“Mother, let Sang Wan take a seat. It’s enough to have Xiu Chun serve us! We don’t fuss about this on days when guests or relatives come over, but why are there so many rules when Big Sister and Big Brother-in-law are not even outsiders?” Shi Fengju picked up a braised lamb meat as he spoke without hesitation.
When Wang Shi heard him so, she could not help but turn around. Only then did she see Sang Wan serving her from behind! “Aiya!” Shocked, she smiled and gestured, “Child, you’re too simple-minded! Your Big Sister only said that mindlessly, and you took it so seriously! Come, take a seat! Quickly!”
“Then, thank you, Mother!” Sang Wan cast a glance at Shi Yumei. Seeing that she was remaining silent, Sang Wan smiled and curtsied before passing the plate and chopsticks to Xiu Chun. She then dragged herself to sit beside Shi Fengju. Of course, there was no way for Shi Yumei to add anything! If she were to do so, then wouldn’t it mean that her position as the eldest daughter of Shi family to be more distant compared to friends and relatives?
Moreover, the table was packed with many delicious dishes that she liked. Obviously, those had caught more of her attention than bickering with her younger brother’s wife. When her mood was great, she was too lazy to fuss about others.
Shi Yumei’s character was very lively, and she had lots of words to speak with her own mother and brother. The entire meal was filled with laughter and happiness. Shi Fengju also especially had someone bring over a pot of heavy chrysanthemum wine that was three years old to complement the meal. Its amber color in the jade cup, as well as its fragrance, made Shi Yumei elated, and they ate the entire meal joyously.
Because of his statement about healthy living and Shi Fengju’s few words, only Ren Zhixian could not bear to say otherwise, and he could only eat the vegetables that were prepared especially for him. Looking at the table filled entirely with delicious dishes as their fragrance slowly traveled into his nose, all he could do was swallow a few mouthfuls of saliva.
However, although the vegetables were stir-fried, the amount of oil used was just about right and the cook was also talented, which made the vegetables a hundred times tastier than the ones at home and with a hint of freshness in them. But little did he know that the kitchen staff had added soup stock and dense seafood mushroom sauce when cooking up his dishes!
The tastier the food, the more attracted he was to the other dishes on the table like a hungry locust, and his eyes subconsciously took another look at them.
After the meal, everyone went to the parlor to chat cozily. It had been almost a year since Wang Shi and Shi Fengju saw Shi Yumei; the mother, the daughter, and the son chatted gleefully. As their conversation got more intense, Ren Zhixian cleared his throat with a cough before stubbornly saying that he’d like to return to rest.
Indeed, they should return to rest. Wang Shi was thoughtful of the long journey they had to take to arrive here, and she quickly had the people see them off. Shi Fengju faintly cast a glance at Ren Zhixian who sat formally, and there was a slight unhappiness in his heart. This person must be deliberately trying to dampen the mood! Really, just what is going on in that mind of his!
“Mother, then we’ll come over to accompany you tomorrow!” Shi Yumei smiled before getting up.
“Cough, cough!” After hearing those words, Ren Zhixian coughed even more heavily this time as he gestured to Shi Yumei with his eyes.
Shi Fengju was taken aback as he watched quietly from the side.
Shi Yumei’s expression had turned lukewarm for a moment before it quickly regained its liveliness as she smiled gleefully at Wang Shi. “Mother, I want to sleep together with you tonight! I want to stay with you!”
“That—” Wang Shi glanced at Ren Zhixian in question, but his gaze seemed to have wandered far, as if he had not noticed that glance.
“It’s no problem, it’s no problem! Mother, just let him go! I’ll stay to accompany you!” Shi Yumei smiled.
“Alright, alright! Mother can’t ask for more!” Wan Shi chuckled, and she patted the back of her palm intimately.
“Cui Zhu, let’s go!” Ren Zhixian raised his head and called Cui Zhu.
Wang Shi’s expression changed, while Shi Fengju’s gaze became as sharp as a cold dagger. How dare he do that? To call his concubine like an emperor right in front of his wife’s family on the first day of the visit! What’s more, that’s his wife’s only servant who remained to serve his wife!
Just when Shi Fengju was about to make a comment, he heard his sister yell at Cui Zhu, “What’re you standing there for? Go on!” She angrily shut her mouth as she watched Ren Zhixian leave with Cui Zhu.
“Not that I should be saying this, but that—” Wang Shi was annoyed.
“Mother!” Shi Yumei spoke flightily, “Boys mah, aren’t they all like that! It’s just a lass, there’s nothing to worry about!”
“You ah!” Since her daughter had already said so, what can a mother do?
“Then we shall take our leave too!” Shi Fengju tucked his anger deep into his heart, and he left with Sang Wan. As Shi Yumei’s younger brother, he was in no place to intervene with his sister’s matters.
There was only silence as they were on their way back. Shi Fengju’s expression remained unhappy, and Sang Wan remained quiet. However, in her heart, she very much agreed with Shi Yumei’s words. Boys, don’t they all behave that way!
As she watched Shi Fengju’s unhappy expression, she could not help but think to herself, What’s there for you to be angry at? Aren’t you also a man yourself, the things you do may not be any better than your brother-in-law. It’s unfortunate that I, Sang Wan, do not have a firm family to fall back on like your sister does!
“I did not expect my big brother-in-law to cross over the line! Big sister too, how can she endure such treatment!” Upon returning to the small garden, Shi Fengju sat down comfortably before finally voicing his thoughts.
Sang Wan received a cup of hot tea from Liu Ya and passed it to Shi Fengju before smiling to say, “A woman must follow her husband, be he a rooster or dog. What else can a female do but endure? I do think that it’s good for Big Sister to have such a heart. At the very least, she won’t be living uncomfortably, and it’ll make the days much easier to live by!”
Shi Fengju was startled by her words, for he did not expect her to say so. Those words seemed to be pointed at an additional person, and they seemed to have another meaning as well. Shi Fengju put his cup aside and ordered the servants to leave before smiling, “Sang Wan, are you still angry at me?”
“Just where did you get that idea from!” Sang Wan’s face turned slightly red. She had been at a loss for words before she quickly smiled. “Aren’t, aren’t we different from them?”
“Of course we’re different from them, we’re—” The smile on Shi Fengju’s face stiffened.
Obviously, what he understood from those words were different from what Sang Wan did, and only now did he realize it!
What he had thought was that he and Ren Zhixian were different, while Sang Wan had actually meant that they were a fake couple unlike Big Sister and Big Brother-in-law.
Shi Fengju’s already frustrated mood turned worse in an instant as he gazed at Sang Wan speechlessly. He wanted to tell her how regretful he was, how he would wish for their agreement to become void, so that she could stay by his side as his wife. However, he knew he should not say it, for his intuition told him that Sang Wan would surely not agree.
“I’m not my big brother-in-law. We will surely be different from them.” Shi Fengju glanced deeply at Sang Wan before getting up after a while with a smile on his face. “I’m sure these days must have tired you out, so you should turn in early! My big sister and my big brother-in-law will be staying over for a few days, so I’m afraid there’ll be a little more work than before! Big Sister isn’t easy to deal with, but be patient when taking care of her. I’ll thank you ahead of time!”
Watching him speak so seriously, Sang Wan could not help but giggle. Very good, at least he knew she was tired and how to say his thanks.
“Don’t worry, I will! In any case, I can’t let the eldest daughter suffer from any grievances in her own home! I’m not really familiar with your big sister’s temperament, so if there’s anything that doesn’t please her, you have to help me out! Whatever apology I have to do, I’ll do so!”
Sang Wan felt that there was a deeper reason behind Shi Yumei’s hostility towards her, a reason that even Shi Fengju, the “victim,” would not understand. What’s more, as the eldest daughter of the household while holding the reputation for being shameless, just a few words from her would strip Sang Wan off any opportunity to defend herself. Therefore, taking precautions was necessary.
“If there’s anything that annoys her, you can just tell me! I won’t let you suffer too.” Seeing that she was willing to rely on him, his heart felt somewhat happy without his knowing, and his eyes glistened.
The two mentioned no things further and went to rest.
Inside the main courtyard, Shi Yumei lay beside her mother on the bed before speaking her mind out. Then, she gradually dozed off.
Her reason to sleep with her mother that night was most importantly to speak out what was on her mind.
Early the next morning when Shi Fengju and Sang Wan just got up, Xiu Chun arrived at the small garden.
That shocked the both of them. Why had she come?
“This is to Young Master, ” Xiu Chun smiled. “Mistress has requested for Young Master to visit her first after getting dressed before carrying on with work! As for Ma’am, there’ll not be a need to go over to greet Mistress today, so please carry on with the preparations for the festival!”
Hearing that Xiu Chun’s arrival had nothing to do with her, Sang Wan’s heart was relieved, and she heard Shi Fengju say with a nod, “Tell Mother that I’ll be heading over soon!” With that, he instructed the servants to serve him quickly for him to wash his face and have a change of clothes. His mother was never one to wake up early, so surely, she must have something really important to say to him!
Sang Wan briefly stopped Xiu Chun for a while, “When you go back, tell Mistress that I’ll have someone send over Sir’s breakfast too! Yesterday, I had the kitchen staff prepare a few dishes that Big Sister and Big Brother-in-law will like, so I’ll have someone send those over!”
Shi Fengju hurriedly went over to where his mother was, and he took a seat before asking, “Why didn’t Mother and Big Sister sleep a little more? Is there something important to have called me over so early in the morning?”
“How can I ah!” Wang Shi let out a long sigh before using her fist to softly hit her chest a few times. Shi Yumei, who wore pale green clothes embroidered with chrysanthemums, sat beside Wang Shi with her head lowered. Her expression did not look too good.
Shi Fengju’s mind somehow understood that this was surely related to his big sister’s family.
“Mother, did something happen to Big Sister’s family? Mother, you can tell me directly, and I will have someone to deal with it! She is my sister, not some outsider!” Shi Fengju smiled. Even though he disliked his big brother-in-law, there was no way he could watch his big sister suffer. And it wasn’t like Shi family could not help them because they could even provide a shelter above their heads for their entire life with no problems.
“Second brother!” Shi Yumei looked at him, and her eyes were filled with gratitude.
“Ai!” Wang Shi let out another sigh before saying, “Just see if there’s a courtyard within the household that’s convenient and have Sang Wan arrange for some servants to tidy and arrange that place. Your big sister and your big brother-in-law will be staying with us!”
“…” Shi Fengju’s eyes widened. He was ready to clean up the mess his immoral big brother-in-law might have caused outside, but hearing those words from his mother, they sounded incredibly unbelievable.