Rain began to fall, water droplets mixed with hail striking the windowsill. This severe convective weather was a hallmark of the southern regions. Trees bowed in the strong winds, their broken branches twirling about on the ground. Yang Shaolun took in the sight irritably as he periodically ordered his servants to check if Xiao Yuan was back yet. Just when he felt as though a whole lifetime had passed by, Xiao Yuan entered, drenched from top to bottom. "Paying respects to Your Majesty!" Xiao Yuan hollered as he got down on one knee.
"Rise. How's the situation?" Yang Shaolun asked anxiously.
"Replying to Your Majesty. The surgery is a success. General Chen is safe for now and will probably be waking up within the next two days. But there were really assassins while the surgery was ongoing. To be on the safe side, Sixth Prince has gathered more men to protect General Chen. Please be at ease, Your Majesty," Xiao Yuan reported truthfully.
Yang Shaolun heaved a sigh of relief. She really has such miraculous medical skills that allowed her to cut open someone's head and sew it back together. He could feel indescribable joy in his heart, as though Lin Haihai's competence would give him glory.
"Xiao Yuan, you have brought good news for this Emperor. Great! Rewards are due!" Yang Shaolun announced with joy.
"Thank you, Your Majesty. But…" Xiao Yuan hesitated momentarily.
The smile on Yang Shaolun's face slowly faded. "Speak, what else?"
"Consort Lin has been abducted by the men in black. They had a sword held against her neck. The Sixth Prince and his men couldn't rescue Her Highness. They lost track of the kidnappers and are now searching hard."
Yang Shaolun felt as though he had just been drenched with ice. His body shivered as though he was the one who had just returned from being in the rain. He stared at Xiao Yuan and monotonously spat out three words: "Prepare the carriage."
"Your Majesty, please take care of your health! You are still wounded!" Xiao Yuan was taken aback and hurriedly tried to dissuade Yang Shaolun.
"I'm only repeating myself once again. Prepare the carriage." Yang Shaolun reiterated as he stared at Xiao Yuan, his red eyes filled with despair and pain.
Xiao Yuan was moved. Right, how could a weak woman survive having fallen into the hands of cruel and vicious bandits? He could sense Yang Shaolun's feelings, but… Xiao Yuan sighed in his heart as he acknowledged the order and exited.
Harsh droplets of rain crashed onto the roof of the horse carriage like small pebbles. The streets were void of people. A strong gust of wind blew past, stirring up debris in its wake. It picked up a broken bronze plate and smashed it against a wall; the plate’s crashing and banging echoed in the rain.
Yang Shaolun sat in the horse carriage. The horse's gait was unsteady, making the ride bumpy; the rain had probably obscured its vision. As Yang Shaolun furrowed his brows together in pain, Xiao Yuan couldn't help but be worried and asked promptly, "Your Majesty, is the wound hurting?"
"This Emperor is alright and can endure." Yang Shaolun indeed endured the pain as beads of sweat trickled down his forehead.
"Please take a Pain-relieving Pill first. We are still quite a distance away." Xiao Yuan took out a white porcelain bottle from under his shirt, poured out a fire-red pill, and fed it to Yang Shaolun. Yang Shaolun gathered his strength to swallow it down. A few moments later, a rosy color gradually returned onto his face.
"Xiao Yuan, are you thinking that this Emperor shouldn't fall in love with Physician Lin?" asked Yang Shaolun grudgingly as he leaned feebly against the waist cushion of the carriage.
Xiao Yuan was startled. He hesitated for a brief moment before he replied, "Your Majesty, Physician Lin is the Sixth Princess Consort. Their marriage was bestowed to them by Her Highness Empress Dowager. The Sixth Prince is very concerned about his wife. If he knew of Your Majesty's feelings, it would cause unnecessary troubles."
"This Emperor knows. This Emperor has been trying to control himself every single passing second. Xiao Yuan, if she is fine, I will keep my distance from her from now on. She will always only be my sister-in-law." Yang Shaolun's words were embedded with deep melancholy, and his promise seemed uncertain.
"Your Majesty, it's been hard on you." Xiao Yuan's eyes reddened. The Emperor, who sat at the pinnacle of the nation’s hierarchy, was as helpless over love as any ordinary man.
Yang Shaolun closed his eyes and kept quiet. He could only see that bright and vibrant smiling face. He couldn't imagine her current circumstances. His heart was slowly hardening in despair and coldness.
"It was at River View Tavern that I first saw her. At that time, I found her familiar, so I took a few more glances at her. Now that I think about it, it was probably when she entered the palace to thank Imperial Mother for the marriage. But she was different from how she was in the palace. Her smile was like the warmth of March, and could disperse all the darkness and violence in one's heart. And yet, she was as pure as an innocent child. I followed her; I didn't know why she started crying and became sad. At that moment, I felt as though the skies had turned grey, because I could no longer see any liveliness from her countenance.
After that, we met that patient who fainted on the streets. She decisively performed emergency treatment on him. The confidence and vigor on her face incurred everyone's admiration; I was no exception. We exchanged our names, and that's how we came to know each other. After returning to the palace, I would often recall her gaze, her smile, the memory of us saving that man together.
But when we met again, she had already forgotten about me. Even when she remembered me after, it was because she saw Zheng Feng and hence was reminded of me.
When I realized that she was the sixth princess consort whom Imperial Mother has bestowed to my sixth brother, I felt an excruciating pain in my heart. Xiao Yuan, perhaps you can never understand such pain that tears at your heart and soul. I already thought that we had met too late, but at least we found each other. But I didn't know that I was so late that I could never make up for lost time!"
Yang Shaolun's voice was empty, overflowing with helplessness, yearning, and sorrow. At this moment, he wasn't the emperor, but an ordinary man tortured by love.
Xiao Yuan didn't speak a single word. Honestly, there was nothing he could say as well. This was all due to the hand of fate!
Silence fell in the horse carriage. Yang Shaolun caressed the wound on his body. Her scent, her warm touch lingered on that spot. Lin Haihai, where exactly are you?
Lin Haihai looked at the group of men in black before her with satisfaction. They all had a conscience, and had only broken the law under the instruction of others. As they hadn't committed any grave mistakes, it would only be right to guide them to turn over a new leaf and contribute to society.
"I will find a place for all of you as soon as possible, but before that, find a place in the vicinity and stay there for the time being. Don't let your master find you! Judging from your words, they must be ruthless and full of ambition." Lin Haihai had asked them to tell their story and found out that they had been under the control of an organization named "Black Tower". There were many martial artists with unknown levels of mastery who served the organization with their lives. All of them had been kidnapped at a very young age and sent to Black Tower for training; many of them had no knowledge of their parents' identities.
However, Wood had been injured during a mission once and was rescued by a woodcutter. When the woodcutter treated Wood, he saw the star-shaped birthmark on Wood, and realized Wood was his six-year-old son who had been abducted then. The woodcutter and his wife naturally cried tears of joy, and Wood had a vague recollection of the house being where he lived when he was younger. That was the story of their family's reunion. However, Black Tower couldn’t know of this, or Wood's parents would definitely meet their demise. An assassin with emotional attachments would never be successful.
And yet, Wood hadn’t hidden this matter from his brothers who stuck with him through life and death; everyone was happy for him. Shortly before, Wood's mother had been critically ill and Lin Haihai had miraculously cured her. When Wood had last gone to visit them, his father specially instructed his son to remember Physician Lin's kindness. This was how Lin Haihai took this group of assassins under her wing.
The torrential rain poured down, crashing onto Lin Haihai. With no way to hide, she could only use her qinggong to leave the forest first before thinking of her next move. But she couldn't just return like this; they would surely suspect something, as she wasn't injured at all and was in the pink of health. Although she was drenched, she was completely safe and sound; it definitely didn't look as though she had been abducted. She had to find a convincing excuse to explain how she was able to return safe and sound.
Just then, a horse carriage came galloping in her direction. A plan hatched in Lin Haihai's mind as she stumbled and ran towards it, shouting, "Help! Help!" The carriage driver was startled and immediately pulled on the reins. The horse reared up on its hind legs and neighed, halting right in front of Lin Haihai.
"What are you doing? Do you have a death wish!? That was very dangerous!" The carriage driver was frightened out of his wits and lashed out. He only hoped that he hadn't startled his passengers.
"What happened?" Xiao Yuan lifted the curtain up as the carriage stopped.
Lin Haihai squinted her eyes. It's Xiao Yuan! She immediately cried out, "Sir Xiao, it's me, it's me!" Xiao Yuan couldn't see clearly as it was dark, and the rain drowned out Lin Haihai's voice. He could only see a woman shouting at him.
However, Yang Shaolun, who was in the carriage, heard her clearly. He suddenly stretched his neck out of the carriage, upon which Xiao Yuan immediately pulled the curtains down and said, "Your Majesty, don't get wet."
Yang Shaolun struggled as he said, "Quick, get her up, it's her." Xiao Yuan promptly lifted the curtains up and squinted to have a clearer look. Other than Lin Haihai, who else could it be?
He shouted, "Consort Lin, quickly get into the carriage!" Lin Haihai kicked against the ground and leapt up into the carriage. The carriage driver stared at Lin Haihai with his mouth wide open. She's actually a princess consort? I scolded her just now! Will she hold it against me?
Lin Haihai entered the carriage, drenched from head to toe. When she saw Yang Shaolun, she couldn't help but feel an unexplainable sense of comfort and joy within her. Her cheeks turned a shade rosier as she thought of what had happened in the palace. However, she was instantly reminded of his torn wound and got worried.
"Why did you come out? Your wound hasn't completely recovered yet!" The concern in her voice belied her reproachful words.
Yang Shaolun was overjoyed to see that Lin Haihai was safe and sound. Yet, he immediately recalled what he had just told Xiao Yuan. If she is fine, I will keep my distance from her from now on. She will always only be my sister-in-law. Almost as soon as he had said that, she returned. Did the Heavens hear his promise? His heart ached, but he maintained a calm countenance.
"My injuries are fine. What about you? Why are you outside in such a huge downpour?" Yang Shaolun pretended that he didn't know she had been abducted.
Lin Haihai scratched her head and replied sheepishly, "I was just taken hostage." She sounded as though she was talking about what she had just eaten for dinner.
"Are you alright? How did you manage to escape?" Yang Shaolun feigned surprise as he asked.
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