He had originally thought that they were only two seven to eight year old girls, so he could get the money easily by just scaring them a little. But he hadn’t expected that Xiaocao would threaten him with the yamen and the punishment of being flogged. She also tried to run away after deceiving him. He couldn’t help but feel infuriated. He picked up the wooden stick that was as thick as a person’s wrist and prepared swiftly knock them out and run away after grabbing the money. He needed to act quickly lest someone really passed by at this time and wasted all his efforts.
In the village, taking other children’s things and bullying people were things that he had done ever since he was a young child. However, it was his first time committing a felony and robbing people on the road. With a twisted expression, he hardened his heart, lifted the wooden stick in his hand, and was about to ruthlessly strike Xiaocao’s head.
Xiaolian screamed and disregarded the pain on her face as she rushed over to block the blow for her younger sister. Her younger sister had nearly died last summer after being pushed by their eldest aunt. She could never forget the scene of her sister’s pale face being covered by the dark red blood. There was only one thought within her mind at the moment—she must never let her get hurt again!
When Xiaolian hugged Xiaocao with her own frail body to prevent her from being assaulted by the robber, Xiaocao’s heart was filled with a burst of emotion. In her previous life, no matter how much she suffered, she had to stand up straight and face it bravely. She must never fall down because she knew that she was the main pillar of her family and the one person that her younger siblings could depend on. After being resurrected, she had become the one who was being protected, which let her feel the warmth of a family again…
Xiaocao supported Xiaolian’s shoulders and pointed at the robber, who had the stick raised up high but seemed as if he had been paralyzed by a spell. She said, “Don’t be scared! He can’t do anything!”
“Uh? Why isn’t he moving? Could it be that there’s some deity helping us?” Xiaolian still had a lingering fear as she pulled her sister back a few steps and asked curiously.
At this time, Yu Ge was suffering from unprecedented fear and torment. As soon as he lifted the wooden stick, the sky suddenly darkened and fierce voice shouted, “How dare you, Yu Ge! To rob others of their wealth in broad daylight! To bully the good and the weak! The King of Hell had sent this immortal to detain your soul and take you to the Palace of Hell for trial!”
Heizi was so frightened that he immediately lost all his senses the moment he looked up. In the dark sky, there was a tall, bulky figure with the head of an ox and the body of a human holding a steel fork. Wasn’t he the soul messenger in the legends? His legs went limp from the shock. He felt a warm sensation around his crotch and a stinky odor could be smelled. He was so scared that he had peed in his pants.
When a dark and shiny iron chain wrapped around his neck, he immediately threw away the stick in his hand, knelt on his knees, and desperately kowtowed at Ox-Head . He kept begging for mercy, “Please spare me, please have mercy on me! Since this was my first time committing such a crime, can you please spare me this one time?”
Ox-Head spoke again, “You are a thief committing a robbery. You have also bullied the good and the weak and took possession of other people’s properties. You shall be taken to the Cauldron of Boiling Oil . You will be stripped of your clothing and thrown into the hot oil pan to be fried. Just like a fish, the human skin will gradually be fried into a golden crisp as the hot oil in the pan crackles… According to the seriousness of the case, the severity of the punishment will be altered. You’re a first-time offender, so being fried two or three times should be enough! Alright, stop your nonsense and come with me!!”
Heizi would shudder every time Ox-Head said something. When Ox-Head finished speaking, Heizi had also collapsed on the ground and was unable to get up. If Heizi had a choice, he would rather pass out immediately. But he was extremely clear headed right now. At the same time, he was also afraid of fainting, and then be taken to the Palace of Hell in an unconscious state. He feared that he would be sentenced to the eighteen levels of hell and suffer the torments of being fried and frozen!
He was so frightened that he couldn’t even speak. He just kept kowtowing and admitting his wrongdoings, while seeking a chance to mend his ways and start anew.
A faint smile slowly appeared on the corner of Xiaocao’s mouth, while Xiaolian, who was beside her, exclaimed in astonishment, “Little Sister, is he possessed? What did he suddenly change his attitude and kowtow to us while begging for mercy?”
Xiaocao smiled and said, “Maybe… he was suddenly enlightened by Buddha to reform as an evildoer and become a good person! Isn’t there a saying: ‘there’s a thin line between good and evil’? Let’s go and let him be!”
Xiaolian picked up the basket that had fallen on the ground and asked in a slightly uncertain tone, “Little Sister, why do I have this feeling that his voice sounds slightly familiar? He should be someone we know, right?”
“Who cares if we know him or not? Let’s quickly leave! If he suddenly changes his mind again, then we’re done for!” Xiaocao was afraid of arousing Xiaolian’s suspicion, so she couldn’t stay to appreciate Heizi’s humiliation and urgently pulled her away.
Heizi was still ceaselessly kowtowing to the air. His forehead was already bleeding, but he didn’t dare to stop. Little Divine Stone saw that the sisters had gone far away, so it feigned a merciful appearance and said, [Alright! A fault confessed is half redressed. For the sake of your good attitude, I’ll give you another chance! Remember to do good deeds and don’t commit sinful acts!]
Heizi kowtowed repeatedly to express his gratitude, “Yes, yes! This little one won’t dare to have malicious intentions again. I will definitely do more good deeds! Definitely!”
Seeing that he had learned his lesson, Little Divine Stone dissolved its power and chased after its master with its short legs at lightning speed.
Heizi only felt that the boundless darkness in front of him had dispersed and the soul messenger had already disappeared. After experiencing the ‘calamity’ earlier, he had finally realized the importance of light. Lying on the ground, it took him half a day to recover the strength in his upper body. His cotton-padded clothing was already soaked in cold sweat, especially his trousers. It was filled with his urine. He couldn’t help shivering a few times when a cold breeze blew.
Heizi’s head was wounded and bleeding, and he seemed as if he had been rolling around in the mud. So, when Madam Li saw his battered appearance after he returned home, her heart ached as she questioned repeatedly, “What happened? Heizi, who bullied you? Tell Mother, I’ll go settle the scores with them!”
Heizi was afraid that he would leak ‘celestial secrets’ and anger Ox-Head and Horse-Face, so he hastily came up with an excuse, “Mother, no one was bullying me. I accidentally fell down when I climbed up a tree to catch birds. Mother, you should also be more amicable in the future, lest you get sentenced to the eighteen levels of hell!”
“Damned brat! You dared to curse your mother. Are you looking for a beating?” Madam Li raised her hand, but when she saw the wound on her son’s head, she put her hand down in distress.
After suffering a scare and catching a cold, Heizi had a high fever throughout the entire night. The whole family scrambled to call for a doctor and get the medication. It took more than ten days for him to completely recover from the illness. After he recovered, all the villagers of Dongshan Village clearly noticed the changes in Heizi.
The little bully who used to go around playing tricks and picking on people had disappeared. He had become polite and would come forward to help others when they needed help. Heizi had never helped out at home in the past, but now, he would chop the firewood for his mother and help his grandmother feed the pigs. He had also followed his grandfather out to the sea several times. Everyone in the family agreed that he had grown up and became serious and hardworking.
For the next few days, life was simple yet warm.
In the morning, at dawn, the little donkey called ‘Little Gray’ took the sisters to the docks to sell the braised food that they made the previous night.
The little gray donkey, who had been on the verge of death, was fed mystic-stone water and bean fodder every day. Little Divine Stone had also graciously treated its illness. After a few days, it not only recovered from its illness, but it had also fattened up. Its originally dull and bleak fur had become glossy. As if it knew that Xiaocao was its savior, it was especially close to her and obeyed all her orders.
Therefore, Yu Hai wasn’t worried about his two eight year old daughters driving the cart by themselves at all. This was because they didn’t even need to steer the cart when Xiaocao was around. As if it could understand the human language, the little donkey would run wherever it was being pointed to go.
Yu Hai and Madam Liu were also busy yet full of life. Every day, Madam Liu would wake up early and prepare breakfast for her daughters. Now that the family had better living conditions, she would always make different kinds of food with refined rice and wheat flour for her children to eat. But she continued to eat coarse grain flour herself…
When Xiaocao found out, she had talked to her mother several times about the matter. However, Madam Liu would just reply with a smile, “I’m already used to eating coarse grain flour, so if I suddenly eat wheat flour, my stomach wouldn’t be used to it.” After that, she would hide from Xiaocao whenever she ate, fearing that her daughter would feel bad for her.
After their daughters left, she and her husband would prop up the straw thatches in the front and rear courtyards, so that the vibrant vegetables could bask in the warm spring sunshine.
Next, the idle Madam Liu would sit down and sew clothes and shoes for her husband and children. The morning passed by swiftly just like this.
Yu Hai, on the other hand, went net fishing in the middle of the pond behind the house on the bamboo raft that he had made himself. Actually, he was only pretending to fish with a net for others to see. In fact, he was actually catching fish with the ‘fish bait’ that his daughter had prepared. He caught a lot of fish every day, which made his neighbors envious.
After he came back from fishing, Madam Mao had once asked him to let her husband borrow the bamboo raft and fishing net so that he could try to fish like him. However, after wasting an entire afternoon, her husband had only caught two or three catties of small catfish. She was so angry that she scolded her husband for not living up to expectations and that he didn’t even know how to catch fish.
Her husband, Qian Fugui, just laughed and said, “Brother Yu Hai is a first-class fisherman in the village. He had even caught a large shark in the sea before, let alone some small fish in the pond. How can we compare with him? We should just focus on raising our ducks…”
With the little donkey, they saved a lot of traveling time and Xiaocao had a lot more time on her hands. When they returned home at noon, she took a nice nap after eating a proper lunch. When she woke up, she fried the small fish and pickled fish with Madam Liu’s help.
In the afternoon, Yu Hai drove the donkey cart and took his eldest daughter, Xiaolian, to sell the pickled fish. In this way, Xiaocao could rest for the entire afternoon.
When braising the pig head and large intestines in the evening, Xiaocao just needed to prepare the braising sauce and Madam Liu would be able to finish the rest of the process alone. Since the whole family worked together and divided the work, they weren’t as busy and rushed.
Today, the entire family had gathered around a table to eat lunch. They were probably the only family in the village with the luxury of eating three meals a day, which was, of course, suggested by Xiaocao. With the reason that breakfast was eaten too early and she couldn’t sustain her hunger until dinner, she simplified breakfast, made lunch the priority, and pushed dinner back for two hours. The new schedule was basically the same as the three meals in modern time. Thus, Xiaocao was very satisfied with the results.
For lunch, they had a plate of sautéed chives with dried bean curd and a bowl of thick fresh fish soup. The staple food was steamed buns made of wheat flour and sorghum flour. Originally, Xiaocao had suggested that they only eat wheat flour in the future, but Madam Liu, who was used to being frugal, wouldn’t agree with her suggestion. She also said that Xiaocao was a spendthrift, who not only knew how to earn money but also spend money. So she was worried about how Xiaocao would manage a household in the future with her spending habits.
 Ox-Head and Horse-Face (牛头马面）- guardians of the underworld in Chinese mythology, who are usually responsible for delivering the souls of the newly dead to hell
 Cauldron of Boiling Oil (油锅地狱) - one of the punishments in the 18 levels of hellPrevious Chapter Next Chapter
Still don't really like Heizi for his past actions, but at least one of them is changing for the better...