‘Wang Fu Mu, summon the crown prince,’ the emperor said.
‘Yes your majesty,’ Wang Fu Mu said.
Pei Lam who had not eaten for a few days, lost a lot of weight and walked weakly into the emperor’s chamber.
‘Other people dream of entering this chamber,’ the emperor said. ‘But you’re impressive, you need an invitation before you’re willing to enter this chamber.’
‘Imperial father, your health is important,’ Pei Lam said. ‘It’s not good for you to upset yourself out of bed.’
‘You’re the only one who understands this much,’ the emperor praised.
‘Imperial father, you taught me everything,’ Pei Lam said.
The emperor threw a report at Pei Lam. ‘Don’t learn to act like ninth prince in front of me!’
Pei Lam didn’t avoid the report and it hit his forehead. ‘I envy ninth brother.’
The emperor gritted his teeth.
‘If I was ninth brother,’ Pei Lam said. ‘Then imperial father wouldn’t be angry. Ninth brother didn’t visit your bedside but you didn’t fault him for not being filial. It doesn’t matter if ninth brother isn’t sincere or distant, imperial father wouldn’t care. That’s why I envy ninth brother.’
‘I don’t care because he is no one in my eyes,’ the emperor said.
‘Is that so?’ Pei Lam asked. ‘Then imperial father, you should see me as no one too.’
‘Bastard child!’ the emperor said.
Pei Lam kowtowed in front of his father. ‘Imperial father, please take away my crown prince position.’
Pei Lam hit his forehead on the floor.
The emperor felt his tenth son that he trained for many years had become a stranger.
‘Tenth son… this is the third time you have asked me this!’ the emperor said.
‘Imperial father, I hope there won’t be a fourth time,’ Pei Lam said.
The emperor knocked over the teapot and cup. ‘Tenth son! You’re the crown prince I put a lot of energy to train for more than eighteen years! Yet you’re asking me to take away your crown prince position. Are you willing to disappoint me?’
‘Imperial father, I’m sorry,’ Pei Lam said. ‘But I don’t want the throne and rule over the kingdom. Imperial father, seventh brother is the one who wants it. You should grant his wish. He’s devoted and decisive, it makes him more suitable to be emperor than me.’
‘Seventh prince?’ the emperor asked. ‘Devoted? He’s a fraud! Who’s seventh prince? I know him better than you. He’s someone who has the most ulterior motives.’
The emperor struggled to stand. Wang Fu Mu rushed to the emperor’s side but the emperor pushed him away.
‘Everyone leave!’ the emperor ordered.
‘Crown prince, take care of the emperor,’ Wang Fu Mu said to Pei Lam and left the chamber.
Pei Lam dismissed Wang Fu Mu’s advice.
‘Although seventh brother has ulterior motives,’ Pei Lam said. ‘But he hasn’t committed any serious offences. But I’ve shamed imperial father beyond acceptable.’
‘So you lied about Yan Shi Ting?’ the emperor asked.
Pei Lam didn’t deny his father’s accusation.
‘I didn’t think there would be a day tenth son knows how to calmly lie,’ the emperor said and laughed coldly. ‘It doesn’t matter, you shouldn’t even dare to think about me taking away your position! I raised you from a child to an adult. I know what you’re thinking like I know my own hand. I know your mother forced you to deceive me. Also, seventh prince isn’t innocent in this deception either. I know clearly who purposely wanted to expose Yan Shi Ting. Seventh prince and Consort Mu knew about Yan Shi Ting’s fake pregnancy long ago and they waited until the wedding to expose Yan Shi Ting. Their black hearts aren’t innocent.’
The emperor hit the table. He acted stern with Pei Lam and appeared to favor Pei Zhang. But it wasn’t his true heart.
The emperor hated situations out of his control. He knew Pei Lam was soft but Pei Lam was also capable, which was why he chose to train Pei Lam. He thought after he died, Pei Lam would have enough power to sit on the throne. But Pei Lam disappointed him before he died.
The emperor didn’t trust Pei Zhang. Pei Zhang was someone who thought too highly of their intelligence, always manipulating situations to benefit themselves and would do anything to gain favor like being stabbed unnecessarily to appear heroic in the eyes of the Dian Kingdom’s citizens.
Pei Lam knew Pei Zhang would never satisfy their father’s expectations. ‘Imperial father, if you’re not satisfied with seventh brother, there’s still ninth brother.’
The emperor’s deadly aura was emitted in all four directions.
‘I will never allow ninth prince sit on the throne!’ the emperor said.
‘Why?’ Pei Lam asked.
Pei Lam was curious why his father treated Pei Jin coldly for more than twenty years. He knew Pei Jin was intelligent and treated others fairly. If he could see Pei Jin’s strengths then their father could also see Pei Jin’s strengths.
‘Tenth son, you only need to worry about being a good crown prince!’ the emperor said. ‘You’re my heir, the kingdom will become yours.’
Pei Lam felt helpless to escape his cage. Would he ever even take one step out of his cage? He remembered the dead palace maid and a familiar suffocating sensation wrapped around his body.
Pei Lam stood. ‘I don’t want it!’
‘Pei Lam!’ the emperor said.
‘Imperial father!’ Pei Lam said.
‘Do you want me to be angry to death?’ the emperor asked.
Pei Lam cried, pulled out a dagger and stabbed his chest. ‘Imperial father, don’t force me!’
The emperor grabbed Pei Lam’s hand. ‘Pei Lam, what do you want to do?’
Pei Lam used his strength to stab the dagger deeper. ‘Imperial father, I want you to grant my request.’
‘Summon an imperial physician!’ the emperor cried out.
Wang Fu Mu rushed into the emperor’s chamber and realised that day was beautiful. Then he wondered if flowers were blooming in Pei Jin’s manor.
Wang Fu Mu hid his thoughts and he acted concern in front of the emperor.
‘Your majesty what happened?’ Wang Fu Mu asked. ‘Ah! Crown prince are you alright?’
That day news about the emperor taking away tenth prince’s crown prince position faster than punishing the Yan Manor surprised many people.
The empress almost died to see her son return with blood on his chest. She collapsed on a chair after she read the emperor’s edict in her son’s hand, her son was no longer the crown prince.
The empress thought her eyes misread the emperor’s edict. She had warned her son not to say any nonsense in front of the emperor. Why would the emperor grant their son’s insane request?
‘Bastard child!’ the empress said. ‘How many people do you want to kill?’
Pei Lam found peace amongst the chaos around him. After more than eighteen years in a cage, the door was opened. He could see sunlight, hear the sounds of birds chirping, smell the scent of blossoms and feel warmth enter his cold body. He had never felt as relaxed and happy as he did that day. He smiled like a fool because finally he escaped the cage.
At Pei Jin’s manor, Yan Shi Ning couldn’t believe the news about the crown prince.
‘He’s no longer the crown prince?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
Pei Jin nodded his head.
‘Then who will be the new crown prince?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘The emperor is keeping the crown prince position vacant,’ Pei Jin said.
‘Do you think it could be you?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
Pei Jin shook his head. ‘It’s alright, everything happened according to the plan. But there’s something else…’
‘What?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘Shi Ning, imperial father asked Yan Jing to kill Princess Kang Hua,’ Pei Jin said.
‘Why would the emperor do that?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘It’s hard to see imperial father’s true motives,’ Pei Jin said. ‘Shi Ning, do you want to go to the Yan Manor and give Princess Kang Hua a memorable parting gift? We can let her see clearly whose hands she died under.’
‘Yes,’ Yan Shi Ning said. ‘Of course we need to go. I want to see her die suffering.’
End of Chapter Forty-Two
Chapter Fifteen (Part 2)
Pei Jin prepared gifts for Yan Shi Ning’s family.
Yan Shi Ning glanced at the expensive gifts and her heart ached for the silver taels wasted.
‘This is your husband elevating your worth,’ Pei Jin said.
Yan Shi Ning understood if a husband gave expensive gifts to his wife’s family, it meant he valued his wife. She knew that she had a high place in Pei Jin’s heart. ‘Big brother, aren’t you scared people will think you want to gain my father’s favour?’
Pei Jin didn’t reply immediately. He looked carefully at Yan Shi Ning’s appearance. Suddenly he remembered something. He pulled out a hairpin from one of the chests. At the top of the hairpin was three pearls and the gold sunlight reflected off them. He secured the hairpin in Yan Shi Ning’s hair. ‘Wife, this hairpin suits your dress.’
Yan Shi Ning didn’t voice her opinion. What could she say? Thank Pei Jin for rummaging through the chests he was going to give to her father?
‘Let people think what they like,’ Pei Jin said. ‘It’s clear I’m innocent. How can people suspect me?’ He paused and inspected Yan Shi Ning’s appearance again. ‘Where’s the jade pendant?’
‘What is it for?’ Yan Shi Ning asked suspiciously.
‘For you to wear,’ Pei Jin said. ‘Are you keeping it safe as an heirloom for the next generation?’
Pei Jin began to search Yan Shi Ning’s body for the jade pendant.
Yan Shi Ning turned around and ran away. ‘I’m not wearing it. It’s ugly to death.’
‘Wear it,’ Pei Jin said. He chased Yan Shi Ning and caught her. ‘It’s a rare jade pendant. It’s more expensive than these gifts combined. If you wear it, it’ll look beautiful.’
‘Even if I die, I’m not wearing it!’ Yan Shi Ning said.
Yan Shi Ning was supposed to appear like a lady. How could she wear such an ugly jade pendant?
While Yan Shi Ning was struggling to escape Pei Jin’s embrace, the sounds of footsteps were approaching them. He lowered his head and kissed her cheek. ‘Someone’s coming, be good.’
Yan Shi Ning stood upright like a lady.
‘Wife, the sleeve of your dress is crooked,’ Pei Jin said. ‘Let me straighten it for you.’
Pei Jin pulled out the jade pendant shaped like a lion and secured it on Yan Shi Ning’s belt.
Yan Shi Ning glanced at the envious two maids at the door and forced herself to smile. ‘Thank you husband.’
After Pei Jin and Yan Shi Ning was inside the horse carriage, the two maids gossiped about them.
‘Ninth prince treats his wife well,’ the younger maid said. ‘I saw ninth prince straighten his wife’s dress.’
‘In the past ninth prince has always been gentle,’ the older maid said.
‘It’s not the same,’ the younger maid said. ‘In the past ninth prince didn’t treat Lady Yewu as good as he treats his wife.’
‘That’s because Lady Yewu isn’t as kind as ninth prince’s wife,’ the older maid said. ‘Little sister, you don’t know that each time Lady Yewu met ninth prince, Lady Yewu treated him coldly. Lady Yewu is nothing like ninth prince’s wife who is always friendly and approachable.’
‘Big sister, do you know how Lady Yewu died?’ the younger maid asked.
‘The rumor is that Lady Yewu died of an illness,’ the older maid said. ‘But I think that isn’t the truth-’
‘Who allowed you two talk nonsense behind ninth prince’s back?’ Bei Dou asked.
The two maids were happily gossiping in the gardens and were startled when they heard Bei Dou’s voice behind their backs. They turned around and saw a cold face Bei Dou dressed in black clothes like a demon.
‘If you two talk nonsense again, be careful of your tongues,’ Bei Dou said coldly and walked past the two maids.
The older maid was scared speechless and the younger maid cried. Both maids knew Bei Dou’s threats were scary and real. They remembered the time Tao Xue barged into Bei Dou’s chamber and Tao Xue came running out itching her body. Then Tao Xue left the manor and no one knew if Tao Xue stopped itching.
Bei Dou glanced back at the two maids who were silently walking toward their chambers.
Bei Dou sighed, looked up at the sky and remembered Pei Jin’s request.
‘In the future when you’re free roam around the manor,’ Pei Jin said. ‘If you see anything suspicious you can take care of the situation. Since you have many ways to deal with people who misbehave and everyone in the manor is scared of you.’
Bei Dou wanted to protest. What if free roam around the manor? What was he, a demon? But he didn’t expect people would still talk about Lady Yewu’s death.
Bei Dou leapt on a wall, it was clear in all four directions and he jumped outside the manor. Since Pei Jin chased Su Yue back to Huang Guo’s manor, Pei Jin ended all associations with Huang Guo. It meant avenging his family would be prolonged. But he didn’t want to wait any longer to avenge his family.
End of Chapter Fifteen (Part 2)