At first, Shi Fengju was oblivious to the situation. But he came to a realisation when he saw how his wife was acting awkwardly. His lips curled into a smile as he purposefully ignored her hint while playfully watching her reaction.
“It is quite late now, let’s get some rest! There are still many things to settle tomorrow!” Shi Fengju said casually.
“But——” Sang Wan furrowed her eyebrows and said, “There, there is only one bed and blanket, how do we sleep…”
“It’s fine, let’s just put up with it!” Wasn’t this the perfect time to feign ignorance?
“You!” Sang Wan’s eyes reddened and she turned her back away.
What’s the meaning of this? According to the contract they made, he would divorce and send her away from the Shi Household next year to get together with his beloved childhood sweetheart. Yet, he spoke frivolously to her now. What did he see her as?
Shi Fengju became distressed and he quickly tugged at her arm, “Sang Wan, I have no ulterior intentions. Sorry, sorry, please don’t be angry!”
Shi Fengju’s eyes dimmed. It seems like she’s adamant about keeping a distance from me and is still planning to leave me! After trying so many times, her attitude is still the same as before! Sang Wan ah, Sang Wan, can’t you feel my love for you from the way I treat you? I want us to continue to be married, to be together forever, only with you!
Sang Wan used her handkerchief to wipe her tears away as she shook off his hand.
“Sang Wan, I am so sorry, please don’t be angry anymore! I, I was only joking with you!” Shi Fengju smiled reluctantly as he apologised profusely. However, his fists were clenched tightly by his side. Sang Wan ah, Sang Wan, so long as I have no intentions of letting you go, you won’t be able to leave my side. Even if your heart is made of stone, I’ll be sure that it melts eventually.
A joke! A bitter feeling rose in Sang Wan’s heart. Oh, so it was only a joke! To think her heart got so agitated by that a moment ago; her mind must have thought too much!
“Where are you going!” Shi Fengju was startled when he saw her walking out and he quickly pulled her back.
“I’m getting another blanket from my sister-in-law!” Sang Wan said hatefully, and shook off his hand forcefully.
That stunned Shi Fengju momentarily before he smiled gently. She’s angry, and was she feeling a little jealous? Er… or was he thinking too much? Shi Fengju touched his nose. Regardless, seeing how her abrupt tantrum made him feel somewhat relieved.
When Sang Wan brought another blanket over, Shi Fengju had already regained his composure. He quickly rushed forward to take it. “Sang Wan, the floor is cold, I——”
Sang Wan remained quiet and got onto the bed with her clothes on before making space for him, “The countryside is quite chilly at night, so be careful not to catch a cold. You, you can sleep here!”
Unlike the Shi household where the floor was layered with thick carpet or they had an extra mattress, the Sang household had none of those. Sang Wan did not dare let him sleep on the floor. If he were to catch a cold and any servants spoke a word about it to Wang Shi, Wang Shi would definitely make a big fuss about it. Not just her in-laws, even her family would blame her for not taking care of him well. Furthermore, she was not that evil to watch as he caught a cold…
“Alright!” Shi Fengju smiled and placed the blanket on the bed. After he removed his shoes, he got on the bed and let the bed curtains down before lying down while sighing comfortably.
In the end, the bed was truly more comfortable. He had not lain on a bed in a long time.
Afraid that Sang Wan would be put on edge again if he were to speak his heartfelt words, he merely let out a sigh.
However, Sang Wan was not ignorant and could understand the subtle meaning behind his sigh. She hurriedly turned her head to face the side of the wall. She honestly felt bad about letting him sleep on the floor, even though he was the one who suggested he sleep on the mattress. But even then, she didn’t expect him to persist with it for so long. She assumed that he would eventually give an excuse to sleep in the study room after just a few days.
That night, Shi Fengju slept very soundly. He did not dare to cross the line to touch her, hug her, or even kiss her, even though she was lying on the same bed as him! When he turned his head, he would be able to see her and her sweet scent would fill his lungs. That put him in a better mood than usual. He never knew he was someone who was so easily contented. Just laying by her side and his heart was filled to the brim with bliss.
Contrary to Shi Fengju’s state of bliss, Sang Wan was having trouble sleeping. Rather than being worried that Shi Fengju would act inappropriately — she could still trust his values after all — it was the mere fact that there was another man lying beside her and she was left with less space than usual. This made her feel a little perturbed and she did not dare to fidget or breath too loudly. In the middle of the night, the sound of his even breathing and the sensation of his warm breath on her face and neck gave her a significant amount of distress so she only managed to fall asleep after a long while.
When she woke up the next day, it was already late in the morning. As she opened her eyes slowly, she realised that Shi Fengju’s head had shifted to her side unknowingly, almost as if he was sleeping soundly on her shoulder. Her neck was tingling as she felt his breathing.
Sang Wan was shocked momentarily. When she glanced over at the man, she saw how he was still in a deep slumber with his eyes shut. She quickly calmed herself down and moved away gently before exhaling slowly. She sat up after a while and nudged him, “Mister, Mister, wake up!”
Shi Fengju was actually awake after her fidgeting. However, he was just afraid that she would feel even more awkward if he showed signs that he was awake. He swore to the heavens above that he wasn’t trying to take advantage of her and was unaware about what he did in his sleep. Sang Wan wouldn’t blame him, right? After all, he was asleep and wasn’t conscious of his actions…
Shi Fengju felt a sudden rage towards himself… why did he agree to become a fake couple with her on the day of their marriage! Really, he had brought his own misery upon himself and he couldn’t go back on it! Even though he had gone through all the marriage ceremonials to marry her, he couldn’t even touch her!
“Hmm?” Shi Fengju acted like he had just woken up and slowly opened his eyes. He blinked and said, “Wow, the sky is already so bright!” Then, he smiled and sat up before asking, “Did you sleep well last night?”
“En!” Sang Wan nodded vaguely and said softly, “Move to the side a little, I’ll bring your robe over!”
“Alright!” Shi Fengju moved to let Sang Wan to get off the bed and take out his robe from their bag to help him put it on.
Since morning, Liu Ya had her sleeves rolled up and was helping Fang Shi in the kitchen. She left Zhide to wait at the front of the room to serve the pair. When Zhide heard some noise from the room, she knocked softly and shouted, “Sir, Ma’am!”
After Sang Wan opened the door, Zhide saw the pair was already dressed. She smiled and said, “I’ve been waiting in front of the door since early morning. Why didn’t Ma’am signal for me instead? Nubi will head over to fetch some water for you to wash your face!”
By the time the pair had finished grooming, Sang Hong and Sang Yufei had gotten up as well. After a quick chat, they sat down to have breakfast. Not long after, the people started streaming into their house to pay their visits to Sang Yufei.
Landlord Lu from the neighbouring Lujia Village; Wan family from Yangliu Gulf; and a rich man from Xiao Luan Village came to visit. In the late afternoon, the townspeople and many more people from other neighboring villages came. Even the heads of the households turned up as well. Some families even sent their sons and their headservants over to pay a visit. They all brought plentiful gifts: money, land, houses, servants, old-antiques and artworks, birdnest and ginsengs, expensive silks and satin. The list went on.
Liu Ya and Zhide were in charge of receiving the guests and serving them tea while Shi Ming was in charge of ushering the guests in and accepting gifts and name cards offered. Everything was done in an orderly manner. The guests came with a common understanding that there were other visitors as well and did not fuss over the Sang family’s top escorted examinee’s sparse attention. They sat down happily and left before the seats turned warmed, parting with words to meet again in the future.
Sang Yufei accepted all the gifts except the servants. The visitors wanted to persuade him by letting him know that the servants they brought were honest people and he could sell them if he was not satisfied. But after seeing Shi Fengju, they understood that the Shi household would have more than enough servants to spare for Sang Yufei. The movement of these two maidservants serving them were even more graceful than a lady from a wealthy family. And as for the two servants doing the ushering, one could tell that they were not from ordinary family!
As for the houses that were given as gifts, Sang Yufei made clear that he was comfortable living in Sihe village and did not intend to move. Thus, the houses would not be of use even if he were to accept them. He rejected their kind offers and the visitors did not insist but merely thought of replacing the houses with other valuable gifts.
While the Sang family was busy receiving visitors and accepting gifts, Sang Pingliang and Li Shi were restless with jealousy. Sang Pingliang was being careful after the warning by the elders and did not dare to make a ruckus at Sang Hong’s house again, but he was reluctant to gain nothing out of Sang Yufei’s success. Thus, when it turned dark, he sent Li Shi over to make an attempt to grab a share of the gifts for themselves.
Seeing Li Shi actions, Sang Hong was soon compelled to give in as he sighed to Sang Yufei and said, “Let’s just give them something. This will never end and we’ll become a laughingstock!”
“Aren’t we just plainly letting them take advantage of us!” Fang Shi was unhappy.
Sang Yufei smiled bitterly and sighed, “Big brother is right, we can be mean with our words, but cannot completely cut them off with our actions. After all, our blood still ties us!”
Fang Shi went silent. Despite the unpleasantness of Sang Pingliang and the separation of the two families, the ties between them were predetermined by fate and there was no denying them. If they really went overboard, there was no guarantee that the villagers’ attitudes would still remain the same; they might even be deemed as being cold-blooded. Thus, they should ease up a little.
After all, kindness was a key virtue to being human.
“Alright! Don’t intervene with this matter anymore, I will give them what they want!” Fang Shi patted her chest and said. Alright, they’ll get what they want, but words that the two brothers cannot say, it’ll be better for me to do so.
Sang Hong and Sang Yufei thought about it and agreed.
And so, Fang Shi brought with her a hundred silvers, two rolls of cloth, and a quarter of a kilogram of bird nest, to Sang Pingliang’s doorstep together with Liu Ya.
Li Shi and Sang Pingliang saw how she took the initiative to come to their house and instantly became cocky again; they started grumbling about the gifts being too little. Fang Shi smiled coldly and said, “You think it is too little? How much are you guys planning to contribute when we are returning the gifts to these visitors? Why don’t we find Li Zheng and Uncle Liu to discuss?”
That finally shut their mouths.
“Eh, Liu Ya, quickly bring Sang Wan to over to our house for a visit! We have always treated her as our dear blood-related niece! I’m sure she isn’t as cold-blooded as her brothers and sister-in-law!” Li Shi stopped Liu Ya.