Lady Wen walked in slowly with a respectful but dignified look on her face. Her action was perfectly composed and proper. With a slight bow, she said clearly and gently, “Greetings, Your Majesty the Empress. Greetings, Sixth Princess Consort!”
“Rise, Lady Wen. Please have a seat!” the empress said faintly.
Lin Haihai stared quietly at the young woman, her heart clenching painfully.
“What do you think about His Majesty, Lady Wen?” Lin Haihai asked slowly. The empress had to hide her surprise. What was she up to?
Lady Wen was caught off guard as well, but she managed to maintain a polite and calm look on her face. “His Majesty is a magnanimous and kind ruler. He’s devoted to the nation, going light on taxation and caring about his people like they were his children. He’s an emperor lauded by many!”
Lin Haihai pushed aside the pain in her heart and affected a teasing tone, “What do you think of His Majesty as a man, though?”
Lady Wen paused and blushed, lowering her head without a word.
Lin Haihai’s mood darkened. She must have fallen for the emperor already! After all, he’s handsome, graceful, and knowledgeable. Who among his harem wouldn’t fall for him?
The empress felt a sympathetic pang in her heart, but she didn’t know what Lin Haihai was planning. There was nothing she could do but to listen.
“Please visit Her Majesty when you have the time and chat with her, Lady Wen,” Lin Haihai said gently.
“This Concubine wouldn’t want to intrude upon Her Majesty!” Lady Wen smiled to cover her impatience. She wasn’t the kind of person to suck up to the powerful.
“This Empress would love to have someone to talk to. You may visit me when you’re free!” Actually, there were consorts visiting her every day, but they were dismissed right after greeting her. The empress had never asked any of them to stay behind. She didn’t like these newcomers who were here to get on her good side, either.
“This Concubine understands!” Lady Wen bowed slightly.
“You may go,” the empress said gently. “We’ll talk after your visit tomorrow!”
“This Concubine will be taking my leave!” Lady Wen bowed again to the Empress and then Lin Haihai before walking away.
The empress turned to reprimanded Lin Haihai, “What did you say that for?”
“This is the favor I have to ask of you,” Lin Haiha said nonchalantly. “I want you to introduce Lady Wen to His Majesty!”
“Are you out of your mind?” the empress snapped.
“I have to leave after giving birth to the child,” Lin Haihai said with difficulty. “I can’t stay here any longer. I have to return to my time. Do you think he’ll be able to take it?”
“What do you mean you have to return?” The empress was stunned. “What about His Majesty?”
That was her first reaction. She knew how deeply the emperor loved Lin Haihai. She had been the witness to their relationship as it grew and finally blossomed.
“That’s why I didn’t have a choice!” Lin Haihai looked at the empress pleadingly.
The empress shook her head. “Even if I introduce her to His Majesty, do you really think His Majesty will forget about you and fall for her? That’s naive of you to believe!”
“I have ways to make him forget about me!” Lin Haihai took a deep breath to push aside the pain eating her inside out, but instead the pain spread from her heart to all parts of her body. It was excruciating to even breathe.
“I’m not sure how yet, but I’m certain I’ll have a way to do that once I find someone I know!” Lin Haihai remembered the mysterious couple she had encountered.
“Then what about you?” the empress pressed anxiously. “Can you really watch as the emperor gets together with another woman?”
“I can!” Lin Haihai said firmly. “I really can!” It was better than watching him torment himself like a living corpse.
“Once you depart, both of you will suffer. That’s why you want to make him forget about you, and you will be the only one suffering in that case. You’re again shouldering everything!” The empress felt the prickle of tears in her nose. Was this how she loved? How could love make someone sacrifice herself so selflessly?
“It’s better to suffer alone than to have both of us suffer,” Lin Haihai said in resignation. “It’s simple math that even I can do.”
Once Lady Wen walked out of the An’ning Palace, her personal maid Dingya went up to her and asked, “What does Her Majesty want from you, milady?”
Dingya was part of her dowry. They had grown up together since youth.
Lady Wen frowned and said faintly, “She told me to visit her when I’m free!”
Dingya was surprised. “She’s making you take her side?”
Lady Wen sighed. “I don’t know. I’ve been living a peaceful life. I don’t want to get involved in such matters. The sixth princess consort isn’t a good person, either!” There was something forceful about the way Lin Haihai talked to her. She didn’t like women like her.
“The sixth princess consort and the emperor seem unusually close!” Dingya said bemusedly.
“Don’t make baseless speculation!” Lady Wen snapped. “Someone like His Majesty will never do something like that. Although the princess consort is stunningly beautiful, there are many more consorts who are better-looking than she is. His Majesty wouldn’t have fallen for her!”
“This servant has heard that from the other palace maids,” Dingya mumbled. “They said that His Majesty had been treating Sixth Princess Consort very well!”
“Nonsense!” Lady Wen was irritated. The emperor wouldn’t have fallen for his sister-in-law. The man was like a god in her heart.
Dingya laughed. “You’ve always been looking down on the other men, but finally, there’s someone you appreciate!”
Lady Wen blushed and glared at her personal maid with feigned anger. She picked up her pace, but ended up tripping on a rock and losing her balance. It all happened too quickly for her to recover. Panicked, she closed her eyes and waited for the pain to come, but then a strong arm caught her just in time. She stumbled and fell into a warm embrace.
“Your Majesty!” Dingya hurriedly greeted. Lady Wen rushed to get to her own feet, her heart pounding wildly.
“Be careful!” said a smooth and caring voice.
Lady Wen’s heart skipped a beat. She hurriedly lowered her head with her face flushed. “Thank you, Your Majesty!”
Yang Shaolun smiled and nodded at her. “Watch your step next time! Did you just come out of the An’ning Palace?”
Heart fluttering, Lady Wen said, “In response to Your Majesty, that is right!”
“You should visit the empress when you have the time!” The empress was a gentle soul. A role model for the women of the harem.
“This Concubine understands!” Lady Wen was moved. The emperor must have told the empress to spend some time with her so that she could have someone to rely on in the harem. She could barely contain the warmth blooming in her chest.
Lin Haihai happened to see them when emerging from the An’ning Palace, and the scene burned into her heart like venom until her limbs went cold and her heart hardened into stone. If it hurt so much already, would she really be able to take seeing them acting even more intimately? But what other option did she have?
Yang Shaolun walked up to Lin Haihai, his bride and the woman he loved. Lin Haihai exhausted whatever strength she had left in her to beam like a blooming flower, welcoming the man she loved.
Hand-in-hand, they strolled through the Imperial Garden under the setting sun. A stroke of red embellished the monotone sky. The waning sunlight shone gently on Lin Haihai’s serene face. Yang Shaolun stared at her and felt an inexplicable panic. It seemed as if she would ascend to immortality and depart from the mortal world anytime.
WIthout thinking, he tightened his arms around her. Lin Haihai could sense his anxiety, but she didn’t dare ask. They knew each other too well. The tremendous pain she had been hiding wouldn’t escape his notice.
Yu Qing sent a message that she wouldn’t enter the palace tonight. Yang Shaolun sighed in relief. He hadn’t had a chance to spend time with Lin Haihai since her return from Yangzhou. He had a lot to talk to her about.
Lin Haihai gave him a smile that was as captivating as a flower and leaned into his arms, but her eyes were misty with brimming tears.
“Has the child been mischievous?” Yang Shaolun placed his large hand on her belly, feeling the untamed life energy in her.
“No, he’s been behaving himself.” Lin Haihai chuckled, her face glowing in a way only a mother would. In a purposefully casual tone, she asked, “What about Prince Pingnan? Any updates?”
“Everything is fine. Don’t worry!” He didn’t want her to worry too much. Everything was under his control.
“I’m not worried. I know you can deal with him!” She did trust him, but according to the canon history Baizi told her about, the nation would fall under a different rule, and Yang Shaolun would die in winter next year. There must be something they were missing. It might be a new power, an incident, or an opportunity. They could only wait and see at the moment. It should be impossible for Prince Pingnan to easily take the throne with what they knew he had.
That night, Lin Haihai stayed in the Qian’kun Palace.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Selfless? I think not