Madam Yan pushed the door to the hall open with a smile. “Greetings, everyone. I sincerely apologize for letting you wait for so long.”
Yu Huang Rong’s brows twitched. She sincerely apologized? Hadn’t she let them wait deliberately and even stood in front of the door to observe them? As expected, this woman really wasn’t any good!
Madam Yan didn’t seem to notice his dark look and happily continued. “The women have gathered in the garden by now. If you would care to follow me.” She motioned at the door and stepped outside again.
Luan Chang Fu took the lead in following her and the other men trailed behind. Yu Huang Rong wanted to walk next to Zhang Shi Lan but before he had the time to approach him, Qian Mu Qing had claimed that spot for himself.
That guy … Was he doing this on purpose?! Yu Huang Rong frowned but he could do nothing else but to bring up the rear. Well, at the very least, he could watch Zhang Shi Lan all he wanted from there. This scholar was really … very beautiful.
He observed how his shiny black hair slightly swung from side to side with each step he took and how the sleeves of his robe swayed as if moved by an invisible breeze. Ah, he really had an elegant gait! This … really made him want to make him stumble just so he could reach out and catch him. Wasn’t that the kind of thing people thought of as romantic?
Before he had the chance to act on his impulse, Qian Mu Qing leaned closer to Zhang Shi Lan. Yu Huang Rong’s eyes narrowed in response. That bastard even lowered his voice, as if he wanted to whisper some sweet nothings beside the scholar’s ear! Yu Huang Rong clenched his hands into fists. Unacceptable! This was completely unacceptable! How dare he get so close to him! Let’s see if he would still be so daring if he sent someone to bash him up after this event! This kind of behavior had to be suppressed at all costs!
“Scholar Zhang …” Qian Mu Qing glanced behind them and met with the furious glare of General Yu. He gulped but forced himself to continue speaking. “Scholar Zhang, say, do you think either of us offended General Yu?”
Qian Mu Qing glanced to the back again and broke out in cold sweat. Shit! Forget about Zhang Shi Lan. The only person that had offended this guy was obviously he himself! He gulped and turned back to Zhang Shi Lan. “He’s been looking over here the whole time. And he doesn’t look happy. It’s as if I’m owing him a large sum of money!” And he never owed people money. He was the richest man in the capital right after His Majesty, alright? Who would he owe money to?!
Zhang Shi Lan’s gaze flickered and he peeked behind them. It wasn’t that he wanted to see General Yu, no, he was merely doing this because Qian Mu Qing looked so anxious. He couldn’t disappoint him. He had to take a look at least before he reassured him. Otherwise, he would just be spouting empty words. Yes, that was definitely the reason.
His heart leaped though when he saw General Yu. Thankfully, the other man wasn’t looking in their direction. Instead, he seemed rather interested in the garden. Ah, as expected of General Yu, he had such refined taste!
Zhang Shi Lan turned back to Qian Mu Qing and smiled. “You must be imagining things. General Yu isn’t that type of person. Even if you owed him money, he’d surely be magnanimous and let you pay him back later.”
“But … I don’t even owe him money! Why does he keep looking at me like this?!”
Zhang Shi Lan glanced back again and shook his head. “What are you even saying? He’s admiring the view.”
Yu Huang Rong nodded to himself. Ah, hearing the person he loved praise him … His foul mood about that busybody Qian Mu Qing had already lessened. It didn’t disappear completely though. It was just as Zhang Shi Lan had said: He was merely admiring the view. So why did that damned merchant have to look over every few seconds?! He glared at him just in time to meet Qian Mu Qing’s gaze again.
The merchant paled and rushed to turn back to the front. His entire back was drenched in cold sweat and his hands trembled so much that he had to hide them in his sleeves. He didn’t want to look but not seeing what General Yu did behind their backs was scaring him even more. What should he do? What should he do?!
He unwittingly hastened his steps to create more distance between them. Unfortunately, he also created distance between Zhang Shi Lan and himself. When he turned to look and apologize … he stared at the scene behind him dumbfounded. This … What was happening here? The General Yu that had been glaring at him nonstop was actually ignoring him and instead … looking at Scholar Zhang? And with a surprisingly gentle gaze too? This …
Yu Huang Rong furrowed his brow when he noticed that somebody was staring at him. He looked over and scowled at the cumbersome merchant. Did this guy still not have enough?!
Qian Mu Qing turned back to the front, his heart beating rapidly. Shit! What had he just seen?! General Yu … actually wasn’t here to look for a wife but instead … he admired Scholar Zhang?! Whoa! If he was a bit more into gossip, he’d be excited beyond measure! Mn, he should still go and tell his sister when he came home. She’d love to know!
He blinked and shook his head. No, no, no, he couldn’t do this! Scholar Zhang was a nice person. He could imagine being friends with him so he should make sure that word of this never got out! Mn, as his future friend, he should make sure that this wouldn’t harm Zhang Shi Lan’s reputation.
While Qian Mu Qing struggled with his conscience, Yu Huang Rong delighted at his sudden chance to put his original plan to use. He hastened his steps until he finally walked next to the person he had set his heart on. “Scholar Zhang …”
Zhang Shi Lan tensed and glanced up at the person next to him. Just when had General Yu approached him? He hadn’t noticed at all … And what was he supposed to say now? He peeked at the man’s face only to lower his gaze again. “Mn.”
Yu Huang Rong smiled brightly. Before this, he would have been disappointed that Zhang Shi Lan would talk to Qian Mu Qing but ignore him when he tried to approach him. Now … he just felt very sweet. Ah, look at him! He was being shy with him! How … unbelievably cute! It really made him want to reach out and take him into his arms so he could tell him that it was alright to speak his mind in front of him. He wouldn’t judge, ah! He would treasure every word of his beloved like precious pearls!
Zhang Shi Lan’s breath hitched under the gaze burning into him and he couldn’t help but remember Qian Mu Qing’s words. Could it be … had he really offended General Yu in some way? He glanced up to try and gauge something from his expression but those eyes scared him away. Who knew what the meaning of this gaze was? He didn’t dare to dwell on it.
Yu Huang Rong pondered. He couldn’t just follow his instincts if he didn’t want to seem rude. But slowly showing Zhang Shi Lan that there was no reason to be like this around him might work. He cleared his throat and looked around. “Uh … I’ve never seen this garden before.”
Zhang Shi Lan took a shaky breath and nodded his head. He hadn’t seen this garden either.
“It’s … really very nice.”
“Mn.” Zhang Shi Lan looked at the garden and sighed. It really was nice. Madam Yan had obviously put a lot of effort into this garden. There was a lake in the middle with a pavilion on one side and an artificial hill behind it. Stone sculptures had been erected around the hill and a small grove led toward the other side of the garden. It was rather unexpected for a matchmaker to have such a garden besides the main house and the pavilion.
At the front of the small procession, Madam Yan smiled happily. Since the other men were just looking around, the conversation in the back could be heard loud and clear. Well, maybe it was a little too much to call it a ‘conversation’ considering that only General Yu had spoken and that he had only uttered two sentences but it was a start. At the very least, it meant that he was starting to put some effort into this.
And, well, never mind the relationship between those two, she couldn’t help but be proud because of the hidden compliment in the General’s words. Even though her establishment was most famous for the pavilion at the bank of the Fen Hua river, this garden was something she had invested even more time in. Back when she started her business, the price for houses or land in this part of the capital had been low. Unfortunately, that also meant that there hadn’t been many people coming by in the beginning and those that finally did weren’t the ones she needed as her main customers if she wanted to survive.
Now, after seven years of working tirelessly toward her goal, things had turned for the better. What had originally been a piece of wasteland had turned into a beautifully sculpted garden. The crooked house with the doors hanging lopsided in the hinges had been renovated until the old wood shimmered with its original luster and the tiles on the roof glowed in the sun. And the pavilion at the bank of the Fen Hua river had turned into a well-known spot in the capital that people liked to look at for good fortune.
Even the surrounding buildings and streets had changed. There were restaurants and teahouses now and if she looked out of the window of the main house or over at the other bank of the Fen Hua river when she was sitting in the pavilion, then she would often spot one of the richly-dressed Young Masters of the capital that were hoping to get lucky in love by passing by.
Ah, this place had changed beyond recognition. Just like a relationship that started off rocky, but as long as enough effort was put into it, something beautiful could be the result. Mn, speaking of that, she would make sure that she turned the rocky relationship of these two in the back into something just as beautiful as her pavilion!