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2. This is a fan work and the interpretation represents only the translator’s personal views without any input from the author.
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“What a shame. The Shi family’s mansion is so beautiful and large – why not organise the banquet there? Why insist on hosting it here?” Xing Rongrong walked along a little path, head tilted to look at the bamboo forest at the side, frowned and asked.
Behind her were two servant girls. They looked at each other, before one of them pursed her lips and said, “Wasn’t it just because of Young Master Shi’s fiance? Young Master Shi called her out to help host the event right? If it were held at the Shi family mansion, how could she do that? Wouldn’t she be making a mockery of herself?”
Xing Rongrong glanced at her intelligent servant girl. She nodded her head and coldly hmphed, “I thought she was inferior, and sure enough, she is. She isn’t fit for decent company.” As she said that, the three of them continued ahead.
This was the place chosen to host the banquet. Exactly as Xing Rongrong’s servant had suggested, Shi Cheng had chosen this garden outside of town rather than his family’s mansion to prevent others from bad mouthing Liu Xu’er.
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Shi Cheng’s mother found this beyond irksome. While living in Hanzhong city all these years, she had, on innumerable occasions, thought to herself, thank goodness, thank goodness! Thank goodness she had listened to her husband.
As such, Shi Cheng’s mother had well and truly laid to rest her original thoughts. And compared to Xing Rongrong, Liu Xu’er had many strong points. First and foremost, her confidence and poise! No matter her birth origins, no matter whether the other looked down on her, she knew how to respect herself! These past few years, Shi Cheng’s mother would occasionally come back to Feng town and would inevitably join in with the womenfolk’s gatherings. At times, she would bring Liu Xu’er along. She felt that with Liu Xu’er at her side, it gave her a lot of courage – this future daughter-in-law of hers really gave her a lot of face!
And there was another point that Shi Cheng’s mother was very satisfied with, and that was that Liu Xu’er was very quick and intelligent. No matter that she was speaking with the prestigious household members, she never dropped the ball. Shi Cheng’s mother needn’t have worried about villagers being too stupid….
As such, Shi Cheng’s mother was more and more satisfied with Liu Xu’er these days.
When she heard Shi Cheng’s words, his mother knew immediately what he was thinking about. She quickly coughed to stop him before saying, “Ignore her. She’s a silly little girl…. This time, she insisted on coming. If it weren’t for your father wanting to give face to her father… I would never have brought her along!”
Shi Cheng laughed when he heard. He could clearly tell that his mother knew what he wanted to say, and had admitted her previous error.
The mother and son pair stood at the side to watch as the servants moved to decorate the space. Then the servant girls came by to announce – The Young Miss from Liu family had arrived.
Shi Cheng quickly went out to greet her.
The carriage had just stopped at the door and Liu Xu’er had just come down when Shi Cheng saw that she had deliberately dressed up for the occasion. In a lotus coloured dress, bordered with embroidered purple flowers and an outer layer made of hibiscus coloured silk, she emerged from the carriage. On her feet were a pair of satin embroidered shoes,
Her clothes fluttered around a slender silhouette, her head was crowned with a beautiful hair pin and her ears adorned with gold earrings. Liu Xu’er swayed gently with every step.
Shi Cheng’s heart leapt when he saw her. He smiled and said, “Slowly, slowly. How about I carry you down?!” Then he reached out to support Liu Xu’er’s waist.
Liu Xu’er had just emerged from the carriage, and wasn’t expecting to be teased! She quickly smacked Shi Cheng’s hand away and gave him a glare
Shi Cheng paused, before immediately reacting. Then he very gallantly helped Liu Xu’er off the carriage. Sure enough, there was someone else in there – an equally exquisitely dressed Xiuxiu. Her face was entirely red when she came out of the carriage.
Shi Cheng was a bit embarrassed. He awkwardly greeted, “Xiuxiu is here as well.”
Xiuxiu came down and quickly gave him her greetings, “Shi Cheng ge.”
Liu Xu’er’s face was aflame. She quickly went to pull Xiuxiu forward, “I’ve never been here before… Have you?”
How could Xiuxiu have been before! She quickly shook her head, “I’ve never been here either.”
Shi Cheng sheepishly followed from behind, feeling very awkward. When he heard Liu Xu’er’s words, he quickly started to speak, to cover for the earlier moment of embarrassment, “This was originally a wealthy household’s private villa, but because they became renowned for their flowers, too many people wanted to come by to play. Their family, conscious of their image, would usually agree, but after a while, they felt that things were becoming difficult to manage. So they decisively moved their personal items away and dedicated this space for others to enjoy.”
It was the first time Xiuxiu had heard about the place. Surprised, she smiled, “These large families…. They really can think up the strangest ideas!”
Liu Xu’er had also recovered, so she smiled and said, “That’s right, it truly is very rare and strange.” Then she turned and looked at Shi Cheng, “Where’s your mother? We should greet her first.”
Shi Cheng nodded her head and brought them to where his mother was. Liu Xu’er and Xiuxiu went forward to offer their greetings. Shi Cheng’s mother closely observed her every move and felt that there was no difference between her conduct and someone raised in a prestigious family. And when compared to Xing Rongrong, she didn’t lose at all in composure. She was very pleased, and nodded her head, satisfied.
In short order, everything was arranged properly. Because it was still early, they went to the upper room next to the flower pavilion to rest.
This flower garden was actually just one large garden, with maybe 10 or so courtyards of varying sizes, but there were actually only one or two that could actually accommodate people. Most of the courtyards were filled with scenery, with pavilions and snaking walkways to showcase the beautiful views. It was undoubtedly an ideal place to host a flower viewing session or poetry read.
Most of the courtyards had spaces to rest – they were in one such area right now. It actually was a little double storied pagoda. From the second storey, they could appreciate the garden view.
The servant girls brought up some tea and snacks when Meng shi abruptly recalled, “How are the preparations for the food? The tea, snacks, fruits, these all must be exquisitely prepared…. These women are very particular about such things!”
Shi Cheng smiled and said, “Don’t worry mum! It’s already prepared, Xu’er even gave suggestions – we’ve prepared good tea, as well as flower teas like jasmine or rose tea. Everything is prepared. And we used snow water that we had saved from last year…. I’m not too familiar with these matters – everything was done by Xu’er.”
Shi Cheng’s mother smiled, surprised, at Liu Xu’er, “Where did you learn all these from?”
Liu Xu’er smiled and replied, “My dasao’s family grows flowers. Although she is also a villager, because they plant flowers, she has been experimenting with such things and is particularly knowledgeable. Now that she’s with us, she has taught the family about these flower teas, and also suggested saving snow from the winter to steep tea. I got her to advise me on this.”
Shi Cheng’s mother was even more satisfied. Her daughter-in-law was definitely no worse than a daughter from a big family!
Just as they were speaking, Xing Rongrong entered the courtyard. Hearing that everyone was in the pagoda resting, she too entered. She curtsied to Shi Cheng’s mother before exchanging greetings with Liu Xu’er.
Liu Xu’er looked at her – it was clear that Xing Rongrong had grown these past two years. There was a beautiful silver ornament right in the middle of her hair, giving it a sparkle. At her temples hung a string of beads made from silver, jade and precious stones. She wore a bright red dress embroidered with peonies, with an overcoat made of satin, edged in peony embroidery and laced with gold thread. Her outfit looked exaggeratedly heavy – it was now summer, with an outfit like that, one would feel hot just looking at it.
As she looked Xing Rongrong over, Xing Rongrong was herself sizing her up. She looked at what she wore, then looked at what kind of headpieces she had, before looking over at her wrist to see what jewellery she had on. After looking everything over, she didn’t say anything, just smiled and sat down.
Shi Cheng’s mother was observing everything from the side. Mentally, she was rebuking Xing Rongrong’s poor behaviour over and over! And now that Liu Xu’er and Xing Rongrong were side by side for a direct comparison, Shi Cheng’s mother felt that her future daughter-in-law was in no way inferior, not in the way she dressed or in the way she carried herself. In fact, she seemed to be better than Xing Rongrong!
Of course, that was just Shi Cheng’s mother’s own point of view. Shi Cheng and Liu Xu’er had never thought to compare themselves with others. In Shi Cheng’s eyes, Xing Rongrong was just a silly little girl, not worthy of his attention, let alone of comparing with his Liu Xu’er.
After Xing Rongrong sat down, she smiled and started to talk with Shi Cheng’s mother. “Aunt Shi, I’ve gone around the garden and feel that this place is really rather good! Who would have thought that a small place like Feng Town would have a place like this. The big families in Hanzhong city should also make a place like this, so that we have a place to have fun as well.”
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