The heavens didn’t grant Pei Jin’s wish.
That day Pei Jin and Bei Dou were out buying medicine while Yan Shi Ning stayed at the manor watching young maids play in the gardens. She wanted to join them, but gentle ninth prince’s wife needed to be dignified. Also, her dresses felt a little tighter than usual. She remembered last night when she was bathing, her breasts looked a little bigger too.
‘Mistress, thirteenth prince is here,’ a servant announced.
Yan Shi Ning wondered if Pei Khan came to visit because a while ago she pinched his cheeks in the palace and said that when he was free, he could visit her and Pei Jin.
Pei Khan never left the palace since he was born. After he heard ninth sister said he could visit her and ninth brother, he was deeply moved.
Consort La thought Pei Khan’s request to visit Yan Shi Ning and Pei Jin was a good opportunity for Pei Khan to bond with Yan Shi Ning. She waited for ninth prince to recover then she asked the emperor’s permission to let Pei Khan visit Pei Jin’s manor.
The emperor consented and sent imperial guards with Pei Khan to Pei Jin’s manor.
The moment Pei Khan saw Yan Shi Ning, he jumped into her arms and looked around for Pei Jin.
‘Nin, Nin?’ Pei Khan asked.
Yan Shi Ning carried Pei Khan to the gardens closer to her chamber.
‘Your ninth brother is out,’ Yan Shi Ning said. She signalled a maid. ‘Bring buns and sweets for thirteenth prince.’
Pei Khan was a little disappointed Pei Jin was out, but he was happy he could to play with Yan Shi Ning.
Yan Shi Ning thought about what she could play with Pei Khan and remembered the cuju ball Pei Jin brought home a while ago. ‘Thirteenth brother, let’s play cuju.’
In the past Yan Shi Ning loved to play cuju in Xuan Qing. She put Pei Khan on the ground and ran to get the cuju ball from the chamber.
Pei Khan happily played with the cuju ball. If he kicked too far, his short legs would run little steps after the cuju ball.
Yan Shi Ning, the maids, the servants and the imperial guards smiled and watched Pei Khan chased the ball. Pei Khan’s expression was serious and he didn’t allow anyone to retrieve the cuju ball for him.
Pei Khan kicked the cuju further after each kick. But after his strongest kick the cuju ball flew and landed in the well.
Yan Shi Ning saw Pei Khan’s sad round eyes and consoled him. ‘Thirteenth brother, I’ll make you a new cuju ball to play with.’
Pei Khan nodded his head. Yan Shi Ning knew it would take too long to make a cuju ball from fabrics and decided it was quicker to use paper. She picked up Pei Khan and carried him to Pei Jin’s calligraphy room.
Inside Pei Jin’s calligraphy room, Yan Shi Ning and Pei Khan collected torn paper on the floor and on the table. Then she showed Pei Khan how to flatten the torn paper and scrunched it into small paper balls.
Pei Khan thought it was too easy and quickly made a pile of small paper balls.
Suddenly Yan Shi Ning glanced at one of the torn paper she picked up… Yan Jing. She read it carefully and the torn paper slipped out of her hands in her shocked state.
Pei Jin returned to the manor and heard Pei Khan came to visit and was inside the calligraphy room with Yan Shi Ning.
Pei Jin entered the calligraphy room and saw Pei Khan was sitting on the floor happily making small paper balls. But Yan Shi Ning sat on a chair in front of the table and she had the look of despair on her face. He glanced at the torn paper on the table and realised he forgot to burn the last copy of the letters.
Pei Jin carried Pei Khan to Bei Dou’s chamber and asked Bei Dou to play with Pei Khan for a while. Then he rushed back to the calligraphy room and sat next to Yan Shi Ning.
‘Pei Jin…’ Yan Shi Ning said.
Pei Jin hugged Yan Shi Ning. ‘Shi Ning, let me explain.’
Yan Shi Ning pushed Pei Jin away. ‘Why do you need to copy my father and Princess Kang Hua’s calligraphy? Why?’
Pei Jin didn’t know what to say.
‘What did she put in my mother’s bowl of soup?’ Yan Shi Ning asked. She looked down at the torn paper on the table that was wet from her tears. ‘Pei Jin, why didn’t you tell me?’
Yan Shi Ning avoided Pei Jin’s touch. ‘Pei Jin, you knew everything that happened but you didn’t tell me anything! Why? Tell me, what did she put in my mother’s bowl of soup?’
Pei Jin’s heart ached to see Yan Shi Ning cry. ‘Poison herbs.’
Yan Shi Ning remembered that year her mother’s health slowly declined… until her mother died. ‘Mother…’
Pei Jin hugged Yan Shi Ning, her body was shaking and she sobbed loudly. ‘Shi Ning, calm down.’
Yan Shi Ning wrapped her arms around Pei Jin’s shoulders and sobbed on his neck. ‘Why did she need to kill my mother? Why? My mother didn’t do anything to her. My mother never fought with her. Why did she still want to kill my mother? Pei Jin, I want to kill her!’
Pei Jin heard Yan Shi Ning sob until her voice became hoarse. He didn’t want her to lose her voice and reluctantly struck her unconscious.
Yan Shi Ning dreamt her father and Princess Kang Hua killed her mother. She was tied to a chair and couldn’t save her mother. ‘Mother… mother…’
Yan Shi Ning was startled awake. She opened her eyes and saw Pei Jin was lying next to her in bed but she didn’t know what time it was.
‘Shi Ning, what’s wrong?’
‘Pei Jin, I want to kill her!’ Yan Shi Ning said. ‘I want them to die suffering!’
‘I’ll help you avenge your mother’s death,’ Pei Jin promised.
Yan Shi Ning knew Pei Jin would keep his promise and she sobbed loudly for her lost mother.
After Yan Shi Ning tired herself to sleep from sobbing, Pei Jin returned to Bei Dou’s chamber. Pei Jin hugged Pei Khan then the imperial guards escorted Pei Khan back to the palace.
‘What happened?’ Bei Dou asked.
‘My wife knows,’ Pei Jin said.
‘That’s good,’ Bei Dou said.
Pei Jin frowned. ‘Why do I feel you’re too happy about it?’
‘If your wife becomes stronger, it’s good for you,’ Bei Dou said.
Pei Jin felt he failed to protect her.
‘Your wife is naturally a strong person,’ Bei Dou said. ‘But you’re too protective of her.’
Pei Jin sighed. ‘You’re right, my wife is a strong person. She’s stronger and is more vengeful than I thought.’
‘Of course a little lion has different blood to an ordinary person,’ Bei Dou said.
Pei Jin turned the jade ring around his finger for a while.
Pei Jin remembered a lost memory. He remembered a drunkard was about to assault Yan Shi Ning’s mother but Yan Shi Ning pulled out a knife and scared the drunkard away.
‘Your wife knows everything?’ Bei Dou asked.
‘Not yet,’ Pei Jin said. ‘She’s in a turmoil state and can’t process too many thoughts. But I think she’ll recover too quickly and force me to tell her everything.’
Pei Jin didn’t want to tell Yan Shi Ning that Princess Kang Hua not only killed her mother, but Princess Kang Hua wanted to kill her too.
‘I don’t know how my wife wants to avenge her mother’s death,’ Pei Jin said. ‘But I know anyone who dares harm her or someone she loves, she would make that person suffer a hundred times more than she suffered.’
‘You and your wife are even more compatible than I thought,’ Bei Dou said.
The following day, Yan Shi Ning quietly sat on a chair and thought for the whole day.
Pei Jin’s biggest fear was hatred consuming Yan Shi Ning’s head.
Pei Jin wasn’t going to let his biggest fear become real. He knelt in front of Yan Shi Ning, propped his chin between her closed knees and looked up pitifully at her. ‘Wife, I’m lonely because you neglected me for the whole day.’
Yan Shi Ning looked at Pei Jin’s pitiful face and her pursed lips relaxed. She knew he was worried about her and wanted to make her laugh. It lessen the cold sensation in her heart.
‘Wife, your husband is a gentleman,’ Pei Jin said pitifully. ‘Why do you want to neglect me?’
Yan Shi Ning stroked Pei Jin’s ears, held his face and kissed his lips.
Pei Jin felt Yan Shi Ning’s kiss was filled with gratefulness and light after a dark night.
The maids and servants quickly left the chamber and closed the door.
‘Pei Jin,’ Yan Shi Ning said.
‘Um?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘Do you want me?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
Pei Jin understood and carried Yan Shi Ning to their bed.
End of Chapter Thirty-Five