IBTBTED Chapter 128
It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager
Chapter 128 Past and Present
In the past fourteen years, the Cining Palace had had an immeasurable grandeur and was the liveliest place in the Imperial Palace. Now that only three days had passed, the Cining Palace had deteriorated.
The deterioration had nothing to do with appearance. The glazed roof tiles of the Cining Palace were still shining brightly, but the smell of deterioration permeated from the bricks and roof tiles.
Every new Emperor brought his own officials. Xiaozong died and Wuzong also died. None of the two descendants of Empress Dowagers Yao survived. People in the palace had the most snobbish eyes. When they saw Empress Dowager did not have the chance to rise back, they naturally fled from the Cining Palace one after another.
There were only a few floor sweepers left in the former prosperous Cining Palace. When Tang Shishi walked to the doorway, the old palace maid saw her and hurried inside to report.
Dujuan frowned and cursed from behind, “There are no rules. Empress is here. They didn’t come to pay respect to you, but dare to run away?”
Tang Shishi waved her hand and said, “Never mind.”
The palace maids and eunuchs surrounded Tang Shishi and walked into the Cining palace. Tang Shishi looked around and asked, “Why is it so messy here?”
A flattery eunuch replied, “Niangniang. Yesterday the Empress Dowager of the East moved from Kunning Palace to Cining Palace. Everything was moved here, but it hasn’t been put away yet. It looks a little messy. What are you trying to do staring blankly? Haven’t you seen Niangniang here? Throw those tattered things quickly and don’t block Niangniang’s way.”
Tang Shishi felt ironic in her heart when she saw the dressing boxes, books, and clothing materials piled up on the ground. Once these were the honors that the Empress could enjoy. In only two days, it became “tattered things” that stood in the way. The fate of life was really unspeakable.
Tang Shishi stopped the eunuch’s actions and said lightly, “Empress Dowager of the East has just moved to Cining Palace, and no one has taken a break yet. So, where would they have time to pack up? Just put it here carefully. I’ll go in to see Empress Dowager of the East.”
The eunuchs repeatedly said to be careful and escorted Tang Shishi into the palace hall. Pushing the door open, the lights inside gave off dizzy spells. Yao Pei’er did not open the window, sitting on the chair and staring at the window lattice in a daze.
Tang Shishi covered her mouth to cover the subtle damp smell in the air. The East Hall of the Cining Palace was once deserted and used to pile up sundries but now Yao Pei’er moved in without thorough cleaning and the smell could not be imagined.
Seeing that Yao Pei’er did not move, the eunuch shouted sharply, “Presumptuous. Don’t you salute when you see Empress Niangniang?”
Yao Pei’er had heard Tang Shishi coming in earlier, but she did not want to move and still sat there blankly. It was not until she heard this that she showed some vigor and laughed at herself, “Empress Niangniang… Yes, now the Empress has changed.”
Tang Shishi was pregnant and did not want to go to the damp and cold place, thus she did not continue forward. She just stood in the doorway to look at Yao Pei’er. Today was a cloudy day, and the main hall was also gloomy. Yao Pei’er leaned motionlessly in the shadow, like a lifeless wood that decayed bit by bit in the cold and damp room. While Tang Shishi stood in the only bright place with maids like clouds behind her, the spring scenery was just right.
Tang Shishi suddenly remembered that on the first day when she entered the palace as the beautiful woman, they walked toward Chuxiu Palace in formation and saw Yao Pei’er’s Phoenix carriage passing by grandly on the narrow lane on the east wall of Cining Palace. The envy had driven them to the side of the road earlier, made them kneeled down with their heads down, and could not look around. With their identity, even looking up at the Empress was an offense.
At that time, Yao Pei’er was so impressive, all the beautiful women watched Yao Pei’er go away in surprise and envy, and quietly lamented in their hearts that Yao Pei’er had a good life. Yes ah, she was reincarnated in the belly of the Eldest Princess and grew up happily. At the age of thirteen, she was taken into the palace by her grandmother to be the Empress. Who did not envy such a fate?
Who could have thought that was the peak of Yao Pei’er’s life? Yao Peier was born on the top of the mountain. Therefore, every year after that, she fell into a deeper abyss.
In the second year of Shentai, Tang Shishi entered the palace, and Yao Pei’er was the Empress. In the fifth year of Shentai, Tang Shishi became the most favored beauty and was sent to Jing Wang’s fiefdom in the name of the leader. Yao Pei’er was still firmly regarded as the Empress. Although they did not consummate their marriage yet, no one in the harem dared to neglect her. In the sixth year of Shentai, Tang Shishi became Wangfei and was pregnant with a child, while Yao Pei’er was still wearing the most gorgeous clothes as the living widow who guarded the door the most.
Now, Tang Shishi had become the new Empress with her second child in her belly, while Yao Pei’er was still a virgin.
Tang Shishi went higher step by step, while Yao Pei’er slipped into the abyss step by step. It was really unimaginable that the Empress was a virgin from beginning to end, but now Yao Pei’er had become the Empress Dowager and had to be widowed all her life.
Tang Shishi could not help sighing when she thought of it. If they had known this earlier, would Princess Nanyang and Empress Dowager Yao let Yao Pei’er enter the palace at that time? Perhaps, they still would.
Tang Shishi said to Yao Pei’er, “Empress Dowager, it’s cold in the East Hall and it’s not good for your health to stay for a long time. If Empress Dowager is not feeling well, open the window for ventilation, or let the palace maid accompany you to the Imperial Garden. Spring is finally here, and many flowers are blooming in the Imperial Garden.”
“It’s rare that you still remember me.” Yao Pei’er smiled extremely lightly, her voice was as light as a feather, and said, “What does spring have to do with me? I don’t want to meet people. I’m afraid I’ve neglected Empress. Empress has better go somewhere else.”
The eunuch raised his eyebrows and immediately wanted to chide her for being presumptuous. Tang Shishi raised her hand to stop the eunuch’s words and said, “Since Empress Dowager of the East doesn’t like to be disturbed, then I won’t force you to do something against your will. We’ll leave at once. Empress Dowager of the East takes care of your health and will see you again.”
After Tang Shishi finished speaking, she left with the maids and eunuchs. Yao Pei’er did not want to see her, and she also did not want to see Yao Pei’er very much. Anyway, Tang Shishi had already done the emotional side, so it was none of Tang Shishi’s affairs about how Yao Peier was doing after that.
Tang Shishi walked out of the East Hall. As soon as she looked up, she saw the door of the main palace hall was tightly closed. In the past, Empress Dowager Yao lived alone in the Cining Palace and naturally lived in the main palace hall, but now Zhao Chengjun also threw Yao Pei’er over. Yao Pei’er occupied the East and Empress Dowager Yao occupied the West. In terms of status, Yao Pei’er was nobler than Empress Dowager Yao. According to common practice, Yao Pei’er should live in the main palace hall.
However, the remaining prestige of the old tiger was still here. After all, Empress Dowager Yao was a person who had controlled the court for many years. Yao Pei’er was afraid of Empress Dowager Yao to her bones. So, how dared she rob things from Empress Dowager Yao? Yao Pei’er moved to the side palace hall and lived in a daze all day long. They did not fight or quarrel, both of them also lived harmoniously.
With such big in-and-out movements of Tang Shishi, it was impossible for Empress Dowager Yao to not know that Tang Shishi was here. With the door still closed at the moment, in other words, it was to ask Tang Shishi to leave.
Unfortunately, if Tang Shishi was a person who could understand other people’s meaningful glances or be considerate of others, she would not be called Tang Shishi anymore. Regardless of Empress Dowager Yao’s resistance, Tang Shishi said briskly, “Why is the main hall door closed? Is Empress Dowager not feeling well? What are you doing in a daze? Why don’t you help Empress Dowager open the door?”
The eunuchs rushed up to push the door. Before the eunuch could start, Feng Momo opened the door with a cold face and said firmly, “Which wind has brought Empress over? Empress Dowager Niangniang is not feeling well. She has taken medicine and has fallen asleep. If Empress has anything, you’d better come back on another day.”
Tang Shishi raised her eyebrow and said, “Empress Dowager Niangniang is not feeling well? Then it’s even more important for me to go in to have a look. Empress Dowager can be considered my legitimate mother-in-law. She has been kind to me before. How can I ignore her when Empress Dowager is sick?”
“You dare!” Feng Momo stopped Tang Shishi with a black face, but how could she be able to defeat them alone? Soon Feng Momo was pulled away by the eunuchs. Tang Shishi openly and calmly crossed over the threshold unhurriedly, looked around, and walked in the direction of Empress Dowager Yao.
The palace still preserved its previous appearance. Tang Shishi could not be more familiar with these partitions, incense burners, and floor-to-ceiling shades. Once she was here trembling with fear to greet Empress Dowager Yao. After returning to the capital with a different identity, she had to carefully mediate with Empress Dowager Yao. Who would have thought that in less than a year, Tang Shishi would be able to ignore the guards of Empress Dowager Yao and swagger into the Cining Palace directly?
Seeing that Tang Shishi directly went to Empress Dowager Yao’s inner room, Feng Momo was so angry that her eyes blacken and yelled, “Shameless child, how dare you be presumptuous! When Empress Dowager Niangniang was in power, didn’t know where you were then. Where did you get the guts to be presumptuous in front of Niangniang?”
“Yes ah.” Tang Shishi lifted the curtain in front of Empress Dowager Yao’s bed and looked at the aging person inside with a smile, “When Niangniang became the Empress Dowager, I was only six years old, and didn’t even change my teeth yet. Who could have thought that it would be my turn to visit Empress Dowager now?”
Empress Dowager Yao closed her eyes and completely ignored Tang Shishi. Tang Shishi did not care either. She glanced over Empress Dowager Yao’s face, sighed faintly, and said with regret, “I haven’t seen her for only a few days, and Empress Dowager has aged so much. At first, I couldn’t tell the age of Niangniang, but now there are some changes. Niangniang indeed has skills to maintain a youthful appearance before which makes this little girl admire her.”
Empress Dowager Yao moved her eyes as she was at the end of her patience. She opened her eyes and reprimanded, “Bold! You are nothing and dare to be presumptuous in front of me only after succeeding in a day or two. I have been the Empress for thirteen years and the Empress Dowager for fourteen years, how many fierce winds and big waves have I broken through? Do you really think that you can show off your power in front of me after you have conferred as Empress? Dream on. You can’t even protect yourself. Do you think that Zhao Chengjun will let you sit in the Empress’s position for a long time?”
“I don’t know if I can last for a long time, but I know that Niangniang’s life is completely over.” Tang Shishi remained unmoved and still smiled while looking down at Empress Dowager Yao, “Empress Dowager Niangniang, did you think about today when you forced me to drink poison which was harmful to my child and asked someone to frame my reputation at that time? Probably not. Empress Dowager’s eyes are higher than the top. How can you see the grief of a small person like me?”
“Unfortunately, the most offending person in the world is this little person.” Tang Shishi loosened her fingers and the brown gauze curtain slowly fell down, dividing Tang Shishi and Empress Dowager Yao into two worlds. Tang Shishi was separated by the bed curtain. She looked at the vague figure inside coldly and said softly, “Congratulations, Empress Dowager have her wish fulfilled. No one will disturb Empress Dowager’s tranquility in the future again. Empress Dowager Niangniang, I wish you enjoy your old age.”
With that, Tang Shishi flung her sleeve without nostalgia and turned around to leave. Empress Dowager Yao struggled to get up from the bed and stared at Tang Shishi fiercely through the gauze curtain, “The reason why I have fallen into this situation is that I’m kind and soft-hearted, and mistakenly trusted Zhao Chengjun which allow him to live to this day. You came from a humble family and have an identity of a spy. Your grandeur won’t be for long. I’ll be waiting for the day that you’ll be deprived of the Empress position by Zhao Chengjun, beaten into the dust, and even your own son refuses to recognize you!”
Tang Shishi laughed, kept walking forward, and said, “Then Empress Dowager must live a little longer. Be careful not to see it.”
Tang Shishi did not pay attention to her at all. Empress dowager Yao was unreconciled, pulled her dry and hoarse voice, and roared, “My biggest mistake was to let the throne fall into the hands of a son who is not my own. Where do you think you are better than me? I’m afraid your ending will be worse than mine!”
Tang Shishi’s footsteps stopped suddenly. When Empress Dowager Yao said she would be disfavored, Tang Shishi did not care. When Empress Dowager Yao said that Zhao Chengjun was just using her, Tang Shishi still did not care. However, when Empress Dowager Yao said that someone else would inherit the throne in the future, Tang Shishi suddenly could not continue to endure it.
This sentence was undoubtedly stabbing at Tang Shishi’s sore spot. No matter how well-behaved and adorable Zhao Zigao was, no matter how obedient Zhao Chengjun was to her, it was impossible to compare with Zhao Zixun who was the Taizi.
When Zhao Zixun took the throne in the future, he would naturally worship his birth mother Xu. Tang Shishi had no favor for birthing or nurturing. What would she be considered as at that time? Empress Dowager Yao at least had the merits of governing from behind the curtain. The remaining prestige of the old tiger was still here, and the palace people dared not go too far. But what about Tang Shishi?
She had nothing. Empress Dowager Yao was right. When Zhao Zixun ascended the throne, Tang Shishi ending would only be worse than Empress Dowager Yao’s.
Tang Shishi paused for a little while. People inside and outside held their breath and dared not look up. Even Empress Dowager Yao leaned behind the curtain and stared at Tang Shishi breathlessly.
However, Tang Shishi did not turn around in the end. She did not say a word to Empress Dowager Yao. She swaggered off like a winner who disdained to respond to provocation.
Feng Momo was controlled at the doorway. Her hands and feet were firmly restrained and could not move at all. She could only stare at Tang Shishi with her eyes. She thought about Zhou Shunhua, Feng Qian, and other people, but she did not expect that it was Tang Shishi who gave them the fatal knife.
Feng Momo and Empress Dowager Yao were conceited and smart all their lives, but who knew that they were blinded by Tang Shishi? For the whole five years, they had been fooled by her. Now Feng Momo did not know whether Tang Shishi was really stupid or pretending to be stupid.
Tang Shishi walked past in front of Feng Momo. Feng Momo was unreconciled and tried her best to struggle, “You’re an ungrateful traitor spy! You won’t have a good ending.”
Before Feng Momo could finish, her mouth was covered by other people’s hands. The flattery eunuch who followed behind Tang Shishi said pleasantly, “Niangniang, calm down. That old hag is delirious and has been arrested by me. The traitor is so bold that he actually offended Empress Niangniang. Niangniang, what do you want to do?”
Tang Shishi said in a light tone, “Since she is delirious, then she can’t serve in front of the Empress Dowager of the West. Send her to the laundry bureau and let her do rough work.”
When the eunuch heard this, he hurriedly responded, “Niangniang is truly filial. I’ll do as you bid.”
Tang Shishi walked out of Cining Palace, turned around to look at the plaque of Cining Palace for the last time, and said, “Empress Dowager of the West needs to recuperate. In the future, don’t let anyone come in to disturb Empress Dowager’s recuperation. If I come to know any of you playing with two-faced tricks, all will be sent to Criminal Division for punishment. Do you all remember?”
The palace maids and eunuchs were startled and responded while trembling with fear, “Yes.”
Tang Shishi swept her eyes over everyone, brushed her sleeves lightly, and walked slowly to Zhongcui Palace, “I’m tired. Let’s go back to the palace.”