Hearing that the two were going to make their way to the lake, Cui Ling couldn’t contain her excitement, and she exclaimed as her eyes glistened brightly, “Sir, Sir, why don’t I prepare a rod, and we can go prawning! The lake has lots of prawns, so I’m sure we can catch a lot!”
“That’s a good idea! Then we can have them for dinner, too.” Shi Fengju smiled.
Cui Ling nodded excitedly before running off enthusiastically to prepare the rod.
Not too long after, the few arrived at the bank of Linghu Lake. Sang Wan gazed afar at the lake which was about 0.3 hectares wide. The gentle waves rolled playfully across the surface, sparkling under the light. Occasionally, a white waterfowl would sweep low across the surface. Broken branches were scattered along the banks nearby, giving a conceivable view when the lotus flowers bloomed in the summer.
Shi Fengju smiled and said, “Originally, this wasn’t a lake but a sloppy piece of land that would accumulate water every summer. It would not usually drain after half a month, so I had people dig it into a lake and draw water from a nearby water source, then dig a drainage at the northeast corner of the lake for it to become what it is today! I did not expect that rearing crabs, along with planting lotus and water chestnuts, would result in such a scenery!”
“Then it’s all thanks to Sir’s efforts!” Sang Wan smiled. Deep down, she thought to herself, More importantly, it’s because you have the money ah! With riches, you can change anything!
Shi Fengju laughed and revealed, “In fact, I like the way it has become!”
“Sir, Ma’am, come quickly!” Cui Ling had already raced forward and jumped onto the boat. She was waving back at Sang Wan and Shi Fengju.
“Little Cui, be careful!” Shi Fengju raised his voice and laughed as he pulled Sang Wan along.
“No worries, I’m not afraid! I just have to take a bath if I fall into the water!” Cui Ling giggled.
Shi Fengju and Cui Ling carefully helped Sang Wan onto the boat and to a seat before Cui Ling smiled, “Ma’am, hold on tight. We’ll be going off to harvest some water chestnuts!”
“Do you know how to ah? Be careful!” Sang Wan’s heart pounded heavily as she watched the little lass, who was standing, sway at the bow of the boat.
“Ma’am, don’t worry, I’ll be fine!” Cui Ling swayed, and a brilliant smile showed on her face.
Shi Fengju sat next to Sang Wan and chuckled, “That lass is like a wild animal, so there’s no need to worry too much. She can take care of herself! How does it feel? Are you feeling used to the boat? Do you feel dizzy?”
Sang Wan actually did feel a little scared because this was her first time on a boat. After the boat had left the familiar bank, how could she not feel somewhat uneasy when her surrounding was now all water and she was floating over it? Her body slightly stiffened, and she clutched the side of the boat tightly, but she shook her head and smiled to say, “I’m fine, this feels so relaxing. It’s good!”
Shi Fengju then instructed Cui Ling to row a little more slowly before smiling at Sang Wan. He comforted, “Don’t be afraid, I’m here!”
Sang Wan subconsciously raised her eyes to gaze at his deep and dark eyes, and her cheeks immediately flushed with red. The wind blew gently across the lake, bringing with it a unique smell of vegetation and water.
She darted her eyes slightly to escape his gaze, but her heart was pounding uncontrollably inside of her.
Shi Fengju’s lips twitched a little. There were numerous times when the words were already at the tip of his tongue, but he would be hesitant to let them out. Thinking too much always led to being afraid, and he was afraid that he would not get the response he expected most.
After all, he did not attempt to hide his dislike and disgust towards her when she was first married in, so how could he request her to reciprocate the same feelings he had towards her now?
“Ma’am! Look over there, there are so many water chestnuts!” The small wooden boat stopped, and Cui Ling dropped the scull. Grinning from ear to ear, she walked over to the side of the boat and leaned herself against its side before reaching out to pick those water chestnuts near the surface. The water chestnuts were dark brown and had a pointy end like the ends of a bull’s horn. They were no larger than a thumb, small and uniquely shaped.
“Ma’am, for you!” Cui Ling plucked seven to eight water chestnuts and threw them into a basket before giving them to Sang Wan. With eyes sparkling, Cui Ling grinned, “Ma’am, have a taste! Those have grown to a right size so they’ll surely be sweet and refreshing. As for those, they’re a little old, but they’ll taste good when pan-fried! There’s still more in front! I’ll pick a few more, then Ma’am can bring them back to give Mistress and the rest to have a taste too!”
“Sure!” Sang Wan smiled and she took a water chestnut from the basket before peeling it.
“You lass, have become more thoughtful!” Shi Fengju could not help but smile.
Cui Ling giggled and swayed as she turned around.
Faint traces of water dribbled down Sang Wan’s fingers and she could smell the fresh fragrance coming from the water chestnut in her hands. However, the shell of the water chestnut was slightly hard and not easy to peel off. The boat swayed slightly to a side, and Sang Wan, who was not paying much attention, accidentally poked her finger with the tip of the water chestnut. A sharp pain surged through her and a tiny droplet of blood formed on her fingertip. “Ah,” Sang Wan could not help but cry out softly.
“What’s wrong!” Shi Fengju, who originally was looking at her with a smile, was startled and grabbed her slender white finger before sucking at the wound with his mouth without thinking. He coddled, “Does it hurt? You should’ve been more careful!”
Sang Wan’s face was already flushed red and had her head lowered, not daring to look at him. Shi Fengju remained oblivious and hurriedly seized the handkerchief that was on her waist before carefully wrapping it around her fingers. Feeling concern for her, he babbled to himself, “We’ll wipe some ointment on it later when we get back. You should be careful, don’t touch the water and any dirty things!”
“It doesn’t hurt, it’s just a tiny wound. It really doesn’t hurt!” Sang Wan said softly, not daring to look up.
“You still have to be careful even if it’s a small wound. What it gets infected!” Shi Fengju frowned. After he was done tending to her wound, his heart was finally at ease and he went to peel off the shell of a water chestnut, revealing its tender flesh. He hovered it near her lips and said, “Come, I’ve peeled it off for you. Eat it.”
Sang Wan’s face flushed, redder and warmer. She could not help but turn her head to glance at Cui Ling. Seeing that her gaze was not on them but at the lake ahead, Sang Wan heaved a sigh of relief.
At this point in time, Shi Fengju also regained his senses. He looked down at his actions and they were indeed questionable. He could not help but feel awkward. However, it would be even more awkward if the hand that had already been stretched out was retracted back. Shi Fengju was now at a loss of what to do.
Fortunately, Sang Wan seemed to have felt his good intentions. She opened her mouth and gently took a bite at the water chestnut. The faint fragrance spread across her mouth and she nodded, barely squeezing a smile, “Indeed, this taste delicious.”
Shi Fengju was finally happy again. He simply refused to retreat and made her have a few more bites before saying, “If you like it, I’ll peel another one for you!”
“No, it’s fine, it’s fine!” Although that one water chestnut left a lingering fragrance in her mouth, she in fact, did not taste anything when she swallowed a mouthful of it. Her heart pounded crazily and her mind was slightly dizzy, there was no way she could accept another round.
“Then we’ll eat them when we get back!” Shi Fengju smiled and did not insist. Taking a glimpse at the woman in front of him whose face was flushed with red from embarrassment, the more he looked, the likable she was; like the lotus flowers on the water.
“Sir, Ma’am! This entire area is filled with water chestnuts! Let’s stop and pick them here!” Cui Ling stopped rowing and exclaimed.
Shi Fengju and Sang Wan looked out at the waters. Indeed, the area they were in now had clusters of water chestnuts all over the water. It was a pleasant sight.
“You go ahead, and be careful!” Shi Fengju smiled.
“Okay!” Cui Ling answered before placing a wooden basin on the surface of the lake. Carefully, she stepped into it before sitting down. The basin swayed gently with the waves, and Cui ling stroked the cool lake with her hands. Seeing the curious look on Sang Wan’s face, she warmly invited, “Ma’am, do you want to try? It’s really fun!”
“Ma’am will not be going!” Shi Fengju quickly pulled at Sang Wan’s sleeve, almost as if she was going to give in to the suggestion.
Cui Ling put out her tongue playfully and giggled, “Then, Sir and Ma’am can fish for prawns there. My father and I came here before, there are many down below!” Cui Ling then paddled off, harvesting the water chestnuts with her little hands before throwing them into the basin.
“This lass is so bright!” Sang Wan could not help but praised.
Shi Fengju smiled and said, “If you like her, how about bringing her to the household to serve you after a year or two?”
Sang Wan hurriedly shook her head with a smile, “That won’t be necessary! She lives well with her family, and she shouldn’t be holed up in the household!”
Shi Fengju smiled and shook his head, “You ah. Sometimes, you’re just too kind-hearted.”
“Are you saying that I should not?” Sang Wan looked askance at him.
Shi Fengju was taken aback by her words, and he let out a laugh, “No, no, how isn’t it good!”
He had a pampered smile on his face which made Sang Wan’s face turn slightly flustered again and she quickly avoided his eyes.
The line hooked with a chicken bone, which had already been dropped by Shi Fengju, soon shook slightly in the water. Pulling it up, a finger-sized prawn had its pinchers clamped tightly at the chicken bone.
Sang Wan could not help but exclaim while clapping her hands in excitement, “Wah! What a large prawn!” This lake truly is plentiful ah!
“You like it?” Shi Fengju smiled and carefully handled the prawn before throwing it into a bamboo basket. Pulling Sang Wan close to him, he said, “Have a go at it!”
“Okay!” Sang Wan smiled and took the rod from Shi Fengju’s hands before throwing the line back into the lake again. Soon after, half the basket was filled with prawns and laughter could be heard from across the lake.
All the way until the sun began to set, the three finally took the boat back to shore while chatting happily. Sang Wan wondered how long it had been since she was able to relax, away from all the tiring matters. The leisure life in the forest was indeed the most comfortable.
“Ma’am, you must be tired! Quickly, come inside and take a rest!” Auntie Cui hurriedly went out to invite them in. Helping Sang Wan into the house while smiling, she said, “Ma’am, Sir, please wash your hands first. The crabs have already been washed and prepared. Once they’re steamed, they’ll be really tasty. When they’re ready, laonu will serve them up!”
“Please do! Also, take these prawns and cook them using Auntie’s best seasonings!” Shi Fengju smiled.
“I will, I will! Laonu shall go now!” Auntie Cui smiled, “These fresh water prawns can be boiled slightly and then served with a dipping sauce. They’ll be delicious! Ma’am, you’ve got to have a good taste of laonu’s cooking skills today!”
“Keke, we’ll be here for three to four days, there’ll be plenty of days for us to taste Auntie’s awesome skills!” Shi Fengju laughed.