Chapter 41: Mud and Cloud
Chapter 41: Mud and Cloud
Always the refined gentleman, an inspiring air was born from Wang Hong’s very presence.
With that said, Chen Rong did not need to raise her head at this moment to sense the overwhelming superiority of one who came from high society.
Wang Qilang watched a stock-still Chen Rong briefly and then smiled. He tilted his head, clasped his hands behind his back to watch the moon’s reflection in the lake and softly asked, “Were you thinking of casting yourself in the lake just now?”
“No!” Chen Rong abruptly looked up. “Life is a gift from the gods. I wouldn’t dare to think of death!”
She was suddenly met with Wang Hong’s lofty, clear eyes under the moonlight – eyes that seemed to show he knew. She couldn’t help lowering her head.
Chen Rong gripped her right hand tightly and, after making her palm ache with her nails, she took Wang Hong’s lead in staring into the water and softly said, “Just now I saw myself in the lake, young and beautiful. But in a matter of seconds, I’d turned gray and old. It was as if the reflection in the water was just an illusion so I could not help myself from wanting to hold onto it.”
She finally collected herself at this point. She thus looked up and bravely regarded Wang Hong.
Under the moonlight, Wang Hong was attired in a large robe, wearing a tall headpiece and a broad belt. It was obviously only an ordinary robe, but on him, it had the elegance of jade and moonlight.
Chen Rong watched him with eyes slightly dazed.
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After struggling to snap awake, she was met with Wang Hong’s scrutinizing eyes.
His eyes were like the moon: so clear yet so high, obviously very near, but also unreachably far.
Standing face to face, Wang Hong’s lips unturned as he slowly said, “Ah Rong of the Chen house, don’t you have something to say to me?”
His voice was especially supple, his words clashing like jade and ice. Such spoken tone accompanied by his lofty, ethereal temperament made Chen Rong felt for the first time that the man before her eyes was as far as the clouds, separated from her by more than just thousands of miles.
Strangely enough, as she recognized this, her shame and discomfort all vanished like wisps of smoke.
Chen Rong lowered her eyes, quietly staring at the reflections in the lake. “There are countless girls who admire you in this world,” she whispered, and then as though she was glancing at him yet as though she was not, her gaze turned to reveal a natural bewitchment on her beautiful face: “Do you ask every girl you meet ‘why’?”
Light breeze and rippling waves, and such a bright moon!
Wang Hong regarded Chen Rong quietly and then broke out laughing. He turned his head to say: “It is I who have thought too much.”
And then he turned to go.
As Chen Rong watched his fluttering sleeves going farther and farther in the distance, she couldn’t help herself from murmuring: “The gentleman is a cloud in the sky; a smile of yours can topple the mountains. I am a leaf on the bough. I’ll become mud as soon as the wind brings me to the ground after the autumn rain.”
There was no sorrow in her voice. She was merely stating a fact in calmness. It was but an objective fact.
Unconsciously, Wang Hong paused and looked back at her.
Under the pouring moonlight, the Chen maiden’s obsidian eyes were unfathomable. Though her youthful face was innocent, her charming figure was beguiling. As she said, she was like a leaf with an earthly tawdriness.
Nonetheless, such a tawdry girl, standing by the rippling lake under this moonlit sky, was telling him their differences in so frank a fashion. She so blithely praised him for his ‘toppling smile’ and called herself a leaf that would turn into mud after the storm. Because of her helplessness and desolation, her attitude appeared to have been stemmed from the resignation of someone who had been hurt before and had now learned to let go. It pricked Wang hong’s heart.
His eyes seemed to carry the moonlight in them as he contemplated her. “Ah Rong, don’t say such things about yourself. Everyone in the world is like that; we’ll all become mud after the autumn rain. There is no difference between you and me in this regard.”
After a pause, he gently said, “You’re not mud, neither am I that cloud.”
Chen Rong bowed her head and softly replied, “Truly?”
Wang Hong quietly watched her from ten paces away. At length, he smiled ruefully and murmured: “Heaven help me, this woman…”
By the time Chen Rong raised her head, she was left with only the moonlight; Wang Hong’s figure had drifted into the yonder.
He was so far away, but his figure still resembled the moon and clouds. Chen Rong shook her head, thinking: Which girl can catch such a man’s attention, I wonder?
She did not want to think anymore, so she lifted her soles and walked back toward the main hall.
From a long way away, before she was anywhere near the gathering, a series of troubled zither notes accompanied by quiet singing rose in the air: “The orchid is the plant of the king’s fragrance. Though it still flourishes, it now mingles with the likes of the grasses. Similarly, there lies the difference between a sage who bides his time and a common fool…”
Chen Rong shook her head listening to the lyrics. Perhaps this is how the world is. Even men have sorrows they cannot let known. Take him for example. He spent so many years wishing to kill all the Hu, why was he not yet overtaken with hatred and anger?
Chen Rong entered the hall in the middle of her pondering.
In the center of the hall, a courtesan was strumming and singing. Everyone else listened to her in mesmerization, nodding their heads to the music.
Chen Rong took her seat. After repositioning her screen again, she quietly leaned back and raised her head to peer through the screens, which was also peering at that man.
All along, she did not want others to read her thoughts through her eyes. Whenever she looked at other people, she only gave a quick sweep and never stayed long.
Presently however, she could watch as much as she pleased thanks to the blocking screens.
In particular, the black-robed man sitting in front of her. She could observe him all she wanted without concern: Just a while ago he said he would ask the Chen house for my hand. Why would he say that?
Despite the fact that Chen Rong was married to him for years, they spent very little time together and she could never guess this man’s mind.
She shook her head. I’ve lived once more, what am I still thinking about this for? No matter what, I will never repeat my mistakes this time around! I won’t be the fool who puts all my love and devotion on a man only to be driven to a point of no return!
Amid her thoughts, some noises gave sound from the hall’s doorway, the most audible being those of female laughter.
Chen Rong turned around to look.
She was met with Wang Hong’s waltzing into the hall in his white robe.
No matter where this man went, he was always the center of attention. Along with each of his movements, all the ladies who were talking, smiling, whispering, or simply sitting there without fail turned their attention to him.