Chen Luoqing arrived just in time to seize the hairpin from Guihua. Guihua cried even harder when she saw him.
The empress dowager’s panicked gaze snapped to Chen Luoqing, and she asked in a trembling voice, “Tell me, Luoqing, is she telling the truth?”
Chen Luoqing disapproved of Guihua’s recklessness, but the empress dowager would know sooner or later. He nodded with difficulty and said, “It’s all true!”
His confirmation hit the empress dowager like physical weight. Her mind blanked in shock.
A fist collided with Chen Luoqing’s face. The general didn’t retaliate, and instead let Yang Hanlun grab him by the collar and throw a couple more punches, his eyes blazing and his veins throbbing visibly. After receiving a few punches, Chen Luoqing gave Yang Hanlun a derisive look and said quietly with tears in his eyes, “It’s you. You got her killed!”
“You’re lying!” Yang Hanlun yelled hysterically. “You’re lying. It can’t be. It can’t be Birou...”
“Your Majesty! Your Majesty!” Lihua cried out in shock as the empress dowager collapsed, bleeding from her seven orifices.
“Imperial Mother!” The low growl could be felt in the tremor of the world!
Yang Hanlun dragged his ladened feet to the Linhai Hospital. He wanted to see the young beggar they were talking about.
Gozi and his friend knelt before Yang Hanlun in proper greeting. Gozi looked up at Yang Hanlun and said, “Do you remember me, Your Highness?”
It took a moment for confusion to give way to a stunned realization in Yang Hanlun’s gaze. “Gozi?”
Gozi nodded. “Thank you for remembering this lowly person, Your Highness!”
“Didn’t you return to the countryside?” He remembered Birou telling him that.
Gozi met his eyes squarely and said, “Do you remember this lowly servant spilling tea on Young Mistress when you visited?”
“I remember, but Birou didn’t punish you!” Yang Hanlun pulled a long face. This young servant must have been the one spreading the rumors!
“That’s right. She ‘forgave’ this servant. However, after you left, she had both of this servant’s arms broken and kicked this servant out. It was Physician Lin who cured me!” Gozi spilled the ugly truth. He had been living with scorns and humiliation as he begged to feed himself.
Yang Hanlun shot to his feet, holding Gozi’s gaze to see if he was telling the truth. The boy’s eyes were pure, filled with sorrow and nothing else.
“Tell me what you saw!” Yang Hanlun sat back down and controlled his grief.
“I passed by the back door of the Prince Residence some time ago and saw Young Mistress disguised herself as a village woman,” Gozi said, keeping his voice as calm as possible. “Curious, I followed her to an abandoned convent. There, she met up with another woman and brewed a secret plot. The woman said the poisons Young Mistress had been using on the princess consort were regular ones that couldn’t possibly hurt her. They agreed to make their move on Mid-Autumn Day. My existence was exposed then, and I almost got killed. Thankfully, Physician Lin and Commander Zheng passed by and saved me!”
“Enough. That’s enough!” Yang Hanlun rose to his feet and remembered what the imperial physicians had told him. The empress dowager had gone into a coma. No one had ever woken up from a stroke-induced coma before. He wanted to cry, but there were no tears in his eyes. It felt as if his heart had been punctured a thousand times. He couldn’t even take a proper breath.
“We’re going to the residence, Guihua!”
He schooled his expression into one of calm indifference, revealing nothing about his emotional state. When he walked out of the hospital, a woman brushed past him. She came to a stop and looked back at him, calling out softly, “Stop!”
Yang Hanlun turned to look at her and found to his surprise that the woman bore some resemblance to Lin Haihai. The calmness she radiated filled him with a sense of deja vu and made his heart clench. Who is she? Why is my heart hurting like this?
“Are you Yang Hanlun?” the woman slowly asked.
Yang Hanlun couldn’t help but soften his voice. “Do you know me?”
“I’m marrying you. Be prepared!” Her calm voice made it sound like she was talking about the weather.
Yang Hanlun frowned. The woman was beautiful, but she wasn’t right in the head. Perhaps she had come to the hospital to seek treatment. With his fists cupped, he said, “Thank you for your affection, Miss, but this gentleman is married already. You should find someone else to marry!”
“One of your consorts is leaving you, and the other is going to be abandoned by you. Neither will be the one you’ll spend your life with!” The woman looked at him with eyes like the clearest pond. “Go ahead. I’m settling down in Linhai Hospital. You should think long and hard about whether you're marrying me!”
She slowly turned away and disappeared into the hospital. Yang Hanlun stared at her, stunned. How did she know? A bitter laugh escaped his mouth. Perhaps she was sent by gods to point him to the right way. One woman was leaving him, while the other he would abandon. He hadn’t been able to make up his mind before, but now things were clear to him. With a pained smile, he marched away from the hospital.
Once he was gone, Li Junyue ordered a few men to move the medicines to the hospital. He ran after the woman and said, “How did you know the way, Yu Qing?” She was walking faster than he was.
Yu Qing smiled brilliantly. “I grabbed a person and asked. They all enthusiastically pointed me to the right way. Perhaps it was because I’m pretty!”
“It’s not because you’re pretty, but because the hospital has a good reputation!” Li Junyue said with satisfaction. He had contributed to that!
Qing Feng burst into tears when she saw Li Junyue. Surprised, Li Junyue said with a smile, “What’s with the emotional welcome? Do you really miss me this much, Qing Feng?”
Yu Qing gave him a sideway glance. It seemed that he had been playing around in this era.
As Qing Feng and the other disciples swarmed up to him, Li Junyue’s smile dropped. “Why aren’t you at the plantation? Why did you come?” Something must have gone wrong!
Qing Feng cried and responded, “Master’s in trouble!”
Li Junyue and Yu Qing froze like they had been struck by thunder.
Yang Hanlun returned to his residence to a large crowd of common people and workers from the plantation. They all had a grave expression on their faces and anger burning in their eyes. It was clear that they were trying their best to keep their composure and maintain order, quietly waiting for the Prince Residence to give them an answer.
They remained quiet even when Yang Hanlun showed up, standing their ground like a silent wall. Yang Hanlun was suddenly overwhelmed with pain. The woman he loved the most was sold to a brothel by the woman he had thought of as the most perfect and gentlest soul. And yet he was hesitating about how he should face the culprit. He truly didn’t deserve her. He didn’t deserve her love!
He walked with difficulty, feeling as if his feet had been laden with lead. It took a long long time for him to walk the distance of a few hundred meters.
Flute had the apprentices bandage the steward. However, they were inexperienced. They might be able to deal with less serious injuries, but not the steward’s broken legs. Flute therefore sent an apprentice to the hospital to find an imperial physician.
“Move him to the recliner,” Flute told the apprentices. “Be careful!”
The apprentices nodded and bent down to lift the steward, carrying him slowly to the recliner. Chen Birou furiously said, “He’s just a servant. His death means nothing. How dare you taint this Consort’s place? Don’t think I’m afraid of you just because you know martial arts. This Consort will have His Highness cut all of you down once he returns!”
Flute glared at her with thunderous rage in his eyes. Chen Birou was momentarily intimidated, but she pushed that aside when she remembered that the prince was returning soon. She scoffed and said with a cruel smile, “I’d like to see how sacred and merciful your holier-than-thou Physician Lin can be when receiving clients in the brothel! She’s nothing but the daughter of a merchant, and yet this Consort was forced to be a concubine when she was the first consort. This Consort wants her to be tormented all day long by men visiting the brothel! Then we’ll see if she can continue to be the sacred woman she was to all of you!”
Trembling with rage, Flute raised a hand and slapped her across the face. Chen Birou cried out in pain and collapsed to the ground, a satisfied smile tugging her lips.
“Stop!” ordered a low voice. They turned to see Yang Hanlun slowly walk in, dressed in a white silk robe and wearing a grave expression on his face.
He went up to Chen Birou to gently help her up. She sobbed pitifully, covering her viciousness up with the expression of a bullied woman.
“Your Highness, they barged into the residence and beat me up - ”
“Was it your doing?” Yang Hanlun cut her off in a pained voice. His tone was gentle, but his eyes were dark with indiscernible emotions. “Was it your idea to sell her to a brothel?”
Chen Birou looked up at him with misty eyes. “You promised to take my side no matter what happened, Your Highness!” He promised her, he had to honor that promise.
“And I promised Xiao’hai to never let anyone hurt her!” Yang Hanlun laughed bitterly. “Is your kindness and gentleness nothing but pretense, Birou?”
“I’ve made a mistake, Your Highness. Please forgive this concubine. This concubine won’t do it again!” She pleaded sweetly, like it was nothing but a lover’s spat. She naively believed that she would be forgiven as long as she apologized.
“Ask Official Luo to come, Feihu!” Yang Hanlun didn’t want to look at her. He turned to say to Flute, “You should return to the plantation. You must have a lot to do. I’ll take care of this!”
Flute gave him a meaningful look and said, “We will not let Chen Birou off the hook easily. If you show her any favoritism, we’ll return immediately!”
“Xiao’hai is the one I love the most. I will not let this slide without consequences!”
Chen Birou staggered back and shook her head at Yang Hanlun in disbelief. “No, she’s not the woman you love the most! It’s me! You’re supposed to love me the most!”
“Prepare my writing instruments, Steward!” Yang Hanlun pushed Chen Birou away and called out. He didn’t notice the steward lying on the recliner, and he hadn’t been listening when Guihua revealed the truth back in the palace. Therefore, he didn’t know the steward had been beaten to an inch of his life.
“Writing instruments? What are you going to do?” Chen Birou looked at him in horror, crying out hysterically with tears brimming her eyes, “You’re divorcing me?! For that bitch?!”
“She’s not a bitch. She’s the woman I love the most!” Yan Hanlun felt like laughing. If he hadn’t married Chen Birou, but instead put his whole heart into loving Xiao’hai, would things have gone differently?
“You shouldn’t marry this vicious woman if you truly care about Master,” Flute sneered. “Look at the old steward. She’s beaten him to the brink of death!”
Yang Hanlun turned to the direction Flute was pointing at to find the steward lying prone with his arms hanging weakly down. His life was slowly leaking out of his body.
“I respect the steward like a senior in the family. How dare you hurt him like this?!” Yang Hanlun raged, but his raised hand could never hit Chen Birou’s pitiful face. She looked up at him with tears in her eyes, noticing the reluctance in his gaze. Chen Birou had been the woman he treasured the most all these years. He couldn’t bear to hit her even though she had crossed the line.
But then there was the sound of hand colliding with face, and Chen Birou was brought to the ground with a slap. An icy voice said, “I would never let anyone who dares hurt Lin Haihai off the hook!”
Yu Qing turned to Yang Hanlun and slapped him as well. “If you show this woman a lick of sympathy, I’ll castrate you! Marry me on the tenth day next month. You don’t have to divorce this woman. I want to torture her slowly. I’ll make her regret hurting someone under my wings!”
Yang Hanlun stared at Yu Qing with a hand covering his throbbing cheek. She’s Xiao’hai’s friend?
Chen Birou’s guard quickly helped her up. She pushed Zhang Mingkun away and slapped him in the face, snarling, “Take down this bitch, you fool!” She had thrown reservations out of the window.
“Take this woman away,” Li Junyue told Flute. “Or you can throw her to the common people outside!”
Flute turned to Zhang Mingkun and said, “You’re a skilled martial artist. Why would you stoop so low as to follow such a woman’s orders?”
Zhang Mingkun gave Flute a conflicted look. He didn’t do it out of his own volition.
Yu Qing went up to the steward and checked him thoroughly. She then rose to her feet and instructed Flute, “Get everyone out of here. Lock Chen Birou up for now. I’m interrogating her personally later!”
“Are you just going to let this stranger step all over me, Your Highness?” Chen Birou demanded. “Is your promise nothing but a lie? You said you would protect me forever. You said you would stay by my side no matter what happened. Have you forgotten that?”
Disbelief and fear seeped into her voice. His promise had been her drive. Without his love, what was the point of her life? “I know I made a mistake, but I did everything because I love you!”
Yang Hanlun’s heart clenched. Perhaps it’d been a mistake to even marry her!
“Give me a hand, Stupid Bear! Flute, take her away!”
Flute didn’t know Yu Qing, but she exuded the same calmness and commanding presence as his master, and he couldn’t help but trust her. Flute walked up to Chen Birou. Zhang Mingkun stepped aside without putting up a fight. Perhaps he couldn’t choose who to follow, but he could choose not to follow anyone. His martial arts training shouldn’t be used to commit atrocities!
“Let go, let go of me! How dare you?! Your Highness! Are you really going to let him take me away, Your Highness? Your High - ”
Chen Birou’s high-pitched cries became intelligible screams. Yang Hanlun didn’t move. Even breathing was painful. He wanted to say and do something, but in the end he said and did nothing. Whatever she had done was on him! He was the one who emboldened her with unconditional support!Previous Chapter Next Chapter
I was rooting for Chen Luoqing to at least punch Yang Hanlun once *sigh*
At least he got a slap in the end