Lin Haihai pondered over it. What is romance? Right, what exactly is romance? She sat up and thought carefully about it before saying, “It’s giving me flowers when we are dating. Right, you have to give me flowers. I see other couples giving each other flowers.” Lin Haihai recalled the time Nan Guang was pursuing Yu Qing. He gave Yu Qing a lot of flowers, and at that time, the entire hospital said that Nan Guang was a very romantic person.
“Give flowers?” Yang Shaolun was a bit confused. “You’re saying that romance is me giving you flowers?”
“Yes!” Lin Haihai nodded firmly. “You have never given me flowers before!”
Yang Shaolun glanced at the beautifully blooming flowers within the cave. He walked over and picked a red flower he couldn’t identify. Lin Haihai stared at him. Seeing that he was about to pluck the blooming flower, she hurriedly told him to stop. Yang Shaolun had already snapped it off, however. He held the flower in his hand and turned to look at Lin Haihai confusedly. She was a bit vexed as she walked over to look at the tender and beautiful flower, her expression mournful. Yang Shaolun was at a loss of what to do when he saw Lin Haihai’s nervous look. “Didn’t you say I should give you flowers?”
As he finished speaking, he shyly delivered the flower to Lin Haihai. She accepted it with a sinking heart. Isn’t this romance? She watched the fresh and beautiful flower slowly wilt. Shouldn’t this be romantic? So many were so into such gestures. Why didn’t she feel any joy then?
Yang Shaolun looked at her and asked, “Did I do something wrong?”
Lin Haihai looked up and saw his questioning gaze. She hurriedly smiled and explained, “No, that’s not it.” She pondered over her words before continuing, “This doesn’t feel that romantic. Let’s go watch the stars instead!”
Yang Shaolun smiled in relief. He patted her head and asked, “Watching stars is romantic?”
Lin Haihai smiled brightly. “It’s extremely romantic!” The two linked their hands and went back to the huge stone by the cave. Yang Shaolun leaned against it and sat down. Lin Haihai cushioned her head on his lap, and looked up at the starry sky. The moonlight was bright and cast a pool of silver light on the ground. Yang Shaolun pointed at Venus by the moon and said, “If you’re a moon, then I’m the star by your side!”
Lin Haihai smiled faintly as she looked at the sky. The Moon and Venus seemed to be within arms reach of each other, but it was separated so far away that it had to be calculated by light-years. Wasn’t this exactly their story? Lin Haihai threw herself into Yang Shaolun’s arms, her smile never fading. Sometimes, it was all one could do. Smile. Smile as they kissed. Smile as they said goodbye. Smile as they waved their hands to bid farewell. Smile … because they had no other choice! Yang Shaolun seemed to understand her resignation. Maybe because she was resigned to their fates that she felt chilled to the bones even though they were holding each other!
After the guests dispersed, the empress dowager and the imperial concubines returned to their respective palaces. Yang Hanlun carefully reminded his personal guards to be prudent. When his facade of calmness dropped, he looked extremely terrified and angry. It had been a while since the event occurred. However, there was still no news of his imperial elder brother. There was no information on Haihai, either. Could it be… he didn’t dare follow that thought. Fear filled his heart to the brim. They were the most important people in his life. He couldn’t lose either of them.
He stood in front of his residence. The rain had stopped completely, and the ground was covered in broken branches. The wind whistled through the streets. Yang Hanlun looked coldly at the black silhouette on the rooftop. He was furious, but he tried his best to hold it in, pretending not to see the figure as he went back inside.
Chen Birou sat in her room and waited with her heart pounding. She wasn’t exempt from the nerves of a new bride, but she knew that her husband was an indomitable man, and he loved her dearly. However, he didn’t seem to be in a good mood today. Even more strangely, she didn’t see his first consort at the wedding. That was fine by her anyway. It spared her from having to kowtow and offer tea to an inferior woman in front of everyone.
“Young miss, do you want this maid to see why the groom hasn’t come yet?” The dowry maid, Yanping, asked by the side. The banquet was already over, so why wasn't the young master here yet?
“It’s fine. He’ll come in soon.” Chen Birou said calmly. The red cloth covered her exquisite and beautiful face. She placed her hands on top of each other on her abdomen. She was dignified and virtuous. Anyone would be captivated by her beauty.
As expected, Yang Hanlun walked in a bit drunk. The matron of honor hurriedly welcomed him. She was about to say something when Yang Hanlun said, “You may all leave to receive your rewards!”
The matron in honor was stunned for a second before she immediately exclaimed in high spirits, “Many thanks to Your Highness. May Your Highness and Consort Chen have a lovely marriage and grow old together!” After that, she led the maids and Yanping out.
Only the newlyweds were left in the bridal room. Yang Hanlun’s heart was heavy. The day he dreamed of had finally come, but with everything that had happened today, how could he possibly be happy?
He picked up the steelyard tied with a red ribbon and used it to gently lift the veil covering Chen Birou’s face. She shyly looked down. Under her fine brows were her bright eyes, and she looked at Yang Hanlun lovingly. Her face was flushed and her cheeks were red. Yang Hanlun was captivated.
Birou is finally mine. He placed the steelyard down and looked gently at Chen Birou. When all was said and done, he was delighted and grateful. Every man dreamed of marrying a good wife like the woman in front of him. She was educated and reasonable, generous and dignified. And she was as beautiful as a fairy. He was extremely lucky to have married her. However, he couldn’t help but feel guilty for marrying her as his secondary consort.
“Birou, we’re finally married!” He pulled Chen Birou into his arms and took a deep breath. She lifted her head gently and curled her lips into a smile, radiating meekness.
She softly said, “Husband, from now on, our lives are tied together!” Crystal-like tears flickered in her eyes. She looked up to meet Yang Hanlun’s eyes. The deep and tender look in her eyes filled Yang Hanlun with want. He held her delicate fair fingers and brought her to the table to take a seat. He picked up the wine jug and filled the porcelain white cup with translucent liquor. He passed a cup to Chen Birou, saying, “Birou, I know that I’ve wronged you by making you my secondary consort. However, I will treat you well for the rest of my life!”
He had said the exact same thing to Lin Haihai before, and he meant them. He did love these two women. Way before Lin Haihai’s sudden intrusion into his life, he and Chen Birou had already been in love, and they pledged eternal love for each other. At that time, he planned on marrying only her. Therefore, he didn’t hesitate to divorce his wife on their wedding day.
Falling in love with Lin Haihai was an accident, but that didn’t erase his love for Chen Birou. Engraved in his very bones, it was something he couldn’t change. He loved the two women in his life differently. His love for Lin Haihai pained him, while his love for Chen Birou made him warm and fuzzy inside. Yet, he needed them both. He couldn’t distinguish what true love was anymore, nor did he want to with both women by his side.
A faint smile tugged at Chen Birou’s lips, accentuating her gentle presence. She knew this man too well. Therefore, she forced herself to become a gentle and virtuous woman. She was confident that he’d pamper her and only her in the future. Lin Yuguan was a businessman’s daughter. She heard that the woman was illiterate and had no sense of etiquette. Wearing a man’s outfit on the empress dowager’s birthday banquet was enough proof that the woman was far from clever.
She gently linked her hands with Yang Hanlun’s and exclaimed, “I’m elated to be with you. Why would I feel wronged?” She then covered the wine cup with her sleeves and drank it in one gulp. Overwhelmed with emotions, Yang Hanlun downed his cup of wine with his eyes fixed on Chen Birou.
Putting down the cup, he could hear a rustling noise coming from the rooftop. He sneered, his heart again overtaken by rage, but he forced himself to hold it in. In a gentle voice, he said to Chen Birou, “Let’s rest!”
She caught the meaning behind his words, her face flushed as she lowered her head and said nothing. Yang Hanlun kept his emotions in check. Tonight was a crucial moment. They must not have found his elder brother, either. Therefore, he needed to act like all was well and go on about his wedding night to lower the other party’s guards.
The red candle melted as it illuminated the bridal chamber, bearing witness to the beginning of a marriage. The canopy hung low, and the blanket tossed like waves. Stripped clothes were scattered all over the floor. The cold moonlight peeked through the window, spying on the passionate and heated spring night.
The black silhouette on the rooftop revealed a sneer, and his handsome face appeared to be dark under the moonlight.
It was already late. Lihua had been waiting outside the tent worriedly. Ever since the empress dowager returned from the wedding banquet, she’d been pale and silent, sitting on the woven mat within the tent.
A while later, the empress dowager said tiredly, “Lihua, go check if the empress has returned to her palace!”
Lihua answered, “Yes, Your Majesty. This maid will go right now!” She walked out of the door and ordered the eunuchs and palace maids on night watch to stay at their posts. Lihua walked out of the Ci’an Palace and saw a large number of palace guards on patrol. She stood there in confusion for a while before one of the guards walked over to say, “Sister Lihua, where are you going?”
Lihua greeted him and replied, “The empress dowager wants to know if Her Majesty the Empress has returned yet, so she sent me to find out.”
The palace guard said solemnly, “Her Majesty has already returned to her palace. Sister Lihua, if there’s nothing else, please go back and serve the empress dowager. Don’t walk around casually.”
Shocked, Lihua hurriedly asked, “Did something happen?”
The palace guard looked at her and coldly stated, “Don’t press the issue, nor say anything to the empress dowager. In short, be cautious of your actions and words. Don’t come out unless it’s necessary.” After that, he rejoined the patrolling team.
Lihua’s face paled. Something is amiss!
Upon her return to the empress dowager’s bed chamber, her master raised her brows and coldy inquired, “Is the empress back yet?”
Lihua hesitated before saying, “This maid didn’t go to An’ning Palace. However, the palace guard guarding the door said that Her Majesty has returned already.”
When the empress dowager heard this, her brows were still furrowed. She then got up and said, “Tell the empress to come meet me!”
Lihua was caught off guard. “Your Majesty, it’s already getting late. Her Majesty is probably asleep already. How about this maid will go tomorrow…” Before Lihua could finish her words, the empress dowager glared angrily and said sternly, “Now, immediately!”
Lihua immediately got on her knees in fright. Although the empress dowager was usually strict, she had never been so angry before. What was up tonight?
Lihua kowtowed and said, trembling, “Yes, this maid will go right now!” After that, she hurriedly dashed out the door. The eunuch on night duty jumped. What happened to Sister Lihua?
The empress had only returned from the temple late into the night. The journey was uneventful. However, when she returned to the palace, she noticed that it was heavily guarded, and the air was thick with tension, seemingly heralding an upcoming conflict.
After she finished freshening up, she sat in front of the window and thought back carefully. She hadn’t been informed about the attempted assassination on the emperor, but she did have some guesses. Only the emperor could cause Lin Haihai’s expression to change in such a dramatic manner. However, how did she know? Even if the emperor was in trouble, she had been sitting in the carriage with her. No one had reported to her, nor were there any signs. What led her to say “He’s in trouble?”
Her personal palace maid, Ruqi, walked in to report, “Your Majesty, the empress dowager summons you.”
The empress shivered. As expected, something bad had happened. Otherwise, the empress dowager would’ve long been asleep at this time. She said faintly, “Help me change my clothes!”
The empress walked over in steady and calm steps, thinking about what the empress dowager would summon her for so late at night. The moonlight was gentle like water, and it gradually flowed along the pebbled path. The tree rustled under the night wind, and the ground was full of red and green fallen leaves. The empress sighed silently. She was used to the gathering storms of conspiracies within the harem. However, those couldn’t compare to how fierce and intense this brewing trouble would be.
When the palace guards patrolling the grounds saw the empress, they walked over and saluted. The empress wore a faint countenance and held herself with grace as she said, “You may all rise.” The leader of the palace guards stood up first and cupped his fists, saying, “Your Majesty, let us palace guards escort you!”
The empress said nothing but nodded faintly, continuing to walk ahead. The palace guards followed along acting as if they had encountered their enemies. Noting the way they acted, the empress couldn’t help but knit her brows lightly. She wanted to ask them what was going on, but she knew that she wouldn’t get an answer. She could only hope for Lin Haihai to return safely right now. As for the emperor, she didn’t feel much towards him. However, she was the empress as long as the emperor was alive. The surrounding lesser nations would at least be somewhat apprehensive and keep their ambitions in check.
The light was dim within the Ci’an Palace. There was only a weak candlelight shining within the bed chamber. The empress slowly walked in. The empress dowager was sitting on her deck chair, her face pale but her back straight. She looked sharply at the empress, sending a shiver down the empress’s spine. She hurriedly greeted, “Greetings, Mother. It’s late. What did you summon me for?”
The empress dowager didn’t immediately respond. After a while, she sighed heavily and said, “Tell me everything you know!”
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