Chapter 56: Sky Lanterns
The western courtyard was located between the main compound and the inner quarters. It was lined with trees, rockeries, and streams, the entire place exquisitely decorated.
When the maids helped Chen Rong down the carriage, a head would appear from the small lofts from time to time. They were beautiful young girls; when they saw Chen Rong, their eyes invariably showed a hint of sympathy.
Soon, the three of them arrived at a small loft. The two maids curtsied to her while saying: “Miss, here is your place of residence. The two of us will also be at your disposal.”
Without looking up, Chen Rong lightly said, “Go to the Chen estate and bring me my clothes and servants.”
“There’s no need for that,” the young maid smiled. “I’ve prepared everything for you.”
She turned around and took a dress from the room, smilingly saying, “Miss, you must feel dirty from the travel. Why don’t you change your clothes?”
Chen Rong lifted her eyes.
She drew her lips into a tight line at the sight of the dress in the maid’s hands. It was light yellow trimmed with purple. Be it style or color, it was very similar to the one the Chen estate had bought for her.
The younger maid laughed seeing Chen Rong’s startled expression: “There’s more over here.”
She led Chen Rong to a hall, pointing to three wooden chests filled to the brim with new clothes. What’s more, every piece, if not light yellow trimmed with purple, would be bright yellow or dark yellow trimmed with purple. All three chests contained the same general style and color.
Chen Rong’s face stiffened. “When were these made?” she asked at length.
The younger maid smiled cheerfully: “It’s been some time. You may rest assured, miss, that these new clothes have been made according to your figure. Even the colors are perfect on you.”
She then slightly lifted her chin and said in an advisory tone: “Not just here in Nan’yang, you can’t find many as rich as our prince even in Jiankang.”
Chen Rong curved her eyes in a smile.
At this time, her heart was a chaotic mess. She’d always known the Prince of Nan’yang was interested in her, but she hadn’t expected his interest to be this manic. He must’ve started having these outfits made right after he saw her that night!
Three whole chests! Is he really set on taking me?
As her mind turned, Chen Rong finally couldn’t smile anymore. Her small beautiful face was drained of its colors, her nails digging her palms under her sleeves.
This translation belongs to hamster428.wordpress.com
The two maids seemed to know of her struggle. They kept their heads bowed and did not speak nor do anything.
After some time, Chen Rong at last collected herself and quietly said, “Put them away.”
The two maids closed the chests. “Put away this one too,” Chen Rong ordered, pointing to the outfit in the younger maid’s hand.
The maid smiled and respectfully asked, “Then what do you want to wear?”
Chen Rong hardened her face: “Go back to the Chen estate and bring my clothes here.”
The younger maid couldn’t help herself from laughing aloud. She watched Chen Rong and said mildly: “Have you forgotten, miss? I’ve just said that there are clothes here if you want them. I am also here if you need help. As for returning to the Chen estate, please don’t mention such thing again in the future.”
“In the future?”
Chen Rong likewise icily smiled and lifted her chin, slowly saying: “Does you master intend to keep me here indefinitely?”
Her eyes were sharp and, almost instantly, the air around her shifted with a terrible ruthlessness.
Startled, the young maid faltered backward and lowered her head as she stammered: “Why are you getting angry with us servants, miss? As long as His Highness agrees, you can leave at any time.”
Chen Rong withdrew her gaze.
She had known it was going to be like this from the time she stepped into the estate. When she saw the Nan’yang Prince just now, the two scholars there had evidently bent to him and no longer possessed the slightest bit of pride and character belonging to the literati. It’d still be useless if they knew; thus, she did not say anything about wanting to leave.
She stepped into the room after taking a deep breath and telling herself to calm down: I’ll be safe tonight at the very least. No, I should say that I’ll be safe for two more days.
The two maids watched Chen Rong’s back and, after a moment, the younger one spat and said irately, “I haven’t met anyone like her! Does she think that she is a legitimate daughter from a noble family? Does she think she can afford to care about honor like the men?”
The older maidservant shook her head but did not speak.
Chen Rong suppressed her anger, bathed as quickly as she could, put on the light yellow dress trimmed with purple that the Prince of Nan’yang had provided and sat in the courtyard.
It was now sunset and the lanterns had begun to rise. There was a zither in front of her with exquisite workmanship. Chen Rong knew with one glance that it was very valuable. It seemed the Prince of Nan’yang had expended much effort on her.
She bowed her head, staring at the zither for a length of time and then suddenly called: “Bring me some bamboo, paper, and candles. I want to make sky lanterns to while the hours away.”
“Aye,” the older maid replied.
After she had gone a few steps, the younger one called after her: “Bring her extra so that she’ll feel less lonely at night.” There was sarcasm in her voice.
Chen Rong didn’t bother to raise her head.
Before long, everything was laid out in front of her.
Chen Rong knelt down and, with the help of the lantern’s light, began to tie up the bamboo strips.
She went at it very slowly and with great focus.
At first, the two maids stared at her for a while, but when they saw her fumbling for half an hour without being able to finish a proper lantern, they left to do their own work.
The moment they left, Chen Rong’s action noticeably quickened.
Within a short while, she was able to make three lanterns. Her lanterns were very strange-looking, however. There was a face, simply drawn with a few brush strokes, on each silk surface.
It was a man’s face. The young maid walked to stand behind her, angled her head to take a look, and suddenly asked, “Who is he?”
Chen Rong ignored her.
She painted this face on two sides. On the other two sides, using the nomadic script that Ran Min’s house of Shi often used, she drew spiraling symbols resembling a flower to say: “Wang Hong, Ah Rong.”
After she had finished, she lit the small candles inside the lanterns and lightly let them go. The simple and makeshift lanterns began to rise and, in the blink of an eye, flew over the building.
The young maid mirrored Chen Rong as she looked up at the three lanterns flying to the sky. Seeing that Chen Rong was beginning to make more, she couldn’t help her curiosity by asking: “Is he your sweetheart? Are you making a promise with him?” Her voice dipped by the end of her remark, revealing a sympathetic undertone.
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