“It doesn’t matter if I love him. He’s married. I’m not gonna share my husband with a whole bunch of women as a latecomer, am I?” Lin Haihai sat down, vexed and reluctant to talk.
“Did you make it clear to him? He’s only human. He has thoughts and feelings, as prone to sadness and broken-heartedness as anyone!” Lin Junyue disapproved of her feelings for the emperor. The dazzling and marvelous imperial palace wasn’t for her. Still, there was no place for indecisiveness in a relationship. If they weren’t right for each other, it was better for her to tell him sooner.
“I told him last night, and he accepted it. He didn’t seem upset to me. He even summoned someone to serve him in his chamber.” Lin Haihai kept her gaze down, looking sullen.
“So you decided to drink?”
“Yes. Shouldn’t I be allowed to get drunk after a heartbreak? Yu Qing said that getting wasted is the best remedy for that.” Lin Haihai tried her best to smile, but her smile wilted before it could even fully bloom.
“Silly, forgetting a heartbreak isn’t something you do on purpose. Why do you have to make things so hard and painful for yourself? You’re better off not seeing that man. Go back to the mountains. As long as you don’t plead for my release, he’ll let me go in two days.” Li Junyue decided for her.
“Really?” Lin Haihai stared at him doubtfully.
“Have I ever lied to you? Well, I have, but that was a long time ago!” Li Junyue recalled that he did lie to her frequently in the past, but that was because she was too gullible.
“Fine. I’ll head back to the hospital first and wait for you. Once you’re released, I’ll go to the mountains. It’s going to be Chen Birou and Yang Hanlun’s wedding in a few days. At the very least, I should have a drink at their wedding before leaving!” Lin Haihai was a bit annoyed. There would be a lot of people that day. Her injury wouldn’t have healed by then. People were going to talk.
“Good. Just stay in the hospital and diagnose patients for the next few days. It’s the peak of the summer right now. There are lots of patients, some suffering from serious chronic diseases, and many others from minor issues. It’s worrying.” Li Junyue wore a concerned look.
“Okay, be careful. If something really does happen, I’ll save you. But unless you have no other choices, don’t open fire, understand?” Lin Haihai warned.
Li Junyue nodded. He understood what was at stake. If he did hurt someone, he wouldn’t be able to stay in this ancient era anymore. Xiao’hai would have to send him away crying. Lin Haihai hugged Li Junyue and choked out, “Stupid Bear, I’m thankful that I have you. Otherwise, I wouldn’t even know how to go on!”
Li Junyue patted her back, feeling a pang in his heart. As they grew up together, her smile had always been the brightest and most splendid he’d ever seen. Even when she encountered something that saddened her, she still smiled and waved it past her. But now, there was deep worry in her eyes, which broke his heart. The little girl had grown up, matured by love when no one was looking. Would she ever be able to smile as brightly again?
Weak, pulsating candlelight cast a sensuous glow on the sweating couple. Canopy hung low. All over the floor was a mess of scattered clothes. Wine bottles filled the table with no discernible patterns. The wine cups had fallen to the floor. It was clear how feverish the copulation had been.
Yang Shaolun held the woman beside him tightly as if scared that she would suddenly disappear. He murmured, “Don’t go, don’t leave me!” The woman responded softly in his ears, “I won’t leave, Your Majesty. I love you!”
That calmed him down, and Yang Shaolun fell into a deep sleep. He dreamed of a woman with a brilliant smile telling him, “I love you, I love you! I won’t ever leave you!” He smiled happily in his dream.
Consort Zhen glanced at the emperor soundly asleep with great satisfaction. She was about to sleep tonight when the emperor suddenly graced her with his presence. She was surprised and delighted. She hurriedly ordered the servants to prepare food and drinks. However, the emperor kept on drinking nonstop with a terrifying and angry expression. It must’ve been some court matters, she mused. She had thought that he would lose his temper, but he ended up drunk. Then, he hugged her tightly and kept on saying, “I really thought that you love me. I have always held tight to this belief. But it turns out that everything is a lie. A lie!”
His passionate kisses landed on her face and neck like stars falling down the sky. This wasn’t the first time she had served him. But it was different this time. The emperor treated her carefully and cherished her like she was a treasure. Happiness enveloped her. He’s always loved me. Why didn’t he tell me sooner then? Why did he have to treat me so indifferently in the past?
If he had told her earlier, she wouldn’t have gotten involved with her cousin. But it wasn’t too late now. She’d cut ties with her cousin. She mustn’t betray the emperor again. She held the man sleeping soundly before her tight and sunk into a dream.
Sunshine shone on the bed from outside the window. Yang Shaolun held his groggy head with confusion flashing through his eyes. Then, he looked carefully around. The tacky and luxurious room told him he was in Consort Zhen’s Lan’zhi Palace. He looked over to see Consort Zhen still sleeping soundly. Her beautiful face shone with happiness. Was it because of his affection? To the imperial concubines, happiness was as simple as that. He’d been too cold to them. It never occurred to him that he should treat them differently.
It wasn’t until he’d been hurt by another woman that he realized he shouldn’t hurt a person even if he didn’t love them. His indifference must have hurt the women in his harem. He sighed and reached over to brush Consort Zhen’s hair. However, that woman’s smile surfaced again. His heart clenched without premonition. Lin Haihai, have you really never loved me before?
“Anything I can do for you, Your Majesty?” Consort Zhen woke up to see the emperor in a daze while staring at her. Her heart swelled with happiness. But the emperor didn’t seem to have noticed that she had woken up. That was why she spoke up to catch his attention.
Yang Shaolun snapped out of his trance and hurriedly withdrew his hand from her face. He quickly recovered his icy expression and ordered, “Help this Emperor change. It’s time to go to court.” Even though he pitied her, at the end of the day, she wasn’t the woman he loved. His gentle side was never meant for her.
Seemingly used to his indifference, Consort Zhen didn’t show any disappointment. She obediently got out of bed and carefully helped him get changed. However, she was a bit more gentle. It was an emperor’s nature to be fickle in love. It was enough for her to know that he’d loved her before. She wouldn’t ask for him to give her his whole heart like common couples. He was the emperor, the ruler of all.
On the court, Yang Shaolun stared at the scholar and military officials kneeling on the floor angrily. All of them kept quiet like cicadas in wintertime. They dared not say anything facing the emperor’s rage, lest they make a mistake and doom themselves.
Chen Luoqing stood and reported to the emperor, “Your Majesty, this official believes that there are still many suspicious aspects requiring investigation about the embezzlement case of Lu Ziqiang, Liang Fuxian and many others. The suspects are all important figures in the imperial court. This official believes that the Court of Judicial Review must re-investigate this case and make sure to unravel the truth!”
Grand Councilor Yan sneered and exclaimed, “That’s nonsense, General Chen. They’re embezzling money used for disaster relief. If they aren’t executed by the law soon to appease the public, it would be hard to convince the masses! Victims of disasters have been steadily increasing. If they aren’t placed where they can settle down soon, more trouble will surely follow! Your Majesty, please come to a decision soon!”
“Where is the head of the Court of Judicial Review?” Yang Shaolun said coldly after giving the interests at stake some thoughts with his head lowered.
A vigorous voice rang, “This official is here!”
Yang Shaolun nodded softly, keeping his anger in check. In a calm voice, he announced, “From today on, the Court of Judicial Review will immediately re-investigate Lu Ziqiang’s embezzlement. This Emperor will give you a week. After that, if you are unable to uncover the truth, you will step down from your position!”
“This official obeys the Emperor!” Luo Kuangyuan, the head of the Court of Judicial Review, kneeled and received the imperial decree.
“Your Majesty, this matter…” Grand Councilor Yan hurriedly interjected, but was silenced by the emperor’s icy gaze.
“No further discussion is needed for this matter. Wait for the results of Official Luo’s investigation a week from now! If any other officials have something to say, report right now. If not, you may leave the court!” Yang Shaolun narrowed his eyes and stared at the officials who wanted to talk.
“Withdraw from court!” Xiao Yuan raised his voice and announced before the throne. All officials got on their knees as they respectfully watched the emperor leave. Chen Luoqing threw Luo Kuangyuan a look, who nodded without missing a beat.
The door to the Imperial Study was tightly shut. The eunuchs and palace maids were all waiting outside the hall. Dozens of imperial guards patrolled back and forth. The tension in the air was so thick that one could cut it.
“Official Luo, have you made any progress?” Yang Shaolun knitted his brows tightly and glanced at Luo Kuangyuan eagerly.
“Replying to Your Majesty, this official has gathered witnesses and evidence. Once Your Majesty gives the order, this official will immediately start the interrogation.” Luo Kuangyuan declared with confidence, suggesting he had everything under control.
“Who’s the witness?” Chen Luoqing pressed immediately, overjoyed.
“Replying to the general, a total of twenty three people were implicated in this embezzlement case. The witnesses have pointed to Official Lu and Official Liang as the main culprits. However, Wang Minghui, the prefecture of Ning Province who was on the run, claimed that everyone had been bribed to frame Official Lu and Official Liang. The officials knew that they wouldn’t be spared due to their involvement in the case, but the person pulling the strings promised that they’d get away unscathed. This was the reason why all the officials involved in the case testified against Official Liang and Official Lu.” Luo Kuangyuan wore a righteous expression on his tanned face, saying each word with strength.
“You’re saying that someone wants to take advantage of this embezzlement case in order to get rid of the two officials?” Chen Luoqing asked angrily.
“According to Official Wang Minghui, the mastermind intended to incite public anger. Because everyone has made the same statement, Official Liang and Lu wouldn’t be able to explain their way out of this. Your Majesty would behead them in order to soothe the public. That way, Your Majesty would lose two capable subordinates. If Your Majesty insists on protecting them, you’d definitely arouse the common people’s anger. Someone with an ulterior motive would exploit this. Your Majesty, the country will then be in danger!”
“Do you have Wang Minghui?” Yang Shaolun paced around lightly, putting his hands behind his back as he walked towards Luo Kuangyuan.
“Yes, this official does have Wang Minghui. The bailiffs will bring him to the capital tonight. According to my subordinates, Wang Minghui has quite a bit of information on the person behind the scenes. That’d be critical for us to solve the case!” It was hard for Luo Kuangyuan to conceal the excitement in his eyes. The truth will be uncovered in less than seven days.
“Good. Handle this matter quickly. This Emperor is waiting for your good news!” Yang Shaolun laughed heartily, curling his lips into an easy smile.
“This official will take his leave!” Luo Kuangyuan bowed.
A man in black carefully stood on the rooftop. His face was covered by black cloth, revealing only icy eyes brimming with bloodthirst. He didn’t appear to be an ordinary person for he had the courage to eavesdrop from the rooftop of the Imperial Study under broad daylight. He got up and leaped off using his vital energy. The chain of actions were done skillfully and adeptly. Xiao Yuan couldn’t help but show some admiration. When the man in black was far away, Xiao Yuan leaped down from the tree. He dismissed the guards, and the eunuchs and palace maids scattered.
Xiao Yuan knocked on the door. Chen Luoqing opened it and indicated for him to get in. Yang Shaolun said coldly, “Everything is set. We’re just waiting for the fish to take the bait!”
“Your Majesty, this official worries that Official Wang’s injuries are too serious to survive.” Luo Kuangyuan exclaimed sadly.
“Summon the imperial physicians and make sure to save him. This Emperor can’t let such a just and fair official die!” Yang Shaolun ordered.
“Your Majesty, it’s better to bring him to Linhai Hospital. I think even the imperial physicians won’t be able to do anything about Official Wang’s injuries.” Chen Luoqing advised.
“He can’t be sent to Linhai Hospital!” Yang Shaolun rejected the idea resolutely. That would lead the assassins there. He couldn’t put her in danger.
“Then may we invite Physician Lin to the residence to treat Official Wang’s injuries?” Chen Luoqing understood his worry, so he came up with a compromise.
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