‘Wang Fu Mu, summon the crown prince,’ the emperor said.
‘Yes your majesty,’ Wang Fu Mu said.
Pei Lam who had not eaten for a few days, lost a lot of weight and walked weakly into the emperor’s chamber.
‘Other people dream of entering this chamber,’ the emperor said. ‘But you’re impressive, you need an invitation before you’re willing to enter this chamber.’
‘Imperial father, your health is important,’ Pei Lam said. ‘It’s not good for you to upset yourself out of bed.’
‘You’re the only one who understands this much,’ the emperor praised.
‘Imperial father, you taught me everything,’ Pei Lam said.
The emperor threw a report at Pei Lam. ‘Don’t learn to act like ninth prince in front of me!’
Pei Lam didn’t avoid the report and it hit his forehead. ‘I envy ninth brother.’
The emperor gritted his teeth.
‘If I was ninth brother,’ Pei Lam said. ‘Then imperial father wouldn’t be angry. Ninth brother didn’t visit your bedside but you didn’t fault him for not being filial. It doesn’t matter if ninth brother isn’t sincere or distant, imperial father wouldn’t care. That’s why I envy ninth brother.’
‘I don’t care because he is no one in my eyes,’ the emperor said.
‘Is that so?’ Pei Lam asked. ‘Then imperial father, you should see me as no one too.’
‘Bastard child!’ the emperor said.
Pei Lam kowtowed in front of his father. ‘Imperial father, please take away my crown prince position.’
Pei Lam hit his forehead on the floor.
The emperor felt his tenth son that he trained for many years had become a stranger.
‘Tenth son… this is the third time you have asked me this!’ the emperor said.
‘Imperial father, I hope there won’t be a fourth time,’ Pei Lam said.
The emperor knocked over the teapot and cup. ‘Tenth son! You’re the crown prince I put a lot of energy to train for more than eighteen years! Yet you’re asking me to take away your crown prince position. Are you willing to disappoint me?’
‘Imperial father, I’m sorry,’ Pei Lam said. ‘But I don’t want the throne and rule over the kingdom. Imperial father, seventh brother is the one who wants it. You should grant his wish. He’s devoted and decisive, it makes him more suitable to be emperor than me.’
‘Seventh prince?’ the emperor asked. ‘Devoted? He’s a fraud! Who’s seventh prince? I know him better than you. He’s someone who has the most ulterior motives.’
The emperor struggled to stand. Wang Fu Mu rushed to the emperor’s side but the emperor pushed him away.
‘Everyone leave!’ the emperor ordered.
‘Crown prince, take care of the emperor,’ Wang Fu Mu said to Pei Lam and left the chamber.
Pei Lam dismissed Wang Fu Mu’s advice.
‘Although seventh brother has ulterior motives,’ Pei Lam said. ‘But he hasn’t committed any serious offences. But I’ve shamed imperial father beyond acceptable.’
‘So you lied about Yan Shi Ting?’ the emperor asked.
Pei Lam didn’t deny his father’s accusation.
‘I didn’t think there would be a day tenth son knows how to calmly lie,’ the emperor said and laughed coldly. ‘It doesn’t matter, you shouldn’t even dare to think about me taking away your position! I raised you from a child to an adult. I know what you’re thinking like I know my own hand. I know your mother forced you to deceive me. Also, seventh prince isn’t innocent in this deception either. I know clearly who purposely wanted to expose Yan Shi Ting. Seventh prince and Consort Mu knew about Yan Shi Ting’s fake pregnancy long ago and they waited until the wedding to expose Yan Shi Ting. Their black hearts aren’t innocent.’
The emperor hit the table. He acted stern with Pei Lam and appeared to favor Pei Zhang. But it wasn’t his true heart.
The emperor hated situations out of his control. He knew Pei Lam was soft but Pei Lam was also capable, which was why he chose to train Pei Lam. He thought after he died, Pei Lam would have enough power to sit on the throne. But Pei Lam disappointed him before he died.
The emperor didn’t trust Pei Zhang. Pei Zhang was someone who thought too highly of their intelligence, always manipulating situations to benefit themselves and would do anything to gain favor like being stabbed unnecessarily to appear heroic in the eyes of the Dian Kingdom’s citizens.
Pei Lam knew Pei Zhang would never satisfy their father’s expectations. ‘Imperial father, if you’re not satisfied with seventh brother, there’s still ninth brother.’
The emperor’s deadly aura was emitted in all four directions.
‘I will never allow ninth prince sit on the throne!’ the emperor said.
‘Why?’ Pei Lam asked.
Pei Lam was curious why his father treated Pei Jin coldly for more than twenty years. He knew Pei Jin was intelligent and treated others fairly. If he could see Pei Jin’s strengths then their father could also see Pei Jin’s strengths.
‘Tenth son, you only need to worry about being a good crown prince!’ the emperor said. ‘You’re my heir, the kingdom will become yours.’
Pei Lam felt helpless to escape his cage. Would he ever even take one step out of his cage? He remembered the dead palace maid and a familiar suffocating sensation wrapped around his body.
Pei Lam stood. ‘I don’t want it!’
‘Pei Lam!’ the emperor said.
‘Imperial father!’ Pei Lam said.
‘Do you want me to be angry to death?’ the emperor asked.
Pei Lam cried, pulled out a dagger and stabbed his chest. ‘Imperial father, don’t force me!’
The emperor grabbed Pei Lam’s hand. ‘Pei Lam, what do you want to do?’
Pei Lam used his strength to stab the dagger deeper. ‘Imperial father, I want you to grant my request.’
‘Summon an imperial physician!’ the emperor cried out.
Wang Fu Mu rushed into the emperor’s chamber and realised that day was beautiful. Then he wondered if flowers were blooming in Pei Jin’s manor.
Wang Fu Mu hid his thoughts and he acted concern in front of the emperor.
‘Your majesty what happened?’ Wang Fu Mu asked. ‘Ah! Crown prince are you alright?’
That day news about the emperor taking away tenth prince’s crown prince position faster than punishing the Yan Manor surprised many people.
The empress almost died to see her son return with blood on his chest. She collapsed on a chair after she read the emperor’s edict in her son’s hand, her son was no longer the crown prince.
The empress thought her eyes misread the emperor’s edict. She had warned her son not to say any nonsense in front of the emperor. Why would the emperor grant their son’s insane request?
‘Bastard child!’ the empress said. ‘How many people do you want to kill?’
Pei Lam found peace amongst the chaos around him. After more than eighteen years in a cage, the door was opened. He could see sunlight, hear the sounds of birds chirping, smell the scent of blossoms and feel warmth enter his cold body. He had never felt as relaxed and happy as he did that day. He smiled like a fool because finally he escaped the cage.
At Pei Jin’s manor, Yan Shi Ning couldn’t believe the news about the crown prince.
‘He’s no longer the crown prince?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
Pei Jin nodded his head.
‘Then who will be the new crown prince?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘The emperor is keeping the crown prince position vacant,’ Pei Jin said.
‘Do you think it could be you?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
Pei Jin shook his head. ‘It’s alright, everything happened according to the plan. But there’s something else…’
‘What?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘Shi Ning, imperial father asked Yan Jing to kill Princess Kang Hua,’ Pei Jin said.
‘Why would the emperor do that?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘It’s hard to see imperial father’s true motives,’ Pei Jin said. ‘Shi Ning, do you want to go to the Yan Manor and give Princess Kang Hua a memorable parting gift? We can let her see clearly whose hands she died under.’
‘Yes,’ Yan Shi Ning said. ‘Of course we need to go. I want to see her die suffering.’
End of Chapter Forty-Two