“What would a woman like you know!” Third Old Master Shi’s face turned dark in that instant, and he said, “Stop saying these useless things; I know what I’m doing, stop talking nonsense! They aren’t that sort of people, we just have to wait patiently!”
Seeing that her husband had gotten angry, Third Old Mistress Shi didn’t dare to add on any words. She could only hold herself back even though she still felt indisposed.
When it was time for dinner, all three of the Shi families gathered at Wang Shi’s place. Wang Shi beckoned them to have a seat. Although her face still carried a smile, it wasn’t as affectionate as it was at noon and was replaced with more politeness.
This time, Sang Wan had learnt from experience and stood beside Wang Shi tamely to show her obedience to the rules. Seeing that, Wang Shi happily said with a smile, “Your Third Uncle and Third Aunt are not outsiders, having the servants serve is enough. Quickly sit too!”
Third Old Master Shi and Third Old Mistress Shi also smiled and told her not to regard them as outsiders. Sang Wan apologized with a smile before sitting next to Shi Fengju.
Third Old Mistress Shi looked at Sang Wan before turning to Wang Shi and said, “Sang Wan is so gentle and virtuous. Congratulations to Sister Wang, you’ve found a good daughter-in-law! Hehe, Father-in-law had shown great discernment!”
Third Old Mistress Shi spoke without any other intentions. However, Wang Shi had a guilty conscience and was stunned after hearing so. She barely forced a smile, “Exactly! I’m satisfied with Sang Wan. Seeing that they are so devoted to each other, I feel reassured as a mother, and can live in ease and comfort!”
Sang Wan blushed after hearing so. She and Shi Fengju looked at each other subconsciously and she saw a subtle glow in Shi Fengju’s dark and serene eyes as if they had ardent feelings burning within them as he looked at her with a smile. Sang Wan was flustered and almost knocked her bowl over!
“That is Sister Wang’s blessing!” Third Old Mistress Shi smiled and said again, “It has been more than half a year since Sang Wan entered our Shi family, hasn’t it? Has it ever happened?”
Happened? What happened? Sang Wan looked confused while Shi Fengju seemed slightly awkward.
Wang Shi couldn’t help but look towards Sang Wan’s lower abdomen and thought to herself, oh right, I almost forgot about it. It has been some time since Sang Wan married into our family, and Fengju is also very devoted to her, surely she ought to be pregnant, right?
However, on second thought, it was Third Old Mistress Shi who mentioned it. Wang Shi could not get over her suspicion of Third Old Mistress Shi taking pleasure in others’ misfortune and immediately became unhappy. She let out a sigh and smiled faintly, “Sang Wan has only been married for half a year, it hasn’t been long, so how could it possibly happen so soon? There are many days to come; there’s no need to be anxious about it!”
Only then did Sang Wan finally realized what Third Old Mistress Shi was referring to. Her heart tightened and she blushed before lowering her head awkwardly.
Third Old Mistress Shi was startled by Wang Shi’s words and the smile on her face turned somewhat forced, “Sister Wang is right!” She couldn’t help but secretly feel irritated. She thought to herself, just what’s with this? I was merely asking about it casually and showing my concern! Did you have to pull a long face at me?
“Aiya, let’s eat! Don’t just sit and talk, the dishes are getting cold!” Second Old Mistress Shi interrupted with a smile.
Everyone agreed happily and called out to each other to eat before picking up their chopsticks. It had been a while since the entire family had gathered together and the atmosphere soon livened up again.
All except Second Old Mistress Shi as she watched all of the first and third Shi family members present. In addition to the New Year coming soon, she was the only one all by herself and her son was still wandering outside, nowhere to be found! Not to mention she had no idea how he was doing, whether he was hungry or cold! She couldn’t help but feel weighed down thinking about it.
After dinner, they sat in the parlour and chatted for a short while before leaving. After all, the third Shi family must be tired after the long travel.
Sang Wan’s heart was in a mess from Second Old Mistress’s words. She seemed to feel Shi Fengju’s gaze at her becoming more unfathomable, seemingly containing some sort of feeling which she could not describe and was afraid to know. Luckily, he didn’t say anything after they returned to Ning Garden. The two of them had a casual chat like usual before they washed up and went to bed. Sang Wan’s heart only felt relieved the moment she was resting on her bed.
In Dong He Hall, Second Old Mistress Shi sat on her bed, thinking of the other two families having a lively reunion. The more she thought about it, the more upset she became and she began pouring out her woes about her son to Nanny Lin. The more she spoke, the sadder she became, and her tears fell without .
“Why is that child so disobedient? It has already been two years since he left home, how can he be so cruel and not think about his mother? What if something happened to him, how will I live?” Second Old Mistress Shi wiped her tears and said, “I just want him to come back; all I want is for him to return! I will accede to any of his requests, won’t that be enough? If he wants to marry that woman, then so be it! I’m tired of always living in fear!”
Nanny Lin comforted her while gently petting her back, “Old Mistress, don’t be sad! Second Young Master has always been smart and capable. What’s more, he left with quite a sum of money so he’s sure to be alright! You are his mother, how can he not miss you? He will definitely come back soon! Don’t worry anymore, Old Mistress!”
Second Old Mistress Shi grunted and said, “It’d be great if he would, I will say yes to every one of his demands! I will even risk my life to go against anyone who dares to disagree! Ah, no matter how good the life outside is, how can it be anything compared to home? That pitiful son of mine has never suffered any hardships since young, now that it’s freezing cold outside, who knows how he’s doing!”
As she spoke, she anger rose up to her head again, “Fengju always said he would help me bring him back, but who knows whether he really bothered to do so; there hasn’t been any progress for the past two years! Hmph, I’m starting to have my doubts about him!”
“Ow, Old Mistress!” Nanny Lin was shocked and she hurriedly coaxed, “Please don’t think that way! There’s no way First Young Master is like that. If First Young Master heard what Old Mistress just said, think about how sad he would be! There are so many people under this boundless sky, won’t hiding be easy? This old servant thinks that Second Young Master must be safe and sound. Our Shi family has shops in many places, and friends in places where our reach is limited. If something really happened, Second Young Master can just ask around to deliver a message to us, it’s as simple as that!”
“You’re right!” Second Old Mistress Shi was only feeling indignant when she complained about Shi Fengju, but she felt sorry too afterwards and never mentioned it again. She merely sighed about how bitter her life was and how her heart ached at the thought that her son was suffering outside of home. Nanny Lin could only keep comforting her.
“This is all Jingyi’s fault!” Second Old Mistress Shi’s eyes turned cold; her face turned immediately from sadness to hatred. She slammed the tea table beside her heavily and said spitefully, “That useless woman! She couldn’t even coax her own husband; what kind of a wife is she? If she were a little more useful, would my Fengming have run away from home? It was all due to her uselessness!”
The more Second Old Mistress Shi vented, the angrier she became, “Her husband is away from home, but look at her, instead of staying at home peacefully to pray for her husband and attend to her father and mother-in-law, she ran back to her parents’ home to live in ease and comfort! You will go to her house tomorrow morning and bring her back!”
“Yes, Old Mistress!” Nanny Lin answered quickly while thinking to herself that Second Young Mistress Shi was indeed in the wrong. How could she stay at her parents’ home for so many months without coming back now that she was someone else’s wife?
“Go there early in the morning and don’t you forget about it! You have to bring her back to me no matter what! As her mother-in-law, I will have to discipline her. Otherwise, Fengming will run away again because of her when he comes back! I can’t bear to suffer this again!” Second Old Mistress Shi had found an excuse to pour all her rage into and she scolded Second Young Mistress Shi soundly before feeling a lot better. She then talked about almost everything else with Nanny Lin throughout the night.
Second Young Mistress Shi’s house was at Jinhe Town of Linzhou State. Even though it belonged to a different state than Qingzhou, Jinhe Town was not far from Qingzhou City and was only a three hours ride on a horse carriage.
Nanny Lin received this difficult mission upon herself. She wrapped herself in thick winter clothes, wore a warm hat, booked a carriage, and headed to Jinhe Town with a few other servants when the sky in the east was just dawning and the morning stars still hanging high up in the sky.
Soon, Nanny Lin and the rest arrived at the Zhou family’s household. The gatekeeper’s face changed slightly when he heard that the guests were from Qingzhou City’s Shi family. He quickly forced a smile and invited them into the sitting room to warm themselves by the fire and to have tea as he quickly sent servants to inform Old Master Zhou, Old Mistress Zhou, Young Master Zhou, and the rest.
Even though the Zhou family was not as rich as the Shi family, they were renown in Jinhe Town. Even though the Zhou family’s cropland ranged a hundred acres, their mountain field stretched dozens of miles, it would take at least two hours to exit if anyone were to travel through their mountain field on a carriage! Their field was covered mostly with palm trees and tea trees, and the Zhou family was famous for their palm oil and tea tree oil. Not only were they famous in Jinhe Town, but in the whole state of Linzhou and Qingzhou as well.
As of now, because of the marriage ties with the Shi family, almost all of the Zhou family’s palm oil and tea tree oil were supplied to the Shi family’s firms. They were one of the Shi family’s top suppliers of the two products. Therefore, they possessed the right to be treated equally to the Shi family and did not have to be afraid of the Shi family’s wealth and power at all.
The gatekeeper hurriedly informed Auntie Yang. When Auntie Yang went to report, the Shi family’s Second Young Mistress Shi, Zhou Jingyi, was just speaking with her mother right after getting up and greeting her. Both the mother and daughter’s expressions changed immediately after hearing about it.
“How dare they still come over?” Old Mistress Zhou loved her daughter dearly and she slammed the table angrily, “Chase them out! Have them return and tell my son-in-law’s mother to send her son here after she has educated her son well! My daughter is not for anyone to be insulted!”
Then she asked, “Are Old Master and Young Master informed about this?”
Auntie Yang hurriedly replied, “They won’t be. Old Mistress and Young Mistress are the first ones whom this old servant came to report to right after being informed by the gatekeeper!”
“Hmm,” Old Mistress Zhou nodded satisfactorily and waved, “What are you still waiting for? Hurry up! There’s no need to be polite to them. Beat them until they leave if they still don’t want to!” She said spitefully, “Did they think that our Zhou family is easy to mess with? How dare they come all the way here to ask for my daughter back? My daughter is not there to be a grass widow! If I had known earlier that their Second Family’s son was such a b*stard, I would never have agreed no matter how rich the Shi family is! Ai, like parent, like son! The Shi family’s eldest son is so outstanding, but why is the second son so unreliable?”
Auntie Yang responded and was about to comply with Old Mistress Zhou’s order. But who knew Zhou Jingyi was hesitant and stopped Auntie Yang. She told her mother after much hesitation, “Mother, this can’t be good, right?”
Seeing that her daughter was not of one mind as her, Old Mistress Zhou became so angry that she stared at her and said with a dark face, “What? A married daughter is like water that has been poured out? I am helping to avenge you, but you’re still standing up for them!”