It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager
Chapter 42 Scheming
From the beginning, Tang Shishi did not take Zhao Chengjun’s words seriously. How could loving money could be considered without future prospects? Dignity could be abandoned, but money could not.
Lu Yufei was standing behind when Zhao Chengjun was talking to Tang Shishi. Although she was also there, she was like an invisible person. Lu Yufei did not agree with the actions of Tang Shishi, performing dances in the public, pulling out Jing Wang’s sword, and confronting Jing Wang repeatedly, which was very unconventional. However, she could not help but to admit that Tang Shishi was extremely dazzling, like a shining star.
But no matter how good her dance looked, it could not mask the fact that Tang Shishi has committed a crime. She was being disrespectful to the imperial family and dare to fight against Jing Wang. No matter whether Tang Shishi has thoughts in that aspect or not, it was enough for her to die several times.
Lu Yufei felt that she should be punished severely, but Jing Wang had no intention of condemning her at all. Lu Yufei looked at Zhao Zixun covertly and found that he was slightly bewildered as if blinded by the stars. There were surprises, unexpected, and admiration in his eyes, and no blame at all.
Lu Yufei lowered her eyes, pursed her lips, and restrained herself from speaking.
Tang Shishi was still wearing Dunhuang dance clothes, and it jingled with the slightest movement, almost never stopped. After Zhao Chengjun finished speaking, and he glanced at her clothes, “I will send someone to Jianjia courtyard to send the reward. You should go back and change your clothes first. Next time you dare to pretend to be a dancer, it won’t be a matter of just words.”
Tang Shishi responded, quickly fasten her mask, and headed towards the stairs. As soon as she came downstairs, she instantly felt many people’s eyes were on her. Tang Shishi tighten her mask, ignored any holler, and ran away quickly.
Ren Yujun retracted her gaze, and glanced at Zhou Shunhua lightly, “Which dancer is this who dare to be so presumptuous? She even pretended that she couldn’t hear when the nobles of the mansion called her.”
Zhou Shunhua sipped her tea, put down her cup, and wiped the corner of her lips with a handkerchief, “Who knows. Maybe it’s a woman from a small family and doesn’t know the etiquette.”
Ren Yujun looked at Zhou Shunhua motionlessly, and Zhou Shunhua did not evade, looking back at her without expression. In their corner, one of the candles was extinguished, and the other flickered with the airflow, the light cast a dancing shadow on the wall. For a while, the faces of both people were immersed in the shadows, and their expressions could not see been seen clearly.
In the end, Ren Yujun laughed first and said, “They are of humble origins, so naturally are inferior to Sister Shunhua, court officials for many generations, descendants of poetry and literature, and even Shizi treats you differently. What I admire most about my sister is that you behave accordingly. No matter when or what happened, you would never lose your manners. But just now, my sister has been out for a long time just. I don’t know what has caught my sister’s attention and made my sister uncharacteristic and out of etiquette?”
Zhou Shunhua also laughed and said, “Sister Ren’s words offended me. How can I compare with my Sister Ren in terms of generosity, rules, and moral character? Even Shizifei praised Sister Ren high to heaven. Since entering the mansion, Sister Ren has taught me a lot. If there is a chance, I will surely repay my sister.”
Ren Yujun smirked and smiled faintly, “You’re no different than me. I also learned from my sister.”
The conversation was full of double-edged swords, neither of them was happy. After Zhou Shunhua and Ren Yujun finished talking, they both turned around, one watching the stage, and the other was drinking tea. No one would want to say a word to each other.
Zhou Shunhua stared at the bizarre stage, and her thoughts slowly drifted away. She was the daughter of the legitimate wife of the Duke Cai mansion and was sent to the fief of Jing Wang. How could the family not prepare some trump cards for her? Two days ago, she found a secret letter sent to her by the family spy under her bed. She followed the given information and went out to meet at the appointed time.
As a result, she almost fell into the trap of Shizifei.
Zhou Shunhua found that something was wrong and left in a hurry. She ran back to the banquet hall as fast as she could. Fortunately, no one followed her, or else she would have been found out. Zhou Shunhua rearranged her appearance and then went inside to her seat. As soon as she went in, she saw Ren Yujun was fidgeting, and constantly looking towards the doorway as if waiting for something to appear.
Zhou Shunhua’s thinking became clear at once. Yes, who else knew all her lifestyle, who else knew that she communicated with outsiders through secret letters, and who else knew where the letters she sent were placed? Zhou Shunhua was very defensive, and very careful every time she met with others. However, she could not guard against the people with who she shared the room.
Ren Yujun betrayed her and let Shizifei know about her secret letters by some means. Foxily, Ren Yujun was using the sword of Shizifei to get rid of one serious problem without fighting.
Very likely, it was the latter. After Shizifei did this kind of thing, no matter what Zhao Zixun said outwardly, the grievance would inevitably grow in his heart. Later when Zhou Shunhua was put to death by Jing Wang, Shizifei and Shizi would have been separated from each other. In the end, Ren Yujun would be the biggest winner.
It was a good calculation. The surroundings were crowded and lively. However, Zhou Shunhua’s eyes were as cold as ice.
This was her good sister. Zhou Shunhua vowed that she must make Ren Yujun and Lu Yufei pay the price.
On the stage, the performer used the sleeves to cover the face. As soon as he turned around, his face changed and spit fire from his mouth. Everyone was flabbergasted by such a performance. Zhou Shunhua was pulled back to her senses by the noises and found that everyone was applauding. She also followed the crowd laughing and applauding.
When she was applauding, she looked in the direction of the stage and suddenly found a problem. There were only three people at the most distinguished table in front of the stage.
Where did Tang Shishi go?
Tang Shishi covered her face and ran to Jianjia courtyard to change her clothes. Halfway through, she could not evade and bumped into someone.
Tang Shishi stepped back a few steps and could only stand firmly by holding on to the corridor’s pillar. Now that everyone was in the banquet hall to watch the performance, there should not be anyone around. Even if someone heard her footsteps, they would have stayed out ahead of time. However, this person did not make a mistake but did it on purpose.
Tang Shishi tightened her cloak and asked, “Who are you, and why are you here?”
The other party was wearing a hood, she quickly looked around, and took Tang Shishi to hide in the next room. When she pulled Tang Shishi into the room, Tang Shishi did not resist, and Tang Shishi had already guessed who she was.
After entering the room, the other party closed the door, took off her hood, and revealed an ordinary, and honest face. Tang Shishi was shocked. It turned out that the old woman Wu, who was in charge of the flowers and plants in the garden, was actually Empress Dowager’s person.
Old woman Wu did not beat around the bush with Tang Shishi and went straight to the point, “Miss Tang, Feng Momo surely have mentioned to you that someone in the mansion will provide support for you. This old servant is the one who will support you. Time is limited. Miss Tang, please tell me frankly what’s was going on in the Yichun pavilion? Why did Jing Wang go there?”
Tang Shishi’s heart took a turn and immediately said with a touch of emotion, “Granny Wu, it turns out that you are the person who was told by Feng Momo. I have found you! I was still worried about how to notify Empress Dowager, but I didn’t expect you to show up.”
“Put the gossip aside for now. Jing Wang is very suspicious. So, I can’t leave for too long.” Granny Wu asked quickly, “What’s going on today?”
“It’s a long story.” Tang Shishi sighed and whispered, “Today, I found out that Zhou Shunhua had left the banquet secretly. I felt something was wrong. So, I found an excuse to ask the maid that served tea and only then learned that the upper floor was empty. Wangye, Shizi, and Shizifei had left not long ago. My intuition was telling me that something was wrong. So, I ran to the Yichun pavilion despite the danger to stop Zhou Shunhua’s action. Unexpectedly, Zhou Shunhua escaped and led me into a trap. As soon as I pushed the door open, I found that it was a trap and Shizifei was waiting inside hostilely. I was so anxious that I pretended to come to the dancer to practice dancing and then I muddled through.”
Tang Shishi organized her speech while speaking, therefore her speaking speed was very slow but Granny Wu was anxious to leave. After listening to Tang Shishi spoke unhurriedly, she almost died in waiting, “Is this real?”
“It’s real.” Tang Shishi took something out from her sleeve and stretched out her hand, “Granny Wu, take a look, isn’t this Zhou Shunhua’s flower pearls? Indeed Zhou Shunhua. Since she knew it for a long time, why didn’t she remind me? It was my good intention to save her, but I nearly got trapped. Granny Wu, you contacted Zhou Shunhua quietly, is there anything from Empress Dowager?”
Granny Wu’s complexion gradually sank, “It’s not us.”
“What?” Tang Shishi raised her eyebrows and said, “It’s not Empress Dowager? Then, who does Zhou Shunhua want to see?”
This was what Granny Wu wanted to know. Tang Shishi secretly stared at Granny Wu’s expression, and inadvertently said, “Maybe, Zhou Shunhua did it for Shizi because she is obsessed with Shizi. As soon as Shizifei entered the mansion, she has been overbearing and full of evil intent. Zhou Shunhua has been fighting for the favors, and it is possible that she deliberately design a conflict with Shizifei.”
Granny Wu’s complexion was livid and did not say much. Instead, she said, “I’ll report this matter to Empress Dowager as it is, and how to act afterward depends entirely on Empress Dowager’s instructions. You have taken a very dangerous move today, and Jing Wang may not truly believe you. Next, you should not act rashly, and save your strength first.”
Tang Shishi was just waiting for these words, and she responded. She paused for a moment and asked tentatively, “Then on Zhou Shunhua’s side…”
Granny Wu sneered coldly and said, “I have my own idea. It’s okay if she was calculated by others if she was deliberately trying to betray Empress Dowager… Oh, I will make her regret coming into this world.”
Tang Shishi raised her eyebrows secretly, lowered her eyes, and remained silent. Tang Shishi did not doubt Granny Wu’s words at all. Granny Wu’s identity was unusual, and she was most likely a member of the secret service. People that came out from this type of place, no matter what they did, Tang Shishi would not find it strange.
Tang Shishi could only pray for Zhou Shunhua and hoped that Zhou Shunhua really did not do anything. Otherwise, Zhou Shunhua would have to ask for more blessings if she was found out by Granny Wu. Anyway, since Tang Shishi could not even save herself, Tang Shishi could not show her kindness to save her.
After all, there was court official Duke Cai behind Zhou Shunhua. What did Tang Shishi have? Zhou Shunhua would only be suspected of being rebellious, but Tang Shishi would be considered truly rebelling. If she was being discovered, Tang Shishi would die miserably even more.
Granny Wu was observing Tang Shishi’s eyes, and held her hand, “Previously, Feng Momo said that you are pure, sincere, and loyal. I used to doubt you, but now it seems that you have the best overall view. When your companion is in trouble, you take the initiative to save them. You are not blinded by the façade of the Jing Wang mansion. You can rest assured that as long as you continue to serve Empress Dowager, Empress Dowager will not treat you badly.”
“I understand.” Tang Shishi smiled and said, “Thank you, Empress Dowager.”
Granny Wu put on her hood, peeped outside, and said, “I’m leaving first. You’ll wait a while before leaving. Remember to hide your identity, don’t act rashly, and don’t let anyone catch you.”
“Yes.” Tang Shishi obediently responded and watched Granny Wu leave. After she left, she opened her palm and found a pill on it.
Tang Shishi did not know whether Granny Wu and Empress Dowager Yao really trusted her as they said, but at least they did not doubt Tang Shishi.
For the first time, Tang Shishi discovered that she had the potential to be a double-sided spy.
Tang Shishi smiled while opening the window and threw the pill into the lake behind the house. Tang Shishi looked at the dense lake and whispered, “Zhou Shunhua, it’s your turn.”