Sang Yufei’s eyebrows creased together unwittingly. He hesitated for a moment before saying, “Big brother, Brother-in-law, I have to prepare for next year’s Metropolitan exams. There are all sorts of people in the country, I think it’ll be better if——”
Sang Hong understood his reasoning and nodded, “We will welcome those who come to congratulate us, and threat them with courtesy. As for the gifts, let us not accept them!”
“I thought so too!” Sang Yufei immediately let out a breath of relief. He did not speak his mind previously even though he had finally achieved some success from working hard over so many years because his big brother and sister-in-law deserved to share the fruits of his success as well. However, if he were to reject the gifts, they would receive nothing.
“That isn’t right,” Shi Fengju shook his head and said, “We’re a family so I’ll just say it outright. Second Brother, you’re afraid that your reputation might be harmed by the people with bad intentions. However, you are all neighbors; if you reject their goodwill, some might see you as being arrogant and unfriendly. Second Brother, forgive me for saying this, but that will not do you any good!”
“That, we can’t let that happen, right?” Sang Hong was taken aback. There will be a negative consequence for not accepting the gifts?
“Brother-in-law, you’re right!” Sang Yufei’s expression darkened as beads of cold sweat formed at his back. The reputation of being lofty and aloof often meant that one is unsociable. How can he become an official with such traits? That would be terrible!
“We didn’t consider the consequences carefully… As for this matter——” Sang Yufei creased his brows and said, “Forget it, we’ll accept their gifts first! After that, we’ll prepare a gift of equal value in return!”
Quietly, Shi Fengju approved his words. If Second Brother is able to think this way, then he still has a chance to succeed in the officialdom. If he were to think like his big brother, then he must be persuaded from joining the ranks of the officers or else he would be a pushover when under pressure. But that wasn’t the worst of it. If he were to accidentally offend someone, his own life would be on the line.
“The return gift can be of a lesser value than the gifts given. People will understand that you’ve received their goodwill!” Shi Fengju said with a smile.
“Right,” Sang Yufei nodded his head with a smile.
Sang Hong sighed and said, “Brother-in-law has seen more and is able to think through issues more thoroughly. Alright, as I’m less familiar with this, I’ll leave this discussion between you two! I’ve no objections whatsoever so long as it’s good for Yufei!”
“Big brother!” With a feeling of warmth, Sang Yufei looked at Sang Hong appreciatively.
Shi Fengju said again, “Not just that, there will be many others who will turn up wanting to become servants as well. As for them,” Shi Fengju raised his eyebrows and said, “They’re mostly people who want to take a shortcut. There will be no benefit in leaving them in the household, so do reject them properly. If you need servants at home, put in a little more effort and buy them from the middlemen to put yourself at ease. If you are unsure about this, you can just let me know when you’re looking to buy one in the future!”
The Shi family were naturally familiar with doing business with Qingzhou’s middlemen and the Shi’s head servants had a system to follow when picking servants.
Sang Yufei replied courteously and said, “If there is any help that I need in the future, I’ll have to trouble Brother-in-law again. Let me give my thanks in advance!”
“Second brother, you are too polite!” Shi Fengju nodded and smiled.
While the three were discussing at a corner, Fang Shi was sewing soles while speaking to Sang Wan at another. Sang Quan, Sang Nuan, Liu Ya, and Xing Zhi were laughing and playing in the front yard.
“Eh, I can see that our brother-in-law is a good man. He is genuinely caring, which is had to come by!” Fang Shi elbowed Sang Wan and sighed happily.
“Big sister-in-law…” Sang Wan could only smile in return.
“I’ll just speak frankly with you!” Fang Shi sighed and said, “Our brother-in-law comes from such a prestigious background, but he is able to treat us like his family. This already places him above many others! Sang Wan, you are really blessed!”
Sang Wan stammered and her smile became a little unnatural. It was impossible for her to not feel diffident about this. Compared to her past life, his treatment towards her was better by too many folds and it even extended to her family as well. However, he still remained ambiguous about their relationship even though he would occasionally give her a smouldering gaze which never failed to make her face blush and her heart throb. Just what is the meaning of this?
And there was still that Gu Fangzi who would always be a thorn in her heart. To think that she could create so much trouble even when she’s mourning; Sang Wan genuinely believed that the day Gu Fangzi’s mourning period ends would be the day she declares on war upon her. When that day finally arrived, would he be able to treat her the same way?
As the saying goes, ‘Give the dog a bad name and hang him’. Gu Fangzi had established her status in the Shi Household for many years and was taken care of as a biological daughter beside Wang Shi. She was also Shi Fengju’s childhood sweetheart since young. Compared to Sang Wan, Gu Fangzi had everything! No, what Sang Wan had was an unreasonable and capricious sister-in-law who picked on her at every chance she had!
Sang Wan’s eyes dimmed a little and she sighed silently to herself.
“Right,” Fang Shi did not realise the change in her mood and asked softly, “Are you expecting?”
“Ah? What?” Sang Wan was in a daze and did not hear her. Only after Fang Shi nudged her did she respond hazily.
Fang Shi glared at her and mused, “What what, I’m asking you whether you are expecting yet.”
“Ye—— No…” , Sang Wan was stunned for a moment before realising what she was asking and her face turned red while shaking her head slightly.
“You ah!” Fang Shi shook her apprehensively and said, “Don’t treat this lightly! Have you seen a doctor yet? The Shi family are not lacking in wealth, so go find a renowned doctor for help and eat some nourishment as well! I see that brother-in-law does not look like a miser and your mother-in-law could not have said anything against this, right? After all, this is all for their Shi’s next generation!”
“Yes, yes, big sister-in-law! I understand, I understand!” Sang Wan quickly smiled and responded . The more she listened, the more unbearable she felt.
“You ah! How can I not worry when you’re far too short-sighted!” Fang Shi groaned and said, “You must take this opportunity to give birth to a child while that vixen is still mourning! With your status as the first lady of the household, a son by your side and a top escorted examinee as your brother, you will never be threatened by that vixen no matter how good the tricks up her sleeves are!”
“Sister-in-law, I’ll remember your words!” Sang Wan wished to end their topic quickly and swiftly agreed. Taking a glance outside, she said, “The time isn’t early anymore, what will we be eating tonight, sister-in-law?”
Fang Shi glared at her before letting out a sudden burst of laughter, “Don’t worry, we won’t mistreat your husband! Look at you, acting all worked up about it!”
Sang Wan did not know how to reply so she conceded silently with a smile.
“En, it’s quite late already, I’ll go and make dinner! Help me to look over those two kids and don’t let them fool around!” Fang Shi got up and said.
“Xiao Nuan and Xiao Quan are well-behaved kids! Why would they fool around!” Sang Wan smiled and said.
“Those two cows! Oh please! You better not compliment them!” Fang Shi said while patting her robe.
Sang Wan could not help but giggle before getting up as well. She stood at the door and watch over the two siblings while they played with each other.
Before it was time for dinner, Li Shi knocked on the door with Sang Yan with her. She grinned as she invited Shi Fengju and Sang Wan over to her house for dinner.
Shi Fengju had seen enough of their shamelessness so he quickly made an excuse to escape from Li Shi while letting Sang Hong’s family handle them.
Li Shi was much easier to shake off than Sang Pingliang. Along with the words from the elders and Li Zheng, Fang Shi herself was sufficient to get rid of her.
“How could we let our dear sister-in-law and her husband go over to your house for a meal? If word were to spread, people would point at our backs and speak badly of us, saying that we’re bad brothers and sister-in-law! We can’t accept such a bad reputation!” Fang Shi said without any hesitation while she pushed and shoved Li Shi out before quickly locking the front door.
Having been pushed out without the chance to speak to Sang Wan, Li Shi was so infuriated that she started knocking on the door while shouting deafeningly. That was all ignored by Fang Shi and she acted as if she had heard nothing.
Fang Shi’s door did not open but the all neighbors beside them opened their doors and criticised her actions while shaking their heads at her disgraceful behavior.
“Mother, Mother, let’s go home, let’s go back!” Sang Yan was so flustered that her face turned red as she tugged at Li Shi’s sleeve anxiously.
“Go… go… what back!” Li Shi forcefully flicked a finger on her daughter’s forehead and said sternly, “What a useless girl, you can’t do anything right!”
“Mother! What has this got to do with me!” Sang Yan felt indignant and her tears immediately fell. She covered her face and ran in the direction of her home.
“Dumb girl! Why are you throwing sh*t on me too! You crawled out from my womb, yet I can’t win you over! Where did you learn such defiance!” Li Shi scolded and returned home without a choice.
“You didn’t manage to invite them?” Sang Pingliang’s face darkened. He grinded his teeth and said, “Fine! Those mean people! I am inviting Shi Fengju and Sang Wan, what has it got to do with them! Let’s see if they can keep their doors shut forever!”
“They left?” The noise outside stopped and Fang Shi came out of the kitchen with an apron.
Liu Ya immediately ran to peek at the gap under the door and nodded to Fang Shi, “They left! Don’t worry! Seriously, we should have treated those kind of people like this from the start!”
“Eh, you have a conscience, little girl; able to differentiate the right from the wrong!” Fang Shi laughed heartily.
“Of course! I have been unhappy with her since, forever!” Liu Ya raised her head. Before, Li Shi had scolded her and Sang Wan so much and always asked her to help out with hard labor. She even threaten to sell her countless of times, giving her a terrible scare. She had been living with Sang Wan for so many years and are just like sisters, how could she bear to leave?
“Hehe, good girl! Your house’s missy has not been nice to you for nothing!” Fang Shi laughed again and returned into the kitchen.
After dinner, everyone sat for a while before leaving wearily.
Zhan Huan and the rest of the servants went back to town so the lodging was settled without much difficulty.
Considering how there might be people visiting early the next day, Shi Ming remained to help out and he slept on a mattress in Sang Yufei’s room. After all, Sang Yufei’s status was no longer the same; there are some things that would be inconvenient for Sang Yufei to do. Sang Hong is his older brother, so it would be inconvenient for him as well.
Sang Quan slept with his father and gave his room to Zhide and Liu Ya. Fang Shi would be squeezing in a room with Xu Ma and Sang Nuan. Sang Wan and Shi Fengju would be sleeping in the room Sang Wan stayed in before she got married.
It was only after the door was shut when Sang Wan realized there was a problem. There was only one bed and blanket, how were they going to sleep?
She gave a fleeting glimpse to Shi Fengju and her face turned red.