Chapter 86: Having A Meal

Yang Shaolun was bewildered. He looked at Lin Haihai and saw matching confusion on her face. Yang Hanlun knew that it was the lie the empress had made up, so he hurriedly exclaimed, “That’s right, but Imperial Elder Brother, you were chasing in the wrong direction and ran around the entire night for no reason. Thankfully, she made it back safely now.” 


Without missing a beat, Yang Shaolun said with a slight smile, “This Emperor is really muddle-headed. Haihai, please forgive me!” 


Lost in his smile, Lin Haihai met his gaze, their eyes communicating emotions only they could understand. “I’m sorry. It is my fault for worrying everyone!” 


Chen Birou sneered inside. How dared Lin Haihai address herself as “I” in front of the emperor and empress dowager? How impolite and rude. 


However, the emperor and empress dowager wore calm expressions, and didn’t seem the least bit upset. Chen Birou couldn’t help but be confused. Didn’t the imperial family care most about etiquettes? How did a vulgar woman like Lin Haihai actually get everyone to trust and accept her? This made Chen Birou boil with jealousy. She swore that this would all belong to her in the end. 


The empress dowager glanced at the sky and said, “This Empress Dowager has ordered people to make tasty food. Look at my daughter-in-law’s small face. It’s getting thinner. She looked as if she never had a full meal. All of you, eat with this Empress Dowager!” The empress dowager looked at Lin Haihai dotingly. This girl. She’s normally so busy with diagnosing patients that she neglects her diet. I must fatten her up. How could she get pregnant with such a weak body?


The mention of tasty food improved Lin Haihai’s mood. It wasn’t that she was a glutton; she was simply starving. She hadn’t eaten anything the entire day in the cave. Then she started seeing patients immediately after recovering from her sad mood. Besides drinking water, she hadn’t eaten anything yet. She felt as if she could swallow a cow at this point. 


Yang Shaolun glanced at her delighted expression and recalled how they had shared a fruit in the cave. At that time, she was also satisfied and happy. His gaze dimmed. Lin Haihai caught his flash of emotion and felt bitter inside too. She said to the empress dowager, “Let’s eat with our Imperial Mother. It’s not very often that we get to sit together and eat as a family. We must treasure these moments!” She was saying this for Yang Shaolun’s benefit, reminding him that he should be satisfied with the days where they could share a space with each other. He shouldn’t ask for more. 


Yang Shaolun quickly looked up and met her sparkling eyes. His dim eyes gradually turned bright. He was too greedy! 


The empress dowager straightened her posture and called, “Lihua, Lihua!” Lihua hurriedly ran inside and waited upon the empress dowager. The latter said beaming with joy, “Go and check if the empress has gone to the plantation. Tell her to come over for lunch. Bring Chuting too!” Lihua responded in affirmation and left.


The empress dowager sat on the master seat and indicated for Lin Haihai to sit beside her. It just so happened that Yang Shaolun was right across from her. Lin Haihai managed to maintain a natural and calm expression. Then Yang Hanlun sat next to Lin Haihai, while Chen Birou sat on his other side. 


Lin Haihai supported her chin with her hands, the jade ring catching Yang Shaolun’s gaze. He had been meaning to ask how it ended up on her when they were in the cave, but he didn’t know how. Seeing her wearing the ring that should've gone to the empress filled his heart with a strange warmth. 


The empress dowager also took note of the ring on Lin Haihai’s hand. A flicker of confusion passed by her face. Didn’t Han’er lose that ring a long time ago? Their forefather had bestowed this to Shao’er and instructed him to put it on his empress in the future. However, Han’er lost it a long time ago, and she punished him for that. 


She looked at Lin Haihai’s finger and asked, “Yuguan, where did the ring on your hand come from?” Startled, Yan Hanlun tilted his head away, a bit embarrassed. Meanwhile, Yang Shaolun had picked up his teacup from the table and was taking a sip to conceal his emotions.


“Mother, didn’t you bestow me a box of jewelry in the past? I found the ring inside. It’s so pretty that I didn’t have the heart to sell it, so I ended up wearing it myself.” She extended her hand and splayed her fingers. Lit by the sunlight, her slender and fair fingers matched the warmly glowing jade ring perfectly. 


Sell? Her slip of the tongue made everyone at the table widen their mouths in shock.


“You sold Imperial Mother’s jewelry?” Yan Hanlun was angry. He didn’t think she would actually do what she’d said. Why is this woman so greedy for money?


Lin Haihai knew that she had misspoken. Seeing the elderly lady’s unhappy expression, she hurriedly explained, “Of course I didn’t. I meant that I didn’t have the heart to sell them. How could I bear to sell them? I don’t have the heart to!” Of course, I have the heart to! 


Yang Hanlun looked at her suspiciously. He knew she didn’t mean it. She would do anything for money. She’d rather exchange accessories for money than to wear them. If she could remove the ring from her finger, she’d probably sell that too. 


The empress dowager chuckled and said, “Han’er, what’s with that look of yours? If Yuguan said she didn’t sell them, she didn’t. I believe her!” 


Lin Haihai chuckled weakly. From the very bottom of her heart, Chen Birou looked down on this woman. She even sold the things the empress dowager bestowed her. This woman didn’t know how to act tactfully. 


The empress dowager continued to say, “But you shouldn’t wear this ring. After we’re done eating, you may pick what you want from this Imperial Mother’s jewelry box. You can take whatever you want, no matter how many!”


“Really?” Lin Haihai’s eyes glowed, and she immediately started pulling on the ring. She knew that this ring was difficult to remove, but she believed that she’d be able to if she used enough force and endured the pain. One ring for a bunch of jewelry. How many silvers is that worth? Li Junyue said that everything from the imperial palace could be sold for a lot. She hadn’t gotten a chance to sell the things within the Prince Residence. 


She tried hard to pull it off, but the ring didn’t budge at all. Instead, the more she tried, the tighter it stuck to her finger. Seeing how eager she was to remove the ring, Yang Shaolun felt an emptiness spreading in his heart. He turned away bitterly, unable to look at her. 


Lin Haihai’s face flushed from her anxiousness. She suddenly had an idea and even used her spiritual energy but to no avail. Lin Haihai stared at the ring on her finger, bewildered. Why did this happen? Why was the spirit pearl’s power ineffective towards the ring? This ring seemed to have taken roots in her flesh and blood, tightly connected to her. 


The empress dowager looked confusedly at her. “What’s going on? How come you can’t remove it?” 


Lin Haihai replied sullenly, “I don’t know, either. I tried to take it off the day I put it on, too, but it’s stuck for some reason!” 


Chen Birou was already seething with jealousy hearing that the empress dowager was going to bestow Lin Haihai more jewelry. She was secretly delighted that Lin Haihai wasn’t able to take off the ring. She said to the empress dowager, “Sister is probably fated to wear this ring. Imperial Mother, since Elder Sister likes this ring so much, why don’t you give it to her? Birou has lots of rings from my dowry. If Imperial Mother wants them, Birou can give them all to you!” 


That won the empress dowager’s approval. She had heard others talk about how generous and refined she was. Now she could tell they were telling the truth! Han’er was really blessed! She looked at Chen Birou with newfound affection. “Your offer is appreciated, but this Empress Dowager asked for that particular ring for a reason. The ring Yuguan is wearing right now was bestowed to Shao’er by the forefather. It was lost in some accident. Who knew that it would end up in the jewelry box this Empress Dowager bestowed to Yuguan? Shao’er was supposed to give the ring to his wife. It’s inappropriate for Yuguan to wear it.”


Lin Haihai looked up in shock and met Yang Shaolun’s deep eyes. He was supposed to give this to his wife on their wedding day? She suddenly didn’t want to take it off anymore. No matter how many things the empress dowager bestowed her, they couldn’t compare to how precious the ring was. This is the gift her man would give to his newlywed wife. She said pitifully to the empress dowager, “Imperial Mother, since this ring is so important, and it just so happens to be stuck on my finger, how about I order someone to chop my finger off?” 


A smile tugged at Yang Shaolun’s lips. This girl! 


The empress dowager jumped and exclaimed, “Child, what are you saying? How could this Imperial Mother bear to chop your finger off? Keep it on since you cannot take it off. Maybe you’re fated to have this ring. We’d always thought we lost it; We will act like we didn’t find it! Emperor, do you have any objections?”


Yang Shaolun faintly smiled, his handsome face glowing a bit. “It’s your call, lmperial Mother.” 


Lin Haihai felt warm and fuzzy inside, and it showed. Her smile grew wider. 


Seeing Lin Haihai wear that ring bothered Yang Hanlun. He wanted to smash it with a stone. Confused, Chen Birou quietly wondered why Yang Hanlun was upset. 


“Her Majesty has arrived! Her Highness the Eldest Princess has arrived!” The eunuch declared loudly.


The graceful and poised-looking empress walked in holding Chuting’s hands. Seeing her imperial father here, she hurriedly restrained her actions and greeted each person in a gentle but formal manner. Lin Haihai disliked these etiquettes. They were all a family. Why should the girl greet them like this? Why should she kowtow to each person? Such an outgoing girl was forced to act like an elderly woman stuck in a child’s body. 


Chen Birou also stood up to salute the empress. Lin Haihai watched their interactions, resigned and bored. That wasn’t how a family should have lunch together. 


The empress already heard that Lin Haihai was back, and her anxious heart finally settled down. She knew that the empress dowager would definitely summon her into the palace, so she didn’t go to the plantation today. Instead, she quietly waited for Lin Haihai in the palace. 


Finally, it was time to eat. Lin Haihai watched excitedly as the palace maids and eunuchs placed each fine and tasty dish on the table. Her eyes were practically glowing. She couldn’t be blamed. It really wasn’t her fault. Someone as hungry as she was couldn’t possibly remember her etiquettes. 


Although the dishes seemed finely made and delicious, there weren’t a lot of them. Just enough to serve a few people. Lin Haihai was pleased. Elderly people knew to be frugal better! 


But then Lin Haihai noticed that most of the dishes were greasy and inflammatory food. Someone the empress dowager’s age shouldn’t have things like abalone, ginseng, shark fins, and tripes. It’d be difficult for her to digest them. Lin Haihai furrowed her brows. She really needed to measure the empress dowager’s blood pressure one day. With her diet and lifestyle, she’d definitely get a cardiovascular disease. 


“Imperial Mother, do you usually eat like this?” Lin Haihai asked. 


The empress dowager smiled faintly at Lin Haihai. “Hm? Do you think it’s not enough? There’s soup later on. These are all dishes that this Empress Dowager likes. I know what you’re going to say, and the imperial physicians have told me the same before. It’s bad for me to eat too much greasy food at my age. This Empress Dowager has been adjusting my diet and trying to eat healthier.”


Lin Haihai laughed. She couldn’t break away from her role as a doctor. Alright. It was good that the elderly woman knew she needed to control herself. She’d let her break the rules today! 


Lunch officially began. Lin Haihai tried her best to behave herself. After all, they were dining within the imperial palace, and this could be considered a palace banquet. She needed to remember her etiquettes. 


Lin Haihai glanced at the dishes. She didn’t like any of them. Thankfully, there was a plate of stir-fried broccoli in front of Yang Shaolun. She was about to grab some when Yang Hanlun saw and picked up a piece, intending to put it in her bowl. But then Chen Birou moved her bowl over and said, “Thank you, Husband!” Yang Hanlun smiled awkwardly and placed the stir-fried broccoli in her bowl instead. 


Lin Haihai had pushed her bowl to Yang Hanlun, thinking the broccoli was meant for her, but it ended up in Chen Birou’s bowl. She hurriedly pulled her bowl back and ate several mouthfuls of rice in order to hide her embarrassment. This damn brat, forgetting about me now that he’s married his childhood sweetheart!


Yang Shaolun quietly moved the dishes around so that the broccoli was right in front of Lin Haihai. “This Emperor wants to have Kung Pao Chicken. Do you mind, Sister-in-law?” 


Warmth bloomed in Lin Haihai’s heart; she knew he’d done that for her. She nodded and smiled faintly. “If you like it, then go ahead. Have some more!” 


The empress dowager looked confusedly at Yang Shaolun and asked, “You want Kung Pao Chicken?” 


The empress and Yang Hanlun were also throwing strange looks at him. Yang Shaolun replied expressionlessly, “I do, Imperial Mother!” After that, he scooped a spoonful of chicken into his bowl. 


Seeing that everyone was looking at him, he continued, “Eat, everyone eat!” 


They all started eating, but their gazes were still on him. Lin Haihai stared at the three of them. They had been acting so strangely. Then she turned to Chen Birou, who seemed as confused as she was. 


The empress looked at Yang Shaolun with pity but also amusement. It was as if she was watching an entertaining show. Yang Shaolun picked up a piece of Kung Pao Chicken and slowly ate it with a blank look on his face. Then a second piece, and a third piece. Everyone’s gazes finally turned normal. However, they were all secretly wondering the same thing: When did he start eating spicy food? And all that at once?! 


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