Chapter 27 (V2): The Sour Cousin
Shi Fengju had wanted to make things a little more difficult for her by not eating, but his belly, however, was intolerably hungry and his mouth was extremely thirsty. Partially by force and by desire, he accepted. But who would have known that Zhan Huan would barge into the room so soon? In a loud voice, he spoke, “Young Master, the fire stoves in the kitchen had already been put out. Auntie Li says that the dishes prepared had already been sent away to their respective chambers. Why don’t this servant go to Ning Garden to grab some dishes for Young Master? Oh, or maybe this servant can ask Auntie Li to prepare a bowl of noodles to help you last through the night? Oh, this servant was afraid that Young Master cannot wait any longer and brought with me a plate of cakes and cookies!”
As if honoring Shi Fengju with the presence of a treasure, Zhan Huan presented the plate of cakes and cookies. But only then did he realize that Sang Wan and Zhide were standing in front, and his own master’s face was now extremely darkened.
How could Shi Fengju not be angry? At Ning Garden, he had gracefully told Sang Wan that he was not hungry. But at this very moment, he was caught red-handed by Sang Wan! Zhan Huan’s words had seemed somewhat piercing.
Zhide wanted to laugh but dare not do so. With a straight face, she acted as if she had not heard Zhan Huan. And as for Zhan Huan, he was unaware of what had happened in Ning Garden. Smiling naturally at Sang Wan, he bowed, “Young Mistress, you’ve come!”
Sang Wan chuckled to herself but did not reveal it on the surface. Looking towards Zhan Huan, she nodded and smiled, “This plate of pastries shall be your reward. You may eat them! I’ll take care of your master from here, so you may take your leave first!”
Zhan Huan subconsciously glanced at his master whose face was still darkened and grinned, “Young Mistress sure does care a lot for Young Master, then this servant shall take his leave now!” With that, he lowered his head and skidded away.
“That dog!” Shi Fengju snorted angrily.
“Lord, please!” Sang Wan knew that she shouldn’t wait any longer for any longer and Shi Fengju’s embarrassment would definitely be fed to his anger. As such, she led him to a seat and gestured to Zhide to take out the dishes from the food box before serving a bowl of soup to Shi Fengju personally.
When Shi Fengju saw that she did not make fun of him, with her expression the same as if she had not heard Zhan Huan, his heart calmed down. He had wanted to say something but after a second thought would have sounded a little too harsh and wipe them away from his mind. Quietly on the seat, he slowly received the dishes one after another.
A mouth full of delicious soup went down his throat and his appetite was suddenly woken up from its slumber. Filled with energy, Shi Fengju spoke warmly to Sang Wan, “That’s enough. Zhide will stay and serve me. You may go back first!”
He had already said that he had things to do. Regardless of whether that was true, he had to sit in the study room for a little while longer to justify his words.
“Alright then. I’ll head off first! Lord, do return and rest early. Don’t stay up too late!” Sang Wan nodded. Smiling at Zhide, she went on to instruct her, “Brew a pot of good tea for Lord, later on, to help him with his digestion. And if there’s any fresh melons or fruits, have someone prepare them and bring them in. Do not forget!”
“Yes, Young Mistress!” Zhide bowed as she answered.
Shi Fengju took a quick glimpse at her and his heart felt somewhat more comfortable. To live was to serve; that was definitely not something males can do! For her to be willing to even act out the part, it must have been tough for her!
As the thought wandered in his mind, his heart could not help but feel apologetic towards Sang Wan. Putting a soft tone, he smiled and spoke to her, “No need to go through the trouble. The things I have to do tonight isn’t much. I’ll return very soon! Oh yes, if you’re tired, you may rest first!”
Reciprocating the favor, the people before our time sure were wise! Sang Wan thought to herself. She answered back with a smile on her face and left.
But who would have known, before Sang Wan arrived back at Ning Garden, she heard someone call for her from behind. Halting her footsteps, she turned to see who it was. Her eyes widened, “Zhide? Why did you not remain to serve Lord?”
Sang Wan almost thought that it was because Shi Fengju was concerned for her walking back alone and specifically asked Zhide to accompany, which would have scored him a few positive points in her heart. But seeing Zhide acting a little flustered and reluctant to speak, Sang Wan’s heart sank at once.
It was needless to say as she understood.
“Cousin Fangzi went into the study room?” Sang Wan asked faintly.
Everyone in the household, including Wang Shi, would carry a strange expression when mentioning Gu Fangzi. It was as if telling her that Gu Fangzi was a scourge.
But on that thought, it seemed that was really so, was it not?
“Yes,” Since Sang Wan had already spoken, Zhide could only nod. But she hurriedly added, “Young Mistress, you may not know this but Miss Gu has provided lots of help to Young Master in his business these few years, and has many matters to discuss with him. So that might have been the case.”
“I’ve already heard from my mother-in-law that my cousin-in-law is a very capable lady.” Sang Wan smiled, her brows still gentle as usual.
Zhide could not help but feel sympathy for Sang Wan. In all fairness, if it were someone else stuck in such a position, that person may have been plunged into a deep depression! Young Mistress sure has it tough. Zhide wanted to voice out a few comforting words for Sang Wan, but as their relationship was not very close, she held those words back.
Master and servant, the two walked back to Ning Garden with not a single word spoken.
At heart, Sang Wan was deep in thought. Gu Fangzi sure was well informed. Gu Fangzi must have known that she had entered the study room, and also what came after. Once she had seen Sang Wan leave, she would definitely want to go into the study room herself to do a check. Sang Wan began to wonder… Gu Fangzi had him eyed so closely, like a predator eyeing its prey; does Shi Fengju not mind at all?
She shook her head slightly. That person’s eye for beauty was a little strange to begin with anyway.
However, what Sang Wan did not know was that even Shi Fengju was now beginning to find Gu Fangzi’s behavior intolerable. He suddenly received a faint feeling that his former cousin and the cousin now were two different persons. The former was considerate, lively and cheerful, bold and calm, has a decent amount of courage that not many women would have, and not to mention her confidence. Those were the elements that attracted him.
The Shi family; a large family and has a large business. His wife must not only be able to manage the inside of the household, but also be of help to the business. As for many of the confidential business affairs, he would not easily disclose them even to his most trusted servant; however, his wife would be a different case as they are one.
To be given a chance to marry a wife who is important on the outside and inside of the household, like-minded, and also his childhood friend, was truly difficult to find. As a result, he valued her and held her very dearly.
However, the feeling that she gave him was gradually becoming different. He could not fully describe the feeling, but all he could tell was that it was very different.
In the past, for example, she would not look at him with eyes of doubt while asking him again and again, “Really? You aren’t lying?”. She would also not constantly go about flaunting at him the number of grievances she had to endure and the number of times she had to give in. But most importantly, she would not speak sourly of other women in front of him, Sang Wan for instance.
In the past, she would not mind him accompanying his business friends to drink in the brothel or if he went boating on a pleasure boat. All she would do was give him a light smile, or at the most joke with him a little.
What he liked about her was that self-confidence! Confident in herself, and also in him.
He could sense that her confidence was slowly wearing thin. But in fact, she had absolutely no need to do so!
Sang Wan and Zhide had already returned to Ning Garden. But in the study room, Shi Fengju was not able to finish his dinner. He was too busy trying to make himself clear and to coax Gu Fangzi. Once he was finally able to convince Gu Fangzi successfully, the dishes were already long cooled and his appetite had already vanished.
“I’m so sorry, Big Cousin, it’s all my fault. Why don’t I have someone bring in some snacks?” Gu Fangzi spoke apologetically to Shi Fengju, however, she was secretly satisfied – Shi Fengju definitely still cared about her, to have placed her as his priority. It seemed the only way to hold onto a man’s heart is to constantly remind him. Only then will he pay more attention to her.
Seeing that Shi Fengju nodded, Gu Fangzi ordered Lan Xiang to bring some snacks over from the Peony Park. The dishes that Sang Wan brought, hmph, not eating them would be for the best! What a disgust it is to even look at those dishes!
“Tomorrow night, I’ll be sure to have the kitchen prepare a few of your favorite food as an apology!” Gu Fangzi smiled. Her eyes glistened and she added cheekily, “How about we go to the Lotus Jade Restaurant for lunch tomorrow? Speaking of which, it has been quite a long time since we ate outside together! Tomorrow’s lunch will be on me, how about it?”
Gu Fangzi grinned broadly with a face of expectancy. Shi Fengju could not help but smile with her. Even though she may have a little temper in her, but it was all because she cared for him ah!
Just when he was about to agree, an image of Sang Wan’s delicate face flashed across his eyes. The Jade Lotus Restaurant was the Shi’s own business; one of the best restaurant in Qingzhou. If he were to go there with his cousin, how would others view of Sang Wan?
“Tomorrow…I’ve to head over to the pier to check the goods stored in the warehouse and might only return at night. Let’s just forget it!” Afraid that Gu Fangzi might add a come back by postponing to a later date, Shi Fengju went on, “I’m afraid I may be busy these few days. After the Double Fifth Festival, I’ll have to bring along a fleet to the capital, so these few days, the goods at the pier are of great importance!”
The smile on Gu Fangzi’s face vanished and her face stiffened. Her brow raised and she stared at Shi Fengju suspiciously. Shi Fengju strongly suppressed the dislike that was in his heart and awaited for her to question him. Fortunately, Gu Fangzi did not continue with the raised topic and nodded, “Ah that, I almost forgot! It’s a good thing that there isn’t much to be done in the household these few days, why don’t I accompany you to the pier and help you with the tallying of the goods, okay?”
“Isn’t the Double Fifth Festival coming? The household still has to prepare for the festival; I’ll be fine managing the things at the pier myself!” Shi Fengju quickly answered.
Gu Fangzi’s expression was immediately dampened, and only after a moment of silence did she respond. “Alright! Since Big Cousin’s mind has already been set, Fangzi has no other way but to comply. Everything shall be taken charge by Big Cousin; Fangzi will follow!”
Her partially hidden yet exposed specious words once again gave Shi Fengju a headache. His brows creased slight but he forced a laugh, “I knew you’re a sensible one.”
Gu Fangzi gave an ‘En’ and said nothing more. She had clearly seen the crease on his forehead!
Shi Fengju’s temper had surfaced. Having been busy for a whole day, he dragged his tired mind and body back home; who wouldn’t want to enjoy a comfortable moment of peace and warmth? Who in the right mind would be able to gather strength just to stoop to compromise? If the person in front wasn’t Gu Fangzi, he would have already flared up.
“Enough, please go back first! And accompany my mother for me!” Shi Fengju smiled reluctantly and said without waiting for Lan Xiang who had left to bring him snacks.
Seeing the dull attitude he had towards her and his unwillingness to speak any further, she grunted and left. On her way, she ran into Lan Xiang and called out to her. The two, master and servant, headed back to the Peony Park.