Zheng Feng, who had been guarding outside the door, entered suddenly with a grave expression. “Prince Pingnan’s people have arrived!”
Lin Haihai scoffed. She had overestimated their enemies. It had taken them two days to find them. Lin Haihai instructed Wangchen, “Stay here and keep an eye on the woman. I’ve set up a boundary around the room, which will stop anyone from entering. Remember to keep your guard up around her. She’s a master in poison!”
She then turned to Zheng Feng and said, “Come. Let’s see what his people will do!”
He wouldn’t have sent lowly thugs this time since taking Keqing was too important a task to him. Keqing would be their best leverage in making Rong cooperate!
Lin Haihai tied Ning Nuoli back up with the silk band before she went. Still worried about Wangchen, she told her again not to believe anything the woman said. Then she walked out of the room and, to her surprise, found Nangong Zixuan outside. Unlike his usual scholarly look, he was dressed like a general. Lin Haihai smiled bitterly. You never know if your friend will turn out to be your enemy!
Murong Zixuan, who had used the pseudonym Nangong Zixuan in Daxing, seemed to have seen through her. In a cool voice, he explained, “Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not a follower of Prince Pingnan. I’m the heir of Rong’s Prince Jing. I came to greet you when I found out you were here!”
“You’re from Rong?” Lin Haihai was surprised. She had thought he was born and raised in Daxing, but friends could come from all regions and nations. She was relieved that she hadn’t lost a friend.
Murong Zixuan smiled. “Does it matter?”
“Oh, it matters. If I knew you were from Rong, I would’ve asked to stay in your residence. The inn costs so much. I have to pay ten silver every day!” Lin Haihai mumbled in complaint. She was as stingy as ever.
Murong Zixuan chuckled. “The Ascension Inn is mine as well. Don’t you know?” He walked up to her and added, “Otherwise, how would I know you have settled down here?”
Lin Haihai broke into a smile. It was one of the greatest joys in life to run into an old friend in a foreign land. It was a shame that the enemies were about to strike. Nevertheless, she would be able to share a drink with Murong Zixuan before her departure to honor their friendship.
“Good,” Lin Haihai said with a smile. “I’ll deal with the troublemakers outside before catching up with you!”
“There’s no need for that. They have been dealt with by the people your man sent!” Murong Zixuan responded, his lips curled slightly upward and his brows raised in approval. The emperor of Daxing had sent all his shadow guards away to ensure the safety of his lover. It was difficult to find a man who was so loyal in love!
“He’s sent someone to protect me?” Lin Haihai asked in surprise. She hadn’t sensed anyone following them on their way here. Were Yang Shaolun’s people that powerful in martial arts? “How did I not notice?”
“The shadow guards are not only martial art masters, but also experts in stealth. It’s only natural that you didn’t notice them!” Murong Zixuan’s expression was proud and spirited, a far cry from his usual leisurely look.
“No wonder they were able to escape my notice!” Lin Haihai relaxed and felt warmth blooming in her chest. She adored the feeling of being protected.
“Yang Shaolun is a man with immeasurable depth. There are things you don’t know about him.” Zixuan said with a faint smile. Lin Haihai realized suddenly that he bore some resemblance to the emperor of Rong.
“Let’s continue inside!” Lin Haihai didn’t think too much of his words. She knew what kind of a person Brother Yang was. She understood him.
Zheng Feng opened the door, and Murong Zixuan marched in. He was completely unfazed when he saw Ning Nuoli. “Here you are as well, Imperial Aunt!”
Ning Nuoli scoffed after a moment of surprise. “You! Why did you come back? Did His Majesty approve of your return?”
“Who would stop me from returning to my home country?” Zixuan said with a half-smile. “Do you remember my mother, Imperial Aunt? She asked me to send you her regards!”
Ning Nuoli lost her calm and said in a trembling voice, “Isn’t your mother...”
Murong Zixuan chuckled before kneeling down before Keqing. “Imperial Aunt!”
Keqing gave him a caring smile. “I’m glad you’re back, Zixuan. I’m very glad!”
“The emperor of Rong has arrived!” Zheng Feng announced.
Lin Haihai nodded. “Good. Every party involved in this matter has arrived. It’s time to settle the score!”
Lin Haihai gestured at Zheng Feng to open the door. Ning Nuoli visibly panicked and reached behind her, which didn’t escape Wangchen’s notice.
Rong’s emperor appeared at the door. Sunlight hugged him from behind to form a halo. Keqing’s heart clenched. Finally, he’s here! Is Xiao’hai telling the truth? Has he truly never fallen out of love with her?
The frown on the emperor’s face smoothed out when he saw Keqing, but then his brows knitted together again when he noticed her sickly look. She was pale and weak, and it seemed like she would collapse anytime!
“Have a seat!” Lin Haihai gestured at the emperor before turning to Keqing. “If you have anything to ask him, Keqing, go ahead and ask!”
The emperor nodded, his eyes fixed on Keqing. Keqing smiled faintly. “What else can I ask? Nothing. Perhaps there’s one thing I should have said to you: Congratulations on fulfilling your ambition and becoming the emperor!”
Her eyes shone with resentment, pain, sorrow, and tears. It made the emperor’s heart pound in panic. He had loved this woman for more than ten years. She had been so close to him, but at the same time distant like the sky. He could never reach her. Even now she still had the ability to make his heart spasm in pain with a single sentence. He lowered his eyes and murmured, “It’s not as you think!”
“You misunderstood His Majesty, Empress Dowager!” Shuyu stepped forward to speak up for the emperor.
“Physician Lin said that you were inflicted with Golden Caterpillar Gu. Is that true?” The emperor’s voice trembled, and his eyes flooded with love. He was so in love with her that he had forgotten how he should talk to her. He had forgotten how things had been between them. His love and guilt made him act with great reserve before her, showing no trace of his usual pride and domineering personality.
Keqing almost cried. His gaze on her hadn’t changed. She could still feel his deep love for her. Her cowardice and inability to take a risk had brought him great pain. Was she really going to make things difficult for him now?
“Haoyue...” Before Keqing could say anything else, the emperor pulled her into his arms. She had called him by his name, rather than addressed him as the regent or the emperor. She understood him, and she had forgiven him. He had been waiting for this moment for what felt like a millennium. The nation and its throne paled in comparison to her!
“Hahaha, and you said there was nothing between you? That you’d never crossed a line?” Ning Nuoli laughed out loud, her laughter mad and piercing. “Let the people in this world see how innocent your relationship has been! I’ll make you wish for death, Duan Keqing! I swear I will!”
The emperor looked at his usually gentle empress and demanded, “So you were the one who poisoned Keqing!” His voice rumbled with deep fury like a sound coming from the dark depth of hell.
“It was me, but the poison has no antidote. You’ll have to kill me to save her!” Ning Nuoli laughed. “But you cannot kill me, Your Majesty. I’ve planted a droplet of blood in your body. Once I die, you’ll die with me!”
Her laughter died down. She stared at the emperor darkly and continued, “I’ve poisoned every woman who got close to you with Golden Caterpillar Gu over the years. They had all died a sudden death because they couldn’t bear the pain, and they committed suicide! I simply had to announce to the world that they died of an acute illness. I didn't expect you to be this resilient, Duan Keqing. You’ve managed to survive the torture of the poison many times. However, you won’t survive the next month. Even if you do, you’ll still end up dead!”
With her vicious gaze fixed on Keqing, she suddenly grabbed a porcelain bottle. Lin Haihai grabbed it with her silk band, but Ning Nuoli managed to throw it away and took out another bottle, drinking it in one gulp. Wangchen wasn’t quick enough to react to it.
Keqing panicked. The woman must not die, or Haoyue would be dead as well! She rushed to hold Ning Nuoli and cried out to Lin Haihai, “Xiao’hai, you can’t let her die! Save her, save her!”
Lin Haihai hurriedly sealed her meridians. Ning Nuoli laughed cruelly. “Don’t worry. I won’t die immediately. I drank the Cursed Retribution Blood of a ghost before their death, which would sustain my body for half a year. You will have died by then. After you die, Haoyue and I will pass away on the same day!”
Lin Haihai was stunned. “Cursed Retribution Blood? Are you out of your mind? Do you really want to see yourself slowly rot away?”
Ning Nuoli laughed bitterly. “Do you think I’ll try to defend myself? No, the emperor would still take Keqing’s side even if I hadn’t poisoned her with gu. There’s no use protesting. Everything is under my control. The blood will keep me alive for half a year. I want you to feel what it’s like to have your greatest love be beyond your reach, Your Majesty!”
With a flash in his eyes, Haoyue unsheathed the sword attached to his waist. However, a sudden glow from her body kept his sword from reaching her.
“Don’t waste your energy,” said Lin Haihai. “You can’t hurt her!”
She didn’t know how she should describe this woman. She was hateful for sure, but at the same time pitiful.
Lin Haihai drove the Cursed Retribution Blood out with her spiritual energy. Ning Nuoli stared at her, stunned. “Who are you? This is a technique taught to me by our shaman in Miaojiang. You shouldn’t know how to resolve it!”
Lin Haihai pulled back her hands and smiled. “I’m a physician. It’s my job to save lives from the King of Hell’s clutch. However, you’re not the one I’m saving here. I’ve cleansed the cursed blood in your body, and the blood you planted in the emperor would lose its effect as well. Then I’ll be able to kill you to save Keqing!”
Face ashen, Ning Nuoli stared silently at Lin Haihai. Then she suddenly spat a mouthful of poisonous blood at Lin Haihai, which Lin Haihai dodged easily. With a whip of her sleeve, she sent all the poisonous blood back to Ning Nuoli’s face. Ning Nuoli screamed and rolled around on the floor with her hands covering her face. Her piercing cries unnerved everyone in the room. Keqing had to look away. Haoyue put his arms around her in comfort.
Ning Nuoli grabbed a piece of the shattered cup on the floor and sliced her wrist open. Then she poured black powder onto her wound. It didn’t take long for the poison to claim her. Even in her dying moment, her widened eyes remained fixed on Keqing. Lin Haihai covered her face with a blanket and told Zheng Feng, “Tell those waiting outside to carry her away!”
There were a few men outside who had been following Emperor Haoyue. They were Tuoduo’s subordinates, here to protect the emperor in secret.Previous Chapter Next Chapter