“Then what about Father’s situation? If Mother had treated Father better when he was sick, would he have divorced you? As long as Father was still here, Second Brother-in-law would still provide us with some resources every year to show his filial piety. Now, Father has gone to live a leisurely life with Second Brother-in-law’s family. What about our family?” Madam Li looked at the table of food that could be fed to the pigs and sadly sighed.
Madam Zhang instantly pulled a long face and she slapped her chopsticks on the small table on the kang bed. She stared viciously at Madam Li with her slanted eyes and said nothing. Madam Li's blood froze from her stare and her gaze became dodgy, not knowing where to look. Yu Dashan slightly pulled on the sleeve of his wife and signaled for her to quit plucking at the tiger's fur. He knew his mother regretted not treating Old Yu well at that time he was sick and for being so heartless. But, what was the use of being regretful? It already was too late.
Yu Bo set down his chopsticks and blamed himself, "One shall not travel far away when one’s parents are still alive. As their child, when the parents are sick, I should have come to take care of them no matter what. However, when father was seriously ill, I was in the prefectural city and unable to be filial at their side..."
Madam Zhang's expression suddenly changed again. She glared at Madam Li and comforted her son, "Xiaobo, it's not your fault! Mother didn't tell you in fear that it would delay your studies. You aren't your father's only son. Dashan and Dashan's wife, what were you doing then? Did you guys make a single meal for your father, or carry water and wash his clothes once? You guys say I mistreated your father, but what did you do? If you had helped, would your father have become that ill?
When someone was wrong, they were always trying to push their mistakes onto others. Yu Bo had given Madam Zhang the best reason to shirk her responsibilities!
Yu Dashan opened his mouth yet he didn't know what to say. Madam Li, on the other hand, grumbled, "I'm his daughter-in-law. How can I go into my father-in-law's room? Besides, doesn't he have a biological son? If Mother had called Dahai over to help the moment father got sick, would things turn out the way it did? Although Second Brother-in-law has separated from the family, he couldn't have ignored his father, right?”
Madam Zhang coldly snorted and said, "People just don't know when to be grateful. Dashan, since you were a child, everything that you ate and used belonged to the Yu Family. Right now, your wife is saying you aren't a biological offspring of the Yu Family, and thus you’re unwilling to take care of the elderly. Aren't you afraid that others will call you an ungrateful and vicious person when you go out? Dashan, a virtuous wife won’t cause so much trouble for her husband. You need to take charge and discipline your wife!"
‘How am I not virtuous? No matter how bad I am, I am still better than you, the old hag who is ruthless to her own husband! It's not me who got divorced by my own husband!’ Madam Li thought. In Madam Li's point of view, although her mother-in-law said that she had a peaceful separation, in actuality, she was just cast off by her husband. It was just that Father-in-law was kindhearted. He pitied his son who was studying afar, so he left all his wealth to Madam Zhang.
Yu Bo spoke at this time, "Mother, let's not talk about this during the New Year's. Besides, what use is it to argue about who should take the blame now? Mother, don't be reluctant to spend the money. When spring comes and I pass the county-level exams, our family's situation will improve."
After passing the county-level exams, scholars could be exempt from taxes. Therefore, those with farmland would put their lands under the name of the scholar in order to avoid taxes. The scholar would also get some benefits from this. However, in Dongshan Village, there were fewer fields and more mountains. Most of the villagers depended on the sea for food. Even if Yu Bo were to pass the county-level exams, his plans may not come true.
Madam Zhang's family’s New Year Eve dinner was so upsetting that they all eventually left. At midnight, there were no dumplings to bid farewell to the old and welcome the new. The family didn't even stay up for New Year's Eve and went to bed early to avoid being hungry in the middle of the night.
At the Yu Family’s old residence, the family sat around together merrily and ate melon seeds, dried meat, and snacks such as French fries and chips. Yu Xiaocao also made poker cards with thick paper and taught the children to play cards. The adults watched cheerfully on the side.
Fang Zizhen, who was worried about his goddaughter because of the incident with the child traffickers, braved the snowstorm to come before the New Years. If he rushed back on New Year's Eve, then he would most likely pass away on the way back. Thus, he stayed with the Yu Family for the New Year. He watched the children play ‘Fight the Bully’ (Author’s note: This is the present-day card game ‘Fight the Landlord’). Feeling tempted, he asked Xiaocao to give him her place and let him enjoy the game.
There were many children in the family, so after learning how to play, everyone took turns playing. Therefore, there were many people watching and only four people playing. Yu Xiaocao gave up her position and drew another set of cards for the adults to play.
Hence, Liu Junping, Yu Hang, Liu Yaner, and Yu Xiaolian happily played cards on one side of the kang bed. Fang Zizhen, Liu Hu, Yu Hai, and Old Yu battled at the end of the kang bed. Yu Caifeng and Madam Liu watched the games from the side with a smile, while munching on melon seeds. As for Little Shitou and Liu Fangping, they pestered their older siblings to let them play for a while.
Fang Zizhen didn't know if he was lucky or not at playing card games. He always drew the bully (landlord) card yet he never won once. The loser had to stick a piece of paper on his face. Like a curtain, his face was filled with slips of paper that Little Shitou practiced his writing on. Old Yu was a slow learner, so Yu Xiaocao sat next to him and helped him out from time to time. Thus, he was able to win more often. Fang Zizhen became braver the more frustrated he was and shouted, "I don't believe in this bad luck! One more time! I will definitely win this round..."
The occasional laughter from the room added a touch of life to the silent night. At midnight, the dumplings that were made in the evening were put into the pot. The fillings of the dumplings included cabbage and pork, pickled vegetables and pork, chives and egg, and seafood... Other families couldn’t even eat dumplings, yet the Yu Family had such a rich variety. The comparison would make people angry ah!
After midnight, the family ate the dumplings, and then went to bed. The children had sweet dreams in which they received lots of New Year money...
On the next day, the children got up early without anyone calling them. First, they wished their grandfather a ‘Happy New Year’ and received a red packet filled with lucky money from the old man. After Liu Fangping kowtowed, he excitedly opened the red packet. Seeing that there were ten copper coins inside, he couldn't help but smile—it was enough for him to buy lots of maltose candy!
When they celebrated the New Year in the past, his parents only gave him one or two copper coins as lucky money. Last year, they were refugees fleeing on the road who didn’t even have food to eat, much less New Year's money. He got ten copper coins just as New Year’s money from Grandfather alone. His parents definitely wouldn’t give any less, and there were also his aunt and uncle...Liu Fangping calculated with his little fingers and reckoned that he would surely get lots of lucky money this year!
Liu Fangping saw his father walking over from the West Courtyard, so he rushed towards him in a hurry. As a result, he slipped on the ice and ended up sprawled out in front of Liu Hu. His elder brother, Liu Junping, covered his eyes and couldn't bear to look at him. The other children couldn't stop laughing.
Liu Hu bent over, picked up his youngest son, and laughed, "Oh! Although it's New Years, there's no need for such a big bow!"
Liu Fangping wore many layers, so he didn't feel any pain when he fell. Without even patting off the snow on his clothes, he bowed with his hands cupped together and smiled until his eyes turned into a line, saying, "Father, Happy New Year! May all your wishes be fulfilled! May you have a prosperous New Year, and now give me the red packet..."
Liu Hu slapped his bottoms and then took out a red packet. He lightly poked on his little head and said, "You little money-grubber!"
Liu Fangping took the red packet given by his father and ran to the kitchen to pay New Year greetings to his mother and aunt, who were putting the dumplings in the pot. He reaped two small red packets. He secretly counted and now he had forty copper coins! For ordinary families, it would already be considered very good if they give their children one or two copper coins as lucky money. It was very rare for a family to give out ten copper coins in one go like the Yu Family.
Yu Hai had wanted to give the children one silver bit each, but upon considering the financial situation of his brother-in-law, the two families discussed it and set the New Year money at ten copper coins per person. Before the dumplings were placed on the table, the children had already greeted everyone for New Year's and their hands were full of red packets.
Yu Xiaocao gathered her siblings together and murmured something to them. When Fang Zizhen stepped into the Yu Residence, he was surrounded by a group of kids who were all shouting, "May you be prosperous and happy! Hand over the red packets!" Fang Zizhen's ears buzzed from the noise and he threw out the red packets.
After getting the red packets, the children swiftly dispersed, leaving a completely bewildered Fang Zizhen with a blank expression. Yu Hai came over with a smile and said, "Xiaocao called the children together just now and plotted something mysteriously. It seems like the target was you!"
With lingering fear, Fang Zizhen said, "When there are many children, it's quite scary! Thinking back to the days when I was surrounded by dozens of enemies on the battlefield, that wasn't even as scary as the sudden attack I just experienced. Fortunately, I was well-prepared, or else I would've been disturbed for a while!"
After getting their red packets, the siblings all ran into a room. Little Shitou felt the contents of the red packet. It was round and didn't seem to like a copper coin. Liu Fangping couldn't wait and had already opened the red packet. "Brother Shitou, what is this? Silver?" As he asked, he wanted to put it in his mouth and take a bite to verify.
Little Shitou also took out a thumb-sized and realistic-looking silver peanut. It was known to be used by the wealthy and influential families as rewards or New Year's money. A small silver peanut was worth at least five mace, which was equivalent to five hundred copper coins! Second Sister's godfather was very generous ah!
"Eh? Second Sister's New Year's money seems to be different from ours!" Little Shitou saw the golden sheen in his second sister's hand and hurried over to take a look.
Yu Xiaocao had watched a palace drama in her previous life called The Legend of XX. One of the concubines in it rewarded Su Peisheng  a handful of golden melon seeds, which looked like the ones in her hand. Small as they were, each one was at least 20 to 30 grams. After all, it was gold, which was more valuable than the silvers her siblings received.
She carefully put them away and explained to her curious siblings, "These should be the golden melon seeds that the emperor rewarded Godfather. It only appears in the Imperial Palace. Its value isn't just in its monetary worth, but it’s also an honor."
Liu Junping, who was a few years older, carefully put away the silver ingots and advised his younger siblings, "These golden seeds and silver ingots are very valuable. Don't go showing it off outside, or you will be swindled! Fangping, give all the silver peanuts to Mother for safekeeping later. It’s worth a few hundred copper coins, so it's better to be careful than to lose them!"
Liu Fangping held on to the silver peanuts and whispered unwillingly, "Can't I wait till later to give it over? The silver peanuts haven't even been warmed by my hands yet!"
 Su Peisheng (苏培盛) - chief eunuch who served in the imperial palace during the Qing Dynasty; often portrayed in palace dramas like The Legend of Zhen Huan (which is probably the drama that Xiaocao saw)Previous Chapter Next Chapter