IBTBTED Chapter 54
It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager
Chapter 54 Moved
Zhao Chengjun was taken aback and felt angry for no reason. He was not angry at Tang Shishi’s refusal, but at her words.
Improper for men and women to touch each other.
This dynasty had strict etiquette. Men and women had different seats from the age of six. When a girl grew up, she could not see men other than her own father and brother. Sometimes even her distant male cousins had to avoid it. These short few words were an insurmountable gap in etiquette.
Zhao Chengjun just realized that he was also an outsider to Tang Shishi.
Tang Shishi cut him out of the line in one sentence. Zhao Chengjun wanted to refute that they were the beauties given by Empress Dowager Yao to the Jing Wang mansion. Even the land in the Northwest was his, let alone Tang Shishi? However, Zhao Chengjun also knew that what Tang Shishi said was right. She was unmarried and innocent. Other men in the world were outsiders to her. They could not look directly at her face or touch her body.
Except for her own father and brothers, and her future husband.
Zhao Chengjun stared at Tang Shishi motionlessly for a while, slowly let go of her hand, and let her get up. Tang Shishi got her arms free, and quickly get up from the ground. She stumbled for a while and then managed to stand firmly, only then did she feel a dull pain in her back and butt.
Tang Shishi thought happily despite her pain. Fortunately, the clothes were thick, there was snow buffer on the ground, and no broken skin. Otherwise, with such a big scar on her back, she had to cry to death and reincarnate again.
Zhao Chengjun saw that her expression was wrong, and asked, “Where does it hurt?”
Tang Shishi was embarrassed to say that her lower back and butt hurt. She shook her head and said, “It’s alright. I wore several layers of clothes and haven’t hurt my body.”
Zhao Chengjun looked at her expression and knew that she was lying, but fortunately, she did not hurt her physique, at most, it was a superficial injury. Scraping a little skin or bleeding a little was not a wound in Zhao Chengjun’s eyes.
Zhao Chengjun said, “You try to take two steps slowly on the ground. Does your leg hurt?”
Tang Shishi walked according to Zhao Chengjun’s instructions and finally shook her head. Zhao Chengjun asked again, “How about the ankle?”
Tang Shishi still shook her head. Zhao Chengjun was completely relieved and said, “That’s good. The ground is hard in winter, and a fall is no small matter. In the future be more careful, don’t be careless.”
Tang Shishi lowered her eyes and responded lowly. Zhao Chengjun thought it was Tang Shishi’s carelessness, but he did not know that she fell on purpose.
This was exactly what Tang Shishi intended. She wished Zhao Chengjun would never know it.
Today, she successfully concealed from Empress Dowager Yao’s spy through the flop and secretly saved Zhao Chengjun once. Although Tang Shishi did not know whether Zhao Chengjun needed her to save him or not.
Tang Shishi lowered her eyes and secretly warned herself that only this time and not to be repeated again. Next time, she would not have today’s good luck, and the target she wanted to fight for was Zhao Zixun.
Zhao Chengjun was just a stepping stone that destined him to die young, and Zhao Zixun was the future Emperor. She actually risked her life to save a man who had nothing to do with her. Tang Shishi was wondering, was she crazy?
Zhao Chengjun was relieved when he saw that Tang Shishi was all right, “Fortunately, you’re alright. Everything you do really make others worry. Quickly go back to the carriage and have a rest. No need to worry about outside matters. There is me in everything.”
Tang Shishi nodded and walked towards the carriage with her thick cloak. Zhao Chengjun accompanied her to the carriage. When she was getting on the carriage, Zhao Chengjun glanced at the shaft and frowned slightly.
Initially, he thought Tang Shishi slipped and fell down accidentally when she got on the carriage. However, the shaft was clean and there was no trace of slipping.
Instead, there was a very flat footprint on the ground, like someone standing on it and kicking it down. Because when someone stepped hard on it, then only it would leave snow marks on the edges.
Zhao Chengjun’s eyes narrowed slightly. He silently glanced at Tang Shishi who covered everything calmly. Tang Shishi had three layers on the inside and three layers on the outside. She was not used to so many clothes. In addition, there was snow on the soles of her shoes. She stumbled in just a few steps. When she stepped on the carriage’s stool, the horse waited impatiently and took a few steps forward. The whole carriage moved forward. Tang Shishi was about to get on the carriage but her whole body was tilted by inertia and soon fell to the side.
Zhao Chengjun reached out his hand to hold her firmly. Zhao Chengjun stood by Tang Shishi’s side, and half of her body fell in his direction. Zhao Chengjun supported her with one hand steadily.
From this angle, it looked like Tang Shishi deliberately threw herself into his arms. Tang Shishi was embarrassed and promptly said, “Wangye, please forgive me. I swear, I didn’t mean it.”
She spoke while she was trying to get up from Zhao Chengjun. Her arm which had just broken away was suddenly held by another force. Zhao Chengjun held her wrist easily and did not let her leave.
Tang Shishi looked at him in surprise. Without saying a word, Zhao Chengjun put his other hand behind her knee and suddenly picked her up. Tang Shishi suddenly felt weightlessness and gave a short cry. After regaining her senses, she quickly covered her mouth.
“I know you didn’t mean it.” Zhao Chengjun’s arms were strong and powerful, and Tang Shishi was surrounded by them like an unshakable iron wall. Zhao Chengjun put Tang Shishi on the carriage. Tang Shishi wanted to extend her head out, but Zhao Chengjun restrained her head and pushed her inside the carriage.
“Stay in the carriage carefully.” Zhao Chengjun’s complexion was calm. His eyes were dark and cold, and there was a faint sharp ripple, “Don’t make little tricks again.”
Tang Shishi looked into Zhao Chengjun’s eyes and was inexplicably afraid to move. After Zhao Chengjun settled her down, he closed the carriage door and walked back to the snow.
He glanced at the coachman vaguely as he passed the carriage.
Tang Shishi had been in the Jing Wang mansion for a long time. She could feel more and more when Zhao Chengjun was joking and when he was serious. The way he spoke just now was very infiltrating and Tang Shishi did not dare to challenge him. So, she immediately stopped fighting and stayed in the carriage obediently to have a rest.
Tang Shishi was really tired, and her fall was genuine. After so long, her lower back was still aching. Tang Shishi suspected that she had bluish-black already. She leaned against the carriage, and the wind was howling outside, but she was strangely relieved.
It seemed that no matter what happened, it would be resolved smoothly. Jing Wang was not far away, and everything would be fine.
Tang Shishi did not know how long she had been waiting. Sure enough, the carriage started to move. Tang Shishi lifted the curtain and asked, “The road is through? This section of the road is not easy to go through. I’ll come down immediately to go on foot.”
Unknowingly, there were several guards were accompanying the carriage. When the guard heard what Tang Shishi said, his actions were upright while his eyes always lowered properly, “Miss Tang, Wangye has ordered the young generals to widen the snowy road and clear up a road that is large enough for a carriage to go through. Miss Tang, please wait in the carriage with ease and don’t have to get out to catch a cold.”
Tang Shishi looked forward, and sure enough, the road was much wider. Tang Shishi was in a complicated mood. She had insisted to follow before leaving the mansion. If without her, Zhao Chengjun and the guards would have rushed forward, without having to clean up so much snow, and without being dragged down by Tang Shishi. The journey would much be faster.
Now, they had cleared up the road three or four times wider for her. After the guard had finished speaking, he withdrew his eyes and looked straight ahead, not looking in the direction of Tang Shishi at all. Tang Shishi did not know what to say, so she could only put down the curtain and sigh silently in her heart.
They kept stopping along the way and finally arrived at the mountain villa in Nanshan before dark. The village was in a gloomy mood. The gatekeeper looked at the snow and was worried. He saw a team of dark forces approaching from a distance and among them was a profound man don in iron armor, just like imperial troops had arrived. The gatekeeper was shocked. He rubbed his eyes vigorously and found that the dark forces had not disappeared.
Indeed the cavalry! The Northwest was the fief of Jing Wang, and all the troops belonged to Jing Wang. These could only be Jing Wang’s people. The gatekeeper was overjoyed and immediately shouted towards the mountain villa, “We’re saved, we’re saved. Wangye has sent someone!”
In the village, Lu Yufei who was not feeling well stood in front of a bed and talked to Madam Xi, “Madam, how are you?”
Madam Xi was very old and incomparable to young people like Lu Yufei. The journey was unforgiving, plus she suffered another day of cold outside yesterday. She was both hungry and frightened. Madam Xi fell ill once they got back to the village.
Madam Xi was sick, and the condition of several other womenfolk was not optimistic either. Lu Yufei also suffered from the cold, and now she was just trying to comfort Madam Xi. Xi Yunchu originally had a delicate temper. Now that she was sick, she kept crying beside Madam Xi’s bed.
Lu Yufei not only wanted to inquire about Madam Xi’s health but also wanted to comfort Xi Yunchu, and soon she became dizzy and exhausted. However, Lu Yufei could not show that she was not feeling well. She was Shizifei and initiated the trip to Guangji Temple this time. If she was sick, the will of the others would completely fall apart too.
At that time, would not she give Zhou Shunhua another chance to show off?
Lu Yufei refused and arranged everything in the village regardless of the maid’s obstruction. This village was used to provide vegetables and wild goods for the Jing Wang mansion and this was not a mountain villa for fun. Suddenly, so many people needed help to settle down causing many places from top to bottom to be in chaos. Not only did Lu Yufei have to arrange for so many people’s meals and lodging, but she also had to comfort the Xi family’s mother and daughter, guard against Zhou Shunhua, and also worry about whether the mountain road outside could go on or not. Only after half a day, she was obviously haggard.
Xi Yunchu kept wiping her tears and said, “I already said don’t go on the journey, but you don’t listen. Look at the condition now. It’s snowing so heavily outside and we’re trapped in here. No one knows that we’re starving to death.”
Since yesterday, Lu Yufei had heard this claim again and again. Xi Yunchu did not say she was tired of it, but Lu Yufei had already tired of listening to her. Lu Yufei’s complexion was not good. However, when she thought Xi Yunchu might be the future Wangfei, she reluctantly endured it and said with a smile, “One is bound for good fortune after surviving a calamity. It’s a blessing for us to arrive at the village safely. Yunchu, I know you’re anxious, but don’t talk about life and death at every turn. This is inauspicious.”
“Inauspicious?” Xi Yunchu sneered, holding her handkerchief, and said, “I won’t say anything and just close my eyes well. Does this consider auspicious? The question is can we find a way out?”
“There are charcoal and provisions in the village, which can last a long time.” Lu Yufei tried to calm Xi Yunchu down, “Keep calm and don’t be impatient, let’s wait for a while. Yesterday, Shizi has been trying to find a way to inform Wangye. Then, Wangye will definitely send someone to save us.”
After hearing Zhao Chengjun’s name, Xi Yunchu’s tone finally calmed down and she no longer lost her temper at Lu Yufei, but her sarcastic tone remained undiminished, “There’s no problem with charcoal and food. What about those medicinal ingredients? My mother is so sick now. If by chance something bad happens, who can afford it?”
Even if Lu Yufei wanted to please Xi Yunchu, she could not stand it now. Lu Yufei smiled slightly stiffly. What did Xi Yunchu’s words mean? Was she blaming Lu Yufei for harming Madam Xi?
However, it was obviously the idea of the Xi family to provide Xi Yunwan with everlight. Lu Yufei offered them the opportunity to get close to the Jing Wang mansion and tried her best to arrange food and lodging along the way. In the end, Xi Yunchu did not appreciate it and complained that Lu Yufei had caused them the hardship?
Lu Yufei was so angry that she was almost ready to give up her face. At this time, an urgent announcement came from the outside and interrupted the dialogue between Lu Yufei and Xi Yunchu.
“Shizifei, we are saved. Wangye has brought people!”
What? Lu Yufei suddenly stood up, and even Madam Xi who was on the bed opened her eyes with difficulty, “Jing Wang?”
Xi Yunchu sat on the embroidered stool stunned for a moment, and muttered in disbelief, “Is it really Jing Wang? I did not hear wrongly, right? His Highness, Jing Wang is here?”
No one in the room paid any attention to Xi Yunchu. Lu Yufei ran out immediately. No matter what the maids were doing, they all rushed to the door. Even Madam Xi struggled to get up and coughed, “Help me up and quickly go welcome Wangye.”
Outside, a team of calvary stopped on the empty snowfield. The leader, who was dressed in an ochre-red narrow-sleeved strong suit and a black cloak, jumped down from the horse.
A group of uniformed cavalries followed behind him. Zhao Chengjun handed over the reins to his confidants and stood in the snow as if he was the most colorful stroke in the vast of whiteness. He was majestic, cold, and powerful, to the point, as if with a murderous aura.
After Lu Yufei saw the visitor under the eaves, her eyes were wet, and almost burst into tears. Zhao Zixun quickly walked to the open space and saluted, “Father.”
Zhao Zixun looked at Zhao Chengjun with unbelievable eyes, “Father, why are you here?”
Zhao Chengjun did not answer Zhao Zixun’s question but turned around and walked towards the back, “Let’s talk later. You first prepare hot water and an empty room. Forget about it, no need. I’ll arrange it.”
As soon as Zhao Chengjun finished speaking, he negated himself. Zhao Zixun did not even respond to what he wanted him to do. Zhao Zixun watched in amazement as Zhao Chengjun walked to the front of the carriage and said softly, “Are you still awake? We’re already here. You can get off now.”
The curtain of the carriage moved gently. Soon, the door opened from the inside, and a woman in a red cloak appeared from behind. She stooped slightly, and her action seemed inconvenient. Zhao Chengjun stretched out his hand, half helping and half holding, to put her on the ground.
After the woman stood firmly, then she lifted her hood. The white snow was dazzling with silver, and she was like a red plum standing in the middle of the snow. After taking off her hood, she revealed a delicate, bright, and glowing tender face.
Her complexion turned a little pale as if she was uncomfortable on the journey due to the cold weather. However, it was more and more obvious that her hair was black, and her lips were red. She was like a glistening beauty standing in the middle of the snow.
Zhao Zixun was stunned. Madam Xi, who had just arrived holding the door frame, was very surprised to see a woman beside Zhao Chengjun, “Who is this woman?”
Tang Shishi really had enough, she should not have to suffer such a serious crime to rush over to the mountain villa for the tiny plot that was so pitiful. Tang Shishi was weak and weary that she could not even bring up any enthusiasm when she saw the male lead whom she kept thinking about.
Tang Shishi perfunctorily saluted Zhao Zixun and said, “Tang Shishi pay respect to Shizi.”
Zhao Zixun looked at Tang Shishi, then quickly shoot a glance at Zhao Chengjun. His intuition told him that some things were different. In front of Zhao Chengjun, Zhao Zixun did not dare to accept the ceremony from Tang Shishi. He avoided slightly and said, “Miss Tang, please get up. It’s tough for you to follow all the way here.”
“It’s Wangye who loves his son and became impatient.” Tang Shishi said, “When Wangye heard that Shizi and Shizifei were trapped, he immediately brought people to explore the way in person. Wangye and Shizi are both kind and filial, even the sun and moon can testify. It truly causes others to be deeply moved.”
When Zhao Zixun heard it, he bowed and saluted Zhao Chengjun, “Thank you, father. I failed to share your worries, instead causing trouble for my father. I’m really ashamed of myself.”
“Get up.” Zhao Chengjun said, “Since things have reached this stage, what’s the use of saying this? The letter said that you were not feeling well because of the wind. Don’t stand outside, go in to talk.”
Zhao Chengjun and Zhao Zixun walked to the main room. A group of womenfolk saw them and saluted together, “Wangye.”
Zhao Chengjun strode past and said casually, “Exempted.” He had become accustomed to these things. Since his birth, people had kept kneeling in front of him and respectfully called him “Wangye”.
Zhao Chengjun was not surprised by this kind of situation since long ago and would never give alms to either side. This mountain villa supplied mountain goods to the Jing Wang mansion, and usually very few people come here, and there were only two, front and rear entries. Fortunately, after all, it was a villa of the Jing Wang mansion. Although the place was small, the structure was neatly done.
The first main room he entered would become the most honorable room. Now that Zhao Chengjun was here, the main room would commence the function of a hall. Zhao Chengjun entered the room and saw Madam Xi. He saluted and gestured, “Madam Xi.”
“Wangye.” Madam Xi dragged her sickly body to greet Zhao Chengjun. Xi Yunchu stood beside her mother and took a quick glance at Zhao Chengjun. She saluted tenderly and shyly.
Xi Yunchu was shy and timid with an outstanding figure. She had a man’s favorite appearance of a frail beauty with fragile timidity in every movement. It was a pity that Zhao Chengjun did not notice her. Zhao Chengjun’s eyes stayed on Madam Xi all the time and gestured for Madam Xi to sit at the top.
Where did Madam Xi dare? She declined it at once. After Zhao Chengjun gave in twice, he took the master seat by himself, and Madam Xi sat opposite him.
The rest of the people sat down in order according to their superiority and inferiority. Zhao Zixun and Lu Yufei sat on the pearwood chairs, Xi Yunchu moved the embroidered stool and sat beside her mother, Tang Shishi stood beside Zhao Chengjun, and the others followed behind their masters.
Zhao Chengjun asked Madam Xi, “I heard that Madam was ill on the way. I wonder if your condition is getting better?”
“It’s nothing.” Madam Xi was still sick on the bed just now. Now that Jing Wang had come, she suddenly poured out a lot of strength and the whole person seemed to be more energetic. “It’s my weak body that let Wangye laugh at me.”
Zhao Chengjun said, “Madam, what are you saying? You are a distinguished guest of the Jing Wang mansion. It’s the negligence of the Jing Wang mansion that implicated Madam to get sick on the journey. The mountain road probably has been cleared by now. I have ordered the subordinates to go down and reinforce the road. By tomorrow, we will be able to return to the city directly.”
“Seriously?” Everyone was overjoyed when they heard this and even Madam Xi coughed with excitement. She covered her mouth while speaking with difficulty, “Thank you, Wangye. But I agreed to go to Guangji Temple to worship the Buddha with Shizifei. If I returned to the city, wouldn’t the Buddha be neglected?”
“No harm. You can worship Buddha anywhere. Your safety is the most important.” Zhao Chengjun’s tone was not fast or slow. He always spoke like this, unhurriedly and enunciating clearly, and after he finished a sentence, it seemed to have a lingering rhyme. This was probably a habit cultivated by the imperial court. Everything must be guarded against arrogance and impatience, be gentle and solemn, but every word carried a ruthless character behind a gentle appearance and flawless.
Zhao Chengjun said this beautifully. The women in the room except Tang Shishi had tears in their eyes. They were terrified and frightened all day. Now someone suddenly appeared and said, “Your safety is the most important.” Who would not be moved?
Madam Xi wiped her eyes and said, “Thank you, Wangye. I really don’t know how to repay Wangye’s kindness.”
“Madam, you’re polite.” Zhao Chengjun smiled lightly and said, “It was the Jing Wang mansion that took Madam and the second young lady out of Xiping province. No matter what, I will send you two back to the Xi mansion safely, or else I cannot live up to the Xi family’s trust. If Madam is not feeling well, you can recuperate from the illness in the village with peace of mind. Later, my guard will stay in the village and escort Madam and the second young lady back to the city.”
The guard will stay… In other words, Jing Wang would leave early? Madam Xi was not without disappointment. Originally, she thought of staying with Jing Wang for a few more days under the pretext of illness to create opportunities for Xi Yunchu and Jing Wang. Now, it seemed that Jing Wang would leave tomorrow, and it was meaningless for her to stay here.
After Madam Xi thought it over, “Wangye’s guards are all elite soldiers chosen from a thousand miles away. They shoulder heavy responsibilities to defend the home and country. Isn’t it a delay to the military affairs if you leave them to me? My illness is not a big deal, we can set off together tomorrow.”
Xi Yunchu kept looking at Zhao Chengjun secretly and finally regained her senses when she heard this. She covered her mother’s hand and frowned with worry, “Mother…”
Madam Xi patted the back of Xi Yunchu’s hand and said, “It’s nothing. Wangye is busy, don’t delay Wangye’s time.”
Xi Yunchu glanced at Zhao Chengjun quickly, lowered her eyelashes, and said depressingly, “Yes.”
Zhao Chengjun acted as if he could not see it. He still had a faint and appropriate smiling expression, and said to Madam Xi, “Madam, don’t force it. Regardless of whether Madam wants to stay or leave, the Jing Wang mansion will be waiting to the end.”
Madam Xi made up her mind to leave. It was not comfortable living in the village, so might as well set out together with Jing Wang. No need to worry about safety on the road and could also build a relationship with the Jing Wang mansion. Madam Xi had made up her mind and said firmly, “Wangye, thank you for your kindness. My illness is not serious, and we can leave tomorrow.”
Zhao Chengjun was just being polite. Since Madam Xi insisted, he had nothing to say. Zhao Chengjun stood up and said, “In that case, Madam can rest at ease. I will not disturb Madam to recuperate from illness.”
Madam Xi stood up to send Zhao Chengjun off. She looked embarrassed and said, “Wangye will also have a rest in the village tonight. Wangye is noble and the main room should be occupied by Wangye. I’m ashamed to occupy the main room. I’ll immediately move away…”
“Madam, don’t need to move.” Zhao Chengjun stopped Madam Xi’s movements and said, “Madam is both an elder and a sick patient. You should stay in the main room. It’s enough for me to let people clean up a side room at will. Madam can stay with peace of mind.”
Madam Xi was deeply impressed by this sentence. Zhao Chengjun was a prince, but he had great respect for the Xi family. It could be seen that Zhao Chengjun was a nostalgic type of person, and he still missed Wan’er after so long. Xi Yunchu grew up listening to Zhao Chengjun’s name since she was a child. Now that Zhao Chengjun was in a high position, noble and dignified, and still considerate of her family in every possible way. Her heart had already been throbbing for a long time.
Xi Yunchu looked at Zhao Chengjun with bright eyes, blushing cheeks, and a little daughter’s mood. When Madam Xi saw her daughter’s expression, she deliberately joked, “Wangye is so polite, I have profound respect and humility for you. It’s just that the mountains and the wilderness are in a hurry, and there’s no time to prepare tonight, which really neglected Wangye. It would be different if there is a Wangfei. Wangye, I have to say a word of blasphemy. You don’t have anyone to take care of your basic needs. I don’t know when Wangye intends to add a caring person?”
Tang Shishi was not surprised at this topic. She had not been in the mansion for a long time, but in this short period of six months, many people had already inquired about it openly and secretly. The madams and young ladies of Xiping province were all concerned, the subordinates of Jing Wang mansion were concerned, the Empress Dowager Yao in the Imperial Palace was concerned, and even her own people were also concerned.
Tang Shishi had heard several times that Liu Ji tried his best to persuade Zhao Chengjun to get married. However, which time was not pushed back by Zhao Chengjun’s lukewarm attitude? Tang Shishi thought it was the same again this time and did not pay attention. In the end, she heard Zhao Chengjun say, “It should be soon.”