IBTBTED Chapter 124
It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager
Chapter 124 Sudden Change
After First Assistant Yang finished speaking, the Qianqing Palace fell into complete silence. Empress Dowager Yao asked in a hoarse voice, “What do you want me to prepare?”
First Assistant Yang lowered his eyes and stared motionlessly at the cracks in the golden brick. The bricks of the Qianqing Palace were not made of gold but were made with special clay from the imperial kiln. Ten bricks were made, and only one piece was left. In this way, the cost of the brick was not less than the same size of gold which was why it was called the “golden brick”, worthy of its name. It was said that such golden bricks were extremely hard. Even if the people below dug tunnels and pried them with the sharpest daggers, they would not be able to pry any cracks in the bricks.
The people of the imperial family were so afraid of outsiders entering the palace to kill them, but they had forgotten that the killers were often their own people. What was the use even if it was paved with thick golden bricks?
It was indeed a coincidence that Emperor fell into the water, but it was Emperor who said to go out to play. When he fell into the water, he was accompanied by his own people. When he came back, Emperor became sicker and sicker under the eyes of the Imperial Hospital and the officials. During the period, the decoction of the medicines and foods was all arranged by Empress Dowager Yao. No matter how people looked at it, it was just a tragedy of accidentally falling into the water, contracting a common cold, and finally getting worse that endangering life. Such tragedies happen every day. The only unusual thing was that Emperor’s Uncle Jing Wang was in the capital at the moment.
Coincidence? It was too coincidental. However, what was the evidence? Empress Dowager Yao suspected that Emperor was poisoned. Therefore, she changed wave after wave of imperial physicians and even secretly brought in folk doctors to see him. However, without exception, everyone said that Emperor’s cold attacked his lungs and unfortunately pulled out his old disease. Whether he could survive or not depended on Heaven’s will.
It was too common for a healthy person to die in a few days after getting a common cold. Empress Dowager Yao just did not expect this kind of thing was happening to her.
She had already prepared the funeral for her son and now, it was her grandson’s turn?
The white-haired person had to send the black-haired people twice.
Empress Dowager Yao held her forehead intensely. She had been taking good care of herself over the years. She was elegant and composed no matter what happened. Now, Empress Dowager Yao’s spirit seemed to collapse all at once, and there were deep wrinkles appeared on her face. First Assistant Yang just realized at this time that Empress Dowager Yao was already so old.
First Assistant Yang was an experienced person and knew he should retreat. First Assistant Yang took two steps back, his footsteps stopped, and the hem at the bottom of the official robe swayed twice. First Assistant Yang knew that it was very unpleasant to say these words, but someone had to pierce the paper window. If he did not say it, no one could say it.
First Assistant Yang lowered his eyelids and said softly, “Empress Dowager Niangniang, do not grieve too much. The country can’t be without a monarch for a day. You should also consider the future.”
It did not matter if Emperor was dead, whoever succeed the throne next was the most important thing.
Emperor was young and playful, leaving no heir, and the late Emperor Xiaozong had no other sons. According to etiquette, in this case, they should look for a person from the generation of Shizong.
Among the many sons of Shizong, the eldest son Xiaozong, the second son Xiang Wang and the third son Teng Wang have all died. According to the order of succession, it was the turn of Jing Wang next.
It just so happened that Jing Wang was now in Jinling.
First Assistant Yang had made his intention known and left it there. After speaking, regardless of whether Empress Dowager Yao heard it or not, he quietly retreated.
At first, Tang Shishi thought that her life was just nourishing her unborn baby comfortably, playing with her son, and using the Buddhist beads to pretend to be worried about Emperor’s health from time to time. Her life changed suddenly without her knowledge from that day onward.
The atmosphere in the capital became inexplicably tense. Zhao Chengjun became busier and busier. The people in the prince’s mansion walked faster and faster. Guards even began to be added outside her and her child’s courtyard. Tang Shishi had not been out of the mansion these days. So, she did not know what was happening outside, but she felt that something big was going to happen.
At this time, Tang Shishi was frightened and remembered that she had not heard the news of the Emperor’s recovery these days.
Tang Shishi’s heart thumped. She thought of the meaning behind this matter, and her blood was cold all over. For the first time, she took the risk of being found, dug out the original book from the bottom of the chest, and opened it to read the latest chapter.
Unfortunately, this book has little significant reference. According to the timeline in the book, they were still in Xiping province. Zhou Shunhua just won the battle with Lu Yufei and was diagnosed as pregnant. Relying on her child, she was promoted to Cefei.
In addition, there was no disturbance from Tang Shishi in the book and the issue of warm fragrant pills had not been discovered. Zhou Shunhua did not need to lie about pregnancy to protect herself. When she announced the news, she was really pregnant.
But in reality, warm fragrant pills were publicized by Zhao Chengjun. At that time, Zhou Shunhua could only say that she was pregnant to survive. If she told a lie, she would have to make up for it with countless lies. Was not pretending to be pregnant with her completely flat abdomen reduced to everyone’s ridicule? When she was really pregnant later, she had no way to explain the truth.
Once she left the impression of lying to everyone, she could no longer reverse her reputation, and even Zhao Zixun’s image had been greatly damaged. It was indeed a wrong move, every step after that became all wrong.
Apart from this, the time and place to bestow the title Cefei were also wrong. In reality, Tang Shishi and Zhao Chengjun were suddenly summoned to Jinling. To provoke Zhou Shunhua’s internal struggle, Tang Shishi bestowed her as Cefei early. Even though it was also the same Cefei, one was won by scheming using a child while the other was passive acceptance. Of course, the meaning was completely different.
Tang Shishi calculated the time and found that Zhou Shunhua’s pregnancy time in the book was consistent with the actual time of pregnancy, and she was bestowed Cefei. Although there was a slight difference in the time before and after, there was no error in the outcome. The only difference was that Zhou Shunhua offended Zhao Chengjun and miscarried through the board.
Everything was traceable and yet unpredictable.
Tang Shishi flipped back to the table of content and found that it was full of wives and concubines fighting back and forth. Tang Shishi just browsed through it. It was nothing more than that a maid wanted to climb the bed today and another beauty wanted to prescribe medicine to Zhou Shunhua tomorrow. It was all intriguing trivial matters without any reflection on the current situation.
Looking at the progress of Zhou Shunhua’s pregnancy, their family still lived in the Northwest until her child was two years old. Therefore, based on the plot of the original book, Zhao Chengjun only started to rebel at least three years later.
Now, everything was ahead of schedule, and the development path was completely different. If the Emperor in the book died of illness, then according to etiquette, the next heir to the throne was Zhao Chengjun, and there was no need for Zhao Chengjun to rebel at all. Therefore, the point of rebellion in the original book was most likely that the Emperor had an heir.
Tang Shishi was completely dumbfounded. She leaned against the cover of the chest and could not recover for a long time. The maid on the outside was scared as she did not hear any movement from Tang Shishi for a long time and asked, “Wangfei, are you in there?”
“I’m here.” Tang Shishi closed the book, stuffed it back under her clothes, and said, “I want to be alone for a while. You don’t have to serve me.”
Seeing that Tang Shishi was all right, the maids were relieved and responded, “Yes.”
Tang Shishi restored everything to its original state as before. She walked around and still could not calm down, so she went to comb her hair in front of the dressing mirror. She stared at the figure in the bronze mirror, and the light in her eyes faded from time to time.
In the original book, the Emperor did not fall into the water, nor did he die of illness. So now, why did the Emperor have a life-threatening fever?
Tang Shishi dared not think about it. When she first got the book, she was ambitious and wanted to be Empress Dowager. An ignorant person without fear because she did not understand what the words Empress Dowager and Empress meant, so she was fearless and dared to say anything. As she got closer and closer to the center of the imperial power, Tang Shishi also understood more and more that the success of the great general was gained by sacrificing thousands of lives, and beneath the throne where all the bones lay. That was behind those supreme glory.
Tang Shishi picked up the comb. She wanted to straighten out her hair, but after trying for a long time, the toothcomb got stuck in her hair. Her fingers kept trembling, and she could not even comb them properly.
Tang Shishi used to eat and sleep well and never suffered from insomnia when she grew up. But after that day, she could not sleep at night. She often fell asleep and woke up with a start. Tang Shishi opened her eyes and found that everything was just a dream. She was relieved, but when she got up, she found that the bedding beside her was cold.
Slowly, Zhao Chengjun even concealed his traces from Tang Shishi and deceived her that everything was as usual. On the twenty-first day of the Emperor falling into the water, Zhao Chengjun was away from the mansion all day, and he did not even come back when the gate was locked that night.
Tang Shishi’s heart thumped. The maids also felt that the atmosphere in the capital was not right. Seeing that Tang Shishi’s complexion was not good, they comforted, “Wangfei, Wangye should be attending banquet outside and can’t come back in time. Wangfei doesn’t have to worry as Wangye will come back tomorrow.”
These words said by the maids were supposed to be comforting Tang Shishi, but it was more like comforting themselves. Tang Shishi was well aware that Emperor was seriously ill. Which family in Jinling had the courage and the mood to hold a banquet?
Zhao Chengjun never left without saying goodbye unless it was too late.
Tang Shishi’s hands were cold, but she still smiled reluctantly and nodded, “That’s right. Let someone keep watch at the gate carefully. If Wangye comes back, come in and inform me right away. Also, tell the kitchen to prepare sobering soup and hot dishes. In case Wangye comes back, there will be something to warm his stomach.”
After Tang Shishi finished giving instructions, she looked at the twilight cloudy sky outside and felt that she had nothing to do for the first time. When there was Zhao Chengjun before, she never felt it was difficult to endure at night. Taking care of Zhao Zigao, talking about household affairs, and arranging for tomorrow’s menu… She always felt that time went past in the blink of an eye.
Now, Tang Shishi had nothing to do and could only go to see her child. She played with Zhao Zigao for a while and soon Zhao Zigao yawned and could not open his eyes. Seeing this, Tang Shishi could only let the wet nurse carry Zhao Zigao to go to bed.
Tang Shishi walked around the room several times again, but she still felt nervous. Seeing that Tang Shishi was in a low mood, the maids suggested, “Wangfei, you’ve been tired all day today. Why don’t I help you to take a bath and then have an early rest today?”
That was all she could do for now. Tang Shishi sighed and said, “Prepare the water.”
After Tang Shishi took a bath, the maid brought her a towel and helped wipe her hair. Tang Shishi was sitting on the couch with her mind drifting away.
Usually, it was Zhao Chengjun that wiped her hair. After nightfall, there were not so many maidservants in the main room.
It turned out that this was the feeling when the husband did not come back to sleep at night.
Tang Shishi could not help sighing. When the maid heard her, she thought she pulled Tang Shishi’s hair and hurriedly knelt down to apologize, “Wangfei, please forgive me.”
“It’s all right.” Tang Shishi waved to the maid and said, “I’ll do it myself. You all can go back to rest.”
The maids looked at each other in dismay and showed hesitation, “Wangfei…”
Tang Shishi looked very determined and waved her hand while saying, “Just go.”
“Yes.” The maids responded. They put the hair-wiping things on the sandalwood table and stepped back quietly. Tang Shishi picked up the clean handkerchief and felt her hands tired after wiping it twice. Why was her hair so long? How come Zhao Chengjun did not look like he was tired when he wiped her hair previously?
She picked up her half-dry hair to look at it for a while. She did not want to call the maid back or make herself tired. Then she put her hair away and planned to sleep like this. Anyway, the windows in the room were closed and she would not catch a cold.
Tang Shishi went to bed with her long hair draping over her shoulder. She lay on the bed and found that the whole bed was surprisingly large. She accidentally knocked her elbow just now, and no one came to comfort her. Tang Shishi did not know why she felt so wronged. She tossed and turned for a while and slowly fell asleep.
For some reason, Tang Shishi always felt very cold tonight. She was suddenly awakened in the middle of the night. When she opened her eyes, she found that it was dark everywhere and shadows were flickering. Tang Shishi lay in bed and did not react for a while before she realized that she was in the mansion and Zhao Chengjun did not come back tonight.
Tang Shishi could not help rubbing her arms. No wonder she felt cold as it turned out that her arms were left outside. It turned out that she had not been awakened by cold before was all because Zhao Chengjun pulled the quilt for her.
Tang Shishi did not know why she was sleepless. She sat up slowly and stared at the curtain in the dark in a daze. The maid on the night watch outside heard the movement and knocked on the door softly, “Wangfei, are you awake?”
“It’s me.” Tang Shishi replied, “I’m fine. Just wake up to drink some water. You can continue to rest.”
When the maid heard that it was Tang Shishi who had gotten up, she grabbed a small lamp, draped her cloak on, and came in to pour water for Tang Shishi. The maid put the water on Tang Shishi’s hand. She touched Tang Shishi’s finger when she let go of the cup and said in surprise, “Wangfei, why are your hands so cold?”
“Because I just woke up. I’ll be fine in a while.” Tang Shishi did not take it seriously and asked, “Where’s Gao’er?”
“Little Junwang is sleeping well.” The maid stood up and said, “Wangfei, you wait a while, and I’ll go find a hot water bottle.”
Tang Shishi was about to say no when she heard the sound of a child crying from the back hall all of a sudden. The child’s shrill cry was extremely ear-splitting. Tang Shishi was frightened and immediately lifted the quilt to get out of bed, “Gao’er is crying? What’s the matter? Why did he cry suddenly?”
For convenience, Zhao Zigao lived in the side hall behind the main courtyard of Tang Shishi and Zhao Chengjun. Tang Shishi put on her cloak and hurried toward the back hall. The wet nurse was holding Zhao Zigao in her arms while coaxing him and suddenly saw that the front courtyard light was lighted. When she saw Wangfei bringing people over, she said hurriedly, “Pay respect to Wangfei. Wangfei, is it too noisy to sleep? I deserve to die. However, little Junwang was fine before. I don’t know why he suddenly cry so loud tonight.”
Tang Shishi took over Zhao Zigao herself, and coaxed softly, “Mother is here. Gao’er don’t cry.”
Tang Shishi walked in a circle two times with Zhao Zigao in her arms. His crying stopped gradually, but he was still sobbing lightly. Seeing this, the wet nurse and the maid quickly took over, “Wangfei, you still have one in your belly. Quickly pass little Junwang to me.”
Tang Shishi was still raising her unborn baby and could not exert herself. She did not persist and took the opportunity to transfer Zhao Zigao to the wet nurse. Tang Shishi looked at Zhao Zigao’s little red face and asked, “What’s the matter? He never cried at night before. Did he catch a cold?”
“Cannot be.” The maids were puzzled. “I have checked the doors and windows several times, and there should be no omission. Everything is the same as usual.”
The wet nurse came from the common people. Seeing this, she lowered her voice and said strangely, “Maybe little Junwang was frightened by something.”
The speaker said it casually, but the listener thought it differently. Tang Shishi’s heart tightened. The maid chided with a cold face without waiting for her to speak, “Presumptuous, there are no strange forces under His Majesty’s feet? If you still talk about this nonsense in front of Wangfei, be careful of your skin.”
The wet nurse just said it casually and did not expect to bump into the imperial household taboo. She lowered her head and dared not say another word.
Tang Shishi glanced at the maid and said, “All right. Don’t say these angry words in the middle of the night. Since Gao’er is asleep now, let’s go back. Take good care of Gao’er and don’t let anything wake him up.”
When Tang Shishi saw that there was nothing wrong in the room, she took the maid out. She tightened her cloak. As soon as she crossed the doorstep, she heard a huge bell ringing from the northeast.
The bell sounded long with damp chill air, spreading out layer by layer like water waves. Tang Shishi was stunned when she heard the first bell ring, and then the second bell came.
The bell rang in the middle of the night, and it came from the direction of the Imperial Palace.