Chapter 18: The Trap on the Other Side
Because they would be crossing the Yellow River the next day to go to Luo’yang, everyone rested for half an hour and then returned to camp.
They set out at daybreak the next morning, reaching their destination in just ten miles. Rolling water called to their ears at the same time a line of moored ships emerged along the river bank.
There were big ones, small ones, old ones, and new ones. The nobility groused upon seeing these ships – their complaints nothing more than why there were so many small and old vessels, for such crudeness and dirtiness were not befitting their status.
“These are the only ships we have,” shouted one of the well-known scholars. “Those behind you even need to build temporary ones to cross the water.”
Another lad also shouted: “Say no more. Fortunately, we left early. Had we been late, we wouldn’t even have a ship to sit on.”
The grumbling gradually ceased at the double remarks.
At this time, the guards began to organize the crowd and prepared to board. Larger ships carried the carriages while smaller ones carried guards and servants.
There were not many large ships, however. After assigning places, many members of the nobility had to ride on the smaller ones.
Because Chen Rong was the sole master of the Chen house, and because she had also made good merits on the journey, they were able to board a larger ship with their carriages.
The rowdiness transpired for half a day until noon, at which time all the ships finally started moving.
On the oscillating waves, Chen Rong saw those on the smaller boats praying for a peaceful voyage.
Good luck indeed smiled upon everyone, for they had a very peaceful voyage. It made sense, since the Central Plains were going through a dry-spell presently. Otherwise, it could be very dangerous if they were to encountering stormy weather on the water.
This translation belongs to hamster428.
The long line of vessels meandered its way to the other side.
It felt to be a long time, but also only a brief moment. “We can see the banks! We can see the banks!” These cheers came to Chen Rong while she was sitting in her carriage, spreading far and wide.
After half an hour passed by, a surprised voice abruptly sounded: “Hey, what are those black spots on the other side? Are they people? Or perhaps our clans have sent people waiting for us?”
People at once looked up; their chattering filled the air. Amid the cheers, Chen Rong’s face was one of indifference.
When the cheers outside had gradually subsided, Wang Wulang’s hasty voice at last called to her: “Ah Rong of the Chen house, Ah Rong of the Chen house, come and take a look. Aren’t these people all Hu soldiers?”
In his voice was evident panic.
Chen Rong lifted her curtain.
She had barely poked her head out when everyone on the large ship turned to look at her. There was hope interspersed with dismay and panic in their eyes. Looking at these people’s hopeful eyes, Chen Rong smiled wryly and thought to herself: You all can’t really be thinking that a woman such as myself will be able to come up with a way out?
Wang Wulang stepped forward and regarded anxiously, asking again: “Ah Rong, what do you think?”
Chen Rong nodded and murmured: “They are indeed soldiers.” She did not mention anything about the barbarians.
At her words, Wang Wulang staggered several steps backward, almost slumping to the ground.
He was better than the nearby young men who had begun to tremble with fear.
A cry came from the next ship over, the bewailing of a thin boy: “How can there be soldiers? What are we going to do? What are we going to do?”
The boy’s crying attracted the crowd’s sympathy. Momentarily, sobs and screams arose all around.
Fear is contagious. Instantly, cries and screams, thuds of kneeling and kowtow, and even frantic splashes of those who jumped into the water ceaselessly came into ears.
Amid the panic, the ships started to lose their control.
This translation belongs to hamster428.
At this very moment, Wang Hong’s honorable voice shouted: “Don’t panic! Boatmen, helm your ships!”
His strong plea brought everyone back, and the crowd slowly quieted down.
“Turn around, let’s turn around!” someone else yelled.
“We must never turn back!” Wang Hong opposed in a stern manner.
Many looked at him in surprise. In the meanwhile, Chen Rong’s team had turned to look behind them — up till now, the ships were speeding up while marching forward without paying any attention. At this time, all of them were crowded together. If the boatmen were not careful, the ships would ram into one another let alone being able to make a turn.
It is of relevance to say that these nobles had lived in the north for so many years that they were afraid to even see a river and simply did not know how to swim. One improper movement would send all the ships colliding and overturning people into the water.
While everybody was busy thinking of how to turn around, dozens of ships suddenly emerged upstream on the other side. This fleet had evidently been renovated to add more speed. Before they knew it, these ships had reached them.
As the crowd was caught in a frenzy, those large ships lined up and push them to the shore.
They were forcing them to come ashore!
As realization dawned upon them, people’s faces began to drain like a sheet of paper. In this panic, Wang Hong shouted: “Everyone, calm down. As long as they are not barbarians, there is nothing to worry about!”
The crowd finally reacted to these words. Yes. The ships behind them and the people ashore ahead of them were all Hans. As long as they were Hans, even if their banners did not show that they belonged to the royal house of Jin, they would not act in the ways of the ruthless.
While reassuring themselves so, the ships sped toward the riverbank.
Near Chen Rong, several shaking youngsters clustered together, their teeth chattering in fear.
Once the ships docked, respected scholars such as Wang Hong straightened their backs and cheerfully talked as they walked ashore.
With their lead, the crowd no longer hesitated. Both men and carriages soon arrived at the river bank.
A dozen scholars ordered the crowd to line the carriages up. Afterward, Wang Hong went to the front. He raised his clasped hands toward the expressionless and motionless soldiers, announcing: “I am Lang’ya Wang Qi. I and the nobility across the state would like to offer our greetings.”
At this juncture, he pointed to the carriages in the back: “Please take the properties you see behind us. I only ask that you let us go and allow us to return to Luo’yang with our robes unstained.”
His resounding voice shot through the clouds.
At length, a long burst of laughter rang out.
Amid this loud laughter, a burst of hooves shot to the crowd, causing the stoic soldiers to clear the way.
A young man in purple was galloping forward at the end of the road. Mingling with his laughter was the flapping of his long dark cape in the wind.
The crowd fought for breath at his arrival.
This translation belongs to hamster428.
Society in this era preferred a frail and androgynous beauty. Yet the young man standing before them was not fair, had chiseled features, a pair of deep eyes, and a defined straight nose.
If one were to speak of his features, then there were almost no flaws on his face – it was the sort the heavens had specially sculpted. Most importantly, his waving purple cape and imposing presence exuded a different handsomeness from the frail men of words. A very uninhibited, very feral, but also very blinding handsomeness.
After the cavalry galloped to the nobles, the young man alighted from his horse and walked to them in majestic strides.
Now that he was standing on level ground, the scholars discovered that he was a tall man, with wide shoulders and a tapered waist. He was yet near but already felt to them threateningly imposing.
He stopped in front of Wang Hong and company and then turned his head to survey the crowd. His deep eyes seemed to contain a moving flame while also bearing an endless darkness. Wherever his eyes swept, they would force the noble youngsters to hold their breath and retreat backward.
His eyes finally returned to Wang Hong, accompanied by a dazzling smile. He clasped his hands together and spoke loud and clear to the crowd: “I, Ran Min, am delighted to hear that you have arrived from afar. I’ve specially ordered my men to wait here for you.”
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