Ten years later Pei Khan ruled the Dian Kingdom.
Pei Khan sat on the throne and looked sadly at Pei Jin who was kneeling in front of him.
‘Your majesty, let me deal with the rebellion in Southern Jiang,’ Pei Jin said.
Pei Khan’s eyes stung, he didn’t want Pei Jin and Pei Jin’s family to leave the imperial city. He understood Pei Jin trusted him to rule on his own and that two tigers couldn’t stay on one mountain.
‘Yes,’ Pei Khan said reluctantly.
Later Pei Khan and the court officials farewell Pei Jin and Pei Jin’s family. Some court officials were sad to see Pei Jin leave and some were happy to get rid of the biggest threat to Pei Khan’s rule.
Inside the horse carriage Pei Xiao Niao woke up from his nap. He rubbed his eyes and he was happy to see his imperial uncle.
‘Imperial uncle, I waited a long time to see you,’ Pei Xiao Niao said. ‘Why aren’t you coming inside carriage?’
Pei Khan rubbed his precious nephew’s head. ‘I can’t go with you now. Xiao Niao, you go first. I’ll visit you soon.’
‘Why can’t we go together?’ Pei Xiao Niao asked.
‘Because I need to stay back to be the emperor,’ Pei Khan said.
‘Then why don’t imperial uncle not be the emperor anymore and come with me?’ Pei Xiao Niao asked.
The court officials’ faces paled.
‘That’s a good suggestion,’ Pei Khan said.
The court officials’ faces whitened.
‘But these uncles won’t agree,’ Pei Khan said.
Pei Xiao Niao looked hatefully at the court officials.
‘Imperial uncle, is it amusing being the emperor?’ Pei Xiao Niao asked.
‘Not amusing at all,’ Pei Khan said.
‘Imperial uncle, let’s share our sufferings and blessings,’ Pei Xiao Niao said sternly. ‘I’ll play in Southern Jiang for a while. Then I’ll come back to the imperial city to be the emperor and imperial uncle can go to Southern Jiang to play.’
Pei Khan’s eyes brightened. ‘Um, it’s a promise!’
The court officials wanted to vomit blood. They got rid of Pei Jin but they couldn’t stop Pei Jin’s son from returning and being the emperor.
Pei Xiao Niao waved his small hands until he couldn’t see his imperial uncle anymore and he couldn’t stop crying.
‘Mother, I can’t see imperial uncle anymore,’ Pei Xiao Niao said sadly.
Pei Wen Rui knocked her older brother’s head. ‘First brother, don’t you know how to be embarrassed? You’re too old to cry.’
Pei Xiao Niao cried louder because his little sister bullied him again.
‘Second sister, you shouldn’t bully first brother,’ Pei Wen Hui said. ‘First brother, you shouldn’t wipe your snot on second sister’s dress.’
Pei Wen Hui looked down at his older brother.
Pei Xiao Niao looked out the window and missed his imperial uncle more because his little sister and little brother joined forces to bully him. His father loved Xiao Rui and his mother loved Xiao Hui. Only his imperial uncle loved him. He cried more pitifully as the horse carriage travelled further away from the imperial city.
Pei Jin looked at his three lively children and he smiled.
‘Shi Ning, should we conceive another child?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘No!’ Yan Shi Ning said.
Yan Shi Ning thought her youngest son was good and obedient. Her oldest son and daughter were fire and water, they gave her a headache. But Pei Khan was the most behaved and helpful when Pei Khan was her children’s ages. She worried about leaving Pei Khan on his own in the imperial city.
‘Pei Jin, do you think Pei Khan can cope on his own in the imperial city?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘Shi Ning, you should believe in Pei Khan’s capabilities,’ Pei Jin said.
Yan Shi Ning nodded her head. Pei Khan was the most suited to be the emperor even more suitable than Pei Jin. Pei Khan was fair, merciful, decisive and calm under pressure.
Pei Jin believed Pei Khan would be a good emperor. The last ten years were tiring for him and he was happy he finally could live a peaceful life with his family away from the palace.
‘Pei Jin, have you ever regretted giving up the throne?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘Shi Ning, have you ever resented me for not giving you the opportunity for the world to admire you?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘What do you think?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘Wife, it appears you don’t like being admired and you hate palace protocols,’ Pei Jin said. ‘So your husband is willing to give up the world to make you happy. Besides, your husband never cared about power and money.’
‘Husband, will you die if don’t pretend to be a gentle and kind person?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
Pei Jin smiled and kissed Yan Shi Ning.
Pei Xiao Niao turned his head away from the window and saw his parents were kissing each other again. He shook his head. ‘Father, mother, do you know how old you both are? Father, mother, don’t you both know how to control yourselves?’
Pei Wen Rui knocked her older brother’s head. ‘First brother, move your head out of the way.’
Pei Xiao Niao rubbed his sore head and cried. ‘Second sister, you hit me again.’
Pei Wen Hui ignored his noisy older brother and older sister. He silently chewed on melon seeds.
In the palace Pei Khan stood above the tallest tower where no one could see him cry while he watched the horse carriage slowly disappear.
End of Chapter Eighty-One
Yan Jing spent days at home thinking about how to kill Kang Hua without witnesses.
Princess Kang Hua sat by the window and the sunlight shone on her grey hair strands. In the past she would pluck grey hair, but she knew there was no need to anymore.
Princess Kang Hua heard the door opened, she raised her head and she was surprised to see Yan Jing as much as she was surprised to see flowers blossomed during autumn.
A few nights ago most of the maids and servants ran away from the Yan Manor. Only the older maids and servants stayed because there was nowhere else for them to serve. So the Yan Manor was quiet enough for a door creak to sound loud.
Yan Jing threw a basket of three long white fabrics in front of Kang Hua. ‘It’s the emperor’s edict, you can kill yourself.’
‘Why should I?’ Princess Kang Hua asked. ‘Didn’t the emperor ask you to kill me?’
‘You should have killed yourself long ago!’ Yan Jing said.
‘Why should I die before you?’ Princess Kang Hua said.
Yan Jing didn’t want to admit he would be killed after Kang Hua died. ‘I told you, I’m not going to die with you!’
Princess Kang Hua laughed coldly.
Yan Jing regretted he couldn’t kill someone with his own hands. ‘If you kill yourself, I’ll take care of your bastard child.’
Princess Kang Hua prolonged ingesting the bottle of poison because her heart wasn’t at ease about Yan Shi Ting.
Princess Kang Hua didn’t get a chance to accept Yan Jing’s bribe, an old maid entered the chamber.
‘Master, ninth prince’s wife is here,’ the old maid said.
Yan Jing ignored the resentment in Kang Hua’s eyes.
‘It’s your choice,’ Yan Jing said and left the chamber.
Yan Shi Ning was surprised at the quiet and dirty state of the Yan Manor. It was different to the first day she arrived at the Yan Manor two years ago. That day the arrogant Princess Kang Hua and Yan Shi Ting waited for her at the entrance of the Yan Manor between the clean two lion statues. Afterward for two years, Princess Kang Hua and Yan Shi Ting always reminded her that she was eating and living in their home.
An old maid escorted Yan Shi Ning to the courtyard and she sat opposite her father.
The old maid poured tea for Yan Shi Ning, she drank it and thought it didn’t taste half as delicious as it did two months ago.
‘Shi Ning, this is a bad time for you to visit,’ Yan Jing said.
Yan Jing didn’t want his daughter to see the poor state of the Yan Manor.
Yan Shi Ning smiled gently at her father. ‘Father, a few days ago my body was unwell and I couldn’t come to visit sooner.’
Yan Jing saw how much his daughter looked like Dung Thi and he sighed sadly. ‘Shi Ning, all these years have you ever resented me?’
Yan Shi Ning was surprised by her father’s question and quietly drank tea.
Yan Jing knew his daughter’s silence meant she did resent him. ‘You have the right to resent me. I’m to blame for everything that has happened.’
Yan Shi Ning didn’t want to hear her father’s regrets. ‘The emperor… did father receive an edict from the emperor?’
Yan Shi Ning knew her question was as rhetorical as her father’s earlier question.
Yan Jing wanted to leave at least one good impression of him in front of his daughter. ‘I don’t know what the emperor will do. But I’ve resigned and the emperor gave his permission for me to return to Xuan Qing.’
Yan Shi Ning felt a little pity to see an old man chased away from the imperial court. ‘That’s good. When I married ninth prince, people told me to live a peaceful life. Father, distancing yourself from the imperial court will let you live a peaceful life. Having power is good but it comes with anxiety.’
Yan Jing lowered his head and drank tea. He didn’t think his daughter could be that kind.
‘I heard little sister’s health is poor,’ Yan Shi Ning said. ‘I came here to visit little sister.’
‘Shi Ning, there’s nothing good for you to see,’ Yan Jing said.
‘Father, she’s still my little sister,’ Yan Shi Ning said.
Yan Shi Ning put the cup on table and she walked to the gardens.
In the gardens Yan Shi Ting was dribbling and smiling at the sky like a fool. She saw Yan Shi Ning in front of her and grabbed Yan Shi Ning’s dress.
‘You hurt me!’ Yan Shi Ting said.
Yan Shi Ning felt guilty seeing the beautiful Yan Shi Ting became a fool. But Yan Shi Ting’s shrieks scared her and she stepped back from Yan Shi Ting.
‘Shi Ting, let go of my dress,’ Yan Shi Ning said.
Yan Shi Ting teared off a sleeve of Yan Shi Ning’s dress. The dress was one of the new expensive dresses Lady Su’s dressmakers delivered to Pei Jin’s manor. She didn’t get to pity her dress because Yan Shi Ting was touching the collar of her dress.
Yan Shi Ting thought she found a treasure.
‘What a beautiful dress,’ Yan Shi Ting said.
Yan Shi Ning felt relieved Yan Shi Ting wasn’t going to tear the other sleeve off her dress.
Suddenly Yan Shi Ting grabbed Yan Shi Ning’s collar. ‘This is my dress! Take off my dress! You’re a bad person! You stole my dress!’
Yan Shi Ning pushed Yan Shi Ting away from her and took many steps back.
Yan Shi Ting fell on the ground and cried loudly. ‘You’re a bad person! You want to hurt me! Why do you want to hurt me? Why? I’m the crown prince’s wife!’
Yan Shi Ning heard Yan Shi Ting was insane but she didn’t know how insane until she witnessed Yan Shi Ting’s crying one moment and laughing the next moment.
‘Shi Ting, I’m truly sorry,’ Yan Shi Ning said. ‘I didn’t think I’ll cause you to become like this. But don’t worry, after she dies, I’ll take good care of you.’
Yan Shi Ning left Yan Shi Ting in the gardens to look for her mother’s killer.
After Yan Shi Ning left, Pei Lam stepped out from the shadows. He watched Yan Shi Ting sit on the ground while tearing petals and leaves off flowers.
‘Big brother crown prince, I love big brother,’ Yan Shi Ting said to the flower. ‘Big brother, do you love me?’
‘Um,’ Pei Lam said.
‘Then in the future will you marry me?’ Yan Shi Ting asked the flower.
‘Um,’ Pei Lam said.
Pei Lam couldn’t believe the Yan Shi Ting in front of him was the same young girl with bright eyes in his memories. He thought those early childhood years were beautiful.
Yan Shi Ting felt that someone was standing behind her. She turned around and smiled. She stood and grabbed Pei Lam’s sleeve. ‘Big brother crown prince, you’re here. I knew big brother would come.’
Pei Lam let Yan Shi Ting wrap her arms around his neck.
Yan Shi Ting felt happy. ‘Big brother crown prince, do you know long I waited for big brother? I thought big brother wouldn’t come. Big brother crown prince, why isn’t big brother talking? Is it because you don’t love Shi Ting? Big brother crown prince, you can’t hate Shi Ting. Shi Ting will be the crown prince’s wife.’
Yan Shi Ting remembered something and began to take off her dress. ‘Big brother crown prince, today my dress is easy to take off. Big brother come behind me. I know big brother loves that position the most-’
Pei Lam hands squeezed Yan Shi Ting’s neck.
Yan Shi Ting tried to push away the hands around her neck, but the hands were too strong. She gasped for air and felt like she was slowly choking.
A while later Yan Shi Ting stopped struggling. She silently cried, suspicions were gone and everything beautiful died. Why was the crown prince crying? She wanted to wipe his tears but she had no strength left.
Pei Lam’s hands let go of Yan Shi Ting’s neck and he silently cried.
‘For you dying is better than living,’ Pei Lam said. ‘If you die, you can escape.’
Afterward the body of one of the imperial city’s beauties fell into cold water. But Yan Shi Ting’s eyes were wide opened as though she was asking, ‘Big brother crown prince, why did you kill me?’
Pei Lam stood in the gardens, pulled out an old letter and teared it to pieces, ‘Big brother crown prince, I’ll open the small western door of the Yan Manor. If big brother wants me, big brother can come there to find me. I’m waiting for you.’
End of Chapter Forty-Three