Chapter 44: Temporary Peace
The next day came quickly.
At noon, Chen Wei’s voice sounded from beyond the door: “Is Ah Rong in?”
Not waiting for Chen Rong to stand up, she pushed the door and went inside. Standing from some distance away, Chen Wei curtsied to her and softly said, “Ah Rong, it was my fault that day. Don’t be upset with me.”
Chen Rong never imagined she would come to apologize. She swiftly curtsied back after a momentary pause. “You are my jiejie, it’s within your rights to teach me. How can I be upset with you?”
Chen Wei smiled upon hearing this.
She neared and held Chen Rong’s arm, smilingly saying: “It’s warm today. Let’s go for a walk, Ah Rong.”
Walking side-by-side, Chen Wei whispered to her cousin: “I hadn’t been able to sleep for the past two nights.”
She turned her head to a surprised Chen Rong and continued: “Cousin, does your face still hurt?”
Yes, she was just that gentle.
Chen Rong looked at her in surprise, shook her head, and said with a moved expression: “Nay, it has stopped hurting a long time ago. Jiejie, don’t worry about it.”
Chen Wei hummed a reply, her long eyelashes fluttering as she looked to be a little absent-minded.
“What’s wrong?” Chen Rong hurried to ask with concern.
Chen Wei shook her head. After a moment, her mouth curved and then she winked at Chen Rong. “That’s right,” she cheerily began, “what did Wang Qilang say when you met him last night?”
Her smile was natural, her change of tone was also smooth. But as someone who had lived twice, Chen Rong had some understanding of this cousin. Her heart took a dip, her eyes lowered, and she shyly smiled. “Nothing.”
“How can it be nothing?”
Chen Wei sounded a little anxious. “You don’t want to tell me, is that right?” she pursed her lips and said with some chagrin.
Chen Rong’s mind quickly turned before she looked down and sighed for a while. “He, he was not upset with me.”
“And what else?”
“He also said he isn’t a cloud and I’m not mud. He told me to not be too concerned about it.”
Not seeing Chen Wei move for some time, Chen Rong looked up to see a stiff smile on her face. “Ah Wei? Ah Wei?”
By the fourth call, Chen Wei whispered back: “Really?” Her tone sounded a bit complicated: “He said that to you?”
Facing Chen Wei’s questioning eyes, Chen Rong emphatically nodded.
Chen Wei again forced a smile on her face and pressed her lips to say: “All right, let’s not talk about this anymore. That’s right Ah Rong, did General Ran also speak to you last night? What did he say?”
Chen Rong shook her head. Under Chen Wei’s stare, she gently said, “I didn’t say anything, and all he asked was a casual thing or two.”
“What did he ask you?” She sounded a smidge urgent.
This translation belongs to hamster428.wordpress.com
Chen Rong hesitated for a moment, looking as though she was pondering. At length, she replied, “He asked about my fellow sisters in the clan. He also said that my approach to problems is like that of a man when I expected there would be a food shortage in Nan’yang and knew to stock up on grains. He said if I weren’t a woman, I could join his camp as a clerk or something.”
Chen Wei was completely stunned this time. “He said you were like a man?” she murmured. “I heard General Ran does not easily praise others, why did he praise you?”
“I don’t know.” Chen Rong shook her head.
“The barbarians call him the ‘Heavenly Prince’. My father said that though the nobles do not like him, the prominent clans along with the Prince of Nan’yang all hold him in high esteem. Father also said even the city of Nan’yang needs his protection at this time. What was his meaning when he praised you?”
“Who can really know the thoughts of a man like him?”
Chen Wei seemed a bit restless by this time. She slowly withdrew her hand from Chen Rong’s arm and tried her best to smile. “Ah Rong, I have something I must go to do. Let’s talk again in the afternoon.”
“I’ll go on ahead. You don’t have to see me out.”
Chen Rong stopped and stared after Chen Wei’s vanishing figure. Slowly, her mouth upturned to reveal an unsmiling smile.
Sure enough, this cousin had come on someone else’s order to probe around. It seemed she was fairly successful at last night’s banquet.
Having lived twice, Chen Rong learned that borrowing someone else’s influence did not necessarily mean she must have his promise. An intimate walk or talk was equally of great use.
The next few days passed by peacefully.
From what Nurse Ping was able to inquire, the Nan’yang house of Wang’s banquet lasted for four nights. In these four nights, clans brought their concubine-born daughters along to attend. Her Uncle Chen Yuan had also brought a daughter born to him by an unloved concubine. She was allegedly very frail. Besides her daily reading, she only meditated for she had the weak frame of a storm-worn blossom.
Then just last night, a small palanquin had quietly taken the sick girl away from the estate, never to return. Nurse Ping said that if you stood near the palanquin, you could hear her weeping.
Even so, Chen Rong knew it was no time to relax. Men like the Prince of Nan’yang could never have too many women in his inner quarters. If she knew this, then Chen Yuan would know it even better.
Winter had arrived.
Those first few days of winter were bright and cloudless. If she could go for a walk on such beautiful days, watching the blue sky and azure waters on the outskirts and speaking to friends, what a pleasure it would be.
In those nice days, Chen Wei next-door had sat in the carriage happy as a bird to drive in and out with the Chen girls of the Nan’yang branch.
Chen Rong also wanted to go. But she did not dare.
She had no other way. She was only a trifling concubine-born girl, looked down upon by everyone in this estate. She couldn’t bother listening to the other girls’ ridicules and insults if she were to join them. Knowing her personality, she feared there would come a time when she couldn’t refrain herself and instead burst out. Then all her efforts would be for naught.
She could also drive to the purlieus with a few servants, but she did not dare to – the refugees who had filled the city of Nan’yang couldn’t have all disappeared. They must be nesting in some remote corner at this time. It was easy for her to leave, but once she left, she might not be able to come back.
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