IBTBTED Chapter 138
It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager
Chapter 138 Extra: Previous Life
Imperial Concubine Tang, who was at her peak, died in the cold palace.
In the winter of the first year of Tianshou.
The winter in Jinling was wet and cold, especially in the twelfth lunar month, which was very hard to bear. In the end, Tang Shishi still did not get to see the fireworks of the New Year. On the thirtieth of the twelfth month of the first year of Tianshou, Tang Shishi died in the Chonghua Palace.
When Tang Shishi was at the pinnacle of her life, she used to be more lively and more pompous, but when she was dying, her residence was already completely deserted without anyone there.
She lay in the smoky bed curtain, looking towards the north. After exiting the city gate of Jinling City and going up the canal would reach straight her hometown, Linqing. When she left, she took so many unreconciled, indignant, and even secretly vowed in her heart that she would never return to Linqing if she could not get ahead.
Unexpectedly her words turned out to be tragically prophetic. Until she died, she never saw her hometown or her mother again.
Tang Shishi’s eyes slowly shed tears. Until this moment, she was still surprisingly beautiful. Did she regret it? Tang Shishi did not know, she only knew that she was unreconciled.
Unreconciled to enter the palace for no reason, unreconciled to be sent away for no reason, unreconciled to become Zhao Zixun’s concubine for no reason, and even more unreconciled to fall out of favor for no reason.
If there was an afterlife…
Tang Shishi had not figured out what to do if there was an afterlife. Her last trace of strength has been exhausted. Her wrist fell heavily on the edge of the bed, and the luminous pearls on her wrists suddenly broke, broke into individual pearls, and bounced back and forth on the ground.
When the little eunuch heard the movement, he came in to check. He saw the shining luminous pearls on the ground and became greedy. He immediately squatted on the ground to pick up the pearls and wanted to stash them covertly. He just picked up two and was suddenly hit hard behind his head. He looked back displeased and found Qian Gonggong, the most well-regarded man in front of the Emperor, standing behind the door and looking at him coldly.
“These are things that can cause your life. Is this something that you can take?”
The little eunuch was so frightened that he apologized in haste. He put down the things dejectedly and ran away. After the little eunuch ran far away, only then did Qian Gonggong pick up the pearls on the ground, raise his head to see the breathless but still astonishingly beautiful woman on the bed, and sighed slowly.
“Niangniang Concubine Tang, I’m just acting according to imperial orders. If you want to blame, blame the Master. Who made you look too outstanding, attracted the attention you should not have, and accepted things that you should not accept? And now, you’ve caused your own death.”
Tang Shishi did not know whether people were like this after their death. She just felt that she was exceptionally light. She suddenly broke free and floated into the empty palace hall of Chonghua Palace. She turned around and stared at the woman on the bed.
She knew that was her.
She was dead.
When the little eunuch came in to pick up things, Tang Shishi did not turn around. When Qian Gonggong came in to berate people, Tang Shishi did not turn around. It was not until he said “according to imperial orders” that Tang Shishi finally moved her eyes and turned her head to look at him.
Qian Gonggong was an old eunuch whose appearance was not very good. It was said that he was promoted to the Imperial Grand Eunuch by Zhao Zixun after making an extraordinary meritorious deed. Tang Shishi did not know what Qian Gonggong’s so-called “extraordinary meritorious deed” was, but obviously, he had something to do with her death.
Tang Shishi was already dead. The money, wealth, fame, and benefits that she was strongly attached to while she was alive have all become empty. On the contrary, she paid special attention to the cause of her death. When she lost, she lost as her skills were inferior to others. Tang Shishi admitted defeat, but she could not accept her sudden disfavor.
Obviously, Zhao Zixun was obsessed with her when they were in the prince’s mansion, and in the Eastern Palace, even Zhou Shunhua had to retreat. Even if Tang Shishi lost her attractiveness to Zhao Zixun, it should be a gradual process. How could she suddenly fall from the sky to the ground and banish her into the cold palace?
Tang Shishi remained unconvinced. She knew that she was not smart, not quick-witted, but only good-looking. The sudden loss of favor was contempt for her beauty, so she wanted to find out even more.
Qian Gonggong collected the pearls scattered on the ground one by one, then turned around and walked out quickly. Tang Shishi floated unhurriedly and followed Qian Gonggong to the Qianqing Palace.
Tang Shishi slowly shrieked “Oh” in her heart.
In the Qianqing Palace, Qian Gonggong lowered his head and said methodically, “Your Majesty, Concubine Tang is dead.”
It was obvious what he ordered, but when he really heard this sentence, Zhao Zixun was in a daze for a moment before he could accept this fact.
She was dead.
Zhao Zixun did not have any sense of ease but felt desolated. He suppressed the strangeness at the bottom of his heart and asked, “Where’s the thing?”
Qian Gonggong lowered his eyes, took out a bag of pearls from his cuffs, and put them in front of Zhao Zixun’s table. Zhao Zixun was silent for a long time and asked, “Have you found that person?”
“No,” Qian Gonggong said while pulling his eyelids like lifeless wood, “According to the planted spy, that person saw a monk after being shot by an arrow. They didn’t know what they were talking about in the tent, and then the monk disappeared. I’ve sent someone to look for him for three months and finally found a clue in a mountain village the day before yesterday. That old monk once stopped over in their village and asked how to go to Linqing. Unfortunately, when our people went to look for him later, he has already disappeared.”
Tang Shishi seemed to not fully understand after listening to their conversation, Zhao Zixun and Qian Gonggong were secretive about “that person” and also hit by an arrow three months ago… Combining all the signs, the person in their conversation should be Jing Wang.
Jing Wang was the former Emperor Zhao Chengjun and the one who defeated this world. Unfortunately, three months ago, Zhao Chengjun was shot by a hidden arrow on his way back from the victory and died of poison.
Unexpectedly, she heard Zhao Chengjun in Zhao Zixun’s mouth again. Furthermore, listening to Zhao Zixun’s tone, they were looking for someone who was the last person who saw Zhao Chengjun and took something with him to go to Linqing.
Tang Shishi felt strange as Linqing was her hometown. Was the old monk coincidentally also wanted to go to Linqing?
Zhao Zixun looked very worried when the person was found again. He pursed his lips and asked, “What things did that monk take away? What did Jing Wang say to him?”
Qian Gonggong shook his head, “I don’t know. Jing Wang’s main tent was strictly guarded. Our people risked their lives to get closer, and only heard words such as ‘book ‘and afterlife’. Moreover, the situation was urgent at that time, and the planted spy couldn’t guarantee that what he heard was right.”
Zhao Zixun sighed deeply. Zhao Chengjun was obviously dead, but he still had to cause trouble for him. The officials were at odds with him, and the old officials of the Jing Wang mansion argued noisily every day to investigate the death of the former Emperor again, and some people even secretly searched for evidence. Although these were thorny problems, they were not what Zhao Zixun was most worried about. What really kept Zhao Zixun awake at night were the last words from Zhao Chengjun before his death that had not been announced yet.
What did he see that monk for? And why did he mention “book” in their private conversation? What kind of book was it?
Zhao Zixun never thought that it was just an ordinary book and thought it must be something like an imperial edict or secret letter like that. However, Zhao Zixun could not find it.
Seeing that Zhao Zixun’s expression was bad, Qian Gonggong quietly retreated outside the floor-to-ceiling shade like a silent shadow.
Zhao Zixun thought for a long time to no avail, turned his head, and saw what was on the table. Zhao Zixun stared at the bag of things, and Tang Shishi stared at Zhao Zixun. After a long time, Zhao Zixun opened the handkerchief and pulled out a pearl from inside.
The luminous pearls were full of luster and dazzled brightly. One could imagine how beautiful it was when she wore it in her hand.
Zhao Zixun muttered softly, not knowing whether to say it to himself or someone else and said slowly, “Even when you die, you still wear the things he gave you.”
Tang Shishi’s eyes widened, revealing an unbelievable color. Zhao Zixun suddenly threw the pearl back into the handkerchief. Since he exerted too much force, the pearl bounced from the table and fell to the ground. It bounced three times, passed through Tang Shishi’s body, and rolled to the bottom of the cabinet.
Zhao Zixun’s mood seemed to suddenly become awfully bad. He stood up, looked at the gray sky outside, and muttered, “Tang Shishi, don’t blame me. If you want to blame someone, then blame him. He owes you this life.”
There was a greeting from the palace maid outside, and it seemed that Shufei* was here. Hearing the familiar name, Tang Shishi was gearing up and planning to have a showdown with her former opponent. She could not compete with her when she was alive. Tang Shishi wanted to scare her witlessly at least once when she was dead.
(Shufei* – One of the titles of imperial concubines, ranked first among one of the three wives)
However, Zhao Zixun did not give her this opportunity. Zhao Zixun waved his hand and said, “I’m busy with court affairs. I have no time to talk to her. Let her go back first.”
The eunuch passed the words to Zhou Shunhua. Naturally, the language was modified a lot. Zhou Shunhua replied with some regret, and then smiled softly, “Since His Majesty is busy, it’s inconvenient for me to interrupt. I’ll leave at once.”
Tang Shishi did not want to stay to see that heartless rat, Zhao Zixun. In contrast, she was even more curious about Zhou Shunhua and followed Zhou Shunhua for a while. When there was no one around later, Zhou Shunhua lowered her voice and asked the palace maid beside her, “Are you serious that Tang Shishi is dead?”
“Little Linzi saw it with her own eyes, so naturally it’s true.”
Tang Shishi was surprised to see Zhou Shunhua pull down the corners of her mouth. Only then did Tang Shishi know that Zhou Shunhua such a gentle and indifferent person would also show ugly faces such as jealousy, curses, and so on, “That’s good she died. She should have died a long time ago. Tang Shishi ah, Tang Shishi. Why don’t you live in peace since you’re already dead? You actually can make His Majesty lose his temper because of you.”
Tang Shishi was not happy when she heard this. Had not she heard before that the ghost knocked on the door in the middle of the night? She dared to say bad things in front of Tang Shishi and despised Tang Shishi’s ghost?
Tang Shishi said she was going to scare Zhou Shunhua. She initially wanted to jump on Zhou Shunhua, strangled her neck, and scared her ruthlessly. Unexpectedly, she exerted too much force and went straight through Zhou Shunhua’s body and jumped into the nearby well.
Tang Shishi shouted “ah” loudly. Although she had become a ghost, she was still a ghost who loved beauty. What could she do if she fell into the well and injure her beautiful face? Tang Shishi, while frightening and spitting out the mud that did not exist, she quickly floated up from the well. She clearly felt that her movement was very fast, but when she floated out, she found that she could not see Zhou Shunhua’s figure anymore.
Tang Shishi secretly wondered if Zhou Shunhua knew that a ghost was going to strangle her. Else, why did she run so fast? But it did not matter. If the mountain did not want to see her, then she would go to see the mountain. It was not that Tang Shishi did not know where Zhou Shunhua lived. Could not she just go there herself?
Tang Shishi did what she said without delay and floated to Zhongcui Palace. The strange thing was that the palace seemed to have changed a lot. The surrounding flowers and trees were different, and even the palace had many differences. After Tang Shishi arrived at Zhongcui Palace, she found that Zhou Shunhua was not there. On the contrary, a woman with outstanding beauty sat in the Zhongcui Palace and ordered the palace maids in an orderly manner.
Tang Shishi floated in Zhongcui Palace for a long time relying on no one could see her. Finally, she reluctantly admitted that this was different from the harem where she lived. This place seemed to be a little earlier than the year of Tianshou. There were no hibiscus flowers in the Zhongcui Palace, and the trees outside the wall were a little shorter than Tang Shishi’s impression.
The only thing that was the same was that they seemed to be celebrating New Year here too.
Tang Shishi suddenly felt bored. She was already dead and did not even let her take her revenge. This was too much.
Tang Shishi was bored to death. She was at a loss momentary and did not know where to go. At this time, the gorgeous woman called someone over and said, “You take these to Chonghua Palace. I know that he doesn’t like noise, but he has to participate in the New Year no matter what. What child will he become staying alone in the palace?”
The eunuch responded and flattered, “I follow your orders. Fourth Highness is clever and filial. He will certainly understand the painstaking efforts of the Guifei* Niangniang.”
(Guifei* – highest-ranking imperial concubine)
It turned out that she was Guifei. Tang Shishi looked at the woman again. This time, she was even more certain that this was not the dynasty she lived in.
Otherwise, there would never be such a beautiful woman in the harem that Tang Shishi was still not aware of.
The woman called Guifei sighed and said, “Go quickly.”
The eunuch held the tray and walked toward Chonghua Palace. Tang Shishi thought that she had nothing to do anyway, so she might as well take a last look at the palace where she lived. She lived from Chonghua Palace to the cold palace, but she did not expect that the owner of Chonghua Palace was also fall out of favor.
However, they called him the Fourth Highness, which sounded like a man. Tang Shishi felt uncomfortable. Why should her palace be occupied by a stinky man who did not know where he came from?
The eunuch was holding things with both his hands and kowtowing flatteringly, “Fourth Highness, Guifei Niangniang sending you something for the festival.”
The young man who was being kowtowed turned a page of the book and did not have the intention to raise his head at all, “I see. Just put it down.”
The eunuch put down the things and dawdled, but still refused to leave. The young man finally lost his patience and slowly raised his head, “Is there anything else?”
He lifted his face. Tang Shishi saw him clearly this time and would never recognize him wrongly.
Was not this exactly Jing Wang, Zhao Chengjun?