It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager
Chapter 5 Entering the Mansion
Tang Shishi remembered the name secretly. Feng Momo looked at Tang Shishi’s appearance, swept her eyes from top to bottom, hands, waist, and figure, and suddenly smiled. She took a jade bracelet from her wrist and put it on Tang Shishi’s hand.
Tang Shishi was surprised and instinctively wanted to withdraw her hand but was held down by Feng Momo. Feng Momo put the jade bracelet on Tang Shishi’s wrist. Tang Shishi was born with good looks and her fingers were long and white. The jade hung on Tang Shishi’s wrist, and it seemed like her hand was more exquisite than the jade.
Feng Momo watched the scene and sighed inwardly that she was a natural beauty, from face to hand to figure, she was beautiful and attractive. Feng Momo patted Tang Shishi’s hand and said, “In a few days, we will arrive at Jing Wang’s mansion. Once you enter the mansion, you will be Jing Wang’s person. Once this old lady sent you all, my mission will be considered as completed and will return to the capital. After this parting, I don’t know how long this old lady will see you again, there is nothing to give as a parting gift, there is only a pair of bracelets that Emperor Xiaozong bestowed on this old lady a long time ago. This old lady is old and frail, wearing these is just insulting to such good things, so I’ll leave it to you.”
Tang Shishi narrowed her eyebrows and said, “I can’t afford it. This was given to you by Emperor Xiaozong. If you are not worthy of it, how could I?”
“There’s nothing you can’t afford.” Feng Momo looked at Tang Shishi meaningfully and said, “This old lady is a slave, and you are a person who will enjoy great wealth and honor. There will be many more good things that you will have in the future. Empress Dowager was kind-hearted and treats Jing Wang as her own. Jing Wang had no children for many years, and there is not even a person that cares for him by his side. Empress Dowager didn’t know how worried she was about him. If you are favored by Jing Wang, you have to serve Jing Wang well. Empress Dowager will be very happy and pleased, and your reward will be indispensable in the future. It is not impossible even to extend kindness to the family.”
After having said so much, Tang Shishi has been listening respectfully, but in fact, there was no fluctuation in her heart until Feng Momo said “kindness to the family”. Tang Shishi curled up her fingertips and bowed her head, and replied, “Yes, the little girl understands.”
The kindness from the emperor extended to the family was still unclear and too early to tell, but once something bad happens, it will implicate the family up to the nine clans and this was very certain.
Feng Momo was using a combination of kindness and power to pressure Tang Shishi into submission. She could not think that with Jing Wang’s favor, she could betray Empress Dowager. Even though Tang Shishi would be in Jing Wang’s mansion, her parents and relatives were all in the hands of the imperial court.
Tang Shishi did not care about the life and death of Tang Mingzhe and concubine Su, but her mother was still in the Tang family.
Feng Momo also did not want to say something severe that was impassable, so she used the ploy of slapping first then offered a sweet date* to control her. Feng Momo turned into a smiling face again and kindly said, “But you don’t have to worry too much, as you have been a good girl, Empress Dowager trusted you. Since this old lady is fated to meet you, there’s no harm in giving you some pointers. Before you left the capital, Empress Dowager said if you have her in your heart and render meritorious service, your father and younger brother will be rewarded with scholarly honor. Then on, they can break away from a merchant family.”
(slapping first then offered a sweet date* – deal harshly with someone, then offer something as a way of consolation)
“The four classes” – scholars, farmers, artisans, and merchants’ social class were clearly distinguished. Scholars were at the top and merchants were at the bottom.
Merchants have money but no status. Therefore, when Qi Jingsheng has shown his talent in reading was regarded as a light for rebirth by the Qi family. If Qi Jingsheng took it seriously, passed, and got an official title, even if he were just a candidate for imperial examination at the provincial level, the status of the Qi family would be earth-shaking.
The Qi family would be able to walk sideways* in front of all the merchants in Linqing just because of a scholar in the family, even Tang Mingzhe regarded Qi Jingsheng as a good son-in-law. However, whether Qi Jingsheng could pass the examination, or he could hold any official position after the examination was still unknown. But now, Empress Dowager Yao could say it casually to give scholarly honor to the Tang family after everything was done.
(walk sideways* – unrestrained, uncontrolled)
This woman with the highest ranking in the entire dynasty, the Empress Dowager, has such power.
Tang Shishi’s heart was burning again. Tang Mingzhe spoiled his concubine and cast aside his legitimate wife. Tang Shishi has been brought up under the oppression of the mother and daughter of the second branch since childhood. No one knew better than herself what the meaning of worshiping the high and trampling the low meant. Did it matter if her father and younger brother were bestowed with scholarly honor? What she wanted was to receive the bestowment for herself.
Tang Shishi did not dare to act rashly before, now that she saw Zhou Shunhua’s life trajectory, would she still be willing to be subdued by others. She wants to be Empress Dowager herself. Tang Mingzhe, concubine Su, Zhou Shunhua, Empress Dowager Yao, and even the male lead were all considered nonsense.
Tang Shishi was ambitious and established a new life goal which was for herself to be Empress Dowager. However, she was still a humble and weak little girl who was struggling to survive. Tang Shishi submissively agreed and said, “Momo, you can rest assured, I’m loyal to Empress Dowager. In this world, the land we stepped on, from the land to the shore, no one is not a slave to the emperor. As a courtier, I should be loyal to the emperor, and it will be considered unfaithful to cover up the truth. I will report every movement in the Jing Wang mansion to Empress Dowager.”
Feng Momo looked at Tang Shishi and smiled with satisfaction, “Empress Dowager did not misjudge you, you have the spirit and it is not in vain for Empress Dowager to cultivate you. If you have anything to rely on in the future, you can entrust these people to do it.”
Tang Shishi lowered her eyes and answered yes with an “um”. No matter what Feng Momo said, she should take it. She did not have any moral burden. Anyway, she was hypocritical and would weep bitter tears when she met Jing Wang and Shizi and pledged her loyalty to them.
Tang Shishi did not care that the Tang family was taken hostage by the imperial court. Anyhow, Tang Mingzhe’s wealth was not set aside for her and Tang Wenxuan was not her younger brother from the same mother, whether they were dead or alive, what was that got to do with Tang Shishi?
After a period of time, she would have someone take her mother out from Tang’s family quietly, Tang Shishi had no worries at all.
The only thing worth her fighting for was her own future.
Tang Shishi listened to Feng Momo telling her about the contact person in the Jing Wang mansion and thought to herself that she would let Feng Momo and Empress Dowager Yao down.
Because her goal was not Jing Wang at all.
The next day, the young ladies gathered in front of the relay post station waiting to get on the carriage to continue on their journey.
Tang Shishi came out with Feng Momo at last. When all the young ladies met Tang Shishi, their faces had strange expressions.
Tang Shishi was too lazy to pay attention. She wanted to be Empress Dowager and why would she entangle herself with these small fries? After Feng Momo came out, the carriages came quickly. Feng Momo got on her own carriage, and then it was the turn for all the beauties to get on the carriages.
Tang Shishi was the last one to come out and stood on the outside, she was not in a hurry and stood at the very end. All the young ladies looked at each other, and no one dared to be in front of Tang Shishi and quietly gave way to her.
Tang Shishi smiled softly, walked through the crowd, and boarded the carriage first.
Ji Xinxian has always been disgusted with Tang Shishi. Seeing Tang Shishi’s performance, she was so angry that she rushed to reprimand her. The people around quickly grabbed Ji Xinxian, Ren Yujun stood beside Zhou Shunhua and looked at Zhou Shunhua as if asking for help.
Zhou Shunhua shook her head secretly, indicating not to fight with Tang Shishi. The rafters that jut out rot first*, and the ones who hold themselves high may not be able to go far.
(rafters that jut out rot first* (idiom) – anyone who makes themselves conspicuous will be targeted for attack)
Just look at it.
Zhou Shunhua and others got on right after Tang Shishi got onto the carriage. The carriage started slowly once the young ladies sat down.
Tang Shishi closed her eyes to nourish her spirit. Last night, Tang Shishi did not dare to sleep with her eyes closed when she had to respond to Feng Momo. She did not dare to catch up on her sleep until she got onto the carriage.
Ji Xinxian has been waiting to poke on Tang Shishi’s thorns, yet she waited for the whole journey. Tang Shishi kept her eyes closed and relaxed all along. Ji Xinxian, at last, could not help it and said eccentrically, ” I heard that Sister Tang had a big show last night.”
Tang Shishi closed her eyes and gave a faint “hum”, and continued, “I should be in the limelight, shouldn’t I?”
Ji Xinxian was choked, and after a while, she stabbed again, “The daughters of good families don’t see men from outside. Yesterday, Sister Tang rushed out in front of so many men, and Feng Momo didn’t say anything?”
Tang Shishi opened her eyes and glanced at Ji Xinxian with a smile, ” Feng Momo doted on me, not only didn’t blame me, in fact, she praised me for doing well.”
After that, Tang Shishi inadvertently raised her sleeve and revealed the jade bracelet on her wrist, “It was Emperor Xiaozong’s reward, how can I wear it?”
This was the bracelet that Feng Momo wore and never left her hand. All the ladies were impressed. When Ji Xinxian saw the familiar jade bracelet appear on Tang Shishi’s wrist, she rolled her eyes with anger and could not speak.
Ren Yujun could not stand by idly and watch and said, “Publicity may not be a good thing. You rushed directly to Jing Wang last night to report the assassin and give directions to the outsider. Was that a courteous young lady action?”
Among the beauties who came this time, although everyone was at odds with each other, they could be divided into three factions. Ren Yujun and Zhou Shunhua were the daughters of Duke and Marquise and they had known each other in the capital before through a noble circle. Ji Xinxian and Feng Qian were the daughters of civil officials and they possessed noble literati of civil officials. Whereas, Tang Shishi was on her own.
Tang Shishi was calmed and unhurriedly said, “If a daughter wants to abide by the boudoir precepts, doesn’t she have to abide by the Four Books and Five Classics*? This is the fief of Jing Wang. When I found the assassin, I reported it to Jing Wang, was I wrong? “
(Four Books and Five Classics* – Four Books, namely: the Great Learning, the Doctrine of the Mean, the Analects of Confucius, and Mencius; Five Classics of Confucianism, namely: The Book of Songs, the Book of History, the Classic of Rites, the Book of Changes, and the Spring and Autumn Annals.)
Ren Yujun was obstructed, and who would dare to say this kind of thing was wrong. All the women in the carriage fell into silence. When Tang Shishi saw that they had finally stopped, she sneered and continued to close her eyes to make up for her lost sleep.
Tang Shishi acted awe-inspiringly, and after closing her eyes, she sighed inwardly.
Of course, she did something wrong. If she had known that she had recognized the wrong man, she would not have reported the assassin to Jing Wang. Tang Shishi was so regretful that her intestines were almost turned green, but she can’t say it out loud and had to pretend to be happy.
It was very annoying.
After four or five days on the carriage, they finally arrived at Xiping province.
Xiping was completely different from Jinling. Jinling’s waterways were warm and gentle with floating jade and gold ornaments, and it was full of magnificent ambiance everywhere. On the contrary, as soon as they entered Xiping city, they felt the vastness and solemnity of quietness.
This was a city that has been at war for many years, so there was a sense of annihilation.
The soldiers who guarded the city knew that the capital had sent the beauties over, and they let them pass with a cold face after checking their identities. All the women in the carriage remained silent after passing through the gate.
Although they did not see it, they already felt the breath on the street. At this moment, whether it was a young lady with an honorable background like Zhou Shunhua or a Prefectural Magistrate’s daughter like Ji Xinxian, they all clearly realized that the environment was quite different from their past.
They were no longer the pampered women in the boudoir, rather became little maids in the vassal monarch’s mansion.
The carriage stopped. It seemed that someone came out to check it, and after a while, there was a sound of unhitching the doorstep.
Tang Shishi knew that they had arrived.
Several carriages stopped at the second gate. Feng Momo changed into her formal clothes, cleared her throat, and said in a solemn tone, “The Jing Wang mansion is here, come out. Don’t miss the opportunity to pay respect to the prince.”
There was no doubt that Tang Shishi was the first to get off the carriage. All the women lined up in a row and Tang Shishi followed Feng Momo, folded their hands with eyes down, and went to the main hall to pay respect to Jing Wang.
Normally Tang Shishi was very persistent in standing in front of people, but this time she paused before entering the door.
Wait for a second, see Jing Wang?
Before Tang Shishi could think about it, they have arrived at the main hall. Tang Shishi braced herself and entered the main hall. She glanced quickly before entering the door, and her eyes went dim at once.
In the middle seat sat the man she saw last time. It was Jing Wang, Zhao Chengjun. There was also a very young man sitting on his right-hand seat.
Did not have to think about it, he must be Jing Wang’s adopted son, Shizi, Zhao Zixun.
Tang Shishi was blown away. Unfortunately, she was the first one and she could not hide behind others. She bowed her head even lower, trying to narrow her sense of existence.
However, it backfired. As soon as Tang Shishi entered, the two men looked at her first.
Obviously, both Jing Wang and Shizi recognized the lady who left a deep impression on them.