Chapter 28: The Empress And The Imperial Consort

“Wait, Your Highness Imperial Consort, please calm down. She is really a physician!” The head eunuch, Xiao Yuan, hurried over and immediately stopped her. He was present the day when Lin Haihai saved the emperor. But he didn’t know her true identity and thought that she was just a brilliant divine physician. 


“Physician? Why would the Sixth Prince invite a physician from outside the palace? Are the imperial physicians in the palace all useless?” Imperial Consort Li blasted, not believing his words. 


“Sister, I think she's indeed a physician. Nevermind this. We’re here to visit His Majesty, so let’s not argue here in case we disturb his rest,” the empress advised virtuously. 


“Elder sister, don’t be so kind hearted. Look at her flirtatious appearance. She must be here to seduce His Majesty. I don’t know why the Sixth Prince would send a female physician into the palace. There must be a motive behind his actions.” Imperial Consort Li's face was painted with doubt and suspicions.


The empress said nothing. She walked to the bed and wanted to arrange the emperor’s clothes when Imperial Consort Li immediately pushed away the empress’ hand, saying, “Let this sister serve His Majesty. Elder sister doesn’t need to do the hard work.”


The empress’s heart dimmed. Everyone knew that the emperor pampered Imperial Consort Li, thus shaping her arrogant and proud personality. Imperial Consort Li held no regards for the empress. Besides, she was also pregnant right now. If she gave birth to an imperial son, then the empress would probably have to surrender her position to Imperial Consort Li. The emperor only had one daughter right now. As long as Imperial Consort Li gave birth to an imperial son, he would definitely become the crown prince. She would rise up the ranks with the birth of her son. Moreover, coupled with her father, Grand Councillor Yan's power in court, the empress would probably lose her standing in the Imperial Harem in the near future.


Lin Haihai looked meaningfully at Imperial Physician Shangguan, signaling him to look after the emperor. Imperial Physician Shangguan nodded. Seeing that everyone’s attention was on the empress and Imperial Consort Li, Lin Haihai slowly retreated to the back and simply left without notifying anyone. 


Lin Haihai finally walked out and took a deep breath. She couldn’t leave the palace right now. Brother Yang was still in a critical condition, so she could only take a stroll in the vicinity. She would return once the empress and Imperial Consort Li left. 


The imperial palace was really huge. Lin Haihai walked for a long time and she remembered passing by a few palaces along the way, none of which she recognized. She also encountered many palace maids and eunuchs, but no one asked about her and she was too lazy to greet them as well. She stopped to view a lotus pond when she walked by it. It was much bigger than the one in North Court. There were many types of lotuses and they were blooming fully at this time. Lots of dragonflies flew low while butterflies stopped by occasionally. Lin Haihai found a comfortable spot and sat down, quietly listening to the conversation between the butterflies and dragonflies. Lin Haihai closed her eyes and thought. If only I had a cup of coffee or tea in front of me right now. 


The sound of the chirping cicadas had her overwhelmed by drowsiness. On this cool summer afternoon, at an unfamiliar place and time, a transmigrator like her felt strangely satisfied for some reason. As it turned out, a comfortable environment could really mold one’s temperament. She originally felt gloomy, but the feeling had since vanished. She was brimming with happiness. Lin Haihai was easily satisfied; regardless of her environment. 


“Don’t you know that a woman shouldn’t casually sleep under broad daylight?” a childish voice rang. 


“A child shouldn’t disturb someone’s sleep either. That’s very rude.” Lin Haihai didn’t open her eyes. She could accurately identify the number of people present as well as their ages. There were a total of five people. The girl standing at the front of the group, as well as the one who spoke, was around ten years old. The other four behind her should be palace maids and eunuchs. 


“Brazen! How dare you talk to the Eldest Princess in this manner!” the person behind the girl accused Lin Haihai loudly. 


Lin Haihai felt a bit frustrated. Why is everyone chiding me for being brazen today? In fact, she was even scared of mice; she was the embodiment of an actual coward. Lin Haihai lazily opened her eyes, not knowing whether those women left yet. She wanted to go back and visit her Big Brother Yang. 


The girl stared at her curiously. This woman acted languid but she was very beautiful, unlike her Emperor Father’s imperial concubines who wore heavy makeup. Instead, she was a little similar to her Imperial Mother. 


“Who are you?” the girl parted her lips and asked favoringly.


“I’m a physician and I’m here to see my patient. However, I didn’t expect to be kicked out.” Lin Haihai usually adored and had much patience towards children. 


“See a patient? Aren’t there imperial physicians in the palace? Why were you called in to see a patient?” the little girl asked in confusion. 


“That’s why they don’t want me to see the patient. They have imperial physicians!” Lin Haihai purposely made herself seem pitiful to gain the child’s sympathy. 


“Don’t be sad. You can be a guest at my palace. I’ll instruct the servants to make you lots of delicious food too, okay?” The little girl was fooled. Lin Haihai smiled and nodded. She hadn’t even eaten breakfast today. Her stomach was already growling and protesting. Since the imperial physicians were watching over Brother Yang, she would go swindle some food and drinks. 


“Okay! Beautiful little girl, you’re so cute.” Lin Haihai pinched her face. The palace maids and eunuchs immediately berated her. The little girl hurriedly said, “Withdraw, it’s fine. Go back and prepare the food. I’m coming over with this elder sister right away.”


Lin Haihai followed the little girl to a place named “An’ning Palace”. She entered the palace door and a strange fragrance immediately assaulted her nostrils. Lin Haihai looked around only to see the garden blooming with all sorts of flowers. The colors ranged from light purple, pink, yellow, to light blue and crimson while the flower species ranged from roses, lilies, Chinese roses, to lilacs, and numerous others that she couldn’t place a name to. The bees and butterflies constantly flew around high and low. In the corner, there were actually a few thorn apples! Lin Haihai immediately rushed over to identify them. The flowers were indeed thorn apples. There were red, white, and purple ones! 


The little girl yelled loudly from behind, “Come back quickly. Don’t go over there. The flowers are poisonous!”


Lin Haihai turned around to see the little girl wearing an anxious expression. She smiled and walked back. However, she was extremely excited internally for making this discovery. The existence of thorn apples meant that she could create anesthetics. As long as she added thorn apples to the anesthesia powder she developed, she could easily grasp the amount needed. During the modern times, she and her grandfather had researched thorn apples and also extracted the thorn apples’ poisonous juices!


“Who planted these flowers? They are very beautiful.” Lin Haihai was itching to find out the owner of these flowers. It was summer right now, but the flowers were still blooming beautifully. This meant that the owner cherished the flowers and knew how to take care of them. She must get to know this person!


“My Imperial Mother planted them. She said those flowers are red spider lilies. It’s poisonous, so people normally can’t walk too close to it or they would be poisoned.”


Red spider lilies were also known as hell flowers. Lin Haihai knew that there was a legend to the flowers, but she didn’t know whether the owner knew about it too. She wondered if this was the reason why the owner risked planting these flowers in the imperial palace. However, what she just saw wasn't red spider lilies but rather the thorn apples. It was a different plant species.


Imperial Mother? Is she referring to the empress? The dignified woman I saw at Brother Yang’s place just now? Is it her? The empress’s beautiful appearance surfaced in Lin Haihai’s mind. Could it be her?


“What’s your name?” Lin Haihai asked. 


“I’m Yang Chuting. Elder Sister, what’s your name?” The little girl had a clear and pleasant voice. 


“Just call me Elder Sister Lin.”


“Elder Sister, your surname is Lin? My Sixth Imperial Uncle’s princess consort’s surname is also Lin. Elder Sister, do you know her?”


“No? You have never seen her?”


“Imperial Grandmother said that Imperial Aunt is sick, so she didn’t allow us to visit her. I really want to play at Sixth Imperial Uncle’s place though,” Yang Chuting pouted and said dully. 


“Then this Elder Sister will take you there when I have time, okay?” Lin Haihai promised. 


“Really? You can’t lie to me.” Yang Chuting's face was painted with excitement. These high and mighty princesses and princes stayed in this palace all day long, so how were they able to experience the common people’s happiness? Lin Haihai decided to broaden the little girl's horizons when she had the chance to. 


An eunuch’s voice rang outside as they were talking. “Paying respects to Your Majesty.”


“You may rise,” a gentle voice sounded. As expected, it was the woman whom the servants addressed as the empress, the woman she saw at Brother Yang’s palace. So this is the empress’s palace! Lin Haihai was secretly happy. The empress should be quite friendly and amicable. She even spoke up for me today!  


“Imperial Mother, I got acquainted with an elder sister today and I even brought her over as a guest.” Yang Chuting bounced vivaciously over to the empress. 


“Look at you. You lack deportment. How are you like a princess in any way? You’re basically acting like a wild lass.” The empress' reprimand was underlaid with subtle affection and doting. Lin Haihai looked up to see the woman in the phoenix robes. 


“Paying respects to Your Majesty.” Lin Haihai awkwardly curtsied. 


“It’s you!” the empress exclaimed in surprise. 


“It’s me. May I ask Your Majesty if Brother Yang is doing better?” Lin Haihai was concerned with Yang Shaolun, so she asked without a second thought. 


“Is the Brother Yang you speak of His Majesty?” the empress responded calmly as though she didn’t mind the affectionate endearment. 


“Oh, sorry. I shouldn’t have addressed him like that. I meant His Majesty.” Lin Haihai felt a bit embarrassed. 


“He took his medicine and his fever has reduced now. However, he keeps on calling out for a person.” The empress observed Lin Haihai carefully, hoping to gain a reaction out of her.


“Oh, that’s good. Since his fever has reduced, it means that the inflammation has gone away. As long as he continues to take the medicine, he will recover quickly.” Lin Haihai felt like she was relieved from a burden. As long as his fever has reduced, everything else would be easy. He probably wouldn’t reject the transfused blood again.


“What’s your name?” The empress looked at Lin Haihai with a meaningful expression.


“Lin Haihai.” Her careless response deeply upsetted the servants beside the empress.


“Are you a commoner?” the empress probed. She felt that she had an inkling of Lin Haihai's background.


“Yes. Your Majesty, I want to ask if you were the one who planted the thorn apples,” Lin Haihai asked anxiously. If I clear the mountain top to plant herbs, I need to ask the empress how to plant the flowers. 


The empress was startled. “You know those are thorn flowers?”


“We usually call them thorn apples. This type of flower is poisonous, but at the same time, it can be used in medicine. As for the red spider lilies, that’s another type of flower. Where I’m from, this flower also has a legend. Your Majesty, do you want to hear it?” 


“Legend? What type of legend?” The empress looked dejected as she stared at Lin Haihai and gestured to her to continue. Lin Haihai’s instinct told her that there must be a story between the empress and the hell flowers. Perhaps she had heard of the legend before too. 


“Red spider lilies are also known as hell flowers. It was said that they grow along the River of Three Crossings. The flower scent was rumored to be magical and could awaken the living memories of the dead.


“According to legend, these flowers only bloomed in the netherworld and that was the only scenery the dead would see. The red spider lilies grew along the path to the netherworld and bloomed in large quantities. From afar, it seemed like a carpet formed from blood and it was also known as “the flaming road” because it was red like fire. It was the only color and scenery on this long path to the netherworld. People would walk towards the netherworld prison under the flowers’ guidance. When the soul passes through the River of Forgetfulness, they would forget everything that happened to them in this lifetime. Their memories would stay at the shore and bloom into pretty and beautiful flowers. 


“As the scripture says, the hell flowers bloom once every century and it would take another century before the petals fall. The flowers and leaves would appear at different times and would never meet. Fate determines the result of the relationship, not love; it decides one’s life and death,” Lin Haihai narrated this heartbreaking legend to the Empress in a melancholic tone.  


“The hell flowers bloom once every century and it would take another century before the petals fall. The flowers and leaves would appear at different times and would never meet. Fate determines the result of the relationship, not love; it decides one’s life and death,” the empress murmured the words and her eyes brimmed with tears, threatening to drop at any moment. 


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