Seeing her grimace, Liu Ya pouted and grinned before blinking a few times in the direction of Second Uncle Sang’s house. Sang Wan could not help but pout in response. No wonder! Liu Ya must have exaggerated the incident that had just occurred as she filled Fang Shi in. Hearing how Second Uncle Sang and Second Aunt Li were defeated by them, her heart must be leaping with joy!
She was grinning from ear to ear.
With a casual laugh, Fang Shi said, “Everything’s alright now! Young Master and Young Mistress must be hungry by now, I’ll go boil the chicken and fry the fish. The incense sticks are prepared; after burning the incense and greeting Mother-in-law and Father-in-law, we’ll have a hearty meal once I’m done.”
“Āi, I’ve troubled Sister-in-law Fang again! Sister-in-law Fang, it’s enough to just call me Sang Wan. Being called Young Mistress feels strange!” Sang Wan grinned and said, before instructing Liu Ya to go help in the kitchen.
Fang Shi gave a smile and glanced at Liu Ya’s attire. Immediately, she waved Liu Ya off. “No need, no need. The kitchen is both dusty and greasy, there’s no need to ruin her new clothes! Leave it all to me and Nanny Xu!” Again, she stared at Liu Ya and teased, “Lass, you sure are blessed to be able to wear such clothes! Serve your mistress well. If you dare betray your mistress, even if it means journeying to the edge of the world, I’ll definitely seek you out!”
“Rest assured, Young Mistress Fang! Even if Liu Ya were unruly, Liu Ya wouldn’t dare to disobey Young Mistress Fang!” Liu Ya chuckled.
The people around them chuckled along. Fang Shi then continued to tease, “The little lass finally grew a spine and dared to talk back!”
Eyeing her children this time around, she gently chided them, “No fighting! Don’t dirty your aunt’s clothes!” With that, she hurriedly called for Nanny Xu.
The group immediately placed a partition around the memorial tablet and a small wooden table was placed in front of it. The food was then swiftly set on the table by Fang Shi. The whole chicken, fish, and a large rectangular piece of pork belly were placed on the table before the two rice-filled bowls and two pairs of wooden chopsticks. Following that, the three wine cups and a pot of rice wine were placed carefully atop the table before she withdrew with her two children.
Sang Hong stepped forward and lit the candles. Holding the three sticks of incense in his hands, he gently bowed towards his parents’ memorial tablet. Once done, he solemnly notified his parents that his younger sister had been successfully married into the Shi family, about how his brother-in-law was a very nice man who treated his younger sister well, and that father and mother could now be at ease. After doing so, he carefully inserted the three incense sticks into the censer.
Taking a few steps back, he returned to the side and gestured for Sang Wan and Shi Fengju to greet her parents.
Hearing the words her oldest brother spoke, Sang Wan was speechless and swiftly glanced at Shi Fengju. From where did her oldest brother get the idea that he treated her well?
After the greeting was done and the wine cups had been filled, Sang Hong called for Fang Shi to clear away the food. The two siblings then burned paper money in the brazier in front of the memorial tablet and sprinkled a few drops of wine into it. Shi Fengju then burned a little more paper money before the ceremony concluded.
“Sang Wan, Fengju, let us go pay a visit to Second Uncle Sang’s house and have them come over for lunch later on. After that, the two of you should return. The journey from here to Qingzhou isn’t short; it’ll be good to leave early.” Sang Hong spoke as he left the partitioned area.
Sang Wan nodded and smiled. “Then please excuse me for a moment. I’ll go prepare a few things first!” She couldn’t possibly go to her second uncle’s house empty-handed, could she?
The bride price was prepared by her husband’s family before the bride stepped through the door of her husband’s household. It was up to the bride’s family to decide how the bride price was to be subdivided. Sang Wan had a clear idea on what to do and had already done the necessary preparations the day before. Still, it’d be best to notify Fang Shi first.
As she pondered, she walked into the kitchen. Pulling Fang Shi to a side, she smiled and said, “Sister-in-law Fang, we’ll be heading off to visit Second Uncle Sang’s house and will be bringing them over for lunch. May I bring along a pair of silk crêpe, a gold hairpin, gold earrings, and two variants of silk for Second Aunt Li; and two finely sewn long robe and two pear blossom vases for Second Uncle Sang? As for my two cousins, they’ll have two rolls of cloth, a pair of gold bracelets, and a bouquet of silk flowers each in addition to two thick and tender hams, a kilogram of white fungus, half a kilogram of bird’s nest, and an envelope containing a hundred silver. What do you say, is it appropriate?”
Fang Shi took a glance at Nanny Xu who was eavesdropping on their conversation, and sneered, “You are now rich, but too carefree for giving them so many gifts! If I were you, I’d just throw ten silvers at them and I’m sure they’ll grin from ear to ear! Those kinds of elders are not ones you should even care for! If I may add, you’re now married; you shouldn’t try to do good if they’re not worth your graciousness! Otherwise, you might end up suffering in the future!”
Sang Wan smiled warmly, “I know that my sister-in-law is looking after my well-being, and I’ll keep those words in mind! However, they’re still elders and should still be given face —”
“Then I’ve wasted my breath!” Fang Shi broke away from Sang Wan’s hands and sighed. “Is that so? Then move along! In any case, you don’t lack any of those items anyway, so why seek my advice?”
Sang Wan pursed her lips tightly as she smiled and leaned forward. “Don’t worry, Sister-in-law Fang. The good things are still left in this house. There are even things for my second brother too! The cheap ones are the ones given to those outsiders!”
“Sly lass, you haven’t been married long into the Shi family and you’re already so petty! But seeing you this way, your brother and I will be at ease!” Fang Shi’s face brightened quite a lot as she joked after hearing what Sang Wan had said.
Sang Wan giggled. Feeling the warmth in her heart, she bid goodbye to Fang Shi.
At Second Uncle Sang’s house, Sang Pingliang and Li Shi sent their oldest daughter out to the entrance of their house numerous times in hopes that Sang Wan and her group had arrived. However, as they had not, Li Shi turned impatient and vented her anger on her oldest daughter.
Li Shi was Sang Pingliang’s second wife, and their oldest daughter, who was older than Sang Wan by three full years, was the child of Sang Pingliang’s first wife. However, she was not yet married into another household. Li Shi reasoned that it was because there was no suitable household, but what truly was going within her mind, Sang Rou knew clearly. Though annoyed, she was helpless.
“They’re here, they’re here! Cousin Sang Wan and cousin-in-law, together with Cousin Sang Hong are here!” The group had finally arrived. Liu Ya and two other maidservants could be seen carrying gifts of different sizes. Sang Rou immediately brightened up as she ran into the house to pass the news.
Sang Pingliang and Li Shi immediately stood and examined the clothes on their bodies before looking at each other as if something was amiss. Using a finger to heavily push on Sang Rou’s forehead, Li Shi scolded, “What Cousin Sang Wan and cousin-in-law? Unruly! That is the Shi family’s Young Master and Young Mistress! How dare someone of your caliber call them that? Just look at your foolish clothes; hurry back into your room lest you become a disgrace for us all!”
Sang Rou gave a look of grievance towards her biological father before her sight landed on her stepsister, Sang Yan.
Sang Pingliang couldn’t help but follow the sight of his oldest daughter and looked in the direction of his youngest daughter, only to see that Sang Yan was dressed beautifully from head to toe. Her hair bun, combed neatly and secured with a silver hairpin, was decorated with a silk flower. She wore a hot pink embroidered coat, a light pink skirt, and aquamarine blue shoes embroidered with blooming flowers of the Chinese flowering apple. The way she was dressed was more extravagant than one would dress during the new year.
Sang Rou, on the other hand, wore plain green clothes, dirty and worn out shoes, and her messy hair was tied casually. Together with her timidness, hunched shoulders, and bowed back, she looked detestable.
“Just what is wrong with you? Don’t you know that there are important guests coming over today?” Sang Pingliang frowned and glared at Li Shi.
Li Shi scorned discreetly but wailed as if she had been wronged. “Oh my goodness, say that again! Whatever our Ah Yan has, Ah Rou has too! Yesterday, I even made it clear that there are going to be important guests coming over today and instructed them to dress in their best attire lest they become a disgrace to you and to the family! But this lass here didn’t listen and insisted on wearing this; what can I do? She isn’t a child anymore, yet she still needs someone to assist her in the clothes she wears? Do you think your family lives in the Shi household?”
As she spoke, she glared bitterly at Sang Rou.
Sang Pingling thought for a moment. Indeed, yesterday night after dinner, his wife had reminded his two daughters upfront and had not hidden it from Sang Rou.
This time around, his steam rose again and he frowned at Sang Rou. “You’re not a child anymore, so act like an adult! Did you deliberately wear this to embarrass your father? What are you standing there for, go back to your room!”
Sang Rou clenched her fists and tears formed in her eyes. She dared not go against her father and though wronged, she agreed and slowly retreated.
Resentment formed in her delicate heart. Since early in the morning, she had to gather firewood, clean the pigsty, maintain the vegetable garden, and work in the kitchen. Li Shi had given her no idle time at all.
She did indeed have a new set of clothes, but how could she bear to wear them while conducting those labor-intensive activities? If they were to end up dirtied or torn, her heart would ache and she would even receive a scolding from Li Shi! However, if she were to tell her father about this, she might never be able to ask for any new clothes anymore in the future!
As Sang Rou headed back to her room, she heard Li Shi gleefully instruct her younger sister, Sang Yan. “Understand? Remember to serve tea to your cousin and cousin-in-law. Remember to be courteous and greet them!”
Sang Rou bit her lips. The hatred in her heart grew.
“Second Uncle Sang, Second Aunt Li, are you home?” Sang Hong’s voice rang through the home.
“We are, we are!” Sang Pingliang and Li Shi immediately replied as they grinned from ear to ear.
The old couple hurriedly rushed out to greet and welcome the group. Suddenly, Li Shi tugged Sang Pingliang and asked softly, “Why did Sang Hong come?”
“If he’s here, he’s here!” Sang Pingliang replied impatiently.
Li Shi scorned and voiced her disgust. “It isn’t like Ah Wan doesn’t know the way here, so what’s he doing here? Such a waste of our good tea!”
“They’re already here!” Sang Pingliang glared at her. “Go, but do not utter any nonsense!”
“Ah Wan and our nephew-in-law, keke! Come in, come in! We were waiting for all of you! Keke!” Sang Pingliang welcomed them as he grinned. Though he greeted Sang Wan and his nephew-in-law, it seemed that his eyes were fully latched onto Shi Fengju. Seeing the gifts carried by Liu Ya and the two other maidservants, his heart fluttered and he was at a loss about how to flatter Shi Fengju.
Li Shi’s eyes also glistened. The old resentment she had for Sang Wan immediately disappeared and she held Sang Wan’s hands intimately as she praised, “Our Sang Wan sure is blessed to be dressed so lavishly, just like the rich ladies from rich families! Seeing you so, your second aunt is at ease! You’re a good child, and didn’t take second aunt’s good treatment towards you in the past for nothing! Come, come, have a seat in our house! Let us ladies have a good talk, there are many things your second aunt wants to talk to you about! It’s such a pity that your mother left this world so early. If not for your second aunt, who else would be able to accompany you to have these heart-to-heart talks?”