Pei Zhang entered the palace in the middle of the night.
The emperor waited many days for his sons to make a move. Finally one of his sons dared to unlock palace gates after curfew. He got out of bed and wore his outer robe.
‘Your majesty, seventh prince asked to see your majesty,’ an imperial guard said. ‘Seventh prince said it was important.’
‘I understand,’ the emperor said.
The emperor was disappointed it was only one of his sons.
Pei Zhang entered his father’s chamber and bowed. ‘Imperial father, have you recovered?’
The emperor feigned a cough. He didn’t believe Pei Zhang’s filial son act. ‘Seventh son, what is so important that you needed to see me in the middle of the night?’
‘Imperial father, I found out ninth brother is prepared for a rebellion!’ Pei Zhang said.
The emperor assessed Pei Zhang. He needed to see for himself if Pei Jin truly intended to rebel as Pei Zhang reported.
‘Imperial father, my guards have followed ninth brother’s suspicious activities for many days,’ Pei Zhang said. ‘Ninth brother is hiding Huang Guo’s men in his manor. Imperial father, what are you going to do?’
‘Do what?’ the emperor asked.
Pei Zhang shivered to see his father’s intimidating aura.
‘Imperial father, I have a request,’ Pei Zhang said.
‘Say it,’ the emperor said.
‘Imperial father, if ninth brother truly wants to rebel… imperial father please forgive ninth brother for his ignorant offence,’ Pei Zhang said.
The emperor narrowed his eyes.
‘Imperial father, I believe others are forcing ninth brother to rebel,’ Pei Zhang said. ‘This is why I wanted to report to imperial father so imperial father can persuade ninth brother not to commit treason. Imperial father… I don’t want to lose another brother.’
Pei Zhang was satisfied he looked like a loving and forgiving older brother.
‘Come with me to your ninth brother’s manor!’ the emperor ordered coldly.
Pei Zhang anticipated Pei Jin’s fall and death.
The emperor didn’t care about Pei Zhang’s ulterior motives. He knew he wasn’t young anymore and if one of his sons wanted to rebel then he needed to uproot their resources before a rebellion.
The emperor commanded an army of soldiers he hid nearby the palace to follow him to Pei Jin’s manor.
Pei Zhang finally understood why his father wasn’t scared of leaving the palace, his father was always secretly prepared for a rebellion.
‘Seventh son, sit in my horse carriage,’ the emperor said.
Pei Zhang shivered. Inside his father’s horse carriage he would be defenceless, his father didn’t trust him. His father was suspicious of him and wouldn’t hesitate to use him as a hostage if he was part of Pei Jin’s rebellion.
Pei Zhang obediently sat inside his father’s horse carriage. His back stiffened, his father and his father’s imperial guards sharp eyes were focused on him. The thought of Pei Jin being on the receiving end of his father’s sword comforted him.
The moment Pei Zhang stepped out the horse carriage, his father’s army surrounded Pei Jin’s manor.
Moonlight shone on the soldiers armed with swords, bows and arrows. They stood in stances ready to attack at the emperor’s command.
‘Imperial father, do you want to go inside?’ Pei Zhang asked.
The emperor was suspicious why Pei Jin’s manor was too quiet.
‘Um,’ the emperor said.
After the soldier knocked thrice on the door, a young handsome servant opened the door.
The servant rubbed his eyes. ‘What is it… why are you knocking on the door in the middle of the night… ah! Heavens! Why are there so many armed people?’
Afterward the lanterns in Pei Jin’s manor were lit and everyone rushed outside to see what was causing the commotion.
Pei Xiao Niao’s sleep was disturbed and he cried loudly.
Pei Zhang was confused why everyone at Pei Jin’s manor were in their night clothes and unarmed.
Pei Jin saw his father and bowed. ‘Imperial father? Imperial father, why are you here?’
The emperor wasn’t pleased his careful plan was wasted by waking up unarmed people in the middle of the night. What rebellion? He was suspicious why Pei Zhang dared to deceive him!
‘Imperial father, he’s hiding people inside!’ Pei Zhang said in a panicked tone.
Pei Zhang was determined to ensure Pei Jin wouldn’t escape death that night.
The emperor’s soldiers searched everywhere inside Pei Jin’s manor. There were no hidden people inside Pei Jin’s manor.
Pei Zhang didn’t know why his father’s soldiers didn’t find Huang Guo’s hidden men or the concealed weapons. It was impossible for Pei Jin to send the hidden men and weapons outside the manor undetected.
Pei Jin was kneeling but it was Pei Zhang who shivered fearfully.
Yan Shi Ning was kneeling next to Pei Jin and coaxing Pei Xiao Niao to sleep.
‘Imperial father, what is happening?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
End of Seventy-Six