Seeing Zhang Shi Lan’s expression, Madam Yan nodded with satisfaction. This scholar was unable to endure Yu Huang Rong’s presence. He was too timid to even speak a whole sentence in front of him if he wasn’t prompted. On the other hand, he was also somebody that didn’t dare to disappoint expectations or make trouble for others. If he was forced to work together with the General for the event, then he would do so. And maybe while they were working on the same task, he would overcome his fear of leaving the Yu Huang Rong with a bad impression and thus get closer to him. At the very least, this was the plan.
“You already know General Yu from the last time so I guess there shouldn’t be any problems in working together. It would be best if I explain to the two of you together so that you will have more time for the actual event. So, if you’d follow me over to the other room?”
Even though Zhang Shi Lan was nervous, he still nodded. “Certainly.” He gave Xiao Jia a nod and followed Madam Yan out of the room. His steps were slow and deliberate and his hands slightly trembled. Working together with Yu Huang Rong, that wasn’t what he had expected. Just what exactly would they be required to do? He didn’t dare to assume anything but he dreaded what it might be.
Madam Yan knocked on the door to the other room and opened it, stepping in with a bright smile once again.
Yu Huang Rong reciprocated her smile. Normally, he might have given her a colder response but he had already heard when she knocked on the other door and listened in on what she said. It seemed this woman really had a plan on how to set them up together. He wouldn’t be ungrateful for that. Furthermore, he definitely wouldn’t do anything that would worsen Zhang Shi Lan’s impression of him. And since the scholar was behind her, he had to show his best side. “Madam Yan, how nice to see you again. I already heard that you’ve planned something special for us. Why don’t we sit down and talk about everything slowly?”
Madam Yan’s smile brightened. This General certainly wasn’t of the slow kind. She nodded and then motioned behind her. “Then General Yu certainly also knows that there is another person that will join us today. Scholar Zhang, why don’t you take a seat first?”
Zhang Shi Lan took a deep breath and stepped into the room, turning to the person his heart was yearning for. “General Yu.” He almost wanted to heave a sigh of relief when he managed to get out his name.
Yu Huang Rong’s gaze softened. Considering what had happened the last time, this was already a little bit of progress. He nodded and got up, motioning at the chair next to him. “Scholar Zhang, it is a pleasure to see you again. Why don’t you sit down here? Let’s hear what Madam Yan has planned for us.”
Since the General had already pointed at the chair, there was no way Zhang Shi Lan would dare to sit down anywhere else. He nodded and slowly walked over, taking a seat. He folded his hands in his lap, his whole posture tense.
Yu Huang Rong sat down again, his gaze resting on the scholar. He really wanted to reach over and pat those hands, reassuring him that there was no need to be this tense but he knew that that would have the opposite effect. Thus he turned away and instead looked at Madam Yan. “Now, Madam Yan, would you be able to sate our curiosity? Just what kind of event have you thought of?”
Madam Yan sat down on another chair and gave the two men a smile that seemed even eviler than the one from before. Ah, there would certainly be a good show. She motioned at Xiao Xi who had brought over a chest. Madam Yan opened the lid and took out some wooden slips. “I guess the two gentlemen will know what I have here.”
Yu Huang Rong glanced at Zhang Shi Lan who nodded in response before he turned back to the matchmaker. “Aren’t those the wooden slips we chose the last time?”
Madam Yan nodded. “Indeed they are. You chose the women they represent because they managed to convince you of their qualities four days ago.”
Yu Huang Rong nodded even though he hadn’t paid attention to anything the women did. He had only cared about Zhang Shi Lan, after all. “Then what are the wooden slips for today?”
Madam Yan put the slips on the table and pushed them over to the two men. It really was great to work with somebody who had such a quick mind. “General Yu certainly cuts quick to the chase. You’ve had the good fortune of seeing those women display their talent. I’m sure it must have been a pleasant experience.”
Zhang Shi Lan nodded obediently while Yu Huang Rong barely held back from rolling his eyes. Could she get to the point already? Not that he would mind sitting next to Zhang Shi Lan for a while longer but he wanted to know what she had planned.
Madam Yan also saw that the General was getting impatient. She leaned back and motioned at the slips again. “You’ve had the chance to enjoy the show and I think that in a healthy relationship, both sides should have their duties but also enjoy the benefits. So for today, I want the two of you to display your talents for these women.”
Zhang Shi Lan looked at Madam Yan in a daze. Display their talents? He really didn’t know what this was supposed to mean. Yu Huang Rong also didn’t know. The two men looked at another in confusion, no other thought disturbing this rare understanding between them.
Madam Yan nodded. “Yes, you’ve heard that right. These women displayed their talents. Today, you should repay the favor. I know that it is sometimes a little harder for men to do something like this, so you are allowed to work together. In fact, I want you to organize a show for the women as a pair.” She smiled at them as if she hadn’t said anything strange.
Zhang Shi Lan’s expression turned awkward. Putting on a show in front of a group of women? And even together with General Yu? He really felt that going to the matchmaker hadn’t been a good idea. He should’ve better remained unmarried for his entire life instead of suffering through something like this.
Yu Huang Rong wasn’t happy either. He did want to work together with Zhang Shi Lan but how could she expect him to accept that the person he loved had to present himself in front of a group of women that wanted to marry him? Wasn’t that like … selling his body? His expression turned stormy but Madam Yan only raised her eyebrows at him.
Before Yu Huang Rong could say anything she spoke up. “I will give the two gentlemen enough time to prepare. The women have only been invited for this afternoon. So you will have the whole morning and midday to think of something you’d like to do for them. If there’s anything you need — be it instruments, a costume or maybe something completely different — you can tell Xiao Xi or Xiao Jia. They’ll be in the room next door. Then, we should leave you to yourselves, so that you can make the necessary preparations.” Madam Yan got up and made to leave.
Yu Huang Rong leaped up from his seat and reached out. “Wait! You can’t be serious about this, can you?”
Madam Yan turned back and smiled at him sweetly. “What is General Yu’s meaning? These women displayed their talents. Why shouldn’t you do the same? Or is it that General Yu doesn’t dare to do what a woman does?”
Yu Huang Rong was dumbfounded. Did he really need to give in to this faulty logic? Then again, he couldn’t deny that she had given him what he wanted. He was able to spend the morning with Zhang Shi Lan and they would even work on this together. There was no way they would be able to do this if Zhang Shi Lan didn’t talk to him. And if they managed to work together well they would even have some spare time to get to know each other better. There really was nothing he could complain about.
Yu Huang Rong sighed and sat down slowly. “I understand. If that is what Madam Yan wants us to do, then we’ll do so. We wouldn’t want to disappoint these women, would we?” He glanced at Zhang Shi Lan who nodded meekly. It seemed they’d have to think well about what they did. He really couldn’t imagine Zhang Shi Lan doing anything too outgoing in front of this group of women.
Madam Yan nodded and left the room with her two aides, closing the door behind her and leaving the two men alone with each other.
Yu Huang Rong turned to Zhang Shi Lan and examined his pale face. His heart ached when he saw him like this. This time he didn’t hold back and reached over, lightly patting his hand. “Don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll be able to find something that won’t be too humiliating.”
Zhang Shi Lan was pulled out of his thoughts when Yu Huang Rong touched him. His cheeks flushed and he couldn’t help but look up into those dark eyes. Ah, even if he was humiliated this afternoon, it might also be worth it. He really … was a lost cause. For this man, he was willing to do anything.