This New Year, Cheng Yujin spent the time peacefully and indifferently. She watched the whole Yichun Marquis Manor lit up firecrackers, filling the manor with deafening crackling sounds. Cheng Enbao, wrapped tightly by Qingfu Junzhu, stood in the yard, yelling the servant boys to lit the fireworks.
Colorful fireworks rose into the sky, reflecting their brilliance in the yard from time to time. Everyone gathered under the roofed corridor, pointing to the fireworks outside and exclaiming in delight. New Year was a rare chance for everyone to relax. All the servant girls in the manor were receiving a day off. At this moment, they were crowding on the corridors, chattering. Even Old Madam Cheng, who was always aloof in normal days, was also coming out to watch the fireworks, supported by her personal servants. Old Madam Cheng watched her grandsons running around in the yard, full of energy. She smiled in satisfaction.
Both Qingfu Junzhu and Ruan-shi were staying by Old Madam Cheng’s side. They pointed to the fireworks they liked while telling the Old Madam to be careful of the debris. Children in red clothes ran around in the yard, causing the adults to laugh from time to time. Cheng Yujin watched this scene from a distance. Her reason told her to greet the Old Madam with some auspicious words and join the crowd. However, after a long time, Cheng Yujin just stood still and looked at Qingfu Junzhu and Old Madam Cheng indifferently.
At this time, they truly looked like one family, but Cheng Yujin was an outsider with no place among them, separated from everyone. No matter where she went, the laughter would stop. Although everyone greeted her warmly, they were separated from her by a layer of politeness. Only after she was gone that they secretly sighed in relief and became relaxed again.
Cheng Yujin couldn’t blend into the crowd. In fact, she also didn’t want to blend in. There seemed to be an invisible barrier separating her from everyone else. Cheng Yujin watched the happy scene for a while, but she couldn’t feel any happiness, so she used the cover of night to walk away quietly.
She went back to her room. Today was New Year Eve. All the servants in her courtyard also went outside to watch the fireworks, and the normally well-regulated courtyard seemed empty at the moment. Cheng Yujin sat by the window. Laughters from outside passed through the gate. When the laughters finally reached her ears, they were already very faint. Even the sound of firecrackers also seemed to be very small.
Only the remaining smell of gunpowder on her body still reminded her of the previous scene.
Cheng Yujin looked outside the window in a daze. Even so, she couldn’t help but feel at lost. New Year’s Eve was the time for a family reunion, yet she didn’t know where her home was. Whether it was Qingfu Junzhu or Ruan-shi, they were happily celebrating New Year with their own children. Cheng Yujin’s appearance would only disturb their joy. Knowing this, Cheng Yujin also had no desire to join.
Whether it was the first branch or the second branch, there was no place for Cheng Yujin. She also didn’t know where else she could go. Before, there was Cheng Yuanjing, who was also alone, just like her. Whenever she went to talk with Cheng Yuanjing, she never felt desolate. But now he was not here, Cheng Yujin realized that her existence was unnecessary everywhere.
—As if there was no place for her in this vast world.
The night was getting deeper, but Cheng Yujin had to stay awake. After a while, she had to go to Old Madam Cheng’s courtyard to wait for the New Year with other family members, so she couldn’t go to bed yet. At this time, the whole manor was gathering outside to set off fireworks. Cheng Yujin disliked the noisiness, so she could only sit in her courtyard by herself, quietly waiting for time to pass and the New Year to arrive.
She looked at the dark scenery outside the window and couldn’t help thinking: where was Cheng Yuanjing at this moment?
After returning from Xiangji Temple, Cheng Yujin rarely saw Cheng Yuanjing again. When asked, she only vaguely received an answer that Ninth Master was going to visit friends outside. As for where he went, which friends he visited, and how long it would take for him to come back, no one knew. Cheng Yujin heard that Cheng Yuanjing had come back in the middle of the night two days ago, but it seemed that he only took a short trip back to pack some belongings, and immediately went out again early in the morning.
Cheng Yuanjing’s position in Yichun Marquis Manor was also very awkward. No servants in Cheng family dared to neglect or mistreat this Ninth Master, who already had a high official rank despite his young age. But because of Old Madam Cheng’s attitude, they also didn’t dare to get close, so everyone put a certain distance from him. People in the manor actually felt relieved that Cheng Yuanjing was absent for the New Year. Without having to see Cheng Yuanjing, Old Madam Cheng wouldn’t have her mood soiled on this festive day, so everyone else could also enjoy the New Year to the fullest.
Tonight, only Cheng Yujin looked around repeatedly to confirm whether Cheng Yuanjing had been back or not. Although she didn’t express it loudly, inward, she subconsciously tried to console herself: perhaps Cheng Yuanjing really was busy with some business outside, and he would go back once he finished.
If it weren’t for the heavy loss in her heart, Cheng Yujin herself would never notice how much she had been used to Cheng Yuanjing’s existence.
With a long sigh, Cheng Yujin leaned back on the chair, thinking absentmindedly. Right, Cheng Yuanjing wasn’t surnamed Cheng, and he really didn’t have to return to Cheng family’s home for New Year. But the imperial palace also held a big banquet for New Year’s Eve. At this moment, the palace must be brightly lit, and the Emperor, together with Empress and Empress Dowager Yang, would welcome the new year under the auspicious words from various courtiers and imperial relatives. However, Cheng Yuanjing couldn’t show up on this occasion, nor could he spend the festivity with his real family.
Cheng Yujin sighed again. He was clearly the dignified and revered crown prince, but he also had nowhere to go. Right after she had this thought, Cheng Yujin laughed mockingly at herself. Cheng Yuanjing was the crown prince. Even if his identity was concealed and he was unable to show up to the public, he would still have many people to accompany him for the New Year. Who was she to pity him?
Rather than this, it’s better for her to think about her own future.
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