The sister-in-law and brother looked and smiled bitterly to each other.
“What?” Sang Hong looked at them strangely before smiling, “Don’t worry. This is an extremely big good news. They’ll definitely be happy for us and not otherwise!” Surely they wouldn’t ridicule, and create trouble, for us.
“You, sit down!” Fang Shi forcefully pressed him on his seat and glared at him, “Use your head a little! Yufei is now a top escorted examinee. He can be considered an important figure in Yangliu Town, who knows how many would come to bootlick and gift him with gifts! Knowing Second Uncle and Aunt, what do you think they would do? Are you trying to corner your own brother to a cliff?!”
Sang Hong’s expression changed and an obvious amount of cold sweat formed on his back, “Maybe, maybe— they won’t…”
“Do you really think so? Hmph, they stick their nose in Sang Wan’s matters. What makes you think they wouldn’t do it to Yufei!” Fang Shi sneered.
Sang Hong’s heart sank and his hands turned cold. He knew his wife wasn’t wrong. With his second uncle and aunt’s personality, they would surely do so. What’s more, they were the seniors. As the younger generation, there was no way they could talk against them or they would be labeled “unfilial”. If Father and Mother were still around, that same principle could at least be used to suppress Second Uncle and Aunt since Father and Mother were older than them. However, Father and Mother are no longer around!
“Sister-in-law is right. I rushed home ahead of the group, who’ll be here to announce the good news, because of this as well.” Sang Yufei let out a gentle sigh, “It’s not that I wish to leave them out, but their actions cannot call for any respect from others!”
Fang Shi cast a glance at Sang Yufei and she thought to herself: The top escorted examinee indeed speaks with a certain standard! Those two’s actions had never called for our respect. How I wish we could expose their actions out to the public!
“But the group will be here in a day or two, there’s no way you can hide it from them for long ah!” Sang Hong frowned. For the sake of his own brother’s reputation, he would put aside his feelings, and even his uncle and aunt too.
“I’ve an idea that I’d like to try. At least, that’ll be able to keep their mouths shut…” Sang Yufei said, before revealing his plan to his brother and sister-in-law.
Sang Hong remained hesitant after listening from Sang Yufei, but Fang Shi covered her mouth and praised with a laugh, “I think that’s not too bad, let’s go ahead with it! Let’s make them utterly speechless!” Then again, she sighed, “They know no shame…I’m just afraid that after we go ahead with the plan, they might shameless insist on making up to us!”
“We’ll just go with the flow!” Sang Yufei sighed.
Two outrageous seniors were enough to push the climbing him all the way to the edge of a cliff.
After the decision was made, Sang Yufei went to change into his old washed out clothes before heading to Sang Pingliang’s house and knocking on his door.
Li Shi peered through the door viewer and shouted deliberately, “Who’s this?”
“Second Aunt, it’s me!” With a smile, Sang Yufei raised his voice in reply.
After a long while, the door finally squeaked open. Li Shi stood cross-legged by the door with a hand supporting on her hip and the other on the side of the doorframe. Taking a quick glimpse at Sang Yufei, she said, seemingly smiling, “Oh, our Xiao Fei is back! How did it go ah? Huangzhou’s a bustling place, did you have fun there?”
“Not too bad!” Sang Yufei smiled sincerely before adding, “Second Aunt, my house has no more noodles so my sister-in-law asked me to come over and borrow some flour.”
Would Li Shi obediently lend things to others? Her expression immediately changed and she sneered, “Where would our house have flour? We don’t have that!” Then, she added half-mockingly, “Hmph, isn’t your sister-in-law being too ruthless? Just look, she didn’t cook a bowl of noodles for you even though you may not have passed this time. Worst, she even asked a ‘scholar’ like you to obtain some flour. Ai, isn’t that so humiliating? Your sister-in-law sure is petty! This is but your first township examinations, you’re still young—there’ll still be a chance for you in the future!”
“Second Aunt, Big Brother’s house really doesn’t have any flour left. Sister-in-law said she saw you bought some flour from town. So will you lend us some? It’s not like we won’t return the flour to you!” Sang Yufei was getting a little impatient and his words came out somewhat impolite.
“What’s with that tone! Who do you think you’re speaking to! What? I won’t lend, okay? Do you think I’d let you rob us in the day?” Li Shi raised her voice sharply.
Inside the house, Sang Pingling was also present and he listened to the conversation that was outside his house. His face furrowed with anger as he strode out to scold Sang Yufei, “You useless lad! I applaud you for daring to speak that way to your aunt! So you think you can come to our house and vent your frustrations for not passing the examinations? Why don’t you just look at yourself, do you think you can ever dream of passing? Instead of wasting money needlessly, why can’t you just be more rational and go work in the fields!”
It was the hour when all men and women had returned home to have lunch and rest, and had not yet left to resume with their jobs. Although there wasn’t a lot of entertainment in the village, the curiosity within the villagers still remained. With Sang Pingliang and Li Shi shouting in the middle of the day, it attracted all sorts of folks to watch the scene and a large group soon formed.
The crowd watched as Sang Yufei helplessly withstood all the criticisms hurled at him from Sang Pingliang and began discussing among themselves while sympathizing with Sang Yufei secretly.
An older folk could not stand to watch any longer and he tried to persuade Sang Pingliang, “Brother Sang, that boy’s your nephew, can’t you just speak nicely to him? Is there a need to get this angry?”
“This good for nothing! I’ve to strike while the iron’s hot ah, really! Just like that dead father of yours, all you do is take exams after exams without ever listening to others! Do you even have a life to do that?” Sang Pingliang let out an angry sigh before justifying himself in front of the crowd, “Who knows how much was spent on that single trip to Hangzhou. Sooner or later, he’s going to end up losing his entire family asset!”
“That’s right! Careful not to sell away your rice bowl or you won’t even be able to drink any porridge!” Li Shi rolled her eyes ruthlessly.
Sang Yufei going to Hangzhou to participate in the township examinations was a fact the crowd knew. Seeing that he had returned all alone, his old clothes and the glorious Sang family’s history further strengthened the crowd’s conclusion that he must not have made it past the examinations. Of course, Sang Pingliang’s words were right to a certain extent; after all, where would a villager have so much money to spare and not end up ruining themselves? And who had never heard of a scholar who passed the college entry-level examinations but ended up not having a coffin and new clothes to bury with him during his death!
However, the words spoken by Sang Pingliang and Li Shi were not something a senior should say to a junior.
Sang Yufei turned unhappy and he blurted, “All I did was come to borrow some flour from Second Uncle and Aunt. If you can’t bear to lend some to us, then forget it. But is there a need to say so much? I, Sang Yufei, went to take the examinations without your monetary support. You can speak ill about me, but how dare you speak ill of my father as well? Second Uncle, since you do not respect my father, then don’t blame me for not acknowledging you as my uncle!”
“Not that we care!” Li Shi chided as jets of saliva shot out from her mouth, “Your acknowledgment means no value at all! Then so be it, I’m sure everyone here has heard you clearly! You yourself said you won’t acknowledge us as your uncle and aunt, so if something happens in the future, don’t come and find us!”
“You, you, how dare you talk back to us!” Sang Pingliang was also furious.
“You were the one who disrespected my father first!” Sang Yufei did not flinch and held his ground.
“Yufei, what’s going on here?” Fang Shi and Sang Hong also arrived. “I only asked you to borrow some flour. How did it end up like this!”
“Ai, taking my things means doing you a favor!” Li Shi said sarcastically. “If you were generous enough, why not just buy for yourself? Do you think you can throw the burden to us and take our family’s food to raise him? As if I’d let that happen!”
“Second Aunt!” Sang Hong’s face turned dark, “Ah Xian only said to borrow. Even if I have to take care of my brother for a lifetime, I will do so willingly. Second Aunt, please don’t turn our words into something so horrible!”
“Alright then! Go raise him forever! Don’t come and borrow from us!” Li Shi snorted.
“Then we won’t borrow!” Fang Shi sneered, “What elders? More like cold-blooded people! You can outspeak us, but when have any of you provided any help to us in the past few years? Don’t try to use your seniority to teach us! And since you despise us a lot, then from this day onwards, our family will cut our ties with yours! Even if our Yufei cannot pass the examinations, we will support him willingly and will never come to beg at your house! If a day comes when he passes and becomes successful, I’ll really take my hat off if your family doesn’t suddenly want to ride on his coattail!”
Everyone, who was listening, recalled how Sang Pingliang’s family had treated Sang Hong’s family in the past two years and they began to evaluate. Although they could not say too straightforwardly, but Sang Pingliang’s treatment towards Sang Hong’s family had indeed changed.
“You shrew, you, you—” Sang Pingliang pointed a finger angrily at Fang Shi. He had originally hoped that Sang Hong would discipline his wife, but who knew he would remain silent with a stern expression on his face—seemingly agreeing to his wife’s words.
Even he was being rebellious! Sang Pingliang jumped in fury and sneered, “Alright then! If he were to pass the township examinations, then I, Sang Pingliang, will write my name starting from the back! And even if he begs me to ride on his coattail, I will not accept it!”
“Will he even be able to do so? Maybe unless his ancestors become deities!” Li Shi snorted.
Fang Shi raised a brow and said cynically, “You may talk big now, but who knows, the both of you might abuse your power as our seniors when the time comes! Hehe, who in this village don’t know that Second Uncle and Aunt likes to take advantage of others! If something’s of benefit, surely the both of you wouldn’t refuse!”
The crowd could not help but chuckle among themselves at the thought of how those two had always tried to squeeze out all the benefits they could get. There wasn’t a family who had never been taken advantage of by those two thick-skinned people. Fang Shi’s words were so pleasant to the ears that the crowd softly revealed to one another about those two’s glorious deeds.
There was no way Sang Pingliang could bear such humiliation! His face turned red in an instant and he scolded, “Enough! When have my words ever been distrustful? I do not take back my own words; we’ll go to Li Zheng’s house now and cut our ties on paper. Best of luck to you two brothers; from today on, your death will mean nothing to us! And don’t ever think about taking anything from me!”
“Really? Second Uncle,” Fang Shi sneered, “Who knows, maybe Yufei might pass on his first try! The group announcing the news hasn’t arrived yet, so who can confirm he wouldn’t pass? Won’t Second Uncle like to rethink your decision, else you might regret later?
“As if! Dream on!” Li Shi mocked, “What? Are you suddenly getting afraid? Do you think we’d let your family continue to exploit us? Listen carefully, it’s too late for you to regret now. Go, let’s go to Li Zheng house now!”
“You guys are a family, you shouldn’t be escalating your arguments over something so trivial!” Someone tried to persuade.
“Yes ah, yes ah!” The crowd echoed.
“Hmph!” Fang Shi sneered in disdain.
Sang Pingliang and Li Shi were surely not going to be able to endure this humiliation. Their anger had already reached all the way to their head and they were already heading towards Li Zheng’s house.