An example would be now. If it had been Gu Fangzi asking the questions, the maidservants would have definitely scrambled to answer her so as to receive praise. If that were so, Zhide would not have attempted to do so as receiving praise was not something she needed. However, the one asking the questions in the chamber wasn’t Gu Fangzi, but Sang Wan, thus no one answered. Being the eldest, Zhide had no choice but to answer; and her answer was very simple. Who was Nanny Li? Where did she go? If Sang Wan did not ask directly, she had no reason to answer.
“Nanny Li?” Sang Wan asked deliberately, even though she knew who the housekeeper was. She gently gazed at Zhide, indicating for her to answer.
Again, without a choice, Zhide answered, “Nanny Li is Young Master’s wet nurse, and has always managed the chamber and everything else within the garden. A few days ago, her lower back and legs were sore so she went home to recuperate. Thus, I’m afraid she won’t be around for the next few days.”
“I see!” Sang Wan smiled and nodded, before chuckling. “Before Nanny Li left to recuperate, did she discuss with him who will be in charge of the garden while she is gone?”
Zhide replied, “That would be me! Maidservant Zhide will be at your service!”
“That’s good. May I trouble you?” Sang Wan smiled and thought for a while, “I would like to have some rest first. When it is lunchtime, do give me a call. Also, I’d like to see all of the servants who manage Ning Garden1Ning GardenSang Wan & Shi Fengju's place of residence after lunch. It isn’t much, really, I just want to have a glimpse of their faces, that’s all.”
“Yes, Young Mistress!” Zhide bowed, before taking a quick glance at Sang Wan. She was secretly surprised. Never had she imagined that her new mistress would be so generous and decent. She might not have come from a wealthy family, but she was definitely the daughter of a literary family!
“Young Mistress, please have some rest. Your humble maidservant will do as instructed.” As she thought for a brief moment, Zhide couldn’t help but take the initiative to add an additional sentence, instructing the other maidservants to fetch some water for Sang Wan to wash her face.
The maidservants are accustomed to serving people and their actions were all systematic. One placed a large napkin on Sang Wan’s lap, the other folded her sleeves, the third maidservant kneeled and placed a chiseled copper basin in front of her, and the fourth washed her hands at the side in a basin carried by the fifth maidservant. After washing her hands, the maidservant retrieved the soft clean towel soaked in warm water from the chiseled copper basin and gave it a gentle twist before handing it carefully to Sang Wan. Soap, balsam and other facial cleansers were all placed neatly beside Sang Wan for her to use…
After Sang Wan washed her face, the maidservants continued to get Sang Wan ready for bed. They removed her jewelry and hairpin before helping her change into her nightgown. With that, Sang Wan went to lay on the bed while the maidservants left the chamber. Only Liu Ya was left in the chamber with Sang Wan to answer any further requests.
The room was quiet now. On the circular window, behind the red gauze curtain that hung on the wall, was a bronze tripod incense burner. A thin curl of smoke could be seen rising from the incense burner and giving the chamber a sweet fragrance. The sapphire blue vase, decorated with jade… almost all of the furnishings within the chamber were exquisite and valuable. The wealth of the Shi household was not something the Sang family could easily attain.
With no one else inside the chamber except the two of them, the cramped feeling gradually disappeared and Liu Ya regained her curious nature. Gazing at the interior furnishings of the chamber, Liu Ya’s eyes shone brightly, brightly enough to show how shocked and amazed she was.
She uttered praise. “Missy… I mean… Young Mistress, the Shi household really is rich! All these things are definitely worth a great deal of money!” Liu Ya exclaimed, while her eyes remained fixed on a two feet tall gold-painted statue.
Sang Wan smiled and squinted to look at Liu Ya, “How do you know that this stuff is worth a great deal of money?”
Liu Ya explained, “Geesh, one look and anyone can tell! They’re so beautiful… definitely very expensive! Young Mistress, don’t you think so?”
Seeing Liu Ya’s gleaming eyes staring at her, in hopes of receiving a definite answer, Sang Wan couldn’t help but laugh. She nodded and replied, “Yes, of course, they are definitely valuable!”
“Hmm, I wonder.” Liu Ya’s eyes shone and became even more interested. “How many eggs do I have to sell before I can buy one of these? Two hundred? No, three hundred? Four hundred?”
Sang Wan smiled. Looking around, she pointed at the tripod incense burner and said, “That one is worth around ninety cows! The rest might be worth even more. However, I’m not sure how many eggs they are worth.”
“Ah! So… so expensive!” Startled, Liu Ya’s eyes widened and her jaw dropped open. Her mistress wasn’t kidding! Subconsciously, she clenched her fists and said, “The worth of your humble maidservant isn’t as much as that! Missy… Young Mistress, in the future, Liu Ya… in the future…”
Depressed, Liu Ya hung her head low and the light in her eyes vanished. The items in the chamber were worth even more than her! If she were to accidentally break one, selling her wouldn’t be enough to compensate!
Due to her having many siblings and her family being poor, her parents were forced to sell her off at a cheap price. With that, she was assigned to serve Sang Wan. Although the life of serving her wasn’t rich, her stomach was never left empty and she had never been reprimanded before. The thought of committing a grave mistake and her mistress selling her away made her shudder. To Liu Ya, that would be the most miserable thing that could happen!
She wanted to say that from this day onwards, she would not make any mistakes and serve her mistress properly. However, the Sang family and the Shi family were two different families. From this morning to when the maidservants were getting her mistress ready for bed, she had been of no help at all!
Not because she was lazy, but because she did not know how to. A maidservant, innocent of the knowledge on how to serve! There were lots of equipment she had never seen before, and even if she had, she did not know its usage!
The uneasiness she had hidden gushed out all at once from within her, lashing at her tiny heart violently. Among all of the maidservants, she was neither clever nor capable. With so many maidservants to serve her mistress, would her mistress still need someone as useless as her?
Liu Ya’s face turned pale and a shiver ran down her spine.
Peng! She kneeled beside Sang Wan. “Young Mistress! Young Mistress! Liu Ya will learn! Liu Ya will learn diligently and learn everything! Young Mistress, please do not sell Liu Ya! Liu Ya is more than willing to serve Young Mistress for a lifetime!” With tears flowing down her cheeks, Liu Ya jerked her head up to look at Sang Wan.
“Liu Ya! Stand up!” Sang Wan dragged herself up to sit on the bed before extending her hands in an attempt to help Liu Ya up. Thinking about all of the bad experiences she had had in her past, Sang Wan couldn’t help but pity the maidservant.
“Liu Ya, do not worry! I will not sell you. Even if the Shi family were to sell you, I will stand by you and protect you so long as you are obedient! You…”
“I will! I will! Liu Ya will listen! Liu Ya will listen to everything Young Mistress says!” Liu Ya nodded vigorously, like a chicken pecking the rice on the floor, before asking Sang Wan pitifully, “Really?”
“Of course!” Sang Wan sighed. “We are like family. To survive in this household, we’ll have to depend on each other! You are impulsive and will easily bicker with others. In the future, that will not be acceptable!”
“I’ll change! I’ll definitely change! Even if others were to beat me up or scold me, Liu Ya will not return the favor!” Hearing that Sang Wan still had need of her, Liu Ya’s heart was fixed firmly on serving Sang Wan.
“Good. Another thing, you only have to serve me. When I’m not around, you should stay near the chamber to do needlework. Whoever asks you to do something has to go through me first. Of course, with the exception of the Shi family’s eldest son, Nanny Li, and Zhide.”
“Yes, Young Mistress! Liu Ya will keep that in mind!”
“More work and less talk, especially about our background. Do not tell anyone. Listen to others only when you have to and ask only questions that are relevant. Our Sang family is nothing compared to the Shi family. The less they know about our family, the less they will talk about us.”
“Yes, Young Mistress!”
“Don’t assume. If you are unsure, ask the other servants. Do not feel shy or embarrassed.”
“Manners are also important. After all, this is the Shi family and not our Sang family!”
“Yes, Young Mistress!”
“Be polite, especially to Nanny Li, Zhide, and the rest. They may not sell you if you offend them, but suffering under them would become unavoidable. When that happens, I will not be able to help you and you will have to suffer in vain.”
“Yes, Young Mistress! Your maidservant, Liu Ya, remembers them all! Liu Ya will not do anything to get into trouble and cause Young Mistress to be humiliated!” Liu Ya’s bright expression slowly returned as she agreed to each of Sang Wan’s teachings.
Sang Wan smiled before reaching out her hands again to help Liu Ya up, “Why are you still kneeling? Quickly, get up.”
“Ah, Young Mistress!” Liu Ya rubbed her eyes and stood up, before giving Sang Wan a big grin.
Seeing her smile, Sang Wan followed suit and her gaze swept gently around the chamber. Looking at the exquisite and elegant furnishings, she asked, “Afraid?”
Liu Ya thought for a while before nodding and replied timidly, “…a little. I’m a little nervous, I think.”
Sang Wan nodded slightly. The transition from the countryside to the city for a naive person was difficult to bear, let alone entering the richest family in Qingzhou! The her in the past was the same. The more she feared, the more others looked down on her, even the elders. In the end, many people bullied her, and slowly, she fell into despair in a cold abandoned corner.
In this world, never would she suffer such a fate again!
“Do not be afraid and learn slowly. No one will eat you up, so what is there to fear?” Sang Wan rubbed her wrist and gave an encouraging smile.
“You’re right, Young Mistress. At most, they’ll only laugh at me!” Liu Ya giggled when she heard Sang Wan’s encouragement and her eyes sparkled.
With the mistress and servant both seeing eye to eye with each other, they each made a resolve.
After exiting Ning Garden, Shi Fengju hurriedly went to his study room.
“Fang’er!” Shi Fengju burst into the study room through the door. Seeing Gu Fangzi slowly flipping through an account book, one page at a time, a sense of pity welled up inside him.
“Big Cousin Fengju!” Gu Fangzi’s eyes and face lit up but immediately dulled. Putting the account book aside, she forced a smile towards Shi Fengju.
“Fang’er…” Unable to restrain his emotions, Shi Fengju moved towards Gu Fangzi and embraced her. Gently, he patted her on the back. He didn’t know what to say to her, so no words came out from his mouth.
Likewise, Gu Fangzi remained silent but gently wrapped both her arms around his waist.
“Unlike us who are filthy, my cousin-in-law is dignified, beautiful, sensible, and has a good personality. Not to mention her temperament. Nothing less from a scholar’s daughter.” Soon after breaking free from Shi Fengju’s arms, Gu Fangzi said softly with a smile.
Clearly, she was jealous and forcing herself to say such generous praise. The jealous side of her was not a side she would easily show to others and seeing it made his heart flutter.
Raising his eyebrows, Shi Fengju joked, “Really? Is that how you truly feel?” As he continued, he rubbed his chin. “Well, hearing you say that, it does seem true!”