Chapter 162: Two Gifts
Wang Hong was still looking at her quietly.
At last, he dropped his gaze and sighed, “Ah Rong.” Sounding somewhat rueful, he looked outside as he said, “When I promised to make you my concubine, I…” His throat felt dry. “It wasn’t because you risked your life in Mo’yang with me.”
His hands slowly extended to weigh on her shoulders. At the moment he touched her, Chen Rong could feel that his hands were shaking.
“I really truly like you, Ah Rong. I really don’t want you to be someone else’s wife.”
As if he didn’t know how to continue, his eyes averted outside the window. His ever elegant face was now somewhat discomposed.
Chen Rong fluttered a glance at him and then retreated to the back.
She had scarcely moved before his hold on her shoulders tightened, so that she could only stand opposite him to look at him like this.
She couldn’t move, so she didn’t.
She obligingly rested in his arms, quiet and peaceful.
At this time, the setting sunset spread its golden light through the screens and onto their hair and robes.
Time had ceased to flow.
Wang Hong continued to hold Chen Rong’s shoulders while his eyes stared off into the distance. At long last he recovered from this state to say: “Ah Rong, no woman has ever held the Grand Chamberlain title, let alone a nun. Even if you accept His Majesty’s edict, no one will take it seriously.”
“I know,” came her reply.
Wang Hong’s hand wavered between moving up and staying put. Slowly, it gently tipped her face so that he could look at her. His throat bobbed again as he said, “The Sima family is casual in their conducts… When you are with him you must watch your words and actions. Better he scold you than making a mistake.”
He caressed her hair and added after some thought: “The Grand Chamberlain is a courtier title. If His Majesty calls for you, go and see him. If he doesn’t, you may sleep in, or have a chat with other people. If others talk about the current affairs or the war in Nan’yang and Mo’yang, you should change the subject to discuss scenery, music, or even the trends in fashion, but you must never speak imprudence.”
This was a earnest reminder.
In his arms, Chen Rong momentarily lapsed into a daydream: This aristocrat who is holding me in his arms, this Wang House of Lang’ya heir who is more admired than the emperor, the most famous nobleman of them all… might actually love me. What an absolutely wonderful illusion.
She closed her eyes, lips tugging into a smile.
But even she smiled, her expression was still one of coolness and calm.
Wang Hong bowed his head.
He held her face in both hands and looked down at her.
“You have a unique identity. Now that you are appointed Grand Chamberlain, public attention cannot be avoided. I can’t explain everything clearly in such a short time.”
He took the sachet from his belt and wore it on her.
Chen Rong looked at the sachet wondering, “You gave me one before.”
“This is different from the previous one. I’ve worn this sachet since I was twelve; my people will all recognize it. Wear it when you go to the palace from now on. If anything happens someone will come to your aid.”
Chen Rong hummed a reply.
Wang Hong slowly raised his head.
He fixedly looked at her.
He suddenly smiled wryly and said, “Perhaps I was wrong.”
Chen Rong blinked, quizzically looked at him.
Wang Hong reached out to her face, his slender fingers caressing her brows, her eyes, her nose. Slowly, he lowered his head, softly brought his lips to her forehead, and gently said, “Ah Rong, believe me… I never intended to toy with you.”
At this time, he slowly let go of her and turned to the door.
He stopped midway to look over his shoulder at Chen Rong.
In the golden sunlight, his face looked as though it had been painted, his cloudless eyes filled to the brim with tenderness.
Chen Rong couldn’t afford this gentleness, so she dropped her gaze and avoided his eyes.
At length, Wang Hong sighed and quietly stepped out the door.
The wooden door kept rattling in the evening wind.
By the time Chen Rong followed his steps to the doorway, Wang Hong had gotten onto his carriage.
As if he could sense her gaze, he lifted the curtains and turned around, but Chen Rong had closed the wooden door behind her.
Some time later, a series of footsteps sounded.
Chen Rong softly called, “Nurse.”
Her lips quivered before saying: “Return Qilang’s clothes after they’re washed.” When Ran Min injured him, Wang Hong had changed his outfit.
Nurse Ping perplexedly looked at her for a while and then nodded, “Aye.”
Seeing Chen Rong no longer speak, Nurse Ping stepped to her and whispered, “Miss, what exactly were going on with the imperial decrees?”
After waiting for some time without hearing an answer, Nurse Ping suddenly remembered something else. “That’s right miss, your brother came by shortly after you went to the palace this morning. He seemed to be in a hurry, as if there was something important.”
Chen Rong looked up and asked, “How does he look? Is he injured or is he sick?”
Nurse Ping paused to think and then shook her head.
“If he’s not injured or ill, then it isn’t serious,” Chen Rong smiled. Even if it was, she reckoned it was only to do with his fishwife and her brothers.
While they talked, another series of footsteps approached them. Soon, Yinggu’s voice spoke from the steps: “Priestess, His Majesty sent five bodyguards as a gift to you.”
Chen Rong quickly raised her head looking to Ying’gu.
Ying’gu respectfully bowed to her. “I have made arrangements for His Majesty’s people.” She added, “Additionally, they reminded you not to be late to tomorrow’s morning court session.”
Morning court session?
Chen Rong rounded her eyes.
At this time, Ying’gu bowed before Chen Rong with a wooden box raised over her. “This is a present from His Majesty. Because the messenger came and went in a hurry, he told us not to disturb you. I accepted it on your behalf.”
The emperor sent me a gift?
Chen Rong went to her, lifting the red cloth to reveal a small wooden box with exquisite engravings of rivers and hills.
She took it into her hand and, after admiring it awhile, smiled and said, “How very lovely.”
She laughed as she opened the wooden box.
A jade piece lay inside, on it the engraving: “Like His Majesty himself.”
Like His Majesty himself? Chen Rong unknowingly read it aloud.
Ying’gu gasped to hear these words. Dumbstruck, she stared at the jade piece and blurted: “T-this has ‘Like His Majesty himself’ engraved on it?!”
Chen Rong couldn’t help but frown to hear her blurt out like this.
Her dissatisfaction went unnoticed. Ying’gu rounded her eyes staring at the jade piece in shock as she murmured, “Like His Majesty himself? Like His Majesty himself!”
After reciting it several times, she raised her head and cried to Chen Rong: “Congratulations, congratulations, priestess!”
She deeply bowed to a puzzled Chen Rong and happily exclaimed, “With the protection of this jade charm, no one will dare to harm you without thinking twice about it. My congratulations, priestess.”
No one will dare to harm me?
Chen Rong deadpanned at first, and then couldn’t help but laugh.
“No one will dare to harm me?” she laughed and walked forward. When she arrived at a pine tree, she reached out to stroke the time worn trunk. “No one will dare to harm me?”
For some reason, her eyes were glistening though she was laughing.
Ying’gu approached her from behind and said, “Priestess, this jade piece is priceless, you must never lose it or break it.”
“Hmm,” Chen Rong nodded with a shudder.
Ying’gu looked at her and sighed, “His Majesty treats you so well.”
Chen Rong turned to look at the cloud strewn summit with a light smile. “Aye, it’s rare to have someone treat me so well.” I only hope that this luck will stay to the very end. With this thought, Chen Rong laughed at herself.
“I should let Qilang know about this wonderful news,” Ying’gu said to her. “Would that be all right?”
Chen Rong smiled, stroking the jade piece. “Go.”
Her footsteps went away but soon returned. Without waiting for Chen Rong to ask, Ying’gu clasped her hands to relay: “Priestess, the Chen House of Jiankang has sent someone to invite you over for a banquet tonight. How would you like to answer?”
The clansmen sent someone?
I thought we aren’t related anymore? Right, they must have heard the rumors and now they are sending someone here. If they really think highly of me, why didn’t the punctilious Chen House of Jiankang send the invitation earlier, but wait until dusk?
As these thoughts came to her, Chen Rong shook her head: “Tell them I’m tired and have gone to bed.”
Chen Rong stared after Yinggu’s retreating figure and then turned to look at the clouds below. At this time, Yinggu’s footsteps sounded again, followed by her voice: “Priestess, there is an old friend who insists on seeing you. Will you allow him in?”
An old friend?
Chen Rong turned around.
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