Chapter 185 - Thief

Her voice abruptly came to a stop because she hopelessly watched as her aunt picked up a spoonworm with her chopsticks, put it into her mouth, and slowly chewed it. Why? This bug-like thing looked so disgusting. Shouldn’t her aunt think it was disgusting, just like her? How could her aunt, who was of noble status, be able to stomach that?

“Mhm! It’s really fresh and tender. Your godfather praised the spoonworms endlessly in his letters. I have long been eager to taste it. Xiaocao’s cooking is very good. I really like this dish.” Lady Fang tried two more mouthfuls before she could spare some time to praise her.

Xia Furong was having a mental breakdown inside, ‘How can a noble and elegant person like my aunt like to eat bugs?’

As a matter of fact, this Lady Fang was rather courageous. Upon seeing soft and plump appearance of sandworms, most people would politely decline eating it. Yu Xiaocao, who was originally worried about not being able to get along with a noblewoman from the capital, finally felt completely at ease now. This godmother of hers was quite approachable ah!

She naturally had to support and praise the meal cooked by her daughter. Moreover, Xiaocao had excellent cooking skills. She could make many different delicacies with very simple ingredients, and thus caused Lady Fang, who was usually someone with a lot of self-restraint, to unexpectedly overeat by accident.

Night had fallen. The shadows of the trees nearby gracefully swayed under the moonlight, while the bright moon hung above the treetops. Occasionally, a late-returning wild bird passed by and cast a beautiful shadow on the silver moon…

It was Lady Fang’s first time experiencing such a beautiful night sky. Simple stone walls, rough brick house, and a spacious courtyard… They were all so primitive. This simple and natural environment cleansed one’s heart and mind. It made Lady Fang, who had lived in large estates for a long time, feel relaxed physically and mentally.  

Xiaocao, whose task of washing the dishes had been taken away by Zhenzhu and Linglong, looked at the sky and said goodbye to her godmother, “Godmother, I’m going back now. You should rest earlier. I’ll see you again tomorrow…”

“It’s already so dark. How can I be at ease letting a little girl walk on a mountain road alone? I’ll send you back!” Lady Fang grabbed a lantern, which had a fine brush painting of flowers and birds drawn on it, and followed Xiaocao out the door.  

Xiaocao quickly said, “Godmother, I used to frequently go catch wild hares and pheasants in the mountains with Brother Han. So I’m very familiar with this mountain road. You don’t have to send…”

“Why be so courteous with me, your godmother? Godmother has eaten too much this evening, so I’ll walk with you and digest the food.” Lady Fang lit the lantern, held Xiaocao’s hand, and slowly walked towards the main gates. Zhenzhu saw this and hastily handed the work in the kitchen to Linglong. She swiftly caught up to her master and took the lantern in her hands.

The Zhao Family's house was quite big and the courtyard was spacious. When Xia Furong, who had just arrived at an unfamiliar place, saw everyone getting ready to go out, she also followed them with slight hesitation.

The mountain road was quiet, and the mottled shadows of the bushes on both sides of the road appeared on the road. Xia Furong looked at the pitch-dark mountain and heard the crowing of night birds. Feeling scared, she quickly moved closer to her aunt. A gust of wind blew and the shadows of the trees on the ground suddenly shook. The anxious Xia Furong cried out in surprise and startled everyone.

“Older Cousin, people can die from being scared by another person. Can you stop making the atmosphere so tense?!” Yu Xiaocao rolled her eyes in the darkness.

Xia Furong hugged Lady Fang’s other arm tightly and looked suspiciously at the dark thicket beside the road for fear that some unknown creature would suddenly jump out.

One’s worst fears would always happen. Suddenly, a dark figure swiftly flew past her feet and she even felt it step on her toes. Xia Furong screamed even more tragically and hugged Lady Fang. She hid her head within her aunt’s embrace and didn’t dare to come out.

Yu Xiaocao was rendered completely speechless. Looking at the physical shape and gait of the dark shadow, it was merely a young hare. Did she really need to scream like a pig being slaughtered?

“Don’t be scared, Older Cousin. It’s just a wild hare. The ferocious animals of the West Mountains will only appear deep in the mountains. The animals that appear around here are mostly small animals like wild hares, pheasants, badgers, and so on. They’re not aggressive.” Yu Xiaocao informed Noble Young Miss Xia.

Xia Furong ignored her and cried in a trembling voice, “Aunt, it’s too scary here. Let’s go back!”

Lady Fang patted her niece on her shoulder to placate her and then said with a smile, “Don’t be afraid! We have a lot of people, as well as a light. Even if there are wild beasts, they won’t dare to come over. You just arrived at a new environment and haven’t adapted yet. In a few days, you will be able to experience of pleasure of living in the countryside. When your uncle has a break, I’ll tell him to take us hunting. The game that we caught ourselves would definitely be more delicious.”

Yu Xiaocao nodded repeatedly and said, “That’s right, that’s right! It would be even better if we can catch a wild deer! I don’t even need to mention the taste of roasted venison! There’s also badger meat, which is tender and delicious… I’m about to drool!”

Lady Fang chuckled and touched Xiaocao’s head. With a doting voice, she said, “You ah! An outright little foodie!”

Yu Xiaocao recalled the hard and bitter yet happy days. She said with a grin, “Godmother, my father used to be an expert hunter in the village! He often went up the mountains with Uncle Zhao, who is Godfather’s younger martial brother. He would be able to catch a lot of game every time! My father had also killed a large wild boar by himself. It weighed two to three hundred catties!”

The night was quiet, and the whole mountain resounded with the sound of Xiaocao’s chattering. Lady Fang listened with interest and occasionally interrupted her to ask a question, which made Xiaocao speak even more enthusiastically.

Xia Furong curled up her lips in disbelief. If hunting was so easy, then why were they farming ah! She couldn’t help but want to expose Xiaocao’s lies, “Since your father is so good at hunting, why are your family growing vegetables and watermelons? Isn’t it tiring for your family to do so much work?”

Yu Xiaocao replied without hesitation, “Hunting can also be risky. How can it be as safe and steady as farming? Ever since my father was injured by a bear, my mother has forbidden us from going up the mountains. But don’t underestimate our family’s income from growing vegetables and watermelons. It’s even more profitable than a nobleman’s plantation!”

Lady Fang thought of the income from the watermelon shop today and nodded in approval. The annual income of the largest plantation from her dowry was only around a thousand taels of silver. It really wasn’t as good as the income that Xiaocao’s family got from selling watermelons for a few days.

Xia Furong, who knew nothing about farming, didn’t believe Xiaocao’s words at all. If people could make so much money by farming, then why would those farmers be dressed in rags and have little food to eat? That damned wretch must be boasting…

But, what did that brat just say? There were bears in the mountains? She and her aunt, as well as the two maidservants, were all women and they lived halfway up the mountains. If a ferocious beast came down the mountains, then there would be unthinkable consequences—Xia Furong kept thinking about it and became even more frightened as her face turned pale and her legs trembled.

As they happily chatted, they had unknowingly arrived at the entrance of the Yu Family’s residence. The Yu Family, which should have been very quiet at this time, was bustling with noise.

Yu Xiaocao and her godmother looked at each other, and then hastened their pace. When they hurried into the yard, they heard Wang Ergou’s distinctive rogue-like voice. He shouted angrily, “…You’re not sleeping this late at night, and instead hiding in the watermelon fields. If you’re not a thief, then what are you? Could it be that you’re going to meet your lover in the melon field??”

Then there was the shrill screaming of her eldest paternal aunt, “Wang Ergou, you bastard! You’re trying to ruin my innocence. I’ll risk my life to fight with you…”

There was a sense of reproach within Ergou’s wife’s calm voice, “Dashan’s wife, Ergou has never been a good speaker. I’ll apologize for his offensive remarks, so don’t be angry. But what were you doing hiding in the watermelon fields in the middle of the night?”

At this time, Yu Xiaocao had already arrived next to the crowd. Under the light cast by the lanterns in the yard, she could see that the entire Yu Family were present, except for Little Shitou, who was studying in town. There were also Wang Ergou and his wife, as well as her eldest paternal aunt Madam Li, who was in a mess.

After being questioned by Ergou’s wife, Li Guihua’s eyes flickered and she hesitated to answer the question. Today, she went to deliver food to her son, who was working at the docks, and saw Wang Ergou selling watermelons on his cart. The news had already been spread throughout the whole village that Yu Hai’s family didn’t plant sweet potatoes this spring and worked on growing something called watermelon. Planting watermelons wasn’t very popular yet. Madam Li held the mentality of watching the second branch become a laughingstock, and waited to see the watermelons not being able to sell and rot in the fields.

Unexpectedly, when she arrived at the docks, she several well-dressed merchants gathering around Wang Ergou’s handcart and paying for watermelons. Moreover, some of the customers almost ended up fighting for the last two watermelons.  

She quietly got closer for a better look and saw that a watermelon actually cost five taels! Five taels was enough for an ordinary family to spend frugally for an entire year, yet there were actually so many fools scrambling to buy it. Thinking of Yu Hai’s fields full of round watermelons, Madam Li felt as if there was a cat scratching her heart—So much money ah! This was a sign that Second Brother-in-law was going to get rich ah!

After returning from the docks, Madam Li hid in her own room and made plans: At night, she would go to Second Brother-in-law’s fields in the dark and take two watermelons. Then she could sell them at the dock’s tomorrow. With that, wouldn’t she be able to get ten taels in her hands? There was no need for her to be afraid even if she encountered Second Brother-in-law in the evening. She could just say that Father and Mother wanted to eat watermelons and told her to pluck two back for them. Could he not give the watermelons to her?

However, Madam Li had never expected that the person watching the watermelons tonight was the most difficult person in the entire village, Wang Ergou! Seriously, what was wrong with Yu Hai? He actually allowed an unreliable outsider to help guard such a valuable thing. Wasn’t he afraid that Wang Ergou, who liked to engage in petty crimes, would steal the watermelons from the fields?

Madam Li hemmed and hawed, and didn’t know how to explain herself. Wang Ergou didn’t let her off easily and said, “What else? Of course she was trying to steal something! This Madam Li got envious after seeing me sell watermelons at the docks this morning, and thus wanted to steal some watermelons at night to sell herself! Brother Dahai, you even said that as fellow villagers, no one would come steal the watermelons. Unexpectedly, you have guarded against outsiders, but not family. This situation really fits that saying: No matter how much preventive measures you take, it’s still hard to detect a thief in the family!”

Madam Li put on a tough appearance and shouted, “Ergou’zi, don’t talking nonsense! Who stole watermelons? Where’s the watermelons? You must find the stolen goods to catch a thief. Where’s the evidence?”

“That’s because I came just in time and you didn’t have the chance to make your move! If you’re not stealing watermelons, then what are you doing in the watermelon fields in the dark?” Wang Ergou raised his voice without any signs of backing down.

“I… I was just passing by, alright?” Madam Li continued to argue. 

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Myst's Thoughts

yep just passing by......to steal some watermelons🙄

Translator: Myst