The two woke up early next morning. They hurriedly got dressed and had a light breakfast before heading out.
For the homecoming, Sang Wan did not bring a single maidservant from the small garden along with her to her parental home. Instead, she instructed Zhide to have her chamber and the garden looked after, and only brought Liu Ya along with her.
As for Shi Fengju, he made a few adjustments to have only two maidservants, Zhang Huan and Shi Ming, and their husbands who aids him in his business, Li Yan and Song He, to accompany him to Sang Wan’s parental home.
Two horse-drawn carriages were prepared beforehand; one for Sang Wan and Shi Fengju, and the carriage behind for the maidservants. The two confidantes would steer the carriage, and their wives together with Liu Ya would settle in the carriage. The gifts prepared were kept neatly in the compartment of the carriage the maidservants were in.
Before leaving, Shi Fengju glanced at Sang Wan; seeking for her green-light. Upon seeing her smile and nod at him slightly, Shi Fengju waved his hand and ordered everyone to board the carriages.
The carriages drove past the gate and left the Shi family behind them. The sounds of the horseshoes hitting against the pebbled floor gradually became softer. There, behind a dense cluster of pomegranate trees, stood Gu Fangzi with a gloomy face. “Pā”, a branch in her hand snapped in half and the green leaves in her hand were crumpled. That pale white palm of hers was stained with different shades of green.
However, Gu Fangzi cared not for the stains on her pale white palm. Instead, her eyes boiled with rage as she gazed in the direction of the gate.
That woman, cousin has gone to accompany that woman back to her parental house!
Though she knew the homecoming was unavoidable, she could not help but feel sullen. Her eyebrow raised slightly as the smile Sang Wan gave to Shi Fengju just then floated in her mind. The devious seed in her heart began to grow.
“Shi Fengju has no feelings for her! Shi Fengju has no feelings for her…” Gu Fangzi murmured to herself but only to pout her lips and shook her head as she sighed. “To run out here to take a look, I sure asked for it! What’s there even to see? Seriously!”
The carriages left the city gates. Pulling the curtains apart, the repeated slopes of the distant hills could be seen. Her hands that were clutching tightly onto the handkerchief finally relaxed, and her body would occasionally sway from side to side. As if she were trying to suppress the excitement and nervousness within her, Shi Fengju could not help but size her up.
Sang Wan laughed awkwardly, ” To think that I’m about to meet my brother and his family, my heart’s feeling a little nervous!”
“Chi”, Shi Fengju suddenly burst out in laughter. “It hasn’t even been a week since you last met them, what’s there to be nervous about?”
Sang Wan was suddenly brought to a daze by Shi Fengju’s words but managed to force a smile. “That’s true; it has only been a few days. I sure am hopeless! Hēhē!”
A few days? To him, and everyone else, it may have indeed been a few days; however, to her, it had already been several years! To finally be able to see her blood relatives whom she had not seen for several years, how could she not feel nervous? How could she not feel a sense of longingness?
Her honest and good-natured elder brother, her daring yet simple sister-in-law, her lovable nephew and niece; do they still look the same as before? Will they still treat her well like before? Of course they will! Why? Because all the unpleasantness has yet to begin, or better still, will never begin!
Sang Wan’s heart did a few somersaults, but she quickly held a deep breath.
“No need to feel so anxious; there’s still a two-hour journey to go! If you’re feeling tired, you can take a shut eye for a while.” But the moment Sang Wan snapped, Shi Fengju stopped and dared not joke with her. Being an understanding person; perhaps every newly-wedded bride feels this way?
Sang Wan’s heart was in a chaos, but upon hearing those words from Shi Fengju, she instinctively closed her eyes to organize her thoughts. She gave a slight nod to Shi Fengju and leaned to the side of the carriage wall.
As noon approaches, the carriage finally arrived in the outskirts of Yangliu Town, Sihe Village, and Sang Wan’s parental house was located near the east entrance of the village.
The Shi family’s carriages, drawn by two strong and healthy horses, were gorgeous; the wheels were half the height of a full grown man; the body was thickly coated with paint and decorated with magenta flowers sewed from fine silk. The four sides of each carriage hung a gold tassel, and the four edges of these carriages were decorated with sachets hung from a string of jade beads. The moment the carriages entered the village, it attracted the attention of many villagers. Although there were only two carriages, they still garnered the envy of many. Seeing that the carriages were heading towards the Sang house, many couldn’t help but lament in their hearts. “Nothing less from Qingzhou’s Shi family! Impressive!” Moreover, there were a number of children giggling and following closely behind the carriages as they enjoyed the liveliness within the village.
The carriages halted at the entrance of the Sang house. Liu Ya, who was dressed in new clothes, hurriedly jumped off the carriage and went to assist Sang Wan as she exited the carriage.
Not far away in the bustling crowd stood many wives gossiping among themselves. “Yí, isn’t that Liu Ya? The dress she’s wearing and those beautiful ornaments on her hair; āi, I’ve never seen such beautiful clothings before! The Shi family sure is rich; even a maidservant’s apparel looks better than ours!”
“Though I think not in the past, but it now seems that lass has definitely set a new standard of beauty!”
“The Sang family sure are lucky!”
“An unimaginary amount of riches! Soon, the Sang family will be basking in them! They sure hit a lottery this time around!”
While the crowd were gossiping among themselves, Sang Wan had already stepped out of the carriage. The crowd’s gaze immediately landed on her. Dressed in a bright red, she wore a traditional jacket over her dress and the sleeves of her dress were embroidered with gold. A twin magenta rabbit was sewed onto the foot of her dress to carry the word of the double happiness. The dress was tailored perfectly for her slender and delicate figure! Sang Wan stood majestically for a moment. A beautiful peony flower was slipped neatly onto her temple and her hair bun was decorated brilliantly with ornaments made with pearls and jade. Her brilliance shone right past the crowd, yet they could not not their eyes off of her. The ornaments she wore were not something they had ever seen before, but they recognized the pair of ruby earrings, which were as large as the base of a thumb, as they swayed from her movements. In all, her appearance was exceptionally eye-catching.
The Sang doors squeaked open and Sang Wan was welcomed by her elder brother, followed by her lovable nephew and niece, Sang Quan and Sang Nuan, who were holding on to their mother’s hand.
“Ah Wan, welcome back!” Sang Hong rubbed his hands as he came forward. All could see that he was somewhat nervous.
“Big Brother!” Sang Wan smiled as she led Shi Fengju to meet her elder brother.
Shi Fengju cupped both his hands and greeted with a “big brother”, and Sang Hong quickly greeted back.
Sang Quan and Sang Nuan were very comfortable with Sang Wan. Though the lady in front of them looked wealthy, her attitude remained gently like before. Immediately, they greeted “Auntie!”. Letting go of their hands which were held tightly onto their mother’s, the two launched themselves forward into Sang Wan’s arms and giggled together with her.
“That ——” Sang Hong gave a dry cough and invited the young couple into the humble courtyard. Suddenly, they heard a middle-aged man driving the crowd away rudely. “Hey, hey hey, what are the lot of you gathering around here for? Shoo, shoo, there’s nothing for you to see here! Before the lot of you offend the important guests, shoo! Disperse, the lot of you!”
“Qiè!” The crowd spat in distaste and slowly dispersed. Those who spotted their children at the scene immediately pulled them away, and in a blink of an eye, the scene became empty.
Sang Wan could not help but frown a little. Her heart dropped on the thought, “Second Aunt and Uncle had arrived!”
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But before Sang Wan could react, Second Uncle, Sang Pingliang, took the initiative to come forward and exchange a warm handshake with Shi Fengju. As he did so, he grinned from ear to ear, “Keke, this is the new member of our Sang family! What a talented and young man you are! The villagers know not for the regulations and may have disturbed my new nephew, but I hope my new nephew is an understanding man. Still there is no need for a person of your standing to be around people like them! Come, come, have a sit inside the house! I’ve prepared some good tea for you to enjoy; quickly please my good nephew, quickly!”
With that, he glared at his daughter-in-law who was having a conversation with the two wives, whom came along with Sang Wan for the homecoming, and chided, “What are you standing there for? Quickly invite the important guests in and serve him!”
“Āiyō! I just felt a little muddled after feeling happy for our Sang Wan! Ladies, please come in! Ai, and the men standing there too, come in!” Li Shi clapped her hands and warmly invited the group into the house.
However, Shi Fengju felt a little disgusted with the Sang Pingliang’s excessive flattery and frowned a little. Both his hands were tightly held by Sang Pingliang which added to his discomfort. Though he tried a few times to shake his hands off from the grasp of Sang Pingliang, it was all to no avail. It would’ve been even more awkward if he had exerted a little more strength to shake those hands off and thus, he smiled helplessly on the spot. But to be honest, though those loud flattery echoed in his ears, he had no clue what Sang Wan’s uncle just said.
Sang Wan secretly cursed bitterly to herself. Though she made several winks to signal her elder brother, all he did was nibble his lips; he simply had no means to stop Second uncle.
Seeing her Second Uncle and Second Aunt sang as they led Shi Fengju and the group to their own house, Sang Wan became anxious. She remembered this incident clearly from her past life. Second Aunt and Uncle slyly led Shi Fengju and the group to their house; even all the gifts were moved there. Once sister-in-law returned and saw the situation, she immediately scolded Sang Wan for lacking of conscience, to have forgotten who’d helped her with her wedding day! The two weren’t so easy to deal with too; they bickered with sister-in-law and Sang Wan ended up with tears trickling down her cheeks due to the anxiety and shamefulness. The Shi family members on the other hand, stood at the sidelines as they relish the scene…
“Second Aunt and Second Uncle, that’s the wrong direction. Our house is right here!” Sang Wan could not wait any longer and stepped up to intervene.
At the same time, while Sang Pingliang was giving Sang Wan a cold glare, Shi Fengju took the chance to retract his hands away from him and hurriedly went up to Sang Wan, “Then let’s go in!”
Sang Pingliang and Li Shi stared at each other for a brief moment.
“My dear Sang Wan, those words seemed a little aloof, don’t you thing? What’s with this ‘your house’ and ‘our house’? Are you not Sang Pingliang’s niece? Can I not show some good hospitality to your husband? For father is long gone, and since that’s the case, shouldn’t a good uncle like me show hospitality in his stead? No need to feel modest. Com, come, uncle’s house is just up ahead!” Sang Pingliang gestured gently while trying to hold back the crease on his forehead as deep down, he chided that ungrateful niece of his for not knowing her own family position.
Sang Wan laughed coldly to herself. In these few years, when had this ‘uncle’ ever taken care of her and her siblings? It was more of an utter insult to even have him as an uncle!
An uncle who always complained and scolded her and her siblings about how her own father was not fate to become an official but still pursued that useless dream of his which resulted in their family’s current financial state! He even chided her brothers for not only following the footsteps of their own useless father, but also tutoring others! Might as well return to plow the fields; that way, there’ll at least be rice on the bowls! In short, his attitude towards them was, “If you don’t listen to me and end up starving, I will not care nor will I be bothered to, so don’t ever find me if that were to happen!”
When Second Brother finally received a few students and became their private tutor, Second Uncle demanded for half the meagre wage he earned, saying that those students were found by him.
Second Aunt was no different. She went around gossiping about Sang Wan; going around saying that the Shi family would one day ask her to leave; and that Sang Wan should have taken a better look in front of a mirror as her becoming the daughter-in-law of the Shi family is nothing but wishful-thinking!