The Grand Assembly on the first day of the New Year was the most important ceremony of the year. Cheng Yujin was taken by Li Chengjing until the middle of the night. The next morning, she had to wear the heavy nine pheasants and four phoenix crown and crown princess’ diyi formal gown, then stood for the Grand Assembly for a full day.
When they returned to the palace in the evening, Li Chengjing seemed to know he was in the wrong and was very well-behaved. Cheng Yujin glared at him, too angry to speak to this sanctimonious man. Until the time to visit the in-laws the next day, Li Chengjing was very careful around Cheng Yujin and didn’t even dare to make an extra smile.
It was customary for a married woman to visit her natal home on the second day of the New Year. Cheng Yujin was no exception, and she also needed to return to Yichun Marquis Manor. Li Chengjing, as her husband, naturally accompanied her.
The two first went to the Cinning Palace and Kunning Palace to pay respect to the elders, then boarded the carriage and departed. Today’s Yichun Marquis Manor was very lively. The Cheng family had been notified early that the Crown Prince would accompany the Crown Princess visiting her natal family, and thus the whole manor was very busy with preparation. In addition to Cheng Yujin, the other married daughters of the Cheng family, Cheng Min and Cheng Yumo, also returned for a visit, bringing their husbands and family with them.
Old Madam Cheng had finished dressing early in the morning and now was sitting upright in the hall, waiting for the Crown Princess’s arrival. Qingfu Junzhu and Ruan-shi were also the same, sitting with their mother-in-law in their most elegant and luxurious clothes. Being instructed by the Xu family, Cheng Min arrived early than usual, bringing many of Xu family’s children with her. Old Madam Cheng was happy to see Cheng Min, as she rarely saw her daughter. As soon as Cheng Min entered the door, Old Madam Cheng quickly pulled her and Xu Nianchun to her side. However, even Cheng Min’s arrival couldn’t relax the atmosphere in the room, as everyone was busy paying attention to the situation outside.
Around the hour of the snake1, a young servant boy suddenly ran into the hall. Before the servant could deliver the message, all the womenfolks in the room let out a sigh and stood up one after another.
Even though the servant hadn’t said anything yet, everyone had already guessed that the Crown Prince and Crown Princess were coming. Sure enough, the servant hurriedly announced in a loud voice: “Old Madam, Madam, Second Madam, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess’ carriage have already left the palace gate. The Marquis wants you all to wait at the second gate to greet the Crown Princess.”
Old Madam Cheng had been waiting for this sentence. Now that the waiting was finally over, she felt a big rock was lifted off her heart. After Cheng Yuanxian succeeded the title of Marquis Yichun, Old Madam Cheng had been promoted to dowager marchioness, and Qingfu Junzhu had become the new marchioness. The servants no longer called Qingfu Junzhu ‘eldest madam’ but simply ‘madam.’
Old Madam Cheng led the crowd of women to wait at the second gate. After a while, the sound of a eunuch clapping hands came from outside, reminding passersby to give way to the imperial procession. Old Madam Cheng knelt down and led all the women to greet Cheng Yujin: “This subject’s wife greets the Crown Princess.”
After the carriage stopped, a group of palace maids came forward and helped Cheng Yujin to walk out of the carriage. After Cheng Yujin stood on the ground again, she looked at the kneeling Old Madam Cheng. She raised her hand and said, “It’s cold on the ground. Grandmother, please get up.”
Old Madam Cheng then stood up tremblingly with the help of her personal servant girl. Qingfu Junzhu was kneeling beside Old Madam Cheng, so she also helped her mother-in-law to get up. Cheng Yujin saw Qingfu and nodded gently: “Mother.”
Qingfu Junzhu was startled and immediately gave Cheng Yujin a proper curtsy: “Crown Princess.”
“It was unfilial for me to make my elders wait in such a cold wind for so long. Grandmother, mother, please get inside.”
Old Madam Cheng kept saying that she didn’t dare. She waited for Cheng Yujin to enter the door first before following behind. After Cheng Yujin entered the hall and sat down, she smiled and nodded to Cheng Min: “Aunt, you are early today.”
Cheng Yujin only spoke to Old Madam Cheng and Qingfu Junzhu at the second gate earlier. As a maternal aunt, Cheng Min did not have enough honor of being exempted from kneeling to the Crown Princess. Only after they were inside that Cheng Min could talk to Cheng Yujin.
Cheng Min was flattered and quickly smiled: “This subject’s wife missed my mother and also wanted to greet Crown Princess earlier, so I woke up earlier than usual.”
After Cheng Min finished speaking, she immediately pushed the group of teenagers next to her: “You guys, hurry and greet the Crown Princess.”
This time, Cheng Min brought not only the girls from the Xu family, but also several boys. Strangely enough, Xu Zhixian was not here despite Yichun Marquis Manor being his maternal grandparent’s house. Cheng Min explained: “That stupid boy of mine is now being forced by his grandfather and father to go to school. His father plans to send him to the officialdom next year, but he has been idle at home before, and his study is still far from enough. Anxious, his father is now detaining him at home and making him study all day.”
Cheng Yujin nodded with a smile, “It’s a good thing for the second young master to be passionate in his study,” and didn’t ask any more questions. When Cheng Yujin was still in the mourning period, Xu Zhixian told her that he wanted to marry her. Regardless of whether Xu Zhixian felt awkward to see her or it was the Xu family’s precautive measure, the excuse Cheng Min gave was a good one. Now that Cheng Yujin had become the Crown Princess, it was better to avoid things that could make her liable of suspicions.
Cheng Min hurried a few girls to greet Cheng Yujin. Cheng Yujin responded to their greetings with a smile and instructed Lian Qiao to give them meeting gifts. Xu family’s girls were both curious and in awe of Cheng Yujin. When curtsying to her, they only dared to glance at her from the corner of their eyes.
The purse given by Cheng Yujin was exquisite and elegant on the outside. Not to mention the contents inside, just this purse alone was already a precious item. Moreover, all the girls of the Xu family, regardless of whether they were di-born or shu-born, received exactly the same purse. From the outside, it was impossible to tell who was receiving how much, but after quietly testing the weight in their hands, there were probably still differences in the contents.
Cheng Min sighed inwardly. Cheng Yujin deserved to be the Crown Princess — she had become even more refined and meticulous after entering the palace. Cheng Min began to chat with Cheng Yujin and slowly moved the topic to ask about Shu Consort. Cheng Yujin did not delay, and ordered Du Ruo to hand Cheng Min the package that Shu Consort asked her to send to the Xu family.
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