Oblivious to the internal battles between the court officials in the palace, the guards at Pei Jin’s manor were competing for grilled meat.
‘Why aren’t you pushing me higher in the air?’ Xiao Zai asked. ‘You need to use all your strength otherwise we won’t get to eat ninth prince’s grilled meat!’
Pei Jin wanted to motivate his lethargic guards during the colder days. He organised competitions like who could jump higher than the wall would be rewarded with grilled meat.
Everyone wanted to eat the delicious grilled meat from Southern Jiang, especially Xiao Zai.
Xiao Hui’s arms were tired from supporting Xiao Zai’s weight and he used his last strength to push Xiao Zai into the air… Xiao Zai flew over the wall… and landed in front of the emperor.
Xiao Zai thought if he died and Dizang asked him how he died, he would say he jumped too high and landed in the wrong spot.
After the commotion the emperor looked sternly at the people who knelt in front of him. Earlier he was scared to death, he thought an assassin flew over the wall.
‘What was everyone doing?’ the emperor asked.
‘Imperial father, forgive me,’ Pei Jin said. ‘Recently the days have been colder. I wanted everyone at the manor to be active. I didn’t expect to trouble imperial father. I deserve to die.’
The emperor glanced at the ropes and cuju balls on the ground and he knew Pei Jin wasn’t lying. But he couldn’t calm his anger until he glanced at Yan Shi Ning who was kneeling too.
‘Everyone stand,’ the emperor said. He turned around to look at his imperial physicians. ‘Hurry and examine ninth prince’s wife!’
Pei Jin and Yan Shi Ning were surprised to see the emperor but they were frightened after they heard the emperor’s order. They looked at each other and realised Huang Guo was the culprit.
The emperor brought six imperial physicians to Pei Jin’s manor. Outsiders would have thought Yan Shi Ning had a contagious illness if they didn’t suspect she was pregnant.
Pei Jin gave Yan Shi Ning a don’t-worry-I’m-here look and she gave him a your-father-is-troublesome look.
While the six imperial physicians examined Yan Shi Ning thoroughly, the emperor assessed everyone at Pei Jin’s manor. Afterward he smelt a delicious grilled meat scent and it made him hungry. He didn’t have an appetite for many days but the grilled meat also looked appealing.
Pei Jin noticed his father’s eyes focused on the grilled meat so he brought a bowl of grilled meat to his father. ‘Imperial father, this grilled meat is delicious.’
Wang Fu Mu inserted a silver needle into the grilled meat and assured the emperor they were safe to eat.
The emperor slowly ate the grilled meat.
The emperor chewed the grilled meat but he didn’t say if it tasted delicious or awful.
Pei Jin and Wang Fu Mu didn’t know what the emperor was thinking.
‘Congratulations your majesty,’ the head imperial physician said.
The emperor swallowed the grilled meat and didn’t look like he heard the good news.
‘Ninth son, follow me,’ the emperor said.
Pei Jin followed the emperor into the calligraphy room. The emperor looked at the three portraits on the wall, they were all portraits of Yan Shi Ning. Then the emperor looked at Pei Jin who looked shy to let the emperor find out how much Pei Jin loved Yan Shi Ning.
‘Why did you deceive me?’ the emperor asked.
Pei Jin knelt in front of his father. ‘Imperial father, I wouldn’t dare to deceive you.’
‘Don’t dare?’ the emperor asked. ‘You’ve already dared and you can still say you don’t dare! Can you say that you don’t know your wife is pregnant more than three months?’
Pei Jin silently lowered his head.
‘Why did you deceive me?’ the emperor asked.
‘Because I want to protect imperial father’s grandson,’ Pei Jin said.
‘What are you implying?’ the emperor asked.
‘Imperial father, I only want to live a peaceful life but while I’m alive I need to be cautious,’ Pei Jin said.
The emperor understood Pei Jin’s words. He didn’t know who saw Pei Jin as an eyesore until he remembered the commotion at the palace and suspected who those people were.
‘Who do you need to be cautious of?’ the emperor asked.
‘Imperial father, I don’t know who,’ Pei Jin said.
‘You dare say you don’t know!’ the emperor said.
‘Imperial father, don’t be angry,’ Pei Jin said. ‘Imperial father, I truly don’t know. I was scared since the harvest festival incident. The person behind it still hasn’t been caught.’
The emperor was still troubled about who dared to send assassins into the palace. If he was in Pei Jin’s position then he would be worried about others finding out Yan Shi Ning’s pregnancy too.
‘You can stand and talk,’ the emperor said.
‘Thank you imperial father,’ Pei Jin said.
‘Ninth son, what are you hiding from me?’ the emperor asked.
‘Imperial father, I wouldn’t dare,’ Pei Jin said.
The emperor didn’t believe Pei Jin. But he knew if he forced Pei Jin to tell him what Pei Jin was hiding, Pei Jin would give him a reasonable explanation. He wasn’t certain if Pei Jin was satisfied to be a carefree prince.
‘Ninth son, did you know earlier many court officials recommended you to be the crown prince?’ the emperor asked.
The emperor assessed the strange look in Pei Jin’s eyes. ‘Ninth son, tell me if you want to be the crown prince.’
Pei Jin knew his father’s smile meant if he gave the wrong answer then he would lose his life.
End of Chapter Sixty
Pei Jin and Yan Shi Ning stood in front of Fu Qing’s three entrances.
Fu Qing was separated into three terraces and each terrace had three floors.
‘Why does Fu Qing have more than one entrance?’ Yan Shi Ning asked. ‘Which entrance do we walk through?’
‘Wife, which entrance do you want to walk through?’ Pei Jin asked.
Yan Shi Ning heard lively songs and the sounds of instruments from the left terrace. ‘I want to walk through the left entrance.’
‘Wife, it’s not suitable for you to walk through the left entrance,’ Pei Jin said.
‘Why?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
Pei Jin whispered something in Yan Shi Ning’s ear and she blushed. ‘That kind of place exists?’
Pei Jin nodded his head innocently like he heard that place existed but never been inside.
‘What about the middle entrance?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘It’s where proper food is served,’ Pei Jin said.
Yan Shi Ning looked at the right door and she smiled playfully. ‘Then there must be handsome food behind the right entrance.’
Pei Jin had a strange feeling.
Indeed Pei Jin followed Yan Shi Ning through the right entrance. He silently asked the heavens to not let him meet anyone that knew him. If people found out gentle ninth prince visited those kind of places, he feared everyone would be shocked enough for their chins to fall.
‘I’m here to play with handsome beauties,’ Yan Shi Ning said.
A man dressed in black clothes embroidered with flowers greeted Yan Shi Ning and Pei Jin then the man escorted them to the stairs.
Yan Shi Ning was happy to be surrounded by beauties. The beauties were all young men who had pink lips, white teeth and were friendly.
Pei Jin pinched Yan Shi Ning’s waist. ‘Have you leered enough?’
Yan Shi Ning glared at Pei Jin, pulled out a fan and she waved it in front of her face. ‘Of course I haven’t.’
Yan Shi Ning looked at her surroundings and she noticed most of the guests walked to the second floor. So she walked to the second floor too.
A man who greeted guests on the second floor thought Yan Shi Ning was a regular guest by the way Yan Shi Ning confidently walked to the second floor.
‘Master, are you looking for someone familiar?’ the man asked.
Yan Shi Ning thought the handsome man looked about thirty years old who had a soothing voice.
‘Someone familiar?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
The man saw Yan Shi Ning looked confusedly at Pei Jin. He realised they were new guests and assumed Pei Jin was the guest who carried a heavy pouch.
Pei Jin draped an arm over Yan Shi Ning’s shoulder.
‘No need, take us to a free room,’ Pei Jin said.
A guest interrupted them and passed the man a paper note worth fifty silver taels. ‘Gentleman Chen, tonight I want Yue Feng to serve me.’
Gentleman Chen accepted the paper note and gave the guest Yue Feng’s plaque.
Yan Shi Ning saw the guest and Gentleman Chen’s exchange and she understood what someone familiar meant.
Yan Shi Ning took out one of the ten paper notes worth one hundred silver taels that she exchanged earlier at a pawn shop and gave it to Gentleman Chen. ‘I… we… Gentleman Chen make arrangements for us.’
Pei Jin thought Yan Shi Ning learned bad habits fast.
Gentleman Chen accepted Yan Shi Ning’s paper note, gave Feng Su and Yu Lu’s plaques to Yan Shi Ning and escorted Yan Shi Ning and Pei Jin to a room.
Inside the room was two beds, paintings of handsome men and a marble table. On the table was a vase, a small fragrant pouch, a tea pot and cups.
Yan Shi Ning stared at a painting of a handsome man for too long, Pei Jin pulled the painting off the wall and threw it on the ground.
‘What are you doing?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘Wife, can’t you see your husband is more handsome?’ Pei Jin asked.
Yan Shi Ning looked at Pei Jin from the top of his head to his feet. ‘I can’t see.’
Pei Jin regretted taking Yan Shi Ning outside the manor.
Yan Shi Ning was amused to see Pei Jin was frustrated to death.
Yan Shi Ning and Pei Jin were drinking tea on a bed when Feng Su and Yu Lu entered the room.
Yan Shi Ning put her cup of tea on the nearby marble table. She thought the two young men looked sixteen years old. Their long hair were straight and smooth like a thin fabric, a red flower was painted in the middle of their foreheads and their steps were dainty.
Pei Jin noticed Yan Shi Ning’s mouth and eyes widened. He wondered why he didn’t discover she was a pervert long ago. Then he wondered why she didn’t perve at him in the past. He compared himself to the two young men and thought she must love to perve on handsome weaklings.
Feng Su knelt in front of Yan Shi Ning. ‘Master, Feng Su is here to serve you.’
Yu Lu knelt in front of Pei Jin. ‘Master, Yu Lu is here to serve you.’
Yan Shi Ning didn’t have experience in that kind of situation and felt uncomfortable. But she saw Pei Jin gave her a ‘coming here doesn’t suit you’ look so she straightened her back.
Yan Shi Ning used a fan to lift Feng Su’s chin. ‘How do you want to serve me?’
Pei Jin spatted tea out of his mouth.
Yu Lu quickly pulled out a handkerchief and wanted to wipe the tea off Pei Jin’s face. But Yu Lu’s body was too close to Pei Jin’s body and Pei Jin politely declined.
‘I can do it myself,’ Pei Jin said.
Pei Jin glared at Feng Su. If Feng Su dared to touch Yan Shi Ning’s body, he vowed to toss Feng Su out the window.
Luckily Feng Su didn’t touch Yan Shi Ning’s body. ‘Master, however you want me to serve you.’
Goose bumps rose on Yan Shi Ning’s whole body. ‘Alright.’
In that moment a fuwu brought a platter of food and wine jars into the room.
At the sight of food and wine Yan Shi Ning ignored the handsome beauties in the room. She was about to pick up a pair chopsticks but Feng Su was faster.
Feng Su held a prawn between chopsticks in front of Yan Shi Ning’s mouth. ‘Master, l’ll serve you.’
Yan Shi Ning glanced at Pei Jin. Although he was smiling at her, she knew his smile was a threat, ‘Wife, do you dare to eat?’
Yan Shi Ning smiled at Pei Jin and opened her mouth.
Pei Jin angrily picked up the cup of wine Yu Lu poured and drank it.
Yan Shi Ning sniffed the wine fragrance and thought it smelt sweeter than fruits.
‘Beauty, pour wine for your master,’ Yan Shi Ning said and touched Feng Su’s smooth hand.
Pei Jin’s heart wanted to cut off Yan Shi Ning’s hand after they returned to the manor. He drank another cup of wine.
Yu Lu noticed the cold deadly aura around Pei Jin and quickly poured more wine into Pei Jin’s cup.
Feng Su raised a cup of wine to Yan Shi Ning’s lips. ‘Master, this is Tan Hua Tu. It’s Fu Qing’s best wine.’
Yan Shi Ning drank the cup of wine and nodded her head. ‘It’s good wine.’
‘Master, drink slowly,’ Feng Su said.
Pei Jin gritted his teeth after he saw Feng Su’s chest nearly touched Yan Shi Ning’s chest.
Feng Su pulled out a handkerchief and was about to wipe wine off Yan Shi Ning’s lips but Pei Jin stood and pushed Feng Su away from Yan Shi Ning.
Pei Jin hugged Yan Shi Ning and he smiled at the shocked Feng Su and Yu Lu.
‘You’re both not needed here,’ Pei Jin said. ‘You can both leave and remember to close the door.’
Feng Su and Yu Lu immediately left the room.
Outside the room Yu Lu spoke softly with Feng Su. ‘What did we do wrong?’
‘Nothing, we served them well,’ Feng Su said. ‘The master I was serving liked me.’
‘But the master I was serving didn’t like me,’ Yu Lu said. ‘He didn’t even glance at me once. He only looked at the master you were serving.’
‘Perhaps… they are a pair of lovers,’ Feng Su said. ‘Or the master you were serving loves the master I was serving.’
‘I think that’s possible,’ Yu Lu said.
‘Do you think the master I was serving loves the master you were serving?’ Feng Su asked.
‘I’m not certain,’ Yu Lu said. ‘Even if there’s no love, love could grow later. The master I was serving asked us to close the door. I think he can’t control himself anymore.’
Feng Su nodded his head. ‘The Tan Hua Tu fragrance is an aphrodisiac. But if he’s too forceful it’ll hurt.’
‘It has no relation to us,’ Yu Lu said. ‘That’s between the guests. We need to report to Gentleman Chen. I’ve served many guests, but this is the first time I was asked to leave.’
End of Chapter Twenty-Six