Fang Shi smiled and said, “It must have been difficult for you! The road becomes difficult to travel once the snow melts and leaves residue! How about staying over tonight? It’ll just be half a day more!” Sang Hong nodded in agreement.
Sang Wan and Shi Fengju looked at one another before Shi Fengju gave an answer with a smile, “Sang Wan was going to let you know. Then we’ll be staying for a night!”
Fang Shi was elated and she smiled, “I have my foresight to thank. I’ve already tidied Sang Wan’s room and even changed the bedding!”
“Sister-in-law, thank you!”
“We are a family, there’s no need to be so courteous!”
Everyone exchanged warm greetings to one another as they entered the house and sat according to guests and hosts. Sang Wan had a quick look inside the house, and saw that there were no expensive decorations and the furniture was the same as before. Fang Shi knew what she was thinking and smiled, “I’m used to everything being the way they are, and it’s more comfortable to live like this. Putting those expensive antiques, vases, and whatever around will really make me anxious. I’m afraid I might end up breaking them if I’m not careful!”
Everyone laughed when she said that.
While everyone chatted, Fang Shi and Nanny Xu went into the kitchen to prepare lunch. Sang Hong accompanied Shi Fengju and Sang Wan to speak about Sang Yufei in the center of the house. He was living far away from home, and the Sang siblings could not help but feel a little empty inside as they wondered how he was spending his new year all alone in a foreign place.
Shi Fengju consoled them a little, and talked about how the Shi family had a few shops in the capital. Shi Ming was well informed about them, so if anything were to happen, help would definitely be given, and a quick message would also be sent back. Sang Hong felt a little more relieved and he quickly thanked Shi Fengju again.
Not long after, visitors from the village came to visit one after another. Sang Hong got up to welcome them. This was also a custom in the village. No matter which household had visitors, a few close neighbors would be invited to sit around and accompany the guest. If no one came, then it would mean that the family had a bad reputation. The visitors who came were personally invited by Sang Hong yesterday.
The room became lively all of a sudden. Seeing that all the guests were male, Sang Wan went up to greet them before excusing herself to the kitchen.
During lunch, Sang Hong and the rest ate in the courtyard. Fang Shi brought a few dishes into the side room to eat with Sang Wan.
Sang Wan was worried about Second Uncle Sang and Second Aunt Sang coming over to create ruckus again, but who knew that a long time ended up passing peacefully. She could not help but smile at Fang Shi, “Big Sister-in-law, Second Uncle and Second Aunt aren’t home?” If not, given their character, there was no way they’d be so docile! They had claimed to have cut ties with Sang Hong but that did not include Sang Wan.
Fang Shi gave her a quick glimpse before giggling softly, “So you aren’t entirely a fool! Did you think they aren’t at home? Wrong, their home is much too crowded now; they don’t even have the time to bother us anymore!”
Sang Wan was momentarily stunned.
Fang Shi smiled in disdain, “Your second uncle bought a woman home from town a few months ago. Ai, but what a sin it was. She is even younger than Sang Rou by slightly more than a year!”
“Such a thing happened?!” Sang Wan was shocked and thought to herself: No wonder. This time, Second Aunt would definitely be busy at home.
Fang Shi laughed coldly, “Just because his little concubine is young, doesn’t mean she is someone to look down on! She not only has her youth, but also her beauty to fight on even ground with your second aunt. Right now, haha, their place is a mess everyday! It was the New Year a few days ago and that young concubine got into a squabble with your second aunt. In the end, your second aunt slipped from the stairs and twisted her waist. Right now, she’s stuck in bed and cannot get out! Tell me, how can she come to our house when she’s in such a state?” As for Second Uncle Sang, where would he have to face to bother his niece? There was no way he would ever dare to visit Sang Hong’s house again.
And that was why Sang Hong’s house was finally peaceful now!
Sang Wan listened in disbelief and said soon after, “Second Aunt has always been competitive, who knew that she would end up in this hole! This really is ——” Sang Wan shook her head as she did not wish to speak ill about her elders. After all, they were now very pitiful!
“There is always something dominating the other, and for them, it’s retribution!” Fang Shi did not like Li Shi at all, and laughed coldly, “You may think that she’s pitiful, but think about all those sinister things she did in the past which gave us trouble. Had she ever given mercy to others? Humph, Sang Wan, you mustn’t be soft-hearted! Especially when you’re living in such a large household, you mustn’t be like that! Think about it, if the marriage between the Sang family and Shi family was canceled, or if your third brother was not able to receive the title as the top escorted examinee, how badly would your second uncle and aunt have treated our family? They would definitely force us to our deaths! Before others said anything, our two closest relatives would have taken the lead to speak ill about us! These types of people deserve no sympathy at all!”
Fang Shi then added, “There’s something even more amusing and maddening! After Second Uncle got a concubine, why don’t you try guessing what your second aunt came to tell me? Heng, she actually encouraged me to let your big brother get a concubine as well! She even mentioned that things are different in this time and age; if your big brother doesn’t get a concubine, all the neighbors would end up mocking him! She even said that I was not being virtuous! Hmph, worst still, she said that I should buy two beautiful maidservants to train them to become your third brother’s partners when he returns! Disgusting!” Fang Shi spatted, “Are these words an elder should be saying? After that, I stopped responding pleasantly to her and disregarded any of her opinions! Getting a concubine is not something your big brother should ever think about in his lifetime! As the eldest sister-in-law, I will also hold my stand to never allow your third brother to learn from those dirty people outside who have improper intercourse with other women before marriage. After marriage, his wife will be the one in charge of him, and whatever they wish to do between them will be none of my concern.”1
Fang Shi could not hide her anger and hatred as she spoke about it. Her mother-in-law left early, and then followed by her father-in-law. It had been difficult for her and Sang Hong to support the household, and their family was finally able to leave their difficult situation after many years: Sang Wan got married into a family which treated her well, and Sang Yufei had a promising future ahead of him after becoming a top escorted examinee; already, he could live a comfortable life. If he were able to pass the court examinations, then that would be even better! After all those bitter and difficult times, it was time to enjoy their comfortable days right now. For someone to suddenly mention getting a concubine, disregarding the fact about how the concubine would be able to enjoy all the fruits of today’s success without suffering, and even bring unnecessary unhappiness, Fang Shi would only do so if she were dumb!
“Big Sister-in-law!” Sang Wan was exasperated as well after listening to her. She quickly held Fang Shi’s hands and said gently, “Don’t worry too much about her, she must be feeling uncomfortable after Second Uncle got a concubine and wanted everyone to feel the same way too. As long as you ignore her, everything will be fine! Our Sang family is so lucky to have a daughter-in-law like you! And Big Brother isn’t that sort of person. He’ll definitely not have such thoughts!”
Fang Shi’s expression relaxed a little and she smiled, embarrassed, “I lost myself just now and ended up voicing everything that’s inside me! But there are some things that I really cannot help but be angry at and find someone to pour that frustration out to! That day, I was so maddened that I ended up quarreling with your big brother. Thankfully, your big brother did not hold it against me and even consoled me! You’re right, as long as your big brother doesn’t have such thoughts, why should I be angry? Even if he does, I will never allow it!”
Sang Wan smiled and said, “I understand Big Brother’s character, he definitely won’t!” The two ended up having a good laugh.
After a quick rest, Sang Wan sighed softly, “Before I head back, I’ll go pay Second Aunt a visit! Since we’re back, we should go over there for a bit.”
Fang Shi nodded her head and sneered, “That’s right, they may have cut ties with us but did not cut ties with you. If you don’t go, it won’t look good on you as others may claim that you are looking down on them after being successful!” After saying so, she sighed again and continued, “We used to be bullied in the past, now that we’ve suddenly become successful, there are people who will intentionally try to fawn on us, and people who are jealous of us and will find any opportunity to speak badly of us. Just do the formalities to prevent others from speaking much about us! After all, there’s no need to garner ill-feelings without a reason.”
Sang Wan nodded in agreement.
“By the way,” Fang Shi nudged Sang Wan and creased her eyebrows as she said, “How’s that Miss Gu in your household? Marrying while she is still in her mourning period, I have never seen anyone as thick-skinned as her! Is she still obedient?”
Sang Wan sighed softly and spoke about how Gu Fangzi would be ending her mourning period in February before adding, “She had given me lots of trouble in the past, but she seems docile right now. Who knows if she is really being docile or just putting up an act!”
Regarding the promise that Shi Fengju had made to send Gu Fangzi away, Sang Wan did not speak about it as it was a difficult promise to accomplish. Firstly, Gu Fangzi was already married into the Shi family. Secondly, by her personality, she would definitely not wait obediently to be sent away and would surely play her hand. Thirdly, Wang Shi was still a major figure supporting her from behind. If Wang Shi refused, Shi Fengju would not be able to retaliate. If the household and Wang Shi’s mood were to turn into a mess because of it, Sang Wan’s days ahead would not be easy as well. As for what would become of their promise, although Sang Wan still remained hopeful, she felt that the only benefit she might gain would be Shi Fengju’s guilt if he were unable to deliver his promise!
“That woman really is a vixen!” Fang Shi was amazed and she sneered, “What dream, and master to interpret it. I think it’s all just her pulling the strings! Yet your mother-in-law and husband still believed her?”
Sang Wan quickly defended, “Old people will believe such things. What’s more, Gu Fangzi is someone who she loves and trusts, why would she doubt it? As for Fengju, he didn’t say anything!”
Fang Shi rolled her eyes and smiled, “You sure know how to defend your husband! But there’s no use in siding with him. What’s important is how he thinks about the situation!” Fang Shi shook her head and said, “I actually have this thought that if that woman had to do three years of mourning, it would be enough time for you to get pregnant twice. Good grief, there’s still no signs of your tummy getting bigger and her mourning period is about to be over! How witty of her!”
“Big Sister-in-law, don’t worry, I know what I should do and will protect myself well!” Sang Wan said softly, “Not looking at everything else, Second Brother is now a top escorted examinee and is very likely to pass the court examinations. Just by that, the Shi family will treat me properly!”
“That’s right, “ Fang Shi laughed and said, “That woman does not have any other kin to side with her, there is no need to fear her! But that is equally good for her because your mother-in-law and husband might be more caring and biased towards her. If she were to do anything to you, your days there——Sang Wan, we really won’t be any help to you!”
Things within large households were indeed the most troubling!
Sang Wan quickly smiled and said, “Has the help given by Big Brother-in-law and Sister-in-law been little? This is my problem anyway, I should handle it myself. There’s no need for you to worry about me!”
Fang Shi laughed and said, “It’s good that you can think this way! Your large household is different from a small one like ours. Even if it isn’t that woman, there’ll be someone else sooner or later. You’ll have to face it in the end!”
Sang Wan gave a soft bitter laugh. She had already understood that point, but after listening to what Fang Shi said and picturing how Shi Fengju would be intimate with another woman in the future as he was now with her, a sense of discomfort and unhappiness swept through her.