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Cheng Yujin was holding the belt in her hand. Seeing that Li Chengjing still standing upright, she had to remind: “Your Highness, please raise your hands.”
Li Chengjing lowered his gaze and looked at Cheng Yujin before slowly raising his hands, but the distance was not very high. Cheng Yujin had no choice but to get closer and neatly tie the jade belt around his waist.
From the side, it looked as if Cheng Yujin was hugging Li Chengjing’s waist. Li Chengjing put down his hands, covered Cheng Yujin’s body with his sleeves, and said: “It’s not me. Everything is thanks to you. You have worked hard. I don’t have to go to the court until next month, so I have more quality time to accompany you.”
Li Chengjing’s hand was behind Cheng Yujin’s waist, wrapping her arms and preventing her from tying the belt. Cheng Yujin struggled a little and said in annoyance: “Put away your hands first. I cannot tie the belt.”
Having been rebuked by Cheng Yujin, Li Chengjing pursed his lips. He gave her a light, meaningful glance, then slowly removed his hands.
Finally finished dressing him up, Cheng Yujin was satisfied and didn’t take his previous remarks to heart. “Your Highness has worked hard all year. I’m glad that you finally have time to relax a bit.”
Seeing Cheng Yujin clearly didn’t get his meaning, Li Chengjing sighed inwardly. Resigning himself to his fate, he embraced his beautiful but completely rational Crown Princess and walked towards the East Hall. “I don’t think that I will really have a full one month off, but at least I can accompany you for the New Year. Today, the government is officially closed. Your Majesty is in a festive mood and decided to hold a year-end family banquet tonight.”
Cheng Yujin nodded. She knew early that the imperial family would hold a year-end banquet before the New Year. Especially since this was Li Chengjing’s first New Year after his return. Having finally been reunited with his son, the Emperor was naturally very happy. He already told Empress Yang to hold the banquet tonight.
Because it was a family banquet, the Empress, Empress Dowager, high-ranking consorts and imperial concubines, princes, and princesses would all attend. This was probably a rare event in the palace. Many consorts and concubines had enthusiastically started the preparation of today’s outfit half a month in advance.
But how those concubines wanted to compete with their beauty had nothing to do with Cheng Yujin. She was the Crown Princess, the only married woman in Li Chengjing’s generation. Li Chengjing had no other women, and so the competition with those concubines was something that Empress Yang alone should worry about. Li Chengjing also understood this, so the two were still very leisurely and not in a hurry to dress up at all until halfway through the afternoon.
Cheng Yujin and Li Chengjing even had the time to boil tea with fresh snow and chatted for a while. Just a moment before the banquet started, they finally got up and walked leisurely to Kunning Palace.
Today’s family banquet was located in Empress Yang’s Palace, the true master of the inner palace. When Cheng Yujin and Li Chengjing arrived, many people were already in Kunning Palace.
Hearing Cheng Yujin and Li Chengjing coming in, all people except Empress Yang stood up one after another. The imperial concubines, consorts, and princesses bowed their heads and greeted: “Greetings to Crown Prince, Crown Princess.”
Cheng Yujin and Li Chengjing first walked to Empress Yang and gave her a bow: “Greetings to Her Majesty the Empress.”
Empress Yang nodded lightly. Facing the couple, she couldn’t make a warm expression: “Get up and sit down.”
Cheng Yujin and Li Chengjing got up simultaneously. Even this movement was very synchronized. After they stood straight again, Li Chengjing raised his hand slightly and said to the people who are still bowing behind: “No need for formalities. All of you, please get up.”
Upon Li Chengjing’s words, everyone got up one after another and took their seats. In such a public event, the seating order was particularly important. Every time a person came in, a silent battle started in the background. The position of one’s seat relative to the others was a clear sign of one’s status and recent momentum.
Fortunately, these things did not affect Li Chengjing and Cheng Yujin at all. With their status, others had to yield for them, but there was no reason for them to yield to others. There were only three people in the world who made them have to stand up.
The order of arrival was also determined by status. Cheng Yujin and Li Chengjing arrived just before the banquet began. Not long after, the Emperor also arrived, supporting Empress Dowager Yang as they entered the banquet hall. Everyone stood up and bowed at the Emperor and Empress Dowager. After the two took seats, Empress Yang announced: “Begin the banquet.”
Immediately, two groups of eunuchs filed in. They walked quickly but elegantly, serving food to each table. The Emperor sat in the uppermost center and looked around. He looked at his concubines and consorts, all with their own charms and merits, and then at his two sons and three daughters. Having knees full of children was the joy of any man. What made the Emperor even happier was that Li Chengjing finally returned this year.
The Emperor’s face was full of emotion as he said: “Zhen has been looking forward to this scene for fourteen years. Now the family is finally reunited, which is a great joy. Let’s have a toast to celebrate.”
With the Emperor’s words, everyone in the hall of course responded with a smile and held up their wine cup in a toast. Auspicious words came one after another. The Emperor was obviously talking about the Crown Prince. After a round of toasting, the Emperor was still not satisfied. He smiled and pointed his cup at Li Chengjing and Cheng Yujin’s seats.
“This is Crown Prince’s first New Year in the palace after fourteen years. The last time you sat here, you were not even as tall as the table. But look now, you are already married and started a family of your own.”
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