Liu Ya smiled, “That’s only because Young Mistress didn’t put your heart into doing this craft. Young Mistress may be even better than me if you tried!”
“Just listen to those sweet words of yours. Enough chatting, go and brew a cup of high quality Da Hong Pao for Lady Fang now, will you?” Sang Wan jokingly scolded Liu Ya before smiling at Concubine Fang, “I don’t know what tea Lady Fang usually drinks, but this Da Hong Pao is newly acquired this year. I have not drunk it much myself, and I don’t know if it will be to your liking!”
“This concubine isn’t particular about such things, anything is fine! That tea must’ve been expensive!” Concubine Fang had no choice but to smile and answer.
“Lady Fang, you’re too polite! This tea, is it not made to be drank by people? Let’s not talk about whether it’s expensive or not!” Sang Wan smiled.
Liu Ya served the tea to Concubine Fang. Sang Wan smiled, “Lady Fang, quickly, have a taste. How does it taste?”
Seeing the eagerness on Sang Wan’s face, Concubine Fang took two sips and smiled. She knew nothing about tea, and even if the tea was good, she wouldn’t be able to tell. However, she had to give Sang Wan face and acted as if she was tasting it carefully. She squinted her eyes before squeezing a compliment, “It is indeed a very good tea! It smells even better than the ones I normally drink!”
“That’s good if Lady Fang thinks so too!” Sang Wan smiled and said, “This tea’s aroma is really strong, and it has a rich taste! I think it’s quite good too! If Lady Fang likes it, take some back with you later! I don’t have much, so I hope Lady Fang wouldn’t mind!”
Concubine Fang was surprised by her good treatment and she hurriedly smiled, “Aiya, that’s very kind of you! This concubine will give my thanks to Young Mistress!”
“Haha, Lady Fang, you don’t have to be too polite!” Sang Wan smiled and continued talking about the art of tea and its culture. Even though there were times when Concubine Fang wanted to cut in, she could not find the right timing at all and could only hold herself back.
Just as she was thinking about how she could cut in appropriately, Zhide rushed in from outside and whispered softly into Sang Wan’s ear.
Sang Wan’s expression changed slightly. She creased her eyebrows and said, “I understand. Have them wait awhile, I will head over in a moment! I am not free right now, so tell them to calm down first!”
“Understood,” Zhide bowed and smiled, “Then this servant will tell them first. It’s just that, those head servants and nannies are impatient, so this servant may not hold out for long. Please head over there quickly, Young Mistress!”
“Alright, I got it!” Sang Wan smiled.
Upon hearing this, Concubine Fang did not dare to prolong her stay. She could only get up and smile,”Young Mistress, we’ll take our leave first. This concubine does not dare to take up your precious time when you’re busy!”
Sang Wan pretended to want them to remain but smiled soon after and said, “I really have some matters to take care of. Then, I will not ask Lady Fang to stay! Lady Fang, please come over and visit whenever you’re free! Hong Ye, please see Lady Fang and Nanny Ying off!”
“Yes, Mistress!” Hong Ye invited them out with a gesture, “Lady Fang and Nanny Ying, please!”
“Then this concubine shall take my leave now!”
“This old servant shall also take my leave now!”
Concubine Fang and Nanny Ying could only smile as they took their leave. Liu Ya did not forget to put some Da Hong Pao tea leaves into a small can and give it to them. Nanny Ying smiled and received it, “Sorry for the trouble!”
“No wonder everyone in the household says that Young Mistress is kind and treats people well. They really aren’t wrong! If the young mistress were someone else, she wouldn’t have been so courteous!” Nanny Ying smiled and said to Concubine Fang.
Concubine Fang immediately thought of Gu Fangzi and nodded, “You’re right, Young Mistress is really kind-hearted. If it were someone else, she would have already given us the air! She wouldn’t have invited us to sit or gift us tea leaves!” But Concubine Fang sighed again depressingly, “Just that the words I wanted to say weren’t said!”
“That’s nothing!” Nanny Ying smiled and said, “We can always go again tomorrow!”
“Nonsense!” Concubine Fang glared at her, “We’ll have to wait a few days more. How can we still go again tomorrow!”
“Why not? Didn’t Young Mistress say Lady Fang could visit her whenever you’re free? This old servant doesn’t think she was just being polite!” Nanny Ying said without concern.
Concubine Fang rolled her eyes at Nanny Ying but could not be bothered to explain to her, “You wouldn’t understand even if I explained to you!”
She was the concubine of the old master in the Second Shi family, while the young mistress was the eldest daughter-in-law of the First Shi family. Now that she was also in-charge of managing the household, as a concubine who belonged to the Second Shi family, how could she go over to Young Mistress place every two or three days? What would that imply? In addition, she had received a gift from them; if she were to return tomorrow, what would the servants at the side say about her?
Furthermore, if she went too often, Second Old Mistress Mi might get suspicious and question her, how would she answer her? If she found out that a concubine by-passed her authority to arrange fifth missy’s marriage, things would get troublesome! Concubine Fang made a resolve. It seems like these few days, even if she had to be thick-skinned, she would have to find a way to go to Ning Garden again. Before Second Old Mistress Mi found about her actions, she would have to settle it, otherwise——
Who knew that Concubine Fang still underestimated the amount of concern Second Old Mistress Mi had for Second Old Master Shi’s concubines. After Concubine Fang and Nanny Ying returned from Sang Wan’s place, Second Old Mistress Mi had already sent head maidservant Xiao Shuang to invite her to have a word even before they had the time to settle down for tea.
Concubine Fang’s heart tightened and she quickly invited Xiao Shuang in for tea first. She smiled and asked, “Xiao Shuang, do you know why Old Mistress is calling for me?”
There was no way Xiao Shuang would expose anything to her, and she rejected the tea. She smiled and said, “This servant was only tasked with passing the word and does not know the reason why Second Old Mistress is looking for Lady Fang! Lady Fang, Second Old Mistress is waiting, please come with this servant!”
“Alright, but let me clean my hands first. Xiao Shuang, why don’t you take a seat for a moment and wait a while for me, just a while!” Concubine Fang quickly smiled and had someone take care of Xiao Shuang while she cleaned her hands uneasily. Her heart was pounding unceasingly.
Over at Mi Shi’s place, Mi Shi did not waste any time to riddle her and asked directly, “I heard that you went to Ning Garden?”
Concubine Fang’s heart jumped and she hurriedly nodded, “Yes. But this concubine did not go there on purpose. This concubine was only feeling a little thirsty during a stroll in the flower garden and decided to get a cup of tea to quench the thirst when this concubine happen to walk by Ning Garden. At first, this concubine only wanted to let the maidservants pour me a cup and leave right after, but who knew that Young Mistress was present so this concubine ended up going to greet Young Mistress! Young Mistress even gave me a small can of tea leaves!”
“Oh, so that’s why!” Mi Shi had some prejudice against Sang Wan and was not very willing to let the members on her side of the family associate themselves with Sang Wan. And so she said, “Pay more attention next time. Don’t roam about recklessly! There are some places that are not for you to go, lest others gossip about it. Do you hear me?”
“Clearly. This concubine will comply!” Concubine Fang was secretly relieved and she quickly replied submissively.
“Good!” Mi Shi nodded satisfactorily before waving her hand and saying, “Remember it! Don’t be like Concubine Shui and disobey me behind my back. You may leave!”
“Yes, Second Old Mistress! This concubine will never dare to disobey Second Old Mistress’s words! Then this concubine will be leaving now!” Concubine Fang bowed and left respectfully.
At the door, Concubine Fang and Nanny Ying looked at each other fearfully. Both of them were frightened out of their wits; it seemed Ning Garden was now temporarily barred for them! They could only wait for another opportunity to meet and discuss with Young Mistress.
“Lady Fang, let’s not be anxious. There’s still time! We can slowly plan and prepare ourselves first!” Nanny Ying consoled.
“You are right!” Concubine Fang nodded her head. Feeling indignant, she nibbled on her lips as she wondered who the spy for Second Old Mistress was; the news was quick to arrive at her ear!
Concubine Fang sighed to herself. But it was only just a sigh; she did not have any intention to investigate further. The reason being that even if she knew who the spy was, there was nothing she could do! Second Old Mistress Mi was the wife, and she was but a concubine. It was only right for Second Old Mistress Mi to have eyes on the concubines to know all their actions and to manage them. That was only natural; there was no way she could go against Second Old Mistress Mi!
Constrained by her status, she felt especially resentful towards it. No matter how she tried to obtain the love and attention of Second Old Master Shi, nothing would change!
She had no hope left for herself, but she could not allow her daughter’s life to be as grey as hers. She had to fight for her! Even if she had to give it her all! Only when her daughter lived comfortably then she would too!
Back at Ning Garden, seeing that Concubine Fang had finally left, Sang Wan was secretly relieved. She believed that Concubine Fang could not possibly come again in the next two or three days. At least, for now, she had handled the situation well. If Concubine Fang were to come again, at the most she would use the same tactic again. No matter what, she had to prevent Concubine Fang from speaking about the proposal because if she were to rejected, it would surely hurt Concubine Fang’s dignity, and even the Shi Second family’s dignity!
In the blink of an eye, November came. The weather got colder and the atmosphere of the young master and young mistress in Ning Garden remained lukewarm.
Sang Wan was determined this time. In front of Shi Fengju, she regarded herself as someone who served him, cared for his needs, and every other aspect. However, everyone could tell that something was off about her, including Shi Fengju.
At first, Shi Fengju thought that the resentment she harbored would be dispelled after a few days. But who knew that, after seven or eight days, Sang Wan still treated him with a respectful distance.
Shi Fengju began to feel uncomfortable and uneasy. He felt concerned and started to initiate a conversation every now and then, with some caution. However, Sang Wan did not warm herself up to him at all. Even though she was still gentle, answering him with patience and kindness, she never said more than she should; there were no emotions in her eyes. Shi Fengju did not know what to do and it was the first time he felt powerless.
“Sang Wan, if you have nothing to do tomorrow, why don’t we have a walk on the streets? Our family’s tailor shop just imported a new batch of leather and fur. They’re best used to make coats. I will go with you to pick a few, okay?” That evening when Shi Fengju returned, he asked Sang Wan with a smile on his face.
Without a change in expression, Sang Wan lowered her gaze to not look at him in the eyes before saying indifferently, “Thank you for your kind offer! A few days ago, the household has already ordered this year’s coats so the trip would be unnecessary! Even if Sang Wan has nothing to do, Sang Wan does not want to go out in this cold weather. Why don’t you ask your sister? Maybe she will want to go.”
Shi Fengju’s expression immediately darkened. There she went again!
“What do you want? Do you really have to talk to me in this way?” Shi Fengju asked unhappily.
Sang Wan’s eyelashes fluttered a few times and raised her eyes slowly. Her eyes remained as calm as still water when she gave a glance at Shi Fengju before she asked politely with a gentle voice, “Lord, what do you mean? Forgive Sang Wan for not understanding what you mean! If Sang Wan is not doing anything right, please tell me, and I will change!”