IBTBTED Chapter 63
It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager
Chapter 63 Assassination
Dujuan was just wandering around, and by the time she turned around, she found that Tang Shishi was missing. Dujuan felt strange, and quickly ran over to look for her, “Miss?”
Dujuan had been looking for Tang Shishi for a long time, but she could not find her. She was screaming in her heart and was about to call someone over. As soon as she turned around, she found Tang Shishi was standing on the trail behind the trees quietly, not knowing what she was thinking about.
Dujuan let out a long sigh of relief. As she ran closer, she complained, “Miss, why don’t you say anything when you’re standing here? You scared me.”
As Dujuan was talking, she unexpectedly saw Tang Shishi’s complexion and her footsteps suddenly slowed down, “Miss?”
Tang Shishi lowered her eyes which made it unable to see her expression clearly, but it made people feel uneasy for some reason. Dujuan was frightened, and hurriedly asked, “Miss, what’s wrong with you? Did someone run into you in the woods?”
Tang Shishi raised her head and smiled, “It’s nothing. I wander off while thinking of something. I’m tired from walking. Let’s go back.”
Although Tang Shishi smiled, her face looked very pale, and there was no smile in her eyes. Dujuan vaguely felt that something was not right, but when she heard that Tang Shishi was tired, Dujuan immediately put aside her doubts and said, “It’s my negligence. Miss, let’s go back now.”
Dujuan thought it was her illusion that day. However, after they returned to their courtyard, Tang Shishi had been absent-minded for several days. She often sat down and started to wander away. Sometimes when the maids talked to Tang Shishi, she did not respond even until the middle of the conversation. When the maids turned around, they saw Tang Shishi was absent-minded staring at a place in a daze again.
Dujuan felt that Tang Shishi’s condition was very wrong. She suspected that someone had said something nasty to Tang Shishi. Dujuan secretly inquired for a long time, but she could not find out who had spoken to her.
Four days had passed in a blink of an eye, the Dragon Boat Festival finally arrived, and the dragon boat race was held outside the city. Lu Yufei had reserved seats early. Dujuan was afraid that something would happen to Tang Shishi if she kept suppressing herself like this, so she urged Tang Shishi to go outside to have fun. Tang Shishi originally did not want to go, but she could not stand Dujuan’s constant urging. So, Tang Shishi had to report to Lu Yufei about the outing. On the fifth day that day, she went with everyone to watch the dragon boat outside the city.
Tang Shishi was still grounded in name but after seeing Tang Shishi had been wandering around several times, neither Wangye nor Shizi cared about it, so how could anyone dare to talk too much? Lu Yufei did not say anything after receiving the news from Tang Shishi. Since they were going out anyway, at most, they would just need to add a seat, which made no difference to them.
The Dragon Boat Festival was on the fifth day. Tang Shishi changed into festive clothing and went to board the carriage at the second gate. Tang Shishi was not accepted by any male masters, and since she was still a maid in name, naturally she could not bring a maid with her. After getting in the carriage, she found that she happened to be in the same carriage with Feng Qian.
Tang Shishi nodded to Feng Qian and even greeted her. Feng Qian was sitting in the carriage, after seeing Tang Shishi’s low spirits, she asked curiously, “Sister Tang, what’s the matter with you? Why do you look unhappy?”
Tang Shishi smiled lightly, and said, “No, I slept late last night, and I woke up with low energy today.”
“Oh.” Feng Qian replied, then hugged Tang Shishi’s arm affectionately, and pouted, “It turned out to be like this. I thought Sister Tang has something weighing on your mind.”
At this time, the carriage started to move, Tang Shishi smiled while pushing Feng Qian’s hand away, “We are setting out on the road and the road is bumpy. Sister Feng, please sit properly.”
Feng Qian sat back in her own seat and smiled sweetly at Tang Shishi, “Thanks Sister Tang for caring.”
If it was the usual, Tang Shishi would accompany Feng Qian to play out the deep sisterhood’s affection drama to the end to see who could disgust who the most. But today she was really not in the mood to deal with Feng Qian. So, Tang Shishi roughly drove Feng Qian away and leaned against the carriage, thinking about what was weighing on her mind.
Four days ago, she met Granny Wu in the garden. Granny Wu had no intention of revealing that Jing Wang would be leaving the city in the fifth month, and they wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to ambush Jing Wang. Tang Shishi had been restless since she heard it. There seemed to be two voices wrestling in her heart. One of the voices told her that she should protect herself and take care of herself first. Zhao Chengjun would be leaving the mansion because of official duties and would not be influenced by Tang Shishi at all. This incident also happened in the plot. In the subsequent plot, Zhao Chengjun did not die which showed that he could evade it.
This matter had nothing to do with Tang Shishi. She could not even protect herself, what could she do by interfering with the affairs between Jing Wang and Empress Dowager? This was the most sensible solution. Tang Shishi should not have hesitated from the beginning but another voice kept buzzing in her ear.
Since she has made up her mind to become the future female official, protecting Zhao Chengjun’s safety was to protect her own safety. If she did not know of it, then it was fine, but she already knew it, how could she continue to pretend to be ignorant?
Tang Shishi was annoyed by these two voices that she fidgeted for several days. Tang Shishi shook her head vigorously and threw these thoughts to the back of her mind. Today she came out to relax, and not to look for trouble. She was just a little maid, how could she have worried about the big people’s matters?
The place where the dragon boat race was held was not far from Xiping city, and they arrived just less than half an hour later. Tang Shishi followed everyone to get off of the carriage. She stepped onto the ground wearing a hat with a veil and looked around. Her disappointment could not be concealed in her heart.
After all, Xiping city was situated inland with few rivers. Even if this was a specially developed river course for competition, it looked far inferior to Jinling and Linqing. In particular, Linqing was engaged in the canal business. The prosperous water transport and the prosperous waterway were far beyond the reach of other cities. Tang Shishi remembered that Linqing water was wide open, extended far and wide. There were all kinds of restaurants and music shops along the river. By the time the Dragon Boat Festival started, there were endless boats on the water, stretching dozens of miles, which was more magnificence than today’s small waterways.
Tang Shishi looked down on it, but it was a rare kind of magnificent view in the eyes of others. Lu Yufei kept socializing as soon as she got off the carriage. She stopped after taking two steps and greeted all the way into Wangjiang Pavilion. The Wangjiang Pavilion was built by the riverbank and had three floors, occupying a large area and was magnificent. This was the best place to enjoy the river scenery and watch the dragon boats.
And Lu Yufei naturally occupied the best view of Wangjiang Pavilion. Lu Yufei led the females to the top floor, and today this floor was booked by them. At this time, there were already people sitting in the private room. When the people inside heard the movement from outside, they stood up to greet them.
“Shizifei is here. You make us wait.”
In the private room, the Xi family, Lu Yufei’s natal family, and several families whom Lu Yufei was friends with were all there. These people were headed by Lu Yufei. So, when Lu Yufei showed up, everyone came to surround her to talk and laugh.
Lu Yufei greeted them and laughed loudly, “It’s my fault. I couldn’t find the red jade hairpin before I went out today. So, I had to change my hairpins which drag everyone late. Thank you for waiting for me. Whatever you eat today, it’s all my treats.”
The womenfolk laughed when they heard what she said. Madam Xi fanned the fan and said leisurely, “After Shizifei married, she is really different in style. Shizifei was full of heroic spirit before she got married and now, she is even more remarkable. She can book a place to entertain guests as she wishes.”
Madam Lu said with a smile, “Shizifei is now in charge of the Jing Wang mansion, with a turnover of thousands of teal passed through Shizifei’s hand. Shizifei is used to seeing the world. So how can she mind about these insignificant few hundreds?”
Everyone roared with laughter. Lu Yufei held Madam Lu’s hand and Xi Yunchu, “Don’t tease me. If you brag for me again, wait for Wangfei to enter the door, then doesn’t she have to check my account.”
Xi Yunchu lowered her head, showing a light smiling expression. Madam Lu looked at Lu Yufei and then Xi Yunchu, she suddenly said with a smile, “It’s my fault. I’m complacent. Now the Jing Wang mansion is about to add a person. I’ll say a few words on behalf of Shizifei. I hope Wangfei will take care and love Shizifei.”
Xi Yunchu bit her lip and rebuked, “Madam Lu’s words are so rude. If you want to plead for Shizifei, then talk to Jing Wang. Why is this got to do with me?”
Madam Lu’s laughed heartily. She winked and said slyly, “I just wanted to plead with Jing Wang, so I came to look for Miss Xi.”
These words were already somewhat lighthearted. Fortunately, there was no one else upstairs, and the womenfolk laughed and did not go any further. After all, Xi Yunchu was an unmarried young lady. Her cheeks turned red when she was teased by everyone. Madam Xi fanned her fan at the side as if she had not heard it, and tacitly agreed.
When Lu Yufei and Xi Yunchu exchanged pleasantries, Tang Shishi mingled with a group of maids and listened quietly. Tang Shishi could not be more familiar with the flattery of the womenfolk. They seemed to talk and laugh, as close as one family. In fact, there was a clear distinction between which one was in power in her natal family, and which one was favored by her husband’s family.
When Tang Shishi listened to everyone flattering Lu Yufei, she felt utterly boring. Tang Shishi raised her eyes in surprise when Xi Yunchu was also involved later.
They were indeed so blatant, dare to openly tease Xi Yunchu and Jing Wang before the marriage was completed? What was even more surprising was that the Xi family did not stop it.
Tang Shishi glanced at Xi Yunchu vaguely, raised her eyebrows, and lowered her eyes again. It seemed that Lu Yufei did not know that Wangfei’s matter had changed again. Otherwise, how could she dare to flatter the Xi family so openly? But thinking about the relationship between Zhao Zixun and Lu Yufei, it was within reason that Lu Yufei had no idea.
Tang Shishi thought she was hidden from view just now, but Xi Yunchu had been paying attention to her and immediately found her. Xi Yunchu snorted, looked straight at Tang Shishi, and asked, “Shizifei, isn’t this the most important woman around Wangye? She still has errands in the mansion. Why did you bring her out?”
The private room fell into a brief silence. After that, Tang Shishi said with great blessings, “Miss Xi, thank you for your affection, you flatter me too much. Wangye is generous and spared his servants from working on the Spring Festival holidays. Moreover, I’m no longer serving in the outer study room.”
The other madams did not even notice the maids behind them. In their opinion, the maids were all lowly and were born with the life of carrying shoes for them. How could they pay attention to them? After she was mentioned by Xi Yunchu, all the talented people looked at Tang Shishi.
It was fine not to look, but everyone was surprised just by one look at her. Who was this person who was born so slender and beautiful? Madam Lu sized up Tang Shishi from head to toe, and from toe to face, unexpectedly she could not find a flaw.
Madam Lu was very shocked. Her first thought was glad that this woman was not accepted into the Lu family. The second thought was worry that this woman was so beautiful. Even though she still dressed up as a young lady now, she would be accepted sooner or later. She wondered whether she would pose a threat to Lu Yufei?
Lu Yufei saw that all the madams were silent, she smiled and mediated, “This is Tang Shishi, not from Xiping, but was sent from the Imperial Palace. Although Miss Tang didn’t say anything, actually she is a beautiful young lady from the second year of Shentai, who came from the national selection. After entering the Imperial Palace, she defeated many princes and officials’ daughters, and was sent by the Empress Dowager as the leader to serve in the Jing Wang mansion.”
When the madams and married women heard it, they suddenly realized what it meant and became more vigilant in their hearts. Such a talented and beautiful woman with the Imperial Court as a backer behind her was the woman which a legitimate wife simply did not want to meet. It was unknown to them whether she served Jing Wang or Shizi.
The madams secretly glanced at Xi Yunchu and exchanged meaningful glances with each other. Looking at the Xi family’s stomping spirit, it was most likely Jing Wang.
Xi Yunchu’s eyes at Tang Shishi were not friendly. She already knew Tang Shishi a long time ago. Last year, when she learned that the imperial court had sent a team of beauties to Jing Wang, Xi Yunchu was so annoyed. When she met the beauties later, Xi Yunchu’s annoyances had reached her peak.
Among them, the most outstanding one was Tang Shishi. A woman’s intuition was always strange and accurate. When Xi Yunchu first met Tang Shishi, she felt that this woman was definitely not a good thing and would certainly become her number one threat in the future. Obviously, the other nine beauties were not bad, but no one gave Xi Yunchu a strong sense of crisis like Tang Shishi.
To make matters worse, the development of the facts confirmed Xi Yunchu’s worries one by one. Tang Shishi survived well in the Jing Wang mansion and later went to serve in the study room. Even the last time she was in the mountain villa, Tang Shishi accompanied Jing Wang by his side.
How could Xi Yunchu not worry? Madam Xi always comforted her that there was a difference between wives and concubines. She was the legitimate wife, so no need to make things difficult for herself with a person who served on the bed. After Xi Yunchu entered the mansion, would Tang Shishi still not let Xi Yunchu play with her? But Xi Yunchu just could not swallow her anger. She had been looking forward to it for many years to marry Jing Wang, from young to adulthood, then and only then did she finally see a tiny bit of hope. Who was Tang Shishi? For what reason did she put her hand in?
Xi Yunchu felt uncomfortable, and naturally, her tone was not at all friendly. She raised her voice, neither too light nor too heavy, “It turns out that it was Wangye’s kindness. Wangye was really kind to his servants. He did not go out to the Dragon Boat Festival, but he let you go out for a walk in the spring. You’d better repay Wangye for his kindness and don’t forget your own identity.”
Xi Yunchu seemed to be saying good things, but in fact, she was secretly taunting Tang Shishi between the lines, admonishing Tang Shishi not to be confused about her identity.
Madam Lu made up her mind not to get involved in the power struggle within the mansion, but she could not help frowning when she heard this. Xi Yunchu had not been betrothed yet, and yet she already playing the Wangfei’s prestige? If her daughter interfered in her husband’s affairs impatiently before marriage, Madam Lu would be too ashamed to go out for half a year. Madam Xi, who was a mother, did not care at all?
Madam Lu secretly took a look at Madam Xi’s face, only to see Madam Xi was fanning her moon-shaped fan and staring at Tang Shishi condescendingly without any intention of disciplining her daughter. Madam Lu understood that Madam Xi did not think that her daughter’s action was inappropriate, maybe she thought that Xi Yunchu did the right thing, which greatly gave the Xi family prestige. The vixen in her husband’s family should be beaten hard.
Besides Madam Lu, the other madams were silent. They did not say anything on the surface, but they secretly shook their heads in their hearts. How to say, Zhao Chengjun indeed had a marriage contract with Xi Yunwan, but first of all, it was her older sister and secondly, the marriage did not succeed. How could Madam Xi regard herself as the mother-in-law in every way and now, she even disciplined the people around Jing Wang? To put it bluntly, even after marriage, Jing Wang might not be willing to let Xi Yunchu move his people.
However, Xi Yunchu was in full swing, and it was rumored that she was about to marry into the Jing Wang mansion. Who was too idle to worry about other people’s daughters? Everyone was calm, either looking at the scenery or looking down at their nails, but they did not look at the scene, let alone speak up for Tang Shishi.
The whole private room was so quiet. Tang Shishi bowed her head, concealed the look in her eyes, and said calmly, “Yes. Thank you for your guidance, Miss Xi. I will remember what you said today.”
After Tang Shishi responded, Lu Yufei was afraid of Xi Yunchu would flare up again and might not have an end today. Lu Yufei quickly smiled and tried to smooth things over, “Why do you say these serious things on such a great day. Look quickly, the dragon boats are drawn out. Is it about to start?”
The madams responded immediately and dragged Xi Yunchu away. There was a deliberate excitement in the private room. The madams and young ladies gathered around the railing to watch the dragon boats. The maids followed their respective masters, and soon the viewing platform was blocked with no room left. Tang Shishi stood at the very back, and when no one was paying attention to her, she left quietly.
When Tang Shishi went downstairs, just after one floor, she was stopped by Feng Qian, “Sister Tang, please stay!”
Tang Shishi pretended not to hear and continued to move forward. Feng Qian ran a few steps quickly and just caught up with Tang Shishi from behind, “Sister Tang, how can you walk so fast?”
Tang Shishi secretly rolled her eyes, this pest was simply endless. Tang Shishi could not disdain her enough, but when she turned around, she immediately put on a surprised and sorry expression, “Sister Feng, why is it you? It was noisy outside just now and I didn’t hear your voice. Have you been chasing for a long time? Your body is weak, and you can easily lose your life when running or jumping too much. Why don’t you pay attention to yourself?”
Feng Qian’s expression remained the same, and she still held Tang Shishi’s hand with a smile, “I’m worried that Sister Tang will be sad, so I came here to accompany you. Sister, you would not care what Second Miss Xi said earlier, right?”
Tang Shishi disdained and said with a smile, “Second Miss Xi kindly reminded me. She is doing it for my good. Why do I mind? Sister Feng, you are too attentive. You’re so attentive to things that I didn’t even pay attention to. It’s not good like this and easy to be short-lived.”
Feng Qian, even if she had been self-restraint since childhood, could not hold on at the moment. Tang Shishi was really lacking in virtue and cursed people for being short-lived at every turn.
Feng Qian’s smile froze for a moment and soon returned to normal and said affectionately to Tang Shishi, “Sister Tang, today is the Dragon Boat Festival, the day of family reunion. Shizifei and others were having fun upstairs. Let’s find a place to talk.”
Naturally, Tang Shishi was unwilling, but she was entangled by Feng Qian and could not get away for a while. Thus, Tang Shishi could only agree. The two of them found a quiet corner and sat down opposite each other.
Feng Qian personally poured a cup of tea for Tang Shishi and said, “Sister Tang, I was really going to fight the injustices for you just now, but it’s a pity that my humble position does not carry many weights, and I can’t speak up for my sister. Second Miss Xi spoke like a mistress and criticized you, but she didn’t realize that she is just an unmarried lady. So, how can she be qualified to pick on Sister Tang? Wangye loves Sister Tang so much that he is reluctant to beat or punish and not willing to ground you for too long. Why should she bully you?”
These kinds of words could listen only and if taken seriously, would fall into the trap. Tang Shishi picked up the teacup, took a sip slowly, and said, “Second Miss Xi is a treasure in the palm of her parents and being pampered since childhood. She will be protected by Jing Wang in the future, so it’s right to be squeamish. On the contrary, you have a weak body, and no backing in the mansion, so you can’t speak ill of the prospective Wangfei.”
Tang Shishi felt that Feng Qian was being sincere when she said that she wanted to fight the injustices for Tang Shishi. In fact, Tang Shishi did not care at all. What did Tang Shishi care about? Now everyone tacitly agreed that Xi Yunchu would marry as a Wangfei, but Jing Wang had not made any promises yet. Could it be that this was a good thing?
Besides, Tang Shishi had adjusted her life goal to be the future imperial court female official. She and the Wangfei were completely two hierarchies. Zhao Chengjun personally promised her. So, why was Tang Shishi afraid of her?
Tang Shishi said she did not care, but Feng Qian refused to believe it. Feng Qian thought that Tang Shishi was trying to look cheerful and talked endlessly to ease out her anxiety. Tang Shishi responded with “En, En”, but her mind flew elsewhere unconsciously.
Tang Shishi and Feng Qian were sitting on the second floor. From their position, they could see that a young lady in green clothes was bullied and splashed with water in the side hall on the first floor. The hall below was roaring with laughter while the young lady in green clothes stood in place, stunned for a while. After everyone left, she was so angry that she cried, but she could not do anything. After a while, she took her maid and went outside.
She covered her face with a handkerchief when she went out, looking very embarrassed. Tang Shishi knew that this young lady came from an ordinary family situation, or her situation in the home was not good that she did not even bring spare clothes along. She had only one suit that she could see guests, and there was no way to replace it, so she could only go home regretfully.
Tang Shishi accidentally caught a glimpse of the various forms of living beings. She sighed for a moment and did not take it seriously. Everyone had their own life, it was fine to just look at it, but it was not worthwhile to take it seriously.
Feng Qian was still holding her hand, talking nonsense. Tang Shishi drank a cup of tea, and Feng Qian still had not finished. Tang Shishi could not bear it and brushed away Feng Qian’s hand, “I’m going to the restroom. Sister Feng, please wait for me for a while. I’ll come back soon.”
Tang Shishi was afraid that Feng Qian would want to accompany her, so she quickly walked away. It was rare that Feng Qian did not follow her this time. Tang Shishi went downstairs, carefully avoided Feng Qian, and walked to a quiet place.
Tang Shishi went to the restroom was fake, but it was true that she wanted to take the opportunity to sneak away. Feng Qian was really annoying. Wangjiang Pavilion was for high officials and noble people to play around and many exotic flowers and rare plants around. Tang Shishi found an empty corner, sat behind a willow tree, and stared at the water in a daze.
While overcoming her boredom, Tang Shishi suddenly heard a familiar voice from the opposite side, “That’s good, there is no one here. What do you want to report?”
Tang Shishi blinked, and quickly returned to her senses. This was… Zhao Zixun’s voice?
Tang Shishi was sitting behind the willow tree, her angle was blocked by the tree, and no one could see her if no one paid attention to it. Seeing that it was quiet and calm, Zhao Zixun mistakenly thought that there was no one around.
Tang Shishi leaned over the railing and did not dare to move. The other two spoke in low voices. Their voices came across water intermittently, “…Shizi, you’d better return to the mansion as soon as possible. The news from Xiao Wu said that Wangye will leave soon.”
“What, today?” Zhao Zixun sounded very surprised, “Today’s Dragon Boat Festival. Why doesn’t my father leave after the festival?”
“Wangye investigated the matters of Suzhou and discover something strange in Heishui City. The border is in danger, and Wangye has no time to wait. He must leave as soon as possible.”
Lu Yufei was watching the dragon boats upstairs, and Zhao Zixun was also socializing at the male guest banquet. Zhao Chengjun had never liked this kind of occasion, so Zhao Zixun attended on his behalf. Zhao Zixun knew that Zhao Chengjun was very busy recently, but he did not expect that Zhao Chengjun would be leaving so soon.
Not only was Zhao Zixun surprised, but Tang Shishi was also shocked. After Zhao Zixun and his men went away, Tang Shishi came out from behind the willow tree. She walked upstairs while lifting her skirt, convincing herself as she walked.
Everyone only cared about their own matters regardless of other people’s matters. It was enough for her to be herself and not to be nosy. Zhao Chengjun originally would not have had an accident. If she jumped out anxiously, would not she throw herself into the net?
Maybe, Zhao Chengjun was waiting for this day. Her goal was to be an imperial court female official, serving Zhao Chengjun or Empress Dowager Yao, it made no difference to her. If she did not move now and Jing Wang met with an accident by chance, she could still go back to Empress Dowager Yao. If she moved now, it would completely block her escape route.
Granny Wu had only told Tang Shishi who was an outsider about the assassination. Once it was exposed, Granny Wu could trace it back to Tang Shishi without guessing. Tang Shishi bore the lives of all Tang family members. How many people would she kill if something happened to her?
There was heavy thunder in the sky, and a gust of wind rose from the ground causing Tang Shishi’s skirts to flutter in the wind. All of a sudden, Tang Shishi ran out as fast as she could like crazy.