Yan Shi Ning stared at her stomach.
Yan Shi Ning rubbed her stomach like a fool. ‘I’m pregnant?’
‘It explains why you’ve been tired lately,’ Pei Jin said.
Yan Shi Ning thought she couldn’t be pregnant that soon. She wondered if hers and Pei Jin’s child was inside her.
Yan Shi Ning’s stomach didn’t look like it changed but she felt a strange change. ‘Pei Jin, should I give birth to this child?’
‘What?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘Princess Kang Hua and the empress used Fu Gui to poison me because they hoped I would die pregnant… wait, something’s not right. Pei Jin, I remembered something. Pei Jin, when I was at the Yan Manor I asked Princess Kang Hua about it and her reaction was strange…’
‘Shi Ning, are you saying that someone else poisoned you?’ Pei Jin asked.
Yan Shi Ning nodded her head.
‘Who?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘Yan Shi Ting gave me the incense sticks,’ Yan Shi Ning said. ‘She said the empress gave them to her. It can’t be the empress. Princess Kang Hua and the empress are fishes in the same net. If the empress wanted to kill me then the empress wouldn’t hide it from Princess Kang Hua.’
Yan Shi Ning couldn’t believe there was someone else behind Princess Kang Hua and the empress who wanted to kill her.
Pei Jin held Yan Shi Ning’s hand. But his eyes saddened, he thought of who else would want to kill her.
Pei Jin thought if Princess Kang Hua didn’t try to kill Yan Shi Ning then it could also be possible the empress didn’t kill Consort Chen. But Bei Dou said Fu Gui was rare and hard to make so an ordinary person couldn’t possess Fu Gui.
Pei Jin’s heart constricted, he had followed the wrong suspect for a long time. He wondered who could have such a cruel heart to make him suffer for many years. The cruel hearted person he thought of was his father and his back turned cold.
‘Pei Jin, what are you thinking?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘I think perhaps it’s imperial father who killed Consort Chen and who also tried to kill you,’ Pei Jin said.
Yan Shi Ning’s heart ached for Pei Jin. She had never seen him that sad before. She knew the emperor was cold toward Pei Jin. But if the emperor was the culprit then the emperor wanted Pei Jin to lose his wife and child. It meant the emperor held a big grudge against Pei Jin.
Pei Jin didn’t fight for or requested anything from the emperor. Yan Shi Ning thought if it truly was the emperor then it would be no different from the emperor using a dagger to cut Pei Jin into small pieces. She didn’t care about her chest injury, she sat up, hugged Pei Jin and kissed his lips.
‘Pei Jin, it’s alright,’ Yan Shi Ning said. ‘You don’t need to think about it anymore. You still have your little lion and a little lion cub here with you.’
Pei Jin felt like he was falling into an abyss. But Yan Shi Ning hugged him, kissed him and saved him from the abyss. He buried his head on her neck and greedily stole her warmth.
Pei Jin’s father had been cold toward him since he was a child and in the palace only Consort Chen gave him a little warmth. Consort Chen’s death when he was a twelve-year-old made him felt the world around him darkened. Then his teacher took him out of the palace to Xuan Qing. In his darkest period a little girl entered his dark tunnelled heart and into his world.
Pei Jin remembered clearly the first time he saw Yan Shi Ning. Her hair was messy, her dark eyes, her messy dress and her chubby arms. She clearly was a naive little girl but acted wise and tough. After she knew he was teasing her, her face puffed like a lion’s mane and she widened her eyes like she wanted to jump onto him to bite him. In that moment he thought she looked like a provoked little lion… his little lion. It didn’t matter if she was in Xuan Qing or in the imperial city acting like a gentle lady, she was still his little lion. No one forced him to love his little lion, his heart willingly loved her deeply.
At the beginning Pei Jin thought it was amusing to tease the naive Yan Shi Ning. She was the only one in his life who laughed and ignored him at will. He didn’t know why later his heart slowly changed. After the emperor betrothed him to Lady Yewu, he didn’t feel anything. But after Lady Yewu died, his heart felt relieved and missed the little lion who was living in Xuan Qing. He thought his little lion would have matured.
Pei Jin wasn’t certain if he volunteered to go help prevent serious flooding in Xuan Qing to avoid the palace battles or if he only wanted to see Yan Shi Ning. He could have stayed at a villa in Xuan Qing but he ran to his teacher’s house that was next to Yan Shi Ning’s house and during the nights he would wake her up and force her to pour tea for him. He thought it would be good if she was always by his side even if she gritted her teeth and glared at him, he was willing for her to become an adult then he would marry her.
Pei Jin first thought about marrying Yan Shi Ning six years ago, but he buried that thought. He was a prince and his father wouldn’t allow him to marry her as his official wife. He didn’t want her to lower herself and be his second wife and her personality didn’t suit the palace.
After Pei Jin travelled to Southern Jiang, he found out Yan Shi Ning’s mother died and she moved to the Yan Manor. He sent some of his guards to secretly gather news about Yan Shi Ning at the Yan Manor. His guards reported to him that Yan Shi Ning’s status in her family prevented her from finding a suitable husband and it made him happy. He planned after he finished his duties in Southern Jiang he would return to the imperial city and marry her. But before he finished his duties he received news about the crown prince and Yan Shi Ting and he immediately ran back to the imperial city… he wasn’t going to allow seventh brother to marry his little lion as a concubine.
Pei Jin knew Yan Shi Ning only showed her real self to him like how he only took off his mask in front of her.
Pei Jin nibbled Yan Shi Ning’s earlobe and whispered in her ear. ‘Wife, it’s the middle of the day but you miss your husband this much? Perhaps you want to do it with your husband.’
Yan Shi Ning wanted to console Pei Jin but after he whispered nonsense in her ear, she pushed him away from her. ‘MF Pei Jin!’
Yan Shi Ning forgot about her chest injury, overexerted herself and her face whitened.
‘Shi Ning, are you alright?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘My chest hurts,’ Yan Shi Ning said. ‘My stomach hurts. My whole body hurts.’
Pei Jin ran outside to call Bei Dou.
Bei Dou gave Pei Jin a bottle of pain relief cream. Pei Jin ran to the bed and gently rubbed the cream on Yan Shi Ning’s chest wound. After she fell asleep, Pei Jin ran outside to ask Bei Dou about her pregnancy.
‘When will my wife’s chest wound heal?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘Two months,’ Bei Dou said.
‘Do I need to refrain from doing it with my wife while she’s pregnant?’ Pei Jin asked.
Bei Dou nodded his head.
‘When is it safe for me to do it with my wife?’ Pei Jin asked.
Bei Dou blushed but he realised it was a good opportunity to take a little revenge on Pei Jin. It was Pei Jin’s fault for turning into someone with a missing brain.
‘Fu Qing is a good place,’ Bei Dou provoked. ‘After your wife gives birth, her body needs time to recover. You can either choose to endure for a year or…’
Pei Jin angrily strode back to the bed while Bei Dou smiled… indeed ten years wasn’t too late for a gentleman to take revenge. Bei Dou knew it was safe for a husband and wife to do it together after the first three months of pregnancy but he wasn’t a fool to tell Pei Jin the truth.
Bei Dou was about to return to his chamber, but he bumped into the ‘calm’ maid.
‘Gentleman Bei, have you been to Fu Qing?’ Xiao Tu asked.
‘No!’ Bei Dou lied.
‘Then why did you say Fu Qing is a good place?’ Xiao Tu asked.
‘I heard it was a good place,’ Bei Dou lied.
Xiao Tu nodded her head. ‘I knew Gentleman Bei wouldn’t go to a place like Fu Qing.’
‘That’s right,’ Bei Dou said.
Bei Dou wouldn’t have gone to Fu Qing if Pei Jin didn’t force him.
‘I heard the food there is expensive,’ Xiao Tu said. ‘Gentleman Bei is a frugal person. Of course Gentleman Bei wouldn’t go there to eat expensive food.’
‘How am I frugal?’ Bei Dou asked.
Xiao Tu’s hand gestured at Bei Dou’s clothes. ‘Gentleman Bei, you wear the same black clothes every day throughout a year.’
Bei Dou was speechless. Who said he wore the same black clothes? He bought new clothes every year except it was the same colour and design.
Short Side Story Two
Gentleman Su: Is that you Bei Dou? Why are you free to visit me today?
Bei Dou looked at the ceiling.
Gentleman Su: Did you come to buy the same black clothes?
Bei Dou: I… want to choose a different colour and design.
End of Chapter Forty-Six
Chapter Seventeen (Part 1)
Pei Jin and Yan Shi Ning left Huang Guo’s manor in the horse carriage.
Yan Shi Ning noticed Pei Jin looked a little deflated. ‘Big brother, what did you talk to him about?’
Pei Jin stretched his back. ‘About imperial court duties.’
Yan Shi Ning didn’t force Pei Jin to tell her the truth. Besides, she could guess there was nothing else for them to talk about apart from Su Yue and stealing the throne.
The night sky was dark like ink when they returned to Pei Jin’s manor.
Yan Shi Ning was tired from a tensed day. A maid prepared a warm bath for her and she immediately walked to the chamber.
Pei Jin walked in the direction of Bei Dou’s chamber.
Bei Dou was about to take off his clothes to sleep but he heard someone barged into his chamber. He turned around and his outer robe was grabbed by Pei Jin’s hand.
‘You delivered the note!’ Pei Jin said coldly.
Bei Dou heard Huang Guo’s messenger requested Pei Jin and Yan Shi Ning to attend a banquet and he knew he couldn’t deny the truth and anticipated Pei Jin’s temper.
Bei Dou pushed Pei Jin’s hand away from his outer robe and straightened his outer robe. ‘What’s the point of asking if you know?’
Pei Jin saw Bei Dou’s calm state even after behaving reckless, it made him angry enough to laugh. He sat on a chair and silently looked at Bei Dou.
‘It’s your fault for being slow,’ Bei Dou said. ‘I could only borrow someone else’s hand.’
Out of Huang Guo’s children, Huang Guo loved Consort Chen most. If Huang Guo knew the empress killed Consort Chen, it was certain Huang Guo would avenge Consort Chen’s death.’
‘You’re a good schemer,’ Pei Jin praised. ‘It’s a pity you need to walk a wide circle. When you want to borrow a dagger to kill a person, someone else would also want to borrow a dagger to kill a person. Bei Dou, you gave Huang Guo an opportunity to force me to cooperate with him to deal with the empress.’
Bei Dou suppressed a little guilt. ‘That’s good. You should cooperate with Huang Guo to deal with the empress.’
Pei Jin rubbed his temples. ‘In the past when you wanted me to cooperate with Huang Guo you didn’t know about Huang Guo’s scheme. But now you know about the Diao Jing Ji, you still want me to cooperate with them… also, you should know my personality. I hate other people forcing me to do something. I’ll avenge Consort Chen’s death, but I’ll not allow anyone cause trouble for me!’
Bei Dou took a deep breath. ‘It doesn’t matter if Huang Guo uses you. Can’t you use him? Don’t you care that he sees you as a puppet? With your brilliant strategic mind even if Huang Guo is intelligent, he wouldn’t know who’ll scare him to death.’
‘You want me to risk being exposed by association?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘Why not?’ Bei Dou asked.
‘I hate taking any risks,’ Pei Jin said.
‘Honestly?’ Bei Dou asked. ‘If you hate taking any risks then in the past why did you save me?’
The atmosphere in the chamber became tensed.
That year Bei Dou’s family property were taken and his family members were killed. Pei Jin saved him from a fire and hid his identity. He wanted to oppose the imperial court to avenge his family.
‘You say you don’t care about being emperor,’ Bei Dou said. ‘But why did you save a convicted criminal like me? Pei Jin, you’re too cautious, you wouldn’t save me because I saved your life. You saved me because of the gold and silver taels that my Sheng household hid. If you have them in your hands then you can steal the throne.’
Bei Dou kept those thoughts in his heart for a long time. He truly wanted Pei Jin to answer his questions directly.
‘Even if you saved me because of Sheng’s riches I’m willing to give them to you with my own hands,’ Bei Dou said. ‘As long as you help me deal with the empress’ people.’
The chamber was eerily silent. Bei Dou couldn’t see through Pei Jin’s thoughts.
Suddenly the sounds of raindrops pitter-pattered on the roof.
A gust of wind blew rain into the chamber and onto Pei Jin’s face. He gently wiped it off his face, stood and closed the window.
‘What if I say that I truly saved you because you saved me?’ Pei Jin asked.
Bei Dou wasted his energy to decipher if Pei Jin was sincere. Pei Jin was one of the rare people he knew who was an expert at concealing their true thoughts.
‘Also, everyone in the Sheng household died,’ Pei Jin said. ‘Don’t forget, you’re Bei Dou.’
Bei Dou stood still in the same spot for a long time. Pei Jin’s tone and expression were gentle, but he didn’t know why it made him feel pressured to concede.
‘I have something else I want to tell you,’ Bei Dou said and coughed.
‘What is it?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘I examined the Fu Gui in the incense sticks more carefully,’ Bei Dou said. ‘I discovered the Fu Gui in your wife’s body doesn’t need half a month to be released. Seven days is enough.’
Pei Jin slitted his eyes, grabbed Bei Dou’s collar and punched Bei Dou’s chest. ‘You purposely lied to me!’
Bei Dou rubbed his sore chest. ‘Indeed your wife is someone special to you.’
Pei Jin smiled sincerely. ‘Of course.’
‘It explains why you schemed against Lady Yewu that year,’ Bei Dou said. ‘Honestly, I want to know how she died.’
‘Wait until you die,’ Pei Jin said. ‘You can meet her in hell and ask her how she died.’
Pei Jin pushed the door and left the chamber.
End of Chapter Seventeen (Part 1)