It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager
Chapter 114 Acting
Duke Cai mansion… Tang Shishi was surprised and could not help but glance backward. This turned out to be Zhou Shunhua’s grandmother, Li of Zhou, the Old Madam of the Duke Cai mansion.
When Zhou Shunhua requested to accompany her, she used her grandmother’s illness as a reason. Unexpectedly, Tang Shishi happened to meet Li of Zhou in the palace by such a coincidence.
Tang Shishi smiled and asked Li of Zhou to get up, “Old Madam, please get up quickly. I’m about the same age as your granddaughter. How can I be worthy of your salute?”
Li of Zhou still remained orderly and only stood up straight after completing the etiquette. She said with a serious face, “The superiority and inferiority are in order. It’s natural for us to pay respects to Wangfei. What does it have to do with age? I heard that my second granddaughter is in Jing Wang’s mansion. Thank you Wangfei for guiding her over the years.”
“It’s my duty.” Tang Shishi smiled and stood sideways, “Cefei Zhou, aren’t you thinking about attending your grandmother’s illness? The old madam is here, what are you still waiting for?”
Zhou Shunhua stepped forward in front of everyone. Her family was in front of her, and the back was the pale and cold palace with the expressionless inner servants, as well as Tang Shishi who was smiling yet not smiling. Zhou Shunhua never felt that seeing her family was such an uncomfortable thing. She lowered her head and endured the embarrassment to salute everyone, “Paying respects to grandmother, mother, and aunt.”
When Li of Zhou saw Zhou Shunhua, her eyes moved. Finally, she could only sigh, “Since she entered the prince’s mansion, she has to serve her husband and mother-in-law properly in the future. Jing Wangfei, my granddaughter is naughty. In the future, Wangfei please tolerate her for the sake of my honor.”
Tang Shishi nodded with a smile. Her eyes swept across people from the Duke Cai mansion and Zhou Shunhua and said empathetically, “It’s rare for Cefei Zhou to meet her family. Cefei Zhou, you don’t need to follow me around. Talk to your grandmother and sisters more. Don’t let down your filial piety.”
Li of Zhou’s decline personally, but Tang Shishi’s attitude was very resolute. After Li of Zhou said a few polite words, she also agreed. Zhou Shunhua was different from Tang Shishi. Tang Shishi could take her mother and family into the mansion at will, but Zhou Shunhua as a concubine could not. After leaving the palace, who knew when the next meeting would be.
After Tang Shishi let Zhou Shunhua reunite with the Duke Cai mansion, she also asked Ren Yujun to go to the front to find the people from Marquis of Anning mansion based on the principle of fairness and justice. Tang Shishi was really relieved after getting rid of her two tails. She had nothing to do and did not want to go into the room to listen to the nonsense of those people, so she walked slowly around the imperial garden.
When she passed a rockery garden, she vaguely heard a voice behind her. Tang Shishi stopped and looked back and saw a fiery red figure.
Only one person?
Tang Shishi was no stranger to this kind of clothing system. To be able to wear such a bright red in the palace, except for the Empress, no one else could put it on. Tang Shishi took the maid and walked slowly into the pavilion, and asked, “Empress Niangniang?”
The people inside responded while turning around. Seeing that it was really Yao Peier, Tang Shishi saluted at once, “I pay respects to Empress. Niangniang, why are you here alone? What about the people who serve you by your side?”
“They were too noisy, and I wanted to be quiet for a while, so I sent them away.” Yao Peier stared at Tang Shishi for a while and suddenly said, “I remember you. You are the beautiful woman from Shentai’s second year, aren’t you?”
“Yes, it’s me.” Tang Shishi did not expect Yao Peier to remember her, and her heart was quite complicated. “Niangniang can still remember me even though you’re so busy. I’m very honored.”
“I haven’t seen many people in all these years. How can I forget?” Yao Peier sat on the railing and was slightly stunned. “It’s been six years. No, it’s going to be seven years soon.”
Today was the last day of Shentai’s seven years. After today, she has been in the palace for seven years.
She had not seen Yao Peier for several years and her mental state was even worse now. Tang Shishi sighed slightly. When Yao Peier first entered the palace, she was only thirteen years old. She was young, lively, and favored by nature. Which of those beautiful women did not envy Empress’s life? But as time passed, Tang Shishi and others gradually mature, but Yao Peier fell silent year after year. This huge court was like a vicious beast sucking people’s blood essence, slowly draining Yao Peier’s youthfulness and emotions.
When Tang Shishi left the court, Yao Peier was depressed and rarely smiled. Now she actually talked to herself openly. Yao Peier’s condition was really not good.
Yao Peier sat at a drafty place as if she could not feel the cold and asked, “I remember you went to Uncle Jing’s fiefdom. Why did you return to the palace?”
Tang Shishi said, “I’m under the imperial edict of the Empress Dowager to return to the capital with His Highness Jing Wang to serve the Empress Dowager. Today is New Year’s Eve and I enter the palace to celebrate the New Year’s Eve with Niangniang and others.”
Yao Peier asked to find out, “Who are you to Uncle Jing Wang?”
“I’m the wife of Jing Wang.” Tang Shishi replied, “I was married to Jing Wang last year, and it has been a year now. Empress Niangniang also added to my dowry, and I thanked Niangniang here.”
Yao Peier finally remembered and murmured, “So it was you…”
It was almost three years ago that Tang Shishi left the palace. Yao Peier recognized Tang Shishi’s face, knew Tang Shishi’s name, and heard that Jing Wang married a wife. But today, these three people were truly integrated.
Yao Peier leaned against the railing and was baffled while staring at the shadow on the ground, “It turns out not returning to the palace, but to be completely liberated. This is really great.”
Tang Shishi thought that she could not answer this. The Imperial Palace was a first-class place in the world. How could the word “liberated” be used? Tang Shishi coughed lightly and reminded, “Empress Niangniang, you are the mother of a country. You are blessed with richness in the world. All women in the world envy you. What worth seeing about my life which deserves your praise?”
The mother of a country with richness in the world? Yao Peier smiled very faintly, and her voice was soft, like a puff of smoke that would disappear in the wind if no one was paying attention, “Richness in the world, but I have never seen what the world is like. It’s nothing more than sitting there with just a pair of clothes.”
Tang Shishi seemed to be fascinated by the wind and did not hear what Yao Peier said. Yao Peier was blank for a while and asked, “I remember Uncle Jing Wang is in the Northwest. What does the Northwest look like?”
This problem was hard to describe. After thinking about it, Tang Shishi said, “Xiping province is a little colder than Jinling, and the wind should be a little stronger. There is no rain in winter, only snow. The snowfall can accumulate more than three inches at most. The snow in the shade does not melt all winter and can only melt in the spring of the following year.”
“Three inches of snow…” Yao Peier’s eyes showed surprise. Her eyes stared forward with emptiness, and muttered to herself, “I have never seen such heavy snow. Everyone says that Jinling is good, but I have never seen Jinling or the Northwest.”
Seeing Tang Shishi was silent again, Yao Peier smiled as usual, “Isn’t it scary to see me like this? I am lonely in this palace, and I can only talk to the shadow.”
After Yao Peier finished speaking, she added lightly, “I am also a shadow.”
Tang Shishi sighed when she saw Yao Peier’s appearance like this. There was no sunshine in the pavilion all year round, and the chilly air almost got into people’s bones. Tang Shishi gathered her clothes and said to Yao Peier, “Empress, it’s cold here. You’d better go back quickly. The Grand Eldest Princess and the Empress Dowager have asked about you several times in the Cining Palace.”
Yao Peier lowered her head and said in a faint voice, “I know. I’m leaving, so go by yourself too.”
Tang Shishi stepped back and let Yao Peier leave, “I respectfully send Empress Niangniang.”
Yao Peier left quickly. She was clearly the Empress, but she was silent as a shadow. After Tang Shishi sent Yao Peier away, she also felt that the pavilion was desolate and soon returned to the main hall of the banquet.
As soon as Tang Shishi entered the door, many eyes immediately fell on her. Some madams have not seen Tang Shishi yet and quietly asked the madams next to them, “This is…”
This woman has black hair, snowy skin, slender figure with amazing beauty which astonished people. If this was the legitimate wife of a certain family, she would never be unknown in Jinling with her appearance. However, if she was not the legitimate wife, how could she attend the palace banquet on New Year’s Eve?
A well-informed madam quietly told the people around her, “Didn’t Jing Wang return to Beijing a few days ago. This is Wangfei of Jing Wang.”
Everyone suddenly realized that it was Jing Wangfei. No wonder they had never seen her before. As soon as Tang Shishi stood still, someone came up to greet her, “I pay respects to Jing Wangfei.”
Tang Shishi smiled and asked, “May I ask Madam is…”
“My family name is Chang. My husband is Wei Bin, the Minister of General Administration. Now he works in the Ministry of General Administration.”
Tang Shishi realized that she was the madam of the Minister of General Administration. Tang Shishi smiled and exchanged greetings, “It turns out to be Madam Wei. I’m new here and don’t know people in Jinling who make Madam laugh.”
“Wangfei has just arrived, so naturally, you can’t recognize people. Just wait for a few days.” Madam Wei asked, “How was the journey when Wangfei came from Xiping province?”
“Everything went well.” Tang Shishi nodded gently. “Madam Wei, thank you for her concern.”
Another person who looked like an official’s wife next to Madam Wei said, “With Jing Wang escorting Wangfei on this journey, what there is to worry about? I heard that Jing Wang loves Wangfei so much that he even sent scouts to open the way for Wangfei and even Wangfei’s wheels were wrapped in deerskin.”
“Where got.” Tang Shishi refused, “It was because I have my child with me. Wangye felt sorry that he was rushed on the journey at a young age. He was afraid that there would be an accident on the road, so he was strictly prepared.”
Madam Wei was surprised, and asked, “Wangfei looks so young and already has a child?”
“That’s right.” Tang Shishi said with a smile, “He’s ten months old now. It’s really very troublesome with the change in the environment.”
Upon hearing this, several madams taught Tang Shishi the secret recipe for taking care of children. They were all envious and jealous when they saw that Tang Shishi has a slender waist and snowy skin, yet already a mother of a child. Jing Wang has been away from the court for twelve years, and the legend of the fourth prince in Jinling had gradually faded away. All people could only remember was the name of Jing Wang of the Northwest who killed and fought decisively in the war. No one knew that Jing Wang has made countless contributions over the years by using his own power to contain the three foreign enemies of Tatar, Beiting, and Chagatai. The Northwest has formed a military of three hundred thousand people.
The garrison of the capital was also three hundred thousand. However, Jinling has been peaceful for a long time and the three major barracks were full of children of imperial relatives with meritorious services, who could not even defeat the local ruffians and hooligans. How could they fight with the Northwest military? You know, the Northwest army was actually trained from the battlefield.
Such a famous vassal monarch actually married a beautiful Wangfei. It was said that Wangfei was sent by Empress Dowager. It seemed that it was really difficult for the hero to pass the beauty trap, and even Jing Wang was no exception.
After someone started, more and more people came to greet Tang Shishi. Tang Shishi had just finished sending a wave away and was stopped by a new wave of people without taking two steps. Gradually, all the madams of Jinling knew that Jing Wang had married an extremely beautiful Wangfei who had given birth to an heir and was quite favored.
As time went by, Empress Dowager Yao, Grand Eldest Princess Nanyang, and Empress arrived only after the auspicious hour of the banquet passed for a quarter of an hour. After Empress Dowager Yao took her seat at the honorable position, the New Year’s Eve banquet began after a eunuch gave a tribute.
Now, Emperor was young and has no children. The former Emperor Xiaozong was weak and ill. He died young and did not leave any children behind except Emperor. So, there were no other princesses present apart from Tang Shishi. Moreover, Zhao Chengjun was Emperor’s uncle, and Tang Shishi and Grand Eldest Princess Nanyang were of the same generation.
According to reason, Wangfei’s level was a bit higher than the princess, but how could Tang Shishi do such a stupid thing by preempting Princess Nanyang in front of Empress Dowager Yao. As early as when they took the seat, Tang Shishi tried her best to invite the Grand Eldest Princess Nanyang to the top in the name of respecting the elder.
After all, Nanyang was Zhao Chengjun’s older sister, and it was not too much to say that she was respecting the elder. Empress Dowager Yao and Yao Peier sat at the topmost, the Grand Eldest Princess Nanyang sat at the seat of honor, and Tang Shishi at the second seat.
Although the seat was one seat behind the Grand Eldest Nanyang Princess, it did not affect Tang Shishi’s conspicuous at all.
Everyone looked at the glamorous and glorious Jing Wangfei under the light, and they were not surprised why Jing Wang would submit to this person. These women also wavered when they looked at her, let alone men?
After all, Tang Shishi was beautiful, and they could understand why she was favored by Jing Wang. However, after the banquet began, Empress Dowager Yao also showed good graces to Tang Shishi which made all the madams stunned.
Not long after the banquet began, Empress Dowager Yao took the initiative to pour a cup of wine and raised her glass at Tang Shishi. Tang Shishi noticed it and quickly picked up the wine cup.
Empress Dowager Yao seemed to be filled with emotion and sighed, “So many years have passed in a blink of an eye. For these years, Jing Wang has been defending in the Northwest to share worries for Emperor. He is an important minister of the Imperial Court. I offer this cup to Jing Wangfei.”
Tang Shishi said quickly, “I don’t deserve Empress Dowager Niangniang’s words. Jing Wang serves the country wholeheartedly and serving the Imperial Court is what we wish for.”
Empress Dowager Yao smiled and said, “Jing Wang has the world in his heart, and this year he is also happy to have a child. These are really two happy things happening at the same time. Someone, bring that string of Buddhist beads of mine.”
Feng Momo hesitated, “Niangniang, that string of beads was consecrated by the abbot of the Huguo Temple to protect you and accumulate blessings. It has never left your body for more than ten years, I’m afraid…”
“Just bring it,” said Empress Dowager Yao lightly, “I’m already an old sagging woman, what blessings can I accumulate? It’s better to give it to the child to protect his long life and be healthy all his life. Go get it.”
Feng Momo did not say anything anymore. She bowed and said, “Yes.”
Everyone in the hall stopped moving unconsciously and watched the above scene quietly. Feng Momo quickly fetched the prayer beads and stopped at the side of Empress Dowager Yao. Empress Dowager Yao waved her hand and said, “Give it to Jing Wangfei. I have nothing to give, only the Buddhist beads that have been with me for many years that are still somewhat Zen. Let’s leave it to little Junwang of Jing Wang for protection.”
Feng Momo respectfully took the Buddha beads to Tang Shishi’s side. Tang Shishi was surprised and hurriedly said, “This is the personal thing of Empress Dowager Niangniang, how dare I…”
“Jing Wangfei, you don’t have to refuse.” Empress Dowager Yao sat at the top and said faintly, “This is a little intention from me as an elder, so you just accept it.”
At this point, if Tang Shishi continued to refuse, it would be unkind. So, Tang Shishi got up and solemnly saluted Empress Dowager Yao, “I thank Empress Dowager Niangniang on behalf of Gao’er.”
Empress Dowager Yao smiled slowly and said, “Everything in the palace is good, all except fewer children. When the weather warms up, Jing Wangfei must bring little Junwang into the palace more often. When I’m at my old age, I like to see young people and children.”
Tang Shishi said with a bow, “I will obey.”
Tang Shishi stood up straight, picked up the Buddha beads from the plate, turned around, and asked the maid to put them away properly. The maids did not dare to be careless. They quickly wrapped them in brocade handkerchief and put it close to them.
Whether Empress Dowager Yao’s words were true or false, she rewarded Tang Shishi’s son in front of everyone which meant to give dignity to Jing Wang and Tang Shishi. At the banquet, the madams watched with envy and sigh.
No matter what things were given from the palace, it was still a reward, but there were different kinds of rewards. The closer the things to the superior, the more favored the person was. The emperor gave his unfinished dishes to his officials which were regarded as a good word for the monarch and his ministers to be of one mind. Empress Dowager Yao gave the Buddha beads that she had worn for more than ten years to Tang Shishi’s son which was actually a huge prestige.
Everyone looked at each other and thought that Tang Shishi was unfathomable. No to mention that she has captured Jing Wang, even Empress Dowager Yao trusted her. Jing Wang and Empress Dowager Yao were known to be old enemies.
It was true that people could not be judged by their appearance. No one would imagine that the one who looked the stupidest among the beautiful women was the one with the deepest mind and the highest means. While the madams were amazed, their inner fear towards Tang Shishi became stronger.
This woman’s acting was so perfect that she was indeed frightening!