Chapter 133: Right to the Doorstep
Chapter 133: Right to the Doorstep
The night passed by without trouble.
Chen Rong awoke to the golden sunshine. She turned her head to the side and looked towards the light outside, hearing the birds’ chirping, human voices, and even faint cheers. She smiled and thought to herself: I made it to Jiankang.
Jiankang was such a beautiful and distant name – where money was treated as dung, and meat and wine were fed to the animals; where laughter never ceased and food could never be finished.
It existed as a land of paradise in both of her lives’ memory. It was far from the flames of war and disputes, and the only things it had were luxury, prosperity, and peace.
Chen Rong slowly sat up and walked to her bronze mirror. She now had plenty of gold and silver to lead a good life in Jiankang… She only needed to not become a man’s concubine or plaything, to be sent back and forth for their amusements and fighting with other women. This was why she must do her best to see His Majesty and get his permission to stay unmarried for the rest of her life.
At this thought, Chen Rong softly hummed.
Nurse Ping had been waiting outside her door. She couldn’t help from laughing when she heard her song. “Are you up, miss? What makes you so happy today?”
She brought the washing items in.
Chen Rong laughed. “Not just today, but I’ll always be happy from now on.” She playfully winked at her lovely face and long tangled hair in the mirror.
Nurse Ping laughed. She combed her hair and asked, “Then will you acquire some land and property in Jiankang?”
“Of course I will have to, but Jiankang is full of powerful families. I will first have to meet the emperor before I can do anything.” Only that way could she protect those property. One should know that all the property in Jiankang belonged to the major clans. Even if they weren’t now, they would be taken by force in the future.
Nevertheless, stores and shops could be considered.
Chen Rong got up, stretched her arms to put on a green outfit, and then hummed again.
She went to the yard.
Behind her small courtyard was a lively small street where the commoners made their daily exchanges.
Chen Rong had a servant move a divan and lazily lay there, sunbathing while listening to the hustle and bustle outside.
After a while, she said with her eyes closed, “Old Shang, prepare a card and send it to the Chen House of Jiankang to ask for a visit.”
Old Shang gave her a reply and then went out.
Soon after, Chen Rong again bade: “Nurse, tell two men to secretly look into my brother’s matters. I must know everything about him.”
After another while, she opened her eyes and told the only maidservant that was left by her side: “Bring me the bronze mirror.”
Soon, a mirror appeared before her eyes.
Chen Rong retrieved it and tilted her head. Looking at the fair and bewitching reflection in it, she scraped a nail across her cheek and suddenly asked, “Say, what if I make a slash here?”
The servant girl cried out in alarm: “Miss, that’s out of the question. You must never!”
Chen Rong glanced at her and snapped: “What are you panicking for? I was just saying.”
She was still looking at herself in the mirror, her nail still drawing lines across her face. After a while, she put the mirror down and murmured, “It’s not as if I have the courage or willingness to.”
With these words, she lay back down and closed her eyes.
The maidservant was scared witless. Seeing her close her eyes, she quickly stepped up to put the mirror away.
Some time later, Nurse Ping’s whisper sounded: “Miss, your brother is looking around for you.”
“Bring him to me.”
This translation belongs to hamster428.
After her nurse left, Chen Rong muttered to herself: “It’s a little boring to just lie here like this. I’ll have to tell Old Shang to drill a hole in the wall so I can take a look outside.”
Someone laughed just as she finished her words. “Ah Rong, why would you even do that?”
Chen Rong started at his voice. She whipped around, glaring at the man, and cried, “You? How did you come here?”
Ignoring her glare, the frail young man slowly went to her with the help of his maid. Once he stopped, two other maids automatically went inside and brought out a table for him.
They lit incense, warmed wine, and, when he had taken a seat, placed a plate of pastries in front of him.
He ate the snacks brought before his mouth by a maidservant, glanced at Chen Rong, and asked, “Why are you so startled? Ah Rong of the Chen House, don’t tell me you think you are a recluse, and as long as you didn’t go out no one would know where you live?” This sharp sarcastic voice was indeed that of Huan Jiulang.
Chen Rong slowly sat down. She regarded the pale lad and at length asked, “My good sir, do you have instructions for me on this visit?”
Huan Jiulang clapped his hands, unhurriedly rose, and then turned to leave.
The maidservants who had just moved everything out now cleared them away and moved the table back to its original location, restoring the courtyard to its previous state. They then mounted the carriage as if nothing had happened.
No sooner had Huan Jiulang’s carriage left the gate than Nurse Ping led the younger Mr. Chen in. He stared after the carriage’s emblem and the frail man’s face behind the curtain.
Only until they had gone to the distance did he blurt out in surprise: “Is that a direct descendant of the Huan House?!”
“I see…” He repeated these words several times and couldn’t come up with anything else to say.
When they were near Chen Rong, he heard a maid asking her: “Miss, that was really strange. Why did Jiulang of the Huan House come here if he was just going to leave like that? What does he mean?”
Chen Rong dropped her gaze and smirked. “What does he mean? He means to tell me they are well aware of my whereabouts, so I should not do meaningless things.”
She reminded herself to be more tight-lipped from now on. She must not tell anyone else about asking His Majesty to let her stay unmarried for the rest of her life.
At this point she heard her brother’s joyful call behind her: “Ah Rong, Ah Rong.”
Chen Rong turned around to greet Dalang of the Chen House (1).
(1) Dalang = eldest son
The siblings were tearful to see each other again. The maids quickly set a table for their master.
He sat down and then concernedly looked at Chen Rong. He held her hands, hastily asking: “Ah Rong, yesterday you said you have plans. What kind of plans are they?”
Chen Rong mischievously smiled at him and shook her head. “I can’t tell you yet.”
Dalang of the Chen House broke into a smile upon seeing her playful look. But he next murmured sadly, “It was so difficult to see you again. How could you break our ties?”
He slapped his forehead and hoarsely added, “It’s my fault that I’m so useless and that vile woman is abusing you.”
Chen Rong hurriedly shook her head. She held her brother’s hand and comforted him: “Don’t worry, brother. I’m quite impressive now, you know. That vile woman of yours can’t bully me.”
Her words caused her brother to rebut: “You’re only a little lass, how impressive could you be?” Here, he stared at Chen Rong and hedged, “Why did the son of the Huan House leave from your place? What’s going on?”
He looked as if he wanted to ask in detail, but he ended up biting his teeth. He stared at Chen Rong and said in seriousness, “Ah Rong, it’s fine to be an affluent man’s mistress, but you should know that the ladies in Jiankang are all arrogant. Even the former prime minister, Sir Wang Dao’s wife did not let him have any concubines. What are you going to do if you end up with an unkind lady of the house?”
He thought Chen Rong was a mistress Huan Jiulang was secretly keeping.
She couldn’t blame him. She had only found a place to stay last night, yet Huan Jiulang had already come over today. Most importantly, when a man freely invites himself over to an unaccompanied woman, anyone’s thoughts would go there.
While Chen Rong was smiling wryly, Nurse Ping unhappily refuted: “M’lord, be careful with your words. Huan Jiulang and my lady are not in a relationship. They are merely friends.”
Dalang believed her right away. He laughed, the melancholy vanishing from his gaunt face. “Aye aye, the famous scholars in Jiankang are all like that. They don’t pay attention to trivial rules. Even if they want to befriend a woman they just do it. Then all is fine and good, all is fine and good.”
Chen Rong didn’t expect that he would believe her so quickly. But she couldn’t have known that the literati in Jiankang were rather loafing idlers. There was a man who even went to someone else’s home and slept next to his wife several times, yet neither the woman’s husband nor the people in the city were surprised or thought they were in dalliance… The literati were like this. If they said no, the world would believe that nothing had happened.
Dalang of the Chen House was still laughing. He was so happy that he left his table and began taking turns around the room. He rubbed his hands and smiled at Chen Rong who was suspiciously staring at him. “You haven’t been here long enough to know that it’s different from Nan’yang and Ping. People here are uninhibited in some ways… I can’t really explain it, you’ll know in time.”
With pride on his face and hands behind his back, he took a turn in the courtyard, nodding as he looked around. “My Ah Rong is quite impressive. Imagine, a young girl traveling south on her own, but not only did she meet no danger, she even befriended famous scholars like Huan Jiulang and bought a such a courtyard. How excellent.” Just now when Nurse Ping told him that Chen Rong had bought this place, he had thought it was a white lie and that Huan Jiulang had bought it for his sister. Now knowing that was not the case, he spared no words of praise.
“Ah Rong, you’re probably doing much better than me,” he sighed.
Chen Rong waved her hand at this time. At her cue, her maids withdrew from the room.
In the quiet yard, she tilted her head and asked her brother in a joking manner: “If my sister-in-law is so awful, then why don’t you divorce her?”