Chapter 34: Carefree Tavern

A beautiful woman walked over with a small bottle of wine. She said, "Dear customer, we only sell a single kind of wine here; we don't sell any accompanying dishes. Please enjoy." Lin Haihai looked at the woman. She doesn't have any makeup on but yet her features are beautiful and delicate. Under her long, nicely-shaped eyebrows, her eyes are calm and deep-set. Her aura is overpowering! In just one glance, Lin Haihai felt that the woman was not ordinary.

 

"Excuse me, lady boss. May I know the name of this wine?" Lin Haihai asked with a faint smile.

 

"It's named Carefree Wine. As to whether one would really be rid of worries after drinking it, it would have to depend on how the consumer sees the world." The lady boss placed the bottle of wine down, smiled and walked away.

 

Lin Haihai picked up the wine bottle; the bottle had jade-like warmness and smoothness. She gracefully poured out two cups of wine before slowly picking one up and taking a tiny sip. The moment the wine came into contact with her lips, a plethora of feelings suddenly consumed her. Her past memories replayed in her mind like movie clips.

 

"Is Grandfather and my parents still okay?" Lin Haihai asked, her voice tainted with a slight tremble. She tried hard to get rid of the sadness in her but the heartache and her longing for her family were like vines, wrapping themselves around her, suffocating her, rendering her unable to think.

 

"Teacher suddenly aged a lot. Although your dad appears to be alright and commutes between the hospital and home daily, I have seen him crying in secret in the washroom. Your mother coops herself up at home every day and doesn't leave the house. She would flip through the photo album with photos of you and cry every single time she sees it." Li Junyue tried to calmly narrate what he saw at his teacher's house.

 

Lin Haihai burst out in tears. She had imagined countless times of the situation back at home. After all, they were a family of doctors and would most probably have an incisive perspective of life and death. All of them, her wise and knowledgeable grandfather, her tough and confident father, her optimistic and cheerful mother, were in misery over her death. Yet, despite having all the abilities within her, she had no ways of returning to their world to wipe away the sorrows between their brows.

 

Li Junyue's eyes became blurred with tears. He lifted a wine cup and downed its contents. Reaching out a hand to wipe the tears off Lin Haihai's cheeks, he continued, "Teacher called me then and said you had died in a car accident when you were visiting an outpatient. My first reaction was that Teacher must have been making an outrageous joke. But I found out very shortly that it wasn't a joke but rather the harsh and cruel reality. I rushed to the airport overnight but wasn't able to get on a flight, so I stayed at the airport the whole night. It was still very cold in Africa then. I sat alone in the airport, staring blankly into space and imagining that you would suddenly appear and cover my eyes from behind me, asking me to guess who you were. Just like how you did when we were younger."

 

At this point, Li Junyue was starting to choke on his words. There was a burning desire within him to pour all his feelings and thoughts out.

 

"By the time I was back, you were just about to be laid to rest. I rushed to the cemetery and the icy cold tombstone stood upright. Your colleagues from the hospital, the children from the orphanage, your neighbours, everyone were bawling their hearts out. Yu Qing told me that you didn't have to go for the outpatient visit that day as that old man was at the brink of death; it was fruitless even if you went. But you said that old man would leave in peace if you went. So you left, but came back lying in the ambulance," Li Junyue couldn't continue. It was a painful memory. Even though she was alive and well before him, it couldn't negate the pain he felt from that memory because it had actually happened.

 

Lin Haihai sobbed even harder. Her loved ones and those who loved her were consumed by sadness at the funeral and yet, here she was, wandering in an unknown space and time, never being able to return.

 

Li Junyue reached out and gently held her head. Lin Haihai then buried her head into his chest and cried her heart out.

 

At the entrance, Yang Hanlun watched the both of them cry in each other's arms with a dejected expression. To any onlookers, they were lovers that were reunited after a long time. He stood up with a miserable smile before he turned and exited the place. Just as he took his first step, a question popped up in his head. Why am I so upset? The one I loved has always been Birou! Greedy and materialistic women like Lin Yuguan have always been the type I despise. Though, undeniably, she has brilliant medical skills and looks captivating when she is engrossed in treating her patient. However, that cannot negate her numerous flaws! But what is this inexplicable sadness in my heart?

 

The lady boss sat at the counter, mixing her wine attentively. Her peripheral vision, intentionally or unintentionally, lingered between the three of them. Her faint smile remained on her visage. 

 

Yang Hanlun dejectedly arrived at the main entrance of Chen Residence. He was desperate to see Birou now. He needed Birou to tell him that nothing had changed. But now that he was standing before the main entrance, he suddenly didn't dare to step in.

 

"Brother Lun, what are you doing?" Chen Birou looked questioningly at Yang Hanlun pacing back and forth before the entrance. Yang Hanlun looked up to see the exquisite and perfect face staring at him with a confused expression. Chen Birou's soft spoken voice was embedded with slight shyness. Birou, the woman I have wanted since young! His mind was suddenly somewhat certain; his belief and love for many years would never lose to temporal confoundment. He smiled and his gaze filled with tender loving, "Why did you leave the residence again? Didn't I tell you to instruct the servants if you have any errands to run? What if you run into danger?"

 

"Brother Lun, you don't have to worry. I have servants accompanying me, nothing will happen." Specks of rosiness crept onto Chen Birou's fair face. Though she was long used to Yang Hanlun's care and concern, her heart would always inevitably swell with sweetness.

 

"Even if that's the case, I'm still worried. I really wish to marry you soon so that I can protect you everyday." Yang Hanlun suddenly felt like marrying Birou immediately in order to calm his uncertain feelings. He had already promised to spend the rest of his life with Birou and there was no room for a third party in their relationship; even if she was his life benefactor. My uncertain feelings are probably because Lin Yuguan has once saved my life. Now that her ex-lover is back, I should let her seek her own happiness. 

 

"But does Consort Lin agree to it?" Chen Birou's alluring face was cast in a shade of gloom. Her disheartened expression tugged at Yang Hanlun's heart.

 

"We are only husband and wife in name. Don't worry. She has agreed to it, Imperial Mother has agreed to it too." Actually, they were no longer husband and wife in name, but for some unknown reason, he was unwilling to voice out this fact.

 

"Really? I heard that Consort Lin is a fair lady. Don't you like her?" Chen Birou asked this question against her conscience. She knew all along that Lin Yuguan was just a weak and timid daughter of a concubine. Don't mention being well-educated and propriety-minded, she didn't even know basic etiquette. Lin Yuguan was a princess consort that couldn't portray her status appropriately. Hence, Birou was never worried that Yang Hanlun would fall for her.

 

"Why would you think that way? How would I fall in love with her?" Yang Hanlun turned his head away and replied sheepishly. Chen Birou, with her head lowered, didn't notice his awkward gaze. She smiled blissfully upon hearing Yang Hanlun's guarantee.

 

"Birou, my feelings for you will never change. All along, you’re the only one I dream of marrying." Yang Hanlun comforted her. Yet, even he himself couldn't differentiate if the words were meant for Chen Birou or a reminder to himself.

 

"Brother Lun, let's not stand outside and talk. Let's go in. Father would like to see you," said Chen Birou with a smile. She had always been confident and hence didn't respond to Yang Hanlun's proclamation of his love for her. Regardless of her attitude, Yang Hanlun would still love her the same. Just like the time when he had to marry Lin Yuguan. Though their marriage was bestowed upon them by the empress dowager, it pained Yang Hanlun's heart so much when she cried a single tear before him that he swore to find a chance to divorce Lin Yuguan. Chen Birou knew that he would stick to his words. But since their marriage was bestowed by the empress dowager, he couldn't divorce Lin Yuguan any time soon. It was fine. She could wait, she had the time and patience.

 

"Okay, let's go in. I happened to have something to discuss with Minister Chen too." Yang Hanlun was reminded of the issues at the borders and his brows were instantly furrowed. His trusted guard sent back a pigeon letter and said that General Chen rushed back to the capital overnight after receiving a tip-off, but no one knew the identity of the sender. This matter was too dubious. General Chen guarded the borders all year long and would only return if the emperor sent an imperial decree. It was possible that he came back for personal matters since there was no fighting at the borders and military officials could return to the capital city to report on their circumstances. However, judging from General Chen's character, the chances of him returning for personal matters were low as he was a true out-and-out soldier. He would stay at the borders to train the troops. Only in the desert where smoke rose was he able to find a sense of belonging.

 

General Chen had once said that without the emperor's imperial decree, he would never ever return to the political courts. He was just a rough-neck and straightforward. He was direct in his words and inevitably offended many. Hence, many officials shunned him and treated him as an outcast. He was extremely tired of it and hence prior to his departure to defend against Rong's invasion, he proclaimed during the morning court assembly that regardless if he won or lost the battle, he would stay at the borders forever and wouldn't return unless the emperor summoned him back. After receiving the general seal from the emperor, he spent two years to drive Rong's army back to their homeland and signed a peaceful coexistence armistice agreement with them. From then on, Rong would pay yearly tribute to the Xing Dynasty to express their sincerity.

 

When the news travelled back from the borders, the emperor was extremely delighted and sent a decree for General Chen to return to the capital city to receive his rewards. General Chen only stayed for a mere few days before he rushed back to the borders. He even moved his family to the town beside the borders. For the past two years, he had never returned even once. Even during the empress dowager's birthday last year, he only sent a subordinate to return with a pot of wind blossom flowers from Mongolia. The empress dowager loved it so much and promptly instructed the servants to plant it in the imperial gardens. Unfortunately, the flowers couldn't adapt to the humidity and warmth of the southern regions and withered in less than a month.

 

But now, why? Why did he come back to the capital city alone? He received a tip-off before he left? Who sent the tip-off? 

 

"Paying respects to the Sixth Prince." Before Yang Hanlun could reach the main hall, Minister Chen had come out to receive him.

 

"Minister Chen, there's no need to stand on ceremony." Yang Hanlun was somewhat respectful to his future father-in-law.

 

"Sixth Prince, please go to the study, this official has something to discuss with you," Minister Chen enigmatically leaned towards Yang Hanlun's ear and whispered. A glint flashed across Yang Hanlun's eyes before he turned to say to Chen Birou, "I have something to discuss with Minister Chen. Birou, why don't you return to your room first? I will come look for you later." 

 

Chen Birou bowed her head in affirmation, portraying herself as a graceful and submissive woman. Minister Chen nodded in satisfaction. This daughter is my final trump card; there's no room for mistakes!

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