Liu Hu nodded his head, “From what you’re saying, it is true! Planting corn was something that she asked the royal prince about. She even was so daring to get seeds from him and sign a military writ. Luckily before the locust plague came, the corn was ready to be picked. Otherwise, they would really be hanging there! Your little niece is clever and has guts. If she was a boy, she would absolutely have a sparkling career in front of her!”
Yu Caifeng gave him a look and replied, “What’s wrong with her being a girl? Isn’t she also quite capable ah? She helped her family build a five-room house made of tiles and bricks and also made quite a fortune for the family!”
Liu Hu smiled, “I’m not saying girls aren’t good! However, when a girl grows up, she’ll end up getting married to someone! It’s only your younger brother who would spoil Xiaocao like this and have her do as she pleases. If she was married into a family, do you think she would still be able to do as she pleased? Alright, let’s not talk about this. Let’s discuss something else. How about we also open some fields to grow some early growing vegetables next year? We can sell the vegetables to the nearby villages or the prefectural city. That way we won’t be competing with Dahai.”
Yu Caifeng thought a bit and then agreed, “Since everyone has nothing to do now, we should build our house quickly. We should copy the old residence here and make the courtyard a bit larger so we can plant more vegetables. If we plant our gardens outside our walls, I’m afraid we’d have a hard time keeping an eye on them at night!”
“Okay! We’ll build a large courtyard and make sure to have a stone fence!” Liu Hu made the decision right there.
The next day, with Yu Hai’s help, they were able to find a dozen or so villagers in their prime to help with building the Liu Family’s new home. The Liu Family’s new residence was also located at the foot of the West Mountains and was about five hundred meters away from the Yu Family. They decided to build a more subdued house, so the house was constructed out of dirt and lumber.
Right now was just the start of autumn, which was usually a busy season for the villagers. Because the locust plague happened this year and no one was able to plant crops, most of the villagers were idle at home. Some would go down to the beach to dig up some sandworms or oysters. Others went into town or the docks to find some temporary work.
Sandworms and oysters were now being dug up by a lot of people, so the income a person could get from them had sharply declined. In the past, a person could make at least a hundred coppers a day. Now, those who could dig up about a catty and sell it for forty to fifty copper coins were envied by other people as experts.
The docks and town now had too many people looking for temporary work. Someone waiting for a few days may not be able to get a job. If there wasn’t reasonably priced grain to be had, there would have been many starving commoners everywhere.
The Liu Family gave cash to the people who helped them build their house and the wage was thirty copper coins a day. They also prepared the noon meal for the workers. Although the wage wasn’t considered very high, Liu Hu was relatives with Yu Hai. Since Yu Hai had a good relationship with his older sister, all of the young, strong workers in the village were willing to do this as a favor to Yu Hai.
After working there for two days, all of the young workers unceasingly praised the food at the Liu Family. They all proclaimed that this work was worth doing! The Liu Family provided two large flatbreads that were made with more white flour than coarse for each worker. Furthermore, the dishes that came along with the flatbreads always had meat in them. On one day, it was the soft and savory braised pig meat head, while on another day it was tantalizing stir-fried pig intestines. Then, on another day, they had some fried little fish that was soft and crispy…
The dish that made people the most happy was that, other than some dried vegetables, each meal also had a plate of sauteed green vegetables. This year, a plate of green vegetables was being sold for the price of roasted chicken and roasted duck at Zhenxiu Restaurant, so it was quite expensive! Furthermore, there was also Yu Xiaocao’s grasshopper sauce that she personally stir-fried herself. It made everyone praise it constantly. Even if there weren’t other dishes, just this savory and spicy grasshopper sauce alone was enough to make a person eat an extra two flatbreads.
With delicious food to be had, the young villagers worked with great enthusiasm. They threw mud bricks, cut lumber, and laid the stone wall...everyone was willing to use all of their strength and not a single one slacked off.
Before a month had passed, the Liu Family’s three-room mud-brick house had finished construction. They had also accepted Yu Xiaocao’s suggestion for the roof and used ceramic tiles. By using a tiled roof, they would save the time needed to thatch the roof every year. Furthermore, a roof crafted of straw leaked rain in the summer and let in the cold wind and snow in the winter. With the Liu Family’s current financial circumstances, if they were careful with their money, they were able to afford a tiled roof. What was the point of trying to scrimp and save if they couldn’t live comfortably?
The Liu Family lived even closer to the West Mountains compared to the Yu Family, so Yu Hai proposed that his brother-in-law dig some pits around the perimeter of the wall for extra protection.
In actuality, their worries were not in vain. Just when the Liu Family had finished plowing the vegetable garden in the courtyard and planted their seeds, a few days later, all of the families living at the foot of the West Mountains could hear the howls of wolves at night when they were about to go to sleep.
Yu Xiaocao was roused by the noise. She draped a quilt over herself as she climbed into her parents’ kang bed and quietly asked, “Father, listen! It sounds like wolves howling! Is a wolf pack coming down the mountain?”
Right after she spoke, a sweet and puppyish howl could be heard from the courtyard. The sound had a tone of warning to it.
Yu Hai didn’t know whether he should laugh or cry, “Cao’er, these two puppies you brought back home have been with us for two months yet they still don’t know how to bark properly. However, they manage to imitate the sound of a wolf howl pretty good. Quickly bring those two fellows inside to avoid them attracting the wolf pack here!”
At this time, the two brothers, Yu Hang and Little Shitou, pushed the door open and came in. Each of them had a little wolf in their arms. Little Shitou smiled, “Little White is so brave. When he heard the wolves cry, he even dared to howl back at them! However, his howls are too youthful and don’t have enough power.”
Little Black and Little White were both the progeny of the gray wolf. When they first came over, they weren’t even a month old. Right now they still looked as if they were only about two months old. Every day they caught locusts to eat and also had Yu Xiaocao adding some fish and shrimp to their diet, so their bodies were very strong and healthy. Perhaps it was because they had drunken mystic-stone water, but the two fellows grew on the slower side. Two months had passed but they were only about the same size as the two-month old puppy from Dahuang’s family. However, they looked very dainty and small, so they were quite adorable.
When the two wolf pups heard the unceasing howls of the wolf pack, their fur puffed up on their bodies. They twisted and turned in Yu Hang’s and Little Shitou’s arms, looking quite fierce. Yu Hai took Little Black over and placed him on his lap to pet. He smiled, “These two dogs likely have the blood of wolves running through them. Although they are quite small, they are very brave. In the future, if we train them well, they will absolutely become very good hunting dogs!”
Yu Xiaocao snickered endlessly inside. The blood of wolves? These two were wolves, okay? However, she didn’t know the color of Little Black and Little White’s mother. How could these two wolves be completely different colors and not look one bit like Big Gray? ‘Big Gray’ was the name that Xiaocao had just given that gray wolf. In the past, she used to call him ‘little wolf’ but now he had already become a father, so it wasn’t right to continue calling him ‘little wolf’.
When the two wolves were placed on the kang bed, they immediately scampered over to Xiaocao and rubbed their heads intimately against her. They even rolled around her asking for pets, as if their earlier fierce appearance was just an illusion.
The little roe deer had been a pet for over two years yet it never seemed to grow and still looked quite mini. It had followed the two Yu brothers and wormed its way into the main bedroom. When it saw the two wolves on the kang bed, it raised its forelegs onto the side of the kang bed. It enviously and pitifully stared at the other two creatures.
The Yu Family’s three little pets all took a bath every two to three days, so they were all very clean and didn’t have any undue odors. Yu Xiaolian helped the little roe deer climb onto the kang bed and held it in her arms to pet. Little Black and Little White were only close to her younger sister and regarded the affections of other people with disdain. Because of this, Yu Xiaolian and Little Shitou both blamed Yu Xiaocao. Luckily, the little roe deer had an easy-going temper and was quite affectionate with everyone in the family. This somewhat soothed the hurt feelings of the two siblings.
Yu Hang remarked in worry, “From the sound of the howls, there are quite a lot of wolves in this pack! If they descend the mountain, the families here, including us, would bear the brunt of their attack. The royal prince lives on the mountain. Although he has bodyguards to protect him, it is not necessarily safe. How about we invite the royal prince over tomorrow to live in our west courtyard? Father, what do you think?”
Yu Hai nodded his head, “I think it’s a good idea! Xiaocao, you’re the best at speaking with the royal prince. Tomorrow at breakfast, bring up this idea. The wolf pack’s howls seem quite far away right now, so we probably won’t have any problems tonight. After tonight, we can’t guarantee it will be okay. From the sounds, I’d guess that this pack has at least twenty to thirty wolves. We absolutely cannot underestimate them!”
Experienced hunters could tell from the sounds of the howls just how many wolves there were in a pack. Yu Hai had spent a few years with Zhao Bufan and was unlikely to make a mistake about this.
Madam Liu anxiously stated, “How do you think older sister is doing over there? They’re closer to the West Mountains. If the wolves descend the mountain, they will be first to encounter calamity. Other than Older Brother-in-law, the rest of them are all women and children. They might be scared to death! I think that tomorrow we need to bring them over. Our courtyard’s east wing is still empty. If we squeeze a bit, we’ll all be able to fit.”
Yu Hai gave his wife an approving look and nodded his head, “Okay! Tomorrow we’ll have Older Sister and her entire family move in with us. We’ll be able to come up with something together.”
After she finished worrying about Yu Caifeng’s family, Madam Liu started to worry about her maternal family. “Husband! Xishan Village is quite close to the West Mountains. I don’t know what the circumstances are like at my maternal family!”
Yu Hai comforted his wife, “Don’t worry, Xishan Village is still around two to three kilometers away from the West Mountains! Father-in-law’s family also live in the interior of the village. Unless the wolf pack is starving, they won’t go to places with a lot of people. Last time when we went to Xishan Village, I had talked to the village chief there and told them to set more pit traps around the village and to organize people on night duty. When wild beasts come, those on night duty will beat the drums and light fires. That will also scare the wild animals away.”
After hearing her husband’s explanation, Madam Liu relaxed ever so slightly. That night, all of the families living at the foot of the West Mountains didn’t sleep well! Everyone was like the Yu Family, all squeezed into one room with shovels and other tools in their hands at the ready for an attack.
Just as Yu Hai predicted, the night passed without any issues. The next day, when Qian Xiaoduo came by to buy vegetables, he noticed that everyone in the Yu Family had dark circles under their eyes and they were all acting a bit strange. After asking a bit, he found out the reason. He slapped his chest and promised to give the Yu Family some hunting forks, hunting bows and arrows, as well as hunting knives in the afternoon.
At breakfast, Yu Xiaocao mentioned their idea about having the prince move in with them. Zhu Junyang couldn’t help but mock her a bit after he noticed the little girl’s dark circles, “It was just a few wolves howling last night, is this necessary?! You’re even more timid than a tiny sparrow! Tsk, in a moment, I will move over. With this prince around, even if all of the wild beasts descended the mountain they wouldn’t be able to harm you, let alone a wolf pack!”
Yu Xiaocao couldn’t resist the urge to refute him, “Don’t be such a bringer of bad luck, okay? My father had already said that this wolf pack has at least twenty to thirty wolves in it. If they all descend from the mountains, it will be quite a disaster! And you even said you could protect me if all of the beasts from the mountain came down, do you think we’re filming ‘Beast Kingdom’  right now?”
Although Zhu Junyang didn’t know what ‘Beast Kingdom’ was referring to, he could tell that Yu Xiaocao was satirizing him. He coldly huffed and said, “You only show your rage at me! You’re lucky that I don’t lower myself to your level, otherwise, you would have died many times over!”
 Beast Kingdom (野兽总动员) - a series in Chinese about anthropomorphized animals in their own tribes and kingdoms and the problems that arise from that. Kind of similar to the Redwall series.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Sanguine’s Thoughts: When famine comes, disaster follows...luckily the Yu Family has many allies to help them.