Chapter 89: Renewing Marriage Talks
Chapter 89: Renewing Marriage Talks
At this time, the maidservants began to bring forth the screens to shield the young ladies.
Chen Rong let out a sigh as soon as the screens went around her. The crowd’s prying eyes had made her rather uncomfortable just now.
She bowed her head, took a small sip of wine, and watched Wang Hong’s shadow on the other side of the screen.
Just then, the doorway grew clamorous. The scholars and even Wang Hong all rose to welcome the newcomer.
Chen Rong paused while, next to her, Chen Wei happily cried: “He’s here.” Her voice slightly trembled due to her anxiousness.
Ran Min has come?
Chen Rong turned her head to look.
Through the screen, she could only see a vague silhouette striding inside. He was tall and majestic in the wavering lantern light.
Accompanied by Wang Hong, Ran Min was engaged in conversation while walking in.
Before long, he had sat down a few tables in front of Chen Rong.
The nobles continued to encircle Ran Min even after he had taken his seat. Amid the jollity, Chen Gongrang solemnly stood up, accorded Ran Min a deep bow and proceeded to say: “Nan’yang is lucky to have you in its time of danger. The city is joyous that you can be here, general.”
Chen Gongrang was well-respected. His speech immediately drew the crowd’s attention.
Under everyone’s scrutiny, Ran Min simply smiled. His voice was laced with exhaustion and hoarseness when he said: “Sir, there is no need for these words.”
Chen Gongrang laughed. “Aye aye, there is no need for these words. I’m sure it’s quite obvious to you.” He waved his sleeves and returned to his seat.
At this moment, Chen Wei leaned toward Chen Rong, whispering: “Ah Rong, my heart’s pounding.”
Chen Rong stared at the tall, imposing man, smiled and unhurriedly replied, “Jiejie, it won’t help to be nervous.”
“But I am nervous,” Chen Wei muttered. “I didn’t make a good impression when I last saw him. I don’t even know if he’ll ever like me again.”
Chen Rong couldn’t give her the answer to this matter, or did she want to.
She only looked to Ran Min’s side and was disappointed when she did not see Sun Yan among the men who came with him.
With all notable guests gathered by this time, the prettily dressed servants entered and began to place food and drinks on the guests’ tables.
When food was brought to Chen Rong’s and Chen Wei’s tables, the screens had to be moved.
The moment Chen Rong looked up, she and Chen Wei both received Ran Min’s gaze. In the bright lights, his blade-sharp eyes caused Chen Wei to subconsciously shrink back, her face reddening from embarrasment. Chen Rong was also made to shudder at his stare.
In an instant, the screens shielded them once more, and the man also looked away.
Wang Hong suddenly left his seat and brought wine to Ran Min’s table. He unceremoniously waved his hand and bade: “Prepare my table.”
Two servants moved his table and placed it opposite Ran Min.
After he had sat down, Wang Hong raised his cup and smilingly said, “I would’ve died in Mo’yang if it hadn’t been for your two thousand knights. I’ll never forget your life-saving grace. Please accept this toast.”
Then he threw his head back and emptied the drink.
Ran Min laughed. He took his cup and also emptied it in one swig.
Afterwards, Ran Min regarded Wang Hong and suddenly asked, “But I don’t know why Murong Ke must have your head at all costs.”
He hadn’t spoken very softly. Within a short time, numerous heads turned toward them and the noisy hall returned to silence. Everyone was now listening to their dialogues.
“He was just petty, that’s all. He couldn’t accept his defeat,” Wang Hong blithely replied.
Murmurs arose at his words.
Ran Min, too, asked in surprise: “Couldn’t accept his defeat? When have you made his acquaintance?”
Wang Hong smiled but did not give a response.
Seeing that he did not want to answer, Ran Min again laughed and poured the two of them more wine. “Come, let’s have another drink.”
As they drank, Wang Yi scowled from his seat. He disdainfully glanced at Ran Min and asked his nearby peers: “Why does Qilang befriend this commoner who goes by two surnames?”
The servants kept quiet. At length, the middle-aged scholar who often accompanied Wang Hong softly replied, “Qilang has always liked to do as he pleases. Why concern yourself, sir?”
His blunt words caused Wang Yi to shoot him a glance. Seeing that the scholar did not look afraid though he was bowing, he quietly harrumphed and returned, “He’s only a barbarian. Qilang is degrading his station by befriending him.” Despite uttering these words, his voice was kept low enough for Ran Min not to hear.
The nobles began to make their rounds in the hall. Amid the merry-making, Chen Gongrang remained at his table.
In front of him, Ran Min and Wang Hong were both stepping out.
Chen Gongrang pleasantly smiled at everyone who came to greet him, but still did not go to Wang Yi. An attendant came behind him to remind that: “Master, why don’t you go and talk to Sir Wang?”
Chen Gongrang was drinking with another clan chief when he good-naturedly asked, “About what?”
The man hedged. He glanced at Chen Rong and replied, “Hadn’t you agreed to Chen Yuan’s request last night? Qilang isn’t here right now and no one is by Wang Yi’s side. It’s a good time to mention Miss Rong to him.”
Chen Gongrang placed his wine down, slowly asking: “Wang Suo, how much grains have you received from Chen Yuan?”
Startled, Wang Suo shifted his eyes uncomfortably and stammered: “One bag, sir.”
Chen Gongrang nodded. “Since you’ve recently obtained a concubine, it is expected that you’d have extra expenditures.“
He said this nicely enough, but Wang Suo was dripping with sweat. He blanched and sputtered, “I wouldn’t dare, master, I’d never dare again.”
While he hastily looked at him for forgiveness, Chen Gongrang continued in his gracious way: “Didn’t Wang Qilang just give Miss Rong a basin of water? That meant he is fond of her. In this case, if I mentioned giving Ah Rong to Wang Yi, not only would Wang Yi not accept, but Qilang would also bear a grudge against the Chen house. Chen Yuan is short-sighted; his character is impatient. Don’t listen to his words anymore.”
Upon hearing his words, Wang Suo hurriedly answered, “Aye aye, you’re right, master.”
Wang Yi rose from his seat, at which time everyone surrounded him. Chen Gongrang also took his wine to walk over.
Wang Suo watched him and again wiped the sweat on his temples, his expression still one of nervousness.
Chen Rong and Chen Wei sat in a corner many tables away and thus could not hear their conversation.
Chen Wei was completely immersed in her own thoughts. She again leaned into Chen Rong and asked with worry: “Ah Rong, what do you think I should say when I see General Ran?”
She had, at this time, moved her and Chen Rong’s screens away, and had moved her table a little closer to Chen Rong.
Chen Rong smiled in return of seeing her pleading eyes, a smile that was a little fake.
She dropped her gaze while shaking her head. “I don’t know.”
Chen Wei was slightly riled. “Aren’t you his good friend? How can you not know?” Looking at her, Chen Rong soberly cautioned: “Ah Wei, you can’t casually call us good friends like that. He is a man while I am a woman. Our stations are also different. How can we ever become friends? Your words are detrimental to, not only his, but also my reputation.”
Chen Rong’s voice carried both gravity and conviction, taking Chen Wei by surprise. But soon, her eyes brimmed with tears as she said with chagrin: “Even if you won’t tell me, I know what to say to him.” She turned and irately moved away.
“Ah Wei,” Chen Gongrang’s voice sounded from the side at this time.
Chen Wei quickly turned to answer him: “Aye.”
“Come with me.”
Chen Wei unsteadily got up and moved her screen aside. Whatever she might have been thinking, she reached over and suddenly tugged Chen Rong’s sleeve.
She held her cousin’s hand and pleadingly looked at her. “Ah Rong, let’s go together.”
Chen Rong freely nodded and got up.
They moved the screens and followed Chen Gongrang.
Amid the merry conversations and streams of people, Chen Gongrang unhurriedly walked toward the front.
By the time they got out the door and went down the steps where it was less crowded, Chen Gongrang shook his head and sighed to Chen Wei: “Marriage is something that should be discussed by the elders. It’s harmless for you youngsters to meet, but Ran Min belongs to the battlefields, and is in a hurry to leave again. As your uncle, I can only accommodate him and cannot keep to traditions.”
As he spoke, Chen Wei’s face turned so red that it could have bled. Her legs buckled, and she had to lean against Chen Rong while replying in a timid voice: “Aye, I leave everything in your hands, uncle.”
Chen Gongrang didn’t turn around, merely nodding at her words.
A dozen steps later, he made a turn toward the row of houses on the left.
The room was brightly lit, with people coming and going. The servants all gave Chen Gongrang a bow when they saw him.
He leisurely stepped inside.
In the empty room, Chen Wei went from being nervous to not even breathing. When she saw that the room was empty, she couldn’t help from exhaling in disappointment.
At her exhalation, Chen Gongrang turned to give her a glance while unhurriedly remarking: “A gentlewoman should conduct herself with grace and poise no matter the situation.”
This was an admonition.
Chen Wei quickly gave a bow. “Aye.”
She appeared to be obedient, but her yearning and zeal could not be concealed.
Chen Gongrang could not help frowning upon seeing Chen Wei like this.
However, he quickly relaxed his brow and Chen Wei did not notice the change.
He strode to the seat on the left side, slowly sat down, waved his sleeve and said, “Invite General Ran over.”
When the servant stepped away, Chen Gongrang sighed again. While Chen Wei looked at him in perplexity, he helplessly remarked, “How absurd, is this marrying a wife? I guess a Hu has no sense of priority.”
Chen Wei was happy as long as Chen Gongrang didn’t change his mind. She immediately heaved in relief. She glanced to see that Chen Rong was standing in a corner, and so she called: “Ah Rong, come and accompany me.”
Chen Rong hummed a reply and walked over.
Chen Wei’s call made Chen Gongrang turn around. He studied Chen Rong and then suddenly asked, “Are you Ah Rong?”
Chen Rong gave him a curtsy.
Chen Rong neared, stopping when she was three paces from Chen Gongrang. She kept her head bowed and nervously let him appraise her.
After perusing her for a length of time, Chen Gongrang warmly said, “Ah Rong.”
“Have you and Wang Qilang decided on your future together?” Both his eyes and expression were exceedingly benevolent.
“Nay,” Chen Rong immediately said.
Sensing she had answered too coldly, she bowed deeper and softly added, “How can a man like Qilang decide his future with me?”
Chen Gongrang nodded and kindly said, “I’m glad you know this. Then let me ask you, Ah Rong. Had he done anything to you?”
Had he done anything? He meant to ask if Wang Hong had taken liberties with her.
Chen Rong’s face colored. She couldn’t help thinking about that kiss and their two embraces, nevertheless carefully replying: “Qilang is a man of honor, how could he have done anything?”
Chen Gongrang maintained his expression and only smiled.
“Then are you willing to serve him?” he then asked.
Upon the utterance of his words, Chen Wei could not prevent herself from a small gasp. She covered ver mouth, rounded her eyes, and intently watched Chen Rong and Chen Gongrang.
Chen Rong’s expression remained unchanged. She only lowered her head and dutifully replied, “Though Qilang is a very good man, I do not want to be anyone’s concubine.”
Hearing her reply, Chen Wei couldn’t help herself from scoffing.
Chen Gongrang’s long-time aid also turned and seriously regarded Chen Rong.
Her uncle sat in silence for a while before sighing: “You’re too naïve, child!”
He shook his head, having lost interest in speaking with her. Shortly after he waved at her to step down, a clear voice from the door relayed: “Master, General Ran is here.”
Chen Gongrang chuckled, rose from his seat and said, “Invite him in.”
No sooner had his voice sounded than Ran Min quickly strode in.
The second he entered, Chen Rong withdrew to the back and hid herself in the shadows.
It was apparent that Ran Min had become thinner. Even so, his features were still handsome, and his acute eyes still exuded an intimidating chill. His entrance seemed to have sucked the air out of the room, ushering in a threatening deadliness.
Chen Rong knew he was only emitting this vibe unintentionally. It was nothing compared to the frightening aura she had experienced in her previous life. Nonetheless, color had drained from Chen Wei’s face, and even Chen Gongrang and the others had lost some of their fortitude.
The Jin aristocrats, who did not care for the royal house of Sima, had loathed this kind of imposing repression the most; Chen Gongrang was no exception.
He knitted his brow and slowly stood up.
As if standing up had empowered him to confront Ran Min, grace returned to his face as he smiled and said, “General Ran? Have a seat.”
Ran Min was not aware that the atmosphere in the room had changed. In truth, there were few whose expression did not alter upon meeting him; he had become used to it.
Having received Chen Gongrang’s greeting, he laughed and strode forth.
Waiting until Chen Gongrang had sat down across from him, Ran Min reached for the wine bottle and threw his head back for a swig. He wiped his mouth, regarded the older man, and pleasantly asked, “For what are you meeting me, sir?”
His sword-like eyes never once glanced at Chen Wei, as if he had no idea a girl was in the room.
Chen Gongrang poured himself some wine. After a slow sip, he warmly inquired, “I heard you will be leaving Nan’yang tonight?”
“Your information is very accurate, sir. Aye, the war is not waiting for me. I really can’t step away from it.”
Chen Gongrang chuckled. “Even if the war is pressing, a man must not be without descendents. Considering the turbulent times we live in, I will not hold onto formalities. I do not know when you will next return after you leave, so I would like to ask you about the betrothal between you and the Chen estate.”
He then waved his right hand and called, “Ah Wei, come and greet General Ran.”
With a blushing face, Chen Wei slowly came to Chen Gongrang’s side and stood facing Ran Min.
Ran Min glanced at her.
“I’ve met this young lady before,” he said with a nod.
Chen Gongrang laughed, clasped his hands together and said, “As suspected for someone who lives and dies on the battlefields, you are not one to beat around the bushes. Ah Wei, offer General Ran a cup of tea. General, she is Ah Wei; her father is Chen Yuan, Chen Shihua. Though she is only a concubine’s daughter, she is well treasured and has always stayed with Chen Yuan’s wife. He does not have a legitimate daughter, so she is as good as one. If you find it agreeable, how about staying in Nan’yang a few more days to proceed with the wedding?”
Throughout Chen Gongrang’s long speech, he had constantly frowned and his tone had also been stiff from time to time. It couldn’t be helped. He honestly felt as if he was giving a daughter to the other party as a concubine instead of marrying her away as a wife. He had seen many scenarios, but never any wedding talks as ridiculous as this.
After he finished, Chen Gongrang bade a servant to bring a cup of tea to Chen Wei. Chen Wei held it with both hands and abashedly walked toward Ran Min.
When she couldn’t see him, her legs were lifeless and her mind was in a state of panic. For whatever reason, she felt alive again now that she got to see him. Although she was still nervous, pouring from her heart was mostly elation, longing and adoration. If only she could worship the ground he walked on!
Chen Wei came before Ran Min and, with the most beautiful posture, curtsied to him with the teacup raised above her head. She gazed up, her beautiful face taken by emotions and a deep flush, her bright eyes mad with love. “General Ran, have a cup of tea.”
Her voice drew long, her eyes a dreamy lull.