This way, everyone could maintain their dignity on the surface.
But Cheng Yuanjing didn’t think so. He had already given up his identity once. Now he also had to give up his decade of upbringing in the capital alongside an official career and experience with a jinshi background and returned to the Eastern Palace as a Crown Prince with common folks upbringing and no experience. Who would be willing to follow such a Crown Prince? Only a few people knew the truth. Only the confidants he nurtured during his appointment outside the capital would be his foundation.
Cheng Yuanjing’s position was different than that of the Emperor. The Emperor ascended the throne as the unfavored Kang Wang. Over the years, he had been used in maintaining harmony with the Yang family. If Empress Dowager Yang and Yang Fucheng knew that the Crown Prince had been living in the capital for many years and even passed the imperial examination under their noses, it would be a huge slap on their face. The Empress Dowager would undoubtedly be greatly provoked. The Emperor didn’t want to create another conflict, so he chose to wrong Cheng Yuanjing in order to preserve the Yang family’s face.
However, from Cheng Yuanjing’s point of view, preserving the Yang family’s face was the same as showing his weakness to them. Before the battle truly even started, he already showed weakness to the enemies, which put him into an even more unfavorable situation.
Cheng Yuanjing had always disagreed with the Emperor’s plan. But originally, he didn’t have the intention to refuse directly. Of course he made this choice after weighing the pros and contras. He followed the Emperor’s plan, which put him in an unfavorable situation. In the future, the Emperor, who felt guilty, would definitely give him a bigger compensation.
If it weren’t for Cheng Yujin, Cheng Yuanjing would not come back after ‘visiting friends’ this winter. He came back abruptly, because he couldn’t bear the thought of her being alone in the manor during the New Year’s festivity. Because of his return, Cheng Yuanjing hadn’t ‘died’ yet.
For each extra day he stayed in the capital, Cheng Yuanjing’s pressure was getting bigger. The Lantern Festival was the absolute deadline. After tomorrow, he had to leave the capital and changed his identity. But now, Cheng Yuanjing had changed his mind.
He had been planning for a long time. But the moment he made the decision, Cheng Yuanjing felt refreshed, as if invisible shackles were suddenly unlocked. Cheng Yuanjing lowered his eyes slightly, avoiding looking directly at the Emperor. This was the rule when seeing an emperor. Before being a father and a son, they were a monarch and a subject.
Cheng Yuanjing said: “Your Majesty, I would like to return to my identity as Cheng Yuanjing, and marry the eldest daughter of Cheng family to prove that I am not Cheng family’s blood.”
The Emperor silently stared at his son. Sure enough, his hunch was correct. One by one, everything was going off track since yesterday.
The Emperor asked heavily: “Have you made up your mind?”
“Do you know how much help you gave up by doing this, and how much trouble you will cause to yourself?”
“I know.” Cheng Yuanjing lowered his gaze. Under the cover of his eyelashes, other people could not see the emotions in his eyes. The perpetual cold aura on his body was slightly dissipated, and a trace of gentleness appeared on his voice: “My wife will accompany me through life and death. In the future, she is the one I will be sharing my tomb with. Until that time, she is the person sleeping next to my pillow. Therefore, if the person I marry is not her, what is the point?”
The Emperor was originally fuming with anger. But when he heard these words, he was suddenly startled.
Accompany in life and death, sharing the same tomb — when Zhong-shi was still alive, she had also said similar things. Back then, he was just an unfavored Kang Wang, and even his fief couldn’t be said to be vast or wealthy. Zhong-shi was born and grew up in the capital. Once she followed him to the fief, she would never have a chance to come back.
All her parents, relatives, and friends were in the capital. This departure was equal to lifelong separation, as she wouldn’t have a chance to see her parents again in this life. However, Zhong-shi was willing to go with him. She left the bustling capital behind and went through the journey without complaining from beginning to end.
That year, when they arrived at Kang Wang’s manor, Zhong-shi was looking forward to planning for their future. She earnestly began to plan about what to do with this courtyard, and what to do with that pavilion. At that time, he also felt the anticipation of spending a lifetime together.
But later, none of Zhong-shi’s plans came to realization, including the courtyard she wanted to prepare for their eldest daughter.
Because they never had a daughter.
She accompanied him through the valley of suffering, but died on the eve of happiness.
The Emperor obviously should scold the son for being willful and making trouble. Obviously, he should follow his parent’s order and choose the Crown Princess most suitable for his status and position. But thinking of the early death of Zhong-shi, all the words were suddenly blocked by sadness.
The Emperor fell into thought for a long time, but finally could only sigh. After all, it was he, the Emperor, who was sorry for the mother and son. If the Empress was still Zhong-shi and Li Chengjing’s Crown Prince position was secure, he naturally could marry anyone he wanted to marry.
The emperor sighed: “Have you thought well?”
Cheng Yuanjing lowered his head and said firmly: “Yes.”
“You have grown up and can make decisions on your own. Zhen won’t interfere with this matter anymore. Alright. Since you insist, then just do it according to your wish.”
Cheng Yuanjing knelt down: “Thank you, Your Majesty.”
The Emperor seemed to want to say something else, but at this moment, the eunuch who was guarding outside the door came in and cautiously reminded: “Your Majesty, the Empress has been asking about your whereabouts.”
The Emperor quickly swallowed back his original words and said loudly: “Zhen knows, step back.”
Although the Emperor said so, he had stood up and walked out. After just two steps, he suddenly remembered that his eldest son was still here, and hesitantly paused his steps.
When the eunuch came, Cheng Yuanjing had already got up and stood aside. Sensing the Emperor was pausing his steps, Cheng Yuanjing was not surprised: “Many thanks for Your Majesty’s grace. This son will send Your Majesty off.”
In the end, the Emperor couldn’t say what he originally wanted to say. Cheng Yuanjing’s attitude and speech were respectful and polite, as should it be between the monarch and a subject. From beginning to the end, his son had never once called him ‘Father.’
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