Chapter 18 (V2): The Best Gifts Are Not Fit For Them
Sang Pingliang grunted. “Enough, enough. Save your breath! It’s because we were hopeless, caring for our own family instead of helping others! It is understandable that they won’t see us as their elders!”1
“Second Uncle Sang has gotten the wrong idea!” Feeling disturbed, Sang Hong added, “The things are still here. Why don’t Second Uncle Sang and Second Aunt Li take a look, and then ——”
“Yes, yes, yes. That’ll do!” Li Shi immediately grinned and agreed, cutting Sang Hong off. As she stood up, she said, “I knew that our oldest nephew is the most filial and the most respectful towards the elders, unlike that mean lady over there!”
Fang Shi looked at her husband in dissatisfaction. But seeing that Li Shi had already stepped into the room, she had no choice but to follow. Since the man has already spoken, let’s see what will be taken away!
The four entered the room. Seeing the heap of gifts, the old couple’s eyes instantly glistened. Fang Shi took out a list and stepped forward. While viewing the list occasionally, she gathered a pile of gifts and put them in a corner. “These are for Second Brother which we have no control of. As such, they cannot be taken!”
Right after, she picked up a pair of gold hairpins, rolled fabric, and two pieces of head cloth before calling for Nanny Xu to receive the gifts on the spot. “My sister-in-law said to give you these as thanks for taking care of her since she was little. These are for you!”
Nanny Xu received the gifts gleefully before returning to tidying up the house.
“These few rolls of fabric and a set of scholar’s treasures, together with the two gold necklaces, are for Xiao Quan and Xiao Nuan!” Fang Shi picked up the gifts before saying in dissatisfaction, “That is all. Second Uncle and Second Aunt, you may take whatever you deem! Oh and I almost forgot, the two hundred silvers have to be left for our second brother’s exams and to purchase the gifts that have to be sent during the Double Fifth Festival!”
Seeing Fang Shi take a numerous number of gifts away, Sang Pingliang and Li Shi could not help but feel a heartache. What she had said was reasonable, and thus the old couple could not object. In the end, the two picked four pairs of rolled fabric and a pair of gold bracelets, a pack of bird’s nest, and two pots of fine wine. Carrying those gifts as they left, Sang Pingliang suddenly turned back and questioned Fang Shi. “Did Sang Wang only give two hundred silvers?”
Fang Shi’s face was already dark and unhappy as she stood at the side. Hearing him, she sneered, “If Second Uncle Sang doesn’t believe me, why not have a look?”
Sang Pingliang grinned. Holding the two pots of wine firmly and putting a few of the rolled fabrics underneath his arms, he gleefully left.
“Oh yes,” Li Shi smiled, “There were still many dishes left which will be wasted if your family isn’t able to finish them! I’ll come by later to take some of them away.”
“Oh! Thank you so much, Second Aunt Li!” Fang Shi smiled coldly.
Seeing that the two had finally left, Fang Shi heaved a long sigh of relief. Raising her hand, she undid the knot nearest to her collar. She felt extremely stuffy inside her clothes!
“Ah Xian, they are our elders, regardless…” Sang Hong pulled his wife’s hand and forced a smile.
“I know! I know!” Fang Shi said unhappily. “Elders, hmph! I’ve never seen them act like elders anyway! Still, now is different from the past; you’ll have to keep an eye on them. What if one day, their hearts were hardened by pig oil and they run straight to the Shi family? That would harm our Ah Wan!”
“I will!” Sang Hong answered firmly. Such a thing, Second Uncle Sang and Second Aunt Li wouldn’t act rashly, right?
Fang Shi kept silent and went to put the gifts away. She unconsciously went to touch the pocket of her skirt. In it were three hundred silvers worth of banknote and a pair of bracelets inlaid with pearls given by Sang Wan but not included in the gift list.
On the route back, in the carriage, Sang Wan leaned her head to the side in silence. What had happened today was so embarrassing!
The more she thought about it, the more she felt that the life her oldest brother and sister-in-law had lived these last few years hadn’t been easy. No wonder sister-in-law was hot-tempered and spoke sarcastically. To have such an unreliable uncle and aunt was simply intolerable!
But luckily, the scene from the homecoming in the past did not reproduce itself here. Big Brother and Sister-in-law Fang were still themselves! As for her, she had not been embarrassed in front of the Shi servants and become the joke of the Shi family. Zhan Huan and the rest of the servants were Shi Fengju’s trusted servants and when taking care of the outer courtyard, Li Yan and Song He were strict with their mouths. Still, Sang Wan hoped that whatever had happened today in her home would not spread wings in the Shi family.
That being said, one must know that Gu Fangzi was like a predator, waiting to pounce at any mistakes Sang Wan made and to exploit them.
Though she had no intention to lift her gaze to look at Shi Fengju, he too had somehow seemed to look at her. As such, their gazes met and Shi Fengju laughed at her.
Sang Wan at this moment was feeling frustrated and disturbed, and seeing Shi Fengju smiling made her uncomfortable. Her eyes turned red and she lowered her head before sighing, “If you want to laugh, go ahead and laugh! What happened today was something you did not expect, right? Whatever the case, they’re my elders. For the unpleasant actions that they did, I hope you’ll not take them to heart!”
Shi Fengju was taken aback and felt a little sorry for her. Hurriedly, he tried to comfort her. “I did not mean to laugh at you; you’re just thinking too much!”
I don’t believe you! Sang Wan raised her head and looked at him as if trying to convey the words through her eyes. “Really?”
“Of course!” Shi Fengju nodded earnestly and sighed. “These years must not have been easy for you.”
Sang Wan hesitated before shaking her head. “My oldest brother and sister-in-law, and my second brother too, they care a lot for me! I care not for those who gossip about us.” Never take the words from Second Aunt Li’s mouth seriously unless one has a long life!
Shi Fengju smiled and suddenly said, “Still, don’t belittle me… my cousin’s father, in other words, my uncle, compared to your second uncle… Keke!”
Sang Wan’s brow rose in curiosity. Gu Fangzi’s father? Sang Wan only knew that Gu Fangzi’s mother was her mother-in-law’s younger sister, who had passed away. As for her father, Sang Wan was not familiar with him.
“So, don’t you worry. What happened today will not be spoken of by anyone when we return.”
Sang Wan nodded and smiled, embarrassed.
It was already night when they arrived back in the Shi household. The two went to the courtyard to greet Wang Shi. However, as Wang Shi was not present, the two instructed a servant to inform her before they returned back to their chambers.
The night passed quietly.
Shi Fengju left early in the morning the next day. Sang Wan washed up before rushing off to greet and serve Wang Shi.
Three days had passed and she was now considered a member of the Shi family; she was now no longer considered new. As a daughter-in-law, it was her duty to serve her mother-in-law. As such, she dared not be careless.
When Sang Wan arrived, Wang Shi had just woken up not long ago and was having tea. Sang Wan hastily walked up to Wang Shi and greeted her.
“Enough. No need for the ceremony!” Wang Shi grinned and waved her hand before adding, “Have you had your breakfast?”
“Understood. Mother-in-law, please enjoy your breakfast; your daughter-in-law will have it later!” Sang Wan smiled as she spoke.
“Save the trouble, have it with me then! How was the homecoming yesterday? Is everything alright there?” Wang Shi placed the cup of tea on the table before asking casually.
“Thank you, Mother-in-law, for the concern! Everything’s alright back at my parental home. Big Brother and Sister-in-law Fang are also well!” Sang Wang answered almost immediately and smiled as she helped Wang Shi up. Together, they headed to the side hall to have breakfast. Sang Wan thought secretly to herself; for her mother-in-law to treat her so well all of a sudden, she must have something she wanted to say.
Wang Shi nodded gently and went on to have a casual talk with her daughter-in-law. As the two sat, Wang Shi instructed Xiu Li and Xiu Chun to attend to them so that Sang Wan need not serve her, but instead have breakfast with her. Sang Wan immediately gave her thanks.
After having breakfast, Wang Shi gestured to Sang Wan and smiled. “Come, follow me to the parlor and have tea to help with digestion!”
“Yes, Mother-in-law.” Sang Wan answered quickly, and again helped her mother-in-law up and to the parlor.
A maidservant served them tea. Sang Wan received hers and took a sip before hearing Wang Shi ask her, “How’s the taste of the tea?”
“Naturally, it’s good. The color of the tea, its fragrance, and the taste, it’s all brilliant.” Sang Wan hurriedly gave a smile as she spoke.
Wang Shi laughed, “This three flavor tea was something that I began drinking last year. At that time, my spleen and stomach felt uncomfortable. It was Gu Fangzi; that lass who discovered this tea, saying that it will help to nourish the spleen and stomach and is also good for the body. After that, I kept drinking the tea, and it has become a habit to drink it!”
Hearing Wang Shi praised Gu Fangzi, Sang Wan’s hands tightened and her heart stiffened. However, she smiled nevertheless and spoke, “That is because Cousin Fangzi is filial. Mother-in-law’s good treatment was not in vain!”
“Isn’t that just so!” Wang Shi nodded and added, “If I must say, Fangzi is more intimate with me than my own daughter! Her temper is good; she is polite, meticulous, and does not harbor any ill-intentions! I feel blessed with her by my side. For these past two or three years, she has managed the household quite well. Without her, it might have become a disaster!”
Sang Wan’s heart felt a little bitter. Her tongue felt extremely heavy with nothing to reply to Wang Shi. In the end, all she could manage was a ‘Yes’ before forcing a smile.
“Sang Wan, ah,” Wang Shi finally spoke after some time, “You’ve just entered the Shi family not long ago and you aren’t familiar with the family affairs. Still, if I may say, the Shi family and the Sang family are different; there are many things you do not know. Learning the ropes isn’t easy, so I feel that the affairs should still be handled by Gu Fangzi. What do you say?”
“The management of the house is naturally up to Mother-in-law to decide!” Wang Shi immediately stared at Sang Wan. Sang Wan spoke without hesitation, which would, of course, result in her being stared at by her mother-in-law.
“En! It’s good if you think that way!” Wang Shi spoke with satisfaction, before nodding and smiling. “It seems that I was not mistaken to have you married into the family; you truly are a sensible child! But rest assured, you are Fengju’s wife. No one else is of a higher position than you! As a daughter-in-law, one should know when to retreat and when to not! Fangzi will take care of the troublesome things, and you can just live with peace of mind. Take care of your body and may you bear the heir of the family! And since we’re on the topic, you should also give thanks to her!”
“You’re right, Mother-in-law.” Sang Wan smiled gently. “The family affairs aren’t easy; nor are they small. As I’ll be troubling Cousin Fangzi, I’d better give her my thanks!”
“Yes, that’s it!” The more Wang Shi heard, the happier she was.
“However, your daughter-in-law would like to add to it. Everything else is fine; it’s just that I would not like to trouble Cousin Fangzi with Ning Garden. Mother-in-law, what do you think?” Sang Wan spoke while keeping a gentle smile on her face.
She would not be able to fight for the management of the household affairs as she did not have the experience for it. However, Ning Garden was different. That would be the place where she’ll often be. It wasn’t reasonable to have Gu Fangzi intervene, or she wouldn’t be able to sleep or eat with any peace of mind.
Wang Shi was slightly puzzled but nodded and laughed. “That is true. Ning Garden shall be managed by you then!” Letting Gu Fangzi manage too many things wouldn’t be reasonable for her.
“Yes. Your daughter-in-law gives her thanks!” Sang Wan stood and said her thanks.
Since her purpose had been completed, Wang Shi did not need Sang Wan to stay and accompany her. Gesturing with her hand, she spoke, “Enough, you should head back now! Do what you need to do as I have no need for you to serve me! Oh, and in the future, no need to come and greet me so early in the morning! Maybe two hours later will be fine!”
Wang Shi’s mother-in-law had passed away at an early age, but during the time when she had been alive, she had a gentle temperament and disliked ordering people around. Wang Shi, as a result, had not experienced the hardships of being a daughter-in-law under the mercy of her mother-in-law. As such, she did not have the mind nor interest to impose strict orders on her own daughter-in-law.