River View Tavern
Yang Hanlun was having a drink with Chen Luoqing and Luo Kuangyuan. Chen Luoqing raised his cup and said with a smile, “Congratulations on marrying a concubine, Your Highness! Come, have a drink!”
Yang Hanlun responded with an eyeroll. “Concubine? Don’t insult her. Birou isn’t going to be my concubine!”
“What about Physician Lin? Is she your consort or concubine?” Luo Kuangyuan smiled, but it was dripping with sarcasm. Yang Hanlun fell silent and downed his cup unhappily.
“What has been troubling you? You’ve married the woman you’ve always wanted, and your first consort has returned home. The three of you will have a happily ever after together!” Luo Kuangyuan was teasing him, but what he said was the truth.
Yang Hanlun paused. He had wanted to marry Birou his entire life, and his dream was coming true tomorrow. The silly woman had agreed to this marriage. Everything was going in the right direction.
Does she care, though? He couldn’t help wondering. Does she feel any unease? If not, doesn’t it mean she doesn’t love me at all? If she’s unhappy, how can I do this to her? How much pain would she be in if she did love me? Yang Hanlun’s mind was a mess of tangled thoughts, and all his joy about the coming wedding evaporated.
“You’re the groom. Why the long face? That’s a bad omen. Come on, have another drink!” Chen Luoqing was reminded of what Lin Haihai had said when she was drunk. She didn’t love the sixth prince. He must know that as well. How does that make him feel? Does he love Miss Chen, Lin Yuguan, or both?
“Forget it. I’m not gonna drink any more. I’ll go back and check on that woman. I lost my temper and left before dinner. Maybe I scared her. I should go home!” Yang Hanlun threw his friend a look, concerned.
“Didn’t she just return to your residence? Why did you lose your temper?” Luo Kuangyuan was worried. Would she be able to stand it if the prince berated her so much?
“That woman! I had the servants prepare a feast for her, but she ended up giving me a lecture! Such a stingy woman. All she thinks about is money!” Thinking of what happened still made Yang Hanlun mad. “Pah, whatever, I’ll go back and check. I don’t want her taking it out on the servants. I’m going now. Enjoy your night!” With that, he rushed down the stairs.
Chen Luoqing stared at his back and observed, “He’s fallen in love with her!”
“Who has fallen in love with whom?” Luo Kuangyuan asked, at a loss.
Chen Luoqing sighed, “What a mess!”
“Do you mean…?” Luo Kuangyuan caught up quickly.
“The brothers are indeed birthed by the same mother. They have the same taste in women.” Chen Luoqing twirled the cup in his hand thoughtfully. “Is Lin Yuguan really that great a woman?”
“This isn’t the time for that!” Luo Kuangyuan said worriedly. “We must keep His Majesty from getting closer to Physician Lin, or things will go out of control!”
“It is already out of control. I’m afraid His Majesty has already fallen hard for Physician Lin. Likewise, Physician Lin...” Chen Luoqing revealed the shocking truth.
Luo Kuangyuan was startled. “What? If that’s the case, trouble will surely follow!”
They both fell into contemplation.
Sixth Prince Residence
Lin Haihai was nowhere to be seen when Yang Hanlun returned to his residence. Has she left in anger? Yang Hanlun thought in panic. He was about to rush outside when Lin Haihai returned with Guihua in tow.
Seeing her put Yang Hanlun at ease. But where has she been this late at night? Doesn’t she know how dangerous it is? Just like that, he was angry again. “Where did you go, woman? Don’t you know it’s dangerous at night?”
Lin Haihai glanced at him calmly, hiding a smile when she saw his face and neck flushed with anger. What a petty man, holding a grudge against me for something so trivial!
“Taking a walk after eating is good for digestion and overall health!” she explained to excuse her action. Guihua gave her a conflicted look before silently taking her leave.
“Call me Lin Haihai!” she interjected. She could never get used to being called Yuguan. She had her own name.
“Why did you change your name?” Yang Hanlun asked.
“I don’t like the name Lin Yuguan, and I like the ocean. That’s why I call myself Lin Haihai. I’m also a physician at the Linhai Hospital. Isn’t it better for me to be called Lin Haihai?”
“Whatever you say,” muttered Yang Hanlun. “Haihai’s fine as a name, but it’s so superficial!”
Lin Haihai laughed. “You and your brother aren’t that much better. Your names lack gravity! Take Brother Yang as an example, Shaolun sounds more like a scholar than an emperor!”
She realized her mistake immediately when she saw his frozen smile. It was rare for them to have such an amicable conversation. She shouldn’t have mentioned his brother.
“I was just kidding!” Lin Haihai turned away, her voice strained.
“I know.” Yang Hanlun managed a smile, but his voice made his unhappiness clear. “Imperial Elder Brother’s name actually fits him very well. He’s a scholar in his own right. He loved reading books when he was little!”
“How about you? What kind of a kid were you?” Lin Haihai walked into the residence, and Yang Hanlun followed her closely. The two of them stopped at a pavilion in the garden.
The night wind was pleasant, delivering the elegant fragrance coming from the lotus seedpods that had replaced the flowers. Lin Haihai inhaled deeply, feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, her mood lifted. This was a precious gift from mother nature to humanity. As long as one calmed their mind, nature would always bring pleasant surprises.
“I used to pester First Brother since he’s the only one who shares a mother with me. My other older brothers were great as well, but I loved being with First Brother the most. He’s nine years older than I am, and he’s been a studious child since his youth. He’s always been my role model!” Yang Hanlun praised his brother with a look of admiration and respect.
“When did he become the emperor?” Lin Haihai propped her head up with a hand under her chin, silently pleading for answers with her eager gaze. She really wanted to know more about him.
Melancholy flashed through Yang Hanlun’s eyes, and bitterness spread through his heart, but his voice remained gentle. “My father passed away when I was six, and Imperial Elder Brother took over the throne. He was fifteen at the time. Imperial Mother told me that Imperial Uncle had started a coup as soon as he took the throne. Although the coup had been suppressed, and Imperial Uncle had been exiled to Lingnan, his ambition hasn’t died, and he’s always looking for an opportunity to stir up troubles.”
Lin Haihai’s chest tightened. Fifteen years old. He must have felt so helpless when his biological uncle started a coup against him! She wondered out loud, “Why didn’t he have the usurper executed?”
“Imperial Elder Brother was too young, and Imperial Uncle had many confidants. Half of the imperial court was on his side, and they remained loyal to him even after his defeat. Without a stable footing in the court, Imperial Elder Brother had no choice but to exile Imperial Uncle to the barren Lingnan.” Yang Hanlun didn’t go into details, but Lin Haihai was sure it must have taken a great battle of force and wits for Yang Shaolun to defeat his uncle. Still, his victory was an imperfect one. As a ruler, he couldn’t even execute the traitor! He must have been surrounded by enemies on all fronts, which forced him to make the compromises.
“Brother Yang must have had a difficult time!” Lin Haihai blurted out.
“That’s right. He lost his smile back then, and assumed this aloof and serious mask. There have been many assasination attempts ever since. He almost died once!” Yang Hanlun’s heart still pounded when he thought of that particular assassination attempt. It was why he decided to train in martial arts, hoping to shoulder his brother’s burden. After putting in the hard work and leading the charge in many battles all over the nation, he’d accumulated feats and merits. The ten thousand soldiers under his command were a symbol of his power and achievement.
Lin Haihai’s heart clenched, but she didn’t dare make it too obvious, lest her reaction angered Yang Hanlun. Knowing how deeply the brothers cared about each other, she silently swore that she would never be the reason why they had a falling out.
“You must really admire your Imperial Elder Brother!” Lin Haihai asked with feigned nonchalance.
“I’m not the only one. My other brothers respect and admire him as well. Not only because he is the emperor, but also because he’s been a good brother to us. He cares a lot about us!” Yang Hanlun’s unblinking gaze seemed to be telling her something.
Lin Haihai understood him. He wanted her to not tarnish the respect Yang Shaolun’s younger brothers had for him. If they knew about Brother Yang’s feelings for her, they would see him as an immoral emperor and be disappointed in him.
Dejectedly, she nodded and said, “I’m tired. I’d like to go to bed. You should rest as well. You’re getting married tomorrow!” With that, she took her leave.
Yang Hanlun looked at her as she walked away. In the end, his marriage to Birou meant nothing to her. She doesn’t love me! Imperial Elder Brother is still the only one in her heart! Do you still love her as well, Imperial Elder Brother?
Lin Haihai twisted and turned on her bed, unable to sleep. When she opened her eyes, she saw his sculpted and handsome features; closed her eyes, and she saw his tormented gazes. She kept remembering the moment they embraced each other. The world seemed to have fallen out of her consciousness. All she could see was him, and all she could think about was holding him.
However, dreams could never last forever. All the love in the world couldn’t change the fact that they met at the wrong time. No one could rewind time. They both had to let go.
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They say this, but keep doing the opposite -_-