“The day isn’t early and the route back isn’t short. We should head back first! Second Uncle Sang and Second Aunt Li, Big Brother and Sister-in-law Fang, take care!” After sitting for a short while after lunch, Sang Wan smiled as she informed them.
“There’s no need to hurry; our nephew-in-law hasn’t said anything yet!” Sang Pingliang was in the midst of thinking how he could become closer with Shi Fengju, but hearing Sang Wan say that they were leaving, he felt extremely unhappy and used his seniority to give Sang Wan a glare. Speaking in a grave tone, he spoke sincerely, “My dear niece, being your uncle, it’d be best for me to give you some advice. Now that you’re married, the world does not revolve around you anymore; your husband’s opinion comes first! Otherwise, you might end up throwing our Sang family’s face!”
Sang Wan and Fang Shi silently exchanged glances with each other. Both could see the helplessness in each other’s eyes.
“We should be heading back now. The route back to Qingzhou from here isn’t short. The later we leave, the later we’ll reach home!” Shi Fengju smiled as he strengthened Sang Wan’s position. Giving Sang Wan a glance, he added, “Second Uncle Sang, you’re thinking too much. Sang Wan is a very good wife who is very courteous. My mother likes her a lot!”
The expression on Sang Hong’s face lightened. He smiled slightly and nodded his head.
Sang Pingliang coughed a few times softly. “Then that’s good! I’m not trying to boast here, but it goes without saying. After all, she is our Sang Wan!”
Shi Fengju smiled. “Yes.”
“It’s such a pity that this ended hastily! We couldn’t have much of a conversation!” Sang Pingliang sighed. “Next time then! Next time, stay here for a day or two and we’ll get together again, okay?”
Shi Fengju gave a vague smile and agreed softly. Zhan Huan had already prepared the carriages.
The group left the house. Shi Fengju and Sang Wan boarded the carriage right after bidding them goodbye. The loud noise of the carriages driving away was heard. Before long, the carriage left the village and made a turn before it was no longer in sight.
Sang Pingliang let out a deep breath and said, “My oldest nephew.” He turned and was about to continue.
“I’ll have to clean up the house. Second Uncle Sang and Second Aunt Li, if there’s nothing else, please leave! My dear husband, could you head over to the field and see whether the fence is still holding out? If not, do some repairs on it!” Fang Shi rudely interrupted Sang Pingliang.
Sang Pingliang glared at Fang Shi and scolded, “What’s with that attitude of yours? How can you interrupt your elders when they’re speaking? My oldest nephew is a delicate scholar; how can you have him do such labor work! That’d be a disgrace to the educated class!”
“The educated class?” Fang Shi smiled strangely. “Didn’t you say that being a scholar is useless? Instead of holding onto a book, might as well work in the farmland! When did a scholar become delicate?”
Sang Pingliang’s face flushed with anger. He turned to Sang Hong and glared at him as he scolded, “Look at your wife; just look at what she is saying!”
“What I said was what Second Uncle Sang always says!” Fang Shi said while keeping the smile on her face. “Time sure has passed. Second Uncle Sang has indeed aged with a poor memory! To have forgotten about the words that always come from your mouth!”
Li Shi could not help but shout, “That was before, and now is now! Things can change!”
“Yes! That’s it!”
“Oh, I see!” Fang Shi acted as if she had gained enlightenment. She clapped her hands together and laughed, “No wonder! In the past, Second Uncle Sang and Second Aunt Li weren’t willing to even take one step into our house, even if we were to invite you both!” But now, they were as difficult as flies to chase away!
As for the second half, Fang Shi did not voice it. But it was quite obvious to Sang Pingliang and Li Shi what she was trying to imply. They were so furious that they became speechless.
“Ah Xian, that is enough. Invite Second Uncle Sang and Second Aunt Li to talk inside the house!” Sang Hong had seen enough.
Fang Shi became silent. She gave a soft ‘humph’ and wanted to act as if she had not heard her husband. But in the end, they were the elders. Now that Ah Wan had been married into the Shi family, words might reach the Shi family that the Sang family was having a dispute in public and that the younger generations were disrespectful towards their elders. That may not cause any implications for Fang Shi herself, but it might indirectly affect her second brother-in-law, who was still studying, and her two young children.
Sang Pingliang rolled his eyes and walked into Sang Hong’s house without a word.
Nanny Xu was still tidying up the place. Seeing them enter, she spoke with Fang Shi for a while before entering the kitchen to wash the plates.
“Second Uncle Sang, Second Aunt Li, do you have something that you’d like to speak to me about?” Sang Hong smiled politely.
Sang Pingliang glanced at him before gently crossing his arms and walking slowly towards Fang Shi. He then cleared his throat twice.
“Second Uncle Sang?” At a loss, Sang Hong gazed at Sang Pingliang. He was an honest and simple-minded person.
What a slow-witted person he is! Li Shi rolled her eyes discreetly and forced a smile. “If I may say, my dear nephew-in-law, do your second uncle and second aunt not deserve a cup of tea?”
Sang Hong was taken aback and gazed at his wife. “Ah Xian.”
Fang Shi turned without a word. Not long after, she held a cup in her hand as she walked in. Standing in front of Sang Pingliang and Li Shi, she mocked, “Tea leaves are expensive but do not fill the stomach. Our house does not have much money to spare, so we only drink plain water! Second Uncle Sang and Second Aunt Li, this should do it! If you wish to have tea, go home and have it!”
Sang Pingliang and Li Shi became furious, but there was nothing they could do.
“That is also the past,” Li Shi laughed. “Now that your family is affiliated with the Shi family, wealth is just within reach! What I fear is that in the future, your family might not want to drink a cup of tea that costs only a few silvers!”
The moment those words landed, and before Fang Shi could throw in another sentence to counter Li Shi, Sang Hong’s face darkened and he chided, “Second Aunt Li, what do you mean by that? Ah Wan marrying into the Shi family was what my father arranged. By not being able to prepare a good dowry as her oldest brother, I’ve let Father and Mother in the heavens down. Now that she is married, we cannot afford to bring to her any troubles!”
Never before had Sang Pingliang and Li Shi seen Sang Hong furious before. The two were suddenly taken aback and felt a little fearful.
When an honest man becomes angry, the impact was greater than that of an ordinary person.
Fang Shi immediately pursed her lips. She thought about retaliating to Li Shi with “We’re marrying our sister-in-law off, not selling her away!” but held herself back.
“Your second aunt didn’t mean much.” Sang Pingliang coughed awkwardly and managed a smile on his face. “Why not this; we’re relatives and it is common for relatives to support each other mutually, such as helping each other out during times of need, sharing glory or loss as a whole. Should it not be the case?”
“Yes, yes, that was what I meant! The Shi family is wealthy anyway, wealthier than us! If ——”
“Second Uncle Sang and Second Aunt Li!” Sang Hong snapped, “The Sang family is the Sang family, and the Shi family is the Shi family. Ah Wan has just entered the Shi family; though we do not have the ability to be much of a support for her, we should never trouble her! For the sake of my dead parents, I hope Second Uncle Sang and Second Aunt Li will be more understandable! Otherwise, don’t blame your nephew for being blunt!”
Sang Hong glared in their direction. His two cold eyes stared into their eyes, making the old couple shudder. Fang Shi, who was witnessing her husband from the side, could not help but look at him in admiration for this was the first time she had ever seen this side of him.
Sang Pingliang could not help but feel annoyed, but under Sang Hong’s cold pressure, he was not able to utter a single word.
Sang Hong was well-known among many of the villages for being an honest man and his words were solid evidence. As such, no one had disbelieved the words he said. Never had he confronted anyone, and if a case ever happened, everyone knew that it would be the other party that was in the wrong. Although Sang Pingliang thirsted for wealth, he dared not risk going against Sang Hong face to face. He believed that if he ever went to seek Sang Wan, only God knows what Sang Hong might do!
An honest person also has a side that was extremely frightening.
“I, I was just speaking my mind, there’s no need to get so agitated! I’m an elder, I cannot bring myself to ask her. However, you’re Ah Wan’s oldest brother! If there ever comes a time that you need her help, you’d still need to seek her out right?” Sang Pingliang stammered as he spoke.
Sang Hong’s anger subsided. He stood and held his hands together before apologizing, “I was irrational just then. May uncle forgive me.”
Sang Pingliang’s face also eased a little, and he gently waved as he spoke, “Enough. When have I ever quarreled with you? We’re a family, and I’m sure you’re doing so for Ah Wan’s good!”
“Yes, that’s true! We’re not unreasonable!” Li Shi added. Her eyes turned a little and she faked a smile. “Well, back to topic. The valuable gifts that Ah Wan brought today might be enough to last your family through the rest of your lives!”
Here comes the main topic! Fang Shi sneered quietly.
Sang Hong answered, “That is Ah Wan and the Shi family’s goodwill. As for how many there are, I’ve not checked.”
“A carriage full of gifts. My dear eldest nephew, shouldn’t you share some with us? Your two other cousins have to have their dowry prepared someday! We’re a family, shouldn’t you consider us as well?” As Li Shi spoke, Sang Pingliang looked sidelong at Sang Hong.
Fang Shi was so furious that she almost laughed. As their father and mother, it is their duty to marry off their daughters and not ours to bear! They surely are trying too hard!
Sang Hong understood their reasoning. He thought about his two cousins, especially Sang Rou, who was older than Sang Wan but still unmarried. If that were to continue, she might even end up alone and become a bachelorette; that’d be too pitiful!
Seeing Sang Hong’s expression, Fang Shi immediately knew what he wanted to say. Sensing impending danger, she snatched the opportunity to speak. “We do care for our two cousins, and when the day they get married comes, we’ll have to send our wedding gifts to them! Every house has its own difficulties, and I’m sure Second Uncle Sang and Second Aunt Li knows. On the eighth month, our second brother has to take the township exam. If he passes, he’ll be to the capital city for another exam. The expenses for that aren’t small! He has to purchase new clothes, books and ink, the additional classes that he participates in occasionally, and the gifts he brings when visiting his seniors for guidance; all of those will cost money! The Double Fifth Festival is also coming up soon, and according to the customs, we’ll have to send gifts to the Shi family. The gifts Sang Wan sent to us might have to be exchanged into silvers for us to do so! If the amount we send were to be little, Ah Wan might become a joke in the family! After the New Year, Ah Wan will come back for her homecoming; for that, we’ll have to prepare her New Year gift in advance! My two children will soon also grow up. One will be studying, and for the other, a dowry will have to be prepared! Just think about it, money has to be used in every aspect! This worries me a lot!”
Fang Shi listed everything clearly, startling Sang Pingliang and Li Shi, leaving them at a loss for words. Even Sang Hong, who had wanted to speak, hesitated.
“You sure have a way with your mouth, but don’t you think you’re exaggerating too much? In the end, what you meant to say is that you don’t want to share any with us! Fancy you, using such a big excuse!” Li Shi snorted.
Fang Shi sneered discreetly. It seemed that the greed in a human heart can never be satisfied. Ah Wan had not gone to their house empty-handed, but it seemed as if they had forgotten all about it!