Although the lanterns she was looking at were bright and brilliant, none of them entered Cheng Yujin’s eyes. The place where the lantern riddles were presented was very lively, and the surroundings were full of joyful laughter from couples, friends, and families. But for Cheng Yujin, all of this liveliness seemed to have nothing to do with her.
Cheng Yujin was lost in her thoughts again. When she finally returned to her senses, she found that she had been lingering at the same lantern riddle for a long time.
A couple nearby was taking their children to look at the lanterns. Seeing Cheng Yujin, who was standing for a long time in front of a lantern, the wife smiled and said: “Miss, the lantern riddles here are pretty difficult! We tried guessing a few, but not one was correct.”
The couple thought that Cheng Yujin was too immersed in guessing the lantern riddle, so their tone had a hint of teasing. Cheng Yujin merely nodded back with a smile, but didn’t say a word.
Lin Qingyuan heard the voices and turned around to ask: “Eldest miss Cheng, what’s the matter?”
“Nothing.” Cheng Yujin shook her head. Although this place was safe, it was full of people. It was difficult for Lian Qiao and Du Ruo to follow her constantly. Cheng Yujin glanced at the two servant girls, signaling them not to follow her. As personal servant girls, they served Cheng Yujin all year long with almost no days off. Therefore, Cheng Yujin deliberately gave them a break today and walked quietly to the riverside alone.
The lights from countless lanterns were reflected on the river’s surface. At this time of the year, the river had been frozen, so there was no worry that people might accidentally fall into the water and drown.
Many stalls deliberately hang smaller lanterns on the frozen river. Each stall’s size had been determined beforehand, so stall owners who wanted to hung more lanterns simply extended their stall towards the river, secretly expanding their business area. With many having the same idea, the river’s frozen surface was now looked like a silver belt winding through the capital, illuminated by tiny dots of lights. The resulting effect was breathtaking, as if the river of stars itself was manifesting on earth.
The stalls were doing business, so the most elaborate lanterns were hung as the centerpiece to attract pedestrians’ attention. Farther from the stall towards the river, smaller lanterns were hung, and the number of onlookers around was also drastically decreased. Cheng Yujin walked along the riverside. Now that she was no longer among the crowd, she quietly sighed in relief.
With pressure in the heart, even if a person went to a stroll and saw beautiful things, they couldn’t feel blending in. Cheng Yujin was like that. She felt as if she was accompanying others having fun, but she alone was disconnected from the excitement around.
Her eyes, slightly unfocused, were fixed on the reflected lights on the frozen river. That time in the summer when she went out to inspect the shops left to her by Old Master Cheng, she was also walking and strolling just like now, but with a lot more enthusiasm. Perhaps, inspecting one’s own stuff just felt different, or perhaps, it was because the person she was with was different.
Cheng Yujin suddenly felt upset. She took a deep breath, trying to inhale the cold air to calm her mind. When she looked up again, Cheng Yujin saw a child holding a tiger-shaped lantern was running playfully towards the middle part of the river.
His parents were probably distracted, or they might think that the river was frozen solid, so they let the child run on the ice alone, thinking that there was no danger at all. But the child was gradually running further and further away from the bank towards the middle, where the ice was very thin. On top of that, this year’s snowfalls were very few, and the temperature after the New Year was warmer than the previous years.
Cheng Yujin suddenly had an inexplicable premonition. At that moment, she seemed to vaguely see a thin crack on the ice.
Cheng Yujin was shocked and subconsciously called out towards the child. However, the crowd was very noisy, with so many people gathered around the lanterns to guess the riddles, drowning Cheng Yujin’s voice. The child had no sense of crisis and was still running happily.
The middle part of the river was far away from the bank, and the ice layer there was often the thinnest. If such a small child fell into the icy water this time of the year, he had almost no possibility to survive.
Cheng Yujin was good at calculating, and she only took a step after planning three steps forward. However, she also made decisions very speedily at critical moments. In a blink of an eye, Cheng Yujin had made up her mind. She immediately stepped onto the ice and ran towards the child as fast as she could. At the same time, she yelled loudly, trying to warn the child of the danger forward and urge him to go back quickly.
However, with the noisy crowd of the Lantern Festival, people on the banks couldn’t catch Cheng Yujin’s words, and the child she was yelling at didn’t even hear her voice. Cheng Yujin saw the child ran even further, stomping on the already thin ice. Cheng Yujin’s heart skipped a beat, and she hurriedly shouted: “Don’t move!”
This time, the pedestrians on both sides of the river finally noticed that something was wrong. They saw the figure of a woman, whose high status could be seen from her expensive-looking white cloak, running towards the ice. This peculiarity attracted many people’s attention. Then finally, someone noticed that the river’s ice surface was about to break.
“Hey, the ice on the middle is cracking!”
More and more people stopped and pointed at the river, and the child finally noticed the danger he was in. He looked down and saw the thin yet dangerous cracks on the ice. He was so frightened that he cried and tried to run back to the land.
Even if the child was small, the force of him stepping on the ice with all his weight was not low, let alone he was running in panic. Cheng Yujin saw the crack spread like a spider web. With each of the child’s movements, the ice surface became more and more fragile.
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