“Are you telling me that you like me?” Lin Haihai wanted to hammer herself to death. I can’t believe I only just realized this!
“Are you an idiot? You couldn’t tell whether I liked you or not?” Yang Hanlun lost a bit of self-control when he heard her words.
“But I’ve always treated you as my younger brother! You’re also getting married in a few days. I thought you like Chen Family’s young miss, no?” Lin Haihai hurriedly explained.
“Younger brother? You’re not even ashamed to say this? Look at how old you are, and how old I am!” Yang Hanlun laughed mockingly, but his laughter couldn’t hide the sorrow within.
This involved a really complicated issue that couldn’t be easily explained. Lin Haihai’s lips parted, but couldn’t find the words.
“You love Imperial Elder Brother, don’t you?” Yang Hanlun looked at her, his heart aching. The hurt and pain in his eyes were too intense, and Lin Haihai didn’t dare reply, nor did she know what to say. She turned her head around in guilt, not having the courage to look at him.
However, Yang Hanlun was furious that she had avoided his gaze. He brought Lin Haihai into his arms and hugged her tightly, lowering his head to capture her lips. Lin Haihai was frightened badly by his domineering aura. She had been forcibly kissed two times in a row on the same night. She was stunned, not knowing how to react. He ignored her apathy as he continued to plunder her lips.
He finally let her go after some time. However, he was incredibly dejected inside. Lin Haihai glanced at him, speechless.
“I shouldn’t have divorced you back then! At least you’d still be my princess consort!” His murmurs revealed his grievances. He’d thought that she would be somewhat upset or sad when she found out he was going to marry Birou; but there wasn’t any such feeling. Not even a tiny bit. She’d seemed even happier than the two parties involved. There was really no place for him in her heart.
“Sixth Prince…” Lin Haihai wanted to comfort him.
“Don’t call me that! It’s disgusting to hear you call me that!” Yang Hanlun angrily cut her off. “How am I worse than my brother in any way? Is it because he’s the emperor? You tried approaching the empress by every possible means so that you could get close to him through her, no? Why do you have to be so greedy, vain, and materialistic? Is wealth and status that important to you?”
Lin Haihai remained silent, her gaze fixated on him. Vapor appeared in her eyes. She hadn’t chosen to like Yang Shaolun. In reality, she had been trying her best to forget him, but it was very difficult. She had to forget him though, otherwise she’d be in even more pain in the future.
“I don’t want to like him either. This is really hard on me too, but you’re still scolding me!” Lin Haihai burst into tears, venting her past sorrow and sadness.
Yang Hanlun gently pulled her into his arms, bitterness spreading in his heart. He always thought that he’d loved Birou, but after encountering Lin Haihai, he realized that he had just been infatuated with Birou. It was a phenomenon that had stemmed from his pursuit of perfection.
Meanwhile, the woman in front of him was full of shortcomings. She had a strange and terrible personality. Not only was she greedy and materialistic, but she also valued wealth as much as her life. Yet, her actions and smiles were deeply imprinted in his heart. When he didn’t see her, he would feel empty and down. Only when he saw her smile in front of him did he feel steady and peaceful. This was what love truly was!
“Forget him, alright?” he begged in a low voice. “Let’s start all over. Give me a chance to wipe away the traces of his existence in your heart.”
“What about Chen Family’s young miss?” Lin Haihai was almost touched, but she suddenly recalled Chen Birou. Wasn’t she still going to be the third person in this relationship? No way!
"We have a prior marital engagement. Can you accept her?” Yang Hanlun knew that it was really selfish of him to have such thoughts. However, he had sworn to protect Chen Birou and marry her when he was at a younger age. In his heart, she was the perfect candidate to be his wife. He had a special sort of feeling towards her.
“Remember when you told me you’d only spend the rest of your life with a single woman? Are you going back on your words now?” Lin Haihai didn’t forget the words he had said back then.
“I will only have you and her in my life. I’m serious. I can’t abandon her, but neither can I abandon you. Teach me. What should I do?” Yang Hanlun said woefully.
Lin Haihai stared at Yang Hanlun with a calm expression as she popped the question, “Can I sleep with your Imperial Elder Brother?”
Yang Hanlun felt blood rushing to his head; his hand raised unknowingly and a slap landed on Lin Haihai’s face, leaving a huge echo in the quiet night.
“Then how am I supposed to accept my husband sleeping by another woman’s side every night?” Lin Haihai caressed her cheek, her tears trickling down. She turned around and dashed out.
Yang Hanlun stared incredulously at his hand and watched Lin Haihai dashed away. Cupping a hand into a fist, he struck hard at the wall, fresh blood dripping down from his knuckles. Every drop of blood felt as though it were dripping from his heart.
The Imperial Garden was full of noise and activity. The socialites had donned their most glamorous robes and dolled up prettily. Joy was written on everyone’s face, the palace maidservants and eunuchs included. Even the empress dowager’s beloved puppy was wagging its tail to blend in with the atmosphere. Yang Shaolun sat on the highest seat, while Empress Chen and his mother sat to each side of him. Down the row, Imperial Consort Li, Imperial Consort Zhuang, Consort Lin, Consort Zhen, Honorable Lady Ling, Honorable Lady Yu, and others that were lower in the imperial harem hierarchy sat in the lower seats.
Yang Shaolun’s heart was in jitters as his gaze never left the Gardens' entrance. The eunuchs and maidservants constantly walked through the entrance, and the figure he sought hadn’t appeared. Chen Birou felt the same as she sat beside the empress dowager. She wore a calm countenance as she listened to the conversations between the women of the imperial harem, and acted as though she were open-minded and was listening to their advice in earnest. However, her impatient gaze exposed the anxiety within her.
After a long while, Lin Haihai finally appeared at the entrance. With her head bowed, she slowly entered the Imperial Garden. Yang Shaolun saw that her eyes were red and teary, her lips swollen and a luscious red. It was blatantly obvious what had just happened. Feeling as though he had been struck by lightning, Yang Shaolun’s mind went blank; his reason had flown out of the window. He tried hard to squeeze out a smile, but to no avail. He had once imagined the intimate scenes between his brother and Lin Haihai, but it could never compare to seeing the aftermath right before him. He felt as if his heart had been ripped into shreds, and his expression turned a shade gloomier.
“Haihai, come over here,” Empress Chen called out. Lin Haihai swiftly lifted her head, but met Yang Shaolun’s gaze right then. She averted her gaze and sat down beside Chen Birou.
Anger boiled within Yang Shaolun. With a quick swoop, he picked up his wine cup and downed its content in a single gulp. The eunuch behind him swiftly refilled the cup, which Yang Shaolun emptied once more.
“Imperial Son, it’s not wise to drink wine on an empty stomach. Have some food first and drink later. Why isn’t Hanlun here yet? We’re all hungry, let’s not wait for him. This Empress Dowager still wants to watch her daughters-in-law perform after the dinner,” the empress dowager chirped joyfully, not noticing the deep sorrow in Yang Shaolun’s eyes.
“Alright. Empress, go over and accompany Imperial Mother. Consort Lin , sit by my side,” Yang Shaolun said icily.
Chen Birou hurriedly stood up and moved over to sit to the other side of Lin Haihai. Empress Chen stood up and took the seat between the empress dowager and Lin Haihai. Consort Lin flashed a coquettish smile as she slowly stood up and sashayed over to take the Empress' seat. Imperial Consort Li’s face paled in anger, while the other imperial concubines threw side glances at Consort Lin.
Lin Haihai felt a hand gripping her heart, though her face remained indifferent, as she watched Consort Lin flirtatiously lean into Yang Shaolun’s embrace. Consort Lin picked up a glass of wine and took a small sip before her brows slightly knitted together as she whined, “Your Majesty, this wine is too strong, this Consort has low alcohol tolerance. Your Majesty, please drink in my stead.” Her soft hands lifted the wine up and brought it to Yang Shaolun’s lips. He chuckled in a low voice and downed it in one gulp, before swiftly landing a kiss on Consort Lin’s delicate and ruby red lips.
Lin Haihai let out a sarcastic chuckle, the bitterness within her aching heart beyond tolerating. She couldn’t help but laugh, her volume increasing with every passing second in order to mask the tears which were threatening to fall.
However, her laughter served as a piercing knife stabbing into the heart of Yang Shaolun, the monarch at the peak of the hierarchy. His face immediately went a shade darker. Rather than flaring up in anger, he feigned a smile. “Consort Lin, you will serve this Emperor tonight.”
“Yes! This Consort understands!” Consort Lin smiled in satisfaction.
“My beloved consort, have some mushrooms; they’re your favorite food. Let this Emperor help you with them.” Yang Shaolun picked up some shiitake mushrooms with his chopsticks and brought them to Consort Lin’s mouth. Empress Chen took in Yang Shaolun’s childish behavior. Right. No matter how astute and intelligent a person is, they will do very childish and stupid things when it comes to love. Under the table, she grabbed onto Lin Haihai’s trembling hands tightly. Lin Haihai’s heart warmed up, but she felt even more aggrieved inside.
Yang Hanlun quietly entered the Imperial Garden and proceeded to sit beside Chen Birou. When Lin Haihai saw him, she recalled the slap and couldn’t hold in her tears any longer. She was already miserable enough having to leave the world she’d originally belonged to. She’d tried her hardest to survive, but had ended up loving someone she shouldn’t have. She’d wanted to forget him, but he was always on her mind.
As for this prideful prince, he’d divorced her the moment she had come to this world. Even more, he’d kept putting her down with humiliating words. She could tolerate all that. He’d forcibly kissed her twice without asking for her permission. Fine, she could also forgive him for that. But even her parents, who had raised her, didn’t have the heart to hit her; so what gave him the right to hit her?
Her tears landed, drop by drop, on the backs of her hands. She picked up her bowl and chopsticks, lowering her head and burying her face into the food. However, her tears didn’t go unnoticed by the emperor seated atop the highest seat. She was laughing, but the moment Imperial Younger Brother arrived, her tears started to flow. Is it because he’s going to marry the young miss of Chen Family? Does she love him that much? Yang Shaolun felt as though someone had just slashed his heart, leaving a deep cut on it with blood seeping out.
“Imperial Younger Brother, here. Let’s offer a toast to Imperial Mother and wish her a happy birthday.” Yang Shaolun lifted his cup and smiled, staring straight at Yang Hanlun.
Yang Hanlun wore an icy expression, staring at Yang Shaolun but saying nothing. After a bit, he picked up his wine cup and said to the empress dowager, “Imperial Mother, this son wishes you a healthy life!” He then downed the cup of wine.
Yang Shaolun laughed and said, “Such great alcohol tolerance. Here, again!” Yang Shaolun then emptied his cup and gestured to the eunuch to refill it.
The empress dowager finally detected that something was amiss. These two brothers were usually not like this. She picked up her cup of wine and smiled. “Here, since the both of you offered this toast to this Empress Dowager, I ought to drink this cup. But after I’m done with this cup, it’s time to embark on the highlight of the night.” The empress dowager then took a small sip from the cup, and every guest present followed suit.
Lin Haihai picked up her wine cup as well and downed it in one gulp. Her face immediately flushed. She wiped her tears dry and smiled. Looking at Empress Chen by her side, she exclaimed, “Your Majesty, here. I’m quite happy tonight. Let’s drink!”
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Sigh. Everyone is so salty.