Madam Zhao couldn’t lower herself to do this. At the beginning of the year, when everything was fine, she stayed at her maiden home and enjoyed a comfortable life. But to rush back to Dongshan Village when there wasn’t enough food to eat, she really couldn’t do it! However, her maternal family was really running out of resources. They had been eating porridge for the past few days, and Doudou looked apparently thinner. She could eat less but she felt very distressed when she saw her clever and lovely son’s thin and listless face.
Just as she was struggling with whether she should go back to Dongshan Village, her husband returned from the prefectural city. Seeing that his originally chubby son had become so thin that even his chin had become sharp, Yu Bo immediately brought the mother-son pair back to Dongshan Village. The maidservant who served Doudou had long been sold by Scholar Zhao’s wife at the beginning of the disaster year. They could barely feed their own family, so how would they have enough food to support a stranger?
Madam Zhao finally found out that her mother-in-law and father-in-law were divorced when Yu Bo’s family of three got back to Dongshan Village. She inwardly scolded her mother-in-law for being stupid. If Father-in-law was still with the family, Second Brother-in-law would give them ten taels monthly, which would be enough for the entire family to buy food. Well, wasn’t it great now? They ended up with nothing. Moreover, the two families became enemies who didn’t talk with each other.
Seeing her younger son’s family returning, Madam Zhang was so happy that she slaughtered the only hen in the pen. Without food, the chicken didn’t lay any eggs. It was better to kill it to make stew for her son and grandson rather than raising it! She also grabbed a handful of white rice, which she treasured the most, to make porridge for her precious grandson to eat.
Yu Bo and Doudou were the only ones who had a share of the chicken soup and porridge, while everyone else could only watch them eat. Madam Li immediately felt dissatisfied and shouted, “In order to support the family, my husband goes fishing in the sea every day without fail. Why aren’t we allowed to eat? It’s not right to be biased like this. If you only care about your younger son, then let’s divide the family! Mother should just live with your younger son!”
Madam Zhang was so angry that she moved the basket of coarse grain pancakes closer to herself, glared fiercely at Madam Li, and said, “You’re an expert at stirring up the household. Don’t think that I don’t know that you encourage your husband to save a private purse and keep at least half of the money he made from selling fish every day! You gluttonous and lazy wretch, you sleep late in the morning and eat more than everyone else. You want to split from the family? Okay! You three, get out of here and live somewhere else!”
“The family should be divided fairly! When Yu Hai separated from the family, he also got a run-down house. So why aren’t we given a house when splitting from the family? Mother, Dashan is also your biological son. You can’t just be partial and give everything to Third Brother-in-law ah!” Unlike Madam Liu, Madam Li wasn’t someone who was easy to deal with. It was impossible to drive them out!
Madam Zhang didn’t argue with her. She stared at her eldest son and asked, “Dashan, what do you think? Do you also want to separate from the family?”
Yu Dashan was used to being subdued by his mother. Seeing that she was looking at him with eyes filled with rage, he slightly moved his mouth, and then lowered his head. He didn’t dare to even make a sound. Madam Li was so angry that she mercilessly pinched his arm.
Yu Dashan summoned up his courage and stammered, “Mother, it’s my duty, as your son, to support you. However, I don’t have the ability to support Younger Brother’s entire family! Moreover, you’re being too biased and giving everything to Younger Brother’s family. My family’s Heizi is also your grandson. He does laborious work at the docks every day, but I have never seen you make delicious food for him…”
When Madam Zhang heard this, she knew that her simple and honest son had also become dissatisfied with her after being egged on. If her eldest son really separated from the family and moved out, how was she, a nearly dying old woman, supposed to support her younger son’s studies?
Madam Zhang lamented while crying, “Dashan ah! I raised you up with so much effort. In the most difficult times, Mother had never thought about abandoning you. Now that you’re all grown up, you want to be independent and not care about your mother, is that right?”
“Mother, I didn’t say I’m not going to care about you…” Yu Dashan, who was still a dutiful son, hastily explained.
Madam Zhang smacked her leg, sniffled her nose, and said, “Then what do you mean? Your younger brother didn’t have much to eat in the prefectural city, and has become bone-thin. Also, Little Doudou, who was originally such a chubby child, is so skinny that he barely has any meat on his body. They are your biological younger brother and nephew. How can you complain about them?”
Yu Dashan looked at his younger brother, who had lost a lot of weight, and his nephew, who was scared and hiding in his mother’s embrace. He lowered his head with shame.
Seeing that her son was feeling somewhat remorseful, Madam Zhang struck the iron while it was hot and said, “At the beginning of next spring, your younger brother will take part in the county exams. After passing the county examinations, he must immediately participate in the imperial examinations held in autumn. If he passes that, he will be considered a provincial official. Scholars who pass the provincial exams can purchase an official title…”
“Mother, I won’t donate to the government for an official title. I will pass the metropolitan exams and palace exams with my own abilities. I can’t guarantee placing first, but I will at least get into the top three. Those in the top three positions are imperial scholars who will be given an official position in the imperial court!” Yu Bo confidently said.
When Madam Zhang heard her younger son’s words, she immediately beamed with delight and said, “Yes! My son is determined! Just focus on studying and don’t be discouraged!”
Yu Bo briefly hesitated, then asked, “I heard… Second Brother’s Little Shitou is also participating in the county-level examinations next year. Is it true?”
Madam Zhang curled up her lips and said, “Who knows! With how much Little Shitou plays and eats, he will be taking the exams in vain!”
Yu Bo nodded in agreement and said, “How many years has Little Shitou been studying? He barely knows how to read and write, yet they’re already letting him take the exams. Does Second Brother take the imperial exams as a joke? Acting recklessly due to their impatience for success will ruin Little Shitou!”
“Let’s not worry about their matters! He can do whatever he wants!” Madam Zhang saw that the ‘heir of Prince Jing’ had already gone back, but Old Yu still hadn’t come to talk to her. She felt even more resentful towards Old Yu and Yu Hai within her heart. However, they had evidence of her crime. She couldn’t go cause trouble, so she could only ignore the existence of the family in the old residence!
Hearing the confident words of her younger brother-in-law, Madam Li’s heart started to sway again. Her husband had supported her younger brother-in-law’s studies for so many years, and it wasn’t easy to see the light of hope. Wasn’t it a loss to separate from the family now? No way! They should wait until after next spring to decide whether they would divide the family. If her younger brother-in-law passed the exam, she would pretend that she had never mentioned this matter. If he didn’t pass, then they shouldn’t blame her, Li Guihua, for being inconsiderate. Even if she had to take it up to the county yamen, she had to make sure that they get a fair split from the family!
After dinner, Yu Bo’s family of three returned to their own room. Madam Zhao fanned for her son, who was sleeping soundly holding his bloated belly. Her heart broke to see the way her son was drinking the porridge earlier. They hadn’t eaten a hearty meal for a long time.
“Husband, should we visit the old residence tomorrow? Although father-in-law and mother-in-law are divorced, he is still your father after all. If you don’t visit him this time, what would the villagers say?” Madam Zhao reckoned that it was better to have a good relationship with people in the old residence. They couldn’t depend on that stupid woman Madam Zhang. After all, her husband was related to them by blood. Even if one’s bones were broken, the tendons were still connected ah!
Yu Bo didn’t have any ill feelings towards his second brother. When his second brother left the family with nothing, he had felt bad for him in his heart. However, he was very clear about his mother’s temper. It was useless for him to say anything. He was seriously speechless about the reason for his parents’ peaceful separation. He didn’t expect his mother to be so cruel that she would rather watch his father die than spend money to get him treated. If his own wife looked forward to his death so that the family could feed one less person, then he would definitely divorce her. He wouldn’t let her take away a single seed, let alone leave the house and all the money to her… His father’s action was considered to be extremely benevolent.
Hearing his wife’s words, Yu Bo was very glad that he married such a reasonable wife. Looking at Madam Zhao with a smile, he nodded and said, “Mhm, let’s bring Doudou over to pay respects to Father tomorrow. Are there any presentable gifts at home? After all, I haven’t been home for nearly half a year, it’s inappropriate to visit Father empty-handed.”
Madam Zhao took out a piece of dark-colored fabric from the bottom of the box. Originally, she had wanted to use this fabric to make clothes for her own father. In order to have a good relationship with the old residence, she gritted her teeth and took it out, “Take this piece of fabric! There’s nothing good at home, since we have already pawned most of our goods!”
Yu Bo knew that during this past half a year, his wife lived in her father’s house without paying a single coin. It wasn’t easy for his father-in-law’s family ah. He took out a silver bit that was worth one tael from his bag and handed it to Madam Zhao. He said, “I saved this money by eating and living frugally in the prefectural city. Give it to Mother-in-law. We can’t let your parents starve because of you and our son.”
Madam Zhao was very moved. With reddened eyes, she carefully put away the money and whispered, “Originally, I planned to pawn some of my dowry to help my parents get through this difficult period. With this money, it’s enough for my parents to eat frugally for half a month. Thank you, Husband!”
“We’re a family, so why do you need to say thank you? Father-in-law and Mother-in-law has helped us a lot over the years. As a human being, one should have a conscience, right?” Yu Bo held his wife’s slightly rough hands. After the maidservant was sold, Madam Zhao had to personally do all the work. Coupled with not being able to fill her stomach, she appeared much more haggard. However, it made her look more delicately attractive…
On the morning of the next day, Yu Bo slowly headed toward the west side of the village with his wife and child. His long gown stood out in the village. The villagers, who were chatting under the tree, greeted him upon seeing him, ”Oh, isn’t this Old Yu’s youngest son? You came back from the prefectural city?”
“This must be Doudou. He’s already so big. He has gotten taller in the past two years ah!”
“Are you going to see your father? Xiaobo is quite filial ah!”
With a slight smile on his face, Yu Bo politely greeted the elderly men and women in the village. Madam Zhao also told her son to greet them as ‘Grandpa’ and ‘Grandma’. The villagers all praised Yu Bo for being capable and Doudou’s polite manners…
After traveling across the entire Dongshan Village, the family of three reached the foot of West Mountain. From afar, they could see the tall courtyard walls and the brick and tiled-roof house of the Yu Family’s old residence. Madam Zhao bent down and said admiringly to her son, “Doudou, look! That’s Second Uncle’s house!! Do you remember Older Brother Shitou and Older Sister Xiaocao? You can see them soon.”
Doudou blinked his big eyes and softly said, “I remember Older Sister Xiaocao. The fish stew she made was very delicious!” He even smacked his lips as he said that.
With a slightly bitter smile, Madam Zhao tapped his small nose and said, “You ah, you’re indeed a little foodie!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Can't wait to see Little Shitou kick his butt in the exams😏