Rebirth of an Abandoned Woman Chapter 3: Offering Tea
Early the next morning, Sang Wan was awakened by Shi Fengju’s nudge.
She really couldn’t be blamed for being a late riser. In the past, she had been forgotten by the Shi family. Her mother-in-law disliked her, so she could only watch the family from the sidelines. Because of that, she had lost her sense of time, due to only sleeping, eating, daydreaming, and being stifled.
“Yes?” Sang Wan rubbed her sleepy eyes before she looked at Shi Fengju. The blanket shifted and warmth from under the blanket escaped. It touched her skin as it rose and brought with it a light and delicate fragrance.
“Get up quickly. The maidservants will be coming in soon!” Impatient, Shi Fengju stared at Sang Wan in discontent. But as he stared at Sang Wan’s innocent-looking face, his heart couldn’t help but be swayed a little.
“Ah!” Sang Wan hastily crawled out of bed and pulled out a white veil that she had discarded previously. She cried out 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 red. The contrast of the distinct drops of crimson on the white background made it look 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. Even as the sentence sank into Sang Wan’s head, knocks on the door 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 pair, bowed. Each of the maidservant took on a task: dressing, holding onto a towel, polishing jewelry, and many others. With all of the maidservants busy, only Liu Ya was left standing, clueless about what she should 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 congratulated the young couple. Seeing their 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 to the maidservants. Stealing a glance at Sang Wan, who was also putting on an awkward smile, Shi Fengju helplessly gave a “Shǎng!” (TLN: Shǎng [赏] means reward), and the maidservants cheered in 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 from within Sang Wan’s mind: a kind and amiable round face, long and narrow eyes, thin and pursed-up lips.
There were also second Uncle Shi Guangyao, second Aunt Mi Shi, many younger brothers and sisters, and also the cousin, Gu Fangzi!
As she walked through the zigzagged corridor towards the courtyard, Sang Wan was in a trance. As she walked through the corridor, faint images of her surroundings flashed in her head, as if she had walked through this corridor before. The scene in front of her… as the wife of the eldest son, she was supposed to be used to it in her past life. But due to living in her chamber for too long with little exposure to the surroundings outside except for a small courtyard, she was unfamiliar with the other areas of the property. She truly could not recognize them, maybe just a slight impression of them…
In the courtyard, Mother Wang Shi and 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.
As they went 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 were perfect and her eyebrows long and thin. She was graceful and beautiful, which made it easy for her to give others a good impression.
Coincidentally, Gu Fangzi was also looking in the direction of Sang Wan, and their eyes met. Their line of sight connected. Gu Fangzi smiled, exposing her dimples. Without a choice in the face of her bright eyes and smile, Sang Wan nodded and returned the smile.
Sang Wan shuddered immediately and quickly dropped her eyes. In the past, Gu Fangzi had used that friendly smile to instill anxiety. However, at the moment, what Sang Wan felt was 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 then asked a few questions. Second Uncle Shi and Second Aunt Mi Shi also smiled at 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 laid 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 Double Happiness word ‘囍’ painted on it. Steam rose from the cup and a 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 suddenly turned cold.
This was exactly the same as what had happened in her past life!
The yellowish green tea… the closer one was to the tea, the more pleasant the tea’s aroma was. One look and one could tell that the tea was of the finest quality. However, within the tea floated a single long strand of hair.
In the past, she had not dared look into the tea as she was already nervous. Thus, without checking the tea, she had carried it to Mother Wang Shi and offered it. Mother Wang Shi then became very displeased. Even though Mother Wang Shi had not verbally berated her, her face showed otherwise, as her brows furrowed up. Gu Fangzi had then stepped up to resolve the incident, with a big grin on her face.
The hair may not have been Sang Wan’s doing, but to offer the tea without checking it gave the impression of being crude and careless. In the hearts of the audience, she was seen as someone who was disrespectful towards her elders. As a result, how would Mother Wang Shi not dislike her? How was she fit to be Shi family’s eldest daughter-in-law?
Because of the incident, her mother-in-law and husband had both not been fond of her. The family’s maidservants had also secretly been in contempt of her. She had, however, been 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 was still in progress.
Coming back to reality, Sang Wan chuckled apologetically and reached for the cup. However, upon touching the cup, she immediately backed away.
“This tea seems cold. Drinking cold tea in the morning isn’t good for the body. It would be better to change the cup.” Sang Wan gazed gently at Mother Wang Shi and smiled while requesting a change of cup.
She had only recently married into the family, but was so finicky. Of course, Mother Wang Shi would 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 might only be a ceremony to show respect, having a caring daughter-in-law was 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 from a literary family. You are knowledgeable and have good values within you. In the future, live a blissful life and bear the heir of Shi family!”
“Yes, Mother-in-law! Your kind words, your daughter-in-law will remember them.” Sang Wan immediately agreed politely and did a kowtow before standing up.
“Good. Good!” 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 had been 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’s confused and cold facial expression, she had wished she could take back the words she had blurted out.
Literary family! Sang Wan couldn’t help but smile bitterly. The word ‘literary’ was commonly used to describe rich, elegant and noble families; hearing such praise would certainly flatter its listeners. However, using the word to describe the Sang family of scholars in their current financial state was rather ironic!
The Shi family’s esteemed father used to fancy her father’s knowledge, thus her marriage with Shi Fengju had been arranged. However, her father’s vast knowledge had not helped him pass the imperial examinations; he was a worthless scholar.
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 had ended up in a bad financial state.
Currently, her two older brothers had ended up as scholars. Sang Wan did not dare to think about what was to come in the future.
Second Uncle Shi was obsessed with goldfish, parrots, thrushes, orioles, and many other birds. Every day without fail, he would care for his precious creatures like one would care for their ancestors.
Although right now, he was sitting in the courtyard while his nephew’s wife kowtowed to him, deep inside he would rather have been feeding the fish, changing the water, and bathing the birds, so he did not pay any heed to Sang Wan. After receiving the cup of tea, Second Uncle Shi coughed “Eh!” twice, drank it, and gave her 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. Glancing at Gu Fangzi, she smiled and then 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 will 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.