IBTBTED Chapter 115
It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager
Chapter 115 Abolish the Eldest
There was no doubt that Tang Shishi was the focal point of this year’s New Year’s Eve banquet. Not only did Empress Dowager Yao talk and laugh with Tang Shishi, but Empress Yao who had always been silent also spoke for the first time and took the initiative to chat with Tang Shishi. One whole night, no one could match Tang Shishi’s grand scene.
Zhou Shunhua looked at everyone’s pursuit of Tang Shishi, and her heart became unusually sad. She sat behind Tang Shishi. She was more outstanding and worked harder than Tang Shishi, but no one could see Zhou Shunhua.
Because she was only a Cefei, not a Wangfei.
Ren Yujun also sat behind Tang Shishi like an invisible person, only half an arm away from Zhou Shunhua. Ren Yujun said softly to Zhou Shunhua through the action of pouring wine, “Envy? Unfortunately, the grand scene belongs to others. You are just a nameless concubine.”
Zhou Shunhua was enraged and looked at Ren Yujun without expression, “Sister Ren said this as if you have become a legitimate wife.”
“That’s right. I’m also a concubine.” Ren Yujun did not seem to care and said with a smile, “But I don’t have those unrealistic fantasies. I never compare with others and don’t want to surpass anyone. Unlike some people, have a heart that is higher than the sky and has a life that is thinner than paper.”
Zhou Shunhua gritted her teeth silently and her complexion looked ugly. Ren Yujun raised the wine cup, toasted Zhou Shunhua, and looked around slowly, “I didn’t notice it just now. Now that I look carefully, it turns out that there are many acquaintances at the banquet. I didn’t receive much attention when I was in the Marquis of Anning’s mansion, and I didn’t know many people. However, Sister Zhou’s family is more powerful, and you were spoiled since childhood, I’m afraid there are many close friends from childhood. Now, these people either marry a wealthy family as a young madam or married a Jinshi as an official wife. They are all fighting over talking with Wangfei, but no one pays attention to you. Sadly, former friends are so snobbish.”
Zhou Shunhua calmed her mind, poured herself a cup of wine, and asked, “What’s the matter with Sister Ren today? Why are you particularly sad?”
“Young ladies of yesterdays were not what they used to be and today we are no longer what it was before.” Ren Yujun glanced at Zhou Shunhua’s abdomen and said with an unknown smile, “Sister Zhou has a child to depend on. Naturally, she doesn’t understand the feelings of a lonely person like me. Even though a concubine, you can let Shizi kill his legitimate wife for you. Sister Zhou is really powerful.”
Zhou Shunhua was calm and silent. The surrounding was lively with magnificent and dazzling sights, but Zhou Shunhua felt dizzy by those bright lights. Zhou Shunhua looked at the topmost, stared at the brightest place in the hall, and suddenly said, “Imperial Consort is also a concubine, but when those people toast to the Imperial Consort, they did not care about the rules of whether they are wives or concubines.”
Ren Yujun was stunned for a moment and suddenly laughed, “Can you call the Emperor’s concubine a concubine? Sister Zhou, where do you have the courage to compare with the Imperial Consort?”
Zhou Shunhua did not speak. But she was thinking in her heart, why not?
She not only wanted to be the noblest concubine, but also the Empress Dowager with the highest status in the world. According to Zhou Shunhua’s observation in the past two years, Jing Wang was by no means an ordinary person. The day when Jing Wang started to rebel was the time when Zhao Zixun would shine brilliantly.
The little Emperor was absurd, and Empress Dowager Yao interfered in political affairs which were unpopular from the grandparent’s generations to the grandchildren’s generations. If Zhao Chengjun really wanted to rebel, Jinling would not be a problem at all.
At that time, Zhao Zixun as Shizi of Jing Wang’s Mansion would also rise with the tide. Although Zhou Shunhua was a concubine now, she would be Taizi’s favored concubine in a few more years. Lu Yufei could no longer give birth to a child. When Zhou Shunhua succeeded in giving birth to the child, it would only be a matter of time before she replaced Lu Yufei. Perhaps, Zhou Shunhua could possibly confer with Taizifei* directly.
(Taizifei* – Legitimate wife of Taizi)
All the sufferings she received now were to soar to the sky one day.
However, Ren Yujun as a resentful woman would never understand these. Even if she knew, what could she do without the favor of Shizi? Now Zhou Shunhua could hardly imagine that she and Ren Yujun became sworn sisters in the beginning.
Zhou Shunhua felt sorry for her own sincerity as she was let down by Ren Yujun in the end.
Zhou Shunhua did not want to see Ren Yujun again and went outside to breathe on the pretext of sobering up. She did not want to go back to see everyone flattering Tang Shishi, so she hid in the shadow and thought quietly.
The lamp outside was blown out by the wind. Zhou Shunhua sat under the tree and was completely covered by shadows. The two palace maids came from the other side holding the trays, and they were gossiping as they walked, “Empress Dowager Niangniang is very happy today. She even ordered to go to the Moon Pavilion for Lantern Festival.”
“So good? I’ve heard from the eunuch that the lights on the Qinhuai River are very beautiful, not worse than the celestial. This time, we can finally follow out to have a look.”
“Isn’t it? It’s all Jing Wangfei’s blessing this time. I heard that Jing Wangfei hasn’t been to Jinling and has been fascinated by the lights of the Qinhuai River for a long time. Empress Dowager Niangniang was happy to hear that, so she ordered to hold the Lantern Festival and take Emperor, Empress, and local and distant officials’ madams to watch the lights outside the palace together. In my opinion, Empress Dowager Niangniang wanted to match Emperor and Empress.”
“This is the master’s matter. What do you care so much about? As long as we can go out, the masters can do anything.”
“That’s true. Alas, I began to think that Empress’s fate was good. Now it seems that Jing Wangfei has the best life. Her husband dotes on her, her son is obedient, and Empress Dowager Niangniang supports her. She gets whatever she wants.”
Another palace maid snorted and lowered her voice to say mysteriously, “It’s more than that. When Jing Wangfei entered the palace last time, I heard Empress Dowager Niangniang and Momo said that they intended to make Wangfei’s legitimate son Shizi. Jing Wangfei is not just a Wangfei. When her son grows up, she will become the Eldest Imperial Concubine. At that time, she will be the eldest in the Northwestern fiefdom. She doesn’t have to worry about food and clothing, and still has her son’s filial piety which is the true life of enjoying happiness.”
The palace maid was surprised and asked, “But isn’t there a Shizi in Jing Wang’s mansion?”
“Haiya, just abolish it. Haven’t you seen this kind of thing before after spending so many years in the palace?” Another palace maid said indifferently. “Furthermore, Shizi is an adopted son and Jing Wangfei gave birth to her own son. Maybe, Jing Wang also wants to abolish the eldest son and establish the young by pushing the boat along with the current.”
“That’s true. It’s not that he doesn’t have his own son. How can the title still fall into the hands of an outsider?”
While the two palace maids were talking in a whisper, there was a sudden heavy cough from behind the cloister. Feng Momo stood under the light and looked at them coldly, “What are you doing? If you don’t go serve inside, what are you gossiping about here?”
The two palace maids were startled, saluted hurriedly, and ran away without daring to lift their heads. After the palace maids left, Feng Momo looked around and retreated back with ease when she saw no one around.
Zhou Shunhua hid in the dark and covered her mouth tightly with her eyes widen to the maximum.
Empress Dowager and Jing Wang had the heart of abolishing the eldest son and establishing the young! What made Zhou Shunhua shudder was that Empress Dowager had told Tang Shishi about it. Judging from Tang Shishi’s attitude, it should be tacit approval.
Heaven ah! Shizi had been working so hard and had been following Jing Wang everywhere, but Jing Wang and Tang Shishi did this kind of thing behind his back! Zhou Shunhua was both angry at the dignified Jing Wang and his wife, and also distressed that Zhao Zixun was used by others. At the same time, she started to panic.
If Zhao Zixun was abolished… then Jing Wang’s mansion and the future world would have nothing to do with Zhou Shunhua. Until she died, she was just a lowly concubine.
How could Zhou Shunhua be willing? She sat in the shade of the tree dazedly until the cold penetrated all over her body, both her legs and hands became cold, and only then did she slowly recover.
She looked up to see a eunuch in the front hall square testing fireworks and looked like it was going to be zishi (11 pm – 1 am) soon. Zhou Shunhua staggered to get up with the support of the tree trunk and walked toward the banquet hall.
If an insignificant Cefei was missing from the New Year’s Eve banquet, no one would pay attention at all. When Zhou Shunhua went back, she found that everyone was surrounding and protecting Empress Dowager and Empress to go to the Fengtian Hall Square to see the fireworks. Zhou Shunhua turned around again and hurried to Fengtian Hall.
In front of Fengtian Hall, there was a square where hundreds of officials went to court here on ordinary days and the court set up lights here during New Year and other festivals. The little Emperor was especially fond of playing. So, this year he let the eunuchs fill the Fengtian Hall Square with fireworks including firecrackers, flower tubes, three-level waves, and many more, and also fireworks stand that integrated many fireworks. They were many kinds of fireworks that would make people dazzled with it.
New Year was a rare time for womenfolk to have fun. Empress Dowager Yao brought many womenfolk to the West Hall of Fengtian Hall Square to watch fireworks. Palace maids and officials’ madams stood in front of the stairs of the West Hall, pointing at the scene in the square from the railing. Empress Dowager Yao was surrounded in the middle listening to everyone’s entertaining flattery and laughter constantly.
However, Tang Shishi was a little anxious. She slowly left the center and looked at the corners. No one noticed that Zhou Shunhua had disappeared, but Tang Shishi did. Tang Shishi sighed secretly. She did not pay attention for a while, and Zhou Shunhua disappeared again. Zhou Shunhua really deserved to be the female lead and dared to walk around in the court.
There was no partition in Fengtian Temple Square where men and women were mixed together. Not far away, the Emperor brought his officials to watch the fireworks. If Zhou Shunhua strayed away, she might cause trouble.
It was almost zishi. Eunuchs were already testing the firecrackers in the square, and the crackling sounds were louder than before. There were bursts of exclamations among the womenfolk. The favored female officials surrounded Empress Dowager and constantly pointed out the fireworks to Empress Dowager Yao.
Tang Shishi did not have the mood to enjoy the fireworks as she was anxious to look where was Zhou Shunhua. At this time, a flower tube suddenly exploded when it was half shooting up, and the fireworks barrel with fire flew towards Tang Shishi. Tang Shishi was startled, subconsciously dodged backward, accidentally stepped on the edge of the stairs, staggered, and fell backward.
Tang Shishi was in a panic. Suddenly, someone supported her arm, then pulled her hard and took her away from the place. Tang Shishi instinctively looked at the position but found no one. Then she turned to the other side with surprise and saw Zhao Chengjun’s face passing before her eyes. His face was blank with a stern and cold expression like a jade carving.
Shortly after that, the fireworks burst behind her, and Tang Shishi jumped in fright. Zhao Chengjun covered her ears and said helplessly, “Look at your reaction speed, can’t even escape such a big fireworks barrel and still make trouble for yourself.”
When Tang Shishi knew it was Zhao Chengjun, she was not afraid in an instant. She replied, “I don’t know there was a problem with the fireworks. If I walk where everything was all right, how can I fall down?”
Before Tang Shishi could finish her cruel words, suddenly came a firecracker spinning around on the ground and whirled violently. Tang Shishi was shocked and screamed while hiding behind Zhao Chengjun.
Zhao Chengjun smiled while hugging her shoulder and took her away from the range of the firecracker. The zishi arrived at this time. There were sudden sounds of loud firecrackers all around and all kinds of fireworks rose into the air one after another, exploding with dazzling brilliance. Zhao Chengjun bent down slightly, covered her ears with both his hands, and said, “It’s all right. I’m here.”
Many fireworks rose into the air behind Zhao Chengjun, bursting with multicolored rays of brilliance rays in the dark sky, and Zhao Chengjun’s face was also intermittently visible in brilliance rays from time to time indefinitely. In Tang Shishi’s eyes, many brilliant rays took off into the sky and then fell, and only the person in front of her looked at her calmly and firmly.
Tang Shishi’s eyes softened slowly, nodded gently, and said, “Okay.”
The Emperor watched the fireworks livelily, but the real situation in the square was not optimistic. There were too many fireworks in the sky. From time to time, the unburnt fireworks barrels fell down, some were already on fire, and some would burst suddenly. To make matters worse, the black nitrate powder kept falling from the sky and hitting people all over their bodies and faces. At first, Tang Shishi was still in the mood to enjoy the fireworks, but very soon she could not stand it anymore.
She kept checking her clothes and touching her face suspiciously, “Is there any flakes on my face?”
“Did my face turn black?”
Tang Shishi was very suspicious, “Really?”
“Really.” Zhao Chengjun sighed slightly, shielded her in his arms, and walked slowly towards the gate of the palace, “Since you are not at ease, then let’s go back. I’ll let Emperor and Empress Dowager knows.”
Tang Shishi hesitated as today was New Year’s Eve. Emperor and Empress Dowager had not left yet. Was not it bad for them to leave early? Tang Shishi asked, “Doesn’t it matter?”
Zhao Chengjun’s answer was still short and firm, “No.”
Zhou Shunhua stood behind the corner of the palace and saw Zhao Chengjun protecting Tang Shishi in front of people without avoiding taboo and took her to safety. Zhou Shunhua put her finger on the wall and slowly tightened them, making thin white marks under her fingernail.
Xishi killed her husband and Diao Chan killed Lu Bu, while Jing Wang was completely bewitched by Tang Shishi. No matter what Jing Wang thought now, it was only a matter of time before he favored Tang Shishi’s son.
Zhou Shunhua had no way back since a long time ago. Tang Shishi was heartless at first. In that case, Tang Shishi could not blame her for her injustice.