Sang Wan was only seen giving a light laugh. She maintained her composure and gave a glimpse at Nanny Li before smiling, “Once you’re done studying in the morning, then you may go! Nanny Li, why don’t you take a day off today too! How is one table enough? Have two tables arranged in the dining hall located in the west, but don’t just invite those within Ning Garden1Ning GardenSang Wan & Shi Fengju's place of residence; if you’ve others whom you know outside of Ning Garden, invite them over too. I’m sure Nanny also has a few old sisters she knows of! As for the dishes, just order whatever you’d like under five silvers per table. Also, request the kitchen to pick the freshest ingredient before buying two bottles of fine wine. Just put them all on my tab!”
The moment Sang Wan’s words were heard, both Nanny Li and Liu Ya became elated. With Sang Wan, Liu Ya showed no modesty, but her heart was extremely grateful. With a face full of smiles, she accepted with no words of declination. Nanny Li, on the other hand, gave a few words to show humility. Her happiness soared through the sky and she smiled as she claimed unworthy of such a feast. Sang Wan naturally had to insist repeatedly and only then did Nanny Li accept with thanks.
Zhide, Hong Ye, and the rest hurriedly stepped up to say their thanks before congratulating Nanny Li and Liu Ya again. A table in an ordinary restaurant which cost no more than two silvers was already excellent, but a table for five silvers, the food would be even more scrumptious and ample. As such, the maidservants were genuinely happy. Even the younger servants could not help but become happy, along with everyone else.
Nanny Li immediately took her leave. First, she would make clear to Zhide and the rest of the ones whom she would be inviting over before going off to look for her old sisters and tell them about the good news, and invite them over for dinner at the same time for the more who knew of this good news the better.
The thought of having to read and write came back to Liu Ya. Although she was not as dejected as before when it came to studying, she still exposed a spiritless expression like that of a frozen eggplant which attracted a glare from Nanny Li, “You, lass, don’t you think about being lazy! Young Mistress is doing this for your own good, so don’t be ungrateful!”
On the subject, Nanny Li was originally quite unhappy with the fact that Sang Wan was teaching the three; Liu Ya, Zhide, and Hong Ye, on how to read and write. That was because she felt that a servant should know only serve her master and be ever faithful. What use was there to be literate? A little less knowing would be better! Otherwise, a seed of pride might germinate for knowing a few characters.
However, her opinion of it was different now. In the eyes of the people, and also her own, literacy makes an excellent person. For her daughter to be literate, that was great of course!
Moreover, by that sentence, it also told Sang Wan that the good she gave to her and her daughter would all be kept to heart. In short, it was to tell Sang Wan not to worry.
The provocation before from Gu Fangzi, Nanny Li did not take any means to intervene, but instead had her expressionless face eyeing tightly at Sang Wan. If Sang Wan had exposed even a little unwillingness or grievance then, she would definitely feel saddened—— largely because she was just an old servant. If there comes a time when she would have to choose between the young master and her daughter, she would have to choose the young master. She would also have to urge Liu Ya not to put her young mistress in a difficult position and cause the young master’s sanctuary to become a noisy chicken coop. The point she was trying to bring across, she was sure that Sang Wan would be able to understand without the need for her to put her loyalty into words.
If that itself needed her explanation, then there would not be any meaning left behind it. But if Sang Wan truly did develop a sense of animosity, then even a thorough explanation would have been useless.
In the end, Sang Wan certainly did not disappoint her. Towards Gu Fangzi’s provocation, she took it as if nothing! Instead, she took the initiative to fork out the money for both the mother and daughter. As such, Nanny Li was even more grateful.
At night when Shi Fengju returned, he was greeted with a quiet chamber with only two servants standing outside and Sang Wan nesting comfortably in a couch inside reading a book. The sight gave him a surprise.
After hearing the details from Sang Wan, he laughed, “I had initially wanted to do that, but I had somehow forgotten about it! Still, thankfully you did it! Only just two tables may be a little too little.”
Sang Wan was at his side as she helped him out of his outer garment and clothes before instructing a servant to fetch some warm water. At the same time, she spoke in annoyance to him, “Ten silvers, enough for even three to four tables. Just relax, Nanny will handle it!”
Even though Nanny Li was decent, she was, in the end, a servant. Two tables were just enough, and any more would be going too overboard. Whatever else that happens behind her back does not matter so long as the surface displayed cloaks it.
Shi Fengju suddenly laughed and spoke, “You truly are comprehensive!”
“Hungry? The dishes were just sent over and the temperature is just right. Should I ask for them to be served?” Sang Wan took a glance at him.
“There’s no need to hurry,” Shi Fengju’s face suddenly became strangely flushed. Raising his hand near his mouth, he gave a light cough before smiling awkwardly as he fished out a small and flat jade white rounded box. Giving it to her, he spoke, “That, I just happened to pass by Ming Hua Tang today and conveniently bought this for you. Just have a look and see if you like it.”
Sang Wan’s heart shook and wanted to refuse, but seeing the tense look on his face, her heart melted: since it was a gift for her, there’s no reason to refuse it!
Sang Wan smiled and received it. Her fingers gently stroke the jade box and she leaned her head slightly before speaking mockingly, “Conveniently I see!”
Shi Fengju rubbed his hands embarrassedly but smiled and hurriedly answered, “it was deliberate, deliberate! The shopkeeper said it was the latest cosmetic, what do you think?”
“The things from Ming Hua Tang are always good!” Sang Wan gently opened the lid and a trace of orchid fragrance could be faintly whiffed. It was both elegant and refreshing. The cosmetic in the box was as white as snow, creamy and smooth. She dipped the tip of her finger lightly before gently rubbing the cream, which was as big as a bean, on her palm. Seeing the skin on her palm moist and glossy, she laughed, “No doubt a good cosmetic, thank you!”
However, all she saw was Shi Fengju in a daze as he looked at her hand. Sang Wan’s face immediately felt hot and she put her hands down before giving a cough.
Shi Fengju let out an ‘ah!’ as if waking up from a dream. Rubbing his chin, he smiled, “Uh, good that you like it! Let’s eat, let’s eat!”
Those slender hands, together with her creamy white skin made him subconsciously recall the her last night with her creamy white neckbone and jade-like neck which sent him in a daze.
Shi Fengju’s gaze made her somewhat embarrassed, but as it was not her who started first, she was way more composed than he was. Smiling, she kept the jade box away and ordered a servant to serve the food. All of a sudden, she asked, “Why did you suddenly decide to give me a gift?”
Shi Fengju dodged the question, “Yesterday night, I was too impulsive and abrupt, but hadn’t I apologized for it already?”
Not asking would have been better! Sang Wan’s face turned flush, “I’ll go bring out the rice!”
Shi Fengju looked at her flee into the dining area and became a slightly shaken but he shook his head and gave a smile. After settling his heart down, he slowly entered the dining area. However, his heart could not help but feel particularly pleased.
In a flash, it was almost the Double Fifth Festival and Wang Shi suddenly called for Sang Wan to head over.
Sang Wan’s heart felt a little tensed and she quickly finished putting on her makeup before bringing along Nanny Li and Liu Ya with her.
From the depths of her mind surfaced a scene which happened in her past life where her own sister-in-law came up to the doorsteps to create a ruckus. The peace that Sang Wan had was once again disturbed.
Hopefully, everything would no longer be the same!
The festive gifts needed to be prepared for relatives and friends were done by Gu Fangzi. Sang Wan did not question it and Wang Shi said nothing about it.
Wang Shi only asked for someone to bring the gift list meant for her parental house and had her take a look. It was a Qingzhou custom that for the first festival after a woman gets married, the members of her parental house would come over as guests, and her husband’s family would need to prepare a gift to reciprocate to their courtesy.
Two jugs of realgar and calamus wine; four boxes of dumplings; two large carp; two live chickens, ducks, and goose each; ten pounds of pork belly; two tins of tea leaves; a pair of valuable vase; two pouches; two rolls of brocade; and a gold neck accessory for each child. Sang Wan received the list and read the above.
According to the Qingzhou customs, just preparing these would have been sufficient which the Sang family would prepare of a similar standard. However, in the list added two envelopes containing a hundred silver each.
Sang Wan’s face slightly changed as she stared at it without a word.
Wang Shi at first did not take much notice of her change in expression but seeing so, she laughed, “Oh yes, it must’ve been hard on your brother and sister-in-law since your family’s condition isn’t quite good as of now so I had someone specially include two envelopes of silvers! If that is not enough, tell me and I’ll add more into them!”
Wang Shi spoke like a day without rain; as if all was fine, but Sang Wan was doing her best to hold her expression back.
At this point, Sang Wan was able to conclude that it was not Wang Shi who came out with the idea but was instigated by Gu Fangzi to have those envelopes added. To Wang Shi, she was doing a good deed; however, her actions were considered an insult in accordance with the customary rules.
For a homecoming gift, the generosity of the husband’s family is a representation of how much they valued the wife’s family. However, it was not the same this time around.
Sang Wan was clear of her own sister-in-law’s temperament. Her brother would definitely look at the gift with sadness for he would feel that he had let his own sister down, but her sister-in-law would definitely become furious that the Shi family was looking down on them and that they had intended to ridicule them from the very start!
Right before Sang Wan could open her mouth to speak, she heard Gu Fangzi laugh, “Cousin Sang Wan, no need to feel uneasy, we aren’t distant, are we not? That gift is my aunt’s goodwill! Just look at how greatly Aunt Wang values Cousin Sang Wan!”
“Keke, Fangzi’s right, we’re relatives!” Wang Shi laughed and looked at Sang Wan before speaking again, “It isn’t easy for your older brother and sister-in-law. When they’re here, accompany them and have a chat with them, will you? Oh, also have Fengju go with you.”
Deep down, Sang Wan was angst but she forced a polite smile on her face. Biting the bullet, she carefully worded her speech, “Sang Wan shall thank Mother for your goodwill on behalf of my older brother and sister-in-law! Only that, like what Mother said, we’re relatives, so there’s no need for the envelopes. Otherwise, my older brother and sister-in-law may not feel comfortable. If I may——”
“Cousin Sang Wan, just listen to what you’re saying!” Gu Fangzi laughed, “Already, Aunt Wang said that she had done it out of goodwill. Your older brother and sister-in-law would definitely see it as an elder doing good for them, so why would they not be at ease? Does Cousin Sang Wan think that Aunt Wang is trying to humiliate your brother and sister-in-law? If that is how Cousin Sang Wan thinks, then it would have been a waste for Aunt Wang to put in so much thoughts into it!”
Seeing Wang Shi’s face change to an unexpected, Sang Wan quickly stood up and bowed, “Sang Wan doesn’t dare! Sang Wan definitely did not mean it that way! Mother, Sang Wan only felt that the gift is too much…”
In the end, Nanny Li understood and smiled at a side, “This old servant wishes to speak, but isn’t sure if it is proper to do so!”
Wang Shi would never argue with Nanny Li. Smiling, she requested, “Old sister, please speak!”
Nanny Li smiled and went on, “Miss, forgive this old servant for being discourteous but this time around, you’re in the wrong, Miss!”
“Oh? How am I wrong?” Wang Shi began to ponder.
“How are you not?” Nanny Li smiled to answer, “Relatives would often exchange gifts which is a part and parcel of our custom. Miss truly is generous, but that may be met with others seeing the Shi family as a family who shows off their wealth and looks down on their relatives!”
Wang Shi was taken aback and she immediately understood. The smile on her face vanished and she spoke, “No doubt I’m wrong! Remove that! Sang Wan, I wasn’t thoughtful enough but I hope you won’t put that to heart and be angry at me!”