The first day of the autumn hunt came and a long procession left the capital city of Chen country. Luan Xin sat in the carriage and lazily glanced at the man riding next to. “You could come in, you know?”
She Ning didn’t acknowledge him and just continued onward.
Luan Xin tsked and leaned away but turned back to face him just a moment later. “Eh, what about … That thing? Have you gone and talked to him already?”
This time, She Ning gave the emperor a dismayed expression.
She Ning led his horse closer to the carriage and leaned down until his face was right next to Luan Xin’s. “How?” He turned his face to glance at the rows of soldiers and carriages behind them to make Luan Xin understand that there were way too many people around to just walk up to Zhang Shi Lan and talk with him. They would have to wait until they were able to get him alone. Well, more or less at least. It was impossible to —
Luan Xin glanced at his lover and leaned over, pecking his cheek. “You should speak more. I love to hear the sound!”
She Ning leaned back, his brows furrowing. His lips moved as if he wanted to say something but in the end, he only shook his head, and let his horse move further from the carriage so Luan Xin wouldn’t be able to do anything stupid again. Honestly, hadn’t he caught his drift? If there were too many people around to say something to Zhang Shi Lan, then there definitely were too many people around to kiss.
Luan Xin just chuckled. “Don’t be like that. It’s not like anybody is paying attention. Anyway, if we can’t talk to that guy, let’s at least put on our act for Ah Rong’s father. We can’t let this opportunity go to waste.”
She Ning took a deep breath and nodded, signaling one of his men to bring Yu Huang Rong over. He took another glance at Luan Xin before he left. He really didn’t want to see his lover’s plan being implemented. Even though he knew that he would never be the only person at Luan Xin’s side considering their positions, he had always told himself that it was alright as long as the others were women. It wasn’t that Luan Xin didn’t like women at all but he just had less interest in them so it was unlikely for him to develop any deeper feelings for any of them. A man though … And especially Yu Huang Rong that first love of his.
Yes, Luan Xin was only going to pretend right now but still. It wasn’t nice to watch. She Ning couldn’t argue that this was the most logical thing to do though. The plan was for Luan Xin to pretend that he couldn’t take the idea of Yu Huang Rong marrying because of a secret crush. That would lead to him trying to have him killed after a confrontation between them where he was rejected by Yu Huang Rong. Zhang Shi Lan would save him and Luan Xin would regret his actions, finally reconciling with Yu Huang Rong after a while.
This matter was half-truth, half-lie. The perfect base for a plan such as theirs. After all, Luan Xin and Yu Huang Rong wouldn’t agree to cut off their friendship forever just so that Yu Huang Rong could get married. Thus they definitely needed a reason that couldn’t pretend to have a complete falling out. Acting on the spur of the moment would make for the most believable excuse.
Furthermore, this would give Luan Xin the option to decree marriage with Zhang Shi Lan. He could pretend that he thought Yu Huang Rong had fallen in love with a woman and didn’t want to allow him to be with the woman he loved while everybody else was just making up wild tales, making hitting on the truth of the matter in regards to Zhang Shi Lan’s feelings.
This kind of reasoning would also be more believable to the older General Yu. He wouldn’t believe that they would just have a falling out because Luan Xin suddenly developed some distrust toward his son. Who wanted to kid him? The two of them had grown up together, making the hair of both the older General Yu and the previous emperor turn gray ahead of time with all the trouble they had made. No, that wasn’t an option. But the General would believe in an act in the heat of the moment. After all, he had seen often enough that these children wouldn’t think things through. Even though Luan Xin had gotten better at it after becoming the emperor, he would still revert back to his own ways when he was passionate about something.
While She Ning tried to ignore the jealousy welling up inside himself, Yu Huang Rong arrived next to Luan Xin’s carriage.
“What’s the matter?”
“Nothing much. I just wanted to know whether you still stand by what you said yesterday or if you already cleared your head.”
Yu Huang Rong furrowed his brows. “There’s nothing to clear. Everything that I said yesterday is right. I’d be taking a huge chance from him. If I really love him, I won’t do that.”
“So you’ll suffer on your own …” Luan Xin sighed. “Alright then. Have you at least told him?”
“Then you should.” Luan Xin leaned out of the carriage and looked around. Nobody was looking over. Damn. His acting wouldn’t have any effect at all if nobody watched. Where was the older General Yu or somebody that he knew?
“I won’t.” Yu Huang Rong furrowed his brows at Luan Xin’s behavior but didn’t think too deeply about it. His thoughts were all with Zhang Shi Lan. He was sure that he was doing the right thing. They could wait. There would be possibilities for them in the future. This didn’t mean that they’d give up.
“So you’ll just let him wait? I don’t think that’s the right thing to do.” Luan Xin furrowed his brows as well, slowly getting into his act. She Ning should be luring some audience over for him, shouldn’t he?
“Isn’t that better? You don’t know him. He might feel bad if he heard that it was because of that letter. He would worry and worry and then he might do something that wouldn’t do him any good. I can’t let that happen.”
Luan Xin harrumphed. “So you’re making his decisions for him? He’s not your spouse yet. Just where do you take the entitlement from to do so?”
“You …” Yu Huang Rong gritted his teeth and looked away. “If you have nothing else, then I’ll leave.”
“Good then.” Yu Huang Rong made the horse turn and rode back to where he had come from, his expression dark.
He didn’t like what Luan Xin had just said. It reminded him too much of what Zhang Shi Lan had said before about how he was a man as well and thus didn’t want to be treated like a woman. So … yes. What right did he have to decide in his stead? But if he didn’t, then he knew that Zhang Shi Lan would be in a dilemma. Wasn’t it better to take that upon himself? Zhang Shi Lan would understand. He didn’t doubt that. Maybe he’d be angry at first but after he thought things through, he would understand.
“What’s the matter?”
His father’s voice pulled Yu Huang Rong out of his thoughts and he sighed. “Nothing, just … Luan Xin said some things again. Don’t pay it too much mind.”
The older General raised his brows but indeed kept quiet. If his son didn’t want to talk, then he wouldn’t inquire further. When he wanted his advice, he’d ask for it.
While Luan Xin’s plan progressed smoothly, Zhang Shi Lan was riding further in the back of the procession, glancing at the front in hope of seeing Yu Huang Rong somewhere. Unfortunately, he didn’t. Well, it wasn’t a surprise considering Yu Huang Rong’s status. He would probably be somewhere around the emperor, making sure that nothing would happen to him.
At that thought, Zhang Shi Lan lowered his gaze to the reins. Soon enough, it would be his turn to make sure that nothing would happen to Yu Huang Rong. Granted, it would only be an act but that didn’t change the fact that the situation would be chaotic and dangerous. He wasn’t trained either so he couldn’t do any more than throwing himself in front of Yu Huang Rong at a suitable moment. He could only hope that that would be enough. Well, there was hardly anything else he could do, was there?