Her honest big brother was not good with words. Not to mention that the one he had to face was his own uncle. He dared not go against him. If her big brother could not stand up to their second uncle, then her second brother was in an even more disadvantageous position to do so! If someone were to accuse him of being ‘disrespectful towards his elders and did not conduct himself properly,’ he would not be able to stay in the academy. Sang Wan felt that if that did happen, then the one who had accused her second brother would definitely be none other than her second uncle.
As for Sang Wan herself who was married into another family, she was in no position to go against her uncle and was rightfully supposed to endure.
Fortunately, her sister-in-law was part of the family. Her sister-in-law was a bold and upright woman who was extremely outspoken. Though she could not openly go against their second uncle and second aunt, she would discreetly cause them to regret their actions and push them to a state of being at a loss for words! With her in the family, their second uncle and second aunt could go around gossiping about the Sang family but would not dare cross the line.
The Shi family had abided with the arranged marriage and married Sang Wan into their family. Instantly, her second uncle and second aunt completely flipped their treatment to the Sang family!
“How could I?” Sang Wan smiled. “In the past, I dared not trouble Second Uncle Sang and Second Aunt Li. At this time, even more so; I dare not trouble my two elders!”
“How could my niece still see us as an outsider? What trouble? We’re a family, aren’t we? Your uncle has never felt troubled before. Come, come!” Sang Pingliang’s raised his thick brows as he spoke with a straight face.
“Yes, that’s right! Your aunt also has a lot of things to talk to you about! Your mother left early; how could I, as your aunt, not worry for you! When you were young, I doted on you as if you were my own daughter. Well, the only difference was that you were not in my womb for those ten months!” Li Shi’s face displayed the affection that a mother would have towards her daughter.
But Sang Wan was almost at her limit. How dare they say those things as if they were true!
Even Sang Quan could listen no further. He made a face at Li Shi before hiding behind Sang Wan and shouting, “Second Grand Aunt never doted on my aunt. Hmph! She even called her a jinx! The women in the village said that the word ‘jinx’ is an offensive word!”
“You little devil, what nonsense are you spouting?” Red with anger, Li Shi glared at Sang Quan.
“Disrespectful! Is this how you talk to your second grand aunt? Who taught you that? Ah Hong, you’ve got to be stricter with your kids for them to become successful in life!” Sang Pingliang glared.
Nanny Xu hurriedly called, “Young Master and Young Missy,” before leaning towards the two and gently telling them off. Sang Hong frowned but quickly forced a smile and responded with a ‘yes’.
Sang Wan felt both frustrated and angry, but quickly relaxed. Gesturing towards Sang Pingling and Li Shi, she persuaded, “Second Uncle Sang and Second Aunt Li, please return first. Your niece will pay a visit to your house later on. But as for today, I’d like to be at where my sister-in-law is and at the same time greet my parents’ memorial tablet. I hope Second Uncle Sang and Second Aunt Li can understand where I’m coming from!”
With that, she turned to Liu Ya and instructed, “You’re not a guest this time around, quickly invite the two maidservants inside! Zhan Huan, carry the things in and have the carriages parked nicely!”
“Yes, Young Mistress!” Liu Ya had been waiting for Sang Wan’s instructions anxiously. Upon hearing her orders, she agreed crisply and smiled before inviting Li Yan and Song He into the house. Occasionally, she secretly glanced over at Li Shi.
Seeing their own young master give his acknowledgment, Zhan Huan and Li Yan proceeded to get the job done; moving each gift into the Sang house.
Sang Wan had already stated clearly that she and her husband would pay a visit to their house and had even pulled her late parents into it. Sang Pingliang and his wife could only watch silently from the sidelines.
Watching the countless number of wrapped gifts being moved into Sang Hong’s house, Li Shi felt like the situation was extremely unbearable and forced a laugh. “Our niece is right, let’s all go in, go in! Aiya, so many things to be moved. By the time they are all moved inside, the sun might have already set. Let us help out too!”
With that, she began walking towards the carriage.
“I dare not trouble Second Uncle Sang and Second Aunt Li to do such labor suited for the servants! Second Uncle Sang and Second Aunt Li, please return and rest. We’ll head over to your house later to have tea!” Sang Wan smiled.
Li Shi stopped in her tracks and her back suddenly straightened. Even Sang Pingliang’s eyes dimmed a little.
That’s right, those people were nothing but servants. Being Sang Wan’s aunt, her position was naturally higher than those servants. How could someone like her do the work of servants? In front of so many people, she had an image to keep! Regardless, Sang Wan had already promised to visit her. Surely, she would bring along a few gifts during the visit. Hmph, even if she were reluctant to do so and brought an insufficient number of gifts, asking for more from Sang Hong wasn’t impossible! It’d just be a matter of course before the gifts ended up in their house anyway since they were the elders, but it would truly be regrettable if they did not get their hands on them.
“Hēhē, then we’ll head back first. Do come over as soon as possible!” Though Li Shi was a little unwilling, she retracted that unwillingness before saying sourly, “That sister-in-law of yours sure is irresponsible! I’m sure she knew that your homecoming is today, but she isn’t around to welcome all of you! Aiyo, I think I’ve spoken too much. I hope that our new nephew-in-law doesn’t take it to heart. She’s a very self-centered person; barely a decent woman, that is!”
“Let’s go in!” Sang Wan had no interest in going down the route of the conversation. Acting as if she had not heard her aunt, she gazed at Shi Fengju and gave him an apologetic look.
“I apologize on her behalf!” Sang Hong apologized as he followed them into the house. “Your sister-in-law was originally waiting at home to welcome all of you, but upon hearing from our next door neighbor, Da Hai, that the cow from the Li family was grazing on our crops, she hurriedly rushed out. Why don’t all of you take a seat first? I’ll call her back and have her prepare lunch!”
“Big Brother, you should take a seat too. Let Liu Ya do that instead! Presumably, Sister-in-law Fang might even be on her way back now!” As Sang Wan spoke, she glanced at Shi Fengju.
Catching her signal, Shi Fengju nodded and laughed. “It’s still early. Have a seat first; there’s no need to hurry!”
Shi Fengju discreetly examined Sang Hong. After the incident just then, he was not surprised that a man such as Sang Hong was tasked with staying at home while his wife went out to handle matters. Such an honest person would never be able to conduct negotiations with others! Still, just what kind of role did his wife play in the family?
Thinking back to the confrontation between Sang Wan and her elders, she had been gentle with her words and her face always had a smile, but she fought until the end without taking a step back. What a way to imperceptibly confront others while maintaining her composure!
This family sure is interesting!
Sang Hong smiled and insisted no further. “Then please!” He gestured for Shi Fengju to have a seat. Nanny Xu coaxed the two children to play in the courtyard before serving tea to the guests. Sang Hong politely gestured to Shi Fengju. “My home is fairly simple with nothing interesting. I hope my brother-in-law won’t mind.”
Shi Fengju quickly responded, “We’re a family. There is no need for Big Brother to be so polite!”
Taking a sip of tea from the cup, Shi Fengju immediately felt his senses relax. With all that noisiness and hard-to-ward-off enthusiasm now gone, he finally felt at ease!
Without demurring, Liu Ya immediately went to call for Fang Shi. Zhan Huan and a few others went to park the carriages before they unharnessed the horses. Li Yan and Song He, on the other hand, sat in the kitchen cracking melon seeds and sipping tea as they rested.
The servants Shi Fengju had picked truly were level-headed. At this moment, each of them did what was required of them, as if whatever had happened just then had never actually happened! Even the topics for their leisure conversation between the two maidservants as they sipped tea weren’t even obliquely related to the incident just then.
“Big Brother and Lord, please remain in your seats while I see what I can help in the kitchen!” Sang Wan smiled.
“No, no!” Sang Hong was startled and smiled before adding, “Your sister-in-law will return soon! Early in the morning, the slaughtered chicken and scaled fish were already washed and sliced. A few of the leafy vegetables still have to be pulled from our vegetable garden at the back before all of the ingredients for today’s lunch are ready. Just leave all of that to your sister-in-law! It’ll be better for you to prepare for the incense offering to Mother and Father later. You’ll still have to pay a visit to Second Uncle Sang and Second Aunt Li since they’re our elders after all.”
“Big Brother, I know!” Sang Wan grinned. Her second uncle and second aunt carried the title of elders. No matter how much she disliked them, she had no say in that. “I know my place,” she added before changing clothes and heading to the vegetable garden.
Seeing that, Nanny Xu hurriedly halted her. “Young Mistress, you’re a newly-wed lady now, such work is inappropriate for you to do! Otherwise, you and the young master will become a hot topic for the villagers to gossip about! Why don’t you look after the children and I’ll go pick the vegetables instead?”
Sang Hong immediately nodded.
Seeing that, Sang Wan no longer insisted and agreed before heading out to the courtyard to play with the two children.
“Sang Wan is a diligent girl with little to no time for herself. I, being a useless oldest brother, have caused my siblings quite a lot of suffering! Brother-in-law, I’ll leave my younger sister in your care. I hope you’ll take care of her, for she is a good girl!” Sang Hong gently heaved a sigh of relief.
But somehow, after hearing what her oldest brother said, Shi Fengju felt as if his heart had dropped, like he had a bad conscience, though he had no reason to feel as such.
“Big Brother, rest assured, for I will take good care of Sang Wan and not let her be treated unfairly.” Shi Fengju was a little panicky and avoided meeting his brother-in-law’s eyes. Still, he managed to force a smile as he reassured Sang Hong.
“Then I shall!” Sang Hong was a downright honest person who could not differentiate between an exaggeration and a truth from the heart. Added to the good impression he already had of Shi Fengju, the moment he heard his reassurances, his face immediately revealed a broad smile and he nodded gleefully. “No wonder my father was full of praise towards the Shi family when he was still alive. He even said that the Shi family was different from the rest; they neither favor the rich nor despise the poor, and will not break a promised marriage. And that was so! With your affirmation, as her oldest brother, I’ve finally accomplished the wish of my late parents!”
Seeing the bright smile and the glistening eyes, Shi Fengju smiled. But with his guilty conscience, cold beads of sweat formed at the back of his neck.
“Our Sang Wan is back! Hēhē, due to some unforeseen circumstances, I was not able to be present to welcome you. For that, I apologize!”
The door to the courtyard creaked opened. A young woman, whose straight hair also hung on the side of her temples and had a silver hairpin pierced through her hair, came through the door. Coin-sized silk flowers were slipped into her hair that hung on her temples. The woman wore a magenta colored blouse and a skirt embroidered with flowers. Tall and slender, the pair of eyes on her oblong face was bright and of a perfect size. She was both competent and efficient in the things she did.
Sang Quan and Sang Nuan immediately greeted her with a “Mother!” before running to her.
“Sister-in-law Fang, you’re back!” Sang Wan smiled and welcomed her. “We’re a family, what you said makes me so embarrassed!” With that, she asked whether the case had been resolved.
Sang Wan pondered a little to herself. Though her sister-in-law treated her well, it was not to the point of being very intimate. It was probably because of her marriage to the Shi family. Her oldest brother took her marriage into consideration and forbid her from doing many of the house chores; even the simplest chores were not allowed. Only when there were too many chores would she be allowed to help. As such, even though her sister-in-law might not have uttered a word of complaint, she was unhappy and would sometimes give her a cold face.
Still, her sister-in-law was different from her second aunt. She was not one who would take advantage of a situation, nor was she one that yearned for wealth. There must be a reason behind her change in attitude! Sang Wan could not help but glance at Liu Ya. Her brow rose as she was filled with doubts.
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