The dishes were soon served, one of which was soup, and their flavor profiles were all on the light side. She found to her surprise that all the dishes were comfort food she liked.
It was a lie when she said she wasn’t a picky eater. Especially since she was now pregnant, she couldn’t stand food that wasn’t one of her favorites. She had expected to come out of this meal still hungry, but it turned out Zhou Junpeng knew her preferences well, which won him some points from her.
“Your hospital doesn’t need this much medicine. Why have you been planting herbs on such a large scale?” Zhou Junpeng didn’t want to talk about it. It was rare for him to share a meal with her. He didn’t want the mundane matters to get in the way of their enjoyment. However, it was how he had earned the job of approaching Linhai Hospital from His Highness. If he failed to get some information out of her, the prince might find out about his affection for her. He knew the prince better than anyone!
“To sell, of course!” Lin Haihai said with a smile as she ate. “Everyone knows the market for herbs is severely lacking in supply. Why wouldn’t I enter it now to make a fortune?”
“Physician Lin must be joking!” He had seen the mockery in her eyes as she deftly deflected his question. He didn’t expect to get any concrete answers out of her anyway. He didn’t want their relationship to be tainted as a result. All he wanted was to get to know her and chat with her. That was more than enough for him.
“I heard that Tai Yu Money Exchange has many branches all over the nation!” Lin Haihai said sweetly as she put food onto his plate.
“That’s right!” he answered faintly without any signs of pride. Tai Yu Money Exchange had established branches all over the bigger cities of the nation. In fact, his business was central to the economy of Daxing. If one day the money exchange went down, the economy at large and the livelihood of the people would suffer the impact. The revelation alerted Lin Haihai, but she didn’t show it.
Time passed quietly. The two at the dining table each harbored their own thoughts while they interacted like great friends. Meanwhile, Nangong Zixuan had become even more disdainful of Lin Haihai after listening in on their conversation.
After the meal, Zhou Junpeng insisted on walking Lin Haihai back to the hospital. It was going to be a busy afternoon. Lin Haihai apologized to Zhou Junpeng, “I’m afraid I don’t have time to even share some tea with you. Please don’t stay on my accord.”
Zhou Junpeng smiled with affectionate eyes. “I have matters to attend to as well. I’ll take my leave. Let’s do this another day!”
Lin Haihai waved at him. “Walk the guest out, Qing Feng!”
Qing Feng showed up and cupped her hands at Zhou Junpeng. “After you, Young Master Zhou!”
The moment Zhou Junpeng turned to leave, the smile on Lin Haihai’s face dropped. Is he an enemy or a friend? If it’s the former, there will be a world of trouble.
“Master,” Ming Yue approached her and said. “The patient in the ward is looking for you!”
Lin Haihai paused, her heart again overtaken by sorrow. He must be leaving if he asked for her.
With a nod, she dragged her feet to the ward Yang Shaolun was resting in. With a thin voice and a stilted smile, she managed to ask, “Are you looking for me, Imperial Elder Brother?”
“This Emperor would like to return to the palace,” he said with an impassive look on his face, his eyes betraying none of his emotions. “I was told that your permission is needed for me to leave. That’s why I’m looking for you!”
“You can’t be discharged yet. Your injury is still too serious for you to move around. Please stay a couple days more for observation!” She had maintained the tone of a physician, but her expression grew tight with anxiety.
Yang Shaolun’s lips curled into a bitter smile, and his steely eyes flooded with pain. “That won’t be necessary. This Emperor knows my own body. It’s always been this way. Even the most serious injury isn’t going to stop this Emperor from attending the court meetings, let alone a little pain!”
Lin Haihai felt as if her heart had been cut, and the piercing pain spread through her chest. She walked up to him slowly, her expression pained as she said, “Wouldn’t you stay until you’re fully recovered for me? I don’t know how you’ve been treating yourself, but I don’t want you to feel any pain now. Wouldn’t you take care of yourself for me?”
He glared fiercely at her and bit out, “Why must you do this to me? You cut me, then you patch me up. Again and again, you destroyed my hope as soon as I found it. How much pain do you think I can take? How many times do you think I can bear the disappointment of you changing your mind? I don’t care about anything else. I have only one question for you: Would you be willing to leave with me? Would you come with me if I abandon the nation to go into a life of recluse with you?”
His words struck her like lightning, and she couldn’t move an inch. A prickling numbness had spread all over her body. Her heart clenched more and more painfully. What could she say? She didn’t know what to say when she was faced with his saddened eyes.
Yang Shaolun’s heart froze over. The promise they had made to each other still rang in his ear. She’d said that she would follow him anywhere if he gave up everything to build a life with her, and yet she seemed so shocked now with her neck bent low. He’d expected her response to be immediate, without hesitation. Wasn’t that what she wanted? Why hadn’t she jumped up in joy and hugged him? Instead, she fell silent. The silence cut deeper than any blades in the world. He didn’t know how he was going to face this bloody wound in the future.
“Running away isn’t going to solve any problems!” She knew how cruel her words were as soon as she uttered them. It was true that the only way out of them was to leave. He was willing to abandon the nation and give up on his family to stay with her day and night, until they were old and grey. Why would she turn him down now?
She hated herself for being the rational one. She had been dreaming about leaving the world behind to start a life with him, but she knew it wasn’t time yet. There was a turbulence in the imperial court, and the livelihood of the people is at stake. A terrible war is on the brink of breaking out. He would go down in history as an atrocious emperor who is both irresponsible and immoral if he left now. How could she possibly allow that to happen? Moreover, he wouldn’t be able to stop caring about the nation even if she went into a reclusive life with him. The guilt would weigh him down. Wouldn’t it be better to allow fate to run its course?
“Do you love me?” He clutched at the blanket to suppress the ache in his heart, his lips trembling and his deep eyes misty with sorrow. His voice was so gentle that it hurt to listen to.
“I love you!” she answered without hesitation.
“Would you leave with me then?” he asked, his dark eyes flickering with hope.
However, she didn’t say anything. He balled his hands up and levelled her with a cold stare, the light in his eyes dimming little by little until it was replaced by a layer of frost. “Get out!” he said with suppressed fury. “I don't want to see you again! Get out!”
Lin Haihai looked up with pain and tears in her eyes.
“Get out, get the hell out of here! Chen Luoqing, make her leave!” He was shouting like a maniac and throwing the pillows and blanket at her. His fiery gaze fixed on her with despair and disbelief twisting his face. He kept his chin high stubbornly, showing no care for the blood seeping from his chest.
Lin Haihai bit into her lip and stared at him without moving an inch, her heart clenching so hard that she had to struggle to breathe.
Chen Luoqing rushed in and held Yang Shaolun down when he saw the state he was in. He shouted to Lin Haihai, “Come patch him up!”
“There’s no need, Luoqing!” Yang Shaolun said without sparing Lin Haihai another glance. “Let’s go back to the palace!”
“You mustn’t!” Chen Luoqing said worriedly with his brows furrowed. “You must get treated first!”
“This Emperor says no. Let’s go!” Yang Shaolun endured the pain as he put on his robe and got off the bed to leave. Chen Luoqing hurriedly went up to support him. The frost in his eyes made Lin Haihai’s tears drop. She moved to the side with a myriad of thoughts she didn’t know how to put into words.
Suddenly, he turned to her and asked, “You’ve never considered leaving with me, have you, Lin Haihai?”
Thunderous pain overwhelmed her. She shook her head and choked out, “I want to, I’ve always wanted to leave with you!” She looked at him with pleading eyes. “But this isn’t the time yet. Wouldn’t you give me some time?”
“No, you must go with me now if that’s what you want! I can’t wait any longer. I can’t stand being apart from you!” He was still holding on to the flimsiest of hope. He feared living his life without her by his side. The past month had been a living hell. He didn’t want to experience it again!
She shook her head with her bottom lip between her clenched teeth. The tears in her eyes prevented her from seeing how lifeless his gaze had become.
“Let’s go, Luoqing! From now on, you will be a stranger to this Emperor!” He walked away with the cruelest parting words he could possibly say and left behind his abused heart. He never expected to be hurt so deeply by her, and he had to escape.
His words cut into Lin Haihai like the sharpest blade. The pain tore her asunder before she could even think about the implications. All that was left in her mind was his ringing voice, repeating, You will be a stranger to this Emperor!
She turned away numbly to see his figure growing more and more distant. He would have nothing to do with her? Was he going to cut her out of his life? Pain wreaked havoc in her heart. She stared at the drops of blood staining the road, like plum blossoms blooming in snowy winter. It was so red she could barely look at it. The unbearable pain made her think of ending her life for the first time.
Do you hate me now, Yang Shaolun? How can you hate me? I’m telling the truth when I said I wanted to go with you! She whispered the words as tears streamed down her face, leaving burning tracks on her skin.
She walked out of the hospital like a living corpse. She walked and walked, her heart drifting aimlessly. Look at these people. How many of them have any relationship with me? She had given up on the man she loved for the sake of the people. She was able to smile in response when strangers recognized her and smiled at her, and yet she had nothing but silence for him. Was there really such an insurmountable obstacle between them, or did she simply have no confidence in him?
She had never trusted him to sort things out, so she chose to run away and make compromises again and again. If she had announced the fact that she had been divorced before Yang Hanlun fell for her, things would be different. What happened today was a result of her indecisiveness. What right did she have to blame him for being irrational?
“Physician Lin!” called out an icy voice. Lin Haihai looked up to see Nangong Zixuan. The man was still looking at her with disdain in his eyes. She quietly met his gaze in a confused state.
Nangong Zixuan looked at her strangely. He could sense the thick sorrow looming over her and enveloping her. Was this an act? He couldn’t be sure.
“Am I a hateful woman, Nangong Zixuan?” she asked suddenly, staring at him with misty eyes and droplets of tears on her lashes.
Nangong Zixuan felt a pang in his heart. He looked at her silently, at a loss of what to say.
A heartbroken smile tugged at Lin Haihai’s lips. “I am, I am the most hateful woman in the world. I want to tell him that I love him. I love him so much. Losing him hurt me like the worst pain in the world. I can barely breathe through the pain. However, I can’t tell him. Do you know why? That’s because I’m vain. I love him, but I love the respect and support the people show me as well. There are too many things I cannot let go of. I can’t just leave.”
“I thought love wasn’t all there was in life, but why do I feel like I’ve lost my heart? My chest feels empty. Is it because I’ve lost him? You look down on me, don’t you? Is it because I greedily hold onto the empty praises the mortal world showers me with?”
Tears dropped from her eyes. She didn’t even attempt to wipe them away. There was a numbness in her chest, after which came waves of stabbing pain.
Nangong Zixuan was stunned. The overwhelming pain in her eyes made his heart ache, and he softened his voice to ask, “Are you alright?”
Lin Haihai smiled bitterly instead of responding. She continued to walk. How much pain she must have kept bottled up if she would confide in a stranger? And a stranger who had disliked her due to misunderstanding from the start.
Nangong Zixuan trailed after her. Lin Haihai didn’t care. She was looking for a place for her to freely let go of her emotions, but she couldn’t find it. There were people everywhere. She couldn’t find a place to be alone.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Communication issues, they have it. It's like a toothpaste being squeezed through a pinhole...