Jing Yi turned away from the incense burner he had been examining and instead looked at the lady walking in. She was some years older than his mother but that didn’t show at first glance. The most obvious was how she had styled herself.
With the difference in height, Jing Yi first noticed the tips of her shoes that stuck up into the air and were embroidered with a colorful pattern. Jing Yi’s eyes widened. He wasn’t even sure that those were shoes but she seemed to be wearing them on her feet. At least the tips peaked out from below the hem of her robe.
He looked further up and blinked his eyes in confusion. That lady wasn’t just wearing one robe. It seemed like she was wearing several of them over each other. Every robe had a different color and their hems were styled in a different shape, one straight, one pointed, and one cut in a wide circle. Her sleeves were of the same color as the robe in the middle and hung down to her knees. There was even another piece of fabric draped over her arms.
Jing Yi turned to look at his mother whose sleeves were tight-fitting. Actually, the whole robe looked like that. Contrary to the lady in Zhong Gang’s house she only wore one robe too and it was even of a grayish-brown color. There was nothing to compare between the appearance of the two women.
The lady was naturally Zhong Gang’s wife, Mi Fang. She had heard her husband call but hadn’t understood his words. Walking into the room she came to a sudden halt. Those raggedly dressed people were …?
"Mi Fang, look here! Zhong Lei and his wife, Ru Chun, have come already."
"Your … cousin?" She forced herself to smile.
She hadn’t minded when her husband told her he wanted to invite his family to the capital to help him with the teahouse. But then again she hadn’t imagined his family to look like … this. Zhong Gang’s father had already made a little fortune when he came to the capital. So when she married Zhong Gang nothing could be seen of his humble heritage. His family came as a shock to her.
Zhong Gang laughed. "Quite the surprise, eh?"
"Ah … indeed." She nodded at Mister and Madam Zhong. "My husband has told me a lot about you already. It’s great, you came earlier!" So she said but she wasn’t that thrilled to see them. She couldn’t help but wonder if they might have ulterior motives. Didn’t people always tell such stories? Ah, you couldn’t even trust even your own family nowadays! She really hoped her husband hadn’t made a mistake that would bring trouble to their own little family.
Qiu Ling threw a glance at this other Madam Zhong and snorted. Sure enough, his mother-in-law was way better. No wonder, such a woman had a daughter. Speaking of which … He looked around but couldn’t spot that damned girl anywhere. "Hmph. It’s better if you stay away. I also wouldn’t want to hurt someone from my beloved’s extended family."
With that thought, he turned to Jing Yi again who was eying Mi Fang’s hairstyle. It looked … as if a swallow had sat down on her head. The boy tilted his head. Qiu Ling crouched down next to him and also tilted his head. What was Jing Yi looking at?
Before Qiu Ling could figure out what his beloved was observing this intently Zhong Gang perked up.
"Ah, right! Where is Guanyu? Ah Lei brought his son with him. They’re about the same age. They’d certainly get along well!"
The lips of his wife twitched. She knew her husband well enough to understand what was going on in his head. "Guanyu is busy right now." She didn’t add any explanation.
Zhong Gang was left feeling awkward. With a nervous laugh, he scratched his head.
Qiu Ling coughed. They really are family! His father-in-law would certainly have done the same in this situation!
"Well, nothing can be done about that, I guess … Jing Yi, I hope you don’t mind." He bent down a little and smiled at the boy.
Jing Yi turned around and smiled, happy that his uncle had not called his daughter over. If he could decide, he’d never meet her! He hadn’t forgotten what his grandfather had told him. He couldn’t get close to her before he hadn’t figured out if she was a mud monster!
Yes, the poor boy still hadn’t figured out that he had been lied to and continued to believe in all the nonsense Qiu Ling had told him.
Mi Fang looked over when her husband bent down. She took one look at the boy and her attitude did a u-turn. "Ah, what a lovely child! So this is your son? Mn, he really looks like he is Guanyu’s age!"
Madam Zhong smiled, proud of her son’s good looks. "Mn, Jing Yi is nine. But he is a little shy."
"No problem, no problem!" Mi Fang’s eyes shone and she hurried to Madam Zhong’s side, intimately grabbing her arm. "Come, come, sister, have a look at my daughter." Which mother wouldn’t want her daughter to marry someone good looking? And at the end of the day, this boy was family. He and his parents might be sloppily dressed right now but that was nothing that a few hours of strolling through the stores of the capital or hiring a seamstress couldn’t fix.
"Ah …" Even Madam Zhong couldn’t immediately cope with this sudden turn in attitude. Was her son’s face really that useful? But she couldn’t refuse so she threw her husband a reassuring glance and let the other woman take her away.
Qiu Ling’s gaze followed them while his eyes narrowed dangerously. That Mi Fang woman should better not believe that he’d let her use his mother-in-law against him! Whatever she did it would be pointless. Jing He was mine. His alone. And he would make sure it stayed that way.