“How is he?” Li Junyue asked Yu Qing.
“Let’s get back to the hospital first,” Yu Qing said with a frown. These people hadn’t pulled their punches. “His bones are broken!”
“Is it serious?” Yang Hanlun asked with conflicting emotions.
Yu Qing rose to her feet and shot him an icy gaze. “Coward!”
Yang Hanlun paused before letting out a bitter laugh. Coward. Yeah, that I am. “You’re right!”
Yu Qing sighed at the sorrow seeping into his brows and eyes. He was a pitiful victim in this situation as well. “Have someone carry the steward to the Linhai Hospital. We can still save him!”
Yang Hanlun hurriedly ordered the servants to prepare a stretcher to carry the steward. They then took him to the Linhai Hospital.
Before leaving, Yu Qing said to Yang Hanlun, “Remember to marry me into the residence on the tenth day next month!”
Yang Hanlun gave her a questioning glance. “Why would you want to marry this Prince?”
“Don’t ask too much. Xiao’hai will only rest easy after we get married.”
Li Junyue had told her everything. She insisted on coming to this era, going so far as to seek help from Baizi. She could stay here on one condition: She must get married before the next full moon. Only then would she have something justifying her presence in this spacetime.
Yang Hanlun’s lips curled into a despairing smile. “There’s no telling if Xiao’hai would return safely. If she doesn’t, this Prince won’t continue this meaningless life!”
“She’s like a cockroach that can’t be killed,” Yu Qing said with a laugh. “She’ll be back in ten days!”
According to Li Junyue, Lin Haihai’s power would only be gone for a few hours. Once her power returned, nothing would be able to hurt her! Yu Qing had to admit, though, that this man’s love for Lin Haihai was touching.
Yang Hanlun considered Yu Qing. The calmness she showed eased him somewhat. In a soft voice, he said, “Really?”
“Let’s have a bet,” Yu Qing said with feigned seriousness. “If she returns in ten days, you’ll marry me; if she doesn’t, I’ll get married to you. How’s that?”
Yang Hanlun was perplexed. He would end up marrying her no matter the result of the bet, wouldn’t he?
Yu Qing walked away with a faint smile.
“Are you really marrying Yang Hanlun?” asked Li Junyue.
“If not him, who else? I have to marry someone in order to stay here. You haven’t forgotten what Baizi said, have you?” Yu Qing responded nonchalantly. Nan Guang’s betrayal had made her lose faith in love. Yang Hanlun, on the contrary, seemed to be someone who loved with his whole heart. Unfortunately, Xiao’hai was in love with someone else, and love couldn’t be forced.
“Will he marry you?”
“He will!” Yu Qing said with certainty. “He feels guilty toward Xiao’hai. In order for Xiao’hai to be with the emperor without concern, Yang Hanlun will play the part for me!”
Li Junyue sighed. “Okay then. How’s the body? Does it fit you alright?”
Yu Qing smiled. “Of course it does. It’s much younger than I was. I’m now an eighteen-year-old girl. Nothing would suit me better!”
“This girl does bear some resemblance to you. Baizi has picked the right host body!” Li Junyue had to admire him for his prowess.
“I wonder how Xiao’hai is doing.” Yu Qing was still a little worried.
Li Junyue looked ahead. The autumn chill compelled him to tighten his shirt around himself. “Fret not, Baizi has gone to seek her out. Besides, she must have recovered her power. There’s nothing to worry about!”
Meanwhile, Yang Shaolun had gone to Yangzhou with Xiao Yuan. They switched their horses a few times to keep travelling and ended up reaching the city a few hundred kilometers away in a day. They arrived at Yangzhou before nightfall.
Yang Shaolun rushed straight to the local government. The Yangzhou Prefect’s surname was Bu. He scrambled to greet the emperor as soon as he heard of his arrival. Yang Shaolun ordered impassively, “This Emperor needs a team of elite soldiers to crack down all the brothels in Yangzhou!”
Prefect Bu dropped down to his knees and responded, “All the elite soldiers have gone to eliminate the bandits under Sir Chu’s command, Your Majesty. Is Your Majesty looking for Consort Lin?” Chu Zijun had briefed him on the matter when he came to recruit soldiers.
“Sir Chu?” Yang Hanlun remembered the man as a disciple of Old General Xie. He hurriedly asked, “Where’s Consort Lin?”
“It’s Chu Zijun, governor of Yangzhou!” Prefect Bu was of the same rank as Chu Zijun. The latter was akin to the modern day mayor, while the former was the municipal party secretary. “Consort Lin is staying in Nestling Beauty. This official will lead Your Majesty there immediately!”
Yang Shaolun was overjoyed. “Let’s go then!”
Prefect Bu took the lead, and the large group made their way to the brothel at once.
Lin Haihai had put her court attire back on, while Suqiu changed into clothes she borrowed from the other women. Although it was a little revealing, it was better than nothing.
Mother Qin had a meal prepared for them. Lin Haihai hadn’t eaten anything for days, so she could only have some porridge. She felt a little sorry as she watched Mother Qin busy about, but she pushed aside her sympathy when she thought of what the woman had done. Those who had done something wrong should be punished, shouldn’t they?
A large group of people then rushed into the brothel. Lin Haihai was surprised. Had Chu Zijun returned so quickly? Mother Qin hurried to open the door, only to find a man she didn’t recognize standing outside, followed by Prefect Bu and a group of runners.
Lin Haihai looked up then, and her breath caught. He’s found his way here!
“You’re here!” she said quietly. His weathered face was as handsome as ever, but darkened by exhaustion.
“I’m here,” he said in a choked voice, staring at her quietly. There was no way he wouldn’t come. He would chase after her to the end of the world.
She slowly walked up to him and wiped dust from his face. “Your face is dirty!”
Tears streamed down her face. She had to protect herself better in the future. She must not worry him ever again.
He chuckled, and his tears dropped as well. He had come prepared. He had decided that he wouldn’t let go of her no matter what had happened. His heart had been in his throat the whole time. Finally, it settled back into his chest. He raised a hand to cup her cheek. The feeling of skin against skin threatened to undo him. He’d been numb, empty, and lost the past few days. He reached out to pull her into his arms. Even the bravest men shed tears when experiencing true heartbreak.
Xiao Yuan had everyone leave the room immediately. Mother Qin gave the couple a parting glance, her heart aching. She almost tore them apart! Xiao Yuan shut the door and locked it, wiping away the tears on his face and putting his hands together in prayer. The goddess of fortune had been merciful!
Yang Shaolun’s tears burned when they dropped onto Lin Haihai’s head. He had thought he would never get to hold her again. Lin Haihai cried until her voice went hoarse. She could feel his pain, his worry, his anxiety, his grief. She could feel his emotions like they were her own.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” she said with urgency. “Don’t worry, I’m fine!”
But Yang Shaolun wouldn’t let go. He tightened his arms around her and held her close. Lin Haihai looked up at him, at the tears in his eyes. Her heart ached so much. She cupped his face and stood on her toes to press their lips together, savoring his taste. Yang Shaolun held her tighter and kissed back passionately, almost ferociously. He needed something to tether himself. He needed the intimacy to ease the anxiety that had been wreaking havoc in his heart.
He took and took and took, deepening the kiss with irresistible force and swallowing her breaths. Lin Haihai got drunk on his taste, murmuring, “I love you, my husband...”
Yang Shaolun nibbled on her lips before slowly relaxing his arms. As soon as Lin Haihai broke out of his embrace, he put his arms around her waist again to stop her from putting any distance between them. Lin Haihai had to opt for reaching with only her arms to fill a cup of tea. She then held the cup to his lips.
Yang Shaolun’s gaze on her was heartbreakingly tender. He took a small sip. That was all he needed. He wanted only to have her in his sight and drink water she poured him, and he would be content!
“Don’t ever scare me like this again!” Yang Shaolun touched her face, still reeling from the fear. “I can’t endure another time!”
Lin Haihai pursed her numb lips and held onto his hands. “I promise that it won’t happen again!”
“Is the child alright?” Yang Shaolun put a hand on her belly. It had been two months, but there still wasn’t an obvious swell. Our child is growing up in her body, Yang Shaolun thought with a pounding heart. The happiness was so great and came so easily, it made him scared!
“The child is fine as long as I’m fine!” Lin Haihai smiled. As usual, her smile was as brilliant as the stars.
“You matter the most to me. If anything happens to you, what should I do?” Lin Haihai was his weakness. He could never stay calm or keep a level head when it came to her.
Lin Haihai raised her hand as if making an oath. “I swear I’ll prioritize my safety from now on!”
“It was Chen Birou who did this to you, wasn’t it?” Yang Shaolun remembered what Gozi had said.
“How did you know?” Lin Haihai widened her eyes at him. Chen Birou had plotted with Yan Lirong to kidnap her. They wouldn’t have left any clues. How were they exposed?
“It was Gozi. It was Chen Birou who went after him to silence him that day. You saved him.” Yang Shaolun felt eternally grateful to the young beggar. It was also her kindness that led to good karma being returned to her.
“So it was Chen Birou!” Lin Haihai was stunned. “He’s just a kid!”
“I feel sorry for Imperial Brother, marrying someone like her. She would pay for hurting you! I’ll make sure of it!” Yang Shaolun smiled coldly. She would face consequences for hurting his woman!
“It’s best that we leave this matter to Hanlun!” Lin Haihai said seriously. Chen Birou was his wife. He had always seen Chen Birou as his closest partner in life. Subconsciously, he saw her as part of himself. She was the manifestation of all his ideals and the woman of his dream. It was cruel to have the belief he’d held onto for more than a decade broken so suddenly.
“That won’t do! She has to pay! I’ll listen to you in other matters, but not this!” Yang Shaolun was determined. He could forgive trivial feuds and petty crimes, but the woman had sold the princess consort to a brothel. That was too great a crime to forgive. The people wouldn’t be appeased if he didn’t deal with her.
“But - ”
“No but. I’m going to get angry if you say another word for her!” Yang Hanlun was angry. What kind of a foolish woman would speak up for the person who almost got her sullied?
Lin Haihai raised her hands in resignation. “Alright, I’ll stop talking. I’ll listen to you. You’re the head of this household!”
Yang Shaolun smiled. That had a nice ring to it. He was the head of their household rather than the head of the nation. It filled his chest with warmth.
“Has anyone hurt you?” he asked suddenly.
“No. The procuress didn’t dare do anything to me. In fact, she has let go of the girls under my persuasion. She’s shown me nothing but respect!” Lin Haihai knew it was wrong, but she couldn’t help but cover for Mother Qin.
“Really?” Yang Shaolun wasn’t convinced. “Someone as stunning as you got sold to this brothel, and they showed you nothing but respect?”
That didn’t make sense. He was the emperor, but he knew how the world worked!
“They were disrespectful when they didn’t know who I was, but then I revealed my identity, and Sir Chu vouched for me. The procuress believed my claim and came to show me respect. Look, I’ve been drinking tea and having good food. This isn’t how a captured woman would be treated, right?”
Lin Haihai led him to the table to sit down. He refused to let go of her hand. She felt the calluses covering his palms with her soft, delicate hands. Curiously, she asked, “Why are your palms covered in calluses? You should be living a luxurious life as an emperor. Have you done any manual work?”
Yang Shaolun smiled and pulled her onto his lap, saying nonchalantly, “I’ve been training day and night in martial arts since I was young. My hands became calloused overtime. There’s nothing strange about it, is there?”
“It must be difficult!” Lin Haihai said softly. He was the emperor and a born royalty, but he had suffered no less than the common people!
“You get used to it.” Yang Shaolun much preferred being a scholar. He wanted to spend his life tending flowers and keeping fish with the person he loved.
“Being an emperor isn’t a job meant for humans!” Lin Haihai grumbled.
“Once we overcome this difficulty, we’ll leave all the mundane matters behind!” Yang Shaolun said thoughtfully.
Lin Haihai fell silent. She had never dreamed of going into a reclusive life. She hoped to apply the medical expertise she had cultivated for so many years. That was all in the future, though. She would cross the bridge when she came to it.
“Are you unwilling?” Yang Shaolun asked tentatively.
Lin Haihai smiled. “Of course I’m willing. I’m simply wondering when that day will come!”
“Very soon!” Yang Shaolun declared with a relieved smile.
“Are you going to stay in the yamen tonight?” Lin Haihai put her arms around his neck. She planned to talk to him about Mother Qin when he was in a better mood.
“There’s a temporary imperial residence in Yangzhou. Let’s stay the night there!” The residence was built by the previous emperor during a trip to the south. It was a peaceful and serene place surrounded by beautiful scenery. Perfect for a vacation!
“Alright, I’ll cook something good for you tonight!” She wanted to spend the night alone with him and have a candlelit dinner. She would be the chef!
“I’ll help you!” said Yang Shaolun. He would happily have her food. During the time she was missing, he often thought of her cooking. He regretted throwing away her dishes that day, and he swore that if he ever had another chance to have a meal she prepared, he would finish everything until the plates were empty!Previous Chapter Next Chapter
She's being unreasonably forgiving again *sigh*