C101 – Look in the Mirror?
The news of the young heir from the Yueyang Marquis’s family aspiring to marry the Crown Prince swiftly swept through Ye City like a sudden breeze.
Tang Yue’s name, previously associated with the renowned physician of the Yueyang Marquis’s Mansion, now bore a new significance as the esteemed physician destined to wed the Crown Prince.
Zhao Sanlang, occupied with showcasing his culinary prowess in the Prefecture, received the explosive news abruptly, causing his hands to quiver. In his surprise, he accidentally spilled an entire pot of oil, nearly igniting the entire kitchen.
“How can you dare lay claim to culinary divinity when you can’t even prepare a simple meal? What use are you to me?” The County Prince stormed out of the kitchen, his head veiled in black smoke, his tone demanding answers.
Zhao Sanlang, too absorbed in his thoughts to respond, seized the servant who had delivered the news and inquired, “What did you just say?”
The servant, overcome with fear, fell to his knees and offered a prostration, damaging his head in the process.
“Rise and repeat what you just revealed. Why did you announce that Tang family’s son is betrothed to the Crown Prince?”
The County Prince stood nearby, his countenance darkened. A group of maids hastened to assist him in wiping his face, adjusting his attire in a frantic flurry.
“Indeed, indeed… I’ve just returned from outside. Everyone is abuzz with the news that His Highness has chosen a young physician from the Yueyang Marquis’s Mansion for matrimony,” stammered the servant.
“Is this news authentic?” Zhao Sanlang found the situation incredibly surreal. Why would the seemingly unattached Tang Xiaolang choose to wed, and moreover, the recently crowned Crown Prince?
The thought of visiting Prince Zhao’s Mansion in the future to find Tang Xiaolang sent shivers down his spine.
“No, I must confirm this. Tang Xiaolang has the audacity to make such a significant decision without my knowledge. Unbelievable!” Zhao Sanlang declared before hastily discarding his singed clothing, heading out.
“Young… Young Master… you should change into fresh attire first…” Several servants chased after him, their voices strained, sweat dripping from their brows.
The County Prince dismissed the maid attempting to tidy his attire. He gazed coldly at the charred kitchen and commanded, “Prepare the horses!”
“Young master, the princess expressly instructed you not to venture out today. Later, you’re meant to attend the celebration at Prince Zhao’s Mansion… young master…”
“Get out!” The County Prince forcefully pushed the maid away and made a beeline for Zhao Sanlang.
Upon his arrival at Yueyang Marquis’s Mansion, Zhao Sanlang’s haste nearly startled the mansion’s gatekeeper. The man assumed that something grave had occurred involving his young master, for Zhao Sanlang had barely had time to don proper attire.
“Where is your master?” Zhao Sanlang burst in with urgency and grabbed a nearby individual for answers.
The unfortunate soul caught in Zhao Sanlang’s grip stuttered, attempting to suggest that proper protocol dictated the notification of guests.
“If you can’t provide a clear explanation, Tang Xiaolang will start berating you!” Zhao Sanlang retorted sternly.
The hapless servant’s face reddened with embarrassment as he managed to mumble, “Young Master Tang is in the main hall, accompanied by the ladies.”
Zhao Sanlang playfully patted the man’s cheek and commended, “Well done! Getting scolded was worth it!” With that, he left the servant and hurried toward the main hall.
The layout of Yueyang Marquis’s Mansion was familiar to him. He had visited several times since Tang Xiaolang’s arrival.
His sole focus was on reaching the main hall, oblivious to the County Prince who trailed behind, his expression growing increasingly dark.
“Tang Xiaolang… Tang Xiaolang…” Zhao Sanlang was left dumbfounded as he rushed into the main hall, which was adorned in vibrant red with a conspicuous pile of betrothal gifts. No further explanation was required.
Tang Yue approached him, wearing a surprised expression, and inquired, “What’s the matter? Is there a crisis afoot? Or did you impregnate someone?”
The room’s occupants gazed at Tang Yue in astonishment, unaccustomed to such casual conversation from him.
The elderly mistress promptly exchanged a meaningful glance with Zhao Shi, signaling her to escort her daughters to the backyard. While conventions concerning gender interaction were not overly strict, Zhao Sanlang’s disheveled appearance called for discretion.
Unaware of being perceived as a potential troublemaker, Zhao Sanlang seized Tang Yue and pressed, “Tell me the truth, when did you become acquainted with the Crown Prince?”
“That’s all?” Tang Yue scrutinized him from head to toe, plucking a green leaf from his hair and toying with it. He teased, “Tsk, tsk. Don’t tell me you’ve been secretly infatuated with me for so long that upon hearing of my impending marriage, you were so heartbroken that you couldn’t bear to live?”
County Prince, who had just entered the room, happened to catch wind of the conversation. He fixed his keen gaze on Zhao Sanlang.
It was only then that Tang Yue became aware of the presence of a follower trailing him. He playfully nudged him. “Hey, did you stir up trouble in the Prefecture?”
Startled, Zhao Sanlang snapped back to reality, realizing that he had acted foolishly.
He hastily straightened his disheveled attire and slicked back his hair, then gracefully offered his respects to the esteemed elders.
“My apologies for my nephew’s impulsive behavior. I hope the venerable old lady and Master Hou can find it in their hearts to forgive him. The news of Tang Yue’s impending marriage took us by surprise.”
The old lady smiled knowingly. She had even shattered a set of tea cups upon hearing the news, a sign of her approval of the close bond between the two.
“Sanlang, hurry to the back and change into warmer clothes. We wouldn’t want you catching a chill,” the old lady said with affection.
Despite his reluctance, Zhao Sanlang had no choice but to comply. Walking back in his current attire was out of the question. He located an outfit of similar size to Tang Yue’s and made the necessary change.
Once inside, the two friends engaged in a candid conversation. Zhao Sanlang adjusted his clothing and playfully tugged at Tang Yue’s collar, inquiring, “Now that we’re alone, what’s the real story? Are you truly going to become part of Prince Zhao’s household?”
“Ahem… It’s actually the Crown Prince’s Palace,” Tang Yue corrected.
Zhao Sanlang couldn’t help but jest, “So, you’re crowning him Prince because you put a ring on it?”
“I don’t appreciate that joke. Why would I crown him?” Tang Yue brushed his hand away and casually sipped his tea. “The Crown Prince has taken an interest in me. He’s loyal to me, so I have no choice but to accept his marriage proposal.”
He sighed after speaking his truth.
Zhao Sanlang remained skeptical. He quipped, “Tang Xiaolang, did you wake up today without looking in the mirror? How can the Crown Prince be so devoted to you?”
“Well, let’s not dwell on that. It’s settled now. You won’t judge me for marrying a man, will you?” Tang Yue was more concerned about this aspect. Homosexuality was frowned upon by some, regardless of the era.
Seated beside him, Zhao Sanlang casually picked up his cup and took a sip of tea. “What’s all this chatter about? If it weren’t for my penchant for curvaceous beauties, I wouldn’t mind hosting a charming young master in my chambers.”
“But…” He paused briefly, wearing a sly grin. “If you were to get married, wouldn’t that imply…” He cast a rather suggestive glance towards Tang Yue’s lower half before letting out a rather ribald chuckle.
Tang Yue was well aware of what was on his mind. He shrugged and responded composedly, “You needn’t worry about that. Others won’t even have the opportunity.”
It was the unvarnished truth, and Zhao Sanlang nodded in agreement. “I’ve seen the County Princess Tangxi that His Highness introduced earlier. She doesn’t measure up. If it were you, I’d think His Highness had done me a favor. What’s the whole story?”
“It means I stand out,” Tang Yue mused, finding these words to be rather considerate. In his family’s eyes, they either believed in their elevated social standing or that this young man had excellent taste.
Nevertheless, did he truly not harbor any affection for him? If not, why would he grant him such high praise?
“About this… County Princess Tangxi,” Tang Yue hesitated briefly but finally decided to inquire about this potential rival in love. “How does she look, and what’s her character like?”
“She’s extraordinarily beautiful, not far behind County Princess Huizhu in looks. As for her character, hehe… it leaves much to be desired. Quite the pretty face, though.”
Tang Yue found this statement rather perplexing. Any comparison to County Princess Huizhu warranted skepticism.
However, according to Zhao Sanlang’s aesthetic standards, he wasn’t deemed unattractive. He must be quite handsome.
“Is she very capricious? Wild? Perverse? Or perhaps unintelligent?” He chuckled. “Those terms are rather vague.”
Zhao Sanlang glanced at him. “Why are you so anxious? Do you think His Highness will be fond of her?”
Against his own inclinations, Tang Yue shook his head and replied, “I’m concerned that she’ll never forget His Highness.” They were once husband and wife, and it was Lee Zhao who aspired to be accomplished and influential.
“You needn’t fret about that…”
Just as Tang Yue was about to breathe a sigh of relief, Zhao Sanlang chuckled softly. “County Princess Tangxi must be delighted with the Crown Prince. When the marriage was annulled, I heard she went on a three-day hunger strike. If the imperial physician hadn’t confirmed that His Highness’s leg couldn’t be healed, do you think it would’ve been so easy to cancel the betrothal?”
“…” Tang Yue really wanted to give him a slap. “Alright then. She’s just a woman; it’s not such a big deal!”
It seemed that the next time he saw Lee Zhao, he’d have to inquire if warding off romantic interests fell within his job description. This was a laborious and thankless task; he’d have to raise his fee!