IBTBTED Chapter 108
It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager
Chapter 108 Natal Family
The gatekeeper of the Tang family opened the door. When he heard that it was Tang Shishi, he was stunned for a moment, and sent a message inside, “Master, Madam, it’s a great joy. The eldest young lady is back.”
Tang Shishi was sitting in the carriage and laughed mockingly when she heard the gatekeeper’s words.
Since she had been away from home these years, concubine Su had become known as Madam, and was even unwilling to yield to the position of “Second Madam”. It could be seen how arrogant concubine Su had been in recent years.
“Madam” was the honorific title given by the imperial court through imperial mandate and should not be called casually on ordinary days. However, in recent years, the trend of extravagance and pleasure had sprung up, gold and silver had been sought after by the entire population, and even officials and imperial families had openly loaned money to open shops. If everyone valued profits, ethics would decline, and the restrictions on titles, clothing, and others would gradually become less stringent.
The Tang family was one of them. When the family was wealthy, their attitude would be arrogant, and they could call themselves whatever they want. Even a concubine like Su dared to call herself “Madam”.
After the gatekeeper went inside to report, soon someone came out to remove the threshold and led Tang Shishi’s carriage to stop at the second gate. After getting off the carriage, Tang Shishi looked around and sure enough, there was an arrogant sense of wealth everywhere. Tang Mingzhe almost painted the word “wealth” on the wall.
The maid led Tang Shishi to the main hall. As soon as she approached, Tang Shishi heard Tang Yanyan’s exaggerated laughter coming from the room.
The maid lifted the door curtain for Tang Shishi. Tang Shishi stepped over the threshold and saw the room full of gold and jade with majestic splendor. Tang Mingzhe and concubine Su were sitting on the carved flower pattern grandmaster armchair. Qi Jingsheng was sitting at the first guest seat and Tang Yanyan leaned on Qi Jingsheng intimately. Looking at her posture, she wished to wrap around Qi Jingsheng’s arm.
When they saw Tang Shishi coming in, several people could not help standing up. Qi Jingsheng’s eyes were stunned, concubine Su looked at her secretly while Tang Yanyan was very affected. She covered her mouth and deliberately asked loudly, “Sister, why did you only come now?”
Tang Shishi swept around quickly but did not see Lin Wanxi’s figure and the expression on her face became cold instantly. She was in a bad mood and her tone was not friendly at all, “The place where I came from was far from here, and the road was blocked.”
Tang Yanyan let out a long “Oh”, and kindly mediated for Tang Shishi, “My sister has just arrived in the capital and must have not found a good location yet, so you live far away. It doesn’t matter. Big Sister, you don’t have to be embarrassed. The land price in the capital is really too expensive. An inch of land is worth an inch of gold. It doesn’t matter if it’s expensive, there are some locations that you can’t buy even if you have money.”
Tang Shishi smiled and agreed, “That’s right. I think so too.”
Tang Yanyan was even happier. She stepped forward to take Tang Shishi’s hand and complained, “It’s really troublesome to live in the capital. Fortunately, Brother Qi became Juren after passing the exam. My parents-in-law found someone to act as trustee and bought a house near Imperial College. The Imperial College was full of descendants of powerful families and the mansions nearby are very scarce. It took me a long time to find this house for father and mother.”
Tang Shishi smiled and corrected her in a friendly manner, “If you are referring to concubine Su, you should call her second mother.”
As soon as Tang Shishi said this, the room became quiet. Finally, Tang Mingzhe coughed and said impressively, “All right, let’s sit down. The meal will be served in a while. Qianzhi, please invite the Eldest Madam to have a meal.”
The maid, Qianzhi, responded and turned around to go outside. When Tang Shishi heard that Tang Mingzhe was going to invite Lin Wanxi, the fire in her heart was temporarily suppressed.
Tang Shishi sat down with her skirt pressed down. Tang Mingzhe looked back and saw a group of maids following her but did not see any man. Tang Mingzhe asked, “Big Sister, where is your husband?”
Tang Shishi replied casually, “He has something in the court today and can’t come.”
Tang Mingzhe responded, and the disappointment in his tone was very obvious. Tang Yanyan sent the news of Tang Shishi home yesterday. The womenfolk all regretted that the eldest young lady had such a good appearance but did not pick a respectable family while Tang Mingzhe felt that it was not necessarily not good.
Marrying a young person, whether a merchant or official, she would have to struggle for twenty or thirty years. When the power was in hand, Tang Shishi would also be old. However, if she married a man in power right from the beginning, not only she could immediately save on the waiting time in between but also it was easier for an older man to favor a younger wife. Could not Tang Shishi act coquettishly whenever she wanted something?
This had a much higher rate of return than a young man. Tang Mingzhe was unconventional and has been looking forward to Tang Shishi’s return to her natal family. He waited anxiously, and it was not easy to wait until Tang Shishi came over, but he regretted discovering that she was the only one.
Furthermore, the regrettable thing was that Tang Shishi’s husband seemed not as good as Tang Mingzhe imagined.
Tang Shishi’s carriage was quite simple, and it took so long to reach the North Gate Bridge from home which showed that the residence was also very remote. Although Tang Shishi’s dress was gorgeous and with many servants, how much could the clothes cost? Moreover, Tang Yanyan said yesterday that she paid for these clothes.
The more Tang Mingzhe guesstimated, the more disappointed he was, and subconsciously, he even despised the servant behind Tang Shishi. How much money could cost to hire a servant? The Tang family could buy a maid with ten taels of silver. A one-person carriage, clothes, and attires were the real reflection of strength.
As soon as they sat down, there was a maid’s greeting from outside. Tang Shishi heard the voice and stood up slowly, “Mother!”
Almost at the same time, the door curtain was lifted from the outside. Lin Wanxi saw that it was indeed Tang Shishi, and her tears fell in an instant, “Shishi.”
When Tang Shishi saw Lin Wanxi, her eyes were red, and almost burst into tears. For six years, she did not dare to think or ask. She walked forward while holding her breath and was afraid that she would never see Lin Wanxi again if she relaxed a little. Lin Wanxi was thinner than before she entered the palace, and her facial appearance was still elegant. Fortunately, she had no other illness except for her poor complexion.
Lin Wanxi embraced Tang Shishi, cried until out of breath, and could not stop calling Tang Shishi’s name. The maids recognized that this was Wangfei’s birth mother. They came forward to support Lin Wanxi and carefully served Lin Wanxi to sit down, “Madam, crying too much will hurt your body. Sit down first and can talk slowly.”
While Lin Wanxi and Tang Shishi, both mother and daughter acknowledged each other, Qi Jingsheng looked at them with a look of loneliness in his eyes. Concubine Su realized that something was wrong with Qi Jingsheng, her eyes narrowed, and smiled softly, “Eldest Madam, it’s rare for the eldest young lady to come back, so don’t waste time by just crying. It’s not easy for the eldest young lady to go out. We haven’t seen each other for so many years, let’s talk more and don’t keep on weeping.”
When Lin Wanxi heard this, she quickly stopped her tears for fear that she would affect Tang Shishi’s mood. Tang Shishi was distressed when she saw her mother’s appearance. She glanced at concubine Su coldly and said, “It doesn’t matter. I live separately from my mother-in-law and don’t have to serve my elders during normal times. If I want to go back to my parent’s home, I can make my own decisions without asking others.”
Concubine Su smiled, “That’s good. I almost forgot that the eldest young lady is married to an official, which is naturally different from being a wife like Yanyan.”
Speaking of the official, Lin Wanxi wanted to cry again. Yesterday, concubine Su revealed to Lin Wanxi what happened on the street with a faint smile, and also made a special statement that Tang Shishi’s son was the same age as Qi Jingsheng. Lin Wanxi had only one daughter all her life and usually doted on her more than any other person would. How could she endure it when she suddenly learned that Tang Shishi married a man who was old enough to be her father?
Lin Wanxi cried all night yesterday, and today she secretly warned herself that she must put on a smile in front of her daughter, so as not to make Tang Shishi sad anymore. But Lin Wanxi’s tears did not live up to expectations, and she could not help it when concubine Su just mentioned a sentence.
Lin Wanxi quickly wiped away her tears and said with a smile to Tang Shishi, “It’s all right. It’s good to be married. It’s such a happy day, my son-in-law has a position, and you don’t have to do everything yourself or serve your mother-in-law.”
Tang Shishi thought for a while but did not have any impression of Zhao Chengjun’s official position, so she said truthfully, “He doesn’t have any official position yet, so I can’t say that he is an official.”
The people from the Tang family sighed together. With the last glimmer of hope, Tang Mingzhe asked, “My son-in-law has not been appointed as an official, then the father, brothers, and cousins in the family who always have a position, right?”
Tang Shishi recalled carefully that Zhao Chengjun’s father was the emperor, and his elder brother was also the emperor. It seemed that they had no official positions. She replied, “His father and brothers have no official positions. Cousins seems to have, but they are all out of town, and they haven’t been in contact for many years.”
This was the truth. The vassal monarchs were not allowed to return to the capital without an imperial edict, and they were not allowed to communicate privately. When two vassal monarchs with massive military force colluded with each other, did they want to rebel?
The maids of the prince’s mansion showed strange expressions together. Wangfei’s words sounded right, but on second thought, they always felt that something was wrong.
Tang Mingzhe’s last hope was shattered. He originally expected this son-in-law to be an official who was over forty years of age but had power in his hands. Unfortunately, it sounded like a mediocre, hopeless old scholar. Tang Mingzhe was disappointed and hoped the other party had a rich family background. So, he asked, “Why didn’t my son-in-law come?”
“I don’t know either.” Tang Shishi quietly looked at the man opposite who had been weighing her value up to now. Tang Shishi suddenly became disappointed and said lightly, “I never ask about outside things. I don’t know who he will meet or what guests he will meet.”
When concubine Su heard what was said, she asked, “In that case, the eldest young lady is in charge of the inner house.”
Tang Shishi shook her head, and looked at them calmly doubtfully, “Why do I need to be in charge? Obviously, there are old women in charge ah.”
“What kind of property does the son-in-law’s family have?”
“There’s about a piece of land.” Tang Shishi honestly revealed Zhao Chengjun’s family property. Zhao Chengjun indeed had a piece of land that was not too big, just as big as one province.
Tang Mingzhe’s expression was at a loss and asked, “What about shops?”
Tang Shishi showed a hesitant expression, and Tang Mingzhe understood that most likely none.
Tang Mingzhe sighed deeply. He had no official position, no family property, no future prospects, and was still old. He was really good for nothing and could not be compared with Qi Jingsheng. Lin Wanxi almost cried when she heard this. She was afraid of making Tang Shishi sad and endured it all the time. When concubine Su saw Lin Wanxi’s expression, a smile appeared on the corner of her mouth. Like a warm-hearted concubine mother, she comforted with concern, “It doesn’t matter that the son-in-law’s career is mediocre. They can prosper as long as children have future prospects. I heard from Yanyan that when she met you yesterday, your eldest son was there. The second son-in-law said that your eldest son was handsome with outstanding talents and looks like the type who studies. I don’t know which exam the eldest son took. Is he the same year as the second son-in-law?”
“He.” Tang Shishi did not even think about it and replied casually, “He has been helping his father do things these years, and never heard of him taking part in the preliminary round of imperial examination. I guess he won’t take the exam.”
Concubine Su’s eyes widened in disbelief. This was simply an unexpected joy. Tang Shishi’s husband’s family was not as good as the Qi family in terms of family properties, future prospects, and future generations. Tang Shishi was pretentious when she entered the palace, and concubine Su secretly worried whether they would offend a favored future imperial concubine. In the end, Tang Shishi married a man who was not as good as Qi Jingsheng in all aspects.
How to say this kind of thing? It was really gratifying.
Tang Yanyan chuckled and then covered her mouth in a pretentious manner. Qi Jingsheng was a little embarrassed and felt tenderness towards her. He comforted Tang Shishi by saying, “It doesn’t matter. There are talents in all walks of life. The imperial examination is not the only way.”
“I know.” Tang Shishi smiled softly at Qi Jingsheng, “Thank you, Brother Qi.”
Qi Jingsheng used to like watching Tang Shishi smile the most. During his long study period, her smile became his only motivation for him to study hard. As long as he obtained scholarly honor by passing the exam, the Tang family would let him marry her. Qi Jingsheng continued to study hard for this reason. He began to pass the exam for Confucian scholar and wanted to wait until he became a scholar before holding a wedding. Later, after he passed the county-level exam, he felt that she would be happier to marry him with the identity of a Juren.
When Qi Jingsheng was working hard for the purpose of Juren, what he waited for was not the news of their marriage, but rather the news of Tang Shishi’s entering the Imperial Palace.
He finally became Juren, but he also lost her forever.
At the moment, Tang Shishi was also sitting facing him with a smile, but Qi Jingsheng lost the courage to approach her. He married another woman, and she also married someone else. The marriage contract between the two parties ended up meaningless.
The affairs of human life were so depressing.
Tang Yanyan was very unhappy when she found out that Qi Jingsheng was sad. Since Tang Shishi entered the door, Qi Jingsheng seemed to have lost his soul. Tang Shishi had been married for so long, and yet Qi Jingsheng still could not forget her. Tang Yanyan was angry and deliberately smiled while telling Tang Shishi, “It’s good to be old, and will love people dearly when they are older. “
Tang Shishi stopped as if thinking about it, lowered her head, and smiled gently, “That’s right.”
Tang Yanyan looked at Tang Shishi’s smile and instinctively felt that something was wrong. Would a woman who married an old man that she did not like would show such a smile? Tang Yanyan felt that something was wrong and asked more, “Sister, why did you marry outside the palace when you obviously entered the palace? How did you and the eldest brother-in-law do it?”
Tang Shishi was about to answer when suddenly there was a loud shout from outside the door. A housekeeper ran over and said with a long face, “Master, it’s not good. The outside of the mansion gate is surrounded by the people of Zhen Fu North Division*. The other party also asked us if this is the Tang family from Linqing.”
(Zhen Fu North Division*- a government office responsible for criminal investigation; imperial guards)
“What?” Tang Mingzhe stood up slowly and his hands and feet were cold due to panic, “Imperial guards! How can I provoke them?”
The housekeeper also trembled due to fright, “I don’t know. Master, did you accidentally provoke a bigwig when you bought the shop some time ago? We can’t afford to offend the imperial guards.”
“I don’t think so.” Tang Mingzhe was so flustered that he bustled around and mumbled to himself, “There’s not enough time for me to curry favor with them if I can get in touch with those bigwigs. How can I offend them? Which family actually climbed the high branch of the imperial guards?”
When Tang Shishi heard Zhen Fu North Division, she had a strange feeling. Before she could tell her suspicions, another housekeeper ran over and said in a panic, “Master, those imperial guards are very polite. They said that it was just a misunderstanding. They were looking for someone for Jing Wang, not making things difficult for the Tang family.”
“Jing Wang?” Tang Mingzhe frowned, “Which prince is this? I seem to have never heard of it.”
Sure enough, Tang Shishi sighed and said, “Father indeed has never heard of him because Jing Wang has been in the fiefdom and only arrived in the capital yesterday.”
Tang Mingzhe raised his eyebrows skeptically and asked, “How do you know?”
While they were talking, the outside door was pushed open by someone. Tang Shishi turned her head and saw Zhao Chengjun appear outside the door with a calm face. The sunshine in Jinling was cold and pale. Zhao Chengjun stood at the doorway, tall and heroic with a cold face as if covered with a golden light.
When he saw Tang Shishi, he was obviously relieved and walked straight to Tang Shishi, “You’re really here. You agreed to wait for me at the palace gate. Why did you leave by yourself?”
Tang Shishi stood up and said indifferently, “I am going back to my parent’s home and it’s not like I’m going to any dangerous place. I don’t need you.”
Zhao Chengjun was really furious. He should not have any expectations from Tang Shishi. It was only the second day that she gave him such a big “surprise”. Zhao Chengjun received the message that Tang Shishi had left by herself. After he came out, he asked around, and no one knew where Tang Shishi had gone. Zhao Chengjun was almost scared to death.
The commander of the Zhen Fu North Division followed behind and said with a smile, “Jing Wang, now that Wangfei has been found, our brothers will withdraw first.”
Zhao Chengjun held back his anger and cast a secret look at Tang Shishi, then turned to greet the commander, “Thank you. I’ll host a feast on another day and invite everyone to drink.”
“I will definitely be there for Your Highness Jing Wang’s wine.” The commander cupped his hands together, then glanced at Tang Shishi, sized her up quickly, and said with a smile, “Pay respect to Wangfei. I have another important task to do and won’t be accompanying you today. I’ll leave first.”
Tang Shishi nodded faintly and smiled as a response. Zhao Chengjun sent the commander out. The group of imperial guards came and went quickly, like a gust of wind. Before Tang Mingzhe could react, the imperial guards had already left.
Tang Mingzhe tried his best to digest what he heard. Although the number of words in the conversation just now was not many, the amount of information contained was formidable. Imperial guards surrounded their mansion gate just to help Wangye find Wangfei? Furthermore, Jing Wang came directly to Tang Shishi, and other people called Tang Shishi Wangfei, and Tang Shishi even responded.
Tang Mingzhe was stunned for a long time. Finally, concubine Su asked cautiously, “Wangfei is…”
“Me ah.” Tang Shishi sat back in the same place and rolled up her sleeves carelessly, and said, “Sit down. What are you all doing standing up?”
Everyone in the Tang family was shocked and could not understand what had happened for a while. Only Tang Mingzhe went black and almost fainted. At this time, Zhao Chengjun came back from outside. He saw that Tang Mingzhe’s expression was not so good. He thought that after all this was Tang Shishi’s father, and his father-in-law, so for the sake of the harmony between husband and wife, he had better be respectful to his father-in-law.
Thus, Zhao Chengjun took out his kindest attitude, put on a smile, and cupped his hand together toward Tang Mingzhe, “Father-in-law.”
Tang Mingzhe rolled his eyes and passed out completely.