"This wine is sweet and mild, it doesn't cause intoxication or give a feeling of discomfort when drinking. Anyway, it's fine to get drunk in your home, so just treat it as keeping me company?" Shi Fengju did not allow her to say no and filled another empty cup before passing it to her. He said jokingly, "Look, nanny has even prepared a wine cup for you, you mustn’t refuse her kind intentions."
"Then, I’ll just have a cup." Sang Wan took the cup and smiled at him, "Sir, thank you for helping me today, as well as the past few days. Thank you for all the help you've given my family!"
She's still so distant and courteous to me, Shi Fengju sighed to himself. Still, she must have finally seen the good side of him, right? After all, she remained silent and did not chase him away last night when he mustered enough courage to bring his blanket up the bed last night. Surely, she must have some feelings for him. Shi Fengju suddenly became more hopeful. He raised his cup and said with a smile, "Sang Wan, it is only right that I did those!"
Sang Wan smiled gently and drank the cup of wine. It tasted sweet at first when it entered her mouth, but as it flowed down her throat, it left behind a feeling of spiciness. She creased her brows and lowered her eyes. There, a hot bowl of duck soup was right in front of her eyes. Shi Fengju gave a low laugh and said, "Looks like you really can’t drink."
Sang Wan hurriedly drank a few mouthful of soup to quench the spiciness in her mouth. She smiled and said, "Of course. Sir should stop making things difficult for me! And you should drink less too!" Nothing good comes from drinking. The two times when Shi Fengju went out to drink did not end well and she couldn't even blame him. She did not want the same thing to repeat again.
Yet, she was the one who arranged for the wine today, wasn’t it ironic?
"Alright, if you don't want to, then we’ll stop." Shi Fengju smiled and used his chopsticks to pick up a piece of the fish for her, "Let’s eat while it's hot!"
"Okay." Sang Wan saw how he acted all natural as if he had felt nothing strange and agreed foolishly as she lowered her head to eat.
Shi Fengju gently gazed at her, his lips curling unwittingly. When will his lovely wife understand his intentions? Well, who had asked him to be so bothered and too afraid of rejection?
"Oh right, the gift for my brother could have been sent by Zhan Huan or any of the normal servants, why trouble Head Servant Yu to send it?" Sang Wan suddenly smiled and asked.
Head Servant Yu was second in rank among all the other head servants. His position was only below Head Servant Jin. As he was responsible for all the finances there were innumerable things for him to settle everyday.
"It would be more convenient for him to go," Shi Fengju smiled and said, "There’s no need for you to feel bothered. There are many antiques and artworks amongst the gifts given by the gentlemen and officials. Your two brothers must first know their value before making their return gifts. Head Servant Yu is an expert in this and will be of help to your brothers."
Sang Wan felt touched and said, "No wonder your gift list encompasses so many things. Is it all, is it all especially to help my brother with the return gifts?"
Shi Fengju laughed happily and said, "My wife is so smart! Oh, will you blame me for being nosy?"
Sang Wan was at a loss for words. This person, why was he treating her so nicely?
"I, why would I blame you for thinking so thoroughly? I’m sure my brothers and sister-in-law will be grateful to you."
Shi Fengju was feeling contented after hearing these words as his efforts did not go down the drain. Wearing a thicker skin this time around, he chuckled, "Hehe, then how do you plan to repay me?"
Sang Wan was stunned momentarily before she laughed, "Sir is indeed a shrewd businessman!"
"I shall treat your words as a compliment!" Shi Fengju smiled and said.
"If Sir doesn't mind, I could cook for you frequently, how does that sound?"
Shi Fengju was elated, but only for a moment. After giving it some thought, he shook his head at her suggestion, "I think it'll be better if you don't. The kitchen is not a place you should be in; what if you get badly injured by the oil? How about this, since you’re usually quite free, how about helping me a little with the daily finances, are you willing?"
Help him a little? He wants her to help him with the finances? The business accounts? Isn't that ——
Although Sang Wan had her doubts and was hesitant as she knew she should not agree, but what she said ended up being different from what she thought. She could not help but nod with a smile, "Sir, just let me know whenever you need my help with it."
"Then I'll treat it as as a yes," Shi Fengju's eyes brightened and he was as happy as if he had eaten ginseng. When he thought about the additional time they could spend together, Shi Fengju's spirits rose and he was elated.
"Okay! It’s a yes!" Sang Wan smiled sweetly.
It was mid-October in just a blink of an eye. On one fine afternoon, Sang Yufei brought Shi Ming to the Shi household. He received a warm welcome from everyone in the household upon his arrival.
Shi Fenghua had taken leave from the academy to return home. When the teacher heard that the top escorted examinee for this term would be paying the Shi household a visit, he excused Shi Fenghua without hesitation and even nagged at him to learn and exchange knowledge with the top escorted examinee as it would be extremely beneficial for his learning.
All his schoolmates in his school were all envious when they found out and they requested him to invite the top escorted examinee for a gathering to exchange knowledge. Shi Fenghua could not refuse and relented to their request. Everyone was overjoyed and pressured him to fix a day. Without a choice, Shi Fenghua did so.
All was well in Shi's household, and the relationship between Shi Fenghua and Sang Yufei was well. Ren Zhixian remained the only unharmonious one
When Sang Yufei first arrived with Shi Ming, Ren Zhixian recognised him in an instant and overreacted, "Eh, isn't this Shi Ming? Since when are you following Brother Sang?"
"Sir!" Shi Ming gave his greetings courteously but the expression on his face was prideful as he confidently stood beside Sang Yufei. Finally, the resentment he had was vented. You were dissatisfied with me, right? If even the top escorted examinee is satisfied with me, then this shows that you have a really bad eye for people!
"Second Brother Sang was lacking someone to assist to him. Because Shi Ming is very suitable, I offered Shi Ming to him. Right now, he is Second Brother Sang's servant!" Shi Fengju smiled slightly.
"Shi Ming is extremely capable, I have not properly thanked my brother-in-law!" Sang Yufei cupped his fists and smiled.
"Second Brother Sang is too polite!" Shi Fengju smiled.
Ren Zhixian's face was full of contempt and he laughed complacently, "Hehe, I think Brother Sang is better at cultivating people! This lad was so clumsy when he was serving me last time and I had to return him to Fengju! Who’d have thought Fengju would give him to you too, and you guys actually get along quite well. Hehe, I think there needs to be some form of affinity to be the owner and the servant.
Shi Yumei was secretly gloating when she heard her husband. However, she purposely glared at him, "Aiya, you shouldn't be saying such words in front of our young master Sang! It’s almost as if you’re saying that you gave others what you didn’t want! He is a top escorted examinee so you shouldn’t throw his face!"
"Lady Ren is funny. But it may be because a person’s opinion differs from another, I really think Shi Ming is good! After all, I’m sure I can trust my brother-in-law's judgement!" Sang Yufei smiled and nodded at Shi Fengju. It also implied that Ren Zhixian’s judgement was not that great.
Although Sang Yufei was perturbed as to why this couple was giving him a hard time, he was not a foolish man and was clear about how Shi Fengju treated him.
Shi Fengju was also secretly infuriated. When his eyes met with Sang Yufei, he knew that Sang Yufei did not overthink it and he became less worried. He smiled and said, "It was all because I did not consider that thoroughly. If Brother-in-law Zhixian had told me that what he wanted was a beauty to accompany him, I would not have sent Shi Ming over! It was all my fault! Anyways, Second Brother Sang was on the road for half the day, why don't you return to the guest room to rest first!"
Wang Shi nodded and smiled before adding that they were to have dinner together at night when Shi Fenghua returned.
Sang Yufei bowed politely and agreed. When he left, Shi Fengju and Sang Wan both walked him back to the guest room.
"Second Brother Sang, you can rest in our household without worry and don't be embarrassed to make any requests. You can tell either me or your sister, it's the same. If it isn’t convenient, you can have Shi Ming ask in your stead," Shi Fengju smiled, some words were not meant to be too clear.
"I understand. Brother-in-law Fengju, you can go back to what you’re busy with without worries!" Sang Yufei gave a knowing smile.
After sending Sang Yufei back to the guest room, Shi Fengju and Sang Wan returned to Ning Garden, "Sang Wan, Brother-in-law Zhixian's character is like that, can you please tell your second brother privately to not take it to heart. Sang Wan, you won’t be angry with me right?"
"Don't worry,” Sang Wan smiled and said, "Every family has their difficulties. My Sang family’s situation isn’t any better than here. I’m sure my second brother isn’t foolish.”
"That’s true!" Shi Fengju touched his head, and laughed, "I almost forgot !" Both of them looked at each other and laughed.
At night when Shi Fenghua returned, there was another round of celebration and warm welcome.
From then on, Shi Fenghua and Sang Yufei spent most of their days in Shi Fenghua's study room. They would have someone tidy up some attic or a small pavilion and would exchange knowledge or find an answer to some difficult questions. Occasionally, they would explore past year questions, chatting mindlessly and draw up poems to appreciate each other's work. The two got along well and it was regretful that they did not cross paths earlier.
Only Ren Zhixian was being a gooseberry and stuck around everyday. He was ignorant about almost everything, but acted as if he knew it all as he spoke without stopping. Whenever he received an opportunity to speak, he would go on unceasingly with lots of gibberish. When he was finished, there was always silence because Shi Fenghua and Sang Yufei both did not know what to say in reply.
At first, Ren Zhixian did not think anything was amiss. In fact, he revelled at the thought that both of them were out of words because of his outstanding knowledge. But slowly, he became dissatisfied because the two had neither praised him nor given a look of admiration or genuine respect. This made him feel very unsettled when he realized that the duo was ignoring him. Whether they were doing so intentionally or unintentionally, Ren Zhixian could no longer sit still.
His ego had received a huge blow and he intentionally did not find them today. Instead, he had Cui Bao went to tell them that he had gotten a cold and could not head out. He initially thought that the two would come to visit him personally and then he would hint at them a little to let them know that they should not disregard him. Who knew that Cui Bao would bring back a message from them, "Third Young Master Shi and Young Master Sang said that sir should take a good rest then."
That caught Ren Zhixian by surprise and he was infuriated. In his heart, he scolded them for being unappreciative and disrespectful!