Chapter 183: New Year’s Eve
“Whatever did you mean?” Shi Fengu laughed and fastened himself around her. He looked deeply into her eyes, all the way until she blushed and lowered her head.
“Sang Wan, you are really beautiful!” Shi Fengju raised his hand and caressed her red cheeks tenderly. Looking into the pair of watery eyes as clear as spring water, he could not help but lower his head to kiss her.
On the next day when Sang Wan woke up, her body was still feeling sore, and she moved little by little with great difficulty. Turning her head to look at the man beside her, she saw that he was already awake and was looking right back at her. As he met her eyes, he could not help but feel a sense of adoration and touched her head lightly, “Finally awake?”
Sang Wan gave him a vague glare before shifting her head to the side without speaking.
Shi Fengju was momentarily stunned. He went to hug her as he chuckled to himself: Why is my dear wife so cute!
New Year came in a blink of an eye. On the day of New Year’s Eve, the household had to pay respect to the ancestors before noon. Sang Wan was already awake before the sky turned bright and was instructing the servants to open the gates to the altar, do the cleaning up, take the candles and oil lamps, and wash the utensils from the store house. It was an extremely busy day, and the kitchen was preparing the offerings to the ancestors.
When it was time, the entire family gathered inside the altar place. After placing the offerings and the candles, the ceremony proceeded in a solemn manner. Since time immemorial, women were not allowed to give offerings to their ancestors. So once the preparations were completed, Wang Shi, Sang Wan, and the rest left and waited in the room next door. As for the men, Second Old Master Shi led them to pay respect to their ancestors.
Second Old Mistress Shi gazed out from the room and thought about her son who was still roaming outside and missing. Her eyes turned teary again but she quickly wiped them off with her handkerchief. Looking at Sang Wan, Shi Lian, and the rest, and then thinking about her own daughter-in-law who was still seeking shelter in her parent’s home, Second Old Mistress Shi felt more infuriated and promised to herself that she had to get her back after the new year!
Once the ceremony was over, the entire family dispersed. Sang Wan was left behind to instruct the servants to tidy up the place, and arrange for servants to watching over the altar on rotation. After giving a few more careful instructions to watch over the lamps, she headed to the main courtyard and reported to Wang Shi. After that, she started giving instructions for tonight’s reunion dinner.
The spring couplet, and the paper-cut decorations for the window were to be put up after paying respect to the ancestors. Every servant would collect them from a management servant and put them up happily. After awhile, spring couplets, the auspicious ‘福’ character and other New Year decorations were put up on every door, making the ambience in the household especially lively.
When it was time for dinner, everyone naturally went to attend the reunion dinner at Wang Shi’s place. Because it was more festive to celebrate the new year together, everyone left early in order to get together. Shi Yuzhen, Shi Lian, and Shi Yulin and her sister, were playing board games, guessing word riddles, and having fun with one another. Wang Shi and her few sister-in-laws played cards in a room while Shi Fengju and his brother, as well as his two uncles, were having a chat at a corner.
The two youngsters, Shi Fengju and Shi Fenghua, were inquisitive by nature and were interested about the Sichuan culture. As such, they could not do without asking their third uncle a few questions about the place. Third Old Master Shi looked highly upon his nephews and knew Shi Fenghua was taking the route of becoming an official. Other than Sichuan’s culture, he also revealed a little of his experience as an official. The uncle and nephews had a lot joy in their discussion. However, Second Old Master Shi was uninterested in their topic of discussion, and could not resist steering their attention to the birds and fish he kept. Without a choice, Shi Fengju and the others could only patiently let him continue before brushing the topic aside.
As evening drew near, Sang Wan came over and informed everyone that dinner was ready. Everyone stopped what they were doing and got up to wash their hands.
Wang Shi and her sisters-in-law were having a great time. They ordered the servants to leave their cards as they were, and wanted to resume after dinner!
“Sang Wan, where is your big sister and big brother-in-law? Order someone to invite them!” Not seeing Shi Yumei when Wang Shi cast a glance across the table, she grumbled, “Yumei that child, I’ve already told her about this in the afternoon! Why is her memory so bad!”
Sang Wan could only concede, and was about to order someone to check on them. However, Shi Fengju saw Xiu Chun standing at a corner, and ordered, “Xiu Chun, make a trip there and say that Old Mistress invites Eldest Missy and Young Master Ren over for dinner!”
“Yes, Young Master!” Xiu Chun bowed and left.
Sang Wan met Shi Fengju’s gaze and nodded with gratitude towards him. Anything that had to do with Shi Yumei and Ren Zhixian still made her feel uncomfortable; it was better to send someone who belonged to Wang Shi as that would save her from Shi Yumei’s cold look. If anything else were to happen today that were to make her mother-in-law unhappy, then it would be her fault entirely as a daughter-in-law.
Shi Fengju smiled before calling Liu Ya over to give her a few instructions. Liu Ya nodded several times before rushing hurriedly to catch up with Xiu Chun.
Not long after, Xiu Chun returned and reported back to Wang Shi with a smile, “Old Mistress, Young Master Ren seems to have caught a cold and is not feeling well. He may not be able to attend. Eldest Missy is staying behind in Jiao Garden to care of him, so she will not be attending too!”
“Why is he so careless during the New Year!” Wang Shi creased her eyebrows without any suspicion before instructing, “Have the kitchen send some dishes over to them, and check if his cold is very serious. If it is, then hurry up and get a doctor to prescribe some medication for him!”
Xiu Chun went ahead to relay the instructions to the kitchen.
While the entire household was having their reunion dinner, the atmosphere in Jiao Garden was tense. An argument between Shi Yumei and Ren Zhixian had happened again.
Ever since he did not successfully obtain the items from his shopping, he harbored even more resentment towards Shi Fengju and the entire Shi family. The day when Shi Fenghua finally returned, he had wanted to pull Shi Fenghua to his side. They talked about all sorts of things, with him showing off his knowledge in hopes of gaining Shi Fenghua’s respect and admiration. That way, he could prove to Wang Shi and Shi Fengju that he, Ren Zhixian, was definitely a talented person! He also wanted them to personally beg him to help Shi Fenghua.
However, why wouldn’t Shi Fenghua know his true intentions? Because Ren Zhixian was his big brother-in-law, he had to pay him a visit for the first two days without a choice. Following that, he refused to go. Even when Ren Zhixian sent someone to invite him, he would use different excuses to avoid going. Ren Zhixian became frustrated, and was secretly resentful that Shi Fenghua did not recognise his talent. He stopped trying to get closer to Shi Fenghua, and began to harbor even more resentment towards the Shi family.
On the eve of New Year, Ren Zhixian undoubtedly knew that everyone was supposed to get together to have a reunion dinner, but he stubbornly refused to go and did not allow Shi Yumei to go as well. He purposely wanted to make things difficult and frustrate them. The unhappier they were, the happier he would be!
No matter how Shi Yumei coaxed and begged, he refused to budge. Shi Yumei was extremely mad, but if he was not going to go, it would not be good if she went alone. As such, she sat inside the house grudgingly.
When Xiu Chun arrived, the two inside the house just had a big argument.
Sensing that the atmosphere in the house was not right, Xiu Chun did not speak out of place. She placed both her hands at a side and smiled, “Eldest Missy, Old Mistress invites you and Young Master Ren over for the reunion dinner!”
Hearing Xiu Chun mention Shi Yumei first before him, it was obvious that the servant did not see him as the head of the family and was angry about that fact. He said indifferently, “Go back and tell your old mistress that we are not part of the Shi family, so it will not be convenient to have a reunion dinner together, thank you!”
Xiu Chun was placed in an extremely awkward position and she looked towards Shi Yumei beggingly.
Ren Zhixian noticed her impudence from ignoring his words and became even more infuriated. He boomed, “Didn’t you hear me? Leave now!”
“This servant, this servant will take my leave now!” Xiu Chun spoke no further as she did a quick bow before leaving. But before she left, she threw a meaningful glance at Shi Yumei.
Shi Yumei got up and left as well, completely ignoring Ren Zhixian’s scolding. She asked, “Is there something?”
Xiu Chun smiled and said, “Young Master said that if Young Master Ren’s body is not feeling well, then it’s fine for you and Young Master Ren not to go. The kitchen will send a few dishes over later.”
Shi Yumei sighed thankfully and nodded, “Second Brother has thought about this thoroughly. Go back and tell my mother that Young Master Ren has caught a cold so we won’t be attending! I will accompany my mother at a later time!”
“Understood, then this servant will head over first!” Xiu Chun obliged and left.
Shi Yumei stood at the entrance as she stared dazedly at the red plum tree in the courtyard before returning into the house to face a cold and uncomfortable silence with Ren Zhixian.
After awhile, the loud firecrackers sound could be heard, followed by the laughter from the people gathered and the sweet aroma coming from the dishes. Shi Yumei was secretly upset and depressed.
Ren Zhixian laughed coldly, “Who are you making this face for? Nobody is pulling or stopping you. If you want to go, then go! Heng, if your family really had the heart to invite us over, they wouldn’t just send a servant over and invite us in such a slapdash manner!”
Shi Yumei finally flared up and thought in her heart: If not what? You’re already staying in our household and not as a guest over here. Is it considered impolite to send someone to inform us? Or do you need my mother to invite you personally!
“Actually, you aren’t wrong. We are the Ren family, and not the Shi family. We shouldn’t turn up at all!” Shi Yumei looked coldly at him once and said expressionlessly.
Ren Zhixian was stunned as he thought she would be jumping angrily. He was frustrated and thought to himself: this woman is getting more and more imprudent. Is it because this is her family’s household and there will be someone supporting her? How dare she become more rebellious and disobedient! Really, what kind of family would produce such a daughter, this is so unreal!
Not long after, the kitchen sent the dishes over. There were six dishes and one soup, and they were still steaming hot. “Let’s eat!” Shi Yumei said expressionlessly. Seeing how Ren Zhixian ignored her, she went ahead to sit at the table before ordering Cui Zhu to prepare the bowl, chopsticks, and to scoop her rice.
Ren Zhixian glared at her disgruntledly.
Cui Bao tactfully said, “Lord, it’s the New Year, you should at least have your reunion dinner with Young Mistress! Don’t let Young Mistress wait too long!” She went forward to hold Ren Zhixian’s arm before leading him to the table.
Ren Zhixian took the opportunity to praise Cui Bao appreciatively. Cui Bao is still so considerate towards me, it seems my affection for her didn’t go to waste! She’s so much better than Cui Zhu who behaves just like a dead log!
Shi Yumei appeared indifferent, however, Ren Zhixian was insistent on making her angry in order for his heart to feel contented. Once he sat down and received the bowl of rice from Cui Bao, he pulled her over and said, “You should sit too and have dinner together!”
Shi Yumei’s chopsticks trembled and her face darkened, but she remained still.
Cui Bao’s eyes brightened with glee, but they instantly dimmed when she came to a realization. She quickly smiled and said, “Lord, please don’t make fun of me. Would a servant dare to sit at the same table as Lord and Young Mistress? That would be against tradition! Lord and Young Mistress, please have your dinner quickly else it’ll turn cold!”
Shi Yumei grunted but her expression turned slightly better. Luckily you know better!
“I make the rules! Where did such a tradition come from!” Ren Zhixian insisted on making her sit. When he saw Cui Zhu still standing beside Shi Yumei, he scolded unhappily, “Bring a chair over!”
“This servant does not dare! Please do not force this servant!” Cui Bao expression turned white and she fell to her knees.
Ren Zhixian could behave recklessly, but not her! Her brain was still functioning properly: this is the Shi household!
Making Shi Yumei lose her face in public, if the people from the Shi family got angry, Ren Zhixian was unlikely able to protect her!
“You!” Seeing how Cui Bao behaved, his scheme only ended up embarrassing him and he could only glare at her. However, there was no way he’d know what Cui Bao was thinking. He did not know that Cui Bao was afraid of the people from the Shi family, which was why she did not dare to obey him. Instead, he began to like her even more and felt that she was —— really obedient and sensible!
“Hurry and get up, why are you kneeling during the New Year!” Ren Zhixian consoled gently, and helped her up by her arm.
“This servant gives thanks to Lord!” Cui Bao glanced quietly at Shi Yumei who was still eating indifferently and let out a sigh of relief before smiling, “Lord, please have your dinner quickly!”
“Right!” Ren Zhixian nodded, and ordered Cui Bao to pick the dishes for him.
Shi Yumei could not stand the sight anymore and ate a few more mouthfuls in a fit of pique before slamming the chopsticks on the table. She got up and left together with Cui Zhu.
Ren Zhixian stared at her back as she left and said angrily to Cui Bao, “Just look at her! What is the meaning of this? Does she still see me as the head of the family!”
“Lord, please cool yourself down!” Cui Bao said with a smile, “Lord, it’s not auspicious to be angry during the New Year! Young Mistress might not be feeling well, so don’t think too much! Young Mistress isn’t normally like this!”
Ren Zhixian sneered, “You are wrong, she wasn’t like this in the past. Ever since she came back to Shi Household, she felt that she had finally found a backing and does not see me as her husband anymore! Heng, she better not forget that she is part of the Ren family. Even if she dies, she will have to be buried together in our household’s grave with no links to her Shi family! Her body is feeling unwell? I think it’s her heart and mind!”
“Lord!” Cui Bao face turned white with panic, “Please don’t speak such words anymore! After all, why bother! You won’t feel good about it, and neither would Young Mistress —— “
Cui Bao thought resentfully: Don’t you know that we’re still on the Shi family’s soil? Do words go through your mind first before you speak? The Shi family may not act rashly towards you, but won’t a servant such as I end up being implicated? Are you trying to send me to my grave!
“Ai!” Ren Zhixian could not withstand the pitiful tears of a beauty; seeing the way Cui Bao behaved, his heart immediately softened and he could not help but hold her hands as he sighed, “Cui Bao, Lord only has you who thinks about me! You are still the best, only you are concerned about me! There’s no one now, come, sit down and have dinner with me!”
Cui Bao glanced around subconsciously and forced a smile, “Tradition cannot be ignored. This servant will stand and have dinner!”
Ren Zhixian was happy, and nodded with satisfaction, “That’s fine too! Come and eat! Have whatever you like!”
“This servant is very thankful towards Lord!” Cui Bao cast a coquettish gaze at him.
Shi Yumei guessed that everyone should be done with dinner at Wang Shi’s place, and ordered Cui Zhu to bring over her large fur cloak in preparation to head over to her mother’s place to sit and spend the night with her mother, aunts, and sisters.
Who knew that Ren Zhixian would have the intention of obstructing her tonight. He did not go to the study room to spend time with Cui Bao and sat in the hall outside instead. He exclaimed at the sight of her about to leave, “Stand right there! Where are you going?”
Shi Yumei said indifferently, “I’m going to my mother’s place to accompany her with everyone else!”
“You’re not allowed to go!” Ren Zhixian was waiting for this exact moment and he firmly refused, “Today is the new year. As a Ren family member, you are not allowed to mix with the Shi family!”
Shi Yumei laughed in ridicule and simply said, “Lord, have you forgotten that we are now living in the Shi household? Am I not allowed to accompany my mother for a small chat?”
Her words poked Ren Zhixian at his sore spot and he said angrily with a cold face, “You’re not allowed to go if I say you’re not allowed to! If you dare to take a step out, then don’t ever think about coming back tonight!”
With a belly full of anger, why would Shi Yumei bother? She laughed coldly and left with Cui Zhu.
“Well done! Well done! Look at how well the Shi family has educated their daughter, really, really she’s not listening to her husband at all now!” Ren Zhixian had never been treated as such by Shi Yumei before and was so angry that his voice trembled. Cui Bao remain at his side to console him for a long time before he finally recovered.
Shi Yumei also did not feel comfortable, and was at a loss of words. Arriving at the front of the main courtyard, she reminded Cui Zhu to not speak insensibly and fixed the expression on her face before entering cheerily.