Chapter 28 (V2): Books
Having waited for a long while, Lan Xiang had not yet arrived. Shi Fengju declared that his cousin might have, due to temper, stopped the maidservant and dragged her back.
Shi Fengju laughed bitterly. His stomach was burning with hunger, but the dishes on the table were already cold; surely, there’s a way to get through the day!
Nevermind! Skipping a meal wouldn’t kill me! He, who lacked nothing the moment he was out of his mother’s womb, had finally experienced his first taste of hunger. “Hunger is only psychological and fatigue is physical” – he chanted these words silently to himself and went to grab a book from the bookshelf to kill time. He planned to return to Ning Garden later in the night to have Zhide prepare supper. Despite not eating supper in the past, there was nothing wrong with eating it today. He was a master, was he not?
But who would have thought the first line he would read was “marinate the saury in a plate with mead and season thoroughly with sauce……simmer with ham broth, bamboo shoots broth, and chicken broth till perfection…” He closed the book at looked at its cover. On the cover were four large and distinct words 《Garden of Food Recipes》.
Shi Fengju immediately felt the hunger, that was previously suppressed, rising up to his head. Swallowing a lump in his throat, he angrily dumped the book as far as possible before throwing himself onto the chair and closing his eyes to rest his mind.
After a long half an hour of silence, Shi Fengju felt that it was time to leave. He instructed Zhan Huan to tidy the study room and left for Ning Garden by himself.
Behind a black pomegranate tree, two female figures quietly revealed themselves as they gazed at the back of the male figure who was heading towards Ning Garden. One was burning with jealousy while the other had the look of panic and fear.
“There you went, advising me to return and send him food. Just look at that, it hasn’t even been an hour and that person already couldn’t wait any longer! Meddlesome!” Gu Fangzi glared at Lan Xiang coldly and grunted.
Lan Xiang swallowed her lips. Her head was lowered and she did not dare to squeal as she was sure it was her fault for being meddlesome.
“Let’s go! Not going back? Here to have a taste of the wind, are we?” Gu Fangzi stared at a delicate flower hatefully and crushed it in her hand.
Sang Wan, Sang Wan… that woman, that dreadful woman! She believed there would come a time when she would reign over that woman!
When Shi Fengju returned to Ning Garden, Sang Wan had not slept. Tonight, Shi Fengju was being overly sensitive, so naturally, she should become a little more careful.
Seeing Shi Fengju return from the study room after a short while, Sang Wan was sure she had a pretty clear idea of the situation. Quickly, she smiled and called out to him before serving him by adding the tea leaves and pouring the water.
“Take a seat. Let the servants do it!” Her actions made him feel a little apologetic and he smiled.
Sang Wan did not insist and sat with a chuckle. The servants prepared the tea in perfect order and Sang Wan sat to observe.
Shi Fengju hesitantly took a quick glimpse at Sang Wan discreetly. Her eyes were bright and her expression which showed no sign of wanting to head to bed ignited a war in his heart. In the end, there was no way of winning against the fiery rage from his stomach; giving a faint cough, he ordered Zhide. “Have the kitchen prepare a bowl of noodles for my supper. Go!”
Sang Wan and Zhide glanced at each other subconsciously for a moment. Their thoughts were truly on the same page – Shi Fengju just had his dinner not too long ago, and now he already wants supper?
“What are you standing blankly there for? Go quickly!” Shi Fengju’s expression had signs of awkwardness and Sang Wan immediately detected it after casting a glance at him. As such, she looked at Zhide deeply. Turning back to Shi Fengju, she slightly smiled, “Forgive me for not having seen the bigger picture. If only I had known that you would return late today, I would have requested the kitchen to prepare your meal a little later! Having been ready for a long time, the meal must not have tasted great! Again I apologize, but the fire in the kitchen stoves has already been put out and the kitchen staff has already left for home! If you’d like…”
An opportunity was now knocking at her door; taking this chance, she laughed, “tomorrow when I pay my visit to Mother, I would like to suggest opening up a small kitchen in Ning Garden. That would provide a lot more convenience for you to have your meal! Anytime, the stove can be lit and there will be no need to worry about the main kitchen!”
For something so trivial, Shi Fengju was not very concerned. However, as her suggestion was good, he nodded. “Then have it so. Tomorrow, bring that up to my mother.”
“Good! I’ll be sure to ask Mother tomorrow.” Sang Wan promised. Deep down, she was grateful for the unexpected opportunity. Gu Fangzi had made her put her guard up; who would ever know when Gu Fangzi might begin meddling with the meals in the main kitchen? It would definitely be better to open a small kitchen within her domain. If this opportunity were to pass, there would not be any other chance for her to bring her suggestion up again. By telling on Gu Fangzi, the mother and son would definitely not believe her, not to mention letting her make the decision.
Sitting opposite each other was not a thing for the two. But upon seeing a book left at a side after taking a glance at Sang Wan, Shi Fengju raised, “Ai, what’s that book you were reading?”
Sang Wan willingly closed the book and faced the indigo-colored cover to him. “《Records of the Ten Continents》!” and added, “I was just killing the spare time I had!”
Shi Fengju was slightly surprised and smiled, “to think you actually like reading that! In the past, a man following the way of the martial arts was obsessed with immortality. Unsatisfied as his heart deeply yearned for it, he went to consult a scholar, Dongfang Shuo. That record was then made into a book. On the note, he was actually forced to make up something, which was unfortunately believed by many to be true. As a result, the record was spread far and wide but it was nevertheless a lie in the end!”
Sang Wan did not expect Shi Fengju to have knowledge about this book. In an instant, her eyes glistened; leaning her head to a side, she spoke, “Even though it was made up, it is still mysteriously interesting! ‘Shengzhou was located northeast of the Eastern Sea, fabled to be connected to Penglai at a length of eighty-five million meters. That place was also said to be one million two hundred fifty thousand meters in length! Two hundred and thirty miles away from it, there’s the Eastern An, home to many immortals. There, the sky is always calm and the grass never dies. The temperature is never hot nor cold and is home to many other different animals. Also, there are the many different types of immortal grass growing on the many mountain formations formed there. Surrounding the continent, the water tastes sweet just like fruit syrup.’ Just listen to that, it sure is interesting! If only there were such interesting continents beneath the heavens, how wonderful would that be?”
Shi Fengju could not help but chuckle after hearing so. “Not bad! Its strangeness truly makes it interesting! Like those ‘wine springs’, ‘beautiful gold grass’, and others like ‘immortal grass, that grows on jade fields, named the Yangshen Zhi. Dispersed by spores under its leaves, a stalk is all that’s needed to resurrect the dead and can also cause the living to never die.’ That is all just too fictitious! Only the foolish ones would believe in the book after reading it!”
Hearing so, Sang Wan could not help but angrily glared at Shi Fengju humorously. She pouted at him and spoke in annoyance, “Just who is foolish? I’ve only read the book casually and spoke what was in my head. Mind you, there are those who do not believe in it and keep every word to heart but would still speak of it thoughtlessly!”
Underneath the soft light, the young lady in front of him looked angry, yet not angry; both shy and annoyed; and her gaze was bright and clear. Under such lighting, it revealed an exceptional beauty and indulgence. At that moment, Shi Fengju was in a daze and his heart was somewhat affected a little.
Sang Wan immediately felt a sense of embarrassment and regret after those words left her mouth. Their relationship was not at a point of familiarity where she could act so freely, so how could she have spoken to him in such a way ——
A moment of silence filled the chamber and a heavy sense of awkwardness sank.
“Ke,” Shi Fengju’s hand was clenched and he softly coughed into it. Awkwardly, he smiled, “Actually, my memory is quite good! Oh yes, I’ve the 《Great Tang Records on the Western Regions》, 《A Brief Account of Island Barbarians》, 《Miscellaneous Morsels from Youyang》, 《The Eastern Capital: A Dream of Splendor》, and many others – they’re fiction books that are interesting. If you’d like to have a read, I’ll have someone retrieve it for you tomorrow.”
Sang Wan’s bashfulness diminished a little and she lifted her gaze onto him. “I’ve already read those. Do you have something else?”
Shi Fengju became a little more surprised. “《Superfluous Things》? 《Miscellaneous Records of the Western Capital》?” But seeing Sang Wan remaining silent, he clapped his hands and laughed, “Your Sang family truly is——”
Sang Wan’s eyes slightly darkened as she seemed to have recalled something and her mood became somewhat low. Forcing a smile, she spoke, “At home, my big brother and sister-in-law cares a lot for me, especially my big brother. Never would he allow me to do any work like any other girls from other families. The books that my father left for us were many; other than the authoritative books of Confucianism and the teaching of Confucius and Mencius, I’ve already read a variety of the other books from burying my head deep into the pile of books.”
Sang Wan’s tone was touched with a slight amount of self-ridicule. What use was there for reading so many books? Recalling her past life, all it brought was chaos to her life!
Shi Fengju felt a little uncomfortable all of a sudden. He had seen how protective Sang Hong was to his younger sister. He carefully brought her up in the small household, all to carry out the plan of having her marry into the Shi family. Being the young mistress of the Shi household, it would be natural that she should not be someone who was once a village girl working in the farmland. Otherwise, she would be looked down upon by others when she married in.
“Still, my memory isn’t as great as Lord’s; as time passed, I may have already forgotten them. Given a chance to read them again isn’t bad! 《Old News Under the Heavens》, 《Tales of the Old Capital》, 《Superfluous Things》 and many other of the old records, looking at them again won’t get me bored!” Sang Wan quickly recovered the sense of sadness and laughed as she gazed at Shi Fengju brightly.
“That’s easy. I’ve them in my study room. Just request the name of the book to a servant and it’ll be brought over! Also, there’re a number of notebooks relating to poetry. If you’re not busy tomorrow, you can go there personally and pick a few for yourself!” Shi Fengju raised.
Sang Wan smiled and nodded. After mentioning a few more books, she and Shi Fengju spoke for a little more longer. On the topic of poetry, her interest and familiarity in it were lower as compared to old records. Fortunately, Shi Fengju liked to read magazines relating to geographical phenomenons. As such, the two spoke with enough interactions and the atmosphere become lively.
But deep down, Shi Fengju could not help but laugh. His dislike for poetry was due to a reason. Even though his reason might seem a little funny, it was deeply linked to Sang Wan.
In the past, Wang Shi was afraid that Sang Wan, her soon-to-be daughter-in-law, might be too knowledgeable and might step above her son’s head in time to come after their marriage. As such, she instructed a head servant to purchase a list of poetry books back. She ordered her son to study them from day and night all so that he would not lose to his future wife.
Because Shi Fengju’s heart only had Gu Fangzi, his view of Sang Wan only had resentment. The more Wang Shi did so, the more he refused to listen. As for those books that Zhuan Huan brought to him, only God knows where they were placed to grow mold! He did not even have the interest to flip a page from those books!
Unexpectedly, his wife was just as disinterested in those types of books as he was. It seems his mother had placed her focus on the wrong route.
While secretly thinking about his past, Shi Fengju felt a thought somewhere within him. If only, if he did not have Fangzi, no, if the relationship did not form in the first place, then would he——
A chill erupted in his heart and he quickly killed the thought off. How could he have such a thought? His cousin had already sacrificed so much for him, suffered so many grievances all just for him… how could he forget those?
Just when the conversation was getting a little livelier, Shi Fengju’s expression suddenly changed slightly. Sang Wan could not help but wonder. Words from her mouth stopped flowing out as she looked to observe.
Shi Fengju smiled awkwardly. Just as he tried to come up with another topic for them both to talk about, Zhide, fortunately, came bursting into the chamber with a bowl of noddles. The aroma from the bowl of steaming hot noddles rushed into his nose and his eyes could not help but brighten up.
“Lord, please have your noodles first! It’s already quite late, I’ll go have a wash first before going to bed!” Observing the situation, Sang Wan smiled and got up.
“Go first then!” Shi Fengju’s appetite returned and he once again managed to seize control of his mental state.
Sang Wan pursed her lips and smiled before calling for Liu Ya to follow her.