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Cheng Yujin was finally satisfied. She no longer wiped her eyes with a handkerchief, and her tears gradually stopped. Heaven, earth, ruler, parent, and teacher. Things had to be respected according to this order. The only thing that could overcome the ancient system of gender roles was the more powerful hierarchy, such as filial piety, such as the relationship between monarch and subject.
The matter of Cheng Yujin’s marriage being robbed by her own younger sister undoubtedly would become the source of malicious gossip. Especially because in these years, Cheng Yujin wasn’t low-key. Many of her peers were suppressed by her, and they naturally held quite a resentment. If she did nothing, when the time came, the situation would go out of control, and who knew how many ugly words would be directed at her. Some dark-hearted people could even make outrageous speculation, saying that Jingyong Marquis broke off the engagement because she had a hidden illness, thus Yichun Marquis manor also gave up on her and let her younger sister replace this marriage.
At that time, even if Cheng Yujin had hundreds of tongues, it would be no use. After all, something like a hidden illness, how to prove it to others? If not for hidden illness, why did her family let her fall into this situation?
But if the reason were to observe the mourning, then it would be completely different. When the word filial piety was taken out, all other rituals had to lean back. Moreover, the Old Master personally ordered Cheng Yujin to observe his mourning and named her to be equal with the eldest grandson. This honor was not small. A wife observing parent-in-law’s mourning was one of three exceptions. Afterward, even if she committed any of seven offenses1, it wasn’t easy for her husband to divorce her. This showed how heavy filial piety was. And for a granddaughter to observe mourning in accordance with the eldest grandson’s ritual, it was a supreme honor.
Since ancient times, women couldn’t enter the ancestral hall. For thousands of years, sacrifices and many rituals were the domain of men, and there were few places for women. But now, Cheng Yujin could be one of them. The eldest grandson was an heir and has a higher status in family heritage than second son and below. Cheng Yujin’s honor was one of a kind, and even surpassed Cheng Min, a daughter. When the mourning period was over, just by flaunting off this achievement, Cheng Yujin would be able to make those gossipers speechless. And at that time, she would have another bargaining chip for her marriage.
Cheng Yujin was very satisfied. This was even better than she had originally expected, especially because the Old Madam promised to announce it personally. With half the effort, she gained twice the benefit. Truly an unexpected joy. Cheng Yujin was extremely satisfied with today’s harvest.
Cheng Yujin finally stopped crying. Du Ruo took this opportunity to step forward and said: “Miss, the ground is cold. Please get up before talking. Do not let down the Old Madam’s kindness.”
As if being awakened from a daze, other servants in the hall also hurriedly came forward to help Cheng Yujin. Cheng Yujin stood up. The Old Madam saw Cheng Yujin’s pale face. She felt distressed and said: “Give the eldest girl a stool and bring a cup of hot tea. A girl’s body is delicate. She knelt on the ground for so long. Do not let her catch a cold.”
Cheng Yujin used a few words to pretend to refuse, but finally sat on an embroidered stool brought by a servant girl. Ruan-shi, who has also been crying for a long time, was left on the side, still standing. The makeup on her face was messy, and her eyes were red and swollen. Ruan-shi looked at Cheng Yujin, who had cried but still looked beautiful and elegant. Then she saw her current appearance, and suddenly felt awkward.
Ruan-shi secretly complained. She had been crying for a long time, and was also feeling cold. Why did the Old Madam give Cheng Yujin a seat and tea, but ignored her?
Cheng Yujin took the cup and slowly sipped the hot tea. Old Madam Cheng saw that everyone has calmed down, and opened her mouth: “Since we have reached a consensus, then several days later, I will announce the Old Master’s last wish to everyone. Eldest girl will stay at home to observe the mourning, and second girl will get married ahead of schedule. The most important for a family is to be in harmony. If family members are united, no matter how strong the adversaries are, we will be able to brace it. Otherwise, without others doing anything, we will crumble from inside like loose sand.”
Old Madam Cheng wanted to end this matter peacefully. Cheng Yujin nodded obediently. The Old Madam saw that both daughter-in-law and granddaughter listened attentively and thought that her words had gained the desired effect. She continued with satisfaction: “Now that the matter of mourning and marriage has been settled, you are not allowed to make a commotion in the future. Eldest girl, you must never again say that kind of unlucky things.”
Cheng Yu Jin stood up and politely replied: “Yes, grandmother. Earlier, this granddaughter wasn’t sensible. Many thanks for grandmother’s timely reprimand. Otherwise, this granddaughter might have committed a grave mistake.”
Afterward, Cheng Yujin turned to Ruan-shi, and solemnly bowed in apology: “This niece had shown unsightly behavior, and momentarily lost my manners and words. Yujin begs for second aunt’s forgiveness. Please do not take my nonsense to heart…”
Cheng Yujin pleaded guilty and made amends. She said everything she should say. On the contrary, it made Ruan-shi seemed to be not as sensible as a little girl. Ruan-shi said embarrassedly: “It’s alright. We are one family. If you have an issue in your mind, it’s better to speak it out clearly.”
“I’m glad that second aunt doesn’t blame me.” Cheng Yujin continued. Her tone remained unchanged, and she lightly added: “However, there are some things that are prone to misunderstandings, so second aunt better not to say it anymore. My mother is Qingfu Junzhu, and my father is Cheng family’s eldest master. Although second sister and I are sisters of the same family, after all, we are still cousins from different branches, not biological sisters. I thank second aunt for loving me dearly, but my parents are other people. Saying that I was born from your stomach, this kind of remark, please never say it anymore.”
Ruan-shi’s face instantly stiffened. Her throat was choked, and she couldn’t even utter a word. Of course she knew from whose stomach Cheng Yujin was born. She was Cheng Yujin’s biological mother, and Qingfu Junzhu was just a mother in name. Everyone in the family knew this. These years, Ruan-shi always considered herself Cheng Yujin’s mother, but now Cheng Yujin said in front of Ruan-shi’s face that her mother was another person, and Ruan-shi was just her uncle’s wife.
This sentence stabbed Ruan-shi severely. It was even more heartbreaking than when she heard Cheng Yujin saying that she wanted to kill herself. Ruan-shi’s face turned pale, but Old Madam Cheng was very satisfied with Cheng Yujin’s sensible attitude. She nodded in appreciation and said: “Eldest girl is right. Second child’s wife just made a mistake in panic. In the future, you shouldn’t be so careless.”
Ruan-shi’s lips trembled. And the last color on her face disappeared completely.
Cheng Yujin said this, is it not admitting their relationship? She is obviously Cheng Yujin’s biological mother!
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- Seven offenses and three exceptions: If a wife commits at least one of the seven offenses (unfilial, barren, adulterous, jealous, has a vile disease, gossipy, committing thievery), a husband can unilaterally divorce her, except if one of the three exceptions is fulfilled (she has no family to return, she has observed three full years of mourning for her parent-in-law, she married her husband when he was poor and now he is rich).