IBTBTED Chapter 14
It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager
Chapter 14 Probe
Tang Shishi stared at the palm of her hand. She looked at it for a long time and slowly opened it.
There was only a short sentence written on the note, “Wait for the opportunity, look for a chance to read his correspondences.”
It was self-evident who the “he” was here.
Tang Shishi rolled up the note, brought it over to the candle, and watched the ink-colored words turn into ashes. It was inevitable that Empress Dowager Yao buried someone in the Jing Wang mansion, but it seemed that her hands did not penetrate the main courtyard.
After all, Empress Dowager Yao was a married lady. Even if she was Empress Dowager, she could not use the maids or servants to intervene in military affairs. Empress Dowager Yao wanted Jing Wang to guard the Northwest, but she did not trust Jing Wang, so she came up with a trick to use women to spy on the news for her.
Maybe it should not be said that this was a stupid idea. What if there really was such a woman in the world, Jing Wang knew that she was a meticulous spy, and at the same time could not help but indulge in her? Tang Shishi did not know if there was such a person in the world, but obviously, this person would not be her.
Tang Shishi just wanted to be Empress Dowager and enjoy a peaceful life. What did the grudge between Empress Dowager Yao and Jing Wang have to do with Tang Shishi? They fought against themselves, while Tang Shishi wanted to run her own future prospects.
As for Empress Dowager Yao, she could just handle it casually.
Tang Shishi’s days of leaving early and returning late lasted for several days. Gradually, she had become accustomed to going to the study room early in the morning and then spending the day muddle-headed in the pavilion. On the days with nothing to do, when it got dark and she could not make waves anymore, she would stop work and go home. Except for the first day, and the other few times, Tang Shishi never saw Jing Wang again.
The days on her side were rather quiet, with a sense of being independent of the world. However, in the plot, the rate of progress of the male lead and the female lead was very fast. When Tang Shishi went home every night, she saw a thick stack of new plots unlocked, and sometimes even several chapters could be updated in a day.
Most of them were about her daily routines, such as who she met today, what she said to Shizi, what the policy advice that the Teacher arranged was, and so on. Sometimes, Shizi would ask Zhou Shunhua and Ren Yujun what they thought about it. Ren Yujun did not dare to say anything, but Zhou Shunhua could repeatedly put forward new ideas.
Zhao Zixun’s attitude towards the two women also changed unconsciously. Although in Tang Shishi’s perspective, Zhao Zixun’s standpoint was biased right from the beginning. Zhao Zixun originally came for Zhou Shunhua and Ren Yujun was just a passer-by. However, in Ren Yujun’s opinion, things may be different.
Ren Yujun only knew that she and Zhou Shunhua were going to serve Shizi at the same time, whatever Zhou Shunhua could do, Ren Yujun was also not bad at it. Obviously, there were three people at first, but Zhao Zixun gradually fell in love with Zhou Shunhua.
Poor thing! Tang Shishi turned a page and tried to understand the path she could take. It was a pity that the sisters, Ren Yujun and Zhou Shunhua turned against each other. In this case, let Tang Shishi take care of all the retribution.
As long as Tang Shishi snatched Zhao Zixun’s favor and left Zhou Shunhua and Ren Yujun out of favor, would not it be fair?
She was really a kind-hearted genius.
Tang Shishi flipped through the plots that she had missed. She had a heart attack while reading it. She comforted herself that it was just a small matter and did not affect the bigger picture. She turned to the latest part, and she found the title of the next chapter, “Together drinking warm wine on a rainy day, Romance is in the air.”
Tang Shishi flipped the pages back and forth and found “Rain” appeared in the title of the next chapter. Tang Shishi muttered and lost in thought.
Once it was a coincidence, but the “rain” appeared repeatedly, did it mean that at least one of the love scenes of the male and female leads appeared on a rainy day? Tang Shishi raised her head and looked out the window, the wind was blowing, and it seemed that it was going to rain soon.
Could it be tomorrow?
Early in the morning, Dujuan came in from outside with a water basin. While rubbing her arms, she complained, “It’s really annoying. It’s raining again. It’s inconvenient to do anything on rainy days.”
Dujuan spoke using her mouth, but her hand movement did not stop at all. After she was done adjusting to the hot water, she looked back and saw Tang Shishi standing by the window, looking outside blankly.
Dujuan was uncertain, so her voice became softer, “Miss, what are you looking at?”
Tang Shishi murmured, “It’s raining.”
“Yes.” Dujuan chatted incessantly, “It rained suddenly in the middle of the night last night, and it didn’t stop till this morning. It’s strangely cold. Miss, remember to bring your cloak with you when you go out today. Protect yourself and don’t let the wind-blown when you come back late.”
As Dujuan went in to take the cloak, Tang Shishi was wearing her clothes but her mind was already flying outside.
Today, she must keep an eye on Zhou Shunhua and Zhao Zixun. If there was no opportunity, she must create one.
In the study room, Tang Shishi removed her cloak at the door and a maid immediately stepped forward to take over Tang Shishi’s cloak. After she disrobed the cloak, Tang Shishi revealed her light and comfortable clothing, put on soft-soled shoes, and entered the room.
She asked, “Is Wangye here today?”
The maid pointed her finger inside and shook her head, not daring to say anymore. Tang Shishi understood and thanked her with a smile, “I see, thank you for reminding me.”
Tang Shishi entered the pavilion and began to copy for all day. Today, not only was Tang Shishi absent-minded but outside also did not seem to be as calm.
In the morning, several groups of people came in and out of the study room. Tang Shishi has been paying attention to the outside movement, and she found that the voice of the study was getting softer and softer. Finally, a rush of footsteps passed, and the outside was completely quiet.
Tang Shishi walked to the door cautiously and quietly pushed a slit open. She watched for a while, then came out.
The study room was empty, and even the servants were gone. This was simply a Heaven-sent chance. Tang Shishi picked up her cloak and fastened it to herself quickly. When she was holding an umbrella, she suddenly realized that the door of Jing Wang’s study room was wide open.
She turned around and saw the place where Zhao Chengjun handled his official business was located for the first time through a series of partitions. The study room, like its owner, was proper and dignified. The bookshelves were neatly lined up with volumes, and there were even unorganized letters piled up on top of the red sandalwood table.
Tang Shishi only took a peek, then calmly retracted her gaze. What did Jing Wang’s things have to do with her? She was in a hurry to catch up with the plot and had no time to meddle in others’ business.
Tang Shishi opened her umbrella and quickly ran into the heavy rain.
Today’s rain was very heavy, with the rain in the wind, and the skirt of Tang Shishi was soon wet. Tang Shishi gathered up her cloak, seized hold of a maid in the corridor, and asked, “Wangye asked me to send something to Shizi. Where is Shizi now?”
The maid did not doubt her and pointed in a direction, “Shizi is in the lake pavilion.”
Tang Shishi thanked her and quickly ran to the lake pavilion. The northwest was dry but she did not know how Jing Wang drew in a stream of running water and built a pavilion in the middle of the lake. Zhao Zixun was in a good mood to take the beauties and enjoy the rain under the pavilion in the middle of the lake.
At the moment, bamboo curtains were hanging on all sides of the lake pavilion, and even a small stove was placed in the corner of the pavilion to dissipate the cold air from the water. Zhao Zixun sat in front of the wine stove, warming the wine skillfully, looked at the people behind him, and waved, “There is no one else here, and you don’t have to be restrained. Come sit down and have a drink with me.”
Ren Yujun’s nature was structured, and instinctively said, “Shizi, it’s against the rules…”
“Rules and rules. You are so young and yet you are like an old pedant full of rules.” Zhao Zixun sneered and said, “It’s fine to be bound by those rules and regulations on ordinary days. It’s a rare sight today, so don’t disappoint me.”
Ren Yujun pursed her lips and knew that she had said something wrong. When Ren Yujun was distracted, Zhou Shunhua stepped forward and sat in front of Zhao Zixun leisurely, “Thank you, Shizi. Shizi, is this Sangluo wine?”
Zhao Zixun raised his eyebrows slightly and said, “You know how to drink?”
“I don’t know how to drink. I lived at my grandfather’s house when I was young. My grandfather loved wine. I only learned one or two about it.”
Ren Yujun slowly sat beside Zhou Shunhua, listening to Zhao Zixun and Zhou Shunhua talking about everything from wine tasting to winemaking to childhood fun. Ren Yujun knew nothing about wine and could not even cut in.
Ren Yujun lowered her eyes, her heart was uncomfortable. Although Zhao Zixun was a Shizi, he grew up among the commoners as a child and did not like the style of the Jing Wang mansion and Imperial Palace. He preferred to be free and unrestrained. Zhou Shunhua was noble and virtuous, proud and aloof, and her slightly deviant temperament made it easier to please Zhao Zixun.
Ren Yujun obviously felt that Shizi preferred Zhou Shunhua more than her who always advised him to work hard.
With constant chatter and laughter in her ear, Ren Yujun lowered her eyes and was unable to see the expression in her eyes clearly. After Zhou Shunhua finished her childhood tree-climbing experience, Zhao Zixun laughed and said, “Truly, a girl changes eighteen times between childhood and womanhood. You look elegant and beautiful now, who knew that when you were a child, you were so naughty. When I was seven years old, I also climbed a tree and my father…”
Zhao Zixun’s words ended abruptly. Zhou Shunhua was waiting for his later words. When Zhao Zixun stopped, she subconsciously asked, “Shizi, what’s the matter?”
Zhao Zixun quickly recovered and shook his head, “Nothing.” He refused to talk more on this topic.
Zhou Shunhua did not understand, so she changed the subject tactfully. Zhou Shunhua did not react to his sudden change, but Ren Yujun understood it all at once.
Zhou Shunhua had a superior family background and had been favored since she was a child. She even dared to climb a tree and make trouble at her grandfather’s house. Therefore, she naturally would not understand the subtle and fragmented inferiority in the courtyard of a wealthy family.
But Ren Yujun understood, so she immediately noticed Zhao Zixun’s gaffe. How could a child who really grew up in Jing Wang’s mansion have the hobby of climbing trees? Zhao Zixun was adopted by Jing Wang at the age of eight. Before the age of eight, Zhao Zixun was like an ordinary child, climbing trees, digging the ground, and rolling in the mud because his father was not Jing Wang.
Rather, his birth father was Xu Jing.
It was only after Zhao Zixun was adopted by Jing Wang that he really witnessed how rich people lived. It turned out that the plain cotton clothes that the Xu family were willing to wear during the New Year were the lowest coarse cloth in the royal family and even the lowest-ranking maidservants in the mansion would dislike it. It turned out that the rich never needed to work and the third-class maid next to Jing Wang, had hands that were more delicate than Zhao Zixun’s mother.
And Jing Wang, who was born from noble birth, had imperial blood and owned the entire land under his feet, was an existence that Zhao Zixun dare not even think of. The land in the Northwest, and even the people on this land, were the property of Jing Wang.
After Zhao Zixun changed his surname to Zhao, he never mentioned his previous life. As if he had been living in Jing Wang’s mansion since he was born. He had been used to the valuable wine cups, tea sets, and antiques since he was a child. If it were not for today’s talk with Zhou Shunhua, Zhao Zixun would have forgotten why he blurted out and would not have mentioned another father.
For the first time, Ren Yujun found her advantage over Zhou Shunhua. After Zhao Zixun blurted out the word “father”, he immediately covered it up. While his mind was still confused, he lost interest in drinking, and he did not even bother to talk to Zhou Shunhua. Zhou Shunhua tried hard to find a topic, but the scene gradually cooled down.
The three people sat facing each other, and the atmosphere gradually became awkward. Zhou Shunhua was looking for a chance to retire when suddenly there was a sound of footsteps outside.
The three of them looked back together and saw a woman coming from the lakeside with an umbrella. She seemed to be the only bright color in the world under such heavy rain. When she reached the pavilion, Tang Shishi naturally asked the maid to take back her umbrella and untied her cloak. Everything went smoothly as it should be as she was born to be served by a dozen servants.
Although Shishi Tang held an umbrella, she was inevitably wet by the rain along the way. Her hair bun was slightly damped, and a few strands of hair stuck to her cheek, renewing her beauty in her messy state.
Zhao Zixun sat up straight unconsciously. He looked at Tang Shishi and frowned slowly, “What are you doing here?”
Tang Shishi rushed all the way here, at this moment she was gasping for air, and unsure if she has caught up with the plot or not. Tang Shishi took a deep breath, went into the pavilion, and greeted Zhao Zixun, “Pay respect to Shizi. Shizi, in the name of Wangye, I come to pass you a message. “
When Zhao Zixun heard Jing Wang’s name, his expression changed suddenly, “Father has something to say?”
In the study room, Zhao Chengjun strolled to the table and flipped through the letters on the table casually.
There was no trace of anything being moved. How could Tang Shishi resist such a good chance?
Zhao Chengjun asked, “Where is she?”
There was no need to tell Liu Ji who Zhao Chengjun was asking for, “Wangye, soon after you left, Miss Tang ran out in the rain. The maid reported that she is in the Lake Pavilion.”
“What is she going to do by the lake in such heavy rain?”
Liu Ji was a little embarrassed and said in a low voice, “Shizi left school early today, enjoying the rain with a warm wine in the middle of the lake.”
Zhao Chengjun understood. He flicked the letter with his fingers and threw it into the corner, “Empress Dowager would expect her to be a meticulous spy but too bad, she indulged in a fantasy. She only seeks profit and will take refuge in whoever is more advantageous. This kind of person cannot be trusted. Over the years, Empress Dowager Yao’s foresight has become more and more foolish.”
Liu Ji said, “Naturally, they are not as discerning as Wangye at planning strategies.”
Liu Ji’s flattery was too obvious, Zhao Chengjun ignored it but suddenly said, “Prepare the umbrella. We will also go to the garden to have a look.”