Mei Gongqing
Chapter 111: The Chens’ State of Affairs
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Mei Gongqing
Author :Lin Jiacheng
© Webnovel

Chapter 111: The Chens’ State of Affairs

Chapter 111: The Chens’ State of Affairs

Ran Min had always been decisive with his actions. He made some preparations and then took Chen Rong to Nan’yang early morning of the very next day.

He had changed into an ordinary scholar’s robe, while Chen Rong was also donning a lad’s outfit in light blue with a straw hat over her head. If not for such disguise, her graceful figure would have no hope of being concealed.

The entrance was behind a mountain cleft on the west side of Nan’yang. Ran Min gave his mount and weapon to his bodyguard and then led Chen Rong by the hand into the tunnel.

The passage was both small and narrow, and could only accommodate a stooping person. As Ran Min led the way in the front, Chen Rong looked at him and quietly asked, “General, you didn’t bring any bodyguard with you. Will it be alright?”

Ran Min’s muffled voice rang in the tunnel: “There’s nothing to worry about as long as the Prince of Nan’yang doesn’t detect us.”

He smirked and added mockingly, “We scholars of the Jin Court are elegant and mild; very few of us know how to use brute strength. Rest assured missy, they will only suffer if they run into me.” Rather than mockery, Chen Rong thought she had heard in his voice a sense of wistfulness.

They were surrounded by a pack of wolves, yet the Jin Court was filled with nobles competing for splendor and literati competing in grace. Sometimes, even Chen Rong felt rueful herself. Of course, these excess feelings hadn’t existed until her marriage to Ran Min.

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In the pitch black tunnel, Ran Min raised the torch and teetered ahead. With him in front, Chen Rong did not think the passage was very gloomy. Before she knew it, the 400 paces or so of passage came to a dead-end.

Ran Min handed her the torch and slowly pushed a boulder open.

Light spilled into Chen Rong’s eyes.

Ran Min jumped out, looked down and offered his hand: “Come up.”

Chen Rong put the torch out and carefully put it away, then took his hand and jumped up.

She was standing in the stable of an abandoned house. The tunnel exit had been from an old shallow well. The stable was vacant and had accumulated layers upon layers of dirt and leaves. No one had apparently been here for a long time.

Chen Rong looked back at the tunnel and said to herself, “I thought there would be some kind of mechanism, turns out it was just a heavy stone blocking the door.” Such a stone would indeed be impossible for a weakling to move.

Chen Rong looked around only to see that Ran Min had put his wide-rim hat on and walked off.

She chased after him.

A dilapidated wall came into sight within 300 steps from the stable, beyond which was an alley. Another 200 steps from there took them to Nanyang’s South Street.

As she walked on South Street and as she observed the dread on people’s faces and the closed houses, Chen Rong suddenly felt ages had gone by.

They weaved in the crowd until the Chens’ door appeared to them about an hour later.

At this time, Ran Min’s footsteps took a turn as he walked toward an open restaurant.

It had once been a bustling joint, but the dining hall that could accommodate 100 guests was now woefully empty. Seeing the pair come in, the owner miserably glanced at them and gave a weak welcome: “Gentlemen, we have neither wine nor roast. All we have is some chestnut porridge. Will that serve you?”

Ran Min nodded. “Aye, that will serve us fine.” He readily tossed him a gold leaf.

The shopkeeper glanced at it and heaved a long sigh. “I wonder if I can use such thing again in this lifetime.” He feebly put the gold away and then turned inside to prepare the meal.

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Moments later, two large bowls of translucent gruel appeared before Chen Rong and Ran Min. The shopkeeper, apparently a talkative one, cleared the tables as he bemoaned, “That’s all we’re left with. Back then, your gold leaf could’ve paid for a carriage full of chestnuts. Now it’s only worth two bowls of gruel. My wife has been nagging me, too. Who knows, tomorrow my restaurant may have to close after 20 years of operation. In any case, gold and copper are useless when the barbarians come, only this porridge will save a life, I say.”

Ran Min partook his meal and ignored the rambling owner.

Chen Rong looked at Ran Min’s unhurried eating before glancing at the Chens’ side door. “Uncle, why is the Chen estate so deserted? It wasn’t like this before,” she softly asked.

The shopkeeper followed her gaze and then shook his head to say: “Deserted? The Hu army will lay siege to the city any day now. The gates are heavily guarded per the prince’s order. They only allow people to come in, not out. Now all the clans in the city are very quiet.”

Chen Rong glanced at a reticent Ran Min. She wanted to ask about Wang Hong, but changed her mind after some thought. “Then have you heard anything about Chen Yuan?”

She added with a smile, “I met Mr. Chen not long ago, and he was quite agreeable. I wonder how he’s doing?”

“Chen Yuan? Do you mean the one who moved back from the South?” At Chen Rong’s expectant look, the shopkeeper shook his head and replied, “I saw him yesterday. He seemed fretful and very gaunt. In times like these, even the prince’s head is graying, I tell you.”

Chen Rong frowned to see that she couldn’t get the answer to what she wanted to know.

When they were walking along South Street moments ago, she saw that her stores were all closed. Evidently information was not easy to come by.

At this time, Ran Min produced another gold leaf from his sleeve and smilingly said, “Can I trouble you to go in from the side door and find a servant called Old Shang? Let him know a friend would like to see him. I reckon there’s no one to guard against an outsider like you in these times.”

The shopkeeper looked at the gold leaf and eventually took it after some deliberation. “Let me try,” he said.

No sooner had he left than a carriage drove up from the opposite direction.

After it stopped at the side door of the Chen estate, a young man staggered down and crawled forth, chewing his driver out all the while: “You baseborn slave, we’re already at the door. Why can’t you take me a little farther?”

Amid his berating, he also shouted at the guard in the distance, “You slave there, why aren’t you welcoming and helping your master? Are you tired of living?”

His voice was abusive, with the stench of alcohol.

Chen Rong lit up at the sight of him. “It’s Chen Sanlang!” she exclaimed.

She eagerly whirled around to look at Ran Min. Seeing that he did not mind, Chen Rong called to the shopkeeper: “Uncle, don’t go into the Chen estate, you can just call that drunk gentleman over.”

“Aye.” He tottered to Chen Sanlang.

Before he had a chance to open his mouth, Chen Sanlang had lurched and swatted the shopkeeper away.

The shopkeeper was quick to find his balance. He approached Chen Sanlang again and pleasingly said something to him. Chen Sanlang laughed out loud. “Let’s go, let us go to see him.”

When he finished, he wobbled to the store.

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Chen Rong looked at Ran Min again. Seeing that he was still slurping his gruel and had no intention to get up and greet Chen Sanlang, Chen Rong had to rise and go up to him herself, pleasantly saying: “Sir, you must be Chen Sanlang? I’ve heard of your extraordinary talents and superior grace. If you’d been born to the Wang clan in Lang’ya, I’m sure you won’t be any worse than Lang’ya Wang Qi.”

While Chen Rong stroked his ego, Ran Min turned his face to the side and looked at her with a twinkle in his eyes.

Chen Sanlang was boastful of his literary talents and had always been jealous of other well-known scholars. He laughed in delight to hear such praises from Chen Rong. “Aye, aye, aye, you got that right. How satisfying to hear.”

He reached out to grab her by the shoulders.

She slightly leaned to the side and pointed at the table, saying: “Have a seat, sir.”

Chen Sanlang didn’t move. He tilted his head to stare at Chen Rong with his bloodshot eyes. “How is it that you look so familiar?”

She chuckled and merely pulled on her hat. “There are many similar-looking people in the world; you’re seeing things, sir.”

Chen Sanlang was still looking at her suspiciously. He sniffed and muttered, “Something’s not right, though.” He staggered to the table and fell face up, lying there for a while before suddenly letting out a scream. After startling the shopkeeper and Chen Rong, he cried: “Bring me more wine.”

Without waiting for the shopkeeper to speak, Chen Rong poured some gruel to hand him and concernedly asked, “What made you so sloshed? Did some ignorant deadbeat mess with you?”

Her marketplace slang caused Ran Min to turn his head and watch her in amusement.

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Chen Sanlang had been spending his days drinking his sorrows away, and thus had fallen deeper into depression. Upon hearing Chen Rong’s question, he covered his face and burst into tears.

Sniveling, he replied, “Messing with me? The motherfucking Heaven is messing with me.”

“Aye, aye, the nerve of Heaven for messing with you.” Chen Rong didn’t dare to utter more blasphemy. Ever since her rebirth, she had begun to recognize and fear the divine.

Hearing her follow suit, Chen Sanlang drank the gruel and said, “Good wine.” Then with Chen Rong’s coaxing, he eventually wept: “It’s over, it’s over, it’s all over…”

Chen Rong suppressed her joy as she hastily asked him, “Why do you say it’s all over?”

Chen Sanlang didn’t hear her question. He murmured on: “It’s over, it’s all over. My father’s finished, as am I. Boohoohoo…”

“Why is your father finished?” she asked, handing him more gruel.

“Why is he finished?” Chen Sanlang hoarsely laughed. “He lost the food supply we raised for the Prince of Nan’yang, and even mother’s family’s share as well. Boohoohoo… the barbarians are upon us, yet I have such a foolish father. Our home is empty, we are turned away by the clan members, and the Prince of Nan’yang is constantly after him and Old Dong.” Even in his drunken state, his heart knew fear, and he dared not denounce his father.

While Chen Rong struggled to hide her smile, Chen Sanlang went on to wail: “They even said he and the one named Li and the one named Xu are thieving traitors who had plotted to stab him in the back in these precarious times. Had it not been for my uncle’s interference, my father’s head would’ve rolled, too. Boohoohoo, it’s over, everything’s over now.”
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    《Mei Gongqing》