“Mistress,” A while later, Cui Zhu returned hurriedly before saying softly, “Our young master and ma’am have not had lunch yet. Our ma’am said to have lunch sent over to them…”
Wang Shi was sent in a daze, and she looked at the western clock which hung on the wall. Although angry, her heart ached and her brows rose as she exclaimed, “Just what kind of life are they living!” Motioning to Cui Zhu that she may return, she quickly went to instruct a servant, “Quickly, have the small kitchen make a few dishes that Yumei likes, and then send them over!”
Not long after, Shi Lian arrived. Wang Shi was distressed over her own daughter, so she did not have the heart to give any attention to Shi Lian. With just a few words, she sent Shi Lian back. Shi Lian did not speak much and obediently withdrew.
A brief moment after Shi Lian had left, Sang Wan arrived. Seeing only her mother-in-law, she quickly went up to greet her and asked with a smile, “Mother, wasn’t I called because Big Sister has returned? But why do I not see her!”
“Oh,” Wang Shi smiled and replied, “The trip here has tired her out, so she has already left to rest! Just carry on with what you’re doing. Meeting her at night won’t be late, too! Right, have the kitchen cook a few more dishes, and let’s all have dinner together tonight. Also, for Fengju, send someone to tell him to return slightly earlier tonight!
“Yes, Mother!” Sang Wan smiled and answered before asking, “I’m not too sure what kind of dishes Big Sister and her husband would like to have. How should I go about instructing the kitchen?”
Seeing that Sang Wan was being thoughtful to them, Wang Shi was extremely pleased and she smiled. “The kitchen staff will know! It’s enough to instruct them about tonight! Go then!”
“Understood. Then I shall take my leave!” Without saying or asking much, Sang Wan smiled and left.
Although she had hurried over, she was not able to meet with Shi Yumei. If things were as they used to be, Sang Wan would surely take more notice of them. Since she had already been called over, Shi Yumei should still wait and see her before leaving to take a rest regardless of how tired she may be, no? But Sang Wan was sure that majority of the fault lay upon her mother-in-law.
Her mother-in-law was never sequential when doing things. On one side, she called for her to meet with her eldest daughter, while she sent her eldest daughter off to rest on the other. She believed that this was only possible if it were her mother-in-law who did so.
But Sang Wan would never have dreamed that Shi Yumei was deliberately making life difficult for her; thus, Sang Wan was wrong in her assumption!
Without Nanny Li present to give any pointers since she had already left to send out festive gifts, Sang Wan did not put this matter to heart.
“Your people do not seem to welcome us at all. I think that we should just stay for a night and leave tomorrow!” In the guest room, Ren Zhixian, who had not been deeply given respect and attention, grunted and said coldly to his wife.
“To?” Shi Yumei sneered, “To where?” Even if there were a place to go, you go by yourself! I won’t leave with you!”
“You! Ridiculous!” Ren Zhixian coldly rolled up his sleeves, but the anger in his tone momentarily vanished.
Not too long after, the dishes arrived. Shi Yumei gleefully picked up a pair of chopsticks and claimed, “Ya! Only my mother cares for me the most! All these dishes are my favorites!” After taking a bite, she praised, “En, so delicious! It’s been so long since I last had wine-dipped chicken made this well!”
Ren Zhixian gave a glance. There were only deep-fried prawns, eight treasure tofu, wine-dipped chicken, stir-fried eel, and a large bowl of piping hot minced beef stew sprinkled with coriander. All the dishes were his wife’s favorites, but his favorite pork sausages, steamed fish, fresh bamboo shoots, and many more were not present among the dishes!
His face turned sullen, and he was secretly annoyed.
“Oi, dear, aren’t you coming over to eat! Otherwise, the food will turn cold, and they won’t be appetizing anymore!” Shi Yumei said as she raised her head to look at him.
Ren Zhixian wanted to be defiant and not eat, but after smelling the aroma from the dishes, the hunger in his belly burned strongly. It completely overwhelmed the anger deep within him, and he could only keep a straight face as he went forward to eat.
After giving the instructions to the kitchen staff, Sang Wan sent someone to inform Shi Fengju. Once she was done, she began thinking about the attire she should wear for this evening.
Even though the eldest daughter and her husband were not outsiders, they were still guests. Mother-in-law placed a huge importance on reputation, and Sang Wan did not dare neglect that. However, she felt that they weren’t just any distant strangers and thus did not dress up too heavily, else that would deem them as outsiders. And so, she spared some thought on her attire.
When Nanny Li returned, Sang Wan showed her the attire which she had picked—an autumn-colored top embroidered with reddish-gold flower patterns to match the lapel of the coat, together with a reddish-orange skirt with sixteen folds. Complementing those would be the reddish-gold jewelry as well as a sparrow headdress.
“This will be fine. The eldest miss isn’t an outsider!” Nanny Li nodded with a smile.
“Then I shall go with this then!” Sang Wan was finally put at ease, and she quickly changed into it before washing her face and tidying her hair.
After handling a few other affairs, Shi Fengju returned. When he saw Sang Wan, his eyes glistened and were unable to hide his admiration. Her appearance and disposition were already outstanding. Now wearing a touch of makeup, she would surely be irresistible to the eyes of others.
The servants could not help but snicker when they saw their young master acting as such. Seeing him acting in such a way, Sang Wan could not help but feel a little embarrassed and a little annoyed because now was not the time for him to be admiring her appearance. But seeing that he was still in a daze, she asked with a forced smile, “Big Sister and her husband have returned. Is the way I dress passable?”
“Yes, of course, ” Without thinking, Shi Fengju replied almost instantly before adding conveniently, “Do you still have the mutton-fat jade hairpin? Wearing that will surely make you look even better!”
Sang Wan was taken aback, but Liu Ya had already diligently rushed to retrieve the hairpin.
“Is that so?” Sang Wan smiled. Since her husband had already said so, then she would just have to wear it.
“Young Master’s eyes for appearance truly is good! This mutton-fat jade indeed fits Ma’am perfectly!” Nanny Li praised from the side, and the other servants smiled to show that they agreed to it.
Sang Wan’s face turned a shade of red and she pouted, “Nanny, you’re making fun of me again! Quickly fetch a washbasin for Sir to wash his face, and aid him while he changes his attire. We have to hurry over soon!”
And so, Nanny Li became busy serving Shi Fengju.
Once Shi Fengju had finished changing his clothes, the couple left the small garden together. On their way, Shi Fengju inadvertently turned and made an eye gesture. Liu Ya and the other servants understood, and they distanced themselves from the couple who walked in front of them by slowing down their pace.
“Sang Wan,” Shi Fengju leaned closer to Sang Wan and whispered softly, “My eldest sister is very straightforward and speaks without thinking. If she does say anything she shouldn’t… Please don’t put them to heart…”
Sang Wan was startled, and she gazed at him, but his eyes subconsciously dodged from her, and she understood: This marriage should never have happened, and the her now would have to play up to people of power and influence!
“I understand,” Sang Wan gave a faint smile as she replied, “We’re a family. Whatever Big Sister says, I won’t keep them to heart.”
“Great! Let’s go then!” Shi Fengju was no longer feeling worried, and he smiled.
When the two arrived, Shi Yumei and Ren Zhixian were already there.
“Second Brother, Second Brother! You’re finally here!” Shi Yumei smiled and grabbed Shi Fengju’s arm as she evaluated him, “No different than before! Maybe just a little more mature!”
“Big Sis! Big brother-in-law!” Shi Fengju greeted before chatting gleefully with his sister.
To be frank, this sister of his truly cared for him very much and was very protective of him. When they were young, whoever dared to bully him, his sister would always be the first to stand up for him and protect him. It did not matter who was in the wrong, but whoever bullied her little brother would never leave unscathed! That was also because the relationship between both siblings had always been good.
“I must say ah, in the past when you heard that I’m back, you would have come to see me, but why were you so late today? Hmm? Or have you become distant from your Big Sis?” Shi Yumei’s gaze slipped to Sang Wan. Seeing that her appearance, as well as her facial features, were great, she could not help but feel slightly sour in her heart.
“Big Sis, what are you saying? I’ve only just returned from handling some business matters!” Shi Fengju smiled before adding, “There’s no way I’ll feel distant with Big Sis! Every since young, Big Sis has always been the one who cared most for us brothers!”
“So you still have some conscience!” Shi Yumei laughed.
“Sang Wan, come, this is Big Sis and Big Brother-in-law!” Shi Fengju said as he introduced Shi Yumei and Ren Zhixian to Sang Wan.
The moment Ren Zhixian had an eyeful of Sang Wan, his eyes were undoubtedly attracted to her. With just a gaze, he recalled the beauty whom he had seen when he entered the household, and he knew without asking that she was definitely the one.
Reading makes a person graceful! But it’s a pity that such a beauty is already married to a man like Shi Fengju who reeks with the pungent smell of money! Really, a flower placed among a pile of cow dung!
Ren Zhixian could not help but let out a silent sigh in his heart, and his face showed a look of pity.
“Big Sis! Big Brother-in-law!” Sang Wan immediately curtsied as she greeted.
Shi Yumei first glanced at her husband, and then at Sang Wan. She evaluated her before smiling, “Isn’t this my younger sister-in-law from the Sang family? Beautiful indeed! But I must say that our Shi family sure is generous! Just look at the way Younger sister-in-law is dressed. Keke, she’s more stylish than a missy or a mistress from a well-to-do family in Qingzhou!”
The smile on Sang Wan’s face slightly stiffened, but she pretended as if she had not heard such a remark.
Shi Yumei was not Mistress Zhuang. Although she had never seen her in her previous life, she knew that Shi Yumei was the daughter whom her mother-in-law pampered the most and was also Shi Fengju’s favorite sister.
“Younger sister-in-law!” Ren Zhixian smiled politely at Sang Wan, and his eyes glistening brightly at her as he tried to seek out the same suffering that he had in her eyes for them to sympathize with each other.
From the way he saw it, they should be on the same boat. They were both from a literary family, studied books before, and were rendered vulnerable after marrying to a house of riches and wealth.
Unexpectedly, Ren Zhixian realized that Sang Wan seemed to not have taken much notice of him as she did not even give him a second glance. That made him disappointed! In an instant, he turned sullen as the woman whom he was attracted to might look above average, but she turned out to be just an embroidered pillowcase filled with grass!
If Sang Wan were to know how twisted his views of her were, she would surely not know whether to cry or to laugh!
“Keke, Sis and Brother-in-law, have a seat!” Shi Fengju coughed into his fist and gestured with a smile.
Shi Yumei and Ren Zhixian took a seat, and Shi Fengju helped Sang Wan to a seat before sitting right beside her. Wang Shi smiled at Sang Wan and was about to ask her how the preparations were for dinner when Shi Yumei interrupted, “Yo? When did our Shi family begin neglecting the rules? How can a daughter-in-law have a seat when the mother-in-law is present? Is this how the Sang family have taught you! Or do literary families have a different set of rules?” With that, she turned and asked her husband, “When mother-in-law is present, I’m sure even I observe proper rules, too, right?”