Chapter 3: Offering Tea
Early in the next morning, Sang Wan was awakened by Shi Fengju’s nudge.
She really can’t be blamed for being a late riser. In the past, she was forgotten by the Shi family; her mother-in-law disliked her, thus she could only watch the family at the sideline. And because of that, she lost her sense of time due to only sleeping, eating, daydreaming and stifling.
“Well?” Sang Wan rubbed her sleepy eyes before looking at Shi Fengju. The blanket was shifted and warmth from under the blanket escaped, touching her skin as it rose and bringing a light delicate fragrance with it.
“Get up quickly. The maidservants will be coming in anytime soon!” Shi Fengju, feeling impatient, stared at Sang Wan with discontent. As he stared at Sang Wan’s innocent-looking face, his heart couldn’t help but sway a little.
“Ah!” Sang Wan hastily crawled out of bed and pulled a white veil which she discarded away previously. She cried helplessly, “This… this… what should we do?”
Awkwardly, Shi Fengju rubbed his nose. Biting the bullet, he turned without saying a word and took a sharp ruby-decorated hairpin from the dressing table. He then cut his middle finger shallowly and let his fresh thick blood drip onto the veil. After a short moment, the white veil was dotted with distinct red colors on the white background which made it stunning.
“Enough! Enough!” Seeing him stupidly drip his fresh blood on the veil, she hurriedly grabbed it from him. “The veil may not be red, but killing a chicken should do the trick! What is he thinking, trying to dye the veil with his own blood?”
Shi Fengju suddenly felt embarrassed and looked away from her as he waited for her to ridicule him for what he had just done. “This is so awkward…really awkward…”
“You, get changed quickly. We’ve to offer tea to my mother, uncles, and aunties later to show our respect!” Shi Fengju coughed as he attempted to divert the awkwardness elsewhere. He succeeded, but not through his effort; just when the sentence sank into Sang Wan’s head, door knocks from outside the chamber could be heard.
The two of them couldn’t help but heave a sigh of relief.
“Come in!” Sang Wan glanced at Shi Fengju before replying.
The maidservants entered slowly and upon seeing the both of them, they bowed. Each of the maidservant took on a task; dressing, holding onto a towel, polishing jewelry, and many others. With all the maidservants busy, only Liu Ya was left standing, clueless of what she had to do.
Two graceful senior maidservants stepped forward and took the blood-stained veil from the young couple, only to notice the couple staring intensely and nervously at each other. The senior maidservants concluded that there was a secret between the couple, and giggled. The two senior maidservants then kneeled on the floor and congratulate the young couple. Taking the signal, the other maidservants within the room stopped doing their tasks and bowed in front of the couple to congratulate them. Awkwardly, Shi Fengju returned a smile back to the maidservants. Stealing a glance at Sang Wan who was also putting on an awkward smile, Shi Fengju helpless gave a “赏!” (TLN: 赏 means reward), and the maidservants cheered with joy.
After grooming, the couple prepared to meet the elders in the courtyard to offer them tea as a sign of filial piety.
“To meet again!” A face emerged within her mind; a kind and amiable round face, long and narrow eyes, thin and pursed-up lips.
There’s also second Uncle Shi Guangyao, second Aunt Mi Shi, many younger brothers and sisters, and also the cousin, Gu Fangzi!
Walking through the zigzagged corridor towards the courtyard, Sang Wan was in a trance. Slight images of her surroundings as she walked through the corridor flashed in her head as if she had walked through this corridor before. The scene in front of her… she was used to it as the wife of the eldest son in her past life. Due to living in the house for too long with less exposure to the surroundings outside, except for a small courtyard, she was practically unfamiliar with the other corners within the property. She really did not recognize them… maybe just a slight impression of the house…
In the courtyard, Mother Wang Shi, second uncle and aunt were already settled, with several young sirs and misses at the back. There were several maidservants around, and the dull building was filled with brightly colored decorations. Most of the important family members had all arrived; including Gu Fangzi.
Going inside, Sang Wang subconsciously looked towards Gu Fangzi who was behind Mother Wang Shi and serving her. The pretty red begonia skirt with eight pictures of clivias made her silk-like skin even more eye-catching. Her facial features are perfect, eyebrows long and thin. Graceful and beautiful, making it easy for her to give a good impression to others.
Coincidentally, Gu Fangzi was also looking at the direction where Sang Wan is, and their eyes met. Their line of sight connected. Gu Fangzi gave a smile, exposing her dimples. With her bright eyes and smile, Sang Wan without a choice nodded and return a smile.
Sang Wan shuddered immediately and quickly drooped her eyelids. In the past, Gu Fangzi used that friendly smile to instill anxiety into her. However, at the moment, what Sang Wan felt were not only anxiety but also chills.
“Mother! Second uncle and aunt!” Shi Fengju bowed and greeted them. Sang Wan, with both hands in front of her, stood gracefully beside Shi Fengju.
“You’re both here!” Mother Wang Shi smiled kindly, and at the same time asked a few questions. Second Uncle Shi and Second Aunt Mi Shi also returned a smile back to the couple. After that, Aunt Mi Shi glanced at Sang Wan for a bit and smiled again, “that’s enough. Please begin!”
A few of the maidservants lay an embroidered mat in front of Aunt Mi Shi. Another maidservant carrying a tray came forward. On the tray stood a tea cup with the word ‘囍’painted on it. The steam could be seen as it rose and the light tea fragrance diffused.
Sang Wan’s clutched her hands together tightly. She walked stiffly towards the maidservant who was holding the tray. Glancing into the tea within the teacup, her heart turned cold suddenly.
This is exactly the same as what happened in her past life!
The yellowish green tea… the closer one is to the tea, the more pleasant the tea’s aroma is. One look and one could tell the tea’s quality is one of the finest. However, within the tea floats a single long strain of hair. In the past, she dared not look into the tea as she was already nervous enough. Thus, without checking the tea, she carried it to Mother Wang Shi and offered it. Thus resulted in Mother Wang Shi’s displeasure. Even though Mother Wang Shi did not verbally berate her, her face showed otherwise with her brows furrowed up. Gu Fangzi then stepped up to resolve the incident with a big grin on her face.
The hair may not have been her doing, but to offer the tea without checking it made the impression of her being crude and careless. In the heart of the audience, she was seen as someone who was disrespectful towards the elders. As a result, how would Mother Wang Shi not dislike her? How would she even be fit to be Shi family’s eldest daughter-in-law?
Because of the incident, her mother-in-law and husband were both not fond of her. The family’s maidservants also secretly contempt her. She was, however, thankful towards Gu Fangzi for standing up for her.
“Ke,” Seeing her staring into space, Shi Fengju coughed a little to remind her that the ceremony is still in progress.
Back to reality, Sang Wan chuckled apologetically and reached for the cup. However, upon touching the cup, she immediately backed away.
“This tea seemed cold. Drinking cold tea in the morning isn’t good for the body. It would be good to have a change of cup.” Sang Wan gazed gently at Mother Wang Shi and smiled while requesting a change of cup.
She recently only got married into the family, yet so finicky. Of course Mother Wang Shi will not publicly berate Sang Wan, but seeing her so caring towards her aging body, Mother Wang Shi felt pleased. Even though the act of offering tea may only be a ceremony to show respect, having a caring daughter-in-law is definitely great!
Mother Wang Shi smiled and signaled to the maidservant.
The maidservant bowed and stepped back with the cold tea. Another maidservant stepped forward with a freshly brewed cup of tea.
Sang Wan, using both her hands, reached for the cup and kneeled down in front of Mother Wang Shi before raising the cup above her head. “Mother, please drink this cup of tea!”
“Good. Good!” Mother Wang Shi smiled and leaned forward to receive the cup. She sipped the tea twice before handing a large red lacquer box to Sang Wan, “From today onwards, you are part of the family. You are a girl born in a literary family. You are knowledgeable and have good values within you. In the future, live a blissful life and bare the heir of Shi family!”
“… Yes, Mother-in-law! Your kind words, you daughter-in-law will remember them.” Sang Wan immediately agreed politely and did a kowtow before standing up.
“Good. Good!” Having a compliant daughter-in-law made Mother Wang Shi happier than before.
With nothing major happening during the ceremony with her mother-in-law, Sang Wan heaved a sigh of relief. Next, she offered tea to Second Uncle and Second Aunt.
In her past life, she was afraid of losing her etiquette and ended up replying, “Your daughter-in-law is from a well-educated family, thus is both polite and selfless. That is a given!” Seeing her mother-in-law confused and cold facial expression, she wished she could take back those words she blurted out.
Literary family! Sang Wan couldn’t help but smile bitterly. The word ‘literary’ is commonly used to describe the rich, elegant and noble families; hearing such praise would certainly awe its listeners. However, using the word to describe the family of scholars in their current financial state is rather ironic!
The Shi family’s esteemed father used to fancy her father’s knowledge, thus her marriage with Shi Fengju was arranged. However, her father’s vast knowledge did not help him pass the imperial examinations; a worthless scholar nevertheless.
This eventually led to her father’s death.
With much of the family’s fortune spent on the imperial examinations in hopes that her father could pass, the Sang family thus ended up in a bad financial state.
Today, her two older brothers ended up as scholars. Sang Wan did not dare to think about what is to come in the future.
Second Uncle Shi is obsessed with goldfish, parrots, thrush, oriole and many other birds. Every day without fail, he would care for his precious creatures like how one would care for their ancestors. Although at this point, he is sitting in the courtyard while his nephew’s wife kowtow to him, deep inside he would rather feed the fish, change the water and bath the birds, thus he did not pay any heed to Sang Wan. After receiving the cup of tea, Second Uncle Shi “Eh!” twice, drank it and gave the red packet.
Feeling restless, Second Uncle Shi signaled to Mi Shi be a little quicker when it was her turn.
When it was Mi Shi’s turn, she received the cup and took a sip before using a napkin to wipe her lips. Taking a glimpse at Gu Fangzi, she smiled and her attention returned to Sang Wan, “Such a talented wife! Elder sister, one look and I can tell that she is intelligent and beautiful within, clever and quick-witted. It really makes me envious. Elder sister, you sure are lucky! And to my nephew’s wife, you are a well-educated lady and fast learner. I hope that you would help shoulder the family burden together with your mother-in-law and husband. I’m sure Miss Gu can now step back into the sidelines. I mean, shouldn’t that be the case? Miss Gu may be capable, but in the end, she is still an outsider! Even though we may have lived in the same house for quite a long while, guests are still guests!”
After saying that, Mi Shi giggled and her gaze carelessly swept past Shi Fengju and Gu Fangzi. Sang Wan saw it as if Mi Shi was connecting Shi Fengju and Gu Fangzi with an invisible string.