It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager
Chapter 22 Horse Riding
Early in the morning, Zhao Zixun changed into his official court attire and went to greet Zhao Chengjun. Today was the day to officially meet Zhongshun Wang. There was no room for carelessness.
Anji Timur, the leader of Beiting, surrendered to the Yan Dynasty and paid tribute, and was bestowed the title of Zhongshun Wang. Beiting was the strategic gateway of the northwest. It was located between the Eastern Chagatai Khanate, Tatar, and Yan Dynasty. Beiting guarded the Jiayuguan and had always been a contested land in the northwest. Beiting turned to the Yan Dynasty and proclaimed its subjects to the Yan Dynasty. Over the years, they have maintained a good relationship with the Imperial Court. However, it was only good on the surface.
In particular, a few years ago, the Tatar Khan unified the various tribes of Mobei, intending to revive the vigor of the grassland empire, and the Eastern Chagatai Khanate also changed a new Supreme Khan, who was ambitious and had long coveted the Central Plains. But at that moment, the Yan Dynasty had changed to a seven-year-old emperor.
Tatar and Eastern Chagatai Khanate were eyeing each other, and Beiting, which was located between the three regimes, had gradually begun to waver. The internal situation in Beiting was complicated, and the force of all regimes had infiltrated into it. The imperial family of Beiting was even more straightforward. From the generation of Anji Timur’s paternal grandfather, the surrounding regimes obeyed whoever was more formidable. It was obviously wishful thinking to count on the loyalty of the Beiting’s royal family to the Yan Dynasty.
Therefore, this hunting was not simple, but more to deter Beiting and win over Anji Timur. Anji Timur brought his children on this outing and camped not far away. After Jing Wang arrived yesterday, he simply went to greet them. Today was the official meeting between the two parties.
On this kind of occasion, it was not too formal, not necessary to wear court attire, but it must not be sloppy and they definitely could not let the Beiting people look down on them.
Zhao Zixun chose an official court attire, which was magnificent and prominent, but it did not signify an official rank and was less pompous. As soon as Zhao Zixun entered the main tent, he raised his eyes and saw Zhao Chengjun in a red silk dragon prince robe sitting behind the table. His chest and back were embroidered with a coiled dragon bearing fangs and brandish claws that looked ferocious and wild, a jade belt tied on his waist, and black boots with thick white soles on his feet. It made him look majestic and domineering.
Zhao Chengjun lowered his eyes as if he was looking at something. His facial expression was very grim. As a whole, he was tall and handsome with distinctive edges and corners, and when he was not smiling, he looked unapproachable. Right now, he was wearing a prince’s attire, and his striking red robe was so brash that it almost burned people’s eyes, and the coiled dragon on his body which resembled a dragon was silently declaring his status.
Zhao Zixun was shocked by this scene, he paused slightly, then bowed his head and respectfully greeted Zhao Chengjun, “Father.”
Zhao Chengjun paused for a moment, then turned the page slowly, and said calmly, “Not bad.”
Zhao Chengjun did not want to recall the second time of last night’s affairs. Fortunately, in the middle of the night, Tang Shishi did not create trouble out of anything anymore and fell asleep peacefully. However, Zhao Chengjun was short of sleep, he could not fall asleep once being awakened, even if the surroundings were quiet and silent. More so, when Zhao Chengjun thought that there was another person in the tent, a person he could not completely trust yet, his sleepiness became insignificant.
In the latter half of the night, Zhao Chengjun’s sleep was intermittent, and it was not until dawn that he finally closed his eyes for a while. But soon, it was time to get up.
Zhao Zixun asked the routine morning and evening questions about the health of his elder. As he spoke, the curtain behind him was lifted, and Tang Shishi who was trying to be cautious and not make any noise, walked into the main tent with a pot of hot tea.
As soon as Tang Shishi entered the door and found that Zhao Zixun was there, she immediately got excited. It was a pity that Jing Wang was also there at this moment, and Tang Shishi dared not play tricks in front of Jing Wang. She could only act as if she did not see him and cleverly came forward to deliver tea.
Tang Shishi stood at the side of the table and poured tea and heard Zhao Chengjun ask Zhao Zixun, “I heard the guard say that you called the imperial physician yesterday. What’s wrong? Is your injury not healed?”
Zhao Zixun said, “It’s all right. This son just thought that the hunting was about to start, and I was afraid that I will lose the decorum of Great Yan’s overlord in front of the people of Beiting, so I asked the imperial physician to check it again in case something happened.”
Tang Shishi relied on pouring tea that other people could not see her and rolled her eyes secretly. Oh, what prepare for an accident? Clearly, Shizi was phony for his own private affairs, checking the pulse of his beloved female lead.
Zhao Zixun’s excuses were brilliant. Zhao Chengjun did not ask much, “Just pay attention to yourself. This time besides Anji Timur, his son and daughter also came. You’ve seen his son before. His name is Temur, and he is a reckless man. There’s nothing worthy to pay special attention to. On the contrary, it’s his youngest daughter, Narentuoya, that you should be more careful of.”
Zhao Zixun’s expression became tense, “Why?”
Zhao Chengjun tapped his fingers on the tabletop, with a meaningful look on his face. He did not continue to say, but glanced at Tang Shishi, “Why does It take so long to pour the tea?”
Tang Shishi was waiting for the next words, but Jing Wang suddenly turned the spear to her. Tang Shishi sighed regretfully and smiled obediently, “The tea is ready. Please enjoy your tea.”
She retreated while holding the tray, and saluted Zhao Chengjun and Zhao Zixun in turn, “Wangye, Shizi, this little girl will leave first.”
Tang Shishi left after her salute. It was not until she left his vision that Zhao Zixun retracted his attention and said to Zhao Chengjun, “Father, you just told a lot about Beiting and Tartar, will she…”
Zhao Chengjun slightly raised his eyebrows, laughed, and slowly said, “She? She won’t.”
Zhao Zixun frowned, still not at ease, “But she was sent from the capital after all, and her parents and family are in the hands of the court, we have to guard against her.”
Zhou Shunhua was also sent from the capital, and the Duke Cai family was more dependent on the imperial court than the merchants. Zhao Chengjun did not know why he was unhappy. The feeling came in swiftly and disappeared immediately. Zhao Chengjun ignored his own abnormality and said, “I have never miscalculated anyone. Her ambition is elsewhere.”
Zhao Chengjun felt that he had concealed his emotions, but in fact, his tone naturally brought out a little toughness. Zhao Zixun stopped asking and put it off for later.
Although hunting had not started today, it was far more lively. Throughout the day, people came in and out of the main tent, leaving almost no time to rest. By noon, the sound was even louder.
When Zhongshun Wang, Anji Timur, came with his son, Zhao Chengjun personally took people to the entrance of the camp to meet him. As soon as Anji Timur met Zhao Chengjun, he quickly stepped up. Zhao Chengjun was also smiling humbly and bowed his hand to greet Anji Timur.
Zhao Zixun followed Zhao Chengjun, saw Temur, smiled, and nodded. Zhao Zixun turned his eyes and noticed a man. The man was petite and thin, and he was extremely out of place among the burly Beiting people.
Zhao Zixun took his gaze back after only one glance and did not take this strange person to heart. The two princes exchanged greetings to each other and entered the main tent. A group of entourages followed by the side also slowly rushed into the tent. Zhao Zixun also followed the crowd and entered the main tent to discuss official business.
Although they said to discuss official business per se, in fact, it was listening to Zhao Chengjun and Anji Timur talking. Shizi and Wangye were only one generation apart, but the disparity was huge. On this type of occasion, there was no room for Zhao Zixun to interrupt.
Tang Shishi was very self-conscious. She did not want to work for Empress Dowager Yao, but Jing Wang did not know. To alleviate his suspicion, Tang Shishi always hid as far as she could in this kind of meeting.
She walked away from the main tent and slowly came to a relatively even meadow. The stablemen were grooming the horses. After all, the hunting would officially begin tomorrow. This hunting was a joint hunt between the two countries. No matter on which sides, the stablemen dared not let their horses have any mishap.
The saddles, reins, and stirrups should be examined, even the horse’s hooves. Tang Shishi stood outside the railings and watched for a while. Then her mind began to wonder.
When Tang Shishi was in the Jing Wang mansion, she had prepared many opportunities to encounter Shizi, but she overlooked one thing, that is, they came here to hunt. In other words, Shizi would not be in the camp most of the day.
It was very annoying. Even if Tang Shishi wanted to create a chance encounter, there was no chance. The best way was to learn to ride a horse and go hunting with Shizi.
Even if she could not go, it was better to have a hero to save a damsel in distress, such as falling off the horse or a slip, than to wait on the ground. The plan was perfect. The only problem was that Tang Shishi could not ride a horse.
The stableman saw Tang Shishi still staring at the horse, and asked tentatively, “Miss Tang, do you want to ride a horse?”
Of course. They certainly knew this famous beauty Tang, after yesterday’s deworming incident, no one dared to neglect beauty Tang’s request. Tang Shishi was looking at the horse puffing with its nose and gritting its teeth hard, “Okay. But I want the safest horse.”
The stableman found a tame little mare, took the reins, and slowly led Tang Shishi to ride on the horse. Tang Shishi did not want to endure hardships or be exhausted. She just wanted to get something for nothing and live the life of a mistress. Thus, when she truly made up her mind, she was exceedingly determined.
For example, when she was a child, she memorized the Four Books and Five Classics for Qi Jingsheng. Another example, she climbed up the ladder in the palace for the sake of getting ahead. Now, learning to ride a horse for Zhao Zixun.
As long as she could get the chance, she could take any hardship.
Tang Shishi was so absorbed in her learning that she was not aware that there were many people has gathered outside the meadow while she was learning.
Anji Timur was looking at the figure in front of him and smiled at Zhao Chengjun, “Long time no see and Jing Wang actually has a wife. Congratulations.”
Zhao Chengjun paused slightly and said with a smile, “Zhongshun Wang has misunderstood. She is not my wife, nothing more than a maid in my mansion.”
“What, just a maid?” Anji Timur was very surprised. He looked at the person on the horse and Zhao Chengjun’s cold face. He laughed out loud and said, “Jing Wang, there was a word among the Central Plains called to have a tender heart for the fair sex. Today I just in time give it to you. Such a beautiful woman should not be a maid. You really need to get a wife as soon as possible. When I was your age, Temur could ride a horse already.”
The opposite side was Zhongshun Wang, Zhao Chengjun did not have a cold expression rather a dull one, and lightly skipped the topic, “I have my own rules about getting a wife, so Zhongshun Wang doesn’t have to worry about it.”
Anji Timur could see that Zhao Chengjun did not like this topic. Although nomadic people did not bother about trivial matters, it did not mean they could not understand the signal of their eyes. Anji Timur changed the topic wisely, “I haven’t moved my skills for a long time. My bones are frozen. You don’t have to follow me. If you want to ride a horse, go by yourself. “
Temur waited for these words, and as soon as Father Khan instructed, he immediately ran to pick up a horse. Zhao Zixun noticed that the petite man followed suit.
Zhao Zixun frowned and felt that something was wrong. At this time, Zhao Chengjun said. “You can go too. No need to restrict yourself.”
Zhao Zixun returned to his senses and cup his fist in the other hand, “Yes.”
Tang Shishi was finally able to trot a lap on the meadow with her horse. She was very happy. She was about to turn around to talk to the stableman and suddenly, she found that there were so many people on the meadow.
Many people were standing on the edge, indistinctly centered on two men. One of them was Jing Wang looking at his clothes.
There was no need to guess the identity of that other person, it must be Zhongshun Wang, Anji Timur.
Tang Shishi quickly dismounted and ran back to the edge. She got down so fast that she forgot she could ride back.
Anji Timur saw that the red-dressed beauty ran back energetically, and laughed out heartily at Zhao Chengjun, “Look, Jing Wang, you still said no. She saw you coming, didn’t she rush back in a hurry?”
Zhao Chengjun smiled lightly, actually, he knew in his heart that she was not doing it for him. It was for Zhao Zixun.
After Tang Shishi ran back, she found that only Jing Wang was there, and Zhao Zixun had disappeared. Tang Shishi was so anxious that she had to hide her anxiety and bowed to salute them, “Jing Wang, Zhongshun Wang.”
Zhao Chengjun saw her anxiety at a glance and said with a smile, “You don’t need to serve today. Just go out play on your own.”
“Thank you, Wangye.” After Tang Shishi finished speaking, she quietly looked around and asked bitterly, “Wangye, where is Shizi?”
“Went back to camp to change his riding outfit.” After saying that, Zhao Chengjun raised his eyebrows and motioned behind Tang Shishi, “That’s not it, they’re back.”
Tang Shishi turned back in high spirits, only to see Zhou Shunhua follow Zhao Zixun’s side and change into riding clothes. The smile on Tang Shishi’s face suddenly faded. Zhao Zixun came to Zhao Chengjun’s side, rather unsure, “Father.”
Zhao Zixun did not know why. He always felt that Zhao Chengjun’s eyes were a little peculiar. If he had to describe them, it would be like sitting on the mountain while watching the tigers fight?
“Don’t worry about me, just do it yourself. “Zhao Chengjun smiled and glanced at Zhou Shunhua lightly, “You brought a woman?”
Zhou Shunhua tensed up suddenly, and Zhao Zixun silently stood in front of Zhou Shunhua, “Father, Shunhua has been in poor health recently and I took her out to get some fresh air.”
Zhao Chengjun chuckled, “You don’t need to explain. You are old enough. It’s all your personal affairs who you like and who you favor. You don’t need to report to me. The weather is rarely good today. Just go.”
Zhao Zixun was really relieved, “Thank you, father.”
Tang Shishi was surprised as she listened to Jing Wang’s words. Jing Wang obviously hated Shizi mingling with women on all occasions. She thought that Jing Wang would scold Zhao Zixun for bringing a woman over.
The outcome, Jing Wang not only did not scold Zhao Zixun but also encouraged him?
For what? Tang Shishi was dumbfounded, and Zhao Zixun had already taken Zhou Shunhua away. Tang Shishi was livid and asked deliberately, “Sister Zhou, can you ride a horse?”
Zhou Shunhua’s expression was slightly stiff, and she shook her head awkwardly. Tang Shishi smirked and said, “It’s a pity that Sister Zhou can’t ride a horse. What will Sister Zhou do when she gets on the horse? “
Zhao Zixun darted a look at Tang Shishi, lowered his head, and asked Zhou Shunhua, “You can’t ride a horse?”
Zhou Shunhua shook her head. Tang Shishi raised her neck and said with a smile, “I can.”
Tang Shishi had just come from the pasture. Her hair was slightly messy, and her face was bright red. When she said, “I can”, her eyes were shining dazzlingly. Even if it was to show off, she was showing off brilliantly and lovely, as if a child had learned a new word and deliberately asked for praise in front of an adult. It made people laugh when they looked at her.
Zhao Chengjun was slightly absent-minded for a moment, and he found that Anji Timur was right. The countenance of Tang Shishi, arrogance, and straightforwardness disposition, really did not look like a maid. This was the kind of tolerance that can be cultivated by people who never worry about being rejected.
Tang Shishi waited confidently for the next sentence, but Zhao Zixun looked at Tang Shishi and gently said to Zhou Shunhua, “It’s okay. If you can’t, I will teach you.”
Tang Shishi’s smile froze, what? Did not this kind of thing get disqualified without the skill? Why did Zhao Zixun not play the card according to common sense? Zhao Chengjun lowered his head and tried to cover the smile on his lips. Tang Shishi was at a loss and was about to open her mouth, Zhao Zixun said, “Since Miss Tang can do it, she must be able to ride by herself. If that’s the case, we won’t disturb Miss Tang having fun.”
With that, Zhao Zixun nodded to Zhao Chengjun and left with Zhou Shunhua. Tang Shishi was completely confused. So, how come there were no other possibilities in the female lead’s script? Like she could learn in advance, could only sing a one-man show from the beginning to the end?
Zhao Chengjun smiled at Tang Shishi’s expression, and asked unhurriedly, “Why, you can’t ride a horse now?”
Tang Shishi gritted her teeth and said every word, “I can!”