Wood turned to her with a thousand questions in his eyes, but he didn’t voice them. Lin Haihai patted him on the shoulder with a warm smile. He would know what her goals were one day.
With big strides, she went up to the working disciples and shouted, “Stop! All of you, stop!”
The youths obliged and ran up to Lin Haihai, treating her like their closest family. She smiled in satisfaction. Behind her, Wood watched the scene play out with a dawning realization.
“Listen up! From now on, you aren’t allowed to work under the noonday sun! Go back inside to shade yourself from the heat, or go for a swim in the dam in the back. You have a strong voice, Wood. Raise it and call the disciples in the other mountains back!”
Circulating his dantian, Wood boomed with inner energy, “Come back, working disciples! Your master has matters to announce!”
His penetrating voice rang through the mountains with lingering echoes. Xiao Jueran cast a shocked glance at him. She didn’t expect an unassuming man from the rural area to have such impressive inner energy. The Sixth Princess Consort has chanced upon a great asset! What a waste to order a martial art expert around like a simple worker!
“How many people do you have here?” Xiao Jueran asked, shocked by the sea of workers before her.
“About two hundred, I’d say,” Lin Haihai answered, tilting her head in thought. “That’s far from enough. All the mountains in view here are part of our plantation. There are many more mountains beyond your sight covered by herbs we’ve planted.”
“Really? Would your hospital really need that much medicine?”
“Those we can't use, we’ll sell. Do you know how serious the shortage of medicine is in the market? Sooner or later, a riot will break out!” Lin Haihai voiced her concerns. She heard that many legitimate hospitals couldn’t even buy any medicinal herbs. Even those who were able to acquire herbs bought them at an unusually high price. The extra cost was naturally put on the patients, and the unreasonably rising cost of care and medicine was getting unaffordable. This concerned the welfare of the public. People didn’t care who was sitting on the throne. All that mattered to them was their livelihood. The growing grievances and resentment they bore for the ruling court were just waiting for those with ulterior motives to exploit. One man’s call to action would be answered by hundreds.
Xiao Jueran remained silent in incomprehension. Even if she could understand the stakes here, what could a woman possibly do?
“Master!” called out the crowd. Lin Haihai nodded with a pleased expression and shouted, “You’ve all been putting in the hard work!”
“It’s not hard at all!” responded the crowd in a thunderous chorus of enthusiasm and cheer.
“However,” Lin Haihai took care to enunciate her words, “It’s unscientific and inhumane to work under such blazing sun. That’s why I’m setting a new rule: From now on, you’ll get out of bed and start working at chenshi (seven to eight in the morning), and you must take a break from wushi to shenshi (noon to four o’clock in the afternoon). Then you’ll stop working before nightfall. That’s an added statute to our Labor Law. You must follow it closely. If anyone breaks the rule, I’ll fire them! Have I made myself clear?”
“Master,” Wood spoke up after some deliberation, finding Lin Haihai’s rule unwise. “Then it’ll be impossible to complete the needed work. Then...”
“I have my reasons. Many of you are learning medicine from me. After a while, I’ll return to the mountain to instruct you. That’s why you must make time to attend my classes. At the time being, your imperial physician senior brothers will be teaching you in my stead, as I have personal matters to attend to. You’ve got to learn diligently, do you hear me?”
Lin Haihai remembered that many of the disciples had learned the basics of medicine before coming to the mountain. They came to her to be medical students. It filled her with guilt that they were assigned to be manual labor in the mountains. This was the perfect opportunity to redirect them back to their learning. She was sure that among the mountainous ranges enveloped in the fragrance of medicine, her disciples would be even more diligent in their study.
Her disciples cheered in response. Xiao Jueran goggled at Lin Haihai, shocked. What a woman she is! Then again, is she actually a woman?
Yang Hanlun had long been waiting for Lin Haihai at the hospital. He went up to Lin Haihai upon her return and struggled to get a word out. In stark contrast to his attitude, Lin Haihai greeted him without hesitation, “You’re here!”
Awkwardly, he nodded and said, “I’m here to take you home!”
That gave Lin Haihai pause. Then she responded in understanding, “Give me a moment. I’ll pack up!”
Yang Hanlun let out a sigh of relief and gave her a smile. He’d been worried that she might have had a change of mind. “Go ahead. We’ll have dinner at home!”
Lin Haihai nodded with a warm smile and went into the hospital.
She packed only a few sets of clothes. The ancient times are indeed inconvenient. I don’t even have a proper bag for luggage. A large piece of cloth was what she ended up using as a crude rucksack.
Yang Hanlun carried it for her and walked slowly back home with her. He opted out of a horse carriage on purpose, wanting to have a leisurely walk home and chat with her. Unfortunately, all the things he had meant to say were all stuck in his throat.
Lin Haihai didn’t feel particularly awkward, but she wasn’t sure what she should say when he wore such an expression of discomfort. In the end, neither of them talked as they walked their way home.
The sun was setting to the west, and the clouds in the sky took on vibrant colors. Tomorrow will be a sunny day, thought Lin Haihai. Reminded of a legend, she broke the silence and said with a smile, “Look how pretty the clouds in the sky are. It’ll be a pleasant day tomorrow. It’s said that if it doesn’t rain on the wedding day, the newlyweds will be happily together until their hair goes grey.”
Yang Hanlun gave her a bitter smile. “What does the pouring rain on our wedding day mean for us, then?”
Lin Haihai quieted down. She was just trying to lighten the mood with some levity, but instead she touched on something heavy. She turned away and pretended to have missed his response.
Yang Hanlun sighed heavily. Ten years. He’d been looking forward to the marriage for ten years. And yet he felt only gloom and no joy as the wedding approached.
Lin Haihai didn’t know what he was thinking. Perhaps he did love her; perhaps he loved Miss Chen more. Such choices were never easy. He had been trying hard to strike a balance. However, love wasn’t like marriage. Marriage might be an act of balance, but love, by contrast, should ever only be about love. Nothing else should be taken into consideration, or love would not be the pure thing it should be.
The steward was waiting for them at the front door when they returned. Yang Hanlun handed the steward the rucksack he’d been carrying and said, “Take this to the Sixth Princess Consort’s room and prepare dinner. She must be hungry!”
The steward took the luggage and bowed to Lin Haihai with deference. Lin Haihai responded with a smile. Walking in, she was met with the vibrant view of lanterns and decorations. The character xi, joy, could be seen on every gate and every door.
She was shocked when she entered the dining hall. Maids and servants knelt before her like a mat of men. She rolled her eyes, hard. Don’t they know how much of a bad omen it is to be on the receiving end of such a gesture?! I’m not dead yet!
“Get up,” Lin Haihai said weakly. She was tired of explaining herself. She wasn’t going to stay here for long anyway. “I’m hungry. Get up and we’ll eat!”
“Let dinner begin!” Yang Hanlun looked at her adoringly and ordered the servants to get moving. Lin Haihai sat down at the dining table, waiting for the dishes to be served. Servants and maids swarmed into the dining hall, each holding a plate in their hands. In no time, the table was filled with dishes. Lin Haihai gaped in shock. How were they supposed to finish everything?
Yang Hanlun sat down beside Lin Haihai. “Dig in. Aren’t you hungry?”
“Right,” responded Lin Haihai. “Dig in, everyone! Quickly! I’m so hungry I can eat a horse!”
That got her strange looks from the servants and maids. If she’s so hungry, why hasn’t she started eating? We’ve served all the dishes.
Lin Haihai was slow to grasp the situation since she’d been eating with the servants in the North Court and at the Linhai Hospital. The table had been filled to the brim with food. Naturally, she assumed it was for everyone. She’d forgotten that she was in the Prince Residence. Rules of hierarchy were strictly adhered to here. Servants and maids weren’t allowed to dine with their masters.
Realization dawned on her when she noted the looks thrown her way, and her expression hardened. All this food was for her and Yang Hanlun only. What a waste! She was so angry that she started trembling. Turning to Yang Hanlun, she demanded, “Do you always have so much food?”
Yang Hanlun gave her a strange look. “About this much. What of it? Is it not enough for you? If you want anything in particular, just let the cooks know!”
Lin Haihai threw her chopsticks at the table and bit out, “I’m not eating! I’m too angry to eat!”
Her sudden anger confused Yang Hanlun. “What’s wrong? Didn’t you say you were hungry? What’s come over you?”
“Look!” She pointed a trembling finger at the table, furious. “How much would all these dishes cost? Why are you so wasteful? We won’t be able to finish everything!”
Yang Hanlun hated it when she talked about money. He hated how much she cared about it. It was always about money for her. He simply wanted to prepare some delicious food for her and have a good chat with her, but no, she had to lose her temper over such materialistic matters. Scowling, he spat, “It’s always about money with you! You don’t have to have anything. No one’s begging you to!”
With that, he left with a flourish of his sleeves. Lin Haihai was angry and regretful. This was Yang Hanlun’s money. He could use it as he pleased. It had nothing to do with her! Forget it. It wouldn’t do anyone any good for her to ignore her hunger. She might as well start eating. She sat down and dug in on her own. If only she could share all this food with folks at the hospital.
The servants and maids watched her as she ate. What an unreasonable woman the consort was! The prince had only just taken her back, and yet she sent him leaving in anger again.
After dinner, Lin Haihai was led to her luxurious bedroom. Golden canopy hung above the bed and ran down to the floor. The furniture was made of expensive wood. Equally impressive was the violet crystal screen. Elegant fragrance wafted from the gilded golden beast figurine adorning the bathtub.
“A hot bath has been prepared for you, Consort Lin!” said the maid who took her here.
Lin Haihai turned to the maid and asked, “You’re Guihua, are you not?”
Guihua gave her a faint smile. “Consort Lin has a good memory. This maid is indeed Guihua!” She was the first maid Lin Haihai knew from this residence. Back when she first transmigrated here, she had heard this maid talking to Xiao Ju, voicing grievances for her sake.
“Has the Sixth Prince eaten anything, Guihua?” asked Lin Haihai. He is getting married tomorrow. No reason for him to get so angry! She was simply stating the truth when she called him wasteful!
“In response to Consort Lin, His Highness has left the residence!” Guihua said honestly, her gaze inquisitive as it landed on Lin Haihai. After a thoughtful pause, she said in a gentle voice, “It’s better not to go against His Highness’ will, Consort Lin. As a prince, no one has ever said no to him since his youth. It’s futile to attempt it.”
Lin Haihai gave her words some thoughts. Guihua was right. It was pointless and would only bring her embarrassment. It was better to just take a bath and retire to bed.
Her husband was marrying a concubine tomorrow. Lin Haihai tried her best to get into character and wallow in sorrow, but she couldn’t even muster a lick of sadness. Alas, it simply wasn’t her style!Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Personally, I wouldn't be ok with sharing unless I didn't actually love the guy & was only with him for companionship/financial stability... how about you?