It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager
Chapter 104 Old friend
When Tang Shishi came to Xiping province from Jinling, she traveled for no less than three months. She came alone, ignorant and fearless, and rammed into the world of that prestigious but also ignorant man.
Now that two years have passed, and the time has changed. Tang Shishi has returned to the road when she came that time. However, she was no longer alone this time.
That mysterious man at that time had become her husband, and she even gave birth to his son. When Tang Shishi came that time, she was not popular, stumbling along the road, and there were many disappointments in the accommodation. Now she was escorted by people, making the journey easier all of a sudden.
Although there were still some grievances, Tang Shishi was very satisfied compared to the first time., Zhao Chengjun was very careful on the road because of Zhao Zigao’s presence, not only allowed the elite soldiers to disguise themselves as family members, but also surrounded Tang Shishi’s carriage at all times and even the best scouts were transferred from the military to make a special trip to clear the way for Tang Shishi’s carriage.
Even so, Zhao Chengjun was still worried. After their team left the fiefdom, Zhao Chengjun did not let everyone disclose that he was Jing Wang but disguised as an ordinary official, only said that he was returning to the capital to report on his duties with his wife and children together. When maids were outside, they only called Tang Shishi “Madam”.
Two months later, Tang Shishi lifted the curtain of the carriage and saw the city wall of Jinling on a cloudy afternoon. The tall and majestic city gate standing amid the snow, rising from the ground, watching the crowds since ancient times in silence.
The majestic and dangerous, young ladies of Six Dynasties in Jinling, she was back again.
Zhao Chengjun probably offended too many people. When he entered the city, he was still very low-profile and did not alarm anyone. Zhao Chengjun has a prince’s mansion in Jinling. As early as a month ago, the servants in the mansion received a letter and sorted out the prince’s mansion early.
Dujuan helped Tang Shishi get off the carriage. Tang Shishi stepped on the ground again and was sincerely relieved. Even Dujuan complained bitterly non-stop, “It’s finally here. If Jinling is not here yet, my bones will fall apart. Wangfei, it turns out that this is the imperial capital Jinling, which is entirely different from Xiping!”
“Isn’t it?” Tang Shishi was so tired that she did not even have the mood to talk. She asked the wet nurse to carry Zhao Zigao over and carefully lifted his quilt. Tang Shishi saw Zhao Zigao’s rosy face, leaning on the wet nurse’s shoulder, breathing evenly. Tang Shishi lowered her voice and asked, “Is he asleep?”
“Wangfei, he just fell asleep. Little Junwang was very tired. He usually slept so lightly that he didn’t even wake him up by the noise when we entered the city gate just now.”
Tang Shishi took a closer look at Zhao Zigao again. Seeing that he was sleeping peacefully, she covered his quilt again and said quietly, “Let him sleep well. In a moment, take him to the main room and let him sleep on the bed. By the way, Jinling is wet and cold. Put a warmer under his feet, check it more diligently, and change it as soon as it gets cold.”
The wet nurse responded, “I understand.”
The momo led the wet nurse to settle Zhao Zigao. Tang Shishi used all her willpower to stand in front of the second gate with strong vigor and directed the servants to unload the luggage and move it into the main courtyard. Zhou Shunhua also got out of the carriage and walked behind Tang Shishi to greet her, “Wangfei, is there anything I can help with?”
Seeing Zhou Shunhua, Tang Shishi glanced at her still flat lower abdomen and said with a smile yet not a smile, “No need. Beauty Zhou has been pregnant for more than four months and doesn’t look pregnant yet. It seems that the road is too bumpy and didn’t nurse well. The most important thing for beauty Zhou is to nurse your health. I don’t have anything important here, so there is no need for beauty Zhou to worry about it.”
Zhou Shunhua said that she was pregnant in the eighth month, and now it was already the twelfth month. Her lower abdomen has no movement at all and if someone said that she was unmarried, people would believe it. Her abdomen really did not look like pregnant for four months. Now Zhou Shunhua could use bigger clothes to cover up, but Tang Shishi would like to see how Zhou Shunhua would explain after another month.
Zhou Shunhua did not know how many times she had heard such words along the journey. In the past, she lowered her head and did not argue. She just took it as if she could not hear it. But now she smiled and nodded to Tang Shishi, “Thank you for Wangfei’s concern. I will take good care of myself.”
Tang Shishi felt that Zhou Shunhua’s words were not quite right, but this was not the place to examine deeply. Zhao Zixun has been looking at this direction repeatedly for the time she spoke to Zhou Shunhua. Come on, Tang Shishi was very self-aware and soon let Zhao Zixun’s beloved leave, “Beauty Zhou has been exhausted from the journey, so you should go back to rest quickly. It’s enough for me to have maids to help me here.”
Zhou Shunhua was not polite this time and really went back. After Zhou Shunhua left, Dujuan said angrily, “She’s not even a Cefei. What airs does she put in front of Wangfei? She’s really shameless and doesn’t appreciate your kindness.”
“All right.” Tang Shishi stopped Dujuan and said, “Go and put the things in order. If we put them away early, we can also rest early.”
Dujuan responded and hurried to urge the young manservants to move things. Tang Shishi placed the objects in approximate places. She just took a sip of tea after sitting down, and an imperial court messenger came.
Tang Shishi did not have time to change her clothes and went out to welcome the messenger without delay. Zhao Chengjun was called away as soon as he entered the capital and has not returned until now. There were only Tang Shishi and Zhao Zixun left in the mansion who were qualified to receive imperial court envoys. Tang Shishi hurriedly tidied up her looks. When she hurried to the front hall, Zhao Zixun was already there and was talking with the servants.
When the gonggong in a big red with gold embroidered python robe saw a beautiful and slim beauty walk into the main hall, he stood up while smiling, and greeted, “I have never visited Wangfei, presumably this is the famous Jing Wangfei, right?”
“Gonggong, please rise.” Tang Shishi leaned over to give half a salute and smiled while gesturing the gonggong in red to get up, “It’s me. Gonggong, please sit down quickly.”
The person who came was the eunuch next to Empress Dowager Yao, and after a few polite greetings, he half willing and half unwilling sat down. Since Zhao Chengjun was not there, Tang Shishi took the seat of honor, the gonggong sat at the guest seat, and Zhao Zixun sat at the seat to the right of the honored seat to accompany Tang Shishi.
Tang Shishi once again felt the benefits of seniority in the family. Even if she was a female family member, it was still her who spoke, and Zhao Zixun accompanied her on this type of occasion. When the gonggong exchanged greetings, the main goal was also directed at Tang Shishi, “Empress Dowager Niangniang has been talking for a long time that she has been looking forward to Wangye and Wangfei arrival. Wangfei, is the whole journey peaceful?”
“Thanks to the blessing of Empress Dowager and Emperor, everything is peaceful.” Tang Shishi asked with a smile, “I haven’t greeted Empress Dowager for a long time. I don’t know how Niangniang is doing lately?”
“Empress Dowager’s phoenix body is in good health. Thank you for Wangfei’s concern.” The gonggong was beaming with smiles, “Empress Dowager also missed Jing Wang and Jing Wangfei very much. These days Niangniang has been saying over and over that Jing Wang has been away from the capital for twelve years. Jing Wang was still a young, gentle, and frail-looking prince when he left. In a blink of an eye, Jing Wang even has sons now. Empress Dowager misses Jing Wang very much. Today, after learning that Jing Wang and Jing Wangfei has entered the capital, she wanted to visit Jing Wang’s mansion right away. We finally persuaded her to stay in the palace.”
Tang Shishi smiled quietly when she heard what was said as she did not believe that Empress Dowager would miss her and Zhao Chengjun. On the contrary, she would wish that they were almost dead. However, since the gonggong already said like this, the implicit meaning was very obvious. Tang Shishi could only follow through, “It’s our negligence. Today we should have entered the palace immediately to greet Empress Dowager, but it was already late, and we’re quite worn out by the journey. I’m afraid we will lose our courtesy when we meet with Empress Dowager. I don’t know what day is convenient for Empress Dowager so that we can greet Empress Dowager properly?”
“Empress Dowager likes Wangfei the best. No matter what time Wangfei goes, Niangniang will be happy.” The gonggong said with all smiles, “Just goes with the flow. I think tomorrow is good.”
To her surprise, Tang Shishi was being pressured tightly. She smiled and said happily, “This couldn’t be better. I have to trouble Gonggong to send a message for me that I will go to see Empress Dowager tomorrow.”
When the gonggong’s goal was achieved, he smiled more sincerely, “This is natural. It’s a great honor for me to pass the message on behalf of Wangfei. Since Wangfei still has to tidy up the mansion today, it’s inconvenient for me to disturb you, so I’ll leave at once.”
“Gonggong, what are you talking about?” Tang Shishi said politely and then winked at Dujuan meaningfully. Dujuan came forward to change tea for the gonggong and took the opportunity to stuff a heavy purse into the gonggong’s hand.
The gonggong weighed the weight inside through his sleeve and finally showed some real earnest smile. He stood up and said, “It’s getting late. It’s time for me to return to the palace to report. Wangfei stays.”
Tang Shishi stood up and personally sent the gonggong to the doorway, “Gonggong, take care.”
The gonggong repeatedly said to stay. Since Tang Shishi was a female family member, it was inconvenient to go further after she sent until the doorway. Zhao Zixun who had been following Tang Shishi at the back passed Tang Shishi at this time and personally sent the gonggong out of the mansion. Tang Shishi stopped at the doorway of the main hall and watched him off with a smile. After she could no longer see the red python clothes of the imperial court envoy, only then did she turn back to the room.
“Since it’s not a celebratory ceremonial, why do I need to wear court dress when I go to the palace to greet my elders?” Tang Shishi had a headache. She sat on the rosewood armchair while thinking for a while and asked, “When I entered the capital, I only glanced a few times, and I couldn’t see clearly. Apparently, the fashion of Jinling in recent years is quite different from that of Xiping?”
Tang Shishi was a Wangfei and could not open the curtain to look out openly. Maids like Dujuan who followed the carriage outside could most intuitively feel the difference in the capital. Dujuan replied, “That’s right. The clothes that Jinling wears are quite different from those of Xiping. I have never seen any of those skirts.”
Tang Shishi sighed, “Jinling and Xiping are so far apart, and the fashions are naturally different. I will enter the palace tomorrow. If the dress is too grand, I’ll make a fool of myself. If the dress is too rustic, I’ll be the laughingstock. At this hour, it’s too late to make an order, so let’s just to the clothing shop to buy some ready-made clothes to cope with this emergency for the time being.”
Dujuan frowned and wondered, “But how can Wangfei go out before Wangye is back?”
Womenfolk must be accompanied by a man when they go to the streets. There was the elder brother when they are not married, and the husband after they were married. Tang Shishi also had a headache when she heard this, “Where has he gone too? Can you find him?”
Dujuan shook her head. As an inner courtyard maid, she did not even know when the city gate of Jinling opened. How would she know where did Jing Wang had gone to? After Zhao Zixun came back from sending the gonggong off, he heard what Tang Shishi said and paused for a moment, “If Wangfei wants to go out, I’m willing to go with you.”
Tang Shishi was stumped for words. After seeing Zhao Zixun, she remembered that she could go out as long as there was a man to accompany her, and her son naturally would do. However, Tang Shishi only had Zhao Zigao in her heart and did not treat Zhao Zixun as her son at all. Therefore, so she really did not consider Zhao Zixun for a brief time.
Tang Shishi was anxious to buy clothes, so she did not refuse anymore and happily replied, “Great. Thank you, Shizi.”
In the absence of Jing Wang, Tang Shishi was the highest in the mansion. When she ordered to go out, the gatekeeper quickly set up the carriage. In order to hide from people’s eyes and ears along the whole journey, the carriage of Jing Wang’s mansion was very low-key without gold or jade inlaid or symbol of Jing Wang’s mansion, but the wood quality was excellent, and it was extremely comfortable to sit inside.
To simplify matters, Tang Shishi directly asked the coachman to go to the largest and most expensive ready-made clothing shop in Jinling. To have the intention might not solve the problem, but money certainly could.
As long as enough money was spent, there were no worries that could not be solved.
The carriage stopped in front of the ready-made clothing shop. Dujuan jumped out first and then helped Tang Shishi to get off of the carriage. Tang Shishi stepped down from the wooden platform while holding her skirt and stood in front of the busy street. When the shopkeeper of the ready-made clothing shop saw a young and beautiful young madam dressed in gorgeous clothing, she hurriedly ran over to solicit, “I’ve seen the madam and the husband. You two are a really talented man and a beautiful woman. May I ask what does two of you want to see?”
Zhao Zixun was slightly stunned when he heard this. Before waiting for his response, Tang Shishi interrupted the attendant’s words coldly, “He’s not my husband, but my son.”
The shopkeeper was stunned, and Zhao Zixun’s reverie disappeared immediately. He coughed softly and said with a solemn face, “Don’t be rude. This is Madam. How can you offend her?”
The shopkeeper’s flattering smile completely collapsed. He looked at the lean and handsome Zhao Zixun and then the young and attractive Tang Shishi, thinking that he had really seen a ghost. Even if he has ten heads, he could not guess that these two, man and woman of the same age and appearance were not husband and wife, but mother and son.
It was just simply ridiculous.
The shopkeeper smiled and apologized for it. Tang Shishi’s own family was also doing business and knew the hard work of these little people. When Tang Shishi met Zhao Chengjun for the first time, she also recognized the pair of father and son wrongly. She was like this too, so how could she blame the shopkeeper who knew nothing?
Tang Shishi reprimanded with few words and let it go. The shopkeeper quietly wiped his sweat and hurriedly led Tang Shishi into the shop to see clothes. He did not dare to mention what happened just now.
Tang Shishi has this intention but after only taking two steps, she suddenly heard a familiar and surprising voice come from behind her, “Tang Shishi?”
Tang Shishi turned her head and was equally surprised when she saw the oncoming person, “It’s you?”
When she saw that the person was really Tang Shishi, Tang Yanyan could not close her mouth. She quickly ran to Tang Shishi while holding her skirt and said in surprise, “I didn’t dare to recognize you just now as I didn’t expect it was really you! Big sister, where have you been these years? Why have you never contacted us?”