"That won't do. There must be someone else behind the scenes. The yamen runners revealed that the Minister of War and Grand Councilor Yan were involved, and we all know who Grand Councilor Yan is working for. I fear that this time, he is being serious! Sixth sister-in-law said that the capital magistrate was greedy and cowardly. A man as shrewd as he is must have a lot of insider information. A thorough interrogation will surely point us to the true culprit. Once they’re revealed, they won’t be able to exploit this matter to stir up trouble. They will be committing treason by sending out a troop, and we’ll be justified in eliminating the traitors.”
“If he isn’t content with being the Prince Pingnan, then I will never let him return to the capital!” Yang Shaolun fiercely yelled. He had a fierce expression on his handsome face; this was the first sign of his anger. Chen Luoqing was shocked by his open display of fury. Indeed, they should no longer tolerate such aggression. Lin Haihai was really an extraordinary person. She found out so much about what was going on behind the scenes from seemingly ordinary matters. Chen Luoqing’s admiration for her went up another level.
"By the way, did we get any information from the assassins we caught the other night?" Yang Shaolun asked.
"They were all soldiers that would readily sacrifice themselves. As soon as we caught them, they committed suicide!" Luo Kuangyuan reported. "The plan should’ve been perfect. After we released the false information that Official Wang was willing to testify as a witness for Official Lu and Official Liang, we released the time and route of Official Wang's escort and prepared an ambush. As we expected, our opponent did send out skilled assassins after us. If we hadn't been on guard, we wouldn't have been able to escape. Unfortunately, all the men we caught were deathsworns devoted to their master, and we couldn't get any information out of them. Instead, we inadvertently alerted the enemy!"
"Luoqing, what about the whereabouts of the empress dowager of Rong?" Yang Shaolun thought of the revolt occurring in Rong.
"It's like they disappeared off the face of the Earth! I can't find any trace of her. I've also investigated the secret letter and looked into it with Captain Zheng. The person who stole the letter is Consort Zhen!" Chen Luoqing hesitated before revealing the truth.
“Consort Zhen?” Yang Shaolun frowned. In his memories, she didn’t stand out. She was soft-hearted, and seemed very delicate and considerate. In the harem, she didn’t quarrel or fuss. And had a good temperament. How could it be her?
"Yes. Consort Zhen's cousin is Zhou Junpeng, the young owner of the Yu Tai Money Exchange in the capital. A short while ago, Consort Zhen recommended him to join the imperial guards. He's already been promoted to the rank of officer. According to our investigation, this man is ambitious and a skilled martial artist. Most importantly, he and Consort Zhen grew up together. The two of them were in love before she entered the palace, but Official Qiu, Consort Zhen's father, strongly opposed their relationship. In the end, the two of them split up. As for when they rekindled their relationship again, we can't say for sure!" Chen Luoqing said slowly.
Yang Shaolun was annoyed, "How did Consort Zhen steal my royal seal?" She’s playing with fire, and she doesn’t know it!
"I remember that one night, Consort Zhen came to the imperial study to find Your Majesty,” Xiao Yuan recalled. “She said she had made a medicinal stew for Your Majesty. Then she proceeded to spill it all over you. At the time, Your Majesty left in fury, and this servant followed. Later on, according to the guards, the consort had stayed in the imperial study for a long time. If I had to guess, she must have used the seal during that time."
That jogged Yang Shaolun’s memory. He immediately recalled the night in question. Consort Zhen had asked to see him with a pot of stew. He had thought that she was being considerate, but it turned out she had other intentions. His expression darkened. They were careful at all times, but they forgot to be on guard against the women in his harem. Fine, it seems like mercy is no longer an option!
"It’s unwise for us to alert our enemies now. Let's allow Zhou Junpeng to lead the way!" Chen Luoqing began to smile. Yang Shaolun understood immediately and nodded.
"By the way, how is Official Wang's injuries? Does she have a way to cure him?" Yang Shaolun asked nonchalantly, but his eyes revealed his concern.
"Li Junyue is the one in charge of his treatment now. It’s likely that he’ll make a full recovery, but it'll take time. We can't drag our feet any further. Our enemies are working from the shadows, while we are out in the open. There could be a plot against us at any time. However, we can wait for the enemy to expose themselves before we take any action. If the enemy doesn't take any action, then we won't act. If they do, then we will strike first!" Luo Kuangyuan carefully analyzed, feeling it was wiser to wait quietly rather than to blindly take action.
"I agree with Official Luo's reasoning. The enemy wants to strip us of our two greatest assets. This is only their first strike. They must have more plans for us. Let's wait and see what happens, then we can counterattack!" Chen Luoqing clapped and yelled excitedly.
Yang Shaolun pondered for a minute before saying, "How about this, Second Brother, you should go back to interrogate Bai Muyang immediately. No matter what methods you have to employ, find out why they have been hoarding medicine. It can't just be for money. There is currently a great shortage of medicine in the market, and people complaining about how expensive and difficult it is to see a physician. In the meantime, General Chen and Official Luo will consult with Physician Lin for ways to mend the physician and patient relationship."
He quickly gave the orders. As long as the appropriate policies were in place, and the citizens could live comfortably, no one would be willing to rebel and fight. Yang Shaolun recalled a saying: Gain the support of the people, and the nation will be yours to rule. All battles could be won as long as one won the hearts of the people.
The three officials took their leave. In Yang Shaolun's mind, Lin Haihai's smiling face appeared. Tomorrow was his brother's wedding. Is she heartbroken right now? I remember she said that she loved my sixth brother very much, and that she had to leave because he was marrying someone else. If she really loved him so much, why would she leave, though? He sighed quietly. In any case, she would not be his. He was destined to watch her from afar for the rest of his life; he could never get close to her. This is too great of a torment!
"Your Majesty..." Xiao Yuan gently murmured, placing the ginseng tea on the royal table. Seeing that Yang Shaolun had closed his eyes in deep thought, Xiao Yuan didn't disturb him. He considered whether to leave the emperor alone.
Yang Shaolun opened his eyes and looked at Xiaoyuan wearily. After a while, he asked, "Xiao Yuan, do you think Physician Lin loves me?" He couldn't figure her out. Sometimes she was warm to him, sometimes she was indifferent. Was she telling the truth when she said she merely acted on impulse when she kissed me?
Xiao Yuan opened the lid of the cup and gently pushed it toward Yang Shaolun. He sighed, "Your Majesty, even if there is love, what can you do? Is Physician Lin worth having a falling out with the Sixth Prince? Are you willing to hurt him?" Xiao Yuan's analyzed rationally. In his mind, Xiao Yuan also hoped to see the emperor and Physician Lin have a happy ending. However, he could only secretly wish for the sixth prince to drive Physician Lin away after marrying Miss Chen... However, Xiao Yuan knew that the possibility was very slim.
Yang Shaolun felt a pang in his heart when he heard this. "Go and tell the empress dowager that I will accompany her to the prince's residence early tomorrow morning. I want to keep her company, so she doesn't have to face the cruel wedding alone!"
"This servant will go at once!" Xiao Yuan retreated, leaving Yang Shaolun to face his bone deep pain alone.
Lin Hahai accompanied Xiao Jueran to the plantation. The plants were young. Many people, mainly boys, were all weeding while sweating under the bright sunlight. Lin Haihai was surprised and immediately summoned Wood, who rushed over to her with sweat dripping from his face. When he saw Lin Haihai, Wood grinned. His teeth were white and shone in the sun.
“Master, you're back! Is there anything you need?”
“Tell them to stop working!” Lin Haihai angrily stated. “The sun is too intense right now, it’s easy to get a heatstroke. They’re all children, how will they be able to bear it?”
Xiao Jueran looked at Lin Haihai strangely. What are workers for if they don’t work? The empress came over. She was wearing a farmer’s hat, a coarse cloth outfit, and wore a brilliant smile. “Fancy seeing you here! What brought you to the plantation in such weather? Have you come to have fun?”
"Greetings, Your Majesty the Empress!" Xiao Jueran saluted. Wood was startled. What? The woman who comes everyday to tend to the medicinal herbs is the Empress?
Empress Chen smiled, "Jueran, what are you doing? On this barren mountain, what use is there for etiquette?"
"Wood, tell everyone to stop working immediately and to go rest in their rooms!" Lin Hahai ordered sternly. It's hard enough holding a conversation under this harsh sunlight, much less work in it.
"No way! These weeds have exhausted the underground water. Our medicinal herbs will wilt!" Empress Chen argued.
"That doesn’t matter with such weather! And you, Empress, why did you come out under this harsh sunlight? All of you go back!" Lin Haihai regretted not telling Li Junyue to bring herbicides from the modern era. They would be able to kill the weeds by simply spraying it all over the mountain. There would be no need for such hard work!
"The weeds have to be removed. Look, they’ve been growing taller and taller. The vitality of these weeds is very strong. Wait until tomorrow, and they will have spread like wildfire!" the Empress said helplessly.
“How about this? You should get up earlier in the morning and take a nap in the afternoon. Although with this heat, I don't know how anyone can fall asleep, they can just play around. When the sun is less harsh, you can start working again!" Lin Haihai responded after pondering for a minute. This was the only option. These were all children. They shouldn’t be burdened with such hard work.
"That won’t be necessary. These children are from poor families. Did you take them as young masters from noble families, who have been doted on at home? It's fine, they can still work!" Wood disapproved.
"What are you saying? I don't care how they are treated at home, but I consider them my children once they come to work for me!" Lin Haihai solemnly retorted.
"Your children? Aren't you ashamed? How old are you?" Empress Chen teased with a smile.
Lin Haihai replied, "I'm a thousand-year-old female ghost, and I'm here to claim your life!" She paused as soon as the words left her mouth. She was from a thousand years in the future. Did that make her a thousand-year-old ghost?
"I'm so afraid. Someone save me!" The empress ran away laughing. Xiao Jueran looked at the laughing empress with her mouth agape. Is this really the empress I know, who always seems indifferent and never laughs? The sunlight must be too harsh, causing her to hallucinate.
"Master, who exactly are you?" Wood asked with dread in his voice. His assassin’s instinct was roused from hibernation. Did she lie to us?
Lin Haihai shrugged helplessly and took him over to the shade with a hand on his shoulder. Wood felt uncomfortable and walked stiffly. After all, he was from the ancient era where men and women shouldn't be in close contact. Although she was his master, she was still a young woman!
Xiao Jueran suddenly felt dizzy. Did Lin Haihai just initiate the touch on that man's shoulder? Why wasn't the sixth princess consort embarrassed? If the sixth prince saw, how would she explain? No man would tolerate such behavior.
Empress Chen looked at Xiao Jueran. She knew that the second princess consort didn't act according to rules of propriety and had a frank personality, but it seemed even the magnanimous woman was surprised by Lin Haihai's behavior. It seemed that her surprise at Lin Haihai pulling up her sleeves and getting her hands dirty wasn't unwarranted after all.
Lin Haihai pulled Wood aside and whispered, "Don't let people know that I know martial arts. I may hold the title of a princess consort, but not the authority..."
Lin Haihai paused, "Well, I don't hold the title, either. Anyways, I'm just a fake princess consort, so don't worry too much. Live your days in peace, I'm a physician at Linhai Hospital. It’s as simple as that." Lin Haihai was too lazy to explain, so she just left it at that.
“Fake princess consort? What are you after?” Wood’s gaze darkened, a hint of weariness entered his tone. He was tired of the days where he killed and fought. He had thought he would be able to safely live a quiet life here. However, it seemed that his indifferent master also had a hidden identity. If she wasn’t up to something, why would a princess consort show her face in public?
“After being with me for so long, haven’t you seen for yourself what kind of a person I am? What is there in the world that I could be after? Think about it!” Lin Haihai answered meaningfully.
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