Li Chengjing never said a word of complaint, but Cheng Yujin was particularly distressed for him. After Li Chengjing returned home yet again in the middle of the night, she brought him hot tea and sat next to him to massage his forehead.
“Your Highness works so hard every day, yet no words of appreciation were given. Shou Wang shows his filiality to His Majesty every day and tries his best to create a rift between you. I heard that His Majesty gradually expressed his dissatisfaction recently, accusing you of being drunk in power and authority, and for not showing enough loyalty and filial piety.”
Li Chengjing sighed. He took Cheng Yujin’s hand and pulled her into his arms, then placed his forehead against her shoulder, “I’m simply doing my best to fulfill my duty and obligation. You don’t need to pay attention to those bogus rumors; they are not important.”
“Not important?” Cheng Yujin raised her eyebrows, “Your Highness, if the rumor says that my children and I are ominous and may bring chaos to the palace, will you still say that it is not important?”
Li Chengjing suddenly raised his head. His face was icy, and tiredness disappeared from his voice, replaced by cold anger, “Who said that?”
“No one. I said it myself.” Cheng Yujin snuggled into Li Chengjing’s side. Although her tone was still strong, she quietly tugged on Li Chengjing’s sleeve, “I’m just giving an analogy.”
“How can you badmouth yourself just for an analogy?”
Cheng Yujin stared at him, turned her head suddenly, and said, “Your Highness, have you noticed that you have changed recently?”
Li Chengjing paused for a moment, looking visibly tensed.
Cheng Yujin tilted her head and continued, “You used to be noble and distant, and always had a deep mind when dealing with others. But now, you no longer care so much about the other party’s reaction when you speak, and you have become quite sharp and aggressive.”
Li Chengjing was stunned, totally caught off guard. A person’s change was totally invisible to oneself, and only those around him could see it clearly.
Cheng Yujin wanted to see Li Chengjing’s stunned expression, but when she really got her wish, she suddenly burst out laughing and quickly gave him a hearty hug, “Your Highness, do you think I blame you for changing? No. People always change. When I was still in the Cheng family, I had to be careful in my words and deeds, and I never dared to offend anyone. But now, I can do whatever I like and can even disregard my grandmother in her face. Still, you never blame me for growing arrogant, don’t you?”
Li Chengjing finally reacted and wanted to teach Cheng Yujin a lesson for teasing him, but he couldn’t resist her sudden display of intimacy. In the end, he carefully put his hands around her waist and deliberately showed a cold face. “Nonsense. You even dare to joke at my expense?”
Cheng Yujin snorted inside. Think she would be deceived by his clumsy acting? If he was genuinely angry, why did he respond to her hug? Still, Cheng Yujin was a qualified wife and thus didn’t expose him. She instead nodded and said obediently, “It’s indeed my fault. Will Your Highness forgive me this time?”
“But you dare to repeat it next time, don’t you?”
Li Chengjing couldn’t hold back his laughter. He massaged his forehead, feeling the fatigue suddenly dissipate. Seeing he finally had a smile on his face, Cheng Yujin slowly retracted her hand and returned to sit properly, “I’m glad that Your Highness is finally smiling again. You have been too tense these days. I don’t care about your changes, but I’m worried seeing you pushing yourself too hard.”
“I care too much about being a qualified crown prince, and this belief was my only support growing up. I thought I had made it, but now, it doesn’t seem so.”
Li Chengjing was a little emotional. These words, these doubts, were never exposed in front of his subordinates. In the eyes of others, he was and always be the confident and capable Crown Prince. Only with Cheng Yujin alone could he expose his true self, self-doubt, and vulnerable side.
In every sense, they were very similar to each other. People without the same experience would not understand the harshness they imposed on themselves, let alone the amount of pressure they received behind their perfectness.
Cheng Yujin understood Li Chengjing very well. She knew the meaning behind his heavy sigh and even knew where the crux of the problem was. But no matter how much she understood, neither of them could say it out.
The reason was actually very simple. One mountain could not tolerate two tigers, so how could one country tolerate two rulers?
Li Chengjing was too tired these days, not because he was shouldering most of the day-to-day running of the country but mostly because he had to accommodate his father’s sensitive heart. After Li Chengjing checked upon the memorials and gave his approval, he had to send them to Qianqing Palace for the Emperor to review. The Emperor would have a headache if he worked too hard, so he delegated the so-called ‘trivial and meaningless’ affairs to be handled by the Crown Prince but insisted on doing the final check in person.
In other words, the Emperor was a typical example of an incompetent yet all-knowing superior. He was obviously not a good ruler; otherwise, he would not have been controlled by the Yang family for 20 years. But now that he was in power, the Emperor, who finally tasted the addictive sweetness of power, became drunk of it. He liked to give random orders and enjoyed his authority, but the Crown Prince was left to clean up the mess he caused. And Li Chengjing was not the only one. Recently, even the cabinet and six ministries were swamped with overwork.
But that was the Emperor; who dared to tell him off? Everyone had no choice but to swallow their complaint and put on a forced smile as they followed the Emperor’s whim. And they actually had it easier. Each official had their own role and specific duty, but as the Crown Prince, Li Chengjing had to manage the overall situation, and his workload was endless.
Just thinking about it, Cheng Yujin could imagine how tired Li Chengjing must be. The efficiency would be much faster if only Li Chengjing alone was in charge from beginning to end.
Cheng Yujin understood this, the cabinet also understood, and so did most of the court officials. And Li Chengjing understood it the most.
How could he not? Li Chengjing knew very well, yet he was unable to do anything, because the moment he exposed his thought, he would be committing the crime of treason.
For now, the only option was to wait, and that was precisely what Li Chengjing did. Still, he had taken this road alone for too long, and needed someone with whom he could share his truest thought.
After Li Chengjing finished speaking, he waited for a long time, but received no reaction he hoped. Finally, he lowered his eyes and stared at Cheng Yujin, “Since you’ve learned to tease me, how can you stop midway? Try it again.”
She started it first, so of course she had to take responsibility. After hugging him, how could she let him go so quickly?
Happy New Year!
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