Chapter Nine (Part 1)
The horse carriage travelled from the palace to Pei Jin’s manor.
Inside the horse carriage Yan Shi Ning poked Pei Jin’s arm. ‘Big brother, why didn’t you let me visit Consort Mu’s chamber?’
‘Why do you want to go there?’ Pei Jin asked. ‘Aren’t you scared of her dull company?’
Of course Yan Shi Ning didn’t believe Pei Jin’s excuse.
Pei Jin hugged Yan Shi Ning. ‘Little lion, in the future when we’re summoned to the palace stay away from Consort Mu unless it’s necessary to talk her.’
‘Why?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
‘I’m scared you’ll be fooled by her,’ Pei Jin said.
Yan Shi Ning supressed her temper. ‘Ninth prince, is there anything else?’
‘Of course,’ Pei Jin said. ‘You can’t impulsively eat, bully and believe other people. Mainly eat more rice and speak less. You only need to laugh and act foolish… wait, you don’t need to act foolish, being yourself is enough.’
Pei Jin gently knocked Yan Shi Ning’s head. She caught his hand and bit him. Her heart remembered his advice clearly, it knew behind the teasing tone was a deeper meaning.
After they returned to Pei Jin’s manor, Yan Shi Ning wanted to rest in their chamber but he stopped her.
‘Wait, I want you to meet someone in the manor,’ Pei Jin said.
Yan Shi Ning was suspicious who Pei Jin wanted her to meet. But she kept quiet because he looked serious.
Pei Jin’s manor was located north of the palace. There was an artificial lake, beautiful gardens and elegant chambers.
Pei Jin led Yan Shi Ning through the gardens. They stopped in front of a secluded chamber at the back of the manor. She could smell many herbal scents even before the door was opened.
Pei Jin looked at a young man dressed in black clothes and who carried bottles of remedies.
‘This is Gentleman Bei Dou, the manor’s physician,’ Pei Jin said.
‘Big brother, why do you want me to meet the physician?’ Yan Shi Ning asked.
Pei Jin laughed. ‘He’s a physician and also my friend.’
Yan Shi Ning understood Pei Jin wouldn’t call someone a friend lightly. She didn’t know why Pei Jin wanted her to meet Bei Dou but she silently assessed Bei Dou.
Bei Dou looked about twenty years old, tall, wore black clothes, quiet, cold and distant. Yan Shi Ning felt like Bei Dou wasn’t someone easy to be close to. She was surprised Pei Jin was able to befriend someone like Bei Dou.
‘Do you wear perfume?’ Bei Dou asked coldly.
‘No,’ Yan Shi Ning said.
‘Then what’s the perfume scent on your body?’ Bei Dou asked.
Yan Shi Ning shook her head, she honestly didn’t wear perfume.
‘Recently have you been burning incense sticks?’ Bei Dou asked.
‘Yes, at the Yan Manor,’ Yan Shi Ning said.
‘For how long?’ Bei Dou asked.
‘Almost one month,’ Yan Shi Ning said.
‘Where did you get the incense sticks?’ Bei Dou asked.
‘My little sister gave them to me,’ Yan Shi Ning said. ‘She said it was a gift from the palace. She showed me two kinds of incense sticks. One had a strong scent and the other had a faint scent. I chose the faint scene. Is there something wrong with them?’
‘Nothing,’ Bei Dou said. ‘You don’t suit the scent.’
Bei Dou tossed Yan Shi Ning one of the bottles he was carrying and he walked calmly into the chamber.
Yan Shi Ning felt Bei Dou was a strange young man who asked strange questions then abruptly became silent again. She looked at Pei Jin and her confused eyes asked him what had happened.
Pei Jin was upset with Bei Dou. He asked Bei Dou to subtly ask Yan Shi Ning about the incense sticks, he didn’t expect Bei Dou would ask directly.
Pei Jin escorted a confused Yan Shi Ning to their chamber and quickly returned to Bei Dou’s chamber.
‘I asked you to be subtle but you asked my wife directly,’ Pei Jin said. ‘What if my wife suspects something?’
‘I don’t have a habit of being subtle,’ Bei Dou said.
Pei Jin rubbed his temples. ‘When I gave you the incense sticks you told me I couldn’t sleep with my wife on our wedding night. Why?’
On the morning of Pei Jin and Yan Shi Ning’s wedding day, he woke a sleeping Bei Dou up and gave him the incense sticks to examine. In the past he had confided in Bei Dou about the missing incense sticks, but Bei Dou couldn’t identify the poison without examining the incense sticks. So when the incense sticks reappeared in Yan Shi Ning’s chamber the first person he wanted to show was Bei Dou.
Bei Dou only sniffed the incense sticks and gave Pei Jin a vague advice, ‘these incense sticks are poison. You can’t sleep with your wife on your wedding night.’
Pei Jin continued to rub his temples while Bei Dou explained about the poison.
‘Seven poisons were used to make these incense sticks,’ Bei Dou said. ‘One of the seven poisons is called Fu Gui. Fu Gui is naturally found in Western Ning. Fu Gui fruits are rare and not easy to pluck. After it’s grown for ten years its flowers will bloom. Then ten years later it’ll bear fruit. Fu Gui fruits smell similar to jasmine. It’s hard for those who aren’t physicians to distinguish between Fu Gui fruits and jasmine. If a person sniffs the scent of Fu Gui fruits then they’ll feel relaxed. But if they sniff it continuously for months and years then their body will be poisoned. The poison will linger in their blood and they won’t escape death. But the poison only affects women, especially pregnant women. Women who are affected die within a year, pregnant women will die within three months.’
Pei Jin’s whole body turned cold. The symptoms Bei Dou explained to him was exactly what had happened to his adoptive mother, Consort Chen. Before she was pregnant she was healthy but three months after she was pregnant she was weak and lost weight. What Jin curse? Someone killed Consort Chen.
Bei Dou noticed Pei Jin’s clenched hands, but he didn’t offer any comforting words and continued to explain the other symptoms. ‘A woman who is poisoned by Fu Gui can’t sleep with a man. The effect of the poison will double each time she sleeps with a man. If she becomes pregnant then both she and the unborn child can’t escape death.’
‘Then what should I do?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘Lucky she didn’t sniff the poison for a long period,’ Bei Dou said. ‘Her body will slowly release the poison. Combined with the cure, she’ll recover faster, less than half a month.’
‘Where is the cure?’ Pei Jin asked.
‘I gave it to your wife,’ Bei Dou said.
‘Why didn’t you tell me earlier?’ Pei Jin asked. ‘When I brought my wife back to our chamber, she didn’t like the stench of the herbs in the bottle you gave her. Luckily I explained to her that you wouldn’t give someone something for no reason otherwise she would have thrown it away.’
‘It’s not a problem even if she throws it away,’ Bei Dou said. ‘The cure is easy to make.’
‘Then must I endure not sleeping with my wife for half a month?’ Pei Jin asked. ‘Do you have a solution?’
Pei Jin felt tormented to death sleeping in the same bed as his wife without eating her.
‘Yes,’ Bei Dou said.
‘What’s the solution?’ Pei Jin asked
‘Castration,’ Bei Dou said.
End of Chapter Nine (Part 1)