The crowd was shocked when the eunuch on the door shouted, “The Crown Prince has arrived.” The Crown Prince was obviously absent for disaster relief, so why did he come back suddenly?
Cheng Yujin was also stunned at first, but she soon returned to her senses and immediately rushed to the door, “Your Highness!”
Li Chengjing entered the inner hall. He clearly had just returned to the capital, as he was still wearing his narrow-sleeved travel attire topped with an indigo-colored light jacket. Li Chengjing was tall and slender; compared to the wide-sleeved heavy robe he wore to the morning court every day, this streamlined attire fit his figure even more, making him look sharper than usual.
When Li Chengjing entered the hall, he said not a single word, but the aura on his body caused everyone else to move backward subconsciously, opening an unimpeded path for him. Li Chengjing’s expression was icy, and his every move carried a murderous aura that seemed to originate from the depth of hell itself. In the past few months, Li Chengjing had been facing corpses, seeing disasters both natural and man-made, and had brushed deaths with the plague itself. The situation he faced daily was beyond the imagination of the people who lived splendidly in the safe and prosperous capital.
Therefore, it was normal for Li Chengjing’s aura to change completely.
Li Chengjing did not restrain his momentum until he saw Cheng Yujin among the crowd, walking toward him in a rush. Only then did his expression softens, and his eyes revealed the warmth he reserved only for one person.
Cheng Yujin rushed to Li Chengjing’s side. She had been calm and rational all the time, refusing to give in an inch even when facing a one-sided attack. Yet at this moment, she was suddenly filled with infinite grievances, and her voice carried a cry: “Your Highness.”
Li Chengjing quickly took two steps forward and caught Cheng Yujin’s body. Seeing her red eyes and aggrieved face, his heart seemed to be clenched into a ball. He wiped the tears from Cheng Yujin’s eyes and said softly, “It’s alright. I’m back.”
Soon after he said that, Li Chengjing pulled Cheng Yujin behind him and looked up at the rest of the people. At this moment, Li Chengjing no longer had the gentleness he showed just now, and his entire person, from his expression to his aura, was full of sharp coldness. “During the time Gu was absent from the palace and worked in the disaster area for the sake of the country, is this how you people treat Gu’s Crown Princess and child?”
Empress Yang looked a bit awkward. Why did Li Chengjing have to return at this time? Yet, she smiled and tried to cover it up: “Why does Crown Prince say such things? Your return is a happy event worthy of our celebration.”
“Celebration? If this is the celebration Empress and Empress Dowager prepare, Gu is certainly unable to accept it.” Li Chengjing replied coldly, “Gu rushed to the capital and finally arrived today, but when Gu first returned to the Eastern Palace, Gu learned that Empress Dowager had been quite ill for a while and that the heavy-bellied Crown Princess was summoned to the Cining Palace to take care of Empress Dowager. Gu immediately hurried over, but along the way, Gu vaguely heard some nasty remarks about Gu’s unborn child.”
Empress Dowager Yang had no scruples towards Cheng Yujin, but when she saw Li Chengjing coming in, she subconsciously tensed. Even the old Abbess, who looked so lofty just now, also lowered her head and quietly took two steps aside, not daring to face the Crown Prince.
The crowd looked a little embarrassed, and the imperial clansmen who had just expressed their support to the Empress Dowager were like quails at this moment, not daring to even show the slightest sense of existence. The Emperor also felt quite awkward. He coughed lightly and asked, “Crown Prince, why are you suddenly back? Why didn’t you send any news beforehand?”
“This son has finished arranging all the matters in the disaster area and immediately set off to return to the capital immediately afterward. The memorial addressed to the court is also already on the way. It’s just this son is faster than the messengers at the post stations and arrives one step ahead of the memorial.” Li Chengjing then cupped his hands at the Emperor. “Fortunately, this son did not disgrace the imperial name. The plague has been eradicated, and the victims have been properly accommodated. When this son left, the reconstruction of the houses and public buildings destroyed by the flood was already on the right track. Having fulfilled my duty, this son thus returned to the capital.”
According to Li Chengjing’s report, the flood, plague, and even the post-disaster reconstruction in Jiangnan had been dealt with. The Emperor was naturally overjoyed. He quickly forgot all the unpleasant things just now and said loudly, “Good! Crown Prince has done an excellent job. You need a good reward!”
“Thank you, Your Majesty.” Even after receiving the Emperor’s praises and a promise of reward, there was no happiness on Li Chengjing’s face. Instead, he turned the topic and suddenly glanced sharply at Empress Dowager Yang, “Under the imperial order, Gu took the heavy responsibility upon one’s shoulders and risked my own life to depart to the area affected by a plague. Luckily, Gu managed to fulfill one’s duty and returned safely. Upon returning to the capital, Gu immediately went to the Eastern Palace to rest and recuperate, only to find the palace was empty. Only after questioning the eunuchs guarding the gate that Gu learn that the Crown Princess has been summoned by Empress Dowager. Besides the Crown Princess, the Emperor, the Empress, and even imperial clan elders were also gathering in the Cining Palace today. Gu didn’t want to make a huge deal of my return, so Gu came to the Cining Palace alone. However, when Gu had just entered the door, Gu overheard an astonishing remark.”
Empress Dowager Yang didn’t dare to meet Li Chengjing’s eyes and turned away silently. Li Chengjing glanced coldly before turning his gaze at the old Abess, who was trying to erase her sense of presence. “This Abess, who did you claim to be ominous just now and need to move outside the palace? Say it again in front of Gu.”
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