Holding her younger brothers in each of her hands, Yu Xiaocao followed the gray wolf into the dark cave. Fortunately, in the past few years, her eyesight had been strengthened by the mystic-stone water that she added to their drinking, cooking, and bathing water. Although the cave was very dark, she could still vaguely see in the pitch dark.
As she walked, she reminded her two younger brothers about any loose stones under their feet. After stumbling for about a quarter of an hour, the gray wolf that was leading the way stopped.
Yu Xiaocao blinked and tried to look at where the gray wolf was standing. There was a smaller hole there, and it was about half of a person tall. If she and her brother ducked, they would be able to fit. There were indistinct sounds of small animals coming from it.
The gray wolf went in and took a small black animal out, putting it beside Xiaocao’s feet. Xiaocao squatted down to see that it was a pure black wolf cub. Xiaocao looked at the gray wolf’s belly in surprise, “You gave birth to a pup? It doesn’t look like you!”
The gray wolf’s blue-green eyes flashed with scorn, ‘I’m male. Male!’ He then turned his back and went back over to the hole and picked up a lure white wolf cub in his mouth. With one black and the other white, either of them looked like him!
“What do you mean by this? Are you showing off your children?” Yu Xiaocao guessed.
The gray wolf looked at her with contempt and shook his head. Yu Xiaocao thought of her worries that morning. Was this a gray wolf with intelligence, foreseeing the difficulties of hunting in the future, so he wanted her to help raise the cubs?
"Little wolf... Do you want me to raise the cubs?" Yu Xiaocao stared at the gray wolf's eyes as she asked, placing emphasis on each word.
The gray wolf looked lovingly at the two pups and nodded slowly. The mother of the wolf cubs went hunting a few days ago and never came back. She must've met an unfortunate end. The wolf cubs were crying due to hunger. The little cubs were too young to eat the prey that the gray wolf brought back, and they only survived till now by licking the blood remains.
Without their mother's milk, the blood of the prey wasn't enough to feed the two cubs. The gray wolf could only watch as his children became more and more weak, unable to do anything. He didn't expect that he would meet the human who gave him the good-tasting liquid from before. After drinking those drops of water, his physical fitness had improved drastically and his wounds healed faster. After gaining intelligence, his intuition told him that this female human would be able to help him save the life of his two cubs.
"Second Sister, if you have something to say, can we wait until we get out of here? It's too dark here, so Little Fangping is afraid!" Little Shitou didn't say he was afraid, pushing it on to Liu Fangping instead.
Liu Fangping, who hadn't been able to see for a while, was also afraid and said, "Yeah, yeah! It's too dark, which makes it quite terrifying!"
Yu Xiaocao picked up the two weak wolf cubs and said to her two younger brothers, "Grab onto my clothes and don't get lost. You too, Little Wolf, follow me!”
After walking for half an hour, three humans, one wolf, and two wolf cubs walked out of the cave and arrived at Yu Xiaocao's secret base—the hidden valley. The valley wasn’t spared by the locust plague. The originally brilliant flowers were completely gone, and the scene of verdant green trees was worse than when she came in the winter. The green vegetation had been eaten up, only leaving uneven branches and roots. The hideous ground was exposed with protruding stones. Fortunately, the small stream was still running.
The two little fellows, who were finally able to see again, saw the two puppies in their elder sister's hands and excitedly surrounded her, "Second Sister, where did you get these puppies? They're so cute! Let me carry one!"
Liu Fangping jumped up and reached with his small hands. He screamed, "Me too! I want to, too!" However, he was frightened by the gray wolf protectively baring his teeth. So, he obediently stood to the side and stared at the ‘little white dog’ in Yu Xiaocao's hands.
Yu Xiaocao looked down at the two cubs that probably weren't even one month old. They were so thin that she could see their ribs. The cubs' eyes were open. The black one had pure blue eyes, like a clear and transparent sapphire. The white one's eyes were taupe like a shining opal. The two little ones lay in her arms obediently and looked at her with two pairs of cute and trusting big eyes. This was because she had the same smell as their father.
The two wolf cubs were too weak. They were motionless in her arms and didn't even have the energy to look up. Had she come by any later, these two little guys would've been in a perilous situation.
Yu Xiaocao took the two pups over to the stream. She dropped a drop of mystic-stone water into the palm of her hand, diluted it with the stream water, and held it next to their mouths. Mystic-stone water was more tempting than their mother's milk. The two wolf pups, who hadn't eaten for a long time, instinctively licked the mystic-stone water. The mystic-stone water was quickly licked up. Yu Xiaocao didn't give them more because the wolf cubs were too small and weak to bear so much spiritual energy. If they drank too much, then it would be counterproductive!
While she was feeding them mystic-stone water, the gray wolf sat beside Yu Xiaocao and watched the two wolf cubs drink the water with loving eyes. His throat moved, but he resisted the temptation of the mystic-stone water.
Little Shitou and Liu Fangping sat beside Yu Xiaocao. Little Shitou looked at the thin appearance of the two wolf cubs and worried whether they could support them. Seeing the wolf cubs seemed unsatisfied as they licked their mouths after drinking the water, Little Shitou said, "Second Sister, are the puppies hungry? I'll catch some fish and roast them! "
The unique little white fish in the stream were tender and delicious. No matter if it was roasted or stewed in the soup, Shitou liked them. This time, since he came with his second sister to the secret base, he had purposely brought an earthenware jar and prepared to catch some small fish.
Yu Xiaocao looked at him mischievously and said, "Ok! If you can catch them!"
Little Shitou was eager to try but he thought of his past embarrassment when trying to catch the little fish. He squatted down and acted like a spoiled child, "I can't catch them, but don’t we still have you, Second Sister? Second Sister, I'll hold the puppies for you while you go catch the fish. Make sure to catch more."
Yu Xiaocao carefully handed over the two wolf cubs to her younger brother. The gray wolf didn't make any radical responses, but he followed Little Shitou step by step, staring at his children without blinking.
Xiaocao caught several grasshoppers from the grass and pinched them into sections. She sprinkled a few drops of mystic-stone water on them, and then she placed the sections of the grasshopper on the edge of the stream. "Second Older Cousin, are you making bait? Are the little fish going to take the bait? What if they don't eat the grasshopper?" Liu Fangping curiously asked.
"Just wait and see if the little fish will take the bait!" Shortly after the grasshopper parts were put into the stream, a group of small white fish came. Each one was only the size of a palm and their bodies were long and thin, similar to the shape of a willow leaf.
Liu Fangping excitedly reached out his hands to catch the fish and shouted, "Fish! Fish! Quick, Second Older Cousin! Quickly catch the little fish!"
Yu Xiaocao smiled at his effort to catch the fish and said, "Slow down! Don't fall into the water. Let’s wait a little longer. When more fish gathers over, we can use the net to catch them."
Yes, it was not easy for them to come to the secret base, so the siblings were well prepared. More and more small white fish gathered over. They squeezed together in the stream and appeared like white flowers. Under the sunlight, they shined with pearl-like luster. Liu Fangping picked up his net impatiently and reached out toward the area with the most fish. With one scoop, more than a dozen small fish were caught.
Liu Fangping happily put the fish into the earthen pot and said, "These fishes are so stupid ah. They didn’t even hide when the net went down! Maybe there's no natural enemy in the valley for them, and thus it’s too peaceful?"
‘Without the bait made by Second Sister, do you think the fish would hide or not? I've tried before. It's considered lucky to be able to catch one or two in an hour!’ Little Shitou pouted and thought.
However, Little Shitou didn't say what he had in mind. He knew that there were many secrets surrounding his second sister. His intuition told him that if these secrets got out, it would be detrimental for his second sister. Therefore, at a young age, he buried the secrets in his heart to protect his favorite sister.
Two children, one was holding the pups and watching, while the other was happily fishing for small fish. Seeing that there was no danger nearby, Yu Xiaocao took a stroll along the stream. Many of the flowers that once bloomed were now all bare poles.
She remembered that her godmother said that many of them were precious species. What a pity! Yu Xiaocao sprinkled the diluted mystic-stone water on the roots of some of the flowers and wondered if they would grow out next year. She had planned to dig up a batch and sell them in the prefectural city, or ask her godparents to help sell them in the capital, to make a small profit!
The valley wasn't very big, so she had returned in less than half an hour. The valley was surrounded by mountains with only one secret entrance to the outside world. It was a good place to use as a refuge. If there ever was a war or something in the future, this place would be a paradise!
Yu Xiaocao was amused by her own thoughts. In this peaceful and prosperous age, people lived and worked in contentment. There was no war. Even if there was war, it would start in the borders. If it got to Dongshan Village, then the Great Ming Dynasty could be considered doomed. The Great Ming Dynasty's army was strong, and they had many outstanding generals. Thus, there shouldn't be any wars for the next few decades.
Yu Xiaocao would've never thought that her random thoughts and speculations would become a reality in the near future. This valley would become the greatest thing that protected the people of Dongshan Village. This shall be recounted later.
After Liu Fangping filled the earthen jar, which was capable of holding ten catties of wine, with small fish, the three of them bid farewell to the gray wolf. They went through the cave and crossed the forest, returning home at the foot of the West Mountain.
On the way down the mountain, they met the craftsmen, who were building the mountain villa. More than half of Prince Jing’s mountain manor had been built, but as a result of the locust plague, they were forced to stop work. The craftsmen were worried about the situation of the disasters at their homes and didn't want to stay in the West Mountain.
A few days ago, Royal Prince Yang returned to the capital and had taken Princess Consort Jing with him. The steward, who supervised the construction of the mountain manor at the West Mountain, had to go back to the capital in person to report the halt of the construction to his master.
Yet, the far-off capital was also plagued by locusts. The surrounding farmland had been affected by the swarm of locusts. However, compared to Dongshan village, where there wasn't a single blade of grass left, it was still pretty good. At most, the crop yield would be reduced.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Two (or is it three) new additions to the Yu Family