Chapter Forty (Part 2 of 2)
After escorting Yan Shi Ting to the palace, Princess Kang Hua returned to the Yan Manor.
Yan Jing drank with the guests at the Yan Manor. Neither he nor Princess Kang Hua knew why Yan Shi Ting returned to the Yan Manor, because she was supposed to be the bride at the wedding ceremony in the palace.
Yan Jing also didn’t know why Yan Shi Ting was dancing and singing like a fool.
‘What happened?’ Yan Jing asked.
‘Prime Minister Yan, wait at home for the news,’ the ceremonial minister said coldly and left.
Yan Jing and Princess Kang Hua sent servants to the palace to find out why Yan Shi Ting was behaving like a fool and the servants returned with bad news.
Princess Kang Hua’s life dream shattered, her daughter was insane and her older sister stabbed her heart.
Yan Jing slapped Princess Kang Hua. ‘Scum! Look at your good deeds! You dare to let your daughter fake a pregnancy. Do you know what happens if you deceive the emperor? Death!’
‘You dare hit me?’ Princess Kang Hua asked.
‘I want to kill you!’ Yan Jing said. ‘You’ve pulled me into your mess!’
Princess Kang Hua laughed coldly. ‘So what? You die and I die. We’ll die together!’
Yan Jing left Princess Kang Hua’s chamber and she fell into depression.
That evening an elderly lady secretly travelled by horse carriage to visit Princess Kang Hua at the Yan Manor.
Princess Kang Hua was coaxing the insane Yan Shi Ting to sleep when she heard a knock on the door. She opened the door and was scared to see who visited her in the middle of the night.
‘Kang Hua, no one wanted this outcome,’ the elderly lady said. ‘The emperor is ill so he’s not pursuing this matter now. But after he recovers, I fear it’ll be bad for everyone involved. I know you’re not the only one responsible but to protect your family, you need to take all the responsibility. My daughter, I’m sorry it’s been hard for you.’
The elderly lady stood, put a small bottle on a table and left the Yan Manor.
Princess Kang Hua picked up the bottle, sat on a chair and her usual cold arrogance died.
In the palace the emperor was recovering in his chamber. Two years ago the emperor was ill and ingested many medicine to regain his health. No one expected the emperor would fall ill again on his tenth son’s wedding day.
Consort Mu and seventh prince were anxious about the emperor’s health. They didn’t want the emperor to die before announcing the new crown prince.
There were also people in the shadows that didn’t care if the emperor died. If the emperor died then Pei Lam would sit on the throne and seventh prince’s supporters would clash swords with Pei Lam’s supporters. Even if seventh prince stole the throne, the citizens of Dian Kingdom would rebel because the seventh prince wasn’t the true heir. Then both Pei Lam and seventh prince would be eliminated.
While the emperor’s health was uncertain the Yan Manor’s doors were locked. Princess Kang Hua took care of the insane Yan Shi Ting who continuously laughed and cried. Yan Jing pretended to be ill and didn’t attend imperial court meetings at the palace. He knew he would lose his prime minister position but he needed time to think about how to save his life.
At Pei Jin’s manor, Yan Shi Ning and Pei Jin speculated about the emperor’s health in their courtyard.
‘Pei Jin, do you think the emperor will recover?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘Yes,’ Pei Jin said.
‘When?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
Yan Shi Ning was anxious what the emperor would do to the people who deceived the emperor.
Pei Jin fed Yan Shi Ning a mandarin segment.
‘Soon,’ Pei Jin said.
‘Isn’t the emperor seriously ill?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘Imperial father is someone who values image,’ Pei Jin said. ‘He’ll want to kill everyone involved. Even if the empress and tenth brother cut off relations with Princess Kang Hua, imperial father isn’t fooled by them. But imperial father can only pretend to cooperate with them because there were too many witnesses that day. He didn’t want others to see that an emperor of a kingdom was deceived by his wife and son. He can’t swallow his anger but he can feign an illness. It’ll give him time to calm down and for everyone’s attention to be diverted from the situation. Then he’ll punish everyone involved. Shi Ning, you should know imperial father loves to punish other people.’
‘What will the emperor do?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘Imperial father chose to believe the empress and tenth brother in front of everyone,’ Pei Jin said. ‘It means he’ll collect fake evidence to protect them and blame everything on Princess Kang Hua and Yan Shi Ting. So the Yan Manor will be in trouble and the empress is safe for now.’
‘A pity,’ Yan Shi Ning said.
‘There’s no hurry,’ Pei Jin said. ‘Didn’t I say imperial father loves to punish other people? He’ll wait for another opportunity to punish them for their deceit. Shi Ning, soon tenth brother won’t be the crown prince anymore. After that happens the empress will wither.’
‘Pei Jin, do you think the crown prince truly doesn’t want the throne?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
Pei Jin shook his head. ‘Honestly, in the palace tenth brother is someone I don’t understand the most.’
End of Chapter Forty (Part 2 of 2)
Su Yue was banished from Pei Jin’s manor.
Yan Shi Ning reflected on Pei Jin’s plan and she frowned. She followed his plan but he gave her a surprise. Indeed he asked Su Yue to bring a bowl of herbal soup to her. As planned there was no poison in the herbal soup, but there was a poison powder in her fingernails. When she was blowing on the spoon of herbal soup, she slipped the poison into the bowl to frame Su Yue. What she didn’t expect was that the same poison was found in Su Yue’s chamber.
The poison in Yan Shi Ning’s hand was given to her by Pei Jin. After Bei Dou examined the poison found in Su Yue’s chamber it was the same poison as the poison Pei Jin gave her. Initially she thought Pei Jin framed Su Yue by putting the bottle of poison in Su Yue’s chamber. But she saw Su Yue’s guilty expression and she realised the poison did belong to Su Yue. She suspected that Pei Jin knew long ago that Su Yue hid poison in Su Yue’s chamber. That meant someone wanted to harm Pei Jin and Pei Jin used his enemy’s poison to deflect his enemy’s scheme. She was impressed by how calculating Pei Jin could be.
Yan Shi Ning wasn’t certain if Su Yue’s poison was intended to harm her or Pei Jin. Also, she didn’t know if Su Yue bought the poison on her own or someone secretly gave it to Su Yue. Perhaps someone at Huang Guo’s manor was involved.
Yan Shi Ning remembered what Pei Jin whispered in her ear and her heart stirred immensely.
After the maids left the chamber, Pei Jin held her wrists.
‘Big brother, what are you doing?’ Yan Shi Ning asked and failed to free her wrists.
Pei Jin waved a small scissors in front of Yan Shi Ning. ‘Cutting your fingernails. It’s too dangerous to keep the poison in your fingernails for a long time.’
In the past Yan Shi Ning hated having long fingernails and kept her fingernails short. But after she entered the Yan Manor, Yan Shi Ting criticized her fingernails were ugly so she kept them long.
Yan Shi Ning wasn’t depressed Pei Jin was cutting her fingernails. But a strange feeling stirred in her heart while Pei Jin was holding her hands and cutting her fingernails.
Pei Jin wasn’t satisfied to only cut Yan Shi Ning’s fingernails. He dipped her hands in a basin of warm water.
‘Big brother, there was only a little poison in my fingernails,’ Yan Shi Ning said. ‘You already cut my fingernails, there’s no need to soak my hands.’
‘It’s an extra precaution,’ Pei Jin said. ‘What if you accidently put it in your mouth? What am I going to do if I lose little lion?’
Yan Shi Ning played dead.
After a long time Yan Shi Ning picked up a fan and she sat down at a table.
‘When did you start taking a fan with you everywhere you go?’ Pei Jin asked. ‘It’s cooler now.’
A fan had many purposes. A fan was pleasant to look at, it hid Yan Shi Ning’s mouth when she was eating snacks or yawning. If she wanted to act vibrant and youthful she used it to chase butterflies. If it was a hot day she would use it to cool her body, it also shielded her from sunlight and rain. Yan Shi Ting had borrowed her fan to hide blood stains on Yan Shi Ting’s dress.
The main purpose Yan Shi Ning carried a fan everywhere she went since she arrived in the imperial city was to appear like a lady. But she couldn’t let Pei Jin know the real reason.
‘Ninth prince, don’t you have something to explain to me?’ Yan Shi Ning asked to deflect Pei Jin’s question.
Pei Jin sat beside Yan Shi Ning and he picked up a cup of tea. ‘Wife, what do you want to know?’
‘Ninth prince, how did you know there was poison in Su Yue’s chamber?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
Pei Jin drank a sip of tea and sighed. ‘It appears there are some things I can’t fool my wife.’
Yan Shi Ning tapped her fingers impatiently for Pei Jin to explain.
Pei Jin put the cup down. ‘If your husband doesn’t know what everyone is hiding in their chambers then your husband would have reincarnated long ago.’
Pei Jin spoke in a teasing tone, but Yan Shi Ning understood. Before she married Pei Jin, she knew two dragon princes wanted to sit on the dragon throne. Pei Jin didn’t want to be emperor, but he wouldn’t escape unscathed. There would be spies sent to Pei Jin’s manor, which was why she only showed her real self if she was alone with Pei Jin otherwise she would act like a lady.
Pei Jin’s manor looked like a tranquil place, but it was a deadly battlefield. Yan Shi Ning feared in the future she needed to be more cautious.
End of Chapter Fourteen