Chapter 87: Doing It For Love

Lin Haihai happily enjoyed the broccoli Yang Shaolun had swapped in for her, occasionally sneaking glances at the man. He had been digging into the Kung Pao Chicken and nothing else. He must really like the dish!

 

The empress pitied the emperor and decided to share some of the burdens with him. Noticing that, Lin Haihai interjected, “Have some fried prawns, Empress! It’s really delicious!”

 

She then moved the dish to the front of the empress and the Kung Pao Chicken closer to Yang Shaolun. “Your Majesty should have more if you enjoy Kung Pao Chicken!”

 

Moved, Yang Shaolun looked up with suppressed emotions in his gaze, but all he said was a simple “thank you.” Noticing the tears in his eyes, Lin Haihai interpreted that as him being touched and happily pushed the plate of sauteed green chili toward him. “This is pretty spicy as well. You should have some. It’s really good!”

 

Yang Shaolun took in a deep breath at the seemingly glowing chili and forced a smile. “Thank you,” he said. “You should sit down and eat!”

 

Lin Haihai sat down, digging into her plate of broccoli. The empress watched the scene unfold with a deadpan expression, casting a pitying look at the emperor. Meanwhile, the empress dowager smiled and said, “Yuguan, you’ve been urging the emperor to eat, but that leaves this old woman with nothing! Those are my favorite dishes!”

 

Lin Haihai stuck her tongue out bashfully. “You shouldn’t have too much inflammatory food at your age, Mother! Come on, have some broccoli!”

 

She picked up a large piece of broccoli and dropped it into the empress dowager’s bowl. The empress dowager grumbled in a childlike manner, “But this empress dowager wants some green chili!”

 

Yang Shaolun immediately handed over the plate of chili before him. Lin Haihai intervened and picked up only a single chili before moving the plate back to Yang Shaolun. “One is more than enough, Mother. You mustn’t have too much!”

 

The empress dowager looked at Lin Haihai impassively. Well, I should listen to her since she’s a doctor, but I’m never having meals with her again! Or I’ll starve to death!

 

Yang Shaolun stared at the plate of chili that had returned to him. The empress reached out to pick up one, but Lin Haihai exclaimed, “Dig in, Empress!” Her tone made it clear that it was meant as a warning. The empress gave up on her attempt of helping the emperor and began peeling the fried shrimps.

 

Chuting gaped at the odd expressions on the adults’ faces, her head filled with a myriad of questions. Meanwhile, Yang Hanlun believed Lin Haihai had forbidden the empress dowager from having spicy food solely for the sake of her health, which touched him. But isn’t Imperial Elder Brother unable to have any spicy food? He remembered that a newly hired imperial cook had added some hot spices to his meal once, not knowing that the emperor had an aversion to spicy food. All it took was a bite for his brother to run around looking for icy water with his mouth agape, his expression so pained one would think he was at the brink of death. Strange that he’s become a big fan of spicy food!

 

The mealtime passed in a lively atmosphere. As soon as they finished eating, Yang Shaolun bid them farewell. The urgent look on his face disappointed Lin Haihai. She would like to share a table with him a little longer! However, she knew he must have many important matters to attend to, so she couldn’t complain.

 

After some time, Lin Haihai noticed the empress dowager’s drowsiness, so she excused herself. The other followed suit, and Yang Hanlun asked her, “Are you returning to the residence? Let’s go together!”

 

Lin Haihai didn’t want to be the third wheel. “I’d like to spend some time with the empress. You should go first!”

 

Yang Hanlun wanted her to return with him immediately. There were many things he would like to say. Before he could say anything, though, Chen Birou spoke up, “Don’t stay outside for too long, Elder Sister. Husband and I will be waiting for you at home for dinner!”

 

Lin Haihai waved them goodbye with a smile. “Go ahead. I’ll be back soon!”

 

It seems that she’s a good girl. Official Luo’s concern isn’t warranted! She watched as Yang Hanlun and Chen Birou walked away. They were a match made in heaven. They would be the perfect couple if she weren’t here.

 

The empress dismissed her servants and took Lin Haihai’s hand as they strolled through the sunlit imperial garden. Only the most expensive flowers were found here. Lin Haihai looked at the unnatural form the flowers had been trimmed into, and a sense of disgust welled up suddenly in her. She looked up at the empress and said, “This palace is a hateful place!”

 

The empress smiled faintly. “It may be so, but what does that have to do with you?”

 

Lin Haihai paused. Irritably, she kicked away the pebbles at her feet. It had nothing to do with her. The man she loved was here, but nothing in the palace had anything to do with her.

 

“You were missing for a day. You spent it with His Majesty, didn’t you?” The empress stared at Lin Haihai as she asked. She had no feelings for the emperor, but she didn’t want them to make such a grave mistake.

 

Lin Haihai turned away without a word, but her silence spoke volumes.

 

The empress had anticipated the truth, but she was still shocked by the admittance. In a lowered voice, she reprimanded Lin Haihai, “I didn’t take you for such a fool! Do you understand the gravity of such a crime? You are his sister-in-law. What does that make the Sixth Prince? What does that make His Majesty?”

 

The empress was furious, not because the emperor was her husband, but because the scandal would’ve had great repercussions if it got out. The imperial court was chaotic enough as it was, and wars were always on the horizon. They must not allow anything to create a fissure within their own faction, or they would lose this battle before it even began! If the brothers became enemies, everyone in the imperial family would be dragged into the mess. She wouldn’t allow things to come to that!

 

Lin Haihai looked at the empress in a panic. She understood the unspoken concerns. But… After a long while, she said dejectedly, “It’s done. It’s all in the past. We spent a night together, but we didn’t do anything!”

 

The empress sighed. “I understand your pain. I really do, but this is too grave a mistake for you to make. His Majesty has lost all sense of judgement when it comes to you. You must take a firm stand!”

 

The emperor had always been cold to women, and yet he had claimed to like spicy food just so Lin Haihai could have her broccoli. He finished a plate of Kung Pao Chicken and green chili during the meal! He couldn’t even stand the taste of raw ginger, let alone such spicy food. He wouldn’t have endured such torture if he didn’t love this woman dearly.

 

All of this was a secret to Lin Haihai. She simply wanted to give him food he enjoyed, and it warmed her to the heart seeing him eat something she had served. That was all she could do for him. There was so little she could do for him!

 

“There are things we mortals cannot control, Empress. We can only put in our best effort. The rest will have to be left to fate!” Lin Haihai suddenly gained a newfound belief in fate. She believed a god was ruling over everything in the world.

 

“You must listen to me and not do anything reckless!” the empress said with steel in her voice. “As long as you keep your distance from His Majesty, and the brothers continue to fight on the same side, they will be able to deter any enemies. If you don’t, the consequences will be unbearable! I can’t let you take that path. There’s no return!”

 

Lin Haihai lowered her head in silence. There was a voice in her heart giving her all the reasons she should be together with him, but she couldn’t voice any of them. Instead, she stared quietly at the winding hallways. The endless twists and turns made it seem like there was no way out.

 

The empress softened her voice. “I’ve long considered you as my little sister. I don’t want you to make such a mistake! You should avoid running into His Majesty as much as possible. I won’t say he’s a reckless man. Quite the contrary, he’s a calm, wise, and conscientious man. I’d even say he’s the most remarkable man I know. However, even the most remarkable man will lose his reason to emotions once he falls truly in love with a woman. It’s often said that emperors don’t have the ability to love. That’s not actually the case. They simply cannot love anyone. The burden on their shoulders is too great. There’s no room for emotions when they make decisions!”

 

Pain seeped into her voice as she spoke. Her father had used her as a bargaining chip in exchange for temporary peace for Chen. As a result, she was forced to part with her beloved and enter this foreign nation.

 

Lin Haihai looked into the distance at the small lake before her. There was no wind, and thus no waves. Everything looked peaceful! However, there might be turbulence underwater that no one could see. She turned to the empress and said with difficulty, “I didn’t choose to run into him, nor did I choose to fall for him. I know what’s keeping us apart, and I understand the consequences should we stay together despite everything. I’m being rational and calm about this, and so is he. I never thought I would be able to spend my life with him, and I’m never going to hurt others for my own happiness. I understand, I really do. Even better than you do! It wasn’t my choice to fall in love with him, but I can choose to leave him. So don’t worry. You can trust me!”

 

The empress fell silent. She wanted them to have a happy ending eventually, but was it even a possibility? It was better not to hope if there was no hope to begin with, or the disappointment would be even more painful.

 

After a long stretch of silence, the empress looked up at her and managed a smile. “It’s a good thing that you have a lot of business to attend to. All the unhappy memories will fade away soon. You’ll be your old self again, entering the market of medicine with our plantation, earning a great fortune, and opening more and more hospitals!”

 

Lin Haihai smiled. She did have a lot to do. Love wasn’t all there was to her. There were more aspects of her life she should care about and cherish. Looking up at the sky, she found that the clouds had scattered, revealing the bright sun. The vast blue of the sky was captivating, and the air was so clean that it refreshed her entire being. Surrounded by the blessings of nature - the chirping birds, fragrant flowers, and prosperous trees - she took a deep breath and said, “The air is sweet! Don’t you think so?”

 

The empress gave her a strange look. “Air has no flavor. What are you on about?”

 

Lin Haihai didn’t say anything. The air did have a flavor. In her time, the polluted air had many flavors, albeit unpleasant ones. That was why the clean air in this era tasted sweet to her.

 

“Fancy meeting you here, Your Majesty the Empress! Why didn’t you tend to your flowers today, but instead are wandering about in this imperial garden? Oh, who is this young lady by your side? I’ll be damned, it’s the Sixth Princess Consort! What an interesting outfit you’re dressed in!”

 

As soon as the piercing and unpleasant voice sounded, Lin Haihai and the empress exchanged a resigned look and turned around. Lin Haihai noticed that a patch of dark clouds had obscured the blue sky again.

 

“Greetings, Your Majesty the Empress!” the concubines behind Imperial Consort Li said in a chorus. They dared not forgo the basic etiquette. In stark contrast to their attitude, Imperial Consort Li stood unmoving with her not yet pronounced belly, her expression calm and irreverent. Staring at the empress, she taunted, “This consort is bearing a child, Your Majesty. Please forgive me for not being able to greet you properly. Your Majesty isn’t going to fault me for that, are you?”

 

The sight of her belly filled Lin Haihai with bitterness. Her child was Brother Yang’s as well. They had a child together!

 

The empress smiled faintly and retorted, “What do you mean, Sister? Why would this Empress blame you? You’ve done much worse than not showing me any etiquette in the past, and this Empress has never done anything about it. Now that you’re pregnant with His Majesty’s child, this Empress will naturally tolerate anything from you!”

 

With such simple words, she managed to put a dark scowl on Imperial Consort Li’s face. Lin Haihai silently cheered her on. The empress was so impressive! She taught the imperial consort a good lesson without resorting to insults!

 

“What do you mean by this?!” Imperial Consort Li demanded fiercely, her face dark.

 

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houseau3's Thoughts

Love can make people so foolish...

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