IBTBTED Chapter 13
It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager
Chapter 13 In the Past
When Tang Shishi put down her pen, she did not have time to rub her sore wrist, so she quickly picked up her skirt and went to go out.
However, as soon as she just stepped out of the pavilion, she was stopped by Liu Ji.
“Miss Tang.” Gonggong looked at her and smiled, and said something unpleasant, “You haven’t finished copying the book yet. Where are you going?”
Tang Shishi stepped aside and pointed to the table at the back, “Gonggong, I have already finished copying the two books you just gave me. Can I go back?”
Liu Ji glanced inside and noticed two stacks of paper were neatly placed on the desk, apparently just written. Liu Ji said quietly, “Miss copied the books even faster than the scholars who transcribe books outside. Miss can take a break, but you’re not allowed to leave.”
Tang Shishi’s eyes widened, “Why? I obviously finished copying.”
“There is still the next one.” Liu Ji said with a smile, “This servant is thoughtless and has neglected Miss. Please be patient. This servant will bring you some other copies.”
Tang Shishi understood now that copying books were just a facade. In fact, they wanted to trap her here. Regardless of whether Tang Shishi had finished copying it or not, they would not let her out.
Tang Shishi restrained her laugh and asked, “This little girl is stupid. Gonggong might as well give me a clear answer. Gonggong, why are you withholding this little girl?”
Liu Ji shook his head and smiled, seeming to point out, “Miss, you just came here, and you don’t know how to serve people yet. How can we as servants leave earlier than Master?”
Tang Shishi was stunned, Liu Ji silently glanced inside and looked at Tang Shishi with a smile, “Miss, the most important thing to serve people is to be flexible and diligent and know how to share worries for Master.”
Tang Shishi understood, she pulled the corners of her mouth stiffly, and said to Liu Ji, “This little girl understands. Thank you, Gonggong.”
“This servant knows that Miss is smart.” Liu Ji was smiling but his eyebrows did not move, and said sharply, “Miss Tang, please.”
Shishi Tang returned to the pavilion, and soon a young servant sent a few other books. This time there was a huge pile of books, no need to worry about being idle anyway.
But this time, Tang Shishi was not in a hurry to copy the books. Anyway, no matter how much she copied, she had to stay in the study room for a whole day. What was the point? It was better to dilly-dally around for a day, and when the time came, copied a few pages at will.
Tang Shishi’s movements were not fast or slow. Now she knew that Jing Wang did not want her to serve him but actually wanted to trap her here. There were so many eyes around the study room and Tang Shishi could not do anything at all. In this way, Jing Wang did not have to worry about Shizi being bewitched by her.
In all honesty, Tang Shishi was really wronged. He could not prejudice her just because she looked good. She was not a vixen, the real vixen was clearly Zhou Shunhua.
Zhou Shunhua and Zhao Zixun stayed together all day. Why did Jing Wang only guard her and not Zhou Shunhua?
Indeed, no Heaven’s law, ah!
Tang Shishi ground the ink angrily and made every stroke seem extremely heavy. If Jing Wang did not leave, the people in the study room also could not leave. Tang Shishi also had to stay in the pavilion and could not even go back to rest. At first, Tang Shishi was acting. When she found that no one was paying attention to her, Tang Shishi goof off openly, and finally fell asleep directly on the table.
Zhao Chengjun’s study room was an independent courtyard. There were five other rooms connected to the front of the main study room, occupying a huge area and the inside was partitioned back and forth, making the rooms connected but at the same time obstructed and not interfering with each other. On the backside, there were three other rooms in the back of the main study room, which were built into a small pavilion. The place where Tang Shishi was situated was at the three-roomed pavilion at the back.
The pavilion was shaded, the light was dim, and the room was both low and narrow. No one noticed it when the door was closed. It was generally used as a utility room or a Buddhist Hall. After Tang Shishi fell asleep, there was no sound, and people coming and going on the outside had forgotten that there was someone inside.
At night, the study room was quiet, Zhao Chengjun was tired from looking at the maps. He closed his book and rested his eyes. Even though he closed his eyes and looked stationary, he was still sketching the terrain in the back of his mind.
Zhao Chengjun was thinking about how to arrange troops in Suzhou. It was going to be autumn and he needed to guard against Tatar’s sneak attacks. In addition, Anji Timur recently met with Tufan in private many times, and also to guard against Hami Wei.
While thinking about it, Zhao Chengjun suddenly heard a breathing sound in the study room. Zhao Chengjun opened his eyes instantly, the light in his eyes was so deep that he had not the slightest fatigued.
Zhao Chengjun stood up with a calm face and walked quietly towards the sound. He had already put his hand on the saber and even began to think who it was in his mind. Was the assassin sent by Anji Timur? No, Anji Timur did not have such courage. Was it that Tatar? Tufan? Zhao Chengjun even thought of Empress Dowager Yao.
Zhao Chengjun stopped at the entrance of the pavilion and opened the door without warning. Tang Shishi was sleeping in a daze when she heard the muffled sound of someone pushing the door open. Tang Shishi was frightened awake. When she opened her eyes, she saw a man standing at the door. She could not see who it was and stared at the other person for a long time. In the end, her squishy brain finally returned to work.
Tang Shish quickly knelt and greeted, “Pay respect to Wangye.”
When she was talking, her body shook. Since she just woke up, she could not even tell her direction, and almost fell to the ground. Tang Shishi quickly knelt upright again and bowed her head obediently.
Zhao Chengjun looked at her for a long time and asked, “Why are you here?”
Tang Shishi paused, and said quietly, “It’s your order to let me copy the book here.”
Zhao Chengjun thought for a while and vaguely remembered that he had mentioned casually, letting Tang Shishi copy the books, and she was not allowed to leave until she finished. Unexpectedly, she was really copying books here.
After tossing such a big battle, the result was just a misunderstanding, and Zhao Chengjun did not know whether to be angry or relieved. He stared at Tang Shishi, and she did not expose any expression on her face.
Tang Shishi did not know what Zhao Chengjun was looking at. She could not help thinking, could it be that she did not pay attention when she slept, and now she has become ugly? Oops, she just slept on the book, did she make a mark on her face?
Tang Shishi secretly raised her hand to rub her face. Zhao Chengjun glimpsed at her, approached her quietly, and looked down at the paper and ink behind her. After Zhao Chengjun walked to the back, Tang Shishi immediately looked in the mirror and tried to look at her face.
“You wrote all this?”
Tang Shishi was secretly arranging her hair. When she heard Zhao Chengjun’s voice, she instinctively answered first, and then reacted to it. She quickly said, “Wangye, please forgive me. Yes, these are all copied by this little girl.”
Zhao Chengjun looked down at Tang Shishi’s writings and the depth of the old and new ink, these were indeed written one after another within a day. She did not pretend to be ignorant and really fell asleep.
Zhao Chengjun was a little comforted. He picked up the stack of paper, flipped it through, looked at one of the papers, and asked, “Have you studied the Four Books and Five Classics?”
Tang Shishi was unclear of what he was asking, so she subconsciously nodded, “Yes.” After saying that, Tang Shishi felt strange, and asked cautiously, “Why does Wangye ask this?”
Zhao Chengjun pointed to a line on the paper and said, “This was originally a sentence from “The Doctrine of the Mean”. The original edition made a mistake. You have corrected it here. I guessed you probably have studied “The Doctrine of the Mean” before.”
Tang Shishi was surprised. She did not realize it herself, but she did not expect Zhao Chengjun to recognize it at a glance. Tang Shishi asked, “How do you know that the original copy was wrong?”
Zhao Chengjun glanced back at Tang Shishi. Although he did not say anything, Tang Shishi inexplicably read that he was unamused.
It seemed that Tang Shishi was foolish to ask such a question.
Zhao Chengjun put her manuscript back on the table and said casually, “This is my book, naturally I have read it.”
Tang Shishi was stupefied for a long time and praised against her will, “Wangye has a good memory, and this little girl admires you.”
Zhao Chengjun did not speak but smiled softly. Obviously, he knew all the tricks of women well. He grew up in the palace and was used to seeing a women’s honey tongue and heart of gall using unscrupulous means for the sake of attaining favors. This kind of flattery was also one of them.
Today was just a false alarm, so Zhao Chengjun let his guard down, and it was rare for him to say a few more words, “You have actually read the Four Books and Five Classics. I don’t mean to belittle you, rather… you really don’t look like one.”
Tang Shishi stood up from the ground and put her hands on one side. When she heard Zhao Chengjun’s words, she chuckled, “Wangye is right. This little girl is really not a book-loving and knowledgeable person. I read Four Books to please my husband-to-be.”
Zhao Chengjun was slightly shocked, “Husband-to-be?”
“It’s no longer now, it’s just former husband-to-be.” Tang Shishi lowered his eyes and said, “Previously, this little girl had an arranged marriage from when I was young before entering the palace. The other party was a child of my mother’s childhood friend. He was diligent and motivated since he was a child, and he can read very well. In order to please him and show him that I am different from my sister, I bite the bullet and finished the Four Books. Unfortunately…”
Tang Shishi did not finish, but Zhao Chengjun already knew what happened next. Later, Tang Shishi was selected as a court lady and sent to the Imperial Court. When she entered the Imperial Palace, as soon as she entered the palace gate, naturally nothing could be done as the inside was as deep as the sea. The engagement was no longer an engagement, the family was no longer a family, and even parents were no longer parents.
The light in the pavilion was dim, the lamp on the table was extinguished when Tang Shishi was copying the books and only the light from outside was shining in. Tang Shishi stood in the half-bright and half-dark candlelight, like fine porcelain. After all, this was a young and beautiful woman. Zhao Chengjun had always felt that Tang Shishi was eager for quick success and instant benefits and was unscrupulous. Now, looking at her drooping eyebrows and calm expression, Zhao Chengjun actually gave birth to tenderness toward her.
Tang Shishi was womanly oriented from the beginning. She also had a soft girly feeling and her heart was also easily moved, read the books read by the elder brother of a family friend and walk the path he had walked on, all these just to get close to him. It was a pity that destiny played with people, and in the end, she was forced to this step.
She was also in the game, and she could not help herself. She was selected into the palace, then sent to the fiefdom, and being presented to Jing Wang, which was not her choice. All her actions were just to make her life better.
Zhao Chengjun’s tone gradually eased down, “If you like him, wait another two years, I can let you out of the mansion ahead of time.”
When a court lady reaches the age of 25, she could be released from the palace and marry herself. Although Tang Shishi was not a court lady, she had already been given to Jing Wang. If Jing Wang agreed to let Tang Shishi leave one or two years ahead of time, it would be a matter of one sentence.
When Tang Shishi heard this, she stood quietly and suddenly smiled, “Thank you, Wangye. But no need, he has already married another beautiful woman.”
Zhao Chengjun was startled and heard Tang Shishi continue to say, “It’s my sister.”
Zhao Chengjun unexpectedly widened his eyes, then frowned, “Absurd. How could your parents allow this?”
“Why not?” Tang Shishi still said in a casual tone, “Isn’t it just raising a daughter to win over a good son-in-law? One daughter entered the palace to gamble on her luck, and the other daughter married the family friend’s family to consolidate social connections. If lucky will have one son-in-law as an official in the future. Which merchant will miss this kind of business that without capital but with great profits?”
Zhao Chengjun was speechless when she told her past in such a light tone. They were silent for a moment and Zhao Chengjun asked, “What about your mother?”
Only a legitimate wife can be called a “mother”. According to Tang Shishi’s manner of speaking, her birth mother should be the legitimate wife. Her father was a merchant and naturally cared for profits only. Did her mother not care about it?
“Mother?” Speaking of her mother, Tang Shishi was lost for a moment. After three years of parting, she had not remembered Lin Wanxi for a long time. Tang Shishi quickly returned to her senses and continued to bow her head respectfully, “My mother is weak, from the perspective of the noble ladies in the capital, she is probably useless. She tried to make a stand and fight, but I felt it was unnecessary, so I entered the palace myself.”
Zhao Chengjun did not understand the situation of the Tang family, and he also had no intention to understand it, but just by listening to these words, he could probably guess what kind of environment Tang Shishi lived in since she was a child. There were wolves all around, no wonder she has grown into this character.
Zhao Chengjun could not say anything. He saw Tang Shishi pick up the brush and wanted to continue copying, “You don’t have to copy, you can go back.”
“But Liu Gonggong said…”
“If he asks, you just say this was ordered by me.”
Tang Shishi bowed and saluted, “Yes, thank you, Wangye.”
After Zhao Chengjun finished speaking, he turned around and returned to the study without paying attention to Tang Shishi. Tang Shishi was still half bowing down to the ground and waited for Zhao Chengjun to walk away completely before getting up, sorting out the brush and ink on the table casually, and then turning around to leave.
Tang Shishi thought that Zhao Chengjun allowing her to return early was rare compassion from him. She did not expect that after going out, a maid carrying a lamp saluted her and said warmly, “Hello, Miss Tang. This maid is ordered by Wangye to send Miss Tang back to your courtyard.”
Tang Shishi was quite flattered. She looked back and saw that the light in the study was still on, and it seemed it would last for a long time. As a Wangye, he was more diligent than the officials under him.
Tang Shishi only took a look, then withdrew her gaze. She nodded slightly to the maid, “I have to trouble you.”
It was late, there were many trees in Jing Wang mansion, and the road was dark and scary. The maid only carried a lamp, like a hanging soybean, swaying in the wind. At the turn of the corridor, a person on the opposite did not pay attention to the movement here and bumped directly into them.
Tang Shishi was hit by someone and nearly fell down. The other party held on to Tang Shishi, the person’s head was bowed down and did not say anything, and quickly ran away. The maid carrying the lantern was so angry that she cursed, “Who is this, don’t you walk with your eyes open?”
Tang Shishi stopped the maid, “No matter. It’s getting late now. Let’s go back and talk later.”
The maid bowed her head and agreed. After returning to the courtyard, the maids in the courtyard heard Tang Shishi’s return and ran out to greet her. Tang Shishi quickly walked into the room. She rewarded the lantern maid with a simple explanation and then sent the people away.
After everyone left, Tang Shishi walked to the inner room, opened her palm, and there was a note in it.