At the same time, General Yu left Madam Yan’s matchmaking pavilion and returned home in a great mood, making the whole General’s manor abuzz with happiness. Could it be? That stoic man had finally lost his heart to a maiden?
Yu Huang Rong’s mother, Madam Yu, stared at the servant that had accompanied him to the matchmaking pavilion and raised her brows. “You say that again! My son did what?”
The servant grinned. “The General stayed back and went to the pavilion at the bank of the Fen Hua river again with Madam Yan. They talked for half an hour and when the General returned, he smiled like …” An idiot. The servant coughed and scratched his neck. “Like the happiest man on earth!”
Madam Yu clasped her hands. “Aiya!” Could it really be her son had fallen in love? “Maybe I should go and see that Madam Yan. Who is the girl? Do we know her? Which family is she from? Should we already gather the presents? There’ll be so much to prepare for the wedding! Why didn’t Huang Rong come here and explain himself?!”
The servant’s face twitched. “Uh … The General said he had something very important to do. He immediately rushed to his quarters. This servant doesn’t know what he’s doing there. I came here to report right away. I thought Madam should know about what happened at the matchmaker’s.”
“Mn, you’re right about that. Have one of the servant girls go over for now and see what he’s up to.” Ah, for now, she couldn’t do anything but wait. Haish, this son of hers! Couldn’t he at least take the time to come and inform her himself? Even if he was in love now, what could be important enough to rush off like that? He was making people worry needlessly!
A few minutes later, the servant girl that had gone to check on Yu Huang Rong came running back.
Madam Yu got up from her chair and eagerly stared at her. “So? What did you see? What was he doing?”
The servant girl uncomfortably squirmed on the spot. “He seemed to be searching for something important, Madam, but I don’t know what that could be.”
Madam Yu sat down again and sighed. That child! Why was he being so secretive? Didn’t he know that people were waiting to hear about the meeting at Madam Yan’s matchmaking pavilion? Just how long did he want her to worry?!
“Alright.” She got up with a huff and waved at her maid. If her son didn’t want to come over, then she would go and inquire herself. Hmph, this child! He was being even more troublesome now that he was in love. “Let’s go and see for ourselves then. I’d like to see if he dares not to tell his mother when I’m standing in front of him.”
Her maid nodded. “Of course, he wouldn’t dare! I’m sure he’ll be happy to tell you, Madam. He was probably just too excited and forgot to come to tell you about the event first.”
“True, true. That child was always like that. How come he’s still so brash after all these years in the military?” She sighed and the two women made their way over to the General’s chambers.
Just when they reached the door, it was opened and Yu Huang Rong stepped outside. He raised his brows and his gaze slipped to the end of the corridor. Shit. Why had his mother come over? He couldn’t let her find out about Zhang Shi Lan!
“Huang Rong.” Madam Yu smiled happily. Seeing her son who didn’t even dare to meet her eye, she couldn’t help but feel relieved. It seemed her son had indeed fallen in love. Why else would he be so embarrassed that he wanted to flee right when he saw her?
They should have a good talk so that she could help him with securing this marriage. After all, the servant had said that another seven gentlemen had been invited. One of them was even the emperor’s cousin, Luan Chang Fu! What if he liked the same girl? Wouldn’t her son be left out in the cold then?! She couldn’t let that happen!
“Mother.” Yu Huang Rong smiled wryly and hurriedly hid the beaded bracelet he was holding behind his back, inconspicuously stuffing it into his belt.
Madam Yu’s smile got more pronounced. She might not have noticed her son’s sleight of hand but she had seen his awkward expression. “You just rushed off to your own quarters after you came back from the matchmaker. Did you think your mother isn’t worried about your marriage at all?” She grabbed his arm and motioned to the door. “Come on, let’s go sit down and drink a cup of tea. You can tell me about everything slowly.”
“Mother …” Yu Huang Rong awkwardly took his arm back. “I’m sorry but there’s something urgent I need to do.”
“Huh? What urgent thing could you have to do? And why now of all times? Doesn’t that have time until tomorrow?”
“Uh, no …” Yu Huang Rong rubbed his back where the beaded bracelet was secured. “You see, His Majesty asked me to enter the palace today to discuss some affairs regarding the situation at the border. It’s already my good fortune that he was understanding when I mentioned the matchmaker’s event and let me come afterward. But I definitely can’t take advantage of His Majesty’s grace and sit down to chat with you. I’ll have to rush to the palace immediately. But don’t worry, mother, I’ll hurry back right after I’m done with the discussions and accompany you for a while.”
“Oh. So it’s like that.” Madam Yu nodded and patted her son’s arm. “Then you better go now. Don’t let His Majesty wait.”
“Mn, thank you, mother.” Yu Huang Rong smiled and ran off, not looking back. Inwardly, he congratulated himself for his good luck of being childhood friends with the emperor. Whenever he pulled out that title, nobody would question his words. After all, who would dare to lie about His Majesty’s intentions? It was inconceivable for other people.
In the General’s Manor, Madam Yu watched her son leave and waved at a servant. “Go and follow the General. I want to know if he really enters the palace or if he visits some other manor. If he does the latter, then I want you to find out everything you can about all the unmarried women living there.”
“Yes.” The servant bowed and hurried away just like Yu Huang Rong, following him through the streets of the capital as well as he could without being noticed.
In fact, he wouldn’t have needed to try so hard. Yu Huang Rong had expected his mother to send somebody after him and as a martial artist and one of the most famous Generals of the Chen country he would need to feel embarrassed if he couldn’t even tell when a normal person was trying to tail him. He happily rode to the palace and showed the seal that the emperor had given him so that he could enter whenever he pleased.
Yu Huang Rong wasn’t polite. He let them close the gate behind him and then rushed straight to the emperor’s study, barging in before the eunuch in front of the door had any time to announce him. He plopped down next to the table and grinned.
“My dear friend … How I’ve longed to see you! The years on the battlefield were lonely without you and I couldn’t stop worrying whether you were getting along with the ministers and fulfilling your task while taking care of your body. I hope you haven’t tired yourself out. Look, I even brought a present with me.” He took out the bracelet from his belt and put it on the table with a wide smile. “It’s the beaded bracelet you admired so much. I’m sorry for snatching it away from you back then. After not seeing you for so long, I’ve come to regret it a lot. I should have given way to you when you asked for it. By now, I’ve finally realized that all worldly possessions are nothing compared to our friendship. I definitely won’t give you trouble anymore.”
The emperor looked at the beaded bracelet, then at the person that had shamelessly slouched down next to his table, and furrowed his brows. “Who are you and what did you do to Yu Huang Rong?”
A sword flashed on the other side of the table and struck toward Yu Huang Rong’s throat. He widened his eyes and carefully reached up, trying to push the blade out of the way.
“Eh, Luan Xin, isn’t that the captain of your secret guards? What is he doing here? Wait.” He looked at the table and his eyes widened. “Did … did he grind ink for you?! How come?” He sat up, barely evading the sword’s blade. “Fuck! Tell him to put the weapon away. I’m Yu Huang Rong. Don’t tell me you don’t recognize me after not seeing me for a few years.”
The emperor snorted. “I recognize your appearance alright. But your personality is what’s the problem. The Yu Huang Rong I know would never say such sickeningly-sweet things and bring me presents. If anything, you should have brought some cheap wine from one of the villages around the capital and then praised how it’s a rare delicacy from the border. Don’t think I wouldn’t know. So what’s with giving me something I want?” He paused and turned to the man sitting on the other side of the table. “Say, Ah Ning, did anything happen in the capital that involved our dear General here?”
The captain of the secret guards nodded curtly. “A large event at the matchmaker’s today.”
“Oh!” Luan Xin turned back to Yu Huang Rong with a knowing look and waved at the other man. “Alright then, you can take the weapon down. He’s obviously just acting stupid because he wants something.”
Yu Huang Rong’s lips twitched. Did this guy need to say things this directly? “It’s nothing like this! Can’t I come by just to see you? We haven’t seen each other in so long …”
Luan Xin rolled his eyes. “Just get out with it. What should I do? Send an imperial decree that you’re not to marry in the following five years? Your father will give me trouble for that.”
Yu Huang Rong shook his head. “You think I wouldn’t be able to get around a marriage if I really wanted to?”
“Then what are you here for?”
Yu Huang Rong grinned and inched closer, earning himself a dark look from the captain of the secret guards. “My dear friend, I’m so happy you’re asking. Actually, there’s this person I like. He’s perfect all around, I’m sure you’ll like him. It’s just that … things are a little difficult. I do have a plan to make this work but it could be that I’ll need your help in the future. You certainly wouldn’t want to reject this small favor, would you?”
The emperor’s response was to push his empty teacup to the captain of the secret guards. If that guy finally stopped bothering him, he’d certainly do everything he could to have him get married.