Qian Mu Qing tried very hard to ignore the two people showing off their affection next to him. Ah, it seemed it was true what people said about Madam Yan’s matchmaking pavilion: One could indeed find their true love there.
Ah, if only she would be able to find a wife for him that he could love as much as General Yu loved Zhang Shi Lan and the other way around. His family would be ecstatic and looking at the two of them, he also felt that having such a wife would be very good.
Well, even if that wasn’t possible, at the very least, his business should profit from this encounter too. After all, if he had a good relationship with Zhang Shi Lan and in extension with his future husband, then that would raise his own prestige which would make people more likely to want to have business dealings with him. After all, this General had done quite a lot for their Chen country. As far as everyone knew, the Emperor was also very satisfied with him. If nothing unexpected happened, then his status would be getting even better in the next few years. There were only benefits in this so he would be able to suffer through this show of affection for a while longer.
The two people next to him weren’t thinking of him at all. Yu Huang Rong couldn’t take it any longer and pulled Zhang Shi Lan into his arms, kissing his temple. “So … Since you’ve accepted my token of love, what about yours for me?”
Zhang Shi Lan froze and looked up with a complicated gaze. His token of love … How come he had forgotten about that? He had only thought about how it would be fun to tease Yu Huang Rong but had forgotten that he was in the same position as him. They were both men in love with another man so if he wanted Yu Huang Rong to give him a token of love, then he should also give him one, shouldn’t he?
Zhang Shi Lan lowered his gaze and lightly tugged at Yu Huang Rong’s robe. “Whatever I give you, won’t it seem incomparable after what you’ve given me?”
Yu Huang Rong shook his head. “Whatever it is, I’ll cherish it.”
Zhang Shi Lan glanced up and the gaze in Yu Huang Rong’s eyes made him feel better. Indeed. This person wasn’t the kind that would expect anything much. He would appreciate it just based on the fact that it came from him.
Zhang Shi Lan reached up and pulled out the pin holding his hair together. “Then how about taking this? It’s something I’ve worn. It’s nothing special but it’s one that I’ve always liked a lot because it seemed simple yet elegant.”
Yu Huang Rong took the pin and chuckled. “One you like? So is that why you used it today?”
Zhang Shi Lan nodded, causing his hair to scatter over his shoulders.
Yu Huang Rong looked at him, admiring the way the silky strands hugged his body and hummed. “After seeing this, I feel that you’ve given me an incomparable treasure.”
Zhang Shi Lan laughed and shook his head. “Don’t say something like that. You’ll make me blush.”
“You look very good when you do. So maybe I should say things like that more often instead.” He grinned and put the hairpin away, taking out the one he had brought at the market. “Be that as it may, if you go out like this, I’ll have to worry that other men will try to make advances on you. You should at least pull up your hair again. Here. I originally brought this to confuse my family since they tend to send somebody with me to monitor what I’m doing but you can use it for the time being.”
Zhang Shi Lan raised his brows but still took the silver hairpin from Yu Huang Rong. “I don’t know how I’ll explain this to my family when I get back home.”
Yu Huang Rong chuckled. “Well … You could just tell them a very good-looking person gave it to you. And you felt unable to reject that person’s sentiments since they were so nice.”
Zhang Shi Lan shook his head at him. “Do you really think that would work? I doubt my family would just accept that without asking more questions.”
Yu Huang Rong leaned forward and gave him another kiss. “Don’t think too much. I’m sure you’ll be able to come up with something. And who knows? They might not even notice. Then you can take it off and put it somewhere safe to admire it whenever you want to.”
Zhang Shi Lan shook his head but still brushed Yu Huang Rong’s cheek and kissed the other side. “You! You’re really looking at it too simply. If we always do stuff like this, they’ll figure it out in no time.”
“Mn, then we’ll have to tell Madam Yan honestly, I can’t wait to marry you anyway. So she should better not let us wait too long.”
“She probably won’t. Don’t you only have time until the end of the year? In that case, she will definitely make it work out until then. So don’t worry about it.”
Yu Huang Rong nodded and then finally remembered that there was food standing on the table. Yu Huang Rong made a show of picking out some vegetarian dishes for his beloved while Zhang Shi Lan used the opportunity to pick up a piece of meat to put it into Yu Huang Rong’s bowl. Just when he picked it up, he froze though.
Ah. Seeing a set of bowls on the other side of the table, he finally remembered that they weren’t alone. He cleared his throat and then gave Qian Mu Qing an embarrassed smile. “Young Master Qian must feel I’m being ridiculous. I invited you out and then something like this happened. I’m not a very good host.”
Yu Huang Rong stared at the person on the other side of the table, feeling that it would be best if he left anyway. He just wanted to be alone with Zhang Shi Lan.
Qian Mu Qing felt that Yu Huang Rong’s gaze was quite offensive but Zhang Shi Lan did indeed seem to be sorry. He gave a dismissive wave and turned back to the table. “It’s not a problem. You already told me that you wanted to meet up with General Yu. You don’t have many opportunities to do that so it’s normal for you to pay a little more attention to him. I don’t mind at all. It’s good that you found somebody that cares so much about you. I can only be envious for now and hope that Madam Yan will be able to find an equally good match for me.”
Zhang Shi Lan nodded. “I’m sure you will. Up until now, I’ve had a very good impression of her. She organized this event in a way that would give us an impression of the possible candidates for marriage first but took another approach than other matchmakers. I think that to a certain degree, this might be less shallow.” He raised his hands in a defensive motion. “Not that I want to say that it would be problematic to just consider status and wealth. Of course, it has merit to think about that too. But if the goal is to find a couple that will be able to truly love each other, then her approach of making us take interest in the other person’s talents and interests first … I feel that it is more suitable.”
Qian Mu Qing nodded. “Indeed, a lot of thought must’ve gone into this. It is no wonder the matchmaking pavilion has such a good reputation.”
Yu Huang Rong looked from one person to the other, feeling miffed. Why was the person he had finally managed to meet up with not paying attention to him and instead conversing with another man? This wasn’t right!
He reached over and grabbed Zhang Shi Lan’s arm, intertwining their fingers. “I didn’t have a good impression of her at first but seeing that she was able to see just how well the two of us fit together, she at least has an eye for what kind of people are suitable for each other.”
Zhang Shi Lan nodded. “That’s true. I guess her experience will play a part in that too. Actually, I guess as long as one has to do with other people a lot, then one might be able to see such things.” He turned back to Qian Mu Qing. “I was honestly surprised that young master Qian was able to see through us this fast. I’d always thought that I was being very secretive about my feelings but you noticed on the first day. I can’t have hidden it very well or maybe it’s just that you must have managed to gather a lot of experience with people as well when doing business. Thinking about it that way makes my heart feel a little lighter.”
Qian Mu Qing gave a wry laugh, wondering just what he was supposed to say. He really would’ve liked to converse with Zhang Shi Lan but with the General next to him, he felt that it wasn’t such a good idea. His experience did indeed tell him something but right now, it was that he should be very careful. This person obviously wasn’t open to calmly discuss things. No, he definitely wanted him to vanish. The further he got away from them, the happier this general would feel.
Qian Mu Qing was already wondering if he should come up with an excuse for why he had to leave when he reconsidered. No. Why should he go? Zhang Shi Lan had invited him and he was doing the two of them a favor. The General shouldn’t get any ideas.
And even though he was also thinking a bit about his own benefits in this situation, he was still doing this because he genuinely liked Zhang Shi Lan and wanted to be friends with him. If the General wasn’t able to stand another man in his presence even while they weren’t married yet, then wouldn’t Zhang Shi Lan suffer in the future after he entered his household? He wasn’t a woman, for Heaven’s sake! The General could hardly want to imprison him in his back courtyard, never letting him go out to see anybody, could he? That just wouldn’t be right. Even if he married another man, Zhang Shi Lan should still have his own life, his own career. Everything else would be a waste of his talent as a scholar.
Qian Mu Qing turned back to Zhang Shi Lan, bravely smiling even though he felt the General’s gaze darken. He had to use this opportunity to make him aware of the danger so he could do something against it. “Well, I guess Scholar Zhang isn’t wrong about that. In business, one really has to get a good grasp on how other people think. If not, then one might incur losses if the other person isn’t trustworthy or one might miss out on benefits if the other person would be willing to go further. Furthermore, being able to act with the others in your own group and the people of other groups is very important as well. Maybe I should also become a matchmaker if I ever find that doing business doesn’t satisfy me anymore.”
Zhang Shi Lan laughed. “I’m afraid Madam Yan wouldn’t like that. She seemed to be very happy with her task. Actually, it always seemed as if this was something she enjoyed rather than just a task she had to do.”
Qian Mu Qing nodded. “That indeed seems to be the case.” He glanced at Yu Huang Rong who was glaring at him even more and couldn’t help but smirk. “What’s your opinion on that, General Yu?”
Yu Huang Rong’s eyes narrowed even further but just then, Zhang Shi Lan turned around and caught a glimpse of that expression. Yu Huang Rong hurriedly adjusted it and put on a smile but it was already too late.
“Yu Huang Rong! Would you care to explain what that was just now?” Zhang Shi Lan was baffled. He probably shouldn’t be, considering what Qian Mu Qing had told him on the day of the first event but he still couldn’t believe it.
It was actually true that Yu Huang Rong had been glaring at Qian Mu Qing that day? Now, if he thought about it, a lot of things made sense. The way Qian Mu Qing first greeted him politely and even seemed like he wanted to talk but then suddenly turned pale and distanced himself, how he became all jittery when they walked over to the location where the event would be held and the things he said later on … That had all been because Yu Huang Rong had been glaring at him like this all the time!
Yu Huang Rong couldn’t help but wince. He really hadn’t wanted for Zhang Shi Lan to see that. “It’s not —”
Zhang Shi Lan shook his head. “Don’t even try to explain your way out of this. I’ve seen what I’ve seen and I believe in my own eyes. How could you do this? Qian Mu Qing is a friend of mine and he’s even doing the two of us a favor. You should treat him with respect even if you can’t find it in your heart to like him.”
Yu Huang Rong grimaced and lowered his gaze. He really didn’t like seeing that bastard trying to get close to Zhang Shi Lan. They still weren’t married yet. Didn’t he need to be wary of other men?
Zhang Shi Lan furrowed his brows. “What? Do you think differently?”
Yu Huang Rong tightened his lips. He was pretty sure that Zhang Shi Lan wouldn’t take it nicely if he did indeed disagree. And if said his thoughts out loud, trying to explain … He could also imagine that Zhang Shi Lan wouldn’t like that. Hadn’t he already told him that he shouldn’t treat him like a woman? And to be honest, he probably didn’t have any reason to worry. Hadn’t Zhang Shi Lan been in love with him all these years? Why was he still so insecure?
He sighed and finally looked up again, turning to Qian Mu Qing. “Alright, I’m sorry. It’s just … I guess I’m still a little on edge when imagining how Zhang Shi Lan spends time with somebody else. We haven’t been together for that long yet so I guess I was just overcautious.”
Qian Mu Qing grinned in response. Well, at the very least, this guy was willing to back off for the sake of Zhang Shi Lan. In that case, he shouldn’t make things too difficult for him. “To be honest, looking at the two of you, you don’t seem as if you had been together for only a few days. You seem more like … an old married couple.” He couldn’t help but chuckle at his own joke.
Zhang Shi Lan looked piqued but at the very least, Yu Huang Rong’s expression brightened. Mn, maybe this guy wasn’t that bad …
“Well … Shi Lan and are just that kind of couple. Knowing each other for a day is as good for us as other people knowing each other for a year.” He turned to Zhang Shi Lan and gave an ingratiating smile. “I feel that with just a glance, I know exactly what you think.” He leaned over, trying to kiss him and make him forget about what happened before but Zhang Shi Lan turned his head away.
“Don’t even think about it.”
Yu Huang Rong sighed but he also knew that he had done something wrong and that Zhang Shi Lan wouldn’t just let it be. No, he’d have to show a better attitude first and make up for his mistake.
He turned back to Qian Mu Qing and gave a wry smile. Somehow, he felt that this guy had gotten the better of him. This merchant … He really was too sneaky. “Well, then, let’s have a chat, Young Master Qian.”
Qian Mu Qing grinned and nodded. “Very well, that is an opportunity I really can’t reject.”