It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager
Chapter 117 Whistleblower
Empress Dowager Yao did not take Zhou Shunhua seriously, but she never expected that she would say such a thing. Empress Dowager Yao looked serious and said, “Bold! A mere lowly concubine has the cheek to slander Jing Wangfei.”
Zhou Shunhua knew that it was not easy to gain the trust of Empress Dowager Yao, but Empress Dowager Yao just berated her and did not drive her out which showed that this matter was promising. Zhou Shunhua was still on the ground with her forehead deeply against the floor and said, “I know that I am inferior and can’t compare with Jing Wangfei’s position in the Empress Dowager’s heart. However, everything I said is true and nothing is false. If Empress Dowager Niangniang doesn’t believe me, you can think about it later. Has Tang Shishi ever done anything beneficial for Empress Dowager Niangniang since she entered Jing Wang’s mansion?”
Empress Dowager Yao recalled back along with Zhou Shunhua’s reasoning and found that there was no such thing. Empress Dowager Yao said, “She… She has tried many times, but her ability is limited and has not succeeded yet.”
“Niangniang, this is just a pretense of Tang Shishi!” Zhou Shunhua said aggressively, “She has been pretending to be a pig eating a tiger and pretending to be stupid and vain. In fact, she is quite scheming. Niangniang, when Tang Shishi was in the court, knew people’s meaningful glances and acted pragmatically very quickly. Why do bad things happen again and again when we arrive at Jing Wang’s mansion? Empress Dowager might as well think about it. Along this way, Feng Qian died, Sister Ren and I became concubines, and the other beauties were sent away. So, who is the biggest beneficiary of this? All of these are closely linked with one another. If there is no one pushing it from behind, even I don’t believe it. Tang Shishi has the name of Wangfei on top, the favor of Jing Wang in the middle, and a son below to her. She makes a lot of profits out of this. She is the only one that most likely does all this.”
Empress Dowager Yao has been sailing with the wind over the years, and no one has rebelled against her. Slowly, her temperament has become more arrogant. She has lost her vigilance of early years and unexpectedly was taken away by Zhou Shunhua’s words. Empress Dowager Yao’s face gradually became ugly and already believed in her eight points, but she still resolutely said, “Nonsense. How can I not know what type of person Jing Wangfei is? Even if I’m blind, can the momos in the palace and the spies in Jing Wang’s mansion does not see through her?”
“Empress Dowager Niangniang, it’s necessary to guard against people!” Zhou Shunhua bravely raised her head and stared at Empress Dowager Yao earnestly, “Empress Dowager is a first-class smart person who runs the harem and dominates the world. Smart people can’t deceive you with their means, but Empress Dowager Niangniang will inevitably contempt those who deliberately pretend to be stupid. With such contempt, it is easy to fall into the trap of the other party. If Empress Dowager doesn’t believe it, you might as well ask Tang Shishi to come and give her a test.”
Empress Dowager Yao’s mixed thoughts slowly calmed down. Yes ah, no matter who was lying, she would find out after a test. The true gold was not afraid of fire. As long as Tang Shishi was really loyal, she was not afraid of being tested at all.
Tang Shishi was wrapping around in the white fox collar cloak and looked curiously at the lantern market in Jinling. Although Jinling was not as cold as the Northwest, it was humid in the south of the Yangtze River. The cold was like a hostile force that invaded inside but was difficult to get rid of. Winter was not any better than the Northwest.
Zhao Chengjun saw that Tang Shishi’s cloak was tied loosely. He could not help but stop, lowered his head to tighten the lace, “Tighten the lace and be careful of the cold.”
Tang Shishi’s carefully arranged style was destroyed by Zhao Chengjun. She was so angry that she swatted Zhao Chengjun’s hand angrily, “Don’t move. I sorted out the neckline with great difficulty.”
“The lace is so loose that it will let the freezing air in.”
“It’s so ugly like this! Loosen it quickly!”
Neither of them could convince the other, and each of them took half a step back in the end. Tang Shishi tighten her cloak once more, and Zhao Chengjun came to straighten out the fur on the neckline.
Zhao Chengjun grabbed it casually and saw that Tang Shishi looked indescribably cute in the snowy fluffy white fox fur surrounding Tang Shishi’s face. Zhao Chengjun could not help but squeeze Tang Shishi’s face and smile, “It’s very beautiful.”
Tang Shishi was so angry with his half-hearted attitude that she glared at Zhao Chengjun hard and said, “You didn’t even pay attention to it. What’s so beautiful?”
“You look good.” Zhao Chengjun looked at Tang Shishi and said, “With you here, who else can notice the clothes?”
Tang Shishi gave Zhao Chengjun a look of disgust, and then in a blink, a smile appeared in her eyes. Tang Shishi pretended to be serious and said, “Great, let’s go see the lanterns.”
Empress Dowager Yao did everything she could to match Emperor and Empress together. Zhao Chengjun used the reason of creating opportunities for Emperor and Empress to be alone to break away from Emperor and Empress’s group and took Tang Shishi to walk by themselves. Zhao Zixun was originally following Zhao Chengjun but after passing several stalls, he did not know whether it was intentional or unintentional, Zhao Zixun was getting farther and farther away from the front. A wave of people swarmed by and Zhao Zixun soon lost sight of Zhao Chengjun and Tang Shishi.
Zhao Zixun was very tactful. After understanding Jing Wang’s meaning, he would not bother them at all. Each pair of husband and wife went their own way, in a neat and organized way. Zhao Zixun turned around and found that only he and Ren Yujun were left in the group.
Zhao Zixun frowned and glanced at the surrounding guards, maids, and passers-by. He was sure he did not see anyone like Zhou Shunhua. Zhao Zixun felt inexplicably bad and asked, “Where’s Cefei?”
The guards looked around and said doubtfully, “I don’t know. It seems I didn’t notice Cefei Zhou all the way.”
Zhao Zixun frowned tightly. He left the guards and maids to Ren Yujun. He only took two people with him and hurriedly explained, “You continue to look at the lanterns. I will go back to look for Shunhua.”
Ren Yujun’s cheerful expression slowly froze on her face. Her smile faded, lowered her eyes, and whispered, “Sure.”
After Zhao Zixun finished speaking, he turned and walked back without even looking at Ren Yujun. Ren Yujun stood there stunned for a long time. She turned around to look at Zhao Zixun, but he did not look back. Then she looked forward, the figures of Jing Wang and Tang Shishi were long gone.
Ren Yujun smiled bitterly. The gap between each people was unexpectedly so big. Jing Wang was stern and cold, but he was obedient to Tang Shishi. Whereas Zhao Zixun was passionate and heartless except for Zhou Shunhua.
And she was just a supporting role who was not even qualified to appear.
Tang Shishi did not know that the people behind her had been lost. She was focusing on the lanterns all around and did not have the mood to pay attention to others. Tang Shishi suddenly caught a glimpse of an extremely beautiful revolving lantern and pulled the corner of Zhao Chengjun’s clothes in a pleasant surprise, “Wangye, look at the revolving lantern!”
Zhao Chengjun looked up and saw it too. It was rare for him to see Tang Shishi be so happy, and said, “If you like it, then just buy it.”
Seeing the words on the stall, Tang Shishi quickly pulled Zhao Chengjun and said, “Look, it takes one hundred coins to buy a lantern, but it only takes ten coins to win with a game. Ten to one hundred is too cost-effective, as long as hit five of ten arrows can pick any lamp. Wangye, let’s give it try?”
Zhao Chengjun was not optimistic about this, but since Tang Shishi liked it, he still nodded, “Good.”
Tang Shishi paid ten coins, gotten short arrows, and threw them at the target eagerly. However, the weight of these arrows was not uniform, and Tang Shishi was not a person with good martial arts. In a blink of an eye, six arrows were thrown out, and Tang Shishi did not even touch the edge of the target.
Tang Shishi was angry. She threw down the short arrow and said, “It’s boring. I won’t play anymore.”
She was about to leave after saying that. Zhao Chengjun held her shoulder back and said helplessly, “Don’t give up halfway. I haven’t tried it yet. How do you know it won’t work?”
With that said, Zhao Chengjun picked up an arrow, tried the weight, and threw it at the target casually. In the end, it did not take Zhao Chengjun much effort to hit the bullseye with the feather arrow. He held Tang Shishi’s shoulder with one hand and threw it single-handed with the other hand. One arrow hit one and soon hit four bullseyes.
However, the problem also lay here. There were ten arrows in total, and it needed five to win, but Tang Shishi had already wasted six just now. Tang Shishi just judged that she could not get the lantern, so she gave up angrily.
Tang Shishi raised her head to look at Zhao Chengjun and said with regret, “Short of one, and I still can’t get it.”
“How could it be?” said Zhao Chengjun. Then, he pulled out a hairpin from Tang Shishi’s bun, familiarized himself with the feel, and threw it out steadily. With a “zheng” sound, the hairpin hit the center of the red heart. Tang Shishi was blank for a while before she slowly touched her bun. Sure enough, there was a hairpin missing.
Tang Shishi said quietly, “Use a golden hairpin to exchange for a paper lantern. Wangye, you are really a genius in doing business.”
His guard has already stepped forward to pull out the hairpin and come back with it. Zhao Chengjun took it and put it back in the bun for Tang Shishi. Hearing these words, he said with a smile, “Didn’t I take it back for you? But the edge of this hairpin is too sharp which is dangerous for you and the child. I’ll make a new one for you when I go back. Don’t use this one.”
Tang Shishi nodded. Anyway, she has a lot of jewelry, and it made no difference between one more or one less. The stall owner has long seen that this group of guests was not ordinary people and most of them were noble officials who accompany their wives to experience common people’s life. The stall saw the opportunity very quickly and did not pursue Zhao Chengjun’s behavior as inconsistent with the rules, and said politely to Tang Shishi, “Madam, congratulations on winning. Which lantern do you like? I’ll take it down for you.”
Although the win was using improper means, she was still very happy to win it. Tang Shishi happily pointed to the revolving lantern and left with the lantern fully satisfied and contented.
Not long after walking, some people were selling candied haws on a bamboo skewer on the roadside. Seeing that Tang Shishi’s eyes fell on the candied haws, the stall owner immediately said to Zhao Chengjun, “Master, madam is as beautiful as a fairy. Why don’t you buy one for madam?”
Zhao Chengjun thought to himself that what was the relationship between Tang Shishi’s good-looking looks and buying candied haws? However, Tang Shishi was flattered by his lavish praise and her eyes brightened happily. Zhao Chengjun was helpless and motioned his guard to give money.
Seeing that Tang Shishi still has a lantern in her hand and could not hold the candied haws, Zhao Chengjun took it and said, “I’ll take it for you. I’ll feed you when you want to eat.”
Tang Shishi looked at Zhao Chengjun’s hand and instinctively doubted, “What if you get on my face?”
Tang Shishi took a bite skeptically. While biting the candied haws, she asked vaguely, “Is there any sugar on my face?”
Without saying anything further, Zhao Chengjun gently touched her cheek with the candied haws and said, “Now there is.”
Tang Shishi was stunned and suddenly became furious. Zhao Chengjun smiled and handed the candied haws to his subordinate, took out the handkerchief, and carefully wiped Tang Shishi’s face, “It’s good now. Don’t be angry. There’s no more now.”
Zhao Chengjun could not control his hand for a moment and then he has to coax Tang Shishi carefully all the way. Tang Shishi bought a lot of things at random and was finally able to calm down. She felt a little tired, so she walked back with Zhao Chengjun.
It was already late when Tang Shishi returned to the Forbidden Garden. She asked someone to put away her things and went upstairs to the Moon Pavilion to greet Empress Dowager Yao herself. With elders around, the etiquette was strict. Even if she wanted to retire, she must obtain Empress Dowager Yao’s consent.
When Tang Shishi went upstairs, she learned that Yao Peier had come back earlier and was resting in the private room, but Emperor had not come back yet. Tang Shishi remained silent about Emperor’s family affairs. Soon, she was led to the resting place of Empress Dowager Yao.
When Tang Shishi came in, for some reason, she intuitively felt that the atmosphere was not right. It was as if something in the air had quietly changed without her knowing.
Empress Dowager Yao was half lying and half sitting on the couch. When she heard Tang Shishi coming in, she lazily lifted her eyelids and said, “Jing Wangfei is back. I heard you bought a lot of things outside. Looks like you were having an enjoyable time.”
When confronting Empress Dowager Yao, Tang Shishi instinctively raised three points of caution and said with a soft smile, “Let Niangniang laugh. I’ve never seen such a bustling lantern market before. I took a few more turns out of curiosity for a moment.”
Empress Dowager Yao’s face was still smiling, but this time, Tang Shishi inexplicably felt that Empress Dowager Yao was examining her. For what reason? She has only been away for less than an hour.
Empress Dowager Yao said casually, “I remember that Jing Wang hated trouble the most in the past, but now he has the patience to stroll with you for so long. I can’t understand Jing Wang after being separated for so long.”
Tang Shishi smiled, “You and Wangye haven’t seen each other for thirteen years. It’s inevitable that you feel estranged. But anyway, Wangye is your son and his filial piety to you will not change.”
“Yes.” Empress Dowager Yao suddenly smiled and waved to Feng Momo. Feng Momo came forward and presented a brocade bag respectfully. Empress Dowager Yao picked up the brocade bag, turned it left and right, and said, “I have regarded him as my own son, but there are always some things that were short-sighted wanted to sow discord between our mother and son relationships. I was forced by the situation and couldn’t say anything. I even have to worry about being suspicious if I want to give Jing Wang some food. Here is the medicine for strengthening his body. It’s not easy for me to give him directly as a reward. You might as well take it back, quietly mix it in Jing Wang’s water and give it to Jing Wang to drink it.”