The emperor decreed to keep the crown prince position vacant.
At Consort Mu’s chamber, Pei Zhang threw a cup of tea at a palace maid’s face.
‘You dare to let me drink hot tea?’ Pei Zhang asked.
The palace maid knelt on her knees in front of Pei Zhang.
Consort Mu stopped Pei Zhang from kicking the palace maid.
‘Xiao Zhang!’ Consort Mu said and signalled the palace maid to leave.
‘Xiao Zhang, you’re becoming more impatient by the day,’ Consort Mu said. ‘If you had kicked her, she would either die or be crippled. Do you want a rumor to spread about your cruelty? Now is a critical period. How can you lose control of your anger? I know you’re feeling the situation is unfair but you need to be patient and endure.’
‘Endure?’ Pei Zhang asked. ‘In the eyes of the citizens ninth brother has a perfect reputation. If I endure any longer then it’ll be me who’ll be kowtowing in front of ninth brother!’
‘If you don’t control yourself then it’s certain you’ll be kowtowing in front of your ninth brother!’ Consort Mu said.
‘Mother, what are we going to do?’ Pei Zhang asked.
‘Think about it,’ Consort Mu said. ‘Between your ninth brother and tenth brother, who did you think is more suitable?’
‘Tenth brother?’ Pei Zhang asked.
‘In the past your tenth brother had your imperial father, his imperial mother’s family support and the citizens’ admiration,’ Consort Mu said. ‘Where is tenth brother now?’
‘He lost everything and died,’ Pei Zhang said.
‘That’s right,’ Consort Mu said. ‘He had everything and lost. So we don’t need to fear someone like your ninth brother.’
‘Mother, you’re right,’ Pei Zhang said.
‘Xiao Zhang, I know what you’re worrying about,’ Consort Mu said. ‘You feel threatened that your ninth brother has a good reputation, his wife is pregnant and he’s gaining support from court officials.’
‘That’s true,’ Pei Zhang said.
‘Xiao Zhang, you don’t need to worry about those minor obstacles,’ Consort Mu said.
Pei Zhang listened carefully to his mother’s reasons.
‘Xiao Zhang, you can slowly improve your reputation,’ Consort Mu said. ‘Those court officials aren’t foolish. They know in the end you’ll be the crown prince so they weren’t dare to commit all their resources to support your ninth brother. What’s important is military power!’
‘But Huang Guo’s been too dormant for years… what if Huang Guo and ninth brother join their resources?’ Pei Zhang asked.
‘Xiao Zhang, do you still not understand your imperial father?’ Consort Mu asked.
‘Imperial father?’ Pei Zhang asked.
‘Your imperial father is someone who wants to control everything within his hand,’ Consort Mu said. ‘In recent years your imperial father feels he is slowly losing control of everything. It makes him angry enough to be mentally tired and as a consequence his health has declined. Do you think he wanted the harvest festival incident to happen? For Yan Shi Ting to fake a pregnancy? Your tenth brother to die? The empress to die? In front of everyone your imperial father acts like he’s coping but the truth is he’s grieving, their deaths have a deep impact on the state of his mind and health. He’ll be lucky to live another three years.’
‘Mother, is that true?’ Pei Zhang asked.
‘Xiao Zhang, do you think that Gentleman Zheng is the only imperial physician who is on our side?’ Consort Mu asked.
‘Who else?’ Pei Zhang asked.
‘Your imperial father’s most trusted imperial physician, Gentleman Tao,’ Consort Mu said.
Pei Zhang thought his mother was impressive.
‘Xiao Zhang, if you were in your imperial father’s position would you give the throne to the first son who is strong and has support from the most of the court officials or would you give the throne to the second son who is weaker and has no military power?’ Consort Mu asked.
‘Of course I would give the throne to the first son,’ Pei Zhang said.
‘That’s right,’ Consort Mu said. ‘Your imperial father is someone who values control. Of course he wants to give the throne to the son that has control over the imperial court and military power. Even though your imperial father isn’t completely satisfied with you, he’s not foolish to give the throne to your weaker ninth brother.’
‘Mother, you’re right,’ Pei Zhang said. ‘Imperial father isn’t foolish to give the throne to ninth brother. Because after ninth brother sits on the throne, his supporters will turn against ninth brother and seize the throne. Imperial father wouldn’t want his family dynasty to end with ninth brother.’
‘Don’t forget your imperial father suspected Huang Guo’s ulterior motive long ago and that’s why Huang Guo lost your imperial father’s favor,’ Consort Mu said. ‘Now do you understand why I asked you to endure?’
‘Mother I understand,’ Pei Zhang said. ‘If imperial father sees Huang Guo cooperating with ninth brother, imperial father will hate ninth brother even more and ninth brother will die pitifully.’
‘It’s good you understand,’ Consort Mu said.
‘Mother, what about Yan Shi Ning’s pregnancy?’ Pei Zhang asked.
‘I couldn’t stop the heavens blessing her stomach with a prince,’ Consort Mu said. ‘Your ninth brother’s fate is too good. He hasn’t been married for long but already has an heir.’
Pei Zhang felt ashamed he had many wives but didn’t have an heir. His official wife lost their son when she was seventh months pregnant and their second child was a girl… at least his second wife was pregnant and perhaps he would finally have an heir.
‘Mother, didn’t you use Fu Gui to poison her?’ Pei Zhang asked. ‘How is it possible she’s pregnant?’
‘Perhaps I didn’t use enough Fu Gui or someone found the remedy for her,’ Consort Mu said.
Pei Zhang wasn’t satisfied enough to eliminate the Yan Manor, the empress and Pei Lam, he wanted to eliminate Yan Shi Ning too.
‘Mother, now I understand why Gentleman Tao was willing to help you by giving the forbidden Fu Gui incense sticks to the empress to give to Yan Shi Ting to use in the Yan Manor without the empress knowing they were poisoned,’ Pei Zhang said.
‘Your imperial father wanted a grandson for a long time,’ Consort Mu said. ‘If your ninth brother’s wife gives him a son and your second wife gives you a second daughter then I’m not certain what your imperial father’s final decision will be.’
‘Mother, what do we do about Yan Shi Ning?’ Pei Zhang asked.
End of Chapter Sixty-Two