Chapter 52 (V2): Indirect Criticism and Counterattack
Deep down, Sang Wan was clear of how easily Wang Shi could be coaxed, and at the same time of her unpredictable temperament. Although her heart was not at ease, she dared not show a single hesitation on the surface and nodded as she spoke, “Mother, don’t worry. Sang Wan will not put you to shame!”
Wang Shi smiled, “That’s good to hear, that’s good to hear! Your family is a family of scholars, Mother believes you will certainly not lose to others! Sang Wan, this isn’t only about Mother’s face, but also yours. When we’re there, many other women with status within Qingzhou will be present. When they witness your capability, who would dare to underestimate you!”
“Yes, Mother!” Sang Wan’s heart tightened and she became somewhat nervous for a moment.
“En,” Wang Shi smiled and grinned. “It’s good that you understand! Go back then! For the next few days, there won’t be any need for you to come and greet me. Whatever books you wish to read, just say. And whichever books the household does not have, just have a servant buy it!”
Sang Wan was not sure whether to laugh or to cry for the way money was used. Was studying a thing possibly done overnight? However, since her mother-in-law had spoken, these **** two or three days, it would be best to at least act it out. As such, she expressed her gratitude before getting up to leave.
Originally, for such a banquet, it would be Gu Fangzi who followed along. But after the trouble with Gu Jin, Wang Shi felt a little guilty, and together with her fear of Old Mistress Zhuang’s sharp mouth and nose which would provoke Sang Wan and Gu Fangzi deliberately, she simply had Gu Fangzi remain in the household.
And of course, Gu Fangzi took it as a sign that her aunt had favored her less. Even though she agreed, her heart had a strong sense of hatred for having such an insensible father who did not care for her, always creating trouble, and always acting complacent in front of Wang Shi.
As Gu Fangzi pondered deeply, she suddenly had this thought, that at least she had a father, unlike Sang Wan whose parents were both gone! But thinking again, Sang Wan had her siblings to rely on, whereas she had no one!
In that moment, she could not help but feel even more saddened, and she burst into tears secretly.
The night before the banquet, Nanny Jiang personally sent the new clothes and matching jewelry to Ning Garden and handed it over to Sang Wan.
A three-layered clothing, with the middle being high-collared and beige in color with stitchings of shallow pink and gold hibiscus flowers around the collar to match with the outer coat’s collar. Right beneath the high-collar was a plum blossom shaped using white jade, and the heart of the flower was completed using a shiny dove-blood red ruby. Autumn color scheme used on the skirt and its floral patterns weaved using extremely fine golden threads. Even the belt, the pendant, and the sachet all looked extremely well-done.
A pair long hairpin made from chestnut jasper stone, and a flower hairpin with a pearl-sized jasper embedded, connected together with a fine silk tassel. At its end, it was decorated with a pomegranate-colored glazed glass pearl which was as large as a thumb. Using them with a suiting hairstyle would make a complete set, accompanied by the other accessories of jade, gold, pearls, and precious stones, it was an awe.
The tailor and jewelry professional no doubt lived up to their reputation. This set of clothes and jewelry were a good fit with Sang Wan’s temperament. Not too luxurious yet not too vulgar at the same time, revealing her graceful elegance within the riches.
Liu Ya and the others laid the jewelry and clothes together and the crowd could not help but meet it with praise. Even Sang Wan liked it, and she gratefully thanked Nanny Jiang.
Partly intentional, Nanny Jiang laughed, “Old Mistress said to have Young Mistress wear this! The Shi household will sooner or later be your’s to care for, so there’ll be many more goods things to come!” Picking up a pendant inlaid with a lustrous gold-plated jadeite, she said to Sang Wan, “Such a smooth and transparent one, a good jadeite like this is very rare, not just in Qingzhou, but even in Jiangnan, there won’t be anything like this elsewhere. This pendant is Old Mistress’s most precious! Even her eldest daughter whom she most dote was not given this when she was married off!”
Sang Wan stared at the pendant that was as huge as a thumb and perfectly round and smooth, with its color like the river with no impurity. It was clearer than the jadeite bracelet which she owned. As such, she knew that Nanny Jiang was speaking the truth.
So Sang Wan laughed, “Sang Wan is undeserving to have Mother’s fondness. Sang Wan will double her filiality towards Mother! Nanny Jiang, please tell Mother that the gift is too valuable and Sang Wan cannot accept it. After the banquet, Sang Wan will return it to Mother!”
Nanny Jiang praised secretly: Young Mistress really knows how to say good words! To state Old Mistress’ precious to be a feared gift to accept yet said it in a reasonable manner. Even if Old Mistress were to accept it back, she wouldn’t lose her face and be deemed ‘petty’.
Nanny Jiang hurriedly spoke, “Young Mistress, please don’t say that! Old Mistress specifically told this old servant to give this to you. These jewelry are for Young Mistress to keep after the banquet!”
Sang Wan was taken aback, and suddenly felt even more pressure pressing onto her. For Mother-in-law to even take out a precious jewelry, it seems the gathering is an event which she had to win. Otherwise——
“Then Sang Wan shall thank Mother! The day isn’t early anymore, Nanny, please go back! I’ll discuss about this again after the banquet!” Sang Wan smiled.
If she was unsuccessful at the banquet, then she definitely had no face to accept these jewelry.
Nanny Jiang understood the meaning and smiled as she left.
Early the next morning, Sang Wan dressed tidily and checked herself repeatedly before bringing Nanny Li and Liu Ya along, together with two other servant girls, to where Wang Shi was.
Wang Shi was already waiting and seeing Sang Wan, her eyes glistened as she nod her head and said, “My daughter-in-law truly is beautiful! All of you, just look at her, there’s no one in Qingzhou who can second such a magnificent aura, is it not?”
The crowd laughed, “Not just the aura, there’s definitely not a second with a body who can wear those clothes!”
Wang Shi was pleased and ordered a servant to bring the jade green handkerchief from her collection which came from Tianshui and replaced the red silk handkerchief in Sang Wan’s hand.
Sang Wan smiled and received it with thanks, but suddenly, the thought of a wooden puppet which resembled a human came to mind.
She was no better than a wooden puppet. At the very least, the puppet could not think. As for her, she had a battle to conquer.
The mother and daughter left the household looking gorgeous, bringing with them a group of maidservants, as they traveled by carriage to the Zhuang family’s courtyard located in the southern part of the city.
The Zhuang family was also one of the wealthy families in Qingzhou. As such, it was needless to say how beautifully the house was decorated. Today, Old Mistress Zhuang held the banquet at Yuhua pavilion in her flower garden. Under the wide canopy sat the beautiful flower bed flourished inside the loft, and a wide water body with a stage erected by the side. While setting up the banquet, one can enjoy the picturesque beauty and the calm breeze which blows from the water body. Truly, much clever planning must have been done to accomplish it.
When Sang Wan and Wang Shi arrived, the Zhuang’s garden had already arrived many of the wealthy women, who were dressed beautifully with splendid accessories all around and had a fresh aura around them, with many making conversations around them. The air had a perfect touch of flower fragrance and the place was very lively with the smiles and laughter filling the atmosphere.
“Oh, Sister Shi has finally arrived!” Old Mistress Zhuang approached them with a smile and greeted. Meeting Sang Wan in the eyes, Old Mistress Zhuang’s eyes glistened and she went to hold Sang Wan’s hand before measuring her carefully with her eyes. With a laugh, she spoke, “This must be Sang Wan, right? Keke, no doubt fine feathers make fine birds! Now that you’re all dressed up, I almost couldn’t recognize you!” Having said that, she smiled and announced it to the crowd, “All of you, have a look at Sister Shi’s new daughter-in-law. Isn’t she beautiful? At first glance, she’s definitely no different from a girl born with a silver spoon!”
The crowd loved liveliness, and to say they were not envious of the Shi family was impossible. Having such an opportunity, why not take advantage of it? The crowd gathered and answered, “No doubt!”
Wang Shi became furious and her expression changed slightly. A mouthful of anger was trapped in her chest, unable to exit nor disappear. She had wanted to tell Old Mistress Zhuang off, but the anger in her made her not be able to, and all she could do was give a glare.
Sang Wan smiled gently and quietly retrieved her hand before bowing to the crowd. Holding onto Wang Shi bashfully with a smile, she spoke to Old Mistress Zhuang, “Sang Wan is undeserving of such praise! The Sang family is one who works the land and undertakes studying of knowledge, and so, it isn’t as wealthy as Old Mistress’ family. However, to be able to receive Young Master’s affection and Mother-in-law’s guidance, Sang Wan is blessed for being able to marry into the Shi family. Mother-in-law’s kindness, to treat Sang Wan like her own biological daughter and providing the necessities of life, Sang Wan is actually not worthy of it! Only by serving with affection and being filial to Mother-in-law can Sang Wan repay for such love!”
Her words not only solved her own trouble, but at the same time gave praise to Wang Shi many folds.
Wang Shi was pleased and her anger finally lifted. Patting Sang Wan’s hand gently, she proudly laughed, “Once you enter our family, you’re already part of the Shi family and the Shi family is yours! Sang Wan is knowledgeable and virtuous, with a temperament greater than others. No wonder Sister Zhuang had to make a fuss!” Having said that, Wang Shi continued laughing.
The crowd thought so too. Regardless of Sang Wan’s origins, as of now, she was the Shi family’s eldest daughter-in-law, which means everything of the Shi family belongs to her, no? The marriage was also held by the elders of both families. So long as no disaster comes her way, the Shi family would definitely not repudiate the marriage! There would surely be many more occasions in the future where there comes a need for partnership. Why offend someone who’s still well with them? Might as well take the opportunity to initiate a better relationship with a chance to even win favoritism!
And so, they quickly came forward and smiled to fool the past by praising greatly.
Old Mistress Zhuang became unhappy and closed her mouth with a smile before calling for everyone to enter the pavilion to have a seat.
The wealthy females would first have their meals before enjoying the flowers and the opera.
Shortly after the banquet began, the women took their seats. Wang Shi, being the wealthiest woman in the whole of Qingzhou, sat at the main table before introducing Sang Wan to each and every member seated at the main table. Wife of Qingzhou’s senior provincial government official, Old Mistress Li, and her daughter; Old Mistress Xia, wife of the owner of Xiaji Moneyhouse, and her daughter-in-law; wife of the wealthy landlord Li and Old Mistress Zhuang’s sister-in-law, Jiang Shi, and her niece, Tang Yuzhen——the talented girl claimed by Old Mistress Zhuang.
Sang Wan, instinctively stole several glances at Tang Yuzhen. Their age were almost the same, an oval-shaped face, a pair of short shoulders, pale skin, fine facial features, and wore a pale-color embroidered clothes. Graceful with a degree of modesty, and the strong scholarly aura around her; no doubt a person who had immersed herself in poetry.
Sensing Sang Wan’s gaze, Tang Yuzhen raised her brow and sent a friendly smile. Embarrassed, Sang Wan returned a smile.
Tang Yuzhen’s smile held a mix of clear wealth and generosity, an attitude which had a sense of being above all else yet kept at a peaceful altitude. But if she truly was wise, why would she hold such a high self-esteem?
Sang Wan’s heart began to feel somewhat uneasy. All she hoped for was that Old Mistress Zhuang would have a change of attitude and not come up with any more evil plans targeted towards her. Apparently, even she believed there would be that possibility.
The dining table was filled with many rich and sumptuous dishes, exquisite needless to say. The women were generally picky eaters, and after tasting the food, they gave their praise. Only Sang Wan sat eating with no sense of taste; her mind was only filled with wondering what will happen soon after.
After the meal, the servants cleared the tables away, burned an incense, and served fresh tea for the women to freshen their mouth as they sat to chat.