Chapter 159 - Intimidated

Doctor Sun smiled and said, “After the spoon worms are cleaned and dried, it won’t be very heavy. Tongren Medicine Hall has branches in the capital, prefectural city, and several cities in the south, so there’s a high demand for them.”

Xiaolian gave the five to six catties of sandworms that she dug out to the staff in charge of weighing, and then carried Xiaocao’s bucket to the front. Xiaocao was afraid that she would sell everything, so she hastily stopped her, “Xiaolian, save some for me. I’ll make a sandworm feast for lunch!”

“What? Sandworms can also be made into food? It looks so disgusting. Who would dare to eat it ah?!” Zhou Shanhu, who had already received her payment, came over and wrinkled her nose as she looked at the soft, fleshy sandworms with disgust. She pursed her lips and said.

Yu Xiaocao smiled at her mysteriously and whispered, “If you haven’t tried it, you won’t know. But once you eat it, you won’t be able to forget it. Let me tell you, sandworms are not only delicious, but they are also nutritious. They aren’t inferior to sea cucumbers and abalones.”

Doctor Sun asked with interest, “Oh? Do you know how to prepare these sandworms?”

“You can make soup with it. It can also be steamed, stewed, and stir-fried. Of course, it can also be eaten raw with a sauce!” Yu Xiaocao had a confident smile on her face as she talked about it.

Zhou Shanhu had an even more disgusted expression on her face, “How can it be eaten raw?! Who can even eat that?”

“Like eating raw fish fillet, you just need to dip it in sauce. Wouldn’t it be fine if you don’t think about what it looks like when you’re eating?” Yu Xiaocao pinched her wrinkled up face and laughed.

Doctor Sun stroked his beard and smiled faintly, “Although raw fish fillet is a dish hand-picked by the current emperor, it’s not a dish that most people can get used to. We’re still used to cooked food.”

“That’s right, that’s right! Raw fish fillet doesn’t taste good!” Zhou Shanhu nodded in agreement.

Xiaolian had also heard that villagers used to eat spoon worms to fill their hunger during the years of famine. When there was food to eat, no one would actually eat it. However, Xiaolian was still rather confident in her younger sister’s culinary skills. She turned her head and asked, “Younger Sister, how much do you want to keep for cooking?”

“Keep half of it!” Ten catties only cost one tael, which wasn’t much to the current Yu Family.

But Zhou Shanhu got anxious. She stomped her feet and said, “Why are you keeping so much? You can’t keep sandworms for a long time. If you don’t finish them and it goes bad, wouldn’t that be too wasteful? I think you should just keep two to three catties. That’s enough for a meal at noon. If you want to eat more tomorrow, I will accompany you to dig some more when the tide ebbs!”

For most families in Dongshan Village, one tael of silver was considered a lot of wealth. It was enough for the entire family to eat for several months. To keep the sandworms that were worth one tael as a cooking ingredient, that person was either a fool or a spendthrift.

Yu Xiaocao, who had always kept a low profile, noticed the probing eyes around her and hastily said, “Alright, I’ll listen to Shanhu and just keep two to three catties. It’s my first time using sandworms as ingredients to cook, so I wanted to keep more for training!”

In the meantime, the worker of Tongren Medicine Hall had already finished weighing their harvest. The sisters dug out a total of twenty-eight catties of sandworms, which was much more than many of the adult workers. Shuanzhu’s wife repeatedly praised the sisters for being so capable.  

After removing the three catties of sandworms that Xiaocao wanted to keep, Tongren Medicine Hall gave the sisters a total of two taels and five mace. Under everyone’s envious gazes, Xiaocao and Xiaolian carried their tools and went home.

As luck would have it, they encountered Madam Zhang on their way back. It had been a while since they had seen Madam Zhang. The old lady’s hair had gotten a lot whiter and she seemed to have gotten thinner. Her cheekbones became more prominent, and there was a gloomy look in her saggy eyes.

She had naturally heard the news about Tongren Medicine Hall purchasing sandworms. But, Old Yu and Yu Dashan had gone out to fish in the sea, and Yu Heizi had left for the docks before the sky had even lit up. That brat was becoming more and more slick. After Madam Zhang seized more than half of his first income, he didn’t bring money home anymore. Instead, he just put it on account and waited until it reached a certain amount before withdrawing them all at once.

The only ones left at home were Madam Zhang and her daughter, and the lazy and gluttonous Madam Li. Madam Zhang wasn’t originally from the fishing village, so she didn’t know how to dig for sandworms. Yu Caidie was someone who rarely left the house and stayed at home the whole day, and Madam Li was someone who was even less reliable.

Seeing others bringing home hundreds and even thousands of copper coins home, Madam Zhang felt as if there were twenty-five mice on her heart—a hundred claws were scratching her heart. She heard that Xiaolian and her sister had also gone to the beach, so she deliberately waited on the path that they would definitely walk by on their way home.

“You’re back?” Madam Zhang asked insidiously, “Did you get a good harvest today? How many taels did you get?”

“A few taels? Grandmother, do you think that spoon worms are just blown over by the wind? Did you go look at the beach? It takes a long time to dig up one sandworm! Xiaolian and I have slender arms and legs, so it’s already pretty good that we can dig out a few of them!” Yu Xiaocao knew that nothing good would come out of seeing Madam Zhang, so she used the ‘tactic of mourning soldiers [1]’ first.

Madam Zhang got choked off by her. After a while, she glared fiercely at her and said, “You little wretch, you have become bolder after separating from the family! You actually dare to talk back to me, your grandmother! Is that what your parents teach you?”

Yu Xiaocao feigned a smile and said, “Grandmother, I’m just telling you the truth. How did it become me talking back to you? Or is it in your eyes, as long as I don’t go along with you, it is considered rebutting and disobedience? As the ancients says: ‘An unkind mother should not blame her child for being unfilial…’ What are your thoughts after hearing that?”

“You damned brat, useless wretch! Aren’t you just indirectly saying that I’m unkind? Who talks to their elders like you? You think that you’re so great now just because I haven’t been disciplining you!” Madam Zhang took off her shoe and prepared to beat her up.

Xiaolian swiftly went forward and blocked her younger sister. Yu Xiaocao pulled her back a few steps. Suddenly, she covered her chest, breathed heavily, and weakly said, “Grandmother! My health isn’t very good, so I can’t be frightened! If I get ill from you scaring me, I’m going to have to rely on you. I’m going to eat and live with you, and you will have to take care of my medical fees…”

Madam Zhang was stunned by the speed at which she changed her face. She was actually timid inwardly, but she put up a fierce front and said, “Stop pretending! Don’t think that I don’t know the trick you’re playing. You’re deceiving others by pretending to be sick! Who would believe you ah! Unless you die in front of me, or else…”

“Who dares to curse my daughter! Do you want to die?” Madam Zhang was scared by a rough, thunderous voice and she almost sat on the ground.  

Yu Xiaocao turned around and saw her godfather, Fang Zizhen, and Yu Hai, who jumped off the donkey cart behind him. Fang Zizhen’s face was full of anger, and even his beard had curled up. He used every ounce of his energy to control the horsewhip in his hands in order not to lash it at Madam Zhang.

Yu Hai’s eyes were red as he stared at Madam Zhang with a gaze filled with grief, indignation, disappointment, and unfamiliarity. His stepmother hated him so much that even his children had been implicated. His daughter, who he loved so dearly, was cursed viciously by her grandmother to die in front of her. Such hatred, such resentment!

He believed that he had a clear conscience towards the Yu Family and Madam Zhang. It turned out that his tolerance and sacrifice before they had separated from the main family were done in vain. He could never warm up Madam Zhang’s ice-cold heart. Yu Hai’s heart was like dead ash in an instant, ‘So be it. In the future, I will give them everything that I’m supposed to give them, not one penny less. But for things that I don’t need to give them, I won’t even take out a single coin.’ He wouldn’t be concerned about that side of the family anymore just because his family was eating and living better. Because—it wasn’t worth it.

Madam Zhang was someone who bullied the weak and feared the strong. When facing the furious General Fang, she immediately became listless. She stammered, “My… My Lord! I… I’m not cursing her. I just said it carelessly…”

Fang Zizhen whipped the horsewhip that he was holding in the air several times, and a clear and crisp sound could be heard. Madam Zhang trembled in fright and nearly wet her pants.

“Careless remark? Then why don’t you also tell yourself to die? Why don’t you tell your own son to die? Our Xiaocao used to be in poor health. It must be because you cursed her! If I hear you cursing my daughter again, be prepared to go to jail!”

Fang Zizhen felt that there was a need to frighten this stupid woman. Even with his support, she still dared to fearlessly bully his family’s Xiaocao. If he wasn’t around, then his dear daughter would be bullied to death… Pah, pah! Why was this word mentioned again? How inauspicious!

Madam Zhang shivered and muttered, “I… I’m her elder, so it’s not considered a crime to scold her…”

“What kind of elder are you? Which family’s elders would refuse to pay for their sick granddaughter’s medical fees and force them to borrow money in order to treat her illness? What kind of parents would take the three hundred taels that their son exchanged his life to get, and then force them out of their home with barely anything? Whose elders would hate seeing their son’s family living well and come cause trouble for them from time to time? Madam Zhang, you’re only a stepmother, and you’re a vicious and biased stepmother. The law will never tolerate people like you!” Fang Zizhen glared at her fiercely. His dignified aura caused Madam Zhang’s legs to go soft and she kneeled down.

Yu Hai turned his face to one side and solemnly said, “Brother Fang, please spare her this time! Madam Zhang, when we divided the family, it was clearly written on the contract that I just need to give you guys two hundred catties of grain every year or convert it into money. In the future, I won’t pay even a single coin more! Please don’t come and bring disgrace upon yourself again!”

When facing Yu Hai, Madam Zhang’s imperious temper flared up again. She sat her butt on the ground, smacked her legs, and cried, “The heavens don’t have eyes—giving me such a unfilial descendant ah!! How shall I live in the future——"

Suddenly, her voice stopped abruptly as if someone had strangled her neck. It turned out that she had been frightened by Fang Zizhen’s furious expression.

Fang Zizhen said impatiently, “Brother Yu had given you the food according to the agreement without missing anything. So how is he being unfilial? In my opinion, he’s much more filial than your good-for-nothing son who only knows how to stretch out his hands and ask for money at home! Daughter, if this wicked old lady bullies you again, tell me! Godfather will avenge you!”

After he said that, he bent down to hold Xiaocao under his arm. Then he lifted her onto his own tall steed. He, on the other hand, acted like an extremely caring father and guided the horse in front.

When Madam Zhang saw Xiaocao being doted on by the official, her heart beat like drums, for fear that the official would remember all her past mistreatments towards the little lass and come get even with her later. In the following days, she became much more quiet and well-behaved.   

Under the envious eyes of the villagers, Yu Xiaocao sat on the back of the tall horse. Her godfather was so cool today. There was finally someone who could stop that wicked old lady. It should be a lot more peaceful for her family in the future.

“Godfather, when did you return from the capital? Why didn’t you tell me in advance? I could have prepared a feast for your return ah!” Yu Xiaocao laughed happily. She must treat ‘this great god’, who could subdue Madam Zhang, with great care. 


[1] Tactic of mourning soldiers (哀兵之策) - get sympathy by mourning and then attack the enemy when they are less guarded

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Myst's Thoughts

There's finally someone who can keep Madam Zhang under control!

Translator: Myst