Chapter 40: Questioning
Chapter 40: Questioning
At this time, a middle-aged scholar sitting in the middle stood up. He raised his cup to the crowd and laughed: “On this moonlit autumn day we have been spared from the barbarians’ horseshoes and successfully arrived in Nan’yang. We are truly fortunate. Gentlemen, to our blessings!”
When he finished, he threw his head back and took the wine in one gulp.
Those seated raised their cups and likewise drank up.
After the middle-aged scholar refilled his wine, he raised his cup toward Ran Min to say loud and clear: “General Ran, without your help this time, we wouldn’t have escaped from the clutches of the barbarians. The house of Wang will never forget your kindness. Cheers!”
Ran Min stood up and raised his cup toward the scholar, lightly saying, “I, too, am a Han. It’s merely my duty.”
Next to him, Wang Hong raised his voice: “No, that’s not all!” He stood up and turned to the crowd. “Gentlemen, do you know who we met the second time we encountered the Hu?”
All shook their heads.
“Murong Ke! That masked boy was called Murong Ke!” Here, his face expressed a slight disappointment, the reason being that the bunch of scented youngsters all carried a uniform perplexity on their faces at the mention of Murong Ke.
Wang Hong sighingly said: “Murong Ke of the Xianbei tribe isn’t any ordinary man. It was to General Ran’s credit that we were able to get away from his cavalry that time.”
He turned to face Ran Min, suddenly bending over in a deep bow.
The hall erupted in commotion to see Wang Hong give such a salute.
Having offered his ceremony, Wang Hong walked back to his seat and sat down. He picked up his wine to drink as he sighed, “There’s no difference between the nobles and commoners. There are few men of honor left among the people of Jin.”
Ran Min’s countenance remained quiet, his deep eyes staring at the stirred wine in his hand.
Ever since Wang Hong bowed to Ran Min, the crowd’s regard for Ran Min finally turned more considerate and respectful.
Just then, the sound of stringed and wind instruments drifted in from a corner of the hall.
With the music, the hall became even noisier and all the youngsters stood up and began to come in.
The ladies also quietly cleared their screens and moved the tables together to talk and jest.
With her head lowered, Chen Rong was in the midst of sipping her wine when her screen shifted to reveal the 7th lady of the Wang house and several other young girls.
The 7th lady reached her hand out and unceremoniously snatched Chen Rong’s cup, then pulled on her sleeve and whispered: “Come out, I have something to ask you.”
Chen Rong didn’t resist. She let herself be pulled away as she followed behind them to the side hall.
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Shortly after, they came to a small corridor on the right of the side hall. The 7th Wang lady let go of her sleeve, then holding onto the railings, she glared at Chen Rong and said, “Ah Rong of the Chen house, do you even feel shame? Who asked you to play ‘The Phoenix’s Love Song’ for my cousin?”
With her head still lowered, Chen Rong lightly replied, “No one.”
“No one, and yet you dare to be that shameless?”
Chen Rong slowly looked up.
She stared at the 7th lady of the Wang house with eyes that carried a slight murderous intent. The 7th lady froze; she thought she was seeing things. Another girl beside her sighed: “Han’yun, she already lost her face, what are you anxious for?”
“But… she implicated our cousin and-and my brother, too.”
“Your brother? How does this have anything to do with him?”
This time, the girls were all curious.
The 7th lady clammed up. The girls around her all belonged to the Nan’yang branch and did not know Wang Zhuo had once intended Chen Rong for Wang Wulang.
Unlike the Chen house, the Wang house of Nan’yang was only a branch within a branch, its status inferior to the Wang house of Ping. Though Wang Han’yun was a guest, she did not need to be mindful of them.
At the 7th lady’s indecision, a delicate voice rose from behind: “Ah Rong of the Chen house, just now Wulang said your uncle Chen Yuan wants to give you to the Prince of Nan’yang?”
This was sensational news.
Whirl. All the girls turned to look at Chen Rong.
She blanched under their peering eyes, then pressing her lips together, she curtsied to them and turned away.
This time, the 7th lady of the Wang house did not stop her. She stared after Chen Rong’s frightful receding figure, murmuring: “So it’s like that. No wonder.” Her voice was full of pity, faintly however, there was even some pleasure taken at the expense of others’ misfortunes.
With her lowly station, what good was Chen Rong’s intelligence? Doesn’t her own family want to sacrifice her?! Hmph, luckily my brother did not want to make public the fact that he wanted to marry her, or else this shameless Ah Rong might not have seduced my cousin, but my brother instead.
Chen Rong walked with her head down for several steps before she saw a side door not far from there and strolled outside.
Stepping out of the hall, a burst of wind passed by. It would soon be winter and the rush of night wind already carried a bone-deep chill with it.
Walking on, Chen Rong unconsciously arrived at a small lake. This lake was only two acres in size, its water so clear one could see to its bottom. Unfortunately it was now late autumn, and there was nothing more than a bright reflection of the moon in the water.
Chen Rong bowed her head, looking at her reflection. Even though the water was rippling and the moonlight faint, it was clear the girl in the water was as pretty as a flower and at the height of her youth. Watching herself, Chen Rong reached her hand forth without bending her waist to fish her own reflection out.
As she was doing so, a strong force pulled her back, followed by a man’s shout: “What are you trying to do?”
Chen Rong stopped and raised her head. The man who pulled her in was a muscular guard about thirty years of age. This man seemed rather familiar. When she saw him, Chen Rong’s eyes instinctively followed the lakeshore.
She saw a white-attired man as handsome as jade by the rolling waves.
She never expected to see Wang Hong here and now. For some reason, Chen Rong actually felt a little embarrassed. She quickly curtsied and addressed him, “Good greetings, Qilang.”
In the clopping of wooden clogs, Wang Hong slowly came up to her.
Before long, his willowy and snow-white figure appeared in her purview. Bowing down to look at her, Wang Qilang remarked: “Why is it that the brilliant Ah Rong of the Chen house is actually ashamed to see me? Do you not have the courage to even raise your eyes?”