IBTBTED Chapter 39
It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager
Chapter 39 Banquet
Tang Shishi was slightly stupefied. She was half-real and half-fake being angry just now, just trying to get herself out. She did not think that Zhao Chengjun would see through her clearly. Tang Shishi thought that Zhao Chengjun would not pay attention to her. Unexpectedly, he actually agreed.
Listening to Zhao Chengjun’s words, this sentence was not limited to rewarding money, it was also possible to ask for other things. Tang Shishi was lost in thought, entangled for a while, and euphemistically said, “Wangye, I haven’t thought about it yet. When I think about it, I will ask you again. What do you think?”
Liu Ji raised his eyebrows. This was too much. Wangye rewarded her, and she did not thank him immediately, but she even bargained?
Zhao Chengjun smiled without saying a word and later said, “Beware of getting nothing at all with your insatiable greed. You are too greedy.”
“Where got, it’s clearly Wangye is generous.” Regardless of whether Zhao Chengjun listens to it or not, Tang Shishi said, “Wanye is both virtuous and talented, and with profound good fortune. It’s really a blessing for the common people to have you. Wangye is magnanimous, and will not haggle with me, this little girl. I wish you happiness and prosperity, a full house of children, and this little girl retire first!”
After Tang Shishi finished speaking, she did not dare to look at Zhao Chengjun and ran out quickly. Zhao Chengjun with a calm face chided, “Stop.”
Tang Shishi ran halfway and stopped stiffly. She turned around slowly with a grievance in her eyes.
Zhao Chengjun pointed to the cloak with his eyes, and said, “Put your cloak properly before going out.”
Liu Ji had been waiting calmly for a long time on one side. Hearing these words, he could not help but tsk in his heart.
Tsk, look. Liu Ji dared to guarantee that if the person who said these words today were him, he would have been punished outside by now. When the person was changed to Tang Shishi, the result was Zhao Chengjun did not dislike either being too noisy or being disturbed. At the end, when the other person wanted to leave, Zhao Chengjun was not angry, and his first reaction was to let the other person put on her cloak.
Tang Shishi waited for a while and found that there was only this sentence. She was a little surprised, and tentatively walked a few steps towards outside, and found that Zhao Chengjun did not stop her. Tang Shishi put her heart back in her stomach, and immediately saluted, “Jing Wang, many blessings. This little girl will retire first.”
Then, Tang Shishi put on her cloak, took the handwarmer in a hurry, and dashed into the strong wind outside.
Tang Shishi got a promise and was satisfied all the way. When she got back to her courtyard, she took a little rest, then put on her make-up and prepared to go to the New Year’s Eve banquet.
Lu Yufei organized the New Year’s Eve banquet, and the banquet hall was already lively. Because New Year’s Eve was a family dinner, no outsiders were invited, and just people within the mansion having a meal, so the precautions between men and women were not so critical. However, if they think that this was just a mere family dinner and could have a good meal, then they were so wrong.
There were only seven women left in Liuyun courtyard. Shizi’s Shizifei who had just entered the mansion, Shizi’s two upright side concubines whom he accepted, and few other Shizi’s bedwarmers with no status or whatsoever. Together with Tang Shishi, there were so many women gathered together in the banquet hall. It was just too electrifying.
At the banquet, all the women tried their best to be gorgeous, but their mouths were still modest. They told each other that their makeup was beautiful and just played it casually. As soon as Tang Shishi appeared, everyone was quiet.
Tang Shishi looked at the effect she had created with satisfaction. She walked to a group of beauties and asked with a smile, “What are you talking about? Why is it so lively?”
The beauties just smiled, “It’s nothing. We’re just gossiping.”
Tang Shishi understood clearly and said with a smile, “Since you’re gossiping, I will not disturb you. I’ll greet Ji Xinxian. Excuse me for my absence.”
The beauties watched Tang Shishi leave with a smile, and when she left, they rolled their eyes one by one. After Tang Shishi showed off her beauty in front of Ji Xinxian, she visited Zhou Shunhua, Ren Yujun, and Feng Qian in turn. Tang Shishi only stopped after she has finished showcasing her beauty to all the smaller groups.
No one comprehended the beauty pressure more than she did. This was her specialty.
The New Year’s Eve banquet was about to begin. Four people sat at a table and arrange around the stage. Among the tables, the best seat with the best location, the most spacious, and the best view naturally belong to Zhao Chengjun. The main table was placed on the upper floor, with screens on three sides and a pearls curtain hanging on the side. So everyone could enjoy the play without being disturbed.
Besides Zhao Chengjun, Zhao Zixun and Lu Yufei were also sitting on the upper floor, and everyone else was sitting on the lower floor. The lights on the lower floor were dim. Because of the line of vision, and people sitting in front, those who were sitting at the back would have a hard time catching a good play. The seat arrangement particularly reflected the status of the person. Fortunately, even though Tang Shishi was not favored, everyone thought that she was favored, so she was assigned the best seat on the lower floor, just below the upper floor, facing the stage.
A group of women exchanged greetings and took their seats one after another. When Tang Shishi walked to her seat, Tongxiu waved and showed a standard type of smile to Tang Shishi, “Miss Tang, please take a seat.”
Tang Shishi quickly declined, “How could I dare?”
Although there were only four people at a table, the seating of who sat where were selected carefully. There were many combinations for seating positions of who would be sitting on the main seat and who would be sitting at the end. Normally, there were no rules for this kind of regulation, and one could sit anywhere, and it would not affect the meal at all. However, for today’s banquet, a person’s status was reflected in these details.
Lu Yufei’s old momo was also at this table. The old momo was looking around and said to Tang Shishi with a smile, “Miss Tang is an important person in front of Wangye. In the future, the old maid will have to count on your kindness. Naturally, Miss Tang should take the main seat.”
“I dare not.” Tang Shishi has no other abilities. She only knew the current affairs, especially knew how to hold on to the high and step on the low. She was more than enough to bully Ji Xinxian and Feng Qian with her present ostentation, but she could not bully Tongxiu Gugu. Tang Shishi was very firm and took the initiative to go to the end table, “Tongxiu Gugu is the most trusted person in the backyard. Gugu has worked hard and made great contributions to the mansion. How dare I in front of Gugu be presumptuous? Gugu, please.”
Tang Shishi took the initiative to give up her seat and spoke earnestly. Tongxiu smiled, did not continue to decline, and responded, “Well, thank you Miss Tang for the honor.”
After Tongxiu Gugu said that she went to sit at the main seat. Lu Yufei’s old momo expression changed slightly. She was the old momo of Shizifei who accompanied Shizifei to marry into the mansion and was the most respectable old servant in the backyard. She let Tang Shishi took one step ahead for the sake of Jing Wang’s face, but Tongxiu as servant dare to sit in front of her?
The old momo was displeased. In the honor of the New Year’s Eve banquet, she did not say anything, and continued to smile but refused to sit down. Tang Shishi wrangled with the last person for a while and slowly sat down on the last seat.
Tang Shishi was young and was not ashamed to serve Tongxiu Gugu and others. On the contrary, she was ashamed to sit in the main seat. Tongxiu was the former housekeeper of the mansion, and Shizifei was the new one. Now that the old and new forces were clashing, Tang Shishi could just watch the fire from the other side. In any case, she should not be involved.
If she was favored by Zhao Zixun in the future, even if she did not fight, the housekeeper’s people would take the initiative to be friendly with her. If she was not favored, the fighting now would only make her die faster.
Tang Shishi sat on the side, pretending not to see Tongxiu and Shizifei’s old momo secretly competing with each other, admiring the stage with full concentration. Lu Yufei really did her best for this New Year’s Eve banquet. There were troupes on the stage, singing and dancing, juggling and all kinds of literary and martial arts were all well-thought.
Tang Shishi had little interest in the play. She was a little bored, but everyone around her seemed to be obsessed with the play, especially Shizifei’s old momo, who did not blink. Tang Shishi did not want to lose face either. She just pretended to be interested and continued to stare at the stage.
While Tang Shishi’s eyes were watching them play, her mind was already on other things. The sound on the stage was loud, which could cover up other movements. Many maids also gathered under the stage and stared obsessively at the people on the stage. Tang Shishi thought that even if she went out alone at this time, probably others would not notice it.
Tang Shishi had just finished thinking about it, and suddenly she caught a glimpse of a person going out from the corner of her eye. Tang Shishi was surprised, and when she looked closely, she found that it was Zhou Shunhua.
Zhou Shunhua was the concubine of Shizi. Her identity was different from that of others and was sitting alone at another table. Ren Yujun was watching the play and did not seem to notice Zhou Shunhua was gone. Tang Shishi frowned. It was dark outside, what did Zhou Shunhua want to do?
Anyway, Tang Shishi did not believe that Zhou Shunhua was just going out to get some fresh air.
Tang Shishi’s eyes secretly looked at the opposite side. Lu Yufei’s old momo stared at the play above as if intoxicated, and when she saw the important part, she squeezed the handkerchief nervously. Tongxiu also looked at the stage intently. Tang Shishi approached Tongxiu and said in a low voice next to her ear, “Gugu, I’m a little dizzy and I’ll be going out to sober up.”
Tongxiu thought Tang Shishi was drunk and nodded in agreement. Tang Shishi stood up and walked along the wall without disturbing anyone to go out.
After Tang Shishi walked out of the banquet hall, she immediately lifted her skirt and ran quickly in the direction where Zhou Shunhua had left. It got dark quickly during winter, and all the people in the mansion were watching the play on the stage. At this moment, in the dead of night, there were many shadows of trees along the road and no one around besides the wind.
Tang Shishi was far behind Zhou Shunhua and followed silently all the way. Zhou Shunhua ran to the gate of a garden, took off her hood and looked around, and then ran in quickly. Tang Shishi hid behind the bushes, squinted her eyes, and struggled to identify the words on top of it.
“Yichun pavilion…” Tang Shishi frowned and murmured, “Isn’t this the place where the troupe lives? What is she doing here?”
It was common for rich families to invite theatrical troupes to perform during New Year’s Day. Ordinary people invited opera troupes, while those who were extravagant simply raised themselves. Tang Shishi grew up in a merchant family and was used to seeing the Tang family setting up a theater every day. Later, Tang Mingzhe even raised a troupe of his own.
After Tang Shishi entered the Imperial Palace, she learned that the capital was more extravagant than Linqing. There was a special department for court music, dance, and opera in the Imperial Palace, and prostitutes were also popular among other official families. It was just that Zhao Chengjun hated this style of work, so there were no singers or actors in the Jing Wang mansion. Lu Yufei invited the troupe from outside to perform for this New Year’s Eve banquet.
The troupe consisted of people from various trades who could not enter elegant and noble places, so naturally, they would not be allowed to wander around in the mansion. Therefore, Lu Yufei specially designated a side courtyard for this group of people, and it was the Yichun pavilion. Yichun pavilion was far away from other places and surrounded by trees and water, which was convenient for the troupe to rehearse and ensure that no one would enter by mistake.
It could not be a coincidence that Zhou Shunhua came here. Tang Shishi hid behind a tree and muttered in a low voice. What did Zhou Shunhua do here? Or who was she going to meet?