Cheng Yujin’s original mood to watch the fun instantly diminished. She didn’t like to trouble others, and even more so, disliked being troubled by others. Seeing Qingfu Junzhu and Ruan-shi’s attitude, they seemingly was planning to fight a long-term battle and let her take care of their children for nothing?
Cheng Yujin resisted the urge to scold, reminding herself repeatedly that the most important thing to do when quarreling was to occupy the higher moral stand and let the opponent take the first blame. So she smiled kindly and welcomed the ‘guests’: “Second and third younger brother is also here? Come in.”
Cheng Yujin instructed her servant girl to prepare tea and led Qingfu Junzhu and Ruan-shi to the seat. Qingfu Junzhu’s eyes quickly swept across the sewing basket on the luohan couch. The corners of the cloth were red, embroidered with gold threads. It was clearly a dowry.
Not everyone could use gold threads. Even if ordinary people could afford to buy it, using clothes with gold thread embroidery was a crime of overstepping one’s status.
Qingfu Junzhu suddenly had some unspeakable feelings. She had never taken Cheng Yujin seriously. Qingfu Junzhu had always been surrounded by people who looked up and flattered her. She was a Junzhu, a member of the imperial clan. She was the most noble person in the Cheng family. When She adopted Cheng Yujin, everyone knew that it was Cheng Yujin’s luck for taking advantage of her! But now Cheng Yuji had become the Crown Princess, and her status was higher than her adoptive mother.
No, it was actually far above Qingfu Junzhu.
To speak frankly, Qingfu Junzhu was just a Junzhu1 who grew up in a distant fief. Her blood relationship with the current Emperor was very far, enough to be reduced to a side branch in ordinary clans. It just happened that her family’s surname was Li, and they had been staying in their fief for a long time. As long as Ning Wang didn’t make a mistake, his title and fief could be passed on to his descendants for generations. If Qingfu Junzhu didn’t marry into the capital, she might end her life staying in her family’s fief forever, relying on the prestige and income generated by a small amount of her father’s land, with no chance to ever go to the bustling capital and see the real imperial family.
Qingfu married to Cheng family, who looked strong outside but was hollow inside. As a noble and prestigious daughter-in-law, the whole family flattered her. But thinking from another angle, a di daughter of an imperial wang2 married someone like Cheng Yuanxian, which showed Ning Wang’s status and worth in the imperial clan. Ning Wang lived cautiously in low-profile, not daring to make any mistakes in fear of arousing the Emperor’s suspicion. Even though Qingfu was a Junzhu, she was just the daughter of the distant imperial relative, completely incomparable to the Emperor’s direct nieces. As for the Crown Prince, that was an existence far beyond her reach.
Putting Qingfu Junzhu and the Crown Prince on the same frame was itself an insult to the Crown Prince.
Therefore, it was natural for Qingfu Junzhu to feel very sour and unwilling when Cheng Yujin became the Crown Princess. Seeing a person who was originally higher than her getting even higher was totally incomparable to seeing an inferior person who previously depended on her charity suddenly soared to the sky. For the former, Qingfu Junzhu couldn’t even feel jealous, but for the latter, she was suffocated with all flavors of bitterness.
This was exactly Qingfu Junzhu’s feeling when she faced Cheng Yujin now.
Qingfu Junzhu concealed the sour jealousy in her heart and asked with a smile: “Eldest girl, are you in the middle of embroidering your dowry?”
Cheng Yujin nodded calmly. There was no typical shyness of a newly engaged girl on her face as she answered: “Yes.”
Qingfu Junzhu and Ruan-shi suddenly didn’t know how to continue the conversation. After a while, Ruan-shi smiled and said: “Eldest girl is truly beautiful and smart. When you were just born, you didn’t cry or make a fuss, but looked around with wide eyes, as if you understood what the adults were saying. At that moment, I knew that you must be surrounded by blessings. Now, it can be seen that my intuition is right.”
Cheng Yujin smiled softly: “Thank you for second aunt’s auspicious words.”
Qingfu coughed lightly and then began to talk about this morning’s incident: “It’s because the servants are stupid and cannot even do something as simple as delivering a porridge. I obviously do it with a good intention, but their conducts make others misunderstand. I have scolded Liu Mama after she went back, and she is now receiving punishment in my courtyard. Eldest girl shouldn’t take it to heart.”
Hearing Qingfu Junzhu mention Liu Mama, Ruan-shi quickly began to tell Cheng Yujin about what happened to Panzhi too. In order to express her attitude, Ruan-shi gritted her teeth and deliberately made Panzhi’s punishment much harsher than she intended. Not willing to lose, Qingfu Junzhu also added punishment to Liu Mama. Both of them refused to yield to the other, so they gritted their teeth and severely punished their own right hands.
Cheng Yujin smiled without saying a word, but she added a sentence from time to time, increasing the sparks between Qingfu Junzhu and Ruan-shi. The words they exchanged became increasingly harsher and more sarcastic. Meanwhile, adults could sit still for a long time, but children couldn’t—especially Cheng Enbao, who was spoiled by his mother. After a while, he began to twist left and right. His eyes wandered around, and he kicked the stool with his feet, clearly showing his impatience.
Cheng Enbao’s performance was undoubtedly very unruly, especially when Cheng Enbei sat quietly next to him. With his cousin as a contrast, Cheng Enbao’s behavior looked even more intolerable. Qingfu’s expression immediately sank, while Ruan-shi’s eyes were full of proud gloating. Cheng Yujin seemed to see nothing wrong, and she didn’t even spare the children a glance.
Qingfu Junzhu hurriedly scolded Cheng Enbao. Then she said to Cheng Yujin: “Eldest girl, Enbao has been spoiled by me and cannot sit down calmly to study. I only gave birth to him in my thirties and probably won’t have any other children in my life. I cannot bear to discipline him, but as a result, he grows up unruly. He is not afraid of anyone except you. You will rarely go out during the engagement period anyway, so you should have a lot of free time. You can help mother to teach your younger brother.”
When Ruan-shi heard it, she hurriedly followed suit: “It just so happens that Enbei is also free. Enbei always says how he admires his eldest sister’s intelligence. Eldest girl once learned calligraphy from the Crown Prince. Your penmanship must be excellent. Why don’t you take some time to give pointers to Enbei? Enbei is a diligent and calm child. He won’t disturb you.”
Because Cheng Yujin was free and had nothing to do, she had to help to teach her younger brothers? On what basis?
Just because she knew how to discipline children, she should take the burden off these two women and assume the responsibility of teaching their sons?
Cheng Yujin inwardly sneered. If she didn’t teach these people a lesson, they might never realize that Cheng Yujin was already the quasi Crown Princess. If they wanted to ask for her help, they should take a proper attitude instead of assuming the ‘this is what you ought to do’ posture to annoy her.
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- Junzhu: sometimes translated as ‘county princess,’ a title bestowed to daughters of Qinwang or Wang (first rank prince by blood). Junzhu is technically one level below imperial princesses (Gongzhu, daughters of an emperor).
- Wang: Also known as Qinwang, is the first rank prince by blood. A title usually given to an emperor’s sons.