Pei Jin stood outside Pei Lam’s room.
Pei Jin’s back was sweaty. He heard Pei Lam yelled hysterically and Pei Lam’s mumbles to himself. Pei Jin didn’t know why Pei Lam became like that. Was it because Pei Lam was too intelligent and punctured a brain nerve?
Pei Jin couldn’t answer Pei Lam, who was crueller? Was it true Yan Shi Ting would suffer less if she died? But after everything Pei Lam had done, Pei Lam lost to himself.
Pei Jin left Su Ci’s shop. On the way home a messenger delivered a message to Pei Jin from Su Ci, Pei Lam killed himself. Pei Jin felt remorseful he had indirectly caused Pei Lam to shed fresh blood.
While Pei Jin was away from home, a maid rushed into Yan Shi Ning’s chamber.
‘Mistress, a few women from Huang Guo’s manor are here to see you,’ the maid said.
Yan Shi Ning was eating pecans when the maid delivered bad news. She didn’t know what Huang Guo was scheming, but she changed into a loose dress to protect hers and Pei Jin’s child.
Yan Shi Ning asked the maid to escort the women into her chamber.
The maid led the women into Yan Shi Ning’s chamber and poured tea.
‘Shi Ning, I heard you’ve been ill,’ second aunt said. ‘I wanted to visit you earlier but I heard you were bedridden. Two days ago, I heard you’ve recovered so I came to visit you today.’
Although Yan Shi Ning had stayed home for many months, she didn’t forget how insincere Huang Guo’s daughter-in-laws were.
‘Aunts, forgive me for making everyone worried,’ Yan Shi Ning said.
‘Second sister, I remembered you brought a bracelet for Shi Ting,’ third aunt said.
‘Third sister, thank you for reminding me,’ second aunt said. She pulled out a pink jade bracelet and gave it to Yan Shi Ning. ‘Shi Ning this is for you. I think the colour suits you.’
Yan Shi Ning couldn’t refuse and wore the bracelet. She admitted it was a beautiful bracelet with a sweet scent.
‘Second sister, it’s a beautiful bracelet,’ third aunt praised. ‘Second sister, you’re too frugal. Last time I wanted to wear it but you didn’t let me… but why does it have a sweet scent… isn’t this a che fragrance?’
Yan Shi Ning’s face paled and she took off the bracelet, che fragrances were used to abort children.
‘Third sister, is it a che fragrance?’ second aunt asked. ‘I didn’t know. I only thought it was a sweet scent… Shi Ning, forgive my ignorance…’
Yan Shi Ning was scared to death but she spoke calmly. ‘Second aunt, it isn’t your fault. You didn’t know.’
Yan Shi Ning assessed the women who hid their intentions well.
The women praised Yan Shi Ning’s dress and she couldn’t avoid them purposely touching her waist. Although her stomach was only slightly round, it was still rounder than before she was pregnant.
‘Shi Ning, I noticed you’ve been eating a lot of soft food,’ second aunt said. ‘Shi Ning, are you pregnant? If you’re pregnant you should share the good news with your aunts.’
‘Of course,’ Yan Shi Ning said.
Yan Shi Ning was certain the women visited her to see if she was pregnant but she didn’t know why.
Yan Shi Ning asked the maid to escort the women to their horse carriage and she waited for Pei Jin’s return.
A while later Pei Jin returned to the manor and found Yan Shi Ning in deep thought in their chamber.
‘Wife, are you worried about something or are you missing your husband?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘Earlier Huang Guo’s daughter-in-laws came to visit me,’ Yan Shi Ning said.
‘Why did they come?’ Pei Jin asked.
Pei Jin sat on the bed and pulled Yan Shi Ning onto his lap. There were maids cleaning in their chamber so she protested but he hugged her and didn’t let her go.
Luckily the maids kept their eyes on the floor and quickly left the chamber.
‘Pei Jin, don’t forget you’re gentle ninth prince,’ Yan Shi Ning said. ‘Why are you more of a scoundrel by the day?’
Pei Jin rubbed his face on Yan Shi Ning’s neck and spoke in a sad tone. ‘Shi Ning, Pei Lam died.’
Yan Shi Ning sat still on Pei Jin’s lap.
‘Pei Lam broke a teapot and slit his throat,’ Pei Jin said. ‘When someone discovered what happened it was too late. Pei Lam lost too much blood and his last words were… it’s clean red blood, finally I’ve escaped…’ Pei Jin said.
In front of others Pei Jin acted like he was happy Pei Lam died. He could only show how guilty and sad he felt in front of Yan Shi Ning.
Yan Shi Ning understood Pei Jin’s feelings. She knew Pei Jin didn’t kill Pei Lam but in Pei Jin’s heart he blamed himself for Pei Lam’s death.
Yan Shi Ning turned around and wrapped her arms around Pei Jin’s neck. He kissed her forehead and kissed her lips for a while.
‘Wife, do you want to do it in the middle of the day with your husband?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘Do you want to die?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘Wife, it appears you’ve learned bad habits from Xiao Hui,’ Pei Jin said. ‘I think I have to change your personal guards. You only know how to follow their bad habits. Soon you’ll learn to eavesdrop well like Xiao Zai.’
‘Pei Jin, don’t change my personal guards,’ Yan Shi Ning said. ‘Xiao Hui and Xiao Zai are amusing guards.’
‘Alright,’ Pei Jin said. ‘Shi Ning, you didn’t tell me why Huang Guo’s daughter-in-laws came to visit you.’
‘I think they came to see if I’m pregnant,’ Yan Shi Ning said. ‘Perhaps I’ve given away the secret about our child.’
Pei Jin listened to Yan Shi Ning recount about the bracelet and how the women behaved strangely.
‘What does Huang Guo want?’ Pei Jin asked. ‘The empress is dead. He should be satisfied Consort Chen’s death is avenged.’
‘Will it be troublesome if he knows I’m pregnant?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘I’m worried our peaceful days are over,’ Pei Jin said.
‘What should we do?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘We’ll silently follow them and deal with them at the right opportunity,’ Pei Jin said.
In the palace Wang Fu Mu announced the emperor’s arrival in the imperial court.
The court officials who supported Pei Zhang were surprised to see why Huang Guo was at the palace.
The emperor sat on his throne, his head and heart was plagued with the deaths of the empress and his tenth son.
‘Your majesty, I have something important to report,’ Official Zai Ci said.
‘What is it?’ the emperor asked.
Wang Fu Mu gave the emperor the petition Official Zai Ci prepared.
‘Your majesty, I and many other court officials recommend seventh prince to become the crown prince,’ Official Zai Ci said.
The emperor hid his displeasure. He couldn’t bring his tenth son back to life but he was dissatisfied with his seventh son’s black heart.
‘Huang Guo, what do you think?’ the emperor asked.
‘Your majesty, I disagree,’ Huang Guo said.
Everyone was silent and thought Huang Guo was daring to openly oppose Pei Zhang.
‘Your majesty, I believe ninth prince is more suitable to be the crown prince,’ Huang Guo said.
End of Chapter Fifty-Eight
Chapter Twenty-Five (Part 1)
Yan Shi Ning slept through the rest of the night.
The following morning Yan Shi Ning woke up and didn’t see Pei Jin. She asked a maid to prepare a water basin for her to wash her face then she changed into a dress.
After Yan Shi Ning washed and dressed, she slowly walked toward the gardens. It was still painful between her legs, but she didn’t want the maids to know what happened and forced herself to straighten her back.
Yan Shi Ning circled the gardens and returned to her chamber but she didn’t see Pei Jin.
‘Where’s ninth prince?’ Yan Shi Ning asked a maid.
‘Mistress, ninth prince is visiting Gentleman Bei,’ the maid said.
Yan Shi Ning nodded her head and she remembered the physician Bei Dou who wore black clothes and a stiff expression on his face.
Yan Shi Ning felt that Bei Dou had a cold aura. She thought that even someone cold would have a face that at least occasionally changed expressions. But each time she met him, his face stayed the same stiff expression. It made her curious about his real identity and why Pei Jin treated him sincerely.
Yan Shi Ning didn’t ask Pei Jin about Bei Dou. She knew Pei Jin had many secrets. But she was happy to be Pei Jin’s wife who ate and slept. Suddenly she felt hungry and was about to ask a maid to bring her food from the kitchen but Pei Jin entered their chamber with a platter of food.
‘Wife, why aren’t you sleeping?’ Pei Jin asked and put the bowl of beef congee and the bowl of cong you bings on a table.
The delicious fragrance brightened Yan Shi Ning’s eyes. After the maids left the chamber, she tucked a cong you bing in her mouth. While she was chewing, the pain between her legs increased and she took deep breaths.
Pei Jin saw Yan Shi Ning frowned. ‘Wife, what’s wrong?’
‘It hurts!’ Yan Shi Ning said and looked at Pei Jin accusingly.
Pei Jin laughed and carried Yan Shi Ning onto the bed.
‘What do you want to do?’ Yan Shi Ning asked wearily.
Yan Shi Ning swallowed the cong you bing in her mouth and looked at Pei Jin suspiciously. Outside the window the sky was still bright, she didn’t know how he could shamelessly want to eat her.
Pei Jin lifted Yan Shi Ning’s dress and took off her pants and undergarments while smiling shadily at her.
Yan Shi Ning pulled down her dress and she scrunched her face like an angry bore. ‘You… you… it’s still morning.’
‘Wife, does that mean… if it isn’t morning then it’s alright?’ Pei Jin asked.
Pei Jin took out a jade bottle from his pouch and poured some of the herbal remedy on his fingers.
Yan Shi Ning remembered Pei Jin’s fingers teased her body last night and she wanted to hit him. Then she was curious about the sweet scent from the herbal remedy on his fingers. ‘What is that?’
‘It’s good,’ Pei Jin said.
Pei Jin pulled Yan Shi Ning’s hands away from her dress and inserted his fingers between her legs.
Yan Shi Ning’s whole body stiffened the moment she felt his fingers inside her.
‘Wife, you don’t need to be nervous,’ Pei Jin said. ‘I’m only rubbing the herbal remedy inside to soothe the pain.’
Pei Jin wanted to continue teasing Yan Shi Ning, but he saw her anxiously bit her lower lip and decided to be honest.
Pei Jin remembered Yan Shi Ning cried out in pain throughout the night so earlier in the morning he woke Bei Dou up. He ignored Bei Dou’s resentment for being woken up too early and asked Bei Dou for a herbal remedy. Bei Dou didn’t ask him what kind of herbal remedy he wanted instead Bei Dou’s forehead to the neck turned red. Then Bei Dou wrote the name of the herbal remedy on a paper and told him to go buy it.
Yan Shi Ning’s body relaxed after Pei Jin explained the purpose of the herbal remedy. But she felt a strange sensation having his fingers gently stroked inside her and her body stiffened again.
‘I… I… can do it myself,’ Yan Shi Ning stuttered.
‘Wife, can you see where the sore spots are?’ Pei Jin asked.
Yan Shi Ning bit her lower lip. She did feel shy about inserting her fingers inside herself. But it was better than having his fingers inside her.
Yan Shi Ning held onto Pei Jin’s arms. ‘I can do it myself.’
‘Alright, you can do it yourself,’ Pei Jin said. His fingers circled inside her one more time and withdrew. ‘But I finished putting it on the sore spots.’
Yan Shi Ning glared at Pei Jin’s rotten smile.
Pei Jin pulled out a handkerchief and consoled Yan Shi Ning while he wiped his fingers. ‘Wife, don’t be sad. We can’t this time, but there’ll be a next time soon.’
Yan Shi Ning’s heart cursed Pei Jin, ‘Sad your sister!’
Yan Shi Ning put on her undergarments and pants then she kicked Pei Jin off the bed.
Pei Jin pulled Yan Shi Ning off the bed with him. She fell on top of him. Then he rolled her under him and she opened her mouth but his mouth swallowed her curse.
Earlier Pei Jin felt frustrated while his fingers were inside Yan Shi Ning’s body. He thought it wasn’t right that a delicious meat was in front of him but he had to endure. He wondered when he could eat to his satisfaction.
Pei Jin thought one day soon he needed to be a bandit and pluck Yan Shi Ning otherwise he feared he would die from starving himself.
Yan Shi Ning felt Pei Jin kissed her long enough to make her forget to breathe. She noticed the bowl of congee on the table and pushed him off her.
‘The congee will be cold soon,’ Yan Shi Ning said.
Pei Jin knew if he continued kissing Yan Shi Ning, it would be hard for him to stop so he let her push him off her.
Yan Shi Ning happily ate the bowl of delicious beef congee and occasionally bit a cong you bing.
‘Did you change the head cook of your manor?’ Yan Shi Ning asked. ‘Why does the food taste better than usual?’
Yan Shi Ning finished eating the whole bowl of beef congee. Then she remembered since she arrived at Pei Jin’s manor, the cooks’ food weren’t as delicious as the cooks’ food at the Yan Manor. It wasn’t a surprise because Princess Kang Hua and Yan Shi Ting used a lot of money to hire a cook from a famous restaurant in the imperial city. But she was surprised the food Pei Jin bought earlier tasted better than the cooks’ food at the Yan Manor.
Pei Jin was happy Yan Shi Ning liked the food he bought for her. But he knocked her forehead after he heard her said ‘your manor.’
‘Wife, what is the head cook of your manor?’ Pei Jin asked. ‘Do you still see yourself as an outsider?’
Yan Shi Ning rubbed her sore forehead and glared at Pei Jin. But she admitted she wasn’t used to thinking of herself as the mistress of Pei Jin’s manor.
‘The cooks in our home didn’t make these dishes,’ Pei Jin said. ‘I bought it at Fu Qing on the way to buy the herbal remedy.’
The mention of ‘Fu Qing’ brightened Yan Shi Ning’s eyes. Before she arrived at the imperial city, she heard of Fu Qing, the best restaurant in the imperial city. After she lived in the Yan Manor, she never had the opportunity to eat at Fu Qing. She was happy she got to wear clothes from Su’s dressmakers and eat food from Fu Qing.
Pei Jin saw the excitement on Yan Shi Ning’s face and he rubbed his chin. ‘Wife, do you want to go there?’
Yan Shi Ning looked suspiciously at Pei Jin. ‘Can we actually go there?’
‘Wife, do you want to see the singers and musicians perform?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘Yes,’ Yan Shi Ning said.
‘Alright, then we can go,’ Pei Jin said.
On the way to Fu Qing, Yan Shi Ning thought about a childhood memory inside the horse carriage. That year a group of singers and musicians visited Xuan Qing to perform. Other children her age had their mothers take them to see the singers and musicians perform. She wanted to go too but her mother didn’t have enough money and her precious pouch was light as a cat’s whisker. In her sad state, Pei Jin stood in front of her and asked, ‘Do you want to see the singers and musicians perform?’
Yan Shi Ning couldn’t ignore Pei Jin after she heard his question and she foolishly nodded her head. Afterward he actually did take her to see the singers and musicians perform. But they didn’t buy tickets at the entrance like other people… they climbed a wall.
That night was cold but Yan Shi Ning’s heart was warm. She sat on the wall and saw the singers and musicians perform on a platform while she ate dried dates. That day she thought life was beautiful… of course if that thief didn’t steal a copper coin from her precious pouch to buy the dried dates then life would have been more beautiful.
‘Little sister, I took you to see the singers and musicians perform,’ that thief said. ‘But why haven’t you thanked me?’
Yan Shi Ning’s childhood memory from that year reminded her to be weary of Pei Jin.
‘Did you bring enough money?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
Yan Shi Ning was worried Pei Jin was taking her to climb another wall.
Pei Jin looked at the Yan Shi Ning dressed in a man’s clothes and wanted to laugh because she couldn’t disguise her feminine beauty. He pulled out a paper note worth one thousand silver taels and put it inside her inner robe. ‘I don’t have silver taels. Wife, you’ll be the host.’
Yan Shi Ning was shocked to see the paper note… how rich was Pei Jin?
End of Chapter Twenty-Five (Part 1)