IBTBTED Chapter 56
It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager
Chapter 56 Good night
Tang Shishi’s eyes widened. She pointed to herself, and could not believe it, “Me? And Zhou Shunhua?”
Zhao Chengjun nodded lightly, “That’s right.”
Tang Shishi’s apricot eyes were as round as a ball. She looked at Zhao Chengjun, and Zhao Chengjun looked back at her calmly. Tang Shishi silently gritted her teeth. It was not a secret that she and Zhou Shunhua did not get along. Tang Shishi did not believe that Zhao Chengjun did not know. She was sure that this man was intentional!
Just because Tang Shishi scolded him for being narcissistic, he deliberately let Tang Shishi spend the night with her sworn enemy to disgust her. However, what could be done after knowing this? Tang Shishi reluctantly bowed her head, gritted her teeth, and said, “Thank you, Wangye.”
“Not at all.” Zhao Chengjun smiled and casually mentioned, “Oh, by the way, we will be leaving before dawn tomorrow, so you’d better get up a little bit early. If you miss it, you can enjoy the countryside scenery in the mountain villa with your good sister.”
Tang Shishi’s eyebrows twitched and endured it. She believed that Zhao Chengjun, this man could really do this kind of thing.
Tang Shishi dared to be angry but dared not say anything. She raised her head with a fake smile and said to Zhao Chengjun, “Wangye, thank you for your favor. This little girl will remember it by heart. I want to congratulate Wangye in advance to be blessed with a beautiful wife, wish Wangye and Wangfei a harmonious marriage lasting a hundred years, and have many children and grandchildren.”
Tang Shishi secretly cursed in her heart. The wicked have their own wicked torment. He deserved to marry Xi Yunchu. In the future, people like Xi Yunchu should torture him all the time and let him be aware of why he could not offend women.
However, no matter how resounding Tang Shishi cursed in her heart, she had to carry her quilt and go to Zhou Shunhua in a dejected mood in the end. Tang Shishi walked to Zhou Shunhua’s door, resisted her embarrassment, and knocked on the door. As soon as the door opened, Tang Shishi at once looked up at the sky and asked in a flat voice, “There is no room outside. Is it convenient for you to add one person here?”
When Zhou Shunhua opened the door and found it was Tang Shishi, she was also stunned. She and Tang Shishi were separated by a doorstep, and it took a short while before she finally reacted, “Naturally convenient. Miss Tang, please come in.”
Zhou Shunhua stepped aside. Tang Shishi thanked her dumbly, carried her quilt, and entered the room. Zhou Shunhua really did not expect Tang Shishi to come to her room. After she stepped aside, she quickly went to pack her things.
“Miss Tang, please don’t take offense. I did not know you are coming and did not clean up the room. Miss Tang, please put up with this for a moment.”
Zhou Shunhua quickly made the bed. Tang Shishi stood in the room with the quilt in her arms. She was extremely embarrassed but she slowly felt relieved that as long as it was others who were embarrassed and not her. Anyway, she would be going back to Jing Wang’s mansion early tomorrow morning, and Zhou Shunhua would stay behind. Whether these two people could meet again in the future was up to debate. Now, these humiliating things would be all right.
In fact, there were not many things in Zhou Shunhua’s room. She just came to the village the day before yesterday and went out to save people in the evening. She only lived here for one day without leaving behind much personal breath. Tang Shishi looked around the room for few more times. The mountain villa was simple and could not be compared with Jing Wang’s mansion. There was nothing else in the room besides essential tables, chairs, beds, and wardrobe. However, after the room had been tidied up and wiped down spotlessly, the room was more spacious.
Tang Shishi felt bad when she looked at it, and yet Zhou Shunhua wanted to live here. Tang Shishi sighed and really regretted it. She should have listened to Dujuan and not followed on this trip. Otherwise, why would she suffer this kind of hardship? However, Tang Shishi changed her thinking that without her, Zhao Chengjun could go back and forth in one day with his speed, and he would not have to spend the night in the mountain villa.
Tang Shishi’s heart was strangely balanced. It did not matter if she was uncomfortable but, as long as others were also uncomfortable, then she considered herself had won.
It was really a pleasure to make Zhao Chengjun feel even more stressed.
Zhou Shunhua made up the bed, straightened up, and said with a little embarrassment, “The room is shabby, which makes Miss Tang laugh.”
The two of them seemed to be friendly but in fact, divided in the heart. Even though they had been tearing up each other for a long time, they always had been friendly and warm on the surface. Zhou Shunhua and her pretended to have deep feelings between sisters. Tang Shishi showed no weakness and promptly said, “Sister Zhou, what are you talking about? You came from a court official background. I’m afraid you’re even more not used to conditions here than I am. If you can bear it, why can’t I bear it for one night?”
Tang Shishi always stuck a knife like this using unscrupulous means. She would poke wherever the pain was without a shred of morality at all. Zhou Shunhua smiled and said, “What’s the use of mentioning the past when the past was already over? Now I am from the Jing Wang mansion. My natal family or my past has nothing to do with me now.”
“Sister Zhou is right.” Tang Shishi said with admiration on her face, “I admire Sister Zhou’s perseverance. No matter what happens, you can always hold on strong. The countryside is vastly different from the mansion, but one is the master of one own fate. I believe Sister Zhou will soon be able to get used to the new environment.”
Tang Shishi was clearly criticizing her indirectly. Zhou Shunhua clenched her fingertips and finally smiled gently, “Miss Tang, thank you for your good words. No matter what happens in the future, I will always remember what you said today.”
“You’re welcome.” Tang Shishi smiled and put her quilt on the bed. While making the bed, she said, “Actually, I’m used to it. It’s also not too simple here. The mountains have its charm, which is much more interesting than the same old mansion.”
Zhou Shunhua lowered her head while smiling and said softly, “If Miss Tang likes it, it doesn’t hurt to stay to experience the wild fun for a few days. Anyway, Wangye is about to marry the new Wangfei, and Wangfei will take care of everything around him. It may be assumed that the outsider can take a break. Then Miss Tang can come to live in the village when you are free.”
Tang Shishi’s smile was slightly stagnant. She sat on the edge of the bed, slowly smoothing the folds on the bed, and said, “I am a person from Wangye’s side. All actions must be subject to the Wangye’s approval and it’s not easy to predict the future.”
“Don’t worry. Wangye and Wangfei, as husband and wife are one. After they get married, Wangye will definitely delegate the power to Wangfei.” Zhou Shunhua helped Tang Shishi put her pillow properly, turned around, and smiled gently at Tang Shishi. “Miss Tang doesn’t have to envy me, you will also have this kind of opportunity.”
Tang Shishi secretly cursed in her heart. Who envies her? Pooh! It’s unlucky. Tang Shishi endured with forbearance, and suddenly smile with delight, “Thank you Sister Zhou for caring about me, but the future is still far away. Who knows what the new Wangfei will be like when she enters the door? Unlike Sister Zhou, who can have a good rest. Does sister have any message that you like me to pass to Sister Ren? Sister Ren needs to serve Shizi and will be reused by Shizifei. I’m afraid she won’t have time to visit Sister Zhou. After all, we are sisters and don’t know when we will meet next time. All of us will miss you.”
Zhou Shunhua turned the corner of her mouth up slightly and said, “Miss Tang, thank you for your kindness. Ren Yujun and I had finished what we wanted to say before the journey. There’s nothing to tell her. Miss Tang, thank you for thinking about me so much. Don’t worry, you too will have what I have today.”
Tang Shishi pretended to smile, while Zhou Shunhua was indifferent. When they turned their faces, both suddenly turn cold.
No one was happy with the conversation. Both tried their best to step on each other’s painful feet and were not comfortable either. Both achieved victory on the surface but also suffered heavy losses on the inside. After Zhou Shunhua put the pillow properly, she did not want to see Tang Shishi again. So, she randomly found a reason and went outside.
Tang Shishi was eager for her to leave too. She scolded Zhao Chengjun in her heart. Even though there were no other rooms in the mountain villa, this vicious man had to let her crammed together with her sworn enemy. If a person was not kindhearted, he surely would be punished.
Tang Shishi went to the table to pour a cup of tea. She picked up the teacup and found that the porcelain inside was extremely rough and even broken at the edge. Tang Shishi could not use it and put it down silently.
She looked at the simple and cold room which could be seen with one glance and sighed deeply. Zhao Zixun was heartless. As his favored person, after he said to throw her away, he just threw her right away. It would be a disaster if not killed in one struck. Lu Yufei was raising a poisonous insect for herself.
Tang Shishi could only hope that she could succeed in one blow in this short gap and replace the female lead as Zhao Zixun’s new favored concubine. Otherwise, after Xi Yunchu entered the door and with the situation of Tang Shishi making enemies, they certainly would join hands together to overthrow her.
Tang Shishi sighed that her beauty would provoke others to be envious and jealous. Was it her fault that money made her beautiful?
She did not know where Zhou Shunhua had gone and did not come back for a long time. This was perfect for Tang Shishi. She did not have the consciousness of living in someone else’s room at all. When the owner was away, she took a bath and changed into her nightclothes happily. When she took off her clothes, she found that her back was indeed blueish black.
There was no ointment here, and Tang Shishi also did not want Zhou Shunhua to apply ointment for her, so she had to forget about the wound temporarily. When she returned to the mansion tomorrow, she would ask Dujuan to apply ointment for her. Tang Shishi took a hot bath comfortably, then tied up her inner clothes and took care of them in front of the mirror.
Time has passed for a long time. Tang Shishi was worried that Zhou Shunhua would come back, so she released the door latch. Tang Shishi sat on a round stool and picked up strands of her long hair to look at them one after another.
Her hair was black and thick, spread out behind her like a waterfall. There were water stains at the tip of her hair, which slightly soaked her inner clothes and vaguely revealed the skin behind her. Tang Shishi looked carefully. If there was a split end, she would cut it off immediately with a knife.
She was fully concentrating on her hair and did not pay attention to her surroundings. The door behind her seemed to have opened. Tang Shishi thought it was Zhou Shunhua and did not raise her head, “Sister Zhou, are you back?”
Behind her was as quiet as ever. Tang Shishi waited for a long time, but Zhou Shunhua did not reply. Tang Shishi finally trim a strand of hair. She put her hair down and looked back to find that the door was closed and there was no one in the room.
“Huh?” Tang Shishi was surprised, “I definitely heard someone come in just now. Did she leave again?”
Tang Shishi did not take it seriously and continued to take care of her hair. After a while, there was the sound of an opening door behind her. Tang Shishi glanced in the mirror and saw Zhou Shunhua who looked depressed and in a bad mood.
Tang Shishi raised her eyebrows and said, “Sister Zhou, you’re back at last. Why have you been out for so long?”
“The room is too stuffy. Go out to relax.” Zhou Shunhua replied casually and went to wash up. Tang Shishi’s hair ends were wrapped around her hand and smiled without saying anything.
Go out to relax? How could she have the heart to relax in this freezing weather? Most probably went to see Zhao Zixun.
After all, Zhao Zixun would leave tomorrow and did not know when they would meet again, let alone how many beauties would appear around him. Even Zhou Shunhua could not deal with this kind of blow calmly.
Tang Shishi pushed her hair to the back, and her black hair fell like running water, shining like the finest black satin. Tang Shishi casually took a comb, went to her back, and combed down her hair slowly, “Sister Zhou, why did you go out again after you came in just now? I talked to you, but you ignore me.”
Zhou Shunhua was stunned, and Tang Shishi asked again. She just came up with a usual response and said, “It’s me. I forgot to take something, then I went out again.”
Tang Shishi said “oh” and did not think much about it. Zhou Shunhua did not pay attention just now. She looked carefully at this moment, only to find that this scene had a vividly beautiful woman, like a warm beautiful spring, and even her, as a woman would be dazed when she looked at her.
Tang Shishi sat in front of the mirror. Her face was fair, and her black hair was let down loosely. She obviously did not apply powder, yet she was so beautiful that people could not look directly at her. The dressing of a woman after bathing originally was a very private thing. At the moment, the room was filled with moisture, and there was a faint fragrance floating, which seemed to be the body fragrance of Tang Shishi. It was usually not obvious but now there was no incense in the room, and she had just taken a bath, the fragrance became even more distinct.
With such a vividly beautiful woman, Zhou Shunhua as a woman also felt dazzled by her. What about the person who came in just now?
Zhou Shunhua thought of Zhao Zixun whom she had met not long ago and could not help but dig her nails into her palm.
Zhou Shunhua took a bath in a daze. According to her original plan, she did not want to trouble the kitchen like this on a freezing day. But today, she did not know what was going on. When she saw Tang Shishi in front of the mirror, she felt a sense of depression and went to the back to take a bath.
The conditions of the mountain villa were simple, only a screen could be used to separate the inside and outside, but since both of them were women, they did not care about these. After taking a bath and changing into new clothes, Zhou Shunhua looked at her body for a long time behind the screen.
She was spoiled when she grew up in her family. Her appearance was not bad with a slim figure, neither fat nor thin. Zhou Shunhua had never worried about her appearance on any occasion when she was in the capital.
But she also knew that she was not the best-looking one. After entering the imperial palace, the more she discovered this fact. Zhou Shunhua used to think it did not matter. She had a family background and talent. Was not she much better than those beautiful empty vases?
However now, Zhou Shunhua began to doubt herself. When women evaluated their own appearances, they always wore filters to see themselves to be more beautiful and others to be more ugly. But even if Zhou Shunhua was biased toward herself, she had to admit that Tang Shishi was much more beautiful.
Fair and slender fingers, the curvature of the wrist exposed when combing her hair and looming through the back of her clothes… Zhou Shunhua just knew that a person’s beauty could be separated from her appearance and exist in various parts of the body. Zhou Shunhua did not think there was any difference in women’s figures before and everyone was the same when they put on their clothes. But now Zhou Shunhua found that there was actually a difference.
It turned out that the history books said that a woman’s body was beautiful, and a woman’s gait was light and graceful were all real.
“Sister Zhou?” Tang Shishi’s voice came from behind the screen, “Aren’t you ready? Is something wrong?”
Zhou Shunhua quickly responded, “It’s nothing.” She quickly put on her clothes and came out.
Tang Shishi was already sitting under the quilt. She covered her mouth to yawn, and her eyes suddenly filled with water. She leaned lazily against the bedpost, fanning the fan in her hand.
Watching this scene, Zhou Shunhua’s footsteps gradually stopped. Tang Shishi leaned on the foot of the bed, delicate and weak, as if sleepy but not sleepy. Zhou Shunhua looked at her for a while and asked, “What are you doing?”
“Let the hair dry up quickly.” Tang Shishi was extremely sleepy, and said lazily, “If I go to bed without drying completely, it won’t look good tomorrow.”
After so many things had happened, she still thought of looking good… Zhou Shunhua once despised Tang Shishi’s behavior that only knew how to pay attention to her appearance. This kind of woman was both sad and pathetic. Now, however, Zhou Shunhua actually envied her.
After going through so many twists and turns from the imperial palace to the frontier, she was still pure and happy. She did not have to be heartbroken because of a man or did not have to suffer from interpersonal feelings. She would be a happy camper with just a mirror.
How nice, ah.
Perhaps because of the unusual environment tonight, Zhou Shunhua suddenly had an impulse to talk. Zhou Shunhua asked, “Tang Shishi when you left your hometown to enter the selection for the palace and then came all the way to Xiping province, do you ever regret it?”
Tang Shishi paused her wrist movement slightly, and then she slapped the fan unhurriedly, “No.”
This answer was far from what Zhou Shunhua expected, but when she thought about it, it was very in line with Tang Shishi. Zhou Shunhua asked, “Why?”
Tang Shishi put down the fan, combed her hair with her fingers, and said casually, “There’s no reason. I have chosen every step by myself up to now. There is nothing to regret.”
Tang Shishi knew what she wanted, and she also knew that she was not a contented person. She preferred gorgeous clothes and gourmet food, and an honorable husband and wife compared with deep affection and a happy family. Tang Shishi did not care whether she had true love or even filial children. She only needed to live a dignified luxurious life.
Tang Shishi once chose Qi Jingsheng because he could read. He was the one who was most likely to remove Tang Shishi out of merchant and enter the nobility class. So Tang Shishi was determined to get closer to Qi Jingsheng. Now, however, she entered a wider world and saw a higher landscape. An ordinary noble official could no longer satisfy her.
She knew that the goal of becoming Empress Dowager was exaggerated and unrealistic. However, whether she could become the Empress Dowager would have to depend on Heaven’s will and how much effort she could put in would have to depend on herself. She was getting closer to what she wanted step by step. What could she regret?
Tang Shishi’s hair finally dried. She pushed aside her hair from behind, lay on the pillow, and asked casually, “Why… could it be that you regret it?”
Zhou Shunhua did not answer. She was originally a court official’s daughter. If she did not enter the imperial palace’s selection, she would have married the legitimate wife’s first son of equal social status and continued to enjoy the honor of Duke’s wife. What was the use of enduring the current humiliation? However, if she did not enter the Imperial Palace, she would not have met Zhao Zixun.
She hated everything she had experienced, but the only thing she did not regret was falling in love with him.
Tang Shishi smiled and said, “I can see you really like him. Only love can make people cower. By the way, please turn off the light. I have to get up early tomorrow and can’t delay them.”
Zhou Shunhua regained her senses and smiled bitterly. She would even tell Tang Shishi her worries. How could Tang Shishi comprehend these? Tang Shishi was so selfish that she only cared about her own sleep. She simply did not care whether her roommate wanted to use the light or not. This kind of heartless person would never receive true love all her life.
Zhou Shunhua’s heart was oddly peaceful. Yes, ah. Tang Shishi was beautiful, so what? Many men could not help falling for her, so what? Tang Shishi did have beautiful skin, but how sad was it that a man’s love for her stopped at the skin?
Zhou Shunhua did not speak anymore, she blew out the light, and fumbled back to the bed.
The lights in the room went dark. Outside the window, a person watched in the dark secretly for a long time. He stared at the silent window as if he could see the person behind the window through the darkness.
He could not help stepping forward and wanted to take another look through the window. When Zhao Zixun made this decision, he did not know who he wanted to see.
However, he took only two steps and was suddenly stopped by a dark shadow. A soldier dressed in armor looked at him coldly. As soon as he opened his mouth, his voice was as cold and ruthless as the freezing wind, “Shizi, please stay. Miss Tang is inside. It’s inconvenient for you to get close.”
Zhao Zixun smiled apologetically, pretended not to know, and said, “So Miss Tang is here too? I thought my father left her with him. I wanted to see my concubine and didn’t know that Miss Tang is there. I’m abrupt. I’ll leave now.”