It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager
Chapter 102 Wife and Child
The rain outside has turned into a drizzle and would not matter if without an umbrella. Tang Shishi motioned Dujuan to retreat. She picked up her cloak and ran to Zhao Chengjun, “Wangye.”
Seeing that she chased after him without an umbrella, Zhao Chengjun’s face sunk and reprimanded lightly, “Mischievous, why don’t you bring an umbrella?”
“The umbrella is too cumbersome. The rain has already stopped. It doesn’t matter if I don’t have the umbrella.” Tang Shishi chased Zhao Chengjun and leaned against Zhao Chengjun naturally. Zhao Chengjun had no choice but to reach out his hand to block the rain from above.
He was robust with a strong body and did not matter if he was caught in the rain but how could Tang Shishi do this? Tang Shishi leaned against Zhao Chengjun and asked, “Wangye is not happy?”
“Can I be happy?” Zhao Chengjun said in a bad tone, “I originally thought that although he was addicted to women’s charms, he still has a clear idea of right and wrong. Now, it seems that I overestimate him.”
Tang Shishi rolled her eyes, and said gently, “Zhou Shunhua has been with Shizi for three years, earlier than Shizifei. If you hadn’t stepped in, the person Shizi wanted to marry would always be her.”
Zhao Chengjun snorted coldly and glanced down at Tang Shishi, “Whose side are you on?”
“Of course, I’m siding with Wangye ah.” Tang Shishi instigated with composure, “Shizi is good at everything except he’s confused about women’s charms. Anyway, Shizi will inherit the prince’s mansion in the future, and he will be the biggest person in the Northwest. What else can he worry about? If he’s confused about women, he’s just confused as he’s not the emperor and not afraid that women’s charms will harm the country.”
The speaker said it casually, but the listener thought it differently. Zhao Chengjun became even more silent. If he was just an ordinary vassal monarch, the rank of nobility and official career has already come to an end, and there was really nothing to pay attention to. However, Zhao Zixun was not.
As Zhao Chengjun was interested in the world, then Zhao Zixun must be trained according to the crown prince. It would not harm ordinary people to favor the concubines and neglected their wives. However, if an emperor or taizi was confused about women, then it would be big trouble.
Zhao Chengjun did not talk anymore all the way and Tang Shishi knew when to stop. She followed Zhao Chengjun obediently without mentioning Shizi’s matters again. After returning to Yan’an courtyard, Tang Shishi went to see Zhao Zigao as soon as she entered the door, while Zhao Chengjun asked for a handkerchief and water for Tang Shishi first as soon as he entered the door.
She was caught in the rain all the way back. Although it was just drizzling, her hair was still wet. Zhao Chengjun entered the inner room and saw Tang Shishi holding Zhao Zigao and muttered, “You’re heartless. I’m not here all afternoon and you don’t even miss me? You actually had a fun time with the wet nurse. If I knew earlier, I wouldn’t come back.”
Zhao Chengjun was helpless and motioned the maids and older women to go out. He pulled Tang Shishi to sit down, used the handkerchief to wrap her hair, and wiped it slowly, “You ah. If he misses you until he cries, you’ll be distressed. If he doesn’t cry, you’re jealous. Can’t you think better of other people?”
Tang Shishi was angry and glanced at Zhao Chengjun angrily, “I am so narrow-minded and short-sighted. If Wangye dislikes me, find a generous and virtuous woman.”
“Look at you, here you go again.” Zhao Chengjun pulled Tang Shishi back and said seriously, “Don’t move. Your hair hasn’t dried yet.”
Tang Shishi’s hair was only wet with moisture and would dry out quickly. On the contrary, Zhao Chengjun who rarely got angry would get into old problems when he got angry. Seeing that he frowned and did not speak, Tang Shishi asked softly, “Wangye, you have a headache again?”
Zhao Chengjun gave a faint “En”. Tang Shishi’s handed Zhao Zigao to Zhao Chengjun and said, “Here, hold him.”
Zhao Chengjun was caught off guard and was stuffed with Zhao Zigao. He hugged him subconsciously and asked, “What are you doing?”
Tang Shishi took off her shoes, hopped on the couch, moved behind Zhao Chengjun, kneading Zhao Chengjun’s temples with a pair of slender hands, and slowly making a circle, “Wangye, are you feeling better now?”
Zhao Chengjun did not expect this development and found it funny, “It’s much better. It’s enough for you to have this intention. Come down.”
“No, I’m a good wife and a loving mother. Since Wangye has a headache, of course, I have to share the worries for Wangye.” Tang Shishi kneeled on her knees to massage and asked while kneading, “Wangye, didn’t Yinger’s things were burned? How did you find Zhou Shunhua’s hairpin?”
Zhao Chengjun said no on his mouth, but with his beloved wife on his side, he could not help closing his eyes and feeling the light and heavy kneading of Tang Shishi’s hands, “It’s quite simple. Whether in the harem of the imperial palace or the rear courtyard, no one is not greedy in any confined place. The maids said that they burned Yinger’s things and handed over all her other belongings to her brother and sister-in-law, but Yinger is dead and the person who handled it is alive. So, how can they not take one or two things in the passing? In particular, Zhou Shunhua had something entrusted to her and the things she used to bribe people’s hearts must be valuable, so the probability of being ignorant is even greater. All greedy people are afraid of death, so after being beaten one or two casually, they will say it right away.”
Tang Shishi was speechless when she heard what he said, “I thought I already understood the dark ditches of people’s hearts behind the scenes, but I didn’t expect Wangye to know better than me. Wangye was born as a prince. I heard that you were very favored in your early youth. How do you know this?”
Tang Shishi said it casually, but Zhao Chengjun suddenly felt distressed when he heard it. Zhao Chengjun knew it because he has a longer life experience and has seen more changes in human affairs, but how old was Tang Shishi? She understood this because she received a lot of cold treatment in her childhood.
Favored children were always unscrupulous. Only by knowing that they were not favored could they be sensible and understand the fickleness of human nature early on.
Zhao Chengjun held on Tang Shishi’s hand and suddenly asked, “Are you not favored in the Tang family when you were a child?”
“That’s right.” Tang Shishi let go of her hand and put her hands on Zhao Chengjun’s shoulder, “My mother doted on me and wished to grant whatever I asked for, but what she could do to me was very limited. I knew from a very young age that I have no right to choose. The good things in the home were given to my younger brother first, then to my second younger sister, and finally, it’s my turn.”
Zhao Chengjun only felt distressed when he heard this. His childhood was different from that of Tang Shishi, so much that it could even say to be the opposite. He had always been the priority one, and he had regarded this priority as a norm for many years. He had never thought about how the princes and princesses in the imperial palace who could not have a turn to have good things lived.
Zhao Chengjun asked, “Were you lacking in a lot of things?”
“No.” Tang Shishi broke into laughter. She leaned on Zhao Chengjun’s shoulder and rarely recalled what happened when she was a child. “The Tang family is the richest anyhow and Tang Mingzhe favor his concubine and neglect his wife, but Tang Mingzhe always wanted face. So, concubine Su won’t dare to be harsh on my basic needs. My life is carefree and at most, it’s just a dispute of sentiment.”
Life was carefree, but there were many trivial minor details. It was not Tang Shishi’s turn when the steward gave fresh fruits, it was not Tang Shishi’s turn to have the most fashionable jewelry in Linqing, and it was not Tang Shishi’s turn to change clothes when there was a banquet.
Lin Wanxi always used her own private money to subsidize her and wanted to make up for Tang Shishi. Tang Shishi should have what Tang Yanyan had. But where could such things be subsidized? Later, Tang Shishi did not let Lin Wanxi pay for it. Their mother and daughter existed in name only in the Tang family that was the reason why everyone dared to come up to take a bite. How could she let Lin Wanxi spend this unjust money?
Zhao Zigao was lying in Zhao Chengjun’s arms and his eyes wandering around as if he could understand his mother’s words. Zhao Chengjun was so distressed after listening and said, “You’ve been wronged, and your father was negligence in his duty.”
“If there’re any grievances, it’s all over.” Tang Shishi hugged Zhao Chengjun with both hands, changed her tone suddenly, and looked at Zhao Chengjun smilingly, “Wangye, after all, I was in my own home when I was in my boudoir, and I could endure it even if I was wronged. However, I’m at someone else’s home after I got married and there was no place for me to go even if I was wronged. My father favors his concubine and neglects his wife, and Shizi looks the same. If you favor your concubine and neglect your wife in the future, I can’t continue living and I can only go back to my natal family with Zhao Zigao.”
Zhao Chengjun sullen his face and shouted, “What nonsense are you talking about?”
“Look, you have begun to be fierce at me before you take a concubine.”
Zhao Chengjun held Zhao Zigao with one hand and held Tang Shishi with the other hand, then he pulled her to his side and hugged her tightly, “I won’t.”
Tang Shishi originally wanted to ask what he meant by would not. Was it he would not let her go back to her natal family, or he would not favor his concubine and neglect his wife? However, Zhao Zigao hiccupped, and Tang Shishi quickly patted his belly. When she came back, she had forgotten the earlier matter.
Tang Shishi still has to be more careful of those women. If another woman appeared beside him, no matter what the reason was, Tang Shishi and he would never recover as before, and his family would also fall apart accordingly.
Empress Dowager Yao and his imperial concubine mother were as powerful as water and fire. The three brothers including Zhao Chengjun had never regarded Zhao Chengting as brothers and presumably the same with Zhao Chengting. Zhao Chengjun hated Empress Dowager Yao, and he had brought pain to others too.
One mountain could not tolerate two tigers, so how could two women be accommodated in a family? It would be fine if his ambition was to be an idle prince with riches and honor and messing around until his death. Nonetheless, if he wanted to strive for higher achievements, he must stabilize his family properly.
He already has two sons under his knees. His eldest son was an adult, and his youngest son was so adorable. He did not have to worry about no successor and also could enjoy family happiness. Everything was just right. There were no regrets in other parts except for Zhao Zixun’s small family which was a complete mess. Zhao Chengjun cherished his life now and did not want anything to destroy it.
There would be no concubines in this life. If he obtained the great undertaking in the future, there would also be no imperial concubines.
It was enough to have her and her children.
After leaning against Zhao Chengjun for a while, Tang Shishi gradually felt that life was smooth and stable, and time was peaceful. If she could, she thought that it would be good to be like this all her life. The room was getting darker, but no one dared to come to light the lamps. After Zhao Chengjun thought for a moment, he told Tang Shishi, “When the future is stable, I’ll take you back to Linqing to have a look. How about that?”
“That’s great.” Tang Shishi responded readily with nostalgia in her tone, “This year is the seventh year of Shentai, and I have not returned for six years. In these six years, I don’t know what the river canal in Linqing has become like. However, Xiping has to take a dry road to Linqing with high mountains and long rivers. I am afraid it will not be an easy walk all the way.”
Zhao Chengjun did not answer. She thought that Zhao Chengjun meant the stability of Xiping province. But she did not know that Zhao Chengjun meant stability of the world.
At that time, they could take the waterway from Jinling to Linqing which was much safer along the canal than the dry road.
Zhao Chengjun said, “I’ll make other arrangements at that time, and won’t tire both of you and the child. By the way, you can clean up the mansion after Zhao Zixun matter, drive away those who should be driven away and sell those who should be sold. There’s no need to talk about face with them. There’s also Zhao Zixun’s rear courtyard. If you can them clean up, then clean them up as he has too many women.”
Tang Shishi smiled, raised her head up from Zhao Chengjun, and said “It’s fine to clean up the mansion, but I am afraid that it will be impossible to clean up Shizi’s rear courtyard. If I really do it, then Shizi will hate me for the rest of my life.”
“He dares.” Zhao Chengjun’s tone suddenly became more serious. He realized that he frightened Zhao Zigao and said in a softer voice, “Go ahead and do it without hesitating. If anyone has any objection, let them come to me. If Zhao Zixun dares to disrespect you, I’ll throw him into the barracks to sober him up.”
Tang Shishi smiled and nodded to respond. After Zhao Chengjun and Tang Shishi talked about this, Tang Shishi rectified the internal affairs with great fanfare and cleaned up the mansion the next day.
Many people in the mansion who were used to idle suddenly were taken over and complaints were heard everywhere. Tang Shishi did not care at all and kept the ones that were excusable and dismissed those who made too many mistakes with money. It was quick and ruthless action. Many people were dismissed before they could react.
Some older people refused to accept it and secretly went to Liu Ji and Tongxiu to redress their grievances. Liu Ji put his hands down and did not care, and Tongxiu did not dare to care. Therefore, all the people in the mansion saw clearly that Wangfei was executing people to warn others as per Wangye’s intention.
A few people failed to make a surge of trouble. Soon everyone was well obedient and did not dare to confront Tang Shishi again. At first, they thought that Tang Shishi was favored because she was pregnant with a child. Now they finally realized that Tang Shishi was just simply favored.
It has nothing to do with the child. She was the treasure held in the palm of Wangye’s hand.
Lu Yufei’s body was injured and suffered a great blow. She was bedridden for many days after the miscarriage. After receiving the news, Madam Lu rushed to visit Lu Yufei. Tang Shishi did not follow her but asked someone to send Madam Lu to the Yinian courtyard to have a good talk with Lu Yufei by herself.
Madam Lu had eased Lu Yufei’s anxiety for a long time. Then she came to Yan’an courtyard to thank Tang Shishi, “Thank you, Wangfei. My daughter has a high aspiration and an arrogant temperament. Failing to save the child can be regarded as her lesson. She told me everything that day. Thanked Wangfei for braving the rain and saying a fair word for her.”
In Tang Shishi’s heart, she did not do it for Lu Yufei. Instead, Tang Shishi said, “It’s my duty. Madam Lu doesn’t have to be polite. Everyone will feel bad when the child is gone. I hope Madam Lu will be able to ease Shizifei’s anxiety and get over it early. The most important is to nurse her body well.”
“I understand.” Madam Lu was more prudent when facing Tang Shishi now. She found that Zhao Zixun had no tenderness towards her daughter. On the contrary, he favored that woman with the family name Zhou and ignored Zhou Shunhua’s plot against his wife’s life under the disguised of pregnancy. Madam Lu was scared as Lu Yufei’s husband was so ruthless towards her even though she was still young. Lu Yufei was unable to bear children for several years. After she has nursed her body back, probably there would be many children born by those concubines and other new concubines in the rear courtyard. How could Lu Yufei spend the rest of her life in the long run?
Madam Lu was scared just thinking about it. Her husband was unreliable and she most likely would not have children again. All Lu Yufei could rely on was unexpectedly the young and favored mother-in-law, Tang Shishi. Pity the parents in the world. Madam Lu loved her daughter very much. She knew that Lu Yufei has offended Tang Shishi in the past. Now she could only double her smiling face and sensibly submitted to Tang Shishi, “My daughter has been spoiled in the boudoir and no sense of priorities. I heard that she had injured Wangfei’s pet before. Where is the fox? If it is injured, I have medicine here. Wangfei by all means just asks when running out of medicine or need a doctor. Someone in our village has raised a fox before. If Wangfei doesn’t mind, I’ll send that person to serve Wangfei?”
Tang Shishi was extremely uncomfortable when she saw that an elder who was twice her age flattered her like this. Tang Shishi could not help thinking that Lin Wanxi had no one to rely on when she was not around. Was it the same for her mother?
Tang Shishi felt difficult to bear thinking about it. For her mother’s sake, Tang Shishi said to Madam Lu politely, “No need, Wangye has sent the fox to be raised in the village. It’s closer to the grassland and lush with vegetation, which is more suitable for fox interests. Madam Lu has a talented person in hand, so it’s better to keep it for yourself.”
Madam Lu was sad that this was how it was to beg someone by abandoning her face to give a gift, but the other person did not accept it. Madam Lu really did not know what she could help Tang Shishi with. Tang Shishi has everything that Madam Lu could think of such as being favored, silver money, status, and including a child.
Madam Lu looked ashamed and said, “Wangfei does mind about the past and supported Yufei, but we can’t even repay decently. I don’t know what Wangfei likes. As long as I can help Wangfei, I will not hesitate to go through any danger.”
Madam Lu’s words were already quite flattering. After all, she was the Provincial Judge General’s wife. If it was not for her daughter, why should she be so humble? Tang Shishi could not help sighing and said truthfully, “I’m also a person with a child. I understand Madam’s mood. I appreciate your good intention, but I really have nothing missing here…”
Tang Shishi suddenly paused in the middle of talking. Madam Lu noticed it and hurriedly asked, “I know that Wangfei leads a life of luxury with no shortage of anything, but it’s my greatest wish to relieve Wangfei’s worries and make Wangfei happy. If Wangfei wants anything, just say it bluntly, as long as we are useful within the boundary of Xiping province, our Lu family is willing to risk any danger for you.”
In fact, Tang Shishi really has one thing that was inconvenient for her to come forward personally and that was the Xu family. The relationship between adoptive mother and biological mother was very awkward, especially after Tang Shishi gave birth to her own son. She and Madam Xu’s relationship were very tricky at this moment.
Tang Shishi’s ultimate goal was to abandon Zhao Zixun and change her son to be the crown prince. Swaying Zhao Chengjun’s mind was not done overnight, and the Xu family was a highly lethal chess piece.
It was fortunate that Madam Lu ran into her exactly at this moment. Master Lu was Xiping’s Provincial Judge General, and he was in charge of the province’s criminal charges. It would be easier to keep a close watch over one or two people. Moreover, Zhao Zixun’s uncle, Chen Tai, was idle and especially addicted to gambling.
This was just simply someone giving her a pillow when she was sleepy. She could use the Lu family to control the movement of the Xu family, and all she has to pay in return was to treat Lu Yufei better which was a completely no loss for Tang Shishi. Tang Shishi quickly made up her mind, signaled the maids to retreat, and said to Madam Lu slowly, “I shouldn’t have said these things to Madam Lu. It only made people laugh to say these things, but it was really a little troublesome.”
Madam Lu understood as soon as she heard it, and asked, “What is Wangfei troubled with? I wonder if I can help?”
“I can’t say it as troubles, just a small matter.” Tang Shishi covered her mouth with the action of fanning the fan and said softly, “Madam Lu should have heard of the Xu family, right? I heard that that Madam Xu misses her son very much. The people from her natal family also worry and often make some inquiries about Shizi’s news for Madam Xu. Normally, this kind of thing is a human feeling as the mother and son are connected by blood, and we can’t stop them. However, Wangye spend all his energy on Shizi and raised Shizi as his eldest son. Alas, how do you say this?”
It was never necessary to speak clearly when talking to a smart person. After all, Madam Lu was the wife of the Provincial Judge General who has been around for many years, and she has already understood, “Wangfei’s words are very reasonable. It must be resolved decisively. How can there be still lingering feelings after severing the relationship? Our master is in charge of sentencing in the prison and knows a lot of people. If there is anything, I will pass a message to Wangfei.”
Tang Shishi smiled and nodded while holding the fan, “Thank you, Madam Lu. Have to trouble Madam Lu later.”
Madam Lu had to say that she was relieved and said with ease, “It’s my duty to share the worries with Wangye. Besides, this is related to Yufei. As a mother, I should worry more about it. “
Madam Lu’s words were sincere. Lu Yufei was Shizifei, and it was already hard to serve Tang Shishi, the legitimate mother-in-law. If there was another mother-in-law, then how could she survive? The family they married was Jing Wang’s mansion which was not the inexplicable Xu family.
Madam Lu also wanted to solve the hidden dangers of the Xu family and cut off the contacts between Zhao Zixun and the Xu family.
After Madam Lu talked with Tang Shishi, both of them put down a big worry. Tang Shishi had an extra informer, and she was incredibly happy. However, not long after she relaxed this time, she was startled by an imperial decree to chaos.
“What, Empress Dowager Yao decreed us to go to the capital to celebrate New Year?”