beautiful in only a few days, he couldn’t help himself from thinking.
By this time, a steady stream of nobles were filing in. A quarter of an hour later, the entire hall was filled with seated guests.
Being only a young lady, Chen Rong’s prominent position in the second row next to an elder was attracting more and more attention.
Gradually, whispers rose from all sides: “Who is that girl? Is she a legitimate daughter of the Wang house of Lang’ya?”
“No, she is Ah Rong of the Chen house who played ‘The Phoenix’s Love Song’ for Wang Qilang in front of everyone. I heard that on the trip going south, she had twice helped the Wang house of Ping overcome their troubles. She’s remarkably clever.”
“Don’t take her lightly. This girl is very intelligent. Even the old fox Wang Zhuo is far inferior to her.”
“Aye, I heard that when she was still in the City of Ping, she even made the generous act of dispersing her family wealth right before moving south.”
Amid the clamor, people’s regard of Chen Rong grew warm and welcoming. This talk even drew the attention of several members of the Lang’ya Wang house who proceeded to glance over.
Listening to the crowd and feeling the looks they cast her way, Chen Rong’s back progressively straightened.
Acknowledging Chen Rong was equivalent to invalidating the Wang house of Ping. With each murmur in the hall, the members of the Wang house of Ping all looked to be slightly discomfited.
Almost out of the blue, a girl’s sharp laughter rose from the corner behind Chen Rong: “Ah Rong of the Chen house, my cousin Qilang is here, you must be happy to see him?” It was the voice belonging to the 7th lady of the Wang house, Wang Han’yun.
The dialogues stopped dead.
The youngsters in the hall all looked up in intrigue at Chen Rong and Wang Qilang.
What stunned everybody at this time was that Wang Qilang, who had been conversing easily, also turned his head like the rest of the room to look in the direction of Chen Rong’s seat.
Under the room’s scrutiny, Chen Rong sat behind the screen with her head lowered, wringing her skirt for a good long while before saying: “I was unable to refrain myself at the time… Upon careful reflection, I’m now very ashamed of what I’ve done.”
She slowly rose, but without raising her head, she bowed in the direction of Wang Qilang and said shakily: “I was imprudent that day… I’m grateful that you did not take offense and have allowed me to remain in society.” There was a vulnerable humility in her voice.
Wang Hong slowly placed his cup down and fixed his gaze on the person behind the screen. Under the light, Chen Rong seemed to become ever more enchanting.
Beside him, even Ran Min turned his head at this moment to watch her quietly.
In this silence, Yu Zhi laughed and clapped his hands, attracting the crowd’s attention. “Ah Rong of the Chen house, what are you ashamed of?” he inquired loudly. “If you love him then Qilang will naturally appreciate your feelings! Now that you’ve secured his appreciation, you should bravely chase after him. Who knows, maybe one day Wang Qilang will get a dizzy head and marry you as his wife. Hahaha.”
At this point, as if he didn’t want anyone else to interject, he cleared his throat and explained: “What I mean to say is that this young lady seems the kind to talk the talk and walk the talk! I’m sure she’ll finish what she started. You…” He wanted to go on, but Wang Hong had already scowled and shouted: “Hold your tongue!”
Yu Zhi immediately shut his mouth. To express obedience, he even tightly covered his mouth with his hands, leaving only a pair of round, woeful eyes looking to Wang Hong. He looked so comical that in a short while, laughter began to fill the hall. The solemn atmosphere, in the blink of an eye, had been swept away.
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