Because the two families lived far apart, they usually didn’t see each other very often. Thus, Second Granduncle’s sons weren’t very familiar with Yu Xiaocao. She pulled down her muffler and chuckled dryly at Yu Yang.
Luckily, Yu Lixia walked out of the inner courtyard at this time. When he saw Yu Xiaocao, he revealed a surprised expression, “Xiaocao, why did you come out on such a snowy day? Is there something going on at home?”
“Nothing’s going on! My family slaughtered a pig and my father told me to give your family some meat.” Yu Xiaocao’s nose had been frozen until it was a bright red and a layer of frost had frozen on her long eyelashes. This contrasted with her pale white skin and made her look like a snow fairy.
“This year everyone’s having a rough time and pork is so expensive. You guys could take the pork and sell it for money to buy more grain, so why are you giving us some pork? Quickly take it back…” In the past, Yu Lixia’s family had the best circumstances out of all the three brothers. Yu Hai’s family had been squeezed dry by Madam Zhang yet he, as the Second Granduncle, couldn’t do much. When Yu Hai’s family had split from the family, he also didn’t help much. Thus, how he could have the nerve to take things from the younger generation?
Yu Lixia’s eldest daughter-in-law saw the large slab of meat and the sack of grain on the sled and she couldn’t move her eyes away. She hurriedly interrupted her father-in-law and said, “Father, Niece had traveled from afar and must be freezing. Quickly let her in and warm up.”
Yu Xiaocao hastily shook her head, “No need, I still need to go to Xishan Village to send more New Year’s gifts ah! Second Granduncle, let me wish you a Happy New Year in advance and I hope that this year is smooth and auspicious!”
She unloaded the meat and grain set aside for her second granduncle’s family and then climbed back on the sled before telling Big Gray to leave. Yu Lixia had wanted to have her stay to eat lunch, but she had refused with the reason that she needed to go to her maternal grandparents’ home. She wasn’t very familiar with her second granduncle’s family and didn’t want to make awkward conversation with them.
Yu Lixia’s eldest daughter-in-law impatiently opened the sack. When she saw that it was full of white flour, she cried out in astonishment, “Father, Dahai’s family is really generous. There’s so much white flour here, at least twenty or so catties. And this pork, it must be around a dozen catties too. If we took it into town, we could sell it all for a couple taels ah!”
Yu Lixia leveled a glare at her and said, “How could it only be worth a couple taels? This is wild boar meat!! Yu Hai’s family is truly benevolent and kind. My third brother is now living a comfortable life with them!! Eldest son’s wife, this meat is the New Year’s gift that Dahai gave to us. No matter how much money it’s worth, we cannot sell it!”
His eldest daughter-in-law smiled, “Then we will have to enjoy such delicious food! Tsk tsk, Dahai’s family truly has skill to be able to get ahold of such fresh cabbage! We will be able to eat cabbage and pork dumplings for the New Year’s Eve dinner! Our family is probably the only family in the village who will be able to eat cabbage and pork dumplings this year ah!”
Yu Lixia grinned until the wrinkles by his eyes became more pronounced, “We’re enjoying the fortunes of my third brother! Next year when we have a harvest of grain in spring, don’t forget to send some to your third uncle. As relatives, we can only become closer to each other if we work on our relationships.”
Yu Yang was the youngest son of Yu Lixia. He stared in the direction that the snow sled disappeared and abruptly exclaimed in fright, “Father! Did you see clearly what was pulling the sled?"
Yu Lixia looked at the prints that were left in the snow and smiled, “What else could it be? It must be one of the dogs that your uncle is raising at home ah! Your uncle is truly odd. During a disaster year, there’s nothing for people to eat yet he still raises a few dogs that eat precious food!”
Yu Yang wasn’t convinced. He thought for a bit and decided it seemed a bit absurd before he softly said, “Father, I don’t think that animal looked like a dog, I think it looked more like a wolf…”
“Nonsense! Have you seen wolves before? If a wolf doesn’t eat a person, that’s already considered a great blessing. Who would have the guts to have one pull a sled?” Yu Lixia roundly scolded this excitable youngest son of his. This fellow really had the craziest imagination. How could a wolf pull a sled for humans?
Yu Yang muttered somewhat resentfully, “I think it looks like a wolf. Its ears are perked up and its tail droops down. If it’s not a wolf, then it must be a mix between a dog and wolf! Hm! When I have time, I should go visit Brother Dahai’s family and look. If they have some puppies, I’ll ask him to give me one.”
Yu Lixia slapped a hand on his son’s head and said, “Get a dog? Are you going to feed it your own rations ah? Right now no one can even fill their own stomachs, so how can we have any extra to raise a dog? Just forget this idea of yours ah!”
Yu Xiaocao traveled swiftly down the snow covered roads and finally made it to Xishan VIllage at noon. When she entered the village, she came across a matron who was puttering around doing nothing outside. The woman was frightened at the sight of Big Gray and fell on the ground as she shouted, “Oh my goodness ah! Wolf, a wolf is in the village!!” Before Yu Xiaocao could say anything, she scrambled off fearfully towards her residence.
Big Gray slowed down and turned his head around to look innocently at Yu Xiaocao. Xiaocao helplessly said to the wolf, “Let’s leave quickly and avoid any people she may bring around. They might think you’re a wild animal and try to kill you.”
Big Gray showed off an arrogant expression. Humans were all so small and weak, how could they possibly harm him?
However, in order to avoid any unnecessary ruckus, Yu Xiaocao still urged him to accelerate and get to her maternal grandparents’ residence. The gate to their residence was wide open. She knocked a few times and then unloaded the sled. She first unharnessed Big Gray and led him to a secluded place to rest to avoid people from being scared by him.
Her eldest maternal uncle heard the noise outside and came out of the house. When he saw Yu Xiaocao, who looked like a small snowman, with a large gray wolf, the sight scared him so much that he hurriedly picked up a wooden pole at the side of the wall to prepare for a fight.
“Eldest Maternal Uncle, it’s me! Xiaocao.” Yu Xiaocao noticed his actions and knew he had been frightened by Big Gray, so she hurriedly explained.
Liu Pei stared fixedly at the scene. The person leading the big gray wolf was unexpectedly his beloved little niece. He then looked at the small snow sled behind them and immediately felt like he had fallen into a dream. His youngest brother-in-law was truly too odd to let a wolf pull a snow sled and even let his daughter Xiaocao bring stuff over by herself.
“Xiaocao, why are you here right now? Quickly go into the rooms and go on the kang bed to get warm!” Eldest Maternal Aunt also came out of the house and started to pull on Xiaocao’s hand to bring her inside.
When Big Gray saw that his little master was being pulled away by a stranger, he hurriedly squeezed through and attentively observed Madam Han. Eldest Maternal Aunt let out a scream and pointed at Big Gray with a hand that trembled, “Xiaocao, what is this thing?”
Yu Xiaocao quickly placated her aunt, “Eldest Maternal Aunt, this is the pet that’s being raised by the young royal prince, he’s called Big Gray! Don’t judge him by his fierce looks, he’s actually very docile. He never bites people randomly!”
The wolf didn’t bite people randomly? That still meant he could bite people ah! Who knew whether the wolf would decide to not be random and still decide to bite a person?
“Wow! Is this a dog or a wolf? It looks so impressive ah!!” Third Maternal Uncle’s youngest son, the thirteen year old Liu Zhimin, rushed out of the house. He stopped about three steps in front of Big Gray and racked his brain on how to get closer. He was a bit afraid, so his face betrayed his mixed emotions.
Yu Xiaocao used her fingers to comb the fur on Big Gray’s chest and pushed all of the snow off the animal. Then she spoke to Liu Zhimin, “Big Gray should be a wolf! However, he’s already been tamed and is even more obedient than some dogs!” Big Gray gave her a sidelong glance and a flicker of arrogance shined through his eyes, ‘Why are you comparing me to those dumb dogs? Such an insult to this wolf’s character, right?’
Second Maternal Uncle’s youngest son, Liu Zhiqiang, cautiously got closer and closer until he was about a step away from Big Gray. When he noticed that Big Gray didn’t pay him any attention, his courage rose and he reached out a hand towards Big Gray. Second Maternal Aunt, Madam Hu, screeched, “Zhiqiang, you want to die ah!! Your younger cousin already said that it’s a wolf, a wolf!!”
Big Gray felt irritable at the sound of Madam Hu’s shrill voice and impatiently stamped on the snow covered ground. Xiaocao softly petted him and managed to soothe him back down.
“Second Older Cousin, Third Older Cousin! Unload the stuff on the sled quickly, we can’t let the cabbage freeze outside!” Yu Xiaocao hurriedly used a tactic to distract them in order to avoid those two from continuously provoking Big Gray. Big Gray’s temperament wasn’t that good. After spending so much time with the Yu Family, he still ignored most of them. So what would he do to these two strangers he had never seen before?
Xiaocao’s maternal grandmother, Madam Yao, slowly walked out of the residence and rebuked her two daughters-in-law, “Xiaocao came over, so why hasn’t she been led inside? The poor child will freeze! Xiaocao, come inside and go to my room.”
Xiaocao brushed off all of the snow on her body and took off the wolf coat to hang in the hallway to let dry. She entered the room and finally took off her muffler and hat. Big Gray copied her and shook off all of the snow off his body before he gracefully and haughtily followed Xiaocao into the room. Madam Yao’s room only had two people in there talking quietly and there weren’t any other people. Most importantly, there weren’t any annoying children so Big Gray was very pleased.
“Aiya! When did this guy suddenly come in? Xiaocao, tell him to lay on the side somewhere so he doesn’t end up scaring anyone!” Liu Cunjin, Xiaocao’s maternal grandfather, knew Big Gray was a wolf and had heard the animal had saved his son-in-law’s life. However, a wolf would always have a wild nature so keeping a safe distance was always better.
Liu Zhimin had finished bringing all of the cabbage into the kitchen and now entered the room. He smiled, “Grandfather, Younger Sister Xiaocao gave our family a lot of pork, wheat flour and cabbage!”
Liu Cunjin said, “We haven’t even finished the pork you guys gave us last time, so why are you giving us more? We’ll take the cabbage but you should take the wheat flour and pork back home!”
Yu Xiaocao pouted, “I braved through the winds and snows to come and give Grandfather and Grandmother these presents, yet you want me to bring it back? If I go back, my mother will definitely scold me for not doing things well. I don’t want to take them back!”
Madam Yao tenderly wiped her granddaughter’s face that had turned red from the cold and said, “Your father and mother are truly too much. On such a cold day they made their child go do such errands, and for what? If they end up making you sick from this, just watch if I’ll forgive them!”
Madam Han had already stored away the wheat flour. She entered the room and asked in concern, “Xiaocao, did you eat lunch yet? Let me make you some dough dumplings made with half wheat flour and half coarse grain. The soup and dumplings will whet your hunger and warm you up.”
The Liu Family ate two meals a day. At this time, they had just eaten breakfast not long ago. If Xiaocao hadn’t come over at noon, they weren’t going to cook anything. Madam Han knew the Yu Family had the habit of taking three meals a day and that Xiaocao must have left the residence very early in the morning, so she must be hungry by now.
Yu Xiaocao nodded and said, “Eldest Maternal Aunt’s dough dumplings are the best. Thank you Eldest Aunt!”
At this time, her three maternal uncles and three maternal aunts and all of their children had entered the room to greet Yu Xiaocao, their young guest. Big Gray, who was originally lying down next to the kang bed, had been squeezed out of room and had nowhere to go. He ran out of the room to find a more quiet place to lie down.
Xiaocao’s grandmother saw that the room had been filled with so many people that there wasn’t any space to put a foot down, so she spoke to her sons and daughters-in-law, “You all should go do what you were doing earlier. No one’s an outsider here. Just leave a few of the younger generation here to keep Xiaocao company.”
Out of Eldest Maternal Uncle’s three daughters, his oldest, Liu Feifeng, had already been married. During her wedding, the Yu Family had given her a big present for her dowry, which caused all of the villagers in Xishan Village to gossip enthusiastically about it for a long time after. His second daughter, Liu Feiying, was going to turn seventeen after the New Years and had already been betrothed. Her wedding was scheduled at the beginning of spring. His youngest daughter, Liu Feiyan, was almost fifteen years old. It was said that Eldest Maternal Aunt was currently looking at suitable families for her.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Sanguine’s Thoughts: I’d be like Big Gray and go hide in a nice quiet spot too. I do love the Liu Family though.