The empress and the crown prince died the same year and winter season.
While everyone in the palace were grieving for the empress and the crown prince’s deaths, Consort Mu’s imperial physician, Gentleman Zheng was sent to examine Yan Shi Ning at Pei Jin’s manor.
‘Gentleman Zheng, you can call me Xiao Zai,’ Xiao Zai said. ‘I waited a long time for your arrival. Why are you wearing thin clothes? What if you get a chest infection? Gentleman Zheng, follow me to ninth prince’s wife’s chamber.’
Gentleman Zheng thought Xiao Zai was friendly like Pei Jin. Everyone else treated him kindly too like they owed him a hundred silver taels.
Inside the chamber the incense fragrance made Gentleman Zheng feel relaxed and he knew a master physician had brewed the incense fragrance. He heard rumors about a master physician living in Pei Jin’s manor and he was happy to finally meet Bei Dou. But he didn’t expect Bei Dou was a young man with a cold face.
Bei Dou only glanced once at Gentleman Zheng.
Gentleman Zheng sat on a chair in front of the bed hidden by a beaded curtain.
‘Ninth prince’s wife, please give me your arm,’ Gentleman Zheng said.
Gentleman Zheng heard a cough then an arm appeared through the beaded curtain.
‘Ninth prince’s wife has a weak pulse,’ Gentleman Zheng said. ‘She has been ill with a chest infection for a long period. I’ll give a maid a list of herbs to buy for ninth prince’s wife. After she drinks the remedy between three to five days her body will improve.’
Pei Jin sighed in relief, passed Gentleman Zheng a paper note of one hundred silver taels and Gentleman Zheng left the manor.
Later at the palace Gentleman Zheng reported that Yan Shi Ning had a chest infection to Consort Mu and Pei Zhang.
‘My speculation was wrong,’ Consort Mu said.
‘It’s good she’s not pregnant,’ Pei Zhang said. ‘Today is a good day. Both tenth brother and the empress are gone. Anyone left that choose to oppose me will be easily turned to dust.’
Consort Mu was also happy. The empress who she battled for decades was finally dead.
‘I didn’t expect she would kill herself,’ Consort Mu said. ‘I thought she would have wanted to kill us to avenge her son’s death before she died.’
‘The empress had high expectations of tenth brother,’ Pei Zhang said. ‘Her life dream dissolved in the ocean so it’s understandable she would kill herself. Mother, didn’t you hear how the empress was hysterical after she found out about tenth brother’s death?’
‘Xiao Zheng, the truth is the empress is a fool like Kang Hua,’ Consort Mu said. ‘The empress was only able to survive many years in the palace because she had a powerful family supporting her.’
‘Mother, now our rivals that need to die have died and everyone else has aged,’ Pei Zhang said. ‘The young are incompetent and easily to defeat. Now that the empress and the crown prince are gone, their supporters aren’t foolish and will resign like everyone at Guo Huang’s manor. Mother, why do you think Guo Huang lost power that year?’
‘The higher Guo Huang was the lower he fell,’ Consort Mu said.
‘Mother, I understand,’ Pei Zhang said.
‘Today our biggest rivals are gone and your ninth brother has no heir,’ Consort Mu said. ‘The right opportunity for you to be crown prince will arrive soon.’
At Pei Jin’s manor the beaded curtains were parted the moment Gentleman Zheng left.
On the bed Yan Shi Ning and Xiao Tu were laying side by side and smiling cheekily.
Yan Shi Ning got out of the bed and smiled at Pei Jin. ‘How was the performance?’
Pei Jin helped Yan Shi Ning stand. ‘Of course it was a convincing performance. This time we need to thank Xiao Tu.’
Xiao Tu got out of the bed and was about to say there was no need to thank her but Bei Dou scoffed loudly.
‘What is there to scoff about?’ Pei Jin asked Bei Dou.
Bei Dou looked at Xiao Tu’s wrist and he scoffed. How dare that old man Zheng touch Xiao Tu’s wrist even though a thin handkerchief covered her wrist. He scoffed because he didn’t get to touch Xiao Tu’s wrist yet.
Yan Shi Ning noticed Bei Dou’s attention was solely focused on Xiao Tu.
‘It’s been a long time since there’s been something to celebrate at the manor,’ Yan Shi Ning said.
Pei Jin understood Yan Shi Ning’s words and he saw Bei Dou relaxed.
‘Bei Dou, you’re not young anymore,’ Pei Jin said. ‘Xiao Tu is sixteen years old… a good age to marry… Shi Ning, is there an auspicious day soon?’
‘What auspicious day?’ Yan Shi Ning said. ‘If they’re happy then any day is an auspicious day.’
‘Shi Ning is right,’ Pei Jin said. ‘Tomorrow is an auspicious day if Bei Dou is happy.’
Bei Dou looked out the window like he wasn’t happy in front of the married pair who was mocking him. Then Bei Dou looked at Xiao Tu, she looked calm so he looked out the window again.
‘It appears Gentleman Bei isn’t happy,’ Pei Jin teased. ‘What do we do now?’
‘Gentleman Bei isn’t unhappy,’ Xiao Tu said.
‘How do you know he isn’t unhappy?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘When Gentleman Bei’s ears are red it means he’s happy,’ Xiao Tu said. ‘Gentleman Bei’s ears are red.’
Bei Dou was speechless like trouble flew past his head.
Pei Jin and Yan Shi Ning saw Bei Dou’s red ears and they smiled.
‘Then tomorrow is an auspicious day for a wedding day,’ Pei Jin said.
‘But it’s a grieving period for the empress and the crown prince’s deaths,’ Xiao Tu said. ‘No one is allowed to marry.’
Pei Jin and Yan Shi Ning stopped smiling while Bei Dou felt trouble flew past his head again.
‘But we can secretly marry… and not let outsiders know…’ Xiao Tu said.
Pei Jin and Yan Shi Ning both laughed because Bei Dou’s ears turned a shade of red brighter.
Short Side Story Four
Four possible scenarios that could happen after Bei Dou and Xiao Tu’s wedding ceremony:
Scenario One – Bei Dou and Xiao Tu sat on a bed together and their faces were flushed red. Bei Dou initiated a kiss and they both fell onto the bed… it was a misty night… the following day…
Scenario Two – Xiao Tu stripped Bei Dou’s clothes and bound him. She held incense sticks in one hand and a whip in the other hand and she smiled at him.
Bei Dou’s eyes widened and he mumbled, ‘No need… kiss… no need…’
Scenario Three – On Bei Dou and Xiao Tu’s wedding night…
Bei Dou: Tonight’s our wedding night.
Xiao Tu: Yes.
Bei Dou: We should sleep early tonight.
Xiao Tu: Yes.
A while later a steady snore was heard in their chamber.
Scenario Four – On Bei Dou and Xiao Tu’s wedding day everyone at the gentle ninth prince’s manor were happy the whole day. The following day the atmosphere was good…
End of Chapter Fifty-Five