Cheng Yujin didn’t have the ability to guess His Highness’s thought, so she simply stopped thinking. Cheng Yuanjing’s self-control was extremely good. Even if Mount Tai collapsed in front of his eyes, he wouldn’t bat an eyelid. Even if Cheng Yujin observed his expression, she couldn’t guess his mind. However, ignorance was a form of fearlessness. Since she couldn’t guess this great ancestor’s thought, then she could say anything boldly and calmly: “Ninth Uncle, do you think this pouch is well-made?”
Cheng Yuanjing nodded, “Yes.”
Cheng Yujin blinked innocently: “Then, can this little girl ask you something?”
Sure enough, it came to this. Cheng Yuanjing was amused. Since she deliberately prepared handmade pastries and pouch, he knew that she wanted something in return.
Cheng Yujin came to ask a favor directly, but Cheng Yuanjing didn’t care at all. He said casually: “Just speak. What do you want?”
Cheng Yujin smiled. She personally poured a cup of tea for Cheng Yuanjing: “Ninth Uncle, you gave me that one thousand mu of land. I’m very grateful. In addition, there are also three shops from grandfather. However, I don’t know where the land in Jinling is located or how the shops look. Although I have the account books, I don’t understand the situation, and I also don’t have any trusted subordinates. Like this, it will be too easy for the people below to collude and falsify the account book. But I don’t want the shopkeepers to come to the manor to give their report. Their coming and going will inevitably attract attention. It’s not good if people outside begin to gossip that I already begin to stretch my hands into the shops during my grandfather’s mourning period. They will doubt my filial piety. Moreover, having shopkeepers entering the manor will also disturb mother and grandmother. I don’t want my elders to worry about it. Besides, grandfather also secretly gave me some things. If grandmother knows, I’m afraid she will doubt the fairness of grandfather’s property distribution. It might cause another trouble. Grandfather has just passed away. I can’t bear making grandmother suspicious of him because of me. I shouldn’t waste my elders’ benevolence. Ninth Uncle, am I right?”
Cheng Yuanjing looked at her and thought to himself: wasn’t she just want to visit those three shops secretly? Just for this small thing, she devised such a high-sounding reason. Cheng Yuanjing asked: “What do you want to say?”
Cheng Yujin was pleased. His Highness didn’t retort, which indicated that he accepted her reasoning. She continued: “This little girl grew up in the inner residence. The servants I met every day are women serving in the inner courtyard. According to the reason, since I’m still unmarried, these kinds of outside affairs should be handled by my elders. But after all, those are given to me by grandfather; I shouldn’t leave it under other people. But if I don’t manage it well, I will betray my grandfather’s kindness. I want to do my best, but unfortunately, I am stupid and don’t understand business…”
Cheng Yuanjing listened patiently, but in the end, he couldn’t bear it anymore: “Finish within ten words.”
Cheng Yujin’s voice snapped abruptly. She stared at Cheng Yuanjing, pursed her lips, and quickly said: “Ninth Uncle, please take me out to see the shops.”
Ten words. No more, no less.
Cheng Yuanjing threw her a glance: “You can say it in one sentence. Why use so much nonsense?”
Cheng Yujin secretly rolled her eyes. She was used to occupying the moral high ground in everything. Although she was selfish, self-centered, and easily suspicious, since she wanted to secretly inspect the shops given by the Old Master, she must have a good reason.
If one wanted to occupy the perfect moral ground, they must take account of all aspects and speak it out eloquently. This wasn’t an easy task. Cheng Yujin spent a long time to prepare her rhetorics. However, Cheng Yuanjing was too impatient to listen, forcing her to finish her speech in just one sentence. Facing him, it was like a scholar facing a soldier. Truly infuriating.
But who made him the crown prince? Cheng Yujin obviously was fuming, yet she still had to keep smiling: “Ninth Uncle is right. But this little girl has no person I can use, and I also don’t know the situation outside. Even if I want to take a look in person, I can’t go out freely. But Ninth Uncle is different. Ninth Uncle is an honorable jinshi. Over the years, you have been taking care of common people’s suffering and are familiar with their condition and livelihood. Whether it is in business or officialdom, Ninth Uncle can see its real shape and the truth or falseness, at a glance. To know the world is to understand its struggle. Having Ninth Uncle here is truly a blessing for the court.”
Aa Cheng Yujin talking, she found out that Cheng Yuanjing was staring at her. She paused and couldn’t help touching her face. She asked: “Ninth Uncle, why are you staring at me like that?”
Cheng Yuanjing said flatly, “It’s a pity that you aren’t an official.”
“Your nonsensing ability is top-notch.”
Cheng Yujin secretly scolded: that’s your own court, up to you if you want to mock. Cheng Yujin’s smile was unfazed: “Of course not. The court is full of talented people who work hard for the sake of our country. They are all Wei Zheng (1) and Bao Zheng(2), the model of honest and justice official. Truly the sign of prosperous age.”
Originally, Cheng Yuanjing was listening with a cold face. But in the end, he couldn’t help chuckling. Cheng Yuanjing glanced at Cheng Yujin, then reached out to flick her forehead with a smile in his eyes. Cheng Yujin dutifully acted her role as a greedy minister next to a wise monarch. Seeing that Cheng Yuanjing was in a good mood, she asked, “Ninth Uncle, then I…”
Cheng Yuanjing stood up: “Don’t you just want to go out and take a look at your shops? Why need so much nonsense. Let’s go.”
It wasn’t easy for a girl like Cheng Yujin to take a trip outside. If she wanted to go out, she must first ask for Qingfu Junzhu’s permission. If Qingfu gave her consent, afterward, she had to ask the Old Madam’s permission. She naturally also has to tell where she wanted to go and for what purpose. In the end, everyone inside the house would know about her trip. Moreover, things involving money were especially eye-catching. Cheng Yujin didn’t want others to know. But if she wanted to go out secretly, only a male relative could take her out. Cheng Yujin’s father was unreliable. Not to mention her brothers. After calculating her alternatives, the only one she could ask for help was Cheng Yuanjing.
Fortunately, although it was difficult for Cheng Yujin to take a trip outside, it wasn’t the case for Cheng Yuanjing. He only needed to order his people to prepare the carriage, and there was no need for him to ask for permission or explain his purpose. Cheng Yujin sat inside the carriage, listening to the carriage drove out of the gated compound. She sighed slowly. Sure enough, men were indeed much freer.
(1) Wei Zheng: Tang politician and historian, notorious as a critic, editor of History of the Sui Dynasty
(2) Bao Zheng: Northern Song official renowned for his honesty; a modern-day metaphor for an honest politician
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