Chapter 161: Imperial Edict; Admittance
Chapter 161: Imperial Edict; Admittance
The announcement of another imperial edict surprised the crowd. Looking at Wang Hong, they could not help but think: Wang Hong indeed cannot be fooled. He easily recognized the falsified decree at a glance.
Soon they thought: Did the fairy-like Wang Hong actually kill someone in public?!
On the hillside, footsteps and drum beats were drawing nearer.
Wang Hong glanced at Chen Rong and then walked forth.
Chen Rong quickly followed him. She soon overtook him – even if he was able to avoid in time, his white robe still got stained with some blood, and it was better to hide it.
By their fiftieth paces or so, a band like the previous one had arrived.
Leading it was a eunuch in his forties. He narrowed his eyes when he saw Chen Rong.
Sure enough, behind her was the celestial Lang’ya Wang Qi.
After a brief glance, he returned his attention to Chen Rong who was maintaining a bowing position. “I gather you are Priestess Hong Yunzi?” he asked in a high-pitched voice.
“Aye,” replied Chen Rong.
The eunuch nodded and then told her, “Hong Yunzi, prepare to receive His Majesty’s edict.”
Chen Rong quickly bowed.
The eunuch took another look at her, unrolled the edict and said to Chen Rong, “In His Majesty’s opinion, you possess exemplary intelligence and talents although you are a woman. In the matter of resisting the Hu, you have performed meritorious service deserving of recognition from all Jin citizens.”
Chen Rong stared up at him upon hearing these words.
Not only was this edict effusively laudatory and contrary to the previous one, more importantly, was she even that exemplary to begin with?
In fact, not only her but the hushed people in the back all looked at one another: This isn’t the kind of praise one typically bestows on a woman. And alright, it’s fine to praise one’s bravery, but it sounds rather odd on a woman who has joined the monastic orders.
“By order of His Majesty, the emperor,” the eunuch continued to squeak, “Hong Yunzi is hereby conferred the title of the Dignified and Virtuous Priestess. She shall lead five thousand warriors and meet the northern hero in His Majesty’s stead.” At this juncture, amid murmurs, he leaned into Chen Rong and whispered, “The northern hero is an acquaintance of yours. I’m sure you’ll be happy to see him.”
Why the hell would I?!
Anger momentarily ignited in Chen Rong’s chest.
She bit her lips and indignantly thought: All dedicated men in the world are worthy of respect. The court adds a ridiculous Dignified and Virtuous title in front of my Daoist name and actually tells me to go be an ambassador. Are they trying to humiliate the men’s fervor? How infuriating! If the northern hero is indeed Ran Min, he won’t put up with this shame. How can the court reverse right and wrong like this?
While Chen Rong was red with anger, she suddenly saw a beam of sarcasm from the eunuch and the people behind him.
Their taunt was the splash of cold water that woke her up. Chen Rong suddenly became clear headed: No, I can’t be angry. We cannot discuss politics and warfare in Jiankang. Look at the young man of the Huan family, he scarcely said anything yet he was met with deadly consequences, and nobody will stand up for me in this kind of thing.
That’s because the rule to not discuss politics and warfare was a consensus reached between all the clans and the royal family.
Though clear headed, Chen Rong’s face was still flushed with anger.
The middle aged eunuch yelled at the fuming Chen Rong, “Why are you angry, priestess? You don’t want to?”
His voice was provocative, as if he wanted to incite her anger.
Chen Rong dropped her gaze.
She retreated and shook her head, saying: “I became a nun because I am frightened by blood, my heart could not be at peace.”
She dutifully raised her hands and earnestly said, “I don’t dare to bear the words Dignified and Virtuous. I beg His Majesty to withdraw his decree.”
She bowed her head and retreated.
The eunuch was angered. “Are you refusing His Majesty’s edict?” he screamed.
His voice was threatening.
Chen Rong did not look up. She simply replied, “Since I do not belong to the secular world, I am not subject to this edict.”
“Do you dare to refuse an imperial edict?”
“I do not belong to the secular world, I am not subject to it.”
The eunuch laughed: “Is that so.”
He flapped his sleeve, screaming: “Go.”
The troupe made a turn at his order.
Just then, another drum music was heard playing from the foothill of the mountain.
Few in attendance were stupid. After hearing this music, the buzz that had just picked up quieted down again.
Chen Rong also raised her head. She looked to the foothill that was blocked by dense foliage and could not help but exclaim, “There’s… another messenger?”
She instinctively looked back at Wang Hong. After facing a quietly smiling Wang Hong, she withdrew her gaze: He looks thoughtful, it seems he is also suspicious.
So she returned her gaze to the middle aged eunuch.
At this moment he was leading the palace maids and guards away, his face full of anger and resentment. “What a ruckus, what an absolute ruckus.” He irately flapped his sleeve screaming: “Let’s go!”
He ran right into the other band.
The two bands stilled, but immediately resumed as usual, and the drum music continued to parade up the mountains.
Before long, a familiar voice shrilled, “Is it you, Priestess Hong Yunzi?”
This high-pitched voice indeed belonged to the young eunuch who brought Chen Rong to the palace this morning.
Upon seeing his familiar face, Chen Rong breathed a sigh of relief as she thought to herself: It has to be His Majesty this time.
She hurriedly raised her clasped hands in reply: “Aye.”
The young eunuch nodded. He came to stand before Chen Rong, announcing: “Hong Yunzi, prepare to receive His Majesty’s edict.”
Chen Rong knelt down, her heart thumping. Under her wide sleeves, she wrung her hands and thought: It won’t be another ridiculous decree that tries to harm me, will it?
The young eunuch unrolled the imperial edict and read: “Priestess Hong Yunzi, formerly known as Chen Rong.”
How does this sound anything like a formal decree? But this sentence might really be coming from His Majesty.
The eunuch continued to read: “When Mo’yang was besieged by the Hu, she braved danger by herself for the sake of friendship. Later when Nan’yang was surrounded, out of a city full of men, only this woman had the courage to lead our men in spilling the barbarians’ blood. I deeply respect everything she does. Women had led armed forces since days of yore, Zhaojun of the Han Dynasty is extolled for her virtues. Today we are blessed with this woman before us.”
The eunuch’s voice escalated: “I hereby appoint this woman to be my Grand Chamberlain. She shall hold the title of Special Counselor on Hu matters. Signed, the emperor.”
The young eunuch slowly rolled the edict up, kindly smiling at a frozen Chen Rong. “Why aren’t you accepting the edict?”
This translation belongs to hamster428.
Chen Rong looked up and thought: Once I accept this edict, I should be able to have a few peaceful days. There shouldn’t be any more to follow.
“Your loyal subject accepts,” she replied with a deep bow, before stepping forward to receive the edict.
The young eunuch smiled to see her accept the edict. He leaned in, winked at her and whispered: “His Majesty likes you. This title will make it much more convenient.”
He next waved his arm and led the mighty band away.
Chen Rong stood in the sunset watching them leave.
The imperial edict she had just received wasn’t any less bizarre.
Not only was appointing a nun to be Grand Chamberlain unheard of, even reading the edict halfway down the road was in itself nonsensical. And yet all three consecutive edicts had been issued this way. Apparently this was the kind of prank the emperor liked to pull.
By the time the troupe completely disappeared from view, the spectators still did not move.
Chen Rong slowly turned and looked behind her.
She did not see Wang Hong.
She walked to the carriage. Behind her people started to point fingers:
“My my, three edicts in a row!”
“I’ll give it another minute, more might be coming.”
“Madness, what utter madness.”
“Did you see? In order to protect her Lang’ya Wang Qi even killed a man in public. He didn’t betray any emotions when blood splattered… quite frightening.”
“In my opinion the emperor made her Grand Chamberlain to keep her close. Tsk tsk, good for the promiscuous nun. She made both His Majesty and Wang Qi fight over her with no regard for decency.”
Chen Rong quickened her pace to leave behind these increasingly ugly comments.
She soon reached the carriages.
She cast a glance at Wang Hong’s vehicle and then strode to her own.
Before she went any farther, Wang Hong’s voice sounded: “Come here.”
Chen Rong stopped.
She turned her head and briefly hesitated, then walked to his carriage, lifted the curtain and climbed in.
Wang Hong was leaning on his seat. He did not look at her, absently gazing outside instead.
Chen Rong neared him. As the carriage shook, she asked, “What’s going on?”
Wang Hong didn’t turn around. After some time he smiled to say: “Someone has acted.”
When he finally turned to look sideways at Chen Rong, he broke into a laughter. It started as a laughter but it soon turned into a long howl.
It spread far in the night wind, echoing in the mountains.
In the meanwhile, people in the temple had come out to meet them. They had been here since the first decree arrived, but did not dare to come near until now.
The carriage passed the crowd to enter the temple. It only stopped when it reached the room where Chen Rong had woken up after coming back from the Prince of Jiankang estate.
Wang Hong stopped his howl and alighted the carriage, lightly walking inside.
Chen Rong followed right behind him.
The wooden house was clean and quiet, with few objects besides some furniture.
Wang Hong walked to the middle of the room before he stopped and slowly turned around to look at Chen Rong.
A red halo from the long howl was still on his face, like a streak of blood on jade.
The sun was setting to the west; its light filtered through the window gossamer and sprinkled over his body and face.
At this moment, loneliness and desolation shadowed his startlingly handsome countenance.
In the sparkling light, his clear and lofty eyes looked to be both near yet far, bright yet dark.
He quietly watched Chen Rong as though he was deeply in love, as though he was in rumination, but mostly as though he was lonely.
Chen Rong unhurriedly went to him.
Looking up at him, she softly asked, “Qilang, what really happened?”
It was the second time she asked this question.
Wang Hong smiled and looked outside the screened window. “His Majesty is often drunk. In such times he likes to write random nonsense and stamp his seal on it.”
He paused before adding: “After he sobers up, His Majesty usually forgets what he has done.”
Chen Rong grasped the situation at this point.
So it turned out His Majesty had such a bad habit. Then that was to say those around him often gave orders in his name whenever he was drunk. A decree was mostly verified by looking at the seal – if there is a seal then it is real; it doesn’t matter whether the words were written by the emperor or not.
Seeing that she understood, Wang Hong smiled and again looked out the window.
Chen Rong watched him and inwardly thought: The first decree bluntly alleges that my keeping company with men is undermining His Majesty’s eminence. I wonder whose idea it was? The Ninth Princess? Or was it the Wang House of Lang’ya?
The second decree said something about conferring me the title of the Dignified and Virtuous Hong Yunzi. It also mentioned Ran Min. Whose idea was that one, then? She knew that such a decree couldn’t have been written by a woman, such as the Ninth Princess. Those people didn’t have that ability; they couldn’t have known that Ran Min had come to Jiankang.
As for the third decree, perhaps the emperor realized his blunder after he sobered up, so he followed them with another one, firstly to save me and secondly to continue his absurd legacy.
Chen Rong suddenly laughed and murmured, “Grand Chamberlain? Qilang Qilang, it has only been a day yet I have been appointed by His Majesty to be the Grand Chamberlain.”
The more she thought about it the more she wanted to laugh.
Chen Rong’s laughter roused Wang Hong.
He slowly turned to look at her.
Unlike her, he did not look happy. His eyes were quiet as he watched her laugh. His flush had long gone, replaced by a coldness on his terribly pale face.
Eventually, he curved into a smile. “Now that you’re the Grand Chamberlain, you won’t call me your husband anymore, and I’m back to being Qilang?”
Chen Rong’s smile slowly faded. She tilted her head away. “Why ask when you already know, Qilang?”
She turned back to look at him and offered another smile. “It isn’t my wish to call you my husband.”
Wang Hong’s smile stiffened.
“It hadn’t been long since you called me your husband. You took the initiative to ask me, and said you were willing to be my mistress. But now you say it’s not what you want. You’re quite cruel, Ah Rong.”
His smile was faint, his language soft, and his eyes gentle. But his words betrayed a chilliness. Though faint and light, each word pierced deeply.
Chen Rong looked up at him.
At length she dropped her gazed and smiled to say: “You clearly know, Qilang.” She sounded to be joking yet also serious when she next told him: “To be with you is for me far scarier than death.”
Wang Hong drew his lips into a line.
Chen Rong did not pay attention to his coldness. She reached out to gently stroke his lapels.
As her fingers smoothed over the folds on his clothes, Chen Rong looked up to smile at him: “Don’t you know Qilang? I’m too stubborn to wake up once I get caught in an obsession.”
She pressed her hand on her chest. “I’m so afraid to breathe every time I’m near you that my chest suffocates…”
Her smile was stunning in the golden sunset, the affection in her eyes was boundless.
Wang Hong had been quietly hiding his coldness underneath his gentleness while he watched her smile and her eyes, and while he listened to her words. His disgruntled heart suddenly rattled.
He instinctively reached for her hand.
Chen Rong, however, gracefully turned away and walked to the sunset.
In the twinkling of an eye, her figure had been shrouded under the golden evening light, brilliantly, dazzlingly, and beyond reach.
She slowly went to the window.
Looking at the mountains in the far distance and the gradually setting sun, Chen Rong’s laughter was calm and indifferent. “I’m sure there is no shortage of uncommonly beautiful girls at the Wang House of Lang’ya. Now that I think about it, as soon as you developed awareness of the opposite sex, your family must have let your heart’s desire stay by your side. And when you fell in love, they must have cruelly destroyed everything to make you realize such a woman was unworthy of your love… I bet no woman in this world can ever be worthy of your love?”
She suddenly returned and smiled like a flower. “That day when I woke up in your bed, I had asked you if you would marry me. Your reply was that I could still be your honored concubine.”
She approached him, her figure swaying in the golden light. She smiled at him and placed her hand on his chest, softly saying: “Although I had expected that answer, only when I really heard your reply did I thoroughly understand that Ah Rong of the Chen House will never be more than the concubine title you promise me. You merely wanted to repay me for risking my life with you in Mo’yang.”
She walked up to him, encircled his neck and continued to smilingly say: “For me, this heartache is nothing. Sitting alone night after night until dawn comes is also nothing.”
Wang Hong’s lips quivered.
Chen Rong bloomed into a smile, uttering each word like stone and iron: “Now you know. Even if I love you again, I’ll never become your plaything.”
She took his hand and placed it on her chest. Waves rippled in her eyes like an autumn pond – a goddess’s seduction. “Qilang, even when I am conferred the title of Grand Chamberlain I will still be your mistress. But I’ll call you what I want, whether it’s Qilang, my lord, or my husband. So whether we live together or apart, whether you abandon me or protect me, you can do as you wish.”