‘Yan Shi Ning, why did you kill my son?’ Pei Zhang asked.
Yan Shi Ning was prepared for Pei Zhang’s accusation. She cried and hit her forehead on the ground.
‘Imperial father, it’s true I asked Xiao Tu to pour the tea for big sister Dian Thi,’ Yan Shi Ning said. ‘But I didn’t know what was inside the tea. I also drank the tea and was harmed too… my son could have died…’
Yan Shi Ning sobbed pitifully.
‘Who can be certain you didn’t risk your son’s life to kill my son?’ Pei Zhang asked. ‘Even though you drank the tea, you and your son are safe. What about my son? Your venomous snake heart schemed this!’
Yan Shi Ning heard Pei Zhang spit blood lies and threw dirty water over her body.
‘Seventh brother, what are you saying?’ Yan Shi Ning asked. ‘Are you saying because I want to kill your second wife’s child that I would risk harming my own child?’
‘To succeed you would willingly do anything!’ Pei Zhang said.
‘If what seventh brother saying is true then wouldn’t it also be true seventh brother would be willing to kill your son to frame me?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
Pei Zhang was choked by Yan Shi Ning’s sharp words. ‘Why would I ask my second wife to kill our son to frame you?’
Yan Shi Ning laughed coldly. ‘Seventh brother can suspect that I have a venomous snake heart and willing to sacrifice my son to succeed. Then why can’t I suspect your second wife?’
‘Everyone talk less,’ Consort Mu said. ‘What scheme? What frame? Take back your words!’
‘Mother, you’re also a mother,’ Yan Shi Ning said. ‘You understand the importance of flesh and blood. As long as a conscience exists, a mother would never risk their own child’s life. I didn’t commit the crime and I believe big sister Dian Thi didn’t commit the crime either. Although we don’t know who the culprit is but I didn’t accuse big sister Dian Thi. So why is seventh brother certain that I’m the culprit?’
Yan Shi Ning could only deflect suspicion on Pei Zhang because Dian Thi swallowed the evidence.
‘I can also empathise with seventh brother’s state of mind,’ Yan Shi Ning said. ‘If I lost my son I believe I would act more irrational than seventh brother and his second wife. But I don’t want dirty water to be poured over my body.’
Yan Shi Ning’s breaths were shallow and her body swayed.
Pei Jin caught Yan Shi Ning before she fell on the ground.
‘Imperial father, you know clearly what kind of person I am,’ Yan Shi Ning said. ‘Imperial father, everything I said earlier was true-’
Yan Shi Ning fainted.
‘Shi Ning!’ Pei Jin cried out.
‘Imperial father, even if she isn’t the culprit,’ Pei Zhang said. ‘But they drank from the same cup. Why is it the person who drank the tea first is affected more than the second person who drank the tea?’
‘Your majesty, it’s because my mistress’ body is healthy but seventh prince’s second wife’s body is weak,’ Xiao Tu said.
The emperor’s imperial guards reported that Yan Shi Ning was healthy and active at the Feng Zhao villa while Dian Thi was mostly bedridden after being seven months pregnant. So the emperor didn’t believe Yan Shi Ning was the culprit. But… he looked at Pei Jin asking the imperial physicians to save Yan Shi Ting the he looked at Pei Zhang’s tears and heard Dian Thi’s sob… it conflicted his heart.
‘Ninth son, your wife is weak,’ the emperor said. ‘Your wife and son should stay in the palace until they recover.’
Pei Jin’s back stiffened. His father wanted to hold his wife and son captive in the palace. It meant his father suspected him.
The emperor sent Yan Shi Ning and his grandson to the chamber with a spacious nursery and a beautiful courtyard.
Pei Jin changed Yan Shi Ning’s clothes and laid her on the bed.
Yan Shi Ning secretly opened her eyes and saw Pei Jin guarding her. She smiled and her stomach hurt.
‘Shi Ning, are you in pain?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘It hurts,’ Yan Shi Ning said.
‘You know how to feel pain?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘What?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
Pei Jin wanted to hit Yan Shi Ning’s bottom. But he only gently bit her finger. ‘When you’re home I’ll punish you.’
Yan Shi Ning looked pitifully at Pei Jin.
‘Shi Ning, you and our son needs to stay in the palace,’ Pei Jin said.
Yan Shi Ning widened her eyes.
Pei Jin kissed Yan Shi Ning’s forehead. ‘Shi Ning, don’t worry. I’ll escort you and our son home soon.’
Yan Shi Ning understood the emperor was suspicious of her and Pei Jin.
‘Shi Ning, you made the right decision,’ Pei Jin praised.
‘I fear it’ll be hard for me to see you in the palace for several days.’
‘I’ll take good care of our son,’ Yan Shi Ning said.
‘I want you to take good care of yourself first,’ Pei Jin said.
‘What?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘I can’t lose you,’ Pei Jin said. ‘If we lose our child later we can have another child.’
‘I’ll take good care of myself,’ Yan Shi Ning said. ‘I want to tell you a secret.’
‘Um?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘Earlier I only pretended to faint,’ Yan Shi Ning said.
Pei Jin was speechless. He realised why a healthy Yan Shi Ning would suddenly turn weak.
‘I needed to faint to be more convincing,’ Yan Shi Ning said.
‘Shi Ning, then why didn’t you wake up until now?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘While you were holding me,’ Yan Shi Ning said. ‘I felt sleepy and slept.’
Pei Jin didn’t know what to say.
Later Pei Jin returned to the manor. After Pei Jin recounted what happened in the palace to everyone, everyone were both happy and sad.
They were happy Yan Shi Ning gave birth to their young master but they were sad Yan Shi Ning, Xiao Tu and their young master were held captive in the palace.
Bei Dou was the least happy. Pei Jin asked to borrow Xiao Tu for one day, but Xiao Tu ended up implicated in a calamity.
‘Pei Jin, you married a good woman,’ Bei Dou said. ‘If she didn’t react fast then we could have all died.’
Bei Dou thought Yan Shi Ning was suited to Pei Jin and his Xiao Tu was the best woman in his eyes. It was only recently he instructed Xiao Tu how to help a female cook give birth but Xiao Tu was a fast learner and was able to help Yan Shi Ning give birth on her own.
‘What’s your next step?’ Bei Dou asked.
‘First I need to find out why Pei Zhang needed to kill his own son,’ Pei Jin said.
Bei Dou nodded his head. ‘They wouldn’t gain anything to kill their own son.’
‘Luckily Shi Ning ruined their scheme otherwise none of us would be alive,’ Pei Jin said. ‘Imperial father is only holding Shi Ning and our son captive to warn me to behave. Although seventh brother won this battle even a vicious tiger wouldn’t eat its own child. Especially if the child is a boy and would earn imperial father’s favor. I don’t believe seventh brother would act this irrationally.’
‘Are you saying there’s something suspicious about the birth of Dian Thi’s son?’ Bei Dou asked.
Pei Jin nodded his head.
‘That’s possible,’ Bei Dou said. ‘I’ll send someone to seventh prince’s manor to investigate.’
‘I want my wife and your wife to come home soon,’ Pei Jin said. ‘Otherwise you’ll be suffering with me.’
‘Two people?’ Bei Dou asked. ‘It’s three people.’
‘Three… I forgot about my son,’ Pei Jin said.
End of Chapter Seventy