Chapter 115: Machinations
Ran Min’s face darkened. He waved his hand and shouted, “Faster.”
His guards didn’t need to be told; they had already rushed off.
Soon, they arrived at the scene of the fire.
As they watched the blazing flames and billowing smoke, and the neighbors flitting in and out, shouting as they tried to put out the fire, a guard heatedly cried, “General, what will we do?!”
At the same time, exclamations were heard in the distance from Nan’yang: “This courtyard has been abandoned for years, how strange that it suddenly catches on fire!”
“It looks like it could burn for a few more days.”
Ran Min’s face was as still as water while the commotion went on around them.
Likewise, Chen Rong blankly stared at the sky-high flames as she murmured, “We can’t leave now.”
She was right; they could not leave.
The tunnel entrance was inside the burning courtyard. Looking at the fire, however, everything would be incinerated within three days, and by then the tunnel wouldn’t be usable anymore.
Slowly, Ran Min’s face iced up, his eyes razor sharp.
“General?” whispered a guard.
He did not bother to turn around. He stared at the rolling smoke for a while before sneering: “Good for Wang Hong, good for Wang Qilang!”
He may not have had the evidence that it was Wang Hong’s doing, but he was quite certain he had been maneuvered by him!
Ran Min at once strode back to Wang Hong’s courtyard.
His guards kept closely behind him. Each and every one of them readied his grip on his scabbard in preparation for war.
Terrified by the forbidding atmosphere, Chen Rong blindly followed Ran Min and dared not lift her head.
This translation belongs to hamster428.wordpress.com
Ran Min suddenly halted.
His lips drew into a line as he stared ahead.
Chen Rong sensed the change in the air and thus raised her head.
She recognized that they had unknowingly marched to the side door of the hamlet where Wang Hong resided. But this time, the door was wide open. Under a single torch light, Wang Hong stood in the wind with the lavender coat draped around him. His hands were clasped together as he quietly watched them.
There was no one behind him.
The torch flickered in the night wind. The stars in the sky faintly scattered their light over his head and body.
His entire being was elegance itself.
Wang Hong quietly remained by the doorway. When he saw a murderous Ran Min halt, he raised his clasped hands and greeted him: “It is my great honor to receive you again, general!” He then looked up, revealing eyes that twinkled under the stars. “I beg your understanding. Where home and country are concerned, I cannot help but resort to a little scheming.”
Like a wolf, Ran Min glared at him and returned: “What makes you think an insignificant city like Nan’yang can trap me? What I don’t want to do, no schemes can force me!”
Wang Hong smiled.
His smile couldn’t be more brilliant.
He quietly watched Ran Min and then unhurriedly replied, “How can you say that, general? Murong Ke is every bit my enemy as he is yours.”
He continued: “You must have been planning to wait for the city of Nan’yang and Murong Ke to shed each other’s blood before you would join the fray.” As soon as he finished, Chen Rong saw Ran Min’s wolflike eyes narrowing – an expression that showed Wang Hong had hit the nail on the head.
Clasping his hands behind his back, Wang Hong continued a little resignedly: “You’re an ambitious man, general. Even if you find compassion in your heart, when necessary, you will see human lives no different from the animals. But I cannot do the same.”
Ran Min scoffed, coldly saying: “You would want to gamble, naturally.”
Nevertheless, his ire seemed to have diminished by the time he uttered this sentence.
At this time, Wang Hong inclined and gracefully gestured toward the courtyard. “Come in, general.”
Ran Min did not move.
He stared at Wang Hong and coldly said, “I do not like to be manipulated.”
Wang Hong did not return his stare though he was still smiling. “Nor do I like to be threatened.”
Ran Min had made the night journey both to negotiate with him but also to use the situation to threaten him, or rather to threaten the Wang House of Lang’ya into submission. This was why Wang Hong had such words to say.
Ran Min glowered.
At this time, Wang Hong tossed his sleeves and nonchalantly went inside. As he walked, his clear voice rang: “Emperor Gaozu of Han repeatedly took defeats after he slayed the white snake and began his campaign. The war is not won from one battle, you know.”
Ran Min raised his head in horror: Is he actually comparing himself to the founding emperor of Han? What is he trying to say?
He stood staring after Wang Hong. At length, he suddenly smiled. “Good for Wang Hong!” His smile was rather grim.
As he was stepping inside, his guards slowly withdrew their weapons and followed him in.
Chen Rong similarly followed with a bowed head.
She had only reached the bamboo house by the time two maidservants intercepted her. They dropped to a curtsy and softly said, “We’ve prepared a bath and a change of clothes for you. Please come this way with us, miss.”
Chen Rong stopped.
She looked up at Ran Min.
But it was Wang Hong’s lucid eyes that she came to face with. She wondered since when had he turned to wordlessly look at her like this. Under the starry sky, his eyes were like water…
This one glance made Chen Rong so very ashamed. She hastily bowed her head and, without seeking Ran Min’s answer any longer, went away with the maidservants.
All the same, Ran Min was completely preoccupied by tomorrow’s battle. His attention was not on her coming and going. Thus by the time she disappeared, he hadn’t even turned to look.
This translation belongs to hamster428.wordpress.com
Chen Rong followed the maidservants to a bamboo pavilion. She gazed up at the fine structure and the swaying cypresses in the wind only to quietly remark: “What a charming place.”
“You wouldn’t guess it miss,” a maid smilingly replied, “but each plant and tree here is cared for by our Qilang.” The other covered her giggles: “Aye, it’s true! If the ladies in Nan’yang knew this place existed, I’m certain the walls would be torn down by now.”
There were smiles and sincerity when the maids interacted with Chen Rong. They were overall very amiable.
She was able to let go of her worries. She smiled, looked around and murmured, “Aye, Qilang’s grace surpasses us mere mortals.” But her? She had to rack her brains just to think of those superlatives.
At this time, the maidservants had stepped onto the creaking stairs.
Within a short while, they pushed the bamboo door to the loft.
Chen Rong followed them upstairs.
A burst of scented breeze entered her nose when she entered. This bamboo loft had looked elegant and simple from the outside, so she hadn’t expected to see the extravagance that was inside. Beaded draperies hung in the fragrant air, and even the floor was covered with a thick rug.
She went to the windowsill.
From here, she could see the lush courtyard where evergreens like bamboo and pines stood rooted. Despite being in winter, the landscape was as verdant as if it were spring.
She looked out through a tall pine to see the eaves of a bamboo house. It was Wang Qilang’s residence. She wondered what he and Ran Min were saying at this moment.
The maids went to work while Chen Rong was looking around. Before long, one pleasantly said to her, “The water’s ready, miss. Please come in.”
Chen Rong hummed and turned around.
White vapor rose behind the curtains.
When she reached the tub, she looked askance and reached for the gossamer gown that was as cool as ice, gently stroking it.
One of the maids let her dark hair down to comb it, meanwhile glancing at the gown in Chen Rong’s hands and cheerfully said, “Qilang personally sent this silk gown over. Take a look, miss, and see whether it fits you.”
He sent it for me?
Chen Rong was stunned.
She lowered her eyes, her voice slightly trembling: “It’s white.”
By the tub, the other maid was sprinkling plum petals as she answered, “Aye, Qilang’s favorite color is white. He once said that this gown’s the only thing that’s still white and clean in this rotten world.”
Chen Rong murmured, “Still white and clean…” She gently caressed the white gown. “Aye, only this gown can be so white and clean.”
“Come into the tub, miss.”
Chen Rong hummed a reply. She removed her undergarments and stepped into the water.
The water temperature was just right. Lately, Chen Rong had been staying with Ran Min and his troops at the campsite, and hadn’t had any chance to take a clean bath.
She sank deep underwater, leaving only her face above the surface. After letting out a satisfied sigh, Chen Rong smilingly said, “This feels so good.”
The servants happily smiled to see her pleased.
Before long, Chen Rong had put on the silk gown.
This translation belongs to hamster428.wordpress.com
It was now very late at night. The maidservants withdrew from her room one after the other. She took off her shoes and climbed into bed.
The quilt was soft and comfortable, and had a subtle fragrance. Even the pillow was made of fine Yangzhi jade. Now that it was winter, it was also covered by a white fox pelt. Chen Rong placed her face against the fluffy warm fur and appraised it for a while as she thought: Right, I think Lady Ruan’s fox fur was of the same color and texture.
The difference is that Lady Ruan had treasured her fox fur and was always reluctant to wear it. Even when she put it on, any servant girl who carelessly touched it would get a good beating. Yet here, they used such precious pelts as pillow covers…
At this thought, Chen Rong couldn’t help herself from surveying the room. Everything she laid eyes on was splendid and rare. If they had owned such things, the ordinary gentry would hide them in their vaults as if they were priceless treasures.
While Chen Rong was looking around, the bamboo door squeaked open to let a maidservant in.
She had her back toward Chen Rong as she lit the incense burner. Upon taking a whiff, Chen Rong couldn’t help but ask: “What scent is this? It’s so pleasant!” It truly was a distinguishing scent.
“It’s ambergris, miss,” the maid smilingly replied.
Ambergris? A royal item, then.
The girl turned to leave after she completed her task. As she was about to open the door, she looked back at Chen Rong and covered her smile to say: “Even on the 9th Princess’s last visit to the estate, Qilang did not receive her quite as well as he is now receiving you.”
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