The beautiful spring sun had already leaped out of the horizon at which the sky and the water was merged. Thousands of red clouds overflowed and blended with the morning mist rising slowly from the top of the mountains and turned into a multicolored halo.
Today was a rare sunny day. The sun was warm and cozy, so it felt comfortable to be caressed by its big, warm hands. It had only been five days, but Yu Hang already felt that he was close to recovering from his injury. He only occasionally felt a sore pain around the chest area, where his ribs were broken.
From the window, he saw his youngest sister’s busy figure in the courtyard. He slowly sat up from the kang bed and carefully supported himself against the wall. He put on his shoes and slowly walked out the door.
Yu Xiaocao, who was in the vegetable garden in the yard, lifted the straw thatches that were used to keep the vegetables warm, and revealed the green, tender seedlings. About seventy or eighty percent of the land in the courtyard was used as a vegetable garden. Leafy greens with short growth periods were planted in the garden in the yard. In addition, the mystic-stone water definitely had a role in accelerating the growth of the crops. Thus, in less than half a month, the greens, spinach, and leaf lettuce were all ready to be harvested. They appeared verdant and lush under the morning spring sun.
“Older Brother, you haven’t recovered from your injuries yet. Why did you come out?” Yu Xiaocao was the first to notice the movement at the door of the main room. She hastily wiped her hands and ran over to help her older brother walk over the threshold.
She found a place in the courtyard where the sun would shine on and brought over a recliner that her father had made in his spare time. After that, she laid a thick mattress on top before she allowed her older brother to lie down.
Yu Hang watched as his youngest sister moved the chair and went into the room to find the mattress. She was bustling about like a happy little bee. He had an apologetic smile on his face as he said, “Little Sister, you should go back to what you were doing! As your older brother, even though I can’t help much, but I don’t want to give you more trouble…”
“Older Brother! The most important thing for you to do right now is to recover from your injuries. Wouldn’t you be able to help out when you’re healed? Look, the vegetables in our garden are already ready to be sold. We also can’t disregard our business at the docks! You must cooperate well with the recuperation process, so that you don’t end up with a lingering illness!”
Yu Hang looked at the vibrant vegetables in the garden, and the distress in his heart seemed to be dispelled by the greenery. He sighed with a smile, “Youngest Sister, this method is really good! At this time, other people have just planted their seeds, but we can already start selling our vegetables! If we take them to town, those noble masters and madams will love them so much!”
In this era, there wasn’t any advanced techniques like greenhouse farming. The high officials and noble lords in the capital, who had some hot spring resorts, were able to eat some fresh vegetables in the winter. However, there weren’t any geothermal resources around areas like Tanggu Town. Thus, it was very difficult for them to eat fresh vegetables during winter and early spring!
Yu Xiaocao covered his leg with a quilt, and then began to harvest the vegetables. She carefully dug out the greens one by one. After that, she asked Madam Liu, who had just finished tidying the kitchen, to help wash them with clean water, shake them dry, and neatly stack them inside the bamboo basket. The droplets of water on the bok choy made it look so fresh and juicy that she couldn’t help but swallow her saliva after gnawing on radishes and cabbages for the entire winter.
“Mother, should we eat hotpot this evening?” She could buy a chunk of pork bone to make a thick soup, and also a few pieces of soft tofu. There were homegrown bean sprouts in the pot and several big fish in the water vat. They also had fresh and tender greens… Ai-ya, she couldn’t think about it anymore, or she would start drooling!
“Hotpot?” Madam Liu and her eldest son looked at each other and knew that the little lass had come up with a new dish. However, Madam Liu felt somewhat reluctant since their one-of-a-kind vegetables would certainly sell for a good price.
Xiaocao was aware of her mother’s thoughts and explained, “Mother, why do we work from dusk to dawn to make braised food and earn money? Aren’t we doing this so that we can live a good life? If we make money but are unwilling to spend it on our own family, then isn’t that the same as being a money-grubber?”
“This child, who are you calling a money-grubber?” Madam Liu rebuked Xiaocao with a glare. But Madam Liu had a sudden realization after hearing her daughter’s words. Her daughter was right. Weren’t they earning money to ensure that their family could eat well and wear warm clothes and get out of the hard times? If they weren’t even willing to let their own children eat their own homegrown vegetables, then what was the point of them working so hard to earn money?
While the mother-daughter pair engaged in small talk, they were also busily working with their hands. After a while, they had filled several bamboo baskets with vegetables.
At this time, Yu Hai came from the backyard with a basket full of fish. He laughed, “Though the pond behind our house isn’t very big, there’s quite a lot of fish in there! I’ve been fishing there for over half a month, but there’s still a lot of fish. Cao’er, what did you put in the baits? All the big and small fish were crazily fighting for them. It was so gratifying to watch!”
“Quickly put the fish down! You go to town with Cao’er. How can she handle so much vegetables by herself? Fortunately, Xiaolian took the ox cart from the neighboring village to the docks this morning, otherwise it would be inconvenient for you two to go to town!” Madam Liu said as she helped load a basket of vegetables onto the donkey cart.
The donkey named ‘Little Gray’ had recovered from its illness already. After being nourished by the mystic-stone water, it looked sleek and lively. It was nearly impossible to tell that it was as thin as sticks and barely breathing just half a month ago.
Everyone who had seen the Yu Family’s donkey all praised it for being very clever. It didn’t need anyone to guide it and would obediently walk along the road by itself. When it encountered pits and holes, it even knew to avoid them. It seriously saved people so much energy and effort!
People who were close to Yu Hai all knew that the donkey was half-dead when they first bought it. They all praised Yu Hai for being an excellent animal breeder. To be able to raise a dying animal until it was plump and strong, wasn’t that already the best proof?
Later, because of this, there were people who would persistently request Yu Hai to treat their sick livestock. Fortunately, he had Yu Xiaocao as a secret weapon, so they were able to cure all of the sick animals.
Such sorrow! Ever since Doctor You came back, there wasn’t a single person who came to seek Xiaocao for medical treatment! Although Doctor You repeatedly claimed that his little disciple, Yu Xiaocao, had already surpassed her teacher, she was still too young after all. There was a saying: ‘Young people can’t be trusted with important tasks.’ Thus, most people still believed that the white-bearded Doctor You seemed more reliable.
After saving a few animals, Yu Xiaocao suddenly ended up becoming a vet. Moreover, her fame spread far and wide. Even her maternal grandmother on the other side of the mountains had heard about her reputation. Xiaocao seriously felt speechless at how things turned out! However, the reason she studied medicine was merely to hide her secret weapon, the mystic-stone water. She didn’t care whether other people believed her, as long as it could benefit her family!
“The sun is winking at me,
The birds are singing for me.
I’m a hardworking and non-clingy little demon.
Don’t ask where I came from,
And don’t ask where I’m going.
I just want to pick the most beautiful flower,
And give it to my little princess.
The king told me to patrol the mountains,
So I wandered around in the mortal realm…” 
Yu Hai enjoyed the first couple lines: ‘My daughter’s singing is pretty good. She must have gotten it from me!’ However, Yu Hai felt that something was off the more he listened to it. Why did his good daughter become a little demon? This child had become so daring that she wasn’t even afraid of being taken away by a Taoist master!
“My daughter! What demon? Have you heard too many supernatural stories?” Yu Hai couldn’t help but interrupt Xiaocao when he heard her singing the line ‘catch a monk for dinner’. The donkey cart had already reached the main road, and there were more and more people on the road.
When facing the curious gaze beside her, Yu Xiaocao giggled and said, “That’s right, Father! Grandpa You knows a lot of supernatural stories!”
A white-bearded grandfather, who was riding backwards on a donkey, chuckled and said, “The little girl has a crisp voice, which was very pleasant to hear! The content of the song is also very interesting. I didn’t know little goblins can also be so cute!”
This white-bearded old man was white and plump. He had a healthy and hearty appearance. Even though he was dressed in coarse cloth, he was obviously someone who lived a respected and privileged life. There were also the ‘filial sons and grandsons’ who were guiding the donkey for him and carried the bags. Their clothes couldn’t even conceal the bulging muscles on their bodies. When coupled with their alert gazes, they were definitely some sort of guards.
However, Yu Xiaocao pretended to be pure and innocent, and said with a smile, “Old grandpa, are you riding a donkey backwards to imitate Zhang Guoluo ?”
“Oh! Little girl, you have also heard the story The Eight Immortals Cross the Sea !” The white-bearded grandfather was obviously in a good mood. He laughed merrily and said, “Come and tell Grandpa, who else do you know other than Zhang Guoluo?”
“I know a lot!” Yu Xiaocao swung the willow twig, which already had some green buds on it, in her hand. She raised her little head up high in a proud manner and replied, “The stories of Lu Dongbin, Li Tieguai, He Xiangu … I know all their stories!”
Yu Xiaocao remembered that the story of the Eight Immortals originated from the Yuan Dynasty’s zaju  called “The Eight Immortals Cross the Sea”. Thus, she wasn’t afraid that this knowledge would expose her identity as a transmigrator.
She continued to talk with the old man with a white beard. The old and young pair happily chatted the whole way to town, so they didn’t feel that the trip to town was very far. When they arrived at the town gate, the childlike grandfather with a white beard bit on his little handkerchief and reluctantly said goodbye to Xiaocao, who he had become friends with despite their huge age gap.
Yu Hai didn’t say much throughout the journey. After they parted with the group of people who were disguised as fathers and sons, he finally said, “Daughter, that old man with a white beard probably has an extraordinary background! If you encounter him again in the future, remember to pay attention to your words and be careful to not get into trouble.”
Yu Xiaocao obediently complied, “Father! You can rest assured. I have a sense of propriety!”
Yu Hai recalled that throughout the journey, his daughter was indeed much more attentive of her speech. He also thought about how his youngest daughter was especially sensible and clever, so he finally relaxed his anxious heart.
As they were speaking, they had reached the biggest and busiest food market in town. The father-daughter pair chose a vacant space with a good flow of people and unloaded the donkey cart. The donkey cart was led to a specific resting area for livestock. There were also people there to specially take care of the animals. If they brought their own fodder, then they only needed to pay one copper coin for the service fee.
Xiaocao’s family’s donkey had already become picky eater after being fed by Xiaocao for so long. No matter how good the fodder was, it wouldn’t even glance at it if it didn’t have any mystic-stone water in it. Xiaocao took the fodder she had prepared, which was definitely mixed with the important mystic-stone water, from the cart.
Little Gray’s eyes lit up with a fervent glow. Instead of rushing to eat the fodder, it first rubbed its big head against Xiaocao’s hand. It looked at her with a gentle and reliant gaze, and then ate with relish after hearing her order.
 The King Asked Me to Patrol the Mountains (大王叫我来巡山) - song written/sung by Chinese singer Zhao Yingjun (赵英俊)
 Zhang Guoluo (张果老) - one of the Eight Immortals in Chinese mythology, he is often depicted as an old man riding backwards on a donkey and carrying a fish drum
 The Eight Immortals Cross the Sea (八仙过海) - a story written during the Ming Dynasty by an anonymous writer
 Lu Dongbin (吕洞宾), Li Tieguai (铁拐李), He Xiangu (何仙姑) - names of three of the Eight Immortals
 Zaju (杂剧) - poetic drama set to music that flourished in the Yuan Dynasty, usually consisted of four actsPrevious Chapter Next Chapter
Hmmm who might he be?🤔🤔