Oblivious to the internal battles between the court officials in the palace, the guards at Pei Jin’s manor were competing for grilled meat.
‘Why aren’t you pushing me higher in the air?’ Xiao Zai asked. ‘You need to use all your strength otherwise we won’t get to eat ninth prince’s grilled meat!’
Pei Jin wanted to motivate his lethargic guards during the colder days. He organised competitions like who could jump higher than the wall would be rewarded with grilled meat.
Everyone wanted to eat the delicious grilled meat from Southern Jiang, especially Xiao Zai.
Xiao Hui’s arms were tired from supporting Xiao Zai’s weight and he used his last strength to push Xiao Zai into the air… Xiao Zai flew over the wall… and landed in front of the emperor.
Xiao Zai thought if he died and Dizang asked him how he died, he would say he jumped too high and landed in the wrong spot.
After the commotion the emperor looked sternly at the people who knelt in front of him. Earlier he was scared to death, he thought an assassin flew over the wall.
‘What was everyone doing?’ the emperor asked.
‘Imperial father, forgive me,’ Pei Jin said. ‘Recently the days have been colder. I wanted everyone at the manor to be active. I didn’t expect to trouble imperial father. I deserve to die.’
The emperor glanced at the ropes and cuju balls on the ground and he knew Pei Jin wasn’t lying. But he couldn’t calm his anger until he glanced at Yan Shi Ning who was kneeling too.
‘Everyone stand,’ the emperor said. He turned around to look at his imperial physicians. ‘Hurry and examine ninth prince’s wife!’
Pei Jin and Yan Shi Ning were surprised to see the emperor but they were frightened after they heard the emperor’s order. They looked at each other and realised Huang Guo was the culprit.
The emperor brought six imperial physicians to Pei Jin’s manor. Outsiders would have thought Yan Shi Ning had a contagious illness if they didn’t suspect she was pregnant.
Pei Jin gave Yan Shi Ning a don’t-worry-I’m-here look and she gave him a your-father-is-troublesome look.
While the six imperial physicians examined Yan Shi Ning thoroughly, the emperor assessed everyone at Pei Jin’s manor. Afterward he smelt a delicious grilled meat scent and it made him hungry. He didn’t have an appetite for many days but the grilled meat also looked appealing.
Pei Jin noticed his father’s eyes focused on the grilled meat so he brought a bowl of grilled meat to his father. ‘Imperial father, this grilled meat is delicious.’
Wang Fu Mu inserted a silver needle into the grilled meat and assured the emperor they were safe to eat.
The emperor slowly ate the grilled meat.
The emperor chewed the grilled meat but he didn’t say if it tasted delicious or awful.
Pei Jin and Wang Fu Mu didn’t know what the emperor was thinking.
‘Congratulations your majesty,’ the head imperial physician said.
The emperor swallowed the grilled meat and didn’t look like he heard the good news.
‘Ninth son, follow me,’ the emperor said.
Pei Jin followed the emperor into the calligraphy room. The emperor looked at the three portraits on the wall, they were all portraits of Yan Shi Ning. Then the emperor looked at Pei Jin who looked shy to let the emperor find out how much Pei Jin loved Yan Shi Ning.
‘Why did you deceive me?’ the emperor asked.
Pei Jin knelt in front of his father. ‘Imperial father, I wouldn’t dare to deceive you.’
‘Don’t dare?’ the emperor asked. ‘You’ve already dared and you can still say you don’t dare! Can you say that you don’t know your wife is pregnant more than three months?’
Pei Jin silently lowered his head.
‘Why did you deceive me?’ the emperor asked.
‘Because I want to protect imperial father’s grandson,’ Pei Jin said.
‘What are you implying?’ the emperor asked.
‘Imperial father, I only want to live a peaceful life but while I’m alive I need to be cautious,’ Pei Jin said.
The emperor understood Pei Jin’s words. He didn’t know who saw Pei Jin as an eyesore until he remembered the commotion at the palace and suspected who those people were.
‘Who do you need to be cautious of?’ the emperor asked.
‘Imperial father, I don’t know who,’ Pei Jin said.
‘You dare say you don’t know!’ the emperor said.
‘Imperial father, don’t be angry,’ Pei Jin said. ‘Imperial father, I truly don’t know. I was scared since the harvest festival incident. The person behind it still hasn’t been caught.’
The emperor was still troubled about who dared to send assassins into the palace. If he was in Pei Jin’s position then he would be worried about others finding out Yan Shi Ning’s pregnancy too.
‘You can stand and talk,’ the emperor said.
‘Thank you imperial father,’ Pei Jin said.
‘Ninth son, what are you hiding from me?’ the emperor asked.
‘Imperial father, I wouldn’t dare,’ Pei Jin said.
The emperor didn’t believe Pei Jin. But he knew if he forced Pei Jin to tell him what Pei Jin was hiding, Pei Jin would give him a reasonable explanation. He wasn’t certain if Pei Jin was satisfied to be a carefree prince.
‘Ninth son, did you know earlier many court officials recommended you to be the crown prince?’ the emperor asked.
The emperor assessed the strange look in Pei Jin’s eyes. ‘Ninth son, tell me if you want to be the crown prince.’
Pei Jin knew his father’s smile meant if he gave the wrong answer then he would lose his life.
End of Chapter Sixty