Seeing a eunuch from the palace in front of their door with an edict in hand, the Zhang family couldn’t help but become afraid. Their son had already almost died because of the argument between General Yu and the emperor. If it was possible, they would have liked for Zhang Shi Lan to stay far away but the child had fallen in love and probably wouldn’t be willing to give up considering his personality so asking the General to marry him had seemed like the best idea. Now, they regretted it though. The emperor wouldn’t want their son’s head for this, would he?
Unfortunately, there was nothing they could do. The whole family including their servants and guards gathered in the courtyard to receive the edict, not only a few of them worrying whether they would also be implicated in whatever was going on.
The eunuch looked at the people in front of him, furrowing his brows when he didn’t see the family’s son. He didn’t say anything though and just announced what he had to say: "By the decree of His Majesty, the Academy’s Scholar Zhang Shi Lan is to wed General Yu Huang Rong in two weeks’ time. The two of them will be granted an estate on Fen Cha lane as a wedding gift. They may start moving in immediately. That is all." The eunuch raised his gaze to Mister Zhang who knelt on the ground in a daze.
What was the meaning of this? The emperor granted his son’s marriage? He bestowed an estate on him and the General? Why?
The eunuch furrowed his brows even further when the Minister didn’t react. "Minister Zhang, step forward and accept the decree." It was bad enough that the person mentioned in the decree wasn’t there but considering the rumors that he had been injured previously, that was to be expected. But now, not even his family wanted to accept the decree?
Mister Zhang was startled out of his thoughts by the eunuch’s voice. He straightened up and raised his hands. "We accept the decree."
The eunuch nodded and handed it over before leaving together with the guards from the palace. The people of the Zhang household continued to kneel on the ground for a while longer, none of them sure what to think.
In the end, Mister Zhang and his wife got up and went to the room of their son. Before, Zhang Shi Lan hadn’t been awake so they hadn’t been able to speak to him about what had happened. They had only been able to assume. Even going ahead and asking General Yu to marry him had been a gamble on whether everybody had understood wrong. They doubted it but there was still such a possibility. Now, regardless of whether or not they had been wrong, he would need to marry the General.
At that time, Zhang Shi Lan was slowly waking up in his room. He had been awake for most of the time that they spent traveling to the capital but had been knocked out before they came into sight of the gate to make sure that nobody would accidentally notice that he was actually alright.
The act they were putting on was a dangerous one. All of it relied on the rumors that had been spread around. If somebody got a glimpse at him and another rumor spread that he had looked quite well, it wouldn’t do. No, they had to make sure that nothing would go wrong at the last minute.
When Zhang Shi Lan opened his eyes, his sight was still blurry. Whatever it was that Yu Huang Rong had given him, it truly was too potent. He really felt as if he had been gravely injured or maybe ill for a long time. There was not an ounce of strength in his body.
"Shi Lan? Shi Lan?!" His mother’s anxious voice sounded next to his ears.
Zhang Shi Lan blinked to clear his vision and then slowly turned his head. "Mother?" He cleared his throat, feeling awkward that he actually sounded so hoarse. Had he really not been sick? Maybe all of what had happened after they were ambushed in the forest had been a long dream?
"Shi Lan!" Madam Zhang cried tears of joy when she finally saw her son wake up. She wanted to pull him into her arms but her husband pulled her back.
"Careful. Shi Lan was gravely injured. We have to make sure that we don’t aggravate his wounds."
"Ah. Of course." Madam Zhang hastily retracted her hands and just looked at her son with a worried expression. "Shi Lan, how are you? Does it hurt?"
Zhang Shi Lan shook his head. "No, not much."
"Are you sure? But … but you were hurt so gravely …"
Zhang Shi Lan lowered his gaze. He really didn’t like to lie to his parents but what could he do? "I guess that’s true. Actually, I don’t remember much of this time. General Yu took care of me. Before we left today, he gave me something against the pain. I haven’t felt much of it since then. There’s just some dull ache."
"Ah, so General Yu did that …" Madam Zhang glanced at her husband. They should probably bring it up now?
Mister Zhang awkwardly cleared his throat and sat down at the edge of the bed. "Shi Lan …"
Zhang Shi Lan glanced up, not sure what to expect. He had never seen his father like this before.
"About General Yu …"
Zhang Shi Lan lowered his gaze again but his face paled, making his father leap to his feet and his mother rush forward as well.
"What is it? Do you not feel well?" They fussed around for a moment but they couldn’t find anything wrong.
Zhang Shi Lan bit his lower lip. He wouldn’t have thought they’d bring it up so soon. "It’s … it’s nothing." Yes, nothing was wrong with his body. He couldn’t help but worry though. What would his parents think? They had put on this act to make their marriage possible but that didn’t mean that he wouldn’t be happy if his parents accepted his love for Yu Huang Rong on their own as well. He was just afraid that that wouldn’t be possible.
"Are you sure?" Mister Zhang exchanged a look with his wife. He was afraid now wasn’t a good time to bring it up. Zhang Shi Lan was still much too weak. They shouldn’t stimulate him too much. "Well, you should probably rest for a while first. We can talk about everything else later."
Zhang Shi Lan looked up and shook his head. "No … No, I’m alright. What was that about General Yu?" Anyway, he would have to admit to it someday. Why not do it now so that this part was out in the open at least?
Mister Zhang hesitated but finally sat down again. He reached out and patted his son’s hand. "General Yu … What do you think about him?"
Zhang Shi Lan looked at his father, not quite sure what to say. This … he couldn’t outright say that he loved him, could he? "He … he is a very accomplished man."
"And?" Mister Zhang observed his son’s expression. Sure enough, the boy was trying to evade his gaze and skirt around the question. He was afraid to admit it. There should be some feelings, right?
"And … he took care of me this time."
"Did he treat you well?" Madam Zhang chipped in, wringing her hands. She was sure that her son loved this man. The only question was whether General Yu would treat him well enough.
"Yes, he did. He … he treats me very well." Zhang Shi Lan thought back to the past days and his originally pale cheeks flushed pink.
Mister and Madam Zhang looked at him in a daze before they exchanged a glance. Sure enough, their son really was in love with that man. There was no doubt about that.
"That …" Mister Zhang awkwardly cleared his throat and then raised the edict that was still in his hand. "We were just informed that … His Majesty decreed your marriage."
Zhang Shi Lan looked up, surprise flashing through his eyes. Already? But Yu Huang Rong had said that it would still take a few weeks! How come he was told this right after waking up?
Zhang Shi Lan’s stunned expression made Mister Zhang worry again. "This … this might come as a surprise to you. Actually, we already spoke about it with him when he brought you back."
Zhang Shi Lan still couldn’t gather his thoughts. What was going on? It had only been today when Yu Huang Rong told him that it would still take time. Why … Why was everything different now? It couldn’t be that he had been knocked out so deeply that several days had gone by, could it? "This … when was that?"
"You mean …"
Zhang Shi Lan wanted to respond but then didn’t know what to say. He made a few attempts and finally shook his head. "I don’t quite understand how that happened."
Mister and Madam Zhang exchanged a glance. Madam Zhang finally couldn’t take it any longer. Even though they couldn’t change the emperor’s edict, she at least wanted to hear from her son that he wouldn’t be miserable in this marriage. "Shi Lan, say, can you imagine marrying General Yu? Do you like him enough for that?"
Zhang Shi Lan looked from her to his father and back again. Both of them seemed … anxious? For a moment, he couldn’t understand why. But then it dawned on him that this wasn’t just Yu Huang Rong asking to marry him. No, the emperor had decreed this marriage. Whether he or Yu Huang Rong wanted and regardless of what their parents thought, this marriage would happen. There was no way around this. Thus, his parents were probably worried that he would suffer.
Zhang Shi Lan couldn’t help but smile at that thought. "Don’t worry about it. Father, mother, General Yu was really very good to me. There … there is nobody I’d rather marry." He looked down, his cheeks once again flushing. Indeed. There was nobody he’d rather marry than Yu Huang Rong.
Both of his parents heaved a sigh of relief. His father patted his hand and his mother smiled back. "So you really liked him. Silly child, why didn’t you say anything sooner? Did you think we’d force you to go to the matchmaker if we knew about this?"
Zhang Shi Lan looked up and smiled. Even though she said this, they all knew that things would have been different back then. Now, his father already knew Yu Huang Rong a little. And for all they knew, he had almost died. They weren’t like the older General Yu and his wife who were used to the thought that something might happen to their son at any time. Being faced with something like this, their perspective had naturally changed. So now, they could freely say something like this. But still, it was alright as this was how they thought now.
"I’m glad you think this way, mother." He glanced at his father, his expression a little guilty.
Mister Zhang sighed. "I won’t lie. I would have wished for you to find a nice woman and have a few children. But it’s already come to this. Regardless of how I see the matter, it won’t change anything."
Zhang Shi Lan turned his hand and lightly squeezed his father’s. "It would change something for me. Whether it’s decreed by the emperor or not, I’d want for my father to give his blessings to me and my husband."
Mister Zhang was a little taken aback at how fast his son was able to call another man his husband. In the end, he could only sigh. "I will. Just give me a bit more time. It’s only been today that … matters were decided. There are still two weeks until the wedding. Until then, I’ll make my peace with it."
Zhang Shi Lan nodded but in his mind, he couldn’t help but repeat the words. Two weeks … Just two more weeks, until he and Yu Huang Rong would finally be married. This truly was a nice surprise.