The thick soup stewed with small white fish, which appeared like snow-white milk, boiled in the pot and emitted a strong, refreshing scent. A couple drops of mystic-stone water was added into the thick soup and the only condiment used was salt. The fish soup was originally very fresh, so it was unnecessary to add other condiments. Before serving it, one should sprinkle some mashed coriander and two drops of sesame oil on top because the aroma could enhance one’s appetite.
Under Xiaocao and the two maidservants’ expectant gazes, Lady Fang tried a small sip of the soup. The strong aroma seemed to have aroused the ‘gluttonous bug’ in her stomach. The soup was refreshingly delicious, and the fish meat was smooth and tender. Unbeknownst to her, Lady Fang had completely finished a bowl of fish soup and half a bowl of fish meat.
Zhenzhu and Linglong held each other’s hands and had tears of excitement in their eyes. Their madam’s poor appetite recently had been quite worrisome. For each meal, she ate even less than a cat. If she forced herself to eat, it would bring about the opposite effect—she would vomit all the food that she used so much effort to eat. It had been a long time since their madam had finished an entire bowl of soup, especially one that contained meat or fish. The two loyal maidservants felt even more happy than if they had eaten the food themselves.
Lady Fang gently wiped the corners of her mouth with her handkerchief as she savored the delicacy in her mouth. Although she wanted to drink a few more mouthfuls, she restrained herself. She knew that no matter how delicious the food was, she still needed to control herself, so as to not spoil her appetite again.
Seeing Xiaocao reveal a sincere smile, Lady Fang lightly stroked her smooth and glossy hair and said in a gentle voice, “It must have been hard for you! These days, in order to let me eat some more, you have gotten thinner from the exhaustion! Moreover, your family have been busy with the construction of the house recently, so you have to go back to help your mother after cooking for me. I really don’t know how I should thank you…”
“Godmother! There’s no need to treat one family as two. You’re my godmother, who is just like my birth mother. It’s a special time right now, so who else would I take care of first? My mother has Auntie Zhou, Eldest Grandaunt, and my maternal grandmother helping her out. There’s nothing for me to do even if I went! Godmother, I’ll be mad if you continue treating me like a stranger!” Xiaoocao pretended to be angry and puffed up her cheeks like a toad!
Lady Fang smiled and said, “Alright, alright, alright! Godmother is wrong and you’re right. There’s no need to be courteous with family! You have been busy for the whole morning. Go back home to rest. I’m also tired, so I’ll take a nap in the room…”
Yu Xiaocao helped her godmother to lie on the bed, and then covered her with a thin blanket. After she saw her close her eyes, she quietly left the inner room. She said to Linglong in a low voice, “Remember to check the time. Don’t let Godmother sleep for too long, otherwise, she won’t be able to sleep at night!”
Linglong agreed and escorted her out of the room. When she returned, she saw that her madam had opened her eyes again, so she said with a smile, “Madam, you’re really someone who is blessed. Young Miss is so filial!”
With a smile on her face, Lady Fang lightly nodded and said, “The best thing that your general has done in his life is adopting Xiaocao as his daughter! This child brings happiness. Even Doctor Sun praised that her medicinal meals were beneficial to the general’s health! If it wasn’t because she didn’t mind the trouble of altering the medicinal meals daily to help nourish our health, I’m afraid that it would be difficult for me to have my own child in this lifetime!”
Linglong quickly said, “Young Miss is such a good person, and she just happened to meet you and the general. This is also your blessing ah!”
Lady Fang slowly nodded her head, put both her hands on her belly, and raised the corners of her mouth into a cordial smile, ‘Isn’t this child also blessed? He isn’t even born yet, but he already has an older sister who wholehearted cares for him.’ Perhaps, this child would be her only child in this lifetime. Thus, she was relieved that he would be accompanied by such a kind, righteous, and capable older sister like Xiaocao!
When Xiaocao reached home, she saw the uncles, who came to help, having lunch in full swing. After several days of hard work, the brick wall in the open space next to them was already taller than a person. It looked strong and dignified. In Dongshan Village, besides the village head’s family, there wasn’t another family who would be willing to build a house with bricks and tiles. The villagers had started talking about it since the first batch of black bricks that Yu Hai ordered came.
There were some people talking about how after Yu Hai separated from the main family, he started selling braised food, growing early ripening vegetables and doing business with large watermelons. It seemed like he earned quite a lot of money. Otherwise, how could he afford to spend so much money building a brick and tile house?
After lunch, Old Yu, who was going to help at the old residence, met an old man who he usually had a good relationship with. When the old man saw him smiling until he had wrinkles on his face, he raised his voice and said, “Old Yu ah, you’re going over to help your second son again? Your second son is really capable. He can hunt in the mountains, fish in the sea, farm and do business. There’s nothing that he can’t do! Old Yu, you can just wait to enjoy a comfortable and happy life in the future!”
Old Yu liked to hear these kinds of words. Second Son was building a new house, and he was also happy for his child. A black brick, tiled-roof house with five rooms, and there were also side rooms. Although the frame wasn’t set up yet, it was apparent that the house would be magnificent in the future! He didn’t live in the old residence, but when mentioning his second son, was there anyone who didn’t give him a big thumbs up? This was such an honorable thing for his Old Yu Family ah!
“That’s right! At the time of the separation, it was clearly stated in the contact that he only needed to give us some coarse grain every month as a show of his filial piety! However, Second Son is a kind and upright person. He doesn’t forget to show filial respect for his elders even when he’s well off. He automatically changed the monthly coarse grain to fine grain, moreover, he also gives us five taels for groceries! Ay! Villagers of Dongshan Village eat homegrown vegetables and catch our own fish in the sea, so why would we need so much money for groceries? I wanted to give the money back to him, but Second Son refused. He told us to save it up, so if we want to buy something in the future, we won’t be short on money!” Old Yu was obviously showing off as he spoke.
He had originally thought that after that incident his second son’s family would be estranged with him, but he didn’t expect that Second Son’s family still treated him with filial respect and secretly gave him five taels every month. After he found out about Madam Zhang’s true colors, he continued to live in a seemingly harmonious manner with her for the sake of his third son and youngest daughter.
However, he couldn’t let Madam Zhang be the only one in control of the family anymore. When it was time for him to make decisions, he wouldn’t be indecisive again. He had secretly saved up all the money that Second Son gave him. Third Son and Youngest Daughter weren’t his only children; he also had his eldest daughter, who had been married off far away!
Ay! His eldest daughter was still mad at him!! It had been over a decade, except for returning once when Second Son got married, she had never come back to her maiden home over all these years. At that time, she only spoke with Second Son and ignored everyone else!
It was understandable. Eldest Daughter was such a strong person, yet Madam Zhang married her off far away to a poor, remote place. Moreover, the person she married was a widower who was a lot older than her. At that time, he had also been foolish. Why did he listen to Madam Zhang’s words and didn’t inquire carefully about the person? By the time the bridal sedan arrived at the door, it was already too late… Ay! When he thought about it now, he was seriously sorry to Cuiyun and had wronged Cuiyun’s two children ah…
Speaking of the northeast, when he went to town last time, he had heard a businessman, who came from there, say that there was no rain in the northeast this spring and summer, which was an omen of severe drought ah! He didn’t know how his eldest daughter was doing now… No, he had to ask someone to send a message over to ask about the situation. If there was really a drought, he would tell his daughter, ‘Although your mother is gone, you still have your maiden family.’
As he greeted his fellow villagers along the way, Old Yu had arrived at the old residence. The first thing he saw was his nephew, Yu Jiang, and his eldest grandson busily weighing seafood. There was a very long line in front of them. Other than the villagers of Dongshan Village, there were also some unfamiliar people from the neighboring fishing village.
The person in charge of collecting seafood in the neighboring fishing village had randomly raised the price and collected seafood that wasn’t up to standard. The seafood wasn’t preserved properly, so it was often stinky and rotten. As a result, the purchasing staff of the Zhou Family’s factories cancelled the acquisition point. Therefore, the villagers of the neighboring fishing village had to travel over five kilometers to Dongshan Village to sell their marine goods.
For collecting seafood, they could only earn several dozen copper coins per catty, but they were able to collect a large amount of marine goods ah! He made a rough calculation in his heart. With just the seafood acquisition alone, Second Son’s family could earn several taels as income in a day. Yu Jiang could probably get at least a little more than a tael daily, right?
Ay! Had Madam Zhang not been pretentious and gone overbroad in her actions, Second Son would have probably taken familial affections into consideration and given Yu Jiang’s task to Dashan, which was much better than fishing! Dashan had a lot of strength, but his fishing skills weren't enough as good as his. After working hard and being exhausted for the entire day, they still couldn’t earn much money… But, what was the point in talking about this now? With the things that Madam Zhang had done, it was already fortunate that Second Son didn’t blame him, let alone help Dashan!
Old Yu saw that people in the yard were busily eating lunch, and the strong aroma of meat drifted over with the wind. The corner of Old Yu’s mouth twitched, and he thought, ‘Second Son is building a house, but is the food being provided too good? Not only is there meat for every meal, but there was also iced sweet mung bean soup to drink. Even if he has money, he shouldn’t spend it so recklessly. I have to remind him next time!’ Old Yu didn’t enter the courtyard. After nodding at Yu Hang, who greeted him, he picked up a shovel and started shoveling the mud!
There was no concrete at this time. Bricks were made of yellow mud with strong adhesion, and it was mixed with cut up rice straws. Houses built with this were also quite sturdy! Old Yu felt that he somewhat owed his second son, so he had come over to help since the first day of the house construction. Furthermore, he never ate at the old residence, as if this was the only way to mitigate the guilt in his heart.
After eating lunch, Yu Hai came out with the villagers who came to help and saw Old Yu working under the hot sun. Yu Hai hastily put his straw hat on Old Yu’s head and said, “Father, why did you come so early? The sun is really strong right now ah. It’s fine to work later when it’s not as hot ah!”
“In the summer, it’s hard to say when it will rain! It’s better to quickly build the house while it’s a good day. Don’t you also need to quickly finish building the two rooms beside the old residence before the autumn harvest? The heavens won’t wait for anyone. We, fishermen, are used to working under the sun, so this little sun is fine.” Old Yu wiped off his sweat and continued to work.
When the others saw this, they were naturally embarrassed to rest. Liu Pei climbed onto the scaffold made of bamboo poles and said as he plastered mud on the bricks, “Uncle Yu, you can rest assured! We’ll go back a little later today. The walls of the house are almost done! We should be able to install the beam tomorrow!”
Old Yu spit into his palms, held the shovel in his hands, and kept shoveling mud into the bamboo basket. He nodded and said, “Mhm! Let’s aim to install the beam tomorrow! Second Son, the beam installation is an important matter. Have you prepared the firecrackers? Did you buy all the ingredients needed for the meal to entertain the guests?”Previous Chapter Next Chapter