“There, there’s no way I could remember all of it so clearly ah!” Shi Yumei forced a smile as she explained, “Mother, Younger Brother, you misunderstand. My husband only went there with a few friends to do poetry and conduct discussions! He did nothing else, and he didn’t stay there overnight, really!”
“You!” The anger in Wang Shi’s stomach became unbearable!
“Enough, I understand,” Shi Fengju nodded, “Mother, Big Sister, don’t worry. I’ll have someone look into it later on.” The bill had totaled up to be nearly three thousand silver, and there was no way I could make do without deducting from my own personal account, Shi Fengju thought to himself. It was fortunate that he had several other private outlets outside, or else he would have had to put his own personal items on auction just to cover the bill! That bast*rd! Just how did he end up with such a brother-in-law?
“Big Sister,” Shi Fengju suddenly smiled and said, “Tell me the truth, really! Your former estate and land, was it really handled already?”
Shi Yumei opened her mouth. Since her younger brother would be sending someone to check their assets, he would find out sooner or later, and she, therefore, vomited out everything she knew.
So it seemed they didn’t have any assets left! Even their house was sold by Ren Zhixian! And so, the two had to bring Cui Zhu along with them as they went on the run! Of course, they had to dodge all suspicions of them owing a debt. After all, Ren Zhixian was a scholar who was often chased by shops and restaurants every day for his debt. If word got out, how humiliating would it be?
“How could this have happened! How could this have happened!” Wang Shi was so furious that her expression was distorted, and she could say nothing more. Her son-in-law had always been unreliable, and she was clear of that, but never had she expected him to be so unreliable to such an extent!
Originally, she had clenched onto the hope that because he was a scholar, there was a chance that he might pass the government examinations and become an official. That way, her daughter would be able to live a comfortable life! Who could have known that—
“What have I done? I’ve sinned!” Tears trickled down Wang Shi’s face, for she regretted not ending this ill-fated marriage. How did someone of such a high caliber end up in such a state!
Shi Yumei could not help but sob, “Mother, once he passes the examinations and becomes an official, the amount we owe will surely be returned. Surely!”
Not saying anything would have been better. Hearing her so, Wang Shi became even more upset because she knew that was impossible! But how could her foolish daughter be so fixated on it!
“Hmph! That would only happen if his ancestors can become deities!” Wang Shi was so furious to the point that she almost died of anger.
Indeed, Shi Yumei could not accept that fact, and she could not help but cry, “Mother, you were the one who married me off to him in the first place, and now you’re blaming me! Do you think that he would have no future prospects? Then why did you marry me off to him in the first place! What can I do! In the end, I still have to continue on living!”
Wang Shi and Shi Fengju remained silent. In their hearts, they secretly sighed, Just why did he turn out like this!
Shi Fengju pondered deeply. He might have already had such a personality, but because his parents were there to discipline him in the past, he had never been the one to make the decisions. And now, his true colors were exposed! But his sister had already married him!
Wang Shi and Shi Fengju quickly went to comfort Shi Yumei, but Wang Shi’s heart became even more pained, and her eyes shed tears. Shi Yumei could not bear watching her own mother cry, and she held her tears back.
“Big Sister, Mother’s words are only spoken out of impulse due to anger. Do not put them to heart! In any case, isn’t Mother showing her care and concern towards you? If it were others, they will surely not speak with the same feelings that Mother has! A few thousand silver isn’t worth much, I’ll deal with it! Our family has more than enough bowls of rice to feed Big Sister and Big Brother-in-law, so you can stay with a peace of mind!”
“Second Younger Brother…” Shi Yumei was extremely grateful, and she reconciled with her mother. At last, the storm had finally passed.
Shi Fengju spoke again, “In the future, if Big Brother-in-law requires something, you can always request it from me, and I will have someone buy it! On a normal idle day, have him study in the household peacefully! When he gets tired, he can take a stroll in the flower garden. There are lots of distractions out in the streets that will easily divert his attention, causing harm to his study progress. Big Sister, for the sake of Big Brother-in-law, you’ll have to control him properly!”
Shi Fengju spoke with an intense tone, seemingly as if he were pressing the entire burden of controlling Ren Zhixian onto Shi Yumei. Shi Yumei could not help but sense that heavy burden that was now on her shoulders, and she quickly nodded her head with a calm expression. “Second Younger Brother, you’re right! There are filthy people out on the streets, and there are many things that can happen out there, but at least the household is clean and conducive for studying! Do not worry, I’ll properly control him!”
“En! I knew my Big Sister can understand where I’m coming from!” Shi Fengju smiled, and he praised, “Our Qingzhou isn’t like Mengxian where we buy on credit, and I’m sure Big Sister is familiar with such. So if there’s a day when Big Brother-in-law wishes to buy something out in the streets, have someone inform me, and I’ll accompany him. I’m acquainted with most of the large and small businesses here, so I’m sure they’ll give a better deal with me around!”
“En, that’s true, that’s true!” Shi Yumei nodded as she listened before smiling. “Second Younger Brother, you treat me well indeed!”
“Don’t say that. We’re siblings mah!” Shi Fengju smiled. If that bast*rd were to drown himself in debt again, not only would his d*mned habit be blamed, even the Shi family’s reputation would be thrown to the ground! Shi Fengju thought to himself.
After accompanying Shi Yumei and Wang Shi for a little while longer, Shi Fengju then got up to leave, so that he could deal with the mess his immoral Big Brother-in-law had made. Wang Shi urged him to stay for breakfast, but he had no appetite, so he shook his head and excused himself by saying that he had already arranged to meet with someone for breakfast.
“Second Younger Brother!” Not long after he had left, Shi Yumei suddenly chased after him. She hesitated for a moment before smiling. “Second Younger Brother ah, erm, your Big Brother-in-law’s debt, en, can you not tell that to anyone… Can you head over to Mengxian and help him deal with the debt…”
Shi Fengju was taken aback.
All he saw was Shi Yumei’s lowered head as she spoke shyly, “After all, he is a scholar… If others were to know, it’ll be embarrassing…”
So he has a face to keep ah! If that’s the case, then how could he have done such a thing!
How Shi Fengju wished he could just have someone beat that Big Brother-in-law of his so that he could relieve himself!
Oh well! There wasn’t any point in getting angry! His Big Brother-in-law was not worth getting angry at!
“Alright, then I’ll head over to Mengxian today!” Shi Fengju held his anger back, time after time. Deep down, he let out a long sigh before answering with a slight smile.
“Thank you so much, Fengju!” Shi Yumei could finally let out a sigh of relief.
“Big Sister, tell Big Brother-in-law that this kind of thing must not happen again!” Shi Fengju spoke plainly.
“Of course, of course! Don’t worry, I’ll make sure that it doesn’t happen again, I will!” Shi Yumei quickly nodded her head.
“Oh right,” Just before leaving, Shi Fengju asked out of the blue, “Have all of your belongings been moved over? Including his books, ink, and paper as well?”
Shi Yumei smiled and replied, “Those had already been gifted to others! He said that he had given them to all his former friends as a memento! Erm, I have the book list here with me, so I might have to trouble you again to buy another set of books for him when you’re back…”
“…” Shi Fengju was rendered speechless. “Even the four scholarly treasures bought from Guangwen Building were given away?”
Guangwen Building has a large shop in Qingzhou. It specialized in the four scholarly treasures, ancient books, and calligraphy, as well as many other items meant for scholars. The prices on each of their items were not cheap. One set of high-quality scholarly treasures which consisted of a brush from Huzhou province, a signed ink stick from the province of Huizhou, a stack of rice papers from the province of Xuanzhou, and a high-quality ink-slab from Duanzhou. Their most expensive set was worth more than a thousand silver, while their cheapest one already cost more than two hundred silver.
“I think so! Anyway, nothing is left!” Shi Yumei was apparently not knowledgeable of what a set of four scholarly treasures meant to a scholar and thus felt that it must be inexpensive.
“…” It would have been better not to ask. Asking had only made him angrier. That son of a b*tch!
When Shi Fengju returned to the small garden, Sang Wan had already had her breakfast and was about to head over to Linqing Pavilion to listen to the reports by the servants in the household. She was taken aback by the sight of her husband who should have left for work. Observing his expression, Sang Wan became even more surprised.
“Have you forgotten something? Why’re you back?” Sang Wan quickly went up to him and asked.
“Nothing!” Shi Fengju sat down and gestured for a cup of tea. He raised his head and looked at Sang Wan. “Instruct Zhang Huan to prepare the carriage. Also, prepare two sets of clothing for me, will you? I’ll be away for a while. I will return tomorrow!”
“Alright!” Sang Wan nodded her head and did not question him. She hurriedly instructed Hong Ye to look for Zhang Huan before bringing Zhide into the chamber to pack Shi Fengju’s clothes. Soon after, she heard Shi Fengju ask Liu Ya, “Is there anything left to eat? Quickly, just bring in anything to eat!”
“Hmm? Have you not eaten at your mother’s place?” Sang Wan’s words traveled out from the chamber. After instructing Zhide to pack the clothes, she then instructed Liu Ya to go to the small kitchen to take a look if there was any food left. If there wasn’t any, she would then instruct Liu Ya to tell the kitchen staff to make a bowl of noodles.
“No need for the trouble. If there isn’t anything to eat, I’ll just eat out!” Warmth filled Shi Fengju’s heart and he smiled. Having a wife sure is good, at least she is reliable!
“The food is easy to prepare, so it’ll be served quickly!” Sang Wan smiled. “You should eat at home first before hurrying off. At least it’ll save you the trouble of having to eat out.”
Shi Fengju smiled and said no more.
After Shi Fengju had left, Sang Wan returned to handling the household affairs as per usual and did some slight adjustments to the menu for the coming Mid-Autumn Festival feast before showing it to Wang Shi. Wang Shi smiled after reviewing the menu, and she ordered a servant to hand it to the kitchen staff to have them follow the menu for the feast.
In the afternoon, Gu Fangzi returned from the temple.
She first went back to Peony Garden to wash up and have a fresh change of clothes before bringing Lan Xiang along to greet Wang Shi in the main courtyard.
She saw Gu Fangzi’s thin and pallid complexion with no makeup applied on her face. Her plain white clothes, as well as her casually chosen accessories, made her look even more pitiful. Wang Shi could not help but take pity on her. It pained her heart so much so that she went to comfort Gu Fangzi for a brief moment.
Gu Fangzi nodded her head occasionally, and she did her best to recall all the sad and tragic experiences she had had. Tears began trickling down her face, and that made Wang Shi pity her even more.
“My good child, don’t be sad! In the future ah, this will be your house, and your aunt will be your relative. Foolish child, don’t cry anymore ah!” Wang Shi held onto Gu Fangzi and let out a sigh.
“En! Thank you Aunt! Fang’er is really fortunate to have you as my aunt!” Gu Fangzi nodded as she wiped the tears from her eyes.
Thereafter, she smiled at Wang Shi and spoke, “Aunt, yesterday when I was at the temple receiving blessings and doing a ritual, I dreamt of my father! He said to me that everything in the past was all his fault. It was his fault for not being a responsible husband as well as not being a father which caused my mother and me to suffer a lot! However, it was unfortunate that it was too late for regrets! He said he would compensate us both in his next life!”
Wang Shi could not help but sigh as she put both her hands together, ” It seems he still has a conscience! Ai unfortunately, it truly is too late!”