The emperor’s question was a hidden dagger.
Pei Jin didn’t know how long the cold wind in his heart stirred.
‘Imperial father, I promise my heart will not change,’ Pei Jin said.
‘That’s good,’ the emperor said and left the calligraphy room.
The emperor walked past the kitchen and the past haunted him.
‘Big brother, I learned how to grill meat in Southern Jiang…’ Prince Chen Nan said.
That one memory ruined his happiness to hear his ninth daughter-in-law was pregnant.
The emperor’s imperial guards and imperial physicians escorted the emperor back to the palace.
Pei Jin’s manor returned to its lively atmosphere.
‘Your grandfather!’ Xiao Zai cursed. ‘Xiao Hui you purposely threw me over the wall! If I had landed on the emperor then I would have been cut into pieces! If you see me as an eyesore, you can tell me but don’t harm me like this. Say something. Don’t think I’ll spare you if you don’t say anything.’
Xiao Zai chased Xiao Hui around the courtyard.
‘Those two people are going to make me laugh to death,’ Yan Shi Ning said. She rubbed her stomach and pulled Pei Jin’s sleeve. ‘Pei Jin, what’s wrong? What did the emperor say to you in the calligraphy room?’
Pei Jin held Yan Shi Ning’s hand. ‘Nothing. Your father-in-law asked me to behave.’
‘Did the emperor find out about something?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
Pei Jin shook his head. ‘Perhaps someone said something to imperial father.’
Suddenly Pei Jin’s guard, Xiao Ting entered the courtyard.
‘What happened in the palace?’ Pei Jin asked.
Xiao Ting reported to Pei Jin about the court officials’ conflict over who should be the crown prince and left the courtyard.
Yan Shi Ning shivered, she thought Huang Guo would only spread the secret about her pregnancy.
‘Why would Huang Guo want to cause trouble in the palace?’ Yan Shi Ning asked
‘It appears I’ll need to visit Huang Guo,’ Pei Jin said coldly.
Yan Shi Ning knew Pei Jin wasn’t upset about Huang Guo, he was upset about the emperor’s reaction. Pei Jin was also the emperor’s son but the emperor’s warning showed that the emperor never wanted to give Pei Jin the opportunity to inherit the kingdom. She held Pei Jin’s cold hand and thought the old AH was lower than her neglectful and opportunistic father.
Pei Jin patted Yan Shi Ning’s hand. ‘Shi Ning, it’s alright. I’m used to it. You can’t expose your deadly temper.’
‘Pei Jin…’ Yan Shi Ning said.
‘Um?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘Pei Jin, why don’t we force that old AH who doesn’t want you to be his heir… have to open his mouth and beg you to be the crown prince?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘Then what?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘Then you’ll tell the old AH you don’t want to be his heir and let him be angry to death,’ Yan Shi Ning said.
Pei Jin hugged Yan Shi Ning. ‘Wife, that’s a good plan. Do you believe in your husband that much?’
‘Don’t think that I don’t know what you’re thinking,’ Yan Shi Ning said.
Pei Jin thought his little lion was more intelligent by the day. He kissed her and travelled to Huang Guo’s manor.
Later at Huang Guo’s manor, Pei Jin and Huang Guo sat opposite each other in Huang Guo’s calligraphy room.
‘Ninth prince, you must have heard what happened in the palace today,’ Huang Guo said.
‘Elder Guo, what are you alluding to?’ Pei Jin asked.
Huang Guo looked at Pei Jin’s cup of tea on the table. ‘The tea is prepared and ready for you to drink.’
Pei Jin understood Huang Guo’s motive. ‘In this period if I drink tea then I won’t be able to sleep.’
Huang Guo drank his tea and thought Pei Jin was more cunning by the day.
‘Elder Guo, you’re not young anymore,’ Pei Jin said. ‘It’s not good for Elder Guo to drink too much tea.’
Huang Guo’s back stiffened, he knew Pei Jin was warning him. ‘Ninth prince, what did the emperor say to you at your manor?’
Pei Jin laughed coldly. ‘Imperial father said a few words… Elder Guo wouldn’t be pleased if you heard what imperial father said.’
Huang Guo grimaced.
Pei Jin changed into a more comfortable sitting position. ‘Elder Guo, it’s useless for your heart to waste energy.’
Huang Guo couldn’t see through Pei Jin’s thoughts. ‘Ninth prince, do you have any grievances? But until the end, no one knows who the winner is and who the loser is. All the emperors in the past snatched the throne from their brothers.’
Huang Guo was a fool to have underestimated Pei Jin as someone who could easily be manipulated. After the harvest festival incident, Pei Jin’s manor was unaffected and Huang Guo realised Pei Jin was more cunning and stronger than he thought. Also, Huang Guo didn’t believe the news about the empress killing herself. He knew Pei Jin was involved to avenge his daughter’s death.
Huang Guo’s spies in the palace confirmed his suspicions about the empress’ death. Then he heard news about Yan Shi Ning being ill, he wasn’t fooled because he knew Yan Shi Ning was a healthy woman so he sent his daughter-in-laws to Pei Jin’s manor to see if Yan Shi Ning was pregnant. He was happy to hear his daughter-in-laws confirmed Yan Shi Ning’s pregnancy.
After Huang Guo heard rumors about Pei Zhang’s supporters want to recommend Pei Zhang to be the crown prince, he knew it was the right opportunity for him to see the emperor in the palace. Everything had happened according to Huang Guo’s plan until Pei Jin visited him and warned him not to interfere anymore because the emperor had no intentions to let Pei Jin become the crown prince.
Huang Guo didn’t lose hope because no emperors were given the throne, the throne was always conquered. But Pei Jin’s indifference to the throne made him feel frustrated and powerless.
‘Ninth prince, are you weary of me?’ Huang Guo asked.
Pei Jin smiled coldly.
‘Ninth prince, you don’t have to be weary of me,’ Huang Guo said. ‘I promise I only want to help raise you to the highest position. All I want in return is that you promise to protect everyone in the Guo Household. Ninth prince, you know if seventh prince becomes crown prince then no one in the Guo Household will survive.’
‘No one can predict imperial father’s heart,’ Pei Jin said.
‘It doesn’t matter if the emperor’s heart only sees one option,’ Huang Guo said. ‘Ninth prince, earlier I told you it’s precedent that emperors have always snatched the throne.’
‘Elder Guo, how do you plan to snatch the throne?’ Pei Jin asked.
Huang Guo knew Pei Jin was forcing him to reveal his plan. Of course snatching the throne involved a strong army force. It was true Huang Guo had a secret army force but he wouldn’t dare use his army force unless someone related to him like his adoptive grandson secured the crown prince position.
Huang Guo dipped a finger in the cup of tea and wrote his plan on the table.
‘Ninth prince, what do you think?’ Huang Guo asked.
Pei Jin nodded his head. ‘It’s good.’
‘Ninth prince, what do you plan to do?’ Huang Guo asked.
‘Me?’ Pei Jin asked. ‘Elder Guo, I think I still prefer to be a carefree prince.’
Huang Guo was too angry to speak.
Pei Jin looked innocently at Huang Guo. ‘Elder Guo, your decision to use a chess piece at this time isn’t wrong. It’s a pity you used the wrong chess piece.’
‘You!’ Huang Guo said.
‘Elder Guo don’t be angry,’ Pei Jin said. ‘Besides, Elder Guo is used to my way of speaking. It isn’t easy to drink tea here. Elder Guo, I’ll leave first.’
After Pei Jin left, Huang Guo’s third son Fan appeared from behind a screen.
‘Father, Pei Jin is despicable!’ Fan said. ‘Father, you lowered yourself in front of him but he didn’t take the bait. I don’t believe he has no desire to be emperor.’
Huang Guo grinded his teeth. ‘He only doesn’t like being controlled. Third son, wait and see. I’m certain he’ll make a move.’
‘Father, what should we do now?’ Fan asked.
‘Wait,’ Huang Guo said.
‘Wait?’ Fan asked.
‘Wait for him to eliminate Pei Zhang,’ Huang Guo said. ‘After the throne is his then we’ll make our move.’
Inside the horse carriage, Pei Jin looked up at the moon and smiled. He didn’t expect Huang Guo had a secret army. But he knew apart from him, Huang Guo didn’t have anyone else to cooperate with Huang Guo. So there was no reason for him to allow Huang Guo to use him.
End of Chapter Sixty-One