Ming Xiang Wen drafted the invitations for the young scholars to take up a position at the Academy but with everything that needed to be considered like where they would be sent exactly, what their responsibilities would be, who would be responsible for them, and how long they were supposed to stay at the Academy, it still took a long time until the invitations were finished. In the end, the letter only arrived the day before the autumn hunt.
Zhang Shi Lan looked up in surprise when the servant brought the letter over. “A letter? Who sent it?” That wouldn’t be Yu Huang Rong, would it? He had already told him before that he was supposed to accompany him to the autumn hunt and that they would let Madam Yan’s grand act play out there so he wasn’t sure what this might be about. Could these be details about what he was supposed to do? He was still in the dark about that.
“It is from the Academy.” The servant’s face was glowing saying that even though he couldn’t help but show a hint of nervousness as well. Everyone in the household knew that their young master was interested in the Academy and would like to take up a position there. After not hearing from them since his graduation, it was good that he had finally gained enough reputation that they at least contacted him!
“The Academy?” Zhang Shi Lan took the letter, looking at it in a daze. He didn’t know what to make of this.
“Don’t you want to open it, Young Master?”
Zhang Shi Lan opened his mouth but he didn’t know what to say. His heart beat madly. The results of the competition were already out. He had managed to get the second place — the highest result he had ever achieved. Shouldn’t that have been it?
The servant wanted to urge him again but finally swallowed the words down. “Alright, then … I’ll leave you alone.”
“Mn. Thank you.” Zhang Shi Lan nodded and continued to look at the letter until the door closed.
What to do now? He … he didn’t dare to open it. But he still wanted to know what was written inside.
He got up, holding the letter in his hands and paced through the room. His heart beat even faster. He couldn’t wait forever to open this, could he? What if … what if there was something inside that required him to go somewhere at a specific date or time? What if he missed it?
Ah, but he was probably hoping too much. Maybe this was just a note for those who had taken part in the competition, some warm words of comfort to those who hadn’t managed to gain a position yet again.
Zhang Shi Lan sighed and sat down again, putting the letter onto the table. There was only one way to find out. But he didn’t dare to do it. If it wasn’t what he hoped for … Maybe he would be even more disappointed. After all, Yu Huang Rong had spoken out for him the other day and his results hadn’t been bad. He would never get a better chance than this. So if this wasn’t what he hoped for, it would be the same as burying his dreams. He really didn’t know what to think about that.
On the other hand, if it was the case, then it might be better if he just opened it. What use was there in hoping and hoping if it would never come to fruition anyway? He might as well face the facts and then find another direction. Hadn’t he confidently told Yu Huang Rong the other day that there would be other ways to be a scholar even if he couldn’t get a position at the Academy? Well, if he was able to say words like that, then he should also be able to make them work.
Zhang Shi Lan picked up the letter, reaching for the flap but hesitated once again. He closed his eyes and then slipped the letter into his clothes, getting up and leaving the room.
He would open it. But he wouldn’t do it here and he wouldn’t do so now. He would go and see Yu Huang Rong first. Even if he wouldn’t be able to change anything about what was written inside, he would at least be able to give him a hug and tell him that everything was going to be well in the future. He could make a joke about how he didn’t even need to be a scholar since his salary in the military would be enough to support both of them.
Zhang Shi Lan only pulled out of his thoughts when he already stood in front of the Yu family’s estate. Ah, what was he doing? He couldn’t just go over like that, could he? He should’ve at least sent a note before. But if he did …
Zhang Shi Lan wondered what to do when one of the servants already spotted him. By now, Zhang Shi Lan had been seen by quite a few of them and it wasn’t like the meetings between him and Yu Huang Rong had all been a secret.
The servant rushed over, bowing to him. “Young Master Zhang, did you come to see the General?”
Zhang Shi Lan nodded with an awkward expression. “I … I was close by. I’m sorry for not announcing that I’d be coming over. I must be giving you trouble.”
The servant just waved, feeling secretly happy that this guest was such a nice one. “The General said it’s never an issue when you come over. Since you’re friends, you can come over whenever you want to.”
Zhang Shi Lan heaved a relieved sigh and nodded. “Thank you.”
“No need to thank me. Let me just show you inside.”
Zhang Shi Lan nodded and then followed him, curiously glancing around. He had seen the estate several times from outside but he had never set foot into it. So this was the first time actually seeing how Yu Huang Rong lived.
The estate was much bigger than that of his family and there were guards stationed around, wearing the armor of the military. Well, it made sense. Both he and his father were important Generals commanding an army. Naturally, they would have these kinds of people around them.
The servant stopped in front of a door and gave Zhang Shi Lan a smile before he knocked. “General Yu, Young Master Zhang came to see you.”
A thump sounded from the other side, followed by hurried footsteps that first approached the door and then retraced.
Zhang Shi Lan smiled to himself. He could imagine what this was about. Yu Huang Rong was happy to hear that he had come over and wanted to see him immediately but then he noticed that that might be a little too obvious so he tried to pretend everything was normal, not noticing that he made things even more obvious. Sometimes he really wondered if Yu Huang Rong was actually a good general. How could he be so flustered?
He forced himself to make the corners of his lips point down and look embarrassed in the hope of dissolving the issue at least a little. “Maybe I’m disturbing him after all?”
The servant’s lips twitched. Why was their guest taking the blame now if their own Young Master couldn’t hurry up? “No, that’s …”
“Yes? Show him in!”
The servant didn’t bother to say anything else and just opened the door, motioning inside. Then he bowed and left. It was better that scholar dealt with the young general himself.
Inside, Yu Huang Rong listened for the steps outside to retreat before he rushed over to Zhang Shi Lan and pulled him into his arms, cupping one of his cheeks and leaning in for a kiss. “What a sweet surprise! You should have told me that you’d drop by. I could’ve prepared.”
Zhang Shi Lan smiled, forgetting for a moment just how nervous he had been before. “Oh? What did you want to prepare?”
Yu Huang Rong chuckled. “Myself, obviously. Shouldn’t I make the best impression I can?”
Zhang Shi Lan seriously looked him up and down and then patted his chest with a satisfied expression. “I think you’re well-enough prepared. You’re making a very good impression today. In fact, my impression of you has been very well all along. So there’s no need to worry about it.”
Yu Huang Rong smiled and gently kissed his lover’s temple. “Thank you very much. I’m honored that you have such a high opinion of me.” He held him for a moment longer, happily looking at him without any intention to do more. Mn, this really was nice. Unfortunately, he didn’t believe that Zhang Shi Lan would come over one day prior to the autumn hunt just because he wanted to see him and pad his ego a bit. “Did something happen?”
Zhang Shi Lan’s heart thumped and he pulled out the letter with a nervous expression. “The Academy wrote. I … I didn’t dare to open it alone.”
Yu Huang Rong gulped and looked at the thin envelope in Zhang Shi Lan’s hand. “Do you think it’s something bad?”
Zhang Shi Lan shook his head. “I don’t know. I really don’t know. It could be anything. It might have to do with the competition before but … Then again, it’s already been a while. They’ve already announced the results. Why would they write now?”
Yu Huang Rong nodded, tightening his grasp around Zhang Shi Lan’s waist. “Do you … Do you want me to hold you while you open it? Or …”
Zhang Shi Lan looked at the letter, furrowing his brows and finally held it up to Yu Huang Rong. “Can you open it for me?”
“Are you sure? If it’s something good …”
Zhang Shi Lan shook his head. “If it’s something good, then what problem is there? Getting good news from you, that’s also something to look forward to.”
Yu Huang Rong nodded and finally took the letter with a serious expression. He glanced at Zhang Shi Lan’s face once more before opening it. He glanced over the characters written in a beautiful cursive style, his heart pounding heavily. This should be …
He gulped and took a deep breath, reading the letter once again to make sure he hadn’t misunderstood. No, it stayed the same.
Yu Huang Rong turned back to Zhang Shi Lan and smiled. “Congratulations. They’re … they’re offering you a position at the Academy. They … Ah, forget it.” He held the letter in front of Zhang Shi Lan. “Read it yourself. There’s nothing bad about it.”
Zhang Shi Lan took the letter, reading through it with disbelief written on his face. They … they had really invited him! His dream … his dream was finally coming true.
Zhang Shi Lan closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. He leaned into Yu Huang Rong, his fingers grabbing onto his lapel. “I can’t believe it. I … I can’t believe this is real. My life can’t be this good, can it?” He tilted his head, looking up at his lover. “First, I found you. Finding the love of my life, promising to spend my life with you. And now … now even this is happening? What did I do in my previous lifetimes to deserve this?”
Yu Huang Rong smiled, a sense of pride filling his heart. “You were probably just as great as you are now. You deserve this. You should never doubt that.” He leaned down, kissing his temple again. “Not even for a moment.”