Zhou Junpeng looked away from her. What he was going to say might not be from a moral high ground, but it was out of his concern for her. “Would you please stop going against Prince Pingnan?”
He met her gaze with a pleading look in his eyes. He didn’t want to be her enemy, and yet he had to fight her until death determined the winner.
Lin Haihai scoffed. “Would you stop going against His Majesty?”
Zhou Junpeng held onto her shoulders anxiously. “You must know that Prince Pingnan is more than what you expected. You can’t win!”
“I have to try. I won’t let him get what he wants!” Lin Haihai’s expression turned steely. “Prince Pingnan doesn’t get to make the call in this world. People are leading a peaceful life. Why must they get dragged into a relentless war and lose their homes due to his selfish desires? You should stop him if you even have a lick of conscience left in you!”
That was what Lin Haihai hoped for him: turning back before it was too late!
“That’s a battle between men. You don’t understand. I don’t want you to take any risks. Just listen to me and focus on being a physician. Don’t get involved in the imperial courts!”
Zhou Junpeng hardened his voice. He simply didn’t want her to get hurt.
“That’s my decision to make. It’s none of your business!” Lin Haihai rose to her feet. It was thanks to his vital essence that she had recovered her strength.
“It’s not my business, but I can’t just stand by and do nothing!” Zhou Junpeng dug his fingers into her shoulders, his eyes dark with suppressed emotions. “I want you to lead a good life. Do you get it? I don’t want you to get dragged into this mess!”
“Then leave Prince Pingnan!” Lin Haihai stared at him. Why is he being so emotional?
“That won’t happen!” Zhou Junpeng balled his hands into fists, his sharp brows furrowed.
“Then don’t try to sway me. You and I will be nothing but enemies!” Lin Haihai couldn’t mask her disappointment.
“You don’t have to choose that. Why can’t you just work at your hospital like a regular physician? Please, I’m begging you!” Zhou Junpeng took her arm, his handsome face twisted with pain.
“Again, that’s my decision, not yours. I alone am going to decide what I will or won’t do, and I’ll face the consequences on my own. It has nothing to do with you!”
Lin Haihai broke out of his grasp and turned to leave. Fuming with anger and frustration, Zhou Junpeng extended his hands and said in a dark voice, “That’s right. It has nothing to do with me. Why should I care whether you live or die? Why should I worry about you? Why should I lose any sleep for you? Why should I sneak away to check on your safety? Why should I chase after them to find you in Yangzhou? How foolish I’ve been. I’ve been yearning for what will never be mine! I know you’ll never spare a glance for me, and yet I fell for you!”
Lin Haihai turned around and gaped at him in surprise. He’s fallen for me? Her reaction made Zhou Junpeng’s heart ache. He turned and marched away.
Lin Haihai was still reeling from the shock. It wasn’t until Zhou Junpeng was far away that she recovered. She smiled ruefully. He had been following her around out of concern? She was touched, but the warm feeling was soon replaced by the icy reality. He was Prince Pingnan’s follower, and they were doomed to be enemies!
Sighing, she turned to see a brush of white. Yang Shaolun’s handsome face was creased by slight anger. Lin Haihai stared at him. When did he come?
“He’s fallen for you?” Yang Shaolun found that absurd. He thought the man was with Consort Zhen. “How did you attract someone like him?”
Lin Haihai smiled. “I didn’t know until now!”
Yang Shaolun pulled her into his arms and declared, “You’re mine. No one can take you away from me!”
“Who wants a pregnant woman?” Lin Haihai chuckled. “Only you will see me as someone to treasure!”
“Of course I do. You’re a treasure I’ll exchange with the nation!” Her smile smoothed over Yang Shaolun’s concern somewhat. She had been avoiding him the past couple days.
“Why did you come to find me?”
Lin Haihai hooked her arm around his as they walked along the riverbank. Turquoise water rippled, and fallen leaves danced in the air. Yang Shaolun brushed leaves off her shoulders and levelled her an adoring gaze. He said, “I haven’t seen you the whole day. When I went to the hospital to find you, I was told you left with Zhou Junpeng!”
“Are you done with state affairs?” Lin Haihai leaned into him and slowed her steps, feeling joy and trepidation warring in her heart.
“When are state affairs ever done?” Yang Shaolun reprimanded pitifully. “My young lady had disappeared for a full day. How could I possibly focus on state affairs?”
“Doesn’t that mean you’ll abandon your duties if I’m gone?” Lin Haihai said in a purposefully casual tone.
Yang Shaolun smiled but said seriously, “If you’re gone, there will be no Yang Shaolun in this world. He’ll travel time and space to look for his wife!”
Lin Haihai could no longer look at him. Holding him in her gaze made the pain in her heart worse. She would leave sooner or later. What would happen to him then? Would he be able to fall in love with another woman? How was she going to leave in peace when he was so stubborn?
“You must keep living as you do now even if I’m gone!” Lin Haihai said in a pained voice. “You have to raise our child!”
Yang Shaolun glanced at her with calm eyes. “Why would you be gone? Do you really have the heart to leave me and our child?”
He was so certain that she wouldn’t leave him. He believed that their staying together was his decision to make. Lin Haihai didn’t know how to explain to him. She saw happiness in his eyes, and she couldn’t possibly destroy it with the truth.
At that moment, she made the decision. She would do everything in her power to make him forget about her. She couldn’t let him suffer from the coming separation!
Yang Shaolun took Lin Haihai back to the palace. The empress dowager wanted to see Lin Haihai, so Lihua had been looking for her. The maid brightened visibly when she saw Lin Haihai at the palace entrance. She rushed up to Lin Haihai and forewent the proper etiquette, giving her a bow before grabbing Lin Haihai by the arm. “Consort Lin, you’ve finally returned! Her Majesty has been waiting for you!”
Lin Haihai looked over her shoulder at Yang Shaolun and said with a smile, “Let’s check on Imperial Mother together!”
“Let her go, Lihua,” Yang Shaolun reprimanded.
Lihua hurriedly bowed to him. “Greetings, Your Majesty!”
Under everyone’s scrutiny, Yang Shaolun took Lin Haihai’s hand. Lihua was caught off guard at first, but she broke into a smile. They must have solved whatever had been keeping them apart. The empress dowager would be pleased to see this!
Meanwhile, many maids and eunuchs were stunned by what they witnessed. Xiao Yuan hurriedly ordered them to go back to their work and keep their mouths shut. The servants dispersed immediately. Xiao Yuan stared at the couple from the back. For the first time, he smiled in content.
The empress dowager had lost her control over her limbs, and could only turn her torso slightly. Lin Haihai broke out of Yang Shaolun’s unrelenting grasp when reaching the door. Yang Shaolun smiled. There was nothing between them now. The last obstacle they faced was Imperial Mother. Then they could be together openly!
“Are you feeling better, Imperial Mother?” Lin Haihai sat down by the bed and tucked the empress dowager in.
The empress dowager smiled. “This Empress Dowager has lived for decades. It’s fine even if I’m not feeling better. This Empress Dowager is fortunate to have survived. Come, my son. This Empress Dowager has something to talk to both of you about!”
Lin Haihai turned to Yang Shaolun and found him as befuddled as she was. Judging from the empress dowager’s expression, she seemed to know something they didn’t.
Before the empress dowager could say anything, Defu reported, “Lady De, Lady Wen, and Beauty Li have arrived!”
“Have them wait,” said the empress dowager. “This Empress Dowager is having words with His Majesty!”
Lin Haihai fidgeted uneasily. The empress dowager’s eyes glinted with wisdom, seemingly having seen through everything. Yang Shaolun gave Lin Haihai a reassuring look before sitting by her side.
The empress dowager smiled warmly, her eyes dark and deep as they settled on Lin Haihai. Slowly, she said, “I remember the first time this Empress Dowager met you. It was said that you had saved Han’er. This Empress Dowager summoned you to the palace. You were like a scaredy sparrow then, too intimidated to even look up at this Empress Dowager. However, this Empress Dowager could tell from your clear eyes that you were a good child!”
She was lost in her memory. Lin Haihai knew she was talking about Lin Yuguan. She listened intently and held onto her cold hands.
The empress dowager gazed at her and continued, “This Empress Dowager didn’t care particularly about you then, but simply felt grateful to you for saving Han’er. That was why this Empress Dowager had him marry you as his princess consort. Han’er had visited the palace to ask for the marriage to be called off, but this Empress Dowager couldn’t possibly take back what I’d said! Han’er didn’t want to make things difficult for this Empress Dowager, so he reluctantly went along with the marriage.”
“After that, he refused to take you to the palace. This Empress Dowager understood his feelings, but since you had saved his life, he must not be allowed to do whatever he wanted. Just when this Empress Dowager was agonizing over this dilemma, he carried you to the palace looking for an imperial physician, saying that you’d been assaulted. This Empress Dowager had an old maidservant check on you, and she found out that you were still a virgin. This Empress Dowager was stunned. Han’er claimed that it was because you were too sick to do anything intimate. His obvious concern for you convinced this Empress Dowager.”
“Then Shao’er got hurt, and you saved him with an unusual method. This Empress Dowager gained a new appreciation and respect for you, but the distant way you and Han’er treated each other confused this Empress Dowager. Thus, This Empress Dowager ordered an investigation, finding out that you had jumped off the Pine View Pavilion a few days after your marriage because of Han’er’s divorce paper. When you regained consciousness, you seemed like a different person. You moved out of the Prince Residence and opened the Linhai Hospital, beginning to treat people with your unique medical skills.”
The empress dowager paused. Lihua rushed to pour her some water and helped her drink. Lin Haihai turned to Yang Shaolun, moved. She didn’t know that the empress dowager had been keeping an eye on her and tolerating her unusual behavior.
The empress dowager had Lihua put away the cup and looked at Lin Haihai tenderly. “I remember the first time you called this Empress Dowager ‘mother’. The memory is still so fresh. It felt as if this Empress Dowager were the mother of a regular household, while you were my lovely daughter. This Empress Dowager adored you!”
“Then Han’er begged me to let him marry Chen Birou. This Empress Dowager wished for you to stay together, but it was that silly boy’s dream to marry Chen Birou. This Empress Dowager couldn’t say no to him. Worried that you would suffer as a result, this Empress Dowager kept a close eye on you at the birthday banquet. This Empress Dowager was stunned to find out that you and Shao’er had fallen for each other.”
“Shao’er had been a quiet and reserved boy since youth. Even though there were many concubines in the harem, none of them had ever won his heart. Chuting was his only child over the years, which had concerned and worried this Empress Dowager. During the banquet, though, he openly looked at you with such adoring eyes. This Empress Dowager was both worried and delighted. Then Han’er had finally developed feelings for you as well. This Empress Dowager was put in a dilemma. Unable to make a decision, this Empress Dowager was going to let you sort this out yourselves. This Empress Dowager would only intervene if you couldn’t untangle the mess.”
“Many things happened then, and this Empress Dowager ended up collapsing. When you went missing on Mid-Autumn Day, this Empress Dowager saw the heartbreaking despair on Shao’er’s face. This Empress Dowager then told Han’er to let you get together! Han’er knew he didn’t have a future with you, and he agreed to step away. That was the agreement this Empress Dowager had reached with Han’er before falling into a coma. Shao’er, Yuguan, this Empress Dowager would like to arrange a marriage between you. What do you say?”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Sometimes I just really want to shake some sense into her