When the New Year came, Cheng Yujin’s one-month confinement was over, and she was finally allowed to go outside for a short time. The time coincided not only with the New Year’s Grand Assembly but also the twins’ full month ceremony — both demanding Cheng Yujin’s attendance.
Early in the morning, Cheng Yujin was ready to change her children’s clothes. She deliberately woke up earlier than usual and said to Li Chengjing, “I cannot find my hairpin. Can you go to the dresser and fetch me the gold-plated hairpin with sapphire inlay?”
Li Chengjing dutifully went to the dresser and began to look for the said hairpin. Cheng Yujin’s jewelry was numerous, and just the ones she normally used already occupied several cases. Li Chengjing was not as familiar with them, and it took him a long time to finally find the hairpin. When Li Chengjing returned, he found that Cheng Yujin had picked up their daughter and was putting the child into her New Year’s clothes.
Li Chengjing was speechless: “Did you deliberately send me away so you could change Mingyue’s clothes? Why are you so childish?”
Cheng Yujin paid Li Chengjing no attention. In a short time, she had already put Mingyue into her cotton-padded jacket. Wrapped in red festive clothes, Mingyue’s white and chubby limbs were as cute as lotus roots. The little baby didn’t understand that today was the New Year, let alone that her mother was changing her clothes to see many people. Mingyue thought Mother was playing with her, so she waved her fists and laughed heartily.
Facing Mingyue’s smile, Cheng Yujin’s heart almost melted into puddles. Cheng Yujin and Li Chengjing had agreed that one person would change one child’s clothes, but Cheng Yujin broke the rule and grabbed the head start, leaving Li Chengjing with no choice but to pick up Mingqian and change his clothes with clumsy manners.
After Cheng Yujin finished changing Mingyue’s clothes, she wiped the drool from her daughter’s mouth before turning to the father and son pair. Seeing Li Chengjing was still struggling with Mingqian’s buttons, she couldn’t help interjecting, “Should I do it?”
“No.” Li Chengjing looked calm, but his tone was very firm. “What’s so difficult about this? I can do it.”
Cheng Yujin hesitated, but in the end, she couldn’t bear to hurt Li Chengjing’s pride as a father. In front of his wife and daughter, how could Li Chengjing, the dignified and capable crown prince, admit that he didn’t know how to put on his son’s clothes? Li Chengjing struggled for a long time, taking Mingqian through many trials and errors before he successfully dressed the little boy. Li Chengjing let out a sigh of relief secretly, and when he looked up again, he found that Cheng Yujin and Mingyue had been watching him this entire time. Two pairs of beautiful eyes, one big and one small, were staring at him with a smile.
Li Chengjing’s heart suddenly melted. He held Mingqian in one hand and Cheng Yujin and Mingyue in the other, embracing his entire world in his arms.
“If only mother sees me today and knows that you have given birth to two beautiful and lovely children for me, she surely will be able to rest in peace.” Li Chengjing’s voice was very soft.
Cheng Yujin was stunned. She slowly looked up at Li Chengjing and whispered, “Your Highness…”
“I’m fine.” Li Chengjing shook his head, “Just a sudden burst of emotion, I think. In fact, it has been so long, and I can no longer remember what my mother looked like.”
Cheng Yujin looked at Li Chengjing quietly, waiting for his next words as she gave him silent comfort. Li Chengjing never called Empress Yang ‘Mother’ and always called her with the title Empress. In this world, there was only one person he called ‘Mother.’
The former Kang Wangfei and the later Empress Zhong — the woman who met an untimely end.
“All my impressions of her seem to be related to a sick bed. My memory before the age of two is very sparse. I only remember when a Mama took me to a room full of medicinal smells. She pointed to the sick woman on the bed and told me she was my Mother Empress. Mother was already very sick then, and I was not in good health either. The gloomy palace and the never-ceasing smell of medicines are all my memories about her.”
Li Chengjing rarely mentioned Empress Zhong. He didn’t speak, so Cheng Yujin also never asked. It was rare that he suddenly mentioned his mother today. Cheng Yujin quietly listened to his reminiscence, “Then what?”
“Then? Then she passed away of illness when I was just two. I cried so hard, until His Majesty took me to his palace and personally raised me under his knees. Later, someone proposed to establish another empress, but he refused. However, after the one-year mourning period for a wife ended, the Emperor still made Yang Miao his empress.”
“Yang Miao is said to have a deep-rooted love for him, refusing to marry for years even as she turned eighteen. Later, she married into the palace as she wished. In her first year as Empress, someone gave her an idea, and she proposed to raise me personally. The Emperor refused and kept me by his side in Qianqing Palace. At the time, my health was not very good and I was also ill most of the year, so the Qianqing Palace was also full of bitter medicinal smell day in and day out.”
As Li Chengjing recalled the past, a very light smile appeared on his lips, “Sometimes, I think he is really a contradictory person. He compromised with the Yang family’s demands, but did not agree to let Yang Miao adopt me. Because people criticized me for being unlucky for being born on the fifth day of the fifth month, he took me personally by his side. We slept, ate, and did everything else together. He also personally taught me to read and write. When he was absent for the morning court, he didn’t feel at ease leaving me alone in Qianqing Palace, so he ordered a recliner to be prepared next to his throne and let me play on it. Later, after I turned four and began to study, the recliner was changed into a small desk and chair. While he was dealing with governmental affairs, I sat by his side, practicing my writing.”
From this point of view, the Emperor was a good father, but Li Chengjing’s feelings for him had always been complicated. The Emperor clearly loved Li Chengjing, but when he was barely five years old, the Emperor compromised with the Yang family and let his five-year-old son leave the palace and go to a Taoist temple in the deep mountain under the excuse of recuperation.
Then, that incident happened.
Cheng Yujin sighed. Humans were the most difficult and complex beings, and a person’s strengths were often also their fatal flaws.
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