Yu Huang Rong raised his hands in surrender.
Zhang Shi Lan looked at him, not quite daring to believe him. “You won’t say it anymore?”
Yu Huang Rong shook his head. As soon as Zhang Shi Lan retracted his hand, he gave a smile. “If it’s so important to you, then I won’t do it.” He couldn’t help but think that he definitely wouldn’t do it in front of Zhang Shi Lan any time soon. There was no way he would call Luan Xin Your Majesty when they were alone though.
Damn, the two of them had grown up together! They had made trouble for the previous Emperor and his own father and more than once had he beaten Luan Xin when training, making him fall to the ground and be covered in dirt. That kind of person … He just couldn’t bring himself to use such a distant title for him.
It was something else if there were outsiders around but when they were alone or with their own people like She Ning or Zhang Shi Lan, then he refused to be like that. Hmph, never mind that he hadn’t even been there when the crowning ceremony was held, he also refused to treat his best friend any different just because he was wearing some fancier robes now! They had been friends as children and they would be friends for a lifetime, no matter the circumstances!
Zhang Shi Lan wasn’t quite reassured yet but what could he do? He could only caution Yu Huang Rong and hope that he would listen to him but there was no guarantee that his lover would really do as he said.
Well, if he didn’t, then he could only hope that Yu Huang Rong was right and that the emperor wasn’t the kind of person that would quietly note down all the slights somebody committed against him. Seriously though, did Yu Huang Rong have any regard for customs? Marrying a man, even calling the Emperor by his given name … it seemed that nothing was taboo to him. In the future, they had to be careful or they would really get into trouble if he continued to be like this.
Yu Huang Rong could see that Zhang Shi Lan was still feeling troubled but since he didn’t want to promise anything in this regard, he’d rather not say anything than lie to the person he promised to marry. “Never mind that, I think you were just trying to tell me about your aspirations.”
Zhang Shi Lan sighed. “Hearing you be like this, I feel that I should really try to get a position at court. If I manage to impress His Majesty, maybe he’ll excuse your insults one day on my behalf.”
Yu Huang Rong laughed. “You’re really worrying too much. He likes me a lot. In fact …” He couldn’t help but grin when he leaned closer. “You wouldn’t believe it but the emperor once had a crush on me.”
Zhang Shi Lan’s brows furrowed. “Yu Huang Rong! Do you have to try to get yourself in trouble?!” Just saying his given name out loud like that was one thing but spreading such rumors … This really wouldn’t end well if somebody heard. And even if Yu Huang Rong was right at the emperor didn’t mind Yu Huang Rong being more casual with him because they had grown up together, he certainly wouldn’t tolerate somebody to talk about him like that. After all, not everybody was like him and Yu Huang Rong.
Even though there were no laws in their Chen country that forbid a man from marrying another man, that didn’t mean that everybody would be willing to do it. On the contrary, most of the men would probably see it as an insult to be proposed to by another man. And a rumor about them having a crush on another man would certainly not be much better. That would be even truer the higher the position of the person was. So if the one they were talking about was the emperor … There really was no saying how he would react if it was something absurd like that but it couldn’t be good.
Yu Huang Rong pursed his lips. “What? You don’t believe that I have enough charm for that?”
Zhang Shi Lan sighed. “I certainly believe that you have enough charm to make another man other than me fall in love with you. I just don’t believe that that man would be His Majesty. And now, let’s not talk about this any longer. We’ll really get into trouble.”
Yu Huang Rong relented with a sigh. Honestly, if somebody had told him previously that the emperor had fallen in love with him, he also wouldn’t have believed it. After all, he had never even thought that something like that would be possible. Well, Luan Xin had probably just been too good at hiding it. Being the crown prince for so long had really made him develop an unreadable expression that nobody could see through. Despite the many years they had known each other, even he couldn’t figure him out sometimes. Well, the ten years they had spent apart hadn’t helped in that regard.
Nevertheless, if he was honest, then he was glad that he hadn’t known. He didn’t know when exactly Luan Xin had fallen in love with him but whether it was before he had met Zhang Shi Lan afterward, he wouldn’t have reciprocated Luan Xin’s feelings. After all, he had only ever seen him as his best friend and he couldn’t imagine that ever changing. If he had to, he would give his life for this person without hesitation but sharing his bed and table as a couple with him … No, he just couldn’t imagine that. Since he knew that, wasn’t it better not to know? Otherwise, their friendship might have broken because of hurt feelings. That wouldn’t have made anything better and just cost them something valuable.
Yu Huang Rong sighed and pushed the thought away, gripping Zhang Shi Lan’s hand instead. “Alright, then let’s not talk about that any longer. Can you come up with anything in regard to Madam Yan’s task? Is there anything coming up where your father would go and where I could bring my father as well?”
Zhang Shi Lan looked at their hands and pondered. It really wasn’t easy. His father and the older General Yu were very different people. The kind of place where the General would go was probably not a place that his father would want to visit and vice versa.
Then again, they were both people with a position at court. And even though his father’s status wasn’t quite as high as that of General Yu, he would also be invited to a lot of festivities. The only problem was that his father didn’t like to attend any of those. He’d much rather stay in his study and read or maybe visit the Academy.
Zhang Shi Lan’s eyes widened and he raised his brows. Maybe that would be an idea. “In three weeks, the Academy will be holding an event. There will be a banquet and a poetry competition. The ones attending will mostly be the disciples of the Academy and those that once graduated from there but people with a high position at court will be invited as well. My father normally doesn’t like gatherings but since this is something to his taste, he might actually go. Even if he doesn’t intend to, I should be able to convince him.”
Yu Huang Rong nodded. “That might be an idea. My father normally doesn’t care too much about these things but if several other people from court attend, I might be able to convince him. Furthermore, if both you and your father go, then I might be able to use that as an excuse.”
Zhang Shi Lan raised his brows. “How so? I don’t think Madam Yan would want us to expose our relationship yet.”
Yu Huang Rong laughed and pulled his hand closer, pressing his lips against the knuckles. “What are you thinking? You can’t wait until I tell my father that you will be his son-in-law?”
Zhang Shi Lan’s cheeks flushed and he tried to take his hand back but Yu Huang Rong held onto it. “Yu Huang Rong! Don’t be like that. Just explain what you meant.”
Yu Huang Rong chuckled but still nodded. “Well, it hasn’t been long since I came back to the capital and I’m not very well acquainted with other people. I’ve managed to strike up a relationship with you and you’ve helped me to get to know Qian Mu Qing. Since there are still three weeks until that event, you could even take me to meet some other people. That way, I owe you one. Dragging my father along to show you and your family some face would have to be expected, wouldn’t it?”
Zhang Shi Lan rubbed his lips and nodded slowly. “Well, that is certainly a way to see it. On the other hand, your status is higher than mine. Allowing me to bring you to meet people is already giving me enough face.”
Yu Huang Rong clicked his tongue. “Maybe for those schemers! My father isn’t like that. Since you have helped me in a situation where I could use some help, he’ll feel that you are a good person. Actually, it’s a good opportunity to cultivate your image in my father’s heart as well. If he feels that you are very good, he might not protest as much when I say that I want to marry you later on.”
Zhang Shi Lan laughed. “I guess I’ll have to make sure I don’t make a fool of myself then. Is there anything I should take note of when talking to your father?”
“I don’t think so. Well, he’s pretty direct and he hates when people talk in circles. So if you have to say something, just get it out with and he’ll be happy. Also, please don’t be offended if he says something that doesn’t sound very … pleasing to the ears. We’re just soldiers. We don’t really excel in using words.”
Zhang Shi Lan looked at his lover, examining his expression. Yu Huang Rong really seemed to think that way. It was strange though. Thinking back to his confession, he couldn’t help but feel Yu Huang Rong knew very well what to say and what not to. At the very least, he had felt incredibly touched that day.
Well, maybe that was also because he had longed to hear that confession. Even if Yu Huang Rong had just thrown him over his shoulder and said ‘I like you, let me take you home’, he probably would’ve felt that it was romantic. Sometimes, the heart was just like that. Whatever requirements you normally had, they didn’t count for anything at the moment your wishes were actually fulfilled.