“You’re completely right,” Sang Wan was feeling both bitter and angry. Her hands were held tightly together as she trembled slightly, but she smiled gently and said, “Located in a remote area, the villagers in Sihe Village are not particular and are contented with chicken, duck, and fish! Next time when Brother-in-law Zhixian becomes a top escorted examinee, Sister-in-law can consider inviting the head chefs from Yuhe Restaurant to Mengxian to throw a grand spread! Sir will be delighted to help as well! I’m also sure that Brother-in-law Zhixian’s relatives and friends are all cultured people who will definitely sing praises for all the sea cucumbers and abalones served!”
“You!” Shi Yumei’s expression changed and she said coldly, “What’s the meaning of that! Are you looking down on us?”
For the past few days, Shi Yumei and Ren Zhixian had listened to the household praise the Sang household without an end. Even Second Uncle Shi was telling everyone about how Official Jin, who was competing with him for the golden long-tailed rosefinch, let him win after knowing that the brother of the Shi family’s eldest daughter-in-law had come in first place in the township exams. Shi Yumei and Ren Zhixian’s hearts were full of thorns since then. Added on with Gu Fangzhi’s occasional gossip, the resentment accumulated in Shi Yumei was so much, it was like a volcano that was about to erupt at any moment. When she saw Sang Wan, she felt that Sang Wan’s face had pride and self-conceit written on it the more she looked at her. The anger within her just ballooned and all she’d want to do was to humiliate woman who was the thorns in her heart… Who knew that Sang Wan would retaliate so well and make her lose her face instead?
“Sister!” Sang Wan’s expression changed and she stood up immediately. She crossed her arms loosely in front of her body and lowered her head submissively while she stood, throwing a fearful glance at Wang Shi.
“Yumei, what’s wrong with you!” Sang Wan’s words sounded so genuine and gentle, and her expression was soft and calm. In the ears of Wang Shi, who was not directly implicated in this conflict, Sang Wan’s words did not ring with another meaning. Shi Yumei was the only one who sensed the personal attack behind her words. Wang Shi creased her eyebrows and glared at her daughter for throwing a tantrum. She chided, “Why did you suddenly speak to your sister-in-law in such a manner! Sang Wan is right, if your husband becomes a top escorted examinee, I’ll definitely have Fengju go to Mengxian to throw him a spread and earn you some face! Sang Wan, quickly sit down, sit down! Your big sister’s personality is like that, don’t take it to heart!”
“Why would I?” Sang Wan bowed to give her thanks and sat down again.
Shi Yumei was flustered and scolded, “Mother, am I still your daughter! Why would you talk to me in such a manner in front of the outsider! You are so biased!”
“Quiet! I think you are getting more and more unruly!” Wang Shi was upset too.
“You are just being plain biased, forgetting your daughter after getting yourself a daughter-in-law!”
Nanny Jiang signalled at Sang Wan with her eyes and Sang Wan hurriedly got up, “Mother, there are still matters to handle in Ning Garden so I’ll head back first! I will come again tomorrow to give Mother my greetings!”
“Please do, please do!” As Wang Shi bickered with her daughter, she really couldn’t ask for more.
Sang Wan bade farewell and hurriedly left.
After the doors were closed, Shi Yumei’s resentful voice, mixed with sobbing tears, trickled to her ears, “Isn’t it just a brother becoming a top escorted examinee? Now, she’s using that to ride above me! That kind of family, even when one of their family members got first rank in the township exam, they’re still a filthy poor family who needs to rely on our family for money to throw a banquet in their village. What a joke! Yet you and Fengju are still hoping to rely on them in the future!”
Sang Wan bit her lips and held back the tears that were already in her eyes. She quickly blinked away her tears and took in a few deep breaths.
“All of you, please leave! I wish to have some time alone!” After returning to Ning Garden, Sang Wan chased everyone out, including Liu Ya.
Alone inside the chamber, her tears filled with humiliation finally gushed out.
She was properly married into this household with all the necessary ceremonials done to become the eldest daughter-in-law in the family. But right now, she had to swallow down the tantrum of a married daughter who returned to the Shi Household even after getting married. There was no one whom she could complain to to vent the plain humiliation she had suffered just now.
She wished she could return all the silvers back to Shi Fengju and she wished the Sang household would never have to receive help from the Shi household anymore. But, she could not possibly make that happen! Where could she get that much money?
Sang Wan cried for a long while before finally calming down. She wiped her tears and let out a long sigh. Luckily, big brother, big sister-in-law, and second brother did not know about this. They would surely feel bad if they knew! She, alone, was enough.
When Shi Fengju returned, Sang Wan was still in a daze in the chamber. He saw how all the servants’ expressions were a little off and was perturbed. Liu Ya explained softly and Shi Fengju finally understood. He sighed softly and walked in.
Sang Wan raised her head. Seeing it was him, she quickly stood up and gave a reluctant smile, “You’re back!”
“Sang Wan,” Shi Fengju held her hands and said softly, “Don’t put my sister’s words to heart, you know I don’t think of it that way at all!”
Everything would have been fine if he had not mentioned that again. When he spoke about it, Sang Wan felt bitter again. She took her hands away and lowered her head, “Actually, she was right, we shouldn’t have spent your family’s money!”
“You are wrong!” Shi Fengju grabbed her shoulders and smiled, “What’s with your family and my family? You are now our family’s daughter-in-law! People have to call you Ma’am when you’re visiting! Don’t think about this anymore, alright?”
Sang Wan remained quiet.
“You just treat her words as gibberish and ignore her, ” Shi Fengju continued to say softly, “Can you do it for me?”
“For your face, I’ve to continue suffering under those kinds of words?” Sang Wan’s lips curled down. “If I am the Shi family’s eldest daughter-in-law, then how can she still say all that to me?”
Shi Fengju felt a bout of headache and he said in frustration, “I don’t know why my sister acts like this too! She wasn’t like this in the past! I will find and speak with her. Sang Wan, don’t be angry over this anymore, alright? It’s bad for your body if you continue to stay mad.”
Sang Wan thought to herself: you don’t know what is wrong with her, but I do. If not for Gu Fangzhi inciting things from behind, she would not have been so mean. But there’s no way I can tell you this, because even if I did, would you believe me?
“I think you don’t have to!” Sang Wan said without any expression. “If you went to find her, she may not treat you differently, but she will blame it on me for complaining to you and hate me even more!”
“Don’t worry!” Shi Fengju smiled and said, “I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen! Just trust me this time, okay?” Shi Fengju saw how delicate and hurt she was and felt a need to protect her, coaxing her repeatedly. Sang Wan saw the way he treated her and only relented after a sigh.
At the same time, her heart complained: so what if you spoke to her? As long as Gu Fangzhi remains, this will never end! But am I able to criticise her?
“Are you hungry? I’ll ask the servants to prepare dinner!” Sang Wan sighed softly.
“You should go and wash up first, just look at you, your eyes are all swollen!” Shi Fengju’s finger touched her eyes gently. Sang Wan instinctively wanted to avoid the cold sensation from his finger, but before she could do that, his finger had already left her eyes.
“Alright! Then you just sit here and rest for awhile!” Sang Wan smiled and said.
Outside, a young servant suddenly mentioned that the maidservant from Peony Garden, Lan Xiang, had requested for an audience with Shi Fengju. Shi Fengju instinctively thought that Gu Fangzhi had once again sent her to invite him over. He creased his eyebrows and said, “Ask her what’s the matter and have her return! Just tell her to come back again tomorrow if it’s nothing urgent as we’re about to have dinner!”
Hong Ye went out to ask and came back with two rolls of paper, “Lan Xiang said that these are the finances done by Miss Gu for the days Ma’am wasn’t around, as instructed by Mistress Shi. She wishes to pass these to Ma’am for her to audit them.”
Shi Fengju was stunned and felt a little bad. He nodded and said, “Keep them, but don’t forget to let Ma’am know about this!”
Hong Ye bowed and went to put the account book back in the small study room. After Sang Wan had washed her face, the maidservants brought in the dinner and the two sat down to eat.
Shi Fengju smiled at Sang Wan and said, “We were in such a rush this time and forgot to prepare a gift for your second brother. What do you think will be a suitable gift?”
You still want to give a gift? If your elder sister knows about this, she would definitely glare at me and gobble me up!
Sang Wan shook her head and said, “You’ve already lent us much help, my brothers and sister-in-law are immensely grateful towards you, I think there’s no need for it!”
“No, this isn’t proper!” Shi fengju smiled and said, “Those village scholars and many others that were not related to your family had already given their gifts. If the in-laws don’t prepare anything, then we will be criticised! I have already ordered the servant to prepare a list, you can help me to check the list of items!”
Sang Wan inwardly rolled her eyes. You’ve already prepared it, then what’s the point of asking me? Outwardly, she nodded and agreed.
Sang Wan thought that he would show the list to her privately, but on the next day, Shi Fengju accompanied her to give their greetings to Wang Shi and gave the list to Wang Shi in front of everyone. He smiled and said, “Mother, this is the list of gifts I have prepared for Brother-in-law Sang, do you think this is appropriate?”
After Shi Fengju spoke, those at the side, including Shi Yumei, Gu Fangzi, and Shi Lian, all seemed to have taken notice.
Wang Shi smiled and nodded, “I was just about to ask you about it, but you mentioned it first! My son is indeed capable!” She asked Xiu Chun to read out the list.
Xiu Chun took the list and read from the top to bottom. Other than gold and silver, there were porcelain jade burners, artworks, folding screens, silk, tea set and tea leaves. There were almost two to three hundred items in total.
Shi Yumei’s expression darkened. Gu Fangzhi maintained a straight face, but she was well aware of the turmoil within her. Sang Wan grew uneasy as well as she did not know what Shi Fengju was planning to do.
“I say, Fengju, I think you should just move all our property and belongings to the Sang family,” Shi Yumei could no longer maintain her calm and cut Xiu Chun off. “You’ve already spent a huge sum of money and lent manpower to help them hold a spread in their village, is that not enough? Why are you still spending so much more! Fengju, the money in our house do not just fall from the sky! I am really perturbed at why you’re acting so absurdly now when you’ve always known how to act appropriately in the past. Is there a particular someone who has been secretly influencing you? Fengju, it is not that I want to say this as your sister, but think for yourself as well!”
“Big sister,” Sang Wan got up and said, “Fengju did tell me about his plan to prepare a gift, but he came up with the whole list by himself. I had only found out about this now!”
“So what? If not for you, my brother would never have acted so outrageously!” Shi Yumei laughed coldly. “Sister-in-law, don’t forget that you are now our Shi family’s daughter-in-law and no longer your Sang family’s daughter. Don’t always favor your parent’s family! If they can be relied on, then so be it. But don’t think about taking what isn’t yours and sacrificing our family’s interests over your parent’s family!”
If what you said is the case, then for you who now belongs to the Ren household, you keep saying our Shi Household; what rights do you have to speak here? Sang Wan thought to herself.