Chapter 155: Sincerity or Pretense
Wang Hong slowly formed a smile.
“Greetings from Wang Hong, Your Majesty,” he called as he stepped out and bent over in a deep bow.
His voice roused the other two, who turned to look back at him with their laughter still on their faces. The emperor’s annoyance was abundantly clear.
Wang Hong ambled to them with a polite yet nonchalant smile.
He cast Chen Rong a brief glance before his mouth curved to address the emperor: “Hong Yunzi is a Daoist name Your Majesty had bestowed, and so you must not make light of it.”
His voice was kept soft and airy, and his smile very easy.
But both the emperor and Chen Rong could hear the threat in his words.
The emperor snorted. He tapped his forehead in comprehension while exclaiming: “Is that right, now? Ah yes, I had ordained Ah Rong into the monastic orders.”
He turned around to regard Chen Rong for a while, and then slapped his thigh with a cry: “Oh I know!”
“Ah Rong,” he began, leaning to her, “Are you aware that I’m called a foolish and absurd ruler around here?” There were twinkles in his eyes when he cocked his head and gleefully added, “Say, if my empress were to be a Daoist nun, would it be unprecedented? Would it be very shocking?”
He glanced back at Wang Hong. “Don’t you know me, Qilang? I embrace all things that are scorned. How else can I live up to my absurdity?”
And then as if he had thought of something, he turned his head to fully look at Wang Hong, suddenly asking: “Or have you come here for Ah Rong?”
He gave Wang Hong a glare, pulled Chen Rong behind him and then scowled, “I thought you hold her in disdain because of her humble origins? Since you look down on her, you should give her to me.”
He reached for the nearby antique jade bowl and graciously negotiated, “Here, I’ll trade this with you!”
Wang Hong froze on the spot.
He instinctively looked to Chen Rong, his glassy eyes willing her to speak.
He looked as though he was certain she would open her mouth to tell the emperor she was his and only his in this lifetime… Except for him, she would not have any other man.
Chen Rong stilled, unable to help herself from wondering: Does he by chance know about my meeting with Ran Min and our exchanges?
She dropped her gaze and avoided his eyes.
The emperor leaned over. He looked at Chen Rong, then at Wang Hong, back at Chen Rong, and again at Wang Hong.
His eyes slowly curved into a mirthful smile.
He continued to push the jade bowl into Wang Hong’s arms and said in earnest, “Come now Qilang, take it.” When he saw that Wang Hong was still looking at Chen Rong, he made a face and impishly goaded him: “Qilang, Qilang, take it, take it.”
This translation belongs to hamster428.
As he said this he took the bowl still with leftover crumbs in it and shoved it into Wang Hong’s arms.
Wang Hong took a step back.
He withdrew his pointed gaze from Chen Rong, deeply bowed to the emperor, and wryly smiled. “You jest, Your Majesty.”
As he spoke, he cast a glance at the woods.
Just as the emperor relentlessly stepped forth and tried to put the bowl into his arms, an elderly eunuch ran out from the woods and called, “Your Majesty, Grand Tutor Zhao is coming.”
The emperor unhappily stopped what he was doing. He tossed the jade bowl aside, scowling: “Already?”
Intentionally or otherwise, he glanced at Wang Hong and groused, “No fun! Why did he get here so fast?”
He left with a wave of his sleeves. In a flash, his long strides had carried him to the distance.
Seeing that he had gone away, Wang Hong turned and approached Chen Rong. By the time he reached her, the emperor had thought of something and hurriedly stopped to look back.
“Qilang of the Wang House,” he yelled when he saw how close Wang Hong was standing to Chen Rong, “Hong Yunzi is a nun. What are you doing so close to her?”
He narrowed his eyes at Wang Hong, muttering under his breath: “I know I’m a fool but nobody told me Wang Qi is also one.”
“Hong Yunzi is a nun ordained by me,” he solemnly said. “I was very touched to hear that you were looking after her as a friend.” Pausing, he warily broached, “Hey, don’t tell me you want to take advantage of your charge? Are you thinking of having a clandestine affair with a nun?”
The emperor were firing his words rapidly and bluntly.
Though Wang Hong was clever, he could only stand there like a block.
The emperor did not wait for Wang Hong to respond. He suspiciously stared at him before turning to Chen Rong with a warm smile: “Don’t worry Ah Rong, I’m here for you. I’ll keep you safe.”
He then jovially turned around and went his way.
This time, he turned again after only two steps and smilingly called to Chen Rong, “Ah Rong, think about what I said. I want an answer the next time I see you.”
After earnestly speaking to her and receiving her bow, he flung his wide sleeves and happily left, soon disappearing into the woods.
Once he confirmed the emperor had left, Wang Hong quietly said, “Let’s go.”
He turned and led the way.
When Chen Rong failed to follow, he stopped to turn around. “Ah Rong, this isn’t a place to linger.”
There was a coldness in his voice that was contrary to his smile.
They walked one after another.
Wang Hong’s pace was growing faster and faster.
Gradually, Chen Rong fell behind. Since she couldn’t keep up she simply slowed down and leisurely strolled along.
Wang Hong turned around when he heard no sound behind him.
Chen Rong was trailing more than a hundred paces.
She ambled along, appearing every bit the picture of peace. Her yellow Daoist robe did not lessen any of her charm.
Wang Hong quietly looked at her.
At long last she caught up to him. She lifted her eyes to meet his gaze, grinning pleasantly.
She was apparently in a good mood.
Wang Hong withdrew his gaze and wordlessly walked on.
They soon came to their respective rides.
She pulled the curtain down once she got onto her carriage. Leaning back, she thought to herself: Sima Zhang is an interesting person. But I wonder how much of what he told me was the truth?
She shook her head. Why should I care whether he’s being truthful or not? It can’t be bad for me to have the emperor’s backing.
She smiled, reposed and continued her thought: It should be easier for me to leave Jiankang and keep my land if I have the emperor’s help, should it not? Hmm, I’ll just have to wait, then. Wait until Wang Hong gets married and I will leave this place… I certainly would have made my move before this face of mine made any more trouble.
At this juncture in her thought Chen Rong closed her eyes to rest.
“Ah Rong,” she heard Wang Hong call.
She carelessly hummed a reply.
By and by, he whispered to her, “Don’t believe what His Majesty says.”
Chen Rong did not, but she opened her eyes and curiously looked at the silhouette on the other side of the curtain. She knew there was more to be interpreted from his words.
“Sima Zhang’s harem is full of women from the major clans; none of his consorts are simple,” continued Wang Hong. “The Empress herself hails from an extraordinary heritage… Ah Rong, you mustn’t believe him.”
Chen Rong dropped her gaze and gave a light “Aye.”
Her answer had been too careless, as if it was only perfunctory.
As a result, the curtain lifted and Wang Hong’s handsome face appeared before her eyes.
He was looking at her fixedly.
Once again, he saw quietude on her face.
Wang Hong let out a slow sigh.
“What is wrong?” asked Chen Rong when she heard his sigh.
“Nothing.” His answer came as light as a feather.
Chen Rong accepted his answer and didn’t continue to ask. She lowered her gaze and, while Wang Hong was deciding whether to pull the curtain down, quietly called, “Qilang.”
He turned around to look at her with eyes that were both gentle and encouraging.
She did not return his gaze. Her eyes remained downcast when she said to him, “When you get married, can you let me know a few days ahead of time?”
She now looked up at him with neither grief nor joy in her eyes, lightly joking: “Before you tell everyone else, can you tell me first?”
She may have been smiling but her voice was supple.
She was asking for a favor.
Wang Hong turned away for whatever reason. He looked at the faint hills in the distance and, with slender fingers, pulled down the curtain to block her face.
He did not answer her.
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