Chapter 172: Ten Years

The chill of the night seeped into the empress like water. She watched as the man walked up to her from under the light of lanterns like a waking dream. How many times had she dreamed about this scene over the past ten years? She had long lost count. She remembered only the great pain she felt every time she woke up from the dream, unable to bear the pain of being separated from him by death but had to resign to the reality.

Wen Xuan could no longer control his yearning. He wanted to ask her about what had happened that year. He had been resentful of her, but he had never once forgotten about her. All he could think about was her frown and smile. All he had ever dreamed about was the youthful woman he had shared a love with!

“How have you been?” he asked. Darkness could obscure anything, including the tears brimming his eyes.

“Fine,” the empress uttered with nonchalance, but anyone could see how shaken she was.

“Have you ever received my letters, Qiuyang?” He had said that dignity meant nothing when facing love. That was why he asked her the question directly. Even if the answer would banish him to hell again, he didn’t care, but...

“What letters?” the empress asked, staring at him with confusion in her eyes.

Wen Xuan smiled wryly. She would have to be the greatest actress in the world to fake the reaction, but he knew Qiuyang was someone who never lied. That was why he was so heartbroken by her letter to break ties with him. He knew she would tell him without beating around the bush if she had fallen out of love with him!

“So you’ve never written to me to break up with me?” Wen Xuan asked with his gaze fixed on her, his heart swelling with joy and anger.

“I haven’t!” The empress returned his gaze coolly. She didn’t understand a word out of his mouth, but she knew if he said something had happened, it must have happened. What she didn’t know was if he still felt anything for her. All she could do was to keep herself from getting hurt.

Wen Xuan hurriedly took out a letter from his shirt, which had degraded by time, but one could still make out the handwriting. The empress took the letter and read it. The language was earnest, but every word was meant to cut Wen Xuan. The resignation read more like a cold rejection than anything. No wonder. No wonder he’d treat me like this! If I were in his place, I wouldn’t be able to take the cruelty, either!

She tore the letter to pieces. Qiujing had always imitated her since youth, be it the way she dressed, moved, or wrote. And yet her little sister ended up pushing her beloved older sister to a bottomless abyss for a man!

Lin Haihai and Yang Shaolun watched them from afar. Lin Haihai had purposefully kept the empress in the dark so that they could express the pain they had gone through over the years. That was the most straightforward way to resolve an old wound.

“If one day I have to leave you for ten years,” Lin Haihai said in a daze, “Would you still love me when I return?”

Yang Shaolun shook his head. “I wouldn’t let you leave me for ten years. You being away for ten days is enough to make me worry to death, let alone ten years!”

What then? Lin Haihai touched the pill she had been hiding. Then only by forgetting me would he be able to avoid the pain of separation!

Qiujing rushed up to her sister with a dark scowl, her gaze desperate, “You gave this letter to me yourself, Sister. Have you forgotten!”

The empress stared at her sister. My dear little sister. We weren’t born by the same woman, but we share the same bloodline. Why would she do something like this to me?

“I said I didn’t write the letter, and I didn’t!” the empress said openly, her eyes bright and clear.

“You did! Brother Xuan, you must trust me! She wrote the letter so that you would stop chasing after her, preventing her from leading a life of luxury! Now that the emperor has gotten together with Lin Haihai and forgotten about her, she remembered you and approached you. You must not fall for her lies, Brother Xuan!”

Wen Xuan stared at her coolly. Qiujing had mellowed over the years, and she was usually able to calmly face many situations. Why would she panic like this? Was it because she had been lying?

“There is no reason for me to lie. You’re now husband and wife. There’s no point in figuring out if the letter was written by me. You should go!” The empress issued an ultimatum calmly.

Wen Xuan’s heart pounded painfully at the sorrow swallowing up the empress. She had always loved him, but he hadn’t trusted her enough. He had doubted her wrongly. He walked up to the empress, meeting her gaze and murmuring, “Qiujing and I aren’t married! My students often saw her doing chores at the academy. That was why they called her my wife. I stopped them a few times, but they were used to addressing her that way already, and most of them couldn’t change it!”

The empress was stunned. She turned to look at Qiujing, who had gone sheet-pale as she murmured, “I thought you’ve fallen for me since you never rejected me outright over the years. Am I wrong to assume that?”

Qiujing looked up at Wen Xuan with tears in her eyes. Was this what she got for staying with him for ten years out of love? How was she going to accept that?

Wen Xuan looked at her with pity and guilt, but there was no trace of love on his face. His heart had been lost to another woman over a decade ago.

Qiujing stared at Wen Xuan in disbelief. “So even after all these years, you haven’t developed any feelings for me at all?”

Wen Xuan’s warm eyes grew a little wistful. He looked at the empress as he said to Qiujing, “I can forgive you for what you’ve done to me. After all, you had kept me company when I was at my lowest point in life. Even though what you did to me wasn’t what I wanted, you did them out of love.”

“The letter you forged broke my heart and shattered my hope of a future with Qiuyang. I thought I would forget about our promise to each other by teaching students and resting in Quxuan, but Qiujing, when you really love someone, you should know that love is selective. It’s about having the right person rather than more. I have fallen too deeply in love with Qiuyang to accommodate anyone else in my heart!”

The empress stared at him, dazed. His confession triggered a storm of emotions in her heart. There was resentment. There was love. There was pain. Ten years. She had been yearning for him for ten years. She had thought she would never get to see him again. Her joy threatened to drown her when she heard that he was still alive. She had lost ten years where they could’ve been together!

But then he said that he had never once forgotten about her either over the past ten years. He couldn’t stop missing her. He had never once moved on from his stubborn love for her even when he thought she had cruelly severed her ties with him!

Qiujing paled. She lost. She was a superfluous third wheel to their loving gaze for each other. One could even say she was an unwanted bystander. She had no choice but to run away!

“Fine, fine! I was trying to gain something I couldn’t have. I was to blame for ending up like this. Since you’ve never loved me at all, I’ll only be getting on your nerves by chasing after you!”

She had done everything in her power to make him fall for her, but to no avail. She had to leave. The ten years she wasted on this hopeless pursuit was the price she paid for her love. She had to accept defeat even though she had gotten nothing. At the end of the day, she had long predicted how it would end. She fled. She had overestimated herself. She never knew heartbreak could swallow someone alive!

Lin Haihai looked at the mess Qiujing was in as she ran away, feeling some degree of pity for the woman. Although she had done something shameful, one had to be impressed that she had waited ten years for her love, and an unrequited one at that.

Yang Shaolun held Lin Haihai’s hand, feeling grateful and content. He didn’t know that this happiness could crumble overnight!

—-

The fifteenth day of the month was coming. Keqing’s complexion grew more and more yellow. Lin Haihai was anxious, but there wasn’t anything she could do. Perhaps it was time to visit Rong and meet the imperious regent and his vicious consort!

Yu Qing was about to marry Yang Hanlun under the empress dowager’s arrangement. For that, Yang Hanlun had asked Lin Haihai about Yu Qing. Lin Haihai told him that Yu Qing would have to marry someone in order to stay in this era. Yang Hanlun didn’t think for too long before agreeing to the marriage. The wedding would be held on the fifteenth day next month.

Yu Qing always disliked crowds, so Lin Haihai asked for the empress dowager’s permission to invite only Yang Hanlun’s brothers and the other members of the imperial family. Everything would be done in the most simplistic way. After all, no one wanted anything to go wrong during such a turbulent time.

Under Lin Haihai’s order, Chen Luoqing had been keeping a close eye on the Carefree Tavern, while Li Junyue worked hard to develop a cure for the gu poison. However, he couldn’t come up with anything no matter how hard he studied. He knew the properties of the poison, but not what it was and how it was developed. Thus he couldn’t create an antidote.

As days went by, Lin Haihai became more and more anxious. Prince Pingnan had stopped making any move, and Zhou Junpeng had disappeared altogether. It had been as peaceful as the surface of a lake when there was no wind, but Lin Haihai knew there was turbulence underwater. Something insidious must be brewing!

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houseau3's Thoughts

Dude... She was the reason you were in pain in the first place...