Fang Shi guided Sang Wan to a room nearby. Then, she excused herself to go prepare lunch to let the female guests have some time to be with Sang Wan.
The servants followed Sang Wan into the room. As instructed, they served the freshly bought melon seeds and sweets on several plates, then placed them on all the available tables for the guests to enjoy.
Outside, Zhan Huan and a few other servants unloaded the meat, vegetable, condiments and alcohol from the carriage, and the rest of the guests helped out as well. Fang Shi gave a string of instructions before getting busy herself.
The female guests were chirpier than ever as they narrated to Sang Wan the incident which happened over the past two days; of course, with a tiny bit of exaggeration.
Although Sang Wan had already heard bits and pieces of it from Sang Yufei, she remained dismayed as she listened to the guests. Second Uncle and Second Aunt, their actions were really disheartening!
“Ma’am, you haven’t heard yet; Sang Pingliang refuses to acknowledge your brothers, but he still claims to be related to you! Who doesn’t know what he is up to? He is just eyeing at how you are the daughter-in-law of the Shi household and is trying to dig from your place! How dare he have the face to say that! He acknowledges Ma’am but not your blood-related brothers! If he had lent any help in the first place, then fine! But that’s not the case!”
The crowd nodded in agreement.
Then, the crowd became hysterical when the story continued to the next day when the old couple tried to doggedly adopt Sang Yufei. The crowd mocked as if they had witnessed the scene with their very own eyes. Hearing so, Sang Wan found it funny, but also felt frustrated.
She no longer wanted to listen or talk about such embarrassment and sighed, “Us, three siblings, have grown up relying on one another and have finally achieved some success. My older brother is an honest man and my second brother will not be home often in the future. If something were to happen in this household here, I hope we can rely on you sisters to help us out! I would be immensely grateful even if it were just a simple act of helping to speak up for us!”
The crowd knew her words referred to Sang Pingliang and his wife. They all nodded their heads and smiled, “That is of course! As humans, we’ve conscience. There’s no way we can just close our eyes and act as if nothing had happened, right? It is only right for us to speak for justice!”
Sang Wan smiled and thanked them before leading the crowd to gossip about the happenings in different households. The entire room soon became noisy again.
After an extended period of time, Fang Shi pushed opened the door while kneading her sore shoulders and laughed, “Oh look at me, I was so busy that I’ve ended up neglecting our Ma’am!”
“No, I wasn’t of much help to you. Thank you, sister-in-law, for your hard work!” Sang Wan got up with a smile before pulling Fang Shi to a seat.
“What are you saying? How can I let our Ma’am do the work when it’s already rare for you to come back?” Fang Shi smiled and added, “Liu Ya, that lass, is being kept busy outside! She has become more capable, and it’s all thanks to her for keep the guests outside entertained that I’ve got some time to rest!”
The two looked like they had more to say to each other and the ladies excused themselves to help out outside. Those who were less sensitive and remained ended up getting pulled by the rest.
Sang Wan and Fang Shi acted modestly as they see the crowd off before returning to their seat to talk.
Fang Shi said, “I heard from my second brother that these officials will need monetary reward. We were discussing that we should give a silver to those in the lead, and five copper coins to the rest; Ma’am, you’re more knowledgeable than me, do you say this arrangement is appropriate?” There was a pained look on her face when she spoke about money, and her brows creased as she continued, “Fearing that I didn’t prepare enough, I prepared thirty-six packets. Say, they’re only delivering news, so why the need for so many people? And we’ve also got to prepare lunch for them! Ai, I might have to trouble Ma’am again!”
Zhide was serving at the side. Upon hearing Fang Shi’s words, she pressed her lips together and smiled. This sister-in-law is indeed a down-to-earth person!
Sang Wan could not suppress her laughter and said, “This is a big occasion, people will look forward to eat a good meal and get a bit of a reward, so why wouldn’t many of them come? Sister-in-law, don’t agonise over a few silvers, the days of being poor are numbered already!”
After which, Sang Wan instructed Zhide to take out a big red envelope from her pouch and pass it to Fang Shi. “In here is a note of a hundred silvers. When the officials arrive, have big brother pass this to the person in the lead. They can split it however they want! And once lunch is over, they’ll have no matter with us!”
“A hundred silvers ah!” Fang Shi exclaimed, “This, is too much! I think fifty silvers will suffice! You shouldn’t waste your money like this even if you are rich!”
“Sister-in-law,” Sang Wan smiled and said, “This is a joyous occasion, being more generous can help to bring more luck! How can you say that’s a waste!”
Fang Shi could only smile and take the money. Feeling a little guilty, she said, “Just look at me, I ended up spending your money again even though I only came to seek your advice, this is really——”
“Sister-in-law, please don’t say that unless you treat me as an outsider!” Sang Wan smiled and said, ” I am also very glad that Second Brother has gotten the title of a top escorted examinee! Please don’t say such words anymore, okay? Otherwise, others might see me as a person who sucks up to power!”
“Rubbish! Your Shi Household will soon have to kiss up to the person who just became the top escorted examinee!” Fang Shi quickly retorted.
“The same logic applies!” Sang Wan held her hand and smiled, “So, let’s not talk about this anymore. Any more and I’ll feel distant!”
Fang Shi was stunned for a moment, then she laughed , “Alright, let’s not talk about it anymore! We will keep this good turn in our heart!”
Sang Wan smiled, and then said, “Oh right, for such a large piece of good news, don’t we have to treat our neighbors to a meal as well? What do Big Brother and sister-in-law think?”
Even though Sang Yufei was the one who had gotten the title, their parents were no longer around so the eldest brother and his wife had to act as his guardians. As such, the decision lay in Sang Hong and Fang Shi’s hands. And because Sang Wan was also married and considered an adult, Fang Shi could discuss with her, which left only Sang Yufei out.
“Of course we’ll have to treat them! We have already decided to put up a sumptuous meal to treat everyone!” Fang Shi proceeded to answer in a pained tone, “Mostly to show everyone, to let them see that our Sang household is no longer the same! After years of cynicism, I can’t help but want to flaunt this achievement!”
“Sister-in-law, well spoken!” Sang Wan smiled. For all these years, the Sang household had received hostility, only looking forward to a day just like this. Now, the time has finally come, of course they must not let this chance go!
“Village folks aren’t picky. As long as there’s a spread of fish and chicken, it’s considered good enough. Your brother and I can still afford twenty to thirty tables! So you don’t have to worry about that!” Knowing what Sang Wan was going to say, Fang Shi immediately stopped her before she could speak.
“That won’t be good!” Sang Wan smiled and said, “Since we’re going to show everyone, then we should go all out and not be particular about it! Fix a date and we will bring chefs from town to make all kinds of delicacies —— be it birdnest cooked in shark fin soup. One table is worth around eight to ten silvers. Sister-in-law, everyone knows that I am married into the Shi Household. If word spread that the meal was too simple, then people might criticize us for being stingy. So, don’t fret about us helping out!”
“This——,” Fang Shi was too dumbfounded to speak.
Sang Wan’s words were right. Her husband belonged to the richest family in Qingzhou, with mountains of money. With their in-law’s family having a top escorted examinee, it would not look good for them if the spread was too simple. Even if they are not being seen as a scrooge, people would surely comment that the Sang siblings were not close.
“But, spending so much in one go, you,” Fang Shi gave a quick glance at Zhide and asked in the end, “Is your husband fine with it?”
Spending more than a hundred silvers is not a small amount.
“He is,” Sang Wan smiled and said, “This is his idea too. But it isn’t convenient for him to say, so I’ll be doing it in his stead!”
Fang Shi nodded and sighed with a smile, “Since you and brother-in-law have already put it this way, then there’s nothing more that I can say. Ai, forget it, we’ve already owed you so much favors, adding a little more wouldn’t make any difference!” That made Sang Wan laugh.
“Then it’s settled! I’ll inform Sir about it later!” Sang Wan smiled.
Fang Shi nodded in agreement. Then, she suddenly leaned closer to Sang Wan and whispered, “Everything else is under control, but there’s just one thing that troubles me yet I’ve had no one to discuss it with!”
Fang Shi pointed towards the direction of Sang Pingliang’s house before pouting and gesturing with her two fingers. She creased her brows and said, “I’m very clear about their personality! However, I’m just afraid that they will create another ruckus when the team of officials arrive! Tell me, what should we do if they do?”
Sang Wan was also at a loss of what to do. The dispute between the two Sang families was known throughout the entire village, but not the town. What’s more, such a thing like that could be not explained in just a few sentences.
If Sang Pingliang and Li Shi came and create a scene, there really was no way to deal with them. After all, there was no way they could start a quarrel in front of a large group of audience!
The people coming from town would not know of the dispute in detail. What they would be witnessing would be the younger generation not acknowledging their blood-related uncle, that would surely lead them to think that the Sang brothers were being unfilial. If word spreads, then that wouldn’t be good!
“For that, what did Big Brother say about it?”
“Him?” Fang Shi pursed her lips and said, “What solutions can he give? He’ll surely just say to tolerate them and only confront them after the officials left!”
Fang Shi was clearly unhappy and unwilling, “As if I’d ever let them overshadow us?!”
Sang Wan responded with a sigh, “This time, Big Brother is right; we can only let them be! After all, we can’t stop them from coming unless we tie them up with a rope, don’t you say? We can’t make a ruckus in front of the public, else that would dampen the joyous atmosphere. From how I see it, I think Big Brother is right this time, we can only tolerate them for now!”
Fang Shi went silent for a moment, and finally sighed, “Are we really going to give in to them?”
Sang Wan smiled and replied, “Other than regaining some face for themselves, what else can they gain? Sister-in-law, don’t get too hung up over it!”
After some thought, Fang Shi nodded, “You’re right! It’ll only be for a short moment, we’ll just let them be!”
While the two ladies chatted among themselves, a bustling noise could be heard coming from outside. “They’re here! They’re here!” Someone shouted from afar.
Fang Shi quickly stood up, “Aiyo, I’ve got to hurry out and see! Ma’am, please stay here and rest for a bit!”
It wasn’t convenient for Sang Wan to head out, so she agreed to see her off at the door.
Two or three men had hurried back with a message ahead of the officials——they were soon to arrive in fifteen minutes!