“En!” Shi Lian could not hold herself back from confiding in her lover; skipping over the greeting, she hurriedly explained what she and Cai Yun had heard before asking helplessly, “Yufei, what should we do about this? Even though Auntie Fang went back today, surely she would pay a visit to Sister-in-law Sang Wan again tomorrow, or maybe even the day after tomorrow. If that happens——”
Sang Yufei was stunned momentarily and was a little dumbfounded. He had met Shi Rui at one of the feasts and she was still a little girl with a round face and two round hair buns on her head. Marrying a child for a wife, a shiver ran down his spine.
“Calm down a little. We’ll think of a way together!” Although Sang Yufei was consoling her, he didn’t have a solution either. However, the marriage proposal must not leave Concubine Fang’s mouth.
He was not afraid of refusing their proposal. After all, the age gap between Shi Rui and him was too large, Shi Rui was still a little too young to be discussing about marriage. With just that reasoning, he would be able to refuse the marriage proposal easily. Even if Second Old Master Shi and Concubine Fang became unhappy about it, they could not be unreasonable. Ultimately, Shi Rui was too young and they could not force it upon him to wait for another three to four years!
However, if he were to do so, his Sang family could not propose to Shi Lian on his behalf anymore else, wouldn’t it be the same as slapping Second Shi family’s face? Wang Shi disliked inconvenience the most; she definitely wouldn’t want to offend her brother-in-law and her sister-in-law. Moreover, Shi Lian was not her blood-related daughter, why would she go through all that trouble for her?
“Concubine Fang will definitely mention it again, how can I not feel anxious!” Shi Lian was so worried that her tears almost fell. She spoke without hesitation but felt embarrassed soon after. Her face flushed red and she lowered her head, not knowing what to say anymore.
“You should head back first! Let me think through this slowly! You don’t have to mind Concubine Fang and act ignorant. I will meet with my younger sister later and talk to her about this.” Sang Yufei consoled her gently.
Shi Lian no longer cared about acting restraint and asked Sang Yufei tearily, “Have you thought of a solution?”
Sang Yufei raised his brows and said, “At most, I will just avoid this matter entirely. I’ll leave the household and head for the capital tomorrow. When I leave, this matter will not be raised anymore. Sang Wan is my younger sister. A younger sister doesn’t meddle in their older brother’s marriage. It will be futile for them to mention it to Sang Wan!”
Shi Lian felt relieved upon hearing him but felt a strong twinge of longing, “You’re leaving so soon?” Even though they did not get to meet everyday, but knowing that he lived in her household and that they were so close to one another, Shi Lian had been in a very good mood these few days! Now that he was leaving again so abruptly, she found it hard to accept.
“It is just a matter of time. Don’t worry and head back quickly, don’t let anyone see you!” Sang Yufei smiled and said.
“Then, please take care.” Shi Lian sighed and left hurriedly.
Sang Yufei was deep in thought as he strolled in the flower garden with his hands behind his back. Not too long after, he changed the direction he was facing and headed towards Ning Garden.
The day was short during winter. Sang Wan was resting her eyes in her chamber when she heard her second brother was visiting. She smiled and got up to welcome him.
They were close as siblings and they spoke in her chamber.
“Second Brother, is something the matter?” After the tea was served and the maidservants left, Sang Wan asked with a smile.
“Sang Wan, you have to help me this time!” Sang Yufei sipped a mouthful of tea before speaking to her about his problem. He did not mention Shi Lian and merely explained that he overheard one of Second Shi family’s maidservants in the flower garden. Sang Yufei did not want anyone to know about his relationship with Shi Lian as he did not wish for her to be looked down upon.
“This, this—— are you sure you didn’t hear wrong?” Sang Wan widened her eyes in disbelief.
Shi Rui? That playful, gluttonous, and cheerful little girl that was clearly still like a child, who would cry to look for her nanny when she fell down? Concubine Fang actually wants to marry her off to my second brother?
In the future, I’d have to greet her as “Second Sister-in-law”? Just thinking about it gave Sang Wan goosebumps and brought shivers down her spine.
“I didn’t hear everything clearly, but I am almost a hundred percent sure about this.” Sang Yufei smiled bitterly, “I think I will bid my farewells to Old Mistress now and leave for the capital tomorrow!”
“That’s a little too rushed!” Sang Wan sighed softly.
“Sang Wan, you’ve got to help me out, please!” Sang Yufei said and joked, “Unless you want that little girl to be your sister-in-law!”
Sang Wan laughed and reasoned, “There’s such a big difference between your age and hers, there wouldn’t be any impact even if you reject them politely. Why do you have to ——but that’s true, leaving earlier would be better!”
Indeed, it will be awkward to stay in someone else’s house after rejecting a marriage proposal that they had put forward. A lot of trouble could be saved if he left early.
“I had planned to leave in a few days anyway. It’ll be easier to find lodgings if I head to the capital earlier.” Sang Yufei smiled.
“Second Brother’s luggage and money—— have those been prepared already?” Sang Wan quickly asked. She had actually wanted to give her second brother more travel money, but recalling Shi Yumei’s words, she held back her words. She did not want to scrounge and take advantage on the Shi family’s wealth anymore!
However, Sang Yufei was afraid that she would say that. He smiled and said, “Don’t worry, Big Brother and Big Sister-in-law have already prepared everything for me! I brought three hundred silvers; although the things in the capital are pricier, the money should be enough! You don’t have to worry about me!” Sang Yufei sighed softly, “As your older brother, I should be the one taking care of you. Instead, you are always taking care of me. And brother-in-law too; he has done so much for the family! My good sister, you don’t have to prepare anything for me this time. If you do, my heart will feel uneasy!”
“Second Brother, then you have to take care of yourself on your journey. I will wait for your good news and your proud return!” Sang Wan smiled and nodded. At the thought that her words might give her second brother too much pressure, she smiled again and said, “But no matter what, the most important thing is to be safe! Second Brother, don’t let us wait too long for your return; you’ve to come back early!”
“Don’t worry! I will! Take care of yourself too!” Sang Yufei smiled.
The siblings chatted for a while more before bidding each other farewell. When it was about time, Sang Yufei went over to inform Shi Fenghua. Although Shi Fenghua was caught by surprise, he did not stop Sang Yufei since his mind was already made up. He bade farewell to him as well. After that, Sang Wan accompanied him to bid his farewells to Wang Shi. Wang Shi asked him to stay for a while more, but seeing how he insisted, she sighed and said, “Second Young Master Sang, you are right. The earlier you enter the capital, the earlier you can calm your heart. I will not try to hold you back then! Second Young Master Sang, please take care of yourself on your journey there! Our Shi family has many shops along the river in different towns. Zhan Huan knows very well about it. If you have any trouble, just look for the people from our shops! There’s no need to be too polite about it!”
Sang Yufei quickly gave his thanks.
Wang Shi then ordered for a ceremony to be organized to see him off, but he refused insistently. He mentioned that he had troubled the Shi family enough the past few days, thus he felt uneasy and did not wish to receive any more favors. Wang Shi could only concede.
At night, Sang Wan asked Liu Ya to send two newly-made coats to him and notify him that two notes worth fifty silvers were hidden between the seams in the coats for emergency use.
Sang Yufei felt touched. After all, only family would go out of their way for him! If he didn’t pass, how could he face his siblings and sister-in-law who had invested so much in him? Sang Yufei’s heart tightened.
On the next day, Shi Fengju and Shi Fenghua went to see Sang Yufei off at the harbour personally. Sang Wan and Wang Shi said their farewells at the doorstep, but it was not appropriate for Shi Lian to do so. She could only paced about uneasily in her own chamber and when she heard from Cai Yun about his departure, she sat down listlessly.
It was already too late for Concubine Fang to feel regretful when she heard about Sang Yufei’s departure. “Why did he leave so suddenly? Aiya, really, Nanny Ying! Why didn’t you find out when Second Young Master Sang is leaving. If I knew he would be leaving today, even if I had to crawl, I would have crawled all the way to Ning Garden to pay the first family’s young mistress a visit!”
Who would have known? Even you didn’t think of it yourself! Nanny Ying thought.
“Lady Fang, even though Second Young Master Sang has left, Young Mistress is still here. First Young Master Sang and his wife are also still around! You can talk to Young Mistress about this and let her discuss it with First Young Master Sang to arrange the marriage first. Won’t it be the same? They say the oldest brother is like the father, and the first sister-in-law is like the mother. Even if Second Young Master Sang were to become an official, he still had to listen to them!”
That was really that case! Sang Hong’s honest face flashed past Concubine Fang’s mind, and she became more certain. She smiled and said, “That’s right, that’s right! This matter should be decided by them and not Second Young Master Sang in the first place!”
First Young Master Sang is such a naive person, why wouldn’t he agree?
Concubine Fang’s vigor returned and after two days of nursing her waist injury, she brought Nanny Ying along and requested to meet Sang Wan again in Ning Garden.
Upon hearing the request, Sang Wan’s heart skipped a beat. She wanted to avoid meeting with her, but she was already at her doorstep; there was no way she could reject without a proper excuse. After all, she had to give some face to Second Old Master Shi. As such, she could only invite her in.
“Lady Fang, why have you come? You are a rare guest, please, quickly come in and take a seat!” Sang Wan smiled and said, “You came just in time, I have a painting that I could not seem to put a finger on what’s missing. It is just the right timing for me to ask for your advice!”
“Hehe, Young Mistress, you are too polite!” Concubine Fang was famous for being skillful. She received the painting and pointed out with a smile, “This painting is indeed beautiful. However, the leaves are drawn too far apart, just a slight tweak will do!” After asking for permission, Concubine Fang took a brush from Liu Ya and added a few strokes. Indeed, the painting became more refined.
“Lady Fang is indeed skillful!” Sang Wan smiled and complemented her.
“Hehe, this is nothing! This is but a pastime. When you practice long enough, it’ll come naturally to you!”
“That’s not true. I think it really depends on one’s talent and perception! Some can master it quickly with little guidance, and some may never reach Lady Fang’s level in their entire lifetime!”
“Young Mistress, you really have a way with words! You are making me feel embarrassed now!”
Nanny Ying went on and said with a smile, “I have always heard that Young Mistress is kind in her ways with people. It is us servants’ blessing to have you as our young mistress in this household! Talking about painting, our Lady Fang isn’t the best. Our fifth missy, although young, is very talented!”
Concubine Fang’s eyes glistened and she secretly lauded Nanny Ying’s tactfulness before smiling politely. Just when she was about to follow up to bring in her daughter as the topic, Sang Wan casually spoke, “Is that so? I suppose the Shi household is gifted in developing talents. The few missies in the household are adept in sewing, at least better than me! I’m actually bad at it, even my maidservant is better than me at it! Sang Wan smiled and pointed at Liu Ya.