A faint smile tugged at Lin Haihai’s lips, but her eyes were still brimming with tears. “It’s very painful to be away from him, and it also hurts to be with him. However, the two feelings are distinctively different. If we’re apart, only the two of us would be in pain. Whereas if we are to be together, there’ll be more people suffering with us. Hanlun is such a proud person. Can he possibly accept his admirable Imperial Elder Brother stealing his wife? Could the common people understand this? Some people might exploit this matter to stir up trouble. Then, the masses would be the one suffering. Even if we can be together, how can I possibly be happy, knowing I’ve pushed him to the point of no return?”
“You’re the one suffering if you insist on considering all these factors. Love is love. If other things are mixed into love, then it’s not simple and pure anymore. In fact, things might not be as serious as you think, unless you don’t love him.” Ever since Li Junyue encountered Yang Shaolun at Carefree Tavern that night, he had been touched by the man’s love which made him utter these irrational words.
“Love isn’t the most important thing. Compared to human lives, love is nothing. Li Junyue, I can’t make the common people suffer and endure hardships for such selfish reasons. I must part with him not because I don’t love him, but because I love him too much!”
Li Junyue looked at her, his heart aching for her. He sighed and said, “If that’s the case, don’t complain about the hardships. You chose this path, so bear the pain and carry on!”
Lin Haihai felt the prick of tears in her eyes, but she felt fearless.
Grand Councilor’s Residence
The place was heavily guarded. A man wearing a yellow official robe adorned with snake patterns sat on an armchair. Under his thick brows were a pair of imperious icy eyes. His pursed lips curved slightly upwards in an aloof scowl, his brows furrowed.
Coldly, he asked, “How’s the situation?”
A handsome man in black - Grand Councilor Yan - cupped his fists and exclaimed, “That damned emperor has been forced off the cliff. There is no chance of survival for him. His useless band of watch dogs acted like nothing had happened. The wedding went on as planned, while the rest of his men continued their searches. Chen Luoqing had disappeared after paying a visit to Linhai Hospital, his whereabouts unknown. Luo Kuangyuan also disappeared after overseeing the wedding ceremony to its completion!”
The man’s cold eyes lit up like sparks of lightning. Grand Councilor Yan couldn’t help but lower his head. Satisfied, the man said, “This Prince will not leave anything to chance! Find someone to monitor Linhai Hospital closely. The moment there is any movement, take care of it!” His faint tone was mixed with a stern and severe murderous intent. Grand Councilor Yan didn’t dare to refuse.
“This subordinate understands!” he said, as his memory of the beautiful and bright woman surfaced subconsciously in his mind. He felt conflicted. However subtle it was, it couldn’t escape the man’s sharp eyes. He curled his lips into a sneer. What exactly was Linhai Hospital’s charm? Even the cold Zhou Junpeng was a bit apprehensive.
He looked coldly at Grand Councilor Yan. “At the morning court tomorrow, spread the news about the death of the damned emperor. You mustn’t give them any time to plan and counteract. You have to catch them off guard!”
Grand Councilor Yan cupped his fist obediently and responded, “This subordinate understands!”
The man curled his lips into a devilish but charming smile, gently swinging the folded fan in his hand.
Early next morning, the sleepless Yang Hanlun got up gingerly, but still startled Chen Birou awake. She looked at Yang Hanlun with bleary eyes, shocked by his solemn expression. “Husband, what’s the matter?”
Yang Hanlun turned to her with a smile. “Nothing. I need to attend the morning court. Sleep for a bit. I’ll be back very soon!”
Chen Birou smiled gently and got up from the bed. She draped a silk outer garment over her before helping Yang Hanlun change. Her gentle and soft hands moved around Yang Hanlun’s body busily. The prince looked at the beautiful woman in front of him, touched. He secretly swore to treat her well.
“Husband, be careful on your way. I’m waiting for you to come back!” Chen Birou said shyly with her eyes downcast, painting the perfect picture of a meek wife.
“I will. I can’t have breakfast with you, but you should remember to eat something, okay?”
Chen Birou smiled. It seemed as fragile and delicate as an orchid. Yang Hanlun coiled his flexible sword around his waist and put on the general’s armor. He took his golden-yellow cloak from Chen Birou and stared at the beautiful woman deeply before turning and walking out.
It was the first time the dragon throne representing supreme authority was left empty. The officials exchanged curious looks, murmuring in discussion. The empress dowager’s head eunuch, Fuxi, emerged to announce the decree, “According to His Majesty’s verbal order, he is feeling unwell today, so General Chen and Official Luo Kuangyuan are temporarily in charge of court matters!”
The officials responded by saying, "All hail His Majesty” three times. However, they were all bewildered. How come it wasn’t Xiao Gonggong who announced the decree, but Fuxi, who served the empress dowager? Though they were bewildered, this was the emperor’s decree. Officials were not to question or attempt to figure out the emperor’s will. They just needed to follow orders.
Chen Luoqing walked onto the white jade steps and projected his voice as he said, “Since His Majesty has ordered for me and Official Luo to be in charge of the court, if any officials have something to report, you may do so now!”
“Wait a second!” Grand Councilor Yan gradually walked out, a crafty look flickering in his eyes. “Xi Gonggong, please wait a second!” Fuxi came to a sudden halt, but this was far from his first time facing such a situation. With a respectful expression, he asked, “What may this servant do for you, Your Excellency?”
Grand Councilor Yan smiled faintly and said, “May I ask whether His Majesty’s condition is serious?”
Caught off guard, Fuxi froze for a moment before replying, “The imperial physicians have already taken a look. His Majesty will be better after a few days’ rest. There’s no need for Your Excellency to worry!”
“Then Xi Gonggong, please lead the way. Us officials want to visit and pay respects to His Majesty!” Grand Councilor Yan cupped his fists with disingenuous concern on his face.
“There’s no need!” Fuxi hurriedly exclaimed before recovering his calm. In a soft voice, he insisted, “His Majesty has issued an order prohibiting any visitations while he is recuperating. Your Excellency may spare the trip to His Majesty’s chamber.”
“As officials, it’s only proper for us to be concerned for His Majesty. We may never rest easy until we visit His Majesty and see for ourselves that His Majesty is in good health. Xi Gonggong, please spare us the pleasantries and lead the way!” An astute glint flickered through Grand Councilor Yan’s eyes, his tone gradually gaining an impertinent edge.
“His Majesty will definitely be pleased with your concern. However, His Majesty has ordered not to let anyone visit him. Please don’t make it hard on us servants!” Fuxi’s tone became steely. There was a turbulence of tension under their exchange.
“This is uncalled for, Grand Councilor Yan. His Majesty has made his order. There will be many chances to see His Majesty in the future. Why do you have to insist on going now?” Luo Kuangyuan took a step forward and said coldly.
“Could it be that His Excellency is questioning His Majesty?” Chen Luoqing asked sternly.
Grand Councilor Yan smiled faintly. “That is uncalled for, General Chen. This Grand Councilor is simply worried for His Majesty. It’s normal to want to visit His Majesty, is it not? Putting everything to the side, His Majesty is also this minister’s daughter’s brother-in-law. How is this minister’s action not warranted?”
Chen Luoqing’s expression turned harsh. He was about to say something when an eunuch announced loudly from outside of the hall, “Prince Pingnan has arrived!”
Shocked, the officials in attendance moved back to make a path. They watched as a man of impressive stature sauntered in. He wore a red robe sewn by golden thread and adorned with snake patterns, and there was a black belt around his waist. His expression was cold as his icy gaze swept over everyone. The officials lowered their heads in reaction.
The man stopped in front of the white jade steps and looked at Chen Luoqing imperiously. The latter smiled faintly and greeted, “Prince Pingnan, it’s been a while!”
Prince Pingnan scoffed and said, “You’ve reached above your station, General Chen. Who gave you the power to stop the Grand Councilor from visiting His Majesty?”
“I naturally don’t dare to stop the Grand Councilor. However, His Majesty has decreed that no visitations are allowed. This general has no other choices!” Chen Luoqing stared at Prince Pingnan. It’s time to settle the score.
“What if this Prince wishes to visit His Majesty? Do I need your permission as well, General?” He advanced upon General Chen suddenly, his insidious gaze locked on Chen Luoqing. A faint smile tugged at his lips, but it was a smile that would make one’s blood run cold.
“Oh? Does Prince Pingnan want to disobey His Majesty’s decree?” Chen Luoqing wasn’t afraid in the least bit. The man was difficult to deal with and impervious to tricks. There was no point in beating around the bush.
“Haha, how laughable!” Prince Pingnan tipped his head up and laughed. “It’s not even the first time that I, Yang Xiaoyun, resisted His Majesty’s decree. This Prince will see my nephew today. If anyone dares to stop me, don’t blame this Prince for showing no mercy!”
“Imperial Uncle, why are you so angry? Since you’ve returned to the capital, why didn’t you come to this nephew’s wedding and have a drink?” A clear voice rang from outside the hall. Yang Hanlun walked in with a smile, but in his eyes was a bone-chilling glint.
“Nephew, don’t blame this Imperial Uncle. I always disliked crowds and lively places. This Imperial Uncle has given you a gift though. Nephew, aren’t you happy with it?” Prince Pingnan said meaningfully, the sneer at the corner of his lips becoming more obvious.
“Oh, this nephew is more than happy with it. Since Imperial Uncle has shown such generosity, this nephew will definitely prepare a better gift in return.” Yang Hanlun said with a fake smile, his expression indifferent, but his gaze blazing with fury.
“We haven’t seen each other in a few years, and my nephew is still so polite. This Imperial Uncle is very touched. I wonder if my nephew, Shaolun, will treat me with as much respect.” Prince Pingnan was secretly surprised. How can this boy be so calm? The young man was clearly furious, but he was still able to put on a calm facade. It seems like that damned emperor had obtained another strong asset.
“Imperial Uncle, how would we dare to neglect you when you’ve graced us with your presence?” The second prince marched out with several princes in tow. The officials were all flabbergasted. What was the reason for this? These princes usually never got involved in court matters. Why would they show up in court right now? And Prince Pingnan had been exiled to Lingnan, the southern part of their nation. Why did he appear in court today? As for the emperor, he hadn’t shown his face since yesterday. He didn’t even attend the sixth prince’s wedding. Could it be that the emperor was in trouble? The officials retreated to the side to watch the scene unfold, suspicious and confused.
Yang Hanlun obscured his delight. His imperial brothers always hated government matters and were unwilling to be in court. Yet, they all appeared today. He wasn’t fighting alone.
Prince Pingnan laughed craftily. “Wonderful, how wonderful! Since you’re all here, invite His Majesty out for a gathering! Fuxi, what sickness was His Majesty actually diagnosed with? We should have a reunion. Then this visit will be worth the long and arduous journey!”
Fuxi panicked right then. He stuttered, “Um, the imperial physicians didn’t explain in detail. But.. His Majesty… His Majesty has issued a decree…”
“It’s fine. If His Majesty is to cast blame, let him blame this Prince. Now, this Prince will lead the officials to visit His Majesty. Fuxi, lead the way!” Prince Pingnan quickly interrupted Fuxi and turned to say to the officials, “Everyone, come with me!”
The officials looked at each other. Minister Chen stood up and said, “Let us accompany Prince Pingnan then!”
A group of officials agreed. Chen Luoqing glanced at those who readily voiced their agreement coldly and committed them to memory. These people must’ve pledged allegiance to Prince Pingnan!
Fu Xu glanced at the officials in panic. Prince Pingnan approached him step by step as he moved back step by step. Yang Hanlun and several princes blocked Prince Pingnan’s way. The second prince, Yang Yonglun, exclaimed, “Imperial Uncle, since Imperial Elder Brother doesn’t want to see anyone, we mustn’t disturb him. Moreover, Imperial Elder Brother is a busy man. It’s natural that he would like to rest after falling sick. As brothers and officials, shouldn’t we empathize with him?” His gaze swept over the restless officials, and they all fell silent.
“What if this Prince insists on seeing His Majesty? What are you prepared to do?” Prince Pingnan drawled, his tone full of disdain. These brats had no power. They were only able to fend for themselves due to their enfeoffment. Would they possibly dare to oppose him publicly?
“I didn’t think that Imperial Uncle misses this nephew so much after many years of separation. This nephew is incredibly touched!” Dressed in his dragon robe, Yang Shaolun emerged with an entourage of eunuchs, his gaze icy.
“Paying respects to Your Majesty!” The officials all got on their knees. Prince Pingnan’s smirk dropped. Impossible!
The princes and Chen Luoqing were shocked and delighted by Yang Shaolun’s appearance. They all rushed forth and got on their knees, their eyes flickering with happy tears.
Prince Pingnan and Grand Councilor Yan looked at each other before getting on their knees, saying, “Paying respects to Your Majesty!”
Yang Shaolun sat on his dragon throne and looked at the scene beneath him. One couldn’t discern his emotions from his impassive expression.
“It seems like the court can’t exist without this Emperor. Is that right, Imperial Uncle?” He said at an elaborate pace, his voice weak but demanding respect. His faint gaze swept over Prince Pingnan and Grand Councilor Yan. His patience shocked Prince Pingnan. The boy has spread his wings fully! I must act soon!
“Imperial Uncle, this Emperor is very grateful for your concern, and will remember your kindness. However, this Emperor recalls that you hadn’t obtained my permission before returning to the capital. Imperial Uncle, do you know the consequences of this violation?” Yang Shaolun’s handsome face darkened as he narrowed his eyes at Prince Pingnan.
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This reminds me of those Chinese dramas.... Prince Pingan is up to no good!