Reading Lin Haihai’s thoughts, Nangong said, “Come with me!”
Then he held onto her sleeve to lead her away before she could even say anything. She followed him obediently like she had lost her soul.
They walked past long streets and narrow alleyways until they arrived at a gracefully built manor. Nangong Zixuan considered her with an inquisitive glint in his eyes and said, “I’m still unsure what kind of a person you are. Perhaps I’ll have an opportunity to see your true nature in the future. However, I believe you need a place to vent your emotions. This manor is completely empty. You may stay here as long as you want.”
He opened the door and gestured at Lin Haihai to get in. She smiled a sorrowful smile and said, “Thank you, but I’m alright now. I don’t feel like I’ve been wronged. I asked for this myself.”
Nangong Zixuan gave her an odd look and paused before saying, “Fame and fortune of the material world aren’t worth coveting. They are far less valuable than someone you can confide in! Why would you give up on the person you love for glory? That’s the decision of a fool!”
“It depends on how you look at things. I’ve been studying medicine since my youth. My grandfather told me that the discipline is about fighting for life against the clutch of the reaper and saving those who have been tormented by illnesses. Then I grew up and got into a medical school. On the first day of class, a professor told us that being a physician was more than a profession; it was a calling. The calling would tell us what to hold onto and what to give up during our future career. Everytime I save someone from the brink of death, I am reaffirmed in my belief of what is worth holding onto!”
She told her story slowly, deliberately. Her tone was laden with pain and determination. It was a cruel choice to make. Whatever she chose, there would be sacrifice.
Nangong Zixuan looked at her with confusion. Is she acting? He understood only parts of what she had said. However, her pain and tears were both in plain sight, and they couldn't have been faked. Who was the man she was talking about? Was she not someone who cheated and lied to gain her reputation? How was a frail woman like her able to win over the hearts of the people in the capital?
Lin Haihai bade him farewell and walked away, feeling the pain in her heart as keenly as ever while her resolution grew firmer. If you’re willing to wait for me, I’ll return to you always no matter which time and space I end up in. If you cannot understand me and insist that your love is misplaced in me, I can only wish you a happy future.
Chen Luoqing helped Yang Shaolun out of the door of Linhai Hospital. Immediately the shadow guards came up to them to protect them. The horse carriage had been waiting outside. Yang Shaolun got in and turned around to check if she had chased after him. People came and went at the hospital, but she was nowhere to be seen.
“Depart!” he said after a stretch of silence. The carriage went further and further away from the hospital, leaving it behind like he’d left behind his love.
Yang Shaolun closed his eyes as Chen Luoqing tended to his injury, oblivious to the blood seeping out of his wound. The bandage smelling faintly of medicine had been soaked, and it was cast to his feet like a fallen banner.
Chen Luoqing was filled with a bitter feeling. He understood Yang Shaolun’s pain. However, as an outsider, he believed Lin Haihai was doing the right thing. This wasn’t the time for the emperor to leave.
“It may not be a bad thing for her to turn you down!” Chen Luoqing’s movement grew gentle as he looked at the ashen look on Yang Shaolun’s face.
Yang Shaolun was quiet. He couldn’t stop the stabbing pain in his heart no matter what he said. Silence stretched. Chen Luoqing sighed and thought that he would never get an answer, but then Yang Shaolun opened his eyes to look at him and said in a heartbreaking tone, “I thought she would choose to leave with me without hesitation. That’s what I’ve always believed. I believed she would come with me to the edge of the world as long as I asked her to. However, I was overly confident.”
“Perhaps I’ve never been as important to her as I thought. She never trusts me to deal with things properly. She ran away, and she had me run away and retreat along with her. She told me that love wasn’t all there was in life. I believed her and forced myself not to think about her. I’ve been away from her for the past month, Luoqing, and it made me realize I truly cannot live without her. It wasn’t a spur of the moment decision for me to ask her to come with me. As soon as she said yes, I would make quick work of Prince Pingnan and hand the throne to Sixth Brother. Then I would take her away to build a simple life. As long as she agreed, that is, but she didn’t.”
“All she ever gives me is her silence. She doesn’t trust me. She wants me to give her time to minimize the harm done to other people, to make the best decision. She’s put so much thought into taking care of others, while I’m the only one she hurts! She refuses to give me any hope. She didn’t even say anything when I told her I would never see her again. She was forcing me to be cruel to her. Then she would have an excuse to convince herself to leave me.”
Chen Luoqing was stunned. He didn’t know much about their relationship, but judging from the emperor’s outburst of despair, they must have promised a life with each other. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have been so heartbroken.
“She has her reasons...” Chen Luoqing struggled to say.
“Reasons?” Yang Shaolun scoffed, his piercing gaze settling on Chen Luoqing. “That’s right. She doesn’t want to damage the bond between me and my brothers. She’s worried that Sixth Brother would turn against me with his hundred thousand soldiers. She doesn’t want the people of the world to suffer from a war. Why is she always so arrogant? Why does she act like she alone can solve all the problems in the world?”
“I admit that my resolution was swayed when Second Brother came to me, but she struck me with a serious blow when I mustered the courage to pursue our happiness. Sixth Brother won’t actually turn against me, and my other brothers won’t abandon me. They simply don’t want me to become a laughing stock, mocked by the people of the world.”
His tone grew agitated, and his eyes blazed with emotions. The despair on his face, on the other hand, spread further and further.
Chen Luoqing didn’t answer. He didn’t agree with him completely. The other princes might not blame him, but the sixth prince was different. There was no telling if he would do something reckless. The throne might be an attractive prospect, but no men could forgive having their wives run away with another man. Moreover, wouldn’t he hold Yang Shaolun accountable after becoming the emperor?
He frowned. The emperor had always treasured his relationship with his brothers. He had proposed to run away with Lin Haihai at the risk of attracting the world’s ire. It must mean that he’d made up his mind to have a final showdown with Prince Pingnan. That would still happen even though Lin Haihai had chosen not to leave with him.
“How are you going to deal with Prince Pingnan?” Chen Luoqing asked worriedly.
Yang Shaolun’s expression darkened. In an icy voice, he said, “Announce tomorrow that he will be stripped of his military power. I’m forcing him to start a coup!”
Chen Luoqing’s heart pounded. He had been waiting for this moment his whole life! Prince Pingnan had trampled over them for too long. It was time to strike him head-on!
“How about Physician Lin?” he asked despite his hesitation.
Yang Shaolun closed his eyes and said calmly, “I’ll respect her choice!”
He never had any say in this relationship. She was always the one to make the final decision.
“Would you really be able to let go?” Chen Luoqing noted the yearning in his eyes, which was a clear enough answer.
Yang Shaolun smiled bitterly. “Do you really think I’ll be able to stay away from her forever like I’ve said? When you fall for someone deeply, you’ll know that even an emperor may say things they don’t mean. My love for her is bone-deep, and I cannot cut her out of my thoughts. I don’t resent her for anything but her refusal to leave me with some hope.” After a pause, he continued with despair, “If she would come with me, the nation is nothing in comparison!”
“The circumstances won’t allow that,” Chen Luoqing couldn’t help speaking up for Lin Haihai. “She doesn’t have a choice!”
“Have you ever loved someone, Luoqing?” Yang Shaolun met his gaze, his brows furrowed as he began to doubt himself. “Am I going about it the wrong way?”
Chen Luoqing smiled. “I have, and I still do. However, she had already fallen for someone when I met her. I dared not get close to her, lest her brilliance scorch me. Some things are never meant to be. It’s better to keep my distance!”
He smiled faintly with faint sorrow, remembering the woman who drunkenly shed tears for someone else. His chest tightened in response.
Yang Shaolun considered him for some time before letting out a sigh. “Perhaps I should watch her from a distance. Seeing her always fills my heart with content and joy.”
Neither of the two men fully understood love. They dissected all the strange aspects of love and found no explanation. Perhaps love had always been illogical since the history of mankind!
One month later
In only a month, medical stations had been established in dozens of villages outside the capital, manned by the first group of disciples at Linhai Hospital. Lin Haihai ordered them to report any troublesome diseases. They were forbidden from treating difficult cases on their own. She knew it was impossible for them to become a medical expert in only half a year. However, after the grueling training she had given them, they would at least be able to treat regular diseases themselves.
Meanwhile, she and Li Junyue were busier than ever. They moved between different medical stations to give guidance and observe the situation, while the hospital had been growing in scale. They planned to buy the storefronts near the hospital to expand it.
In addition, some of the herbs at the plantation were ready to be harvested, so they hired more people to do the work. Herbs cultivated at the plantation were varieties that were more difficult to buy in the market, rather than a full inventory of everything. Fortunately, they had acquired the list of suppliers from Bai Muyang. Luo Kuangyuan managed to buy quite a lot of medicines through them. The crisis was therefore averted for now.
Luo Kuangyuan, Chen Luoqing, Liang Buoxian, and many other officials issued a collective report to recommend Lin Haihai as Head Imperial Physician, overseeing matters regarding health and welfare at the Imperial Physician Branch and the Public Welfare Administration.
The emperor issued the decree, and thus in the hundred and seventeenth year of the Daxing Dynasty, the thirteenth year of Xiaozong, Lin Haihai was appointed the Head Imperial Physician, in charge of the Imperial Physician Branch and the healthcare of the nation. She was the first woman to hold such a position since the establishment of Daxing!
The Imperial Physician Branch was spearheaded by the Head Imperial Physician, who would be assisted by an administrator and two executives. Serving under them were more than a dozen imperial physicians, thirty-six doctors, and a hundred and some clerks.
Lin Haihai accepted her duty and began to weed out corruption after she took office. More than ten officials at the Public Welfare Administration were stripped of their power. Then she rolled out many healthcare policies that would benefit the general public, laying down the foundation for a better future and putting the minds of the people at ease.
Tension ran high in the imperial court. Yang Shaolun had ordered to take away Prince Pingnan’s military power. The treacherous officials serving Prince Pingnan urged their master to make a move. Although it wasn’t the best time to strike, Prince Pingnan weighed the pros and cons and concluded that he had to start the coup right now. All that was left for him to do was to reach an agreement with Rong!
Yang Shaolun had sent delegates to Rong, too. The nation was currently under the rule of a regency. The young emperor was missing, so was the empress dowager. The regent was waiting for the right moment to take over the throne.
Meanwhile, Yang Hanlun had been training his soldiers every day, leaving his residence early and returning late. Lin Haihai had been incredibly busy as well, leaving Chen Birou to take care of the affairs of the residence. She acted like the first consort both inside and outside the residence. She forbade anyone from calling her the secondary consort, and instead had them call her Consort Chen.
Yang Hanlun often waited in Lin Haihai’s room late at night for her to return. Then they would spend the night discussing strategies until the day broke. After a short rest, they would return to their respective work and tend to the many responsibilities they had every day.
Chen Birou seethed as she took in their interactions. She became convinced that only by making Lin Haihai disappear would she reclaim Yang Hanlun’s sole attention and love. She began plotting how she would get rid of Lin Haihai forever.
Yang Shaolun was the busiest of them all. Not only did he have to tend to the everyday state affairs, he also had to make time training the shadow guards. More importantly, he had to establish the necessary defenses so that he would be ready for Prince Pingnan’s coup!
Everything was in place. They needed only Rong’s reaffirmation of the diplomatic tie between the two nations. Then they could face the upcoming battle without concern.
Under the empress dowager’s instructions, the empress began the second selection of the concubine candidates who had just entered the palace. She then had the old maidservants of the palace teach the candidates the rules of the palace. The training period would last for a month. After that, half of the candidates would stay in the palace and become Yang Shaolun’s concubines.
Yang Shaolun didn’t spare any attention for the process, leaving it all to the empress and the empress dowager. No matter how many women there were in the imperial harem, there was only ever one woman he held dear in his heart. Perhaps she would go with him after he gave her some space and time. He had no other choices anyway. All he could do was wait for her!
During the time, Li Junyue had been travelling between the two eras and helping Lin Haihai as an advisor. She discussed everything with him before making a decision.
Lin Haihai was now two months pregnant. Her condition was stable other than her suffering from a low appetite and occasional vomiting. Her belly wasn’t yet pronounced, but her movement was already restricted. She thus left many matters to Wangchen.
Chen Luoqing had assigned Zheng Feng to protect her, which she wouldn’t say no to. Zheng Feng was a rare talent. He would be able to help her solve many difficult problems.
As for the plantation, everything was going smoothly with Flute, Sword, and their group of brothers. The empress had been too busy with the selection to help in the mountain. Fortunately, she had taught what she knew to Flute and the others, so they knew what they were doing. No trouble would arise.
End of volume 1
Previous Chapter Next Chapter