“Well, since we’re all idling now, why don’t I teach the two of you how to rub ink on your ink slab and how to hold your brush?” Sang Wan smiled.
Eager to learn, Zhide and Hong Ye nodded immediately. “Then this servant shall light a few more candles to brighten up the chamber!” Hong Ye smiled.
The flame on the candles swayed; the chamber was brightly lit. Zhide and Hong Ye stood at a side and stared deeply at Sang Wan as she demonstrated how the ink should be rubbed. After the demonstration, Sang Wan had them settled down before teaching them how to hold a brush.
However, it was senseless to just have them hold a brush in their hand. As such, Sang Wan simply went on to write two simple characters that had only a few numbers of strokes and have them learn how to write them while getting them used to the feeling of holding a brush at the same time. She assigned Liu Ya to guide Hong Ye while she taught Zhide. Not too long later, the four, master and servants, were all absorbed in the session.
Under the dim moonlight, Shi Fengju returned and was faced with a sight.
In the chamber were four people, but his sight was subconsciously set on one of them. Against the soft and gentle lighting, the person who was dressed in a plain turquoise colored clothes had her body leaned against Zhide’s back and her head lowered. Her mouth was opened as she spoke of something very softly and her hand was firmly grasped onto Zhide’s hand as she guided her to write.
The light outlined her entire side with soft lines. Her eyebrows, earlobe, and the tip of her nose were faintly outlined, but the most distinct were the lines that intersected at the edge of her lips. Right above her temples that were behind a curtain of black hair slid a hairpin with a rounded jasper head, and a smooth-rounded pearl hanging from her ear. From his angle, the woman looked gentle and beautiful to a point where one could not help but want to embrace her from behind.
At that moment, Shi Fengju was in a daze and his heart was overcome with tranquility. He could not bear to destroy such a beautiful sight with his presence and thus decided to leave quietly. However, Liu Ya lifted her head all of a sudden and he was spotted.
“Young Master…Young Master!” Liu Ya, who was teaching Hong Ye, frantically let go of her hand and stood up.
Startled, the other three immediately stopped what they were doing. Zhide and Hong Ye hurriedly stood up and bowed uneasily, as if they had committed a bad deed.
Since he was already spotted, he laughed and stepped into the chamber. Sweeping a glance, he smiled at Sang Wan and asked, “Teaching them how to recognize characters?”
“Yes,” Sang Wan smiled, “There was nothing to do, so I thought it would be good to teach them how to recognize a few characters and have them prepared!”
“That is true!” Shi Fengju did not mind and continued, “It’s already nightfall. Teaching them tomorrow when the sun is up again isn’t too late.”
“That was my intention, but I’d just wanted them to get used to holding a brush tonight, that’s all!” Sang Wan answered.
Zhide restlessly smiled, “Then, has Young Master had dinner yet?”
Sang Wan’s face suddenly reddened and she spoke embarrassedly, “I wasn’t sure when you’ll be back, but I was hungry so I went ahead to have mine first! Still, the food is warm. If you haven’t eaten anything yet, would you like to have them now?”
In that instant, Shi Fengju felt a sense of disappointment. He was disappointed at his ‘wife’ for not showing any concern towards him as it was not her who asked first but the maidservant, Zhide. Looking at Sang Wan’s expression, it seemed that regardless whether he returned or not, her appetite would not have been affected, right? The more the thought circled in his mind, the more uncomfortable his heart felt.
There he went, worrying that she might be placed in a difficult spot if he was not there to accompany her since they were a newlywed! Very good, it seems that she had no need for him anymore since she was now able to get along well with two of the maidservants!
Saddened, a string of annoyance sprouted in his heart. His brows rose a little and he spoke indifferently, “No need. I’m not hungry. I’ve some things to do so I’ll head to the study room. You, cough! I’ll head off now!” With that, he instructed Zhide to bring him a change of clothes and left.
He had wanted to add “Sleep first if you’re sleepy, no need to wait for me!” Since this person could eat without waiting for him, then if she were tired, she would have just gone to sleep; there was definitely no need for him to tell her, right? Yes, that definitely was the case! Shi Fengju smiled to himself. Their relationship was as such where it was not even as close as friends or even as business partners. Going by that, why should she show thoughts for him?
“Young Master does not… does not seem happy! Young Mistress, don’t you think so?” Seeing that Shi Fengju and Zhide had left, Liu Ya asked Sang Wan.
Hong Ye’s expression slightly changed and she asked worriedly, “It couldn’t be because of us learning from Young Mistress which made Young Master unhappy, right? Young Mistress, that——”
“You don’t say!” Liu Ya immediately scolded, “To trouble Young Mistress at night, Young Master would definitely not be happy! I think it should be canceled!”
Hearing those words, Hong Ye became even more embarrassed. She apologized and quickly went to clear away the scholar sets.
“Lord isn’t so intolerant! The two of you are thinking too much! There’s no such thing! I don’t see anything wrong with him, he may be tired today which could have affected his mood.” Sang Wan leisurely laughed.
It seemed that might have been so. As such, Liu Ya and Hong Ye felt somewhat more at ease and did not give it a second thought.
When the three stepped out of the chamber, Shi Fengju had already changed his clothes and left. Zhide called out to Sang Wan, but her behavior seemed a little flustered.
Sang Wan sighed discreetly and instructed, “Go and check whether the food is still warm. If they are, pack them nicely in a food box. Zhide, follow me to the study room later. Liu Ya, Hong Ye, the two of you will prepare the hot water.”
Shi Fengju was definitely unhappy; Liu Ya could sense it, and so could she. Though Sang Wan was unsure where the problem lies, she was sure that it was partly her fault. Shi Fengju was her ally in the Shi household whom she could rely on. If he were angry, she certainly could not pretend not to know.
Zhide understood that Sang Wan was going to send dinner over to the young master. Only when the masters are living at peace would the maidservants have a better life. The three maidservants seemed to have been affected by the subtle atmosphere but were glad to hear that Sang Wan was going to take the initiative to show her goodwill. Hurriedly, the three went off to their assigned task.
Soon after, Zhide returned while carrying the food box.
Sang Wan lifted the lid and took a look. The food in the box was steaming hot, their color still fresh, and the aroma delightful to the nose. Putting the lid back, she gestured Zhide to follow her.
Shi Fengju had actually nothing that required him to return to his study room. As it was all too sudden this time around, the young servant who was tasked to serve in the study room had already taken this chance knowing that Shi Fengju would not return anytime soon and went out to play with his friends. When Shi Fengju entered the room with Zhan Huan, the incense was not burnt, neither was there any pastry nor fruits left, and the tea was already cooled. There was not a soul in the study room.
“One by one, these servants sure are getting on my nerves!” Filled with rage, Shi Fengju slammed his palm on the desk. After returning home from a long and busy day, his face was not yet washed nor was there a cup of hot tea prepared for him, and not to mention his hungry stomach. If he were able to hold back his anger, he could have already become a saint.
However, he was never a saint to begin with.
“Young Master, no need to get angry at them. Those playful youngsters, this servant shall punish them tomorrow! This servant will go and have someone bring in some tea!” Zhan Huan could not help but lowered his head and smiled.
“Go now!” Putting up with the anger within him, he added, “go and bring in some water first, I want to wash my face! Also, go check if there’s anything to eat and send some over!”
“Yes! Yes!” Zhan Huan strangely cast a glance at his own master and thought to himself: Is something going on? If there isn’t any business to be done in the study room, why not return to Ning Garden1Ning GardenSang Wan & Shi Fengju's place of residence? Why eat in the study room? Did Young Master quarrel with Young Mistress? That can’t be! Young Master just returned to the household not too long ago! What’s more, Young Mistress is the new daughter-in-law, and is both kind and gentle in temperament! There isn’t a reason…
On the outside, he agreed to Shi Fengju’s request, but he could not help but ponder on the inside. On the way out, he turned back and asked with a smile, “Then, Young Master, what would you like to eat? This servant shall——” Seeing Shi Fengju glaring coldly, Zhan Huan was startled and immediately changed his tone, “This servant will go to the kitchen and take a look!”
With that said, he left quickly like a stream of vapor.
Not long after, two servants, Qian He and Qian Xiang, entered the study room. One carried the tea and the other carried the water for facial wash. The two did not expect the young master to return so soon and thus felt a little guilty.
The annoyance in Shi Fengju’s heart was finally lifted a little and he instructed Qian Xiang to place the basin on the shelf. Seeing the servant stand at a side after placing the basin down, Shi Fengju let out a silent sigh. He grabbed the towel that hung at the side of the basin and dipped it into the water.
He had not expected the water to be a little too hot, and the moment he dunked both his hands into the water, he jumped and let out a shriek. Qian Xiang became startled and hurriedly went to apologize. “This servant deserves to die, this servant deserves to die! This servant will return with some cold water!”
“Forget it, there’s no need to do so!” Shi Fengju tried to contain his cold expression. Even though the water was not prepared as well as how Zhide, Hong Ye, and the rest of them would, the temperature was still considered alright by adding a little care when placing his hands into the water. All the more, he was just too lazy to have things made too difficult! Carefully, he wrung the towel before wiping his face.
The warm steam rushed across his face and the tight pores opened. After a quick wipe, the exhaustion was swept away and Shi Fengju closed his eyes comfortably before letting out a deep sigh.
Washing his face casually was enough, and the water was of course just water; there was no flower syrup or readied soap added. As such, he was not expecting much from the servant. He had already experienced worse when doing his business and the traffic he had to face to and fro. The more he endured, the less time he had to pay attention to the minor events. With that, there was no need for him to explode his anger over something so trivial.
Not too long later, the temperature of the hot water went down. Shi Fengju washed his face and hands with the cooled water thoroughly, and his expression turned a little for the better. Leaning onto the back of his chair, he gestured to Qian He to bring the tea over.
Qian He hurriedly served the tea to him.
Shi Fengju lifted the lid of the teacup and looked inside, only to see that the tea leaves were still lumped together and was floating beneath the surface of the water. It seems the temperature of the water was not enough.
Shi Fengju’s desire to drink tea disappeared. “Pa”, the lid was placed back onto the cup and was placed at a side. He waved at the servants listlessly. “Leave! All of you, leave!”
Qian He glanced at the teacup in grief. Wasn’t the top quality tea leaves used? What a waste!
Qian Xiang and Qian He hurriedly left. After they had left, Sang Wan entered together with Zhide.
Not seeing Sang Wan would have been better. At the sight of her, Shi Fengju was reminded of her dullness towards him and the careless actions of his servants. In an instant, his heart flared and he frowned, “Why have you come? Is there something you need?”
Sang Wan rolled her eyes discreetly. Was this all because she had not waited for him to return before having her meal? If that was it, he could have just said so and she would have complied.
For a man to give the newlywed bride face, Sang Wan did not think that there was anything for him to be embarrassed about if he were to voice his thoughts out.
“No matter how busy you are, shouldn’t disregard your body! Why don’t you have your meal first?” Sang Wan spoke gently and ordered Zhide to place the food box down. As she opened it, she smiled, “These are Lord’s favorite food: pine nuts with sliced pork, beancurd with eight treasures, stir-fried sliced chicken with egg, dried fried whitebait, and seafood soup with bamboo shoots. Have them while they’re warm. Once cooled, they’ll not taste as good!”