Sang Wan was the wife of the eldest son. Even though Wang Shi was lax with the practices, there were still many things that Sang Wan needed to arrange. When that time came, she would have to get busy. Sang Wan smiled and accepted. She called for a chair, for Nanny Li to rest on, and a handwarmer for Nanny Li before giving a few instructions. Once done, she left with Shi Fengju.
After leaving Ji Cui Tower, Sang Wan felt as if her legs could give in at any moment. Her waist and shoulders were sore and her throat was dry. She could not help but raise her arm to gently rub her shoulder and neck.
A powerful hand was placed lightly on her shoulder. Its slender fingers helped rub her shoulder with an appropriate strength. Shi Fengju’s gentle voice rang beside her ear, “Tired? You are in too much of a hurry. You could’ve left it to be done tomorrow. Third Uncle and Third Aunt will understand.”
Feeling the comfort in her shoulders, Sang Wan relaxed her muscles subconsciously and hummed lightly. She tilted her head and smiled, “It would be the same even if it were done tomorrow. The earlier I start, the earlier it finishes.”
Although Third Aunt seemed gentle and restrained, but just by her conversation with Second Aunt, Sang Wan knew that she was not easy to deal with. Sang Wan still wished to live a peaceful life, and thus would rather work harder now. From the moment they arrived, she immediately began the preparations. She had already done her best so even if they were unsatisfied, they would not be able to blame her!
Shi Fengju smiled while shaking his head as he looked at her tenderly.
He had never seen her work before. She was so conscientious, careful, and devoted. Her distinguished and noble temperament that was shown unintentionally through her behaviour, her words, her laughter, her smile, and even her frowns, enthralled him deeply. She was his wife, and the more time he spent with her, the better he thought of her. At the same time, he felt he knew too little about her.
“There’s no way this would be finished quickly, so why tire yourself out?” Shi Fengju smiled. He couldn’t help but move closer to her and said quietly, “Let’s head back quickly, I’ll give you a good massage when we get back.”
Sang Wan blushed and pushed him away subconsciously.
“Don’t move,” Meanwhile, Shi Fengju suddenly grasped her soft and cold hand. His gaze narrowed at her hair and he said, “There’s something on your hair!” While he spoke, his other hand brushed a wisp of cobweb off her hair.
Sang Wan wanted to struggle, but she couldn’t bicker about him holding onto her hand after hearing his words. All she could do was remain still and let him help her remove the dirty thing from her hair. Otherwise, it would be embarrassing if others saw her.
Just when Shi Fengju was about to show her the wisp of cobweb around his finger, they heard the sound of laughter coming from two girls.
That surprised the two of them and they looked towards where the laughter was coming from. Sang Wan even took the chance to pull her hand back before taking a step back.
Shi Fengju felt a little sullen. He smiled at Shi Yuzhen and Shi Yulin and asked, “Second Sister and Fourth Sister, why aren’t you resting in your room? Aren’t you tired after the long travel?”
Shi Yulin was holding onto her sister’s hand and hid behind her. She smiled while looking at them quietly. On the other hand, Shi Yuzhen winked wittily and said, “We aren’t tired. I’m just bringing Fourth Sister to visit Third Sister! Who knew we’d meet Big Brother and Sister-in-law by coincidence!”
Shi Fengju laughed, “Hurry along then! Third Sister must be feeling listless being in her room everyday. She would definitely be hoping for someone to talk with her!”
Shi Yuzhen smiled, “Then we shall not interrupt Big Brother and Sister-in-law!” She nodded at Sang Wan and walked away with Shi Yulin. Shortly after, they could hear the girls’ laughter ringing again.
Sang Wan was feeling somewhat embarrassed and she walked with her head held low without speaking a word to Shi Fengju again. Shi Fengju felt a little embarrassed as well. Why was he so unlucky? It wasn’t easy to have a conversation with his wife and those two girls just had to come out of nowhere.
After they returned to Ning Garden, Zhide and the rest helped change their clothes and wash their faces. After a busy round, Sang Wan and Shi Fengju sat down in a warm room to rest and have tea.
“By the way, according to practice, I should prepare a gift for the two sisters when meeting for the first time, shouldn’t I?” Sang Wan asked with a smile.
Shi Fengju nodded and smiled, “Just prepare two jewelry for them. They don’t have to be too expensive. Later, you can bring the gifts along for dinner to give them.”
Sang Wan agreed with a smile and considered giving Shi Yuzhen a gold hairpin and a pair of bracelets to Shi Yulin.
“Fortunately, you were there with me today. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have a clue and wouldn’t know where to start!” After much consideration, Sang Wan felt that she had better not displease this young master sitting in front of her. If he were to feel unhappy and decide not to help her, who else could she seek help from when her mother-in-law wasn’t willing to be bothered?
Moreover, he deserved her thanks. She had never decorated a house in such a way before. If Shi Fengju did not help her, it would really be a difficult task for her.
She finally said it! Shi Fengju told himself. He smiled, “So you’re saying that I’ve been a great help to you? Then how are you going to thank me?”
What a cunning profiteer! Sang Wan told herself that she asked for it. This person had become more and more insatiable as of late. She mustn’t simply promise him anything.
Shi Fengju was not in a hurry as well. He looked at her with an enigmatic smile then lowered his head to have tea. He was calm and composed as he waited for her response. He felt more and more joy in teasing her and his mood would get better without a reason just by watching her difficult face.
“Young Mistress!” Thank goodness, Zhide came just in time. She smiled and asked if it was convenient for her young mistress to hear about what she had to report.
Sang Wan couldn’t ask for anything better! She quickly nodded and smiled, “Go on? Tell me, there’s no need to be in a hurry!” Shi Fengju’s words were automatically put off. Shi Fengju could not stop feeling gloomy, but could only genuinely enjoy his tea.
Zhide looked at Sang Wan strangely. She did not know why her young mistress was feeling so happy. Her mouth had a smile and her eyes were bright. Zhide quickly said “yes” respectfully before telling Sang Wan about what the few servants had reported back to her.
At Peony Park, the news of Third Shi family coming back were brought back quickly by Lan Xiang. Gu Fangzi was at the stage of pulling in allies. Even if she wasn’t able to persuade them, she wouldn’t allow Sang Wan to draw them to her side. Gu Fangzi immediately wanted to get changed and meet with them.
But on second thought, she was still observing mourning. Third Old Master Shi was an official; he would most likely value filial piety more than everything else. If she went the way she was, he might end up feeling disgusted with her. She gave up on her idea to meet with them and wrote a plain letter before having Lan Xiang deliver it to them as a form of greeting.
When Lan Xiang delivered the letter to Third Old Master Shi and Third Old Mistress Shi, she also conveyed Gu Fangzi’s greetings and her apology of not being able to greet them herself. When Third Old Master Shi and his wife heard that Gu Jin had passed away, they sighed at the unexpected and felt that Gu Fangzi was pitiful. And so, they asked Lan Xiang to bring back a few words of comfort. Third Old Mistress Shi said not to be sorry and observe mourning wholeheartedly, then told Lan Xiang to let Gu Fangzi know that she would be bringing along her two daughters to visit her soon.
Lan Xiang responded respectfully and left with a smile.
Gu Fangzi was secretly feeling happy after hearing their response as she knew she had done the right thing. She was able to nail what Third Old Master Shi and his wife liked. She was also surprised after hearing from Lan Xiang that they were staying in the guest house and she asked why.
Lan Xiang then told her about the coincidence that happened when the letter arrived almost at the same time as when the third family arrived. Gu Fangzi couldn’t help but laugh out loud while gloating over it, “Now this is interesting! Third Uncle should be alright with that, but it’d be strange if Third Aunt didn’t think otherwise!”
Lan Xiang smiled, “Surely not, it was a coincidence! The household wasn’t neglecting them on purpose. Surely there was no one for Third Old Mistress to put the blame on, right?”
Gu Fangzi sneered, “Knowing that fact is one thing while accepting it is another! No matter what, this is Third Uncle and Third Aunt’s home; why would they be staying in the guest house of their own home? Hmph, they may be alright, but it’s hard for the servants not to gossip, especially while not knowing the fact. Who knows what kind of insults they would have? Unless Third Uncle and Third Aunt are going to go around explaining to everyone that they’re staying in the guest house because their house couldn’t be readied in time as their letter got held up on the way and arrived at the same time as them?”
Lan Xiang laughed and nodded, “Missy, you’re right! This servant was confused at first too, thinking about why Third Old Master and a Third Old Mistress would be staying in the guest house? I only understood after inquiring about it!”
Gu Fangzi grunted complacently and said, “Sang Wan must be the one getting the houses ready. Keep your eyes tight on her and report back to me immediately if anything happens! We can’t stay idle anymore, we have to do something when the time is right! Also, visit their servants more and build good relationships with them.”
Lan Xiang was motivated and said, “Understood! This servant will go now!”
Gu Fangzi was very satisfied with Lan Xiang’s diligent spirit and she nodded with a smile, “Just keep your eyes on them for these few days. You don’t have to worry about the rest for now and you don’t have to serve me here as well!”
In the guest house, Third Old Master Shi and Third Old Mistress Shi were leaning on the arhat couch for a short break after a simple clean up. There was no warm room, so there was naturally no heatable brick beds to rest on even if they wanted to. Even the arhat couch had to be moved in there. It was going to be afternoon soon, who would be resting on a bed during this time? People would laugh at them if they knew.
Even though there was a fireplace in the room and a thick cashmere blanket over them, Third Old Mistress Shi still felt cold. In addition to the frustration inside her, she felt even more uncomfortable. She glanced at her husband and saw that his eyes were closed and his breathing even. His face was in peace and comfort. Third Old Mistress Shi grunted loudly and said angrily, “Only you can be falling asleep under this circumstance!”
“What’s wrong?” Third Old Master Shi opened his eyes gently and laughed, “Aren’t you tired after the long travel? We are finally home now, so have a good rest! Home is always better than the outside, no matter what!”
“Home?!” Third Old Mistress Shi sneered and said, “Look closely, how is this home! Is this a house we should be staying in?”
“Look at you, why are you mentioning it again!” Third Old Master Shi frowned and said, “Isn’t it just a coincidence! Sister-in-law cannot predict things, so how can she know that we would be arriving today? You should stop bickering about it!”
“I…” Third Old Mistress Shi was suddenly speechless. Sure, she knew that she couldn’t blame anyone for it, but she felt aggrieved every time the thought floated in her mind. Coming back home should be a joyous occasion, but it turned out to become something so disappointing!
“This is all your fault, everything was fine, so why did you resign!” Third Old Mistress Shi looked outside subconsciously and complained, “Why should the subordinates be sacrificed in the fight among the higher authorities? Hmph, it’s alright if they still remember your sacrifice, but if not… or if they pretend not to remember, what can you do? Are you really going to spend the rest of your life at home? Or are you going to learn to do business from Fengju from the start?”