IBTBTED Chapter 119
It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager
Chapter 119 People’s Heart
After returning to the mansion, it was already deep at night. Zhao Chengjun accompanied Tang Shishi to see their child first. Tang Shishi finally felt relieved after she saw Zhao Zigao sleeping peacefully. After that, Zhao Chengjun persuaded and finally coaxed Tang Shishi to sleep.
Jingling was celebrating the whole night for tonight’s Lantern Festival. Colorful fireworks were still setting off in the sky. Zhao Chengjun stood in the shadow of the courtyard and listened to the guard’s report without expression.
“Empress Dowager Yao security was tight and couldn’t ask who has seen Empress Dowager alone today. However, when Wangye and Wangfei were watching the lanterns on the street, Cefei Zhou went missing.”
Zhao Chengjun raised his eyebrows slightly, “Missing?”
“It was said that she was lost among the crowd. Later, Shizi went back to look for her and really found Cefei Zhou on the back street. Other than that, no one saw where Cefei Zhou had gone to.”
Zhao Chengjun instinctively felt that Zhou Shunhua was suspicious. However, everything should be based on evidence and now it could not be proven that Zhou Shunhua was the ghost. It was normal for womenfolk to be lost at Lantern Festival with so many people around.
Zhao Chengjun could not be sure whether it was Zhou Shunhua, but it was always right to guard against her. Zhao Chengjun commanded, “Send someone to keep an eye on her. If she has any abnormalities, report to me immediately.”
“This subordinate obeys.”
Zhao Chengjun thought of Tang Shishi, who was not in good spirits on the way back and he sighed slightly, “During this time, you follow the Tang family quietly, but don’t let them find out. If there is a gangster and the like, you solve it privately and don’t have to disturb others.”
The guard cupped his fist in the other hand to comply. He paused awhile and asked, “Wangye, do you want to remind the Tang family to go out less during this time?”
“No need.” Zhao Chengjun said, “I’m just guarding against the unexpected. At this moment, it has not progressed to this step yet.”
In a political struggle, when one party started to move against the relatives of the other party, it often meant that it had reached the last step. Therefore, neither side would do this unless they have to.
Empress Dowager Yao was not stupid at all. If she really moved against the Tang family, it was the same as she took the initiative to start a war. Then, Zhao Chengjun could immediately command three hundred thousand Northwest troops from the north. This was the worst strategy for both sides. Zhao Chengjun would not choose to attack with military force until the last minute, and Empress Dowager Yao would not slaughter Tang and Guo’s relatives and destroy the city wall by herself.
After Zhao Chengjun finished speaking, he especially emphasized, “Don’t let Wangfei know about these things. No matter what happens to the Tang family or Zhou Shunhua, report to me at once if there is any movement. Don’t disturb Wangfei.”
Zhao Chengjun made several arrangements in succession. After all the arrangements were made, his clothes were already moist with cold dew. Zhao Chengjun returned to the room, the main hall was dimly lit and foggy. He walked gently to the innermost part of the room and saw Tang Shishi trapped in the pillow, already asleep.
Zhao Chengjun sat on the side of the bed and watched for a long time. He did not know what she was dreaming about and even frowned in her sleep. Zhao Chengjun sighed silently, leaned over slightly, and stretched out his hand to smooth her eyebrows.
Zhao Chengjun did not ask her what conflict had happened with Empress Dowager. Judging from the situation at that time and the expression of Tang Shishi, he could basically guess bits and pieces.
Zhao Chengjun went to see Zhao Zigao again. Zhao Zigao had been sleeping soundly for a long time. He half-opened his mouth with his fist in his mouth and the corners of his mouth were drooling slowly. Zhao Chengjun held his small fist and gently pulled it out of his mouth.
After he finished these actions, Zhao Zigao still fell asleep thoughtlessly. He noticed that the fist in his mouth was gone and smacked his mouth repeatedly. Zhao Chengjun was helpless, but his eyes could not help but overflow with soft light.
These were his wife and son. His parents and elder brothers had already died. His grandfather and grandmother were no longer alive. Tang Shishi and Zhao Zigao were the only remaining relatives of Zhao Chengjun in the world. No matter what happened, he would not let others hurt them both.
No one could.
After the Lantern Festival, things on that day also ended up with nothing definite. This was not a good thing for anyone. Therefore, Zhao Chengjun and Empress Dowager Yao suppressed the conflict of that day without prior consulting each other. On the outside, the imperial family was still in harmony.
However, in reality, the smoke of gunfire between Empress Dowager Yao and Zhao Chengjun had been ignited, and they could not even say polite words when they met. Empress Dowager Yao’s attitude towards Tang Shishi also changed dramatically. On New Year’s Eve, Empress Dowager Yao publicly praised Tang Shishi and rewarded Zhao Zigao with her Buddha prayer beads. Only half a month later, Empress Dowager Yao hated Tang Shishi. The short and fake sweet period between Tang Shishi and Empress Dowager was over.
Tang Shishi knew clearly that she not only offended Empress Dowager Yao but also cheated Empress Dowager by being two-faced. Empress Dowager Yao trusted her so much at first and she hated her so much now.
Tang Shishi was very self-aware. She knew that she was not doing this genuinely, so she was planning not to go out for a while. If there were any more invitations from the palace, she would refuse under the pretext that Zhao Zigao was not acclimatized yet and she wanted to stay in the mansion to look after her son. The vassal monarch could not stay in the capital for long, and it would not be long before they should be returning to Xiping province.
Once she returned to Xiping province, Tang Shishi did not have to be afraid of Empress Dowager Yao. Now she was still on other people’s territory, and it was better for Tang Shishi to keep a low profile.
Tang Shishi had planned very well, but she received an invitation that was difficult to handle a few days later. The Taifu*, Wang Zhengtang was celebrating his seventieth birthday at the end of the month and the birthday invitation was sent to Tang Shishi.
(Taifu* – an auxiliary official, teacher of the emperor, and in charge of the formulation and issue of the ritual law)
There was no Taizi in the Eastern Palace now and the Taifu was a fictitious title, but Wang Zhengtang was highly respected and had a large number of students. He used to be a teacher to Zhao Chengjun and was very renowned in the court.
It was rare for people to live up to the sixties. So, it was an extraordinary happy event that Wang Zhengtang could celebrate his seventieth birthday. In addition, Wang Zhengtang aided the emperors of several dynasties. Although he was no longer in charge, his reputation was not trivial. Even when the cabinet and Empress Dowager Yao met, they all gave way to Wang Zhengtang. This time Taifu celebrated his birthday, and everyone in Jinling who had some face would come to his home to congratulate him.
Zhao Chengjun and Wang Zhengtang had a teacher and student relationship. If Zhao Chengjun was in Xiping province and could not come back, then he could be excused. However, he was obviously in Jinling now and it would be inexcusable if he did not attend Taifu’s seventieth birthday. Initially, Zhao Chengjun had wanted Tang Shishi to rest at home and he would attend his birthday celebration would be good enough. Anyhow, Tang Shishi thought about it and thought it was inappropriate to do so. Since Zhao Chengjun was interested in the world, then the attitude of court officials was extremely important. They must put forward their sincerity.
In the end, Tang Shishi also chose to go out personally to congratulate Wang Taifu on his birthday.
As a precaution, Tang Shishi threw Zhou Shunhua and Ren Yujun into the mansion. She brought ginseng to the banquet by herself. Anyway, these two people were just concubines, and no one could say anything if Tang Shishi did not take them out.
The Wang family was very busy and full of guests today. When the eldest madam of the Wang family learned that Tang Shishi was coming, she hurried to the second gate to welcome her with a smile, “I pay respect to Jing Wangfei. There’s still little Junwang at home, you could have just asked someone to pass the wishes will do. How dare bother you to come in person?”
Tang Shishi got out of the carriage, walked into the second gate, and said with a smile, “It’s Taifu’s birthday, even the most dangerous place can’t stop me. I’m not late today, am I?”
“No.” The eldest madam smiled while showing the way for Tang Shishi, “Wangfei came at the right time. If Taifu knows that Wangfei is here, he will be incredibly happy. My Old Madam is at this side, and Wangfei follows me.”
“Thank you, Eldest Madam.”
Zhao Chengjun went to the front to congratulate Wang Zhengtang on his birthday, and Tang Shishi went to the rear courtyard to meet the wife of Taifu. This old couple was really blessed, both of them were seventy years old, and unexpectedly neither of them passed away. They were in good health and have no illness or disaster.
Old Madam Wang’s room was full of people. The granddaughters, various distant relatives, and madams of good friends who came to celebrate the birthday, all surrounded the Old Madam and talked. A maid from outside ran in to report, “Old Madam, Jing Wangfei is here.”
As soon as everyone heard Jing Wangfei, they stood up one after another. Tang Shishi entered the door and immediately greeted Old Madam Wang with a smile, “Greetings Old Madam.”
Old Madam Wang trembled and wanted to stand up to salute Tang Shishi, but Tang Shishi quickly stopped her, “Old Madam should not. I’m here to congratulate Taifu on his birthday and you mustn’t do this. Old Madam, sit down quickly.”
Old Madam Wang refused twice modestly and sat back with the help of everyone. When Tang Shishi came, the seats were rearranged at once. Several granddaughters of the Wang family quickly stepped aside and gave the nearest seat to Tang Shishi.
Tang Shishi sat next to Old Madam Wang and said with a smile, “Madam is strong and energetic. It’s really a blessing. If I hadn’t known in advance, I would have thought that Old Madam is in your fifties this year.”
Old Madam Wang laughed heartily, “Wangfei really can talk and is used to coax this old lady. This old lady is too old to be as energetic as you, young people. I remember that many years ago, Jing Wang was still a child and often came to the mansion to ask about his study. Sometimes when the old man was away, he would wait in the study by himself and wait all day long. At that time, the old man said that His Highness Jing Wang is clever and studious, and he will become a capable person. Unexpectedly, so many years have passed in a blink of an eye.”
Tang Shishi said with a smile, “Thank you Taifu for his advice. Wangye has responsibilities in the Northwest, and he always regretted that he could not return to the capital to pay respect to Taifu. Now that Wangye has finally gotten his wish.”
Tang Shishi said this with modesty. Old Madam Wang was coaxed to laugh and said, “Thank you Wangye and Wangfei for your affections. It’s a great honor that Wangye still remembers our family after so many years.”
“We should thank you and Taifu.” Tang Shishi said, “If it were not for the careful teaching of Taifu and the kindness and virtue of Old Madam, how could Wangye learn true knowledge? It can be seen that Heaven also thinks that Taifu and Old Madam have good virtues. After seventy years, both elderlies are blessed with no illness or disaster.”
Old Madam Wang laughed, “I don’t deserve these words of Wangfei. I am just an old woman. How can such a Wangfei have high regard for me?”
“I’m telling the truth.” Tang Shishi said while looking at the people behind her, “If Old Madam doesn’t believe me, you might as well ask Eldest Madam and Second Madam if Old Madam has immeasurable blessings and protection from Heaven?”
It was natural that the several daughters-in-law of the Wang family said yes with smiles. Old Madam Wang was coaxed heartily and layers of wrinkles appeared on her smiling face. Old Madam Wang laughed for a moment and asked with concern, “I heard from my eldest daughter-in-law that Wangfei has given birth to a son?”
“Yes, my son’s name is Zhao Zigao, and he will be one year old next month.” Tang Shishi sighed regretfully, “It’s a pity that he hasn’t been acclimatized recently and can’t go out. Otherwise, I’ll bring him to Old Madam to receive Taifu’s knowledge and Old Madam’s blessing.”
Old Madam Wang smiled and said, “Wangfei, thanks for thinking highly of us. I won’t complain in my death since I’m able to get these words.”
“Old Madam has a profound blessing and long life. Why do you say these unlucky words? I still hope that in a few years after Zhao Zigao is old enough to ask Taifu to give him some advice in learning.”
Old Madam Wang naturally responded, “How difficult will this be? In the past few years, the old man has often complained that our grandchildren are slow-witted and simply too stupid to be taught. Just in time, send little Junwang over so that the old man can teach a smart student to vent the fire in his heart.”
Tang Shishi and the others laughed together. When the whole hall full of daughters-in-law and granddaughters-in-law saw this, they made use of every opportunity to say some pleasing words. In fact, these were pleasantry words. Tang Shishi and Zhao Chengjun would soon return to Xiping province. How could Wang Taifu teach Zhao Zigao?
Neither Tang Shishi nor the Wang family people took these words seriously.
Old Madam Wang smiled for a while, looked at the beautiful young Wangfei in front of her, and sighed, “Time waits for no one. I remember that when Wangye often came and went alone when he was young. The old man talked to me several times in private, saying that Jing Wang is good at everything except for being too lonely. The old man was worried for a long time and afraid that Jing Wang was too busy with outside affairs and treated himself badly. Fortunately, now that Jing Wang has married a wife and has a child. The old man and I also can rest assured.”
“Old Madam, thank you for your concern,” said Tang Shishi with a smile. “We are young and don’t know anything. In the future, still have to trouble you and Taifu to give us more advice.”
“I don’t dare.” Old Madam Wang replied, “I’m just doing my duty.”
Tang Shishi said these words again in her heart and felt that Old Madam Wang’s attitude was very vague, neither said support nor not support. Tang Shishi sighed secretly, thinking that it took more than a freezing day for the river to freeze three feet deep, if want to win over people’s hearts, how could it be completed overnight?
Polished it slowly. Besides, Old Madam Wang was a womenfolk after all. It was Wang Taifu who really played a decisive role.
Maybe Zhao Chengjun over there could get unexpected joy.
After that, Tang Shishi never mentioned anything about court affairs and accompanied Old Madam Wang to recall the past and made fun of it. She sat for a while, and there were more and more guests came. After a while, a maid ran in and said, “Old Madam, Old Master said that the banquet can start now.”
“Great.” Old Madam Wang stood up with the support of her granddaughter-in-law and said, “Wangfei, let’s go. It’s time to take a seat.”
Tang Shishi gave Old Madam Wang a hand and followed everyone to the reception hall to have a meal. Tang Shishi took her seat and thought that after this meal finished, she could go back to the mansion.
Hoping that there would be no unexpected circumstances in the future.