Yang Shaolun’s eyelashes fluttered. Lin Haihai had enough time to put on a mask. When he opened his eyes, he was met with the sight of her friendly face. He thought he was dreaming and didn’t dare blink.
“Good, you’re awake. You’re recovering well. You’ll be able to leave after a few days of resting!”
Her tone was friendly and warm, but it made his heart sink to a hellish depth he had never known before. She was treating him like a physician would a patient, friendly, but distant!
“Xiao’hai?” he called out with uncertainty.
She looked up at him and smiled. “Don’t worry, Imperial Elder Brother. Li Junyue will make sure you recover quickly!”
Then she began cleaning his wounds in earnest, her expression focused and serious, and her eyes free of any impurity.
Yang Shaolun closed his eyes and said coolly, “I’ll entrust myself to you, Sister-in-Law!”
Lin Haihai steadied her trembling hand and said with a smile, “You’re being needlessly polite, Imperial Elder Brother. We’re family. There’s no need for such formalities!”
He didn’t say anything in response, nor did he open his eyes. He looked calm. The only thing betraying his suppressed emotions was the tremor of his lips. Lin Haihai’s hands were gentle. Her words might have been daggers aimed at him, but it was her heart that ended up breaking. She swore silently to herself that she would never allow him to get hurt again, no matter how serious the injury.
After she had cleaned his wounds, she bandaged him again. Her gentleness made it clear that she was worried about hurting him.
“The anesthesia has lost its effect. Imperial Elder Brother may lie on your side if you’re feeling uncomfortable. That won’t have any adverse effects on your injury!”
Her tone was so calm and collected, it was as if she was facing a regular patient. Yang Shaolun opened his eyes, his piercing gaze flickered with almost unnoticeable emotions as he hoarsely asked, “How are you?”
Lin Haihai paused, the smile on her face dropping and her eyes lowering. “To tell you the truth, it was really bad at the beginning. I missed you terribly. Thankfully, Hanlun has always been by my side, taking care of everything for me. I was touched, and slowly but steadily, I began to develop feelings for him. I feel like I’ve wronged him, and it fills me with guilt. I’ll make amends to him for the rest of my life to repay his love for me. He’s a good man. Someone women can rely on. He’ll make me happy!”
“Our past is a dream. A wonderful dream, but a dream we cannot indulge in nonetheless. Do you understand? We have to live in the real world rather than getting hung up on our dreams. Only fools attempt to replicate their dreams.”
She knew she was being cruel, but she had to say it. He would be saddened, of course, but then he would start his life anew. He would find a suitable woman to spend the rest of his life with. And she, well, she only ever wanted for him to be happy. As long as he had a good life, she and their child would give him their blessings.
“Everything that happened between us is only a dream?” Yang Shaolun asked without showing any emotion, making it a plain statement when it was anything but that.
“You’ll understand once you meet someone you fit with both physically and mentally. What we had together was a dream. It was a flower’s reflection in a pond and a moon in a mirror. Unreal. Fake. The woman who can accompany you through the years is the one you should build a life with!”
She could almost see her heart bleeding as she spoke. The blood was thick, metallic, repulsive. She almost threw up. Whoever got to spend her life with Yang Shaolun must be the happiest woman in the world, and she was jealous!
“Someone I fit with?” That was the only thing Yang Shaolun could say. For a moment, he hoped he would die then and there. Someone who he fit with in body and soul… There would never be another woman like that. He didn’t believe a word when she said she had fallen for his imperial brother. This woman was a masterful liar. Her words could never be trusted. She wanted him to let go and turn away from her. She couldn’t have removed him from her heart during the past month, could she? If she could, her promises must have been lies as well. Thus, he wouldn’t believe a word out of her mouth!
“We don’t have any other choices. The only thing we can do is to ensure the happiness of each other. I want you to be happy, do you understand? Only when you’re happy can I move on with my life!” She gazed at him with unobscured love in her eyes, which seemed to stream into his heart. If he hadn’t lost his reasons, he would know that letting go was the best option.
“Would you be happy if I’m happy?” he asked with difficulty. His love had always been selfish. He wanted to be the source of her happiness. When he couldn’t give her a happy life, however, shouldn’t he let go once she found someone who could? He could pretend if she wanted to see him happy. As long as she was telling the truth now. As long as his happiness truly would ease her mind, he would let her forget about him.
However, she couldn’t force him to forget about her. She would always be the only one in his heart. Without her, his life would feel too long to bear. It would make him yearn for the end. Still, he had willingly exchanged a moment of joy with her for a lifetime of happiness. He was in no place to complain, and he wouldn’t!
“Your happiness is mine. I’ll be happy as long as you are!” Her eyes shone with determination as she said so. It seemed as if she truly believed in her words.
He nodded and fell silent, keeping his eyes closed. Tremendous sorrow overwhelmed and enveloped him like waves. He could barely breathe. He should’ve died back in the cavern that day!
She would be heartbroken if that happened, though, wouldn’t she? He never wanted her to be sad.
Lin Haihai’s eyes dimmed as she turned to leave with the antiseptics. When she crossed the threshold of the door, she heard something that threatened to tear her apart, “I don’t ever want to make you unhappy, Lin Haihai. I never want to break your heart. I’d let you seek your own happiness. I won’t make promises about our next lives. It’s too distant. Even in this life, I have many years ahead of me. If I can’t even be in control of this life, how am I going to make any promises about my next life? I worry that I’ll be too much of a coward to fight for you in my next life, too. I should’ve been fighting for you now, but I have to give you up because of the circumstances!”
Trembling, she turned to face him and said, “Love isn’t the only thing we have in life, Yang Shaolun, and love shouldn’t be selfish. How are we supposed to stay together if our love hurts other people? Fate has closed a door, but it has also opened a window. Time is something neither of us can manipulate. No matter what we do, no matter how we fight, it’ll all be in vain. Instead, we’ll be the subjects of resentment. We have to learn to let go before it’s too late.”
She was practically speaking through her clenched teeth, and she felt her heart shatter to pieces when she was done.
“I get it. I know what I should do.” Yang Shaolun sounded dejected. “You’re right. Love isn’t the only thing in life. Besides, I’ve lost you, but I haven’t lost my love!”
Lin Haihai turned away rigidly and hurried out of the room, wiping away tears she had failed to contain. She forced herself to put on a bright smile. You’ll forget about me soon, Yang Shaolun. You’ll spend the rest of your life with the woman you’re supposed to be with. Then you’ll know how childish you’re being now when you see me. Thank heavens that I have you, my child! I’ll still have you when your father forgets me one day!
Chen Luoqing stopped her midway with pain and concern in his gaze. She gave him a smile and said, “He’s fine now. Don’t worry.”
“He’s not the only one I’m worried about. I’m also worried about you!” Chen Luoqing’s deep gaze was filled with resignation.
“I’m fine,” she said nonchalantly. “It’s nothing but a small obstacle in my life. I’ll brace myself and overcome it. It’s not a big deal!”
“Why must there be so many hardships between you two? I wish he weren’t the emperor if it’s at all possible!” Chen Luoqing was speaking from the bottom of his heart. It was a shame that Prince Pingnan was a man of ambitions who couldn’t be trusted with the nation.
“There’s no comparison between love and the wellbeing of the nation, is there? The world and the general public are at stake. As long as I stay away from him, there will be no tension between the brothers, and the people will lead a life free of dread. We must not be selfish, Chen Luoqing!”
“Maybe you’re right,” Chen Luoqing said with uncertainty. That must have been the belief that had supported her through the hardships she faced.
Her eyes reddened all of a sudden. She hurriedly turned away and said, “Take care of him for me, Chen Luoqing!”
“I’ll protect him with my life!” he promised.
“I don’t have to worry with all of you protecting him!”
She still worried, of course, but what else could she do? She had to talk herself into believing them.
Their conversation was interrupted by a ruckus outside. A man was yelling with a hoarse voice. Lin Haihai frowned. Was someone stirring up trouble? She rushed outside, while Chen Luoqing returned to the ward to keep an eye on Yang Shaolun.
Before she reached the lobby, she heard an imperial physician angrily say, “Nonsense, what nonsense!”
“Hmph, this is our mother,” said a woman with a high-pitched voice, her tone dripping with derision. “It’s our decision whether we want her to be treated here. What does that have to do with you?”
“Mei’er, didn’t you agree to have her treated here?” demanded a hoarse voice. The man was loud even when he tried to keep his voice down.
Lin Haihai arrived at the lobby to see a beautiful woman lashing out at a burly man, “I agreed because I thought getting treated at Linhai Hospital is free. I didn’t know it’s so expensive! If she stays here, we’ll have to pay even more. Besides, what are we going to do with our children in that case? Who’s going to take care of them?”
The man gave his desparing mother a look and pleaded, “Couldn’t you take care of them for a few days? Just tell the lord to give you a few days off. You’ll get back to work once Mother has recovered.”
“Do you think he’s my father?” the woman spat venomously. “Do you think I can just take a few days off? It’s been busy in the residence. Young Master Zhou’s at home as well. I’m a steward. I can’t just leave my post. Use your rotten brain. Your mother’s illness has been incurable for years. It’s a waste of money for her to get treated. She might as well stay at home to look after the kids. Then she will at least help shoulder the burden on us.”
“No, that won’t do! We’re here already. We must let her get treated! I’ll deal with the payment myself. The hospital already charges a lot less than the others!” The man protested in an urgent tone. Sweat kept popping out of his forehead. He looked pitiful as he wiped it away with his broad sleeve.
“What’s going on?” asked Lin Haihai.
An imperial physician hurried to explain, “The couple took the old woman to seek medical help. She’s in a serious condition and may be in critical danger if she doesn’t get treated now. However, the woman decided to take her away as soon as she heard that our treatment wasn't free. It’s pure nonsense!”
The woman’s face twisted into a scowl under heavy makeup, and her eyebrows furrowed. “Listen to yourself, you poor excuse of a physician!” she snarled. “It’s said that getting treated here is free. That’s why we came to this hospital, only to find out that’s false advertisement! You’ve been lying to the public, and you refused to let us go when we decided not to seek treatment here. How does that make any sense? Good people of the capital, think about what Linhai Hospital has been doing. Do you really think they are in the right to do so?”
The patients waiting in the lobby were tired of the woman’s antics, but they weren’t going to let loose their grievances when Physician Lin was here. They swallowed their anger reluctantly as the woman lost her temper.
Now that she had grasped the situation, Lin Haihai considered the trembling and panicked-looking old woman. She approached her and asked, “Are you feeling unwell, ma’am?”
The old woman looked at Lin Haihai like a deer in the headlights before throwing a fearful glance at the icy expression on her daughter-in-law’s face. She shook her head hurriedly and said, “No, I’m fine!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter