"So according to Your Highness, what spurred General Chen to suddenly return to the capital city?" Minister Chen asked, as he stroked his beard and gave Yang Hanlun a thoughtful gaze.
"From what I know about General Chen, he wouldn't come back unless Imperial Elder Brother summoned him or he received a secret edict," Yang Hanlun said affirmatively.
"General Chen got ambushed the moment he returned. Moreover, the assailants are surely highly skilled. There are few men in the world who can surpass General Chen in martial arts. And yet, I heard from Imperial Physician Shangguan that General Chen only suffered from some common sword wounds. Other than his head injury, there were no other signs suggesting that he was injured by a highly-skilled individual," Minister Chen analyzed thoroughly.
"Yes, I have also seen his injuries. It looks like his attacker was someone who doesn't know any martial arts and knocked him down easily. He wouldn't be incapacitated just from the sword wounds on his body," Yang Hanlun cocked his head, his brows furrowed together. This was a really huge mystery.
"This official discovered something interesting during the investigation," Minister Chen suddenly blurted out, shooting Yan Hanlun a look.
"Oh? What is it?" Yang Hanlun immediately sat up straight.
"Someone witnessed General Chen holding up a wounded old lady in the dwarf tree forest at the city's outskirts. There was a young girl trailing behind them too. They exited the forest and were headed for the city."
"General Chen could have been doing a good deed and saving the wounded old lady. The young girl behind them is probably the old lady's family member," Yang Hanlun replied.
"The problem is, the old lady is a citizen of Rong. She is dressed in the robes of Rong's Imperial Family," Minister Chen revealed shockingly. Yang Hanlun was startled. Though Rong had reached an amicable agreement with them, it was unusual for members of the imperial family to have dealings with each other.
It was stated in the agreement that if members of the imperial family of Rong wished to enter Xing, they would have to send an envoy and inform the imperial courts. Xing would then treat them as esteemed guests and receive them with courtesy. But the courts hadn't received any such notice as of late. Then who was this old lady? Why did she enter the capital city without going through an envoy?
"From whom did you hear this information? How did you find out about this?" Yang Hanlun stared at Minister Chen solemnly. This matter was of utmost importance and they had to be sure that the news was from a reliable source.
"Your Highness, please rest assured. It's definitely from a reliable source. This official's steward personally witnessed it. He even greeted General Chen, but General Chen ignored him and continued striding onward as he held onto the old lady. When the steward returned, he didn't inform this official. It was only when His Majesty passed the orders for this official to investigate this matter that he told this official."
"Steward Chen personally witnessed it?" Yang Hanlun knew of Steward Chen. He was a man of the pugilistic world with knowledge of some martial arts. A few years ago, Minister Chen saved him, and to return the favor, he willingly became a servant in the Chen Residence. Yang Hanlun had seen him a few times; he was a true man indeed! If he said he witnessed it personally, then there were probably no qualms of it.
"As sure as fate!" Minister Chen nodded.
"Have you reported this to His Majesty?"
"His Majesty was injured so I haven't been able to report this to him," Minister Chen answered with a thoughtful look.
"Hmm, I will enter the palace to meet His Majesty now," Yang Hanlun said with a solemn expression.
"This official shall trouble Your Highness then."
"Farewell." Yang Hanlun turned on his heels and was about to exit when Minister Chen's voice sounded from behind him, "I heard that His Majesty went to eradicate the bandits this time because of the Sixth Princess Consort, is this true?"
Yang Hanlun looked clearly startled. Who spread this out? He turned back calmly, "From what I know, His Majesty personally went out as the bandits at Heavenly Wolf Mountain ran rife. His Majesty saw that despite sending troops numerous times, the bandits were still not eradicated. In a fit of anger, he ordered Xiao Yuan to gather his troops and headed out personally. Minister Chen, where did you hear that from?"
"This official just caught onto the rumors and asked in passing. May Your Highness not take this to heart." Minister Chen faked a smile, but the flash of panic in his eyes didn't go unnoticed by Yang Hanlun.
"It's fine to say these words before me, but if someone were to bring this up to His Majesty, it would be a huge crime. So Minister Chen, it'd be better to speak cautiously." Yang Hanlun tried to suppress the displeasure in his heart despite not knowing what it was that evoked such feelings in him.
"This official understands. Your Highness, are you going to find Birou now? Please go ahead," Minister Chen replied with a pretentious smile on his face.
"Forget it, I will come and find her another day. I have to enter the palace now. Farewell." For some unknown reason, Yang Hanlun suddenly didn't want to see Birou anymore. Was it because Minister Chen just brought her up in passing? Did Imperial Elder Brother really disregard the dangers and his identity as the emperor to eradicate some insignificant bandits just for her? Even if that were the case, so what? She's already my ex-wife. I am not in the position to question them.
"Farewell, Your Highness." A reproachful look appeared briefly on Minister Chen's face; his gaze was coolly calculating and shrewd.
Inside Kun'ning Palace
"Reporting to Your Majesty, Sixth Princess Consort is outside the hall, seeking entrance," Xiao Yuan reported. Yang Shaolun was seated at his work desk looking through the court memorials and felt elation in his heart. However, he maintained a poker face and placed his brush down, "Let her in."
"Summoning Sixth Princess Consort!" Xiao Yuan raised his voice and announced.
Lin Haihai frowned slightly, a chilling wave of disgust washing over her heart. She was reminded of the time when she was in medical college. The girls' dormitory was on the seventh floor, and if there were students on the ground floor looking for someone, they would call their names out loud. As a result, students would all stretch their heads out to take a look until the student whose name was called came forward and answered. Only then would everyone chuckle and return to their rooms. Right now, Lin Haihai felt as though she were back in the girls' dormitory with her name being shouted out loud.
"Consort Lin? His Majesty is summoning you," the maidservant at the entrance saw that Lin Haihai was in a daze and kindly reminded her. Lin Haihai came around and thanked the maidservant with a smile, "Oh, got it. Thank you." The maidservant blushed and bowed her head, "Consort Lin, you are too kind."
Yang Shaolun watched as Lin Haihai entered the hall and stood rooted with a solemn expression. His heart sank. She seems to have gotten thinner; her face looked sharper than how it was when we first met. (Author: Dear readers, please don't think that something happened to our MC; she stood rooted because she was trying to recall the proper way of greeting an emperor!)
Shit, I can't remember. I think I'm supposed to kneel, but I'm also a member of the imperial family so I don't have to kneel. If I just bow to him, will it do? Or do I have to curtsy, the way ancient people did during the Qing Dynasty? What should I do? He's the emperor after all, he has the same standing as ***.  Moreover, the emperors in ancient times placed utmost emphasis on formalities. There was this line that repeatedly appeared in palace dramas, "Brazen! How dare you be rude to His Majesty!"
Three imaginary vertical lines appeared by the side of Lin Haihai's temple. I should have asked him before coming. I didn't have to greet him the first few times. The first two times, I didn't know of his identity. The next few times, he was unconscious, hence there was no need for formalities. But now, he's sitting there upright with an overbearing and dignified aura. How will I be able to converse with him casually?
"Why is Sixth Princess Consort seeking an audience with this Emperor?" Yang Shaolun broke the silence. He saw that Lin Haihai seemed to be hiding something and holding herself back, despite clearly wanting to say something. Hence, he asked.
Lin Haihai heaved a sigh of relief and her face broke into a smile, as brilliant as the peach blossoms that bloomed in spring. Yang Shaolun averted his gaze; he was afraid that he would fall deeper for her.
"Your Majesty, I'm still worried about your injury so I came to check. Come over here." Lin Haihai was overjoyed that she escaped from the dilemma and didn't have to greet him.
"This Emperor is fine, there's no need to check on it," Yang Shaolun replied awkwardly. Though she had already seen his body previously, he was unconscious then. But now, how could he…
However, Lin Haihai had no idea what Yang Shaolun was thinking in his mind, and thought that he felt her medical skills were bad. Hence, she said, "I know my medical skills are not as superb as the imperial physicians. But, you are my patient and I have to be responsible for you till the end. It would be troublesome if you got an infection or your wound didn't heal properly."
Yang Shaolun pondered for a minute before he spoke, "Alright then, this Emperor shall trouble Sixth Princess Consort." He then gestured to Xiao Yuan to come over and help him over to where Lin Haihai was. The moment he stood up, Lin Haihai dashed forward and helped him up by holding his arm. "Your wounds are deep and the poison has just been cleared from your body. You shouldn't overwork yourself; it's detrimental to your health! You should lie on the bed and rest for a few days. As the saying goes, 'It takes a hundred days for the bones to knit and tendons to heal.' Look at you, your wounds have yet to heal and you are already up working; you are so disobedient!" The nagging genes Lin Haihai had inherited from her mother were shown on full display; she nagged unceasingly as they walked.
Yang Shaolun kept quiet. From the moment Lin Haihai held onto his arm, he could only feel bliss overwhelming his heart. The medical fragrance on her wafted past him now and then; her soft hands held him up strongly. She nagged nonstop and occasionally threw him a sardonic glare. Yang Shaolun smiled. Despite knowing that the bliss he felt was just temporal self-delusion, he was satisfied. He gestured to Xiao Yuan to leave the hall. Xiao Yuan frowned slightly but could only heed his orders.
His Majesty has really fallen for the Sixth Princess Consort! This spells trouble! Xiao Yuan retreated silently and guarded the door.
"Your Majesty, can I ask you a question?" Lin Haihai helped Yang Shaolun take off his robes when she was reminded of what Xiao Yuan said earlier. She felt the need to clarify it.
"What is it?" Yang Shaolun carefully turned sideways so that she could remove the dressing.
"Did you go and eradicate the bandits because you heard they abducted me?" Lin Haihai asked with eyes wide. If it were true, then she would be the indirect cause of his wound and poisoning.
"Of course not. The bandits had long been a menace to the people. This Emperor has sent men to eradicate them countless times but to no avail. Hence, this Emperor gathered my personal troops to attack them and rid the nation of this evil existence." Yang Shaolun's grandiose and high-sounding words convinced Lin Haihai. She heaved a sigh of relief and replied, "I thought I landed you in this state. I have been feeling so guilty!"
Yang Shaolun didn't respond. He felt somewhat dejected by her words. She has no feelings for me after all. She was worried about me out of guilt and not because she harbored any feelings for me. But, what can I ask of her? They met at the wrong time; there was nothing Yang Shaolun could do about it. From the very beginning, he was the only one who harbored something more for her, while Lin Haihai had long forgotten the man who helped save another with her on the streets. She only recognized him because of his guard. Even his guard, Zheng Feng, left a deeper impression on her than him.
Yang Shaolun closed his eyes and felt her soft hands gently pressing on his wound. He held in the pain, unwilling to let Lin Haihai see the weak side of him. Lin Haihai checked the wounds; they were gradually healing. However, due to the slightly humid weather, there was moisture on the wounds which would be not conducive for recovery. She circulated her energy slightly as her hand brushed against the wound. The moisture evaporated instantly and the wound turned into a dark scar.
"The wound doesn't need to be bandaged anymore. Place the medicine on it at night for a single shichen.  Remember to not let your wound come into contact with water. Don't eat spicy food or food that can cause inflammation. Also, refrain from bedroom activities for a month." Lin Haihai instructed Yang Shaolun as she would a normal patient. When Yang Shaolun heard the last sentence, his eyes widened with a passionate gaze.
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