IBTBTED Chapter 99
It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager
Chapter 99 Intimacy and Estrangement
At sunset in the seventh month, the sun had already set, and the sky appeared hazy blue. The cool breeze passed through the windowpanes, the bead curtains swayed slightly, and the colorful glass beads collided with each other making jingling sounds.
Tang Shishi propped her arm on the windowsill, fanning a fan while watching Zhao Zigao be trained inhumanely by his father. Tang Shishi looked at it for a while and said, “It’s not easy to sit down. Do you have to let him sit for a stick of incense time?”
Zhao Chengjun helped Zhao Zigao to sit properly, then let go of his hands and let him sit on the couch by himself. Zhao Zigao often fell backward after a short while. Zhao Chengjun caught him halfway and helped him to start a new round of timing.
Zhao Zigao did not know how many times he fell. He found that every time he fell backward, he would be caught by his father and then he would help him up again. He did not know that his father was training him, he just thought his father was playing with him and giggled with joy.
Tang Shishi sighed softly, “Oh, silly boy. You are still laughing when others bully you.”
Zhao Chengjun was also very helpless when he discovered that Zhao Zigao was having fun. Every time he just helped him up, Zhao Zigao purposely fell down. When he was caught by Zhao Chengjun, he clapped his hands happily. In this way, the more he played, the happier he became.
Zhao Chengjun could not help but sink his face slightly and said, “I’m not playing a trick with you. Sit properly. Don’t lie down until you have sat for a stick of incense time.”
Zhao Zigao was looking at Zhao Chengjun while smiling until his saliva drooled out. Tang Shishi was eating grapes in the back. When she saw Zhao Chengjun being slobbered by Zhao Zigao, she laughed and almost choked.
Zhao Chengjun helplessly wiped his hands with the handkerchief. After he put down the handkerchief, he saw Tang Shishi still coughing over there, so he personally handed her a cup of warm water, “He is still young, so forget it. What’s wrong with you?”
Tang Shishi drank water from Zhao Chengjun’s hand. After suppressing the itch in her throat, Tang Shishi was able to speak easily and scoffed at once, “Wangye is indeed impressive. After taking care of your son, you came to take care of me. I’m not a soldier in your barracks. Why do you chide me for?”
With only one sentence from Zhao Chengjun, Tang Shishi was able to return ten sentences against him. As time passed, her arrogance became more and more rampant. Zhao Chengjun felt helpless, but he also knew that he could not blame anyone because he indulged in her too much.
Zhao Chengjun said, “All right. There is still water near your mouth. Wipe it with a handkerchief.”
Tang Shishi looked everywhere for a handkerchief. Zhao Chengjun handed one over conveniently. After wiping it, Tang Shishi noticed the unusual smell of milk on it, frowned, and asked, “Is this the one you just used to wipe Zhao Zigao’s saliva?”
Zhao Chengjun looked at it, and it seemed to be true. Zhao Chengjun held back his laugh. Tang Shishi knew as soon as she saw his expression. She was so angry that she threw the handkerchief back at Zhao Chengjun and said angrily, “Do you still dare to laugh? Get me some water quickly!”
Zhao Chengjun caught the handkerchief, turned around and pointed to Zhao Zigao, and said, “Did you hear that? Your mother despises you.”
Tang Shishi pushed him hard, “You go quickly!”
Although Zhao Chengjun teased Tang Shishi, he still went outside to find her a wet handkerchief. Liu Ji had already brought the warm water over, Zhao Chengjun wrung the handkerchief in the copper basin, and took it back to the inner room to help wipe Tang Shishi’s face, “Come here, don’t move.”
Tang Shishi’s skin was delicate, and her face was soft and firm just like milky cream. Zhao Chengjun held her chin in the palm of one hand, and slowly wiped her cheek with the other hand to clean the water stains.
“It’s all good.” Zhao Chengjun leaned over, looked at Tang Shishi’s face intently, and said, “This time I wipe it clean.”
Zhao Chengjun turned around to put down the handkerchief. Tang Shishi sniffed it herself, and was always suspicious that there was still milk and saliva smell, “Really wiped it clean? Why can I still smell it?”
When Zhao Chengjun heard this, he did not say anything. He lifted Tang Shishi’s chin and sniffed it, and then said with a serious face, “Why didn’t I smell it? Could it be that I didn’t smell it carefully?”
Tang Shishi did not expect Zhao Chengjun to trick her like this and was completely stunned. After she regained her sense, she quickly glanced at the maid behind, quietly pinched Zhao Chengjun’s arm, and whispered, “Rogue!”
Zhao Chengjun grabbed both Tang Shishi’s hands with a smile, sat around her on the couch, and said, “This is called a rogue? Then you probably haven’t seen any real rogue tricks yet.”
Zhao Chengjun’s words were straightforward and pointed out his desire. Tang Shishi blushed when he said that. She held back for a long time and scolded, “Lecher!”
Zhao Chengjun sighed disappointedly, “Why do you only scold these few words over and over again? I’ll teach you something new.”
After he finished saying, his hand began to behave unrulily. Tang Shishi quickly hid inside the couch and glared angrily, “Who wants to learn?”
She was afraid that Zhao Chengjun would really do something here. Although her mouth was unyielding, she quietly crawled to Zhao Zigao’s side and pretended to pick Zhao Zigao. With the child here, in any case, Zhao Chengjun could not do those things to her.
Zhao Chengjun simply scared her and did not plan to do anything seriously. If he really wanted to do it, it would not be now.
The light outside gradually dimmed, and it was time to light up the lights in the room. The maids came into the room one after another and skillfully lit the lampstand. Through a hazy palace lantern, Zhao Chengjun saw the dim yellow light shining on Tang Shishi. She and the child seemed to be covered in soft lights, shining like a luminous night pearl.
Zhao Chengjun sighed sincerely that no wonder there was a saying of five fingers in hand consisting of short and long fingers. Watching the child grow up by oneself was indeed different emotionally. Zhao Zigao was only five months old, but Zhao Chengjun’s thoughts on Zhao Zigao had far exceeded that of bringing up Zhao Zixun for ten years.
This had only been five months. How much more thoughts would he favor over Zhao Zigao when he learned to walk, learned to talk, study and practice martial arts in the future? Moreover, the bonus of the child’s mother was really huge.
Zhao Chengjun did not understand previously. Now he had become a father himself, he gradually understood why his Emperor father favored his two brothers and him while turning a blind eye to the pair of brother and sister born by Empress Dowager Yao. Putting himself in their shoes, probably Zhao Chengting and Princess Nanyang did not live well in those years.
It was not surprising that after Empress Dowager Yao came to power, she would have so much hatred towards her mother, his two brothers, and him. Zhao Chengjun thought, that if anyone dared to be unfavorable to Tang Shishi and the child, he frantically wanted to peel the other person’s skin off too.
He could understand the madness of Empress Dowager Yao in those years, but it did not mean he could forgive her. Zhao Chengjun always wanted to demand the lives of his imperial concubine mother, his second brother, his third brother, and perhaps two other innocent women from Empress Dowager Yao.
Thinking of this, Zhao Chengjun’s eyes softened. This moment of tranquility was particularly valuable just because the mountain rain was coming. Was not this kind of life that many men dream of enjoying the cool summer night with their lovely wife and beloved sons sitting around the lamp and laughing happily?
Tang Shishi carried Zhao Zigao in her arms and motioned to Zhao Chengjun to come to have a look, “Look, his nails are long again.”
Zhao Chengjun found that it was true. He said, “The lighting is too bad now. When it’s daytime tomorrow, let someone cut his nails. It’s not serious to do it now since he won’t scratch himself.”
As Zhao Chengjun was talking, he took Tang Shishi’s hand and looked at her nails carefully, “Your nails should be cut too.”
Tang Shishi pulled out her hand with a squeak and stared at him warily, “No. I won’t scratch myself anyway. So, why should I cut mine?”
Zhao Chengjun seemed to be smiling but not smiling, and there was a significant meaning in his eyes. Tang Shishi suddenly reacted, her cheeks flushed, and she was about to scold back but suddenly there was a pitter-patter running sound coming from outside.
The words of Tang Shishi stopped naturally. The maid ran to the doorway and saluted Zhao Chengjun and Tang Shishi, “Greetings to Wangye and Wangfei.”
Tang Shishi asked, “It’s getting dark. What happened?”
“Wangfei, it’s a happy event.” The maid carefully observed Tang Shishi’s face, and said, “Just now concubine Lizhi has nausea. The imperial physician came to examine and said it was a happy pulse.”
Tang Shishi was slightly startled. She just said a few days ago that whoever was pregnant first would be promoted to Cefei. Unexpectedly with instant effect, someone was pregnant so soon? After Tang Shishi reacted, she smiled promptly and said, “It’s really a happy event and deserves a reward. Someone, take out my pair of the gold-inlaid jade grape-patterned bracelets and bestow them to Lizhi to top up the happy event. You pass a message to concubine Lizhi saying that it’s dark already, it’s inconvenient for me to see her, and I’ll go there tomorrow. Also, remind her to pay attention to herself and tell the kitchen directly whatever she wants to eat without wronging herself. As long as she gives birth to a child safely, regardless of gender, I will bestow her to be Shizi’s Cefei immediately.”
The maid was overjoyed, took the bracelets after answering, and went happily. After they left, Zhao Chengjun asked Tang Shishi, “Who is the Lizhi?”
Tang Shishi said, “It’s one of Shizifei’s dowry maids who has groomed her face recently. Don’t you remember?”
Zhao Chengjun really did not remember. At first, he was baffled how a lychee a kind of food could become a concubine, but later he slowly realized from the conversation that this was Zhao Zixun’s concubine.
Zhao Chengjun could not help frowning and said coldly, “How many concubines does Zhao Zixun have? I only have an impression of Zhou Shunhua, Ren Yujun, and one with the family name Ji. How come there is one more Lizhi now?”
“It’s not just Lizhi.” Tang Shishi corrected Zhao Chengjun softly and said, “In addition to Lizhi, there are Yingtao, Shiliu, and Sangshen.”
Zhao Chengjun felt dizzy just listening to it. Including Shizifei, Zhao Zixun had eight women in his rear courtyard. These were the ones with status, and those who did not have status had not been counted yet. Zhao Zixun had to deal with so many women. It was not surprising that he did not make progress in learning and was always absent-minded in handling affairs.
Zhao Chengjun made no secret of his displeasure, and asked, “Why there are so many women in his rear courtyard?”
Tang Shishi carried Zhao Zigao and said unenthusiastically, “Man ah, three wives and four concubines are common. Tell me, who doesn’t envy Shizi to have a virtuous legitimate wife?”
Zhao Chengjun’s eyebrows moved slightly as he knew that these words were directed at him once again. Zhao Chengjun stood up and went to the other side of the couch to tease Zhao Zigao, “You are still young, everything is like a piece of white paper. Don’t learn from your mother, she’s not that smart but she used it all to deal with me.”
Tang Shishi widen her eyes and refused, “What have I done that you have to ridicule me?”
“Still tried to test me?” Zhao Chengjun gently pinched the tip of Tang Shishi’s nose and said, “Don’t you know my attitude? Don’t worry, I won’t take a concubine. It’s enough to have you and children in this life.”
Tang Shishi’s eyes were brimming with smiles, but her mouth was tough, “Now, you say like this. Who knows if you feel bitter about lacking in children later on and blame me for not giving you a concubine, which prevents you from opening branches and spreading leaves?”
Zhao Chengjun did not say anything, just motioned to the maid to come over and take Zhao Zigao away. As soon as Tang Shishi saw the battle, she immediately had an ominous premonition, and she shrank back vigilantly, “It’s still early. What are you doing taking the child away?”
“Open branches and spread leaves.” No matter how fast Tang Shishi tried to hide, she was not as fast as Zhao Chengjun’s one-hand stretch and was able to hug her fully. Zhao Chengjun grabbed her disobedient hands, carried her, and strode to the bed, “Since you feel bitter about lacking in children, then we go inside and work harder so that you won’t accuse me wrongly.”
Tang Shishi thought Lizhi was pregnant fast enough. Unexpectedly, only half a month later, another maid, Shiliu was also diagnosed with pregnancy.
When Tang Shishi heard the news, she felt it was rather strange. Zhao Zixun was not lacking in women. In the past two years after marriage, it was not rare for Zhao Zixun to fool around with women, but none of them was pregnant. Why were two maids pregnant one after another only a month and a half after Tang Shishi proposed to establish Cefei?
Could it be that earlier infertility was controlled artificially?
Tang Shishi kept muttering in her heart, but she could not reveal her doubts. Otherwise, it would appear that she hated Shizi and did not want Shizi to have an heir. Tang Shishi gave rewards to the two maids with great fanfare. All the treatment was the same, Shiliu would have whatever Lizhi had, and would never treat anyone lightly.
All of a sudden, the mansion became lively, and everyone knew that two more maids were going to ascend to heaven in one step. Wangfei leaped from being Wangye’s maid to Wangfei and from then on, she was the only favored one in the rear courtyard. Now, these two maids fell short a little as they could only be named Shizi’s Cefei. However, compared with their original status, Cefei was simply soaring to the sky. Who knew if they would become another Tang Shishi?
Lizhi and Shiliu were inspired by the example of Tang Shishi, and they wholeheartedly waited with joy for the baby in their belly to be born. It was best to win a man in one go as the mother would be dignified by the dignity of the son.
The mansion had been noisy for a month. Wangfei gave birth to little Junwang, and the two maids of Shizi were pregnant one after another. Everyone was stunned by this successive good news as if even the air was impetuous.
At the end of the eight months, it was bucketing down vigorously and mightily. Tang Shishi was sitting in the room embroidering small clothes for Zhao Zigao. There was a burst of thunderclaps outside. For some reason, Tang Shishi was upset by the burst of thunder noise as if something bad was about to happen. Tang Shishi secretly blamed herself for being overly sensitive. She was about to start embroidery after calming down but there was a woman’s sorrowful cry suddenly coming from the outside. Tang Shishi was startled, her finger shook, and pricked her fingertip.
Tang Shishi hissed. Dujuan saw it and quickly found a cotton cloth for Tang Shishi to wrap it up. Tang Shishi stopped Dujuan’s action and sucked her fingers in her mouth. Fortunately, the wound was not big, and the blood beads were soon stopped.
Seeing this, Dujuan wiped Tang Shishi’s finger straightaway with a handkerchief and scolded angrily, “Who is so bold outside that dare to disturb Wangfei? Someone, arrest her quickly.”
Tang Shishi heard the woman’s voice stop outside the gate of Yan’an courtyard. Unfortunately, it stopped abruptly before she touched the outside door. She could not even hear the voice. Tang Shishi knew that she had been arrested. Zhao Chengjun paid the most attention to safety. How could anyone rush over?
Tang Shishi had a different intuition and said to the maids, “She cried so bitterly. Maybe there’s something important. Bring her here.”
The maids hesitated a little. Seeing Tang Shishi’s persistence, they could only obey. The wailing woman was soon carried over. Her body was drenched in water, her hair was loose with water dripping on her body like a water ghost.
Tang Shishi frowned. Was not this Yingtao, one of Lu Yufei’s dowry maids who had been accepted as Zhao Zixun’s concubine some days ago? No matter where she went, she was also considered a half-master. How could she end up like this?
After seeing Tang Shishi, Yingtao immediately kowtowed her head and burst into tears, “Wangfei, please be merciful and save Lizhi!”
Tang Shishi frowned upon hearing, “Lizhi? Isn’t she nurturing her baby? What happened?”