Consort La refrained from scolding Pei Wen Cai.
Yan Shi Ning saw Consort La’s sad eyes and she realised Consort La felt powerless to protect Pei Khan.
‘Xiao Khan, stop holding onto your ninth brother and come down,’ Consort La said.
Pei Khan hugged Pei Jin tighter.
‘Mother, it’s alright,’ Pei Jin said. ‘Thirteenth brother still can’t speak?’
Consort La nodded her head and her eyes saddened. Pei Khan was three years old but he couldn’t say more than two consecutive words. It was rumored Pei Khan was foolish thirteenth prince. The emperor favored Consort La after Pei Khan was born, but Consort La lost the emperor’s favor when Pei Khan was slow to speak.
Pei Jin stroked Pei Khan’s head affectionately. ‘Mother, you don’t need to worry. Thirteenth brother looks intelligent. He’ll be able to speak in the future.’
Consort La sighed helplessly.
Yan Shi Ning looked lovingly at Pei Khan while he sat on Pei Jin’s shoulders.
Pei Jin saw Yan Shi Ning smiling warmly at Pei Khan and he realised the little lion loved children.
Yan Shi Ning looked lovingly at Pei Khan because Pei Khan looked like a loveable fool and her heart encouraged her to tease Pei Khan.
The tree branches in the gardens were decorated with fabrics and lanterns and banquet tables were set in the gardens for guests to view the moon on the night of the harvest festival. Yan Shi Ning smelt delicious aromas of food and wine. She happily ate fruits, drank wine and listened to singers. She would have been happier if she wasn’t sitting near two people who were staring at her strangely.
Pei Jin sat on the left of Yan Shi Ning, he was talking to a diplomat visiting from another kingdom. On the right of her was Yan Shi Ting who sat between her and the crown prince.
According to palace protocols Yan Shi Ting wasn’t allowed to sit next to the crown prince if she wasn’t his wife. But the empress said to the emperor, ‘I haven’t seen Yan Shi Ting for a few days and I miss her. Let her sit here.’
Yan Shi Ting acted reluctant to sit next to the crown prince. Yan Shi Ting and the crown prince side by side looked like a stunning painting and everyone knew Yan Shi Ting would become the crown prince’s wife.
Unfortunately Yan Shi Ting’s usual haughtiness wavered a little after sitting next to Yan Shi Ning. She wore a dress that took days to make, but it wasn’t even expensive as half of the dress Yan Shi Ning wore.
In the past Yan Shi Ting looked more beautiful than Yan Shi Ning because Yan Shi Ting wore beautiful dresses and makeup. But after Yan Shi Ning married Pei Jin, Yan Shi Ning was no longer the poor daughter from Xuan Qing.
Yan Shi Ting was unhappy everyone were admiring Yan Shi Ning instead of her. She even caught the crown prince staring at Yan Shi Ning many times.
Yan Shi Ting was jealous and frustrated but she knew where she was sitting and controlled her tongue.
‘Big brother crown prince, eat this fruit,’ Yan Shi Ting said.
‘Thank you,’ Pei Lam said and looked at Yan Shi Ning. ‘Ninth sister, you should eat this fruit too.’
Afterward Pei Lam pretended to watch the dancers. But his heart lingered on the image of Yan Shi Ning adjusting her collar and showed a glimpse of the red kiss mark on her snow white neck. Then his little brother hardened.
Yan Shi Ning sighed happily after Yan Shi Ting and the crown prince stopped staring at her.
Yan Shi Ning saw a palace nurse maid was holding Pei Khan’s hand while walking around the gardens.
‘Nin, Nin,’ Pei Khan said after he saw Pei Jin.
Pei Khan let go of his nurse maid’s hand and he ran toward Pei Jin. But he accidently bumped into Yan Shi Ting and fell on the ground. He cried, pulled Yan Shi Ting’s dress to stand up and the dirt on his hands stained Yan Shi Ting’s dress.
Yan Shi Ting wanted to vent her jealousy and frustrations on the rumored foolish thirteenth prince who dared to stain her dress.
Yan Shi Ning picked up Pei Khan and consoled him. ‘Why is a little man like you crying like an old man, your face will come off.’
Pei Khan startled Yan Shi Ning, she had spoken softly but he heard her.
Pei Khan heard Yan Shi Ning’s soft voice. He looked at her, sniffed and stopped crying.
The palace nurse maid saw Pei Khan holding onto ninth prince’s wife. She quickly walked to them to carry Pei Khan away but Pei Khan hugged ninth prince’s wife’s neck tightly.
‘It’s alright, let thirteenth prince play here with me,’ Yan Shi Ning said.
Pei Khan wiped his nose on Yan Shi Ning’s dress while she was distracted. She gently pinched his bottom.
Pei Khan retaliated by patting Yan Shi Ning’s dress and spoke in a serious tone. ‘Small, small.’
Pei Jin laughed and nearly spat out the tea in his mouth. He leaned close to Yan Shi Ning and whispered in her ear. ‘Wife, your chest is truly small.’
Yan Shi Ning’s head spun insanely. Mouthy boy and little boy were truly brothers!
Yan Shi Ning was about to curse Pei Jin but suddenly a piercing shriek was heard.
‘Assassins!’ a guest cried out.
Yan Shi Ning was shocked to see the assassins and the palace guards’ swords clashing in front of her and chaos around her.
Pei Khan was scared to death and buried his head into Yan Shi Ning’s chest like a little scared turtle putting its head in its shell.
There were many assassins in all directions of the gardens. Some assassins were disguised as palace guards. Most of the assassins’ target was the emperor. But some of them were fighting their way toward Yan Shi Ning’s direction, where there were three princes near her.
Yan Shi Ting screamed loudly, hid behind Pei Lam and gripped his outer robe. His face darkened and he grabbed two wine jars. One to shield his chest from an assassin’s sword and he used the other to smash the assassin’s head. Then he kicked the assassin’s little brother.
While another assassin was attacking Pei Jin, Yan Shi Ning hugged Pei Khan tightly.
Pei Jin stood in front of Yan Shi Ning and Pei Khan. He picked up a cup and aimed it at the assassin’s face. The assassin’s sword struck the cup and aimed the sword at the unprotected Yan Shi Ting.
Yan Shi Ting screamed and used all her strength to pull Yan Shi Ning in front of her to shield her from the assassin’s sword.
‘Shi Ning!’ Pei Jin warned.
Pei Jin leapt and kicked the assassin’s chest. The assassin’s sword sliced the sleeve of Yan Shi Ning’s dress before the assassin fell on the ground.
In that moment Yan Shi Ning’s whole body stiffened from shock and she couldn’t stop tears falling down her face.
Pei Jin hugged Yan Shi Ning.
‘Don’t be scared, I’m here,’ Pei Jin said.
Pei Jin’s eyes stung, he was scared to death he almost lost Yan Shi Ning.
Pei Lam watched Pei Jin hug Yan Shi Ning for a while. Then he glanced at Yan Shi Ting, remembered Yan Shi Ting’s reaction and he smiled cryptically.
Pei Jin and Yan Shi Ning were hugging each other tightly after a life and death situation. After their hearts calmed a little they felt something move between them.
Pei Khan raised his head and he exhaled. ‘No air, no air.’
Pei Jin and Yan Shi Ning laughed. Afterward he hugged both Yan Shi Ning and Pei Khan tightly. But his eyes looked menacingly at Yan Shi Ting.
Yan Shi Ting was shocked by Pei Jin who was usually a gentle man, because there was deadly cold aura in his eyes and her body shook uncontrollably.
End of Chapter Nineteen