“Duty must be complied to, and manners must not be ignored. Sister-in-law’s behavior is indeed inappropriate! Your husband ought to have taught you!” Ren Zhixian spoke in all seriousness. He became even more disappointed with Sang Wan, and he could not help but sigh to himself, It sure is difficult to find like-minded people under this sky!
“I apologize for my negligence!” Sang Wan quickly stood up.
“Sang Wan!” Shi Fengju could not help but be angry, and he glanced coldly at Ren Zhixian. He had never thought highly of his self-righteous and pedantic brother-in-law. If he could act in such a way, then he shouldn’t have sold off all his family’s assets, as well as his wife’s dowry, clean and then act as if that was meant to be. What made him even angrier was what happened to the four maidservants who followed his big sister when she was married. In less than a year, other than Cui Zhu, the other three whom he had done the deed with were all sold off when times were difficult. Presently, the remaining Cui Zhu had become his concubine!
It was fine that a mistake was pointed out by his big sister, but there was no need for his irrelevant comment! If he were truly a knowledgeable person, then he shouldn’t be doing anything that would cause others to doubt him! Is Shi Fengju’s wife someone whom he could speak lightly of?
Shi Fengju grasped Sang Wan’s arm and pulled her back to her seat. “We’re a family; there’s no need for so many rules! When did Big Sis start paying so much attention to the little details!” Shi Fengju smiled. His words were understated, and his hand secretly pinched Sang Wan’s arm as he tried to appease her.
“That’s right. Yumei ah, you’re wrong about Sang Wan!” Wang Shi smiled as she continued, “Your younger sister-in-law knows the rules very well! I do slightly dislike that politeness of hers. We’re a family, and we shouldn’t be living with so much reservation among one another! Keke, just when she had finally made herself at ease in front of me, you just have to point that out! That’ll surely make Sang Wan ill at ease! Sang Wan ah, your Big Sis has always been like this, but don’t think about it too much! Keke, have a seat quickly! Oh, how did the dinner preparations go?”
“Nanny Li’s observing over at the kitchen. I’m sure dinner will be ready very soon!” Sang Wan quickly replied as she smiled at her mother-in-law gratefully.
“Ah yes, that’s right. I spoke without thinking. Sister-in-law Sang Wan, please don’t take it to heart! Keke, you truly are blessed to have my mother and my younger brother stand by you!” Seeing her mother and her brother speak for Sang Wan, her heart felt even more unhappy. But sensing her younger brother’s annoyance, she stopped. She gave another glance before letting out a laugh, “How come I do not see Cousin Fangzi? Second Brother Shi Fengju, what is Cousin Fangzi doing? Why didn’t she come and see me when I’m back?”
Shi Fengju’s heart tightened, and he looked at Sang Wang unintentionally. That fell on Shi Yumei’s sight, and his face made her even more resentful. Well done, it hasn’t been long since you have been married to my younger brother, and you are already controlling him to such a sight! At the thought of a son being born in the future, Shi Yumei trembled.
Sang Wan’s face remained calm, and her brows did not crease, but her heart secretly cried for help. Shi Fengju’s gaze at her, as well as Shi Yumei’s resentful expression, were all seen clearly by her. She could not help but wonder if there was anyone more unfortunate than her! Sir, your sister is asking you, but why did you have to look at me! What does your Fangzi have to do with me?
“Unexpectedly, she had to go to the temple yesterday. She’ll be back by tomorrow! When she’s back, she’ll naturally go and see you.” Shi Fengju smiled a little unnaturally.
“I see! I knew that Fangzi’s an excellent person and will never neglect coming to see me!” Shi Yumei giggled. While on the topic, she rambled on about Fangzi’s good with endless words of praise while occasionally speaking about their common past.
Being an elderly, Wang Shi had always liked reminiscing about the past. As for Sang Wan, she could only sit by the side and remain silent. As the conversation went between Wang Shi and Shi Yumei, their words sounded extremely ear-piercing in Shi Fengju’s ears, and he did not want to continue listening. At last, when he could endure no more, he interrupted the conversation by directing a question to Ren Zhixian with a smile, “Oh, didn’t Brother-in-law Zhixian say you were going to Hangzhou to participate in an examination this year? Then why—”
He remembered that during the day of his wedding, his big sister could not attend, and she sent a servant to relay that she had to remain by her husband’s side to serve him so as to let him focus on the examination that was going to be held this year.
Ren Zhixian’s expression changed before returning to his usual calm face again. He coughed a few times unnaturally before speaking, “Erm, this is an unlucky year, and I happen to be unfit to travel… so it isn’t worth to give a shot this year… The next one, I’ll surely go for the next one!”
Hearing Shi Fengju raise the question, Shi Yumei could not help but feel a gust of anger in her stomach. An unlucky year indeed! But it wasn’t him but her! Putting aside the travel expense to Hangzhou which he spent on drinking with those ‘scholars’ in the brothel, he was firm in his mindset of not letting her return to her parental house to borrow money! However, when he said she wasn’t allowed to, she was clear that it was not about the money, but the reason behind the borrowing of the money which she should not tell anyone! That shouldn’t even be a problem because what her parental family had was money, and since her mother and her younger brother had always cared for her a lot, just coming up with a few excuses would have solved their problems as easy as a pie! Then the problem came. He was so drunk that day that he fell into a ditch and sprained his foot which took more than a month to heal! When it was finally healed, the registration period for the examination had already ended!
Shi Yumei felt sullen, and she was not in the mood to continue praising others. Clenching her fists, she smiled as she said, “Yes ah, yes ah. The fortune teller said that my husband should not travel far this year, especially to the far southeast! It’s a provincial examination that happens every three years anyway, so it won’t run away. There’ll still be many more chances to come; missing one doesn’t mean anything! As long as he has a talent for studying, he’s sure to pass by working hard again!”
“That’s very true! Although passing is important, one’s life is even more so!” Wang Shi smiled.
“Keke! Then, Brother-in-law, I shall once again wish you success to top the examinations!” Shi Fengju raised a brow as he cupped his hands towards Ren Zhixian.
“Keke, many thanks to Brother Fengju! When that time comes, I’ll be sure to drink a few cups with you!” The awkwardness on Ren Zhixian’s face was immediately swept away, and it was replaced with a radiant smile as he cupped his hands at Shi Fengju. It was as if the official overseeing the examinations could easily be controlled in his palms.
Shi Fengju sneered discreetly. If someone like him were able to pass, then the official truly is worthless!
As they spoke, Nanny Li entered. After greeting with everyone, she announced that dinner was ready, and everyone followed her to the dining room.
At that time, Shi Lian felt a little hesitant. As an unmarried woman, she was not supposed to eat at the same table as Big brother-in-law, but the Shi family had never been concerned about it even in the past when the Shi relatives came over. But Shi Lian was well aware of Big brother-in-law’s personality, and she was afraid that he might have something to say to humiliate her without giving her a route to retreat. As such, she smiled, “Mother, Second Brother, and Big Sister, my, my stomach hasn’t been feeling well these few days, so…”
Wang Shi had neither mistreated her daughter who was not hers, nor had she given her any preferential treatment. But since Shi Lian had always been quiet and had never tried to make herself liable before her, she spoke casually, “You may leave then. Have the kitchen make light dishes. If you’re still feeling unwell, tell Sang Wan to invite a doctor over to examine you!”
“Understood, thank you, Mother, for your care!” Shi Lian quickly bowed before fleeing.
In the dining room, everyone was seated. Sang Wan remained standing as she busily instructed the servants to serve the food up on the table while she personally arranged the tableware neatly in front of Wang Shi before standing behind her and asking for a servant to bring a clean pair of chopsticks and a plate to pick up food for her mother-in-law.
Since her big sister-in-law had already mentioned the rules, then abiding by them would be best for her.
Seeing so, Shi Yumei was secretly satisfied. Don’t think I won’t be able to deal with you just because you’re the Ma’am of the household now!
Ren Zhixian looked at the spread of dishes on the table and could not help but frown because there was no dish that he liked, and even the fish was braised and not steamed!
Ren Zhixian secretly swore, The Shi family are going overboard with their bullying!
“These dishes are too greasy! Eating too much of these lavish meals isn’t good for the body! There should be some lite dishes to benefit the body!” Ren Zhixian spoke without holding back.
His face was so dark that it appeared as if someone still owed him a few hundred silvers. It was simply impolite of him to have said that, and those words sounded even more unkind when they fell on the ears of others.
The arrangements for tonight’s dinner were made by Sang Wan, so she was placed in an embarrassing situation at this point, but she quickly smiled and replied, “I do not know of Big Brother-in-law’s preferences, so Sang Wan seeks your forgiveness! I’ll have the kitchen cook a few light ones immediately!”
“Don’t know your Big Brother-in-law’s preferences?” Shi Yumei seemingly smiled as she laughed, “If you don’t know, then you don’t know. There’s no need to sound so gallant! Younger sister-in-law, you’re worrying too much! You just have to take good care of Second Brother Fengju. Others are not worth worrying about!”
Sang Wan’s face blushed all of a sudden. Clueless of what she should do, she stood motionless.
“Yumei! How can you say that!” Wang Shi frowned.
Shi Fengju was also annoyed by those words, and he smiled faintly, “Big Sister, unlike how Big Sister phrased it, Sang Wan only had good intentions! Nanny Li, have the kitchen make a plate of stir-fried cabbage as well as a plate of stir-fried radish. Do remember to tell them to add less seasoning and use less oil! Big Brother-in-law, will that be fine? I remember that the last time when I went to your house, Big Brother-in-law was especially fond of these two vegetables and said how good they were! I’ve always remembered that Big Brother-in-law has always liked to eat those!”
“Fengju’s memory truly is good!” Ren Zhixian turned a little awkward.
At that time when Shi Fengju came to visit, it was Ren Zhixian himself who deliberately asked the servants to make those tasteless vegetables. He was sure that someone who was born with a golden spoon would definitely find those dishes difficult to swallow. When that time came, he could take the opportunity to use his position as his brother-in-law to educate him earnestly about being thrifty and simple. That would surely win over his respect admiration.
He thought that to be so because he felt that the only thing that his family had over Shi family was being able to endure ‘hardships.’
But who knew that Shi Fengju would not give him the opportunity to do so. He smoothly finished the meal and even used that against him today.
The courtyard had a small kitchen with fresh ingredients always available. The cooks were also experts, and they were cooking. Very swiftly, the two stir-fried vegetables were brought forward.
“Put them in front of my brother-in-law. Okay, let us eat! Otherwise, the dishes will turn cold!” Shi Fengju smiled and gestured to everyone else. Seeing that his sister had something to add, he smiled and continued, “Xiu Li, help my big sister pick up some shredded bamboo shoots and chicken with scallops. Big Sister, those are your favorites!”
“Second Brother, you remember!” Pleased, Shi Yumei smiled and began eating.