The emperor decreed to keep the crown prince position vacant.
At Consort Mu’s chamber, Pei Zhang threw a cup of tea at a palace maid’s face.
‘You dare to let me drink hot tea?’ Pei Zhang asked.
The palace maid knelt on her knees in front of Pei Zhang.
Consort Mu stopped Pei Zhang from kicking the palace maid.
‘Xiao Zhang!’ Consort Mu said and signalled the palace maid to leave.
‘Xiao Zhang, you’re becoming more impatient by the day,’ Consort Mu said. ‘If you had kicked her, she would either die or be crippled. Do you want a rumor to spread about your cruelty? Now is a critical period. How can you lose control of your anger? I know you’re feeling the situation is unfair but you need to be patient and endure.’
‘Endure?’ Pei Zhang asked. ‘In the eyes of the citizens ninth brother has a perfect reputation. If I endure any longer then it’ll be me who’ll be kowtowing in front of ninth brother!’
‘If you don’t control yourself then it’s certain you’ll be kowtowing in front of your ninth brother!’ Consort Mu said.
‘Mother, what are we going to do?’ Pei Zhang asked.
‘Think about it,’ Consort Mu said. ‘Between your ninth brother and tenth brother, who did you think is more suitable?’
‘Tenth brother?’ Pei Zhang asked.
‘In the past your tenth brother had your imperial father, his imperial mother’s family support and the citizens’ admiration,’ Consort Mu said. ‘Where is tenth brother now?’
‘He lost everything and died,’ Pei Zhang said.
‘That’s right,’ Consort Mu said. ‘He had everything and lost. So we don’t need to fear someone like your ninth brother.’
‘Mother, you’re right,’ Pei Zhang said.
‘Xiao Zhang, I know what you’re worrying about,’ Consort Mu said. ‘You feel threatened that your ninth brother has a good reputation, his wife is pregnant and he’s gaining support from court officials.’
‘That’s true,’ Pei Zhang said.
‘Xiao Zhang, you don’t need to worry about those minor obstacles,’ Consort Mu said.
Pei Zhang listened carefully to his mother’s reasons.
‘Xiao Zhang, you can slowly improve your reputation,’ Consort Mu said. ‘Those court officials aren’t foolish. They know in the end you’ll be the crown prince so they weren’t dare to commit all their resources to support your ninth brother. What’s important is military power!’
‘But Huang Guo’s been too dormant for years… what if Huang Guo and ninth brother join their resources?’ Pei Zhang asked.
‘Xiao Zhang, do you still not understand your imperial father?’ Consort Mu asked.
‘Imperial father?’ Pei Zhang asked.
‘Your imperial father is someone who wants to control everything within his hand,’ Consort Mu said. ‘In recent years your imperial father feels he is slowly losing control of everything. It makes him angry enough to be mentally tired and as a consequence his health has declined. Do you think he wanted the harvest festival incident to happen? For Yan Shi Ting to fake a pregnancy? Your tenth brother to die? The empress to die? In front of everyone your imperial father acts like he’s coping but the truth is he’s grieving, their deaths have a deep impact on the state of his mind and health. He’ll be lucky to live another three years.’
‘Mother, is that true?’ Pei Zhang asked.
‘Xiao Zhang, do you think that Gentleman Zheng is the only imperial physician who is on our side?’ Consort Mu asked.
‘Who else?’ Pei Zhang asked.
‘Your imperial father’s most trusted imperial physician, Gentleman Tao,’ Consort Mu said.
Pei Zhang thought his mother was impressive.
‘Xiao Zhang, if you were in your imperial father’s position would you give the throne to the first son who is strong and has support from the most of the court officials or would you give the throne to the second son who is weaker and has no military power?’ Consort Mu asked.
‘Of course I would give the throne to the first son,’ Pei Zhang said.
‘That’s right,’ Consort Mu said. ‘Your imperial father is someone who values control. Of course he wants to give the throne to the son that has control over the imperial court and military power. Even though your imperial father isn’t completely satisfied with you, he’s not foolish to give the throne to your weaker ninth brother.’
‘Mother, you’re right,’ Pei Zhang said. ‘Imperial father isn’t foolish to give the throne to ninth brother. Because after ninth brother sits on the throne, his supporters will turn against ninth brother and seize the throne. Imperial father wouldn’t want his family dynasty to end with ninth brother.’
‘Don’t forget your imperial father suspected Huang Guo’s ulterior motive long ago and that’s why Huang Guo lost your imperial father’s favor,’ Consort Mu said. ‘Now do you understand why I asked you to endure?’
‘Mother I understand,’ Pei Zhang said. ‘If imperial father sees Huang Guo cooperating with ninth brother, imperial father will hate ninth brother even more and ninth brother will die pitifully.’
‘It’s good you understand,’ Consort Mu said.
‘Mother, what about Yan Shi Ning’s pregnancy?’ Pei Zhang asked.
‘I couldn’t stop the heavens blessing her stomach with a prince,’ Consort Mu said. ‘Your ninth brother’s fate is too good. He hasn’t been married for long but already has an heir.’
Pei Zhang felt ashamed he had many wives but didn’t have an heir. His official wife lost their son when she was seventh months pregnant and their second child was a girl… at least his second wife was pregnant and perhaps he would finally have an heir.
‘Mother, didn’t you use Fu Gui to poison her?’ Pei Zhang asked. ‘How is it possible she’s pregnant?’
‘Perhaps I didn’t use enough Fu Gui or someone found the remedy for her,’ Consort Mu said.
Pei Zhang wasn’t satisfied enough to eliminate the Yan Manor, the empress and Pei Lam, he wanted to eliminate Yan Shi Ning too.
‘Mother, now I understand why Gentleman Tao was willing to help you by giving the forbidden Fu Gui incense sticks to the empress to give to Yan Shi Ting to use in the Yan Manor without the empress knowing they were poisoned,’ Pei Zhang said.
‘Your imperial father wanted a grandson for a long time,’ Consort Mu said. ‘If your ninth brother’s wife gives him a son and your second wife gives you a second daughter then I’m not certain what your imperial father’s final decision will be.’
‘Mother, what do we do about Yan Shi Ning?’ Pei Zhang asked.
End of Chapter Sixty-Two
Flowers should be seen in half bloom, wine should be drunk moderately – this is the most enjoyable stage. Flowers in full bloom, and men dead drunk become unpleasant scenes (Hong Zicheng).
Pei Jin braced Yan Shi Ning’s shoulders outside the room.
Fu Qing’s other guests were curious about the identities of the handsome Pei Jin and the drunk Yan Shi Ning. But it was an unspoken agreement that each of Fu Qing’s guests would be blind to other guests’ behaviour to protect their own identities.
In that moment Yan Shi Ning’s head spun, her legs were wobbly and she felt pain between her thighs. She didn’t remember everything that happened but she didn’t doubt it was the MF Pei Jin’s fault. She was about to curse him but her eyes saw someone familiar in front of them and her mouth gaped open.
Pei Jin’s eyes followed Yan Shi Ning’s gaze. There was nothing unusual to see a young handsome beauty in front of them. It was the familiar young man next to the beauty that was a surprise – the crown prince.
Pei Lam was shocked to see Pei Jin in a place unsuitable for a gentleman. But he felt like he was possessed by a demon, he was curious to see what kind of man Pei Jin desired. He looked at the drunk man Pei Jin was supporting and his heart jumped… it was Yan Shi Ning.
Pei Jin was startled to see the crown prince was smiling inappropriately at Yan Shi Ning then he pulled her into his chest and shielded her from the crown prince’s view. Inwardly he sighed, she lost her gentle lady image in front of the crown prince.
‘Is ninth sister drunk?’ Pei Lam asked.
Pei Jin nodded his head.
‘I have a horse carriage waiting outside,’ Pei Lam offered.
‘Xiao Tu is waiting outside for my wife and me,’ Pei Jin declined.
A silence followed after Pei Jin and Pei Lam’s polite exchange.
‘Crown prince, you’re a beauty,’ Yan Shi Ning said in her drunk state.
Pei Jin thought Yan Shi Ning became more daring by the day while her gentle lady image was gradually thinning. She even dared to tease the crown prince. He felt it was an injustice that she praised other men’s looks but didn’t praise his looks.
Pei Jin pinched Yan Shi Ning’s waist to warn her to stop speaking nonsense.
‘MF, why do you love pinching me?’ Yan Shi Ning asked and pinched Pei Jin’s hand.
Pei Jin choked helplessly. He was helping Yan Shi Ning protect her lady image but she was ungrateful.
Pei Lam looked enviously at Pei Jin and Yan Shi Ning’s loving exchange.
‘Ninth brother and ninth sister’s loving bond makes other people envious,’ Pei Lam said.
‘My wife is drunk,’ Pei Jin said. ‘Tenth brother forgive her drunken behaviour. I’ll take her home first.’
Pei Lam nodded his head and he watched Pei Jin carry Yan Shi Ning downstairs.
‘Master, do you want to continue playing?’ a young man asked.
Pei Lam shook his head. ‘I’m not in the mood to play anymore.’
The young man knew the crown prince had a good personality but the crown prince was a difficult master to serve. The crown prince was someone if given a new toy, they would play with it for a few times and throw it away. The past few days the crown prince was unhappy so he suggested the crown prince should visit Fu Qing for a new experience. The crown prince agreed but he didn’t expect the crown prince wouldn’t be in the mood to play the moment the crown prince arrived at Fu Qing.
Pei Lam didn’t know what he was thinking. He could only say to others that he didn’t like something but he couldn’t voice what he truly wanted. Since he was a young boy, everything good was set in front of him, but his elders always made his life decisions for him.
Pei Lam wanted to be free of his cage and experience the outside world. But the furthest his cage extended was to a place like Fu Qing. It made him felt like he was living a hopeless life.
Day and night, Pei Lam felt like that sense of hopelessness was burning him. Each day Yan Shi Ting would ask a palace maid to deliver a love letter to him. He read the first few love letters then later he asked one of his servants to read them and write a reply in his stead.
That night in the palace Pei Lam laid in his bed and thought about Yan Shi Ning. He remembered her liveliness and the red bite marks on her neck, immediately his little brother hardened. His hand rubbed his little brother until semen was released.
Away from the palace the drunk Yan Shi Ning was sinking in a bath tub. Pei Jin pulled her body above the water, took off his clothes and bathed together with her so she wouldn’t drown.
Inside the bath tub Yan Shi Ning sat on his lap while his hands rubbed her soft breasts.
In Yan Shi Ning’s drunk state she could still feel Pei Jin’s hardness was rubbing against her bottom and his hands were rubbing her breasts. She leaned her face close to his face and bit his lips.
Pei Jin pinched Yan Shi Ning’s bottom. ‘Wife, why did you bite me?’
‘Pei Jin… umm… ah… you MF, you’re always bullying me… umm…’ Yan Shi Ning murmured while her body trembled.
Pei Jin carried Yan Shi Ning’s wet limp body to the bed. He dried her body first then he dried his body. Afterward he laid next to her and stroked her back. ‘Wife, inside your heart am I only someone who bullies you?’
Yan Shi Ning didn’t answer. But the night air cooled and her body searched for the warmest spot on the bed. After the warmest spot was found, she moaned and slept peacefully.
Pei Jin didn’t dare move. Yan Shi Ning’s head was laying on his chest, her arms wrapped tightly around his waist and she draped a leg over his thighs. If he moved then he wouldn’t want to stop moving.
Pei Jin pinched Yan Shi Ning’s nose and scratched her waist. She scrunched her face but refused to wake up.
‘Shi Ning,’ Pei Jin said.
Yan Shi Ning opened her eyes, saw Pei Jin and closed her eyes again.
‘Shi Ning,’ Pei Jin said.
‘Huh?’ Yan Shi Ning murmured.
Pei Jin rubbed the childish Yan Shi Ning’s head and whispered in her ear. ‘Shi Ning, the MF Pei Jin who bullies you, do you love him?’
Pei Jin knew Yan Shi Ning was an honest drunk and he anticipated her answer.
‘I don’t love him,’ Yan Shi Ning said and rolled over.
Pei Jin hit Yan Shi Ning’s bottom. ‘Heartless little demon. I treat you well but you don’t hesitate to say you don’t love me.’
Yan Shi Ning rubbed her sore bottom in her sleep. ‘MF, you dare hit me again.’
‘Then is Pei Jin a handsome man?’ Pei Jin asked.
Yan Shi Ning didn’t open her mouth.
‘Shi Ning?’ Pei Jin asked.
Yan Shi Ning snored.
Pei Jin hugged Yan Shi Ning. But he felt like he was hugging a delicious meat and he couldn’t sleep.
If Pei Jin moved a little lower then he could eat Yan Shi Ning. His heart wavered between eating and soothing her body pain.
A while later Pei Jin got out of bed and picked up the herbal remedy he bought for Yan Shi Ning. He remembered he roughly ate her at Fu Qing and thought she would feel pain between her thighs in the morning.
Pei Jin returned to the bed, spread Yan Shi Ning’s legs and rubbed the herbal remedy inside her. He heard her moan and knew the herbal remedy was soothing her body but it also erected his desire.
End of Chapter Twenty-Eight