It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager
Chapter 10 Pay One’s Respect
On the fourth day of July in the fifth year of Shentai, Feng Momo was leaving Jing Wang’s mansion.
Tang Shishi was standing at the second gate and behind her were two rows of beauties. All of them were silent and watched Feng Momo step onto the carriage.
Zhou Shunhua stood in the crowd and silently watched the Imperial Palace envoy left. Her attire was not striking today, when she stood among the beauties, she was immediately submerged. Feng Momo did not look at her when she left, as if she had completely forgotten her. At the same time, Zhou Shunhua also did not want to be noticed. When Feng Momo boarded the carriage, she turned around and saw that Tang Shishi was at the forefront.
Tang Shishi was conscious of Feng Momo’s attention, bowed her head and curtsy, “Respectfully sending Momo off.”
Feng Momo finally got into the carriage, there was no more movement after the curtain has been lowered. The carriage moved slowly, and the wheels rolled on the ground making a faint creak sound. Feng Momo was gone, no matter how tit-for-tat the ten beauties usually were, they all have a sad look on their face at this moment. Zhou Shunhua also seemed to be depressed. Zhou Shunhua at this moment did not realize that her story with these nine women has just begun and she would fight with them for the next 20 years.
Feng Momo’s carriage drove out of the side door, turned a corner, and soon disappeared. The porter and the guards followed closely, holding a flag symbolizing the Imperial Court, and after a while, even the flag could not be seen.
The ten of them stood there for a long time. Tang Shishi stood in the forefront and the morning breeze blew her skirt back and forth. Tongxiu waited for a while, and said slowly, “Little mistresses, it’s time to return.”
These women turned around one after another. Tang Shishi was the last one, she took two steps forward and looked back again.
The side door of Jing Wang’s mansion was closed in front of her, there was a dull sound when the heavy wooden door closed. Tang Shishi understood that her whole life would also be locked up in this mansion.
From then on, no matter she lived or died, agonized or prospered, rising or dying quietly, all of them were firmly bound together to this mansion and the people around here. If she succeeds, she will become a Phoenix, if she fails, she will be destitute and die miserably.
When the maid saw Tang Shishi stop, she could only wait beside her. Gradually someone turned around and checked on them, and the maid could not help but remind her gently, “Miss Tang.”
Tang Shishi retracted her gaze without any hesitation and walked with determination, “A new day has begun, let’s go.”
Feng Momo and the Imperial Court envoys finally left. From then on, Xiping became Jing Wang’s territory again. Originally, Tang Shishi thought that Jing Wang would put his guard down, and then later, there would be some actions to sort them out. Tang Shishi was well prepared, but after several days, everything was calm and tranquil, nothing happened.
Not only was she peaceful here, but the Liuyun courtyard of the other nine beauties was also as peaceful as ever.
If it were not for Tang Shishi’s book, she would have suspected that she was purposely isolated by the other nine people. In the middle of the night, Tang Shishi hid under the window to read the book. Since Feng Momo left, there were only a few new plots unlocked. Today, finally there was a newly updated chapter, Tang Shishi excitedly opened it and found that it was just a trivial matter.
There were nine beautiful and pampered women who lived in the same place. It was completely unimaginable how much friction they could have in a courtyard.
This chapter talked about Ji Xinxian’s conflict with Ren Yujun over who could use the hot water first. Finally, Zhou Shunhua gave up her own water to settle the dispute between the two women. All of the following were praises for Zhou Shunhua’s levelheadedness. Tang Shishi did not want to read it, so she just skipped it.
Then, it was finished.
Tang Shishi turned the pages over and over again, to confirm once again that Jing Wang really did not want to see them.
Not only she was peaceful here, but there was also no new plot in the book, which showed that Jing Wang had made up his mind to raise them. Putting them together in a confined space, provided them with food and drink, allowed them to be free and easy, and let them live till old age and die. If Tang Shishi was a person with no big ambitions, perhaps she would like this kind of comfortable life. But Tang Shishi knew if she sought for comfortable life now, she would weep and wail in a few more years.
The other nine women also have the same thinking. Each and every one of them has their own uniqueness and were picked by Empress Dowager herself. If they believed that they could live in peace and happiness, in that case, they have underestimated the charms of the Imperial Palace. How naïve they were.
They spent three years in a place like the Imperial Palace and saw the daily life of those Imperial family members. After witnessing all that, how could they be contented with what they have now? The imperial members in the palace were not necessarily grander than them. Why could not others do it?
There was no helpful information in the newly released chapter, and Tang Shishi was quite disappointed. She continued to flip the pages and saw the title of the next chapter.
“Pay respect and surrender to take the lead, follow to serve Shizi at school.”
What, go to school?
Tang Shishi was startled. If she understood correctly, the title should be suggesting that Zhou Shunhua would accompany Shizi to school, right? Tang Shishi was instantly awake. If she could go to school with Shizi, it meant they would be staying together every day from morning to night, right?
Tang Shishi suddenly got excited. She liked this new development. Good, she has decided to grab this opportunity for herself.
It was a pity that she could only see the title, but not the content of the plot. Tang Shishi stared at the title for a long time, carefully pondering on the words, surrender to take the lead, what kind of surrender method was this?
Tang Shishi could not figure it out and gave up soon. It did not matter, there was another keyword “pay respect.” Shishi Tang has decided to go to the main courtyard every morning to pay her respect from tomorrow onwards. She did not believe, this would not block the female lead’s lucky chance.
The next day, Tang Shishi woke up early for the first time, dressed up meticulously, and waited outside Jing Wang’s courtyard. Although Tang Shishi did not grow up in the circle of court officials, she had some understanding of the livelihood of these nobles. The higher the nobles’ rank, the stricter their social etiquette. Thus, the morning and evening greetings were the most important ones.
One would have to pay one’s respect to the most esteemed person first. Zhou Shunhua, a young lady who grew up in an official’s home, was impossible for her to make this kind of mistake. Zhou Shunhua would certainly be a well-behaved young lady in Jing Wang’s mansion and continued this kind of formalities. Later, she happened to run into Shizi who also came to pay his respect to Jing Wang. In the course of meeting each other daily, the two would develop a good feeling for each other. Naturally, Zhou Shunhua would be called by Shizi to serve him, grind ink, and prepare writing papers, at school.
Tang Shishi felt that she was able to see through the female lead’s intentions and was quite pleased with herself. The residence of Jing Wang was the main courtyard of the mansion, known as Yan’an courtyard which covered a vast area and was magnificent. Tang Shishi stood by the doorsteps, waiting motionlessly. The guard on duty at the door glanced at her several times, and finally could not help it, “Miss Tang, you came to see Wangye early in the morning, is there anything wrong?”
Tang Shishi said with a filial piety expression, “This little girl is here to pay my respect to Wangye.”
Pay your respect? The guard simply could not comprehend. Tang Shishi has an outstanding appearance. Nowadays, no one in the mansion did not recognize Miss Tang. Even the guards on duty have heard of her to some extent. When he saw her today, he understood that she really lived up to her reputation. However, Miss Tang seemed to be a bit foolish.
The guard said tactfully, “Miss Tang is thoughtful, but Wangye doesn’t like rackets, especially unnecessary and overelaborate formalities. Miss, please go back.”
“How can this be done?” Tang Shishi refused with a righteous countenance, “It’s an etiquette to pay one’s respect in the morning and in the evening. It’s Wangye’s affair to see me or not, but my intention is indispensable.”
All right, the guard has nothing to say. He was kind enough to say a few words to her, but he did not expect that Tang Shishi was so persistent. Since Tang Shishi liked it, he let her stand here for a while.
After Zhao Chengjun woke up, he went to the martial arts hall to practice martial arts as usual. Today, however, the attendant who served Wangye dillydallied and hesitated to speak.
Zhao Chengjun glanced at Liu Ji and asked lightly, “What’s the matter?”
Liu Ji was an old man who has been with Zhao Chengjun for more than ten years. Liu Ji has been serving by Zhao Chengjun’s side since he was a young prince. Liu Ji smirked, looked at Zhao Chengjun’s face carefully, and said, “Wangye, there’s someone outside who wants to pay respect to you.”
“Pay respect?” Zhao Chengjun frowned. He was an impatient man and did not like to waste time with others. This kind of mere courtesy has always been exempted. Even Zhao Zixun came to pay respect to him once every ten days. Today was not the tenth day. Why would anyone come to pay respect to him?
Zhao Chengjun asked, “Who?”
“That is Miss Tang.”
Zhao Chengjun was really surprised this time. He stopped for a long time and asked inconceivably, “Tang Shishi?”
Zhao Chengjun was silent, Liu Ji lowered his head and stared at the floor under his feet intently. After a while, Zhao Chengjun chuckled and his voice turned cold, “Then just let her wait.”
Tang Shishi thought she would have to wait for a long time, but after standing there for a while, the door of Yan’an courtyard opened. Tang Shishi caught a glimpse of the figure inside and immediately bowed and greeted, “Pay my respect to Wangye.”
Zhao Chengjun walked past expressionlessly as if he had not seen anyone standing by the door. Tang Shishi stood on the side of the path, obediently holding the bow posture. The corner of Jing Wang’s clothes brushed past her, and then a group of people followed behind him.
Everyone quietly followed Jing Wang and left. No one spoke. When they passed by her, everyone could not help but quietly glance at Tang Shishi from the corner of their eyes.
The beauty sent from the capital waited outside the courtyard for Wangye since early in the morning and she kept saying that she wanted to pay her respect to Wangye. What exactly was going on?
Everyone was curious, but no one dared to ask. Tang Shishi turned a blind eye to many eyes that were watching her. She was not annoyed despite being ignored. After everyone was gone, she stood up like nothing mattered and was not dispirited at all.
Then she continued to stand at the door.
This process lasted for five days. Tang Shishi came every day before dawn, and she did not leave until late in the morning. Even the guards could not bear to see her deep affection and devotion. Today, Jing Wang ignored Tang Shishi as usual. Tang Shishi stood by herself and thought it was another day of doing nothing again. Unexpectedly, at the time of chenshi (7 am – 9 am), Tang Shishi suddenly heard someone calling her, “Tang Shishi?”
When Tang Shishi turned around, her eyes suddenly lit up. Zhou Shunhua frowned when she saw that it was really her.
Zhou Shunhua looked at her suspiciously and asked, “Why are you here?”
Tang Shishi knew she had made the right bet and the plot really was happening! Tang Shishi quickly repressed the excitement in her eyes, and said with a soft face, “I’m here to pay my respect to Wangye.”
Pay your respect? Whether Zhou Shunhua or Ren Yujun, both had a weird look at the moment. This kind of remark was not unusual for others to say, but it was kind of weird when it came from Tang Shishi.
Tang Shishi stealthily swept the two beauties in front of her. Zhou Shunhua’s dress was pure and elegant, it was meticulous everywhere and Ren Yujun has also trimmed her dress. Obviously, both of them came prepared.
Tang Shishi smiled, and suddenly asked, “Then what are you doing here?”
The two were silent for a while, and then Zhou Shunhua said as if nothing wrong with it, “We have been in the mansion for a month, and Tongxiu Gugu has arranged our livelihood very well, but we have not done anything for the mansion yet. Sister Ren and I are ashamed and felt uneasy. So, we came here today to see if there is anything we can do, and we will try our best.”
Tang Shishi did not even want to say, “No, don’t be sentimental. You can go back first.”
Ren Yujun has been patient with her. When she heard this, she could not help it anymore, “Tang Shishi, don’t be insatiable…”
“What are you doing?”
All three women were startled. They immediately put away their quarrels, turned, and greeted, “Pay my respect to Shizi.”
Zhao Zixun came to pay his respect to Zhao Chengjun today. As he was getting closer, and he felt that the people at the door were a bit familiar. When he got close, sure enough, it was her.
Although Zhao Zixun said “you”, his gaze stayed directly on Tang Shishi. Zhao Zixun totally ignored Zhou Shunhua and Ren Yujun. He stopped in front of Tang Shishi, frowned, and said, “What are you doing at father’s residence?”
Tang Shishi had rehearsed this countless times a long time ago. She lowered her head and adjusted her angle slightly, just to reveal the best side of her profile, “Shizi, this little girl is here to pay my respect to Wangye.”
After Tang Shishi finished replying, she suddenly found that the surrounding was quiet. She lowered her eyes, so she could not see what was going on outside. Tang Shishi did not know, so she quietly peeped forward from the corner of her eyes.
In her limited peripheral, she heard a burst of footsteps gradually approaching. With his movement, the people around him were obviously quieter. Zhao Zixun stepped back and bowed, “Father.”
Zhao Chengjun stopped in front of the stairs, his eyes swept across Tang Shishi and Zhao Zixun. His face became even colder, “It’s so lively here.”