Although Sang Wan was feeling upset, she knew those words could not be said as it would only embarrass Shi Fengju and her mother-in-law.
Meanwhile, Gu Fangzi was secretly gloating when Sang Wan talked back to Shi Yumei. She could not wait for a larger fight between them. However, she was disappointed when she saw how Sang Wan had no intentions of continuing the squabble after just talking back once.
“Big sister, what are you saying?” Shi Fengju laughed and said, “All the gentlemen, officials, and neighbours have given expensive gifts to congratulate brother-in-law Sang, how can their in-laws be stingy on this?” He also casually brought up the size of fertile land, big houses, and the amount of gold and silver that were given as gifts. Adding on, he said, “Anyway, you’ve wrongly accused Sang Wan. I settled all these with the management servants and she knew nothing about this at all!”
“Yumei, you better sit down prudently now! Don’t you dare talk excessively anymore!” Wang Shi frowned at her and quickly nodded at Shi Fengju, “Fengju is right! Our Shi Family is known to be the richest in Qingzhou. If our gift is too shabby, what will the people say about us! What’s more, Sang Wan is our eldest daughter-in-law in the family, which makes it even more important that our gifts are good! Fengju, you will make the arrangements with the management servants! Sang Wan, what do you think?”
Wang Shi quickly ordered Xiu Chun to bring the list for Sang Wan’s perusal.
Shi Yumei was suddenly out of words. Yes, Sang Wan was the eldest daughter-in-law of Shi Household. Her family was the Shi family’s in-laws. What did this have got to do with her if they were to arrange expensive gifts? What say did she have here?
At the thought of how she now belonged to the Ren family even though her surname remained as ‘Shi’, she felt a little dejected.
“Sir’s decision is good! There’s no way I’d have a clue about this!” Sang Wan smiled and hurriedly glanced over the list before putting it down.
“Mother, then I’ll have the servants start handling this!” Shi Fengju smiled and took the list back. He smiled towards Shi Yumei and said, “Big sister, when Brother-in-law Ren becomes a top escorted examinee too in the next exams, I will surely prepare the exact same expensive gifts to congratulate him! I will definitely not throw your face!”
Shi Yumei felt slightly better after hearing Shi Fengju’s words, but she went on to grumble, “Why the same? Are you so reluctant to prepare a bigger one for me?”
Shi Fengju laughed out loud, and said, “Big sister, I can’t be biased. If not, Sang Wan will surely complain that I’m being unfair!”
“You!” Shi Yumei stomped her feet angrily, and she gave an elusive smile, “What? Are you so afraid of your wife? You’re afraid of her complaining but not my frustration?”
Shi Fengju shook his head but didn’t answer her. He smiled to Wang Shi and said instead, “Mother, look at big sister, why does she seemed to have grown backwards; saying all these childish words! I think, Mother, you might have spoilt her too much. You have to teach her some etiquette!” Not waiting for Wang Shi or Shi Yumei to reply, he took the list and ran off playfully.
“That rascal, are you my younger brother or my older brother!” Shi Yumei was so angry that she stomped her feet. She turned towards Wang Shi and said, “Mother! Listen to what he said!”
Wang Shi had already been tickled by her son’s words and she laughed uncontrollably. She held Shi Yumei’s hands and patted her, “Alright, alright! I think Fengju is right. You have to reflect on yourself and learn some etiquette! You, you just have to care about taking care of your husband, both in his studies and his well-being, and accompany me to chat once in a while. Anything else, you don’t have to worry about it! I’m old but not foolish and neither is Fengju a foolish man!”
Shi Yumei’s heart sank a little. She lowered her voice and said, “I understand, Mother… “
So what if she was feeling indignant? She belonged to the Ren family! Even if Sang Wan emptied the entire Shi household and moved all the assets to Sang household, as long as Fengju is happy, even their Mother would not be able to do anything about it, let alone someone like her. And because of that, her heart felt a little uncomfortable!
On the other hand, Sang Wan was feeling secretly grateful. Just yesterday, Shi Yumei was being sarcastic about the amount of money the Shi family had spent on the Sang family, but today, Shi Fengju had taken out this costly list of gifts for everyone else to see. Shi Yumei wouldn’t be able to say anything behind her back after this, even if she wanted to!
“Hmph! So you understand? If you understand, then that’s good!” Wang Shi’s expression changed, and she asked with a tone of disgust, “Is that Cui Bao behaving obediently?”
“Eh?” Shi Yumei was stunned momentarily, but she quickly smiled and said, “Her? She’s quite all right, she greets me everyday and is obedient. She also doesn’t give me any trouble! Normally, she will be serving in the study room and accompany me occasionally to ease my boredom!”
“You are just too gullible! You really believe the few good words other people say so easily!” Wang Shi gruntled, “Just the day before yesterday, why did I see her in the flower garden wearing a robe made with the Xiang Yun silk that I gave you?
“Mother!” Shi Yumei said nonchalantly before saying with a smile, “It’s just a piece of clothing! I have gotten quite a few clothes done for myself and that silk would have been a waste if I just kept it, so I just gave it to her! Anyway, I’m sure there’ll be better quality silk next year!”
“You! Really!” Wang Shi sighed and could not do anything about it.
Seeing how her mother-in-law was discussing about something private, Sang Wan quickly excused herself; Shi Lian took the opportunity to leave as well. And so, the both of them left together.
Shi Yumei watched as they left. Afraid that her mother would continue nagging at her non-stop, she quickly excused herself as well and gave a signal to Gu Fangzi before pulling her along.
“Mother, I’m going to send cousin back! I will come back to accompany you in the afternoon!”
“This child, sigh!” Wang Shi could not stop her and could only sigh while speaking to Nanny Jiang, “Tell me, why is she so foolish. She has got no opinions of her own at all! That Cui Bao seems so unsettling, but she has already given all her trust to that vile thing!”
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While Wang Shi could criticise her own daughter, how could Nanny Jiang agree? She just smiled and said, “Maybe Mistress is fretting too much. Jiao Garden is still within our household; so long as she remains obedient and no bad rumors are spread about, I think it’ll be fine! Mistress doesn’t have to worry because no one will dare to bully the eldest daughter of the Shi family!”
“Heng, it’s only for the time being!” Wang Shi laughed coldly, “Really! Just wait and see! If she dares to put on any show here, I will immediately sell her on the next day! Then only Heavens will know what happens after that! The Xiang Yun silk is such an exquisite material, does she really think it is fitting for a concubine to wear something made of such material? If she knows her place, she would have refused it. And how dare she wear it out!”
“Our Shi family’s eldest daughter is a properly married wife. Even if that woman is a vixen, she will not be able to overthrow her position! Anyway, who even has the guts to go against the Shi Family! I think Mistress is really thinking too much!” Nanny Jiang smiled and consoled her.
Wang Shi felt a little more comfortable as she nodded with a smiled, “Your words make sense! As long as we’re still here in this family, nobody will dare to touch my dear daughter!”
When Sang Wan returned to Ning Garden, a servant sent by the management team informed her that they would be heading to Sihe Village in two days and asked if she had any items or messages she would like to send back.
Sang Wan smiled and said, “I’ve only just returned from home. For now, I have none to send back, please go along with the arrangements made by Sir. “
The servant then left without a word.
Thinking about her promise to cook a meal for Shi Fengju tonight, Sang Wan went and discuss with Nanny Li, before having the servants prepare the ingredients so that she could begin in the afternoon.
Nanny Li was naturally happy that Sang Wan was taking the initiative to serve Shi Fengju. She smiled before saying, “Ma’am, it’s good that you have these intentions at heart, but the kitchen is really oily and dirty. It isn’t a place for you to be in! If oil were to splatter on your hands or face, it’ll be bad!”
“Nanny, Sir has done so much for my family, I should do something in return! Don’t worry, it’ll be fine!” Sang Wan insisted and smiled.
“Eh, then you be careful!” Nanny Li smiled again and said, “Ma’am you are really virtuous! Sir really is fortunate to have married you!”
“Nanny, don’t compliment me anymore!” Sang Wan’s smile turned a little unnatural.
In the afternoon, Sang Wan changed and went down to the kitchen when it was about time. Under the instructions of the chef, she made six dishes and one soup; a bowl of steamed rouge goose, a plate of fried omelette with chicken slices, boiled young bamboo shoots with a large freshwater fish, pan-fried rib, a plate of lightly stir-fried green vegetables with beancurd, a plate of dried beancurd skin cooked with sesame oil and a large bowl of piping hot duck stew with longans and ham.
In the afternoon, the stewing was done above a large fire to let the flavor of the ingredients mix into the stew before lowering the fire to cook through the entire afternoon. When it was time for dinner to be served, the duck meat was already soft and the stew was thick with flavor. The dishes were served when hot and the aroma went straight into the nostrils of those around. Matched with golden-brown ribs and fried omelette with chicken slices that looked milky white, as well as the rouge duck that looked both greasy and shiny, the aroma from the dishes and the presentation made the dinner extremely appetising.
“You did these all by yourself?” Shi Fengju asked with disbelief when he returned and saw the spread.
“Of course!” Sang Wan smiled and said, “Other than the washing and cutting of vegetables, all the cooking was done by me alone. If you don’t believe me, you can ask Nanny Li!”
“Sir, Ma’am especially made these dishes for you. She wouldn’t let us help at all!” Nanny Li laughed at the side.
“Quickly, give it a taste! Tell me if it tastes the same as what you normally eat!” Sang Wan smiled and pulled him to have a seat.
“Since this is made especially by you, I’m sure it will taste better than what I usually have!” Shi Fengju smiled but was feeling a little disappointed, “This would be so much better with a jug of good wine!”
“Sir, here’s the wine!” Nanny Li took the jug from a maidservant, “Ma’am has allowed this jug of Jade Spring Pear wine, but Sir, you mustn’t have too much! Drinking too much won’t be good for your body!”
Nanny Li put the jug of wine down and signalled to all the maidservants to leave the room, giving space to the couple.
Shi Fengju felt a strange sense of disappointment as he eyed the jug. What a pity, it would’ve been better without the wine. Then, I can bother her again to make me another meal! Still, it must have been a huge difficulty for her to come up with all this for me.
Sang Wan scooped half a bowl of the duck stew and said, “Drink a little of this stew to warm your gut. This stew has been stewing for the whole afternoon, just right to provide you with the right nutritions in autumn and winter.”
Shi Fengju took it and drank a few mouthful. He complimented it then said, “Don’t just serve me, you should eat too.”
Sang Wan smiled and poured some wine for him, then sat down before saying, “This wine is warm enough, have a sip of this too.”
Shi Fengju smiled and held the cup. But just when he was about to drink it, he smiled and said, “There’s no meaning to drink by myself. Sang Wan, why don’t you drink with me too!”
Sang Wan’s expression changed a little, she smiled unnaturally, “I , I don’t drink.” She had never drunk alcohol before. The marriage wine was supposed to be her first taste of alcohol, but she didn’t drinking it in the end.
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