Chapter 275 - Swarm of Locusts

Old Yu drank the pork bone soup as he shook his head, “Even if you have money, you shouldn’t spend it like this! Save more money so you have some on hand when problems arise in the future! Oh right, Dahai, tomorrow you should go into town to buy some more grain. Judging from what I see, I don’t think it is going to rain anytime soon! If the drought doesn’t break, the prices of grain will definitely go up.”

Yu Caifeng frowned, “It’s the hottest period of the year, so it’s very easy for grain to draw insects over! If we buy too much and it starts raining in a few days, won't all of the grain go rotten?”

Old Yu finished gnawing on the last pork bone in his bowl and looked at his children, “Then buy some more sorghum, wheat, and other grains like that. We can let them dry in the sun on clear days, so we won’t end up losing too many!”

Yu Caifeng recalled what had happened to her family in the northeast and said in a voice full of concern, “Father, we should remind the village chief to have the villagers store more grain. Otherwise, when our family has food and they don’t, all of them will come to borrow or take some and we won’t be able to last a long time! If people are starving, they won’t care about feelings or sensibilities!”

Last year, in the northeast, the drought was ongoing. Her family had originally had enough grain to last until spring but afterwards other people around them eyed that food. This was the reason why they had to flee their old home and rely on her maternal family to help. She didn’t want her younger brother’s family to have to walk down the same road.

Old Yu thought for a bit and then nodded his head, “After we’re done eating, I’ll go to the village chief’s house and talk to him.”

Yu Xiaocao was currently eating delicious boiled corn. That’s right, boiled corn! In her previous life, Yu Xiaocao always bought a few ears of corn right when they became ripe. She boiled them until they were soft and tender so that when she ate them the taste of fresh corn would dominate her mouth. She just loved the first bite. 

After she transmigrated over, corn hadn’t reached the country yet, so she couldn’t eat them even if she craved some. The young royal prince had gone to great lengths to bring corn over. After planting ten mu of corn, how could she not pick a few ears to eat to her heart’s content?

She took advantage of the fact that the overseer, the young royal prince, wasn’t around these past few days. Yu Xiaocao had the little divine stone promote the ripening of a few corn stalks. Today she picked over a dozen ears of corn to boil for the whole family to try.

Corn was, after all, a crop that the imperial court attached a lot of importance to. When Yu Xiaocao came back home with the harvested ears of corn, Madam Liu, who was in the kitchen cooking dinner, almost fainted at the sight. Eating corn on the sly while they were experimenting for the court was a crime worthy of beheading ah. Her daughter’s courage was really sky high to be able to silently harvest a few ears of corn and bring it back home. It was too late to fix the problem, so it made Madam Liu so angry that she picked up a wooden dowel and tried to give Xiaocao a beating. Luckily, Xiaocao was agile and was able to quickly avoid suffering Madam Liu’s ‘evil scheme’. 

When she saw Yu Xiaocao happily gnawing at the ear of corn as if she was a tiny squirrel, Madam Liu gritted her teeth and snarled, “Eating! You truly dare to stick it in your mouth and eat!! If the royal prince found out, it’d be surprising if he didn’t beat you with a plank!! If this news became known to the imperial court, they might even chop off your head!”

Yu Xiaocao rolled her eyes in exasperation, “Aren’t I just eating an ear of corn ah? Is this necessary? Even if the young royal prince was around, there are so many ears of corn in the fields, what does it matter if we eat a few ears? That being said, I’ve already picked them and they can’t grow back. If I don’t eat it, it’ll all go to waste. Oldest Paternal Aunt, Oldest Paternal Uncle, Junping, you all should eat ah! If you don’t eat, then I’ll eat for you!”

When Yu Caifeng saw that Yu Xiaocao was at ease, the nervousness within her heart dissolved a bit. Her niece was right. Since the corn was already picked, then it might as well be eaten! She picked up an ear and gave it to her husband as she smiled, “How big is your stomach that you think you can more than a dozen ears of corn? Not afraid of blowing up?”

Liu Junping saw that both his mother and father were eating the corn, so he also picked an ear up and copied Yu Xiaocao’s motions. He gnawed off a large bite. The unique delicious taste of corn slowly spread through his mouth and each soft kernel had a hint of sweetness.

It had to be said that corn that had been watered with mystic-stone water tasted a lot better than regular starchy corn. Even Little Fangping ate with relish. Yu Xiaocao reminded the little boy, “Little Pingping, you need to chew the corn carefully before you swallow ah. Otherwise, when you go to the bathroom, you’ll end up pooping out the kernels you didn’t chew!”

Little Fangping chewed carefully and he couldn’t be bothered to reply. He nodded his head furiously to signal his assent.

Liu Yaner also loved the taste of corn. She slowly enjoyed each bite of corn in her mouth before she finally swallowed some down. She stated, “This corn is truly a high-yield crop. Just three to four corn stalks yielded enough ears to fill this huge basin. I weighed it a bit and I think a bushel of corn must be at least half a catty. Uncle, how many stalks of corn do we have per mu? How many catties of corn does that yield ah?”

 Little Fangping swallowed down the corn in his mouth with a large gulp and grinned, “That’s right, that’s right! There’s so much corn that even if we ate it everyday, we wouldn’t be able to finish it all!”

Liu Junping gently knocked the little boy on the head and remarked, “You little foodie! You only think about eating!! Uncle is helping the imperial court to grow these fields of corn. If we ate them all, when the court officials come, what will we give them? You absolutely cannot tell anyone that we have eaten corn. Otherwise, the authorities will arrest you and put you in prison!”  

When Little Fangping found out that eating corn could cause him to be imprisoned, he immediately stopped gnawing on his half-eaten ear of corn. He didn’t know whether he should continue eating or not.

Yu Xiaocao thought the distressed expression on his face was super adorable and pinched his cheek as she said, “As long as you don’t tell anyone, the authorities won’t find out, so they won’t imprison us! We’ve planted so much corn, who would notice if one or two stalks were gone? Quickly eat up, when you’re done, older cousin has something else that’s delicious for you!”

What Yu Xiaocao was referring to was the stalks of the corn plants. After the corn was harvested, Yu Xiaocao also had the little divine stone hasten the growth of the corn stalks. With the mystic-stone water inside the stalks, the stalks had a sweet and delicate flavor. It was even more delicious than sugar cane!

After they finished dinner, the children all held a cut off portion of corn stalk as they enjoyed the flavor. Little Fangping grinned, “Older Brother, the authorities won’t catch me for eating corn stalks right? In the future, when they harvest the corn, we can cut off the corn stalks and eat it as a snack!”

“When the corn stalks are dried, they don’t have any moisture anymore. If you want to eat some, you must eat it within one to two days of harvesting. Otherwise, the corn stalks are good for feeding livestock. Our family’s Little Gray and horse will all have their winter rations! Corn stalks that are dried are also useful as firewood!” Yu Xiaocao introduced all of the applications that corn stalks could be used for. 

Little Fangping happily remarked, “Every part of a corn plant is a treasure! In the future, we should plant more ah!”

Yu Xiaocao calculated out loud, “We planted ten mu, so we can at least get around twenty thousand catties of corn. Corn can be ground into cornmeal. Staple foods made out of corn taste a lot better than those made out of ground millet. Furthermore, eating a lot of corn doesn’t cause stomach issues like eating a lot of sweet potatoes do.”

Old Yu was stunned silent and it took him a while to digest his thoughts before he said, “A mu of corn can grow up to two thousand catties? It truly is a high-yielding crop. No wonder the emperor sent the royal prince on a thousand-mile journey to the western hemisphere. If this corn can be spread throughout the country, the common people will no longer fear going hungry!!”

Yu Xiaocao sighed, “That’s right ah! The emperor is truly a good ruler who cares about the people!” At the present time, this old transmigrator friend of hers was considered pretty okay. At least the man wasn’t an incapable ruler. Perhaps when she finally got exposed and had to confront this rival, her ending might not be too bad!

The gnawed cobs and the corn leaves were left out to dry under the sun for an entire day. After getting dried, they were used to burn in the fire. Madam Liu only felt relieved when the corn cobs and leaves were all completely burnt away and stirred into inconspicuous ash——now no one should find out they ate some corn, right?

The drought continued. Every day the Yu Family went to the foot of the West Mountain to carry water to bring back to irrigate the corn crops. The sweltering heat and the cruel rays of the sun seemed to bake the earth until it was cooked.

On one particular day, Yu Xiaocao wore a straw hat as she helped irrigate the corn plants. The little golden kitten seemed to dart across the far-away ground near the thickets of the mountain like a bolt of lightning. It scampered over towards the fields of corn. The little divine stone’s voice was full of worry with a hint of joy intertwined in, [Master, Master! Something bad is about to happen!!]

Yu Xiaocao didn’t take its words to heart. Just what sort of bad event could cause it to sound so happy too?

[Master! My spiritual energy has recovered to the point where I can communicate with animals!] The little golden kitten jumped onto Yu Xiaocao’s shoulders and triumphantly trumpeted its new skill to her. 

“Congratulations, congratulations!” Yu Xiaocao inwardly thought, ‘Isn’t it a good thing that you can speak to animals now? What’s bad about it?’

The little golden kitten seemed quite dissatisfied that Yu Xiaocao’s words were said in such an absentminded manner. It used its claws to scratch at her cheek as it said, [Pay attention!! It’s truly a bad situation!!]

“If you have something to say, say it. If you have to fart, just fart. Don’t hold it for the sake of suspense, alright? Yu Xiaocao was so busy that she couldn’t straighten up her back. She didn’t have the time to play word games with the stone.

The little divine stone grunted in displeasure and stated, [All of the birds in the forest are flying towards the south, do you know why?]

“Flying south? It’s not the time for the weather to get cold now ah? Is it because the drought is getting worse and the animals that can sense it are migrating early?” Yu Xiaocao was somewhat nervous now. After all, natural disasters were often closely followed by human disasters. Perhaps they needed to buy a larger residence in town and move the whole family there. The town had authorities there, so it shouldn’t get too rowdy.

The little divine stone shook its head and replied, [No, it’s worse than the drought!!]

Yu Xiaocao was now even more nervous. She picked up the little golden kitten by the scruff of its neck and shook it as she anxiously said, “Can you just spit everything out? Don’t just stop halfway to get people to listen to you ah?”

The little golden kitten rolled its eyes as her antics. It turned into a golden mist, drifted through her fingers and then formed itself back into a golden kitten next to her. Yu Xiaocao looked around her like a sneaky thief to see if anyone was around her. When she saw that there was no one there, she let out a long sigh of relief. She reminded the little divine stone to not morph in broad daylight in the future. Otherwise, it might be considered a monster and get burnt at a stake!

The little divine stone rolled its eyes again at her, [Do I need you to remind me? This divine stone had long used my energy to scout the area. There are no people around us!]

Before Xiaocao could question it further, it continued in a serious tone, [I learned from that bird that there is a swarm of innumerable locusts from the south flying towards us. All of the birds are going to the south so they can eat a giant feast!]

Locusts? Oh right, she faintly remembered that swarms of locusts often followed drought, which was why there were the sayings: ‘a long drought will cause a locust swarm’ and ‘locusts and droughts go hand in hand’. The drought conditions in the south were quite severe, so the locust swarm arose in the south.

Yu Xiaocao was no longer calm anymore. A locust swarm was absolutely not a joke. Once a plague of locusts arrived, millions of locusts would descend to the ground and devour the vegetations and trees around them. The farm crops and the surrounding forests in the mountain would all be eaten clean, and all of the people would suffer tremendously. 

Locusts liked areas with water and low-lying ground, so they often gathered in dry areas to swarm towards areas that had more moisture. Dongshan Village was also an area struck by drought, so these locusts should only be passing by. However, once these locusts passed by, they would only leave the people with a devastating loss of crops. 

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Myst's Thoughts

Sanguine’s Thoughts: This chapter required a lot of research into plant and bug naming conventions...

Translator: Sanguine