Chapter 53: The Winner Is...

Empress Chen looked at Lin Haihai, the former's gaze full of concern. Lin Haihai's gaze was unfocused. Is she drunk? But she only drank one cup! Lin Haihai turned around and snatched the wine flask from the eunuch’s hand. Filling the cup to the brim, she said to the empress dowager, "Imperial Mother, I offer you a toast. Here, let's drink a cup." Lin Haihai concluded her sentence and downed the contents in a single gulp, completely oblivious to the empress dowager's astonishment. Fortunately, the wine didn't have a high alcohol content and wasn't enough to cause a wine newbie like her to choke from the burn.

 

Lin Haihai then poured another cup and looked towards Yang Shaolun with an enchanting smile like a flower. "Your Majesty, you are the monarch of the country. I offer you this toast. Come on, let's drink!" She then tilted her head and emptied the cup, not leaving a single drop. Yang Shaolun stared at Lin Haihai with a passionate spark in his eyes. He wanted to hold her tightly in his arms and erase the sadness from her face. After she drank the whole cup, Lin Haihai cast a glance at Yang Shaolun. I’ll never see you again, never!

 

Lin Haihai walked up to Yang Hanlun with unsteady steps. "Your Highness, let's have a drink. I wish for you to bear a son, so…" Before Lin Haihai could finish her sentence, she collapsed on Yang Hanlun. Yang Hanlun held Lin Haihai in his arms and wiped the wine droplets from her lips with much agony. He knew that he wasn't the cause of her abnormality. The pain in his heart turned into helplessness after he caught Chen Birou's accusing glance. Chen Birou's eyes flashed with gloom, but it was spotted by Empress Chen, who then sighed inwardly. I'm afraid things will be chaotic from here on!

 

Everyone present bowed their heads in whispers. They thought that the sixth princess consort was stirring up trouble during the banquet because she couldn't accept the sixth prince taking in a side consort. Empress Chen cried inwardly. This is bad! Tonight's performance is going to fall through!

 

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The melodious sound of guzheng opened the performance. The first one on the stage was Consort Lin [1], displaying her guzheng skills. A bright and cheerful tune followed Consort Lin's leaping fingers. Its rhythm was harmonious and majestic like moving clouds and flowing water. In her sleep, Lin Haihai seemed to hear the crisp sound of beads falling to the ground and bouncing back into the air.

 

Yang Shaolun's gaze was focused on Consort Lin, but only he himself knew if his heart was fixated on her or not. His furtive glances seemed to be in search of something, but yet again, only he himself knew what he was searching for. Meanwhile, Yang Hanlun was on guard like a hedgehog, showing a cold expression to anyone who approached him.

 

Time passed slowly as one performance followed another. Empress Chen looked anxiously at the soundly sleeping Lin Haihai and stomped her feet. It's almost time! Zheng Feng also paced up and down restlessly at the back. They had rehearsed for three days and two nights just for the performance tonight. But in the end, their Xu Xian had fallen asleep.

 

Just when everyone thought they were going to give up the performance, Lin Haihai woke up. She had no choice; the thousand taels of gold in her dream roused her from sleep. She rubbed her eyes and met the Empress Dowager's concerned eyes. She said sheepishly, "I'm sorry, I fell asleep."

 

The empress dowager smiled and answered with a doting expression, "It's alright. If you can’t drink alcohol, don’t drink much."

 

It made Lin Haihai’s heart warm. The old lady was really kind to her.

 

 "Let's go and get ready!" Empress Chen said. Lin Haihai nodded, got up, and led Empress Chen out without looking at either of the two brothers. Yang Shaolun watched Lin Haihai's retreating figure with a melancholy gaze. He picked up his cup and drained it in one gulp, drowning the bitterness in his heart. Yang Hanlun stared at the despondent emperor, his eyes blazing with anger.

 

Empress Chen and Lin Haihai came backstage. Xiao Ju was already waiting for them, neatly dressed. Zheng Feng patted his chest. "God only knows. A moment ago, I thought tonight's performance would be cancelled."

 

Xiao Ju hurriedly asked, "What's the matter?"

 

"Who else but Physician Xu who got drunk. Someone was performing on stage, but how wonderful, she fell sound asleep!" Zheng Feng said jokingly.

 

“Sister, why did you drink wine?” Xiao Ju asked worriedly.

 

"Everyone is happy, the Empress Dowager is happy, so I'm happy too. Thus, I drank more than two cups of wine!" Lin Haihai tried to smooth things over with a laugh.

 

"Stop chatting. Get ready to go on stage and call someone to bring the props out!" Empress Chen urged. Everyone immediately ran over and moved the stage sets of Leifeng Pagoda and Jinshan Temple frantically onto the stage.

 

After everything was put in order, Lin Haihai handed the music score to the musician. A sentimental song, Love on the Ferry, rang out. Xu Xian slowly appeared and sang, “West Lake’s scenery is beautiful. In March, the spring rain is like wine, willow trees are like mist. Fate allowed us to meet each other despite being thousands of miles apart. Otherwise, we wouldn't get to hold each other's hands, despite being opposite each other. It takes a decade of cultivation for two to ride on the same boat, and a lifetime for two to share a pillow!"

 

The audience watched Xu Xian with rapt attention, as the latter displayed subtle grief with every single expression and action. They listened to his song in a low baritone as well as his gentle plea. Then, a lady dressed in pure white, Bai Suzhen, appeared with Xiao Qing, the latter holding an umbrella. At the bank of the West Lake, under the sprinkle of spring rain, this was their first encounter!

 

Yang Shaolun recalled the first time he had seen that brightly smiling woman. He remembered the confident and radiant woman who rescued the person on the street, the dazed and lovely woman in Linhai Hospital, the unrestrained embrace and kiss that day, and the sad and resentful look in her eyes just now. Yang Shaolun was heartbroken.

 

It took a decade of cultivation for two to ride on the same boat, and a lifetime for two to share a pillow. He wasn't the one who had this predestined fate with her. So, they could only ride the same boat, while his imperial brother was the one who could share the same pillow with her. Bitter tears rolled down from his eyes. In this moment, he was not the cold and unyielding emperor, but an ordinary man troubled by love. 

 

"Wife, regardless of whether you are a human or a demon, we will never be apart!" Xu Xian grasped Bai Suzhen's slender hands. His profound and emotional declaration of love moved everyone present.

 

Outside Jinshan Temple, the monks pulled Bai Suzhen and Xu Xian apart and  separated them forcefully. Mournful wails echoed in the night sky. The heartbreaking scene was difficult to bear. Xu Xian knelt down with deep emotion and remorse. He sank to his knees in front of Fa Hai, begging the latter to free his beloved wife. Just that, outside the temple, how could the anxious Bai Suzhen bear the fact that the husband was alone in the temple to suffer from being separated from the world?

 

Therefore, a world shaking flood inundated the Jinshan Temple, causing Bai Suzhen to be consigned to a place of eternal punishment. Fa Hai imprisoned her within the Leifeng Pagoda, and Xu Xian resigned himself to cultivate beside the pagoda. The story slowly came to an end. Xu Xian led Bai Suzhen and the actors for the curtain call.

 

The audience was still immersed in the story, unable to return to their senses for a long time. Although the story didn’t have a happy ending, Xu Xian and Bai Suzhen's deep love, as well as Bai Suzhen and Xiao Qing's sisterly love, deeply moved everyone present. The empress dowager burst into tears and marveled, "Great, great story!" Even the crowd of imperial concubines also showed expressions of wonder, not making any sarcastic remarks out of spite. Chen Birou looked at the despondent Yang Hanlun and clenched her fists, jabbing her fingernails deeply into her flesh. Her eyes were full of malice.

 

Yang Shaolun was extremely shaken. It was as if the ones being forced to separate were him and that cross-dressing Xu Xian. 

 

Lin Haihai picked up a wine cup and walked up to the guests with a smile, speaking brightly. "Today is the Empress Dowager’s birthday. The whole world is joined in celebration. Every one of you is the pillar of our courts, sparing no effort to serve the country. Since Imperial Mother has a low tolerance for alcohol, I'd like to propose a toast on her behalf. If you’d do me the honor, please drain your glass!" Concluding her speech, Lin Haihai took the first drink boldly.

 

Everyone hurriedly stood up, picked up their wine cups and drank bottoms up. "We dare not accept this honor. It’s us who should offer a toast to Your Highness Princess Consort!"

 

“Lords, please don’t stand on ceremony. This Princess Consort still needs to ask you for help in the future." Lin Haihai returned the greeting.

 

Grand Councilor Yan bowed and said, "If Your Highness Princess Consort has any instructions, we are sure to do our best."

 

“Imperial Mother, who do you think should be the champion tonight?" Imperial Consort Li inquired ingratiatingly toward the empress dowager who was smiling at Lin Haihai.

 

When the empress dowager heard this question, she returned to her senses and answered with a smile, "I’m getting confused. Emperor, has the reward been prepared?"

 

“Imperial Mother, it’s already prepared and is just waiting for you to make your decision!" Yang Shaolun looked at Lin Haihai with a forced smile.

 

"Imperial Mother, you must think it through properly!" Lin Haihai, afraid that the empress dowager might not like her performance, tried to give her a hint. Yang Shaolun’s heart, however, felt warm. They both addressed the empress dowager as "Imperial Mother" one after another, as though singing in harmony. 

 

The empress dowager tilted her head to one side, pretending that it was a hard decision to make. Lin Haihai looked at her anxiously and then looked at Empress Chen. Yang Hanlun couldn’t bear to see Lin Haihai being teased by his mother and said, "Imperial Mother, please don't torment her. She’s so anxious that her tears are about to fall!"

 

The empress dowager laughed heartily. "The champions are, of course, Xu Xian and Bai Suzhen!"

 

"Yay!" Lin Haihai shouted loudly. She embraced Empress Chen happily and twirled around. A thousand taels of gold! Empress Chen also smiled. Zheng Feng, Xiao Ju, and the others were so happy that they leapt in the air. After all, they had spent a lot of effort to arrange the play. They’d naturally hoped to win the reward.

 

“Xiao Yuan, bring the gold over!” Yang Shaolun ordered.

 

“Understood!” Xiao Yuan acknowledged the order and exited. After a while, a row of palace maidservants entered, holding scarlet trays covered with brocade cloth. Several dazzling gold ingots were placed on each tray.

 

For the first time, Lin Haihai found that money was really a wonderful thing. At least now, her sad mood had eased. She remembered a sentence she had read before: "If you are wealthy, can you still be afraid of having no man?" Her heart suddenly burst with such pride that she couldn’t help swearing. Damn you, Emperor, Sixth Prince! I can't be bothered with any of you! I’ll go on a blind date tomorrow. Do I have to worry that no one will want me when I have this much money?

 

"Hmph, such greed for money, what a disgrace!" Imperial Consort Li remarked scornfully. Her voice wasn't loud, but the words fell into Lin Haihai's ears. Lin Haihai smiled gently. She didn’t care; it was just a jealous woman.

 

“Exactly. To think that the prestigious Consort Lin [2] insisted on downgrading herself to be an actress in a play. Same goes to Her Majesty, following her around from day till night. I heard that there were only men on that plantation. Isn't Her Majesty afraid to be the butt of jokes if word gets around?” Honorable Lady Ling had been left out in the cold tonight. She was naturally indignant to see Yang Shaolun supporting the empress dowager in front of all that gold, and hurriedly echoed the words of the Imperial Consort Li. Lin Haihai still smiled gently. She didn’t care; it was just an unfavored imperial concubine.

 

"I heard that our Consort Lin often helps men undress. Though she says it's to treat people’s diseases, it’s not so good, after all, is it? She’s a woman. If that spreads out, how can Sixth Prince ever face people again?" Consort Lin, who had been held close by Yang Shaolun tonight, also chimed in. Lin Haihai's smile was a little stiff. She didn’t care; it was just a concubine, a villain intoxicated by success.

 

"Keep all your comments to yourself!" Empress Chen lashed out coldly, an imposing aura surrounding her body. Lin Haihai applauded secretly. Empress Chen is indeed deserving of being the matriarch of the country!

 


1. not Lin Haihai

2. This is referring to Lin Haihai

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houseau3's Thoughts

Yayyyy, Haihai won! :P Screw those jealous women! Take that!