It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager
Chapter 60 Flaw
By the lake, a small building made of bamboo stood quietly by the edge of the water. The flowers and trees on both sides were flourishing, and the fragments of Forsythia flowers were hanging on the vines until they drooped down to the water surface.
In the green bamboo small building, Zhao Zixun stood up somewhat restrained, and asked, “Father, why are you here?”
“Don’t be restrained, sit down.” Zhao Chengjun appeared to be very much relaxed. He sat at the table and motioned for Zhao Zixun to sit down.
Zhao Zixun sat down slowly. Zhao Chengjun asked, “I heard someone say that you are in a bad mood today. You dispersed all your attendants and ran to the lakeside alone. For what reason?”
Zhao Zixun was silent. He just wanted to calm down by himself, but somehow it got passed to Zhao Chengjun’s ears in a blink of an eye. Zhao Chengjun asked him for what reason? What could it be?
However, Zhao Chengjun was superior, and he was inferior. He would never be able to speak out these words righteously. Zhao Zixun lowered his eyes and restrained his expression, “It’s nothing. When I saw that the spring scenery was just right, I wanted nothing more than to enjoy it quietly.”
After all, Zhao Zixun was young and inexperienced. Even if he deliberately concealed it, his voice was still filled with resentment. Zhao Chengjun did not say whether he believed it or not. After a while, he suddenly asked, “Are you blaming me?”
Zhao Zixun was shocked and blurted out, “What does father mean? How dare I?”
“There is no third person here. You don’t have to be so vigilant. If you are dissatisfied with some things, you can say it directly.”
Zhao Zixun bowed his head with a taunt in his eyes. Say it directly? How dared he.
Zhao Chengjun also knew that trouble has been brewing for quite some time now, and the estrangement between him and Zhao Zixun could not be resolved overnight. Zhao Chengjun sighed slightly and said, “I know that I have been too harsh on you over the years and pushed you extremely hard. However, these are all for your own good. I can wait for you to grow up slowly, but people outside may not be willing to wait. You know the relationship between me and the army of the Emperor. Now it seems that we are on the separate sides yet at peace with each other, but this is not a long-term solution.”
Zhao Zixun was silent. Zhao Chengjun stopped talking and did not say much. He changed to another topic, “You’re not a child anymore. You should understand what you can understand, and it’s useless for me to say if you don’t understand. It’s not that you’re not smart, but you’re just not willing to settle down and work hard. Your teacher told me that you are often distracted in class these days.”
Zhao Zixun was suddenly nervous. He was about to say something, but Zhao Chengjun raised his hand to stop him, “Don’t argue, listen to me first. I understand why you are distracted, and probably know why you are hiding here alone today. You are going to reach adulthood soon and have already married. Some things are inconvenient for me to take care of. It’s human nature to admire your parents when you are young and to admire a pretty young lady when you know lust. I shouldn’t get involved in your personal affairs, but you must be clear about your priorities and know when to do what you should do.”
Zhao Zixun lowered his head and said in a faint voice, “Thanks to my father for teaching. I understand.”
Zhao Chengjun looked at the young man in front of him. When the child was just brought over, he was thin and shriveled, dirty all over with only a pair of eyes with aura. Later, he got rid of Zhao Zixun’s biting fingers and swearing one by one, and shaped Zhao Zixun into his ideal successor. Now, Zhao Zixun was modest, broad, and unrestrained, and could not easily show his true feelings in front of people. However, he stopped telling the truth in front of Zhao Chengjun.
Zhao Chengjun seemed to have some regrets. He found that some things would never feel the same. Zhao Zixun would not understand why Zhao Chengjun urgently expanded his power and forced Zhao Zixun to grow. Zhao Chengjun would not understand Zhao Zixun’s pressure and pain over the years. They all understood that each other was forgivable, but deep down they could never genuinely forgive each other.
It would not hurt if the knife did not cut on oneself. Previously, Zhao Chengjun did not understand why Zhao Zixun had to entangle with those women and waste time for no reason. But these days he kept thinking about recent events and seemed to understand a little bit.
Zhao Chengjun could not even bear to see Tang Shishi crying. How could Zhao Zixun put his beloved woman in a desolate and remote mountain villa at ease? He imagined himself in the same position that if someone relied on one-sided words and send Tang Shishi to a place where he could not touch or see, Zhao Chengjun would not agree no matter what.
Zhao Zixun was forced to bow his head. One was his wife and the other was his father that acted atrociously. It was completely understandable that he was unhappy.
Zhao Chengjun sighed and said, “This matter will be discussed later. In fact, I have another thing to tell you today.”
Zhao Zixun had no fluctuation in his eyes and respectfully asked, “Father, what do you want to say?”
“You already know. It’s about Wangfei.” After Zhao Chengjun finished speaking, he heard footsteps outside and naturally stopped talking. Zhao Zixun was slightly surprised, and then immediately understood.
Zhao Chengjun was really determined to marry a Wangfei. He came to remind him today, one was to tell Zhao Zixun who was the candidate so that he would be well aware of the situation, and the second was to imply that Zhao Zixun was to prepare early.
Zhao Chengjun died of two intended wives in succession. Now, it was best to plan early if he did not want this one to be harmed by others unexpectedly. Otherwise, what they heard must be another grievous news of the young lady’s “accident”.
This matter was especially important. When the maid came in to deliver the wine, neither Zhao Chengjun nor Zhao Zixun spoke. The maid did not dare to stay any longer. After she put the wine pot on the table, she saluted and left quickly.
Zhao Chengjun did not care about the maid’s negligence. He picked up the wine pot and poured wine for both of them by himself. When Zhao Zixun saw it, he wanted to take over quickly, “I’m being rude…”
Zhao Chengjun raised his hand and signaled Zhao Zixun to sit down. Zhao Chengjun filled the wine cup and placed them in front of Zhao Zixun and himself. He was about to continue the topic just now, but when he picked up the porcelain cup, he suddenly felt something was wrong.
There was a strange aroma in this wine. Ordinary people would confuse this aroma with the wine’s aroma and ignore it, but Zhao Chengjun would not.
If the Imperial Palace dared to overlook the tasting, he would have died a hundred and eighty times already. Zhao Chengjun stared down at the wine in the cup. A moment later, a haze flashed across his eyes.
Zhao Zixun saw that Zhao Chengjun had been staring at the wine cup and asked strangely, “Father, is there any problem with this wine?”
“No.” Zhao Chengjun suddenly poured the whole cup of wine to the ground. His tone was flat and calm which made people feel uneasy, “This is the calamus wine from last year, but it hasn’t been fully fermented yet. Now it’s too sour to drink. There’s no shortage of wine in the mansion. If you really want to drink it, then let them change it to a better one.”
Zhao Zixun naturally agreed with a “Yes”. Since Zhao Chengjun said it like this, Zhao Zixun also could not continue to drink and had to pour out his own cup. Zhao Chengjun was very fussy about his basic needs and would not accept if there was anything wrong with it. Calamus wine was a seasonal wine specially made for the Dragon Boat Festival and it was only the fourth month now and it was still cold a few days ago. Hence, the fermentation time was indeed not enough. It was just because of this small defect that all the wine needed to be thrown out. It would be unreasonable if this kind of thing happened to other people, but it would be a logical thing if it happened to Zhao Chengjun.
Zhao Zixun did not think too much, but Zhao Zixun always felt that Zhao Chengjun seemed to have overreacted.
Frankly speaking, it was nothing more than just a pot of wine and it could be thrown away easily if did not like it. Why did Zhao Chengjun have to care so much about it? Zhao Zixun even felt that Zhao Chengjun was suppressing his anger.
Why? It was nothing more than just a pot of wine.
Because of this, Zhao Chengjun had lost all of his moods and even had no intention to continue about the Wangfei whom they were talking about halfway previously. Zhao Chengjun looked coldly at the wine pot in front of him and said, “Remove it.”
The attendant immediately came forward to remove the wine pot. Zhao Chengjun did not even want to say any closing remarks, and stood up, “I have something else to do, so I’ll go first. You have to weigh the rest.”
Zhao Zixun stood up instantly, sent him off to the door, and greeted, “Respectfully send my father off.”
After Zhao Chengjun walked out from the waterside pavilion, his expression suddenly turned cold. Seeing that the situation was wrong, the attendant asked cautiously, “Wangye, is there any problem with wine?”
Zhao Chengjun declined to comment, and said, “Where is the maid that delivered the wine?”
The maid was taken into custody as early as when Zhao Chengjun showed something peculiar. The little maid trembling with fear was pushed to the front. When she saw Zhao Chengjun, her knees softened, and she almost knelt in fright.
“Wangye, please spare my life… This maid really doesn’t know anything…”
Zhao Chengjun was too lazy to waste time on her and asked directly, “Where did you get this wine?”
“Kitchen.” The little maid fell to the ground and trembled, “Xu Mama gave it to me and I didn’t do anything. Wangye, please check again!”
Zhao Chengjun did not think that the kitchen old maids and the little maids had the guts to slip a drug in the wine, and even if they wanted to slip a drug, they should have put poison instead of this kind of filthy things. Zhao Chengjun’s face was calm, and his voice sounded neither fast nor slow, “Apart from you, who else has touched this wine pot?”
“No one. I knew this was Shizi’s drink, so I didn’t dare to be careless. I was incredibly careful from beginning to the end and didn’t let anyone else touch it.” The little maid was trembling with fright, almost rambling, “Wangye, please check again! If you don’t believe me, you can ask Miss Tang. Miss Tang and I came together.”
Tang Shishi… Zhao Chengjun’s expression remained unchanged, but suddenly there was a surging storm in his eyes.
This was a genuinely surprising and yet not at all unexpected answer.
Tang Shishi returned to the pavilion with the calamus wine. When she came back, Ren Yujun was already there. Ren Yujun was surprised to see that Tang Shishi was there also, and stood up with a bit of shock, “Miss Tang? What’s the big day today? Sister Ji invited me for the first time, and even Miss Tang favors me with your presence?”
Tang Shishi smiled and said, “I was also invited by Sister Ji to talk to my sisters. Why, is it possible that Sister Ren did not want to see me?”
“How dare I?” Ren Yujun smiled and said, “Miss Tang is the only one in front of Wangye. How dare I gossip about Miss Tang?”
As she said that, Ren Yujun glanced at the wine in Tang Shishi’s hand and said with an unclear meaning, “It’s rare that a noble person like Miss Tang is willing to serve the wine personally. Can we afford to drink this pot of wine?”
Ren Yujun’s eyes were full of suspicion. Tang Shishi secretly scoffed. Ren Yujun suspected that there was something wrong with the pot of wine. Tang Shishi did indeed prepare something, but it was not for them.
Ren Yujun thought highly of herself.
Tang Shishi put down the wine. Seeing that Ren Yujun was still skeptical, she smiled and poured a glass and drank it in one gulp. The wine was not in time yet, so it was a little sour, and a little astringent when it entered the throat. However, Tang Shishi was not a particular person, she did not care about these small defects, and drank it all.
Tang Shishi drank without hesitation. Ren Yujun was finally relieved, but her doubts were even worse.
There was no problem with the wine… What kind of medicine did Tang Shishi sell in her gourd?
After everyone arrived, Ji Xinxian went crazy fast. She kept pouring and toasting non-stop. It seemed that she was complaining, but in fact, she was secretly showing off her favor. Tang Shishi and Ren Yujun sat quietly, and neither one wanted to pay attention to her.
Tang Shishi was a little distracted. According to the maid’s walking speed, the pot of wine should have been delivered to Zhao Zixun by now. It was time for Tang Shishi to appear based on the calculated time when the drug would take effect.
Tang Shishi glanced at the sky and suddenly pressed her eyebrows softly, looking like she was unable to hold any more drinks. Ji Xinxian saw it and immediately asked, “Sister Tang, what’s the matter with you?”
Tang Shishi held her eyebrows and said, “I drank too fast just now, and now I feel a little bit dizzy. Excuse me, I need to go to the washroom.”
Calamus wine has a strong after-effect after drinking it. Tang Shishi just drank several cups which was really too strong for a woman. Ji Xinxian and Ren Yujun did not doubt her and let Tang Shishi go out. Tang Shishi staggered for a while. When she left the sight of Ren Yujun and Ji Xinxian, she immediately became energetic, lifted her skirt, and ran towards the green bamboo building.
Tang Shishi ran halfway and found many people guarding the intersection. She instinctively felt that something was wrong. Instead of showing up hastily, she pulled a passing maid and asked, “What’s wrong up ahead? Why are there so many people here?”
The maid looked forward and said, “Wangye went to talk to Shizi. Maybe it was the people brought by Wangye.”
Tang Shishi’s expression was startled, and her pupils suddenly tightened, “Wangye?”
“Yes ah.” The maid did not take it seriously, and said casually, “Wangye has been there for a long time, and many people dare not enter the garden. Miss Tang, I’m going to deliver things. Do you have anything else?”
Tang Shishi shook her head in a daze and let the maid leave. After waiting for her to leave, she froze for a moment behind the bushes, suddenly lifted her long skirt, and ran quickly towards Jianjia courtyard.
It was not good, it was dangerous.
Regardless of whether it would arouse suspicion, Tang Shishi ran back to the Jianjia courtyard as fast as possible. She was panting when she entered the door and had no time to breathe. The first thing she asked was, “Dujuan, has anyone come to look for me during this time?”
After Dujuan heard Tang Shishi’s voice, she came out hurriedly to welcome her, “Miss, why are you back? No one has been here since you left. Miss, has something happened?”
Dujuan asked cautiously when she saw Tang Shishi’s complexion was abnormal. Tang Shishi said calmly, “It’s nothing. I’m afraid I made a blunder with Ji Xinxian and others. Noting more than just to confirm it. I’m fine, you all can go out.”
Dujuan stopped talking, finally bowed, and withdrew. Tang Shishi closed the door and windows, hurriedly took out her spice pouch, not caring what was inside, and poured everything into the incense burner.
There was a fire in the incense burner, and usually, no one would pay attention to the incense ash. It would only take one night for the drug powder to disappear without being noticed.
This was the pill that Granny Wu found for her. Although it was an aphrodisiac, it was produced very exquisitely. Granny Wu said that after using it, the person only would feel like having a big dream as if fluttering, appearing real and unreal. After waking up, the medical practitioner could not notice that the person was controlled by the drug but would only think that the person was having a spring dream.
The people who came out of the imperial palace were so elegant and meticulous even with these despicable drugs.
Tang Shishi was worried that the pill would not dissolve completely in the wine. So she ground it into fine powder in advance and pretended to be face powder and stuffed it into her embroidered pouch. While on the way just now, Tang Shishi secretly added the drug to her own wine pot, then pretended to be dizzy and took the opportunity to change the two wine pots.
Tang Shishi did not know why Zhao Chengjun went to look for Zhao Zixun today. This incident clearly did not happen in the book. However, there was not enough time for Tang Shishi to think about the reason. She must plan for the worst and the best would be Zhao Chengjun did not find out. If unfortunately, he found out, Tang Shishi must quickly destroy the evidence and remove herself out.
The other pot of wine was drunk by Ji Xinxian and Ren Yujun. There would be no evidence that it was touched by Tang Shishi. She just needed to dispose of the remaining powder in her pouch.
After finish doing all of that, Tang Shishi felt a sense of relief. At this time she was surprised to discover that she had a thin layer of sweat.
Tang Shishi hid the spice pouch in the wardrobe and turned around to open the windows. When Tang Shishi opened the door of her room, she was caught off guard and saw Zhao Chengjun standing outside.
The night of the early spring was still chilly, Tang Shishi was frightened, and the sweat behind her back became cold instantly. Zhao Chengjun even smiled when he saw her, raised his hand, and gently stroked Tang Shishi’s forehead, “It’s only the fourth month. Why are you sweating?”