IBTBTED Chapter 116
It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager
Chapter 116 Establish the Young
When Tang Shishi returned to the mansion, it was already late at night. She went to see Zhao Zigao first before changing her clothes.
Zhao Zigao was already asleep. He did not see his mother all day today and cried aggrievedly. The wet nurse was having a tough time coaxing him to sleep, but Zhao Zigao did not sleep soundly. His eyes were half-closed, and he twitched from time to time with his little fist stuck in his mouth, looking very pitiful.
Tang Shishi’s heart melted when she saw this. She surrounded Zhao Zigao’s bed and gently coaxed him to sleep. After looking for a long while, Zhao Chengjun’s hands began to feel itchy again, “Why is he sucking his hand in his sleep?”
According to Zhao Chengjun’s intention, he wanted to pull Zhao Zigao’s hands out, but Tang Shishi glared at him with a murderous look, and threatened in a faint voice, “You dare! It’s already so late that he is finally able to fall asleep. He is still a child. If he wants to suck, then let him suck. Why do you care?”
All right, Zhao Chengjun had nothing to say and endured it silently. Zhao Zigao seemed to feel his mother’s breath. Under Tang Shishi’s patting, he slowly relaxed his eyebrows and fell asleep completely.
Tang Shishi was relieved. She squatted for too long and when she got up, her legs were numb and her body almost fell down. Zhao Chengjun held her from behind. When he was about to say something, Tang Shishi quickly covered his mouth, “Shh!”
Zhao Chengjun raised his eyebrow and was very helpless. He indicated with his eyes that he understood. Tang Shishi carefully let go of her hand and gently asked the maid, “Look after little Junwang properly. If he wakes up, call me immediately.”
After arranging her son’s matter, Tang Shishi went out at ease. She returned to the main hall where she lived with Zhao Chengjun and sat on the couch. She immediately felt the loss of strength all over.
She was too tired. She used to envy those imperial families and nobles who could go to the palace for the New Year. Now when she thought about it, it was not like having a good meal at her own home. Zhao Chengjun saw Tang Shishi pale with exhaustion, came over to hold her hand, and asked, “Are you very tired?”
“Hmm.” Tang Shishi said while leaning her head on Zhao Chengjun’s shoulder and asked, “Feel it. Is it heavy?”
Zhao Chengjun chuckled and raised his hand to massage her temple with slow rotation. Zhao Chengjun said, “Although today is the festival day, you’re wearing regular clothes which don’t consider grand yet. When we go to the court celebration tomorrow, we have to wear a full set of formal clothing. The crown on the head is four or five catties, that is tiring.”
Tang Shishi’s eyes became dark, and her neck seemed to have begun to hurt. Tang Shishi asked, “Does this happen the first day of every year?”
“En.” said Zhao Chengjun, “But I haven’t been in the capital for more than ten years. I don’t know what court celebration looks like now.”
Tang Shishi tutted and could not help saying, “Why bother? Obviously, it’s the New Year, but it’s like punishment. Emperor is tired and the officials are tired. Isn’t it good for everyone to rest comfortably at home?”
“The rules handed down from ancient times can’t be changed.” Zhao Chengjun sighed, “Each position has to fulfill its own responsibilities. Who makes them the monarch and officials? Now that we have enjoyed the offerings of the people, we must naturally fulfill the duties as the monarch and officials.”
In fact, Tang Shishi was just complaining. Tomorrow morning, she would still get up obediently to attend the court meeting. The New Year’s Day celebration was the most important etiquette of the year. Many officials in their seventies and eighties years old who trembled when they walk, still insisted on taking part in the court celebration. This was glory for people all over the world, even if they were tired to death, it was also regarded as glorious.
Zhao Chengjun glanced at the time and said to Tang Shishi, “It’s getting late. You go change your clothes first and go to bed early. I’m afraid there will be more tossing tomorrow.”
Tang Shishi was too tired to answer him. She got up from the couch laboriously and went to the cleanroom to remove her formal dress and accessories and then bathe. After Tang Shishi cleaned up, it was already choushi (1 am – 3 am).
Tang Shishi’s hair was still half wet. She nestled in bed while wiping her hair. Zhao Chengjun came from behind, took the towel in her hand, and asked, “It’s not dry yet?”
Tang Shishi turned around to see him, leaned on Zhao Chengjun with ease, and said, “Yes. My hair is so long, how can it be so easy to dry.”
Zhao Chengjun had just gone to take a bath, and now he had changed into his inner clothes. He originally planned to wipe Tang Shishi’s hair, but Tang Shishi leaned on him without any shape. Zhao Chengjun could not start and said helplessly, “Sit properly, your hair hasn’t dried yet.”
Tang Shishi did not care. She lay in Zhao Chengjun’s crook of his arms with her eyes closed. The more she lay down, the more comfortable she became. Zhao Chengjun could not lift his hand like this. He could only put her on his lap, pull up her hair, and wipe it gently.
Tang Shishi closed her eyes and said, “I met Empress today.”
“It’s nothing, just a little sad.” Tang Shishi sighed, “She is the same age as me, and she also followed orders to enter the palace. Now she is only twenty years old and has become like this.”
Thinking of the confusion between Emperor and Empress, Zhao Chengjun said lightly, “She didn’t do anything wrong. If wants to blame it, then blame it on her mother and grandmother. Obviously, she can marry a good family outside the palace, but she has to enter the palace. She is six years older than Emperor and Emperor was only seven years old when he got married. What a seven-year-old child can understand? This is simply ridiculous.”
When Empress was married, Yao Pei’er was thirteen years old, and Emperor was seven years old. At that time, everyone thought this marriage was too much, but Empress Dowager acted arbitrarily and insisted on supporting her natal family, so the central government could only give in. Emperor and Empress were both children, so they could not consummate their marriage. However, everyone did not take it seriously as this kind of thing would happen naturally and Emperor would understand as he got older.
It had been seven years of waiting like this. Now, Empress was twenty years old, and Emperor was fourteen years old. Fourteen years old had reached the age of knowledgeable people, and the imperial young men knew it especially early. However, Emperor and Empress were caught in a strange circle.
Emperor still regarded Empress as his sister while began to show special favor towards other palace maids. The Imperial Consort was a little maid in waiting who was promoted by Emperor within three days. In the end, Empress Yao Pei’er gradually became a joke in the palace.
Zhao Chengjun said that no one was wrong in this matter and if wanted to blame, then blamed it on Empress Dowager Yao and Nanyang. Of course, a child who was thirteen years old should not have been married. It was the greed of the adults that harmed the young lady for a lifetime.
When Tang Shishi heard this, she opened her eyes to glance at Zhao Chengjun and said with a smile “You are also seven years older than me. Speaking of which, our difference is still greater than Emperor and Empress.”
Zhao Chengjun’s expression remained unchanged and said seriously, “How can this be the same?”
Tang Shishi suppressed her smile and closed her eyes again without looking at Zhao Chengjun’s expression. Zhao Chengjun held his wife’s black hair which was like satin in his hand and his beautiful wife was lying on his lap. Zhao Chengjun’s heart gradually soften and he asked, “Don’t you like it?”
Tang Shishi pretended not to understand, “Like what?”
“What do you think?”
“Naturally, I like it.” Tang Shishi said pretentiously, “Although Empress is gentle, kindhearted, and pitiful, Emperor is too young after all. A fourteen-year-old young man was not suitable for indulgence. For the sake of the Emperor’s future body and heirs, it is not advisable to indulge in the harem at this age.”
Zhao Chengjun slowly narrowed his eyes as Tang Shishi knew that he was not asking these questions. He looked at Tang Shishi calmly. Tang Shishi pretended to close her eyes, but her eyelashes trembled quietly. It was obvious that she was peeking at Zhao Chengjun’s reaction.
Zhao Chengjun nodded and said, “You’re right. One must restrain himself when he is young. These things are suitable to do after one gets older.”
After Zhao Chengjun said that he went to tickle Tang Shishi’s waist. Tang Shishi puffed and laughed, got up quickly, and said, “That’s enough. I still have to go to the court celebration tomorrow. It’s time to sleep.”
Tang Shishi was afraid of tickling and tried to push Zhao Chengjun’s hand away while dodging to the back. How could Zhao Chengjun let her escape? He held Tang Shishi’s wrist and pushed her down on the bed with a little force. Tang Shishi’s hair was scattered on the quilt. Before she could react, she was confined by a figure.
Tang Shishi blushed and used her palm to push Zhao Chengjun’s chest, “Still have to get up early tomorrow.”
“At first, I really planned to let you sleep well.” Zhao Chengjun smiled faintly, his eyes seemed to be burning like a bright fire and threatening that burnt people with nowhere to hide, “But now it seems that you have a lot of energy.”
On the banks of the Qinhuai River, there were ten miles of lights. The young ladies were accompanying each other to release lanterns by the riverside. The lotus lanterns were swaying and slowly floated away. At this time, a flower boat was rowing by, and the lotus lanterns were tilted by the water waves brought out by the oars. Finally, it was stabilized after the danger and floated away into the distance.
The lights were romantic and the shadows drifted past many households. Today’s Qinhuai River seemed to have been sprinkled with a layer of gold powder, cold yet romantic, and beautiful yet unyielding.
In the best scenic area of Qinhuai River, there stood a Moon Pavilion which was the Imperial Forbidden Garden. The Moon Pavilion was put under martial law by the imperial guards a few days ago, and today’s defense has reached its peak. The curious scholars sat on the flower boat and saw the brightly lit pavilion on the other side, glorious and brilliant. A court lady dressed in gold and jade was running around and thought he had seen the heavenly palace in a trance.
Empress Dowager Yao was in high spirits. Later, she visited the lanterns with the Emperor along the Qinhuai River to celebrate the festival and enjoyed it with the common people. Many family members of the officials’ madams went with her. This was the first time Tang Shishi saw the Lantern Festival in Jinling. The winter in Jinling was different from Xiping and Linqing. People of Wu’s soft language and Tianshui reflected each other which has a unique flavor.
When Empress Dowager Yao saw Tang Shishi looking at the lantern boats downstairs, she smiled and said, “Jing Wangfei, is the lantern show in Jinling different from Xiping?”
“Yes.” Tang Shishi replied with a smile, “I only hate that I have fewer eyes, and can’t see it anymore.”
Empress Dowager Yao laughed heartily when she heard it. There was a womenfolk nearby who joked and said, “Could it be that Wangye treat Wangfei badly in the Northwest and didn’t let Wangfei go out to look at the lanterns? Otherwise, how could Wangfei think that her eyes were not enough?”
Today was Lantern Festival and the feeling of the family reunion banquet was more intense. Empress Dowager Yao brought the womenfolk to watch the lanterns upstairs. Emperor accompanied his grandmother to show filial piety, and Zhao Chengjun was also there. When Zhao Chengjun heard this, he took a quick look at Tang Shishi and said with a faint smile, “She was pregnant during the Lantern Festival last year. I was worried about any accident, so I didn’t let her go out. Unexpectedly, she holds the grudges until now.”
Everyone laughed together. Tang Shishi pretended to be angry and said, “Wangye, I didn’t say anything. The villain brought suit against his victims. Wangye like this is not kind.”
Zhao Chengjun looked at her indulgently with a smile and said, “Fine, I’ve control too much. After that, you can see whatever you want.”
Although Empress Dowager Yao was still smiling, the light in her eyes slowly faded. The interaction between husband and wife could not hide from others. Even though Tang Shishi was complaining about Zhao Chengjun, her tone was intimate, and her attitude was natural. It could be seen that the relationship between husband and wife was very harmonious.
With so many womenfolk present, who would dare to speak to her husband like this in front of everyone? Only Tang Shishi had no hesitation.
Empress Dowager Yao had hoped that her person would be favored, so she could spy on the news from Zhao Chengjun’s side. But Tang Shishi really had a deep affection for Zhao Chengjun, and Empress Dowager Yao was unhappy again.
Empress Dowager Yao turned her head and saw Emperor leaning forward on the railing surrounded by a group of eunuchs pointing at the downstairs lanterns and having a lot of fun. Then, Empress Dowager Yao looked at Yao Pei’er who sat in the room like a wooden person, without seeing her moved for a long time.
Empress Dowager Yao was holding in her anger. She waved to Emperor with a smile and summoned Emperor to her side from the railing, then took Yao Pei’er’s hand and held both Emperor and Yao Pei’er’s hands together, “There are two people that I worry about. One is Emperor and the other is Jing Wang. Now that your Uncle Jing has settled down with a wife and given birth to a child. I have resolved one of my worries and left with only worry about you two. Your Uncle Jing’s son, your cousin, will be one year old soon. Let Jing Wangfei bring him to the palace on another day, so that both of you can hold him more and may as well give birth to a great-grandson for me as soon as possible.”
Emperor was a fourteen-year-old young man who was energetic and rebellious. How could he have the patience to listen to these words? He withdrew his hand from Empress Dowager Yao and said fleetingly, “I got it.”
Got it, got it. He had kept saying ‘got it’ for the past seven years, but he had never fulfilled it! Empress Dowager Yao suppressed her anger and continued to smile, “Emperor, you can’t just talk and do nothing just to deceive this old lady. You should learn more with your Uncle Jing, don’t be busy all day long and don’t do your duties properly.”
Emperor ascended the throne at the age of seven and even lost his parents’ company before he was sensible. Since then, there were a large group of palace maids and eunuchs serving him, so his temperament used to be extremely arrogant and willful. When he heard that Empress Dowager Yao said he was “not doing his duties properly “, he became displeased at once and said bluntly, “I did not do my duties properly. I don’t know what proper duties are in Empress Dowager’s opinion?”
After Emperor finished, he turned around and went out without waiting for Empress Dowager Yao to speak.
The atmosphere upstairs was awkward, and Yao Pei’er was even more embarrassed that she could not even sit still. A moment later, Tang Shishi said with a smile, “Emperor’s temperament is upright and the child has an attitude. This is really throwing a fit at Empress Dowager Niangniang.”
Empress Dowager Yao smiled reluctantly and followed along, “He is only reconciled if he infuriates me to death.”
Tang Shishi replied, “Empress Dowager’s words are unreasonable. It was because that Emperor is close to Empress Dowager that he would say these angry words to Niangniang.”
With Tang Shishi taking the lead, the others also comforted one after another. Empress Dowager Yao’s complexion gradually became better. Even though Yao Pei’er sat under such a bright light, she felt as if she had shrunk into a mustard seed and could not be found because she was so small.
Zhao Chengjun’s eyes swept through the surroundings and had a full view of everyone’s expressions and movements. He lowered his eyes and remained silent.
After a while, Emperor came back to apologize to Empress Dowager Yao under the persuasion of the eunuchs who had half persuaded and begged him. In front of everyone, Empress Dowager Yao did not give Emperor a face, but said with a faint smile, “All of you are young people. It’s too depressing to accompany this old lady upstairs and I don’t want to hold all of you back. Emperor can take the imperil guards to see the lanterns nearby. But don’t go far and pay attention to safety.”
Emperor was overjoyed to hear what was said and responded in a haste. After he responded, Empress Dowager Yao looked at Yao Pei’er leisurely and said, “Empress, you go too.”
Emperor’s smiling expression became stiff slightly. Yao Pei’er really did not want to go, but since Empress Dowager Yao had spoken, she did not dare to disobey. She could only stand up and lowered her head to say, “Yes.”
After Empress Dowager Yao opened her mouth, her act in the play had come to an end and asked Zhao Chengjun and Tang Shishi to go too. The lively pavilion was half empty in an instant. Zhao Chengjun carefully guarded Tang Shishi to go out without noticing that one person was missing from the prince’s mansion group.
Zhou Shunhua avoided Jing Wang’s bodyguard, hid in the shadow for a while, and went back upstairs. She had a humble status. So, besides festivals or celebrations, she could not find a chance to meet Empress Dowager Yao at all. Today’s Lantern Festival was Zhou Shunhua’s last chance.
After all, Empress Dowager Yao was old. After sending away the unconcerned people, she closed her eyes and rested on the soft couch. Feng Momo knelt on a low stool and beat Empress Dowager Yao’s legs gently.
“It’s rare for Niangniang to be happy. Why did you send everyone away?”
“It’s not easy for Emperor to leave the palace. Let them be happy for a while.” With that, Empress Dowager Yao massaged her eyebrows as she was having a headache, “Emperor and Empress… Alas, really worry me to death.”
When it comes to Empress, Feng Momo dared not say more. This was the family affair of Empress Dowager Yao. No matter how troublesome it was, an outsider like Feng Momo could not interrupt.
Feng Momo continued to beat Empress Dowager Yao’s legs and said, “Don’t worry, Emperor is getting closer to Empress. You will be able to hold your great-grandson next year at the latest.”
Empress Dowager sneered, obviously not agreeing. Empress Dowager Yao closed her eyes and said leisurely, “No matter, I still can hold on for a few more years, and there is still time. I just don’t know how much effect this chess piece of Tang Shishi can play.”
Empress Dowager Yao was thinking about Jing Wang’s matter with her eyes close. While she was thinking deeply, suddenly there was an uproar from the outside. Apparently, someone wanted to come in but was stopped by the eunuch.
Empress Dowager Yao opened a slit in her eyes and said unhappily, “Who is it?”
Feng Momo signaled to the palace maid. After a while, the palace maid came back and said with her head down, “It’s Cefei Zhou of the Jing Wang mansion. She said that she has something very important to report to Empress Dowager Niangniang.”
“It’s her?” Empress Dowager Yao raised one eyebrow and was quite surprised. “What is she doing here? Never mind, just let her in.”
The palace maid agreed. After a while, Zhou Shunhua came in from the outside and knelt down to Empress Dowager Yao as soon as she entered the door, “I deserve to die for my impoliteness. Empress Dowager Niangniang, please punish me.”
Zhou Shunhua turned back after going out definitely not to beg for forgiveness. Empress Dowager Yao announced her to come in was not to listen to her stereotyped and repetitive words. Empress Dowager Yao asked, “Didn’t you follow Jing Wangfei downstairs to watch the lanterns? Why did you come back again?”
Zhou Shunhua put both her hands on the ground with her forehead firmly against her hands and said, “I shouldn’t have disturbed Empress Dowager Niangniang’s rest, but this is a big matter that I really don’t have any other way than to barge into the place where Niangniang is resting. Please spare my life for the sake of my loyalty and devotion.”
“Oh?” Empress Dowager Yao sat up from the couch, slowly with the support of her hand, and asked, “What’s the matter?”
“Jing Wangfei’s matter.” Zhou Shunhua said and kowtowed again deeply, “Empress Dowager clearly observed that Tang Shishi has two hearts and couldn’t be trusted.”