Chapter 118: A Repeat of the Past?
Murong Ke sneered. Behind the mask, his blade-like eyes shot a glare at Wang Hong. “Wang Qilang, I didn’t bring my army here today to trade barbs with you.” He next pointed to the coffin behind him and ordered, “Lift it up.”
Four soldiers came out to raise the golden coffin and bring it toward the fortress.
As he watched them near and haughtily place the coffin at the foot of the city wall, Wang Hong shook his head in reply. “It would be impolite of me to not return your kindness. I, too, have prepared a gift for young master Ke. Send it over for me, will you?”
Ten servants from the Wang family carried out five chests and flung them over the wall.
The chests smashed into pieces from the great height, and revealed heaps of clothes inside.
Indeed they had been filled with clothes. But these clothes were colorful, thin and gaudy – something only courtesans would wear.
No one had thought the elegant and noble Wang Hong could actually throw out such things. Instantaneously, the whisperings stopped to give sound to Wang Hong’s pleasant voice: “You’ve been on my mind ever since we last said goodbye. These are clothes I collected over the years. I now finally have a chance to give them to you in person.”
He smiled, his voice was even gentler compared to when he spoke to Chen Rong. “It has been two years. These garments are now old, and you have also grown. Most of them won’t look good on you anymore. Since they are now ruined, we should also call an end to all of this.”
His words were as ambiguous as one could want them to be, his tone was as gentle as one could wish it to be.
All of a sudden, the scholars on the fortress broke into laughter that only grew louder and louder.
As the laughter spread, the feeble Jins’ instinctive fear of war and the terror brought about by the enemy’s siege were swept away.
Ran Min harrumphed, furrowing his brow as he did. The driver standing behind him laughingly remarked, “It’s truly unheard of to use such a method to encourage morale.”
Be it the Jins or the Xianbei tribe who followed everything the Jins did, ambiguous affairs between men were entirely common during this time. Not only were they common, they were even trending with time…
Anyone may laugh it off in this social environment, but Murong Ke was different. He carried the Murong clan’s madness in his blood, and hated being called a catamite.
Because he hated others talking about his looks, he went as far as wearing masks year after year. He was moreover a commander at this moment. There were countless soldiers behind him who respected him and swore loyalty to him.
The Xianbei soldiers below the fortress wall raged like thunder. Murong Ke gave a howl and charged ahead on horseback.
At this time, two of his commanders reached out to stop him.
Whatever they said to him, Murong Ke huffed and puffed and slowly calmed down.
Meanwhile, on the wall, Huan Jiulang said to Wang Hong, “The boy finally eased up.”
Wang Hong nodded. As he stared at Murong Ke who was stewing at him, his mouth upturned into a smile. He flapped his sleeves and said, “Let’s go.”
“Why are we leaving?”
This question came from more than one person.
Wang Hong smiled to lightly say: “Murong Ke is a cautious and suspicious person. He brought the golden coffin here to gauge our anxiety. Now that his anger is quenched, uneasiness will follow.”
As soon as Wang Hong finished, drums and cheers erupted. They turned to see that Murong Ke had surprisingly rolled up his commander flag. In an instant, the Hu army’s advance ranks reversed into their rear ranks as they began to retreat.
The well-trained riders moved like linking limbs. In the blink of an eye, they had pulled hundred of paces away from Nan’yang. “Qilang, you understand Murong Ke so well, it seems we have a chance to win this battle,” someone laughed at the sight of the distant rolling smoke.
“Just a chance?”
Wang Hong faintly smiled and walked away.
Murong Ke’s soldiers eventually camped at the barren land three miles from Nan’yang.
Ran Min went back to the tower to put on his armor. Before long, he took the armed commanders and went out again.
Chen Rong weighed her choices before running after them.
It only took her a few steps by the time Ran Min glanced at her with a frown and barked, “We are leaving the city. A woman like you don’t need to follow us.”
Chen Rong knew just as much, she just didn’t know what to do on her own. Having heard Ran Min, she curtsied and softly said, “Aye.”
By the time she lifted her head, Ran Min and his generals had left to the far distance.
When Chen Rong left the tower, the setting sun was on the horizon, casting a crimson bright light.
She thought for a moment and then decided to walk to the Chen estate.
Presently she was still dressed in the same outfit when she left: a man’s robe and inner bandage to conceal her figure. Coupled with a wide-rimmed hat, she resembled an ordinary thin boy when she walked on the street.
The city of Nan’yang was still in a state of frenzy. Nevertheless, it was much improved compared to morning.
Every few steps, Chen Rong would see a scholar passionately teach the lesson of the day. But the farther one went, the more absurd the stories became. They said Wang Hong angered Murong Ke to the point of Murong Ke vomitting three liters of blood, falling to the ground and unable to get up… For this reason, every time the lecturer spoke, the crowd roared in approval.
This translation belongs to hamster428.wordpress.com
Chen Rong silently waded through the stream of people to arrive at the Chen estate.
Outside the estate, the servants who usually could not leave the house were now crowding by the gates and talking in small groups. It was again all about Murong Ke and Wang Hong.
Chen Rong was overjoyed to see the servants come out. She stood on tiptoe to scan through them.
It did not take her long to find Old Shang’s figure.
She immediately turned and walked toward him.
Within five steps, a familiar voice cried out: “Ouch, you stepped on me.”
Chen Rong quickly retreated and rasped: “My apologies, miss.” She bowed her head when she saw the girl looking up.
That girl stared at Chen Rong, harrumphed, and then walked away.
Only until she had gone three or four paces did Chen Rong lift her head.
She was indeed Chen Wei, but her face was wan and thin. She looked as if she was seriously ailing that Chen Rong almost did not recognize her.
Chen Qi and the other sumptuously dressed girls also came out. Chen Rong only gave them a glance before continuing to Old Shang.
No sooner had she gone to stand behind Old Shang did Chen Qian’s laughter ring. “Ah Wei, why are you still so unhappy? You’re horribly thin for someone who is getting married. This can’t be good.”
Once Chen Qian’s laughter stopped, another Chen lady covered her smile and joined in: “Aye aye, Ah Wei, have you not engraved General Ran to your heart? Shouldn’t you be happy now that he agreed?”
Her husband is Ran Min?
As if she couldn’t believe her own ears, Chen Rong’s head whipped up staring at the girls. Her ears were perked, lest she missed a word they said.
Chen Qian went on laughing. She narrowed her eyes to stare at Chen Wei’s colorless face. “Of course Ah Wei can’t be happy. At first she was going to be General Ran’s wife, but now she can only be his concubine. Moreover, he only agreed because he couldn’t bear to reject her, knowing that she loves him so much.”
While Chen Qian was still laughing, Chen Wei grew increasingly pale. All of a sudden she broke into a sob and rushed back inside with her sleeve over her face.
Chen Rong stared after Chen Wei’s fleeing figure. It was a long while before she lowered her head and curved her lips in silent mockery: Indeed, Heaven’s will is inescapable. Ah Wei and I were entangled with Ran Min in our previous lives. This time we went round and round only to go down the same path again.
While Chen Rong stared in a trance, behind her came a scholar’s long sigh: “The city will soon fall, yet these girls are still trapped by silly romance. Tsk tsk.”
Suddenly, someone pulled on Chen Rong’s sleeve and quietly asked, “Ah Rong of the Chen House?”
This is a strange voice! Does she recognize me?
Chen Rong stiffened.
After the stranger did not receive an answer from her, she again asked, “Ah Rong of the Chen House?” Her voice was raised to be more audible.
Startled, Chen Rong cast a quick glance at the Chen people and dropped her voice to a whisper. “Who are you?”
Behind her, a middle-aged woman appeared. She was elegant looking even though she was simply dressed. Seeing Chen Rong turn around, she smiled and softly said, “Qilang told us to look for you.”
Chen Rong detected a familiar Wang servant standing nearby. She bowed her head and gently inquired, “Is there something Qilang needs from me?”
“I reckon there is.”
Chen Rong nodded.
The woman turned to go. Chen Rong followed her.
After a few steps, she turned around to look at Old Shang who was pleasantly talking to a servant. Now that Nan’yang has the cooperation of Ran Min and Wang Hong, it will be safe here. I’ll look for them at a later time, then, she thought to herself.
Chen Rong followed the two servants of the Wang family, got into the carriage, and quietly went to Wang Hong’s hamlet.
After she entered the hamlet, however, and until night descended, she still did not see Wang Hong. When she asked the two maids who had served her the night before, they said they did not know that Wang Hong was looking for her.
Late at night.
A maidservant came in. She looked at a barefoot Chen Rong who had just came out from her bath, took a jade cup from the tray and placed it in front of her. She smiled, “Miss, this is ‘Heaven’s brew’ Qilang had brought back from Jiankang, would you like to have a taste?”
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