Chapter 1: For what?
It was another full moon night.
Behind the silk screens in the storied loft, candle wax slowly dripped, highlighting a pair of shadows that were joining as one.
Chen Rong stood dazedly under a banyan tree as she motionlessly watched the couple clinging to each other, her lips pressing into a tight line unknowingly.
In the burning lamplight, a sound of laughter unbrokenly came her way. It was jubilant and bright, as if pain never existed in this world, as if it were the brilliance of spring flowers themselves.
A soft voice unexpectedly rose behind her: “So it’s you? Hadn’t His Lordship abandoned you? Why are you still here? Oh, that’s right, at your tearful request, he had agreed to let you stay a few more days.”
With these vicious words came a burst of fragrance. A dainty figure was now standing next to Chen Rong’s side. She followed Chen Rong’s gaze, and when she saw the pair of joined shadows on the storied loft, her lips drew into a hard line.
Nevertheless, though her eyes were filled with jealousy, she became delighted at the sight of Chen Rong standing in a daze. Her soft laughter sounded again: “Dear me, is that not your cousin? You did everything possible to get rid of her so that His Lordship would take you as his wife. You must not have thought that what isn’t yours would never belong to you and that one day your cousin would still come back to take what was her.”
The dainty woman clucked her tongue and smiled. “Scheming all sorts of calculations only to get discarded. Ah Rong of the Chen house, if I were you, I’d set myself on fire to erase it all!”
She offered one line after another, aggressive and vicious. But no matter how taunting and sarcastic she may be, the rival in front of her never spoke a word. At this moment, Chen Rong who had always been contentiously insidious seemed to have become a whole other person. She was just staring away at the entwining shadows behind the screens, motionlessly and with an ashen face.
Not receiving a response, the dainty woman gave a laugher. “Oh that’s right, I heard that after His Lordship married you, he had not touched you once. Tsk, tsk, tsk, how regrettable for the famed beautiful and talented Ah Rong of the Chen house. His Lordship had always looked down on you!”
Her words were like a sword that drew blood from Chen Rong’s heart.
This translation belongs to hamster428.
With a rustle, Chen Yong who had been standing in a daze suddenly turned around.
In her lifeless eyes was a frightening dreariness. The moment she saw her glare, the dainty woman could not help herself from retreating backward.
Chen Rong took a step toward her.
Stunned, she retreated while hastily demanding: “You… what do you want to do?”
Chen Rong faced the panicking woman with a cold smile. Unknowingly, she had forced her to press back against the banyan tree.
At the time the woman’s scream was heard, only a cold light flashed by. “Thud,” a dagger had flown past her hair and firmly drove into the trunk, three inches deep.
The dainty woman gave a frightful scream.
“Shut up!” Chen Rong growled a growl full of murderous intent. The woman shuddered and actually closed her mouth.
Chen Rong stared at her. Under the moonlight, her eyes were as dark and deep as wolves’.
“Originally,” she coldly began, “I was going to kill you. But after thinking about it, you are quite adept at pretending that you’ve always managed to draw his attention. If I keep you alive, I can still give that cousin of mine some heartaches.”
At this, Chen Rong withdrew her dagger with a quick motion of the wrist. As soon as her dagger entered her sleeve, a burst of rapid footsteps arrived. Several guards shouted: “Who’s here? Do we have assassins?”
“Nothing,” both women answered at the same time.
The guards could see the two woman glancing at each other and receding to the back. Lady Chen and Lady Lu had never gotten along; it was guaranteed to be fussy whenever they were together, and thus they had become accustomed to it.
As soon as the guards went away, Chen Rong flapped her sleeve and turned to leave.
Lady Lu watched her receding figure and for some reason suddenly felt a biting chill. She shivered and thought to herself that it was actually quite sad for someone as proud as Chen Rong to love a man as heartless as their master.
At this thought, Lady Lu gave a sigh and dejectedly walked toward her own courtyard.
No sooner had she stepped into her yard did she suddenly hear a loud explosion from the east wing. She whipped around only to find smoke billowing in the east, firelight aglow.
“Bring water, bring water!”
This translation belongs to hamster428.
Bouts of shouts and stomping feet gave rise. Lady Lu’s heart suddenly jumped. Without putting on her outer robe, she hastily headed to the east wing – that was Chen Rong’s courtyard. With that woman’s obstinacy, she might have really listened to her and set herself on fire.
As Lady Lu rushed over, she happened to see their master and his newly married wife also running toward the east wing from the main hall.
All three headed for the east wing.
The moment they entered the courtyard, a sudden burst of mad laughter rang. In the hoarseness was boundless pain and hatred, and even regret.
Lady Lu took a few unsteady steps forward. When she looked up, her face was drained of its color.
In the crackling fire, the eastern half of the building had collapsed, leaving only the wall in the far west corner standing. It was nevertheless also beginning to sway. Billowing smoke had consumed the entire courtyard. In the rolling flames, the woman dressed in silk with long loose hair gazed heavenward and laughed. Wasn’t she Chen Rong?
She… she was serious!
Lady Lu’s face grew ashen. She staggered one step backward. At this time, an indescribable pity and sadness swept over her.
All of a sudden, she heard their master’s command: “Saver her. Save her!”
After those few urgent words, she heard him ask: “What caused the fire?”
“Her Ladyship, that is, the Chen woman dismissed us and then set the fire herself.”
Shock emerged on their master’s face. He hastily turned around to search for Chen Rong from the flames. Under the night sky, his cold voice sounded: “Chen Rong, for what must you do this?”
Illuminated by bright red flames, on that imperiously handsome face was a touch of ill-concealed dismay.
Chen Rong did not answer from the blazing sea. She only stared at her husband unblinkingly while laughing madly. She gazed skyward and, with open arms, laughed till she went hoarse, sounding as if she was singing an epic poem while also as if she was weeping. A flame wrapped her up as her painful laughter became increasingly louder in its madness.
At this sight, her husband frowned and waved his hand, coldly shouting: “If she wants to die, then let her.” Then he flapped his sleeve and unconcernedly walked away, leaving behind the woman to be gradually swallowed by fire.
Lady Lu watched their master’s unfeeling back in shock. At this moment, a bone-deep chill took over her entire being. She hastily turned to look at Chen Rong to see that she was laughing harder and harder. Though she was laughing, Lady Lu could see two streaks of tears falling from Chen Rong’s face, dripping into the fire and turning into ashes. What she saw even more clearly was a tearful Chen Rong, who had been laughing madly, slowly choking smaller laughter in self-disdain and pain. She heard her loud and clear: “For what! For what! For what…”
The laughter became smaller and smaller and gradually abated into nothingness.
This translation belongs to hamster428.
A scream tore across the night sky. Chen Rong sat up and placed her hand on her chest, gasping for air.
After heaving for a while, she left her bed and followed the lamp light toward the bronze mirror on the table.
In the bronze mirror was a young girl, delicate and beautiful. At this second, her face was dripping with cold sweat, horror and madness remained in her widened eyes.
Slowly raising her sleeve, she wiped the sweat from her face.
Hasty footsteps arrived from the room next door as a gentle, concerned voice came to her from the doorway: “Ah Rong, did you have a nightmare?”
Chen Rong turned her back, took a breath and replied: “I’m all right now.”
Behind the door, a woman’s head poked in. She glanced toward Chen Rong’s figure and whispered a consolation: “We have clan people in the south. Ah Rong, don’t be too worried.”
“I know. You may leave.”
Hearing her footsteps slowly receding, Chen Rong again stretched her sleeve to dab her sweat. She turned and walked to the dressing table, sitting down opposite the bronze mirror.
The beautiful young girl in the mirror was opening her black, bottomless eyes to look back at her.
Ah Rong’s mouth slowly raised, revealing fine white teeth. She whispered, “It’s all passed and will never happen again, right?”
The person in the mirror replied with a brilliant smile.
Watching this smile, Chen Rong looked to be very satisfied. She rose, picked up an ox horn comb and slowly combed her tangled hair.
In the mirror, she was only 14 or 15 years old. She was not yet developed though her youthful innocence barely concealed a gorgeous face.
She had returned to the past.
All madness, all obsessive love, all obstinacy, all resentment and pain, everything had simply turned into a memory after waking up!
She could remember all the experiences she had gone through, and yet her body was still at the tender age of fifteen.
She was still herself; nothing had changed. The only thing that changed was time. The heavens were playing with her, letting her return to a time when nothing had yet occurred.
This year, due to the imminent war, she and everyone in the City of Ping would be rushing south. She would return to her clan and then encounter the nightmare of her life.
But it wasn’t to be a nightmare this time. Chen Rong smiled at her reflection in the mirror, her hand stroking her face, whispering: “You were too stupid before. Since the heavens have let you start over again, you must control the pieces in this new chess game. What say you, Chen Rong?”
The person in the mirror once again answered her with a brilliant smile.