Lin Haihai briefly packed up and transferred the rest of the patients to the imperial physicians. Zheng Feng looked at her and asked, “Aren’t you going to change your clothes?”
Lin Haihai was confused but replied, “I changed right after I came back. It’s clean!”
Zheng Feng shook his head and exclaimed, “That’s not the issue. The question is whether you’re going to see the empress dowager in these coarse clothes. That secondary consort is definitely going to dress extravagantly. You won’t have a place within the residence if you keep acting this way!”
Lin Haihai didn’t understand what he meant, but didn’t want to speculate any further. She brushed him off and walked away. “Are there any connections between the clothes I wear and my status? Since when did you start talking in riddles? Let’s go. Help me come up with an explanation on the way there!”
Zheng Feng quickly followed and murmured, “What explanation can I possibly come up with?!”
After Yang Hanlun withdrew from court, he returned to the residence to pick up Chen Birou, so they could enter the palace together to pay respects to the empress dowager. Chen Birou dressed meticulously. The pink muslin dress hugged her slim body and she pulled her hair up into a lotus bun with a few golden dangling ornaments inserted in her hair. She looked beautiful, magnanimous, and appropriate. She walked over slowly and curtsied. Her voice was like a black-naped oriole leaving its nest. “This daughter-in-law pays respect to Imperial Mother!”
The empress dowager nodded and smiled, saying, “Good, good!”
An older maidservant delivered an exquisite-looking tray over, with a cup of tea on top of it. Chen Birou received the tray and got on her knees lightly. “Imperial Mother, please drink this tea!”
The empress dowager smiled faintly as she received the cup of tea. She took a light sip of it before taking out a red packet. “Good girl, I hope you will work hard and give me a healthy grandson soon. That’d take a load off this Empress Dowager’s mind!”
Chen Birou lowered her head shyly, her face flushing. Yang Hanlun walked forward and laughed, replying, “Imperial Mother must really want grandsons!”
The empress dowager exclaimed coquettishly, “Your Imperial Elder Brother has so many women in his harem, but this Empress Dowager still doesn’t have a grandson. How can this Empress Dowager not be anxious?”
When Lin Haihai arrived at the door, she heard them talking about having children. The eunuch recognized Lin Haihai, so he announced, “Consort Lin is here!” Lin Haihai smiled as she walked in. The moment the empress dowager saw her, she beamed with joy and hurriedly got up, saying, “You’re finally back. I have been really worried about you! Quick, come in and sit!” Seeing how the empress dowager doted on Lin Haihai, a trace of darkness flickered in Chen Birou’s eyes. This woman has quite the methods.
“Imperial Mother, thank you for the concern. I’m fine!” Lin Haihai sat down beside the empress dowager, glancing at the exquisite beauty in front of her.
When Yang Hanlun saw Lin Haihai, he was incredibly joyful. He was sure that she would be all right, and now, she came back safely. Lin Haihai smiled at him. While she was at the cave, she had been letting Yang Hanlun know that she was safe through telepathy so that he wouldn’t be too worried to carry on with his wedding.
On the other hand, Yang Hanlun had been worried that she’d be unhappy because of his marriage. Seeing her happy expression, he revealed a bright smile.
“Greetings, Sister Lin!” Chen Birou glanced at Lin Haihai’s plain cotton clothes and her casually tied bun. Although Lin Haihai had bright eyes and a bright smile, she seemed rather unpresentable. Did she know her etiquettes? Even if Lin Haihai didn’t know etiquette, she still needed to display it. Therefore, Chen Birou politely curtsied at Lin Haihai.
Lin Haihai smiled and said, “Oh, hello. Birou, right? Here, come sit!” Lin Haihai looked at Chen Birou with a personable smile, as if she wanted to chat with her.
Chen Birou obediently walked over with her head down and got on her knees, surprising Lin Haihai. The old maidservant hurriedly brought the tray over. Chen Birou received it and gently said, “This sister should’ve offered tea yesterday, but Elder Sister didn’t return last night. Therefore, in front of Imperial Mother, this sister will kowtow and offer tea right now.”
Lin Haihai received the teacup in a flurry, and took a huge sip. “Get up, quickly get up!”
The empress dowager smiled and said, “Silly child. As the older sister, you need to give her a red packet and compliment her before she can get up.”
Lin Haihai looked awkwardly at the empress dowager. She didn’t bring a red packet. The empress dowager covered her mouth and chuckled, indicating for Lihua to go prepare. Lin Haihai said apologetically to Chen Birou, “Sorry, I forgot about this. I’m very scatter-brained. If someone doesn’t remind me, I won’t remember!” Lin Haihai’s words didn’t mean anything negative, but from Chen Birou’s perspective, she thought that Lin Haihai was purposefully embarrassing her in front of everyone. Someone should’ve taught her about these etiquettes a long time ago. How could she possibly not have prepared it?
Chen Birou got on her knees, her expression going through a myriad of emotions before her impressive self-control finally decided on a neutral look. She smiled faintly and said, “Elder Sister, don't take it to heart. This sister was being inconsiderate and didn’t let you know beforehand that I’d be coming!”
Lin Haihai froze. She seemed to recall Zheng Feng telling her Chen Birou would come. However, she was thinking of something else back then, so she forgot to prepare a red packet. Plus, she didn’t know that Chen Birou would offer tea to her in the palace! Thankfully, this Chen Family’s young miss has a nice personality. A more crafty and unruly young miss would’ve gotten angry already.
She smiled embarrassedly. “General Zheng told me before, but I didn’t remember.” The empress dowager rolled her eyes. Yuguan was too honest. Wasn’t that equivalent to saying that Chen Birou didn’t have a place in her heart? She didn’t even know that she had offended her. This muddle-headed child!
Chen Birou was about to explode from anger. She was positive that Lin Haihai was purposefully making things difficult for her. She kneeled on the ground unmoving, but her eyes flickered sinisterly. Yang Hanlun stood at the side, conflicted. He knew about Lin Haihai’s muddle-headed personality, and she had just returned from being kidnapped; he could understand why she was unprepared. But then he allowed himself to relax. Birou wasn’t stingy, nor did she hold grudges. She was magnanimous and open-minded, so she naturally wouldn’t take it personally.
Lihua fetched the red packet and hurried back. Lin Haihai hastily grabbed it and delivered it to Chen Birou, saying, “I hope you have a lovely marriage and grow old together!” After that, she chuckled at the two. Yang Hanlun was quite blessed, marrying such a beautiful and considerate bride.
She was sincere when she congratulated the two, but her casualness made Chen Birou think she was being disingenuous.
She received the red packet and thanked Lin Haihai. Then, she tried to stand up. Her legs were a bit numb after kneeling for so long, though, and she lost her balance. Yang Hanlun went up to support her swiftly. Seizing the opportunity, she leaned into Yang Hanlun’s arms.
Yang Hanlun turned to Lin Haihai to see her smiling at them. He felt a loud pang in his heart. Does she not care at all? Or is it because she doesn’t love me at all?
Chen Birou deliberately swept her gaze toward Lin Haihai smugly. However, when she saw Lin Haihai’s pure gaze and indifferent expression, she couldn’t help but sneer. Did this woman not care, or was she a profound schemer? No woman would be indifferent towards these matters. Her smile must have been a disguise. It seemed like she had underestimated Lin Haihai.
“By the way, Yuguan, who kidnapped you yesterday? How did you come back safely?” The empress dowager suddenly asked. Lin Haihai forced a smile on her face. Why does this elderly lady have such a good memory? She looked at Yang Hanlun to see him looking at her fervently. She couldn’t help but panic. Even if she could deceive the elderly lady with her story, she might not be able to fool Yang Hanlun.
“Well, speak!” the empress dowager urged. Lin Haihai could only start talking, “I was looking for a place to relieve myself when I got in the forest yesterday. A black smoke floated past, and then I became unconscious. When I woke up, I was in a small room. The people there had their faces covered, and there was a patient lying in bed. They ordered me to save the patient. I stayed there the entire night up until the patient was out of danger. They then got a horse carriage ready, blindfolded me, and took me away. Up until now, I still don’t know who they are!” It was unlikely that someone would believe in this explanation. However,Lin Haihai remembered the saying: when one was lying, one had to believe the lies they spoke were the truth. She was now an expert at this.
After Chen Birou heard Lin Haihai’s explanation, she widened her eyes in shock. She asked in concern, “Sister, did the bad guys disrespect you?” She had put a lot of thought into her words. Even if a woman wasn’t humiliated after being kidnapped for the entire night, if news of this was spread, her reputation would be in shambles. She was trying to lead everyone to think in this perspective because she didn’t believe in Lin Haihai at all.
Why didn’t they look for a proper physician if they wanted to treat the patient? Instead, they had to look for a weak woman. Even more, they blindfolded her on the way there. This proved that the place wasn’t proper. They were either robbers or bandits. One could imagine the consequences of a beautiful woman falling into wolves’ den. The reason why she thought this was because she didn’t know that Lin Haihai was a physician at Linhai Hospital. However, even if she did know, she wouldn’t believe that Lin Haihai had come out unscathed.
As expected, everyone’s attention turned to Lin Haihai. The latter felt her scalp going numb. The repercussions of lying was that she needed to continue doing so in order to fill up the loopholes in her lies. The more she lied, the more she needed to explain and the more trouble it’d cause. However, she had no choice but to continue lying right now. She shifted her gaze to another place guiltily. “That didn’t happen. They were quite polite to me.”
Chen Birou looked at her guilty expression, certain that Lin Haihai must be hiding something. Therefore, she added, “If that’s the case, that’s great. You were blindfolded and then kidnapped. This sister thought that the perpetrators were bandits or robbers. Thankfully, Elder Sister returned safe and sound. Otherwise, this Sister wouldn’t be able to get over it. After all, Elder Sister went to Baoguo Temple for me!” After that, she started crying. One couldn’t help but sympathize with her when they saw her fragile expression.
When the empress dowager heard this, she turned to say to the palace maids and eunuchs, “You may withdraw now. If this conversation spreads in the least bit, this Empress Dowager will cut out your tongues!”
The eunuchs and palace maids all swore to follow the order. Lihua had them leave, and then she closed the door behind them while she was at it, guarding the door.
The empress dowager looked at Lin Haihai seriously and stated, “Yuguan, if something did happen, you mustn’t hide it from Imperial Mother, okay? Don’t bear the grievances alone. Imperial Mother will defend you!”
Lin Haihai didn’t expect her lies to bring her such moving sentiment from the empress dowager. After all, wouldn’t the face of the imperial family be the most important thing for someone in her place? Yet, she was only worried about whether she had suffered or not. Lin Haihai felt her nose sting. Her mother and this woman were two completely different women. However, they both doted her. She suddenly felt as if she wouldn’t ever be able to leave the place.
Yang Hanlun looked at her worriedly. Her reddened eyes made his heart sink. If something did happen, he wouldn’t be able to forgive himself. He hadn’t done anything but order people to search for her when she was kidnapped. He suddenly felt as if he had committed an unforgivable crime!
Lin Haihai hugged the empress dowager and said, moved, “Imperial Mother, I’m fine. I came back safely. I promise you that nothing like this will happen again in the future. Don’t worry!”
The empress dowager nodded. She liked how this daughter-in-law made her feel needed. Her sons had grown up. Even when they did meet, they just paid their respects and greeted her. They didn’t depend on her as they did in the past anymore. She always regretted not having a daughter. Now, she could finally make up for it.
She glanced at the righteous look on Lin Haihai’s face. The empress dowager believed her. Ordinary people would be intimidated by her presence and wouldn’t have the courage to offend her. Even more, those bandits needed her to save someone, so they naturally didn’t dare to be disrespectful to their benefactor. Anyone could see this.
The empress dowager nodded comfortingly. Seeing Yang Hanlun’s hurt expression as he looked at Lin Haihai, the empress dowager thought that he didn’t believe Lin Haihai’s words. She was about to lay everything out for him when an eunuch’s sharp voice rang outside, “His Majesty is here!”
Lin Haihai suddenly felt overwhelmed. In what frame of mind should she face him now? She still felt sorrow from their separation. Now, they were meeting each other again with different identities.
The empress dowager smiled as she watched the emperor walk over. Yang Shaolun’s gaze, however, was concentrated on Lin Haihai, who was standing beside the empress dowager. He felt all sorts of emotions in his heart as well. He wasn’t able to treat her as his sister-in-law in the end. However, he just needed to slowly practice, and get better.
Lin Haihai stood up and curtsied at Yang Shaolun, copying Chen Birou, “Paying respects to Your Majesty!”
Yang Shaolun felt a stab inside his heart, and his facade nearly collapsed. He looked at Lin Haihai and said, “No need to be so courteous!”
Lin Haihai smiled faintly and retreated to the empress dowager’s side. However, she was unable to maintain calm. She had imagined all of this before and thought that she could easily face this. Yet, who knew that she still felt bitter on the inside. She looked down, not daring to look at Yang Shaolun anymore. She feared that she wouldn’t be able to hide the deep love in her eyes.
Yang Shaolun greeted the empress dowager. She smiled at him and replied, “The empress said you went to save Yuguan. I was worried that you’d be in trouble. Thankfully, you two returned safely. This Empress Dowager now feels free from anxiety.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter