Chapter Forty (Part 1)
Pei Lam looked coldly at Yan Shi Ting.
‘Yan Shi Ting, look at the evidence and see if you’re not the liar,’ Pei Lam said. He turned his head and looked at his father. ‘Imperial father, she has been sending me threatening letters. If imperial father doesn’t believe me, imperial father can summon the palace maids and eunuchs here. Imperial father, look at her, she’s a shameless woman and deserves to die.’
‘No!’ Yan Shi Ting said. ‘Don’t believe him. He’s lying! I’m not shameless! It was my mother who told me to do this, I didn’t know anything! Big brother crown prince, since you were a little boy you said you loved me! Why are you lying?’
The emperor heard Yan Shi Ting’s pitiful cries. He didn’t understand why an auspicious day turned into a nightmare. He was too angry, his blood flowed chaotically. He stood and spoke heartlessly. ‘Hurry and take her away!’
Yan Shi Ting’s loud cries slowly faded from the ceremonial hall.
The wedding guests were about the leave too but the crown prince suddenly broke the silence.
‘Imperial father, I’m unfilial,’ Pei Lam said. ‘I let imperial father be deceived and shamed the imperial family. Imperial father, I request you take away my crown prince position. I’m willing to be banished from the palace and do good deeds in remote places to ask the ancestors to forgive me.’
The wedding guests were stunned and the empress was scared to death. But Consort Mu lowered her head and hid her joy.
‘What did you say?’ the emperor asked.
‘Imperial father, I have shamed you,’ Pei Lam said. ‘Imperial father, take away my crown prince position.’
The emperor vomited blood.
‘Your majesty!’ the wedding guests cried out.
The crown prince and Yan Shi Ting’s wedding wasn’t an auspicious day, it was a tragedy and all the wedding guests quickly retreated from the ceremonial hall.
In the horse carriage Yan Shi Ning hugged Pei Jin. Her heart and hands were cold and trembling. She couldn’t stop thinking about the image of Yan Shi Ting being dragged outside the ceremonial hall and Yan Shi Ting’s pitiful cries. She was too scared to think about what was going to happen to Yan Shi Ting.
Pei Jin hugged Yan Shi Ning’s cold body tighter and held her hands.
‘Pei Jin, what do you think will happen to Yan Shi Ting?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘She would have been executed,’ Pei Jin said. ‘But now she’s trapped in an insane state for life.’
Yan Shi Ning’s heart felt remorse.
‘Pei Jin, was I too cruel?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘Shi Ning, if it’s done then you don’t need to think about if it’s right or wrong,’ Pei Jin said. ‘It’s not your fault alone that she’s insane.’
Yan Shi Ning felt colder after she remembered the empress and the crown prince’s heartlessness. ‘Pei Jin, the palace is a dangerous place.’
‘Shi Ning, the palace has always been a dangerous place,’ Pei Jin said.
Pei Jin hugged Yan Shi Ning and stared out the window. His heart was relieved his Shi Ning wasn’t heartless.
End of Chapter Forty (Part 1)
Yan Shi Ning didn’t want to get out of bed.
Yan Shi Ning buried her head on Pei Jin’s chest. But he kept poking her to wake up. She raised her head, glared at him, rolled over and continued to sleep.
Pei Jin shook Yan Shi Ning’s body. ‘Wife, wake up.’
Yan Shi Ning frowned and kept her eyes closed.
Pei Jin smiled. ‘You need to wake up to read.’
‘Troublemaker!’ Yan Shi Ning protested.
Pei Jin laughed and shook Yan Shi Ning’s body but she continued to sleep.
‘Wife, you have no conscience,’ Pei Jin accused. ‘Someone schemed against your husband, but you can sleep peacefully.’
Yan Shi Ning remembered what happened last night and had no sympathy left for Pei Jin. ‘You deserve it.’
Yan Shi Ning thought Pei Jin always deceived other people, of course it was fair he received retribution.
Pei Jin rubbed his chin. ‘Wife, how should I deal with her?’
‘Feeding her master lust herbs is a serious offence,’ Yan Shi Ning said. ‘Of course you need to punish her severely.’
‘Wife, it appears you truly hate her,’ Pei Jin said. ‘If that is so then your husband won’t be merciful anymore. I’ve decided to make her disappear forever in front of us.’
Yan Shi Ning’s eyes widened and she sat upright on the bed. ‘Big brother, you don’t want to…’
Yan Shi Ning gestured a slit throat.
‘Wife, what are you thinking?’ Pei Jin asked. ‘I want her to go back to Huang Guo’s manor.’
Yan Shi Ning’s heart cursed Pei Jin, it was pointless of him to appear deadly threatening before if he didn’t want to kill Su Yue.
‘But I need a good reason to send her back,’ Pei Jin said. ‘Faulting her for feeding me lust herbs isn’t a good reason. She was given to me to serve me. Huang Guo would ask me to forgive her for being impatient to serve me.’
‘Big brother, what do you want to do?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘I have a plan…’ Pei Jin said. ‘Yesterday I cooperated with you. Today I need your help.’
Yan Shi Ning listened to Pei Jin’s plan. ‘Big brother, you thought deeply only to return one maid to Huang Guo’s manor?’
Pei Jin hugged Yan Shi Ning and he smiled. ‘Wife, are you not the one who hates her? Because of your happiness, your husband would do anything.’
‘Big brother, why does it feel like you want to borrow a dagger to kill someone?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
Pei Jin didn’t admit or deny Yan Shi Ning’s accusation. ‘Wife, will you let me borrow your dagger or not?’
Yan Shi Ning pursed her lips, contemplated for a while and agreed to help Pei Jin. But she was suspicious why he would waste energy to think of a thorough plan to send Su Yue back to Huang Guo’s manor unless he had his own reason. She sighed inwardly. Although she was curious what the reason was, she knew if he didn’t want to tell her then it was pointless to ask him.
Yan Shi Ning glanced at Pei Jin who was smiling too sweetly and her intuition agreed with her suspicions. ‘Big brother, have you been wanting to chase Su Yue out of your manor for a long time?’
Pei Jin’s sweet smile didn’t disappear. If he didn’t deny it, Yan Shi Ning knew last night she was fooled. She glared at him, raised her foot and kicked his thigh. MF, fooled her again!
Initially Yan Shi Ning thought Pei Jin agreed to cooperate with her to punish Su Yue because he wanted to appease her. After she thought carefully, she realised he had fooled her.
Pei Jin was happy Yan Shi Ning was angry. He hugged her and his hands stroked her skin beneath her undergarments. She didn’t struggle and only laid still. He rubbed his face on her neck and bribed her. ‘Wife, don’t you want to know why I want to chase Su Yue out of the manor?’
Yan Shi Ning glared at Pei Jin and he whispered in her ear. ‘Huang Guo truly gave Su Yue to me to spy on me.’
Yan Shi Ning’s body shivered. After Consort Chen died, Huang Guo resigned from his position in the imperial court. Huang Guo announced he wanted to live a peaceful life of a gardener. Yan Shi Ning didn’t understand why Huang Guo wanted to spy on Pei Jin. Perhaps, it was seventh prince or the crown prince who wanted to spy on Pei Jin.
Pei Jin could see Yan Shi Ning’s flow of thoughts and he whispered something in her ear.
Su Yue stayed awake most of the night. The more she thought, the more heartbroken and hopeless she felt. She stayed in bed and hugged her pillow the whole morning. But in the afternoon she couldn’t stay in bed quietly, because she heard Pei Jin’s voice nearby her chamber.
‘Wife, what do you think of these flowers?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘The flowers are beautiful,’ Yan Shi Ning said. ‘It reminds of Su Yue, they’re all beautiful. Who lives in the chamber of this courtyard? It’s a beautiful courtyard.’
‘Mistress, big sister Su lives here,’ a maid said.
‘Is that so?’ Yan Shi Ning asked. ‘Ninth prince, a day’s gone. If you were angry then it would have simmered by now. I feel I was partly at fault, Su Yue was shocked to see me sick and accidently knocked over the blue vase… I think that she doesn’t need to reflect for a month in her chamber.’
Su Yue was eavesdropping by her chamber window. Her heart raged and thought Yan Shi Ning was pretending to appear merciful in front of Pei Jin. She hated Yan Shi Ning but she wanted to hear Pei Jin’s reply. She didn’t expect he would forgive her after what she did last night.
‘Wife, if that is your wish then Su Yue’s punishment can be forgotten,’ Pei Jin said.
Su Yue was overjoyed to hear Pei Jin had forgiven her.
‘Ninth prince, let’s go visit Su Yue,’ Yan Shi Ning said.
Su Yue quickly adjusted her dress and hair. She curtsied when Pei Jin and Yan Shi Ning entered her chamber.
Yan Shi Ning said some comforting words to Su Yue, but Su Yue’s attention was focused on Pei Jin’s coldness toward her.
‘If my wife has forgiven you,’ Pei Jin said. ‘I have nothing more to say. In the future you need to serve my wife well!’
Su Yue’s blood boiled at the thought of serving Yan Shi Ning. ‘Thank you ninth prince. Thank you mistress.’
Su Yue was happy to be free from her chamber, it gave her opportunities to separate Pei Jin and Yan Shi Ning.
Yan Shi Ning suggested Su Yue should rest for a few days. But Su Yue declined, tidied her chamber and followed Yan Shi Ning.
In Pei Jin and Yan Shi Ning’s chamber, Yan Shi Ning was playing with a maid’s cat. Pei Jin sat next to Yan Shi Ning while reading a book. Apart from the cat’s meow sounds, it was quiet in their chamber.
‘Ninth prince, I wonder if the herbal soup is ready,’ Yan Shi Ning said. ‘I feel a little hungry.’
‘Then send someone to the kitchen,’ Pei Jin said and glanced at Su Yue.
Su Yue understood and immediately walked to the kitchen nearby. The herbal soup was cooked and she scooped a bowl of herbal soup. The steam rose to her face and her head was consumed with one bad thought.
Yan Shi Ning waited for the herbal soup for a long time. She acted excited when the bowl of herbal soup was put on the table in front of her.
‘Ninth prince, do you want to eat a spoon of the herbal soup?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘No,’ Pei Jin said. ‘Wife, you can slowly eat the herbal soup.’
Su Yue resented Pei Jin’s consideration toward Yan Shi Ning.
Yan Shi Ning blew on a spoon of herbal soup. It was still hot, she put the bowl of herbal soup back on the table and waited for it to cool. Afterward she continued to play with the cat. She acted like her back ached from patting the cat. Then she put the cat on the table, took out a loose silver hairpin and put it on the table to brush her hair.
Suddenly the cat leapt off the table and knocked over the bowl of herbal soup onto the silver hairpin. Everyone looked shocked to see the silver hairpin changed colour.
‘The herbal soup is poisoned!’ Yan Shi Ning cried out.
If the herbal soup was poisoned the suspects were the cooks and Su Yue who brought the bowl of herbal soup to Yan Shi Ning.
Pei Jin’s guards and Bei Dou searched the cooks and Su Yue’s chambers. The guards found a blue bottle of poison in Su Yue’s chamber and Su Yue’s face whitened.
Pei Jin passed the blue bottle to Bei Dou.
‘What kind of poison is it?’ Pei Jin asked coldly.
Bei Dou sniffed the blue bottle for a while. ‘This poison is called Diao Jing Ji. Like its name, it prevents pregnancy. If someone ingest this poison then they’ll be infertile for the rest of their life.’
Su Yue panicked and feared for her soul. She knelt in front of Pei Jin and grabbed his sleeve. ‘It isn’t mine! I was framed!’
Pei Jin pulled his sleeve out of Su Yue’s hands.
‘I thought you were remorseful about your impulsiveness,’ Pei Jin said. ‘I didn’t expect that you’re a cruel person!’
‘Ninth prince, it truly isn’t me!’ Su Yue pleaded. ‘Someone framed me!’
‘Who would frame you?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘It’s…’ Su Yue said.
Su Yue couldn’t think of anyone who would frame her. The herbal soup was made by the head cook Xiao Xuan who was a good person and wouldn’t harm anyone. Pei Jin sent her to the kitchen to bring the herbal soup to Yan Shi Ning, but Pei Jin wouldn’t poison Yan Shi Ning.
Su Yue didn’t know what happened. She remembered in the kitchen she did think about poisoning Yan Shi Ning, her arms and legs turned cold. The biggest obstacle between her and Pei Jin would disappear if Yan Shi Ning died.
Su Yue thought about going to her chamber and using the hidden poison to put in the herbal soup. If Yan Shi Ning died then she would deny the deed. She began to suspect herself. That she didn’t think about poisoning the herbal soup but actually did use the poison in her jealous haze.
‘Where did you get the Diao Jing Ji from?’ Pei Jin asked coldly.
Su Yue looked at the bottle but she couldn’t open her mouth. The bottle was secretly delivered to her a month ago from Huang Guo’s manor.
Su Yue remembered what the messenger said before leaving, ‘There’s poison inside this bottle. You need to hide it well. Later I’ll give you instructions when to use it.’
Su Yue never knew the poison was Diao Jing Ji, she only thought it was a deadly poison. But she couldn’t reveal the truth if she wanted to stay alive.
Since Su Yue remained silent, it meant she admitted her deed.
‘I considered your years of service and forgave you for yesterday’s offence,’ Pei Jin said. ‘Today you dared to do this. I can no longer keep you in this manor. Go pack your belongings and return to Huang Guo’s manor!’
Su Yue felt like Pei Jin’s words were like a basin of cold water that was poured onto the top of her of head and down to her feet.
End of Chapter Thirteen