It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager
Chapter 118 Breaking in by Force
Tang Shishi stared at the brocade bag and her face gradually turned white. Empress Dowager Yao said it was a medicine for strengthening the body, but how could not Tang Shishi guess that it was poison.
Tang Shishi’s brain buzzed as if it had become a blank, and she could not feel the existence of her limbs. Tang Shishi regained her consciousness only after a long time, smiled gently, and said, “Wangye is very strict in controlling his basic needs. He doesn’t drink things from unknown origins. I’m afraid it’s inappropriate to poison him.”
Empress Dowager Yao looked at Tang Shishi’s complexion and said slowly, “He doesn’t drink anything from outsiders, but if you personally give it to him, surely he will not doubt it. Jing Wangfei, what do you think?”
“My position is humble and has no influence. I can only occupy a place in Jing Wang’s mansion relying on my child. In fact, I’m not important at all in Jing Wang’s heart. I’m afraid I can’t find a chance.”
Empress Dowager Yao smiled, her eyes were without any warmth, “Is that you can’t find, or you don’t want to find it?”
Tang Shishi pursed her lips, knowing that she did not need to look for an excuse anymore. Empress Dowager Yao began to doubt her.
Either take this bottle of medicine to continue the trust of Empress Dowager Yao or refuse to completely tear her face with Empress Dowager Yao.
Tang Shishi had long expected this day. She knew that she was not smart enough, not quick-witted enough, and not good enough in acting. It was only a matter of time before Empress Dowager doubted her. However, Tang Shishi did not expect that this day would come so soon.
She has not yet fully established herself in Jing Wang’s mansion and has not established her son as Shizi. Tang Shishi originally thought that she could at least use Empress Dowager Yao to discard Zhao Zixun and then have a showdown with Empress Dowager Yao.
It was a pity that Heaven did not fulfill everyone’s wish, and everything came too early.
Tang Shishi did not move, and Empress Dowager Yao was waiting for her too. Tang Shishi knew she could not be silent for too long and must respond immediately. Empress Dowager Yao would not be stupid enough to give her a poison like an arrow poisonwood. Right now, this bottle was mostly slow to take effect type of poison. In any case, Zhao Chengjun would die early sooner or later. If she took the poison and gave Zhao Chengjun a little bit to drink, it would not affect the final outcome. In this way, she could continue to enjoy the protection of Empress Dowager Yao and established Zhao Zigao as Shizi with the help of Empress Dowager Yao.
All this was what she wanted most. Tang Shishi knew that she should reach out now to take the bottle of medicine to show her loyalty to Empress Dowager Yao. As long as she held it, all her crises would be solved, and she could even help her son to become Shizi.
But for some reason, Tang Shishi was unable to move. Tang Shishi was in a stalemate for a long time. She suddenly stood up and took a step back. Her voice trembled and said, “Empress Dowager.”
Tang Shishi did not say the rest, but Empress Dowager Yao already knew her answer. Empress Dowager Yao threw the brocade bag aside and sneered, “Jing Wangfei and Jing Wang are truly affectionate with a sincere heart. You quickly refuse without even looking at what’s in it. You’re really head over heels in love with that good son of mine and you don’t even want him to risk even the slightest danger.”
Tang Shishi lowered her head and did not speak. She did not know if it was really poison inside the brocade bag. Maybe Empress dowager Yao bluffed her, but what if it was true? A moment ago, he accompanied her to win the lantern and bought candied haws. The sweetness of syrup seemed to be still lingering on the tip of her tongue. How could Tang Shishi add the medicinal powder that she did not even know to his tea without changing her face?
If she took this bottle of medicine, whether it was true or bogus, or whether Zhao Chengjun would find out or not, she and Zhao Chengjun would be thoroughly finished. If Zhao Chengjun learned about this later, what would he do? He may endure it reluctantly but keep it in his heart, he may use the same scheme to deal with her, or he may set up another concubine room like Zhao Zixun and ignore his wife from then on. Tang Shishi did not know where she got the courage to refuse Empress Dowager Yao, but when she thought of those scenes just now, she felt she could not breathe.
Tang Shishi pinched her fingernails deeply into her palm and struggled in vain, “Empress Dowager, I don’t know who provoked you that you suspected me despite everything. Maybe there was some misunderstanding.”
“Misunderstanding?” Empress Dowager Yao coldly curled her lips and said, “If you feel that I have misunderstood you, you just need to pick up this bottle of medicine and let Jing wang drink it in front of me. Tang Shishi, you were originally just the daughter of a merchant. If it weren’t for me, you would never have the opportunity to make contact with the influence of princely descendants. Your position of Wangfei was conferred by me, and your status was rewarded by me including your son. You can’t survive without me. Are you going to betray me by being disloyal and bite the hand that feeds you?”
Tang Shishi’s hand was tightly clenched, and her fingers were already cold. She was silent for a moment and whispered, “I’m sorry, Empress Dowager. I cannot.”
Cannot. Empress Dowager Yao laughed. She leaned on the collapse and looked at her nails, then suddenly became hostile and swept the things on the table to the ground. The piercing sound of porcelain shattering sounded, and hot water splashed with the broken pieces of porcelain. Tang Shishi used all her willpower to stay still and did not dodge behind.
“Good, very good!” Empress Dowager Yao was truly angry that her eyes fell on Tang Shishi fiercely like a knife and could not wait to expose her, “I treat you very well and you actually repay me like this. I know countless people, but I didn’t expect that I missed you. Do you think I can’t move you with Zhao Chengjun’s favor? This is ridiculous. Zhao Chengjun is only taking advantage of you. I might as well tell you plainly that Zhao Chengjun is not sincere to you because you were the one sent by me. From the very beginning, you were a chess piece on his chessboard.”
Empress Dowager Yao’s words undoubtedly pierced into the sore spot of Tang Shishi which was what she feared the most. Zhao Zigao was Zhao Chengjun’s child and Tang Shishi believed that Zhao Chengjun would not treat his own flesh and blood badly. But what about her?
After Zhao Chengjun completed his great cause and brought down Empress Dowager Yao, was there still any need to keep this chess piece of Tang Shishi? Zhao Chengjun indulged her excessively, was he really sincere or was he nothing more than just acting?
Tang Shishi’s heart was in a mess, but she lowered her head without yielding. Empress Dowager Yao was angry but also found it laughable. She sneered twice and her face suddenly sank, “It’s true that you don’t shed tears until you see the coffin. Do you think that after you become Wangfei, you can rest easy? If I can establish you, then I can also abolish you. You can use your child as a life-saving card, but can you protect your natal family, your parents, brothers, and sisters?”
Tang Shishi looked down at the ground unwavering, her face was pale, and her lips were bloodless. Empress Dowager Yao finally took out the Tang family to threaten her. She was vain and greedy, insisting on breaking into the upper circle and even did not hesitate to ask the tiger for its skin. If she did it which meant her life was good and if she did not which meant she deserved it. However, why should she implicate others when she made her own choices?
Tang Shishi did not care about the huge property of the Tang family or the fictitious name of the richest person, but she could not risk her mother and the Qi family. Tang Shishi hated Tang Yanyan, but Madam Qi was kind to her mother and her, and Qi Jingsheng had not done anything wrong to her. How could she harm Madam Qi and Qi Jingsheng because of her greed and stupidity?
Tang Shishi looked up slowly and asked, “Empress Dowager, what do you want?”
Empress Dowager Yao put on a fake smile, changed her sitting position, and said calmly, “I initially wanted you to give the medicine to Jing wang and promote you to be my trusted aide but it’s a pity that you don’t appreciate my kindness. But anyway, someone must drink this bottle of medicine.”
Tang Shishi curled up her fingers suddenly. She paused for a moment and nodded, “Sure.”
Her voice was dry and hoarse, but she did not hesitate to move forward. She was about to go around those broken piles of porcelain, but she heard from the seat of honor said, “Who allowed you to go around?”
Tang Shishi paused her footsteps a while. She quickly raised her head and saw that Empress Dowager Yao and Feng Momo looked at her coldly. There were Empress Dowager Yao’s people guarding on both inside and outside, and no one would come to rescue her.
Cold slowly seeped from the soles of her feet to her whole body. Tang Shishi clutched the palm of her hand, thinking that it would not hurt much, and it would pass if she endured it. She took back her feet and was about to step on the broken porcelain when suddenly there were thudding sounds of walking coming from the outside.
Tang Shishi was surprised by this sound and subconsciously turned back. At this time, the door was pushed open with force from the outside and banged against the wall which made a loud noise. Zhao Chengjun stood outside the door with a solemn face. His expression was cold, and his eyes were glossy black. When he saw the broken porcelain in front of Tang Shishi, his eyes became sharp.
Zhao Chengjun was surrounded by many palace maids and eunuchs at the back. These people tried to stop Zhao Chengjun, but Zhao Chengjun was followed by fierce soldiers who had killed people and licked the blood from the tip of the knife on the battlefield. The eunuchs were not the opponent of these people. The battle did not even start yet, but the outcome of the battle was already determined. Zhao Chengjun broke into the inner room of Empress Dowager Yao as if entering a place where there was no one.
The eunuch behind was furious and shouted, “Jing Wang, what are you doing? Do you want to commit the great disrespect*?”
(great disrespect* – ten ways that people with lower status can collide with those of higher status)
Zhao Chengjun did not pay attention to the eunuch from the start. He strode into the inner room without looking at anyone. He walked straight to Tang Shishi, pulled her backward until they stood ten steps away from the broken tiles before stopping. Zhao Chengjun lowered his head to check on Tang Shishi and asked, “Are you hurt?”
Tang Shishi was frightened until became stupid and shook her head in a daze. Zhao Chengjun was relieved to see that there were indeed no wounds on her body. Afterward, Zhao Chengjun raised his head to look coldly at Empress Dowager Yao who was not far away, “I have been waiting outside for a long time and didn’t see Wangfei come out after a long time. I don’t know what Empress Dowager is doing by holding back my Wangfei here?”
Empress Dowager Yao was malicious and angry when she was confronting Tang Shishi just now. When she saw Zhao Chengjun, she immediately withdrew her brashness and restored her gentle and polite Empress Dowager appearance, “I and Wangfei were talking about some daily life matters and without realizing we took a long time. On the contrary, it was Jing Wang who broke in hastily and made such a big movement. I don’t know what you intended to do?”
Zhao Chengjun did not care about Empress Dowager’s inquiry at all, and said coldly, “It turns out that it was just talking. It has been so long that no matter how many words there are, it should be over. It’s getting late. I will take Wangfei back first. Farewell.”
After Zhao Chengjun finished speaking, he ignored Empress Dowager Yao and took Tang Shishi to leave right away. Empress Dowager Yao was furious, slapped the table suddenly, and scolded angrily, “Zhao Chengjun, you are bold! I’m your legitimate mother, how dare you to be so presumptuous in front of me?”
Tang Shishi was so frightened by this battle that she could not utter a word. She did not expect Zhao Chengjun to break in suddenly, and she did not even expect Zhao Chengjun to tear his face with Empress Dowager Yao as soon as he came in. He and Empress Dowager Yao have been feuding for a long time, but on the bright side, they have always kept a false relationship of mother and son filial piety.
Zhao Chengjun encircled Tang Shishi’s shoulder and surrounded Tang Shishi by his side, forming a strong protective posture. Zhao Chengjun looked back coldly at Empress Dowager Yao with murderous spirit in his eyes was cold and straightforward without concealment, “My throne was granted by His Majesty Shizong, and the foundation in the Northwest was made by myself. What does a vassal monarch defending the frontier have to do with Grandma Empress? It’s the legacy of the founding fathers for the vassal to garrison the frontier and guards the Imperial Court. If necessary, I have the obligation to enter the capital in times of danger and remove the treacherous officials from the Emperor’s side. Grandma Empress has been in charge of the court affairs on behalf of her grandson for many years, and the date of returning the power is just around the corner. For the remaining years, Grandma Empress should take good care of your health, cultivate your character, and don’t throw the teacup easily. It’s not your turn to interfere in my family affairs. “
“You” Empress Dowager Yao was so furious that she could not speak. Zhao Chengjun suddenly called her Grandma Empress to remind her of her trespassing in authority. Since ancient times, only Empress Dowager had acted for her young son in court affairs. How could the grandmother of the Emperor intervene? And Zhao Chengjun said that removing the treacherous officials from Emperor’s side was a complete threat to her.
Zhao Chengjun simply ignored Empress Dowager Yao. He lowered his head and looked at Tang Shishi carefully, “Can you walk?”
Tang Shishi nodded which showed that she was fine. Zhao Chengjun held Tang Shishi’s hand and said, “That’s good. Let’s go now.”
After he finished speaking, he took Tang Shishi out of the private room without even looking at Empress Dowager Yao. Tang Shishi was staggered while being pulled away. After she went out, she saw that the corridor was full of people, and Yao Peier also came out of her private room and looked at this side in panic.
Zhao Chengjun really broke in resolutely without any concealment.
Zhao Chengjun swaggered all the way while pulling Tang Shishi downstairs. Outside the Moon Pavilion, Zhao Zixun stood anxiously in front of the carriage and kept pacing around. He constantly looked in the direction of the doorway. When he finally saw Zhao Chengjun’s figure, he was overjoyed and moved forward quickly to surround him, “Father, you finally came out. Is everything all right with Empress Dowager?”
Zhao Chengjun said with a faint expression, “It’s nothing. Tell the coachman to go back to the mansion.”
Zhao Zixun’s eyes swept across Zhao Chengjun and then Tang Shishi at the back. In the end, he said nothing, and conformed respectfully, “Yes.”
Tang Shishi was very tired this night and her mood was not as good as just now when browsing lanterns. She got into the carriage reluctantly without even wanting to say a word.
Zhao Chengjun stood in front of the carriage and helped Tang Shishi get on the carriage. He turned towards the back to see that the remaining carriages followed quietly, the curtains hung quietly, and no one looked around. Zhao Chengjun withdrew his sight. For the first time, he did not choose to ride a horse, but he boarded the carriage to accompany Tang Shishi.
Tang Shishi leaned against the carriage with her eyes closed. She heard someone come in and found out that it was Zhao Chengjun when she opened her eyes. Tang Shishi was surprised and asked, “Wangye, why did you come in?”
Zhao Chengjun sat next to her, held her head skillfully, and placed it on his shoulder, “You were in a bad mood just now. I will sit with you for a while.”
Tang Shishi wanted to sit by herself, but after Tang Shishi leaned on Zhao Chengjun’s broad, solid, warm, and strong shoulders, she did not bother to sit up. She closed her eyes in hopelessness, let herself lean on Zhao Chengjun, and said weakly, “I’m fine.”
“That’s great.” Zhao Chengjun said in a faint voice without exposing her, “I want to be lazy myself.”
The carriage stopped and moved forward, and the hawkers’ sounds from outside the window were still lively. The commoner’s livelihood that had excited Tang Shishi earlier turned into an illusory scene, suddenly disappearing, and even the sound was blurred.
Tang Shishi slowly counted the sounds of the carriage. She did not know the map of Jinling and could not outline where the carriage was going now. However, she knew that Jing Wang’s mansion was getting closer and closer.
The carriage avoided the crowds and turned into a secluded alley. The speed on the road quickly increased in an instant. The noise gradually faded away, and the night was calm with only the sound of the carriage running over the stone slabs could be heard.
Tang Shishi could not help but ask, “If I have offended Empress Dowager Yao, will it cause you a lot of trouble?”
Zhao Chengjun covered Tang Shishi’s hand. His palm was wide, and wrapped her hand completely with a slight force, “Will not.”
“After all, you are in Jinling now, and all your troops are in Xiping province. If anything happens, they will not be able to make it.”
“Nothing will happen.” Zhao Chengjun held down Tang Shishi’s head, let her lean completely on his shoulder, and said, “You just rest assured to be yourself. Everything else has me.”
Zhao Chengjun’s palm was dry and warm and pressing on her hair which almost made people want to fall asleep. Tang Shishi closed her eyes due to exhaustion, and she whispered after a while, “It’s already so late. I don’t know if Gao’er is asleep or not. Will he be afraid by himself?”
“With a wet nurse and Liu Ji around, he will be fine.”
“I miss Gao’er.”
“Good,” said Zhao Chengjun softly, “Let’s go home.”