This time, Yu Huang Rong had no chance to escape his mother’s nagging. Well, as long as that could ensure that he would be able to see Zhang Shi Lan tomorrow, looking the best he could and fulfilling the task Madam Yan had given them, it was alright.
He merely listened halfheartedly and nodded every now and then but didn’t explain anything. Well, at the very least, he didn’t if it was something of importance. After all, if he slipped up even slightly, his mother would certainly figure out what was the matter. He didn’t want to risk that.
Thus his answers merely consisted of some vague sentences: Yes, he had gone to train his sword arts. No, he saw nothing wrong with that. Madam Yan would take care of the matters regarding his wedding so he just had to wait for now. And anyway, he was a soldier. He should be expected to also train while he had the opportunity to stay in the capital city. If he didn’t, wouldn’t he be letting the emperor down? That guy happened to be his best friend from childhood days. He’d be embarrassed if he did.
Madam Yu didn’t want to hear any of that but she didn’t manage to get anything else out of her son. In the end, she could only give up with a huff and threaten that she’d get back at him. He shouldn’t think that she would allow him to treat his mother like this when she was just acting in his best interest!
Yu Huang Rong merely nodded, indicating that he would deal with whatever she would be able to come up with. Then, Madam Yu finally left him alone, silently promising herself that she would definitely find out who that girl was. And when she did, she wouldn’t make it easy for her to get into their family!
Yu Huang Rong had no idea what kind of reaction his halfhearted answers had caused. All of his thoughts were on the very important question of what he was supposed to wear tomorrow. He felt that a dark robe made him look more imposing but then again, this was a gathering of scholars. Maybe he should try to seem a little tamer?
He went through his robes and finally picked a green one. The color was still rather dark but it wasn’t as oppressive as the blue or black robes he had. Most likely, this should fit with the scene? Well, he could only hope so.
He put the robe to the side and finally went to sleep, imagining how Zhang Shi Lan and he would see each other again tomorrow. Ah, it was a pity they would be surrounded by a lot of people. They definitely wouldn’t be able to have a moment just to themselves to say what they wanted or hold each other’s hands.
In that manner, the next day finally arrived. Yu Huang Rong jumped out of bed, washed up and put on the green robe he had chosen. Then he rushed to find his father. They definitely couldn’t be late!
The older General Yu looked at his son and raised his brows. “What’s with you? Even if they start early, there’s no need to rush this much, is there?”
Yu Huang Rong clicked his tongue. “There wouldn’t be any to rush if this was just us going to some gathering. But this is about giving Zhang Shi Lan and his family face. So since we’re going, we should go early.” After all, he wanted to spend as much time with his lover as he could. Why would he give up on some precious seconds if he could have them all to himself? No, it was much better to be there as early as possible. Ah, right, and then there was the fact that they had to make their fathers get along. Naturally, that was important as well …
The General still looked at his son full of doubt but finally did him the favor to hurry up and followed him over to the Academy.
The scholars’ Academy had been founded three generations ago. The emperor at that time had had a high interest in elevating the knowledge available to his people and had thus put much effort into letting the young people thrive. He had been of the opinion that only if talents were nurtured early, receiving the necessary guidance and opportunities, they would be able to become capable individuals worthy of helping to move their Chen country in the right direction.
Since then the Academy had been dedicated to taking in children and teaching them all the knowledge that their forefathers had accumulated, encouraging them to add to this knowledge and thus earn merits for their country.
Even someone like the older General Yu didn’t look down on them and their achievements although he still felt that the scholars nowadays often times lacked the ability to truly judge how the real world worked.
Somebody who only stayed in their study every day of the year and only ever left to maybe make a courtesy call on someone just couldn’t know how the world outside worked. No, a true scholar would need to travel the country and see how the people were living. Only then could his knowledge be put into practice and their minds used to make the life of the population better.
Especially because of this opinion, General Yu didn’t like these competitions. Sure, they were an opportunity for young people to display their talents but they were nothing more than that. Composing some essays, writing a poem in the most beautiful calligraphy … Maybe it could be added to some collection and admired by the people knowledgeable enough to do so but it did nothing for the simple people living in the towns and villages.
Well, taking part in these events every now and then wouldn’t hurt him. And his son was right in so far that since that Zhang Shi Lan had helped him, it would be better to do them some small favor. If he remembered it right, then he even knew that Zhang Shi Lan’s father. Wasn’t he some small minister at court? In that case, they would at least have a few things in common they could talk about it.
General Yu and his son walked down the street toward the pagoda at the center of the Academy’s premises. As far as Zhang Shi Lan had told Yu Huang Rong this was the place where the most important gatherings and debates would take place. It was the heart of the Academy. Other than that, there were still a lot of other buildings on the premises of the Academy, some used to teach the younger children, some for storing the books the students were supposed to read and others for researching different subjects.
This annual competition that they were visiting today would start at exactly this pagoda before things would be moved outside.
When they got closer, General Yu raised his brows. Two people stood not far from the entrance of the pagoda. There were actually exactly that small minister Zhang he had thought of before and a young scholar in a blue robe that should at his side. “Your friend seems to be taking this rather seriously.”
Yu Huang Rong looked over and his lips unwittingly curved into a smile. “Well, we’re friends. Isn’t he supposed to take this seriously? Furthermore, today it’s finally me doing him a favor.”
General Yu nodded his head but he couldn’t help but wonder. They had gotten here quite early but these two were standing there already. Never mind that they shouldn’t have known when they would come, even if they came early, it still was quite an achievement to be here before them and wait all the time. Was this showing their sincerity? Or was this them being too eager? Yu Huang Rong had risen to fame not too long ago. There might be some people that wanted to take advantage of him. He should make sure these two weren’t part of them.
The four people finally met face-to-face. Mister Zhang stepped forward and cupped his fists, bowing to General Yu. “General Yu.”
General Yu also cupped his fists and returned the bow. “Minister Zhang.”
Mister Zhang lowered his hands and gave a smile. “It is a pleasure to meet you here. My son has been spending some time with your son in the last few weeks. I hope he hasn’t made any trouble.”
“Trouble …” General Yu glanced at his son only to notice that he wasn’t paying any attention. He already wanted to furrow his brows and remind him that he had been the one who said that they should give this person some face when he saw his son’s look. That’s … Was that really how you looked at somebody who had helped you to make some connections?
He looked away and shook his head. “Minister Zhang must be joking with me. If anything, I should be afraid that useless son of mine would do something to bring shame to my family.”
Mister Zhang gave a dry laugh. This General Yu was really too proficient in making understatements! If the younger General Yu could still be called a useless son, then he really didn’t know where other parents in the capital should put their face. “General Yu is being too humble. Your son is very outstanding, rendering such great service in the military. It is only a given that somebody should assist him with some simple matters.”
General Yu didn’t think he should argue with that. Well, his son had done quite a few good things while he was in the war. Nobody could say anything else. “Well, he certainly knows how to use the sword and he can come up with some ideas on the battlefield. And now, if he has somebody to consult for other matters that will need a bright head as well.” He turned to Zhang Shi Lan who cupped his fists and bowed to him in greeting.
The general looked at the person in front of him with a complicated gaze. “My son has troubled you. Don’t take it to heart.”
Zhang Shi Lan nodded but didn’t answer. He really didn’t feel that his status was high enough to talk with the General. He didn’t even have an official position in the capital other than being a minister’s son.
Seeing Zhang Shi Lan keeping quiet, General Yu nodded with satisfaction. Well, he was not trying to get anything out of the situation at the very least. And he knew how to behave as well. He glanced at his son again who turned to look at him and raised his brows, motioning to the pagoda.
General Yu really wanted to sigh. First, he wanted them to hurry when going to the Academy, now we also wanted them to hurry when going inside. If things went on like this, they would hurry for the whole day! Was his son looking forward to this or did he actually want to return soon? He couldn’t understand him anymore!