Chapter 32: A Phoenix’s Love Song 1
Chapter 32: A Phoenix’s Love Song (1)
Though Chen Rong’s gait was seemingly relaxed, in reality, she was walking very fast. By the time Nurse Ping and Old Shang chased out, she had arrived at the main hall.
There was heavy traffic here, with both vehicles and people flittering to and fro. Not ones to dare raise their voices in such location, Nurse Ping and Old Shang could only pick up the pace and secretly try to dissuade Chen Rong.
The banquet had gone on for four hours by now. The night sky was illuminated by a bright moon, chilled by a passing wind. The feast would probably end within another hour.
Chen Rong kept her head low. At the time she left, she had deliberately powdered her face to make it pale. Her diminished liveliness, in turn, gave her a touch of demureness.
Chen Rong arrived outside of the main hall. Seeing Nurse Ping and Old Shang nearing, she ordered: “Prepare a table for me.”
“But miss –”
Listening to the pair of them steadfastly dissuading her, Chen Rong sighed as she was forced to explain: “Nurse, Old Shang, I heard today from my uncle that the clan means to give me as a concubine to the Prince of Nan’yang.”
Her servants covered their mouths, uttering a low gasp.
Fortunately, the three of them stood in a shaded area and did not call attention to themselves.
Chen Rong smiled wryly. “You must’ve heard about the hundreds of different women in his inner quarters. As if that’s not enough, he adds more to his collection each day! My life is as good as gone if I join his harem.” She sighed and barked, “Go, I have my plans.”
“Say no more. Think about it, have I made a wrong decision in the past few months?”
These words were actually justified. They looked at each other and then retreated.
In only moments, Nurse Ping had moved a table and placed it under a large tree.
Chen Rong raised her head and stared at the lighted hall. There, ringing laughter and merry music filled the air. The people inside all seemed to her an unearthly type, as though they never had any worries or troubles like her.
Chen Rong lowered her eyes and slowly knelt down by her table.
And then she slightly lifted her hands.
Forthwith, a series of flowing notes wound their way around strands of autumn wind and gradually rose.
Like the melancholic season, the music lightly came and lightly went. Besides softly tickling its listeners, it did not leave behind any other message.
Gradually, the zither notes deepened and soared to the sky. They passed through layers of clouds and across marshes and fields, and then abruptly, a shadow came into view. Thereupon, the song’s spirit was no longer the same, as if the heart was finally old…
Chen Rong was playing “The Phoenix’s Love Song” (1) that Sima Xiangru had played to court Zhuo Wenjun long ago. But because their circumstances were different, her song had an overwhelming melancholy of one who yearns for the unattainable and the despair of one who admires from afar and never to join wings.
鳳求凰 (lit. The Male Phoenix Seeks The Female Phoenix) – known in history as the song that famous poet Sima Xiangru of Western Han played to court his wife, the widowed Zhuo Wenjun.
Such melancholy and despair gave this courtship song a faint desolation as well as a sadness of separation. It contained part acceptance and part wistfulness.
The guest hall was still noisy at the time Chen Rong’s zither sounded. Gradually, however, the music slowly trickled into the merry scene and became its main melody.
Slowly, one or two individuals came out, looking in the direction of the music.
And slowly, more people came out of the hall, their jesting sounds dissolving into the floating music.
Chen Rong did not notice any of this.
She merely kept her head down, her porcelain hands sweeping across the strings, her facial features shadowed by the season’s sorrow. In the silver light, her small, exquisite face was slightly pale, but the pallor contrasted her yellow and purple gown to reflect a certain ruefulness.
Under the moonlight, sparse leaves obscured her beautiful face in half darkness.
Chen Wei widened her eyes, staring in disbelief at the zither player under the tree. After staring for a while, she laughed out loud along with the nearby girls.
“Heavens, isn’t this Ah Rong of Ping? Why is she playing ‘The Phoenix’s Love Song’?”
“Heehee, this is definitely very interesting.”
“I wonder whom she is playing it for?”
“Yes, I wonder which gentleman she has fallen for?”
“No matter which gentleman he is, with her status, she’d only be able to confess her feelings in heartbreak this way.”
Ripples of laughter, murmurs, and judgment replaced all the pipes, songs, and dances.
Increasingly more people followed out in the courtyard. Among them were youngsters who poured out to appraise the solitary figure playing under the tree canopy.
Before anyone could realize, the laughter diminished with each passing second.
Perhaps it was due to the fact the zither player had seemed a little too lonely. Her loneliness was one of eternal solitude, of never receiving love, and of admiring one’s love from far away.
In this world, what can be more painful than the thirst for the unattainable and the inability to near those we love?
Listening to the clamor outside growing louder, the plump Prince of Nan’yang turned his head and asked in surprise: “What is happening?”
An aide in his fifties went to his side, smiled and answered, “I’m not sure which lad she has fallen for, but a beautiful maiden from the House of Chen is playing ‘The Phoenix’s Love Song’.”
The Prince of Nan’yang chuckled and said, “Is that so? What a romantic thing to do! Go, go, let us also take a look.” He turned around and called, “Qilang, let’s go together.” No sooner had he called than he began to laugh awkwardly: “It seems Qilang has long gone.”
“Aye, Qilang is young lad after all. How can he not be curious when something so amorous occurs?”
“Enough talking. Let’s go and see.”
Supported by his aide, the Prince of Nan’yang slowly stepped out. As others made way for him, he came behind Wang Hong and saw that he was staring into the courtyard. The prince laughed heartily while asking: “Which beauty has caused Qilang to stare in beguilement like this?”
When he finished, he also turned his head looking in the direction of the music.
At this glance, the Prince of Nan’yang froze as his eyes affixed on Chen Rong unblinkingly, asking his aide: “This young lady is exceedingly beautiful. Is she a daughter from Chen house?”
The scrawny advisor was in his fifties. Also a lecherous man, he knew exactly what was in the prince’s mind. He leaned over and whispered: “Not only is she a Chen lady, but she is also the lady that Wang Qilang was asking about at the banquet just now!”
“Is that so?”
“I dare not deceive you.”
“Good, good.” The Prince of Nan’yang cheerfully turned his head to take a serious appraisal of Chen Rong. The more he looked, the more brightly his eyes lit up.
Upon seeing this, the advisor stroked his sparse beard and smilingly said, “This damsel is even prettier than the courtesans at the banquet. Your Highness, you’re quite lucky when it comes to women.” He again leaned into the prince and whispered, “Chen Yuan had mentioned her to me just now at the banquet. He also said that if you like her, she can be sent over at any time.”
The Prince of Nan’yang was pleased to hear this. He slapped his thigh and said in good humor: “Good, good. Good for Chen Yuan!”