Yu Huang Rong returned to the capital on the morning of the event, fetching the robe he had ordered and finally leaving for the matchmaking pavilion. Despite his many years on the battlefield and the fact that he had faced lots of strong people in his almost thirty years of life, his heart was beating crazily and his hands and back were coated with a layer of cold sweat. Zhang Shi Lan was the only person in the whole world that could make him feel like this.
When the carriage stopped in front of Madam Yan’s establishment, he took a deep breath and got off. Looking at the already familiar building, he slowly calmed down. He had taken all the steps that he could to prepare. Now, it would depend on whether he was able to make Zhang Shi Lan feel at ease with him. Maybe he would make progress today or maybe he would need to work hard in the future. He didn’t know but he wouldn’t give up easily. That should be enough, shouldn’t it?
He walked over to the entrance and was greeted by the sight of Xiao Xi, one of Madam Yan’s aides. He raised his brows. How come that money-grubbing matchmaker wasn’t here today? Could it be that woman was evading him? It had been the same when he came here two days ago too. She didn’t intend to let him wait for a long time today too, did she?
Xiao Xi broke out in cold sweat when the General looked at her like that. The greeting she had memorized got jumbled up in her thoughts and she could only stutter. “Uh … General! Greetings. Welcome to the event! Our pavilion … uh … I … I’m bringing you over … then.”
Yu Huang Rong still looked at her questioningly, making her tremble in fear. She really didn’t know why she was the one who had to do this. Couldn’t Xiao Jia have gone? Why had she been allowed to bring in the gentle scholar instead?! They should have swapped!
Before she could say anything else and make the General angry, Xiao Xi mechanically turned around and trudged into the house. She glanced over her shoulder every two steps and almost missed the right door. She only remembered at the last moment and came to a sudden halt, rushing back to open the door and motioned inside. “Here. It’s here. The event … oh, no, the … You can wait here.” She already wanted to run away but Yu Huang Rong barred her way.
“What do you mean waiting here? Your Madam Yan wouldn’t want me to wait for another hour again, would she? What about the event? And where is Scholar Zhang?”
Xiao Xi shivered and her eyes couldn’t help but flicker to the door on the other side of the corridor. If she didn’t remember wrongly, then Scholar Zhang should be in there with Xiao Jia. Was she allowed to tell the General though? Madam Yan hadn’t said anything about that.
Yu Huang Rong didn’t need her to say anything. Her gaze was explanation enough. He looked at the door and took a step over before he stopped again. What was he doing? This wasn’t how the event was supposed to go. If it were, Madam Yan would’ve had him brought over there already. But she hadn’t so that could only mean that she had some other plans.
Even though he didn’t like it and would have wanted to spend more time with Zhang Shi Lan, he didn’t want to appear impatient. Whatever her flaws might be Madam Yan was a matchmaker and if the rumors could be believed, she was even a very good one. She would know what should best be done to get them together.
He sighed and finally went into the room that Xiao Xi had shown him, sitting down at a table and pouring himself a cup of tea.
Xiao Xi looked at him, her hair still standing on end. Normally, she should go in there and accompany the guest but she just couldn’t bring herself to do so. The General was way too terrifying. “Uh … I … I’ll go and take a look where Madam Yan is.” With that, she turned around and rushed away, even forgetting to close the door behind her.
Yu Huang Rong sighed. If that was the effect he had on young girls, then he didn’t need to wonder why Zhang Shi Lan didn’t dare to talk in his presence. He didn’t know what he had done wrong though. He wasn’t wearing his armor or even dark clothes. No, his robe today even seemed like he was going out for a joyous occasion. So nothing should be wrong with his appearance.
Then what was it? Was his expression wrong somehow? He touched his chin and pondered. When he came here, the person he had expected to see hadn’t been there. Most likely, his displeasure had shown on his face. Well, in that case, it was to be expected that the girl would react this way. It seemed he had to be careful with his expression for the rest of the event. He definitely couldn’t scare Zhang Shi Lan away just because he wasn’t happy with something happening around them.
Yu Huang Rong gave himself a prep talk on one side of the corridor while Zhang Shi Lan was nervously sitting in the room on the other side. He didn’t know what would happen in today’s event and considering that he wouldn’t be taking part in it alone, his heart couldn’t help but flutter in a mixture of anticipation and dread.
He would once again be able to spend almost half a day with General Yu. Naturally, he was happy to see him for so long. But at the same time, he couldn’t help but feel that he would leave a bad impression on him once again. He sipped the tea that Xiao Jia had poured for him but couldn’t bring himself to eat any of the pastries. He really wouldn’t be able to stomach them.
The silence in the room stretched, making him feel even more uncomfortable. He was being discourteous, wasn’t he? He tried to pull himself out of his thoughts and cleared his throat. The girl in front of him might only be a servant but she was still Madam Yan’s aide. She had to have a respected position in the matchmaking pavilion. Talking a few sentences with her should be considered polite.
He gave a smile and slightly leaned toward her. “Miss Xiao Jia, let me thank you again for helping in finding a good match for me. I was very satisfied with how things went the last time. It must’ve been a lot of work to prepare all this.”
Xiao Jia smiled at him. It had certainly been a lot of work but she could hardly say so. Even though her Madam might not mind being direct, she didn’t have the guts to do so. Even in front of somebody as gentle as this Scholar Zhang. “Thank you for the compliment, Scholar Zhang. As long as you’re happy with the results, every bit of work would be worth it.”
Zhang Shi Lan nodded and carefully held his teacup. “This matchmaking pavilion certainly is different from every other establishment in the capital. I heard that Madam Yan is of the opinion that only those that love each other should get married. That certainly is a beautiful thought.”
Xiao Jia nodded and gave him a genuine smile this time. “That is certainly true. At first, most people didn’t believe that something like this could work out, I included. But after all this time, Madam Yan has shown that it can indeed be possible. It just depends on whether the people are willing and how much time and care is taken in getting to know the other one and preparing the wedding.”
Zhang Shi Lan’s heart thumped at that explanation. If both were willing … There was a person in his life that he would be willing to marry without asking for benefit or status but, unfortunately, the other certainly wouldn’t be. Maybe it had been wrong coming to such a place. After all, he couldn’t imagine that there would ever be a woman that could take up as much space in his heart as Yu Huang Rong. But now, it was already too late. He could only hope that Madam Yan would be able to make a miracle happen.
As if she had heard his thoughts, there was a knock on the door and Madam Yan entered with a bright smile. “Scholar Zhang, it’s a pleasure to see you again. I hope you’re satisfied with how you were received?”
Zhang Shi Lan got up and cupped his fists. “There’s nothing to be dissatisfied about, Madam Yan. I’m thankful for the opportunity you’re giving me.”
Madam Yan chuckled and waved. If this guy knew just what kind of opportunity she was giving him, he certainly had to feel elated! Even though she thought so, she naturally wouldn’t say it out loud.
This Scholar Zhang wasn’t like that General Yu on the other side of the corridor. Even though he was in love, he wouldn’t say so out loud if he didn’t feel that the situation was dire and the result an actual possibility. Instead, he would bottle those feelings up, longing in secret and burdening his heart with worry. Ah, she’d need to slowly guide him in the right direction. “Today’s event is about to start. You’ve probably guessed it already but it will be different from what might normally happen at the matchmaker’s.”
Zhang Shi Lan nodded. He hadn’t expected anything else from Madam Yan after what she had organized for the event a few days ago. “Then I hope Madam Yan can explain to me. I’ll try to keep up and make sure that nothing will go wrong just because of my inability.”
Madam Yan waved again. She really didn’t want to hear that kind of talk from an accomplished scholar. Wouldn’t she need to feel like an idiot then? “It’s not that difficult. But it might cost you quite an effort to do so.” Her lips curved up in an evil smile.
Zhang Shi Lan looked at her in a daze. Why did he feel that … things would turn out completely different from what he had expected? Even though he couldn’t help but be nervous when he saw her expression, he still forced himself to smile. “I’ll try my best, Madam Yan. Just explain.”
Madam Yan motioned at the door behind her. “You already know that you’re not the only person taking part in today’s event. In fact, all the men that gathered here four days ago were grouped into pairs for the next event. And I will need you to work together with your partner.”
“Oh.” Zhang Shi Lan didn’t know what else to say to this. It seemed his fear and his biggest dream had come true at the same moment.