Chapter 230 - Fleeing from Calamity

Li Da naturally didn’t dare to give false number to the imperial envoy’s goddaughter, “That family urgently needs the money, so the price isn’t very high. If you buy them separately, the superior farmland cost twelve taels per mu, the average farmland cost ten taels per mu, and the inferior farmland is seven taels per mu. If you buy them together, it cost a thousand five hundred taels.”

The price was quite reasonable, so Yu Xiaocao bought it on the spot. The next day, the head steward of the Fang Estate and Broker Li went to the yamen to go through the formalities.

At this time, it was the time of spring plowing. Since the Ma Family was in a hurry to sell the plantation, they didn’t rent the fields to the tenant farmers. Thus, the tenant farmers at the plantation all felt very anxious.

The tenant farmers generally didn’t have any farmland and relied on farming on rented farmland to make a living. At the beginning of autumn, at least half of the grain produced in the fields should be handed to the master’s family. If they had a harsher master, who charged them sixty percent or more for rent, and they had an average harvest, the tenant farmers might not even have enough to fill their stomachs. However, these tenant farmers, who had no other skills except farming, had no other choice but to rent land. If they didn’t farm, was the whole family just going to wait to drink the northwest wind?

In this plantation of the Ma Family, the tenants were waiting for the arrival of the new owner with an uneasy mood. The Ma Family were considered kind masters, who only took fifty percent rent. They were worried about what kind of person the new owner was. Would the rent increase? Would they not rent the land to them? There were more than a dozen families in the plantation who relied on these fields to make a living ah!

Yu Hai wore a dark blue muslin robe with exquisite embroidery on the waist, collar, and cuffs. He had never worn such a formal attire before, so he felt very out of place. For the convenience of work, Yu Hai had always worn light work clothes, which was light and comfortable. Being wrapped in a robe, he felt as if he couldn’t even walk properly.

Yu Xiaocao looked at her father’s uneasy expression and said with a smile, “Father, you look very handsome dressed like this! You look more dignified than those skinny and short lords! It’s our first time inspecting our plantation, so we definitely have to show the imposing manner of owners lest we get bullied by the servants!”

After being praised by his daughter, Yu Hai straightened his chest. He was originally tall with good features and healthy tan skin. Thus, he really did have the charisma of a wealthy nobleman.

The person who drove their horse carriage was the head steward of the Fang Family. Since they were going to show their force as owners, how could they not have someone running errands for them? Thus, Lady Fang sent the head steward over to help them.

The horse carriage soon arrived at the plantation. The tenant farmers, who had long received the news, had already been waiting for them. In the past, the Ma Family usually came late in the morning. The tenant farmers weren’t familiar with their new master’s habits, so they wanted to leave a good impression on them by coming earlier. Originally, they had thought that they would have to wait for a long time, but they hadn’t expected that the horse carriage had already arrived at the plantation at seven in the morning. The tenant farmers looked at one another and were glad to have come early!

The head steward stopped the horse carriage. Yu Hai nimbly jumped down from the carriage, and then turned around to carry his younger daughter down the carriage. When Yu Xiaocao saw the farmers waiting respectfully, she felt rather satisfied in her heart.  

Could the tenant farmers not be respectful? Since last autumn, there had been group after group of refugees coming to Tanggu Town. Although a group of refugees had settled at the docks, there were still a lot of refugees looking for jobs. There would be refugees coming to slightly bigger plantations to recommend themselves as tenant farmers. The position of the original tenant farmers at the plantation were being threatened. If they didn’t work hard, wouldn’t they just be waiting for their masters to replace them? This wasn’t something that hadn’t happened before. Didn’t several tenant farmers get changed at the Zhou Family’s ritual fields next door?

Yu Hai stood in front of the tenant farmers. He had never spoken under the anticipating gazes of so many people, so his hands that were behind his back slightly trembled. Seeing this, Xiaocao quickly extended her hand and held her father’s hand, giving him support.

The future of the Yu Family would certainly be even more than this, so as the head of the household, Yu Hai must be able to support it! Yu Hai secretly took a deep breath, swept over the dozen or so tenants with a dignified gaze, and said in a loud voice, “This year’s spring plowing is just around the corner. In order to not delay farming, everything will stay the same! Who is the supervisor of the tenant farmers? Come and introduce the situation of the plantation!”

Hearing that everything would be the same as before, the tenant farmers were apparently relieved, and there was a glow of joy within everyone’s eyes. A vigorous old man in his fifties stepped forward and said, “In reply to Master, this old man, Wang Maocai, is the supervisor of the plantation!”

Seeing that the old man was about the same age as his father, Yu Hai’s face showed some kindness. He said, “What’s the situation at this plantation? Tell me about it!”

Wang Maocai didn’t change just because the master was kind to him. He respectfully answered, “In reply to Master, there are a total of sixteen families in the plantation. Among them, there are forty-three young, strong workers. In the previous years, the plantation’s fields were distributed according to the number of laborers in the family.”

Divided based on number of adult workers? Yu Xiaocao thought about it and asked, “This elder, does the so-called laborer refer to adult male labor force?”

Wang Maocai didn’t slight her due to her young age and quickly replied, “In reply to Young Miss, that’s right!”

“Then… what if the adult male in the family had an accident?” Yu Xiaocao’s worry wasn’t without reason. If something happened to the man in the family, then a widowed mother and orphaned children wouldn’t even be able to get a portion of land, so how were they supposed to live?

Wang Maocai was silent for a moment before saying, “I was just about to report this to Master. Liu Dazhuang, who works at the plantation, broke his leg after falling in the mountains. He’s the only labor force in his family. Last year, four mu of land was distributed to him. What should we do this year?”

Yu Hai ceased his brows slightly. According to the old policy, the family should not be allocated land if the only labor force in the family was bedridden. However, if they lost their farmland when the pillar of the family had fallen, that would be making their bad situation even worse. How would the family support themselves?

At this time, a twelve or thirteen year old boy rushed out from the crowd. With tears in his eyes, he clenched his fist, knelt down in front of Yu Hai and said in a loud voice, “I’m already thirteen years old, so I can work like an adult! Master, please don’t take away our farmland.”

“Shanzi, quickly come back!” A haggard-looking woman squeezed out of the crowd and shouted anxiously at the young boy kneeling on the ground for fear that her son would get punished for offending the master.

Yu Hai lowered his head to look at the youth, who was about the same age as his eldest son, with mixed feelings in his heart. He recalled the time when he had been bitten by a bear and was lying on the bed on the verge of death. The situation at that time was very similar to the situation of the family in front of him. At that time, he really hoped that someone would help his family.

After pondering briefly, Yu Xiaocao made a decision and said, “My father has already said earlier that this year’s land distribution will be the same as last year’s until a new decision is made.”

The young boy, who was kneeling on the ground, lifted his head with hope and asked, “My family received four mu of farmland last year, so do we still get four mu of land this year?”

Yu Xiaocao nodded and said, “That’s right. You will receive the same amount of land as last year. In the future, not only will adult laborers will receive land, but boys over the age of ten and females between the age of sixteen to forty can also get a distribution of farmland. As long as one has the ability to work, farmland will be divided to both male and female based on their circumstances.”

What? Women could be allocated land, too? A happy expression appeared on the faces of people with qualified women and many children in their families. On the other hand, there was a slight change in the expressions on the people who had more adult male labor force in the family. There were only so much land in the plantation, so if land were also divided to women and children, they would certainly receive less land. These people felt somewhat dissatisfied in their hearts, but they didn’t dare to say anything. The new owner had new rules. If they showed their dissatisfaction and the master didn’t distribute any land to them, they could only watch on the side!

Yu Hai said a few more formal remarks, encouraged everyone to work hard on farming, and finally said, “The farming season won’t wait for anyone, so everyone should take advantage of today’s good weather and quickly go farming! Alright, everyone can go now!”

After coming out of the plantation, the father and daughter were going to buy some daily necessities in town. When the carriage arrived outside of the town gates, they noticed that there had been an increase in the number of refugees outside the town. It was currently the time when there was a food shortage between the two harvests. Many people in the northeast, who didn’t want to leave their homeland, had ran out of food after surviving the harsh winter, so they had no choice but to flee to the south.

Yu Hai, who was in a good mood after buying a plantation, sat outside the carriage to talk to the head steward. Suddenly, an emaciated figure among the refugees caught his attention. He stared fixedly at that person’s back, clenching his hands tightly. Was it her? If it was her, why didn’t she come find him at Dongshan Village, and instead settled down in the refugee camp outside of town?

As if she detected his gaze, that thin figure turned around and looked over. When Yu Hai saw that haggard but familiar face, he slightly choked up as he called out in a soft voice, “Older Sister…”

Perhaps it was too far away, but that person didn’t recognize him. Instead, she continued to walk forward and slowly squatted down in a simple shed made of dead branches. In actuality, even if they met face-to-face, Yu Caifeng may not have recognized him.

Since Yu Hai got married, his older sister had only returned once and more than a decade had passed. Although Yu Hai’s face hadn’t changed much, he had matured quite a lot. For more than a year, he ate well and was in a good mood. Thus, his originally thin and tall figure had become strong and powerful.

Today, he was wearing a new set of clothing and riding on the Fang Estate’s horse carriage, like a rich master in town. Even when Yu Caifeng saw him, she just felt that he seemed familiar, but didn’t dare to acknowledge him!

“Stop the carriage, quickly stop the carriage!” Yu Hai snatched the reins from the head steward’s hands and pulled hard. The horse, who was trotting forward steadily, made a long neigh, stopped, and trod uneasily on the ground. It was fortunate that the Fang Estate’s horses were well-trained. Had it been another steed, it might have been startled!

Yu Xiaocao, who was dozing off in the carriage, nearly flew out of the carriage. She poked her head out in confusion, only to see her father leaping off the moving carriage and darting toward the place known as the refugee camp.

“Father! What are you doing? Wait for me ah!” With the help of the head steward, Yu Xiaocao got down from the carriage. Holding her long skirt, she chased in the direction that her father ran off to. She was only accompanying her father to the plantation, but her godmother insisted on having her dress more formally. It was so inconvenient to run in. If she wasn’t careful, she would accidentally step on the hem of the skirt. 

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Myst's Thoughts

We're finally meeting Yu Hai's sister.😊

Translator: Myst