Dou Xiyin saw Cheng Yujin as a thorn in her eyes. She hadn’t married her second biao brother, yet a Crown Princess suddenly emerged out of thin air. Not only did this ‘Crown Princess’ block her way, even her second biao brother’s1 position was also reduced by the Crown Prince’s return. How could Dou Xiyin bear this anger? She originally planned to let her Grandaunt vent the anger for her second biao brother, but after staring for a long time, she didn’t find anything inappropriate on Cheng Yujin.
Empress Yang also saw Cheng Yujin as a hindrance. Her face was extremely cold, refusing even to give the latter an extra glance. It was Empress Dowager Yang who raised her eyelids and broke the silence: “Crown Princess.”
“Yes.” Cheng Yujin stood up, holding her hands properly in a curtsy: “What instruction does Your Majesty have?”
“Crown princess is a position with great responsibility. Since you have become one, you must obey the rules and protocols so as not to lose our imperial family’s face. When the Crown Prince was missing, This Dowager and the Emperor was full of worry every day. Now that he finally returns, it also solves the knot between This Dowager and the Emperor. Since the Crown Prince personally asked you as his Crown Princess, you are presumably very much in line with the Crown Prince’s preference. Therefore, you two must work hard to expand the branches and leaves for the imperial family as soon as possible. This Dowager is very much waiting.”
Speaking of children, Cheng Yujin couldn’t retort, yet it wasn’t also good for her to nod obediently. She lowered her head and replied: “This daughter-in-law remember Your Majesty’s instruction.”
She said she remembered, but never said she would follow the instruction.
Empress Dowager Yang drooped her eyes again and said: “After all, you are the Crown Princess, different from ordinary Wangfei2. Sooner or later, this imperial palace will be handed over to you and Crown Prince. As the Crown Princess, you need to learn about the affairs of the six palaces3.”
These words were clearly malicious. Since ancient times, being the crown prince was always a delicate balance. A crown prince couldn’t be too weak, yet he must never be too strong that he eclipsed the emperor. The Emperor was now at his peak. Empress Dowager Yang said that the palace would be handed over to the Crown Prince and Crown Princess sooner or later. If this reached the Emperor’s ear, what would he think?
Cheng Yujin reacted very quickly and immediately answered: “This daughter-in-law dares not. It is Her Majesty the Empress’s responsibility to rule the six palaces, and it is out of order for others to intervene. How could this daughter-in-law knowingly commit such an offense? What’s more, His Majesty is at the peak of his life now, and Her Majesty is also in her prime. There are many things that this daughter-in-law doesn’t understand, asking Empress and Empress Dowager to give this daughter-in-law guidances and teachings.”
The phrase ‘committing an offense knowingly’ was used cleverly by Cheng Yujin. In just a few words, she clearly expressed the Eastern Palace’s position. The latter remarks undoubtedly kicked the ball back to Empress Yang and Empress Dowager Yang. Later, no matter what she did, everything was ‘she learned it from Empress Dowager.’
Empress Dowager Yang was displeased, but Cheng Yujin’s words were so high-sounding that she couldn’t nitpick a single fault. Yet, Empress Dowager Yang still didn’t give up: “Of course. Even the eldest daughters-in-law of ordinary families also need to learn how to manage the household by helping their mothers-in-law. You are the Crown Princess, so it is a given that you have to learn more. It just happens that Mid-Autumn Festival is approaching. You are to help the Empress arrange the banquet.”
Empress Dowager Yang had made up her mind to embarrass Cheng Yujin. Since the other party took the initiative, Cheng Yujin had no reason to avoid it. She gave a curtsy perfectly and said: “Since this is Empress Dowager’s order, this daughter-in-law shall oblige.”
In one sentence, Cheng Yujin labeled the whole matter as Empress Dowager Yang’s order. It was not that she overstepped, but she just obeyed the Empress Dowager Yang’s request in the act of filial piety.
Empress Dowager frowned. After a round of verbal skirmish, she failed to take advantage of the opponent, making her very depressed. But Empress Dowager Yang quickly restored her mood. It was no more than a clever tongue. Managing the inner palace was not just a matter of lip service. Especially that Cheng Yujin had a name but no authority, it was impossible for her to organize the Mid-Autumn Festival banquet. Empress Dowager Yang couldn’t wait to see how the Eastern Palace would end when Cheng Yujin made a mistake on such an important occasion.
However, Empress Dowager Yang was still unhappy about being retorted and deliberately gave Cheng Yujin the cold shoulder for a while. But Cheng Yujin was neither annoyed nor irritated. She looked the same from the beginning to the end, as if nothing affected her. Empress Dowager Yang stared at her for a long time, but was unable to nitpick anything, so she had no choice but to send Cheng Yujin away: “Crown Princess, once you enter the palace, you should take serving the Crown Prince as the priority. This Dowager doesn’t need you here. You may go back.”
Cheng Yujin perfunctorily declined a few times before she slowly curtsied: “Yes. This daughter-in-law retires.”
After Cheng Yujin left, Dou Xiyin frowned and asked, “Grandaunt, why did you let her go so easily?”
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