The hunting party continued in a dampened mood. The ones who felt worst were naturally Mister Zhang and the older General Yu. The former didn’t know how his son was doing and whether or not he was even still alive while the latter couldn’t help but worry about his family’s future.
He had always thought that the relationship between Yu Huang Rong and Luan Xin was very good and that nothing would be able to get between these two friends who had grown up together. So when he saw them argue that day, he had only laughed and felt that things would be well again soon enough. Who would have thought that things would escalate like this? Luan Xin had actually sent somebody to assassinate his son.
It hadn’t worked this time but what would happen in the future? Would Luan Xin try the same thing again? Did this mean that his son would never be safe again? Actually, just what had happened for Luan Xin to go this far? Even if the two of them had argued in the past, it had never gone this far. At most, Luan Xin would be sulking for a few days and refuse to speak with Yu Huang Rong or try to beat him up unsuccessfully but that was it. There had never been any hard feelings between them and they had never tried to really hurt each other. How come things were suddenly different?
Regardless of how much the old general thought about it, he just couldn’t wrap his head around it. He could only ask his son when he saw him the next time but he wasn’t even sure if he wanted him to return. Maybe it would be better Yu Huang Rong just found a safe place to stay at for the time being. Even if he couldn’t come back to his family and couldn’t receive the honor he deserved as a person who had guarded the border for so many years, he would at least be alive. That was always the most important.
Finally, the autumn hunt came to an end and the people returned to the capital city. The two men went home but their mood turned even worse at the thought of having to tell their wives about what had happened to their sons.
When General Yu arrived home, his wife came out to greet him. She hugged him, patting his shoulder with a smile. "Finally back? I already thought you had forgotten about me!" She looked behind him, only to find that their son wasn’t there. Her brows furrowed. "Don’t tell me Ah Huang already sneaked off again! Can’t he return home for once?"
The General glanced around, then took her arm and pulled her into the house.
"This … What are you doing?" Madam Yu’s brows furrowed but a sliver of fear entered her eyes. She had been married to this man for a good thirty years. She knew him all too well. And right now, his expression told her that something was wrong.
The General took a deep breath and let go of her arm. "We should better hope that that boy doesn’t return too soon. I don’t know what he did but … he had a falling out with the emperor."
"With the …" Madam Yu interrupted herself and then nodded. The emperor. Not Luan Xin. It seemed their families weren’t close any longer. They could indeed only hope that Yu Huang Rong wouldn’t return rashly.
While Madam Yu was able to accept the facts almost calmly, Madam Zhang took the blow much harsher. Hearing that the guests of the hunting party were returning, she rushed to the entrance of the estate as well, waiting for her husband and son to alight from the carriage.
Mister Zhang stepped down but the curtain of the carriage fell close behind him and wasn’t lifted again and his expression also wasn’t good. Madam Zhang tensed, anxiously waiting for him to walk the few steps over.
"This … Where’s Shi Lan?"
Mister Zhang looked at her, then lowered his gaze and shook his head, sighing lightly. "If only I knew. Let’s go in and talk." He didn’t say anything more but only went past her and into the house.
Madam Zhang glanced at the servants but nobody could tell her anything. With trembling steps, she followed her husband inside, sitting down next to him. When the two of them had been invited, she had still thought that it was such an honor and that her son was truly too lucky right now. She had felt that him taking part in that competition the other day must have been a blessing he had gained by doing good deeds in his past lives, a stroke of luck that one didn’t easily come by. How could it have turned into this?
Mister Zhang sighed at his wife’s gaze. "Our son … He’s truly too unfortunate. He went with General Yu during the hunt but then the General was attacked. He got caught up in it and was hurt."
"Ah!" Madam Zhang covered her mouth with her hand, anxiously staring at her husband. "Then … Then where is he? How is he doing?!"
Mister Zhang shook his head again. "I don’t know. General Yu … He took him away. Let’s hope he’ll be able to save him." He closed his eyes, silently thinking to himself that he couldn’t imagine it. He hadn’t seen the wounds for himself and he knew that sometimes rumors would be exaggerated but from what he had heard, their son had definitely been injured grievously. Was there really a chance for him to survive? Especially since he hadn’t been treated right at the camping grounds but instead Heavens knew where after the General had taken him away? He truly couldn’t imagine.
Madam Zhang covered her face, unable to keep back her tears. Her husband could only look at her, unable to say anything. Even if he told her that things would go well and that their Shi Lan would definitely live, wouldn’t that just be an empty promise? What was the difference if he calmed her down now only to find out in a week or two that their son might have already …
He sighed to himself, feeling as if he had aged ten years in just these few days. This was their only son, their only child. And now … now they had lost him like this. Which family would be able to accept it? But unfortunately, they were in no position to complain because the one who hit him had wielded that weapon in the name of the emperor. How could they accuse him? In that case, their son could only die with grievances, his matter never to be addressed again.
While the two families worried about their children, the story about how General Yu had been attacked and how Scholar Zhang received the attack in his stead spread through the whole capital in a matter of hours. Nobody dared to say or even guess who the perpetrator behind the attack was but everybody had their thoughts about this.
Madam Yan who had been waiting for the good news in the matchmaking pavilion lightly tapped the table in front of her and looked at her two aides.
Xiao Jia calmly waited for her to say something while Xiao Xi couldn’t help but speak up. "Madam, what should we do now? If scholar Zhang is really hurt …"
Madam Yan shook her head. She really couldn’t help but wonder why she had even employed this girl. Shouldn’t it be obvious by now that all of this bore her signature?
Well, looking at it from another way, it might be good that it wasn’t that obvious. If even her own aide wasn’t able to figure things out, then other people would have an even harder time. Especially since they wouldn’t know that she had been in constant contact with both Yu Huang Rong and Zhang Shi Lan. At most, their families would be able to put two and two together after a while. But by then, the two lovebirds would hopefully be married already and there would be no chance to make them split up again.
Anyway, now was the time to act. "Don’t worry about that. Instead, you have to help me with a small matter regarding this incident."
Xiao Xi still looked puzzled but Xiao Jia caught on sooner. "Of course. What should we do?"
"People are gossiping about this left and right. Go out and mingle a bit among them. Speak a bit more about the reason why Scholar Zhang would even want to save the General." She glanced at Xiao Xi for a moment longer. "The General is an experienced fighter. Normally, it would be best to stand back. Somebody must have been anxious."
Xiao Xi furrowed her brows and finally nodded. "I see!"
"I hope you do." Madam Yan motioned to the door. "You can be a little bit more direct when you go out. It’ll change shape sooner or later anyway after people talk about it. Just remember that this has to be about Zhang Shi Lan. In regards to the General, you don’t know anything."
"Yes." Xiao Jia got up and nodded. "Then should only we go out or should we get some of the others to help?"
Madam Yan pursed her lips. "Well …" She didn’t trust the others as much as she trusted these two. It would be good if there were a few more people talking about the issue but she didn’t want anybody with a loose mouth to make trouble. "How about you go and tell them about it secretly or let them overhear? Even if they’re not instructed, they will likely go and spread it on their own. After all, they work right here at the source. They’ll probably like to mention that in front of a few people."
"Of course." Xiao Jia nodded again and then pulled up Xiao Xi, taking her out of the study with her and pulling her along to start their work.
The two of them didn’t need to do much. Just casually talking about the matter while walking through the main house of the matchmaking pavilion made two smaller servant girls that had been cleaning to the side to perk up and listen intently. There was no way they wouldn’t rush away and spread this newfound knowledge as soon as the two of them were past the corner.
In this manner, the added layer that 'Scholar Zhang is secretly in love with the younger General Yu so he tried to save his life' was spread through the capital, finally even reaching the Zhang couple that could hardly believe their ears. This was supposed to be the reason their son might have died?