Cheng Yujin didn’t want to meet Xu Zhixian, but when Cheng Min began to teach Cheng Yumo how to manage concubines and servant girls who climbed the bed of male master, she couldn’t stay and listen anymore. Cheng Yujin quickly stood up. Using an excuse of returning to her courtyard to fetch something, she took her personal servant girl and walked away.
Today was Du Ruo’s duty to follow and serve Cheng Yujin. Du Ruo talked less than Lian Qiao, but she was very attentive. Du Ruo carefully tied up the cloak for Cheng Yujin, then followed her Miss quietly all the way. Cheng Yujin walked for a while when suddenly a servant came to her and delivered a message from the gatekeeper. After receiving the message, she immediately changed her direction and walked towards Cheng Yuanjing’s courtyard.
Since Cheng Yujin realized how she never met Lin Qingyuan again at Cheng Yuanjing’s place, she quickly figured out the cause. Originally, she didn’t feel a hurry. Her intention was to boil the frog in warm water, slowly capturing Lin Qingyuan’s attention with small encounters. But now that Zhai Yanlin was suddenly intervening, Cheng Yujin immediately became vigilant. At the beginning of the twelfth month, she bought out the servants stationed as gatekeepers, instructing them to notice her once Lin Qingyuan came to Yichun Marquis Manor. Cheng Yujin had a lot of money now, and she was especially generous, so the gatekeepers happily did the task from her.
Unexpectedly, she was so lucky today. Lin Qingyuan happened to visit, and Cheng Yuanjing was not at the manor. Truly a chance from heaven.
Full of fighting spirit, Cheng Yujin took Du Ruo to block Lin Qingyuan. Of course, she couldn’t let Lin Qingyuan think that she was deliberate. Taking advantage of the manor’s structure, Cheng Yujin walked in a roundabout path and ‘coincidentally’ encountered the young man at one of the small side gates.
Lin Qingyuan was about to go out of the gate when Cheng Yujin came in from the opposite end. Seeing Cheng Yujin, Lin Qingyuan was very surprised: “Eldest Miss Cheng? Why are you here?”
“Compiler Lin?” Cheng Yujin pretended to be surprised and said, “The small kitchen in grandmother’s courtyard is too busy, so I’m going back to my courtyard to take some refreshments. It’s so coincidental to meet you here. I haven’t go to Ninth Uncle’s place for a long time and haven’t seen you for quite some time. Have you been busy with official works recently?”
Lin Qingyuan was stunned. He obviously came often to visit Cheng Yuanjing this winter, unlike what Cheng Yujin had just said. Cheng Yujin pretended to be ignorant and looked at him with a pure and innocent smile. Lin Qingyuan quickly figured out the truth. Concealing his smile, he said: “Yes. I have been busy and didn’t have time to come to visit Jingxing. Speaking about it, Jingxing seems to be absent a lot recently. Does eldest miss Cheng know where he is going?”
Even if Cheng Yujin knew, she wouldn’t tell Lin Qingyuan, let alone she truly didn’t have an idea. Cheng Yujin tilted her head slightly, as if thinking seriously, then shook her head after a while: “I don’t know. I just hear that Ninth Uncle is going out to visit some friends and rarely comes home recently.”
Lin Qingyuan sighed. As someone who considered himself Cheng Yuanjing’s friend, Lin Qingyuan had a complicated feeling when hearing Cheng Yuanjing’s reason of ‘visiting friends.’ Lin Qingyuan shook his head and smiled. His expression relaxed, no longer cared about it. He said: “I actually wanted to find Jingxing to borrow books from him. Since he isn’t here, I will come again another day.”
How could Cheng Yujin let him leave just like that? She smiled gently and said with a soft tone: “What book is Brother Lin looking for? I also borrowed a lot from Ninth Uncle and put some books in my room. Brother Lin might as well tell me the title of the book. Maybe I have an impression.”
Cheng Yujin very smoothly changed the address to ‘Brother Lin’ again.
Lin Qingyuan didn’t notice a bit and casually said a few titles. Cheng Yujin nodded and said: “Yes. I keep the poem collection in my room. As for the essay compilation, I have an impression of the title but can’t remember where it is. If Brother Lin isn’t busy now, you might as well wait in the guest room for a while. I will go back and find the books for you.”
Lin Qingyuan was overjoyed. He cupped his hands and said: “Many thanks, eldest Miss Cheng.”
“Brother Lin is too polite.” Cheng Yujin stepped back, avoiding Lin Qingyuan’s salute, and curtsied in return. “Then Brother Lin, you should come with me. Who knows how long it will take my servant girl to go back and forth to my courtyard? It is rude to let a Master Zhuangyuan1 standing outside like this. I just make a new cake. Brother Lin can help me try the taste.”
Lin Qingyuan was actually taken aback. He thought that it would be Cheng Yujin who went back to fetch the book. He didn’t expect that she would send her servant girl instead. But since Cheng Yujin had said so, Lin Qingyuan wouldn’t refute her words and made her lose face. Besides, there was also a vague excitement in his heart. He was secretly happy to have a chance to chat with Cheng Yujin.
At this time, a group of people arrived at the side gate of Yichun Marquis Manor. Cheng Yuanjing stepped down from the horse. The gatekeeper, who was playing card with his fellow servants, heard the sound and hurried over to see Cheng Yuanjing was back. The young man, dressed in black clothes with golden embroidery, black overcoat, and wide leather belt, looked so majestic and imposing.
The gatekeeper was so astounded that he momentarily forgot his tongue. Cheng Yuanjing glanced at him. The gatekeeper immediately felt dizzy and had a strange impulse to kneel down. He tried his best to move his tongue and stammered a complete sentence: “Ninth Master, you are back! How is your journey?”
Cheng Yuanjing didn’t have time to talk uselessly with the gatekeeper. He passed the rein to his subordinate and walked into the gate by himself. “Where is eldest girl? Is the manor okay these two days?”
The gatekeeper’s calves trembled, and he replied with a deep bow: “Everything is okay. Everyone is getting together for the New Year. Old Madam, madams, and young miss are very happy celebrating. Today, the two married ladies are returning home, and eldest miss should be in Shou’an Hall with everyone else.”
Cheng Yuanjing nodded and went straight to Shou’an Hall. He walked fast, taking the shortest path, and didn’t waste even a second in irrelevant places.
When Cheng Yuanjing arrived at Shou’an Hall, the old servant woman in charge of the door was stunned upon seeing him. After being glared at by Cheng Yuanjing’s people, she quickly bowed her head and informed the people inside: “Old Madam, Ninth Master is back.”
The lively and noisy atmosphere inside the hall suddenly diminished. After Cheng Yuanjing entered the door, he didn’t remove his cloak. He just scanned the room briefly and found that Cheng Yujin was not there.
Cheng Yuanjing frowned: “Where is eldest girl?”
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