The emperor’s army slaughtered their enemies.
The imperial guards secured Pei Jin’s manor while the emperor’s army fought Pei Zhang’s men outside.
‘Your majesty, assassins are found hidden inside seventh prince’s manor,’ the imperial guard reported.
The emperor slapped Pei Zhang’s cheek.
‘You dare to say you’re innocent?’ the emperor asked.
Pei Zhang didn’t expect ambushing Pei Jin would lead to him being framed. He lost a chess piece, the battle and everything. All his schemes failed. He couldn’t kill Pei Jin and Pei Jin’s family. His father didn’t trust him and he was at a disadvantage because he had no heir. Framing Pei Jin of treason was his last chess piece but it backfired and he lost pitifully.
Everyone believed Pei Zhang had planned to lure the emperor to Pei Jin’s manor. Afterward Pei Zhang’s men would kill the emperor, Pei Jin and Pei Jin’s family. Pei Zhang would have deceived the citizens of Dian Kingdom to believe Pei Jin committed treason and killed the emperor. So the citizens and court officials would have easily accepted Pei Zhang as their ruler.
The emperor didn’t want to believe Pei Zhang wanted to kill him and Pei Jin, Pei Zhang’s flesh and blood. But the battle outside was enough to prove Pei Zhang’s guilt.
Pei Jin appeared weak and saddened that Pei Zhang betrayed him and their father. But the truth was Pei Jin had planned to use a crucial chess piece that night long ago.
Pei Jin’s plan started after Consort La’s death. Consort La requested him and Yan Shi Ning to protect Pei Khan. If he wanted to protect his family and Pei Khan then he would need more guards at his manor. If he couldn’t hide how strong he was anymore then it was better for him to ‘accidently’ expose his real strength to Pei Zhang.
Pei Jin knew Pei Zhang’s guards spied on his manor in four directions. He asked one of his guards to strike one of Pei Zhang’s guards in the middle of the night so Pei Zhang’s injured guard could report to Pei Zhang what happened.
Pei Jin was amused at Pei Zhang’s smugness. It was amusing for a hunter to mislead a prey to think it outwitted the hunter.
Pei Jin’s next step was to let Pei Zhang’s guards see him sneak men and weapons into the manor so Pei Zhang would confidently report to their father in the palace. Their father had been suspicious of him long ago and he was certain their father would bring Pei Zhang to his manor to investigate. Of course he would let their father investigate and see Pei Zhang’s ‘treason’.
If Pei Zhang didn’t use Dian Thi’s son to try to kill Pei Jin’s wife and son then Pei Jin wouldn’t have accepted Elder Ma’s offer. Of course Pei Jin wouldn’t spare anyone who dared to harm his wife and son.
Elder Ma had sent Pei Jin a letter, ‘the salty fishes you raised have bred. They’re delicious, I’ll send you five hundred salty fishes first for you to savor.’
Salty fish was the Southern Jiang’s general’s code name. Elder Ma sent five hundred salty fishes to Pei Jin’s manor while five hundred of the Southern Jiang’s general’s men secretly sneaked into the imperial city. Elder Ma refused to stand idly after Elder Ma received news someone attempted to frame Pei Jin and kill Pei Jin’s family. The five hundred men were a precaution to protect Pei Jin and Pei Jin’s family.
Pei Jin hid Elder Ma’s letter and knew five hundred men were excessive to protect him and his family. Elder Ma had intended for the five hundred men to eliminate his enemy’s army.
Pei Jin’s plan was disrupted by his father’s plan to act like his father was dying and the edict to make him crown prince. If his son didn’t remind him what was important, he would have acted recklessly and used the five hundred men to seize the throne.
Luckily Pei Jin let go of his thought to seize the throne. So he waited for his father to die and if Pei Zhang sat on the throne then he would use the five hundred men to escort him and his family safely back to Southern Jiang.
After Wang Fu Mu sent news to Pei Jin about his father’s plan, Pei Jin realised he had evaded a deadly storm. His father’s plan also gave Pei Jin an opportunity to make Pei Zhang suffer for harming his wife and son.
Pei Jin and the five hundred men waited for Pei Zhang to take the bait.
Pei Jin understood Pei Zhang well. Pei Zhang would have died long ago if Pei Zhang wasn’t Consort Mu’s son. Pei Zhang would never be as intelligent as Pei Lam. Without Consort Mu’s guidance, Pei Zhang was useless. So Pei Jin wanted to lure Pei Zhang at night. Pei Zhang couldn’t seek Consort Mu’s guidance at night.
Pei Jin was amused how fast Pei Zhang ran to the palace to report to their father about men and weapons hidden in his manor.
While Pei Zhang’s guards were running to Pei Jin’s manor, the five hundred men were sent to hide in Pei Zhang’s vulnerable manor.
Xiao Zai was exceptional at mimicking other people’s voices. The general who ordered the emperor’s soldiers to protect the emperor and kill the traitors wasn’t the real general, it was Xiao Zai mimicking the general’s voice. The real general was killed by one of the five hundred men long ago.
Pei Zhang’s guards would want to protect their master. So it didn’t matter whether Pei Zhang’s army was approaching Pei Jin’s manor to attack the emperor or not, the guards would attack the emperor’s army to protect Pei Zhang.
Pei Jin expected the battle between Pei Zhang’s men and the emperor’s men. But he didn’t order the five hundred men to attack. So the loud battle cries Pei Jin heard meant news of the battle was spread to Huang Guo and Huang Guo’s army joined the chaos outside Pei Jin’s manor.
Everyone inside Pei Jin’s manor were focused on what was happening outside and lowered their guard against Pei Zhang.
Pei Zhang grabbed an imperial guard’s sword, killed the imperial guard and held his father hostage.
‘Seventh son, what do you want to do?’ the emperor asked coldly.
‘Imperial father, you forced me to do this,’ Pei Zhang said. He held the sword closer to his father’s throat. ‘Everyone stand back!’
Pei Jin signalled for everyone not to make any sudden moves.
‘Seventh brother, let go of imperial father,’ Pei Jin said.
‘Ninth brother, I underestimated you!’ Pei Zhang said resentfully. ‘You hid your real capabilities well for many years!’
‘Seventh brother, even now you’re still stubborn,’ Pei Jin said.
‘Imperial father, you betrayed me first so you can’t blame me for betraying you,’ Pei Zhang said. ‘Imperial father, you loved tenth brother. Tenth brother is dead but you still treat me unfairly. You forced me to do this.’
Pei Zhang in his state of fury and resentment didn’t notice how close the sword was to his father’s throat.
Pei Jin saw drops of blood dripped down his father’s throat. ‘Seventh brother, let go of imperial father!’
Pei Zhang looked down at his father’s throat, he was startled to see blood and loosened his hold on the sword.
The emperor elbowed Pei Zhang’s chest while Pei Zhang was distracted and freed himself. He stabbed a sword through Pei Zhang’s stomach.
Pei Zhang didn’t know what happened. He felt pain in his stomach, vomited blood and died with his eyes wide opened.
Everyone gasped except the emperor who held a blood stained sword in his right hand.
Pei Jin’s heart farewell Pei Zhang, ‘seventh brother you finally know what happens if you oppose father.’
Suddenly Pei Jin remembered his imperial uncle’s memories of his father, ‘Xiao Jin, your imperial father was a general when he was young too. When an enemy general held him hostage, he freed himself and killed the enemy general.’
Pei Jin didn’t know how he felt about Pei Zhang’s death. If Pei Zhang truly wanted to kill their father then Pei Zhang wouldn’t have been unguarded toward their father and given their father an opportunity to kill. But if Pei Zhang wanted to convince their father to believe in their innocence then Pei Zhang shouldn’t have threatened their father. Pei Jin looked curiously at Pei Zhang’s eyes, he wondered what the last thought of people who dared to threaten their father was.
End of Chapter Seventy-Eight
Chapter Forty (Part 2 of 2)
After escorting Yan Shi Ting to the palace, Princess Kang Hua returned to the Yan Manor.
Yan Jing drank with the guests at the Yan Manor. Neither he nor Princess Kang Hua knew why Yan Shi Ting returned to the Yan Manor, because she was supposed to be the bride at the wedding ceremony in the palace.
Yan Jing also didn’t know why Yan Shi Ting was dancing and singing like a fool.
‘What happened?’ Yan Jing asked.
‘Prime Minister Yan, wait at home for the news,’ the ceremonial minister said coldly and left.
Yan Jing and Princess Kang Hua sent servants to the palace to find out why Yan Shi Ting was behaving like a fool and the servants returned with bad news.
Princess Kang Hua’s life dream shattered, her daughter was insane and her older sister stabbed her heart.
Yan Jing slapped Princess Kang Hua. ‘Scum! Look at your good deeds! You dare to let your daughter fake a pregnancy. Do you know what happens if you deceive the emperor? Death!’
‘You dare hit me?’ Princess Kang Hua asked.
‘I want to kill you!’ Yan Jing said. ‘You’ve pulled me into your mess!’
Princess Kang Hua laughed coldly. ‘So what? You die and I die. We’ll die together!’
Yan Jing left Princess Kang Hua’s chamber and she fell into depression.
That evening an elderly lady secretly travelled by horse carriage to visit Princess Kang Hua at the Yan Manor.
Princess Kang Hua was coaxing the insane Yan Shi Ting to sleep when she heard a knock on the door. She opened the door and was scared to see who visited her in the middle of the night.
‘Kang Hua, no one wanted this outcome,’ the elderly lady said. ‘The emperor is ill so he’s not pursuing this matter now. But after he recovers, I fear it’ll be bad for everyone involved. I know you’re not the only one responsible but to protect your family, you need to take all the responsibility. My daughter, I’m sorry it’s been hard for you.’
The elderly lady stood, put a small bottle on a table and left the Yan Manor.
Princess Kang Hua picked up the bottle, sat on a chair and her usual cold arrogance died.
In the palace the emperor was recovering in his chamber. Two years ago the emperor was ill and ingested many medicine to regain his health. No one expected the emperor would fall ill again on his tenth son’s wedding day.
Consort Mu and seventh prince were anxious about the emperor’s health. They didn’t want the emperor to die before announcing the new crown prince.
There were also people in the shadows that didn’t care if the emperor died. If the emperor died then Pei Lam would sit on the throne and seventh prince’s supporters would clash swords with Pei Lam’s supporters. Even if seventh prince stole the throne, the citizens of Dian Kingdom would rebel because the seventh prince wasn’t the true heir. Then both Pei Lam and seventh prince would be eliminated.
While the emperor’s health was uncertain the Yan Manor’s doors were locked. Princess Kang Hua took care of the insane Yan Shi Ting who continuously laughed and cried. Yan Jing pretended to be ill and didn’t attend imperial court meetings at the palace. He knew he would lose his prime minister position but he needed time to think about how to save his life.
At Pei Jin’s manor, Yan Shi Ning and Pei Jin speculated about the emperor’s health in their courtyard.
‘Pei Jin, do you think the emperor will recover?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘Yes,’ Pei Jin said.
‘When?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
Yan Shi Ning was anxious what the emperor would do to the people who deceived the emperor.
Pei Jin fed Yan Shi Ning a mandarin segment.
‘Soon,’ Pei Jin said.
‘Isn’t the emperor seriously ill?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘Imperial father is someone who values image,’ Pei Jin said. ‘He’ll want to kill everyone involved. Even if the empress and tenth brother cut off relations with Princess Kang Hua, imperial father isn’t fooled by them. But imperial father can only pretend to cooperate with them because there were too many witnesses that day. He didn’t want others to see that an emperor of a kingdom was deceived by his wife and son. He can’t swallow his anger but he can feign an illness. It’ll give him time to calm down and for everyone’s attention to be diverted from the situation. Then he’ll punish everyone involved. Shi Ning, you should know imperial father loves to punish other people.’
‘What will the emperor do?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘Imperial father chose to believe the empress and tenth brother in front of everyone,’ Pei Jin said. ‘It means he’ll collect fake evidence to protect them and blame everything on Princess Kang Hua and Yan Shi Ting. So the Yan Manor will be in trouble and the empress is safe for now.’
‘A pity,’ Yan Shi Ning said.
‘There’s no hurry,’ Pei Jin said. ‘Didn’t I say imperial father loves to punish other people? He’ll wait for another opportunity to punish them for their deceit. Shi Ning, soon tenth brother won’t be the crown prince anymore. After that happens the empress will wither.’
‘Pei Jin, do you think the crown prince truly doesn’t want the throne?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
Pei Jin shook his head. ‘Honestly, in the palace tenth brother is someone I don’t understand the most.’
End of Chapter Forty (Part 2 of 2)