The way Zhang Shi Lan was greeted when he went home after his talk with Qian Mu Qing wasn’t much different from the treatment Yu Huang Rong had gotten.
Madam Zhang was already standing at the door with a servant girl beside her and looked out for her son’s carriage. The servant had barely jumped down and moved to pull the curtain aside when she rushed over and started to bombard him with questions.
“Xiao Lan, how did it go? What did Madam Yan say? What are your chances of getting a wife? It shouldn’t take too long right? You have such a pretty face and your father’s position isn’t bad, she should have been able to recommend at least one or two nice girls, shouldn’t she? Who were they? Someone we know? Which families are they from? When does she want to see us to settle on a date?”
The servant finally managed to reach inside the carriage and take Zhang Shi Lan’s hand, helping him outside. He nodded at him and then went to bring the horses back into the stable.
Zhang Shi Lan turned to his mother with a smile, gently taking her hand and motioning back at the house. “Don’t worry mother. I can’t say for sure yet but I do feel that things are going in a good direction. Let’s go back inside and then I’ll tell you everything slowly.”
“Aiya! What are you even saying? Slowly! This is about my future daughter-in-law, your wife, the mother of my grandchildren! How can we take this slowly? You’re already this old and still not married. Is it wrong of me to worry on your behalf?” Her fingers tightly gripped his sleeve and shook his arm around.
Zhang Shi Lan didn’t mind. He had already expected that his mother would behave like this. Compared to General Yu he wasn’t old at all. On the contrary, he had even been the youngest of the eight men Madam Yan invited. His mother had been worried about his marriage for a while though. Naturally, she wanted to make sure that everything had gone right now that he had finally met with a matchmaker.
Zhang Shi Lan patiently listened to her complaints until they arrived inside. He led her to one of the chairs and helped her to sit down before he turned to the servant girl, silently asking her to make some tea for his mother. Then he sat down opposite her and smiled.
Seeing that usual smile on her son’s face Madam Zhang sighed. Her son didn’t look excited at all. Had things really gone well at the matchmaker’s? “Xiao Lan, now, can you finally tell mother what happened? I’ll die of nervousness if you don’t get out with it soon.”
Zhang Shi Lan reached over the table and patted her hand. “Don’t worry, mother. It really went well. Weren’t you the one that said she was the best matchmaker in our Chen country’s capital? I think you were right with that. She actually invited another seven men.”
Madam Zhang sucked in a cold breath. “Another seven men?! But then … Who were they? Are you sure one of the women will decide on you? With so many options …” She couldn’t help but furrow her brows. Her son indeed had a handsome face and his father’s position wasn’t bad either but would that be enough if compared to another seven men? The capital was full of influential and beautiful people!
Zhang Shi Lan smiled and rubbed her hand with his thumb. “Naturally, Madam Yan thought things through. She invited about forty women.”
“Forty!” Madam Zhang’s eyes widened. Who had ever heard of a matchmaker letting eight men and forty women meet?! She suddenly started to doubt whether it had been such a good idea to choose this Madam Yan. She was rumored to be able to find a suitable spouse that was almost guaranteed not to cause internal strife in a family. But that was only a quality that could be admired if there was a spouse! What if her son didn’t manage to marry at all? Ah, maybe she should have advised him to go to another matchmaker … No, maybe she should have gone to the matchmaker in his stead!
Zhang Shi Lan could imagine what his mother was thinking but he didn’t regret his decision. Among these forty women would at least be one that wanted to marry him. He would just choose such a person. That way, their marriage might be peaceful even if it couldn’t be blissful. Since that was still possible he should be able to enjoy General Yu’s company at least this once. As long as he kept his thoughts to himself, that should be alright.
Zhang Shi Lan lowered his gaze and took back his hand. He couldn’t help but remember Qian Mu Qing’s words. General Yu was supposed to have romantic feelings for him? He really couldn’t imagine.
He pushed the thought away and looked back at his mother. “I know it is quite … unconventional but Madam Yan hasn’t gotten famous without reason. Aren’t there many happy couples in the capital that found together in her pavilion? Maybe this is only possible because she is doing things in another manner than the other matchmakers. At the very least, I felt quite convinced by her way of doing things.”
Madam Zhang still couldn’t calm down but she felt a little better. Her son had already agreed to get married this or next year depending on which dates would be favorable. It was only a question of time until he found the right woman. And if this Madam Yan couldn’t get things done by the end of the year, they could still go somewhere else and try again. Thinking like that, she nodded to herself. “You’re right. I shouldn’t assume the worst. So was there any girl you liked?”
Zhang Shi Lan thought back to the event and his gaze grew distant. A girl he liked … He had had trouble focusing on their performances so it was hard to say. There had been a few whose performances had made him pay more attention though. “Well, there were so many that it is hard to say whether one was better than another. At the very least, there were several I could imagine getting to know better.” He paused, thinking of General Yu once again. He felt that the one person he had really gotten to know better was him. Would he be there too when he went back to meet those women? He had said he had chosen the same, after all …
Madam Zhang observed her son’s lost expression and barely managed to hide her excitement. Even though he said that he hadn’t fallen in love with any of the women, it sure seemed that one of them had turned his head! He was probably just too shy to admit it. Ah, she should go and find out which one it was! “Xiao Lan!” She patted his hand, pulling him out of his thoughts. “What will happen now? If you’re not sure yet … Should I meet with their families? Did Madam Yan already tell you when she is going to invite them?”
Zhang Shi Lan shook his head. “No. She’ll be contacting each of us in a few days and tell us the date when we’re supposed to visit the pavilion again. We’ll have the opportunity to see the women we were interested in before again and get to know them better.”
“Oh!” Madam Zhang couldn’t help but wonder again. Madam Yan was truly doing things in a strange way! “Then what about me? Should I accompany you on that day?”
“That … I don’t think so. I believe that … it will merely be a day to make sure that we weren’t wrong with our choices the last time. Afterward … I could imagine that she’ll involve our families afterward.”
Madam Zhang tsked. They weren’t in a rush but she still would have liked to find her son a wife rather sooner than later. With the way Madam Yan was doing things, it would definitely take until the New Year until things were decided! Ah, her son would be another year older then …
“Don’t worry, mother. I’m sure Madam Yan will make the right decisions. Next year by this time, I’ll already be happily married.”
“Ah, we can only hope so …” Madam Zhang sighed. She pondered a moment longer and finally knocked on the table. “Forget it, sitting here and thinking won’t solve anything. I’ll go and ask around a bit. Maybe we can find out something.”
“No, no, no!” Madam Zhang motioned for her son to quiet down. “You’re too gentle and too polite. I have to make sure that things are really going well and that the girls are acceptable. As a mother, it’s my task to make sure that my son will be able to marry a good wife. Nothing can be left to luck!”
“Mn. Well, if you insist …” He watched her leave and sighed. Nothing could be left to luck … Maybe that was right. Maybe … the chance encounters of yesterday would be the obsessions of today, and maybe the fateful meetings of today would be tomorrow’s disaster.
He could only hope that that disaster wouldn’t threaten his family.