Both men were in a complicated mood when they were finally home. On one hand, they were happy that they had managed to confess their feelings and that the other person was in love with them too. Just thinking about the fact that they had gotten together and could marry in the future, filled their hearts with endless sweetness.
On the other hand, they couldn’t help but feel strange now that they were alone again. This afternoon … it felt too good to be true. So the two of them couldn’t help but feel afraid to lie down in the evening. What if when they woke up the next morning, they found out that they had only dreamed all this? When they saw each other again, would the person that had captivated their heart still acknowledge them as their future partner? Or maybe they would once again be filled with endless longing toward the person they couldn’t have. They couldn’t help but fear that possibility.
When they finally got up the next morning, this was exactly the mood they were in. Yu Huang Rong paced up and down in his room and waited for any news from Zhang Shi Lan. They had talked about the next steps. The first should be to meet up together with Qian Mu Qing so that they would be able to see each other without inviting gossip. After that, Madam Yan’s next event should come up.
Unfortunately, thinking about it now, they hadn’t been too thorough in their planning. Just how would they organize their meeting with Qian Mu Qing? They hadn’t even settled on a time and place! Would they go to the same establishment as yesterday? But the more often they went to a place, the more likely somebody would notice something.
No, it would still be better to go somewhere else. He was sure that Zhang Shi Lan would also think so. But if they did … Then how were they supposed to get together? Maybe he should send a letter to Zhang Shi Lan telling him where to meet up? But in that case, he had to make sure that it was a letter that wouldn’t tip off anybody. Whether it was his family or Zhang Shi Lan’s, they couldn’t know.
Ah, this wasn’t good. Even though he had said those things in front of Zhang Shi Lan’s house yesterday so that Zhang Shi Lan’s family would know that he thought of him as a knowledgeable person and wanted to learn from him, that might not be enough to stop them from having any thoughts. After all, the more often they met up, the more likely this was to be exposed. Was there no way to get around this?
In Minister Zhang’s house, his son was going through the same motion of worrying himself sick. Just what should he do? Invite Qian Mu Qing first? Or ask the General where to meet up? He really didn’t know. But he definitely had to do something. Then again, they had gone out only yesterday. If he did something today, then wouldn’t things be too suspicious? He couldn’t help but worry about that. No, it was likely better not to do anything today. He should still wait a while.
Zhang Shi Lan felt reluctant but he knew that it was better to wait at least one day longer. Certainly, Yu Huang Rong thought the same. Otherwise, he would’ve told him a time and place yesterday already, wouldn’t he? He sighed and sat down in his study, picking up a few books and leafing through them. If he studied a little, then the time until tomorrow might not feel as long.
One page after the other was turned over but when Zhang Shi Lan reached the end of the book and tried to summarize in his mind what he had read, he only came up with a blank. What he had read just now … who knew for sure? He pushed the book away and gave another sigh. There was no use in doing this. Even if he read until the end, he still wouldn’t learn anything. His thoughts just weren’t there. No, until he saw Yu Huang Rong again and they managed to talk to the matchmaker, he probably wouldn’t be able to focus.
Zhang Shi Lan got up and walked over to the window, looking at the courtyard outside. Seeing the stone table, he couldn’t help but think of the stone table in the bamboo grove where they had sat together yesterday. They had been so close … When he closed his eyes, he felt as if he could still feel those strong arms around his waist, that breath brushing his cheek, that smell enveloping him, the voice drifting into his ears … It felt too good to be true. As if this was indeed merely a dream.
Zhang Shi Lan chuckled to himself. “Maybe I should’ve asked for a token of love. Then I could look at it now and take it into my hands to make sure I didn’t just daydream again.”
Just imagining it made him chuckle again. He really wondered what Yu Huang Rong would’ve given him if he did. The General didn’t seem like the kind of person that would carry anything with him that he didn’t need. So most likely other than the robe that he wore, there would only be his family’s jade pendant and the weapon at his side. Neither of that could be given away. So it should prove difficult for the General to find an appropriate response to that question.
Mn, maybe he should really ask him when they saw each other again. Not only because he’d like to know how Yu Huang Rong would try to get out of that situation but also because it couldn’t hurt to remind the General every now and then that he was a man just like him. If he didn’t, he felt that he would really be treated as his wife in the future. Even if they managed to marry, what kind of status would he have in his household then?
Zhang Shi Lan shook his head at himself. What kind of question was that even? Status in the household … Was he treating himself as Yu Huang Rong’s wife? In that case, the person that needed to be reminded that he was a man was probably rather he than the General.
Ah, well, it would need some time to get used to this but it wasn’t as if they’d get married anytime soon. Even though they had confessed, there were many more things to do. Never mind convincing their families, even if they managed to do so, they would still need to prepare the wedding. That would take a lot of time. Most likely, they would only be getting married toward the end of the year.
Zhang Shi Lan sighed at that thought. The end of the year … maybe by then, there would be snow covering the ground. It would look beautiful. When they stepped out in their crimson robes on their wedding day, that should be a sight to behold.
Zhang Shi Lan lowered his head and shook it at himself again. What was he thinking there? Already planning their wedding? They had only confessed to each other yesterday. Wasn’t he getting ahead of himself? But he really couldn’t help it. Just the thought that Yu Huang Rong also loved him and that there was a future like that in store for them, whenever it might be, that was too much not to daydream a bit. Especially if there was nothing else to do.
While Zhang Shi Lan was pleasantly daydreaming, Yu Huang Rong felt as if he was caught in a nightmare. He was still pacing up and down in his room, waiting for the message from Zhang Shi Lan. Why hadn’t he heard from him yet? Shouldn’t he have sent a servant over? Or could it be that all of that really wasn’t true and had just been a pleasant dream from last night? He had no idea. And he felt like he would go crazy not being able to go over and ask. What should he do?
He brushed through his hair and groaned. This was stupid. Running around like a trapped animal wouldn’t bring him one step closer to Zhang Shi Lan. He wouldn’t find an answer to his questions either. No, he had to do something.
Should he go over? Or maybe he should just go to the restaurant where they had met yesterday? Maybe Zhang Shi Lan wanted to meet there after all. They hadn’t talked about any other place. So maybe he thought that was the best one? Ah, but if he went there and Zhang Shi Lan hadn’t wanted to meet there, then he might miss his message when the servant brought it over. What should he do?
In the end, Yu Huang Rong stayed at home the whole day, waiting for news from Zhang Shi Lan. There wasn’t even the least bit though. It was as if Zhang Shi Lan had completely forgotten about it.
Yu Huang Rong blankly stared into the air, not knowing what to do. He had waited the whole day but the message he had hoped for hadn’t come. What did this mean? Why was this happening? He couldn’t accept this! He needed an answer right now!
He leaped to his feet and ran out of the room only to stop in front of the door. Shit. He couldn’t go over and question him. If he did that, then he’d be giving away what was going on between them. Whatever they were planning would fall through then. He couldn’t risk that!
Yu Huang Rong went back to his room and slammed the door shut behind him. Argh! This was maddening! He wanted an answer and he wanted it now! Once again, he paced up and down in the room and finally rushed out again. Screw this! He’d just go over to take a quick look. It wasn’t that strange to visit a friend, was it? He went to the stable and got his horse, leading it outside impatiently. In front of the mansion, he stopped once more. Was this really a good idea? But what if …
Yu Huang Rong closed his eyes and cursed himself. It couldn’t go on like this! He had to do something or he’d go crazy! Since he couldn’t go to see Zhang Shi Lan, he would have to ask somebody else. If he ran over to the matchmaker though, then his family would notice that something was up. In the worst case, they might think he was having a thing for Madam Yan instead and was trying to have her cheat on her husband. Whoever that fake guy was anyway. No, it was much better to seek the advice of a friend. With that thought, Yu Huang Rong finally got onto the horse and rode in the direction of the palace.
Inside the General’s manor, a servant ran through the corridors and finally knocked on a door, stepping inside at the woman’s voice sounding from inside.
“So? What happened in the end?”
“He rode off in the direction of the palace, Madam. He seemed pretty indecisive though.”
Madam Yu slapped the armrest of her chair. “I knew it! Obviously, that boy has finally fallen in love. Just why doesn’t he want to say who the girl is? I could help him! We could already set things up and not care about what that matchmaker has planned. Who needs these strange events? Since he wants her, he should get her. Which girl would say no if my son is interested in her?”
The servant nodded blankly but he couldn’t help but wonder how the Madam could be this sure. After all, one of the other gentlemen taking part in the event was the Emperor’s cousin. With that kind of status, was the General really somebody that could compete? Naturally, he wouldn’t dare to say so.