The empress dowager smiled faintly, but her eyes remained rueful. “I’ll go with you, but I have a request: Please take care of Juanzi for me after I pass away!”
Juanzi’s expression crumbled into one of despair. “If Your Majesty passes away, Juanzi will not linger in this world!”
“Silly girl, you’re still young. You have a long future ahead of you!”
Lin Haihai was touched by the master and servant. She turned to Zheng Feng and said, “Hire a horse carriage. I’m taking them with me!”
Zheng Feng left without a word. Lin Haihai sat down and said, “Please don’t give up before the moment of your death comes. Would you tell me who poisoned you?”
Lin Haihai wanted to know what kind of a person would cultivate such a terrible gu.
“It’s the consort of Rong’s regent.” The empress dowager looked out the window with deep sorrow. “She’s from Miaojiang and cultivates gu for a living. She’s vicious and malicious. Everyone knows what she’s capable of. He is the only one who believes her to be a gentle and obedient consort!”
Lin Haihai was stunned. She could tell there was more to the story, but it was still an atrocity for the regent’s consort to use such potent poison on a woman. She looked at the elegant and beautiful empress dowager. She couldn’t possibly call her by her title from now on, so she asked, “How should I address you in the future?”
“Call me Keqing!” The empress dowager composed herself before meeting Lin Haihai’s eyes. “Are you really a physician and nothing more?”
Lin Haihai smiled guiltily. “I am a physician. As for what else I am, it doesn’t matter to me, so I’m not going to say it.”
She really disliked being considered and addressed as the sixth princess consort.
“Then I won’t press,” Keqing said with a slight smile. “Everyone has secrets. It’s safer to keep them to yourself!”
“Perhaps. There are secrets that absolutely cannot be let out of the bag, which is a great hassle!” Lin Haihai felt ashamed when she thought about how she had “betrayed” her husband.
Keqing seemed to have sensed her inner turmoil and suggested, “Choose what you believe is the right path and minimize the harm. That’s the most you can do. You can’t get everything you want!”
Lin Haihai thought about it and had to agree. A perfect happy ending didn’t exist in this world. The realization made her smile, and she took a liking to Keqing. “We’re close in age. Why don’t we become sworn sisters?”
Lin Haihai remembered making sisterly oaths left and right back when she was in middle school. She was feeling the same urge at the moment.
“Close in age? You look to be about eighteen, while I’m thirty-seven already!” Keqing laughed. She didn’t look that young, did she?
Lin Haihai paused. She had completely forgotten that she was now an eighteen-year-old. Keqing did look younger than thirty-seven, though. She appeared to be in her early thirties. Awkwardly, Lin Haihai said, “Haha, I’m actually in my twenties. I just look younger than I am!”
Keqing was surprised. “Really? You look about seventeen or eighteen. You sure have a youthful appearance!”
Lin Haihai began sweating. It was a really awkward conversation. Before she could come up with a response, though, Zheng Feng barged into the room and grabbed Lin Haihai’s medical kit with a simple, “Let’s go!”
Lin Haihai shot him a glare. This boy simply wouldn’t stop being angry. They had guests here, but he still barked at her with that long face of his.
Lin Haihai gave Keqing an apologetic look. She didn’t know what Zheng Feng was angry about. His personality seemed to have changed.
In truth, not even Zheng Feng understood where his anger came from, but it pained him to think about how she had almost died of poison. Couldn’t she be more cautious? Why wouldn’t she raise her guard when she knew Chen Birou is up to no good? She’s an intelligent physician with a great attention to detail, but that seems to be the only time she doesn’t act like a complete idiot!
Yang Hanlun arrived at the palace not long after Yang Shaolun and Chen Luoqing had returned. There were things the brothers had to talk openly about.
Chen Luoqing took his leave, while Xiao Yuan shot Yang Shaolun a worried look. He was concerned that the emperor would do something reckless.
“Have a seat, Imperial Brother!” Yang Shaolun wanted to talk to him properly. He didn’t want to keep running away like Lin Haihai.
Yang Hanlun was unhappy, but he still sat down. “It’s been a while since the two of us got to chat like this, Imperial Elder Brother!”
Yang Shaolun’s heart clenched. He had always loved and cherished his little brother, and the two of them had been close. Would he really be able to hurt him?
His silence echoed in Yang Hanlun. He didn’t know how to broach the conversation, either. He was the only one who knew that Lin Haihai was no longer his consort. He had no right to intervene no matter who she fell for. He knew his brother must really love her as well, but there were so many women by his side. Lin Haihai wouldn’t be happy with him. Moreover, she was pregnant with the child of a bandit. His imperial elder brother wouldn’t be able to tolerate it, and Lin Haihai refused to get an abortion. The two of them wouldn’t be happy together!
“I know you have feelings for my consort, Imperial Elder Brother!” Yang Hanlun mustered the courage to say that, but the statement lacked conviction. He knew Lin Haihai was no longer his wife.
Yang Shaolun let out a bitter laugh, his heart pounding painfully against his ribcage. He considered the flustered look on his brother’s face. It was he who had made a mistake. Why would Yang Hanlun be more nervous than he was? Was it because of the throne?
“This Emperor loves her, my brother!” He wanted to fight for their future. He didn’t care about his role as the emperor. There was nothing in his life that was more important than her.
Stunned, Yang Hanlun shot to his feet and looked at Yang Shaolun with a pale face. “Why her?”
Yang Shaolun turned away, struggling to maintain his calm. He was hurting his beloved little brother. He had sworn by his father’s death bed that he would take care of his younger brothers for the rest of his life. And yet he was now torturing his brother with a dull knife.
“There’s no explaining it,” he said ruefully. “There’s no turning back when this Emperor realized that I’d fallen for her.”
Yang Hanlun trembled and muttered, “You have a harem of women. Why must you fixate on her?”
“But this Emperor wants only her. The harem is nothing but a fixture of the palace. Those women may be beautiful, but they have nothing to do with this Emperor. She is the only one this Emperor wishes to spend my life with. The throne ruling over the nation, the power with no rivals… None of them matters as much as her smile!”
Yang Shaolun’s eyes shone with delight. It was as if the thought of her smile alone was enough to make him happy.
Yang Hanlun gaped at him in disbelief. Was his imperial elder brother so deeply in love? He had to admit that his love for Lin Haihai didn’t run that deep. How could an emperor possibly give up on his power for a woman? His brother must be saying that to make him give up on Lin Haihai, right?
However, Yang Hanlun had never seen such deep affection in his imperial elder brother’s eyes. He had wished for heavens to grant his elder brother the happiness he was seeing on Yang Shaolun’s face at the moment. He’d said that he would pay any price willingly to make his elder brother happy.
He sat back down, his throat too tight for him to utter a word. Giving up would be painful, but not giving up, even more so.
“I remember Imperial Father taking my hand and telling me to take care of my younger brothers. You must not turn your back against them, he said. You must not abandon your bond in pursuit of power. This Emperor used to think that nothing in this world would be able to drive a wedge between us. This Emperor would be willing to give up on even the throne. As long as any of you have the potential to be a good ruler, this Emperor would love to surrender the throne to you.”
“But then she showed up. As soon as I laid my eyes on her, I fell for her. It felt as if the world had shattered when I knew she was your consort. She was unwilling to be with me even though she loved me as well. She didn’t want to hurt you. She worried that you would turn against me with your army. Worried that we brothers would become bitter enemies.”
There was no point in keeping the truth from Yang Hanlun now. It was impossible for Yang Shaolun to let go of Lin Haihai.
“Give me some time to think!” Yang Hanlun rose to his feet, struggling to breathe. “I love her too, Imperial Elder Brother!” he said as he stared at the sunlight streaming through the crack of the door. The problem was she didn’t love him.
“This Emperor knows how selfish I am,” Yang Shaolun said sincerely. “I’ve tried to forget about her many times. To tell you the truth, I was the ‘assassin’ who snuck into your residence the other night. After getting injured, this Emperor offered to run away with her. She would give up on her hospital, while this Emperor would abandon the throne. I wanted to build a reclusive life with her, but she turned me down. She didn’t want to leave with me.”
“That hurt. This Emperor was going to give her up for real. I swore that I wouldn’t see her again, that I would never even think about her again. However, this Emperor regretted my words as soon as they left my mouth. How would this Emperor possibly give her up? How am I going to forget about her? Even though she has left me in shambles, this Emperor can never resent her for long.”
Yang Hanlun felt like a joke. His feelings for Lin Haihai paled in comparison to his imperial brother’s. His brother would give up everything, including the nation, while he married another woman even when he claimed to love her. If she truly returned his feelings for her, she would’ve been heartbroken.
“I want to spend a month with her, Imperial Elder Brother. I’ll let you have her after a month!”
He knew that he would be forcing his imperial elder brother to abdicate the throne if he refused to give up. He didn’t want that. He was the one who had made a mistake. Lin Haihai was no longer his consort. He had torn the divorce paper to pieces in an attempt to undo what he had done. In reality, he was in no place to stop her from leaving. Still, he needed some time to come to terms with everything.
Yang Shaolun’s eyes shone with ecstasy. He dared not even dream about the possibility. His throat constricted, and his eyes became brimming with tears. He had to keep his mouth shut lest he say something inappropriate. He couldn’t ask for more with a brother like this.
Yang Hanlun felt a pang in his heart when he saw the look on his brother’s face. “You don’t have to thank me. You love her much more than I do. I thought that I would be willing to not marry Birou for her, but then I realized that Birou was as important to me as she was. I don’t love her as much as I thought I did.”
He let out a bitter laugh, his mind filled with the image of her delicate face. It wasn’t his imperial elder brother who had met Lin Haihai at the wrong time. It was him. If he hadn’t fallen for Birou already, he wouldn’t have divorced her the moment she entered his household, and she wouldn’t have killed herself due to the humiliation and gone into a coma. She treated him like a stranger ever since she regained consciousness.
It’s better that she had fallen for Imperial Elder Brother. He’s willing to give up on the nation for her, which proves that she matters the most to Imperial Elder Brother. She won’t have to make compromises like she is doing now.
Why was he in such pain, then? He staggered his way out. A month. He would have her for another month.
Yang Shaolun stood rooted to the spot, his chest tight. Was his imperial brother as in love with her as he was? Would he be heartbroken without her as well?
Chen Luoqing looked at the lost look on Yang Shaolun’s face, a myriad of emotions warring in his heart. Love was capable of inflicting the deepest wounds. Who are you exactly, Lin Haihai?
“Zheng Feng has sent a message asking General Chen and Your Majesty to go to Linhai Hospital at once,” Xiao Yuan interrupted them to report. “Physician Lin has found the empress dowager of Rong!”
Chen Luoqing and Yang Shaolun exchanged a look of pleasant surprise. They knocked their fists together in excitement. What a wonderful turn of events. The biggest threat they faced would be resolved with the empress dowager evading Prince Pingnan.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Aaaand the brothers finally talk candidly (Still didn't talk about the divorce though)