Chapter Thirty-Six (Part 2 of 2)
‘He’s my father,’ Yan Shi Ning said. ‘But his ambition is the reason why my mother was killed. I don’t need him to die. It’s enough that he loses his position in the imperial court.’
Pei Jin nodded his head. He couldn’t predict what his father would do to Yan Jing. But if his father wanted to execute Yan Jing then he would make a little plea to save Yan Jing’s life, because he and Yan Shi Ning knew in Yan Jing’s eyes being demoted was worse than dying.
‘Wife, why do you think Yan Jing suspects Yan Shi Ting isn’t his blood daughter?’ Pei Jin asked. ‘Why hasn’t he done anything to investigate the situation all these years? He’s not someone who would spare a person for deceiving him. I’ve sent someone to investigate Yan Shi Ting’s birth, but I haven’t received any evidence.’
‘Perhaps he’s either misunderstood or is certain Yan Shi Ting isn’t his daughter,’ Yan Shi Ning said. ‘It’s possible Princess Kang Hua convinced him that he has no evidence to confirm his suspicions. But you said that Princess Kang Hua panicked after she received copies of those two letters. So I think Yan Shi Ting isn’t my father’s blood daughter.’
‘Pei Jin, I want you to give me one of those letters,’ Yan Shi Ning said. ‘I want to show it my father. I want to see what his reaction is when he knows the daughter he loved since she was born isn’t his blood daughter.’
‘Yan-Shi-Ning!’ Pei Jin cried out. ‘Give back my loveable lively little lion!’
Yan Shi Ning smiled at Pei Jin. ‘Pei Jin, don’t worry. I’m still me, I won’t change.’
At the Yan Manor, Yan Jing thought that recently nothing had been smooth for him. He was ashamed of his youngest daughter’s behaviour before her wedding, it caused him to lose the emperor’s favor. Princess Kang Hua’s health was suddenly poor and Gentleman Su asked him to pay for the costs of Yan Shi Ting’s dresses and shoes.
Yan Jing did want to pay Gentleman Su, but the total cost shook his body and he asked Gentleman Su to receive the silver taels from Princess Kang Hua.
‘Prime Minister Yan, I did ask Princess Kang Hua,’ Gentleman Su said. ‘But she said she was unwell and asked me to come back another day. Honestly, I need the money to pay my merchants and dressmakers.’
Yan Jing tactfully asked Gentleman Su to come back another day then he looked for Princess Kang Hua in the Yan Manor. He didn’t know how many silver taels Princess Kang Hua possessed and he had never asked. But he knew she wasn’t a pauper so he couldn’t understand why she couldn’t pay Gentleman Su.
Yan Jing found Princess Kang Hua in her chamber and he asked her about the silver taels owed to Gentleman Su.
‘My silver taels has no relation to you,’ Princess Kang Hua said coldly.
Yan Jing thought Princess Kang Hua’s cold arrogance was too much. He suppressed his disdain and retreated toward the calligraphy room.
On the way to the calligraphy room Yan Jing was surprised to see his oldest daughter arrived at the Yan Manor to visit him.
‘Shi Ning?’ Yan Jing asked.
Yan Shi Ning smiled charmingly at Yan Jing. ‘Father, I came to give Shi Ting a pair of jade bracelets. It’ll look beautiful on her wrists.’
Yan Jing was proud of his oldest daughter who was gentle and considerate. ‘Shi Ning, you’re a good person.’
Yan Jing accepted the jade bracelets and he noticed Yan Shi Ning hesitated to ask him something. ‘Shi Ning, is something wrong?’
Yan Shi Ning bit her lower lip and spoke in a shaky voice. ‘Father… I… this… I didn’t intend to tell father about this. But forgive me father, I can’t hide this from you.’
Yan Jing had never seen Yan Shi Ning looked so sad and anxious like she did that she did that day. ‘Shi Ning, if anything bad happened you can tell me and I promise I’ll give you justice.’
Yan Shi Ning’s heart laughed coldly. She pulled out a letter and passed it to Yan Jing. ‘Father, last night someone delivered this to my husband’s manor. After I read it I was shocked and I wanted to ask father about this.’
Yan Jing read the letter and his body stiffened, it was clearly the letter he wrote to Dung Thi… it was his calligraphy and the same paper he used that year.
End of Chapter Thirty-Six (Part 2 of 2)
Chapter Nine (Part 1)
The horse carriage travelled from the palace to Pei Jin’s manor.
Inside the horse carriage Yan Shi Ning poked Pei Jin’s arm. ‘Big brother, why didn’t you let me visit Consort Mu’s chamber?’
‘Why do you want to go there?’ Pei Jin asked. ‘Aren’t you scared of her dull company?’
Of course Yan Shi Ning didn’t believe Pei Jin’s excuse.
Pei Jin hugged Yan Shi Ning. ‘Little lion, in the future when we’re summoned to the palace stay away from Consort Mu unless it’s necessary to talk her.’
‘Why?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘I’m scared you’ll be fooled by her,’ Pei Jin said.
Yan Shi Ning supressed her temper. ‘Ninth prince, is there anything else?’
‘Of course,’ Pei Jin said. ‘You can’t impulsively eat, bully and believe other people. Mainly eat more rice and speak less. You only need to laugh and act foolish… wait, you don’t need to act foolish, being yourself is enough.’
Pei Jin gently knocked Yan Shi Ning’s head. She caught his hand and bit him. Her heart remembered his advice clearly, it knew behind the teasing tone was a deeper meaning.
After they returned to Pei Jin’s manor, Yan Shi Ning wanted to rest in their chamber but he stopped her.
‘Wait, I want you to meet someone in the manor,’ Pei Jin said.
Yan Shi Ning was suspicious who Pei Jin wanted her to meet. But she kept quiet because he looked serious.
Pei Jin’s manor was located north of the palace. There was an artificial lake, beautiful gardens and elegant chambers.
Pei Jin led Yan Shi Ning through the gardens. They stopped in front of a secluded chamber at the back of the manor. She could smell many herbal scents even before the door was opened.
Pei Jin looked at a young man dressed in black clothes and who carried bottles of remedies.
‘This is Gentleman Bei Dou, the manor’s physician,’ Pei Jin said.
‘Big brother, why do you want me to meet the physician?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
Pei Jin laughed. ‘He’s a physician and also my friend.’
Yan Shi Ning understood Pei Jin wouldn’t call someone a friend lightly. She didn’t know why Pei Jin wanted her to meet Bei Dou but she silently assessed Bei Dou.
Bei Dou looked about twenty years old, tall, wore black clothes, quiet, cold and distant. Yan Shi Ning felt like Bei Dou wasn’t someone easy to be close to. She was surprised Pei Jin was able to befriend someone like Bei Dou.
‘Do you wear perfume?’ Bei Dou asked coldly.
‘No,’ Yan Shi Ning said.
‘Then what’s the perfume scent on your body?’ Bei Dou asked.
Yan Shi Ning shook her head, she honestly didn’t wear perfume.
‘Recently have you been burning incense sticks?’ Bei Dou asked.
‘Yes, at the Yan Manor,’ Yan Shi Ning said.
‘For how long?’ Bei Dou asked.
‘Almost one month,’ Yan Shi Ning said.
‘Where did you get the incense sticks?’ Bei Dou asked.
‘My little sister gave them to me,’ Yan Shi Ning said. ‘She said it was a gift from the palace. She showed me two kinds of incense sticks. One had a strong scent and the other had a faint scent. I chose the faint scene. Is there something wrong with them?’
‘Nothing,’ Bei Dou said. ‘You don’t suit the scent.’
Bei Dou tossed Yan Shi Ning one of the bottles he was carrying and he walked calmly into the chamber.
Yan Shi Ning felt Bei Dou was a strange young man who asked strange questions then abruptly became silent again. She looked at Pei Jin and her confused eyes asked him what had happened.
Pei Jin was upset with Bei Dou. He asked Bei Dou to subtly ask Yan Shi Ning about the incense sticks, he didn’t expect Bei Dou would ask directly.
Pei Jin escorted a confused Yan Shi Ning to their chamber and quickly returned to Bei Dou’s chamber.
‘I asked you to be subtle but you asked my wife directly,’ Pei Jin said. ‘What if my wife suspects something?’
‘I don’t have a habit of being subtle,’ Bei Dou said.
Pei Jin rubbed his temples. ‘When I gave you the incense sticks you told me I couldn’t sleep with my wife on our wedding night. Why?’
On the morning of Pei Jin and Yan Shi Ning’s wedding day, he woke a sleeping Bei Dou up and gave him the incense sticks to examine. In the past he had confided in Bei Dou about the missing incense sticks, but Bei Dou couldn’t identify the poison without examining the incense sticks. So when the incense sticks reappeared in Yan Shi Ning’s chamber the first person he wanted to show was Bei Dou.
Bei Dou only sniffed the incense sticks and gave Pei Jin a vague advice, ‘these incense sticks are poison. You can’t sleep with your wife on your wedding night.’
Pei Jin continued to rub his temples while Bei Dou explained about the poison.
‘Seven poisons were used to make these incense sticks,’ Bei Dou said. ‘One of the seven poisons is called Fu Gui. Fu Gui is naturally found in Western Ning. Fu Gui fruits are rare and not easy to pluck. After it’s grown for ten years its flowers will bloom. Then ten years later it’ll bear fruit. Fu Gui fruits smell similar to jasmine. It’s hard for those who aren’t physicians to distinguish between Fu Gui fruits and jasmine. If a person sniffs the scent of Fu Gui fruits then they’ll feel relaxed. But if they sniff it continuously for months and years then their body will be poisoned. The poison will linger in their blood and they won’t escape death. But the poison only affects women, especially pregnant women. Women who are affected die within a year, pregnant women will die within three months.’
Pei Jin’s whole body turned cold. The symptoms Bei Dou explained to him was exactly what had happened to his adoptive mother, Consort Chen. Before she was pregnant she was healthy but three months after she was pregnant she was weak and lost weight. What Jin curse? Someone killed Consort Chen.
Bei Dou noticed Pei Jin’s clenched hands, but he didn’t offer any comforting words and continued to explain the other symptoms. ‘A woman who is poisoned by Fu Gui can’t sleep with a man. The effect of the poison will double each time she sleeps with a man. If she becomes pregnant then both she and the unborn child can’t escape death.’
‘Then what should I do?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘Lucky she didn’t sniff the poison for a long period,’ Bei Dou said. ‘Her body will slowly release the poison. Combined with the cure, she’ll recover faster, less than half a month.’
‘Where is the cure?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘I gave it to your wife,’ Bei Dou said.
‘Why didn’t you tell me earlier?’ Pei Jin asked. ‘When I brought my wife back to our chamber, she didn’t like the stench of the herbs in the bottle you gave her. Luckily I explained to her that you wouldn’t give someone something for no reason otherwise she would have thrown it away.’
‘It’s not a problem even if she throws it away,’ Bei Dou said. ‘The cure is easy to make.’
‘Then must I endure not sleeping with my wife for half a month?’ Pei Jin asked. ‘Do you have a solution?’
Pei Jin felt tormented to death sleeping in the same bed as his wife without eating her.
‘Yes,’ Bei Dou said.
‘What’s the solution?’ Pei Jin asked
‘Castration,’ Bei Dou said.
End of Chapter Nine (Part 1)