‘Why does the emperor want to mislead outsiders to believe he’s indecisive between you and seventh prince?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘Imperial father isn’t immortal,’ Pei Jin said.
‘What?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘Imperial father loves to have everything within his control,’ Pei Jin said. ‘He was disappointed tenth brother didn’t want the throne and he’s still grieving for tenth brother. He hasn’t found tenth brother’s killer so he must be angry to death. He hates being forced to do something he doesn’t want to so he hasn’t declared who his heir is. Also, he wants to vent his anger on seventh brother by not feeding seventh brother’s arrogance. Now the two of them can be angry to death together.’
After a day of travelling the horse carriage finally stopped. Pei Jin helped Yan Shi Ning out of the horse carriage and they looked at the beautiful mountain landscape together.
Pei Jin leaned closer to Yan Shi Ning and whispered in her ear. ‘Inside is more enchanting.’
Yan Shi Ning thought Pei Jin was a greedy scoundrel.
Pei Jin led Yan Shi Ning and everyone else into the Feng Zhao villa and they ate a meal together.
‘Bei Dou, am I the most handsome and kindest man in the world?’ Pei Jin asked.
Bei Dou spat out tea and Xiao Tu passed him a handkerchief.
Bei Dou didn’t understand why Pei Jin suddenly asked a strange question.
‘Bathing together is good,’ Pei Jin said softly.
Bei Dou finally understood Pei Jin’s question.
‘Imperial father’s guards are guarding outside,’ Pei Jin said. ‘They’re not allowed to come inside. I dismissed all the villa’s maids and servants. There’s only our people left.’
Bei Dou looked in four directions and nodded his head.
‘Bei Dou, under the sky am I the most handsome and kindest man?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘Um,’ Bei Dou said reluctantly.
Bei Dou hated the cold winter. Xiao Tu didn’t want to do it with him on cold nights… she wouldn’t complain about the cold inside the hot springs.
After Pei Jin secretly bribed Bei Dou, Pei Jin held Yan Shi Ning’s hand toward the hot spings but they were stopped by Xiao Zai.
‘Ninth prince, under the sky you’re the most handsome and kindest man!’ Xiao Zai praised and tugged Xiao Hui’s hand.
Earlier Xiao Zai was hunting wild rabbits with Xiao Hui in the mountains so Xiao Zai only heard part of Pei Jin and Bei Dou’s conversation. But Xiao Zai judged by Bei Dou’s red ears that he would be rewarded if he praised Pei Jin too.
Pei Jin saw Xiao Zai’s bright smile and Xiao Hui’s frown.
‘Xiao Zai, do you want to bathe together too?’ Pei Jin teased.
‘Ninth prince even if it’s too troublesome, you’re still the most handsome and kindest man!’ Xiao Zai said.
Pei Jin realised Xiao Zai thought he was speaking in codes.
‘The two of you… want to do it together?’ Pei Jin asked.
Xiao Zai thought Pei Jin agreed to award him. ‘Yes, together!’
‘Who wants to do it with you?’ Xiao Hui asked. ‘Do you want to die? Ninth prince, is asking if I’ll be scrubbing your back!’
‘Your grandfather!’ Xiao Zai cursed. ‘Fat meat! If I was the one scrubbing your back then my two hands would be tired to death… don’t eat all my chicken feet, you wild chicken! How can you eat your brothers?’
Pei Jin dragged Yan Shi Ning to the springs while Xiao Zai and Xiao Hui were distracted.
The moment Pei Jin and Yan Shi Ning entered the cave, he decided he was going to eat her three hundred times. The cold winter starved him for too many nights.
Unfortunately Bei Dou interrupted Pei Jin and Yan Shi Ning before Pei Jin could undress Yan Shi Ning.
‘I forgot to tell you something,’ Bei Dou said.
Pei Jin didn’t like the bad news look in Bei Dou’s eyes.
‘It’s not safe for pregnant women to bathe in hot springs,’ Bei Dou said. ‘I’ll take Xiao Tu to the hot springs first.’
‘Bei Dou!’ Pei Jin cried out. ‘Come outside! I remember I need your help to do something important!’
Pei Jin believed sworn brothers should share blessings and sufferings together.
That winter was the coldest winter in the imperial city. Pei Zhang endured the cold and worked the whole winter while Pei Jin relaxed in the warm Feng Zhao villa with Yan Shi Ning. Pei Jin couldn’t bathe together with Yan Shi Ning but they listened to singers and musicians perform. When Yan Shi Ning was napping, Pei Jin went hunting for wild birds and rabbits. If he found anything rare, he would ask a messenger deliver it to his father… the messenger would return with news about what happened in the imperial city.
Huang Guo as Pei Jin expected had exploited the weakness of Pei Zhang’s manor. Huang Guo sent his daughter-in-laws to visit Pei Zhang’s official and second wife and ‘accidently’ found out about their internal fights which was spread to the emperor’s ears. Pei Zhang was busy assuring the emperor that Pei Zhang’s manor was a harmonious place. Consort Mu summoned Pei Zhang’s official wife and second wife to the palace to berate them.
Pei Jin was angry after he found out Pei Khan was hit. Apart from the spoiled Pei Wen Cai, no one would dare to hit Pei Khan. Pei Khan couldn’t endure Pei Wen Cai anymore and pushed her to the ground. The emperor wasn’t angry at Consort La but angry at Pei Zhang for not knowing how to discipline Pei Wen Cai.
The news that saddened Pei Jin the most was that the imperial physicians didn’t expect Consort La to live past spring.
End of Chapter Sixty-Four