Yellowed leaves carpeted the garden. It was only then that Lin Haihai realized it was mid-autumn. She had been too busy for the past month to think about anything else, devoting herself to work to prevent herself from drowning in her painful yearning. Her belly remained flat, but she could feel the life growing in her. Next year, her child would come to her on a warm spring day. She wondered if it would be a boy or a girl. Would the child be more like her, or him? Lin Haihai smiled, her face glowing with an almost holy brilliance.
“Bai Muyang wanted to see you!” Zheng Feng said once he returned in a hurry. The servant told him that Consort Lin was feeling unwell after eating something she shouldn’t, and that she had been resting at home. He had come back as quickly as he could. “The servants said that you were ill. Are you alright?”
Lin Haihai turned around to face him with a calm expression. “I’m fine! Do you know why he asked for me?”
“He wouldn’t tell anyone but you!” Zheng Feng had learned about Lin Haihai’s pregnancy from Wangchen. However, he didn’t know the child was the emperor’s. He assumed the sixth prince was the father. “Did someone set you up?”
The past month, Chen Birou had slowly revealed her true nature. Although she didn’t dare do anything serious, she had been making Lin Haihai’s life difficult. Lin Haihai refused to let Yang Hanlun know, so Zheng Feng had no choice but to swallow down his anger.
“Alright, let’s go!” Lin Haihai circulated her inner energy and made sure that the discomfort in her belly had faded. She had been careless this time. Nevertheless, it might be a blessing in disguise for her to see Chen Birou for who she was. At the end of the day, it was Lin Haihai who had gotten between the couple. Chen Birou and Yang Hanlun had been in love. Chen Birou lost the position of the first consort due to the arranged marriage, and then she lost Yang Hanlun’s heart. That was enough to break any woman.
Of course, the fact that she understood Chen Birou’s feelings didn’t mean she would let anyone hurt her child. She would let Chen Birou off the hook this time. If something happened a second time, she wouldn’t be this forgiving.
“Where’s Wangchen?” Zheng Feng asked nonchalantly.
“I sent her out for an investigation. Why? Do you need her for something?” Lin Haihai walked slowly and gestured at the horse carriage to be driven away. She had decided to give herself a day off to enjoy a leisurely life. Strolling through the ancient street, she no longer felt alone like a stranger in a foreign land. She had gotten fully assimilated to this era.
“Nothing.” Zheng Feng turned away uneasily. “I’m just worried since I haven’t seen her for a few days."
“If you care about her, you should just tell her. Don’t keep up an act to hide it!” Lin Haihai admonished. Wangchen had been harboring feelings for Zheng Feng for quite some time. She wasn’t that much of a fool that she would fail to notice it.
Zheng Feng paused and said embarrassedly, “That’s impossible. Stop talking nonsense!”
“Why not? Don’t you like her?” Lin Haiahi came to a halt and looked at Zheng Feng. He and Wangchen had always been with her. She wanted them to be happy.
“There’s someone else I have feelings for!” Zheng Feng said bitterly.
Lin Haihai arched an eyebrow. Is that so? She grinned at him and put a hand on his shoulder, whispering in a conspiratorial tone, “Who is it? Do I know them?”
Zheng Feng pushed her hand away bashfully and said with a blush, “You don’t know her. It’s a cousin of mine!”
“Oh, cousin? Close relatives shouldn’t get married!” Lin Haihai snickered and walked away. Wangchen still has a chance!
Zheng Feng looked at her back, his gaze turning rueful. He would never be able to confess his feelings for the woman he loved, but he would protect her his entire life.
Luo Kuangyuan had been waiting at the door. He cupped his fist at Lin Haihai when he saw her and said, “Here you are, Head Imperial Physician!”
Lin Haihai rolled her eyes at him. “Should this Head Imperial Physician bow to the Court of Judicial Review Head as per the rules of proprietary?”
“That won’t do, that won’t do!” Luo Kuangyuan laughed. During the past month, they had gotten to know each other very well due to their work.
“What does the man want to tell me?” Lin Haihai asked as they walked inside.
“I’m not sure! However, he’s ill, and the illness is serious. We’ve asked a number of physicians to treat him, but none of them dared enter!” Luo Kuangyuan didn’t know Lin Haihai had set up a boundary.
“I get it now. Have someone stand guard outside. I’ll enter with Commander Zheng!” After a bemused pause, Lin Haihai asked, “Has anyone visited Bai Muyang?”
The court advisor said respectfully, “In response to Head Imperial Physician, Sir Huang Wensheng visited a few days ago!”
“Huang Wensheng?” Lin Haihai perked up. That’s Piaoxue’s principal scholar of a husband, and one of the people responsible for her death!
“Huang Wensheng is Grand Councilor Yan’s son-in-law,” explained the advisor. “The first young mistress of the Yan Family is married to him!”
“Oh? He’s the grand councillor’s son-in-law?” Lin Haihai huffed. She had promised to give Piaoxue justice. Huang Wensheng wasn’t getting away today!
“Prepare an invitation letter for me. I’m paying Sir Huang a visit!” Lin Haihai instructed the advisor, who left to do as she said.
“Are you trying to find an opening through Huang Wensheng?” speculated Luo Kuangyuan.
“No, he’s the culprit of a murder. I’m simply looking for justice for one of his victims!” She remembered how Piaoxue had been wandering the path to the netherworld and how Piaoxue’s old father had been eagerly waiting for his daughter to return, oblivious to the fact that his daughter had been killed. The thought alone filled her heart with fury.
“Murder? What murder?” As the head of the Court of Judicial Review, Luo Kuangyuan was sensitive to such issues. His sense of duty prompted him to ask for more information.
“Be patient. I’ll tell you everything later. Now, I’ll see what Bai Muyang is up to!” Anger broke the mask of calmness on Lin Haihai’s face as she remembered what he had done to Piaoxue. This man’s crime was unforgivable!
“Commander Zheng, please keep a close eye on Physician Lin!” Luo Kuangyuan said worriedly.
“Don’t worry, Official Luo,” Zheng Feng promised. “I’ll make sure she’s safe.”
As soon as they entered the prison, Lin Haihai was assaulted by an overwhelmingly pungent smell. It made her stomach turn. Bai Muyang had been a respectable official in the capital. Who would have thought this would happen to him one day? However, he deserved the misfortune. Mistakes made because of fate could be forgiven, while punishment brought about by one’s crime was wholly deserved. Lin Haihai did pity him for how he ended up, but the pitiful were often the hateful. He would get no sympathy from her.
She looked down at Bai Muyang. His eyes were lifeless, and his cheekbones protruded from his hollowed face. His darkened skin told her that he had been poisoned.
“Are you looking for me?” Lin Haihai asked coldly.
Light returned to Bai Muyang’s lifeless eyes. He struggled to sit up and looked at Lin Haihai with pleading eyes. “I want to meet Piaoxue. Can you summon her here now?”
“She may not want to see you!” Lin Haihai said.
“I’m begging you. I’ll tell you everything you want to know if only you let me see her again!” Bai Muyang knew what she was capable of. As long as she gave him the approval, he would be able to meet Piaoxue.
“Why do you want to see her?” Lin Haihai’s voice softened at the deep regret in his gaze.
“There are many things I’d like to tell her,” he said ruefully. “I know I’m going to die soon. If I don’t tell her now, I’ll never have another chance to talk to her!”
Lin Haihai found herself considering his request. After some deliberation, she told Zheng Feng, “Take him to wash up and get changed. Then follow me to the North Court!” She turned to Bai Muyang. “I’ll take you to Piaoxue, but you’ll have to tell me everything you know!”
Bai Muyang’s ashen face lit up with hope. He said eagerly, “I’ll tell you everything!”
“After that, you’ll have to return here to be judged by Official Luo!” Lin Haihai waved a hand to disintegrate the boundary before turning to leave. The air in the prison was smothering and tainted. She could taste bile at the back of her throat as she struggled to prevent herself from throwing up.
Luo Kuangyuan looked at her bemusedly as she emerged. He remembered his wife showing similar symptoms when she was pregnant. He was surprised when he saw Zheng Feng walk out with Bai Muyang in tow. “Where’s Commander Zheng taking him to?”
Lin Haihai kept her discomfort under control and said, “I’m taking him out for a short while. Don’t worry, I’ll return him to you in one piece!”
She smiled, but the smile was pale, which reminded him of the smile on the emperor’s face when he saw him staring at the rippling lotus pond in the Imperial Garden after the court meeting. It was a smile that suggested a myriad of concerns that couldn’t be voiced.
Luo Kuangyuan knew what had transpired between the two of them, and he couldn’t help but lament their plight. They were a match made in heaven if one disregarded the circumstances they were in. It was a shame that they had met at the wrong time!
“It’s fine,” said Luo Kuangyuan. “Do what you have to do!”
Bai Muyang had said what he had to say. Keeping him in the prison wasn’t going to make him spill the secrets he was determined to keep. It would be great if Lin Haihai had a way to make him talk.
Zheng Feng took Bai Muyang to get washed. When they emerged again, Bai Muyang was a different person. Although he had lost the imposing presence about him, his darkened face still showed traces of his handsome features. It was no wonder that Piaoxue would fall so deeply for him and travel miles and miles to the capital just because he asked her to.
I’m cruel to have turned him down, am I not? I’ve hurt him, haven’t I? Lin Haihai suddenly remembered Yang Shaolun’s parting words: From now on, I will have nothing to do with you!
Her heart clenched painfully. Had she made a mistake? However, it really wasn't the right time to leave. Silently, she made an oath to herself: Just wait for me a bit, Brother Yang. Then I’ll go with you!Previous Chapter Next Chapter