Zhang Shi Lan couldn’t help but become nervous when he heard what the servant said. He nodded but still glanced at Yu Huang Rong while he got up, shooting him a worried glance. Who could fault him? The person that wanted to see him was their Chen country’s emperor. Even though he knew that this person was Yu Huang Rong’s best friend, it still made his heart beat faster in fear. Ah, he really wasn’t made for a life at court. Thankfully, the Academy had invited him.
Yu Huang Rong gave a small smile in return. It seemed that his lover wouldn’t get around seeing Luan Xin. Well, he should’ve expected that. Considering the way his friend had looked over before, he was obviously too curious to let matters rest. Well, he wouldn’t make any trouble with Zhang Shi Lan. At most, he’d make some comments to get back at him for not telling him about his crush sooner.
Zhang Shi Lan calmed down when he saw Yu Huang Rong’s relaxed expression. It seemed that there really was no reason to worry. This might even have been agreed upon beforehand and Yu Huang Rong just hadn’t had any time to tell him. He shouldn’t think too much. Thus he followed the servant in a much calmer mood, not thinking about it any further.
When he was out of sight, Yu Huang Rong suddenly jolted. Fuck! If Zhang Shi Lan went to see Luan Xin while he was trapped here at the banquet, then how was he supposed to make sure that Luan Xin would really keep his promise from yesterday and not tell Zhang Shi Lan that he had called things off?! If he didn’t …
Yu Huang Rong stared off into the air and finally just sighed. He should’ve known that this might happen. Luan Xin had always done what he thought was best. It seemed that there was nothing he could do now. Anyway, with their positions right now, he wasn’t able to do anything. He could at most chew Luan Xin out for it later on and hope for the time being that he would’ve seen his point and not say anything. Well, considering what had happened on the way here, he doubted it.
Yu Huang Rong sighed to himself. He couldn’t change it. And if worst came to worst … Zhang Shi Lan should forgive him, right?
He bit his lip, trying not to worry but he felt queasy. Luan Xin hadn’t been wrong about him taking the decision from Zhang Shi Lan after all and with how Zhang Shi Lan had insisted before that he did not want to be treated like a woman … Ah, yes, he had fucked up.
Yu Huang Rong brushed through his hair, feeling vexed. Why had he thought that this was a good idea? He should have gone and talked to Zhang Shi Lan first. Now, it was too late.
He turned to the direction Zhang Shi Lan had left in, anxiously waiting for his return. He just wanted to take a look at his face to see how angry he was or if maybe … maybe he was lucky and Zhang Shi Lan would understand.
Meanwhile, Zhang Shi Lan had been brought to the emperor’s tent. The tranquility that had just engulfed him cracked and he walked up the step with slightly trembling hands. Ah, he couldn’t kid himself. This person was the emperor.
The servant announced him and then he was already inside the tent and the flap closed behind him.
Zhang Shi Lan tensed up, his muscles stretching so taut that even the trembling in his hands vanished. He could only look at the person that was sitting on the other side of the tent, looking at him with what might even be described as a lazy gaze.
Zhang Shi Lan lowered his head, walked further into the head and then dropped to the ground to kneel. "This subject is greeting Your Majesty."
Luan Xin stared at the person on the ground, still feeling slightly resentful. He just couldn’t understand what was so special about him to the point where Yu Huang Rong would fall in love so much that he was willing to go through all this trouble just to marry him. He knew that this was just his jealousy speaking though and that it had no reason to raise its ugly head. He already was in a happy relationship and Yu Huang Rong was nothing but a past crush.
Luan Xin took a deep breath and then waved. "Get up. Take a seat."
Zhang Shi Lan got up and nodded, awkwardly sitting down at the edge of another chair standing at the table where Luan Xin was sitting. He didn’t dare to look at him and instead stared at his folded hands.
Luan Xin pursed his lips. How was this guy so proper? Don’t tell him that was the type Yu Huang Rong liked? Was that why he had lost?
Zhang Shi Lan tensed up even further when he felt the emperor’s gaze on him. Just what was going on? What did His Majesty want from him? He should have a reason, right? If this was any other person, he would have asked but now, he didn’t dare. He wasn’t even sure if he would be able to get a word out if the emperor asked him something,
Luan Xin continued to look at him before finally looking over to She Ning, furrowing his brows. Couldn’t this guy come over and sit down next to him? Then he could at least show off a bit!
Unfortunately for him, the captain of his secret guards wouldn’t do him the favor. On the contrary, She Ning crossed his arms in front of his chest and turned away. He knew what Luan Xin was thinking but that was one reason more not to indulge him. He had been too fixated on Yu Huang Rong for too long. It was time that he finally realized that he didn’t have to compete with Yu Huang Rong’s lover and that he didn’t need to show either of them that he was doing well. It was enough if he himself knew that he was doing well.
Luan Xin turned back to Zhang Shi Lan and sighed. "Yu Huang Rong came over yesterday and told me not to go through with the plan."
This time, Zhangs Shi Lan glanced up. His lips parted as if he wanted to ask but he finally bit his tongue and kept silent. If the emperor wanted him to know, he’d certainly tell him, wouldn’t he?
"What? You don’t have an opinion on this?"
Zhang Shi Lan lowered his head again. "I wouldn’t dare."
Luan Xin stared at him in a daze. "What?"
"I … I wouldn’t dare." Zhang Shi Lan’s voice became even lower.
Luan Xin’s expression became better though. "You wouldn’t be afraid of me, would you?"
"I wouldn’t dare." Zhang Shi Lan just repeated the same word but rushed to shake his head.
If this wasn’t being afraid, then Luan Xin wouldn’t know what was. He chuckled and leaned back, his mood suddenly better. "I should tell Ah Rong. This is too funny!" The person he had resented so much was actually terribly afraid of him.
Zhang Shi Lan tensed up further, his knuckles turning white. Just what did His Majesty want from him?
Luan Xin got up and waved at him. "Come on, let’s go and take a walk." He left the tent and Zhang Shi Lan could only rush after him, his face pale.
"You know …" Luan Xin looked around as if he had all the time in the world. "I don’t like you."
Zhang Shi Lan bit his lip, not knowing what to say. This kind of scenario was what he feared the most.
"From the moment Ah Rong mentioned you for the first time, I hated you. I think it’s rather unacceptable. I had been in love with him for years but he only ever saw me as a friend, a brother. The word 'love' probably never even crossed his mind. And then, he turns after a decade at the front and doesn’t really care. He goes off to the matchmaker and I have to hear that he’ll be going to marry. I was furious when I heard." He stopped walking and looked over to where the banquet was still proceeding. "But then I told myself that it isn’t important. He never loved me anyway and he’s only doing it for his family. There’s no need to be angry that he’ll be bringing some woman home. He probably won’t care about her anyway."
He turned to Zhang Shi Lan who had visibly shrunken into himself and his lips curled up. "You know what’s funny? After I finally calmed down myself, he comes running over and there’s no 'Oh, how do you do? I finally returned so let’s get drunk together and talk about some old memories.' No, he tells me that he fell in love and wants to marry and that the person he wants to marry is a fucking man. And one he has loved for many years without ever telling me. You can guess how I felt."
Zhang Shi Lan considered whether throwing himself to the ground and pleading guilty was what he should do but his body didn’t react. He was already frozen stiff from fear.
Luan Xin sighed. "Seeing you today, I’m still a little resentful. You’re good-looking but it’s no wonder. I feel that Ah Rong always had an eye for beauty. You’re also … I guess you can be described as elegant. He said as much but I didn’t quite believe it. How could that be his type? But I guess it’s true. That is what he wants, what he hopes to get in life. And even if things were different, it wouldn’t change anything. So … What about you? Do you love him?"
Zhang Shi Lan glanced up and then nodded weakly.
"Mn. You better do. He is my best friend, my first love. If I have to give him up, I won’t give him up to anybody who is doing this half-heartedly."
Zhang Shi Lan nodded again. "I do. I love him sincerely."
"Then are you willing to give up on that position in the Academy?"
Zhang Shi Lan blanked. "I … don’t understand."
Luan Xin sighed. "He didn’t want you to know but it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to have both. You can either marry Yu Huang Rong or get the position at the Academy that you were promised. So what shall it be? Regardless of what your answer is I will respect it."
Zhang Shi Lan smiled. All this talk, just for this? He didn’t know whether the emperor wanted to scare him off so that he wouldn’t marry Yu Huang Rong or if he wanted to pressure him into marrying him and staying true to him. Anyway, it wouldn’t change his mind. "I want to marry him."
"And you’re sure of that?"
Zhang Shi Lan nodded, the smile still on his lips. This time, he looked directly at Luan Xin. "Yes, I am. There are … many things that I can do other than working at the Academy but there is no other man that I can marry. I only love him and I will only love him."
Luan Xin nodded. "Ah, I guess I’ve already lost on account of that." He glanced over to where She Ning stood and smiled himself. "I guess we’ll go through with the plan then." With that, he walked away, motioning for Zhang Shi Lan to return to the banquet.