Chapter 58: Shooting the Lanterns Down
Chapter 58: Shooting the Lanterns Down
The two maids gave her a sympathetic look and replied, “Aye.”
Before long, a heap of bamboo strips and candles was placed in front of Chen Rong.
Not caring about image, she squatted down and began to focus on making the lanterns.
The night drew on.
Stars filled the sky along the gleaming Milky Way. As time went by, lanterns were floated away again and again.
Chen Rong released her hand and watched the lantern rising from her palm. In the red candlelight, the man’s face on the paper faintly smiled with a cold, distant expression she was afraid to look at.
On the fortress wall.
Seeing the general who was slowly approaching, the soldiers bowed to him. “Good greetings, general.”
The general nodded.
He looked to the dark wilderness out in front where, even with only dotting starlight, he could see a black stretch ahead. This mark had been caused by wildfire.
This was the first thing he did after Luo’yang fell.
He quietly stood on the fortress and, looking toward the horizon for a while, suddenly said, “Thinking back on that year, hadn’t Sun Zhongmou and Zhuge Liang also watched the sky like this, quietly waiting for the other side to attack?”
There were satisfaction and ease in his voice.
The soldiers behind him did not respond. The general had been a scholar. At any given time, he could spout a series of sentiments they had no way of understanding.
The general sighed. He looked back to the wooden soldiers and shook his head murmuring: “The wise are always alone.”
When he finished, he sighed again.
Suddenly, he saw something at a glance and shouted: “What is that?”
The soldiers quickly turned and looked, one laughingly answering him: “It’s a sky lantern. There was quite a few last night; I didn’t expect there to be more tonight.”
The general knitted his brow.
A gust of wind at this time blew a flying lantern to him.
He stared at it and suddenly paled, anxiously yelling: “Shoot it down!”
Seeing his soldiers standing there looking at him in puzzlement, he shouted: “There’s a Hu script on it!”
This was no small matter.
The soldiers shuddered. Almost simultaneously, two young soldiers took their bows and aimed to the sky.
Arrows flew out like meteorites.
Within seconds, a sky lantern had been shot to the ground.
It had just landed on the ground, however, when the crooked candle began to burn through the paper. Not waiting for the soldiers to make their way down the fortress, it soon left only a few charred bamboo strips.
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“Shoot them down, shoot them all down!” the general barked.
“Aye!” orderly answers sounded as a dozen soldiers raised their bows and fired into the sky.
The general watched the arrows flying into the empty space and shouted: “Bring my bow and arrows!”
Before long, his bodyguard had brought a gorgeously painted black bow and three arrows to him.
He raised the bow and drew an arrow.
The lanterns had flown very high by now and the soldiers’ arrows could not reach them. They stopped and turned to look at their leader.
Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh –
Three consecutive arrows flew out like meteorites in the night sky.
The first shot through a lantern.
Just when the candle inside bent over, the second arrow arrived to put the burning core out.
Directly, the third arrow struck another lantern and put the wick out in one single shot. In the blink of an eye, two lanterns drifted to the ground.
The soldiers cried out in cheers and looked back at their leader with admiration.
He puffed up his chest and barked: “Pick them up!”
Two soldiers ran down and rushed to the fallen lanterns.
Within a short while, the two sky lanterns had been brought before the general.
He put them together and frowned. “They’re the same.”
He picked one up, stared at the portrait on it and murmured: “Who is this?”
Needless to say, no one answered.
He turned the lantern over and looked at the written words on the other side. Staring at the flowery script like that of the Hu, he stood up and yelled: “Shoot all the sky lanterns down!”
“Ask around to see where these had flown in from.”
“Ask Sir Yu to come here. He is familiar with the Hu scripts. I’m sure he’ll know what this says.”
While he was issuing one command after another, almost suddenly, one of his soldiers pointed to the prince’s estate and cried: “Over there. The lanterns are flying out from there.”
The general turned around.
He looked to the rows of houses and eaves and softly murmured, “The prince’s estate?”
“Pay close attention.”
Chen Rong didn’t know her lanterns had been shot down. She was still tirelessly making them, one after another.
The young maid walked to stand behind her and whispered: “Miss, are you tired? Why don’t you take a break?”
Chen Rong looked up.
She was met with the young maid’s empathic eyes. She smiled, looked down again and quietly said, “I’m not tired.” Her voice had started to turn hoarse.
She was too anxious, but today was already the second day.
What she did that day could only keep her safe through tonight. But could it tomorrow and the night after?
“We’ll help you,” the younger maid offered.
Chen Rong’s eyes lit up as she nodded her head vigorously: “Yes? Thank you, thank you.”
The maid shook her head: “Don’t mention it.” She looked to the older servant.
But the other was showing obvious reluctance. The young maid alone squatted down.
Because someone was now helping her, Chen Rong shook her sore arm and leaned back.
At this time, a sorrowful, lingering flute piece drifted in the air. Accompanying the flute was a woman’s singing voice. Seeing Chen Rong looking to the brightly lit building ahead, the younger maid said to her: “I heard the Cui House of Hedong has sent a girl over tonight. The prince is now patronizing her.”
She stared at Chen Rong. When she saw that her face was slightly ashen, she couldn’t help comforting her: “If that girl wins the prince’s heart, then perhaps he will forget you.” There was something vacant about her voice. Those who are forgotten by the prince will still be remembered by his underlings, she had also left out.