The Yu Family didn’t have the time to consider those people’s reactions. Everyone wished they had eight arms at this moment.
Ever since Old Yu heard that a plague of locusts was coming, all he could talk about was grain, grain, and grain! Although he had not completely recovered from his illness, he insisted on going with Yu Hai on the family’s horse cart to and from town to procure grain that everyone liked to eat. All of the storage rooms and cellars in the house had been crammed full with coarse and fine grain. In addition, they even secretly stored a few hundred catties of grain in their house in town.
Under Yu Xiaocao’s leadership, Liu Hu and all of the family members, began to harvest all of the corn that was already ripe. Baskets full of corn were then transported back to the house on the donkey cart.
Yu Xiaocao carefully avoided other people and promoted the ripening of the corn using the little divine stone’s power. The little divine stone’s current capabilities allowed it to ripen one mu of corn every hour. She worked until night fell before all ten mu of corn was completely ripened. Following that, the one mu of potatoes was also ripened.
Liu Hu abandoned his half-built house and took his family of five to work crazily within the corn fields. Other than Little Fangping, who had just turned six, all of the other members were well versed with hard work. Even Liu Yaner, who wasn’t much older than Xiaocao, was harvesting corn and managed to do more than half of what older people could do.
Madam Liu sent Yu Hang to go to the docks to bring Yu Xiaolian, who was doing business there, back. While he was there, he also passed on the news that the old immortal had told Yu Hai to his two maternal aunts. Madam Han didn’t even bother to help Xiaolian clean up the stall once she heard the news. She hurriedly rushed back home. The Liu Family had planted more than a dozen mu of sweet potatoes and they needed to harvest them all that night. Currently, the sweet potatoes were only the size of a person’s fist but harvesting some was still better than having no harvest due to the locusts.
Madam Liu and her two daughters rushed to harvest all of the vegetables in their courtyard. The ones they couldn’t finish now could be used to make dried vegetables. Recovering after a locust swarm was a slow process. After the locusts passed, there would be a long period of time when there wouldn’t be any vegetables to eat. Even if the vegetables they harvested rotted, it was still better than leaving them for the locusts to eat! That being said, with the mystic-stone water on hand, the freshness of the vegetables could be preserved for a period of time.
The father-son pair, Old Yu and Yu Hai, worked unrelentlessly in the corn and potato fields with the rest of them after they crammed all of their storerooms full of grain. Because they were afraid that the locusts might come early, the Yu Family didn’t even rest at night and chopped corn stalks the entire time. The family had two work animals along with some rabbits and other pets. All of them required fodder. Thus, they also needed to transport all of the corn stalks back home and store them.
Like this, everyone worked without stopping for the next two days and nights in order to store all of the crops in the fields back at home. Even the recently planted sweet potato seedlings were also pulled up. Luckily, the Yu Family’s residence had been enlarged during the last set of renovations and they had many rooms. The two wings of the courtyard had both been used to store grain and food. All of the vegetables that were harvested from the vegetable garden at home filled up an entire room. Everyone made sure to lock all of the rooms very tightly and they even used mud to fill in any cracks in the door and window sills. Once everything was in its place and ready, the Yu Family members, who had all worked their hearts out for the past two days, were finally able to close their eyes and go to sleep.
There was a clamor of news in the village on the morning of the third day. Yu Xiaocao and her family all came out to see what was going on and saw a sheet of dark gray clouds from the south roiling forward as it covered the sky. The villagers often saw dark clouds. However, this was the first time they saw dark clouds such as these, which almost touched the ground.
As the dark gray clouds got closer and closer, someone in the village hollered, “Locusts! Countless locusts! Quickly, quickly harvest any grain or vegetables that hasn’t been taken already!!”
For the past two days, some of the villagers, who were counting on their luck, only harvested a portion of their sweet potatoes. Furthermore, nothing had happened for the past two days so it allowed some people to relax further. There were also some villagers, who had harvested all of their crops, who started to have complaints within their hearts. They grumbled that if the news about the plague of locusts were false, then it would have harmed them from harvesting more crops in the future.
Now, when those people who had those doubts saw the panicky expressions of their other villagers, they rejoiced that they had listened to the words of the village chief and Yu Hai and had harvested everything they could. As for the villagers who didn’t listen, all of them regretted their actions deeply. Even if they wanted to harvest what they could now, how could their speed compare to the speed of the flying locusts? The insects would all be there before they could even get to the fields.
It was truly a disaster that hadn’t been seen in a hundred years. The swarm of locusts covered the entire sky and formed an impenetrable wall. The countless army of locusts flew as they pursued the ‘three gone’ policies——eat until it’s gone, gnaw until it’s gone, and bite until it’s gone. Every bit of vegetation that could be devoured was not spared as the insects passed. Even a layer of tree bark was gnawed off from the trees. As for the more tender saplings, they also could not escape the damage from the evil locusts. The only thing left on the samplings were pitiful little trunks that could barely support themselves.
The main forces of the locusts very quickly arrived at Dongshan Village. The swarm descended onto the old elm tree at the mouth of the village and the tree was immediately engulfed by what looked like a dull brown layer. Locusts crawled all over the trunk, branches and leaves of the tree. The sound of their nibbling rustled and pricked the villagers’ ears.
The whole village was soon engulfed by the locusts. They covered the ground, the houses, the farming tools...the whole area was carpeted with a layer of insects. Even the air above the ground was still swarming with flying locusts. If a person stepped outside at this point, just a single step could smash more than a dozen locusts underfoot. People needed to use clothing to wrap their heads when they went outside as the feeling of locusts striking their bare skin was not a pleasant sensation.
The villagers who hadn’t harvested all of their crops before all started to cry loud howls filled with remorse. In a split second, almost all of their crops had been covered by countless locusts. By the time they tried to harvest them, all that was left would be some pathetic roots in the ground.
What was to be done? In the future, these villagers were all facing the endless suffering from lack of food and debt. Yu Xiaocao looked at their expressions full of despair and couldn’t help but shout, “Locusts can also be eaten! Catch as much as you can and you can use salt to pickle them. That way you’ll have something to eat!!”
All of the villagers suddenly realized that everyone in their childhoods had roasted grasshoppers to eat. When they were roasted to a golden color, the grasshoppers were quite savory and delicious. Locusts were the same ah! Thus, the entire village mobilized. Some used bamboo baskets, some used burlap sacks, and some used fishing nets to hold all of the insects they could catch.
Yu Xiaocao’s family’s courtyard still had some half-rotten vegetable leaves in the fields, so they had attracted quite a bit of locusts over. Countless locusts crawled on the ground as the vegetable leaves disappeared at an astonishing speed.
Liu Fangping was so wrapped up under clothing that only his two eyes peeped out. He courageously stepped out and caught a locust in each hand. He stuffed them into the sack his older brother held. Everyone else in the Yu Family also started moving. They all had a sack in one hand as they swiftly caught the insects and stuffed them in.
The ground crawled with them and the sky buzzed with activity. There were too many locusts in the area. If there was anyone who had claustrophobia, he or she would have long fainted over. Yu Xiaocao, who had more courage than the usual person, had goosebumps all over her body at the sight of the numerous locusts.
When Madam Liu saw that her youngest daughter’s hairs were all standing up straight on her arms, she thought that she was frightened and said, “Cao’er, if you’re afraid, then stay in the room. Our family doesn’t need to catch the locusts to add to our rations.”
The Yu Family had stockpiled a lot of grain and food, so why were they still catching the insects? Old Yu had seen just how many insects were congregated in the area. After calculating, he had a hunch that the disaster wouldn’t go by that quickly. Even if the vast majority of insects left, there would still be a large number of locusts left in the village. It was possible that for a long period of time, no one would be able to plant any more crops. Since the locusts could be eaten, why not capture some more and relieve the burden on their stored grain!
When the Yu Family heard Old Yu’s thoughts, all of them expressed their approval and started to work hard to catch locusts. Yu Xiaocao took out a fishing net and started swinging it through the areas that were concentrated with insects. In one pass, she was able to catch more than a dozen locusts in the net. She shook her catch into a sack that Xiaolian was holding open and then continued to swing the net. Although she didn’t have to physically touch the insects, she still caught locusts at about the same speed as everyone else. With the both of them cooperating together, they quickly managed to fill a whole bag of locusts. After tying the bag closed, Xiaolian picked up another burlap sack that was about as long as half an adult’s height and the two of them started working together again.
After pretty much all of the vegetation in the vicinity of Dongshan Village was devoured clean, the vast majority of locusts flew up and towards the north. All of the villagers could finally see the sky after a day had passed. Although there were fewer locusts flying around, there were still a decent amount of them still crawling on the ground.
The villagers came out of their homes and solemnly looked at the devastation in front of them. All greenery had been stripped throughout the village and the West Mountain looked bald and barren now. The people who had lost all of their crops and vegetables in the swarm kneeled on the ground and wailed in sorrow. However, what was the point in crying? No one had a surplus of grain lying around. With an uncertain future in front of them, who knew how long the disaster would last? No one would give out food, which could be the difference between life and death for their own family, to help others now.
At this point, the village chief stood up and looked at the villagers who were crying bitterly. He sighed deeply and said, “Don’t be too sad! Our Dongshan Village is supported by the ocean. As long as you work hard, it’s unlikely that you’ll starve! You should all quickly go into town and see if you can buy any grain to bring home. I’m afraid that the price of grain will only go up and not down in the future!”
All of the wailing villagers immediately stopped crying and took out every last bit of copper they had saved up at home. The Yu Family selflessly took out their donkey and horse carts to help their fellow villagers get to town.
However, the vast majority of grain stores were closed by the time they got to town. Although the Zhou Family’s two grain stores were still open, their prices were quite excessively high, about five times the price as it was a few days ago. This wasn’t considered the most excessive price hike. There were some blackhearted merchants who had raised their prices to up to ten times the price of before.
This was nothing more than hitting someone when they were already down. The villagers, who already had a shortage of grain at home, now couldn’t buy as much grain because the prices had gone up a lot. Some people wanted to wait and come back in a few days to buy food. However, with the village chief reminding them, they didn’t have any choice but to grit their teeth and exchange their money for grain.
The village chief said, “Who knows when this locust swarm will finally disappear and we can plant crops in the ground again. The grain prices will only rise in the next half year and not go down.”
The villagers had a good amount of faith in the village chief. Thus, in front of the Zhou Family’s grain store, there was a long line of people waiting. The villagers from Dongshan Village dispiritedly lined up at the end. All of the people in line had depressed expressions and it was dead silent. The atmosphere was stifling.
By the time the Dongshan villagers got to the end of the line, a smartly-dressed servant muttered something into the store’s shopkeeper’s ear. The shopkeeper frowned and then hollered at the remaining line, “There’s no more grain left. Everyone should leave now and go somewhere else to buy, okay? We don’t have any grain left!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Sanguine’s Thoughts: So the title of this chapter is actually a pun that the author made in regards to “eat until it’s gone, gnaw until it’s gone, and bite until it’s gone”. Unfortunately, this pun makes absolutely zero sense in English...