Chapter 74: Tagging Along
Chapter 74: Tagging Along
“Go to the south gate,” Chen Rong said to Old Shang the moment her carriage left the Huan estate.
Knowing she wanted to look for General Sun, he at once nodded with an “Aye” and then directed the vehicle in that direction.
They went past the panicking and murmuring crowd and soon came to the south gate.
“I’ll ask around, miss,” Old Shang said as he looked at the guards.
Chen Rong hummed an agreement.
Moments later, he ran back to her and nervously relayed, “Miss, they said General Sun’s troop had already departed. They aren’t camping outside the city anymore.”
“I see, let’s go home then,” Chen Rong said at length.
Old Shang jumped onto the carriage, gave a shout and said, “Don’t worry, miss. Don’t you have Wang Qilang’s affection? No one will give you trouble anymore.”
“I just want to be a little more assured, that’s all,” Chen Rong softly replied.
Old Shang sighed. It hadn’t crossed his mind when they had been in Ping, but when they arrived in Nan’yang, he discovered that without the elder and younger masters, his mistress was only a feeble girl and life hadn’t been easy for her.
The carriage drove back to the Chen estate.
Despite also in clamoring state, the estate was much quieter than the world outside. Nobody paid her passing carriage any notice.
When they drove by Chen Wei’s silent courtyard, they could not hear the girls’ usual laughter.
Chen Rong knitted her brow and let her carriage proceed to her home.
There, everything was as it had always been. It was as if the storm and controversy beyond its walls hadn’t anything to do with it.
A day flew by.
The next day, Old Shang asked around on Chen Rong’s bidding and found that all major clans who had moved from the north were required to attend the prince’s banquet. The Chen estate also participated, but nothing else was out of the ordinary.
In the blink of an eye, the third day passed by.
Just past noon, Old Shang ran over with an apprehensive face. Without finding his footing, he hastily relayed when he saw Chen Rong, “Miss, I’ve got news. The Xianbei army has surrounded Mo’yang. The day before yesterday, General Sun and Wang Qilang’s groups had already headed to Mo’yang.”
Mo’yang lay northwest of Nan’yang and along the direct route to Luo’yang. It was coveted territory despite being only a medium-sized city.
“They say Mo’yang got surrounded by forty thousand Xianbei soldiers moments after General Sun and Wang Qilang arrived there.” His voice began to tremble. “Forty thousand Xianbei soldiers! Unless General Ran personally came with his army, no one will be able to defeat them. But they keep saying the north is under threat and General Ran had already gone there last night.”
Old Shang received the tea Chen Rong handed over, took a drink, sighed and continued: “They say that General Sun and Wang Qilang will die in Mo’yang once it’s taken, that their fates are sealed. They also say as soon as Mo’yang is taken, Nan’yang will be next. Everyone in the city is crippled with fear.”
At this juncture, he saw Chen Rong staring off absently with knitted brow and couldn’t help exclaiming: “Miss, miss?”
After five or six calls, Chen Rong recovered. “Wang Qilang and General Sun had gone to Mo’yang, you say?”
Just then, footsteps sounded outside.
She hadn’t entered but her voice was already heard: “Ah Rong, Ah Rong.”
Chen Wei strode in and, paying Old Shang and the bowing servants no notice, loudly said to Chen Rong, “Ah Rong, I heard Wang Qilang had gone to Mo’yang and no one knows whether he’s alive.”
“You already knew?” she asked when she saw no surprise on her cousin’s face.
Chen Rong nodded.
Chen Wei came to stand before her, held her hands and sighed. “Don’t worry. My father said Wang Qilang is so extraordinary that he won’t be met with any danger.”
Chen Rong bowed her head and said, “Thank you,” before withdrawing her hands.
Chen Wei waved to a servant and ordered, “Bring a seat to the yard. Goodness, when Nurse Ping isn’t here, the rest of you don’t have any manners.”
While she was ordering the servants around, Chen Rong curtsied to her and said, “Forgive me, I must excuse myself for now.” She didn’t wait for Chen Wei to speak before turning and running into her backyard.
Surprised, Chen Wei watched her, and then heaved and turned around to leave.
After taking a turn in the garden for a couple of hours or so, Chen Rong mounted her carriage and said to Old Shang: “Let’s go out.”
The carriage moved and headed for town.
The streets had become chaotic, with many nobles urging their carriages here and there like headless flies. Every time they crossed a street, they could hear songs of grief and mourning.
All of a sudden, the entire city of Nan’yang had fallen into panic.
Chen Rong lifted her curtain and watched the city with furrowed brow.
“Ah Rong?” a familiar voice called to her some time later.
Chen Rong turned around. r e a d t h i s @ h a m s t e r 4 2 8
She was facing a pair of glowing thief eyes, their owner being Chen Sanlang. He looked Chen Rong up and down with a flame in his eyes that was different from their previous meetings.
“Third brother.” Chen Rong bowed to him from the carriage.
As she bowed to him, his eyes were glued to her slender waist and round buttocks.
He waved his hand and signaled his driver to move closer to Chen Rong.
He poked his head out, looked at Chen Rong and sighed: “Ah Rong, I heard that Wang Qilang had died in Mo’yang.” He sounded absolutely certain.
Chen Rong paled but tried to laugh. “That can’t be. Haven’t the Hu only surrounded Mo’yang?”
“Is that so?” Chen Sanlang gave two hollow laughs.
He looked at Chen Rong and affectedly said, “Murong Ke of the Xianbei tribe is an invincible warlord. Since he has laid Mo’yang under siege, the odds are against the city.”
At this juncture, he softly sighed. “It’s fortunate that you hadn’t been promised to Wang Qilang.” He paused, shook his head, and continuously lamented: “But your reputation had regrettably been ruined by him. Otherwise, I would’ve helped you find another man to marry. But now…”
He drew near, his eyes roaming on Chen Rong’s full bosom. “Ah Rong, would you like me to help you?”
Chen Rong retreated to the back, bowed her head and said, “How can I talk of marriage when I don’t even know if he’s dead or alive?”
Chen Sanlang repeatedly sighed. r e a d t h i s @ h a m s t e r 4 2 8
“Goodbye, third brother,” Chen Rong said to him with a curtsy.
Chen Sanlang hastily stopped her. He ordered his carriage to near Chen Rong’s, poked his head out and whispered: “Ah Rong, there’s something… that you may have heard?”
Chen Rong looked back at him, her naturally bewitching eyes robbing Chen Sanlang of his mind.
“Third brother, what is it? Third brother, third brother?”
Chen Rong had to cry a few times before Chen Sanlang reacted. He composed himself, glanced around, leaned again toward Chen Rong and whispered: “I heard that after knowing Wang Qilang is unlikely to escape death, someone had reminded the Prince about you.”
He then stared at her and deliberately said, “I’m sure you know that I’m well-acquainted. My words may carry some weight with the prince.” He smiled cryptically, turned around and said to the driver, “Let’s go.”
By the time his carriage had driven a distance away, Chen Sanlang turned around to look at Chen Rong and grinned with satisfaction when he saw her blanched face bowing low.
Once Chen Sanlang was gone, Old Shang turned around and worriedly called: “Miss?”
Chen Rong looked up.
She shook her head and said to Old Shang, “We’ll take it one step at a time.”
Seemingly sad, the man feebly shook his head.
“Go to the Wang estate.”
Old Shang whirled around to look at her and quizzically repeated, “To the Wang estate?” Something came to his mind and he quickly reminded her: “Miss, you’re still unwed. The rumors will only worsen if you go to there.”
“Go, I have my plans,” Chen Rong remained firm.
Seeing that she had made up her mind, Old Shang had no choice but to drive the carriage forward.
As the vehicle was rolling, he did not give up and continued to warn her. “Miss, you’re an unwed young lady. I know Sanlang says the Prince of Nan’yang hasn’t given up, but that news may not be true. They say “The wife weds while the concubine elopes.” Young ladies who run away will always be looked down upon. If you go to the Wang estate now, how will you live in the future?”
There was grief in his voice.
After a good while, Chen Rong’s answer remained resolute: “Say no more. Let’s just go to the Wang estate.”
Old Shang had given up by now. He sighed and slowly drove the carriage to the Wang estate.
Soon, Chen Rong’s horse-drawn carriage pulled up to the Wangs’ side entrance.
She stared at a hesitant Old Shang, who jumped off with a glum face and walked to the gatekeeper.
The gatekeeper was a lanky man in his late twenties; he glanced at Chen Rong’s carriage and shouted at Old Shang: “Due to the current circumstances, our master has ordered that those who come with an invitation may enter through the main entrance.” When he finished, he impatiently waved Old Shang away.
At this time, Chen Rong showed her face and raised the jade ornament Wang Hong had given her. “Qilang has given me permission to come.”
The gatekeeper trotted over to look at the jade pendant, giving it several glances before suddenly crying: “Are you Ah Rong of the Chen house?”
He looked her up and down and muttered, “Sure is fetching. No wonder.” He then frowningly said, “Didn’t you know? Qilang isn’t home.”
Chen Rong dropped her gaze. “I want to see the servants who had come here with Qilang.”
He nodded and waved her in. “Come in, come in. Qilang had stayed in the south courtyard.”
The side gate opened to let the carriage pull inside.
Chen Rong ignored the gatekeeper who was still eyeing her with curiosity and disregard. She held her head high and glanced around the Wang estate’s décor.
After the carriage went some ten paces, Chen Rong removed her veiled hat and smoothed out her dress.
Soon, they arrived in the south courtyard. Old Shang parked by the arched doorway where a burly man in his mid twenties came out. He gave the carriage a quick glance and shouted: “Who’s there?”
Old Shang jumped down and respectfully said, “My mistress…”
Not waiting for him to finish, the man impatiently waved his hand and yelled: “Why have you come now of all times? Qilang isn’t here!”
At this point, Chen Rong’s lovely voice sounded from her carriage. “I’m Ah Rong of the Chen house.” She lifted the curtain and hopped down, walking to the large man and showing him the jade ornament. “This is the jade pendant Qilang had given me.”
The large man gave it a look, bowed and said, “Good greetings, miss.”
He stepped back and welcomed Chen Rong inside.
Once she entered the courtyard that was filled with trees and rockeries, Chen Rong found ten parked carriages and a hundred armored servants. They were all large and strong. When they saw Chen Rong approach, they couldn’t help but stare at her.
At this time, the man behind Chen Rong explained, “We’ve just finished preparations and were about to leave.”
“I know,” Chen Rong said with a nod to his surprise.
She stopped and curtsied to the servants, bowing her head humbly while stating with a clear voice: “I’ve come to go with you to Mo’yang.”
“Miss?” Old Shang cried. He sounded both confused and dismayed.
Chen Rong did not answer his call. She kept her curtsying posture, resolute in her dutiful look.
The servants exchanged gazes and then turned to a scholar, who stared at Chen Rong, asking: “Are you Ah Rong of the Chen house?”
He frowned and said in seriousness, “Do you know that Mo’yang is currently under the barbarians’ siege? The odds are against us if we go there at this time.” He pointed behind him. “They are all retainers from the house of Wang. None hope to keep their lives on this trip. What about you?”
“I have two friends in my life,” Chen Rong calmly replied. “Young General Sun is the first, and Qilang is the second. They are now both in Mo’yang.” She paused, then added: “I told Qilang that I owe him my life. If there’s a chance to repay him, then I will.”
“Will you regret your decision?”
The scholar lit up. He bowed deeply to Chen Rong and said, “I didn’t peg you for a lady of heroics! This way, miss!”
Chen Rong nodded and walked to the carriage behind him.
At this time, Old Shang cried out: “Miss, let me go with you.”
Chen Rong turned around and met Old Shang’s eyes. Seeing insistence in them, she gave some thought, nodded and said, “Go back and bring some luggage for me. Then come meet us at the north gate.”
“Aye,” Old Shang replied glumly.
Chen Rong watched him drive away and then turned and walked to an empty carriage.
“Why are you in such a hurry, miss?” a scholar asked, staring at her.
“I made a guess that you gentlemen would be leaving. I was afraid I’d be late so I didn’t think I had time to prepare any luggage.”
The scholar exclaimed in surprise: “My, were you able to even guess this? You’re just as extraordinary as Qilang says you are. Please, this way.”
At his invitation, Chen Rong bowed and mounted the carriage.