IBTBTED Chapter 134
It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager
Chapter 134 Contradiction
It was scorching hot in the eighth month. Madam Xu hid under the city wall and looked at the towering and magnificent red wall and the majestic imperial guards not far away. She was amazed and envious and dared not go near.
Her son now lived in such a place. Madam Xu felt proud and faintly uncomfortable.
When her son was carried to others, she was grief-stricken if her son was having a bad life, and felt uncomfortable if her son was having a good life. Why were these glories not brought to him by his biological father, but by another father?
Madam Xu thought of her younger brother who had been taken away by the government and mustered up her courage to go to the palace gate to ask the imperial guards. When Zhao Zixun came to look for her last time, he brought her a token and said if there was an emergency, took this token to the East Gate of the Imperial Palace. When the guards saw it, they would naturally arrange for someone to see her.
Madam Xu did not know the reason why, but Chen Tai had been locked up all night. Madam Xu tossed and turned all night. Finally, she waited until dawn and quickly came to find Zhao Zixun with her token.
Madam Xu approached the East Gate trembling with fear. The East Gate was checking the incoming and outgoing people, and no one paid attention to her. Madam Xu was about to rush to the front, but a eunuch suddenly stopped in front of Madam Xu with a smile and said, “Dare to ask, are you, Madam Xu?”
Madam Xu’s courage suddenly ran away completely. She looked at the full-length style eunuch in front of her and trembled with fright, “It’s me. What are you going to do?”
“Not me, it’s a noble person who wants to see you.” The eunuch said, leaning halfway and towards her, “Madam Xu, please come with me.”
Madam Xu was taken to the palace while trembling all over. She looked at the red walls, green tiles, and exotic scented flowers and plants all the way as if both her feet were floating. She suspected that she was dead. Otherwise, how could she see a place like the Heavenly Palace?
Madam Xu was dazed and did not know how long she had walked. She only knew that everything around her was a life she could not imagine in her entire poor life. The eunuch who led the way finally stopped in front of a building. Madam Xu looked up and saw three big words, “Kunning Palace” written on them with both strong and soft stippling.
Madam Xu did not know who lived in this palace, but judging from the eunuch’s respectful attitude, she should be an extremely noble person. Seeing this, Madam Xu’s feet became softer. After entering from the side door, beautiful and elegant women floated from both sides like a cloud. There was no sound when she walked, leaving only bursts of fragrance.
Madam Xu became even more suspicious that she was dreaming.
The eunuch stopped in front of the main hall. Instead of entering the door, he stopped outside the door and bowed respectfully, “Niangniang, I brought the person here.”
After a while, the bead curtain moved. A woman in a yellow dress came out of the room and said, “Niangniang gave the favor, please go in.”
“Thank you, Niangniang,” said the eunuch, glanced at Madam Xu, and said unhurriedly, “Madam Xu, please go in.”
Madam Xu did not know how she entered the main hall. After entering, she was almost stunned by the color inside. Standing in the middle of the piles of brocades and a hall full of gold and jade, she was almost suspicious that this was a dream. What was especially unreal was the woman at the seat of honor. She had an amazing appearance, glowing white skin in a long dress that reached the ground with long embroidered ribbons. Although she was pregnant, she did not look bloated at all, rather she looked soft and graceful like she could glow.
Madam Xu just glanced at her, and she was stunned. This woman was surprisingly beautiful, and what was even weirder was that there was a vague sense of familiarity…
She seemed to have seen this woman before. Where was it?
Madam Xu stared at Tang Shishi in a daze. The women around coughed, and helped Madam Xu to kneel down, “Why don’t you salute when you see Empress Niangniang?”
Madam Xu got down on her knees after being urged, only then did she realize that this was actually the Empress! Madam Xu was frightened, lowered her head willingly, and dared not look up again.
Tang Shishi put down the tea and said, “Madam Xu, please get up. Someone, show her the seat.”
Dujuan brought over a stool, and Madam Xu was being urged to sit down again. Madam Xu sat on the stool, feeling that her hands and feet were not right, “Empress Niangniang, you… you are so busy. Why are you looking for me?”
Tang Shishi smiled, leaning on the armrest, and said unhurriedly, “Madam Xu, long time no see.”
Hearing this voice, Madam Xu had a flash of enlightenment, and she thought of someone, “It’s you!”
Madam Xu remembered that a few years ago when Madam Xu came into the prince’s mansion in Xiping to pay New Year’s greetings to Shizifei and met an extremely beautiful woman. At that time, she was still a maid, but she did not expect that she became the Empress now.
Madam Xu felt quite complicated in her heart. She had a bad memory, but such a beautiful woman could not forget even if she wanted to. Had it not been for the disparity between the status of the maid and the Empress, Madam Xu would have remembered her when they first met.
Tang Shishi happened to have met Madam Xu once. So, she did not care about Madam Xu’s disrespect and said, “I invited Madam Xu to come today because I have something I want to ask Madam for help.”
As soon as Madam Xu heard this, she quickly said, “Niangniang, you’re joking. What can I do to help you? If you need anything, don’t hesitate to mention it.”
Tang Shishi smiled, “Only Madam Xu can help with this matter. Shizi left the palace a few days ago, and Shizifei also didn’t know where he had gone to. I assumed he went to see Madam Xu.”
Madam Xu suddenly became silent and could not speak out of embarrassment. Tang Shishi ignored Madam Xu’s discomfort and continued, “Shizi and Madam Xu have a deep mother-son relationship and have blood ties. If stop both of you from meeting, it seems that I am very ruthless. However, Madam Xu, people should be honest and trustworthy. Since you promised His Majesty, you should keep your promise.”
Madam Xu’s expression was ugly, and sat on the stool very restlessly, “What does Empress mean? Does Empress think we are greedy for the power of the imperial family? This is absolutely not the case. I will never be greedy for a son of the imperial family. The reason why I came to Jinling was just that I love my son and wanted to see Shizi a few more times.”
Tang Shishi lowered her head and smiled, “I did not say that Madam Xu is greedy for vanity. It’s human nature for Madam to love her son, but it’s just a matter of principle. The son’s family name is Zhao, and he’s no longer Madam’s son. If Madam Xu hates to part with your son, then you should have refused Jing Wang at the beginning. Since you agreed at that time and accepted the benefits of Jing Wang mansion, but still don’t want to break the ties.”
Madam Xu’s face turned white. Tang Shishi smiled and said, “It’s not easy for His Majesty to cultivate Shizi. He used the best things on Shizi since childhood and invited the best teacher. Over the years, he has spent much time and energy, not to mention the money thrown into his basic needs, studies, and martial arts which was an astronomical figure. Seeing that His Majesty has cultivated Shizi, Madam Xu came to recognize the deep feeling between mother and son. Madam Xu, you say, what’s the reason for this?”
Madam Xu’s face turned from white to red and her whole body was burning hot. Just now she thought the Imperial Palace was bright and shining everywhere, but now Madam Xu only felt that the dazzling and everything in here was laughing at her!
Madam Xu stood up hurriedly. She moved too suddenly which made the stool turn upside down. Dujuan frowned and scolded beside her, “Presumptuous!”
Tang Shishi raised her hand and signaled Dujuan to retreat. Dujuan saluted and retreated quietly to the other side, but she still had a bad look toward Madam Xu.
Tang Shishi smiled and said, “Madam Xu, I heard that your brother was arrested by the imperial guards. There are ten thousand taels of silver in here which is enough to pay the gambling debts that your brother owes. I’ve already sent someone to the imperial guards to clear things up. I think it won’t be long before your brother can go home. However, everything has one or two, not over and over again. There is no need for Madam Xu to pay back the remaining money, but I don’t hope to see it happen again next time.”
“Someone, send Madam Xu out of the palace.”
A palace maid came forward to lead Madam Xu out. Madam Xu avoided the palace maid’s hand, and said while trembling all over, “I don’t need your help. I can go by myself!”
After speaking, Madam Xu strode away without looking back. Dujuan looked at Madam Xu’s back and scolded with anger, “She’s extremely rude. What kind of thing is she, dare to put on airs in front of Empress? Empress kindly paid back the money for their family, and she was still wronged?”
Tang Shishi chuckled softly and there was nothing more than that. If one gave someone a small help when they were in distress, they will be grateful to you. But if one gave people too much help and became dependent, it would make them hate him once he stopped helping. She took her ten thousand taels of silver and still felt that she had insulted the backbone of the Xu family.
Oh, what noble self-esteem.
Tang Shishi instructed imperial guards to arrest Chen Tai, and today he sent money to Madam Xu with great fanfare. In fact, she did it on purpose. She wanted to intensify the conflict between Zhao Zixun and the Xu family so that Zhao Chengjun could see Zhao Zixun’s true face as soon as possible. Tang Shishi had made early preparation, but she did not expect that on the same night, Zhao Zixun came in a rage to settle the account with her.
In the evening, Tang Shishi was in the middle of feeding Zhao Zigao porridge. Suddenly, there was a noise outside, and also voices stopping someone from the palace maids and eunuchs.
“Shizi, Empress Niangniang is resting inside. Shizi…”
Tang Shishi put down the spoon, wiped Zhao Zigao’s mouth with a handkerchief, and said to the wet nurse, “Bring him out.”
The wet nurse looked back and forth with a panic expression. The palace maid next to her had already put away her bowl and spoon, and said while saluting, “Yes.”
With that said, the palace maid knocked the wet nurse hard and glared at her, “Why don’t you go quickly?”
The wet nurse woke up like a dream and quickly got up with Zhao Zigao in her arms. When the nurse went out, she so happened to see Zhao Zixun enter the door in a rage. Shizi’s face was full of anger, and his eyes were bright with fire without the slightest bit of modest nobleman in normal times.
The wet nurse only took a quick look, lowered her head quickly, and went out with Zhao Zigao in her arms.
The palace maids of Kunning Palace saluted Zhao Zixun. Dujuan stood in front and said, “Pay respect to Shizi. Shizi, it’s getting late. You come to Kunning Palace in a hurry. Is there anything important?”
Zhao Zixun endured his anger and said, “You all go out.”
Dujuan frowned with an angry look. Tang Shishi motioned Dujuan to step down and said, “Since Shizi has something to say, all of you go out first.”
Dujuan frowned and completely disagreed, “Niangniang!”
“Just go out.”
Dujuan had no choice but to take people out of the door. However, Dujuan kept her eyes open, did not close the door or walk far, and stopped at the entrance of the main hall.
After the maids left, Tang Shishi was not in a hurry and asked, “Tell me, why is Shizi so angry?”
Zhao Zixun’s chest rose and fell, and these words almost jumped out between his teeth, “Tang Shishi, why did you do this?”
Tang Shishi raised her eyebrows, “What? Shizi, please explain your words clearly. What did I do?”
“Why did you humiliate Madam Xu? After returning home today, she sought death and almost hanged herself!”
Tang Shishi raised her eyebrows in her heart. Looking at Zhao Zixun’s angry appearance, Madam Xu’s suicide attempt probably had just happened. Coincidentally, she called Madam Xu to talk in the morning. It was not until in the evening that Madam Xu was seeking death, just to let Zhao Zixun know.
What a coincidence, ah.
Tang Shishi’s tone was flat and replied, “I am not familiar with Madam Xu. How do I know why she is seeking death?”
“You!” Zhao Zixun was incredibly angry. He looked at the young, beautiful, and indifferent face in front of him. He could not wait to tear her indifference to pieces. “She only saw you today. If it weren’t for you, why would she cry nonstop and say that she is ashamed to live? If it weren’t for you, how could uncle be arrested in imperial prison?”
Oh, even blamed her for Chen Tai’s gambling. Tang Shishi’s said sarcastically, “Uncle? Shizi, don’t forget that your family name is Zhao now.”
Tang Shishi really knew how to infuriate a person. Zhao Zixun was furious and shouted, “But she is my birth mother after all!”
Tang Shishi also raised her voice to suppress Zhao Zixun’s imposing manner, “I am also your legitimate mother. For an unwarranted accusation, you come to question the Empress of the Imperial Court and shout in the palace hall. Zhao Zixun, is this your loyalty, filial piety, and righteousness?”
Zhao Zixun was so angry that his eyes became red and stared at Tang Shishi motionless. This woman was so beautiful, but her heart was so vicious. She deliberately humiliated his mother and now suppressed him with the kindness of nurturing. He received the kindness of Jing Wang mansion, but it did not mean that they could trample on his self-esteem wantonly.
Zhao Zixun stared at Tang Shishi hard and said word by word, “Very well, Tang Shishi. I will never forget the hatred of killing my mother.”
Tang Shishi also smiled disdainfully, “What did I say? What did her seeking death have to do with me? Also, Zhao Zixun, I am your legitimate mother now. You are not qualified to call my name directly.”
Zhao Zixun questioned Tang Shishi with anger. Now the impulse dissipated, but the agitation in his blood was even worse. He glared at Tang Shishi one last time, then turned and left.
Tang Shishi sat upright on the Empress’s throne seat and never looked Zhao Zixun eye to eye from beginning to end. When Zhao Zixun was about to go out, Tang Shishi said slowly, “Since Shizi is arrogant and awe-inspiring, then have to trouble Shizi to make up the ten thousand teals of silver from today.”
This woman! Zhao Zixun clenched his fists and finally endured. He carried his robe and left without saying a word.
After Zhao Zixun left, Dujuan came in from outside the palace hall and frowned continuously, “Empress Niangniang, isn’t it not good for you to quarrel so much with Shizi?”
Tang Shishi scoffed lightly, “He disrespected me first. When others bully me, how can I still welcome them with a smiling face?”
Dujuan was still worried and said tactfully, “Niangniang, His Majesty is not in the capital now. Besides, you and Shizi are a family after all. Doing it not for the sake of the monk but that of the Buddha…”
Tang Shishi glanced at Dujuan lightly, but Dujuan fell silent suddenly and did not dare to say anymore.
Doing it not for the sake of the monk but that of the Buddha? Tang Shishi sneered as it was no use to give anyone a face. She had had enough of this stupid scumbag for a long time.
Zhao Zixun strode all the way back to Duanjing Palace and entered the palace gate. He was still so angry that his eyes were black, and his ears were buzzing that he could not hear other people’s voices at all.
Seeing that Shizi’s expression was wrong, the people in the Duanjing Palace all avoided him far away and dared not get close to him else something unfortunate would happen. Zhao Zixun was angry and did not have the mood to deal with Lu Yufei at all, so he went directly to Zhou Shunhua’s room.
When Zhou Shunhua saw Zhao Zixun coming, she did not ask anything. She gently removed Zhao Zixun’s outer cloak and served him herbal tea. Then, she stood behind Zhao Zixun and gently massaged Zhao Zixun’s temple.
After Zhao Zixun drank a cup of tea, his rationality slowly returned. At this time, he thought about the earlier matter again and felt that he was a little too impulsive.
Although Zhao Chengjun was not here now, his spies were everywhere in the palace. If Zhao Chengjun knew that Zhao Zixun dared to roar at his beloved, he would definitely never forgive him easily.
Besides, he was an adopted son after all. When such things as disrespecting the Empress spread to the court, it would be his wrong in the end.
Zhao Zixun had regretted it now. However, when he saw the bruise on Madam Xu’s neck at that time, he could not calm down at all. Especially that person was Tang Shishi, which made Zhao Zixun extraordinarily unbearable.
Seeing Zhao Zixun calm down, Zhou Shunhua asked softly and gently, “Shizi, what happened? Why are you so angry like this?”
Zhao Zixun returned to his senses. He put down his teacup and said lightly, “Some court affairs outside.”
Zhou Shunhua responded. She knew that Zhao Zixun’s words meant that he did not want her to ask further. Zhou Shunhua shut up tactfully, and turned to say, “Shizi, have you eaten yet? I’ll ask the Imperial Food Bureau to prepare it?”
Zhao Zixun nodded. He was called to the Xu family in a hurry. When he reached there, he saw the miserable condition of Madam Xu and became so furious that he did not have the mood to eat. After making a trip to Tang Shishi, Zhao Zixun became angrier and even more without appetite.
However, evening meals always have to eat. Zhou Shunhua went out to prepare the meal. Zhao Zixun sat in the side palace hall. Zhou Shunhua’s smell was all around and even the fragrance of Zhou Shunhua’s fingers remained on his forehead. But somehow, Tang Shishi’s appearance kept constantly appeared before Zhao Zixun’s eyes.
The decoration of her bedroom, the loose hair hanging from her ears when she lowered her head, the way she combed her hair with her back to the door… As well as the thin cold smile between her eyebrows when she mocked people.
Other women were soft and gentle like water, all except her. She loved and hated with vigor and vitality, which made people seriously damaged and unable to free themselves.
When Zhao Zixun was distracted, a whistle suddenly came from outside. Zhao Zixun returned to his senses and looked at the window. Outside stood a man in gray clothes, dressed as a eunuch with an impatient look.
Zhao Zixun approached and asked in a faint voice, “What’s wrong?”
The man in grey clothes looked around, moved closer to Zhao Zixun’s side, and said in a low voice, “Shizi, it’s done.”