It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager
Chapter 136 Extra: Children
On the eleventh year of Yongchu, fifteen of the fifth month, it was sunny and breezy.
Taizi, Zhao Zigao dressed neatly and stepped out of Duanmin Palace in a solemn mood.
Today was the first day of Taizi to go to Wenyuan Palace to attend class.
Now was the eleventh year of Yongchu, and it was also the eleventh year of Zhao Chengjun’s accession to the throne. Zhao Chengjun used the title Jing when he was in the Qianlong mansion*. Later, he took over the throne of his nephew Wuzong and became the Emperor. In the first year of Yongchu, because the succession of the uncle from the nephew was always ambiguous, Zhou Wang and Qi Wang in the name of thoroughly investigating the death of Wuzong joined forces to start a rebellion and riots and pointed directly at the capital. The Emperor himself led the troops on the expedition, and it took only a month before the mighty rebellion of the vassal monarchs was suppressed.
(Qianlong mansion* – residence of the emperor before he ascended the throne)
After that, Zhao Chengjun felt that Jinling relied on natural defense, and was at a corner. If things go on like this, the barbarians in the north and the vassal monarchs of various places would become a major disaster. In the third year of Yongchu, Zhao Chengjun ordered the capital to be moved to the north, bring his wife, children, and the Imperial Court, and made Yongzhou the capital.
Over the years, the Emperor has been diligent in administration, put the right people in the right places, and the Yan Dynasty has shown a state of prosperity from top to bottom. At the same time, he made frequent personal expeditions, not only driving Tartar out of Mobei but also gradually regaining the military power of all vassal monarchs. The common people lived and worked in peace and contentment, and the court politics was well ordered. During the Yongchu years, everything showed a state of prosperity.
Zhao Zigao, the eldest son of the Empress, was eleven years old. He was granted Taizi last year and received the education of Taizi in Wenyuan Palace. When Zhao Zigao arrived at Wenyuan Palace, his study companion Wang Huan was already there. Zhao Zigao greeted Wang Huan, sat upright in the seat of the Taizi, and quietly waited for the arrival of Taifu.
Overall, Zhao Zigao was in a good mood today.
Just before he opened his own schoolwork.
Zhao Zigao was dumbstruck staring at the tortoise that almost covered the whole page of the book. He was stunned for a long time and became furious, “Who did this!”
Wang Huan was the seventh grandson of the famous scholar Wang Zhengtang. He breathed out unsurprisingly when he heard the familiar roar of Taizi.
A new day has begun.
Zhao Zigao’s eyes were black with anger. It was too much, this time was really too much! Previously, Zhao Jingshu tore his writing, broke his jade pendant, and threw his stationery, Zhao Zigao could endure it all, but he had worked so hard on the policy theory that took him three days to write. Zhao Zigao thought for half a month about the policy theory and planned to ask Taifu for advice before taking it to his Emperor father to have a look. He deliberately copied it three times to make the Emperor father and Taifu read it more easily as he feared that a line was written incorrectly or irregularly would affect the impression of the article. In the end, Zhao Jingshu drew a tortoise on his policy theory!
There was a chuckle outside the study and Zhao Zigao looked back. When people outside saw Taizi looked over, they shoved vigorously as a reminder and ran away carrying their skirts. Zhao Zigao vaguely saw a red shadow and was furious, “Zhao Jingshu, it’s you again!”
Enough was enough. Zhao Zigao stood up and wanted to settle accounts with her. The eunuchs stopped him at once and try to persuade him, “Your Highness, you are an older brother. Don’t quarrel with Eldest Princess. Besides, Taifu is coming soon.”
“Even if I’ll be scolded by Taifu today, I must teach this girl properly!” Zhao Zigao pushed the eunuch away and ran to the outside of the palace hall angrily, “Zhao Jingshu, don’t run!”
A young girl’s scream came from the outside. After a while, the voice gradually faded away. At this time, Wang Huan sighed helplessly again and said, “Princess, come out and be careful of being stuffy.”
Under the curtain of the Taifu’s table, a bright and beautiful face slowly appeared. She was wearing the clothes of a palace maid, but by looking at her, she did not have the appearance of a servant at all, “Has he gone out?”
“Taizi has gone out.” Wang Huan wanted to say something but then hesitated, “Princess, Taizi has spent a lot of thought on this, you… don’t overdo it.”
Zhao Jingshu did not care about these words. She skipped to Zhao Zigao’s seat happily, sat in the armchair that was too high for her, and said cheerfully, “He’s always so stupid. He’ll be tricked easily. What should I write to him this time?”
Wang Huan quietly looked at the book in front of him and silently memorized yesterday’s Confucian classics, as if he did not know what was happening outside his surroundings. Zhao Jingshu thought for a moment, picked up Zhao Zigao’s writing brush, and wrote crookedly, “You – are – a – big – idiot.”
After Zhao Jingshu finished writing, she felt that the idiot had used it last time, and she seemed ignorant to use it again this time. Zhao Jingshu thought that she should not be underestimated, so she struck out the word “idiot” and decided to replace it with “stupid”.
However, she could not write the word “stupid” several times this time. The palace maids could not wait long. Seeing that Zhao Zigao was coming back, Zhao Jingshu was panic. She turned her head to call Wang Huan, “Hey, how do you write stupid?”
Wang Huan pretended not to hear. Zhao Jingshu was anxious, jumped out of the chair, grabbed Wang Huan’s arm, and pulled it hard to her side, “Come on, help me quickly. He’s coming back soon.”
Wang Huan was helplessly dragged to Taizi’s desk by the Princess. He looked at the article that was copied carefully by his close friend and really could not bear to write on it. So, he dipped his finger in the water and wrote a “stupid” word on the table.
Zhao Jingshu looked at the watermarks and then at her own writing, copying them stroke by stroke. The Empress paid a big price for Zhao Jingshu to hire a teacher, but Zhao Jingshu really did not know how to write. She could not write it correctly until the watermarks were all dry, and she still have not finished copying.
Zhao Jingshu could not see the word and was very annoyed. She forced the writing brush into Wang Huan’s hand and said, “It’s really troublesome. Quickly, you write it. Don’t worry, I’ll take responsibility when you are done!”
Her last sentence was simply heroic, but Wang Huan did not want to do such a thing. He clasped his hands behind his back as before and said, “Princess, this is not a nobleman’s act. It’s inappropriate.”
“What a nobleman or not a nobleman.” Zhao Jingshu was annoyed when she saw that Wang Huan refused to take the writing brush no matter what. She glared at him fiercely, “I’m a Princess. You dare not to listen to me?”
Her Highness was nine years old. Although she was still young, her future allure could already be seen. In particular, her eyes resembled Empress Niangniang, beautiful in shape with thick eyelashes and bright like the luminous pearl.
Wang Huan was speechless that she could not write at a young age but dared to learn from others to bully others. Wang Huan could not belittle his close friend’s efforts, but the young and arrogant princess in front of him was also very troublesome.
Zhao Jingshu pushed the writing brush to Wang Huan, but Wang Huan did not accept it, and the two of them were deadlocked. Wang Huan’s sleeves were all blackened with ink. Zhao Jingshu’s furry eyes became wider and wider, and said in a wicked voice, “Do you dare to disobey me? Believe it or not, I will make your life difficult for the rest of your life!”
Wang Huan sighed again, “Princess…”
His voice became softer. There was a loud shout coming from outside the Wenyuan palace hall, “Zhao Jingshu, so you are here!”
Zhao Jingshu screamed “Ah” and quickly hid. Zhao Zigao strode in and moved around the table to catch Zhao Jingshu, “Don’t run. See if I don’t clean up you!”
Wang Huan was forced to act as Zhao Jingshu’s shield and tried to appease his angry best friend, “Taizi, you calm down first…”
The palace maids and eunuchs rushed in to stop them and one after another tried to persuade him, “Taizi, you are an older brother and have to let Princess…”
When Zhao Jingshu saw that Zhao Zigao was stopped by someone, she braved her courage, hid behind Wang Huan, and made a face at Zhao Zigao boldly, “You can’t catch me, you can’t catch me!” Then, the three of them were taken to Kunning Palace together. Tang Shishi sat at the seat of honor and sneered after hearing the report from the palace maid.
Zhao Jingshu and Zhao Zigao bowed their heads together. Tang Shishi smiled angrily, “You go to the study to make trouble and scribbled on Taizi’s schoolwork. You fight with your younger sister and don’t even know that Taifu is here. How can you two, one older brother and one older sister, set an example for your younger brother and sister like this?”
Zhao Zigao dared not speak. Zhao Jingshu blinked, and said cleverly, “Mother, I’m wrong.”
Look, it was so easy for her to admit the mistake. Tang Shishi was angry, and her heart was really like the way Heaven has reincarnation to spare someone. She was so angry with Zhao Chengjun many years ago, and Zhao Chengjun’s daughter came to angry her a few years later.
Tang Shishi was angry and asked, “Where did you do wrong?”
Zhao Jingshu blinked and asked in reply, “Mother, where did you say I was wrong?”
Because of this sentence, Zhao Jingshu and Zhao Zigao were punished to face the wall. Zhao Jingshu faced the familiar red wall of Kunning Palace and scolded Zhao Zigao, “It’s all your fault, and make mother angry again.”
“You still have the nerve to say this. It’s obvious that you were the one making trouble!”
“Who asked you to chase me?” Zhao Jingshu replied, “If you don’t chase me, how can we meet Taifu by accident?”
“Who made you mess with my policy theory!”
“Princess, Taizi.” Wang Huan said helplessly, “Save your energy. Empress is angry right now. Both of you can go back soon if stay quiet for a while. If both of you quarrel again and His Majesty knows about it, then will be troublesome.”
When they heard their father’s name, Zhao Zigao and Zhao Jingshu became silent. After a while, Zhao Jingshu muttered again, “Who told you not to help me.”
Wang Huan silently endured the unreasonable accusations made by Her Highness. Zhao Zigao was dissatisfied after hearing it and struck up injustices for his close friend, “You have implicated Qilang* and still has to endure such unwarranted punishment. You still have the nerve to blame him?”
(Qilang* – Young master number seventh)
Wang Huan was afraid that they would quarrel again and took the initiative to say, “Taizi, I am an official and Princess is a monarch. It is natural for this official to share the worries for the monarch. Today is my fault.”
Zhao Jingshu snorted triumphantly and glanced at Zhao Zigao arrogantly. Zhao Zigao looked at his close friend incredulously, “Qilang, what are you doing?”
Wang Huan shook his head and motioned Zhao Zigao not to say anymore. After Zhao Jingshu stood for a while, an old momo came over and said in distress, “Princess, the sun is strong here, be careful to get sunburn. Otherwise, I’ll talk to Niangniang to let you stand under the tree shade?”
“No need.” Zhao Jingshu waved her hand proudly and said, “I don’t need you. You can go ahead do what you need to do.”
The old momo repeatedly persuaded to no avail and left with a sigh. Zhao Zigao was baffled as Zhao Jingshu who was squeamish and loved beauty would be so responsible?
Before Zhao Zigao finished thinking about it, Zhao Jingshu suddenly covered her forehead and was on the verge of collapse, “Ah, I don’t know why I feel dizzy?”
Zhao Zigao was taken aback and quickly turned around to look at her. Wang Huan held Zhao Jingshu’s arm and asked, “Princess, what’s wrong with you?”
“I don’t know. I’m just dizzy.” Zhao Jingshu said in a feeble voice weakly, “I seem to have heatstroke.”
Zhao Zigao was speechless. He raised his head to look at the sun. The weather was only in the fifth month, and there was no scorching sun until noon. So, could people suffer from heatstroke?
When the palace maids heard that Princess had heatstroke, they quickly helped Princess back to rest. Zhao Zigao looked at Zhao Jingshu’s poor acting skills and did not want to talk. Wang Huan’s face did not change and said to Zhao Jingshu with concern gently, “Princess, take care of your health and recuperate well.”
Zhao Jingshu left very grandiosely. After Zhao Jingshu left, Zhao Zigao reminded his close friend, “She is pretending again.”
“Then you still tell her to recuperate well?”
Wang Huan sighed softly, “Who made her the Princess?”
Zhao Zigao was still young. He vaguely felt that something was wrong and could not tell what was wrong. He could only scratch his head and sighed deeply with emotion, “Alas, it’s really a disaster when a woman looks good knows she looks good.”
“Really?” Wang Huan frowned. “I think Empress Niangniang and Princess are pretty good-looking.”
Zhao Zigao turned his head and looked at him blankly, “I’m talking about them.”
In the Kunning Palace hall, Tang Shishi heard the palace maid report that Zhao Jingshu had a “heatstroke”. She sneered and said to Zhao Jingshu, “Look at your sister, her brain is used to dealing with family members.”
Zhao Jingshu smiled, picked up her younger brother who could just crawl, and said to Tang Shishi, “Mother, it’s because older sister doesn’t need to pay attention in the palace that she can grow into such a temperament.”
Tang Shishi chuckled when she heard what was said, and lightly tapped her second daughter’s forehead, “Only you can talk very well.”
In the past few years, except for the troublemaker eldest daughter, Tang Shishi’s life was really happy and according to her wishes. Zhao Chengjun fulfilled the promise he made when they just got married. He has not set up any concubine room for many years and was devoted to his wife and children wholeheartedly. Later, the officials persuaded Zhao Chengjun to expand the harem because Zhao Chengjun had only one son and had few heirs, but Zhao Chengjun publicly rejected them.
Last year, Tang Shishi gave birth to their second son, which completely shut everyone up this time. Seeing that Taizi was getting older, and Emperor and Empress’s feelings were solid, who would still dare to mention the matters of the harem?
His Majesty was not good with beauty and did not love the newcomer, which was a good thing for the family and the country. Not to mention anything else, just that His Majesty has left the six palaces vacant and dismissed the palace maids. The money saved to the national treasury in one year was enough to shut many people up.
In fact, Tang Shishi did not care about the opinion of the officials. If she just became the Empress, she might worry about it, but now it did not matter at all. It was quite simple as there was no Empress Dowager in the palace, even if all the officials were dissatisfied with her, who could manage her?
At first, there were two Empress Dowagers in the palace. However, in the year of Zhao Zixun’s rebellion, Empress Dowager Yao took part in the rebellion. After that, she committed suicide to escape her crime by hanging herself, just like the death method of Imperial Consort Gonglie who was buried along with the dead many years ago, exactly the same. Three years later, Empress Yao Peier of Wuzong died of depression. She was only twenty-three years old when she died and was a virgin until she died.
After Yao Peier’s death, Eldest Princess Nanyang was so sad that she washed her face with tears all day and fell ill not long after that. In the winter of the same year, Eldest Princess Nanyang died on a cold night. At this point, the Yao family members fell down one by one and soon decline completely. The harem belonged to the era of Empress Dowager Yao completely disappeared and entered the era of the sole favored Empress Tang instead.
In recent years, with Zhao Chengjun, the Tang family’s business has developed rapidly, and the branch printed with the word “Tang” has spread all over the country. Although Tang Mingzhe was snobbish, he was indeed a good merchant. Several children of the Tang family have inherited Tang Mingzhe’s business talents. In the past few years, they have led each one and have been flourishing. Although the young masters of the Tang family were not born from Lin Wanxi, they knew that Lin Wanxi was the person who really decided their fate. One by one, they were vying to please Lin Wanxi, and several young daughters-in-law rushed to serve Lin Wanxi.
Tang Mingzhe was in his old age, and he did not know how to remember the old days. He dismissed many concubines and lived with Lin Wanxi. However, Lin Wanxi’s mood has long since changed. She did not pay much attention to Tang Mingzhe. She went to the palace every New Year and other festivals to see her grandchildren. On ordinary days, she grew flowers and teased cats in her courtyard, and lived peacefully and freely.
When Tang Mingzhe was young, he fondled the flowers and trampled the grass. When he was old, it was Lin Wanxi’s turn to despise him.
Lin Wanxi ignored him, and Tang Shishi did not even look at him at all. Tang Mingzhe could only devote his affections to his several children. The brothers and sisters of Zhao Zigao were never short of money in their hands since they were born. They either accepted the restaurant or the land deed on their birthdays. Tang Mingzhe once wanted to give his children a gambling shop but was scolded by Tang Shishi, only then did he regrettably give it up.
Zhao Jingshu could develop such an arrogant temper which has something to do with her grandfather who was used to expressing love with money.
Fortunately, Tang Mingzhe had the greed of a merchant and the prudence of a merchant. Although he has protection from his son-in-law the Emperor, he was still very prudent in doing business. He never touched what he should not touch, and never went near the political world. Tang Mingzhe knew that only in this way could the Tang family remain wealthy forever.
Zhao Chengjun was very satisfied with Tang Mingzhe’s sense of propriety, so he took a tacit attitude towards the business of the Tang family. Moreover, the Tang family monopolized several imperial merchants, each earning a lot of money in each of them and inputting a lot of silver to the internal warehouse every year. Zhao Chengjun had to be convinced of this, both sides reached a cooperation model, and also lived together peacefully.
The parents were still alive, the children were around her knees, there was no mother-in-law above to suppress her, and there was no concubine below to make trouble. It seemed that there was no dissatisfaction with Tang Shishi’s life. If there were anything to talk about, then it would be about the growing children.
Tang Shishi sighed with affection looking at the children in front of her. Counting the two troublemakers outside, she and Zhao Chengjun have four children, the eldest son Zhao Zigao, the eldest daughter Zhao Jingshu, the second daughter Zhao Jingqin and the second son Zhao Ziyan.
Among them, Zhao Zigao was eleven years old, Zhao Jingshu was nine years old, Zhao Jingqin was six years old, and Zhao Ziyan was only one year old.
Zhao Zigao was enlightened at the age of four and studied with Wang Huan, the seventh young master of the Wang family. Last year he was conferred Taizi. Zhao Jingshu also asked for a teacher from a young age, but the effect was very limited.
When Zhao Chengjun pick a name for Zhao Jingshu, it was during a time of trouble. There were rebellions by two vassal monarchs on the outside, and by Zhao Zixun and Empress Dowager Yao on the inside. Zhao Jingshu was born within a month after he returned to the palace fighting the rebellion. As they wish, it was a daughter. Zhao Chengjun named his daughter “Jingshu” and took the meaning of a calm and beautiful daughter. He hoped that his daughter would live a peaceful life without disasters and difficulties, and also put an end to the turbulent and difficult changes at the beginning of Yongchu.
When the political situation stabilized later, Zhao Jingshu gradually grew in the opposite direction. Zhao Jingshu perfectly inherited Tang Shishi’s troublemaking and Zhao Chengjun’s pettiness. Even Tang Shishi as the mother could not violate her conscience to praise her daughter for being smart and sensible.
In their previous talk, Zhao Chengjun once joked with Tang Shishi that if her daughter resembled her, it might be difficult to find her a husband in the future. At that time, Tang Shishi was very upset, but Zhao Jingshu was only nine years old now and Tang Shishi began to worry about the son-in-law’s matter.
When the third child was born later, it was still a daughter. Zhao Chengjun was afraid and did not dare to take the word with too heavy girl characteristics, so he chose the word “Qin”. The peach trees were in full blossom which would appeal to all and was suitable for men and women. He wanted to suppress her daughter’s squeamishness. Unexpectedly, the second daughter was very smart and calm, never cried or made trouble from childhood, only showing a general’s air of calm and composed. Tang Shishi sometimes doubted that the intelligence that was left out by the elder brother and sister above was all on Zhao Jingqin’s hand.
The youngest son could crawl, and still early to see it now. Tang Shishi looked at her finely crafted youngest son and said, “Don’t learn from your eldest sister in the future and have more brains.”
As soon as Zhao Jingshu ran in, she heard this sentence and was immediately got angry, “Mother, what are you talking about? Why don’t I have a brain?”
Tang Shishi glanced at her and said, “Didn’t you have heatstroke? You get well so soon?”
“The illness needs to recuperate slowly.” Zhao Jingshu climbed up the couch without paying attention, picked up the rattle, and said to Zhao Ziyan, “Ziyan, come to your older sister!”
Tang Shishi was agitated by her until she got a headache and frustrated with Zhao Jingshu who failed to meet her expectation, “You ah, you only know how to play every day. Have you finished writing the words your Emperor father gave you last time?”
Zhao Jingshu aggrievedly curled her lips and did not speak, and Tang Shishi already knew the answer. Tang Shishi was helpless and could only glare at Zhao Jingshu, “You still have the nerve to play with your younger siblings. I think Jingqin can recognize more words than you. You can’t even write the word stupid. You won’t even know when others scold you in the future!”
Zhao Jingshu snorted, raised her chin lightly, and said, “I am a Princess. I see who dares to scold me.”
Zhao Jingqin quietly lowered her head and smiled. Tang Shishi was so angry that she scolded, “You’re still so proud! Still don’t go to study?”
The palace maid stepped forward to take Zhao Ziyan out. Zhao Jingqin took Zhao Jingshu down from the couch and saluted, “Mother, older sister and I will go practice writing. I ask to be excused.”
Tang Shishi thought that there was at least a clever one. She covered her forehead helplessly, gestured with her hand, and said, “Go ahead.”
Zhao Jingqin withdrew with Zhao Jingshu. The two went to the side palace hall and sat on the complete set of tables and chairs specially prepared for them. After sitting down, Zhao Jingqin pushed the paperweight away, moistened the writing brush, and quickly began to write.
And Zhao Jingshu turned left and right, just refused to act. She held the writing brush above the paper and looked at it for a while, quietly leaning to Zhao Jingqin’s side, and whispered, “Qinqin, eldest brother and Wang Qilang are still standing outside. Should we go tease them?”
“Sister, don’t’ waste your breath.” Zhao Jingqin kept moving the tip of the writing brush and said, “Eldest brother and Wang Qilang were originally implicated by you. If you go to provoke them again, mother will be really angry.”
Zhao Jingshu snorted, leaned against her chair, and muttered to herself, “It’s boring. You’re only six years old, why are you more rigid than an old man?”
Zhao Jingqin ignored her and focused on writing her own words. After a while, Zhao Jingshu came over again, “Qinqin, how do you write stupid?”
Zhao Jingqin was helpless after hearing her words, “Do you still want to try?”
“Of course.” Zhao Jingshu said, “If it weren’t for the strokes of this word too much, I would have run away after I finished writing in the morning. How could I be caught by Taifu? It’s all Wang Qilang’s fault. I asked him to write for me, but he still refused. “
Zhao Jingqin took out a piece of paper, originally intending to teach her to write. When she heard this sentence, she silently put it back, “I don’t want to care about you. You can go figure it yourself.”
“Hey!” Zhao Jingshu widened her eyes and said angrily, “No righteous!”
Zhao Jingqin smiled and said nothing. The palace maids serving on both sides sighed after seeing this scene.
The second princess has been wise since childhood, and the eldest princess was thoughtless. The two sisters stayed together. The elder sister did not resemble an elder sister, and the younger sister did not resemble a younger sister, not knowing who led who.
But then again, in the ten years since His Majesty ascended the throne, he has not accepted any concubine, and even the once a three-year selection has been canceled. For many years, the six palaces have been empty, and only favored Empress alone. These four children lived in such an environment, it was no wonder that their temperament was pure and playful without fear.
Whether the brothers and sisters could get along depended on fate and could not be forced. This kind of friendship was even more rare and precious in the imperial family.
The palace people hung their hands and stood like colorful clouds in the magnificent and profound Kunning Palace. Under the porch window, the two princesses, one was active and the other was calm, were quite different in character, but both showed their beautiful appearance. Outside the window, the young and handsome Taizi was discussing scriptures with Wang Qilang. Not far away, the little prince like a white dumpling snuggled up to her mother. The Empress was still beautiful and slim in her thirty. When she looked down at the palace account, she looked just like a young lady.
On the Square just south of Kunning Palace, officials were scattered like a tide, and officials with important positions stayed behind to discuss politics with the Emperor.
The fifth month’s wind blows the willow tree, and the time was just right.
An ordinary and peaceful day at Dayan Imperial Palace was continuing.