Four days later, both General Yu and Scholar Zhang were presented with an invitation to a gathering at the main house of Madam Yan’s matchmaking pavilion. In fact, there were several other gentlemen invited as well but the General didn’t care about them.
He turned to the servant that had come to report to him. “Did Scholar Zhang reply already?”
“Mn. He had his servant take back a letter immediately, accepting the invitation.”
“I see.” General Yu frowned. So he had accepted … It seemed he was serious about this. “Well, if even Scholar Zhang goes, then it is only right if we accept too. Send word to the pavilion that I will also attend.”
The servant nodded and left the room, leaving the General to his own thoughts.
Yu Huang Rong got up and stared at the invitation. It was a beautiful scroll with a scenic painting and curved calligraphy. A scholar should appreciate this kind of thing. He himself also appreciated beautiful things but this invitation was especially offensive to his eyes. Why did Zhang Shi Lan want to get married?!
Yu Huang Rong paced up and down. He wanted to rip this stupid invitation to pieces but reason finally won over his emotions. Or maybe it was his longing that prevailed. If he ripped the invitation up, there was no guarantee that he would be able to attend that event. Then wouldn’t Zhang Shi Lan be there and seen by those women? With how polite he was …
No, no, it was still better if he left the invitation alone. He threw it onto the table and turned his back toward it. If he went there, he could play some tricks. Maybe there was a way to make sure Zhang Shi Lan wouldn’t marry any of those women. Mn, yes, he could —
Yu Huang Rong slapped his own forehead. What was he even thinking? That event was held at the matchmaker’s! Why would a man go there if not because he wanted to get married? He shouldn’t delude himself. Even if he somehow managed to sabotage this event, it wouldn’t change the fact that Zhang Shi Lan wanted to get married. And even if that wasn’t the case and Zhang Shi Lan stayed by himself, what would be the use of that? There would soon be a woman in his own life. How could he still think about another man by then?
Yu Huang Rong sat down and sighed. He had to forget about him once and for all. Doing anything else was idiocy. There were just some things in life that couldn’t be achieved however much one wanted them. Even if he became the Chen country’s Grand General, he still wouldn’t be able to spend his life with the person he liked. That was the truth of this matter.
In the end, both Yu Huang Rong and Zhang Shi Lan spent a fitful night. The only one who slept soundly and woke up with a smile on her lips was Madam Yan who looked forward to the meeting of the gentlemen. Ah, there was no way these two would be able to hide from their feelings for much longer!
She got up, dressed for the occasion and got onto a carriage, driving to the main house of her matchmaking pavilion. She had invited eight gentlemen to make sure that General Yu and Scholar Zhang would have the opportunity to speak with each other without somebody else bothering them. The others could talk among themselves. Well, that would also depend on the General. If he managed to drive the extraneous people off, he would have Scholar Zhang to himself for the larger part of the day. If he didn’t … then she’d need to find other opportunities to let them meet and slowly get closer.
Madam Yan chuckled before masking it with a cough. Ahem. She should get ready to greet the guests.
She waved at her two aides and went to the entrance, looking at the square in front of the main house. Mn, with a bit of luck, she might be able to have seven marriages decided on soon. Haha, just thinking about how the people in the capital would talk about this …
Before Madam Yan had time to indulge in her colorful imagination, a carriage pulled onto the square. It wasn’t one of the best the capital had to offer but looking at the detailed engravings on the wood and the beautifully woven drapes behind the window, this was still the carriage of a wealthy family.
A servant leaped down and went to pull the curtain to the side. The man that stepped out of the carriage and smoothened out his sleeves made the people on the street do a double take.
“Isn’t that the second son of the Qians?”
“The richest bachelor of the capital? I heard he owns several businesses here.”
“Hmph. What do you know? He doesn’t just own businesses in the capital. His businesses are all over Chen country!”
Neither Qian Mu Qing nor Madam Yan gave anything about the people talking. The merchant walked over to the matchmaker’s main house with a smile.
Madam Yan smiled back and nodded at him. “Greetings, Mister Qian. It is an honor to have you today.”
Qian Mu Qing nodded at her. “Greetings, Madam Yan. On the contrary, I am the one honored to be allowed to take part in today’s event.” He wasn’t merely saying this. Even though he was rich, he didn’t hold a title. In the capital where not only the royal family but also the families of high-ranking ministers and generals resided, his wealth didn’t allow him to do whatever he wanted. Money was worth a lot but power was worth even more. Being allowed to partake in an event that would also be attended by some of the most influential men of his generation was indeed an honor.
Madam Yan smiled even brighter. “The ones honored will be the maidens that have the good luck to see Mister Qian today.” She motioned at the door. “Why don’t you follow my aide Xiao Xi inside? I’ve had some snacks prepared. The other guests should arrive shortly.”
Qian Mu Qing nodded. “Thank you for your hospitality.” He turned to the two aides and the younger one motioned inside, leading the way.
Madam Yan heaved a sigh of relief. The first one was settled. Seven more to go. Considering their statuses, the next one to arrive should already be Zhang Shi Lan. His family was well-off and his father was a small official working in one of the ministries. Zhang Shi Lan was mostly known for his intellect and, well, beauty. Men and women alike had trouble looking away when he appeared. But his status in the capital was still rather low so he wouldn’t dare to arrive later than those that were higher in rank than him.
Sure enough, the carriage that followed that of the Qians was the same that had already made its way to the matchmaking pavilion four days ago. It was small and elegant. The wood it was built with and the fabric used for the curtain were of decent quality but it gave off a vibe of simplicity. Very fitting for a scholar such as him.
Zhang Shi Lan alighted, clad in an equally simple, blue robe. An embroidery could barely be made out but other than that, there was nothing special about this robe as if he didn’t care whether he managed to impress one of the women. Or maybe he was just sure that he didn’t need a fancy robe for that. With his face …
Madam Yan leaned over to her second aide and lowered her voice. “Xiao Jia, when you bring him over, make sure that one of you stays with them until General Yu arrives, yes?”
Xiao Jia raised her brows. She had no idea why her Madam was giving this order but if she thought it was necessary … “Yes, Madam.”
Madam Yan nodded and straightened up just in time to greet Zhang Shi Lan with a professional-looking smile. “Greetings, Scholar Zhang. I hope you had a pleasant ride here and are looking forward to today’s event. We’re honored that you agreed to take part.”
Zhang Shi Lan nodded. “It’s my honor, Madam Yan. I only came here a few days ago and you made it possible for me to attend your event. I’m truly blessed to have you put in so much effort for my sake.”
“Ah, it’s nothing, it’s nothing.” Madam Yan glanced behind him and her lips twitched. That guy! Was General Yu keeping tabs on the poor scholar? How come he was arriving before he even had time to step into the building?
“Is something the matter, Madam Yan?” Zhang Shi Lan noticed her expression and couldn’t help but ask.
Madam Yan cleared her throat. “I just saw that the next guest has already arrived.” Much sooner than she had anticipated. Ah, this wasn’t too good. Now, wouldn’t that Qian Mu Qing bother the two lovebirds?
“The next guest?” Zhang Shi Lan turned to look and just made it in time to see Yu Huang Rong alight from his carriage.
Their gazes met despite the distance between them and Zhang Shi Lan rushed to lower his gaze. His face … it hadn’t gotten red, had it?
Seeing his reaction, Madam Yan snickered. It seemed there wasn’t much for her to do. Maybe she should just have Xiao Jia bring them into another room and lock the door behind them. If the General played along, a happy couple might emerge a few hours later. That method might be coarse but it’d be the fastest way too. Well, even if she didn’t do that, she should still take advantage of the opportunity the General had so kindly provided.
She turned to Zhang Shi Lan and motioned to the square. “General Yu is one of the guests too. He is beloved by everyone in the capital as one of the great heroes of our Chen country. Maybe Scholar Zhang would like to use the opportunity and greet him together with me?”
This time Zhang Shi Lan’s cheeks indeed flushed pink. Beloved by everyone, yes. Even he … even he couldn’t help but feel drawn to this man but it had nothing to do with him being the hero of the country. It was just … the simple matter of losing his heart to somebody and never being able to get it back.
Ah, just what should he say to the one who held onto his heart tightly now that they met again after all these years?