Empress Zhong’s case had yet to enter trial, but during the investigation period, Empress Yang was confined in her palace, and the old cronies and disciples of Yang Fucheng were getting demoted one after another. It was clear to all that the possibility of Yang Fucheng’s return to power was getting further and further away.
Madam Yang, who not long ago was the wife of the Senior Grand Secretary honored by all, had fallen so far in an instant and was now the prime suspect of poisoning the former empress.
When it rains, it pours. It was at this moment that Empress Dowager Yang fell gravely ill. Yang Fucheng’s daughter-in-law tried to enter the palace to visit the empress dowager several times, but was stopped every time.
In the past few days, Empress Dowager Yang had constantly been dreaming day and night, and the dreams were all about her crown prince, who died at such a young age. Tormented by frequent nightmares, she often screamed into empty air, calling the name of the previous noble consort at one time and her son’s name at the other time. As her condition rapidly worsened, she started scratching and slapping into empty air as if fighting against an invisible enemy.
Following Empress Dowager Yang’s mental collapse, the maids serving in the Cining Palace were all frightened and did not dare to stay alone in her presence. The faint fragrance stayed afloat in the inner room of Cining Palace, but no one bothered to care.
Too many things happened in this period of time. The entire palace seemed to be shrouded in dark clouds. Everyone walked quietly, and no one dared to speak loudly. At the end of the month, the Dragon Boat Festival came after the rainy season.
In previous years, the Dragon Boat Festival would be held in the palace, focusing on expelling the five poisons and driving away bad luck. This year, however, the empress dowager was seriously ill, and the empress was confined in her palace. With no one to preside upon, this year’s Dragon Boat Festival was bound to be done in the most simplistic manner. The palace servants put on five-color silk threads, cut out pieces of colored paper talisman, and hung the decorations hastily.
When Li Chengjing returned in the evening, he found the Ciqing Palace totally dark. His heart suddenly jumped in palpitation, and he quickly rushed to the main hall.
When Li Chengjing’s palm pushed open the door, red lanterns suddenly lit up in the hall. Rows of palace maids knelt on the ground, carrying palace lanterns and saying in unison, “Your Highness, welcome back and happy birthday.”
Li Chengjing was stunned. It was at this moment that he remembered that the Dragon Boat Festival was also his birthday. These past few weeks, he had been very busy, not only because of the Yang family affairs but also with the investigation of Empress Zhong’s death. Naturally, he had no time to think about his birthday. On top of that, he had been absent for many years. With no precedent, very few people still remembered that the Dragon Boat Festival was also the Crown Prince’s birthday.
Cheng Yujin stood at the forefront, smiling and wishing Li Chengjing a thousand blessings, just as they met for the first time: “Welcome back, Your Highness. This consort wishes you a happy birthday.”
Li Chengjing rarely had a moment of speechlessness. There were no lights in the palace, which startled and even frightened him for a moment, but it turned out that his wife was preparing a birthday celebration for him. However, no matter how speechless he was just now, Li Chengjing still chuckled in the end. He stepped forward and took Cheng Yujin’s hand into his, “You remember my birthday? I was startled when finding the palace totally dark just now.”
“How could I not remember.” Cheng Yujin stood up. The lanterns in the hall were lit one after another as the couple walked side by side. “Your birthday is such an important day. There is no way I can forget it, Your Highness.”
No one disliked pleasantry, and Li Chengjing was no exception. His expression softened, and the two entered the inner chamber. Cheng Yujin pressed Li Chengjing onto the chair, then went off before returning with a bowl of longevity noodles.
Li Chengjing was surprised: “You cooked for me?”
“Yes.” Cheng Yujin put the bowl in front of Li Chengjing, “It’s been forever since I was last in the kitchen, so my cooking skills have deteriorated a lot. Please be nice even if the noodles don’t taste good enough.”
Li Chengjing took Cheng Yujin’s hand and said: “You are still recovering; why are you working so hard? The kitchen is hot, and you also cannot touch cold water. What if you fell ill again?”
“Your Highness, I am not made of paper. I’ve rested long enough, and a bit of cooking won’t do me harm.” Cheng Yujin sat next to Li Chengjing, smiling, “I had been thinking long and hard, but still failed to find you a suitable present. In the end, only this bowl of noodles can express my feelings. This longevity noodle is one single strand, and this is my wish for you. May my Highness’s life as long as this noodle; smooth and uninterrupted.”
Li Chengjing was literally beaming with happiness, and his eyes were very gentle as he looked at Cheng Yujin, “I’m very happy. However, you are still recovering and should not do hard work. Next time, just leave everything to the servants, okay?”
“How can I do that?” Cheng Yujin smiled, “My birthday is in the twelfth month, and so is our children’s. In our family, you alone were born in the summer, so of course I cannot wrong you. Otherwise, it will seem like the three of us are deliberately leaving you out.”
Li Chengjing couldn’t help laughing. His eyes were full of light, just like the starry sky.
After Li Chengjing finished eating the longevity noodles, he and Cheng Yujin went into the bedroom to see Mingyue and Mingqian. The twins were growing up day by day, and they were no longer as thin as they were on the day they were born. Li Chengjing held both children and commented honestly, “Mingqian has gotten fatter again.”
“What did you say?” Cheng Yujin glared. “Which part of Mingqian is fat? They are just growing up.”
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