“Crown Princess, this is the protocols of Mid-Autumn Festival from previous years.”
The day after Cheng Yujin received the order from Empress Dowager to supervise the Mid-Autumn Festival banquet, the Directorate of Ceremonial sent a eunuch to deliver the previous years’ protocols to Cheng Yujin. Cheng Yujin nodded to acknowledge the messenger, then signaled Lian Qiao to take the booklets. Lian Qiao was clever. Without Cheng Yujin needing to speak, she quietly stuffed a pouch into the eunuch’s hand.
Before the eunuch went out, he was reminded only to deliver the booklets and leave without saying a word, but he couldn’t help changing his mind when feeling the weight in his hand.
The Crown Princess was generous, and the eunuch’s love of money prevailed. He lowered his voice and gave a quiet reminder: “Crown Princess, the Mid-Autumn Festival banquet has a fixed protocol each year. What to buy and how to arrange things are regulated. However, small differences inevitably happen between one year and the next. After several years, the accumulation of these small differences is no longer small.”
“Oh?” Cheng Yujin asked with a smile, “I just entered the palace and didn’t understand many things. I hope you can enlighten me.”
The eunuch cupped his hands deferentially in silence. Cheng Yujin signaled Lian Qiao to give him another pouch. The eunuch squeezed the contents inside before saying with a satisfied smile: “Crown Princess is smart and can understand many things from small details. This servant is merely adding one or two words. When Crown Princess looks at the protocols of the past Mid-Autumn Festival, it may be good to pay attention to the recorded dates. Records of years long past due are not as up-to-date and practical as the records of the last two years.”
Cheng Yujin understood, but didn’t show it on her face. Still with an unchanging smile, she spoke kindly to the eunuch: “Thank you for your reminding. Lian Qiao, send him off.”
After Lian Qiao and the eunuch had left, Du Ruo walked to Cheng Yujin and neatly stacked the booklets on the table. She said with a low voice: “They are very sinister. Fortunately, Crown Princess is vigilant. Otherwise, if we really hold the banquet according to the recorded protocol, won’t it result in a big mess?”
Cheng Yujin opened one of the booklets and found that the page containing the date was missing. Obviously, there were many differences between the Mid-Autumn banquet ten years ago and last year’s, but when the records were first obtained, no one would normally notice such details, especially if the dates were deliberately taken away. If Cheng Yujin prepared everything according to the records of stale years, then she would be the one who got ashamed.
Empress Dowager Yang deserved to be the woman who controlled the palace for half a lifetime. This method was impossible to guard against, and even if Cheng Yujin realized it later, she would have no stand to accuse anyone of wrongdoings — truly a perfect machination.
Cheng Yujin turned two more pages and compared the contents. Seeing Cheng Yujin not speaking, Du Ruo couldn’t help but feel a little anxious: “Crown Princess, the records of the past two years are detained by them. What should we do?”
“No need to rush.” Cheng Yujin didn’t panic. “Her goal is no more than to catch me by surprise. Once I know there is something wrong with the records, her strategy is bound to fail, and it will be useless for them to hold on to the records of the last two years. Sooner or later, I will get those things eventually.”
Seeing Cheng Yujin’s unperturbed calmness, Du Ruo was amazed: “Crown Princess is right. This servant has panicked for nothing.”
Cheng Yujin opened another page and said: “Now everyone knows that Empress Dowager has handed over the Mid-Autumn Festival banquet to me. Those eunuchs see that I cannot afford any mishaps and become greedy as a result. If I cannot give them satisfying bribes, they only need to delay things a bit, and the blame of resulting faults will all fall on me.”
Du Ruo’s eyebrows twisted: “They took advantage that Crown Princess is a newcomer and hasn’t gotten a foothold in the palace, and thus they dare to clash with us openly. Are we going to just let them go like this?”
“Otherwise?” Cheng Yujin put down the book. Her tone was perfectly calm. “Where there are people, there are disputes. Even in Cheng family’s small marquis manor, the servants are divided into various grades and ranks, not to mention the imperial palace? Each family may have a different situation, but in the final analysis, all can be stripped down to the same essence. If you are strong, people below will come on their own to show you courtesy and respect, and everything will go smoothly. If you are not strong, they will dare to deliberately stumble on you, show disrespect, and secretly make things difficult. This, undoubtedly, will result in an evil cycle, and your situation will only get increasingly worse. Everything in the world is determined by the first step: a good first step will bring better steps, and a bad first step will bring worse steps.”
Du Ruo frowned for a long time and had to admit that Cheng Yujin was correct. In the Cheng family, although Cheng Yujin’s order was absolute and she had a very high prestige among the servants, it hadn’t always been the case. At the very beginning, Cheng Yujin also experienced a situation where everything went wrong, and everyone dared to deceive her. However, Cheng Yujin was the manor’s eldest di daughter. After receiving the praises from Old Madam Cheng several times in a row, the situation of which their Jinning Courtyard was despised by the servants slowly got reversed. After gaining the first momentous step, the situation was getting increasingly smoother. Cheng Yujin’s reputation was also getting higher and higher. In the end, even without Old Madam Cheng, no servants dared not to take Cheng Yujin seriously.
She spent ten years building a reputation for herself, just to make her life easier after marrying, but now, she has entered a battlefield of intrigue that was far more terrifying than Cheng family household.
Tuesday’s late chapter
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