Lin Haihai looked up at Yang Hanlun, shaken by his confession. Yang Hanlun turned around with love and pain warring on his face, his eyes reddened. “That’s right. I don’t deserve to say I love you. If I'd made up my mind to be with you from the start, none of this would have happened! I’ve misunderstood and looked down on you, Xiao’hai. I thought you were a vain, crude, and vulgar woman who was uneducated and didn’t know how to sew, who was neither generous nor mild-tempered. Despite everything wrong I falsely found in you, however, I still love you dearly...”
“Shut up, shut up!” Chen Birou yelled hysterically, covering her ears with a crazed look on her face. “Stop it! Stop with such nonsense! The one you love is me, not her. What you feel for her is merely a fad, a phase, not true love!”
“No, I love her, but I was ready to let her go and spend my life with you. You, however, struck me awake. You’re jealous of her? Why would you be jealous of her? I’d treated her so terribly. Why would you do something so vicious to her?”
Yang Hanlun punched the gate of the prison, his bloodshot eyes staring at Chen Birou with great pain.
“You should step away first, Hanlun. I have things to say to her.” Lin Haihai put her hand on Yang Hanlun’s shoulder. “Would you check on Official Luo and Minister Chen and see how their discussion is going?”
Without sparing Chen Birou another glance, he turned around and left.
“I have nothing to say to you!” Chen Birou gave Lin Haihai a derisive look. “So, were the men in the brothel gentle with you?”
“Oh, they were very gentle!” Lin Haihai smiled. With a wave of her hand, the door opened without being pushed. Chen Birou gaped at her, dumbfounded. Lin Haihai gave her a faint smile. “Do you know it’ll be as easy as squashing an ant for me to kill you?”
Chen Birou staggered back and looked at her in shock. “Are you human? Or are you a ghost?”
With a chuckle, Lin Haihai suddenly struck her across the face. “This is for Hanlun, for your viciousness and cold-bloodedness!”
Chen Birou covered her face with venom in her eyes. Lin Haihai slapped her again. “This is for Gozi, for your cruelty and blatant disregard for human lives.”
Fury consumed Chen Birou’s eyes as more fingerprints were branded into her delicate face. Her powerful emotions were clear in her twisted expression and heaving chest. She glared at Lin Haihai as she approached, daring not to say another word. Lin Haihai put her hands around Chen Birou’s neck and chuckled. “Scared? I only have to use a little force, and just like that, your neck will break. Do you really not fear death?”
Chen Birou widened her eyes in fear, her long lashes dampened by the sweat streaking down her forehead. In a trembling voice, she said, “You can’t kill me. His Highness won’t forgive you. You can’t kill me!”
It was easy to act fearless about death, but when facing the possibility, no one could suppress their fear and accept their end with a smile.
“His Highness? His Highness cares about you, and yet you use his love to justify your atrocities.” Lin Haihai’s voice was purposefully soft, but no less threatening. “His Highness has no right to interfere with how I’m going to deal with you. Even if he does, I won’t be intimidated. Someone as clever as you are should know there really is nothing between me and His Highness. Do you know why that is?”
Lin Haihai scoffed. “He had no choice but to divorce me when you threatened him with death, which means that me being the sixth princess consort is nothing but a facade, an act to appease the empress dowager, and the child I’m bearing is the emperor’s. That’s why I’ve been so tolerant to you. After all, I was the one who took away the title that should be yours. Do you really think that I didn’t know the soup you served me was poisonous?”
“What did you say? The child you’re bearing is the emperor’s?” Chen Birou’s eyes were filled with disbelief, her voice thick with irony. “I’ve gone this far, but you turn out not to be my enemy at all? The prince divorced you long ago?”
Lin Haihai let go with pain in her eyes. “That’s right. I haven’t been the sixth princess consort for a long time. That’s something many people know. I had nothing against you, Chen Birou, but you kept pushing and pushing. You got yourself here, but I was partly responsible as well. My cowardice and inability to act decisively led to this. Forget everything. Just go!”
She hoped that Chen Birou would recognize her mistake after this.
“Hahaha!” Chen Birou’s laughter was mirthless. She laughed so hard that she began tearing up. “How laughable a mistake I’ve made!” she shouted angrily. “Why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you tell me earlier?”
“What good would it do? Would you magically become a better person if I hadn’t been Hanlun’s princess consort? Remember how you treated Gozi? I feel dirty having slapped you with my own hand. If not for Hanlun and your father, I could care less about whether you live or die. I’d just let His Majesty execute you and be done with it!”
Lin Haihai didn’t want to waste her time arguing with Chen Birou. There was nothing she could say to someone who blamed her own mistake on others and refused to find faults in herself.
“How wrong I have been. How could you do that to His Highness? Don’t you know how much he loves you? How could you betray him and get together with His Majesty? Don’t you feel guilty at all?” Chen Birou glared at her like she wanted to skin her alive.
“I don’t!” Lin Haihai said without hesitation. “What’s wrong with me getting together with the person I love? Hanlun and I are no longer husband and wife in the legal sense and in actuality. I was single, or, if you will, divorced. If even His Majesty finds no fault in that, why would I feel guilty?” Lin Haihai knew what Chen Birou was trying to do. She wanted to make Lin Haihai feel bad. However, it was true that Lin Haihai didn’t feel guilty at all. Even if she did, she would be confessing her guilt to only Yang Hanlun. No one else had to know!
“You’re shameless!” Chen Birou said derisively. “If you were divorced, why would you stay in the Prince Residence? None of this would happen if you left then!”
“You’re truly stubborn in your wrongdoing,” Lin Haihai said with exasperation. “One should recognize their mistake and change accordingly. Is it really that difficult for you?”
“I haven’t made any mistakes!” Chen Birou wasn’t fazed at all. “I was his rightful first consort. His Highness was mine, and you took him from me! What was wrong about me taking back what should be mine?”
Lin Haihai turned to her and said seriously, “Nothing belongs to you. What was yours may become someone else’s the next day! I admit I did feel some guilt for you, but I had been the princess consort before you got married to Yang Hanlun. You shouldn’t have married him if you couldn’t accept that. It doesn’t make sense to obsess over the issue of title when you chose to marry him then.”
“How could I not? For the longest time, I’d been dreaming of becoming his princess consort. Never once in my youth did I ever imagine that my dream would end up shattered, that another woman would take the place in his heart that belonged to me. I was so jealous and resentful. How could you steal away his heart without even trying, while I could only make him smile with difficulty after putting in everything I had? I couldn’t accept it. How did that happen? Why did that happen?”
Chen Birou completely lost her calm and made her accusation wildly, her brows twisted and her eyes shooting daggers at Lin Haihai, filled with furious fire that threatened to ignite Lin Haihai.
Lin Haihai’s shoulders drooped. If one day another woman took the place she occupied in Yang Shaolun’s heart, perhaps she would go mad like Chen Birou. Shouldn’t she be happy if there was such a woman? Then at least there would be someone keeping him company when she wasn’t around, and she would be able to leave without worry.
She looked up at Chen Birou, unsure what she was going to say. In the end, she simply sighed and said, “Go. Perhaps I have made a mistake.”
Chen Birou looked up at her in disbelief. She’s letting me go? No, she can’t be that generous! With a huff, Chen Birou said, “What are you planning this time? I’m not afraid of you!”
Lin Haihai frowned at her and left without a word. The petty woman would come up with a hundred conspiracies to explain her action no matter what Lin Haihai did. She would only be wasting her breath if she tried to convince Chen Birou.
Lin Haihai waited on a stone stool while Yang Hanlun and Luo Kuangyuan talked to Minister Chen in the hidden room. Her heart was heavy after her conversation with Chen Birou. She had to depart from this era after her child was born, leaving those she loved and those who loved her. Thinking of that future made her heart spasm. The pain was greater than what she underwent when the pill acted up.
After the time for an incense stick to burn, the three men emerged with matching grave expressions. Lin Haihai rose to look at them. Yang Hanlun looked over her shoulders, his heart sinking when he didn’t see Chen Birou and assumed that Lin Haihai had changed her mind. Although he resented Chen Birou, he didn’t want to see her falling into this pit of misery.
His reaction didn’t escape Lin Haihai. She faintly said to Minister Chen, “Take your daughter and go, Minister Chen. I’ll talk to His Majesty.”
Minister Chen’s expression brightened, his furrowed brows relaxed and his eyes brimming with tears. “You have my thanks, Consort Lin!”
Yang Hanlun’s gaze grew complicated. Now that he knew Lin Haihai was actually going to let Chen Birou go, he felt sorry for the compromise she was forced to make.
Luo Kuangyuan explained to Lin Haihai what Minister Chen had told them before rushing to the palace. Lin Haihai was stunned. Prince Pingnan had gained control over half of the military and scholarly officials in the court with poison!
Lin Haihai remembered the poison Bai Muyang had told her about. She had sealed the man’s meridians to control the poison. He was now leading a reclusive life in the mountains with Piaoxue. His poison was suppressed, but not cleansed, which left him unable to tap into his vital essence, and his martial arts mastery was as good as lost.
There was no telling how long the poison would remain under control. That was merely a temporary measure. Since half of the court officials were at Prince Pingnan’s mercy due to the poison, they had to be cured before they would even consider changing allegiance. After all, most people would choose life over loyalty. Having one’s life threatened would effectively destroy their virtues, be it loyalty, kindness, or righteousness. Prince Pingnan had made a cruel but efficient move. The officials would do everything to complete their mission in exchange for the antidotes in order to survive.
It was a shame that Lin Haihai didn’t know how the poison was made!
She sent for Yu Qing and returned to the Linhai Hospital with her, seeking Li Junyue out for advice. Lin Haihai was reminded of Keqing’s gu poison. She wondered if Li Junyue had found a way to cure her.
The trio met up in the Carefree Tavern. Li Junyue and Lin Haihai both knew there was more to the tavern, while Yu Qing was excited upon her visit. The humble establishment was cozy and elegant.
Li Junyue and Lin Haihai had separately come to the decision to meet here. The Carefree Tavern was mysterious. Suxin, the owner, must have her secrets as well.
Li Junyue had Lin Haihai extend her arm so that he could check her pulse. She smiled, knowing that he was worried about her. Her two friends had travelled millennia for her. How lucky she was to have people like them in her life!
“Why are you here, Yu Qing?” Lin Haihai realized belatedly. “Won’t you miss Nan Guang?”
“I broke up with him!” Yu Qing said coolly, her fair face shadowed by a trace of ruefulness, but her eyes were strong and defiant. A smile bloomed to declare her indifference for the man who used to be her lover!
“Why?” Lin Haihai was stunned. They had been a couple everyone envied. If even they ended up breaking up, it would be difficult to not lose faith in love!
“He cheated on me!” Yu Qing took a deep breath and smiled icily. The pain of betrayal was still clear, and the wound might not heal even though she had travelled into another era.
“Yu Qing!” Lin Haihai’s eyes reddened. She couldn’t come up with any words of comfort. Perhaps there was nothing she could say under the circumstances.
“Do you know who it is? She’s someone both of us are good friends with. Can you guess?” Yu Qing’s voice trembled. “It’s Xiao’wen. The same person who has seen Nan Guang and I go through thick and thin!”
Lin Haihai almost spat out blood. Xiao’wen was a close friend of theirs in the modern world. Was it human nature? Or was it the mysterious power of love? Why would a kind-hearted girl become a devil and hurt her closest childhood friend?
“Li Junyue came to find treatment for the Gold Caterpillar Gu. Since I’d severed all ties in that world with neither parents nor relatives, I pleaded for him to take me here, but he couldn’t do anything about it. Then someone called Baizi appeared and told me that my body wouldn’t survive in this era. I had to transmigrate with only my soul. He thus helped my soul leave my body, and my body would be taken care of according to my will; all my organs were to be donated. Since my soul doesn’t belong to this world, I must get married with a man before the next full moon. In other words, I have to get married in a month!”
“Why must you get married?” Lin Haihai asked. “What would happen if you don’t?”
“He suggested that I marry Yang Hanlun!” That was what Baizi told her. Why would he arrange for that to happen? Was it to alleviate Lin Haihai’s worry? Yu Qing couldn’t be certain.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
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