However, Sang Wan remained stubborn on this. She shook her head and laughed, “I’ve never liked to impose on others, so I think this will all have to depend on Zhide! Nanny Li, please ask her and tell her that it was me who told her to speak her mind without any worries! She had wholeheartedly served in Ning Garden for so many years; it’s not impossible for her to be granted grace!”
Nanny Li could only stop persuading and had to comply with Sang Wan. Even so, she felt it was a pity. It could be said that she had watched Zhide grow up. Although that lass could be overly rational and mindful at times, she was very reliable. So as long as she had agreed to it, she would not try to play tricks, which could be very reassuring. If she left, Hong Ye was not someone who could take charge and Liu Ya even more so. Even if she were to nurture a new servant, it would have to depend on fate and luck as well!
In fact, Yang Quan’s wife did come to Ning Garden to seek grace for her daughter a few days ago. However, when Nanny Li found out, she stopped her unintentionally. Yang Quan’s wife was tactful enough to do her a favor by not mentioning it.
Since everything was quiet for a few days, Nanny Li felt relieved as she thought that Yang Quan’s wife had finally given up. Who knew that the old woman was so cunning that even Sang Wan heard about it without her saying it out, which led to Sang Wan asking her about it.
“Even if Zhide were willing to leave the household, this old servant thinks that it shouldn’t be revisited until the new year has passed! Either in March or April when there isn’t much to handle in the household would be a good time. What does Young Mistress think?” Nanny Li spoke again with a smile.
She would hurry to find two or three reliable new servants and let Zhide train them first. After which, she would select and gradually foster the best by herself. Having that few months to do so was better than none.
More importantly, Second Young Master Sang’s examination results would be out by then. May Bodhisattva’s blessing be upon him so that he would graduate to become an official. That way, Young Mistress would have another pillar to support her and no one would ever dare to make trouble in Ning Garden anymore!
Sang Wan was also aware that the lunar new year was around the corner and there would be lots to do, therefore, it would not be good to restructure the duties for the time being. So she nodded and smiled, “Nanny Li’s thoughts are thorough. Please inform Zhide clearly!”
“Yes, Young Mistress!” Nanny Li secretly shook her head to herself. Young Mistress was being too cautious! Zhide was nothing but a servant; there was no need to inform her at all!
Who knew that Zhide’s response would please Nanny Li. Even before Nanny Li could finish, Zhide’s expression changed slightly and she hurriedly said, “Nanny, it was this servant’s mother who made the decision by herself, this servant does not wish to leave yet! This servant still wants to serve Young Mistress for a few more years!”
Nanny Li was startled and could not utter a single word. The first thought which came to her mind was whether this servant was bewitched?
If it were Hong Ye or any other servant, Nanny Li would have believed them, but she really couldn’t bring herself to when it came to Zhide. Zhide had never liked being officious; with such an opportunity placed in front of her, she actually went as far as to refuse it?
“Let me finish first!” Nanny Li thought after a short while and decided not to go with the flow, and to convey the young mistress’s words clearly so that her kindness would not be abused later in the future.
Nanny Li then smiled, “Since Young Mistress has sent me to ask you about it, it means she was being sincere and not toying with you! You have nothing to worry about; if you really want to leave, just a nod will be enough! Don’t worry, Young Mistress is not someone who would purposely test your intentions. You have always been cautious, so please don’t be mistaken!”
Zhide was slightly disappointed knowing that Nanny Li could not put her full trust in her. But it was no wonder, she had always refused to say anything beyond what she had to and would always put herself away from harm’s way if something was not beneficial for her. The reason why Nanny Li kept her was merely because of the fact that she was dutiful and serious in her tasks. That was also the reason why she could keep a foothold.
“Nanny, what this servant said is truly what this servant is thinking. This servant still wishes to serve Young Mistress for a few more years and doesn’t want to leave yet. Nanny, please let Young Mistress know!” Zhide affirmed.
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Nanny Li’s expression remained collected, but she still had some doubts in her heart. After a second thought, she spoke again with a smile, “Young Mistress’s kindness towards you wasn’t in vain if you can think this way, but do your parents express the same thoughts as you?”
Zhide immediately understood. It must have been the marriage that started all this. Her face turned slightly red. Head Servant Jin was a nice person, and his son’s reputation was not bad. Zhide had met him a few times before, and she had no objection to the marriage. However, she did not want to get married so soon.
“My parents will listen to my opinion. Nanny, please do not worry.” Zhide hurriedly said.
After hearing her, Nanny Li stopped trying to persuade any further and finally seemed happier. She nodded and smiled, “This will also be good, you can leave after another three or four years. Young Mistress will definitely not mistreat you! Even I would like you to stay as well; after all, you are familiar with everything around here since you have been serving in Ning Garden for so many years. In fact, Young Mistress has always given a thought to her servants! I think it would be better if you let Young Mistress know yourself!”
Zhide knew Nanny Li’s purpose was to have her prove her loyalty in front of Sang Wan to please her, so she answered with a smile and followed Nanny Li to Sang Wan’s place.
Nanny Li left right after she informed Sang Wan and left Zhide to be alone with Sang Wan.
Without waiting for Sang Wan to question, Zhide had already knelt on the floor and kowtowed tearily, “Young Mistress, this servant wishes to continue serving Young Mistress wholeheartedly. Please let this servant stay! From Young Mistress’ kindness towards this servant, this servant ought to serve you for my entire life, how can I just leave so selfishly? This servant begs Young Mistress to grant this servant’s wish!”
After the recent incident that had happened to Zhide, there was not much change so Sang Wan thought she had forgotten about it. Of course, she would not purposely have her repay the kindness. On the contrary, the reason why she helped her was because she could sympathize with her, and she was not expecting her to feel entirely grateful at all. But now that Zhide had said so, Sang Wan felt sorry to have mistaken her.
“Hurry and stand!” Sang Wan hurriedly waved and smiled, “It isn’t anything serious, so there’s no need for you to feel restrained by it. I will not stop you if you want to leave. Of course, it will be good if you are willing to stay!”
“This servant will stay!” As Zhide kowtowed and thanked Sang Wan for her kindness, she stood up and said, “This servant wants to stay to help Young Mistress. As this servant had said before, my life belongs to Young Mistress after that incident, and this servant has never forgotten about it!”
“There’s no need to do this to yourself!” Sang Wan couldn’t help but sigh lightly and laughed, “After hearing you say so, I feel like I’m going to be in some great danger soon!”
“Young Mistress,” Zhide said with a serious face, “That is exactly what this servant thinks.”
Sang Wan’s expression changed as she was taken aback.
Zhide raised up her gaze to look at Sang Wan before saying calmly, “This servant had always meant to tell Young Mistress a long time ago, but couldn’t find the right time to say it. Young Mistress surely hasn’t forgotten that Miss Gu’s mourning period will be over on the second month after the lunar new year. Miss Gu’s trickery,” Zhide paused for a while and continued, “This servant has seen a lot… With Eldest Missy now in the household, her temper…Young Mistress, this servant does not wish to boast, but with this servant by your side for this period of time, this servant will be of use to you.”
Sang Wan could not help but shiver slightly and her expression changed again.
“Then I’ll be troubling you from now on!” Sang Wan sighed lightly and said, “I never would have thought that your wholehearted intentions were for me!” As she spoke, she joked again, “You are also being foolish, since you are clear about it, wouldn’t it be best for you to avoid it then? Why let yourself be involved?”
Zhide said, “Although this servant is not well born, this servant is still full of gratitude towards Young Mistress. Young Mistress can put your fullest trust in this servant from now on. No matter what it is, this servant will obey every instruction from Young Mistress.”
Her words were more powerful than any other promises. Sang Wan believed that as long as it was Zhide who said so, there was no place for any doubts.
“Good, with your words, it cannot be any better!” Sang Wan finally nodded and smiled.
“As long as Young Mistress trusts this servant, this servant will also feel relief!” Zhide let out a sigh of relief and they looked at each other before smiling.
In a blink of an eye, it was now the final month before the new year. All arrangements had been given to the shopkeepers and workers, and those who were supposed to return home for their holidays had already departed as well. All transactions were in order; and every record which were supposed to be tidied up were cleared as well. The rest were left to be done in the first month of the coming year.
As per usual, this was the month Shi Fengju had the most available time. He did not have to be present at the stores everyday and could rest at home. He seldom had chances to rest for a few days in an entire year like now. Wang Shi had allowed him not to greet her every morning as she cared for her own son dearly and wanted to let him have a good rest. At the same time, she had also allowed Sang Wan not to greet her, as she wanted Sang Wan to focus on attending to her own husband.
Nevertheless, Shi Fengju did not stop going over to greet her, although he was just later than normal. The couple would often go together, a while after breakfast, to accompany Wang Shi by staying and talking with her.
Of course, Wang Shi was extremely pleased with her son and daughter-in-law.
On this day when the two returned to Ning Garden from Wang Shi’s place not too long ago and were taking off the thick fur cloaks while complaining about the cold weather, Xiu Chun, who served by Wang Shi’s side, hurried in before they could sit down for a cup of hot tea. She smiled, “Young Master, Young Mistress! Old Mistress wishes to have you over for something urgent!”
The two of them looked at each other in surprise. Shi Fengju laughed, “Why? Is Mother bored and wants to have a game with us? Since your young mistress still has something else to settle, she will not be going over. Let’s go, I’ll go with you!”
Xiu Chun hurriedly smiled and said, “Young Master, it would be best if Young Mistress could come along as well! Old Mistress has received a letter from what seemed to be from Third Old Master. However, no one knows what happened!!”
“Third Uncle?” Shi Fengju was surprised and he smiled to Sang Wan, “Third Uncle is an official at Sichuan. It has been two years since he last wrote back; something must have really happened. Let’s hurry there to have a look!”
“Okay!” Sang Wan nodded and hurriedly had the servants get the cloak, which she took off just a moment ago, to put on again. She couldn’t help but secretly feel worried. Hopefully, it was not anything urgent and that the third family was not like the eldest daughter of the family and her husband…
When Shi Fengju and Sang Wan arrived, Wang Shi had already let the servants read the letter out to her. She said while passing the letter to Shi Fengju, “Your third uncle and third aunt, together with your two cousins, said that they wanted to come back to celebrate the new year with everyone. They will most likely arrive in a few days. You’ll all have to hurry and clear a few rooms out for them. Also, prepare some clothes, bedding, and daily supplies for them.”
“Why did Third Uncle and Third Aunt suddenly write back, saying that they want to return? Did anything happen?” Shi Fengju was shocked, and he hurriedly unfolded the letter to read.
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