Chapter 132: Chen Rong Decisively Cuts Ties
“Come inside, Ah Rong” her brother called.
Chen Rong made a reply and turned around. Behind her, the servants made a bow. “Good greetings, m’lord.”
Her brother laughed. He kindly looked at the servants from his hometown as his eyes reddened and his voice became hoarse.
He used his sleeve to wipe his tears before rasping: “Everyone come in. What distance it must have been all the way from Ping. I’m sure my poor Ah Rong wouldn’t have made it here safely without your protection. Come in come in!”
The servants made a reply and followed Chen Rong into the house.
Ah Gu, her brother’s lesser madam, also hurried after them.
Watching the dozen or so servants and their six carriages, her brother’s wife, who had put on a calm front, waved at a servant girl and quietly said, “Go take a look, see what’s inside their carriages.”
“Be sure to take a good look.”
When the maid had left, she moved the table to the wall on the east and perked her ears to listen.
After some sobbing, the younger Mr. Chen’s concerned voice sounded from the eastern room: “Ah Rong, how did you get here? I heard the barbarians had burned down Luo’yang. What about Ping? Is Ping alright?”
Chen Rong’s answering voice had an inborn clarity and softness: “We left Ping with the Wang clan. We then spent a few months in Nan’yang and this time came to Jiankang with the Wang House of Lang’ya.”
“The Wang House of Lang’ya?” murmured Mrs. Chen. Envy was noticeable in her voice. She waved to call for another maid. “Go and befriend those northern barbarians. See if they and the Wang House of Lang’ya are acquainted or not.” Despite her humble background, her concubine-born sister-in-law had a very bewitching beauty. A solitary girl making this long journey… who knows if anything had happened along the way.
At this thought, she suddenly felt a little regretful. When the girl came in just now, she should’ve been warmer and, no matter what, should’ve verified things before menacing the girl.
As she was muttering to herself, her maid returned and unhappily reported, “Nothing’s there, ma’am. Truly, three entirely empty carriages.”
Mrs. Chen’s expression darkened.
Soon after, the other maid also came back. She leaned in and whispered, “I asked her servants but they were all being very vague… In my humble opinion, how can people of their ranks be acquainted with the aristocrats?”
Mrs. Chen’s face completely darkened.
She got up and sashayed out the door.
She went to the steps, pointed at a toiling old servant and began to scold. “You freeloading old fogy, you good-for-nothing. All you’re good at is getting into trouble. Why do you have to mess with a pack of stray dogs? Do you want to kill me from exhaustion?”
Her berating was very shrill and harsh, and very unpleasant to listen to.
Chen Rong was nestling by her brother’s side to tell him her stories. She stilled while her brother’s thin face turned livid.
He stood up and rushed out the door yelling, “Stop your scolding.”
His wife whirled around. With one hand on her hip, she pointed the other straight at his nose and began chewing him out. “You jerk, how dare you yell at me? Huh? How dare you yell at me?” She took a step forward for every word she spoke, and soon pushed her husband back into the room where Chen Rong was sitting.
Standing at the doorstep, she waved her finger seemingly at Chen Rong and growled, “Do you think it’s so easy for me to hold this house up? All the good-for-nothings end up here… Have you seen your temptress looks in the mirror? Go seduce a man to marry you. Why should I feed a bunch of peasants and stray dogs?”
This had been a very dreadful abuse. Chen Rong looked to her older brother and was greeted with his ashen face. His whole being angrily trembled, but he could not utter a single word while his wife was still spitting saliva everywhere.
Chen Rong slowly stood up.
She ignored her sister-in-law and walked to her brother. “Ah Rong,” he stammered, “don’t take offense…” He hadn’t finished but his wife had sat herself on the floor wailing: “Go to hell, you useless jerk. It was so difficult to find an office but you still managed to lose it. If I haven’t been here to hold this house up, your bones would’ve long been fed to the dogs. Go to hell! Who gives you the rights to make me keep these tramps? Boohoohoo…”
The younger Mr. Chen’s voice was completely drown out by her wailing. He had to close his mouth and look guiltily at Chen Rong.
She dropped her gaze at the sight of her brother’s gaunt and tired face, and his wretched oppressed appearance.
When her sister-in-law finally stopped crying, Chen Rong suddenly called, “Nurse Ping, bring a silk scroll and some ink here.”
Her sister-in-law widened her yellow murky eyes at Chen Rong.
Nurse Ping soon came back with brush and ink.
Chen Rong placed the silk scroll onto the table, wrote a few lines, then went to her sister-in-law and flung it at her. “Make it official with your signature.”
Surprised, her sister-in-law looked down at the silk scroll and read, “I now break off all ties with my older brother Chen Qi. Henceforth, for richer or poorer, we shall be unrelated in life and death, and such as strangers.” Chen Rong’s name was already signed below.
Everybody was stunned this time.
They looked at Chen Rong in disbelief, even her sister-in-law was flabbergasted. She came from the marketplace and had met all sorts of people, but there was none who would so ruthlessly burn her bridges like this.
Her brother’s face turned green. He took a step and cried, “Ah Rong!” He was shaking with anger. “Ah Rong, you…!”
Chen Rong turned around to look at him.
She slowly went to her brother. Her eyes were mischievous and peculiar. Momentarily, her brother thought he was returning to seven years ago. At that time in Ping, this sister of his had had the same twinkles in her eyes whenever she got into trouble and came home wanting him to shoulder the burden. And he had never once refused her.
He swallowed his criticism. At this time, Chen Rong turned around, lowered her head and wept, “Father only left so little property behind and on top of that we were met with bandits and barbarians on the way south. If not for the Wang House’s protection, where would we be now? After everything we went through to find you, I never thought that you wouldn’t want to take us in. Fine, don’t take us in. We have hands and feet. I refuse to believe that we can’t survive in Jiankang.”
Chen Rong’s sister-in-law had felt suspicious to see her so blithely cut ties with her brother, so she hadn’t been resolved to sign. Now hearing this from Chen Rong, she quickly scribbled a few strokes and pressed her finger onto the parchment. She next hurriedly gave her husband the silk scroll and yelled, “Quick, sign it,” pulling his thumb and pressing it down for him.
He was still in a trance by the time Chen Rong put away the scroll.
Chen Rong went out the door and called Nurse Ping and Old Shang, “Let’s go.”
Only until she got on the carriage did her brother break from his stupor. He hurriedly threw off his wife and ran to Chen Rong, calling: “Ah Rong, Ah Rong.” Sorrow, self-loathing and helplessness were all detected from his voice.
When he ran to her carriage, Chen Rong lifted the curtain, leaned into him and whispered, “Brother, I have it all planned out, don’t be alarmed. I’ll find an opportunity to let you know my thoughts.”
With that said, she lifted her sleeve and pretended to dab her tears as she choked, “Let’s go.”
Her stunned brother was still rooted on the spot by the time they left. Behind him, his wife suddenly sighed while staring after the six carriages. “Her carriages are fancy and so are her horses. How did I forget about that just now?” She suddenly raised her hand to give herself a slap in the face.
While the carriages ran along, Chen Rong told Old Shang: “First find an inn to stay. Then in the next few days, find a house around here to rent for me. Remember, find somewhere safe and not too close to my brother.”
A good long while later, Old Shang replied: “Aye.”
He and the servants were still overwhelmed by this baffling turn of events.
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Old Shang found a courtyard on the third day. After a discussion with Chen Rong, he ended up buying it. The compound was located behind two wealthy homes. It was very small, consisting of only ten wooden houses. But because it was near those wealthy families, it was in a very safe location. Furthermore, the courtyard had been quite beautifully renovated.
Whether they looked at it from the outside or inside, it was still more luxurious than the one her brother owned.
Late at night.
Nurse Ping followed behind Chen Rong as she murmured, “Even this small courtyard is so expensive. It only costs one tenth in Nan’yang.”
Almost immediately, she said in chagrin, “Why did the young master marry such a vulgar shrew? Tsk tsk.” Having said this, she then gave Chen Rong a look of frustration.
Chen Rong did not make a sound.
“Close the door,” she ordered a few moments later.
Old Shang and Nurse Ping, who was still muttering complaints, went to close the doors and windows, and then returned to Chen Rong.
Chen Rong quietly stood in the fire light. She looked at Old Shang and smilingly said, “Old Shang, bring those things out.”
He carried an ax and climbed onto an empty carriage.
“Bring what out?” Nurse Ping quizzically asked.
She only managed this much by the time a dull crack sounded from the carriage. Then came the sound of broken wall.
Nurse Ping quickly stepped forward and was about to ask when Old Shang lifted the curtain and jumped down.
He carried a wooden box to Chen Rong and then jumped back onto the carriage.
One after another, small wooden boxes and bamboo tubes were placed in front of Chen Rong and Nurse Ping.
And Old Shang was just moving from one empty carriage to another.
Half an hour later, the three empty carriages as well as the one Chen Rong rode and the one with her belongings were all broken. Seventy to eighty small wooden boxes were moved down in front of the two women.
Old Shang jumped off and said, “No more, miss.”
Chen Rong nodded.
By this time, Nurse Ping had been pointing to a broken box and grinning ear to ear for quite some time. The sheen of pearls and gold radiated from the box. It was apparently loaded with gold and gems.
The nurse gasped for breath as she stroked her chest. “Where did these come from?” she asked, not daring to believe her eyes.
Old Shang laughed. “Of course they were exchanged with the three carriages of grains.” Only the few aristocratic families that the Prince of Nan’yang feared were able to return to Jiankang this time. Those who were forced to stay were still in desperate need of food. When Old Shang sold their supply, half a pail of rice was worth one gold leaf, and this wasn’t even market price. Within a few short hours, Old Shang was thus able to gain this much gold and silver for three carriages of grains.
Hearing his explanation, Nurse Ping’s eyes crinkled into lines. She knelt down towards the east and murmured her gratitude to the gods. Then she got up and happily said to Chen Rong, “We can buy thirty carriages of grains with this much jewels!”
Old Shang laughed, “Nay, thirty carriages is the price in Nan’yang. Jiankang is rich in products, so food prices are very low. I estimate that this money can buy three hundred carriages of grains here.”
No sooner than he said this did he mutter in dissatisfaction, “But only food is cheap. We can buy this tiny courtyard for a tenth of the price in Nan’yang.”
“Three hundred carriages of grains?” Nurse Ping marveled. “Heaven, miss, we wouldn’t finish three hundred carriages in this life, the next, or even the one after that.”
Chen Rong smiled. “Nay, everything is costlier here compared to Nan’yang. These jewels are only enough for this one lifetime.”
Nurse Ping quickly interjected, “That’s still more than enough.”
“It’s getting late. Nurse Ping, Old Shang, pay attention. Remember to only keep ten boxes: five boxes for us to use, five to save. The rest should be well buried.”
Chen Rong took the silk scroll from her sleeve and handed it to Nurse Ping. “Safekeep this as well.”
Nurse Ping put it away and then suddenly sighed, “What you did was too heartless, too hasty.”
Hasty? She had known her for two lifetimes, how could that be hasty? As for heartless? Chen Rong smiled and quietly said, “I don’t have much to begin with. Nurse, at this point, I’m not going to let anyone destroy what I have.”
Nurse Ping did not understand, neither did Old Shang.
Chen Rong didn’t feel like explaining herself. She turned and quietly walked toward her room.
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