IBTBTED Chapter 76
It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager
Chapter 76 Conferment
Empress Dowager Yao finally raised up some spirit. She let go of the birdcage, and the palace maids on both sides immediately came forward to wipe Empress Dowager Yao’s nails. Without looking back, Empress Dowager Yao raised her eyelids and asked, “Didn’t he say he doesn’t want to marry a wife? Which lady has such charm that can make Jing Wang change his mind?”
Feng Momo’s expression changed slightly to a little more meaningful. She came close and whispered, “Empress Dowager, you know this person. It’s Tang Shishi.”
Empress Dowager Yao raised her eyebrows, obviously surprised, “Tang Shishi?”
“It’s the woman you picked out from last year’s selection and sent to Jing Wang’s fiefdom.”
“I remember her.” Empress Dowager Yao raised her hand and Feng Momo at once came forward, held Empress Dowager Yao’s hand, and carefully served the Empress Dowager to sit down. After sitting down, Empress Dowager Yao looked at her nails and said, “There were so many beautiful women selected from nationwide and she’s the only one who is most outstanding among them. Obviously wearing the same clothes, but standing in the crowd, she was so dazzling. So many young ladies of high-ranking officials have become her foil. I have seen many beauties in the past many years, but only two people can convince me. One is her, and the other was Imperial Concubine Gonglie.”
Imperial Concubine Gonglie… Feng Momo became nervous all over when she heard this name, “Niangniang, it’s already a thing of the past. Why do you mention her for?”
“Yes, it’s been a long time.” Empress Dowager Yao was not satisfied no matter how she looked at her nails. She put her fingers on the armrest and said flatly, “Imperial Concubine Guo Gonglie had been dead for twelve years, and my Ting’er had gone for five years. Of those cursed people back then, only me and he were left.”
Feng Momo knelt down to beat Empress Dowager Yao’s legs and dared not answer. Imperial Concubine Guo Gonglie and Jing Wang were the obstacles that Empress Dowager could not get through. Whoever mentioned this would be unlucky. It was no wonder that Empress Dowager Yao’s mind was hard to be peaceful. When she was the Empress, she could not compete with Imperial Concubine Guo Gonglie. After she finally became Empress Dowager with great difficulty, she obviously won but Zhao Chengting died young, leaving Empress Dowager Yao with white hair sending black hair. However, Zhao Chengjun, who everyone thought was bound to die back then, lived longer and longer and grew into a tiger that could not be moved.
How could Empress Dowager Yao swallow this breath? Fortunately, over the years, Zhao Chengjun had been working hard and still had no sons. If Zhao Chengjun gave birth to several legitimate sons, Empress Dowager Yao would die from being too angry.
But then again, the reason why Empress Dowager Yao could endure Zhao Chengjun for many years, to a significant extent, was because Zhao Chengjun had no heirs, not even a legitimate wife. As for his adopted son, Empress Dowager Yao did not put him in her eyes at all as he was not of Zhao’s family. He could change his family name but would never change his skin. So, he could not be counted.
Empress Dowager Yao did not hope Zhao Chengjun to have descendants. If he had no wife and children, then it would be a good thing for him to stay in the Northwest to guard the land for Zhun’er. However, if he had a son, then it would be different.
Empress Dowager Yao asked, “I remember that His Highness the Fourth Prince was not a good talker in those years. He has extremely high standards, and even a little bit of lacking in his basic necessities would not be up to his level. How come he thought of establishing Tang Shishi as his Wangfei?”
Feng Momo gently beat Empress Dowager Yao’s legs and said carefully, “Although Tang Shishi’s background is not high, she is really good-looking. Maybe, Jing Wang also cannot pass the beauty trap.”
Empress Dowager Yao laughed when she heard this, “Him? If that’s the case, Tang Shishi has made meritorious deeds. Unfortunately, that good son of mine is not a person who will be confused by beauty.”
When it concerned Jing Wang, Feng Momo did not dare to express her opinions lightly. She changed her perspective and carefully tested Empress Dowager’s mind, “I have something in my mind, but I don’t know if it is inappropriate to say it or not.”
Empress Dowager Yao looked tired and said casually, “Say it.”
“The spy from the Jing Wang mansion reported that Jing Wang suddenly establishes Tang Shishi as Wangfei was all because Tang Shishi is pregnant.”
“Pregnant?” Empress Dowager Yao was slightly surprised and immediately understood, “No wonder, it makes sense. I said, how could he have thought of beautiful things in life, and still select the person sent by me? So, it’s because of the child.”
Empress Dowager Yao thought she had seen through the inside story of the Jing Wang mansion and was able to obtain victory instantly, skillfully, and easily. Empress Dowager Yao leaned on the armrest in deep thought. Feng Momo dared not disturb and quietly beat her legs for Empress Dowager Yao.
After a while, Empress Dowager Yao asked slowly, “Tang Shishi, is she a trustworthy person?”
Feng Momo dared not say anything about Jing Wang, but Tang Shishi was not a problem. Feng Momo was very certain and said calmly, “She should be fine. She is neither clever nor alert and is utterly useless except for her beautiful face. How can she have the courage to betray Niangniang? To say something disrespectful, even if she has the courage, she doesn’t have that brain. I guessed that Tang Shishi hooked up with Jing Wang by virtue of her beauty. After all, men always can’t resist beauty. Unexpectedly, Tang Shishi was lucky and became pregnant in one fell swoop. Jing Wang could only establish Tang Shishi as Wangfei for the sake of his heir.”
Empress Dowager Yao also somewhat agreed with Feng Momo’s words. Empress Dowager Yao did not expect that Zhao Chengjun was actually willing to let Tang Shishi be Wangfei. Even for the sake of his son’s good birth, he would not give up his legitimate wife’s position.
However, Empress Dowager Yao had a second thought that Zhao Chengjun had no interest to have a son for so many years, and perhaps, he was anxious to have his eldest son. Empress Dowager Yao could fully understand when she thought in this way. Although Empress Dowager Yao made a small plan to delay Zhao Chengjun’s marriage and gave him a reputation for jinxing his wife, this was not a long-term plan. After all, Zhao Chengjun who was a powerful feudal prince in his prime had no excuse for not marrying a wife. If his wife-to-be died a few more, then Empress Dowager Yao would not look good.
It was better to let him marry Tang Shishi as her family background was not helpful. She was stupid and loved vanity, easy to be manipulated. The only thing that needed to be guarded was whether Tang Shishi would give birth to two hearts when she really gave birth to a son.
Empress Dowager Yao said leisurely, “It’s been a year since you last saw her. She has not seen Zhao Chengjun before, so she naturally favored you wholeheartedly. Now it has been a year, I’m afraid it’s hard to say whether her heart is still there.”
Feng Momo frowned, still did not think Tang Shishi would betray her. If it was Zhou Shunhua or Ren Yujun, Feng Momo would have a question mark, but Tang Shishi?
How could that be possible?
Feng Momo said, “Perhaps Niangniang worries too much. The spy said that this past year, Tang Shishi has been working hard in the mansion, constantly separating the relationship between Jing Wang and his son, and repeatedly defending her beautiful peers. It’s a pity that her brain is not very good, there were fewer successes and more failures. This time her pregnancy was an accident. At first, the mansion thought Tang Shishi has an affair with an outside man and almost aborted her unborn child. After the incident was revealed, Jing Wang immediately confined Tang Shishi. He was so strict that the spies couldn’t get in touch with Tang Shishi at all. But the spy privately checked that Tang Shishi indeed didn’t want the child, and even secretly bought abortion medicine. After being discovered by someone later, she had no choice but to admit her fate.”
Empress Dowager Yao felt a lot more at ease when she heard Tang Shishi got the medicine herself. If she was an ambitious person, and after knowing that she was pregnant with Jing Wang’s heir, she would definitely do every possible means to borrow her son to climb up. How could she quietly get the abortion medicine? It could be seen that Tang Shishi really did not want to marry Jing Wang. Thus, this chess piece still could be trusted.
Empress Dowager Yao was overjoyed with a rare smile on her face, “She is loyal and kind and not forgetting her initial intention. Actually, she is useful. I have been worried about Jing Wang’s affairs for many years for fear of delaying Jing Wang’s marriage and will not be able to see Shizong in the future. Unexpectedly, his marriage is here already. When our dynasty marries an imperial concubine, we do not look at her family background, but only look at her talent and virtue. Tang Shishi’s background is innocent and honest, and best to be Wangfei. I sent people thousands of miles away, but I didn’t expect to achieve marriage. This is a joyous occasion and should be rewarded.”
When Feng Momo heard this, she knew it was done. She also felt relieved and congratulated Empress Dowager Yao, “Congratulations, Niangniang. You have solved a big worry.”
Was not it true? Empress dowager Yao did not want Zhao Chengjun to marry, but at the same time, she could not let him not marry. This was naturally a joyous occasion to find a person who was not threatening and biased towards the imperial palace to fill in the position of Wangfei. Empress Dowager Yao smiled without saying anything. After thinking about it for a while, she said, “This marriage is matchmade by me and it must handle well. If I know that someone is playing tricks, perfunctory or contemptuous because Tang Shishi came from a merchant family, then I will not forgive him.”
Feng Momo responded, “I understand. I will make it clear to the Superintendent of Rites at once and let them drape the memorial of requesting conferment in red silk.”
“En.” Empress Dowager Yao thought for a while and felt that giving marriage was not enough to show the benevolence of a mother, and also said, “Tang Shishi’s family is in Linqing, so it’s inconvenient to marry off their daughter. Although she is not from the Imperial Palace, she was sent out by me, and I also regard myself as half of her natal family. Open my chest and I’ll add some dowries to her.”
Feng Momo was taken aback when she heard that Tang Shishi could make Empress Dowager add dowries. Tang Shishi’s good fortune was really big. It could be seen that one’s luck could not be said too early.
Feng Momo respectfully agreed. At the same time, she secretly planned that she would have to beat the eunuch of the internal affairs supervisor for a while so that they could be more vigilant when preparing for Jing Wangfei’s clothes. The clothes and utensils of Wangfei’s marriage were all bestowed from the Imperial Court, which best reflect the official attitude. These ceremonial utensils were the face of Wangfei, and the face of Tang Shishi was the face of Empress Dowager.
Empress Dowager Yao did not need to worry about these things. She just needed to show her attitude, and the rest would be handled by her own people. After Empress Dowager Yao gave her instructions, she immediately left the matter of Tang Shishi behind and asked, “Where is His Majesty? What is he doing?”
Speaking of this, Feng Momo had a dilemma and said carefully, “His Majesty is practicing with the powerful army on the west side. He is preparing for danger in times of peace and pays attention to martial arts, which shows that he is a powerful monarch who opens up territory.”
Empress Dowager Yao sneered when she heard it and said coldly, “I’m already thankful that I also didn’t demand him to open up the remote areas, defend the ancestor’s foundation, and don’t let anyone exploit by loopholes. Is he still reluctant to consummate marriage with Pei’er?”
Feng Momo was embarrassed and said, “His Majesty is still young. Young people like to fight and kill and have not been enlightened yet. When he tastes the beauty of women, he will understand.”
When Feng Momo said that, she was not optimistic in her heart. The family name of Pei’er that Empress Dowager Yao mentioned was Yao. She was the daughter of Princess Nanyang and the granddaughter of Empress Dowager. In order to promote her natal family, Empress Dowager Yao married her eldest daughter Princess Nanyang to her nephew Yao Zhang. Later when Emperor Xiaozong died of illness, Zhao Zizhun who was only eight years old succeeded the throne. Empress Dowager Yao became the grandma-Empress Dowager. According to reason, Empress Dowager Yao had reached the pinnacle of power, and no one in the world could disobey her, but Empress Dowager Yao was still worried. She took the daughter of Princess Nanyang, Yao Pei’er into the palace and promised to be Zhao Zizhun’s empress to continue to strengthen the power of the Yao family.
In the first place, it was not a big deal to marry one’s own cousin, and which influential family members did not start like this. However, the embarrassment was that Yao Pei’er was six years older than Zhao Zizhun.
How could an eight-year-old boy who married a 14-year-old female cousin develop a relationship between male and female? After Yao Pei’er entered the emperor’s palace, she became chaste and was still a virgin. At first, everyone thought it was nothing as Zhao Zizhun was still young and he would understand as he got older. However, five years later when Yao Pei’er was eighteen and Zhao Zizhun had reached puberty, he still had no physical intimacy with the Empress.
Empress Dowager Yao, and Princess Nanyang, including the Yao family, were extremely anxious. However, there was no way to deal with such matters urgently. Emperor was such a big living person that they simply could not tie Emperor to Yao Pei’er’s bed, could they? The Empress had become the first embarrassment in the Imperial Palace. People in the Imperial Palace knew that the Empress had been in the Imperial Palace for five years, but no one dared to say it and carefully avoided this matter.
Empress Dowager Yao was anxious and angry. Zhao Chengting died early and left only a son, Zhao Zizhun behind who was not born from a legitimate wife but a humble palace young lady. Empress Dowager Yao looked down on Zhao Zizhun’s origin and could not stand her son’s only son and heir. Despite everything, Empress Dowager Yao had no other choice but to support Zhao Zizhun to the throne and killed Zhao Zizhun’s biological mother at once.
In the imperial harem, there would never be empress dowagers in the east and west of the Imperial Palace. She was the only elder around.
Empress Dowager Yao pinned all her hopes on Zhao Zizhun, but Zhao Zizhun was involved in cockfighting, walking with horses, studying strange skills, training with the imperial guards, and just not doing any serious business. Seeing that Zhao Chengjun was about to have a legitimate heir, Zhao Zizhun had yet to consummate with Yao Peier.
Empress Dowager Yao was so angry that she slammed the armrest hard with a calm face, and said, “He is a young man, but no matter how sensible he is, the throne will be calculated and taken away. Call him back from the west side. If anyone dares to hook His Majesty for fun in the future, they all will be beaten to death!”
Feng Momo responded hurriedly. Empress Dowager Yao was angry for a while, calmed down, and said, “Call Empress too. They are a young couple with tender skins, and I have to be the matchmaker between them. It’s a good thing that His Majesty’s Uncle Jing is going to marry a wife. Call both of them, I want to talk to them.”
The Jing Wang mansion.
Since Zhao Chengjun came back and made it clear that this was his heir, the treatment of Tang Shishi immediately rose like a rocket. There was an endless stream of people who came to curry favor with Tang Shishi every day, but Liu Ji was strict except for a few specific faces and the rest were not allowed to enter.
Zhao Chengjun did not return to Suzhou but stayed in the mansion and controlled the frontier military remotely. Zhao Chengjun was very busy these days, but no matter how busy he was, he would find time to come over in the evening to accompany Tang Shishi to have a meal.
Tang Shishi’s ambitious dream of becoming the empress dowager had only been a few days before it was beaten to the ground by reality. Her morning sickness was very serious, especially these few days, that she almost vomited whatever she ate.
Zhao Chengjun came to accompany Tang Shishi for the evening meal today, and the kitchen knew that Wangye was also in the Jianjia courtyard, so the evening meal was especially sumptuous. Zhao Chengjun picked up a piece of tofu for Tang Shishi and said, “You have a bad appetite these days. Eat more food that is easy to digest and recover your health as soon as possible. Others will gain weight during pregnancy, and you, on the contrary, are thinner than before pregnancy.”
Tang Shishi looked at the table full of dishes and really had no appetite. She poked the tofu with chopsticks, and said eccentrically, “According to Wangye, you disdain me for not looking good? It’s hard to be a woman, have to suffer and get pregnant, and then cannot be fat or thin after pregnancy.”
Zhao Chengjun could not help but heave a sigh, “I’ve never said this before. You can’t be scornful.”
“You think I’m scornful!” Tang Shishi suddenly got excited. She spoke too quickly, and another round of nausea came inadvertently. Tang Shishi quickly retched at one side, Zhao Chengjun put down his chopsticks, walked to her side, and slowly patted her back.
Tang Shishi hardly ate anything today but now she vomited out all yellow bile. Zhao Chengjun felt the thin back under his palm, and his eyes were worried.
Tang Shishi did not eat much at all and now, she vomited everything out. Dujuan skillfully held a spittoon and helped Tang Shishi to wipe and rinse her mouth. After Tang Shishi vomited out all the liquid, her whole body became weak, and lifelessly leaned on the arhat couch.
Zhao Chengjun sat next to her and held Tang Shishi’s hand. Seeing that her fingertips were cold, his heart became even more worried. Zhao Chengjun asked, “Eat a little bit more food since you didn’t eat much today. I will let the kitchen make whatever you want to eat.”
Tang Shishi thought for a while and shook her head weakly. Zhao Chengjun said, “You can’t be like this. If you continue to be like this, don’t talk about the child, you can’t even support yourself. Be good, eat a little bit more.”
Tang Shishi was unwilling and did not want to make things difficult for herself at all. Zhao Chengjun had people come over with a bowl, took the spoon in his own hand, and fed Tang Shishi bit by bit. Tang Shishi often needed to rest awhile after she took two bites, and Zhao Chengjun sat next to her and waited patiently. Tang Shishi only ate half a bowl, waved her hands repeatedly, and refused to eat anymore.
With such a small amount of appetite, the people serving on both sides were exhausted and sweating all over. Zhao Chengjun put down the bowl, picked up a plum, and put it in her mouth, “You eat too little. Later, let the kitchen cook a few more meals and eat a few more meals to slowly make up for it.”
Liu Ji responded on the side and thought quietly that Tang Shishi did not eat much at every meal, then, in that case, eat a few more meals. Wangye’s idea was good but the people who served would have a tough time.
Tang Shishi had five or six meals a day, and the kitchen could not do anything else. The whole mansion was tormented to follow Tang Shishi. Indeed, men could not be judged by their looks. It was hard to tell when Wangye was not married yet and now, no one would expect him to be a pamperer after having a wife and child.