The two of them rehearsed another two times before Yu Huang Rong nodded and sheathed his sword. He went back to the table and sat down next to Zhang Shi Lan. “I feel that we are already doing very well. We should take a short break so as to not tire ourselves out and then try to see if there is anything we can do better.”
Zhang Shi Lan nodded. If Yu Huang Rong said to do things this way, then naturally, he wouldn’t say anything against it. Being able to work with him even for a short amount of time was already an honor for him.
Zhang Shi Lan silently watched as Yu Huang Rong took one of the cakes standing to the side and couldn’t help but feel that it was good that he had gone to the matchmaker the same day as Yu Huang Rong. If he hadn’t, then most likely, he wouldn’t have been invited to this event and they wouldn’t be able to spend this much time together.
Yu Huang Rong could feel the other person’s gaze on him but didn’t say anything. He contentedly nibbled at the cake and poured both of them a cup of tea. If the person he loved looked at him this intently, then naturally, that was something that had to be cherished. He would need to be an idiot to disturb the current mood with any superfluous words.
Zhang Shi Lan tried to drink the tea before he leaned slightly closer to Yu Huang Rong. He couldn’t help it. Being this close to him the whole time and noticing just how easy it was to get along with him if there was a subject they could talk about, he couldn’t help but want to be even closer to him. “General Yu … Is there something you weren’t satisfied with?”
Yu Huang Rong glanced up at him and raised his brows. What wouldn’t he be satisfied with if the person he loved was slowly opening up to him? He gave a smile, not forgetting what Luan Xin and the captain of his secret guards had said. He had to be gentle if he didn’t want to scare him away. “Dissatisfied? In what regard?”
Zhang Shi Lan motioned at the guqin. “The song. Obviously, General Yu is especially talented with the sword. Whether the performance will be satisfying might depend on how well I’m able to fit the music to your performance. So maybe if there’s anything General Yu wants me to adjust …”
Yu Huang Rong gave it a thought. Actually, he didn’t feel that there was a need. Zhang Shi Lan’s melody fit very well with his own emotions when thinking back to the war. He could visualize it and put that mood into his moves. But … if he found something that could be revised, then they would need to work together for a long time. That was certainly beneficial to his plan. So he shouldn’t give up on this opportunity.
Yu Huang Rong tried to think of what little he knew about sword dances. Normally, it seemed a bit boring for him. Those women that often did them had no idea about how it was to hold a real sword and were only doing so for the amusement of others. Naturally, something like that couldn’t impress him. To him, what counted was the real skill with the sword. Then again, that wasn’t anything that should be displayed in front of women. In that case, he could only go for something showy.
Yu Huang Rong gave a hum and smiled at Zhang Shi Lan “Actually, there isn’t much. I’m just thinking that maybe it would be nice to have a slightly more outgoing part. Something fast that incorporates the spirit of battle. After all, even though there is a lot of sentimental feelings involved for me, it still can’t be denied that the battle itself is an important part. If not for the battle, then neither would there be the death of our comrades nor will we be able to guard those we love. So maybe that should be part as well in our performance.”
Zhang Shi Lan straightened up and nodded eagerly. “Of course, of course. It was my oversight. General Yu said such beautiful things and I felt that it was too touching. I almost forgot that we were talking about war. Even though that is what General Yu is famed for. I should apologize.”
“Not for that. Actually, it’s quite nice not only to be seen as somebody who fought in the war and brought back victories but also as a person that went through a lot on the battlefield.”
The two once again fell silent, the atmosphere between them growing tense. Zhang Shi Lan’s thoughts couldn’t help but return to what Qian Mu Qing had said before but Yu Huang Rong couldn’t help but wonder what Zhang Shi Lan was thinking about. It sure seemed that things were slowly changing between them.
Zhang Shi Lan took a shaky breath and pulled the guqin closer to him. “Then how about this?” His fingers moved and another melody sounded, this time faster than the previous tune and indeed filled with a vigor that made one reminisce about the fights the people of their Chen country had fought.
Yu Huang Rong nodded. “Yes, exactly like this. I’m surprised each time at just how well Scholar Zhang is able to put my clumsy words into music. Would you let me hear the whole song?”
Zhang Shi Lan’s cheeks flushed. “General Yu is praising me too much. You might find it unsatisfactory how the two parts tie into each other.”
Yu Huang Rong just smiled. After ten years on the battlefield and with a status that had risen high, he wasn’t one for too many niceties. This self-deprecation was nothing he wanted to hear. “Let’s see about that. Just play for me. I like listening to you.” He also liked looking at him and the sentence almost escaped his mouth but he barely held back in the end. No, he couldn’t say that yet. At the moment, they still weren’t close enough for that.
Zhang Shi Lan nodded and once again his fingers flew over the strings, this time playing the whole melody he had come up with.
There was the endless waiting once again, then the start of the battle, the fight, the bloodshed and finally, there was the mourning of their lost brothers, the hope for those they wanted to protect, the hope for themselves to finally be able to return home.
Yu Huang Rong’s gaze grew grave and this time, he couldn’t help but blurt out what he thought. “I thought of you.”
He didn’t add anything else but his gaze told Zhang Shi Lan everything that he needed to know. This man was talking about the ten years on the battlefield. However it had happened, in that time, he had already thought of him. It seemed Qian Mu Qing hadn’t been wrong.