The emperor and soldiers resented Pei Zhang’s wolf cry.
‘Imperial father, don’t let him fool you,’ Pei Zhang said. ‘Imperial father, let me check inside.’
‘Alright,’ the emperor said coldly.
Pei Zhang led his guards inside. He checked every nook of Pei Jin’s manor and didn’t find anyone or anything suspicious.
‘Where are they?’ Pei Zhang asked. ‘Where are the weapons?’
‘Seventh prince, we didn’t see anyone leave ninth prince’s manor,’ the guard said.
‘Useless!’ Pei Zhang said. ‘How can people and weapons disappear?’
Pei Zhang knew his guards wouldn’t dare deceive him. It was Pei Jin who built a trap for him!
‘Imperial father, are you searching my manor because you suspect I’m hiding rebels?’ Pei Jin asked sadly.
The emperor’s complex eyes looked at Pei Jin.
‘Ninth brother, where are you hiding your people?’ Pei Zhang asked.
‘Seventh brother, what people are you referring to?’ Pei Jin asked confusedly.
‘Assassins!’ Pei Zhang said. ‘Weapons! Ninth brother, don’t pretend you don’t know where they are!’
Pei Jin laughed coldly. ‘Seventh brother, you searched everywhere and you know clearly there are no assassins and weapons here.’
Pei Zhang fisted his hands, Pei Jin turned him into a paranoid fool in front of everyone!
‘Ninth brother, you framed me!’ Pei Zhang said.
‘Seventh brother, why would I frame you?’ Pei Jin asked.
Everyone understood it was impossible for Pei Jin to frame Pei Zhang. It was Pei Zhang who requested the emperor’s army to search Pei Jin’s manor. Also Pei Jin cooperated without resistance and didn’t hide any assassins or weapons.
‘Seventh brother, between us who is framing who?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘What are you saying?’ Pei Zhang asked.
‘Seventh brother, it’s not hard to see imperial father wouldn’t bring an army here unless you convinced imperial father I wanted to commit treason,’ Pei Jin said. ‘Seventh brother, tell me where am I hiding assassins and weapons?’
Pei Zhang couldn’t refute Pei Jin’s accusations.
‘Seventh brother, why did you deceive imperial father?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘Ninth brother, are you saying I deceived imperial father to frame you?’ Pei Zhang asked.
‘Seventh brother, your heart’s intentions are too deep for me to see,’ Pei Jin said.
Pei Zhang wanted to vomit blood.
The emperor assessed his strong son and his weak son. He believed Pei Zhang wouldn’t deceive him because Pei Zhang wouldn’t gain anything by deceiving him. But he believed Pei Jin wasn’t a fool and wouldn’t do something reckless to frame Pei Zhang. He didn’t know between Pei Zhang and Pei Jin who was innocent.
‘Your majesty, a troop of soldiers are invading the army camp and another troop of soldiers are approaching here!’ a soldier reported.
The emperor glared daggers at Pei Zhang. He knew Pei Zhang had his guards positioned around the imperial city. Also Pei Zhang was the one who requested him to take his army here.
‘Everyone protect the emperor and kill the traitors!’ the general ordered.
‘Seventh son, confess!’ the emperor said.
‘Imperial father, I don’t know what’s happening either,’ Pei Zhang said.
‘Seventh brother, your chess manoeuvre is too deadly!’ Pei Jin said.
‘Ninth son, what are you implying?’ the emperor asked.
‘Imperial father, earlier I wondered why seventh brother would deceive you and request you to bring an army here,’ Pei Jin said. ‘Seventh brother wants to use the strategy of making a sound in the east and striking in the west.’
Pei Jin knew he didn’t need to say anymore. Pei Zhang’s request to bring their father’s army here was the best evidence to prove Pei Jin’s innocence.
The emperor grabbed an imperial guard’s sword and the sword tip pointed at Pei Zhang’s throat.
Pei Zhang knelt in front of his father. ‘Imperial father, I was framed!’ He glared at Pei Jin. ‘Ninth brother, you framed me!’
‘Who framed who?’ Pei Jin asked. ‘Seventh brother, I considered our brotherly bond and endured your vicious slander against me and my family! On the day of imperial father’s birthday banquet, you accused my wife of killing your second wife’s son. But I didn’t begrudge you because I believed the heavens would reward me and my family justice. But I can’t let you continually frame me and my family anymore. Seventh brother, you accused me of treason. Look around you, it’s your people that are attacking! How can I control your people?’
Pei Jin acted like he was deeply hurt by Pei Zhang’s betrayal.
‘Seventh brother, imperial father hasn’t declared who he wants to give the throne to,’ Pei Jin said. ‘Are you scared in the future if you sit on throne, it won’t be stable? Is that why you planned this?’
‘Nonsense!’ Pei Zhang said. ‘You know imperial father wants to give the throne to me that’s why you framed me! Imperial father, don’t listen to his lies, he has ulterior motives-’
The emperor’s sword nipped Pei Zhang’s throat.
‘Seventh son, how do you know I want to give you the throne?’ the emperor asked suspiciously.
Pei Zhang’s whole body turned cold, he realised he recklessly said too much.
End of Chapter Seventy-Seven
Chapter Forty (Part 1)
Pei Lam looked coldly at Yan Shi Ting.
‘Yan Shi Ting, look at the evidence and see if you’re not the liar,’ Pei Lam said. He turned his head and looked at his father. ‘Imperial father, she has been sending me threatening letters. If imperial father doesn’t believe me, imperial father can summon the palace maids and eunuchs here. Imperial father, look at her, she’s a shameless woman and deserves to die.’
‘No!’ Yan Shi Ting said. ‘Don’t believe him. He’s lying! I’m not shameless! It was my mother who told me to do this, I didn’t know anything! Big brother crown prince, since you were a little boy you said you loved me! Why are you lying?’
The emperor heard Yan Shi Ting’s pitiful cries. He didn’t understand why an auspicious day turned into a nightmare. He was too angry, his blood flowed chaotically. He stood and spoke heartlessly. ‘Hurry and take her away!’
Yan Shi Ting’s loud cries slowly faded from the ceremonial hall.
The wedding guests were about the leave too but the crown prince suddenly broke the silence.
‘Imperial father, I’m unfilial,’ Pei Lam said. ‘I let imperial father be deceived and shamed the imperial family. Imperial father, I request you take away my crown prince position. I’m willing to be banished from the palace and do good deeds in remote places to ask the ancestors to forgive me.’
The wedding guests were stunned and the empress was scared to death. But Consort Mu lowered her head and hid her joy.
‘What did you say?’ the emperor asked.
‘Imperial father, I have shamed you,’ Pei Lam said. ‘Imperial father, take away my crown prince position.’
The emperor vomited blood.
‘Your majesty!’ the wedding guests cried out.
The crown prince and Yan Shi Ting’s wedding wasn’t an auspicious day, it was a tragedy and all the wedding guests quickly retreated from the ceremonial hall.
In the horse carriage Yan Shi Ning hugged Pei Jin. Her heart and hands were cold and trembling. She couldn’t stop thinking about the image of Yan Shi Ting being dragged outside the ceremonial hall and Yan Shi Ting’s pitiful cries. She was too scared to think about what was going to happen to Yan Shi Ting.
Pei Jin hugged Yan Shi Ning’s cold body tighter and held her hands.
‘Pei Jin, what do you think will happen to Yan Shi Ting?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘She would have been executed,’ Pei Jin said. ‘But now she’s trapped in an insane state for life.’
Yan Shi Ning’s heart felt remorse.
‘Pei Jin, was I too cruel?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘Shi Ning, if it’s done then you don’t need to think about if it’s right or wrong,’ Pei Jin said. ‘It’s not your fault alone that she’s insane.’
Yan Shi Ning felt colder after she remembered the empress and the crown prince’s heartlessness. ‘Pei Jin, the palace is a dangerous place.’
‘Shi Ning, the palace has always been a dangerous place,’ Pei Jin said.
Pei Jin hugged Yan Shi Ning and stared out the window. His heart was relieved his Shi Ning wasn’t heartless.
End of Chapter Forty (Part 1)