Gu Fangzi went silent.
Shi Fengju heart felt as if an icicle had pierced his heart before an indescribable disappointment slowly filled the hole.
“Why won’t you believe me?”
“That’s because your actions don’t live up to your words!” Gu Fangzi burst into tears and asked Shi Fengju sourly, “Do you like her now? Hold onto your conscience and tell me, have you started liking her? Do you think that I’m finding fault in you for no reason whatsoever and that I’m very sinister? Tell me!”
Shi Fengju did not speak and his expression turned calm, “Fang’er, I hope that nothing of this sort happens again in the future. I hope that the Fang’er I like isn’t like that.”
Once he was done, he turned and left.
“Big Cousin!” A burst of panic erupted in Gu Fangzi and she ran after Shi Fengju, hugging him tightly from behind. With her face pasted at his back, she choked with sobs, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry! Big Cousin, it’s me who’s in the wrong and not you! Don’t be angry, please don’t ignore me! Big Cousin, I did it because I was nervous, afraid that you might not want me anymore; I’m really afraid! Big Cousin, I cannot live without you! Big Cousin!”
Shi Fengju’s body stiffened and he sighed, “Promise me, never do it again.”
“En, en! I promise, I promise! Never again, never again!” Gu Fangzi nodded desperately.
Shi Fengju smiled and turned to pat her back gently, “Fang’er, believe in me.”
“En, then, you’ve to promise me that your heart will never change!” Gu Fangzi hugged him even tighter this time around and rested herself in his arms.
“I, promise.” Shi Fengju became unattentive in that moment but still nodded gently.
Only then did Gu Fangzi’s tears finally stopped and she spoke softly, “On the day after tomorrow, Big Cousin will be leaving home so I’ve personally sewed two clothes for you. My handicraft isn’t great, but Big Cousin, you must not laugh at them.”
“Really? You made clothes for me?” Shi Fenju laughed, “When did you become so maidenly?” Since young, Gu Fangzi had never liked to do the work of women. Not just clothes, she had never gift him a belt and footwear before. As for an embroidered sachet, that was a few long years ago.
Gu Fangzi gave a glance at him and joked half-heartedly, “So you think only that wife of yours can be a maiden and I cannot?”
Shi Fengju’s eyes turned dark but he forced a smile.
Gu Fangzi went on and rambled, “Those friends of yours who are a negative influence on you, you’d better get far away from them and never learn from them! You’re not allowed to visit the brothel and date other girls outside! Hmph, if I find out, I’ll definitely not forgive you!”
“How would I! Was I ever that kind of person?” Shi Fengju restrained himself and laughed.
“You never know! So I’m here to remind you!” Gu Fangzi puffed.
On to Sang Wan’s side, she was almost done with packing the luggage. In there were his sleepwear, underwear and shorts, outerwear, cloak, shoes and socks, belts, headbands, and many others packed neatly for different occasions. There were also towels, soap, and other toiletries, lotus paste buns, pancakes, nail clipper, a jade ring, and many others all loaded into two large trunks and two small trunks. With a smile, she spoke to Shi Fengju, “The list of items was in the trunk so it was easy enough for me to pack! Tomorrow, Nanny will have someone to lift these to Zhan Huan and pass on a message to have him buy the items if there’s any that’s missing! The outside is never like home, Zhan Huan and the rest may not think on a whole and may become unattentive. When that time comes, remind them a little or they’ll end up becoming lazy!” There, Sang Wan rumbled for a long time.
Shi Fengju felt a sense of warmth in his heart but somehow forced his words to give an opposite meaning, “Actually, you can just let the servants do these packing; there’s no need for you to do it personally. After all… I mean, it’s enough to have the servants do it!”
Sang Wan’s expression turned a little pale but she laughed, barely, “Just like you said! Thank you for accompanying my big brother yesterday, so just treat this as thanks!”
Shi Fengju knew deep down that she had already begun packing since a few days ago, but after hearing those words, he secretly regretted having said so.
Only to listen to Sang Wan going on, “Then again, it was Mother who assigned me to do so, so can I not listen? What’s more, there was also Nanny Li who was present!”
In other words, she was doing this for others to see.
Shi Fengju smiled, a smile that was extremely forced. Unbeknown to her, those words made his heart somewhat disappointed.
“Oh that’s right, ” Sang Wan tidied the strains of hair hanging down her temple before bringing out a rectangular wooden box. “This is a medicine chest. Inside, there are gauzes, anti-bruise powder, Vermilion powder, Zhuge powder, Vermilion pills, shixiang fansheng pills, rose hip pills, loquat cream, White Tiger balm and many other common pills. This medicine box is also water resistant, but it’s best to store it carefully in case it may be needed. Of course, not having to use it would be best!”
“Thank you for being so thoughtful!” Shi Fengju smiled and received it.
Sang Wan smiled and shook her head, “There’s no need for us to be so overly polite to each other.”
Shi Fengju nodded in agreement before pondering for a moment and spoke, “I might only be able to return on August 15th. In these three months, you’ve to take care of yourself. If there’s anything you need, discuss it over with Nanny Li, she’s a wise old lady. Also, help me take good care of my mother! If you suffer from any complaints after,” Shi Fengju gazed at her and continued, “please endure a little until I return.”
Sang Wan thought to herself: So you know, there I was thinking you don’t! During the period when you’re gone, who knows what else that cousin of your’s might do!
“Alright, then I shall wait for you to return to bring justice.” Sang Wan laughed.
Shi Fengju could not help but laugh along.
On the very next day, the entire family had a meal together. Second Young Mistress had not went to see Sang Wan for a while which had something to do with her being a little sick these few days. Meeting again this time around, the two greeted a little less than before.
Early morning on the eighth of May, Wang Shi brought Shi Fengju, Sang Wan, and Gu Fangzi to the ancestral tablets and burned the incense. Once done, they kowtowed and place the food offerings such as a whole chicken, fish, roasted square pork, and wine before praying to the ancestors to keep Shi Fengju safe and give him their blessings. Now again, Wang Shi led them to the temple to burn the incense, sprinkled rice water, and murmured some words of prayer before holding on to Shi Fengju’s hand all the way and would only let go once he had to leave the household.
The Shi family had always been merchants and Shi Fengju had to go on trips that were either long or short every year. Wang Shi had always been worried for him but was also used to it. As such, on this occasion, there was no crying and only a face of a mother who missed her son. So on a whole, the atmosphere was somewhat alright.
In front of the entire crowd, Gu Fangzi suddenly boarded Shi Fenju’s carriage and directed a smile at Wang Shi,” Aunt Wang, I want to go to the wharf to send Big Cousin off on his trip!”
The crowd was immediately taken aback, even Shi Fengju himself.
Shi Fengju could not help but give a glimpse at Sang Wan. Seeing that she was restraining herself, his heart immediately received a blow. But Gu Fangzi had already boarded the carriage and announced it to the crowd, there was no way he could just chase her off.
The servants from the household department were also taken aback by Gu Fangzi’s actions and they looked at each other strangely before a glisten shone in their eyes as they looked excitedly at their Young Mistress’s expression secretly.
Nanny Li, on the other hand, was extremely furious. Although that anger in her was not openly revealed, her face was dark and she rolled her eyes at Gu Fangzi.
“This,” The crowd gauged Sang Wan’s expression with a little discretion. Wang Shi and everyone else looked at Sang Wan to seek her opinion.
Although it was embarrassing, Sang Wan held herself back and did not let the tears trickle down her eyes!
“Enough. Mother, Sang Wan, you can all return now! I’ll have someone send my cousin back later! Sang Wan, take care of yourself, and take good care of mother in my stead!” Shi Fengju gave a smile barely enough and coughed.
Seeing that he knows to protect her reputation and speak a few good words of his own to her in front of everyone else, Sang Wan blushed a little and nodded at him with a smile, “My husband, don’t worry for I will! Mother and I shall await your return!”
“Yes, yes, yes! May you have a smooth and safe trip, and return back as soon as possible!” Wang Shi smiled.
Shi Fengju nodded before ordering the coachman to drive the carriage away.
When Gu Fangzi returned to the household, her expression was not so good-looking as she glared at Ning Garden1Ning GardenSang Wan & Shi Fengju's place of residence with jealousy and resentment before hurrying back to the Peony Park2Peony ParkGu Fangzi's place of residence.
Can she really believe in Big Cousin? Is a man’s promise somewhat credible? Gu Fangzi was at this moment caught in an unprecedented conflict and dilemma.
Very soon, something was about to happen which would change her mindset to make haste!
Not more than two days after Shi Fengju left home, Gu Fangzi’s father, Gu Jin, found his way to the Shi household.
Catching wind of the news from a servant, Gu Fangzi’s expression became troubled and she ordered a servant to lead that man to a secluded waiting room in the outer courtyard. Cursing fiercely under her breath, she wrapped a few pieces of broken silvers in a veil and went to meet him in secret.
She was still some distance away and she could already hear her father yelling loudly, “You people of the Shi family are really very stingy! Not even a jug of wine is given? Do you all know who I am? I am your Miss Gu’s father, her biological father! I do not drink tea, serve up the wine, bring me the wine now!”
What a disgrace! Gu Fangzi felt both ashamed and furious as she rushed over and glared at the maidservants to leave before frowning at her father, “Father! What are you yelling for!”
“What? You see me as a disgrace? Even so, you’re still my daughter! A Gu family’s member!” Gu Jin grinned and exposed his yellowed teeth.
Gu Fangzi had always hated hearing those words as they sounded extremely ear-piercing. However, she could only endure and spoke patiently, “Why have you come? Is there any matter?”
“Oh, ” Gu Jin looked at her from head to toe and started laughing, “Is that how you should be speaking to your own father? It seems to me like I’m an outsider and this is your home! My daughter, don’t be in such a hurry! You aren’t surnamed Shi yet! And I’ve yet to see the Shi family’s betrothal gifts!”
“Father!” Gu Fangzi stomped her foot and spoke coldly, “If you say these words again, don’t blame me for ignoring you!”
“Don’t be like that!” Gu Jin laughed, “Whatever my reason for finding you, I’m sure you know very well.”
Gu Fangzi’s face remained cold and she drew out the veil which had a few broken pieces of silver and gave it to Gu Jin, “Just these, take it!”
Gu Jin weighed the veil in his hand and laughed, “I say, my daughter, aren’t you being very ungrateful to this father of yours? In the Shi family where you’re given shelter, delicacies, and silk and satin clothes to wear, yet you show this little respect to your father? Chasing off someone like me whom you see as a beggar, I see!”
Gu Fangzi sneered, “Father, what belongs to the Shi family belongs to the Shi family. This daughter of yours freeloading in the Shi family is already embarrassing enough already. Where would I even get the face to ask them for money to show you any respect! Just these few were me being thrifty to save up, so take it or leave it!”
Gu Jin ignored his daughter’s lashing words and rolled his eyes with a sudden realization, “Just like you said! You’re still not a member of the Shi family, freeloading here isn’t a really good idea! In that case, you will follow me back! Go, we’ll go back now! Until the day the Shi family brings me the betrothal gifts and carry a big red sedan to receive you, you’ll be staying with me!”
With that, Gu Jin grabbed Gu Fangzi’s arm and forced her to leave with him.
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