Chapter 141: Pie in the Sky
It took one whole day to have Chen Rong's Daoist name entered into the records.
She had expected it to be a lively day but for some reason, even after all the dust had settled, Xishan Temple saw no spectators.
The sun was now setting to the west.
Chen Rong stood on the mountainside looking down at the vast mountain ranges while feeling an inexplicable fogginess.
She was unmistakably a priestess ordained by the emperor, yet not one person had been sent to the sprawling monastery. No matter how hard she tried to listen, the only sounds she could hear were still her servants' voices.
It was as if her becoming a nun was merely a change of residency.
Chen Rong wondered for a while and then couldn't help laughing: But isn't this better? I just want peace anyway.
At this thought, she turned to go back.
The monastery was very big, with rows upon rows of buildings and at least a hundred and fifty rooms. In the end, Chen Rong chose the safest quarters in the east as her dwelling.
She only brought ten people with her to Jiankang. After leaving two to watch the house she had bought, only eight remained with her at this point. Eight servants and herself totaled nine people. As they listened to the birds and insects, and the growling of beasts behind the mountains where the sun had descended beyond the horizon, the nine of them indeed felt rather desolate in a temple complex that could house over a hundred people.
Chen Rong spent the night listening to the apes and wolves.
This translation belongs to hamster428.
Half a month flew by.
Xishan Temple seemed to have been forgotten during this time. Still no one set foot on its grounds. Sometimes when they heard the rustling of leaves, the servants would turn to see a pair of green wolf eyes. At these times, they would scream and shut the door.
Furthermore, she wasn't sure if His Majesty had forgotten or if there was another reason, but nobody had mentioned the thousand acres of farmland belonging to the temple, or had anybody come to hand her the deeds.
It was as if she and her servants were completely isolated from the outside world by an invisible force.
It was now well into spring. Young buds on the branches were beginning to open, dotting various shades of green across the landscape.
After breakfast, Chen Rong slowly stepped out.
She went to the bluestone steps in front of the temple, looked at the mountain ranges in the distance, took a deep breath and lazily stretched her waist.
"Miss." Nurse Ping was too used to this address to change her habits. Chen Rong had reminded her several times, and the nurse promised she would change but she always soon forgot. When no one was around, Chen Rong just let her be.
Nurse Ping rushed over to Chen Rong and blurted when she saw her smiling: "Miss, the temple's running low on firewood, rice, oil and salt."
After a pause, she softly added, "We've rewarded all of our money on the day of the ceremony. Should we sneak some out again?"
Chen Rong turned around to look at Nurse Ping.
Nurse Ping frowned. "I didn't expect the temple to be this empty. There is really nothing here! If you hadn't brought some money with you, we would have nothing to eat and wear."
Chen Rong also frowned to hear this.
At length, she softly asked, "Nurse, have you found the temple's accounting records?"
"Aye, I have," she replied, nodding her head all the while.
"Go, let's take a look."
Her look-through lasted all the way until noon. Seeing Chen Rong throwing the old tattered silk books aside, her nurse asked, "Miss, what's wrong?"
Chen Rong smirked and replied, "Someone had tampered with things... and left me an empty shell."
"But what is there to worry about? We can feed ourselves after all."
Chen Rong turned around. She faced Nurse Ping and looked at her for a long time.
"Miss? W-why are you looking at me?" the nurse nervously asked.
Chen Rong recovered and softly answered, "I was wondering if we should haggle with them over this or not." Her nurse apparently didn't want to. But Xishan Temple was quite famous in Jiankang. Without mentioning other costs, the yearly costs of hosting of the royal family and buying incense supply were already exorbitant. Without the farmland's earnings, she really couldn't stomach all of these expenses... She had thought becoming a nun meant she could find a quiet place to live, and assumed there would be someone to take care of these worldly things. Now she realized nothing was ever that simple.
Chen Rong ruefully smiled. "I don't think we can afford to squabble with them over this. Let's ask His Majesty to let me be a nun in my own home."
He ran over. "Aye miss?"
"I'll write a card, please go to the palace and ask to see His Majesty..." She paused to slowly upturn her lips into a smile. "I must be losing my mind. Why am I doing these useless things?"
After talking to herself, she turned to Old Shang and said in seriousness, "I'll have to trouble you to go home with Nurse Ping and take out five boxes of jewelry, then exchange them for firewood, food, clothes and other daily necessities. Remember to get enough to last us at least six months if not a year."
Her smile gradually grew brilliant. "Afterwards, put on a show and parade the streets. Take everyone with you tonight and choose some large trees leading to the temple. Peel the barks off and carve some words. Hmm, carve onto there: In meditation, closed to all visitors. Afterwards, go and close all the doors to the temple."
She turned around, flapped her sleeves and left. "I'd like to see if those people can sit still or not."
Nurse Ping and Old Shang traded glances. "What is she trying to do?" Old Shang at last asked.
Nurse Ping shook her head before they both hurried away.
The sky was dark by the time they returned. They had spent several days to carve words on the trees according to Chen Rong's bidding.
On the fourth day.
The sun shone down from high above. The light patches of green on the mountainside had turned into a verdant band.
Chen Rong led her servants outside. She first pretended to pray to the Three Divine Founders, then turned and loudly said to her servants, "Remember to close all the doors when the hour comes. This time, you'll also follow me into meditation."
"Aye." Their answer echoed across the mountains.
At this moment, they heard a series of footsteps followed by a very arrogant voice: "Hold on!"
Chen Rong and her people turned around to look.
They saw ten tall guards on the stone steps leading to the temple.
These guards lined up on both sides of the road to announce: "Her Royal Highness, the 9th princess -"
Her Royal Highness, the 9th princess?
Chen Rong frowned.
Her heart suddenly pounded as a sentence rushed out from her memory: "Even on the 9th princess's last visit to the estate, Qilang did not receive her quite as well as he is now receiving you."
Chen Rong smirked.
She led her servants down a few steps and clasped her hands in the direction of the guards, "Greetings, Your Royal Highness."
Soon, a dozen palace maids and guards escorted a pretty girl in palace garments. Behind them were twenty musicians who were either playing drums or flutes.
Even from far away, the pretty girl had raised her head looking at Chen Rong.
Chen Rong kept a dutiful appearance and did not seem to notice her stare.
Before long, the pretty girl dressed in palace garments was within ten steps from Chen Rong.
After she stopped, she stared straight at Chen Rong for a good long while before according her ceremony. "How do you do, Priestess Hong Yunzi?"
The pretty and cultivated 9th princess next softly smiled and raised her sleeve over her mouth. "I've long heard of your name but only now do I see you are indeed a rare beauty. I reckon even my father's favorite consorts weren't as charming as you, priestess."
Her voice was elegant and her smile was sincere, but her praises sounded rather suggestive.
Chen Rong merely played dumb. She smiled and, as she was about to return her ceremony, loud drum beats boomed ahead.
These drum beats were much louder compared to the 9th princess's just now. The parade sounded as if hundreds of musicians were playing at the same time.
In the blink of an eye, a large procession appeared before their eyes.
Eight handsome boys were carrying another fair-skin boy. At a closer look, even though he had beautiful features, his fair face was clearly achieved with the use of powder.
Behind them was a large group of maidservants and bodyguards, and farther still were fifty to sixty performers.
The young boy had since looked up and immediately saw the 9th princess. He twirled the lock of hair falling in front of his chest and called, "You're here, too, ninth sister? Hey! Is this little beauty dressed in Daoist robe, Priestess Hong Yunzi?"
He gave Chen Rong a once over, his gaze frivolous, as he tutted, "How beautiful. Any man would treasure such a pretty little thing. What a waste that you're a nun."
Chen Rong coldly smiled hearing his remarks. Under the 9th princess's gaze, she kept her dutiful appearance and did not respond.
Nevertheless, another burst of drum beats rose from the eastern side of the mountains.
Someone else was coming.
Both the 9th princess and the handsome boy were startled this time. Like Chen Rong, they all turned to look in that direction.
Meanwhile, a servant behind Chen Rong muttered, "What's going on today? The rich and famous are all flocking here. Playing loud music to boot. Really! Can't they tell where we are to be making such a racket?"