Another two weeks had gone by when a knock on the back door of the Zhangs’ estate startled a servant. When he went to open the door, he was greeted by a man whose face was hidden in the shadows of the hood of a dark cloak.
The servant gulped and held onto the door tightly, wondering if the guards would come soon enough if he cried for help now. Since he wasn’t sure he felt that he should stall for some time. Maybe there was some good explanation for this? “What may we do for you?”
The man leaned forward, making the servant tense up even further. Then he reached up and slightly lifted the hood. “Tell Mister Zhang I brought his son back.”
“Ge … General Yu!”
“Sh!” Yu Huang Rong glanced in both directions. Actually, he wasn’t worried at all. In fact, his mood was great and he had a lot of trouble pretending to be in dire straits. He had just almost three weeks alone with the person he loved. Although having to hold back from touching when he saw this beautiful body every day was pure torture, finally being able to spend every second of the day with Zhang Shi Lan made more than up for that. To think that they would soon be able to do this every day … Mn, just imagining it made him feel ecstatic.
The servant hurriedly shut up. That was right. The General had been attacked by the emperor’s people. If somebody noticed that he was here, he might be attacked again. And if he had brought back the Young Master … maybe he’d be implicated again. He couldn’t let that happen!
“Yes. Wait a …” The servant stopped and then opened the door wide. “Why don’t you come in?”
“I don’t know if they’ve noticed me already. I can’t leave him alone.”
“Oh. I … I’ll hurry.” The servant left the door open and then rushed into the house, running all the way to Mister Zhang’s study. “Master! Master!”
Mister Zhang furrowed his brows when the door was pushed open without waiting for his answer. “What do —”
“The Young Master is back!”
Mister Zhang leaped to his feet. “Shi Lan?! Where is he?!”
“General brought him. They’re at the back door. We should let them in as soon as possible. He said he didn’t know if somebody had been following him.”
Mister Zhang nodded and then rushed out. When he came to the door, he saw a man with a wide cloak covering his body leaning into the carriage, seemingly speaking with somebody inside. He rushed over and glanced at the man before looking inside himself.
The inside of the carriage had been stuffed with different furs and pillows as if General Yu had been afraid Zhang Shi Lan might suffer too much from the jostling otherwise.
Yu Huang Rong watched Mister Zhang’s worried expression. A hint of relief was mixing inside now that he was finally seeing his son again. It seemed that his family had been truly worried. Well, no wonder.
Yu Huang Rong cleared his throat and motioned to the door. “Let me carry him inside. It’s already cold outside. That’s not good for him.”
“Ah. Yes.” Mister Zhang nodded and stepped back, watching as Yu Huang Rong gently stepped halfway into the carriage, picked up Zhang Shi Lan and then carried him out and into the estate. He motioned at the servant to close the door and then led Yu Huang Rong into the house to the room where Zhang Shi Lan was staying.
Yu Huang Rong glanced around, once again taking a look at the place where Zhang Shi Lan lived. He gently put him on the bed before he turned to Mister Zhang and finally pulled back the hood. “I’ve made a lot of trouble for your family. I’m sorry. I did what I could but he will likely take some more time until he is fully healed.”
Mister Zhang nodded and stepped closer to the bed, looking at his son. Zhang Shi Lan seemed pale as if he had just barely survived. “This …” He turned back to the General, his expression a little torn. It wasn’t the General’s fault. He couldn’t have known that this ambush would happen and he had even brought Zhang Shi Lan away to safety and from the looks of it, taken care of him. He was still the reason Zhang Shi Lan had gotten caught up in this though.
Yu Huang Rong smiled wryly. He had been afraid of this. Could Zhang Shi Lan’s family really forgive him for this? “I … I guess I should go. You’ll likely want to spend more time with him now that you finally have him back and I wouldn’t want to bring even more trouble to him.” He turned away to leave.
Mister Zhang hesitated but then still called out. “General Yu!”
Yu Huang Rong turned back. “Yes?”
“That … It wasn’t your fault. You couldn’t have known …” He sighed. “Anyway, thank you for taking care of him. I guess he might not have lived if not for that.”
Yu Huang Rong glanced at Zhang Shi Lan. Before they came, She Ning had delivered some drugs to them that would let Zhang Shi Lan sleep for a while, making him appear unconscious. He had also done his best to let him look sick. It seemed this plan had worked even better than expected. “I’ve only done what I should.”
Mister Zhang once again looked at his son. What he should do … Well, considering that Shi Lan had tried to shield him from an attack because of his feelings, this might indeed be what he owed him. “It’s good as long as he’s back.”
The two men fell quiet, both of them looking at the sleeping Zhang Shi Lan.
At that time, the servant had already gone to inform Madam Zhang. Hearing that her son had finally returned, she rushed over as well, storming into the room. She took a trembling breath when she saw her son lying on the bed with his face pale. Ah, her Shi Lan had truly suffered too much! She went forward and sat down next to him, took his hand and started to cry.
Yu Huang Rong looked at Zhang Shi Lan’s mother and gulped. He really felt like an asshole now. Why were they doing this to this poor family? But if they wanted to marry, there really was no other way.
He closed his eyes and hung his head, listening to Madam Zhang’s sobs with a pained heart. Thankfully, Zhang Shi Lan was deep asleep. If he saw his mother like this, he would feel even worse.
After a few minutes, Mister Zhang stepped forward and patted her shoulder. “Alright, don’t cry anymore. General Yu is still here. Isn’t Shi Lan back already? He’s still alive and with a bit of care, he’ll be back to full health soon. There’s no need for you to worry.”
Madam Zhang sniffed and shook her head, finally turning to their guest. Seeing Yu Huang Rong standing a few steps away, she couldn’t help but size him up. Even though she had heard of him and his merits on the battlefield, she had never seen him in person. So today was actually the first time she saw the person her son had fallen in love with in front of her.
She got up and walked over, her expression serious. “General Yu.”
“Madam Zhang.” Yu Huang Rong nodded at her, his heart suddenly beating madly. He hadn’t thought too much before but this was his first time meeting both of his in-laws together. If he screwed up …
“My son got hurt very badly.”
“Yes. I’m sorry. I know that this is my fault.”
“Then will you take responsibility for it?”
“Ah?” Yu Huang Rong’s expression turned blank. This … This wasn’t in the script! What was she talking about?
Madam Zhang furrowed her brows but she told herself that he hadn’t been in the capital city these days. He probably didn’t know anything. At least this wasn’t his fault. “General Yu, in these days, have you ever wondered why our son would interfere in that fight? He is a frail scholar while you are a trained soldier. Doesn’t this strike you as odd?”
Yu Huang Rong’s lips parted but he had no idea what to say. At that moment, the panic the two of them had felt had been real. If this had been a real ambush … most likely, Zhang Shi Lan would have just panicked and tried to somehow keep him safe. “He …” He trailed off, glancing over at Zhang Shi Lan.
Mister Zhang came forward and grabbed his wife’s arm. He could imagine what she was trying to say. “Alright. Leave it at that now. Shi Lan is alright. There’s no need to say anymore.”
Normally, Madam Zhang would have listened to her husband. But after being subjected to the possibility of her only child dying long before her for so long, she wasn’t willing to let it go. Shi Lan had never asked them for anything. He hadn’t even dared to tell them about these feelings and instead just suffered silently. As a mother, how could she watch silently if she already knew?
She ignored her husband and looked at Yu Huang Rong intently. “General Yu, you might not have noticed but my son has loved you for a long time. He intercepted that attack because he couldn’t bear the thought that you might die. So I ask you: Are you willing to bear responsibility for this?”
Yu Huang Rong stared back at her. This was completely out of his expectations. But maybe … maybe this wasn’t bad. If he agreed … then maybe they wouldn’t need to add another layer to this charade. Wouldn’t that be great?
He glanced at Zhang Shi Lan once again and then straightened up, looking back at the Zhang husband and wife. He cupped his fists and bowed. “I owe him my life. Whatever you want me to do, you just have to say the word.”
“Then when Shi Lan wakes up, I want you to accompany him. And after that, I want you to ask him to marry you. I will not ask of you to take him as your only or even your first wife. But I want you to take him into your household and care for him until the end of his life. That much shouldn’t be asking too much.”
Yu Huang Rong stared at his hands and slowly tightened them. “I will.”