IBTBTED Chapter 11
It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager
Chapter 11 Study Room
When Jing Wang came back, everyone did not dare to breathe. Even Zhao Zixun lowered his head and did not dare to straighten up. Tang Shishi secretly glanced at both sides, thinking that she should wait and not attract attention at a time like this.
Tang Shishi said gently, “Jing Wang, you have misunderstood. This little girl came to pay respect to you, if you have not returned, this little girl will be waiting here. I used to be alone, but I did not expect to meet Sister Zhou and Sister Ren here today. Shizi thought it was a coincidence, so he stopped and asked us a few questions.”
Tang Shishi was trampling on Zhou Shunhua and Ren Yujun everywhere and she said it so obviously that the two of them knew that today Shizi would come to greet Wangye, and they pretended to come over to “encounter” him. Ren Yujun’s eyes widened as soon as she heard it. Zhou Shunhua did not hesitate and said, “These days we live in Liuyun courtyard and didn’t leave the residence. How do we know what’s going on outside? Since we are here to serve His Highness Jing Wang and we didn’t do anything yet, Sister Ren and I felt guilty. We boldly came today to see if we could do something for the mansion. I stupidly waited at the residence, and naturally not as smart as Miss Tang, so only today did I think of sharing the worries for the mansion.”
Tang Shishi insinuated that Zhou Shunhua had a bad intention, and Zhou Shunhua returned it intact. Zhou Shunhua came for a reason, but Tang Shishi did not?
Zhao Chengjun was originally questioning Zhao Zixun, but Zhao Zixun did not explain anything, but on the other hand, these women were vying to get ahead. Zhao Chengjun was not interested in their little acts, and he even felt that it was a mistake to stop and talk to Tang Shishi. Zhao Chengjun retracted his gaze and walked directly into the courtyard without saying a word.
When Zhao Zixun saw this, he did not dare to delay, so he hurried to keep up.
Tang Shishi was about to bicker with Zhou Shunhua, but before she could start, her target left. Tang Shishi was surprised for a moment, she promptly abandoned Zhou Shunhua and gladly and diligently followed Zhao Zixun inside.
The people of Yan’an courtyard were shocked to see that Tang Shishi walked in. Tang Shishi treated herself as if she was not aware of it and shamelessly followed Zhao Zixun into the room. Zhao Zixun glanced back in surprise. Tang Shishi had already found a place, standing at the corner, and stood up like a decoration.
Zhao Zixun did not even react to Tang Shishi’s casual movement of setting herself up. He did not know whether to say that she was witty or not.
Since Zhao Chengjun had already taken the main seat, Zhao Zixun dared not delay and hurried in. Tang Shishi heard Jing Wang’s voice from inside through a partition door saying unhurriedly, “How is your schoolwork these few days?”
“Father, this son dares not slack off. This son wrote a discourse on polities yesterday…”
A golden dragon incense burner on the table slowly streamed out smoke, Zhao Zixun’s voice was mixed with the fragrance and seemed to have become ethereal and low. Inadvertently, Zhou Shunhua and Ren Yujun were standing next to Tang Shishi. Ren Yujun ridiculed inaudibly, “Sister Tang’s foresight is admirable.”
The irony in Ren Yujun’s meaning was very dense. Tang Shishi, as if she did not understand Ren Yujun’s ridicule, accepted it with a smile, “Thank you for your compliment. You will always admire me in the future.”
Inside the room, after Zhao Zixun finished his discourse on polities, Zhao Chengjun did not put too much thought into it and directly pointed out what Zhao Zixun had missed. Tang Shishi had not learned the eight-part theory and knew nothing about it. However, by just listening to Jing Wang’s disclosure, she could feel that Zhao Chengjun’s literary attainments were way above Zhao Zixun’s.
Tang Shishi was slightly surprised, Jing Wang was ordered to station in the Northwest, she originally thought that all these frontier officials were military men. However, it was not surprised that Jing Wang was not an ordinary military general, he was a first-rate prince, Shizong’s biological son. As soon as he was born, he had the right to the throne. He did not need to study for the imperial examination, naturally, he could do what he wanted to do, but that did not mean that his literature was poor.
Even the eunuchs in the palace were literate and even the most illiterate prince, with the influence of his surrounding, was still better than the scholars provided who came from the poor family.
Tang Shishi suddenly remembered Qi Jingsheng. The Qi family was also merchants. The whole family only knew a few words and did not expect that this generation had such a good seed as Qi Jingsheng. The old master of the Qi family was extremely happy. He regarded Qi Jingsheng as the hope of the family since he was a child and treated him with the best in everything. When Qi Jingsheng’s deeds spread to the surrounding people, everyone was very envious. When Tang Shishi was a child, she really felt that Qi Jingsheng was an excellent husband.
If she had not been schemed by concubine Su and Tang Yanyan, instead of marrying Qi Jingsheng as promised, she would probably keep thinking like this all the time. Like everyone in the Qi family, she would look at Qi Jingsheng with admiration throughout her life and count on Qi Jingsheng to pass brilliantly. If she could be the wife of Juren*, it would probably be the greatest pursuit in her life.
(*Juren – a successful candidate in the imperial examination at the provincial level)
When Tang Shishi was listening to Jing Wang’s advice to Zhao Zixun about his schoolwork, it brought forth her past. There were so many Jinshi* in the capital, so how about Juren? The scholar Wen Yuange met the eunuch from the palace and would also be equally polite.
(*Jinshi – a successful candidate in the highest imperial examination)
Tang Shishi knew that she could not go back to the past anymore. When her portrait was given to the Flower and Bird Emissary, she was destined to take a completely different path.
With Zhao Chengjun’s direction, Zhao Zixun was astonished by the unexpected praise and quickly wrote it down word by word. After reporting his schoolwork, Zhao Chengjun and Zhao Zixun had no more topics to talk about. The father and son were relatively silent for a while, and Zhao Zixun looked for opportunities to retire. When Zhao Zixun was leaving, he glimpsed through a curtain, several women could be seen standing behind the partition door, and gentle and graceful figures could be seen vaguely.
Zhao Zixun’s footsteps paused slightly, stopped halfway, and said to Zhao Chengjun, “Father, Wutong is clumsy and often can’t distinguish between books. This son wants to find two literate and dexterous servants to follow me to the school to serve me.”
Tang Shishi was still thinking about Qi Jingsheng. When she vaguely heard about the school, she instantly regained consciousness. Tang Shishi was on alert and knew that the plot was coming.
This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Not only did Tang Shishi be on alert, but Zhou Shunhua and Ren Yujun were also vigilant. Zhou Shunhua and Ren Yujun looked at each other quietly; literate, attentive, dexterous, and preferably with a certain degree of literature foundation. The two of them were just right.
Zhou Shunhua was unsure whether she wanted to stand out. She wanted to live her life in a low-key manner, but she could not let others bully her. Such a good opportunity, if she missed it, there may not be another chance…
When Zhou Shunhua hesitated, she suddenly saw Tang Shishi step forward and bowed to the people inside, “This little girl, Tang Shishi, has learned the Four Books and Five Classics at home, can recognize most of the words and can recite common poems. This little girl is not talented but willing to share the worries for Shizi.”
Tang Shishi’s pompousness surprised everyone in the room. Zhou Shunhua was so surprised, and her heart sank for some reason. While she was hesitating to make up her mind, Tang Shishi had come forward to recommend herself. As far as knowledge was concerned, Tang Shishi must be far less than Zhou Shunhua. Why did Tang Shishi have such courage?
Zhou Shunhua questioned herself for the first time. In the past, she had always felt that she was smart and calm, unlike other women. The Zhou family’s ignorant and incompetent sisters, the mediocre and gloomy court ladies in the palace, and even the beauties in the Jing Wang mansion who only know how to compete for the favor were far inferior to her. Now, however, Zhou Shunhua was doubting herself.
When Zhou Shunhua’s mind was rattled, another person next to her also stepped forward and said, “This little girl, Ren Yujun, is willing to serve Shizi.”
Zhou Shunhua looked at Ren Yujun in surprise. Ren Yujun stood there motionlessly with drooping eyes and staring at the floor as if she could not feel the movement around her. Zhou Shunhua looked at Ren Yujun’s fair face and realized for the first time that she might have taken it for granted.
Zhao Zixun was truly unanticipated when he found out whose two persons stood up in the end. Particularly Tang Shishi who dared to be the first to speak. Zhao Zixun glanced over to Zhou Shunhua and asked, “I heard that you are the second daughter of the Duke Cai mansion and assumed you have read Confusion classics. Since both of them are willing, why only you not react?”
Zhou Shunhua smiled bitterly, to no purpose she pretended to be nobler than others and often sympathized with the woman around her. In fact, she was the most pitiful one. She was not as resolute and heartless as Tang Shishi and could not even see through her good sister.
It was in vain that she dug out her heart to be kind to Ren Yujun, and sincerely treated Ren Yujun as her sister.
Zhou Shunhua lowered her head and bowed, and said in a low voice, “This little girl is clumsy and dares not make a fool of herself. If Shizi doesn’t dislike me, this little girl is willing to serve Shizi faithfully.”
Zhao Chengjun who sat on the main seat glanced at Zhao Zixun lightly and understood Zhao Zixun’s intention right away. Zhao Zixun gave a creeping smile and said, “Oh? Unfortunately, it’s enough to have two people in the school. But now, there are three of you. How should I choose?”
Tang Shishi sighed silently at Zhao Zixun’s good strategy of using two peaches to kill three scholars. No wonder Zhou Shunhua spent a lifetime fighting in the harem. With such an Emperor, disputes would not arise and there would be no disputes between women.
But Tang Shishi was not the kind of weak and emotional woman who only dared to cry secretly after being wronged. Tang Shishi has always been outspoken and such things as dignity and self-sacrifice did not happen to Tang Shishi.
Tang Shishi immediately responded, “I have the best knowledge. Shizi might as well consider me first.”
Zhou Shunhua and Ren Yujun both looked at Tang Shishi in surprise. Zhao Chengjun was originally brushing the tea froth, hearing this, he could not help but raise his head and glance at Tang Shishi.
She dared utter such words.
Tang Shishi answered calmly, without blinking her eyes, and said, “After this little girl entered the palace, Empress Dowager chooses the best candidates for grooming to enter the Chuxiu Palace. I have been ranked among the best when I was in the Chuxiu Palace for three years. Empress Dowager and Feng Momo even personally appointed me as the leader of all the women when we came to the fief of Jing Wang. The words of Empress Dowager can’t be faked, right? Therefore, I said that I ranked first in knowledge, will there be a problem?”
Zhou Shunhua and Ren Yujun choked together. Everyone in the room knew Tang Shishi was lying, that ranking was not viewed like this at all. Even if everyone knew it was wrong, they could not refute it because this was what Empress Dowager had said.
Tang Shishi not only blocked Zhou Shunhua and Ren Yujun, but also Zhao Zixun could not back down with good grace. Zhao Zixun recognized the extraordinary woman who was protecting him alone that day and wanted to take this opportunity to help Zhou Shunhua. He never thought of putting such vulgar women like Tang Shishi in front of himself. As a result, his original plan was completely messed up by Tang Shishi.
However, Empress Dowager’s words could not be doubted by a little Shizi, Zhao Zixun. He could only accept Tang Shishi and pull Zhou Shunhua in on the way. He was about to speak when a voice came from above.
Zhao Chengjun stopped Zhao Zixun’s words that were about to come out by saying, “With Empress Dowager’s golden remark, the people she judged are naturally extraordinary. Since Miss Tang is excellent in literature and so happen that I am lacking one more person for my study room, then let it be you.”
Tang Shishi was dumbfounded and was stunned for a long time and looked up in amazement, “Ah?”
A person with the appearance of a servant lowered his head and coughed. He glanced at Tang Shishi, and said in a low voice, “Wangye has bestowed favor on you. Miss Tang, why don’t you quickly show your appreciation?”