IBTBTED Chapter 38
It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager
Chapter 38 New Year’s Eve
When Tang Shishi heard Zhao Zixun’s return, she hesitated for a moment but immediately made up her mind. A wife was worse than a concubine, a concubine was worse than stealing, and stealing was worse than not stealing. Tang Shishi understood the virtues of men too well.
She could stay with Lu Yufei and chit-chat, and she could meet Zhao Zixun at a close distance, but this was too painstaking to be inferior. It was better to leave a stunning face to Zhao Zixun. So she turned around and left.
Men, what they could not get was the best.
Tang Shishi was like a feather, disturbed the water surface, and then drifted away. She did not know how many fluctuations she had caused to the people in the room. Tang Shishi had already left, and Zhao Zixun seemed to be stuck with the scene just now.
Tang Shishi was dressed in a heavy red cloak, with white fur around her neck. Her arms and ears were surrounded by furry protective gear. She looked grand and noble, and the whole room seemed to light up. As soon as Zhao Zixun entered the gate, he stood not far from the main entrance and when Tang Shishi came out, she inevitably had to pass by Zhao Zixun.
When Shishi Tang passed by Zhao Zixun’s side, she bowed her head slightly, and the fine bead flower headdress on her hair temples trembled. Zhao Zixun could smell the light fragrance of Tang Shishi, but before Zhao Zixun could catch on to the fragrance, Tang Shishi had already opened the curtain, and the cold wind swept in causing the fragrance to immediately blow away.
Tang Shishi and Zhao Zixun’s brief encounter was like passing in a flash and never staying for a fraction. After Tang Shishi left, Zhao Zixun stood in the same place and was unable to recover for a long time.
Lu Yufei was talking to Zhao Zixun and rattling a lot. Seeing that Zhao Zixun did not respond, she could not help but ask, “Shizi?”
Zhao Zixun suddenly regained his senses and smiled at Lu Yufei, “What’s the matter?”
Lu Yufei sighed, and smiled, “It’s nothing, I thought that Shizi was distracted just now. Shizi, why did you come back so early today?”
No matter how magnanimous Lu Yufei was, she would never call a female guest to come over when Zhao Zixun was at home, and what more, that woman was still about the same age as Zhao Zixun. Zhao Zixun came back suddenly really caught her by surprise.
Zhao Zixun said, “The discussion with father ended early, so I came back first.” After that, Zhao Zixun asked casually, “Why is Tang Shishi here?”
“Oh, Miss Tang.” Lu Yufei explained, “I’ve invited Miss Tang to help advise me with the banquet, but I didn’t expect Shizi to come back suddenly. When Miss Tang heard the maid’s report, she immediately stood up and said she wanted to leave. Fortunately, we’ve finished our discussion and it’s not in the way.”
She immediately left after knowing that he was back. Zhao Zixun was slowly pondering in his heart while stretching out his hand and letting the maid help him to remove the cold protection gears. He was too busy thinking in his own world and did not pay attention. When he finally lowered his head, he realized Zhou Shunhua was there.
Zhao Zixun was taken aback for a while, “It’s you?”
Zhou Shunhua smiled and saluted Zhao Zixun, and personally took off Zhao Zixun’s coat, “I’ll serve Shizi to take his clothes off. Shizi, the doorway is cold, let’s go inside and rest.”
Lu Yufei had been holding the handwarmer, standing on one side watching from a distance. In her opinion, these things were normally done by the maids. She was a legitimate wife, responsible for the ancestral shrine sacrifices and family inheritance. How could she do such trivial things as taking off clothes? Lu Yufei waited arrogantly and did not anticipate that Zhou Shunhua unexpectedly would personally help Zhao Zixun to change clothes, and even flirted with Zhao Zixun.
Lu Yufei’s complexion worsened. She gave Zhou Shunhua a displeased look and said abruptly, “The two beauties have stood for a long time, and they should be tired. I am not a person who treats concubines harshly. Go back and rest.”
When Zhou Shunhua heard it, she could only take a step back and complied warmly. Lu Yufei’s maid came to Zhou Shunhua’s side and grabbed the clothes in her hand with unkind eyes.
Zhou Shunhua and Ren Yujun were quickly sent away. Lu Yufei was not sure whether it was her own hallucination or not that she always felt there was an elusive fragrance in the room. After the two left, Lu Yufei finally exhaled and fanned with a handkerchief, “I don’t know whose rouge smell is this. It’s lingering and it’s annoying.”
“Really?” Zhao Zixun changed to his home clothes and sat on the arhat couch, “I think this smell is fragrant and not sweet, it smells very good.”
After Zhao Zixun sat down, the faint fragrance became more obvious. A maid served him new tea and was about to take the cakes away from the table. Zhao Zixun suddenly waved his hand and said, “Don’t have to take it out, just leave it.”
The maid looked at Zhao Zixun in surprise and asked, “But Miss Tang eaten from it just now…”
It turned out to be Tang Shishi. Zhao Zixun suddenly realized that it was Tang Shishi who was sitting here just now. No wonder he felt familiar with the fragrance. Zhao Zixun’s face did not change and said, “I want to talk with Shizifei. It’s very troublesome with you around. Just leave.”
Lu Yufei’s dowry old momo could not hide her joy. She quickly glared at the maids, and pulled everyone out of the scene without delay, “This servant dare not disturb Shizi and Shizifei. This servant asked to be excused.”
Lu Yufei’s cheeks were slightly red, but still held the legitimate wife’s airs. She did not immediately sit on the opposite side of the arhat couch but went outside to fetch something, and then sat back slowly, “Shizi, what do you want to tell me?”
Zhao Zixun paused a while. Since he just sent the maids out casually, could it be that he really has something to say to Lu Yufei? Zhao Zixun only paused for a moment, and then responded, “What were you talking about just now? Isn’t there a usual practice for the New Year’s Eve banquet from previous years? Why do you need to invite Tang Shishi over to discuss?”
Lu Yufei’s expression was slightly startled, and her disappointment could not be concealed in her heart. However, Lu Yufei hurriedly concealed her feelings and said in an orderly manner, “I mainly want to inquire about father’s preference with Miss Tang. Although father said that I could ask Tongxiu Gugu, Tongxiu Gugu was too stringent to talk about singing, dancing, and so on. I’m afraid it won’t do.”
Zhao Zixun frowned, “Singing and dancing?”
“Yeah, I thought that the New Year’s Eve banquet in the mansion was too monotonous before, so I just wanted to be more lively this year. Since Shizi and Wangye ran into assassins in the paddock, I want to take advantage of the New Year’s festivity to drive away bad luck.”
Zhao Zixun was indifferent to her idea. Anyway, the mansion was not short of people or money, a banquet would be insignificant for them. Zhao Zixun did not mind and said, “Just do it as you see fit, but my father doesn’t like noise. So don’t make trouble at the New Year’s Eve banquet to disturb my father’s peace and quiet.”
“I understand.” Lu Yufei immediately promised, “I will make sure that the banquet is done brilliantly and properly. Shizi and Wangye will just need to sit back and enjoy the banquet, and I will arrange the rest.”
“That’s good.” Zhao Zixun was relieved and stopped focusing on New Year’s Eve matters. Lu Yufei rolled her eyes and asked probingly, “Shizi, Miss Tang often stays beside Wangye, but she still wears a young lady’s hair bun. In the end, she and Wangye…”
Lu Yufei was using the roundabout way to inquire about the interpersonal relationship in the mansion. Unexpectedly, Zhao Zixun’s face suddenly darkened before she could finish speaking. Lu Yufei was scared, and quickly stood up, “Shizi, I have no intention of offending you, I merely…“
“Don’t say anything like this in the future.” Zhao Zixun coldly interrupted Lu Yufei and said, “You can’t simply ask about father’s affairs.
Lu Yufei dared not continue to ask, and lowered her head, “Yes.”
After Lu Yufei finished speaking, the room fell into an awkward silence. Lu Yufei stood for a while, could not help being embarrassed, and tried to ask, “Shizi, what do you want to eat? I’ll immediately let someone arrange it.”
“No need.” Zhao Zixun stood up and strode outside, “I’ll go to the study room to review my schoolwork. I’ll be in the study room at night. You don’t have to prepare anything.”
In the study… Lu Yufei could not hide her disappointment, and she quickly followed, “Shizi is studying hard. When Shizi comes back, I’ll make soup for you.”
“No need.” Zhao Zixun had already put on his cloak, did not look at Lu Yufei, and said casually, “You can sleep by yourself tonight, I won’t be coming back.”
“… Yes. Take your time, Shizi.”
Zhao Zixun and Lu Yufei got married in the twelfth month. In the blink of an eye, the New Year was here.
When Zhao Chengjun learned that New Year’s Eve was going to be a big deal, he did not say anything. On the twenty-ninth day, Tang Shishi finally stopped writing. On the twenty-nine, even the imperial edict must be sealed, let alone a small copyist like Tang Shishi. In the next half month, the imperial edict’s seal would not be opened, and the Imperial Court would not be in session. Tang Shishi also took the advantage of the imperial edict being sealed and rest for half a month.
Finally, Tang Shishi could rest. The next day, Tang Shishi slept until she woke up naturally, which was very rare for her. She was awakened by the sound of firecrackers outside. When she opened her eyes, there were red papercuts pasted on the window. The little maids’ laughter came from the corridor, and the sun shone through the paper window on the ground. It was such a warming atmosphere.
Tang Shishi sighed while lying on the bed, this was the livelihood of a person. She just wanted to get something for nothing type of pleasure in life. Why was she forced to read and study? Going out early and returning late without a break. There was a saying that Tang Shishi’s talent could not be wasted.
Oh pooh! Tang Shishi wished all her talents would be wasted.
When a maid outside heard the movement inside, she lifted the curtain and asked, “Miss, are you awake?”
Tang Shishi gave a “hum” and slowly sat up from the bed. The maids came in one by one, rolled up the curtains, and brought in the basin. Tang Shishi was wearing innerwear clothes. After washing her face and gargling under the maids’ administration, she asked, “What time is it?”
“It’s almost sishi (9 am – 11 am).” Dujuan said with a smile, “Miss slept happily this time.”
The little maids behind them laughed together. Tang Shishi ignored them. Since they did not work under Zhao Chengjun, they would not understand the pain. That rotten Zhao Chengjun did not know where he got used to and had many rules. Once he arrived in the study, he would never allow anyone to arrive later than him.
Tang Shishi did not need to take the preliminary round of imperial examinations, nor need to make money to support the family, why on earth did she have to get up so early? Tang Shishi coveted the other person’s son, dared to be angry but dared not speak about it, and could only endure it silently.
Dujuan picked up the two dresses and showed them to Tang Shishi like treasure, “Miss, this is golden flower satin, and this is gold jacquard woven brocade, which one do you want to wear?”
Tang Shishi took a look and said, “It’s almost the same. Just random.”
“How can this be random?” Dujuan made a big fuss, “You are the number one beauty, ah… No matter what you do, you should be the first one in the mansion. Miss, when you didn’t get up yet, several groups of people had already come and wanted to wish you Happy New Year. Miss, they are all dressed up gorgeously to show off, you can’t lose to them, ah!”
Tang Shishi looked at Dujuan silently. Dujuan seemed to be sick recently. She was fond of bragging and must be first no matter what. What was more frightening was that Dujuan bragged on behalf of her.
Tang Shishi had no choice but to say, “Just go with golden flower satin.”
“All right.” Dujuan responded and immediately pulled Tang Shishi to sit in front of the dressing table, “Miss, which headdress do you want to use today?”
To prevent the clothes from ruining the makeup, the hair was usually combed first, and then the clothes were put on last. Tang Shishi thought about the color of the clothes, and said, “Let’s use the ruby set as a lucky one to celebrate the New Year.”
“This maid obeys the order.”
Several maids gathered around the mirror to help Tang Shishi tie up her hair and wear hairpins. Since Tang Shishi was not married yet, she could not wear a high bun, and only a few pieces of jewelry she could wear. Tang Shishi only chose a silver bottom gold plated ruby for the centerpiece, a pair of ruby hairpins on the sides with red earrings of the same color, and said, “That’s great. Let’s change clothes.”
The maids had warmed up the clothes long ago and obediently brought them in front of Tang Shishi. Tang Shishi stretched out her hand and the maids put on the grand clothes for her. This dress was newly made, specifically for New Year’s Eve. The upper dress was made of white flower satin with an inch of gold and an inch of brocade, and the collar stands on the front. The sleeves were naturally enlarged, and they were tightened at the wrists to form a pipa shape. The lapel was studded with golden buttons, and the pair of buttons made Tang Shishi’s skin fairer and her neck slender.
The upper dress was embroidered with complicated golden patterns from the shoulder to the cuff. The moiré, flowers, birds, and auspicious patterns were fused together, which made it look rich and majestic without showing old age. Tang Shishi’s upper dress was light in color, and underneath was a gorgeous red flower horse face skirt. The pleats were detailed and neat, and they lined neatly on both sides of Tang Shishi’s waist. The pipa sleeves were loose, the horse face skirt was also very wide, and the whole body was only tightened at the waist, which highlights the slim waist and slender legs of Tang Shishi. The dress made her look slender and slim.
After Tang Shishi dressed, Dujuan was very happy and asked happily, “Miss, are you going out now?”
Tang Shishi nodded, “Yes.”
Tang Shishi put on a plush scarf and a heavy fox fur cloak and went to pay respect to Shizifei. Today was New Year’s Eve, according to the etiquette, everyone should go to Wangfei’s room to celebrate. Since there was no Wangfei in the Jing Wang mansion, this person changed to Shizifei.
The Yinian courtyard was already bustling with noise and excitement. The maids in new clothes were full of joy and coming in and out continuously. In the New Year, one must please the omens. Today, no matter who, all must wear festive clothing, say auspicious words with a smile, and never allow a sad face.
When Tang Shishi arrived, she saw many acquaintances inside. When everyone saw Tang Shishi, they stood up one after another, “It turned out to be Sister Tang, truly a rare visitor. It’s not easy to see Sister Tang nowadays.”
Tang Shishi took off her cloak and said with a smile, “Greetings to Shizifei and greetings to my sisters. During this time, the study was busy, and I have no time to chat with all my sisters. I will mend them today.”
“I don’t dare.” Several beauties held the handkerchief and said with a smile, “Sister Tang is so busy in the study room that she can’t see anyone. This is a favor. How dare we grab someone from Wangye?”
“Don’t tease me, my sisters.” Tang Shishi said with a smile, “In terms of favor, where can I compare with the Shizifei?”
Tang Shishi suddenly changed the topic to Lu Yufei, all of them paused and dared not say it again. Lu Yufei received such compliments well. She said with a smile, “I know all of you have a good relationship. Don’t stand. Let’s all sit down.”
Someone stood up to give a seat to Tang Shishi, Tang Shishi quickly waved her hand, “No need. I’ll just find a place to sit.” Although she said that, she did not move her legs. She was waiting for everyone to stand up and gave out the most distinguished seat before she stepped forward, “I’m really sorry, you are sitting nicely, because of me, everyone was tormented to get up.”
Most of the females chuckled and rolled their eyes secretly. Hypocritical and pretentious. If they believed this, they would be a ghost.
Lu Yufei looked at the beautiful beauties below, all with their own merits, and sighed, “All the beauties are so beautiful, even the garden of many flowers dare not compete with you. It is great that we live in harmony and are as close as a family.”
Tang Shishi responded with everyone but thought in her heart that this kind of thing could not be expected. Not to mention in the end, these beauties all became a family with Lu Yufei.
The kind of fighting for favor over men.
The place where many women were around, was bound to have many dramas to see. All the beauties were full of smiles. When one says something, the other would say something back ironically. It was very lively when they were talking back and forth. They were busy gossiping, and it was noon soon. The old woman in charge came to report to Lu Yufei about some matters. When all the beauties saw it, they asked to be excused altogether.
Tang Shishi also left with the crowd. She put on a cloak and walked down the steps. Feng Qian chased from behind, “Sister Tang, I wish all is well in the world. I haven’t spoken to my sister for a long time. Let’s take a walk together?”
Tang Shishi looked at the sky, smiled, and refused, “I’m afraid it won’t work. It’s getting late, I’m going to greet Wangye.”
Feng Qian’s smile froze, and she recovered quickly, and said with a sweet smile, “Yes, I almost forgot. Sister Tang still has Wangye. Sister Tang, go quickly, don’t waste time. I will go back by myself.”
Tang Shishi smiled and watched Feng Qian leave. After Feng Qian left, Tang Shishi retracted her smile and snorted coldly.
Annoying, she would rather go by herself than walk with Feng Qian.
The little maid behind her asked while tremblingly, “Miss, are you going to greet Wangye?”
Tang Shishi sighed again, “Let’s go. I’ve already spoken. How can I not go? Just make a short trip. I should be back soon.”
Today, Zhao Chengjun was not in the study room, but in the Yan’an courtyard. When Liu Ji reported that Tang Shishi was here, Zhao Chengjun raised his eyebrows in surprise, “It turned out to be her? The sun is going to rise from the west today. It’s rare, let her in.”
As soon as Tang Shishi entered the door, without taking off her cloak, she smiled and congratulated Zhao Chengjun, “Congratulations, Wangye. Good luck on New Year’s Eve.”
Zhao Chengjun did not like noise, and the people at Yan’an Courtyard were all quiet. Who dared to make a ruckus? As soon as Tang Shishi came in, she congratulated loudly, and the whole room instantly became alive and fragrant.
Zhao Chengjun did not let his servants make noise, but Tang Shishi spoke loudly here, and he did not say anything. Zhao Chengjun asked, “What’s so happy about?”
Tang Shishi’s smile was a little stiff. It could not be, was there anyone who could be so blind? It was just a polite remark. Could it be that the courtiers wish the Emperor a long life during his birthday so that the Emperor could really live to ten thousand years?
Tang Shishi laughed out loud and tried to make things better for herself, “Shizi got married at the beginning of the month, and now it’s the New Year. Wangye, isn’t this double happiness? Maybe next year, Wangye will be able to hold a little Shizi.”
Zhao Chengjun imagined the scene and slowly said, “I don’t have many things that I dislike in my life. A child who is crying endlessly can probably be counted as one. I don’t think this is a happy event.”
Tang Shishi’s smile became even stiffer. She gave a dry smile twice, “The birth of a newborn is always a happy event. Also, there will be a wet nurse and momo at that time, and won’t disturb Wangye.”
Fearing that Zhao Chengjun would pick on her again, Tang Shishi quickly cut off the topic, “Wangye, the New Year is coming soon, and need to get a good omen for everything. I congratulated you. Don’t you have to give me lucky money?”
Zhao Chengjun listened, raised his eyebrows slightly, and said slowly, “I remember, the New Year’s money is a reward for the people to give children as a surprise. You are not a child, why should I give it to you?”
Tang Shishi could not even keep the fake smile and took back her smile, “Wangye, it’s just a reward. You sit in the Northwest, could it be that you still care about a small amount of lucky money? Obviously, my father and Empress Dowager gave it to me before.”
Zhao Chengjun clenched his fist over his mouth to cover up his smile. Soon he put his hand down, his face was still as calm as jade, but his eyes were still shining as if stars were twinkling, “But I am neither your father nor Empress Dowager.”
Tang Shishi was really annoyed, “Wangye! Forget about it.”
Tang Shishi turned around to leave, but Zhao Chengjun motioned with his eyes to the people below to stop her. Tang Shishi was pulled by Liu Ji and said with a smile, “Miss, what do you do with such an impatient temper? It’s not good to be impatient during the festival. Miss, please come in and sit down with this old servant.”
When Tang Shishi was brought back, Zhao Chengjun could not help but laugh, “Although it makes no sense to give you lucky money, if you go out here empty-handed, I’m afraid outsiders will think that I am reluctant to give a reward. What do you want?”