Lin Haihai immediately broke into tears. Yang Shaolun pulled her into his arms, visibly moved as well. He had been ready to face what he had expected to be their biggest obstacle - his mother, but it turned out to be the easiest to overcome. Imperial Mother knew about them already, and she didn’t even reprimand him.
“Silly boy, this Imperial Mother wouldn’t have the heart to make you sad, would I?” The Empress Dowager looked at Yang Shaolun lovingly. She could tell how overwhelmed he was from his eyes.
Lin Haihai wiped away her tears and pouted. “Hmph, you’ve made me worry for so long for nothing, Imperial Mother!”
“What do you have to worry about?” The empress dowager chuckled. “You’re divorced, and the people of the capital know you’ve been driven away by your husband. In their eyes, Physician Lin can do no wrong. Do you know how many people are disgruntled by Han’er’s treatment of you? He’s seen as a terrible man among the commoners!”
“We’ll entrust our marriage to you, Imperial Mother!” Yang Shaolun said hurriedly, with a soft edge of teasing. “Xiao’hai can’t wait any longer, or your grandchild is gonna be born before the wedding!”
The empress dowager laughed. “Oh, this Empress Dowager has been waiting for my little grandson! When is this Empress Dowager going to meet him?”
“Don’t be impatient, Imperial Mother. The child will be born sooner or later!” Lin Haihai chuckled. The empress dowager was obsessed with having grandchildren!
“In two days, this Empress Dowager will have a good date picked for your wedding!” The empress dowager was clearly tired judging from the series of yawns she let out.
Yang Shaolun rushed out, “We’ll let Imperial Mother rest. Come, my bride. I have things to tell you!”
The empress dowager smiled and said, “Go ahead. The ladies of talent have been waiting outside. Let them in, Lihua!”
“Announcing the arrival of Lady De, Lady Wen, and Beauty Li!” Lihua said in a projected voice.
Three beautiful women walked in with their heads lowered and their postures perfectly controlled, their clothes softly rustling. They bowed according to etiquettes and said in unison, “Greetings, Your Majesty the Empress Dowager. Greetings, Your Majesty the Emperor. Greetings, Sixth Princess Consort!”
Yang Shaolun was in a good mood, so he acted more amicably to them. “Rise. Stay and keep the empress dowager company, but not for long. Her Majesty needs her rest!”
“These concubines understand!”
The three women looked up slightly. Yang Shaolun made a curious sound when he saw Lady Wen. Lin Haihai smiled when she followed his gaze. The young woman bore some resemblance to her, and the plain way she dressed as well as the air about her were reminiscent of Lin Haihai’s grace.
“She looks a little like you, Xiao’hai!” Yang Shaolun laughed. “She’s like your twin at first glance!”
Lin Haihai perked up and took a closer look at Lady Wen. Not only did she look like her, she acted like her as well. Perhaps Lady Wen could take her place after her departure. Lin Haihai’s heart clenched. She hoped Yang Shaolun could fall in love with this woman, but at the same time she dreaded that he would.
“I have things to discuss with you later, Lady Wen,” Lin Haihai said with a faint smile. “Please come look for me in the Empress’s Palace after spending time with Her Majesty!”
Lady Wen paused before lowering her head and saying, “Understood!”
Yang Shaolun gave Lin Haihai an inquisitive look. Lin Haihai smiled in lieu of an answer and walked out. Yang Shaolun hurried after her. Looking at them, Lady Wen couldn’t help feeling a little puzzled. There seemed to be something between the emperor and the princess consort!
“Why did you ask Lady Wen to visit you?” asked Yang Shaolun.
Lin Haihai smoothed a hand over her belly. Their child was quickly growing up in her body. She would sacrifice anything for the father and son.
Noting the smile at her lips, Yang Shaolun grabbed her and asked in feigned anger, “Why are you acting all mysteriously? Tell me!”
“She’s your concubine,” Lin Haihai said, attempting to make sense of how he felt through teasing, “What’s so wrong about me getting to know her?”
“You aren’t gonna tell me the truth? I’ll kiss you if you don’t!” Yang Shaolun cupped her face and acted like a wolf about to pounce on his prey.
Lin Haihai resigned. “Alright, alright. I’ll tell you. I’m just worried that I’ll feel smothered staying in the palace. Since I’ve taken a liking to Lady Wen, I want her as a companion here!”
She buried her face into his chest, her lips curled into a smile, but her throat tight with sorrow.
“I’ll stay with you always! Once the traitors are dealt with, we’ll get out of this palace and lead a free and happy life!”
Yang Shaolun spoke in a tender voice. It was his dream. A future he had been dreaming about for too long!
“I’ll wait for you!” Lin Haihai nuzzled his neck, trying her best to suppress her tears.
“I’m sorry for making you endure a life you don’t want until then. Tomorrow we’ll have Wangchen and Zheng Feng enter the palace. They’ll accompany you to the hospital during the day. You don’t have to return until night falls. Then it’ll feel less smothering for you!” He knew that practicing medicine was her greatest dream and ambition.
“Yeah, please have Xiao Yuan notify them!” Lin Haihai didn’t dare look up. She stayed in his embrace quietly. For the time being, it still belonged to her!
Yang Shaolun let go of her and called out over his shoulder, “Xiao Yuan!”
Xiao Yuan emerged from the back and said respectfully, “Your Majesty!”
“Escort Physician Lin to the An’ning Palace. Then send for Wangchen and Zheng Feng. This Emperor will be discussing business with General Chen!”
Yang Shaolun turned back to Lin Haihai. “Go ahead. Don’t overtax yourself. I’ll have dinner with you later!”
“Okay,” Lin Haihai said gently. “You should go.”
Yang Shaolun left reluctantly. As soon as he turned away, the smile on Lin Haihai’s face dropped, replaced by deep sorrow. Xiao Yuan’s heart sank at her change of expression, his relaxed mood taking a sudden downturn.
Lin Haihai walked slowly toward the An’ning Palace. Xiao Yuan quietly followed her, daring not to break the silence.
“If one day I’m gone from this world, Xiao Yuan, please take good care of His Majesty and our child!” Lin Haihai said suddenly. Xiao Yuan had more than proven his loyalty. He would risk his life fulfilling his duty once it was entrusted to him.
“Why would you say so, Physician Lin?” Xiao Yuan knew there must be a reason.
“Don’t ask, and don’t tell His Majesty about this conversation!” Lin Haihai gave him a pained and lost look. “If I’m gone, promise me that you’ll take good care of His Majesty and our child!”
“Xiao Yuan will protect His Majesty and the heir of the throne even at the cost of this life!” Xiao Yuan said meaningfully.
“I don’t need you to protect them with your life. I need you to do everything in your power to make them happy!” Lin Haihai didn’t want her departure to burden them down like shackles. Yang Shaolun loved her too deeply to simply move on.
“Xiao Yuan doesn’t understand!” He was stunned by her expression even though he couldn’t quite decipher it.
“You’ll know in the future. Please remember what I’m saying. Don’t let His Majesty wallow in pain for me!” Lin Haihai lowered her head to cover up her brimming tears.
The empress had been working on matters regarding the monthly stipends. She immediately dismissed the bookkeeper when she saw Lin Haihai and ordered a maid to get some milk. Lin Haihai looked at the empress, moved. This woman had been taking care of her since she transmigrated here. They weren’t related by blood, but they were as close as real sisters!
“What’s going on?” The empress noted the faraway look in her eyes. “You’re staring.”
“I’ve never asked about your name, Empress!” Lin Haihai realized that suddenly. “What’s your name?”
The empress laughed. She didn’t expect the question. “I’m Princess Qiuyang from Chen. It’s a name given to me by Imperial Father. You may call me Qiuyang!” The empress’s eyes darkened. That felt like a lifetime ago!
“That’s a pretty name!” Lin Haihai smiled. “Unlike me. The name Lin Haihai doesn’t arouse the imagination at all!”
“That wasn’t your original name, though,” the empress said with a laugh. “Isn’t Lin Haihai the name you gave yourself?”
“Grandpa gave me the name. My grandfather, I mean. He’s an old traditional Chinese doctor. Both my parents are physicians!”
Lin Haihai smiled faintly. That was her only comfort in this mess. She could finally meet them again!
The empress was confused. “Isn’t your father a merchant?”
“I’m not Lin Yuguan. I told you how Hanlun divorced me, right? The one he divorced was the real Lin Yuguan. I’m a soul from the future, taking over her body after her death!” Lin Haihai explained her story. There were many things she had to entrust to the empress. She had to tell her the truth.
“What? You aren’t joking?” The empress looked at her, stunned. “There really are spirits and souls?” If that was the case, would she be able to see him again? The empress trembled at the possibility.
“I am telling the truth. If Wenxuan has really died, Qiuyang, his soul should be right with you!” Lin Haihai’s brows furrowed in despair. She would be going through what the empress had gone through in the near future!
The empress broke into tears and looked around. “Really?”
“But he isn’t here. At least I haven’t seen him! Given how deeply he loves you, he would’ve shown up around you if he were dead, but he isn’t here. I suspect that he hasn’t died, Qiuyang!”
“He’s not dead? Really? Why hasn’t he sought me out then?” the empress said desperately. “Even if he does come, how are we going to meet? I’m stuck deep in this palace. How are we going to see each other?”
Prickling pain overwhelmed Lin Haihai and weighed her down. Her eyes were brimming with tears. “I’ll help you find him, Qiuyang, but I have a favor to ask!”
She was the only one she could entrust this task to.
“Really? You can find him?” The empress grabbed Lin Haihai’s hand in a tight grip. Tremendous joy ignited her nerves, and she could no longer keep herself under control. “You may ask more than a favor from me as long as I get to meet him again. I’ll be willing to even pay with my life!”
Seeing the urgent look in her eyes reminded Lin Haihai of what her and Yang Shaolun’s future entailed, and she couldn’t contain her tears anymore. It felt as if she had shattered into pieces. She held onto the empress and bawled.
The empress panicked. “What’s wrong? What happened?”
But Lin Haihai didn’t say anything. She simply kept crying. The empress put her arms around her and patted her gently on the back.
“Lady Wen has arrived, Your Majesty!” reported a maid.
Puzzled, the empress was about to ask what it was about, but Lin Haihai wiped her tears and interrupted, “I asked her to come!”
The empress stared at her, stunned. She had met Lady Wen, and the woman looked very much like Lin Haihai.
Having made herself presentable, Lin Haihai said, “Let her in!”