The emperor collapsed.
The palace was in chaos, the emperor was unconscious after someone saw the emperor spat out blood and the emperor’s consorts and princes were forbidden to enter the emperor’s chamber.
The court officials feared if the emperor didn’t wake up in a few days then there would be a bloody war in the palace since the crown prince position was vacant.
Luckily two days later the emperor woke up.
Inside Consort Mu’s chamber Pei Zhang interrogated a eunuch.
‘Did you say inside imperial father’s hidden edict, he wants ninth prince to be the crown prince?’ Pei Zhang asked the eunuch.
‘Seventh prince, I saw it while the emperor showed it to Gentleman Yang,’ the eunuch said on his knees. ‘Then I secretly came here to report to seventh prince.’
‘What did Gentleman Yang say?’ Pei Zhang asked.
‘Gentleman Yang said the emperor’s body is weak and he feared the emperor’s medicine couldn’t prolong the emperor’s life for much longer,’ the eunuch said. ‘Then the emperor said if in the future he becomes unconscious for more than a few days then Gentleman Yang should euthanized him.’
Consort Mu panicked. What would happen if Gentleman Yang granted the emperor’s request?
Pei Zhang dismissed the eunuch.
‘Mother, what should we do?’ Pei Zhang asked. ‘Mother, didn’t you say imperial father wouldn’t give the crown prince position to ninth brother?’
‘Your imperial father’s heart is hard to see,’ Consort Mu said. ‘Besides, I said that before Dian Thi’s incident! You don’t have an heir and your imperial father doesn’t love you. It’s reasonable your imperial father would choose your ninth brother.’
‘Are we going to wait to witness ninth brother sit on the throne?’ Pei Zhang asked.
‘Your imperial father hid the edict and hasn’t announced it because he’s still indecisive,’ Consort Mu said.
‘If imperial father wrote the edict it shows who he chose,’ Pei Zhang said. ‘He hasn’t announced it but it doesn’t mean it won’t be announced later. If that happens then ninth prince’s boat is built!’
‘What do you want to do?’ Consort Mu asked. ‘Go to your imperial father’s chamber and tear the edict? If you do that then prepare to give up everything.’
‘Mother!’ Pei Zhang said.
Consort Mu frowned.
‘Mother, you’re right,’ Pei Zhang said.
‘What are you planning to do?’ Consort Mu asked.
‘I should steal the edict before it’s announced,’ Pei Zhang said.
‘Reckless fool!’ Consort Mu said.
‘What reckless fool?’ Pei Zhang said. ‘We’ve built our power over many years and many court officials support us. It’s easy for us to sneak into imperial father’s chamber in the middle of the night. We can force imperial father to change the edict.’
‘If your imperial father refuses do you intend to kill your imperial father and steal the throne?’ Consort Mu asked.
‘If imperial father rather dies than change it then I’ll grant his request,’ Pei Zhang said.
Consort Mu’s whole body was cold like ice.
‘Mother, if ninth brother sits on the throne you know he won’t spare our lives,’ Pei Zhang said. ‘It’s better if I steal the throne before the edict is announced. Otherwise if I wait to steal the throne after ninth brother is the emperor, we’ll become traitors in the eyes of citizens and they’ll rebel.’
Consort Mu thought about Pei Zhang’s logic and she fisted her hands.
‘Mother…’ Pei Zhang said.
‘Wait,’ Consort Mu said. ‘Don’t do anything reckless. Let me confirm something and we can discuss what to do afterward.’
‘Confirm what?’ Pei Zhang asked.
‘I want to see Gentleman Tao,’ Consort Mu said.
That evening Consort Mu secretly met Gentleman Tao and they spoke through a door hole.
‘I want to ask you something,’ Consort Mu said.
‘Yes,’ Tao Ping said.
‘How is the emperor?’ Consort Mu asked.
‘His majesty has two years,’ Tao Ping said.
‘Truly?’ Consort Mu asked.
‘Before the crown prince and the empress died, his majesty had four to five years,’ Tao Ping said.
‘What about the rumor the emperor only has a few days to live?’ Consort Mu asked.
Consort Mu was anxious why Gentleman Tao didn’t answer her. She looked through the hole and only saw the night’s darkness.
‘Why aren’t you saying anything?’ Consort Mu asked.
‘His majesty is manoeuvring a chess piece,’ Tao Ping said. ‘The emperor ordered if anyone exposes his plan then they’ll be killed immediately.’
‘What is the emperor’s purpose?’ Consort Mu asked.
‘His majesty wants to see who’ll support seventh prince and who’ll support ninth prince,’ Tao Ping said. ‘Whoever acts recklessly first then the emperor won’t spare them. Consort Mu, I hope you’ll patiently wait to see what happens.’
‘Alright,’ Consort Mu said. ‘Why didn’t you find me earlier to report to me about something this important?’
‘Consort Mu, you were born intelligent,’ Tao Ping praised. ‘Of course you’ll see through his majesty’s plan.’
Consort Mu farewell Gentleman Tao and left.
In the emperor’s chamber Wang Fu Mu stayed by the emperor’s bedside, he didn’t dare leave the chamber to warn Pei Jin. He hoped Pei Jin would see through the emperor’s plan.
End of Chapter Seventy-Four