The emperor listened to Huang Guo’s opinion.
‘Ninth prince is intelligent, humble and patient,’ Huang Guo praised. ‘That year in Xuan Qing, he worked tirelessly day and night to find ways to prevent severe floods and saved the livelihoods of many citizens. But he humbly gave the credit to others. In Southern Jiang, his strategies helped to subdue the rebels. Everyone here can clearly see that ninth prince is a selfless and diligent person.’
The other court officials thought Pei Jin deserved Huang Guo’s praises. In the past they didn’t acknowledge Pei Jin’s achievements because they knew the emperor didn’t favor Pei Jin.
The emperor’s expression darkened. No one dared to dispute Huang Guo’s words. It implied everyone hid the extent of his ninth son’s contributions to the Dian Kingdom and his court officials deceived him!
‘Everyone here also knows ninth prince is a gentle and kind person,’ Huang Guo said. ‘He is respectful and compassionate toward citizens. If he becomes the crown prince, it’ll be a blessing for all the citizens.’
The court officials who supported the empress and Pei Zhang kowtowed in front of the emperor and agreed with Huang Guo’s recommendation to make Pei Jin the crown prince. After the empress and Pei Lam died, they were scared Consort Mu and Pei Zhang would eliminate them. So Huang Guo’s words gave them a chance to live.
‘Your majesty, seventh prince is the most suitable candidate to be the crown prince,’ Official Zai Ci said. ‘Your majesty, you also need to consider your grandchildren.’
‘Your majesty, I agree your majesty should consider your grandchildren,’ Huang Guo said.
‘Huang Guo, what are you saying?’ the emperor asked.
‘Congratulations your majesty,’ Huang Guo said. ‘In a few months your majesty will have a grandson.’
‘Huang Guo, why are you the only one congratulating me?’ the emperor asked.
‘Recently my daughter-in-laws visited ninth prince’s wife and accidently found out ninth prince’s wife is pregnant,’ Huang Guo said.
‘Truly?’ the emperor asked.
‘Your majesty, if you don’t believe me then your majesty can send your imperial physicians to examine ninth prince’s wife,’ Huang Guo said.
The emperor wasn’t certain if Huang Guo’s words were true, but his fingers trembled. He was angry why his ninth son didn’t inform about his ninth daughter-in-law’s pregnancy.
Pei Zhang was shocked to hear his ninth brother’s wife was pregnant. His mother’s imperial physician reported that Yan Shi Ning had a chest infection and he knew Gentleman Zheng wouldn’t dare lie to him and his mother.
The loud commotion in the imperial court made the emperor angrier. The emperor dismissed everyone and he summoned Official Hu to the imperial calligraphy room.
Inside the imperial calligraphy room the emperor sat on the highest chair and he gave permission for Official Hu to sit.
‘Hu, between seventh prince and ninth prince who do you think is more suitable?’ the emperor asked.
‘Your majesty is wise and knows who is more suitable,’ Official Hu said.
‘I don’t want to hear pleasantries!’ the emperor said. ‘I won’t punish you if you give me your honest opinion.’
‘Your majesty, I believe ninth prince is more suitable,’ Official Hu said.
‘Why?’ the emperor asked.
‘Your majesty, truthfully I’m not close to neither seventh prince nor ninth prince,’ Official Hu said. ‘Your majesty, forgive me for my ignorant thoughts.’
‘Alright,’ the emperor said. ‘You’re free to speak your thoughts.’
‘Your majesty, ninth prince is truly someone who is fair and merciful which makes him more suitable to be the crown prince,’ Official Hu said.
The emperor silently reflected Official Hu’s words. He knew citizens of the Dian Kingdom needed a ruler who was fair and merciful to guide the kingdom through calamities and peaceful periods.
‘I understand,’ the emperor said. ‘Hu you can leave first.’
Official Hu bowed to the emperor and left the imperial calligraphy room.
On the way back to the Hu Manor, Official Hu remembered his daughter’s shame six years ago. That year he and Pei Jin caught his daughter seducing Pei Zhang when his daughter was betrothed to Pei Jin. Pei Jin didn’t expose his daughter’s shame in front of the emperor. If it wasn’t for Pei Jin’s mercy and forgiveness then he would have lost his position in the imperial court six years ago. So he wanted to repay Pei Jin for sparing his reputation.
Official Hu thought his dead daughter was foolish while alive. If his daughter was wise then she would be alive and become the empress. Even though it wasn’t certain Pei Jin would become emperor, he didn’t know why he felt it was inevitable Pei Jin would become emperor. He admitted in the past he didn’t expect the carefree and powerless Pei Jin would one day have many court officials support Pei Jin to become emperor.
End of Chapter Fifty-Nine
Chapter Twenty-Five (Part 2 of 2)
Pei Jin took Yan Shi Ning for a stroll around the imperial city.
The streets were crowded with people, there were many sights to see and food to taste. Yan Shi Ning thought she could relax after leaving the manor with Pei Jin. But two of Pei Jin’s guards followed them around the imperial city so she was forced to act like a gentleman in her disguise.
Pei Jin noticed Yan Shi Ning’s reluctance to move around freely.
‘Guards, you don’t need to follow us,’ Pei Jin said to his guards. ‘You can go find a place to drink wine.’
Yan Shi Ning began to worry a little after the guards left. ‘Is it safe? What if there are assassins?’
Before Yan Shi Ning left the manor, she hesitated to leave because of the assassination attempt in the palace. But Pei Jin reassured her and brought guards with them outside the manor.
Pei Jin didn’t know what to explain to Yan Shi Ning to reassure her. What was he supposed to say? Wife, don’t worry two of those assassins were sent by your husband?
After thinking for a while Pei Jin chose the most tactful explanation to reassure Yan Shi Ning. ‘Wife, don’t worry there are guards secretly following us.’
Half of Yan Shi Ning believed and the half of her suspected Pei Jin’s explanation. But if there were guards secretly following them then she could continue to play on the streets.
Pei Jin and Yan Shi Ning continued sightseeing until she noticed someone familiar. She held onto his arm to stop him.
‘Who does that person look like?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
Pei Jin’s eyes followed Yan Shi Ning’s gaze. He saw a familiar woman walk out of a medicine shop and the woman held a bundle.
‘Widow Li?’ Pei Jin asked.
Yan Shi Ning was happy Pei Jin recognised widow Li too and that her eyes weren’t mistaken.
Pei Jin was happy Yan Shi Ning was holding his arm. She was pulling him in the direction of widow Li.
After Widow Li bought the medicine, she began walking home with a heavy conscience. Her conscience became heavier the moment she saw who stood in front of her and her face paled.
‘Mistress Yan,’ widow Li said.
Yan Shi Ning looked happy to see widow Li. But Pei Jin didn’t understand why widow Li looked scared to see Yan Shi Ning.
‘Widow Li, didn’t you say you were travelling south?’ Yan Shi Ning asked. ‘Why are you in the imperial city?’
Widow Li pretended to fix her hair to think of a reasonable explanation. ‘I… I was planning to visit my older cousin in the south. But he said he wanted to be a merchant in the imperial city so I came here with him.’
‘If you’re in the imperial city why didn’t you look for me?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘I… I can’t be that shameless to look for you,’ widow Li said.
‘Let’s find a place to sit and talk,’ Pei Jin said.
‘Uh, no I have somewhere I need to be,’ widow Li declined.
Pei Jin glanced at the bulky bundle of medicine widow Li was carrying.
‘Widow Li, why did you need to buy a lot of medicine?’ Pei Jin asked.
Widow Li sighed sadly. ‘My older cousin is ill. Mistress Yan, ninth prince, I’ll leave first. I need to prepare the medicine for him.’
Widow Li hurriedly left without waiting for Yan Shi Ning and Pei Jin’s reply.
Yan Shi Ning looked at widow Li’s back and frowned. ‘Pei Jin, do you think that widow Li has changed?’
Pei Jin was relieved Yan Shi Ning noticed the change in widow Li’s personality too.
‘Perhaps something has happened,’ Pei Jin said. ‘I forgot, Bei Dou asked me to buy some medicine for him. Wife, wait for me here. I’ll go inside to buy the medicine and I’ll come out soon.’
Pei Jin walked into the shop and requested to see the shop owner.
‘What medicine did the woman who came into your shop earlier buy?’ Pei Jin asked.
The shop owner told Pei Jin what medicine widow Li bought and it made Pei Jin more uneasy.
Pei Jin knew the medicine widow Li bought were expensive. Widow Li was wearing ordinary clothes, he didn’t understand how she could afford to buy expensive medicine. Also, the shop owner said that she was a regular customer who had been buying the same medicine for many months. He wondered where widow Li would find more than one thousand silver taels to buy the medicine frequently.
Pei Jin remembered widow Li’s panicked expression the moment widow Li saw Yan Shi Ning and his intuition warned him that something was wrong. He decided after he returned to the manor, he would ask some of his guards to wait nearby the medicine shop and secretly follow widow Li.
Pei Jin thought if widow Li was in trouble, he would help widow Li because widow Li was important to Yan Shi Ning. But if widow Li was hiding a dangerous secret involving Yan Shi Ning then he would be prepared to stop widow Li from harming Yan Shi Ning.
End of Chapter Twenty-Five (Part 2)