After the Emperor and his entourage left, the eunuchs of the Qianqing Palace approached Li Chengjing and gave him a flattering smile, “Your Highness, are you going to stay behind and continue processing the memorials?”
“No need.” Li Chengjing replied, “Move the remaining few memorials back to the Eastern Palace. Your Majesty is not here, and it is inappropriate for Gu to stay alone in the Imperial Study.”
“Your Highness is correct. Your noble self is benevolent and wise, and always abides by the rules. Having Your Highness as the Crown Prince is truly the blessing of our dynasty.” The eunuchs spewed out a few more flattering words as he dutifully helped Li Chengjing transport the memorials.
Li Chengjing just smiled in response. The Emperor did seem to trust him now, but ten years ago, the same person also trusted and relied heavily on the Yang family. Taking the trust of a monarch as something granted was the real source of disaster. It was easy for a monarch to lift someone up, and it was equally easy to drive them down into the mud. Being careful and cautious was the correct thing to do.
Li Chengjing returned to Ciqing Palace and was greeted by rows of palace maids and eunuchs who knelt down to welcome his return. Li Chengjing just swept them a light glance as he strode in the direction of the inner hall.
Cheng Yujin was cradling her children. When she heard the familiar footsteps, she turned around and put her index finger on her lips, making a silent gesture.
Seeing this, Li Chengjing immediately lightened his steps. He slowly walked to the wooden bed where his children were lying before bending over to look at them. The two little guys were sleeping soundly, and bubbles were spitting out of Mingyue’s lips as she breathed peacefully.
Li Chengjing’s gaze immediately turned soft, and the estrangement that he wore on his body when facing outsiders also dissipated without a trace. Cheng Yujin covered the two children with a thin quilt before walking out of the bed area with Li Chengjing.
After they were a distance away from the sleeping children, Cheng Yujin said to Li Chengjing, “They have just fallen asleep, so I didn’t dare to speak aloud. Forgive me for not greeting Your Highness when you entered the room.”
“Why apologize?” Li Chengjing replied, “We have been married for how long? No need for frigid formality when we are at home. By the way, how are the children today? Did they give you troubles?”
“No, I’m lucky enough to have many people help to look after them. I never need to do much, actually, so I have it very easy.” Cheng Yujin suddenly remembered something, and her expression turned proud as she raised her chin slightly, “Your Highness, guess what? Today Mingqian can turn over.”
Li Chengjing raised his eyebrows, “Oh? Did he just learn it today? I didn’t see it.”
“You have never been at home during the day, so it is normal.” Cheng Yujin tried her best to conceal her smugness, but her gesture still belied herself, “Mingqian is stronger than Mingyue, so he can turn over by himself. Mingyue saw it and couldn’t wait to imitate her older brother, so she kept kicking her legs and feet impatiently. It was only after I gave her a bit of push that she finally could turn herself over.”
Li Chengjing listened to Cheng Yujin’s narration in amusement. Cheng Yujin was full of smiles as she spoke about their children, and her eyes were as bright as stars. Whether as the Eldest Miss Cheng or the honorable Crown Princess, Cheng Yujin had always shown maturity beyond her age, but it seemed that motherhood had returned her innocence. They were both the children’s parents, but Cheng Yujin insisted on competing with him.
Like a child fighting for candy… Li Chengjing was amused by this metaphor and smiled softly as he indulged his wife’s childish behavior, “So it turned out that I have not only missed Mingqian’s first turning over, but also Mingyue? It seems that I have suffered a big loss today.”
Cheng Yujin propped her chin proudly. Although she held back and didn’t say anything, Li Chengjing could see she was nodding hard inside. With a laugh, he raised his hand and playfully prodded her nose: “It seems that you are becoming more and more childish after spending a lot of time with Mingqian and Mingyue.”
Being called ‘childish,’ Cheng Yujin was very dissatisfied. She snorted softly, then turned to pour tea before she asked, “Your Highness returned early today. What happened?”
“The Emperor went to the Cining Palace to see the Empress Dowager. I didn’t want to stay in the Qianqing Palace alone, so I brought the remaining memorials back.”
“His Majesty went to see the Empress Dowager?” Cheng Yujin put the teapot down as her eyebrows rose up slightly, “It seems that she has finally been informed?”
“Just a matter of time.” Li Chengjing brought the cup to his lips, took a sip, and said indifferently, “With Empress and Shou Wangfei at loose, troubles will come piling her up sooner or later, and things that were nothing in the past would become another straw on the camel’s back. Even the Emperor has been completely annoyed with one trouble coming after another.”
Cheng Yujin nodded, having the same opinion. “Yang Xiaoyu has caused no small trouble this time. With a death casualty and such huge publicity, it would be impossible for the Yang family to suppress it thoroughly as they usually do. Your Highness, do you think His Majesty would be on their side again this time?”
Li Chengjing cradled the cup in one hand and smiled lightly: “I don’t think so.”
Li Chengjing didn’t explain more and simply said, “Just wait and see.”
The young master of the Yang family had taken the life of an innocent commoner, causing a flood of impeachments against him that lasted for a long time. Seeing that the Yang family kept shielding their son and refused to let him be trialed, the target of impeachment shifted from Yang Xiaoyu, who had committed a murder, to the Senior Grand Secretary Yang’s abuse of power. The fire that had gradually burned Yang Fucheng started to become uncontrollable. Seeing this situation, Empress Dowager Yang repeated the old trick and used another fake illness to put pressure on the Emperor, demanding him to dismiss all the impeachment with the imperial authority and suppress these noisy subjects.
But this time, the Emperor refused to comply.
Empress Dowager Yang was furious and made quite a ruckus in the Cining Palace, scolding the pariahs for not knowing their place, the court officials for harboring ulterior motives, and finally scolding the Emperor himself for being ungrateful.
Before Empress Dowager Yang had time to calm down, a thunderbolt suddenly struck out of the blue — Yang Xiaoyu was strangled to death in his bedroom.
When Empress Dowager Yang heard the news, she coughed up a mouthful of blood and fainted in shock.
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