After a nap, Yan Shi Ning thought about the emperor’s motives.
‘Pei Jin, I’m not certain the emperor poisoned me,’ Yan Shi Ning said.
‘Why?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘I don’t know what the emperor’s motives to poison me are,’ Yan Shi Ning said.
Pei Jin’s head and heart were muddled earlier. Yan Shi Ning’s logic reminded him that he forgot to think about his father’s motives for poisoning Yan Shi Ning.
Pei Jin and Yan Shi Ning’s eyes shone at each other.
‘Shi Ning, do you think it’s that person too?’ Pei Jin asked.
Yan Shi Ning nodded her head. ‘Perhaps that person used Princess Kang Hua in hope of using her to kill me. Besides, Princess Kang Hua didn’t need to wait, she could have poisoned me the moment I arrived in the imperial city.’
‘In the past Bei Dou and I had the same thought as you,’ Pei Jin said. ‘Then we thought perhaps she wanted you to die outside the Yan Manor to deflect suspicions… but looking at the past now, perhaps that assumption is wrong.’
Yan Shi Ning’s chest hurt while remembering how viciously Princess Kang Hua stabbed her and she wondered if Princess Kang Hua was still alive.
‘That’s right,’ Yan Shi Ning said. ‘If Princess Kang Hua wanted to kill me, she would have killed me at the Yan Manor.’
‘Earlier like you,’ Pei Jin said. ‘I thought it was imperial father. But now I think it’s that person, she has a motive to kill you.’
An image of the kind Consort Mu appeared in Yan Shi Ning’s head and she sighed. ‘Glancing at her, she seems like a kind person.’
‘Shi Ning, do you remember what I told you about Consort Chen?’ Pei Jin asked.
Yan Shi Ning remembered Pei Jin confided in her about how Consort Chen was poisoned by Fu Gui and she nodded her head.
‘At that time I suspected there was something wrong about the fragrance of the incense sticks,’ Pei Jin said. ‘So I hid them but later they disappeared. Thinking about it now, I think she found out I hid them and sent someone to retrieve the incense sticks. I think Consort Mu knows that I know the incense sticks were poisoned.’
‘That’s why I think she wants borrow a dagger to kill me,’ Yan Shi Ning said.
‘She and seventh brother used Yan Shi Ting’s fake pregnancy to oppose the empress and the crown prince,’ Pei Jin said. ‘They would do anything to eliminate anyone who poses a threat to them big or small.’
‘Pei Jin, what should we do now?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
Pei Jin laid his hands on Yan Shi Ning’s stomach. ‘I need to ask someone to be certain who poisoned you. After I’ve confirmed it then I can plan what to do next.’
‘Who do you need to ask?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘The empress,’ Pei Jin said.
‘The empress?’ Yan Shi Ning asked. ‘If the empress denies it then it’s possible Consort Mu is the culprit. But if the empress did it, would she admit it to you?’
‘I have a way to make the empress tell me the truth,’ Pei Jin said.
‘Pei Jin, are you hiding anything else in your stomach?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
Pei Jin held Yan Shi Ning’s hands and put them below his stomach. ‘Inside your husband’s stomach isn’t hiding anything. But your husband is hiding something here.’
Yan Shi Ning’s face flushed red. She pulled his hand to her mouth and bit hard. ‘Even if you’re about to die, you wouldn’t know how to be serious.’
Yan Shi Ning didn’t think Consort Mu would be so cruel only to ensure Pei Jin didn’t have a son. She was worried if other people found out she was pregnant then something bad could happen to their child.
‘I think it’s not the right time for our child to be here,’ Yan Shi Ning said.
‘Shi Ning, do you know what Bei Dou gave me after we got married?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘What?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘A remedy to prevent pregnancy,’ Pei Jin said.
‘Why didn’t you use it?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘If I can’t protect my wife and child,’ Pei Jin said. ‘Then I wasted more than twenty years of living.’
Yan Shi Ning didn’t know why Pei Jin’s stern tone warmed her heart.
‘Pei Jin, do you want to be the emperor?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘Yan Shi Ning, I want to see how you’ll look as an empress and how you’ll fool the world thinking you’re a gentle empress,’ Pei Jin said.
Yan Shi Ning thought Pei Jin was a capable man. If he truly wanted to be emperor then she would support him. But she didn’t expect him to be amused at the thought of them being the emperor and the empress.
‘Then I don’t want to be the empress,’ Yan Shi Ning said. ‘If I’m the empress, I’m not allowed to move around while others bow in front of me. There’s nothing amusing about being the empress.’
‘Wife, if you’ll be unhappy as the empress,’ Pei Jin said. ‘Then your husband will continue being a carefree prince.’
Yan Shi Ning was certain Pei Jin didn’t want to be the emperor and she thought it was a pity to waste his abilities. She was curious how he would look wearing an emperor’s clothes and sitting on the throne. But an emperor had more than three thousand concubines. That thought soured her heart.
‘Shi Ning, you’re injured so it gives you an alibi to stay at home and make it easier for you to hide that you’re pregnant,’ Pei Jin said. ‘For the next year I’ll feed you and wait for our child to be born. Wife, why must you be pregnant? How will I endure the nights? Wife, think about it. I can see you, touch you but I can’t eat you. Isn’t this a way to kill me?’
Yan Shi Ning laughed at Pei Jin’s pitiful face. ‘Pei Jin, you can marry a second wife.’
Pei Jin looked at Yan Shi Ning like he wanted to kill her.
Yan Shi Ning pouted her lips. ‘I was being sincere.’
Pei Jin’s hands held Yan Shi Ning’s head. ‘Wife, wake up! Don’t dream during the day and speak nonsense!’
Yan Shi Ning didn’t show that Pei Jin’s words sweetened her heart.
‘Pei Jin, how are you going to deal with the empress?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘Shi Ning, do you want to know about Bei Dou’s real identity?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘Yes,’ Yan Shi Ning said.
‘Shi Ning, do you know about what happened to the Thinh Household in the south?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘Thinh Household?’ Yan Shi Ning asked. ‘Are you talking about the Thinh Household that was convicted of treason, their properties were seized and they were killed a few years ago?’
Yan Shi Ning was surprised when she heard how many horse carriages it took to carry all of the Thinh Household’s properties to the palace.
‘Bei Dou’s real name is Thinh Kien Nan,’ Pei Jin said. ‘He’s the oldest son and the thirteenth generation of the Thinh Household.’
Pei Jin remembered after Bei Dou saved his life, Bei Dou pointed to the south and asked him to call him Bei Dou. But Bei Dou’s heart was in the north, Bei Dou wanted to kill the empress who framed and killed Bei Dou’s family.
‘Bei Dou didn’t want to be a merchant like his father and ancestors,’ Pei Jin said. ‘He likes learning about medicine. When his family home was on fire, I saved him from the fire. He suffered burns on his body and it was hard to recognise him. Wife, didn’t you always ask me why Bei Dou’s face doesn’t change expression? It’s because his real face was burnt.’
‘His… face?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘In the past he wore a mask,’ Pei Jin said. ‘Later in Southern Jiang, he met a master physician who gave him a new face. That’s why no one knows his real identity.’
‘Why did you save him?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘I met Bei Dou long ago,’ Pei Jin said. ‘At that time I was asked to perform duties outside the palace and I was attacked by assassins. It was Bei Dou who saved me. So when I knew about his family, I wanted to save his life.’
‘Did the Thinh Household commit treason?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘What happened to the Thinh Household involves the empress,’ Pei Jin said.
End of Chapter Forty-Seven
Chapter Seventeen (Part 2 of 2)
Six years ago the emperor arranged a marriage between Pei Jin and Yewu.
After Pei Jin and Yewu’s betrothal was announced a celebratory banquet was held in the palace. Pei Jin initiated a conversation with Yewu but she was cold toward him. After a brief period of interactions with her, he realised why she was always cold toward him – she wanted to be empress and she couldn’t be empress if married to an unfavored prince.
After Pei Jin understood the situation, he happily kept his distance from Yewu. Then one day while he and her father were discussing imperial court matters in the palace, they saw Yewu seducing Pei Zhang… a few days later Yewu died of a mysterious illness.
Pei Jin remembered what Yewu’s father said to him at Yewu’s funeral, ‘Thank you ninth prince for not exposing Yewu in front of the emperor, in the future ninth prince can ask for my help if needed.’
Pei Jin walked on the wet and muddy path to his and Yan Shi Ning’s chamber. He didn’t tell Bei Dou that he honestly wasn’t involved in Yewu’s death and didn’t know what happened to her until her father said those words to him at the funeral. Initially he wanted to amicably break the betrothal. He didn’t expect her father would force her to kill herself.
Pei Jin thought about his seventh brother. Seventh brother only saw two kinds of women in the world. One were women that could be used and the other were women that couldn’t be used. It was a pity Yewu in seventh brother’s eyes couldn’t be used. Seventh brother’s heart never grieved Yewu’s death.
Pei Jin pushed the chamber door open, stepped to the bed and hugged Yan Shi Ning who was eating on the bed.
Pei Jin was happy he only needed to wait another four days.
Pei Jin kissed Yan Shi Ning’s cheek. ‘Wife, if you washed your face then why is there makeup on your face?’
Yan Shi Ning poked her tongue out and laughed playfully.
Pei Jin understood the reason why Yan Shi Ning wore makeup to bed.
Pei Jin pulled her closer to him and whispered in her ear. ‘Wife, if you haven’t washed your face then let’s bathe together.’
Yan Shi Ning’s face immediately paled.
‘This is called taking one li and stretching it longer,’ Pei Jin teased.
‘Ah!’ Yan Shi Ning cried out.
Yan Shi Ning would rather die than let go a pole of the bed.
Pei Jin saw Yan Shi Ning pitifully bite her lips and he let go of her. ‘It’s alright if we don’t bathe together, but you need to be good and wash the makeup off your face.’
Yan Shi Ning jumped off the bed and ran to wash her face.
Pei Jin shook his head, four days were too long! If he didn’t fear his desire would burn him to death then he would have dragged Yan Shi Ning to bathe together with him long ago.
Pei Jin stood and stepped to the vanity table. He got rid of all the makeup to make it hard for his wife to wear makeup in the future.
Yan Shi Ning returned to the bed, laid down and rolled over so she couldn’t see the face of someone who deserved a beating.
‘Wife, if you sleep in that position,’ Pei Jin said. ‘Your chest will be flattened.’
Yan Shi Ning played dead.
Pei Jin pulled the blanket off Yan Shi Ning and slipped a hand beneath her undergarments.
A while later Yan Shi Ning laughed happily. She had waited patiently for Pei Jin’s head to crawl onto her skin.
‘Wife, what did you put on your body?’ Pei Jin asked.
Yan Shi Ning watched Pei Jin jumped off the bed to look for water. ‘It’s nothing, only chili pepper.’
‘Wife, come here!’ Pei Jin said.
Pei Jin silently vowed that four days later he was going to punish his wife.
Yan Shi Ning saw Pei Jin’s pitiful state while drinking water and she laughed continuously. That night she dreamt a beautiful dream. But a day past then another day past and she noticed Pei Jin’s eyes gradually became more devious as though… soon she couldn’t escape.
End of Chapter Seventeen (Part 2 of 2)