IBTBTED Chapter 8
It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager
Chapter 8 Smart
After Feng Momo sent Tang Shishi to the Jing Wang mansion, she was about to set off to the capital within a few days.
Feng Momo, a palace maid naturally could not be considered someone important, still what matters most was that she was Empress Dowager’s trusted aide. Even if Feng Momo was just a servant, she represented Empress Dowager when she was out of the palace.
Therefore, Zhao Chengjun personally hosted a banquet to send off Feng Momo and her accompanying officials. In addition to a group of officials and ministers from Xiping province, Zhao Zixun as Shizi would also attend.
On the day of the banquet, the mansion was busy from early morning, especially the ten beauties including Tang Shishi, who dressed up carefully, each of them was high in spirit.
Today, they were going to bid farewell to Feng Momo. After Feng Momo returned to the capital, they would stay in the Jing Wang mansion. In the future, the rise and fall of honor and disgrace, the ups and downs of favors, all depend on one’s own good fortune.
Tang Shishi also put on her best dress to attend the banquet. Although the ten beauties were sent to serve Jing Wang, no one could really let them do the work of serving others. Just like today’s banquet, the maids of the mansion were very busy. Tang Shishi and other beauties stood in line in the main hall and even by just posing, it was also considered to have fulfilled their jobs.
Tang Shishi was naturally a well-deserved leader. She stood at the forefront with her waist straight and her chin tucked in slightly, revealing her slender neck and beautiful face just right. She accepted the scrutiny from all directions, and there was no evasive or cowardliness in her expression. From childhood to adulthood, she had long been accustomed to other people’s attention to her appearance.
On the contrary, Tang Shishi was thinking about another thing. “Ren Yujun mistakenly poisoned, Zhou Shunhua cleverly solved the puzzle”, what did this mean?
Tang Shishi had been contemplating for several nights and could not understand what the “riddle” was about, but at least she could be sure that the next story was related to Ren Yujun and Zhou Shunhua. So, she made up her mind early this morning that no matter what happened next, she would watch Ren Yujun and Zhou Shunhua closely.
With Tang Shishi’s literary level, it was not impossible to compete with Zhou Shunhua in quoting classics or solving puzzles. But still, she had to be cruel and determined to cut the source out. Today, no matter what Zhou Shunhua did, she was determined to snatch it away and did not let the female lead appear in front of the crowd.
Halfway through the banquet, a lot were feeling tipsy, and several men stood up to sober up. The maids who were serving in the banquet hall were in chaos and did not seem as orderly as they were at the beginning. Tang Shishi was called to go out, and after she left, the other nine women gathered in groups of threes and fives to gossip, and the formation dispersed shortly.
Anyway, they were there just for the façade and had nothing to do. In fact, they could move around freely.
Even though the beauties were scattered in twos and threes, no one was willing to go back on this kind of occasion. On the other hand, it seemed very stupid to just stand there with nothing to do. Ji Xinxian changed into a light red dress with a whole set of rubies on her head which made her face look like a peach blossom, very radiant. Ji Xinxian listened with satisfaction as the girls gathered around to flatter her. She quietly raised her eyes and looked at the banquet not far away.
A screen was used to separate the field of vision between inside and outside. Festive sounds of cups clinking and people laughing could be heard, shadows of people walking back and forth and a brightly illuminated atmosphere could be seen from behind the screen. Jing Wang left the scene right after showing his face, and Zhao Zixun was the well-deserved focal point of the banquet. From the gap between the screens, Shizi Zhao Zixun was sitting in his seat, talking and laughing with the people around him. This young man was full of spirit and talented with noble status which naturally attracted the attention of these young women.
Ji Xinxian seemed to be talking to her companion, but in fact, the corner of her eyes had been keeping a tab on Zhao Zixun’s movements. She deliberately pretended not to care, like a proud swan occupying a corner, just to attract Zhao Zixun’s attention. However, Ji Xinxian had been talking for a long time and Zhao Zixun did not even look back.
Ji Xinxian had just finished contemplating when she heard some movement from behind the screen. Many people turned around, even Zhao Zixun glanced through the screen. Ji Xinxian gazed at the sounds and found that it was Tang Shishi who had just come in.
Tang Shishi attracted a lot of attention along the way, but she did not care about it. She stopped at the side hall, apparently looking for someone but could not find it. Everyone inside and outside was wondering, who was she looking for?
Who had this privilege in her mind?
After listening to Feng Momo’s instructions, she came back and found that they were gone. She walked around the side hall but did not see Zhou Shunhua and Ren Yujun.
Tang Shishi frowned and became a little anxious. She stopped in the middle of the hall, and everyone who was watching her movement also stopped.
The woman beside Ji Xinxian whispered, “What is she doing?”
“Seems to be looking for someone.”
“Who is she looking for…”
Before the women finished talking, they abruptly soften their volume. Tang Shishi found Ji Xinxian and went straight to her. The other women could not help but remain silent. They watched Tang Shishi approach Ji Xinxian and stop two steps away to ask, “Where are Zhou Shunhua and Ren Yujun?”
When Tang Shishi came to talk to Ji Xinxian, their spot suddenly became the focal point, and even Zhao Zixun stared at them.
Ji Xinxian’s heart was sour and bitter, which was hard to describe her feelings at the present. She had been standing here for so long, and Shizi did not even look back. She thought that Shizi had not noticed the people behind him. As soon as Tang Shishi walked over, Shizi turned and looked at them.
Ji Xinxian was irritated because of this, and her tone was harsh, “I don’t know. The two of them are high-ranking officials’ daughters. How can I know about their whereabouts?”
Tang Shishi raised her eyebrows, and she knew that she could not count on Ji Xinxian to tell her the truth anymore. A woman nearby looked at Tang Shishi and said softly, “Sister Ren seems to have gone out just now.”
Tang Shishi looked at the woman who was speaking to her and asked, “Which direction did she go?”
The woman humbly pointed out the direction, Tang Shishi thanked her and quickly rushed outside.
After Tang Shishi left, the virtual focus on the side hall also vanished, and everyone resumed talking casually. The woman who gave directions earlier peeped behind Tang Shishi and saw Ji Xinxian’s sullen expression.
The woman asked cautiously, “Sister Ji, what’s the matter with you?”
Ji Xinxian said with a cold face, “Nothing.”
Not long after Tang Shishi came out of the banquet hall, she ran into Ren Yujun and Zhou Shunhua in the corridor. Today, Ren Yujun was wearing a long jade-colored coat and a purple pleated dress with pink cotton rose hibiscus embroidered on the dress. She looked at the flowers from a distance, it was rich and bright. Zhou Shunhua who was next to Ren Yujun wore a light blue coat and dress, which was much plainer in comparison.
Ren Yujun was holding a tray in her hand while talking with Zhou Shunhua intimately. They slowed down their footsteps when they saw oncoming Tang Shishi.
Ren Yujun stared at Tang Shishi suspiciously, and asked, “What are you doing here?”
Tang Shishi quietly swept through the clothes of these two people and snickered in her heart. Indeed they were “good sisters”. Everyone had put their mind on the clothes they were wearing, Ren Yujun has the air of nobility whereas Zhou Shunhua highlighted her simple and yet elegant features.
Undeniably this pair of “sisters” was worthy of being called the “beautiful sisters”.
Tang Shishi glanced at the things that they were holding and asked, “What is this?”
“Sister Shaoyao suddenly has a stomachache, so she asked us for help to deliver the wine.”
Wine delivery? Tang Shishi rolled her eyes, she sensed something was not quite right here. It was a chance to present themselves in front of the banquet when delivering the wine. As the banquet was coming to an end, this was the chance for the female lead to shine.
She would rather kill a thousand by mistake than miss one. Tang Shishi made up her mind instantly, whether this was the time or not, she would cut off all of Zhou Shunhua’s scenes and would never give the female lead a chance to show up. Tang Shishi smiled warmly at them and said, “You have worked hard to bring such a heavy thing all the way here. Just give it to me.”
How could Ren Yujun believe Tang Shishi’s nonsense? She sneered, avoiding Tang Shishi’s hand, and retorted coldly, “Don’t dare to bother Miss Tang. Miss Tang is now a favored person. Who dares to bother you with such coarse work?”
Zhou Shunhua tugged on Ren Yujun’s clothes softly, and murmured, “Let’s go, the wine is going to be cold.”
Ren Yujun glanced at Tang Shishi coldly, walked around Tang Shishi, and quickly towards the banquet hall. Tang Shishi’s hand was still in the air, withdrew her hand as if nothing had happened, turned around, and caught up quickly. When she passed by Ren Yujun, her shoulder swayed slightly and bumped Ren Yujun’s arm.
Ren Yujun was caught off guard, and the wine pot suddenly fell. Even if Ren Yujun immediately balanced the wine pot, she still poured out a lot of wine.
Ren Yujun’s body was covered with wine, and she carefully prepared a new dress that was suddenly ruined. She was stunned for a moment and then became furious, “Tang Shishi, you…”
With a smile, Tang Shishi said, “Oh… your dress is dirty now and it’s not appropriate to see guests. It would be impolite to go to the front to deliver the wine dressed like this. “
Ren Yujun was so angry that she cannot wait to tear Tang Shishi up, “You did this on purpose, you and I are done!”
“Sister Ren!” Zhou Shunhua suddenly heightened her voice. She grabbed Ren Yujun and softly shook her head. Later, Zhou Shunhua took the tray from Ren Yujun and said, “Since Sister Ren is inconvenient, let me do the work on behalf of my sister.”
Ren Yujun’s heart was slightly relaxed. Yes, how did she forget that she still has Zhou Shunhua on her side? Ren Yujun raised her head and looked at Tang Shishi with pride and provocation.
Tang Shishi quietly stared at the two sisters’ deep love. At this time, a little maid came out with a tray in her hand. Without warning, Tang Shishi took a teacup from the little maid’s tray, without even looking at what was inside, and poured it directly on Zhou Shunhua’s dress.
Zhou Shunhua quickly stepped back, but she was still splashed in the end. Inside was the cold tea that was going to be replaced and still have some left-over tea in it, yellowish and brownish in color, and instantly dyed her clothes.
Zhou Shunhua was originally very elegant, but now her dress was stained with some left-over tea as if a black spot were added to white porcelain and became unsightly. Zhou Shunhua was dumbfounded, Tang Shishi smiled gently, put the teacup back into the hands of the little maid, and said unhurriedly, “Now, it can’t be done.”
Ren Yujun was lifeless for a moment, and then became so angry, “Tang Shishi, you bully others too far!”
Indeed Ren Yujun was a daughter from a noble family, who would not do anything out of line. Tang Shishi thought that Ren Yujun would have cursed her a bitch. Their disputes were not small, and they attracted a lot of attention, especially the scene where Tang Shihi poured the tea.
The outside hustle and bustle soon startled the inside people. Feng Momo went out first and saw Tang Shishi, Zhou Shunhua, and Ren Yujun standing in the corridor, obviously confronting each other and having dubious stains on the other two. Feng Momo’s face sunk and reprimanded, “What are you doing?”
As soon as Ren Yujun saw Feng Momo, she immediately cried out, “Momo, you have to be the master for us. I was entrusted by Shaoyao to deliver the wine to Shizi. Initially, we were walking along fine, but Tang Shishi came and splashed the wine on my dress without saying a word. Sister Zhou wanted to help me, but she also was splashed by her. Momo, please help hold justice for us!”
Feng Momo looked at the three of them suspiciously. She could not believe that they would do such a foolish hoax now. Feng Momo questioned with a cold face, “Tang Shishi, what is going on?”
Tang Shishi slanted her head exposing her slender neck like an arrogant white swan, “I just taught them some manners.”
Before Feng Momo could ask the reason, someone came from the inside. Tongxiu quickly walked out and asked, “What’s the commotion about?”
Hearing Tongxiu’s voice, Feng Momo glared at the three of them and then turned around to greet Tongxiu with a smile, “It’s no hindrance. It’s just three little girls playing around.”
Ren Yujun was not satisfied, gritted her teeth, and said, “It’s clear that she did it on purpose!”
Zhou Shunhua promptly tugged on Ren Yujun’s dress. Ren Yujun was suddenly aware of her sister’s prompting but still could not contain her anger. Feng Momo obviously wanted to cool things down. Could there be no justice in the world?
When Ren Yujun spoke earlier, she had drawn everyone’s attention. Feng Momo kept winking at them to resolve among themselves quickly. Tongxiu stared at Ren Yujun’s clothes with a stunned expression, “Your dress…”
Everyone was astonished, Ren Yujun immediately looked down at her clothes, and Tang Shishi also looked at her.
The jade-colored long coat was embroidered with lush cotton rose hibiscus. There was nothing special about it as far as the color or the pattern. Could it be something wrong with the clothes?
Feng Momo had no idea before, but now following Tongxiu’s scrutiny, she saw Ren Yujun’s dress was embroidered with cotton rose hibiscus, and her expression worsened suddenly.
Cotton rose hibiscus! How did Ren Yujun have such audacity to wear clothes embroidered with cotton rose hibiscus in Jing Wang’s mansion?
Feng Momo’s expression plummeted and sternly roared, “Imprudent! Quickly go change your dress!”
Ren Yujun did not understand, but the expressions of Feng Momo and Tongxiu Gugu were obviously not good, she did not dare to delay and wanted to go back as soon as possible. However, just as she had just taken two steps forward, there was a voice that came from behind her.
“What are you doing here?”
Everyone turned around and found that outside the corridor, Zhao Chengjun and his entourage were standing in the courtyard, looking at them vaguely. Zhao Chengjun showed up briefly during the banquet and went out and did not come back until now. He did not expect to bump into this scene just as he was coming back inside.
Tongxiu’s expression was unfavorable. She quickly stepped forward and bowed deeply, trying to block Zhao Chengjun’s vision, “Wangye*, it was this servant’s inability to discipline, which has disturbed Wangye. This servant is guilty and deserves to be punished.”
(*Wangye – prince, another form of addressing His Highness)
However, it was too late. Zhao Chengjun saw Ren Yujun’s flowers at a glance.
Zhao Chengjun’s eyebrows moved slightly, and his eyes were frosty. For a moment, no one from the inside or outside dared to speak, even his personal bodyguard and officials behind Zhao Chengjun were silent.
Ren Yujun knew she had caused trouble. Although she did not know the reason, it was obvious the cotton rose hibiscus was taboo in the Jing Wang mansion. Ren Yujun suddenly recalled what happened a few days ago.
At that time, Ren Yujun was preparing the clothes for the banquet. Shaoyao indistinctively told her that she has such an honorable appearance, and it was best to wear the dress with cotton rose hibiscus as it looked very luxurious, and matched her. Since Shaoyao was a person from the mansion, Ren Yujun believed her because she wanted to have a good relationship with them.
Unexpectedly, Shaoyao was lying to her! Today Shaoyao deliberately told Ren Yujun that her stomach hurts and asked her to deliver the wine, did she intentionally want to harm her?
Ren Yujun knelt down in panic, she was petrified, her lips were trembling, and she could not even speak. Tang Shishi did not know what was going on, so she stepped back covertly, explicitly drawing a line between Ren Yujun and herself.
She did not know them. This had nothing to do with her.
Zhao Zixun heard them and came out. He assessed the people on both sides and greeted Zhao Chengjun, “Father, this woman is really bold, this son will drag her out immediately and flog her with thirty strikes.”
Ren Yujun was frightened to death as soon as she heard it. She was a lady in the boudoir, physically weak by nature, only embroidering and writing on normal days. Would it not take her life if she were to flog thirty times! At this crucial time, how could Zhou Shunhua abandon her sister? She knelt down beside Ren Yujun and pleaded, “Your Highness, you have misunderstood, this is not cotton rose hibiscus. This is a hibiscus!”
Zhao Chengjun looked at Zhou Shunhua condescendingly, not discerning any joy or anger in his expression. At the moment, Zhou Shunhua did not know whether she was saving or harming themselves. So she bit the bullet and said, “To tell you the truth, Sister Ren and this little girl have developed a profound sisterhood bond since we met. This little girl’s name is Shunhua and Shunhua means hibiscus. Because of this little girl, Sister Ren embroidered hibiscus on her clothes.”
Ren Yujun seemed to have caught a life-saving straw, and quickly added, “It’s true, this is hibiscus. All to blame on this little girl’s embroidering work is not good in embroidering the hibiscus shape properly, just leads to misunderstanding. Wangye please calm down, and this little girl doesn’t dare anymore.”
Tongxiu seemed to be relieved and persuaded, “Wangye, they are still young and are just silly little girls. Since it’s a misunderstanding, please let it go. You don’t have to get angry with them.”
Zhao Chengjun’s eyes were deep. He glanced at Ren Yujun and Zhou Shunhua coldly. He did not say whether he believed it or not and strode inside. Tang Shishi obviously felt that everyone was at ease, and they went along after Jing Wang into the hall.
Tang Shishi quietly mixed in the crowd and moved with them. She felt dismayed and miscalculated and had let Zhou Shunhua succeed.
It turned out that this was the meaning Zhou Shunhua cleverly solved the puzzles.
Tang Shishi really could not grasp it. She did not know that “Shunhua” could be used like this.
Tang Shishi lowered her head to reflect on the earlier matter. She did not pay attention to the front and accidentally bumped into someone. She quickly looked up, only to realize that everyone had stopped without her realizing it.
Tang Shishi lowered her head obediently and exposed her neck meekly, just short of “I am innocent” written on her face, “Wangye.”
Zhao Chengjun stopped in front of the door and glanced at Tang Shishi with an unknown meaning, “Don’t try to be smart.”
Immediately, he strode away.
Tang Shishi was a clever girl originally, but now, she was puzzled. Try to be smart. When was she smart?