Xiao Zai carried Yan Shi Ning to Bei Dou’s chamber.
Bei Dou was scared to death to see the unconscious Yan Shi Ning.
Xiao Zai put Yan Shi Ning on the bed and he explained to Bei Dou what happened at the Yan Manor.
‘Go and run to the palace to tell Pei Jin,’ Bei Dou said.
Xiao Zai rushed out of Bei Dou’s chamber to the horse carriage.
Bei Dou was scared how Pei Jin would react to the news about Yan Shi Ning being injured.
Bei Dou washed his hands and was prepared to examine and clean Yan Shi Ning’s wound. But he looked at the wound on her chest then he looked out the window. He saw a maid and summoned the maid.
‘You come here,’ Bei Dou said.
Bei Dou vaguely remembered the maid. He had seen her often in the gardens. She calmly helped examine Yan Shi Ning even though Yan Shi Ning’s chest was bleeding.
‘Have you washed your hands properly?’ Bei Dou asked.
‘Yes,’ Xiao Tu said.
‘Firstly, take off ninth prince’s wife’s dress,’ Bei Dou said.
‘The dress is stuck to mistress’ chest,’ Xiao Tu said.
‘Use scissors to cut off her dress,’ Bei Dou said.
‘Yes,’ Xiao Tu said.
‘Use the bowl of water and cloth I prepared to clean her wound,’ Bei Dou said.
‘Yes,’ Xiao Tu said.
‘What colour is the blood?’ Bei Dou said.
Xiao Tu passed a piece of Yan Shi Ning’s dress to Bei Dou.
‘Good, she’s not poisoned,’ Bei Dou said. ‘You can bandage her wound.’
‘Done,’ Xiao Tu said.
Bei Dou dared to turn around and he checked Yan Shi Ning’s condition.
Bei Dou was scared to see how much blood Yan Shi Ning lost. He was surprised the maid was calm while seeing that much blood.
Bei Dou decided the maid was suitable to help him examine people in the Yan Manor when they were ill or injured. After he was certain Yan Shi Ning’s condition was stable, he and the maid walked outside his chamber.
Bei Dou looked at the maid who was staring at him strangely. She stepped closer to him and vomited on his clothes.
‘Gentleman Bei, the sight of blood makes me queasy,’ Xiao Tu said and fainted.
Bei Dou looked at his dirty clothes and the ‘calm’ maid who fainted on his chest, he realised he overestimated her calmness.
Inside the horse carriage, Xiao Zai gripped Xiao Hui’s collar and Xiao Zai cried pitifully.
‘I’ll be dead soon,’ Xiao Zai said. ‘Ninth prince is going to skin me. What do I do?’
Xiao Hui endured Xiao Zai’s tears that were dirtying his clothes.
‘Don’t worry,’ Xiao Hui said.
‘Will you help me beg ninth prince to be merciful toward me?’ Xiao Zai asked.
‘No,’ Xiao Hui said. ‘I promise I’ll burn joss sticks on the anniversary of your death.’
‘Thank you,’ Xiao Zai said. ‘You need to keep the joss sticks for your grave too.’
Early that morning Pei Jin and Pei Zhang was summoned to the palace. Pei Jin was relieved the imperial court meeting finally ended after two shichen hours. But Pei Zhang asked to escort Pei Jin to the palace gates.
Pei Jin thought it was true if someone received good news, their body would emit a happy aura like Pei Zhang. Although the crown prince position was vacant, Pei Zhang acted like ‘if father isn’t going to pick me then who can me pick?’
‘Ninth brother, I didn’t think there would be a day tenth brother would be in this unfortunate position,’ Pei Zhang said.
Pei Jin smiled politely and he didn’t offer his opinion.
Pei Zhang purposely baited Pei Jin. He gave Pei Jin an opportunity to gain his favor. But Pei Jin insulted him by not taking the bait. ‘Last time I looked for ninth brother to drink wine, ninth brother declined. Ninth brother, are you free to drink today?’
‘I’m free today but I’m scared I’ll waste seventh brother’s free time,’ Pei Jin politely declined.
Pei Zhang frowned. Pei Jin dared to reject him again, but at least Pei Jin appeared more regretful than last time. He didn’t understand why an unfavored prince refused to support any sides. He wondered if Pei Jin truly wanted to be a carefree gentle ninth prince.
Pei Zhang smiled and forgave Pei Jin’s rejection. He remembered one of Pei Jin’s servants accidentally revealed the news about Yan Shi Ting’s fake pregnancy and it helped him oppose the empress and the Yan Manor. ‘Ninth brother, thank you.’
Pei Jin acted confused. ‘Seventh brother, why are you thanking me?’
Pei Zhang looked at Pei Jin’s confused face and he felt happier. He decided he would find more ways to make good use of Fu Qing.
Pei Jin watched Pei Zhang walked away confidently then Pei Jin walked outside the palace gates.
Outside the palace gates Xiao Hui and Xiao Zai were waiting for Pei Jin.
‘Ninth prince, finally you’re outside the palace,’ Xiao Zai said and cried.
‘What happened?’ Pei Jin asked and his intuition warned him it was bad news.
‘Ninth prince, your wife is injured,’ Xiao Hui said.
Nearby Pei Zhang was surprised to see the usually calm Pei Jin was panicking and leapt into the horse carriage… all these years it was the second time he had seen Pei Jin panicked. The first time was after Consort Chen died. He realised Pei Jin was sentimental about women. An image of the gentle Yan Shi Ning entered his head and he signalled one of his guards. ‘Go and find out what happened to ninth prince’s wife.’
Pei Jin rushed home and he looked for Bei Dou.
Bei Dou had changed into clean clothes, carried Yan Shi Ning to hers and Pei Jin’s chamber then he waited for Pei Jin in the courtyard.
‘How is my wife?’ Pei Jin asked.
Bei Dou pushed Pei Jin’s hand away from his collar. ‘She couldn’t die.’
Pei Jin thought Bei Dou knew how to use a sharp tongue to choke a person speechless. But he knew it meant Yan Shi Ning wasn’t in a serious condition.
Pei Jin ran to the bed and Bei Dou followed Pei Jin.
‘Where is she injured?’ Pei Jin asked.
Bei Dou hesitated to reply.
‘Where?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘Chest,’ Bei Dou said.
Pei Jin grabbed Bei Dou’s collar again. ‘You bandaged her wound?’
Bei Dou raised his innocent hands. ‘It wasn’t me.’
Pei Jin let go of Bei Dou’s collar. ‘I knew you wouldn’t dare.’
Bei Dou ignored Pei Jin’s mockery of him because he knew Pei Jin’s heart was hurting.
Pei Jin sat on the bed and touched Yan Shi Ning’s forehead.
‘Is it serious?’ Pei Jin asked.
Bei Dou frowned. ‘If the wound was lower by a hand, it would have been serious.’
Pei Jin was confused. What lower? Below the chest was the stomach. Stomach? He didn’t understand why a stomach injury would be more serious than a chest injury.
Bei Dou saw Pei Jin’s confusion turned into joy.
‘You guessed right,’ Bei Dou said.
Pei Jin’s eyes shone brightly.
Yan Shi Ning dreamt about when she was a six-year-old girl. In a garden planted for young children there were many young trees that blossomed every ten years and bear fruits twelve years later. She asked the elders to let her take one young trees home to plant it in her mother’s garden.
The elders advised the six-year-old Yan Shi Ning many things. ‘Xiao Ning, you need to take good care of this young tree. The fate of the young tree will grow up like its master’s fate.’
Yan Shi Ning listened to the elders’ advice. Each day she would run to her mother’s garden and water her young tree. But one day she didn’t see her young tree in her mother’s garden, Pei Jin’s goat ate her precious young tree!
In Yan Shi Ning’s dream, her forgotten young tree grew tall and strong after twelve years. She smiled, climbed the tree and picked fruits. Then the ground disappeared and she fell.
In Yan Shi Ning’s unconscious state she cursed Pei Jin, ‘MF Pei Jin, you dug up my precious young tree again!’
Yan Shi Ning felt like a sharp dagger stabbed her chest. Her chest ached and she touched her chest.
‘Don’t touch!’ Pei Jin said.
Yan Shi Ning opened her eyes and saw Pei Jin was sitting on the bed next to her. The sunlight shone through the window and warmed the room. But his face looked a little anxious. Suddenly she remembered her chest injury and her head ached.
Yan Shi Ning’s head ached because she remembered Pei Jin’s instructions before he travelled to the palace.
‘I have a guard at the Yan Manor,’ Pei Jin said. ‘If Yan Jing prepares to kill Princess Kang Hua, the guard will send news to our home. Then we’ll go to the Yan Manor together. Shi Ning, you can’t go on your own. Princess Kang Hua’s in a fragile state since Yan Shi Ting became insane. No one can predict what can happen. Shi Ning, if you want to go to the Yan Manor, you have to go with me. Understand?’
At that time she nodded her head and promised Pei Jin. But Pei Jin’s guard sent news about Yan Jing preparing to kill Princess Kang Hua and she couldn’t wait for Pei Jin to return from the palace.
Yan Shi Ning was worried Princess Kang Hua would die before Pei Jin returned. So Yan Shi Ning decided to bring Xiao Hui and Xiao Zai with her to the Yan Manor. But Xiao Hui wasn’t at the manor and only Xiao Zai followed her to the Yan Manor.
‘Shi Ning, how should I punish you?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘I’m injured,’ Yan Shi Ning said.
‘If you listened to me then you wouldn’t be injured,’ Pei Jin said.
Yan Shi Ning saw Pei Jin was being stern with her. She quietly pulled the blanket up to hide her face but he stopped her.
‘Pei Jin, what do you want to do?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘Let me see your wound,’ Pei Jin said.
Earlier Bei Dou told Pei Jin if the dagger stabbed a little deeper, it would have stabbed Yan Shi Ning’s heart. Luckily Xiao Zai was there to push Princess Kang Hua away before the dagger stabbed her chest deeper.
Pei Jin looked at Yan Shi Ning’s chest wound and his heart ached. He wanted to touch her wound but he was scared it’ll hurt her.
‘Does it hurt?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘It hurts a lot!’ Yan Shi Ning lied.
After Yan Shi Ning drank the medicine Bei Dou brewed for her, she didn’t feel any chest pain. But she needed to act pitiful in front of Pei Jin so he wouldn’t think of a primitive way to punish her.
Pei Jin turned his head to the door. ‘Bei Dou! Didn’t you say you gave my wife medicine to numb the pain?’
Outside the chamber, Bei Dou was suspicious why the medicine didn’t work.
‘Pei Jin… honestly it only hurts a little,’ Yan Shi Ning confessed.
Pei Jin realised Yan Shi Ning fooled him. ‘Wife, you’re improving each day. Not only did you not listen to me but you learned how to fool me. Wife, wait and see how I’ll punish you.’
Yan Shi Ning was thinking of what to say when Pei Jin hugged her gently.
Pei Jin was overjoyed and whispered in Yan Shi Ning’s ear. ‘Shi Ning, we conceived a child together.’
End of Chapter Forty-Five
Chapter Sixteen (Part 2 of 2)
Huang Guo was a healthy seventy-year-old man.
Huang Guo’s white hair was brushed smoothly. His white hair combined with his dark blue clothes made him look intimidating.
Yan Shi Ning thought the rumor about Huang Guo’s strong aura was true.
Pei Jin felt Yan Shi Ning’s back tensed and he discreetly stroked her hand.
Huang Guo’s guests were seated around two banquet tables. Huang Guo’s sons, daughter-in-laws and grandchildren were all gathered in the imperial city.
Huang Guo had three sons and one daughter who were scholars and a beautiful phoenix. His daughter was Consort Chen, his three sons were magistrates and married women from prominent families. It was a pity Consort Chen died while pregnant and ruined Huang Guo’s chance of having a grandson become emperor.
After Huang Guo resigned from the imperial court there was an assassination attempt on his life. Two off his guards were killed by poisoned arrows. Afterward for a period, his manor was isolated and he was recovering from an illness.
After the banquet Yan Shi Ning was forced to listen to a group of women gossip. In the past she met them at banquets in the palace, but never talked to them and didn’t expect to be related to them through marriage. It was hard for her to tolerate their endless gossip. But she answered their questions in a friendly manner and smiled politely.
Yan Shi Ning praised third aunt’s white soft skin and for raising young intelligent children who would grow up to be successful adults. Then she turned to the ordinary second aunt and struggled for a while to think of a praise. ‘I heard second aunt is also from a Yan household. Five hundred years ago we would have been in the same tribe.’
While Yan Shi Ning was being a courteous guest she glanced often at the locked door of a nearby chamber.
Pei Jin was detained in the locked chamber for a long time. Incense sticks were burning inside the quiet chamber. He sat opposite Huang Guo who looked at him with complex eyes. He lowered his head, blew on a cup of tea but didn’t sip the tea. Neither of them wanted to open their mouths first.
Pei Jin wasn’t impatient. He believed little lion was coping against the group of women. After a long silence, Huang Guo conceded.
‘Don’t you want to change your position?’ Huang Guo asked.
Pei Jin smiled and knocked on the wooden chair he sat on. ‘This is a good position.’
‘Did you wanted to deal with Su Yue long ago?’ Huang Guo asked.
‘Su Yue is uncle Fan’s niece,’ Pei Jin said. ‘Uncle Fan is good to me. I thought in the future she would become my second wife, but she…’ He feigned anger and regret. ‘But she is still uncle Fan’s niece. In the past uncle Fan once saved me… besides, nothing bad happened so I forgave the offence.’
Huang Guo’s face darkened. Last night Su Yue was chased back to his manor and she explained what happened in Pei Jin’s manor. He understood that Pei Jin saw through his careful scheme and realised he underestimated the unfavored prince. But he knew Pei Jin wouldn’t retaliate because Gentleman Fan had once saved Pei Jin’s life.
‘It was indeed a good scheme,’ Huang Guo praised grudgingly.
Pei Jin didn’t deny Huang Guo’s words and he quietly drank tea. Some things were better kept inside the heart. If they were voiced, it’d lose its beauty.
‘Except, don’t you want to avenge your mother Consort Chen?’ Huang Guo asked triumphantly.
Pei Jin felt like his heart jumped out of his chest. He didn’t know why Huang Guo suddenly asked about Consort Chen. He didn’t expose Huang Guo’s scheme to conceal his own scheme and the blame was poured over a maid with a cruel conscience.
Huang Guo pulled out a note from his sleeve and passed it to Pei Jin. ‘This afternoon, I discovered this in front of the calligraphy room.’
Pei Jin opened the folded note and his body trembled with anger, ‘the empress killed Consort Chen.’
Pei Jin immediately thought of the impatient MF Bei Dou.
Pei Jin suppressed his anger and feigned shock. ‘This… this…’
‘Long ago I thought Xiao Chen’s death was suspicious,’ Huang Guo said. ‘I couldn’t find evidence to confirm my suspicions, but I didn’t expect this! Your mother was good to you, you need to avenge her!’
Pei Jin fisted his hands. He thought one failed scheme birth a new scheme, and Huang Guo found a way to force him to deal with the empress.
‘I’ll investigate this thoroughly,’ Pei Jin said.
Huang Guo assessed Pei Jin’s expression as though he wanted to see through Pei Jin’s bones. ’Don’t become an ungrateful and unfilial person!’
Pei Jin felt like he swallowed fleas, stood and left the chamber.
After Pei Jin left, Huang Guo’s third son Fan Min Xian stepped out from behind a screen.
‘Father, can we use Pei Jin?’ Fan Min Xian asked.
Huang Guo shook his head.
‘Do we need to…’ Fan Min Xian said in a dangerous tone.
‘No, he knows our scheme but didn’t expose us to warn us not to do anything reckless,’ Huang Guo said. ‘Also, that there’s no hope for us to use him. He truly doesn’t want to become emperor.’
‘What should we do now?’ Fan Min Xian asked,
‘We can only silently follow his activities,’ Huang Guo said.
End of Chapter Sixteen (Part 2 of 2)