Yu Huang Rong stopped in front of his carriage and blankly stared over at the entrance of Madam Yan’s establishment. The square wasn’t big and his eyesight was good. So … who could explain what he had seen just now? Zhang Shi Lan … he had looked over, right? And he had blushed, hadn’t he? At his sight?
Yu Huang Rong awkwardly gulped and straightened his shoulders, trying to look as imposing as he could. He couldn’t leave this person with a bad impression. Without sparing a thought for the matchmaker that was supposed to find him a wife, Yu Huang Rong stalked over and stopped right in front of Zhang Shi Lan.
The poor scholar didn’t dare to look up. He cupped his fists and bowed, his gaze fixating the ground in front of Yu Huang Rong’s feet. Well, maybe … maybe he was looking at his shoes, trying to discern whether the General was regarding today’s event as something important and had dressed up. Unfortunately … that seemed to be the case.
Zhang Shi Lan’s heart squeezed painfully and his brows furrowed slightly. Ah, why couldn’t he have been born a woman? Maybe then … maybe then … But even if, his father’s status wasn’t high enough for him to dream of ever being able to join the General in marriage. And by now, he would have been too old if he was a woman. Who would still marry him? No, he should just —
The deep voice made Zhang Shi Lan’s heart and eyelids flutter and pulled him right out of his dark thoughts. He glanced up and found the General staring right back at him. Zhang Shi Lan opened his mouth but his throat constricted and he didn’t even manage to greet him. Ah, how … very unfortunate. Now he would leave him with a bad impression.
Yu Huang Rong waited for the response with bated breath only to have to concede defeat in the end. So he had imagined it, after all. Maybe this frail scholar had only been standing in the sun for too long, making his skin redden. There were no feelings involved at all.
Next to them, Madam Yan slapped her forehead. Inwardly. Of course, she wouldn’t dare to behave unruly right in front of this General Yu whose mood was obviously plummeting to the deepest recesses of hell. She forced herself to smile. “General Yu, how nice of you to drop by.” Even though I know it’s only so you can ogle Scholar Zhang. “How about Xiao Jia shows you and Scholar Zhang the way inside?”
Yu Huang Rong turned to her and furrowed his brows. He really didn’t want to see this woman right now! If not because his family wanted him to marry, would he give the position of his partner away just like that? He would fight to attain Zhang Shi Lan’s heart with all means necessary! But now … things were turning so fast and there was no way to do that anymore. And giving him anything else but the rightful spot directly at his side would have been an insult. Seeing this woman … Ugh! “What? No platitudes you want to say to me?”
Madam Yan forced herself to continue smiling. “Ah, how could I waste General Yu’s precious time?” She motioned at Xiao Jia before the guy could vent more of his anger on her.
Her aide nodded and motioned inside. “Please.”
General Yu glanced at the scholar that had remained quiet. He couldn’t help but be disappointed. What was it that Zhang Shi Lan had against him? Could it be that he was a pacifist who hated everything that had to do with war? Was that it? Lost in his thoughts, he entered the house in a bad mood.
Zhang Shi Lan sighed and turned to Madam Yan, nodding at her with a pale face, before he followed General Yu and the aide inside.
Qian Mu Qing leaped to his feet when he saw who the next two guests were. He had known that both General Yu and Scholar Zhang had been invited but he hadn’t thought that both of them would arrive this early. Now he would have the chance to speak with them! Ah, coming here had really been the right decision. This might be his only chance to ever get this close to either of them.
He hurried toward them and cupped his fists. “General Yu, it is an honor to meet you. I have long heard of all your exploits on the battlefield. Our Chen country is blessed to have a General like you.”
“Mn.” Yu Huang Rong passed by him without a greeting and sat down at a table. Looking at the pastries and the tea set … He turned to look at Xiao Xi. “Is there no wine?”
Yu Huang Rong tsked and waved her away. Why was he even here? The person he loved didn’t want to talk to him, some random guy bothered him, and now they didn’t even have wine so he couldn’t get drunk either. He shouldn’t have gotten up today.
Qian Mu Qing awkwardly looked at the General who had completely ignored him before he turned to the other guest. “Scholar Zhang, your reputation precedes you. It’s an honor to finally meet you. I’m just afraid I won’t be a suitable conversational partner for you.”
Zhang Shi Lan smiled. He might not know what to say in front of General Yu but he didn’t have trouble talking to anyone else. As a scholar he would be a failure if he wasn’t eloquent enough to utter his thoughts, wouldn’t he? “It’s my good luck to be able to meet you, Mister Qian. I heard a lot about how you were able to further your father’s business even to the provinces furthest from the capital. That kind of success … I couldn’t even begin to imagine. Mister Qian must have invested a lot of time and effort in this and I doubt it could be done by somebody lacking in culture. So … even if Mister Qian doesn’t want to call himself a scholar, I still feel that we have a lot in common.”
Qian Mu Qing’s face lit up. Never mind that General Yu who didn’t like him. A General was way too high above his station anyway. But this Scholar Zhang was really very pleasant to talk to. “Scholar Zhang —” The rest of his sentence got stuck in his throat and his back was drenched in cold sweat in mere seconds.
Zhang Shi Lan couldn’t help but look at him worriedly. “Is everything alright?”
“Uh … mn.” Qian Mu Qing forced himself to nod. “That … I … I’ll go and sit down for a moment. I hope you won’t mind.” He hurriedly cupped his fists and then ran away, taking up a spot at another table than Yu Huang Rong.
Heavens! What did that General Yu have against him?! He might not be very knowledgeable about war or martial arts but he could also feel if somebody was staring daggers at the back of his head! Would he need to hire an escort to reach home unscathed?!
Zhang Shi Lan awkwardly remained standing on the spot. Now, what should he do? Qian Mu Qing obviously wasn’t feeling well and had even withdrawn to a table far away. It would be impolite to go and bother him. But other than him, there was only General Yu and he didn’t get a single word out in front of him. So what should he do?
Yu Huang Rong watched him and his mood turned even worse. Was he such bad company that Zhang Shi Lan wouldn’t even consider coming over to sit next to him? Ah, screw this! They would be married men soon. He should use the opportunity and spend at least a little time with him!
He straightened up and patted the spot beside him. “Scholar Zhang, it seems the other guests haven’t arrived yet. Why don’t you come and sit over here since Mister Qian doesn’t feel well?”
Zhang Shi Lan looked over and once again, his voice gave out before he could get out a single word. In the end, he barely nodded and shuffled over, keeping his head lowered while scolding himself inside. General Yu had offered him a seat! Even if he didn’t consider his own feelings, that was still something he should thank him for! Why couldn’t he even utter the basic necessities?
Yu Huang Rong gazed at him, his bad mood entirely forgotten. He barely withstood the urge to reach over and caress his cheek. Ah, so beautiful … Just why … couldn’t he lift his head to let him take a closer look?