Chapter 76: He’s In Danger!

“What do you want to ask me?” Smiling, the empress tucked away a strand of hair that had fallen to the front of Lin Haihai’s forehead. “This is no way for the first consort to act! The guests are going to laugh at you!”


“The dress is too long for me to move in, but I’ll be more careful!” Lin Haihai sounded excited. “Guihua told me the court attire is worth a lot of money. Do you know how much?” She was never going to put on such a troublesome dress again, and it wasn’t like she would attend any more banquets in the future. If she stored it in some cabinet, she would have to worry about bugs and mice. It was much more practical to just sell it.


“You’re gonna sell it?” the empress asked in shock. That’s all she thinks about when she sees something valuable!


“Yes, I plan to establish a few more hospitals and hire more doctors to set up treatment centers in every village, but I’m short on funds!” Lin Haihai grumbled.


“I don’t think I’ve heard you talk about that,” said the empress. She would give her full support to such a plan.


“I visited Auntie Wu’s house the other day and saw how impoverished her village was,” explained Lin Haihai. “That got me thinking: if even a village right under the emperor’s nose is in this state, what about other places? There must be other even more deprived regions that require our support. There must be many more people who don’t have the money to seek medical help for their illnesses. Some might have even gotten cheated or had their illnesses prolonged by shyster pharmacies. That’s why I want to open up clinics. I’ve been thinking about that for a while, but I didn’t have the time. I’ve been preoccupied!”


“I get it now!” The empress nodded in agreement.


“There’s no rush, though. We’ll have to hash out the details and formulate a more comprehensive plan. However, one can never go wrong by accumulating more funds.”


The empress noticed the emperor’s straying toward them. “We’ll talk later then. Let’s return to them, or they’ll get suspicious!”


“Alright, please come find me when you have the time,” Lin Haihai said in a lowered voice. “I’ll give you some accessories to hand over to Zheng Feng. Tell him to sell them at a good price. Remember, the sixth prince must not know!”


“Okay, I have many more accessories in my palace as well. I’ll see what else can be sold for money!” The empress was reminded of her collection. It would be good for them to be of use and be exchanged for some silver taels.


“For real? That’s great, Empress!” Lin Haihai jumped in delight, pulling her into a hug and planting a kiss on her cheek.


The empress dowager shot a strange look at the two women. “What is that pair of sisters-in-law talking about? They seem so happy.”


Seeing Lin Haihai’s obvious joy put Yang Hanlun in a good mood. He smiled and said, “They’re probably talking about the plantation!”


“Ah, didn’t the empress go to the plantation as well, Shao’er?” asked the empress dowager.


Yang Shaolun’s eyes had been glued to Lin Haihai. Hearing his mother’s question, he hurriedly turned to answer, “That’s right. I heard she’s become their technical advisor!”


The empress dowager frowned in disapproval. “Isn’t it going to undermine the authority of the imperial family to have the mother of the nation showing her face to the public?”


That was what Lin Haihai and the empress heard when they rejoined the group. Noting how tense the empress had become, Lin Haihai immediately spoke up for her, “I can’t agree with you on that, Mother! The Empress is doing this to serve her people. The generations to come will be praising her for her kindness! Why would it be something to be ashamed of?”


“That’s right, Mother,” Yang Shaolun said. “She’s a member of the Daxing Dynasty. It’s only appropriate for her to fight for the welfare of the people. That’ll boost the morale of the public greatly. Hai - Sister-in-law’s plantation is crucial to our current situation, and nothing must go wrong about it. I hope the Empress will work with Sister-in-law and shoulder this burden together.”


He was telling the truth. The plantation was very important now since the market suffered from a great shortage of medicines. The price had been pushed to ridiculous heights through hoarding by unethical merchants. The medical ingredients could only be acquired by paying a great price, and the cost was reflected in the cost of care for the general public. Over time, the people would become more and more resentful, and their resentment would be used to stir up trouble. If Lin Haihai’s herbs could enter the market when its shortage was most serious, then maybe they stood a chance of turning things around. However, they would have to weather this for a little longer.


“Is that so? You have great foresight, my son. This mother has become vain in her old age!” The empress dowager nodded and considered Lin Haihai and the empress with appreciation. “Then you should put in the hard work to shoulder the heavy burden of this nation on the emperor’s shoulder. Understand?”


“This Empress understands!” the empress responded meekly, while Lin Haihai nodded earnestly and cast a grateful look at Yang Shaolun. He gave her a warm smile before turning away, but it was enough to make Lin Haihai’s heart swell, her expression relaxed and shining with joy.


The steward ran up to them and dropped down to his knees with a thud. “Empress Dowager, Your Majesty, Her Majesty, Your Highness, Sixth Princess Consort, please begin the ritual. The preparation has been completed!”


“Let us begin!” The empress dowager got to her feet in delight. The empress hurriedly offered her arm for support. The group made their way to the altar.


It took half an hour for them to complete the ritual. Lin Haihai was even required to kowtow a few times. She could only be obliged despite her reluctance. When she stood up, she tripped on her dress again. This time, Yang Hanlun caught her, while Yang Shaolun turned away and pretended to look into the distance. Embarrassed, Lin Haihai snuck a few glances at Yang Shaolun. She kept making a fool of herself today. It was all because of this dress. She silently swore to herself that she would sell this damn thing tomorrow!


Yang Hanlun tightened her arm to pull Lin Haihai closer. She struggled to break out of his hold as Yang Shaolun walked before them supporting the empress dowager, his expression uneasy. Lin Haihai could sense Yang Hanlun’s anger. She sighed inwardly and stopped fidgeting, letting him hold her as they walked.


Then Xiao Yuan walked in and whispered something into Yang Shaolun’s ear. A cold glint flashed through his eyes. Lin Haihai averted her gaze as she heard clearly what Xiao Yuan was saying, “General Chen ordered this servant to inform Your Majesty that our enemy would send assassins after you today. The exact time cannot yet be determined. This servant has set up an ambush with many men. Please be careful, Your Majesty!”


He must have been living with such dangers his entire life. Lin Haihai was heartbroken for him and wanted to comfort him. What she wouldn’t do to suffer in his stead!


“What’s wrong, Imperial Elder Brother?” Yang Hanlun’s heart sank when he noted his brother’s serious expression. Was someone stirring up trouble using his wedding day?


“It’s fine, brother. Don’t worry. This Emperor has matters to attend to in the palace. Please don’t wait for me. This Emperor will be back once I’m done!” Yang Shaolun played nonchalance to assure Yang Hanlun. This was his wedding day. Many officials would come to congratulate him, and his mother was here as well. Although Xiao Yuan had taken the necessary precautions, he would never put his mother at risk. He was their only target. As long as he was away, no one at the wedding would be hurt.


“Something must have happened! Don’t keep it from me, Imperial Elder Brother!” Yang Hanlun clearly didn’t buy his excuse. Something must have happened for Imperial Elder Brother to leave in such a hurry, and it must be serious.


“It’s fine. There’s no need to worry. Rest assured, this Emperor will be back soon!” Yang Shaolun couldn’t help looking at Lin Haihai, and Lin Haihai hadn’t averted her empathetic gaze. Their eyes met for a brief moment with thousands of unspoken words between them. He could see her worry, and she could read the reasoning behind his action. They were only a few meters apart, but it felt as if they were separated by the milky way, by heavens, by hell, and they couldn’t get close to each other!


Yang Shaolun left in a hurry. Lin Haihai’s gaze lingered at the door. She’d seen the red string tied around his wrist when he turned away. That put her at ease.


“He said he would keep me company,” the empress dowager said unhappily. “Why did he leave?”


The empress lowered her head and reassured, “Then allow this Empress to accompany you. His Majesty must have important matters to attend to.”


“That’s right. Perhaps there’s some urgent matters.” Lin Haihai managed a smile. Then she changed the subject, “Guihua said I am to light an incense at the State Protection Temple. I’ll go now, Mother!”


“I’ll go with you!” said Yang Hanlun. He was convinced something must have happened for his brother to leave in such a hurry. I should go check!


“Silly, you’re the groom today. You can’t go with her.” The empress dowager smiled. “Why don’t you go with Yuguan, Empress? It was you who lit an incense at the temple when Hanlun married her. It’s better that you keep her company!”


“This Empress will do as you said!” the empress responded with a slight bow.


“Fine, I’ll order the guards to go with you. Don’t run off to who-knows-where!” Yang Hanlun gave Lin Haihai a reluctant look. “Please take care of her for me, Sister-in-law!”


Lin Haihai nodded earnestly. The empress smiled in response. “Don’t worry. We’ll be protected by the guards. My phoenix carriage is right outside. Let’s ride it to the temple!”


“Many thanks, Sister-in-law!” Yang Hanlun bowed and summoned a guard. “Have a team of guards protect the empress and the princess consort as they visit the temple. You're in charge of their safety. If they lose even a hair, you are not to return!”


“This subordinate understands!” the guard said while kneeling on one knee.


The empress’s carriage was at the door when she and Lin Haihai left. Lin Haihai goggled so hard her eyes almost fell off when she took a good look at the carriage. It must have cost a lot of money! The carriage was made of wood coated in gold. On the top were two canopies, both adorned with golden phoenixes, covered in a gold finish etched with patterns of clouds.


“You’re so wealthy, Empress!” Lin Haihai said with envy. If it were hers, she would be able to get a lot of money selling it!


“Get in!” the empress said with a smile. “Is it always about money for you? The carriage can’t be sold!”


“What good is it if it can’t be sold?” Lin Haihai sighed dejectedly and climbed into the carriage. She was mad when she saw the empress entering the carriage by stepping on the back of a eunuch.


The empress interpreted her disapproving look as her being upset that the carriage couldn’t be sold. She explained, “This belongs to the imperial family, not me!”


“Eunuchs are people too, Empress,” Lin Haihai blurted out. She could never keep quiet about what she was thinking. “The carriage isn’t tall. You’ll be able to get on by yourself or with some assistance. Why step on someone’s back?“


“I...” The empress was at a loss for words. She didn’t expect Lin Haihai to be angry about this, but there was truth to it. She responded honestly, “You’re right. I’ll remember next time!”


The carriage started slowly with guards riding on horses on the side to protect them. Guihua and the other maids and eunuchs serving them followed close behind in another carriage. The State Protection Temple was fifteen kilometers away from the city. Since they didn’t have a lot of time, the rider had hastened the pace. The sound of hooves hitting the ground could be heard as the horses galloped through the public road.


Lin Haihai’s heart pounded in unease. The air seemed to have thickened with tension. Suddenly, she felt a sharp pain in her heart. Something bad has happened to him!


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