IBTBTED Chapter 113
It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager
Chapter 113 Palace Banquet
It was the twelfth month when Jing Wang’s mansion envoy arrived in the capital. Not long after they settled down, the New Year arrived.
On New Year’s Eve, there was a banquet in the palace. As Jing Wangfei who just entered the capital, Tang Shishi must attend. On the thirtieth day, Tang Shishi got up early in the morning, dressed up, styled her hair, and changed her clothes. She was busy until chenshi (7 am – 9 am).
Today was the New Year’s Eve banquet. Tang Shishi put on a grand ceremonial dress. First, she put on her innerwear clothes, put on a cyan vertical collar coat, a crossed collar with narrow sleeves decorated with a light auspicious cloud collar at the neckline, and a long red skirt. After sorting out the first layer, she put on the cyan clothing, the front was woven with a golden pattern of a phoenix, and the inner was a crimson dark flower veil. The waist was tied with a jade belt which immediately showed the slender waist and slender figure of Tang Shishi. After the jingling accessories were hung up, the maid brought a light large red-sleeved overcoat. Tang Shishi stretched her arms to put on the light large overcoat that reached the floor.
Including the jade jewelry on the headpiece, this outfit alone was worth five or six catties.
After Tang Shishi got dressed, she had to walk slowly. When she walked, she saw that the skirts were layered on top of each other, but the outermost large overcoat and jade pendant did not move at all. She looked dignified and solemn.
Zhao Chengjun was playing with Zhao Zigao in the outside room. He turned his head when he heard the sounds and saw Tang Shishi who was dressed magnificently walking over slowly, he was stunned for a moment.
After reacting, Zhao Chengjun said with a smile, “It’s beautiful.”
Zhao Chengjun thought carefully and found that this seemed to be the first time that Tang Shishi wore the Wangfei grade ceremonial dress. Previously, she should have dressed splendidly during the wedding, but at that time, she already had Zhao Zigao in her belly and her pregnancy was not very stable. Everyone was afraid that something would happen to Tang Shishi. Every etiquette that could be simplified was simplified including the wedding dress, greatly simplified.
But today, she was dressed in Wangfei’s magnificent clothing, just like a pearl at its first bloom, glistering and dazzling with bright colors. Zhao Zigao saw such a grand Tang Shishi for the first time. He stared for a long time before he recognized that it was his mother. Zhao Zigao immediately jumped up and wiggled to let Tang Shishi hold him.
Others found her pleasing to the eye, but Tang Shishi herself knew how hard it was. She walked slowly to the front of the couch. She just looked at Zhao Zigao but did not dare to hold him, “It’s not easy for me to bend over now. Just sit and play by yourself. If you drool your saliva on me, I don’t have time to change clothes.”
Zhao Chengjun was also wearing Qinwang grade clothing today. Hearing her words, he asked, “Is it very heavy?”
Tang Shishi nodded heavily, “It’s very heavy. But it doesn’t matter, I’ll get used to it in a while.”
Zhao Chengjun had to wear official clothing, sacrificial clothing, crown clothing, and so on to attend ceremonies from time to time. He gradually got used to it and did not feel heavy. He forgot that Tang Shishi was wearing this kind of clothing for the first time. Zhao Chengjun reached out to hold her finger and said, “Don’t put all your weight on your waist, otherwise you will have back pain after a while. Breathe deeply and use your legs as support.”
Tang Shishi adjusted her posture according to Zhao Chengjun’s instructions. Zhao Zigao lay on his stomach on the couch and found his father had walked to his mother to talk. His eyes were very focused as if completely forgotten that they still had a son. Zhao Zigao stared at them for a long time and found that none of his parents paid any attention to him. He was dissatisfied in his heart, climbed to the side of the couch, and patted the beautiful brocade underneath hard while crying.
Tang Shishi turned around and was startled to see Zhao Zigao lying on the edge of the couch. The maids quickly stepped forward, picked up Zhao Zigao, and said with a smile, “Little Junwang is jealous. He doesn’t want Wangye to see Wangfei, he must want Wangye to see him.”
Everyone roared with laughter. Initially, Tang Shishi wanted to put on a straight face, and in the end, she could not help laughing. Zhao Chengjun tapped Zhao Zigao’s head and said, “You are being naughty. Take him to the side room, and it will be time for breastfeeding in a while.”
The wet nurse responded and stepped forward to take Zhao Zigao away. Today Tang Shishi and Zhao Chengjun were going to the palace to participate in the banquet. Zhao Zigao obviously could not go and could only stay in the mansion with the wet nurse. Before Zhao Zigao was taken away, he stared at them pitifully before leaving. Tang Shishi sighed and said, “This is New Year’s Eve. It is clearly the day of the family reunion, but Gao’er has to stay alone in the mansion.”
Zhao Chengjun sighed as he thought of this, “He is too young to bring into the palace and will be fine after a few years.”
How could Tang Shishi not know that it was for his own good to not take Zhao Zigao along? This was an unsolvable situation, and all she could do was sigh. Tang Shishi nodded slightly, not paying attention to the “after a few years” in Zhao Chengjun’s words.
Not only Zhao Chengjun and Tang Shishi but also Zhao Zixun as Shizi would be attending the banquet in the palace. Soon after Tang Shishi dressed up, Zhao Zixun came with Zhou Shunhua and Ren Yujun.
Shizifei should have come forward to offer congratulations when entering the palace but firstly, Lu Yufei was not in Jinling, and secondly, Zhou Shunhua and Ren Yujun were not ordinary concubines but rewarded by the Empress Dowager. They should go to the palace to thank Empress Dowager during the New Year celebration. Therefore, Zhao Zixun was half willing and half unwilling to take along Zhou Shunhua, but Ren Yujun was just tagging along.
Zhou Shunhua and Ren Yujun also dressed up splendidly, touched up their eyebrows and eyes, and arranged their hair meticulously. After all, they were Shizi’s concubines, and their status was several times lower than that of Tang Shishi. No matter how they dressed up, they could not compare with Tang Shishi, who was gorgeous and radiant.
As soon as Zhou Shunhua entered the door, she immediately felt the pressure of her identity. She looked at the gorgeous and dignified husband and wife, Zhao Chengjun and Tang Shishi in the center of the main hall, and then looked at herself. The whole morning’s attentiveness was all for nothing. What was the use of dressing up if her identity was just up this? Could a meager and simple-dressed woman be compared to the noble lady in gorgeous clothes with jingling accessories? This was merely the hope of an ordinary woman. In fact, people relied on clothes while horses relied on saddles. Zhou Shunhua had meticulously collocated them all morning which could not be compared with the eye-catching red overcoat of Tang Shishi.
Zhou Shunhua could indeed make herself more eye-catching with her dressing skills, but her collocation was like carvings of plants, while Tang Shishi’s clothing was like the fierce tiger in the mountains. No matter how elegant the plants were, how could they be as eye-catching as a fierce tiger?
Qinwang’s Wangfei dress was ostentatious red with arrogant golden patterns. Every step taken was dazzling with powerful coercion. Zhou Shunhua felt uncomfortable at once. She used to attend imperial court banquets from time to time, but never once made her feel humble from the bottom of her heart like she did now.
Zhou Shunhua could not even stand beside Zhao Zixun. She was just a concubine who depended on the whims of others.
After Zhao Zixun entered the door with two beautiful concubines, Zhao Chengjun glanced at Zhou Shunhua indifferently without saying a word. Tang Shishi knew that Zhao Chengjun was upset, and she did not want to have any disagreement on a such good day, so she quickly said, “Well, now that everyone is here, let’s go.”
The banquet lasts from daytime to midnight, which was really a lot of physical work. Tang Shishi was even more miserable. After accompanying Empress Dowager the whole night, she would need to enter the palace early tomorrow morning to participate in the New Year’s Day celebration. In a rough calculation, Tang Shishi was equivalent to being unable to sleep for two days and one night.
Tang Shishi had a headache just thinking about it, but she could not show any dissatisfaction with the court banquet and still had to be grateful to Empress Dowager Yao. Tang Shishi was separated from Zhao Chengjun at the palace gate, and then one went to the front palace courtyard and the other went to the harem.
Tang Shishi went to the Cining Hall to greet Empress Dowager first. Today, Empress Dowager Yao’s place was extraordinarily lively. All the local or distant officials’ madams and palace people from top to bottom would come to kowtow to Empress Dowager Yao. When Tang Shishi arrived, many people were surrounding the Cining Hall.
Most people kowtowed to Empress Dowager Yao outside the hall and left after greetings. Only a few honorable womenfolk could enter the hall and extend New Year’s greetings to Empress Dowager in person. As Jing Wangfei, Tang Shishi received a lot of attention as soon as she appeared. When the eunuch of Cining Palace saw her, he did not need to announce her and immediately led Tang Shishi into the door with a smile.
“Jing Wangfei is here. Wangfei, wish you a Happy New Year and good health! Wangfei, please come inside.”
When the people in the hall heard the sounds, they all stopped talking. Tang Shishi brought along Zhou Shunhua and Ren Yujun into the hall. As soon as she entered the door, she smelled a strong warm fragrance. She raised her head and found that the Grand Eldest Princess Nanyang was also there.
Tang Shishi only took a quick glimpse and obediently saluted Empress Dowager Yao, “Tang Shishi pay respects to Empress Dowager Niangniang and Grand Eldest Princess. I wish Empress Dowager and Grand Eldest Princess a Happy New Year, peace, and prosperity.”
Speaking of which, Grand Eldest Princess Nanyang and Tang Shishi were of the same generations, but Nanyang had no intention of getting up at this moment and was still sitting firmly beside Empress Dowager Yao. Empress Dowager Yao smiled and said, “It turns out that you are here. Don’t have to stand at the ceremony. Sit down quickly.”
“Thank you, Empress Dowager.” Tang Shishi got up, moved slowly to her seat, and sat down on one side. Zhou Shunhua and Ren Yujun followed behind Tang Shishi and lowered their faces quietly. They were different from Tang Shishi. When the master did not ask, they could not take the initiative to speak.
Tang Shishi knew that Grand Eldest Princess Nanyang was the eldest daughter of Empress Dowager Yao. After she reached adulthood, she was married to the Yao family, gave birth to a daughter, and then married her back to the court. She was the current Empress.
Speaking of it, Grand Eldest Princess Nanyang was still the eldest sister-in-law of Tang Shishi. However, Tang Shishi did not expect her sister-in-law to be friendly. It was said that Princess Nanyang was not favored by Emperor Shizong when she was young and was pressured by the three sons of Imperial Consort Guo Gonglie everywhere. Now only Zhao Chengjun was still alive among the descendants of Imperial Consort Guo Gonglie and Zhao Chengjun was still the most beloved and trusted son of Emperor Shizong. With new hatred and old hatred added together, Tang Shishi was already thankful that the Grand Eldest Princess Nanyang did not give her a face in front of everyone.
Empress Dowager Yao looked at the woman behind Tang Shishi, she asked with a lazy voice, “These are the two beauties who married Shizi?”
Concubines could not say married, but since Empress Dowager Yao spoke who would dare to correct her, Tang Shishi nodded and replied, “Yes, it’s them. Empress Dowager may still have an impression that one is Zhou Shunhua, the young lady from Duke Cai of the Zhou family, and the other is Ren Yujun, the young lady from Marquis of Anning.”
Empress Dowager Yao had no impression of these two people, but when she brought up their families, Empress Dowager Yao remembered them. Empress Dowager Yao looked at the two persons carefully again and said, “I haven’t seen you for several years. You have changed a lot. I almost didn’t recognize you just now.”
Empress Dowager Yao was enjoying wealth and honor and did not know how many womenfolk she had to see in a year. It has almost been three years since Zhou Shunhua and others left the palace. It was common for Empress Dowager Yao to forget their faces. However, on one hand, was the long timespan and on the other hand, they really have changed.
In less than three years, Zhou Shunhua and Ren Yujun were not as bad as disfigured, but rather indescribable with bleak feelings. Unlike Tang Shishi, even if Empress Dowager Yao faded her memory, Empress Dowager Yao could immediately remember her as soon as Tang Shishi appeared in front of her.
No one could forget such an arrogant countenance that was fresh and bright. But Zhou Shunhua and Ren Yujun were different. Ren Yujun was only 20 years old this year and her aura was like an old woman who was a vegetarian and prayed to Buddha, without any sexual desires and emotionless. Zhou Shunhua had also changed. The once lofty noble and quiet aura had eroded, but a kind of utilitarian aura was revealed and the whole person looked very impetuous.
Ren Yujun bowed and was about to speak, but was preempted by Zhou Shunhua, “Thanks to Niangniang’s great blessing, I’ve been living well in Jing fiefdom for the past three years. I’ve been thinking about Empress Dowager Niangniang and today I can finally thank Niangniang for your kindness. I’m very grateful.”
Ren Yujun’s words were choked off and returned to her position again, showing a sneer in her eyes. Empress Dowager Yao felt even more regretful when she heard Zhou Shunhua’s words. Her grand expectations for Zhou Shunhua were in vain and seemed that this woman was wasted.
Really unexpected ah. Empress Dowager Yao carefully selected, Zhou Shunhua, Ren Yujun, Feng Qian, and others for Zhao Chengjun, and they ended in a disastrous defeat one by one. On the contrary, the most unreliable Tang Shishi suddenly became a rising faction. Empress Dowager Yao raised Tang Shishi so high back then to specifically set her as a target for these three people. In the end, the target was fine, but the real eggs were all beaten.
Empress Dowager Yao sighed for a moment and soon put it down. After all, she was the Empress Dowager. If the chess pieces were ruined, then just change a few more useful ones. How could she be worth her second glance? Zhao Chengjun was very careful in his calculations. She did not know what method he used to send Zhou Shunhua and Ren Yujun to his adopted son. He only kept Tang Shishi, and later he took the opportunity to drive away other spies. Empress Dowager Yao had to admire his skills in using this leverage.
Zhao Zixun had nothing to do with the imperial family. Since Zhou Shunhua and Ren Yujun followed Zhao Zixun, they were completely wasted. Now, the only thing the Empress Dowager Yao could use was actually Tang Shishi.
Empress Dowager Yao comforted herself that stupidity also had the advantages of stupidity, at least being easy to manipulate. Empress Dowager Yao disliked Tang Shishi’s stupidity, but she never doubted Tang Shishi’s two hearts.
Empress Dowager Yao gave up Zhou Shunhua and Ren Yujun in her heart, and naturally, she did not bother to deal with them. Empress Dowager Yao ignored Zhou Shunhua’s goodwill. She smiled and said, “You two are good children. Next, you must live and serve Shizi well, and carry on the imperial family line as soon as possible.”
Ren Yujun drew a sarcastic smile on her mouth. Tang Shishi coughed and reminded her gently, “Niangniang, Cefei Zhou has been pregnant for four months.”
“Oh?” Empress Dowager was surprised. She took a look at Zhou Shunhua properly, and said strangely, “She didn’t have any signs of bulging yet, and has already been four months long. I didn’t even notice it.”
When Empress Dowager Yao said that, Grand Eldest Princess Nanyang who had never paid attention to Tang Shishi, looked in her direction and looked at Zhou Shunhua’s abdomen carefully.
The sarcasm on Ren Yujun’s lips was even worse while Tang Shishi lowered her head to drink tea. Zhou Shunhua was embarrassed and said promptly, “I’m wearing a lot of clothes today. I don’t know what’s wrong with this child. Even though the months seem short, everyone said that it looks smaller than it appears.”
Since Zhou Shunhua needed to enter the palace today, she wore layers upon layers of clothes to conceal it. If they had not known it in advance, no one would have thought that she was pregnant. Tang Shishi stayed still and concentrated on blowing her own tea. In fact, if she was four months pregnant, even if her abdomen was not visible, her waist would be stiff. Any experienced woman could see it at a glance.
Perhaps, she was not four months pregnant at all.
Tang Shishi took it as if she did not hear it. What did Zhou Shunhua’s pregnancy get to do with her? She was only waiting to receive the baby in six months. Tang Shishi also remembered clearly that Zhou Shunhua still owed a plank.
After looking, Grand Eldest Princess Nanyang also said, “It really doesn’t look like four months. But everyone’s physique is different. When I was pregnant with Pei’er, my stomach was particularly small. Now, isn’t Pei’er grew up smoothly.”
Peier was the daughter of Grand Eldest Princess Nanyang and the current Empress, Yao Pei’er. Empress was amazing in the palace. She had the support of Empress Dowager Yao on the inside and the support of Grand Eldest Princess on the outside. Naturally, a smooth road to Heaven. No one dared to say that Empress was not good, everyone should echo together, “Grand Eldest Princess said so.”
Speaking of Yao Pei’er, Princess Nanyang also sighed. Although she kept saying that she was doing it out of goodness for her daughter by sending her daughter to the palace to live a good life, it was an indisputable fact that Yao Pei’er was now living alone. Princess Nanyang remembered that Pei’er and Tang Shishi and the rest entered the palace at the same time. Yao Peier married in the first year of Shentai, and Tang Shishi entered the palace in the second year of Shentai.
Now that five years had passed in the blink of an eye, Tang Shishi gave birth to a son, Zhou Shunhua was pregnant, but Yao Pei’er has not yet consummated with the Emperor. Even though Princess Nanyang did not say anything on the surface, but it was hard for her not to care about this.
Did she harm her daughter?
Grand Eldest Princess Nanyang suddenly felt restless thinking about this, she looked around and asked, “Where is Empress?”
A palace maid went out quickly to ask. After a while, the maid came back and said, “Princess, Empress Niangniang said she was bored just now and went out for a walk.”
On New Year’s Day, Empress went out for a walk alone. Empress Dowager did not have any expression on her face and said indifferently, “The incense in the hall is too heavy, and I feel bored after smelling it. No wonder Empress can’t sit still. Feng Momo, you go outside to find Empress. Many people are coming and going today. Don’t let anyone run into Empress.”
Feng Momo responded, stepped back to the door, turned around, and lifted the curtain to go out. Tang Shishi lowered her eyes and turned a deaf ear without making any comments on Empress’s affairs.
Regardless of whether Empress Dowager Yao and Grand Eldest Princess Nanyang regret it or not, it has nothing to do with Tang Shishi. Tang Shishi met Yao Pei’er before. The young Empress was different from her mother and grandmother. She looked sentimental, timid, and quiet. After five years of living alone in a place like the Imperial Palace, Empress was also a pitiful person, but no matter how pitiful Empress was, her surname was also Yao.
The Yao family and Zhao Chengjun were born on the opposite side. This kind of thing could only listen to without being taken into the heart.
Mentioning Yao Pei’er, Empress Dowager Yao and Grand Eldest Princess Nanyang was not in the mood to deal with others. Tang Shishi understood the atmosphere without being pointed out. Seeing this, she stood up and said, “I have bothered Empress Dowager for a long time. Niangniang and Grand Eldest Princess have things to say, so I won’t bother.”
Empress Dowager Yao nodded without retaining them and said, “You have a heart. On another day, you will bring Zhao Zigao in and let Emperor and Empress have a look. Speaking of which, he is the youngest brother of the two of them.”
Tang Shishi promised with a smile, “Yes, Gao’er is blessed to be remembered by Niangniang and His Majesty. Wish Empress Dowager and Grand Eldest Princess happiness. I will retire first.”
Tang Shishi slowly withdrew from the inner hall, and the inner attendant stepped forward to lead Tang Shishi to leave Cining Palace. Zhou Shunhua was feeling a little unhappy when she walked out of Cining Palace. She was also pregnant, but Empress Dowager only mentioned Zhao Zigao in her words and did not care about her child at all.
The winter sun was blinding cold, shining on the glazed roof tiles of the Imperial Palace reflecting a circle of cold magnificent light. Ren Yujun went to Zhou Shunhua’s side and seemed to be helping Zhou Shunhua down the steps. In fact, she quietly said in Zhou Shunhua’s ear, “Empress Dowager mentioned again to let Wangfei bring her child into the palace. Since Empress Dowager likes children so much, why didn’t she ask about my sister?”
Zhou Shunhua pressed her lips tightly and did not respond. Ren Yujun chuckled softly and said, “Maybe it’s because Empress Dowager Niangniang looks down on it.”
It was not difficult to notice the difference in Empress Dowager’s attitude just now. Empress Dowager’s attitude toward them and Tang Shishi was completely different. Obviously, they had been abandoned by Empress Dowager.
Zhou Shunhua smiled coldly when she heard the words, and also replied in a gentle and subtle voice, “What is the difference between sister and me? At least I have a child and Shizi.”
Child? Ren Yujun snorted coldly, and said, “Sister Zhou has been Cefei only for a few days and takes herself as a pregnant woman? I’m afraid this death-free gold medal is not easy to use.”
Zhou Shunhua just smiled faintly at this, “Thank you Sister Ren for reminding me. I don’t need my sister to worry about how I live my life.”
The two beautiful sisters helped each other to walk. The more they walked, the slower they get, and the farther they were from Tang Shishi, the further the distance was. Tang Shishi could not hear the subtle voices behind her and walked peacefully with the maid in the corridor. Coincidentally, she had just walked not far away and ran into a group of people. When the eunuch who was on the opposite side saw Tang Shishi, he greeted her across a distance, “Pay respects to Jing Wangfei. Jing Wangfei has an auspicious New Year.”
Only then did the person on the opposite side know that this was actually Jing Wangfei who had been well-known in the capital during this period and yet the mysterious Jing Wangfei who had never been seen. The old madam who headed the group stepped forward to salute Tang Shishi, “I’m Li from the Zhou family of the Duke Cai mansion pay respects to Jing Wangfei. Jing Wangfei is blessed.”