It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager
Chapter 27 Bathing in Wilderness
On the second day, the men went out hunting again. Narentuoya had nowhere to go, so she came to Tang Shishi to see the little fox.
Narentuoya could not touch the fox’s fur, so she just watched with her eyes from a distance. Tang Shishi found that things were gradually developing in a strange direction. The grassland outside was obviously so suitable for dating. Narentuoya, a cannon fodder female supporting character, kept pestering Tang Shishi every day, causing neither of them to have time for a story with the male lead. Tang Shishi watched as Zhao Zixun and Zhou Shunhua got closer, and they were about to achieve a great victory of mutual understanding, but Tang Shishi was inexplicably developing friendship with this competitor.
The whole thing was crazy. So happened that Zhao Chengjun was watching from behind, and Tang Shishi did not dare to drive Narentuoya away, so she could only watch the storyline making rapid progress in despair, while her own direction became more and more strange.
Ten days passed in a blink of an eye, and all the prey in this area were about to be done. Zhao Chengjun had ordered to leave the campsite and move deeper into the paddock.
Tang Shishi and other womenfolk also set off with them. Fortunately, Tang Shishi learned how to ride a horse, now she could enjoy the windy breeze on the horse instead of facing Zhou Shunhua in the carriage.
Tang Shishi was sitting on the horse, wearing a bright red cloak, and carrying a little fox in her arms, trotting slowly with the white horse. The autumn wind was blowing and her long hair flying around. Tang Shishi tucked her hair that was blocking her eyes behind her ears, and asked listlessly, “How long will it take?”
The escorted guard ran to the front and asked. After a while, he came back and clasped his fists, “Miss Tang, Wangye said that we will set up the camp on the next flat ground.”
Tang Shishi sighed. She knew that she would not be able to rest until sunset.
Tang Shishi somewhat understood why Zhao Chengjun was unwilling to take the woman with them. They rode on horseback for a whole day, eating and sleeping in the open. This was not something that everyone could endure. Since they came out to have fun, there was no need to rush on the journey. Zhao Chengjun took care of the womenfolk in the team and deliberately slowed down. Even so, after riding for a day, Tang Shishi’s whole body was about to fall apart.
They were now in the middle of the woods. The woods were not wide-open, with many birds and animals around them, and it was not suitable for camping. Tang Shishi originally thought that she would have to go out of this woods to have a rest. She did not expect that after a while, a horn sounded from the front, “Hurry up, there is an open space in the front. Wangye has ordered to camp there.”
Tang Shishi’s spirits lifted up, so fast? Following the order of the dispatcher, a group of sergeants ran to the back, and everyone joined forces to push the heavy cart with tents and supplies to the front. Tang Shishi held the reins and gave way to the heavy carts.
Tang Shishi sat on her horse and tried to peek towards the front. Indeed, in the middle of the woods, she saw a piece of grassland, like pearls scattered in the forest, and her vision became clearer. The little fox in her arms stretched its head out. Tang Shishi held down the restless little fox and said in a soft voice, “Don’t make trouble. I will let you go down later.”
To be honest, Tang Shishi was a little surprised. Although the grassland was flat, the area was not large and surrounded by woods, which was absolutely not safe. It was not dark yet at this hour. In fact, they could still continue to move forward, but Zhao Chengjun ordered them to stop. Tang Shishi originally thought that Zhao Chengjun would not trust such a place.
Tang Shishi sighed. She thought she had already understood Zhao Chengjun, but now it seemed that she still did not understand him at all.
It was the men’s responsibility to set up the camp. Since Tang Shishi has nothing to do with it, she followed behind them slowly. Zhou Shunhua’s carriage also stopped. Zhou Shunhua lifted the curtain and asked, “What’s the matter?”
The soldier who drove the carriage said, “Wangye has ordered to camp. Now there is no space ahead. Two young ladies, please wait for a while.”
Zhou Shunhua nodded, naturally there was nothing for soldiers to do here. She said, “Since there is a shortage of manpower over there, please go and help them. You don’t need to follow me. At this distance, I just walk over by myself.”
The soldier who drove the carriage seemed hesitant. Seeing this, Zhou Shunhua said, “I’ve been sitting in the carriage all day and my legs are a little tired. So, I want to come out to exercise my muscles and bones.”
Upon seeing this, the soldiers finally left with peace of mind. After waiting for people to leave, Zhou Shunhua jumped out of the carriage and slowly moved her legs and feet. She saw Tang Shishi not far away, and out of politeness, she asked, “I’m going for a walk around. Miss Tang, do you want to go together?”
Tang Shishi did not want to go initially and was about to refuse her. All of a sudden, she turned around, and said, “Well, since Sister Zhou has invited me, how can I refuse.”
Zhou Shunhua probably did not expect Tang Shishi to agree. She paused for a moment and smiled lightly, “You’re welcome, Miss Tang.”
They walked about freely in the woods, and neither of them spoke. Tang Shishi naturally did not want to take a walk with Zhou Shunhua, because she simply did not trust Zhou Shunhua alone with her.
Who knew if the female lead would be wandering around and triggering any unintentional plot?
Zhou Shunhua also did not want to pay attention to Tang Shishi. She pretended to enjoy the scenery all the way and focused on looking around. Her eyes suddenly froze, “Wait, it seems there is a sound of water.”
While Tang Shishi gave a slow hum, Zhou Shunhua had already followed the sound of the water and Tang Shishi held the fox in her arms and stood there for a long time.
Under the bushes, there was a trickle. Zhou Shunhua followed the stream downwards and unexpectedly found a lake. The lake was surrounded by woods, deep and quiet, and the water was extremely clear. Standing on the bank, she could clearly see the stones at the bottom of the lake.
Zhou Shunhua was very happy. She squatted by the lakeside and scooped the water, then turned around to talk to Tang Shishi, “Miss Tang, it’s rare to have a clean lake here that hasn’t been discovered. There are only two of us women in the team, it’s too inconvenient, and I think Miss Tang feels the same way too. I wanted to take a bath, but in the camp… it was inconvenient. So, we might as well consider this, when it gets darker, we’ll come here to take a bath. When you take a bath, I’ll keep a lookout for you, and then you’ll do the same for me. How about that?”
Seeing the lake, the little fox was very happy that it wanted to go down to the ground. Tang Shishi put it down and let the little fox go to the lake to have a drink while she squatted down with her cloak and gently tested the water temperature.
As soon as her hand entered the water, Tang Shishi was shocked by the icy cold of the lake. It was autumn after all, and this was a lake in the wilderness, not a hot spring, the water temperature was very low. If she clenched her teeth, the temperature was not that intolerable. However, the problem was that Tang Shishi did not want to get sick.
She was pampered and did not want to learn to endure hardships. Tang Shishi stood up, and dried her fingers with a silk handkerchief, “No, the water is too cold. I’d better go back and have someone boil it.”
Zhou Shunhua’s eyes widened in disbelief, “How much firewood does it use to burn a bucket of bathwater? We don’t usually talk about it in the mansion. Now that we are in the wild, it’s inconvenient for us to do anything. Do you still want someone to boil water for you to bathe?”
“That’s right.” Tang Shishi looked at Zhou Shunhua calmly, “Anyway, it won’t be me who will boil it, so why not.”
Zhou Shunhua was dumbfounded and too angry to speak. Tang Shishi looked up at the sky and murmured, “You are right. It takes a lot of effort to boil the water. I’ll have to tell them to prepare early. I’ll go back to the camp first, you are free.”
Seeing that Tang Shishi was about to leave, the little fox came back happily from the water. Tang Shishi saw the mud on its paws and felt disgusted, “Why is it so dirty? Go back by yourself, I won’t hold you anymore.”
The little fox cried aggrievedly and ran after Tang Shishi’s cloak happily. Zhou Shunhua was left behind and was furious for a while, “I was kind-hearted, but she didn’t like it and said the water was cold. She would rather move the crowd and stir up people than make do with one or two. Obviously, she was just a merchant’s daughter, but why did she sound more precious than me, a court official’s daughter?”
Zhou Shunhua said with a self-mocking laugh, “Fine. Why do I have to haggle with her? It’s better to help myself than ask others. I’ll do it myself.”
Zhou Shunhua looked around and thought to herself, “It’s quiet here and covered by bushes. When it gets dark, I’ll come quietly. I should not be discovered.”
After returning to the camp, Tang Shishi had people boil water for her, took a comfortable bath, put on soft innerwear clothes, and leaned on the soft bed to dry her hair. Seeing that she had come out, the little fox was clinging to the edge of the bed and trying to crawl up to Tang Shishi’s side with difficulty.
Although Tang Shishi’s tent was still next to Zhao Chengjun’s main tent, the passageways were separated and would not affect each other. Tang Shishi’s tent was very suspicious. He thought the fox was noisy, so he separated the tent.
But it was also beneficial for Tang Shishi to live in a tent by herself, so she did not have to be overly cautious. For example, taking a bath today, after she ordered the hot water to be heated, no one would dare to come near her tent. Tang Shishi could change her clothes and bathe comfortably and as long as she wanted.
Tang Shishi caressed the little fox’s fur, leaned against the pillow, and sighed, “It’s so comfortable. In such cold weather, most likely no one will go take a bath in the wild, right?”
Because there was no need to worry about Zhao Chengjun coming in suddenly, Tang Shishi felt relieved even when she read the book. She took out the book and turned to the latest chapter while wiping her hair.
Then, Tang Shishi was stunned.
The latest chapter started with “Met Shizi while bathing in the woods, expressed my heart under the moonlight.”
Tang Shishi recalled what happened in the evening. Zhou Shunhua asked her if she wanted to take a bath in the lake and at that time, Tang Shishi rejected her due to the cold water condition.
So, did she once again directly choose the wrong option between the two?
Tang Shishi covered her face in silence, too sad to speak. Not long ago, she laughed at Zhou Shunhua for being stupid, and now it seemed she was the stupid one.
Tang Shishi even began to wonder was she really not compatible with the plot, or else why would she keep choosing the wrong one every time? Tang Shishi was grieving for a while, got up, quickly read through the plot, and tried to look for a chance to save it.
The content of the book has been updated to show what has happened. If she ran to the lakeside now to sabotage the plot, would it be too late?
Tang Shishi felt unspeakable distress in her heart, she clenched her teeth, sat up from the bed, quickly put on a cloak, and walked out. Before leaving, she did not trust about leaving the book alone and simply stuffed it into her sleeve.
When Tang Shishi rushed out of her tent, she so happened to meet Zhao Chengjun outside. Tang Shishi’s hair was still wet at the moment, her cheeks were slightly red, and her skin was soft and supple. At first glance, she just finished a bath, Zhao Chengjun frowned unconsciously and questioned, “Where are you going?”
He did not even realize that his mood was very unhappy seeing her in this state. Tang Shishi did not expect to meet Zhao Chengjun as soon as she came out. She unconsciously held the book tighter with her fingers, and said nervously, “Little Li is lost. I’ll go look for it.”
Zhao Chengjun frowned, “Little Li?”
Tang Shishi reminded him, “That fox.”
Only then was Zhao Chengjun aware of what she was talking about. He had no choice but to sneer, “You really know how to name it. Go ahead but it’s dangerous in the woods, don’t go too far since it’s dark.”
“Yes.” Tang Shishi bowed her head and waited for Zhao Chengjun to enter his tent. With a sigh of relief, she quickly ran to the lakeside.
In the evening, she also saw the lake. Although she could not remember it clearly, it was not a problem to follow the same route to go back to the lake. Since Zhou Shunhua took a bath in this place and was bumped into by Zhao Zixun, it meant that Zhao Zixun was also nearby.
Tang Shishi hoped that she did not miss many plots so that she could catch up at the tail.
It was getting dark, and it was hard to find the way into the woods. Tang Shishi stumbled around for a long time before finally finding the stream she saw in the afternoon. Tang Shishi lifted her skirt and walked quietly down the stream. Sure enough, she saw a swaying shadow behind the bushes.
Tang Shishi was so nervous that she immediately called out, “Sister Zhou!”
The person behind the bushes was startled and turned around, “Who is it?”
It was the voice of Zhao Zixun, and the plot really happened. Tang Shishi felt disappointed in her heart, pretending to be ignorant on the surface, and said in surprise, “Shizi, why are you here?”
Zhao Zixun recognized Tang Shishi’s voice with these few words. Zhao Zixun frowned and walked out from the bushes, “Tang Shishi? Why is it you?”
Tang Shishi said innocently, “Sister Zhou said that she wanted to take a bath. I was worried about it, so I came here to keep a lookout for her. Shizi, why are you here?”
Would Tang Shishi take the initiative to help others? Zhao Zixun doubted it, but it was secluded here. Zhao Zixun only found out by accident. Tang Shishi could not know in advance. Mostly, just as she said, Zhou Shunhua and Tang Shishi talked about the location of the lake before Tang Shishi came here.
But Zhao Zixun still did not believe in Tang Shishi, he did not answer her, and sent Tang Shishi at will. “There’s nothing here. It’s late at night, and it’s dangerous outside. Go back.”
“Is it?” Tang Shishi refused to go and could not help looking behind the bushes. “I remember Sister Zhou said in the evening that this lake was quiet and secluded. When it was dark, she wanted to take a bath here. Isn’t Sister Zhou here?”
When Tang Shishi was talking with Zhao Zixun, Zhou Shunhua returned to the shore and got her clothes. Regardless her body was still wet, she quickly put on her clothes, rolled up her hair, and walked out from behind the bushes, “I am here. What do you want to say?”
Tang Shishi had heard the sound a long time ago. She saw Zhou Shunhua coming out, pretending not to notice that Zhou Shunhua’s clothes and hair were wet, and lovingly took Zhou Shunhua’s arm, “Sister Zhou, it turns out that you are here. I thought about it when I went back and I was still worried about you, so I came out to help you to keep a lookout. You haven’t started yet, right?”
Tang Shishi paved the way out for Zhou Shunhua in her words. Zhou Shunhua said, “No. After all, it’s in the wild and it’s not safe. I plan to go back.”
Tang Shishi said “Oh”, somewhat regretfully. She was still late, Zhou Shunhua had revealed everything that should have been revealed, and Zhao Zixun had seen everything that should have been seen. It seemed Tang Shishi came now to rescue them.
But it was not entirely useless. At least, the ambiguity between Zhou Shunhua and Zhao Zixun did not continue nor did the plot of mutual confiding in each other under the moonlight happen.
Tang Shishi sighed, knowing that nothing could be accomplished on one single effort, it was good enough to have the current result. Tang Shishi stepped back and said, “Great, let’s go now.”
Zhao Zixun also said nothing about what happened just now. He took the lead to open up a path and let the two women follow him. After Zhao Zixun turned around, Tang Shishi and Zhou Shunhua’s hands separated in an instant. Zhou Shunhua brushed her sleeve coldly and Tang Shishi also took out her handkerchief to wipe her fingers.
Two people did not even want to keep their reputation and kept moving forward in disgust with each other. Zhao Zixun walked alone in front. In the night, only the footsteps of the three of them could be heard.
Tang Shishi followed behind, vaguely feeling that something was amiss. Why was it so quiet in the woods? She had not finished thinking about it, suddenly there was the sound of something being stepped on coming from above her head. Zhao Zixun was instantly vigilant, turning his head back and asking harshly, “Who is it?”
There was no one in the woods to answer and without waiting for Tang Shishi to respond, a sharp arrow shot out from the dense leaves. Zhao Zixun drew his sword to block the arrow, and said calmly, “There are assassins! You two stay away.”
Tang Shishi was frozen in the same place. She did not know whether it was a long time or just a blink of an eye. She suddenly reacted, “There’s an assassin!”
With her voice, the woods also became bustling with noise. One by one, people in black jumped off the trees and drew their swords to attack Zhao Zixun. Fortunately, their goals were clear, and no one paid attention to the two womenfolk, Zhou Shunhua and Tang Shishi and they were able to run behind the bushes.
Tang Shishi was hiding behind the bushes and was frightened by the clinking clanking sound of swords clashing outside, “Why are there assassins?”
Zhou Shunhua kept staring outside regardless of danger. She frowned and bit her lip, “No, Shizi is surrounded. They are so many of them and Shizi can’t hold it alone.”
Seeing that Zhou Shunhua was about to rush out, Tang Shishi instinctively grabbed her and asked in surprise, “Are you crazy? What are you doing out there?”
“You let go!” Zhou Shunhua shook off Tang Shishi’s hand and said coldly, “Do you think they will let us go? Foolish, when Shizi is injured, we are doomed. If we go out to help now, we have a chance to survive.”
When Zhou Shunhua finished, she no longer cared about Tang Shishi and ran out towards the lights of the swords. Tang Shishi hid behind the bushes and was stunned to see this scene. After her senses return, Tang Shishi murmured, “You are stupid. We are not far away from Jing Wang’s camp, why don’t just go back and call for reinforcement? What’s the use of you rushing out?”
After Tang Shishi retracted into the bushes, she quickly took out the book to read under the moonlight. Based on her finger memory, she quickly flipped to the page where the chapter was unfinished last time, and hurriedly glanced at it, and saw that the title of the latest chapter was “Ambush by accident, encounter assassins, and sacrificed oneself to save another is to show one’s heart.”
Looking at the line, Tang Shishi unconsciously murmured, “Assassins… Sacrifice oneself to save another…”
It turned out that this was the real reason why the man and woman were in love with each other. Tang Shishi was worried that the camp was surrounded by woods in the evening, and the visibility was not wide enough, so it was easy to encounter danger. Tang Shishi thought about wild beasts, but she did not expect that the real situation was much more dangerous than wild beasts.
There were assassins in the paddock! This was not a relay post station. Jing Wang was in the camp. The people who ambushed in the woods would never be from the Jing Wang mansion. That was to say, this time they were the real killers.
The purpose was obvious. The target of this group of people should be Jing Wang, but they accidentally bumped into a trio with Tang Shishi. They were hiding in the woods and did not intend to reveal their identities. They did not expect that someone stepped on a branch, and Zhao Zixun heard the movement, so they had to do it in advance.
Tang Shishi stared at the title, even if she had not read the content of the chapter, she could guess the correct outcome. No wonder Zhou Shunhua could be the only person Zhao Zixun ever loved. It turned out that it was all because Zhou Shunhua had blocked the sword for Zhao Zixun.
With Zhao Zixun’s fickle and suspicious character, he would truly accept the other party only if the woman sacrificed herself to save his life. Even if he did not love her in the end, relying on the kindness of the past, she could still retain some dignity.
Tang Shishi understood that as long as she rushed out now and blocked the sword for Shizi, she would be able to grab some extra credits and henceforth, become an unshakable woman in Zhao Zixun’s heart. So, Tang Shishi tucked the book back into her sleeve, peeked out quietly, and saw the assassin holding a scimitar and hacking at Zhao Zixun. Zhao Zixun blocked the knife dangerously, but his arm was cut by the blade, and blood gushed out immediately. After that scene, Tang Shishi drew back into the bushes with a squeak, she covered her heart as her heart was pounding so hard in her chest.
Forget it. Although the man was good, she had only one life. There were still a lot of plots left, and there would be ample time to grab the part, now she should run away first.