Chapter 171: No Longer the Same
Chen Rong stared at the words on the letter for a long time and at last turned around to say to a few of her guards: “Stick close to me.”
Sun Yan laughed, “Aren’t you being too cautious, Ah Rong?”
Chen Rong waved her hand to gesture the carriage over. “I can never be too cautious. Someone had used his name to invite me out that day in Nan’yang.”
“I don’t know,” Chen Rong shook her head. “The only people I offended then were Chen Yuan’s family; it’s most probably them.”
Sun Yan frowned. “How can you not know something so important? That’s right, didn’t Chen Yuan and his family also come to Jiankang? I’ll go question them tomorrow.” He had seen Chen Yuan before, and his family was now destitute. With Sun Yan’s status, he only needed to send a servant to do the questioning.
Chen Rong nodded. Her carriage had driven over by this time. Seeing that she was mounting it, Sun Yan also went to his own.
He turned back at Chen Rong, saying: “Ah Rong, your sister-in-law… is the kind of person with insatiable greed. If she continues to bother you, I can scare her off for you.”
Having just seated, Chen Rong couldn’t help but turn to look at Sun Yan. She smiled with warmth and gratitude. Embarrassed, Sun Yan scratched his neck and dashed into his carriage.
The two went their own way.
It had been less than a hundred paces before Nurse Ping and Old Shang ran up to her. They ran and called to her from the distance: “Miss, miss.”
Chen Rong looked up to see them crying. “What is it?” she asked, slightly amused.
“Our congratulations, miss,” Old Shang said in a trembling voice. He bowed toward the imperial palace and thanked, “Long live His Majesty.”
Nurse Ping and the others were quick to follow suit.
Chen Rong glanced to see watchful eyes all around them. “Alright alright, let’s talk once we’re inside.”
When she saw Old Shang drive the carriage over, Chen Rong quietly said to him, “Find a chance to take all of our money out.”
Old Shang understood that there were now many things his mistress needed to spend money on. He nodded.
“Miss,” Nurse Ping called from behind at this time.
Chen Rong turned around.
Nurse Ping neared and whispered to her, “Miss, the master and young master came over.” While Chen Rong quizzically looked at her, the older woman added, “Master has left that vile woman.”
Chen Rong smiled to hear this.
“I’m afraid she won’t give up so easily, so I arranged for him to live in the temple.”
Chen Rong carelessly replied, “Why should we be afraid of some thugs?” She was never the unkind one. It was fine if that woman stay put, but if she dared to stir the pot, she shall see how many lives she had.
“Aye, my young lady isn’t one to be afraid of her.”
Nurse Ping looked at Chen Rong in comfort, thinking to herself: My mistress is highly regarded by His Majesty. Not only did he give her farmland and a hamlet, he even allowed her to have young men… Doesn’t this mean that she can have descendants to inherit these wealth?
The young lady having her own descendants is a good thing in the mind of servants like Nurse Ping. To them, husbands were far less reliable than one’s children. As long as her mistress had a filial son in her old age, what did it matter whether she was married or not?
Nurse Ping was pleased that the young lady had kept to her insistence. If she had gotten married and even as Wang Qi’s honored concubine, she wouldn’t have had today’s glory.
Seeing that her servants were all smiles, Chen Rong couldn’t help from tugging the corners of her lips.
Yet she couldn’t be in the same high spirits, for close to the emperor was a precarious place to be. Her position was far less secure than her servants thought it to be.
Chen Rong took her servants home, introduced them to the guards, and then delegated tasks to them. Afterward, she took ten guards with her to the spring.
After the delay, the sun had set behind the mountain and night fog had begun to shroud the land.
The world could be plagued by chaos but Jiankang would always be in peace. A stormy weather was clearly brewing yet amusement had become a habit here. The festivity especially came alive at night.
The streets were awash with light. Candles floated in the water by the wooden bridge and sky lanterns dotted the sky.
Carriages and pedestrians flitted to and fro on the street.
As Chen Rong listened to the surrounding and met a gaze from time to time, she suddenly realized that she hadn’t experienced this peace in a very long time.
The carriage left the hamlet’s drive and entered another street.
The main street was much more festive compared to the smaller alleys. Afar, bright red lanterns and beautiful girls formed a dazzling sight.
While Chen Rong raised her head to admire the scenery, two shadows suddenly jumped in front of her carriage.
Two halberds at once pointed at them.
“Don’t, don’t, I’m Ah Rong’s uncle,” a familiar voice sounded. “Ah Rong, it’s me. Ha ha, it’s so hard to see you these days.”
It was Chen Yuan’s voice.
As Chen Rong took a closer look, Chen Yuan shrank back and hid the patch on his right sleeve when he saw her looking at him.
Chen Rong nodded to the two guards, so that after they withdrew their halberds, she knitted her brow at Chen Yuan and Chen Sanlang. “Sir Chen, have you come with instructions for me?”
She did not call Chen Yuan ‘uncle’.
Chen Yuan’s face twitched to hear this. He secretly ground his teeth but the smile on his face grew ever more flattering. In reality, Chen Rong was still a nun who did not belong to the secular world and who was no longer surnamed Chen. He couldn’t admonish her for not calling him uncle.
Chen Yuan strode to Chen Rong’s carriage with a forced smile on his face. When he was almost near her, Chen Rong narrowed her eyes at which time two guards shouted: “Get up.”
Chen Rong’s face displayed neither joy nor anger to see Chen Yuan almost keeling over. But Chen Yuan’s face momentarily turned purple, for humiliation surged at him like a tide. A niece whose life had once been in his hands, who never dared to make a breathing sound – that extremely lowly and powerless girl was now looking down at him from above and almost humiliated him.
Chen Rong quietly enjoyed Chen Yuan’s hatred and shame. She unhurriedly lifted her chin and haughtily said, “If you have nothing to say, then pardon me for not staying.”
“Wait, wait,” Chen Yuan called. This time, before he could say more, Chen Sanlang quietly said, “Father, it’s no use.”
He bowed his head and pulled Chen Yuan’s sleeve, “It’s no use, it’s absolutely no use, so why humiliate ourselves?”
Chen Rong’s carriage was already driving away while Chen Yuan was still staring after it. His face turned livid looking at the flying dust. He gritted his teeth and made a growl from deep inside his throat.
After a while, he said with a gnashing voice, “Do you think I want to bow to that wench? But Sanlang, we can only beg her now.”
“Prince Yinglin’s cruelty is infamous. He won’t spare you this time. The Chen House doesn’t let us in their door; they won’t even let us see Ah Wei. Besides begging this whore who else can we ask for help? Who else can we ask for help, Sanlang?”
Chen Sanlang bowed his head at his father’s hoarse questioning.
Chen Yuan’s voice gradually calmed as he stared after Chen Rong’s departure. “The whore hides in her temple all day, and the entire place is guarded by the Wang House of Lang’ya. We couldn’t see her after countless visits. It wasn’t easy to have met her here…”
Before he could finish, Chen Sanlang conceded in shame: “Father, it’s my fault.”
Chen Yuan patted his head. “No, I just couldn’t help my disgust upon seeing her and lost my balance. Don’t blame yourself.”
“Let’s come back tomorrow morning. She’s a woman after all, a flattering sentence or two will do it.”
Chen Sanlang nodded, and father and son turned to leave.
This translation belongs to hamster428.
As the carriage slowly moved, Chen Rong’s voice sounded: “Make my orders known: if anyone sees those two again he is to chase them away. I don’t want to have to see them.”
“Aye,” the ten guards replied.
Their voices were orderly and powerful, crisp and spirited. Even though Chen Rong had been mistress of her home in her last life, she couldn’t help but feel commanding and exalted to hear them here and now.
She leaned back and quietly looked at the fireworks on the side of the street, letting her heart slowly calm down.
At this very moment, a deep and powerful drum sounded ahead.
It sounded gloomy and as if it was coming from the sky.
Chen Rong looked up.
One point, two points, …five, six points of bright red lights illuminated the pitch black sky.
While she looked at the lights in surprise, almost suddenly, all the lanterns in front of her were simultaneously lit. Forthwith, a building of lanterns appeared before her eyes.
Like a fairy crane riding the cloud, a long legged and impeccably handsome man appeared to the crowd from the loft.
He was the drummer. His lean and strong muscles moved rhythmically under his wide sleeves to the swelling of the drum.
Despite being used to seeing men like Wang Hong and Sun Yan, Chen Rong couldn’t help herself from staring in a trance. Hearing the screaming and cheering around them, she curiously asked, “Who is he?”
A guard reverently looked at the man and answered her, “He is from the Xie House of Chen County, the famously debonair Xie Heting.”
“Is that him?”
Chen Rong had heard of his name. She nodded and then withdrew her gaze.
Her carriage slowly drove on in the midst of screaming and drumming.
A bustling world existed in front of her and behind her. Chen Rong gazed up at the sky, whispering: “No wonder so many people yearn for Jiankang.”
The baby-faced guard to her left grinned and replied, “Aye, Jiankang accounts for eight of the world’s ten charms.”
“Miss,” he smilingly said to Chen Rong, “your status is no longer the same. With good luck you may be able to meet more famous and beautiful people.”
These words of his…? Chen Rong side-eyed him with a smile, though she did not speak.
She didn’t rush them thus they took their time and went slowly. By the time they reached Xiufeng Spring, it was already dark and the moon had risen to the top of the willow tree.
“Miss, we’re here.” They didn’t know how to address Chen Rong so they called her ‘miss’ the way Old Shang and Nurse Ping called her.
Have they arrived?
“I’m going down to take a stroll.”
Chen Rong jumped down and slowly walked ahead.
She stopped past a row of trees.
The five pavilions in the spring were vacant.
However, a bean-sized light beamed from the right side of the lake.
A similarly faint shadow quietly stood in this faint light.
The wind lifted his sleeves and blew on the rising and falling fireflies around him.
The moonlight spilled from the sky, rendering the reflection of his robe dreamlike in the water.
He did come, and had been here for a long time…
“It’s fine, leave me,” Chen Rong stopped and said to her guards.
When she got to the water’s edge, a small boat was bobbing beneath her feet. She jumped down and took the bamboo pole to row to him.
She soon came to his side.
Now seeing him up close, Chen Rong saw for the first time a muted desolation on his always smiling face.
It was very faint and very light, but it somehow made her heart throb.
She quickly turned her head and re-armed herself.
In the evening breeze, he gazed at the moonlit waves and softly remarked, “You’re late.”
As Chen Rong was about to counter that they hadn’t actually agreed on a time, his smooth voice floated to her: “This is the first time.”
He slowly turned his head, his eyes gleaming in the darkness.
Chen Rong again saw sadness from his eyes.
He gracefully reached out to her, and said almost like a whisper, “Come, go rowing with me.”
She hesitated for a moment before placing her hand onto his palm.
He lightly closed around her delicate fingers and gave a pull.
She took the chance and jumped onto his boat.
He let go of her hand, turned to look at the distant mountain peaks, and softly asked, “Will you row for me?”
Chen Rong bent over to pick up the bamboo pole.
As soon as the pole stirred, the boat shot ahead like an arrow, splashing water in the silver light.
She gave several rows before looking at him. As if he knew she was looking at him, he quietly asked, “Ah Rong, do you want to listen to my flute?”
Without waiting for her reply, he took a jade flute from his sleeve and put it to his lips.
Chen Rong gazed down at the broken moonlight and their reflections in the water. Each time the pole dipped in, the three images rippled apart then came together, then separated again.
At this moment, only the sound of his flute filled heaven and earth.
She wondered what time it was.
When the flute eventually stopped, the boat had gone to the middle of the river. Chen Rong raised her head looking at the tall figure whose back was turned to her. She bit her lips and asked, “Why is it that I don’t see your servants?”
She received no answer.
She bowed her head and concentrated on rowing, gradually bringing them into the mountains. As they listened to the chirping of insects, she quietly said, “His Majesty asked me.”
“He said people are reminding him of your marriage.” She paused to smile to herself. “He asked me whether I wanted him to issue an edict. He only needed to whirl his brush, stamp his seal, and I would become Missus Wang.”
“I refused the offer.”
Chen Rong looked up at him. Her eyes were bright, her smile was without regrets. “I told him that even if I were to marry you I wouldn’t get to sit in peace.”
The handsome man with the jade flute placed on his lips slowly turned around.
In the dark, his eyes twinkled like the stars in the sky.
He looked at her and a slowly smiled.
His smile was like a spring breeze that could sweep away all of the world’s sorrow.
He pushed the jade flute into his sleeve and gently looked at Chen Rong. “I know.”
He smiled at her, his white robe fluttering as though it was floating over the water. “Barely an hour after you were rewarded, His Majesty issued another edict.”
Chen Rong widened her eyes.
Meeting her curious and uneasy gaze, Wang Hong’s eyes curved like the crescent moon. “He wanted to reward you with three pretty boys.”
His voice flowed like spring water: “But before they could be sent to you… I had intercepted and sent them to Princess Qinglin.”